Pixel Scroll 5/19/18 For Once A Goof In A Pixel I’ve Provided Wasn’t Introduced By Me

(1) #NEBULAS2018. Cat Rambo is ready for the banquet:

(2) #NEBULAS2018. Tell me this doesn’t send a shiver down a writer’s spine:

That comes from a thread with livetweeted highlights of a Nebula Conference panel.

(3) #NEBULAS2018. Pin at the Nebula banquet.

(4) UNWASHED MASSES. Don’t tell this to writers, but Jimmy Kimmel has been prowling the streets asking strangers, “Can You Name a Book? ANY Book???”

According to a recent study from the Pew Research Center, almost one in four Americans has not read a book in the past year. So to find out if that is true, we sent a team to the street to ask pedestrians to name a book, and here are the very sad results.

 

(5) STARSHIP TROOPERS AS SPAGHETTI WESTERN. Fabrice Mathieu has done an incredible job with his new mashup called Far Alamo (Vimeo Staff Pick) in which John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and other Sixties western stars meet the world of Paul Verhoeven when the Alamo is attacked by BUGS!

(6) LATE ARRIVAL. Jeb Kinnison wants to convince you “Why ‘Arrival’ is Bad Science Fiction”.

The value of science fiction: narratives predicting science and technology and effects on future society. Stories enabled by the new, that help readers grasp what is to come and where they might place themselves to affect the outcome of their own stories. These can be more or less inherently entertaining, but the fascination of young people (especially young men) for them is in dreaming of mastery: to understand and control Nature, to vanquish enemies and nurture their families through something other than brute force and violence (though a blend of both is often very popular!)

“Junk science” is those beliefs promoted to persuade or entertain that have either been shown to be false or are simply unsupported by empirical tests. The media world is flooded with it, with sober studies making one small data point on some topic oversimplified and promoted as a breakthrough, to get clicks or publicity for research funding. “Junk science fiction” is therefore a story that borrows the authority of science to make unsupported or frankly false claims as part of a narrative, which nonscientists will accept as plausible or possible. And Arrival is junk science fiction.

(7) NOT EASY BEING GREEN. Tor.com’s Brandon O’Brien says “It’s Time to Talk About Marvel’s Gamora Problem”. Were you running out of things to criticize about Avengers: Infinity War? This will restock your cupboard.

To be clear, this is not me saying that that the movie is bad, or unenjoyable in a general sense. The action was engaging for the most part, and there are some character progressions that I think elicited real dramatic effort from the film. I like how it sets up Tony Stark’s pained, traumatic franchise-long journey from selfish, egotistical brat to responsible, self-sacrificing, if conflicted leader, which I hope they go all in on in upcoming installments. Thor, being my absolute favourite character from the franchise in general, has one really committed throughline, from losing everything that ever mattered to him in two back-to-back genocides to literally taking a beam of white-hot suffering through his body just to regain trust in his own heroic potential. Individual moments, like when Captain America, Black Widow, and Falcon have their first fight with Thanos’ Black Order goons in Scotland, are delightful to look at, visually. And some of the more unlikely on-screen team-ups, like Tony with Doctor Strange, or Thor with Rocket, actually make room for really interesting dialogue.

But ultimately, there’s one aspect of the film that I simply can’t get past. We need to talk about what happens to Gamora….

(8) CAPTAIN MARVEL. The promise of Carol Danvers – What Culture makes a case for “Why Thanos Should Fear Captain Marvel.”

She is one of Marvel’s all time most beloved and powerful characters, especially in more recent years.  Since then, she’s had a new look, gone in various new directions, and has been at the absolute forefront of everything the company has tried to do.  A transition into the MCU was inevitable.

…Even Kevin Feige has said Danvers is as powerful a character as we’ve ever put in a movie.  Her powers are off the charts, and when she’s introduced, she will be by far the strongest character we have ever had.”

 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born May 19, 1944 – Peter Mayhew

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy learned from Pearls Before Swine how bookstores can compete against Amazon. Turns out it may be hard on the customers, though.

(11) DON’T STEAL THAT SMELL! Apparently they just got around to this, 62 years after the product went on the market: “Hasbro officially trademarks Play-Doh smell”.

Toy maker Hasbro announced it has trademarked one of the most recognizable aspects of one of its most iconic products: the smell of Play-Doh.

The Pawtucket, R.I., company announced Friday that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has officially recognized the distinctive Play-Doh smell as a registered trademark of the brand, which first hit stores in 1956.

(12) CURIOSITY. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination presents “Why: What Makes Us Curious, with Mario Livio” on June 11.

June 11, 2018
6:00pm
Roth Auditorium
Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine
UC San Diego

The ability to ask “why?” makes us uniquely human. Curiosity drives basic scientific research, is the engine behind creativity in all disciplines from technology to the arts, is a necessary ingredient in education, and a facilitating tool in every form of storytelling (literature, film, TV, or even a simple conversation) that delights rather than bores.

In a fascinating and entertaining lecture, astrophysicist and bestselling author Mario Livio surveys and interprets cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience that aims at exploring and understanding the origin and mechanisms of human curiosity.  As part of his research into the subject, Livio examined in detail the personalities of two individuals who arguably represent the most curious minds to have ever existed: Leonardo da Vinci and Richard Feynman. He also interviewed 9 exceptionally curious people living today, among them Fabiola Gianotti, the Director General of CERN (who is also an accomplished pianist), paleontologist Jack Horner, and the virtuoso lead guitarist of the rock band Queen, Brian May (who also holds a PhD in astrophysics), and Livio presents fascinating conclusions from these conversations.

(13) GRANDMASTER’S TRADING CARD. Walter Day presented SFWA Grandmaster Peter S. Beagle with his souvenir trading card during tonight’s Nebula ceremony.

(14) A CHARMING CONVENTION.

(15) GAIMAN ADAPTATION. NPR’s Chris Klimek says it’s OK: “London Calling (Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft): ‘How To Talk To Girls At Parties'”. Last year at Cannes this was being called a disaster; no word on whether it’s been reworked.

Men Are From From Mars, Women Are From Venus, a best-selling early-’90s relationships guidebook argued. How to Talk to Girls at Parties, a sweet, slight comic fantasy expanded from an early-aughts Neil Gaiman short story, knows the truth is far more complex: Men and Women Are from Earth, Members of an Advanced Extraterrestrial Species on a Reconnaissance Mission Here While Temporarily Wearing the Bodies of Men and Women are from…. well, we never find out where they’re from, exactly. But every planet has its misfits.

(16) STILL READY PLAYER ONE. Did I already link to Glen Weldon’s review of this movie? Just in case: “Arcade Firewall: ‘Ready Player One’ REALLY Loves The ’80s”.

There will be grunts.

Grunts of recognition, that is. If you watch Steven Spielberg’s solidly built sci-fi phantasmagoria Ready Player One in a crowded theater, there will be grunts aplenty, so prepare yourself for them.

You can’t, you won’t — but try.

Every time any beloved or at least recognizable nugget of 1980s popular culture turns up onscreen, one or (likely) more of your fellow audience members will let out a low, pre-verbal phoneme, a glottal unh, to signify that they do, in fact, recognize said nugget and wish to inform those around them of this key development. This grunt, by the way, is a subspecies of the one heard at live theater, whenever a given patron wishes to express their comprehension of, and/or amusement at, some passage of dialogue they find particularly trenchant (that one’s more an amused hm!).

(17) VEGGIES IN ORBIT. GeekWire headline: “Small seeds could lead to a giant leap in space farming”.

The next Orbital ATK delivery to the space station will carry several strains of seeds for Arabidopsis, a flowering plant that’s closely related to cabbage and mustard. These will be grown in the Final Frontier Plant Habitat which was delivered on an earlier mission. The same genetic variants will be grown on Earth and used as baselines to compare harvested specimens sent back from the space station. You may recall that an earlier experiment in the overall mission to test growing of plants (including crops) in space involved lettuce, which was actually consumed by astronauts onboard the station.

When Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket launches a robotic Cygnus cargo spaceship toward the International Space Station, as early as Monday, it’ll be sending seeds that could show the way for future space farmers.

The Antares liftoff is currently set for 4:39 a.m. ET (1:39 a.m. PT) on Monday from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, with an 80 percent chance of acceptable weather. NASA’s live-streaming coverage of the countdown begins at 1 a.m. PT Monday.

More than 7,200 pounds of supplies, equipment and experiments will be packed aboard the Cygnus. One of the smallest payloads consists of seeds for the Final Frontier Plant Habitat — part of a $2.3 million, NASA-funded initiative that involves researchers from Washington State University, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the University of New Mexico and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The automated habitat was delivered during previous cargo resupply missions and set up for planting. Once the Cygnus’ cargo arrives, astronauts can proceed with the habitat’s first official science experiment, which is aimed at determining which genetic variants of plants grow best under weightless conditions.

(18) STAND BY TO SCORCH YOUR CREDIT CARD. Ars Technica delivers a “Peek at LEGO’s upcoming sets: Star Wars crafts, Hogwarts, Ninjago city, and more”, sharing pics of LEGO’s upcoming summer and holiday 2018 sets, including:

  • Jedi Starfighter ($19)
  • Collector Series Y-Wing Starfighter ($199)
  • Snoke’s Throne Room ($69)
  •  Star Wars X-Wing Starfighter ($79)
  • Sandcrawler ($139)
  • Kessel Run version of the Millenium Falcon ($169)
  • Hogwarts Express ($79)
  • Hogwarts Great Hall ($99)
  • Quidditch Match ($39)
  • Ninjago City Docks ($229)
  • Ninjago Destiny’s Wing ($19)

Non-genre sets pictured include:

  • Arctic Supply Plane ($79)
  • Cargo Train ($229)
  • LEGO City Passenger Train ($159)
  • Creator Expert: Roller Coaster set ($379)
  • Mobile Stunt Show ($49)

(19) CATS SITTING WITHIN SF. Cory Doctorow discovered “Bandai is manufacturing armored cats”. Here’s an example. More photos at the link.

(20) DEADPOOL’S HISTORY. ScienceFiction.com explains how “‘Deadpool 2’ Mocks Marvel’s 10-Year Anniversary Video” in “Deadpool 2 – The First 10 Years.”

The clip chronicles the history of the ‘Deadpool’ franchise from 2008 to 2018, also giving it a 10-year history like Marvel Studios’ MCU – it even has the same format, aesthetic, as well as the use of dramatic background music. Clocking in at just over a minute, the clip features only Deadpool, unlike the MCU’s version which had commentaries from several key players in the film series, as he narrates what happened in the last decade that led to the creation of the upcoming sequel. The clip is filled with the character’s signature brand of humor as he honestly speaks about Reynolds’ starring in ‘Green Lantern’ and ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine,’ which certainly didn’t help their cause, as well as Fox’s multiple rejections of the project

 

(21) DEADPOOL IS HISTORY. Mark Kermode’s review of Deadpool 2, “…not as bad as Kick Ass 2” ouch.

Main problem in his view is it has tried to be more than the first and lost what he liked about the first one.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/21/18 If I Have Filed Further It Is Only By Scrolling On The Pixels Of Giants

(1) FIRST. Continuing the conversation about sff reviewing on his blog, Camestros Felapton offers this draft of “The Three Laws of Reviewbotics?”

…So here’s maybe a start for the hyper-critic oath (‘hyper’ because I’m overthinking this and ‘critic’ because ‘reviewer’ doesn’t work for the pun).

First, do no obvious harm. Don’t ever slander a writer. Avoid attacking them personally, even indirectly [that’s not always possible because writing is to varying degrees an extension of the self. In addition, some texts themselves are INTENDED to be harmful to others (I’ve reviewed many here over the years) BUT while we can all think of exceptions the norm should be to review texts, not people.] This does not mean treating all people the same – if you knew that somebody was currently in a vulnerable emotional state, then maybe reviewing their book isn’t a great idea. The flip side of that is you can’t reasonably tailor reviews around what a writer you don’t know might be feeling. And obviously don’t use slurs, stereotypes or language which we know to be harmful – such as overt racism, sexism etc. In an equitable society, some people are more vulnerable to others and if we KNOW that we have to be mindful of that while bearing in mind the points below as well.

(2) TO THE TUNE OF CORALINE. The opera based on Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is available on the BBC iPlayer for the next 29 days: “Mark-Anthony Turnage: Coraline”.

Kate Molleson presents the world premiere production of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Coraline – an operatic version of the dark fantasy tale by Neil Gaiman, directed by Aletta Collins with libretto by Rory Mullarkey. Soprano Mary Bevan sings the title-role with a cast including mezzo-soprano Kitty Whately and baritone Alexander Robin Baker who are making their Royal Opera debuts. Sian Edwards conducts the Britten Sinfonia.

During the interval, Kate is joined by guest Fiona Maddocks with contributions from Mark-Anthony Turnage and Mary Bevan.

Neil Gaiman has transformed the landscape of children’s literature with his highly inventive, atmospheric and otherworldly narratives. His prize-winning novella, Coraline is packed with astonishing imagery – a much-loved story about a girl who discovers a door in her parents’ house, leading to an entirely different place and family. For Mark-Anthony Turnage “the fundamental message beneath the story is that we shouldn’t be afraid to do what we believe is right. Coraline is brave, not because she doesn’t cry or get scared, but because despite these things she still tries her best and doesn’t give up. That’s why I wanted to write Coraline, because here’s a message well worth telling; through opera or in any other way.”

(3) FANTASTIC HOW MANY? A trailer advertising the Fantastic 4’s return to comics in August. But Carl Slaughter says, “Wait a minute.  Maybe I missed someone, but I saw only 3 members of the Fantastic 4 at the end of that teaser….” Actually, Carl, couldn’t that pillar of fire in the closing image be your missing fourth character?

(4) TRACK RECORD. A member of the Universal Fan Con committee – a con cancelled at the last minute — is alleged to have a problemactic past.

(5) SPOILER ALERT. Commentary on a recent Red Dwarf-themed word puzzle: “Inquisitor 1533: A Little Light Relief by Eclogue”.

There were enough clues that I could solve to get a firm foothold in the grid and start to see the message emerging.  It was the skeleton of the message that gave me the breakthrough.  I could see something like IT’S COLD OUTSIDE and THERE’S NO appearing and  those five words were enough to track down the theme to Red Dwarf, a cult television series which was still producing new episodes in late 2017

The theme tune can be found by by clicking here

The full message is IT’S COLD OUTSIDE THERE’S NO KIND OF ATMOSPHERE which are the opening lyrics to the show’s theme song.  The wording of the preamble was very precise when it stated ‘the correct letters from misprints in definitions provide the opening to the theme’.

I could see then that the unclued entries were going to be the characters from the show.  It was the one I didn’t really know that fell first – KOCHANSKI –  followed by HOLLY, LISTER, RIMMER, KRYTEN and CAT.  CAT came last because I nearly missed it.

(6) IT’S HUGE! In “Kickstarter Final Note”, Steve Davidson shares a bit of news about Amazing Stories’ next first print issue.

One thing of note:  we’ve gone way over our word count for the first issue and none of us have the heart to deny any of our authors and artists the opportunity to be in Amazing first new issue since 2005 (and not even that’s technically correct – we’ve published four issues since 2012 in point of fact), so, rather than disappointing a handful of authors and artists, we’ve chosen the high road and are biting the bullet on an extended page count – rather than our originally planned 192 pages, it looks like we’re going for 248…

Yes, it’s going to blow our budget out a little bit, but, well, we really want this first issue to be SPECTACULAR, AWESOME and REALLY GREAT!  And it’s going to be.  (Really Great Science Fiction magazine was rejected as a title….)

(7) HOW HARD CAN IT BE? Tough SF by “Matter Beam” says this is its mission:

… One genre defined by the struggle to create living settings in science fiction is Hard SF. ‘An emphasis on scientific or technical detail’ is a sure-fire way to create a realistic and functional universe, but often the need to adhere to realism slows creativity, stresses the narration, leads to improbable results or otherwise has negative effects. One of the biggest complaints is that it just isn’t ‘fun’….

…This blog therefore try to help authors, world-builders and game designers to create Tough Science Fiction. This is science fiction that is as resistant as Hard Science Fiction to criticism, review and general prodding and poking by the audience, but does not sacrifice the author’s vision or core concepts to pure, dry realism…

Here are a couple of illustrative posts:

Space Piracy is a common science fiction trope. It has been continuously derided in Hard Science Fiction as silly and a holdover of the ‘Space is an Ocean’ analogy.

But is it really that unrealistic to have space pirates? Let’s find out.

There’s more to piracy than just attacking a target and running away afterwards.

Put yourself in the shoes of a pirate, a merchant or the authorities. What would you do?

(8) BUNCH OF LUNCH. Why aren’t there more big mammals? We ate them.  “New Study Says Ancient Humans Hunted Big Mammals To Extinction”.

Over the past 125,000 years, the average size of mammals on the Earth has shrunk. And humans are to blame.

That’s the conclusion of a new study of the fossil record by paleo-biologist Felisa Smith of the University of New Mexico.

Smith studied fossils going back 65 million years, when dinosaurs died and mammals came into their own. Many of the early mammals went on to get big. Among the giant creatures: “Llamas and camels and sloths and five species of pronghorn [antelope] actually,” she says, “and certainly mammoths. And then lots of really cool predators, like Arctodus, the short faced bear.” The short-faced bear stood 11 feet tall, about the shoulder height of some species of ancient camel.

And that was just North America.

Being big was just as successful as being small, and had some advantages when it came to surviving big predators. “Taken as a whole, over 65 million years, being large did not increase mammals’ extinction risk. But it did when humans were involved,” Smith found.

Looking back over the most recent 125,000 years of the fossil record, Smith found that when humans arrived someplace, the rate of extinction for big mammals rose. She says it basically came down to hunger. “Certainly humans exploit large game,” she says, “probably because they are tasty”—and because a bigger animal makes for a bigger meal. …

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 21, 1997 — Ashes of Gene Roddenberry journeyed into space.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian shared this link with pun lovers in mind — Off the Mark.

(11) BRADBURY MUSEUM UPDATE. A proponent told the Chicago Tribune “Ray Bradbury Experience Museum planning start in smaller space, eventual move to old Carnegie Library”.

The multi-million dollar dream of renovating and redeveloping the childhood library of Ray Bradbury for a museum dedicated to the Waukegan author is still alive more than two years after a campaign was launched to make it happen.

But a team of Bradbury devotees, civic boosters and creative minds has decided it isn’t going to wait for that overall package to take shape at the historic but dormant Carnegie Library on Sheridan Road.

Instead, early next month, plans will be unveiled for a more modest Ray Bradbury Experience Museum (RBEM) with a goal of opening in a Genesee Street storefront in time for the 100th anniversary of the late author’s birthday in August 2020….

(12) WOTF. Kyle Aisteach posted a memoir about “My Writers of the Future Experience” in the 1990s. Aisteach was a paid add-on student of the workshop, not a contest finalist.

… The workshop itself was much like what others have described: A whirlwind of big names coming in to talk to us, intensely trying to churn out a complete short story in just a few days, a lot of theory, and a lot of making friends. I learned a tremendous amount, much of which I carry with me and still use to this day. The workshop was wonderful.

But the question everyone wants to ask is this: What about the Scientology?

Well, it was definitely there. The impression I had at the time was that L. Ron Hubbard founded Scientology and therefore Scientology loves L. Ron Hubbard and everything he was associated with, and therefore the Church of Scientology wanted to support us in any way it could. David Miscavige was there to welcome us all. L. Ron Hubbard’s name was not just mentioned frequently, it was extolled. We were clearly and obviously using Scientology property for both the workshop and the gala. I, personally, found it a little uncomfortable at times, but I’m always uncomfortable in someone else’s sacred space, so there was nothing weird about that to me. A couple of the texts we used were clearly Scientologist documents (the biography of Hubbard had him transcending instead of dying, and another essay – I don’t recall exactly what it was about – Budrys explained was written for Scientologists and he explained what terms like “clear” meant so we could follow it), but that didn’t faze me either, since texts that inform writing can come from anywhere and most of us pull from our own traditions when teaching.

Before anyone has a meltdown about any of this, remember that this was the 1990s. Scientology had some legal troubles as a young religion, but at this point the general feeling was that it had left them behind….

And former Writers of the Future winner J. W. Alden has written another thread – start here.

(13) BEWARE EVENTBRITE. Slashdot warns “Eventbrite Claims The Right To Film Your Events — And Keep the Copyright”.

But in addition, you’re also granting them permission to record and use footage of all your attendees and speakers, “in any manner, in any medium or context now known or hereafter developed, without further authorization from, or compensation to.” And after that Eventbrite “will own all rights of every nature whatsoever in and to all films and photographs taken and recordings made hereunder, including without limitation of all copyrights therein and renewals and extensions thereof, and the exclusive right to use and exploit the Recordings in any manner, in any medium or context now known or hereafter developed…”

(14) PERSISTENCE. At NPR, Genevieve Valentine analyzes Joanna Russ’ nonfiction classic: “‘How To Suppress Women’s Writing:’ 3 Decades Old And Still Sadly Relevant”:

…It’s hard not to get freshly angry at the status quo, reading this. But amid the statistics and the sort of historical pull quotes you’ll want to read out loud to horrified friends, Russ is also defying a literary tradition that, she points out again and again, wants to forget that women write. In so doing, she deliberately creates a legacy of women writers who came before. Well, white women. Russ mentions a few writers of color in the essay proper, and includes more in her Afterword, but this is a very white family tree. (It’s one of the ways the book shows its age; another is the way any genderqueerness is reduced to sexual preferences, which amid so much far-seeing commentary feels quaintly second-wave.)

And despite how much there is to be angry about, How to Suppress Women’s Writing is shot through with hope. There’s the energy of a secret shared in “the rocking and cracking of the book as the inadequate form strains or even collapses.” And beneath every denial of agency, there’s the obvious truth: For hundreds of years, despite those odds against them, the “wrong” writers still manage to write. Likely it won’t be remembered long enough or taken seriously enough, but to read this book is to admire this buried tradition, and realize how much there is to be discovered — and how there’s no time like the present to look at the marginalized writers you might be missing. “Only on the margins does growth occur,” Russ promises, like the guide in a story telling you how to defeat the dragon. Get angry; then get a reading list.

(15) MOVERS AND SHAKERS. In California, they’re “Betting On Artificial Intelligence To Guide Earthquake Response”.

A startup company in California is using machine learning and artificial intelligence to advise fire departments about how to plan for earthquakes and respond to them.

The company, One Concern, hopes its algorithms can take a lot of the guesswork out of the planning process for disaster response by making accurate predictions about earthquake damage. It’s one of a handful of companies rolling out artificial intelligence and machine learning systems that could help predict and respond to floods, cyber-attacks and other large-scale disasters.

(16) HAPPY BIRTHDAY HUBBLE. Great photo: “It’s The Hubble Space Telescope’s Birthday. Enjoy Amazing Images Of The Lagoon Nebula”.

The Hubble “has offered a new view of the universe and has reached and surpassed all expectations for a remarkable 28 years,” the agencies said in a statement, adding that the telescope has “revolutionized almost every area of observational astronomy.”

Hubble was launched on April 24, 1990, aboard the space shuttle Discovery as a joint project between NASA and the ESA. Each year, the telescope is diverted from important scientific observational duties to take an image of the cosmos in intense detail.

This year’s featured image, the Lagoon Nebula, is a colossal stellar nursery, 55 light-years wide and 20 light-years tall, that is about 4,000 light-years away from Earth.

 

(17) END GAME. Looper tries to explain the ending of Ready Player One. Watch out for spoilers, I assume!

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, David Langford, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Peter J, Mark Hepworth, Jim Meadows, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 4/10/18 The Third Little Pixel Had Scrolled Beef

(1) TOLKIEN’S GONDOLIN. Tor.com carries the official word: “J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fall of Gondolin to Be Published as a Standalone for the First Time”. It will be published August 30.

HarperCollins UK announced today that it would publish The Fall of Gondolin, J.R.R. Tolkien’s tale documenting the rise of a great but hidden Elven kingdom and its terrible fall, for the first time as a standalone edition. Edited by Christopher Tolkien using the same “history in sequence” mode that he did for 2017’s standalone edition of Beren and Lúthien, and illustrated by Alan Lee, this edition will collect multiple versions of the story together for the first time.

Tolkien has called this story, which he first began writing in 1917, “the first real story of this imaginary world”; i.e., it was one of the first tales to be put to paper. The only complete version of The Fall of Gondolin was published posthumously in The Book of Lost Tales; however, different compressed versions appeared in both The Silmarillion and the collection Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth.

(2) POTTER ANNIVERSARY COVERS. Gwynne Watkins, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Accio ‘Harry Potter’ covers: See the dazzling new 20th anniversary artwork”, says the Harry Potter books are coming out with new covers by Brian Selznick, author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret (which was the basis for the movie Hugo). See all the covers at the link.

Do your well-worn Harry Potter books need a new look for spring? In honor of the 20th anniversary of  the U.S. publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Scholastic is releasing new paperback editions of J.K. Rowling‘s entire series, featuring gorgeous cover art by Brian Selznick. When the seven books are placed side by side, the intricate black-and-white illustrations form a single piece of art chronicling Harry’s adventures. Scroll down to see the covers, which are full of tiny details for readers to discover. (Can you spot the Hogwarts Express? How about Harry’s Patronus?)

(3) ABOUT THE SIMPSONS’ APU. The Simpsons creators can’t figure out how something people laughed at in the past became “politically incorrect.” (And isn’t that term always a signal flare preceding a complete lack of empathy…) Entertainment Weekly’s Dana Schwartz discusses “Why The Simpsons’ response to the Apu controversy was so heartbreaking: Essay”.

…In 2017, comedian Hari Kondabolu wrote and starred in a documentary called The Problem with Apu in which he examined the cultural significance of The Simpsons character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, the Kwik-E-Mart owner, who speaks with a heavy, stereotypical Indian accent and is voiced by Hank Azaria, a white man.

Last night, The Simpsons offered its tepid reply.

The scene began with Marge reading a bedtime story to Lisa that had been neutered with social justice buzzwords. “What am I supposed to do?” Marge asks when Lisa complains.

“It’s hard to say,” says Lisa, breaking the fourth wall and looking directly at the camera. A photo of Apu on the nightstand helped make it very clear they were no longer talking about the fictional bedtime story. “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?”

“Some things will be dealt with at a later date,” says Marge, also to the camera.

“—If it all,” Lisa concludes.

There’s something about the response that came across as not only tasteless but viscerally unsatisfying. In his documentary, Kondabolu initiated the complex conversation about what it meant to have a white actor voicing an Indian character (with a heavy, caricatured accent) during a time when there was little or no Indian representation in the media.

The Simpsons on-air response reveals that the minds behind the long-running animated series either entirely failed to grasp Kondabolu’s point or (perhaps, unfortunately, more likely) they were completely indifferent to it.

(4) VAST GALLERY OF SFF ART. Enjoy TheVaultofRetroSciFi — Lots and lots of SF images, from all sorts of media.

(5) PARANORMAL ROMANCE. Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green explains why it’s hard to “Know Your Genre – Paranormal Romance”. She disagrees with the definitions posted on some of the leading sites.

…So why the confusion about what a PNR is when checking the RITA nominees?

Simply put, that confusion rests solely with RWA. A quick check of their website shows this definition for paranormal romance: “Romance novels in which fantasy worlds or paranormal or science fiction elements are an integral part of the plot.” See, there it is. Science fiction elements.

This definition might have worked several years ago, before there was an increase in the number of science fiction romance titles. Now, it only confuses the issue and muddies the waters when it comes to readers and booksellers. “Paranormal” doesn’t send most readers into the realm of sf, no way and no how. Yet, for RWA’s purposes, science fiction romance mixes and melds with PNR.

Is this the only definition? Far from it. One site defines PNR this way, “For a novel to be a Paranormal Romance, a simple thing must occur: love must begin between a human and a supernatural being (whether wholly supernatural or partially, just as long as there are supernatural elements present)”

Another site has this to say: “Most people hear the words ‘Paranormal Romance’ and visions of sparkly vamps and bare-chested wares seeking virginal human mates spring like crack-addicted leprechauns from the recesses of their minds. While these have certainly been the topic of many a novel **cough** Twilight **cough**, there are so many more topics joining the ranks of Paranormal Romance today.  Among them: Shapeshifters—half-human, half-animal beings with the ability to transmute between forms on cue, Angels, Demons, Nephilim, Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, Ancient Greek mythology, and even the occasional Ghost or Alien thrown in for good measure. And I would be amiss in not mentioning the perennial time-traveling, kilt-wearing highlander with the rippling biceps and the heart of gold. His broadsword isn’t the only steely thing about him, if you know what I mean.” Where I have a dispute with the site and its definitions is when it say UF is a sub-genre of PNR. Nope, totally different.

(6) THE WASTELAND. The trailer for Future World has dropped:

In a post-apocalyptic world, where water and gasoline have long since dried-up, a prince from the oasis (one of the last known safe-havens) must venture out to find medicine for the ailing queen (Lucy Liu), but along the way he gets mixed up with the warlord (James Franco) and his robot Ash (Suki Waterhouse), which leads to a daring journey through the desolate wastelands.

 

(7) FOUNDATIONAL TELEVISION. From Deadline: “Apple Lands Isaac Asimov ‘Foundation’ TV Series From David Goyer & Josh Friedman”.

In a competitive situation, Apple has nabbed a TV series adaptation of Foundation, the seminal Isaac Asimov science fiction novel trilogy. The project, from Skydance Television, has been put in development for straight-to-series consideration. Deadline revealed last June that Skydance had made a deal with the Asimov estate and that David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman were cracking the code on a sprawling series based on the books that informed Star Wars and many other sci-fi films and TV series. Goyer and Friedman will be executive producers and showrunners. Skydance’s David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross also will executive produce….

The project shows a different level of ambition for Apple’s worldwide video programming team led by Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg. In November, they set their first scripted series, a morning show drama executive produced by and starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, with a two-season, straight-to-series order. Apple also has given straight-to-series orders to Amazing Stories, a re-imagining of the anthology from Steven Spielberg, a Ronald D. Moore space drama, a Damien Chazelle series, a comedy starring Kristin Wiig, world-building drama See from Steven Knight and Francis Lawrence, as well as an M. Night Shyamalan psychological thriller.

(8) TWO BUTLER FANS SEEK FUNDS TO ATTEND WORLDCON. Alex Jennings asks “Help Me and Amanda Emily Smith Get to Worldcon 76” via a YouCaring fundraiser. To date people have chipped in $285 of their $2,500 goal.

Last year, Amanda and I both submitted letters to be published in Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler. Octavia was a huge influence on both of us, and Amanda and I had met her separately before her death.

Both our letters were accepted for publication, and we were so pleased to be a part of such a wonderful project. This event was even more of a milestone for Amanda as this was her first professional sale in the science fiction field.

On April 2, the official announcement came down that Letters to Octavia has been chosen as a finalist for the Hugo Award in the category of Related Work! We literally jumped for joy. Honoring one of our greatest influences had lifted us up, as well!

The Hugo Awards are basically the Oscars of Science Fiction. Both Amanda and I have dreamed of attending Worldcon and the Hugo Awards all our lives, but we’ve never been able to before. Now that a book we are both in is a finalist, we feel we must get to Worldcon 76 in San Jose by any means necessary.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 10, 1953 — Feature length, full color, 3-D movie premiered: House of Wax starring Vincent Price.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born April 10, 1953 – David Langford

(11) CANDLE TIME. Steven H Silver lights up Langford’s birthday cake at Black Gate with “Birthday Reviews: David Langford’s ‘Waiting for the Iron Age’”.

Langford may be best known as the holder of twenty-one Hugo Awards for Best Fan Writer, including an unprecedented nineteen year winning streak. During that time he also won six Hugo Awards for Best Fanzine for Ansible and a Best Short Story Hugo for “Different Kinds of Darkness.” In 2012, he won his 29th and most recent Hugo for Best Related Work for The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition, edited with John Clute, Peter Nicholls, and Graham Sleight. Langford has tied with Charles N. Brown for the most Hugo Awards won.

(12) SOCIETY PAGES. Liz Bourke, Sleeping With Monsters columnist and 2018 Hugo nominee, announced the good news earlier this month:

(13) READY FOR HIS CLOSEUP. Neil Gaiman will appear on The Big Bang Theory this month. He’s guested on various TV series over the years, sometimes as an animated character, but this will be live action.

It’s kind of pathetic there are people tweeting responses that they never heard of him. Who cares?

(14) THIS DOCTOR IS NOW IN. ScienceFiction.com reveals that “Peter Cushing’s ‘Doctor Who’ Is Now Canon (Sort Of)”.

One of the biggest tasks an anniversary special has is to balance fan service with a story that can stand on its own merits. Among the many ways ‘The Day of the Doctor’ accomplished this rare feat was to feature appearances by multiple incarnations of the Doctor. Though only three were really sharing the spotlight, every version of the beloved Time Lord made at least a brief appearance, mostly through the use of archival footage. On top of this, Steven Moffat even took the opportunity to introduce a new incarnation in the form of the War Doctor, unforgettably brought to life by John Hurt.

And now he’s done it again.

In the newly released novelization of the fiftieth anniversary special, Steven Moffat has slyly worked Peter Cushing’s version of the Doctor into the series’ continuity

(15) OUTWARD BOUND. A new find pushes the date back: “Finger bone points to early human exodus”.

New research suggests that modern humans were living in Saudi Arabia about 85,000 years ago.

A recently discovered finger bone believed to be Homo sapiens was dated using radio isotope techniques.

This adds to mounting evidence from Israel, China and Australia, of a widespread dispersal beyond Africa as early as 180,000 years ago.

Previously, it was theorised that Homo sapiens did not live continuously outside Africa until 60,000 years ago.

(16) MODEST TRIBUTE. The BBC says “Belgrade’s ‘tiny head’ Gagarin statue causes dismay”.

The bust of Yuri Gagarin was ordered by the city council last year, and was put up on a street that bears his name, the Blic news website reports.

But its appearance – a tiny bust on top of a tall plinth – has been met by a hugely negative reaction, the paper says.

“The only way you can see it clearly is to launch yourself into the sky,” the Noizz website says. “While this is somewhat symbolic,” adds writer Ivana Stojanov, “there’s certainly no common sense on show”.

(17) IT’S NOT DEAD, JIM. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn tries to figure out what happened: “Cherry City Comic Con Confusingly Cancelled and then Uncancelled?”.

…Of course, as a Facebook video, it’s highly unlikely that anyone will really end up watching this. Which really does beg the question: if you uncancel a show no one knows was cancelled, did anything really happen at all? Because right now, most people have no idea.

Update 4/10, 12:00pm: In a strange series of events, Cherry City Comic Con has now been uncancelled. The announcement was made, again, with a Facebook video…

Of course, as a Facebook video, it’s highly unlikely that anyone will really end up watching this. Which really does beg the question: if you uncancel a show no one knows was cancelled, did anything really happen at all?

(18) QUICK FLASH. Charles Payseur turns his eye to “Quick Sips – Flash Fiction Online April 2018”.

Continuing the newer tradition of coming out with fairly thematically linked issues, Flash Fiction Online presents an April full of fools. Or maybe fooling. Also aliens. Yup, all three stories feature alien beings, and in most of them there’s also a vein of something…well, of someone pulling one over on someone else. Maybe it’s an actress tricking an alien monster to spare Earth, or a group of alien agents trying to set up first contact on the sly, or even the own paranoid post-drunken-weekend-in-Vegas thoughts of a man who might have just married an extraterrestrial. In any case, the stories are largely bright and fun, even when they brush against planet eating and possible invasion. So without further delay, to the reviews!

(19) ALL KNOWN BRITISH SFF. At THEN, Rob Hansen’s British fanhistory site, you can find scans of a 1937 British SF Bibliography. Once upon a time, the literary universe was a smaller place.

Edited by Douglas W. F. Mayer for the Science Fiction Association and dated August 1937, this was one of the earliest bibliographies to be produced by fandom and contains many titles that would be unfamiliar to a modern reader. A mimeographed publication, it was printed in purple-blue ink, had a soft card wraparound cover, and was stitch-bound. The particular copy scanned for this site includes its unknown previous owner’s checkmarks against many entries.

This is a list of books, only. However, it’s still an interesting coincidence that Mayer himself edited Amateur Science Stories #2, where Arthur C. Clarke’s first published story appeared in December 1937.

(20) JAWS. Or at least part of a jaw: “Ancient sea reptile was one of the largest animals ever”.

Sea reptiles the size of whales swam off the English coast while dinosaurs walked the land, according to a new fossil discovery.

The jaw bone, found on a Somerset beach, is giving clues to the ”last of the giants” that roamed the oceans 205 million years ago.

The one-metre-long bone came from the mouth of a huge predatory ichthyosaur.

The creature would have been one of the largest ever known, behind only blue whales and dinosaurs, say scientists.

(21) SUMMER MUNCH. The Meg is slated for release on August 10, 2018.

In the film, a deep-sea submersible—part of an international undersea observation program—has been attacked by a massive creature, previously thought to be extinct, and now lies disabled at the bottom of the deepest trench in the Pacific…with its crew trapped inside. With time running out, expert deep sea rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) is recruited by a visionary Chinese oceanographer (Winston Chao), against the wishes of his daughter Suyin (Li Bingbing), to save the crew—and the ocean itself—from this unstoppable threat: a pre-historic 75-foot-long shark known as the Megalodon. What no one could have imagined is that, years before, Taylor had encountered this same terrifying creature. Now, teamed with Suyin, he must confront his fears and risk his own life to save everyone trapped below…bringing him face to face once more with the greatest and largest predator of all time.

 

(22) AND DON’T FORGET THESE SHARKES. The Shadow Clarke jury’s Nick Hubble picked six books on the submissions list to review, and tells why in this post.

My criteria for the selection of these six titles this year – none of which I have read – was not what I think might be in contention or even necessarily what I think I will personally rate. Instead, I have chosen a range of books that I hope will enable some sort of literary critical discussion of the field as a whole in 2018 (although clearly this remains an entirely subjective choice on my behalf). Therefore, I have tried to mix first-time authors with established novelists, sequels with standalone works, and genre and mainstream literary texts; but I have married this with a practical policy of also choosing books that took my fancy for whatever reason.

I was also trying to pick a set of choices similar to the that offered by this year’s shortlist for the BSFA Award for best novel: Nina Allan’s The Rift, Anne Charnock’s Dreams Before the Start of Time,? Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, and Ann Leckie’s Provenance?. I thought this was a good list because there were different types of novels, all of which I enjoyed (and because I have read them, I have excluded them from my Clarke selection below even though all have been submitted). Despite large differences in approach, these novels share a focus on family relationships that perhaps tells us something about the preoccupations of our age. It would be trite to argue that they simply demonstrate a retreat from political and ideological uncertainty to take refuge in the personal sphere but perhaps they suggest different ways in which politics and relationships are both being reconfigured in an age of digital communication. It will be interesting to see what patterns emerge from the wider Clarke submissions list.

(23) ABOUT KRESS. Joe Sherry is not fully satisfied with the book, but it’s close: “Microreview [book]: Tomorrow’s Kin, by Nancy Kress”, at Nerds of a Feather.

Once we move past the conclusion of Yesterday’s Kin, the focus remains on Dr. Marianne Jenner as well as pushing in tighter on that of her grandchildren. This is character driven science fiction. Kress explores the impact of Earth’s interaction with a spore cloud that was initially described as a world killer, but she does so through the lens of characters who have become as familiar as family. To a reader not steeped in the nuance and minutiae of science, the unpinning science of Tomorrow’s Kin comes across as fully rigorous as anything in a more traditional “hard” science fiction novel. Kress does not engage in interminable info dumping. I read Tomorrow’s Kin not long after finishing the latest Charles Stross novel, Dark State (my review). There is no real point of comparison between the two novels, except that I generally love the ideas that Stross plays with and wish he did a better job at actually telling the story. That generally isn’t the case with Nancy Kress. She is a far more accomplished writer and is far smoother with her storytelling. Kress’s ideas are just as big and just as bold, but they are strongly integrated into the story.

(24) CATS STAR ON SFF. Moshe Feder has discovered the true identify of Number One!

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

Pixel Scroll 4/3/18 You Got The Jong Number For That Pixel Scroll

(1) WHEN TROLLS ATTACK. The London Film and Comic Con told readers how they responded to a trolling attack.

Now to an important activity that really did affect us last week and it did catch us out for a few hours until we worked out what was going down.

Two days before the most recent big announcement, 15 new accounts were created on our forum and equally, multiple new Facebook members with brand new accounts started following our Facebook page. Then, on the announcement night, the users of these accounts started to aggressively and negatively comment and undermine the guest announcement. This was the ONLY thing they were set up to achieve.

This was not noticed by us at first and it took some time to look into these Facebook accounts. As we started to look a little closer, it was clear that we’d attracted a small vocal minority with a real and cynical agenda to purely undermine the guest announcement and belittle any fans or attendees showing any type of excitement.

I’ve since learnt this is known as ‘TrollJacking’, where internet trolls post or comment on a piece of content or an announcement to drum up negativity or just to damage the purpose of the thread. What a lovely thing to do.

This is something very new to us and it really did catch us out, in fact so much so we left the comments up online – as we believe in freedom of speech and opinion and there’s always the odd bit of negativity with every update or announcement.

To all the true fans out there, regardless of whether you are happy about the announcement or not – I am sorry that we did not pick up on it sooner and allowed this minority to cause friction at a time that should have been a time for great excitement and discussion for everyone….

This announcement on Facebook about the appearance of Christopher Eccleston seems to have been the target.

(2) CORALINE MEANING. The Guardian interviews Gaiman about the opera based on his book: “Neil Gaiman on Coraline the terrifying opera: ‘Being brave means being scared'”.

The button eyes are a macabre touch that places Gaiman’s story firmly in the Grimms’ Fairy Tales tradition. And there’s more than a touch of Hansel and Gretel in Coraline’s themes of parental abandonment, an initially appealing but evil mother figure, and a brave child who conquers her fears to win the day. “I’d wanted to write a story for my daughters,” says Gaiman in the introduction to the 10th-anniversary edition, “that told them something I wished I’d known when I was a boy: that being brave doesn’t mean you aren’t scared. Being brave means you are scared, really scared, badly scared, and you do the right thing anyway.”

(3) A NIGHT AT THE OPERA. And The Guardian comments on the performance: “Coraline review – creepy adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s tale will turn kids on to opera”.

The Royal Opera have certainly done it proud. The supernatural rubs shoulders with the mundane in Aletta Collins’s production, in which the two worlds are placed back to back as mirror images on a revolving stage. Magic consultants Richard Wiseman and David Britland have been drafted in to provide the special effects, which drew gasps from the audience on occasion on opening night, though Collins also has a knack of suggesting unease by the simplest of means. The scene in which Kitty Whately’s Other Mother produces syringes and surgical needles in an attempt to sew buttons over the eyes of Mary Bevan’s Coraline (“just a little incision under your eyelids”) had me squirming in my seat.

(4) DUFF. SF Site News covered the Down Under Fan Fund result:

Marlee Jane Ward won DUFF (the Down Under Fan Fund) in an unopposed race. She will travel to the US to attend Worldcon 76, to be held in San Jose from August 16-20….

(5) ALPHABET SOUP. James Davis Nicoll returns with: “Fighting Erasure: Women SF Writers of the 1970s, Part IV”. This time letter letters I and J, which include –

Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones was prolific and talented, which makes singling out a particular work as a starting point especially problematic. The fact she’s the subject of one of my review projects doesn’t help, as it only expands the number of worthy candidates. Although it is a bit of a cheat, what I would recommend is not a single novel but an omnibus: 2003’s The Dalemark Quartet. It is composed of four early secondary-world fantasy novels that recount the history of troubled Dalemark, from its age of legends to a quasi-medieval period thousands of years later.

(6) MLK. On the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death, here is N. K. Jemisin’s contribution to CNN’s post “Who is Martin Luther King Jr. to us, 50 years later?”

N.K. Jemisin: I pray it won’t take another 50 years

In 1963, as Martin Luther King Jr. sat in solitary confinement in Birmingham, he lamented the failures of white moderates, who at the time seemed to prefer “a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”

It must have seemed clear to King that even white people who claim to support equality are unreliable allies — willing to talk the talk and walk a few steps, but only if their own anxieties are put first.

Which is why the civil rights movement made what progress it did by effectively shaming white moderates into doing the right thing. This makes me wonder what America is to do in 2018, when our society daily endures a shameless embarrassment of a President, abetted by his shameless party and the shameless media — and when, too often, some white liberals and moderates openly wonder if there’s some way to ease tension between themselves and … fascists.

I have no solutions to offer, other than to survive and to try and help as many others survive as possible. It saddens me that we’ve progressed so little in the 50 years since King’s death. I pray it won’t take another 50 years for all of us to know the presence of justice at last.

N.K. Jemisin is an author of speculative fiction. In 2016, she became the first black to win the Hugo Award for best novel for “The Fifth Season.” In 2017, she won Hugo for best novel again, for “The Obelisk Gate.”

(7) EXPANSE. The next Expanse novel will be out in December – Tiamat’s Wrath.

(8) THEY’LL BE BACK. The Hollywood Reporter brings word: “‘Riverdale,’ ‘Flash,’ ‘Supernatural’ Among 10 CW Renewals”.

The CW, fresh off news that it is expanding to a sixth night of originals for the 2018-19 broadcast season, has renewed nearly its entire lineup.

Returning for additional seasons are: Arrow, Black Lightning, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Legends of Tomorrow, Dynasty, The Flash, Jane the Virgin, Riverdale, Supergirl and Supernatural.

Still to be determined are the fates of midseason fare The 100, iZombie and Life Sentence and fall debut Valor. Official decisions on those four — as well as The CW’s new series orders — will be determined in May.

(9) FIGURING IT OUT. NPR’s Glen Weldon finds both style and substance in “‘Legion,’ Season 2: Welcome Back To The Weirdest Corner Of The Marvel Universe”.

Legion is the story of David Haller (a perpetually rumpled and vaguely confused Dan Stevens), the world’s most powerful mutant, who’s now free of the evil psychic parasite known only as the Shadow King, who last season assumed the form of his friend Lenny, played by Aubrey Plaza. David’s grown up believing himself to be schizophrenic, but came to realize his true nature when he was taken in by an organization seeking to train him — and to fight the Shadow King, who is in fact an ancient being known as Amahl Farouk (played, this season, by Navid Negahban).

(10) BEWARE SPOILERS. Martin Morse Wooster tells me, “Since you are having more troubles with computers I offer a show recap” —

Last night’s episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow began with a scene captioned ‘OCCIDENTAL COLLEGE–1979,”  The camera zooms in on the back of an African-American student’s head.  The student, suing an Olympia manual typewriter, dutifully types, “Obama.Political Science 100.”  We know that this scence is about Barack Obama when he was a freshman in college.  Obama looks out the window and sees a campus in springtime.

As the future president is typing, the window is smashed and a giant paw GRABS the president and holds him high in the air!  It is Grodd the gorilla, and he’s on a mission.

‘IT’S TIME TO MAKE AMERICA GRODD AGAIN!,” the beast thunders,

Fortuntately the Legends of Tomorrow show up and Grodd drops Obama, who runs off.  The Legends then blast the beast with flamethrowers, then shrink him and throw him in a Mason jar.  The future president then decides to party with the Legends on their time ship.  He holds out a hand to one of the women, saying, “Hi, my name is Barry.”  “You should call yourself ‘Barack,’ ” she responds.  Another woman swoons, “I miss you, Barry!”

I wish I could tell you how Obama gets back to California and somehow doesn’t remember how he was nearly killed by a giant talking ape and then partied with some time lords.  But this is the first of a two-part episode, so we will learn these answers next week

(11) SKYE STOMPERS. Why are the : “Dinosaur tracks on Skye ‘globally important'”? They date to the Middle Jurassic, for which there’s relatively little data.

Most of the prints were made by long-necked sauropods – which stood up to 2m (6.5ft) tall – and by theropods, which were the older cousins of Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Researchers measured, photographed and analysed about 50 footprints in a tidal area at Brothers’ Point – Rubha nam Brathairean – a headland on Skye’s Trotternish peninsula.

The footprints were difficult to study owing to tidal conditions, the impact of weathering and changes to the landscape but the scientists identified two trackways in addition to many isolated footprints.

(12) SMUGGLE BY WIRE. TeleCrunch reports “Chinese police foil drone-flying phone smugglers at Hong Kong border”:

Dozens of high-tech phone smugglers have been apprehended by Chinese police, who twigged to the scheme to send refurbished iPhones into the country from Hong Kong via drone — but not the way you might think.

China’s Legal Daily reported the news (and Reuters noted shortly after) following a police press conference; it’s apparently the first cross-border drone-based smuggling case, so likely of considerable interest.

Although the methods used by the smugglers aren’t described, a picture emerges from the details. Critically, in addition to the drones themselves, which look like DJI models with dark coverings, police collected some long wires — more than 600 feet long.

…So here’s what you do:

Send the drone over once with all cable attached. Confederates on the other side attach the cable to a fixed point, say 10 or 15 feet off the ground. Drone flies back unraveling the cable, and lands some distance onto the Hong Kong side. Smugglers attach a package of 10 phones to the cable with a carabiner, and the drone flies straight up. When the cable reaches a certain tension, the package slides down the cable, clearing the fence. The drone descends, and you repeat.

I’ve created a highly professional diagram to illustrate this technique (feel free to reuse):

(13) READ BUHLERT. Cora Buhlert has some new work available — “A Triple New Release and Some Thoughts on Cozy Space Opera”.

I have an announcement of my own to make. And it’s a big announcement, because I have not one but three new In Love and War stories to announce, two short stories and one short novel.

The first of the two short stories isn’t quite that new, because it has been available as part of the anthology The Guardian for a while now. However, if you want a standalone edition, here is your chance.

Like Dreaming of the Stars and Graveyard Shift, Baptism of Fire is a prequel to the In Love and War series proper, though it is listed as Part 2 at most vendors, because they don’t support prequels very well.

(14) BLOOM. The singer of “F*** Me Ray Bradbury” continues her TV career as someone who is late.

Rachel Bloom of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fame will be heading over to another CW show when she guest stars on an upcoming episode of iZombie.

Bloom will be portraying a “pretentious theater actor” whose death is investigated by iZombie’s Liv (Rose McIver) and Clive (Malcolm Goodwin), TV Line reported.

(15) GOING GREEN. The 2019 Worldcon committee wishes to apprise you of the availability of the “Finest Public Toilet in Dublin”. Or “Where All the Big Lads Hang Out…” as the post’s author Pádraig Ó Méalóid says:

It’s the middle of August 2019, and you’re in Dublin for Worldcon – a Stranger, if not in a Strange Land, at least in a strange city. A strange city with many secrets, which sometimes only the locals truly know about. You’ve heard all about our native literary giants – George Bernard Shaw, James Joyce, and Flann O’Brien, to name but three – but even they were only human, prey to the wants and needs that mortal flesh is heir to. It’s only natural that you’ll want to know where they would have gone, and where you could go, too. So let me introduce you to one of the hidden architectural gems of my native city: the beautiful public toilets in the National Library of Ireland….

(16) GOING PINK. You could win this outfit and fight cancer —

Enter to win Deadpool’s Pink Suit and Send a Big F-You to Cancer at https://fox.co/DeadpoolPinkSuitYT Learn more about Fuck Cancer at https://LetsFCancer.com

 

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

Pixel Scroll 3/5/18 Don’t Scroll That Shoggoth, Hand Me The Pixel

(1) FIGHT TO THE FINISH. Unbound Worlds, the Penguin Random House website for sff fans, is running Cage Match 2018: Creature Feature, a March Madness-style original fiction bracket tournament.

For the first time, Cage Match will feature an all non-human bracket of 32 characters — monsters, murderbots, mythological beings, and more from SF/F books — in battles to the death written by acclaimed authors.Contributors include Liana Brooks, C.A. Higgins, Seanan McGuire, Tina Connolly, and many others. Below are links to a couple of Round One matches.

  • Seanan McGuire’s (Tricks For Free) battle between Pennywise, a shapeshifting monster turned sinister clown from Stephen King’s It and Shelob, a venomous spider from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Read it here.
  • Michael Poore’s (Reincarnation Blues) account of Deep Thought, the supernatural computer from Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy vs. Lovelace/Sidra, a sentient computer from Becky Chambers The Long Way To a Small Angry Planet. Read it here.

Some of the other creatures from classic and contemporary science fiction and fantasy are:

  • Cthulhu, a massive, octopoid god-being from the works of H.P. Lovecraft.
  • Drogon, the largest and most aggressive of Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons from A Song of Fire and Ice by George R.R. Martin.  
  • Iorek Byrnison, an armor-clad polar bear warrior from Phillip Pullman’s The Golden Compass.
  • Murderbot, a self-aware robot that hates humans from Martha Wells’s The Murderbot Diaries.
  • Pennywise, a shapeshifting monster turned sinister clown from Stephen King’s It.
  • War, a supernatural horseman of the apocalypse from Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.

Also new for Cage Match 2018 is a special creature-themed Spotify playlist.

(2) BRADBURY IS BACK. As Bill Oberst Jr. describes his exciting new project, Ray Bradbury Live (forever):

Dinosaurs.

Dark Carnivals.

Rockets To Mars.

Ray Bradbury Live (forever) has them all. It’s a smart show; alternatively funny, sppoky and biting; a mix of Epcot ride, Planetarium show and dream.

The Show: Like Mark Twain Tonight, or The Bell of Amherst. But with dinosaurs.

Ray Bradbury Live (forever) is licensed for performance by the Ray Bradbury Estate, with script approval by the family.

Bill is doing the first staged reading in NYC at Theatre Row on April 12th at 7 p.m. It’s not the full production, just a reading, but it will give an idea of the piece. Jeff Farley is doing the prosthetic make-up for the actual show when it opens. The plan is to debut Off-Broadway in 2019 and then tour it nationally (and maybe overseas, too.) This first reading is the first baby step.

As a reminiscence, here is a promotional graphic from Bill’s 2015 Bradbury-themed performance in LA:

(3) WITHOUT RESERVATION. Adweek explains “Why the Overlook Hotel From The Shining Got an Ad on the Oscars”.

The one hotel in the world where you really don’t want to stay got a high-profile commercial on the Oscars telecast tonight—38 years after it first terrified people on the big screen.

The Overlook Hotel, which was the setting for Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror movie The Shining (based on Stephen King’s 1977 novel of the same name), was the ostensible advertiser behind the 30-second spot—which invited you to enjoy a “quiet, remote family getaway” at the “newly renovated” property, where “there’s a surprise around every corner.”

… A few seconds at the very end of the ad reveal the true advertiser—the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, a new museumdedicated to the art and science of movies that will be opened in Los Angeles in 2019 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (which runs the Oscars).

 

(4) INTERSECTIONALITY. Damien Walter has an intriguing idea for explaining a theoretical concept: “The trouble with intersectional political alliances as illustrated by Star Wars”.

Intersectionality is a powerful idea conveyed in an overcomplicated word. But Star Wars is a great way to understand it better.

…From what we see, Rebel X-Wing pilots are predominantly male, blue collar guys with security / technical backgrounds. In contrast the alliance diplomatic corps lead by Mon Mothma and Leia seem to be mostly women with liberal arts / humanities educations. These two groups probably see the rebellion very differently, and have to continually negotiate to find a good working relationship.

The Mon Calamari cruisers can take on multiple Imperial star destroyers at once, but were only converted for military function after the Mon Calamari were targetted and nearly wiped out by Imperial forces. No doubt Admiral Ackbar feels his people are the real leaders of the rebellion, and as allies the humans, who basically caused all these problems with their history of colonialism, should damn well shut up and take orders.

Who knows what the Bothans want from the whole thing, but many of them died to recover those plans, so they probably expect a cut of any political settlement when the Republic is re-established.

In real life we have a word for the problems of factionalism faced by Liberal political alliances.

INTERSECTIONALITY

(5) SEE STOKERCON. Ellen Datlow shared her photos of StokerCon 2018 on Flickr. Posing for the camera here are Craig Engler and the electrifying Scott Edelman.

(6) THE SHAPE OF DOLLARS. Are you up on the charges of plagiarism made against the makers of the movie The Shape of Water? If not, Time.com posted a summary today, immediately after the film won the Academy Award: “Everything to Know About the Shape of Water Plagiarism Controversy”.

Jim Meadows sent the link together with his commentary:

The whole thing got my attention, because I can remember watching “Let Me Hear You Whisper”, the Paul Zindel play that Zindel’s family says was unauthorized source material for The Shape of Water. The Time article mentions a 1990 TV movie (actually an episode in an artsy drama series on the A&E cable channel, according to IMDB). My memory is of an earlier production, in 1969, on the NET Playhouse series that ran on public television throughout the mid and late ’60s. My memories were reinforced a few years later when I found the play published in a 1970s Roger Elwood anthology, Six Science Fiction Plays.

I have not seen The Shape of Water, but the common points seem to include: a female janitor striking up a relationship with an intelligent aquatic creature housed in a research facility, with ensuing conflict between hard-headed scientists and the more romantic janitor. In Let Me Hear You Whisper, the creature was a talking dolphin, which I remember being a thing in SF back then. But unlike The Shape of Water, there was no physical relationship, just compassion on the janitor’s part for the dolphin’s plight. From the Time article, I gather there are other points of both similarity and difference.

The interesting question that makes this story more than One More Thing in the news is that of what counts as plagiarism. In science fiction, and, I suspect, other genres, there are countless stories that are essentially about the same thing. When is plagiarism, in the legal sense, involved? How many stories about, for instance, traveling to the moon for the first time, are actually very similar? Or telepathy? Or nuclear holocaust? If the plot-line goes in a different direction, or if certain basic elements are changed — a biped “river god” instead of a dolphin, for instance —- does that cancel out the charge of plagiarism? Among all these stories, how many cases exist that would meet legal grounds for a plagiarism charge? What is the precedent in these cases? Perhaps most importantly in a real-world sense, who could win a lawsuit?

Perhaps a lot of people could, but those lawsuits are never filed because most cases do not involve celebrated, money-making movies, but obscure stories in low-circulation magazines.

(7) GUFF REASONS. Going Under Fan Fund (GUFF) candidate Marcin Klak appeals for support by telling readers “What can I pack in my ‘fandom suitcase’?”

…So far I have visited more than 100 conventions in Poland. Their size ranged from less than 50 members to over 40 000 members. Among them were manga and anime cons, SF&F cons, some of them were multigenre and some were focused solely on gaming or on a particular franchise. I would like to pack all of those experiences with me. This way I can share pictures, memories and talk about the general Polish approach to conrunning and congoing….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 5, 1954The Creature from the Black Lagoon premiered.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 5, 1942 – Mike Resnick

Steven H Silver paid tribute at Black Gate with “Birthday Reviews: Mike Resnick’s ‘The Evening Line’”:

…In this particular story, Plug Malone has hit it big at the races and when word gets out about his good fortune, he finds himself facing a huge number of fortune-hunting women looking for a husband. The story, both stylistically and in its depiction of men and women, is very much a throwback to the period in which [Damon] Runyon was writing his Broadway stories.

The story sets Malone’s desire not to get married against the various citizens of Broadway stating that as soon as he has money, women will want to marry him, turning the first line of Pride and Prejudice askew….

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock says it’s obvious Rose is Rose follows our new regular feature about cats.

Mike Kennedy sent in a trio —

  • Bits for sale at Foxtrot.
  • Edward can’t help violating that kindergarten dictum about what you don’t run with: In The Bleachers.
  • And Monty is on the beam.

(11) TAKE WEIRD TO THE NEXT LEVEL. The Dark Magazine has launched a Kickstarter appeal to fund ”Two More Years of Unsettling Fiction”.

The Dark Magazine has been around for five years and in that short period of time we have published award-winning stories by new and established authors; showcased great artwork from all corners of the world; and done it all on the backs of a small team of simply wonderful people. But now it is past time to take it to the next level, and help finance the magazine for two more years to allow us to increase the subscription base, increase the pay rate, and increase the amount of fiction we bring to you. Because we don’t just like dark fantasy, horror, or weird fiction . . . we love it. And it means so much to us to introduce you to unsettling and thoughtful stories every month that we want to keep on doing it, with your help.

Who we are:

Co-Editor and Publisher Sean Wallace is the founder, publisher, and managing editor of Prime Books….

Co-Editor Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s debut novel, Signal to Noise, about music, magic and Mexico City, was listed as one of the best novels of the year …She was nominated for a World Fantasy Award for her work on the anthology She Walks in Shadows and is the guest-editor for Nightmare Magazine’s POC Destroy Horror. She edits The Jewish Mexican Literary Review together with award-winning author Lavie Tidhar.

Kate Baker is the podcast director and non-fiction editor for Clarkesworld Magazine. She has been very privileged to narrate over 250 short stories/poems by some of the biggest names in science fiction and fantasy. …She is currently working as the Operations Manager for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

(12) SHORTISH. Charles Payseur’s Quick Sips Reviews covers Glittership February 2018.

Glittership is back after a short delay with new 2018 content! Woo! First up is an original story, a reprint, and a poem, all of which are gloriously queer. The fiction is set in the “real” world with a heavy emphasis on death and with people generally occupying space bordering both the living and the dead. Especially for queer people who are in a state of constant danger, it’s a precarious space, but it can also be a powerful one that allows them to face the larger world and its mysteries more directly. These are rather wrenching pieces, and the the poetry doesn’t let up, looking at shapeshifting and portrayal and it’s just wonderful work all around that I should get to reviewing!

(13) EXACTLY. I confess to having a problem with all awards that use the eligibility year instead of the award year in their titles, not just the Nebulas.

(14) ANSWER WITH A QUESTION. Rich Lynch tuned into tonight’s Jeopardy! where one category was “Facts About Fiction.” This was the $2000 clue. The defending champ got it right.

(15) BEST OF SFRA. The Science Fiction Research Association announced its annual awards.

  • Thomas D. Clareson Award for distinguished service: Veronica Hollinger
  • Mary Kay Bray Award for best essay, interview, or extended review to appear in the SFRA Review: Hugh C. O’Connell for his review of Jack Fennell’s Irish Science Fiction
  • Pilgrim Award for lifetime contribution to SF and Fantasy scholarship: Carl Freedman
  • Pioneer Award for best critical essay-length work of the year: Thomas Strychacz for “The Political Economy of Potato Farming in Andy Weir’s The Martian” in Science Fiction Studies
  • Student Paper Award for outstanding scholarly essay read at the annual SFRA conference: Josh Pearson, for “New Weird Frankenworlds: Speaking and Laboring Worlds in Cisco’s Internet of Everything.”
  • Honorable mention for student paper goes to Kylie Kornsnack for “Towards a Time Travel Aesthetic: Writing-between-worlds in Okorafor, Butler, and Baledosingh.”

Also, in January, SFRA named Dr. Emily Cox the winner of the Support a New Scholar Award.

[Via Locus Online and SF Site News.]

(16) MOTH MAN. Neil Gaiman has participated in a few Moth storytelling events. Moth participants relate true events from their lives before a theater audience. Here is a list of his stories that are currently available via The Moth’s website.

(17) I’M BAAACK. Disney dropped the teaser trailer for Mary Poppins Returns.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/15/18 I Got 99 Problems But An Unscrolled Pixel Ain’t One Of Them

(1) MUCH MORE ON CHILDREN’S BOOK INDUSTRY HARASSMENT. At School Library Journal, Elizabeth Bird advises readers how to catch up on the fallout from Anne Ursu’s survey about sexual harassment in the children’s book industry (linked in yesterday’s Scroll, item 17) with her post “Sexual Harassment and Post-ALA YMA 2018 Thoughts (not necessarily at the same time)”.

If you have missed the current #metoo movement within the children’s and young adult literature industry, then I will break down the order in which you can catch up. While you could argue precisely where to start and where to end, the most necessary articles are as follows:

  1. Read the survey by Anne Ursu on sexual harassment in the children’s book industry
  2. Read the preceding SLJ article Children’s Publishing Reckons with Sexual Harassment in Its Ranks
  3. Read the comment section of that same SLJ article
  4. Read the Gwenda Bond article #metoo #ustoo Change Starts Now: Stand Against Harassment in the YA/Kidlit Community

(2) DASHNER APOLOGY. Comments at School Library Journal also implicated Maze Runner author James Dashner. Dashner tweeted an apology today. Deadline has the story: “‘Maze Runner’ Author James Dashner Tweets Apology Amid Harassment Allegations, Vows To ‘Seek Counseling’”.

Maze Runner author James Dashner, dropped earlier this week by his agent after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced, has tweeted an apology “to those affected” by his behavior and pledges to “seek counseling and guidance.”

“I have spent the recent days reexamining my actions and searching my soul,” Dashner writes (see the tweet below), adding he now believes he has been “part of the problem” with regard to sexual harassment and discrimination in the publishing industry.

“I didn’t honor or fully understand boundaries and power dynamics,” tweets the author, whose Maze Runner series has become a successful movie franchise. “I can sincerely say that I have never intentionally hurt another person. But to those affected I am so deeply sorry.”

Dashner was dropped by his literary agent, Michael W. Bourret, earlier this week after reader comments on the School Library Journal website named the writer, along with Thirteen Reasons Why author Jay Asher and others, of misconduct or harassment. Asher was subsequently expelled from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and dropped by the Andrea Brown agency.

(3) #METOO. Likewise, Myke Cole says he has “to own it”.

I am mentioned in the School Library Journal thread that names and shames men who have been inappropriate in their conduct with women in the field.

I wish I could say that the entire comment was false, but I would be lying to you and to myself. I have always prided myself on being “good”. I thought I had a good handle on what that was. It turns out I was wrong. And I have to be accountable to you and to myself. I have repeatedly abused my social power. I have made unwelcome advances in professional settings and that is not okay.

This is humiliating to write, but it is also necessary, because I believe in the #MeToo movement and I 100% support women coming forward to name men who have made them uncomfortable, or worse abused them.

(4) SHORT FICTION. Rocket Stack Rank’s ratings report for stories reviewed up to February 15 has been posted. Greg Hullender notes:

Because so many publications are on bimonthly schedules now, even-numbered months tend to be rather light.

The five-star story, “To Us May Grace Be Given,” by L.S. Johnson was published in 2017, so it’s eligible for this year’s Hugo awards. All the others are eligible for the 2019 awards.

(5) NEW ANTHOLOGY BENEFITS DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS. BookNest creator Petros Triantafyllou has just issued Art of War: Anthology for Charity. Proceeds will go to MSF (Doctors Without Borders). The book was just released and is available for sale in both digital and print formats. The print version includes 40 black & white interior art pieces.

The promotional text on Goodreads asks —  

How do you get forty fantasy authors to contribute short stories for a war-themed anthology without paying them? It sounds as if there should be a good punchline to that, but all Petros Triantafyllou did was twist the moral thumbscrews and tell them all the profits would go to Doctors Without Borders, a charity that works tirelessly across the world to alleviate the effects of conflict, sickness and poverty.

So, with clear consciences, several busloads of excellent and acclaimed fantasy authors have applied themselves to the task of penning a veritable mountain of words on the subject of The Art of War, expect bloodshed, gore, pathos, insight, passion, and laughs. Maybe even a wombat. Who knows. Anyway, as the original blurb said: “It’s good. Buy it.” -Mark Lawrence

The anthology collects works from authors that write within the genre including the grim dark sub-genre. The author list includes: Mark Lawrence, Ed Greenwood, Brian Staveley, Miles Cameron, John Gwynne, Sebastien De Castell, Mitchell Hogan, Stan Nicholls, Andrew Rowe, C.T. Phipps, Rob J. Hayes, Nicholas Eames, Mazarkis Williams, Ben Galley, Michael R. Fletcher, Graham Austin-King, Ed McDonald, Anna Stephens, Anna Smith Spark, RJ Barker, Michael R. Miller, Benedict Patrick, Sue Tingey, Dyrk Ashton, Steven Kelliher, Timandra Whitecastle, Laura M Hughes, J.P. Ashman, M.L. Spencer, Steven Poore, Brandon Draga, D. Thourson Palmer, D.M. Murray, Anne Nicholls, R.B. Watkinson, Charles F Bond, Ulff Lehmann, Thomas R. Gaskin, Zachary Barnes & Nathan Boyce.

(6) COMING TO AMERICA. The Tolkien, Maker of Middle-Earth exhibition discussed in yesterday’s Scroll will be making an American appearance next year, according to the FAQ.

Will the exhibition go on tour?

The exhibition will visit the Morgan Library in New York City from January to May 2019.

(7) SHARKE HUBBLE. Returning Shadow Clarke juror Nick Hubble tells why he reenlisted: “Literary Criticism and the 2018 Shadow Clarke: Introducing Nick Hubble”.

A key part of the purpose of the Shadow Jury last year was not just to comment on the award itself but also on its unofficial status as one of the key hubs, in the UK at least, for a critical articulation of the wider and deeper concerns of SFF fan, convention, and reviewing culture. I think we did achieve that to some extent but I hope that the tweaks to the format and emphasis this year will foreground that aspect of the project and help us avoid getting bogged down in controversies concerning the inclusion/exclusion of particular books from shortlists….

(8) IN VACUO. Joe Stech of Compelling Science Fiction invites readers to check out his personal blog where he provide gristly details about “What happens to animals in the vacuum of space?” Good chance to sort out science from fiction on this topic.

In the vast majority of modern shows, people sucked out into the vacuum of space freeze like popsicles in seconds. This is ridiculous. The reality is much more horrifying. In the 1960s there were several studies done on animals in high-grade vacuums that give us a real idea of exactly what would happen in the “oops, I forgot my spacesuit” scenario, and I’m going to walk you through the gory details, along with links to the original papers published in the 60s.

The first big thing to understand is how heat is transferred in space. You may remember that there are four main ways that heat can be bled off: conduction, convection, radiation, and phase change transfer (e.g. ‘enthalpy of vaporization’). When you’re in space, conduction and convection are out, because nothing cold is touching you (conduction) and there are no fluids to transfer heat away from you (convection). That leaves only radiation and phase changes that can cool you down. The infrared radiation leaving the human body is only about as much as a lightbulb, which is not going to drop your temperature extremely rapidly. You’ll also be cooled when the water in your skin boils away, but that’s only going to affect your outer layer. Your internals will be fine for a while, until they completely run out of oxygen.

So now that we’re clear that insta-freeze won’t happen, what are the actual steps in our grisly space demise? Here they are…

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 15, 1950 — Disney’s Cinderella premieres.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 15, 1935 — Grand Master Robert Silverberg

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian spotted a good Conan gag in Bliss.

(12) RETRO-HUGO TOOL. Nicholas Whyte has been working on an eligibility list for the “Best Series Retro Hugo 1943”.

….Obviously, since this category has not been awarded before, the strictures on previous winners and finalists are not relevant. But even so, the pickings are very slim. There are a number of series which started in 1942 but had not published 3 installments by the end of the year (eg Asimov’s Foundation). There are other series with many installments which however do not amount to 240,000 words (eg the Via and Adam Link sequences by Otto Binder, and I think also the Professor Jameson stories by Neil R. Jones). What I am left with is the following rather brief list…

(13) AFROFUTURISM. The CBC posted a video of author Nalo Hopkinson on the power of science fiction and why Black Panther is going to change everything — “Afrofuturism, sci-fi and why ‘it is a radical act for Black people to imagine having a future'”.

(14) THE ROAD TO HELL. Neil Gaiman tweeted some Good Omens set decoration.

(15) ARE WE THERE YET? Ironically, it may hit another planet, but not Mars. “Musk’s Tesla to stay in space for millions of years”.

The Tesla car that Elon Musk launched into space is likely to stay there for tens of millions of years before crashing into the Earth or Venus.

That’s the conclusion of an analysis by Czech and Canadian researchers.

They calculated that the roadster has a 6% chance of colliding with Earth and a 2.5% probability of hitting Venus over the next million years.

But there’s no cause for concern: if it eventually returns to Earth, most of the vehicle will burn up.

The team’s computer simulations suggest there is a very slim chance of the vehicle colliding with the Sun, but little to no chance of the car hitting Mars.

(16) AN ADMONITION. Steven Barnes wrote on Facebook

White people: please don’t go see BP this weekend: you will be denying a deserving POC a seat. If you MUST, and you are really “Woke” you’ll let said POC sit on your lap. Blocking your view. Your Liberal Guilt will be assuaged thereby.

(17) GAG ME. Paul Verhoeven preens about “How we made Starship Troopers” in The Guardian’s profile. Denise Richards is quoted, too.

Paul Verhoeven, director

Robert Heinlein’s original 1959 science-fiction novel was militaristic, if not fascistic. So I decided to make a movie about fascists who aren’t aware of their fascism. Robocop was just urban politics – this was about American politics. As a European it seemed to me that certain aspects of US society could become fascistic: the refusal to limit the amount of arms; the number of executions in Texas when George W Bush was governor.

It’s an idiotic story: young people go to fight bugs. So I felt the human characters should have a comic-book look. Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon auditioned, but I was looking for the prototype of blond, white and arrogant, and Casper Van Dien was so close to the images I remembered from Leni Riefenstahl’s films. I borrowed from Triumph of the Will in the parody propaganda reel that opens the film, too. I was using Riefenstahl to point out, or so I thought, that these heroes and heroines were straight out of Nazi propaganda. No one saw it at the time. I don’t know whether or not the actors realised – we never discussed it. I thought Neil Patrick Harris arriving on the set in an SS uniform might clear it up.

(18) WALKING DEAD WINE. Can’t beat a brand name like that, can you? And to make the vintage even more collectible, “New Walking Dead Wines Will Feature Augmented Reality Labels”.

A new Walking Dead wine will soon come to life in a store near you. We partnered with The Last Wine Company to create a Blood Red Blend and a Cabernet Sauvignon that not only taste amazing, but include some really awesome creative flourishes. Our bottles will have unique augmented reality labels that come to life when viewed through your smartphone. Each bottle is sealed with a collectible cork featuring Walking Dead artwork—walker heads, barbwire, etc.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/26/18 The Pixel Scroll Shadow Jury

(1) HE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM. Marissa Lingen praises the ConFusion committee’s handling of her report about a highly contentious audience member who tried to commandeer more than one panel at the con — “It’s not your turn, sir.” Here are a few excerpts from her step-by-step summary of what happened and thorough analysis of the issues involved.

…So let’s talk about my second panel, Disaster Response in SFF. I was moderating. A gentleman in the audience had enough of the free-flowing discussion provided by the panelists, apparently. He did not wait for Q&A or even raise his hand. He just jumped right in, interrupting the panel to lecture us with a long, hostile, rambling comment on his own theories of where this panel should go and how wrong we all were for not going there….

…Okay. So. I talked to some friends, some of whom were involved with the concom/staff, and given what I was saying and what they were hearing about his behavior, they encouraged me to file an incident report. ConFusion’s ops team did everything right here. Everything. They made sure that I was seated comfortably, offered water, offered my choice of report formats (written or out loud), that I had a person with whom I was comfortable with me for the whole time, that I could discuss my statement rather than just turning it in and not knowing whether it was getting any attention. They asked after my safety and comfort and what would make me feel safe and comfortable going forward at the con.

Here’s what felt like a sea change to me. Here’s what makes me write about this: they did not minimize OR maximize response. They were proactively interested in an incident of someone being rude and disruptive. At that point I was hoping that just having the incident report on file would be enough, that not having further confrontation would allow this person to go on with his con and simmer down, focus on time with friends, other panels, etc….

… 2. This was not sexual harassment. But it was gendered.

The person he approached to complain about me on Sunday was, like me, wearing some of the trappings of traditional femininity. The people who laughed in his face Friday afternoon with no complaints, no consequences to themselves? All male. All male and all masculine. And yes, I was the moderator on my panel–but he didn’t say a word about Patrick cheerfully saying, “Bye!” to him as he departed, or about Patrick backing up my moderating. There was no complaint about Patrick. It was all me.

I’ll cope with it. That’s fine. But see it for what it is.

Dealing with sexual harassment in convention spaces is hugely important. It has been hugely important for me personally. But don’t for a moment make the mistake of thinking that it is the only gendered interaction that matters. And don’t think for a moment that the dynamic would be the same if he’d decided to turn up glaring with Patrick or treat a male concom member the way he did the person on Sunday. It’s no accident he didn’t try–and so conventions need to be equally deliberate in their handling of this sort of thing. ConFusion was, and I thank them for it.

(2) GROWING EFFORT. John Picacio announced other pros have joined him and John Scalzi to fund Worldcon 76 attending memberships for Mexicanx creators and fans.

Ty Franck — one-half of the blockbuster literary team James S. A. Corey — has kindly joined my effort to improve #Mexicanx representation in sf/f. He’s now sponsoring one attending membership to Worldcon 76 in San Jose, while ace photographer Ctein is sponsoring two more attending memberships.

(3) NO-LONGER-SECRET AGENT. Scott Edelman lets you sink your teeth into Sicilian with Barry Goldblatt in Episode 58 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Barry Goldblatt

At the suggestion of Barry Goldblatt, who founded the eponymous Barry Goldblatt Literary Agency in September 2000, we met at Bella Gioia, a Sicilian restaurant in Park Slope. A wonderful choice! But that’s to be expected when you get together with Barry, for he and I have eaten the fantastic many times before at such restaurants as Alinea in Chicago and Olo in Helsinki—though this is the first time you’re being invited to eavesdrop.

Barry’s clients including such writers as previous guest of the show Fran Wilde, Christopher Barzak, Libba Bray, Charles Vess, Nisi Shawl, and many others.

We discussed why he ended up as an agent rather than an astronaut, the happy accident that led to him being taught by the legendary science fiction writer James Gunn, the time Lloyd Alexander caused him to burst into squee-filled tears, J. K. Rowling’s first U.S. book signing and how she changed children’s publishing forever, what everyone thinks they know about agents that’s totally wrong, the sorts of things he’s told authors to help take their work to the next level, why it sometimes makes sense for him to submit a less than perfect book, whether the YA market is doing a better job with diversity than adult fiction, what he’s been looking for that he hasn’t been getting, and much more.

(4) FUN MUSEUM. The Interactive Museum of Gaming and Puzzlery near Portland, Oregon has these events coming soon:

  • 1-28 Sunday Noon – Introduction to Dungeons & Dragons
    Learn the basics of Role Playing with paper; how to create a character, roll dice, join an adventure, and more.
  • 2-1 Thursday 7 pm – Games Talk with Kyle Engen
    Our Steward of Research Kyle will be talking about graphic design in games, using selected items from the collection.

(5) STORIES OF FUTURE PAST. Rocket Stack Rank adds another way to find the good stuff – from 2016. Greg Hullender explains:

Not everyone uses Rocket Stack Rank to find things to nominate; some people just use it to find stories to read. Toward that end, we put together a look back at the best stories of 2016, combining results from all the different reviewers, anthologies, and awards that we follow to produce a comprehensive ranked list.

“2016 Best SF/F Short Fiction”

In the future, we’ll try to do this by August (so the 2017 version should be available in just six months). We’ll have a few follow-up pieces that play with the statistics in this data.ef

(6) MORE LE GUIN TRIBUTES. In the Paris Review

The thing about Ursula K. Le Guin was that she didn’t actually look like a rabble-rousing, bomb-throwing, dangerous woman. She had a gentle smile, as if she was either enjoying herself or enjoying what the people around her were doing. She was kind but firm. She was petite and gray haired, and she appeared, at least on first inspection, harmless.

The illusion of harmlessness ended the moment you began to read her words, or, if you were so lucky, the moment you listened to her speak.

She was opinionated, but the opinions were informed and educated. She did not suffer fools or knaves gladly, or, actually, at all. She knew what she liked and what she wanted, and she didn’t let that change. She was sharp until the end. She once reviewed a book of mine and was not altogether kind about all of it, and I discovered as I read her review that I would rather have been chided by Ursula K. Le Guin than effusively praised by any other living author.

  1. There is no reason a book of ideas can’t also be deeply moving, gorgeously written, and inhabited by people who take rooms in your heart and never move out.

(7) LE GUIN FAMILY NOTES A SUGGESTED CHARITY. Ursula Le Guin’s family has stated that the charity closest to her heart is the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

(8) REAL SPACE OPERA. Atlas Obscura lets you “Listen to Ursula K. Le Guin’s Little-Known Space Opera”, Rigel 9. Recording at the link.

If you’re an Ursula K. Le Guin fan, you’ve likely spent a lot of time in Earthsea, home to endless archipelagos and magical beings. You might have ventured to Gethen, with its glaciers and androgynes.

But you may not yet have made it to Rigel 9, a world that offers small red aliens, two-toned shadows from its double sun, and—depending on who you believe—a beautiful golden city. The planet is the setting of the little-known space opera, also called Rigel 9, released in 1985. The opera features music by avant-garde classical composer David Bedford, and a libretto written by Le Guin.

(9) JOHN CREASEY OBIT. Filker John Creasey died January 25. His wife, Mary, made the announcement on Facebook:

My husband, John Creasey, passed away this morning around 0915 or so. I hadn’t gotten there by then (he WOULD pick the day when I DIDN’T make my morning visit!). He was still on a ventilator until a doctor officially pronounces him. He had been going downhill for quite a while (multiple systemic infection organ failures), and hadn’t really recovered from the last septic shock crash. He had been non-verbal and non-communicative for at least the last two weeks. I will post later about funeral plans and such. I’m not going to collapse yet; he’s been effectively mostly out of our lives for over a year, and barely aware for much of the last six months, and that only occasionally, so this isn’t really much of a shock. I’m just glad he’s finally not hurting any more.

 

Joe Bethancourt (hat), Richard Creasey (young man in tie-dye) and John Creasey (larger adult man) perform Bethancourt’s filk song “Fishin’ for Chickens” at ConChord in 2005.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 26, 1964:  Hammer’s Kiss of the Vampire opens in its native United Kingdom
  • January 26, 1995:  Peter Weller stars in Philip K. Dick adaptation Screamers.

(11) TWO DAYS AGO’S BIRTHDAY BOY (SORRY WE MISSED IT!)

  • Born January 24, 1944 – David Gerrold

(12) THE SECONDS BLEED AWAY. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists says it’s 2018 and time is running out:

IT IS 2 MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT

2018: The failure of world leaders to address the largest threats to humanity’s future is lamentable—but that failure can be reversed. It is two minutes to midnight, but the Doomsday Clock has ticked away from midnight in the past, and during the next year, the world can again move it further from apocalypse. The warning the Science and Security Board now sends is clear, the danger obvious and imminent. The opportunity to reduce the danger is equally clear. The world has seen the threat posed by the misuse of information technology and witnessed the vulnerability of democracies to disinformation. But there is a flip side to the abuse of social media. Leaders react when citizens insist they do so, and citizens around the world can use the power of the internet to improve the long-term prospects of their children and grandchildren. They can insist on facts, and discount nonsense. They can demand action to reduce the existential threat of nuclear war and unchecked climate change. They can seize the opportunity to make a safer and saner world.

(13) FREE COMIC ONLINE. Marvel is giving you the chance to dive into THANOS from rising stars Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw, the series that IGN is calling “one of Marvel’s most exciting titles” – for free.  THANOS #13, the first Marvel Legacy issue and the kick-off to Thanos Wins, is available now as a free digital comic for a limited time.

Head to www.marvel.com/redeem, enter the code THANOSWINS by Tuesday 1/30, and start reading now! Don’t miss the series that Comic Watch has raved is “the Mad Titan in all his power hungry glory.”

(14) WINTER WONDERS. Heavy Tokyo snowfall leads to snow-minions, snow-Jabba: “Japan’s amazing snowmen will blow your mind”. Photos at the link.

(15) INDIE PUBLISHER FOLDING. When Evil Girlfriend Media closes, it’s taking JDA’s Dragon Award-nominated novel with it  [link to Internet Archive]. Says JDA, “[it] will most likely not be available 30 days from now.” The publisher announced on Facebook they are ending the business:

Dear Readers,

I have notified our authors and editors that I am pulling their books from distribution. Their books will begin to drop from Kindle Select over the next 90 days with some as early as January 31. You can no longer purchase their books as an ebook but may borrow until the end of the 90 day period.

EGM went on hiatus last year for many reasons including that I took a new position with my employer. The commitments of this position make it impossible for me to continue in the publishing business. I hope you all support other indie publishers out there. It takes a lot of money, time, and dedication to create great books.

It has been a fast-paced and enjoyable couple of years. I look forward to the future and enjoying the great works the authors and editors I’ve worked with create.

Respectfully,

Katie Cord

(16) AN INDIE PUBLISHER STILL WITH US. The Kraken Collective is celebrating its anniversary this week — #KrakenFriends2018 Is Here!

The Kraken Collective is an alliance of indie authors of LGBTQIAP+ speculative fiction,  committed to building a publishing space that is inclusive, positive, and brings fascinating stories to readers.

 

(17) SHARKE REFLECTIONS. Shadow Clarke juror Nina Allan’s “Afterwards: thinking about the Sharke”, posted last September, may not have been mentioned here before:

The Sharke has changed me in multiple ways, most obviously as a critic and as a reader. Looking back on the self that first conceived the project, I now believe I had become as entrenched within a certain comfort zone as any hardcore space opera fan, accustomed to looking in the same places for what I deemed noteworthy, places that accorded comfortably with my expectations, which in their turn had mostly to do with style. How much more interesting to strip away one’s assumptions and see what happens. To come at things from a different angle. To stop feeling the need to fight a particular corner in terms of what is good and what is best. Personally, I’m still not a fan of The Underground Railroad. To my mind, it is possibly the most ‘commercial’ novel on the Clarke Award shortlist and its bland surface texture renders it ultimately forgettable to me as a reading experience. I find some of the sentence structure, not to mention the use of science fiction in Tricia Sullivan’s Occupy Me to be far more interesting. I have found the abstruse weirdness and raw vitality of Ninefox Gambit hanging around in my mind far longer than, for example, the sensitively rendered but ultimately predictable dystopian role-playing of Clare Morrall’s When the Floods Came. Viewed from this new perspective, the landscape of science fiction looks much more exciting to me than it did even before the Sharke was launched.

(18) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY. Lela E. Buis shares her “Review of Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff”.

The year is 1954, and African American war veteran Atticus Turner is traveling north to Chicago. His dad Montrose has disappeared somewhere in New England, and with his Uncle George and his friend Letitia, Atticus sets out to find him…..

This is an entertaining read, as the characters are all resourceful and end up accomplishing what they need to do through the application of determination and common sense. Regardless of the Jim Crow setting, the characters feel contemporary, as if Ruff has set characters with modern sensibilities into the Lovecraft milieu.

I’ve read some other reviews that promote this book by saying racism is the real horror in the story. I didn’t really see that. If you’re unfamiliar with the facts of Jim Crow segregation and the kind of discrimination African Americans faced in the 1950s, then I suppose this could be a surprise. Presumably Ruff set his story in this period at least partly to display the racial issues, but actually he skims over it as fairly matter-of-fact. Everybody deals and nobody gets lynched.

What really stood out for me instead was the message that these black characters read and treasure the SFF classics of the day by Lovecraft, Burroughs, Bradbury, Asimov, etc., without any disconnect because of their race. Is that so? Currently these writers are all considered to be both racist and sexist because they reflect the attitudes of their era….

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Rambo, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Jay Byrd, Michael Toman, ULTRAGOTHA, Karl-Johan Norén and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 1/16/18 You Were Scrolling As A Pixel In A Sci-Fi File When I Met You

(1) VAN GELDER AUCTION BENEFITS PKD AWARD. Norwescon announced that Gordon Van Gelder, administrator for the Philip K. Dick Award, has put 18 sff books up for auction on eBay, including several first editions and signed editions (and some signed first editions), as a benefit for the award’s administrative fees. The Philip K. Dick Award, is presented annually to distinguished science fiction books published for the first time in the United States as a paperback original. The award ceremony is held each year at Norwescon.

(2) SECOND TAKE. Strange Horizons got some pushback about sexism in Adam Roberts’ review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and has now supplemented the original with an edited version —

Editor’s note: This review has been edited to remove sexist commentary about Carrie Fisher. The original version of this review can be read here. For additional background, please see this Twitter thread.

(3) TRUE GRIT. The BBC reports on “Transport Scotland’s fleet of gritters and their gritter tracker”. Contractors Bear Scotland ran competitions to name the various vehicles, and what roads they’re covering can be viewed online.

Thanks to social media, Transport Scotland’s fleet of light-flashing, salt-spraying kings of the road have become a bit of a sensation.

Followers have been glued to their screens following the roads authority’s Gritter Tracker.

They were surprised to find out the vehicles had humorous names like Sir Andy Flurry, Sir Salter Scott and Gritty Gritty Bang Bang….

The force was with the people of Ayrshire during Tuesday’s snow flurries, their roads were being protected by Luke Snowalker.

Along with strong snow-slaying names like the Ice Destroyer, Snow Queen and Ice Buster, more unassuming gritters like Fred, Jack and Frosty have also been out and about keeping the country moving.

Not forgetting Sprinkles, Sparkle and Ready Spready Go.

(4) ANOTHER HORRIFIC LESSON. Chloe N. Clark continues the excellent Horror 101 series with “Surrounded by Others–Anatomy of a Pod Person” at Nerds of a Feather.

As a child, two of my earliest film-related memories are watching the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and watching the John Carpenter version of The Thing. In both, what stuck with child me was the depiction of a monster who not only could be anyone, but also could be someone that you think you know so well: your crewmate, your friend, your lover. This early exposure to these two films led to a longtime obsession with pod people (which the Thing is not technically, but I’m extending my definition here to any monster who can appear in the exact visage of someone you know and trust). As a child, there was a visceral terror to the idea, because the world was one I trusted. As an adult, while I don’t think pod people are likely, they still strike a certain fear because the concept at the heart of pod people’s terror-making is very much real. In this edition of Horror 101, I’ll be diving into the anatomy of a monster (a thing I’ll do occasionally in this series).

(5) ABOUT THAT VENN DIAGRAM. Sarah at Bookworm Blues was caught up in a kerfuffle yesterday, and analyzes the underlying issues in “On Twitter and Representation”.

While most of the comments I received yesterday were displaying the righteous indignation I’m still feeling, there were a handful of others that made their way to me through various means that said something along the lines of, “I just love reading SciFi and Fantasy. I don’t pay attention to the gender of the author.” Or “Does the gender of the author even matter?”

Comments like that bother me about as much as, “I don’t see your disabilities.” Or “I don’t see color.”

As much as I don’t want to be defined by my chronic illness, or my disabilities, they absolutely are part of who I am, and by refusing to see them, you are, in a way, refusing to see me. You’re only seeing pieces of me. Not seeing my disability doesn’t make it go away. Putting me in a box will limit the reaches of my work, rather than expand it.

In another example, women tend to get paid less than men here in the good ol’ US of A, and not seeing the gender roles in that situation, is refusing to see the problem.

Representation matters. It matters for a hell of a lot of reasons. It is important to show young kids everywhere that they can be, do, accomplish whatever they set their minds to. Seeing disabled characters in literature normalizes disabilities in important ways. It provides education to those who might need it. It also gives me someone I can relate to in the books I read, and that right there is absolutely priceless.

This graphic that I posted yesterday doesn’t just have a dearth of female authors on it, but it also lacks any people of color, disabled authors, LGBTQ authors and basically any minority group at all. It’s a list of white male fantasy authors…

and Robin Hobb.

This is important because, I get pretty fed up with women authors putting out work that’s just as good, if not better, than their male counterparts and not getting equal recognition for it. This isn’t a Divide and Conquer thing, it’s a We’re all in it Together thing. Someone’s effort shouldn’t be seen or overlooked based on any of their minority or majority qualifiers. The fact that when asked for a list of fantasy authors the first ones someone gets are white male, says a whole lot. And the truth is, I think this inequality is so ingrained in our culture that it really isn’t even noticed until something like this happens. Maybe we don’t mean for this to happen, but in a way, the fact that this happens without malice or intent makes it just that much more insidious.

Women have basically cleaned the clock in the past few Hugo Awards, and where are they on charts like this? One of the most awarded, celebrated authors in our genre today is N.K. Jemisin, a black female fantasy author, and she deserves recognition for her accomplishments, but where is it in a list like this, and why in the world didn’t her name come up when someone was polling Twitter for fantasy authors? Nnedi Okorafor is getting her book Who Fears Death turned into a television show, and I’ve seen her name, her image, herself routinely cut off from many articles. Namely, when Vice News tweeted about this deal, and the graphic that followed wasn’t of the author who wrote the book, but of George R R Martin, and the book cover….

And today an alternate version is making the rounds –

(6) JACKET. Neil Gaiman’s cover reveal for the U.S. paperback.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 16, 1939 — The comic strip Superman first appeared in newspapers.
  • January 16, 1995 Star Trek: Voyager premiered.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 16, 1948 – John Carpenter celebrated his 70th birthday today – no matter what you may have read. Entertainment Weekly caught the competition’s mistake in listing him as deceased.

Happy birthday John Carpenter! Rotten Tomatoes has some bad news…

The mega-popular film review aggregation site mistakenly declared veteran film director dead Tuesday in a since-deleted tweet.

The 70-year-old horror icon is very much alive, though RT seemed to have a different impression when it honored the Halloween and The Thing director’s birthday…

(9) SEARCHING FOR A SIGN. Further Confusion was held this past weekend in San Jos and they have lost track of a convention icon —

(10) CATAPOSTROPHE. Apparently Kazakhstan is switching from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet, and the result is loaded with apostrophes, so the words look like they came from a bad SF novel. The New York Times has the story: “Kazakhstan Cheers New Alphabet, Except for All Those Apostrophes”.

In his 26 years as Kazakhstan’s first and only president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev has managed to keep a resurgent Russia at bay and navigate the treacherous geopolitical waters around Moscow, Beijing and Washington, keeping on good terms with all three capitals.

The authoritarian leader’s talent for balancing divergent interests, however, suddenly seems to have deserted him over an issue that, at first glance, involves neither great power rivalry nor weighty matters of state: the role of the humble apostrophe in writing down Kazakh words.

The Kazakh language is currently written using a modified version of Cyrillic, a legacy of Soviet rule, but Mr. Nazarbayev announced in May that the Russian alphabet would be dumped in favor of a new script based on the Latin alphabet. This, he said, “is not only the fulfillment of the dreams of our ancestors, but also the way to the future for younger generations.”

…The modified Latin alphabet put forward by Mr. Nazarbayev uses apostrophes to elongate or modify the sounds of certain letters.

For example, the letter “I” with an apostrophe designates roughly the same sound as the “I” in Fiji, while “I” on its own sounds like the vowel in fig. The letter “S” with an apostrophe indicates “sh” and C’ is pronounced “ch.” Under this new system, the Kazakh word for cherry will be written as s’i’i’e, and pronounced she-ee-ye.

(11) ON TONIGHT’S JEOPARDY! Rich Lynch says the game show Jeopardy! included an Asimov clue in the first round of tonight’s episode, mentioning the Hugo Award. The returning champ got it right!

(12) WHERE’S THE BEEF? Astronaut John Young, who recently died, once got in trouble for smuggling a corned beef sandwich on a space mission.

Gemini 3 had several objectives, from testing the effect of zero gravity on sea urchin eggs to testing orbital maneuvers in a manned spacecraft, which would aid the future moon landing. But another imperative was to test new space foods. Grissom and Young were sent up with dehydrated packets that they were meant to reconstitute with a water gun.

According to Young’s biography, “A couple of congressmen became upset, thinking that, by smuggling in the sandwich and eating part of it, Gus and I had ignored the actual space food that we were up there to evaluate, costing the country millions of dollars.” The House Appropriations Committee convened to mull over the sandwich incident, and one representative even harangued a NASA administrator, calling the sandwich stunt “just a little bit disgusting.”

Young was given a reprimand, the first ever for a member of a NASA space flight. He eventually regretted smuggling the sandwich into space, especially as the story came up over and over. But Grissom remembered it as “one of the highlights of the flight.” Grissom himself was in hot water for nicknaming Gemini 3’s spacecraft Molly Brown after the musical “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” (Grissom’s first space flight ended with his capsule sinking into the ocean after re-entry.) Grissom forced irritated NASA administrators to back down after he suggested the name “Titanic” as an alternative.

(13) STARGAZING. From the BBC, “Hubble scores unique close-up view of distant galaxy”.

The Hubble telescope has bagged an unprecedented close-up view of one of the Universe’s oldest known galaxies.

Astronomers were lucky when the orbiting observatory captured the image of a galaxy that existed just 500 million years after the Big Bang.

The image was stretched and amplified by the natural phenomenon of gravitational lensing, unlocking unprecedented detail.

Such objects usually appear as tiny red spots to powerful telescopes.

(14) RATS ACQUITTED! New simulations show “Black Death ‘spread by humans not rats'”.

“We have good mortality data from outbreaks in nine cities in Europe,” Prof Nils Stenseth, from the University of Oslo, told BBC News.

“So we could construct models of the disease dynamics [there].”

He and his colleagues then simulated disease outbreaks in each of these cities, creating three models where the disease was spread by:

  • rats
  • airborne transmission
  • fleas and lice that live on humans and their clothes

In seven out of the nine cities studied, the “human parasite model” was a much better match for the pattern of the outbreak.

(15) RARE CASES. BBC considers “The mystery of why some people become sudden geniuses”. Chip Hitchcock notes, “Readers of old-time SF may recall H. L. Gold’s ‘The Man with English.’”

But until recently, most sensible people agreed on one thing: creativity begins in the pink, wobbly mass inside our skulls. It surely goes without saying that striking the brain, impaling it, electrocuting it, shooting it, slicing bits out of it or depriving it of oxygen would lead to the swift death of any great visions possessed by its owner.

As it happens, sometimes the opposite is true.

After the accident, Muybridge eventually recovered enough to sail to England. There his creativity really took hold. He abandoned bookselling and became a photographer, one of the most famous in the world. He was also a prolific inventor. Before the accident, he hadn’t filed a single patent. In the following two decades, he applied for at least 10.

In 1877 he took a bet that allowed him to combine invention and photography. Legend has it that his friend, a wealthy railroad tycoon called Leland Stanford, was convinced that horses could fly. Or, more accurately, he was convinced that when they run, all their legs leave the ground at the same time. Muybridge said they didn’t.

To prove it he placed 12 cameras along a horse track and installed a tripwire that would set them off automatically as Stanford’s favourite racing horse, Occident, ran. Next he invented the inelegantly named “zoopraxiscope”, a device which allowed him to project several images in quick succession and give the impression of motion. To his amazement, the horse was briefly suspended, mid-gallop. Muybridge had filmed the first movie – and with it proven that yes, horses can fly.

The abrupt turnaround of Muybridge’s life, from ordinary bookseller to creative genius, has prompted speculation that it was a direct result of his accident. It’s possible that he had “sudden savant syndrome”, in which exceptional abilities emerge after a brain injury or disease. It’s extremely rare, with just 25 verified cases on the planet

(16) KEVIN SMITH’S RATIONALE. Sebastian Paris, in “‘Star Wars’: Kevin Smith Weighs In On The Backlash Against ‘The Last Jedi’” on Heroic Hollywood, says that Smith, in his Fatman on Batman podcast, says that one reason many fans were disappointed with The Last Jedi was that they expected Luke Skywalker to be like Obi-Wan Kenobi and were disappointed when he turned out to be someone else.

(17) 2017 IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. Rich Lynch’s 19th issue of My Back Pages [PDF file] is now online at the eFanzines.com website:

Issue #19 absolutely deplores the undearly departed 2017 as one terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year, and has essays involving historic mansions, convincing re-enactors, subway cars, Broadway shows, urban renewal, pub food, deadly duels, famous composers, iconic catchphrases, tablet computers, 1930s comic books, noir-ish buildings, foreboding edifices, unpaid interns, jams & singalongs, storm warnings, ancient palace grounds, Buddhist temples, worrisome fortunes, sushi adventures, retirement plans, and lots of Morris Dancers.

(18) MUNDANE COMMERCIALS, WHAT ELSE? Should you run out of things to watch, there’s always this collection of Dos Equis “The Most Interesting Man In the World” ads – at least 8 minutes worth.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Richard Williams–Animating Movement is a piece on Vimeo by the Royal Ocean Film Society that describes the techniques of the great Canadian animator whose best known work is the Pink Panther and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, IanP, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Greg Hullender, Martin Morse Wooster, Rich Lynch, ULTRAGOTHA, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 1/11/18 Agent 770, With A License To Scroll

(1) YOUNG PEOPLE. James Davis Nicoll asked the crew at Young People Read Old SFF their response to Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild”. Two of the four readers said it was their first experience with the author. (The others didn’t say one way or the other.)

Octavia E. Butler was one of a small handful of African American SF authors back in the 1970s, an era when SF was often whiter than a crowd of naked albinos holding loaves of Wonder Bread in a snowstorm. Butler’s stories often focused on people doing their best from a position of profound weakness, striving despite slavery, apocalypse or worse. This example of her work won the 1984 Nebula Award for Best Novelette, the 1985 Hugo Award for Best Novelette, the 1985 Locus Award for Best Novelette and the 1985 Science Fiction Chronicle Award for Best Novelette.

Young People Read Old SFF also recently tackled “The Light of Other Days” by Bob Shaw. Some liked it, but Mikayla did not disappoint….

Bob Shaw was born in Northern Ireland. Over the course of the three decades of his career, he won three BSFA awards and was nominated for the Hugo, the Locus, the Campbell, and the Clarke.

The Light of Other Days is an atypical Shaw. It is a classic idea story, a story in which an author tries to show unexpected implications of some new development. Slow glass, a material in which the speed of light is so slow it takes decades for light to pass from one side to the other of a thin sheet, was one of the rare examples of an idea veteran editor John W. Campbell considered actually original at the time of publication. It was shortlisted for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story and for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story.

Of course, just because professionals and fans liked a story half a century ago is no guarantee modern readers will. Let’s see what they thought….

(2) HUNGARIAN BLOGGER. Bence Pintér recommends the new English-language blog of Balázs Farkas, a Hungarian author; especially his post on Black Mirror.

Black Mirror needs to reinvent itself. The sooner, the better.

Don’t get me wrong. The fourth season has cleverly written, beautifully directed episodes throughout, as usual. It’s still the prime science-fiction anthology, and one of the most relevant TV series, even if contemporary science-fiction writers and futurologists already explored most of its ideas. The problem is, the new season didn’t have any new ideas, at all…

Also recommended, his thoughts on the comedy in Get Out

Last year Get Out was nominated for a Golden Globe in the category of Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Many consider Get Out one of the best horror films of 2017. I was intrigued for months, but I rarely watch movies nowadays, but I decided to see Get Out for myself and see whether it’s a comedy or a horror. Well, I found out it’s neither, but can be interpreted as both, and it’s really fascinating to see why.

And on the short fiction of Aleister Crowley.

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”

The interesting thing about Aleister Crowley is that he really believed this. We don’t consider him a fiction writer (at least not primarily), but he went and did it for a while, because he could do whatever and whenever. So he wrote fiction, but only between 1908 and 1922, that’s merely fifteen years from his prolific and incredibly versatile mind. This was an era when he approached the literary world as a critic and writer, although at first quite reluctantly (“I had an instinctive feeling against prose; I had not appreciated its possibilities,”  he wrote, later admitting that“the short story is one of the most delicate and powerful forms of expression”). He wasn’t only a writer, but he still made sure that his legacy includes a large collection of miscellaneous prose, now presented in a prestigious (and affordable) Wordsworth edition, titled The Drug and Other Stories.

(3) INSIDE THE SHELL. In The New Yorker, Teddy Wayne tells why “A Storm Trooper Reconsiders His Support for Snoke”.

…Except things started changing when Snoke passed that big tax bill. The very next day, we’re told our pensions are getting cut—which hardly matters, because Storm Troopers have a seventy-five-per-cent fatal occupational-injury rate. (Some from combat, but mostly guys falling into chasms off narrow ship walkways that for some reason don’t have guardrails.)

Sure, the galaxy’s health insurance wasn’t perfect, but at least I got a little subsidy from Vadercare. Snoke repeals the individual mandate and all these Storm Troopers, fresh out of the academy, thinking they’re invincible, go, “Awesome—I’m young and healthy, Han Solo’s dead, screw it.” My premiums suddenly shoot through the roof, so I’m going without it this year and hoping I don’t run into a freaking Jedi Knight. But how am I gonna pay for the infirmary visit when a trespassing Resistance fighter conks me on the head to steal my uniform and gain access to a ship’s inner sanctum, which now seems to happen every other year? And if my arm’s sliced off with a lightsabre, you think my Storm Trooper’s comp will cover the robotic prosthetic?

(4) A FAITHFUL 451. The Hollywood Reporter interviews co-writer, exec producer and director Ramin Bahrani, who assures them “HBO’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’ Will Stay True to Ray Bradbury’s Central Themes”.

Bahrani, who co-wrote the telepic alongside Amir Naderi and reteams with Shannon after he starred in their feature 99 Homes, confessed that he told his agent at one point that he should call HBO and refund the network’s money because he felt that he couldn’t finish the script. He spoke at length about the parallels between Bradbury’s 1953 work and what’s happening in the world today.

“I don’t want to focus so much on [Trump] because I don’t want to excuse the 30 to 40 years prior to that; he’s just an exaggeration of it now,” he said. “I don’t want us to forget what Bradbury said — that we asked for this. We elected [politicians] over many decades, we’re electing this thing in my pocket [pulls out his cellphone]. Between the technological advancements in the last 20 years and politics, Bradbury’s biggest concern about the erosion of culture is now.”

Bahrani said he never had the opportunity to meet with Bradbury before his death but did an extensive amount of research, watching and reading multiple interviews and more. “Bradbury’s novel was set in the future where he was predicting having screens on the wall that you could interact with. Social media and supercomputers like my phone are real now. [The film] is not set in the distant future like Bradbury’s novel but an alternate tomorrow where technology is here right now — like Amazon’s Alexa,” he said. “One of the things in the film is storing knowledge, books in DNA. This exists now. All your drives could be stored 100-fold in DNA. There was no reason to put it in the future; it’s just [set in] a strange tomorrow.”

(5) THE TOLL. Kameron Hurley, who I admire for her unflinchingly transparent posts about her life as a writer, tells a heartbreaking story about her experiences in 2017 — “The Year I Drowned My Emotions”.

Depression is a complex state of being. I know we want to try and pretend it’s easy. Just pop a pill, increase your meds, try new meds, find something that works! But there’s also depression caused by external forces, and that’s the sort of depression that you can paint over with pills, sure, but the root of it is still there, like painting over a crack in your wall.

I was already feeling overwhelmed and deflated in the months leading up to the election. I was struggling with the reality that I’d produced three books in a year but still had to function at a day job, and the relentless treadmill of publishing was still going, without the sort of reward I needed in order to maintain my sanity. I’ve talked before about how writing all those books and then promoting books and having a weird dude-bro day job (at the time) conspired to murder me. What we don’t acknowledge is that when you experience that kind of breakdown followed by grief and disappointment, you can’t just… get back up like nothing happened.

(6) HADLEY OBIT. At ComicMix, Glen Hauman reports “Cinamon Hadley, The Girl Who Was Death, Has Died”.

Cinamon Hadley, whose appearance inspired the look of Death in the Sandman comic series, passed away today according to Sandman co-creator Neil Gaiman.

The body-piercer and goth icon whose portrait was immortalized as the second eldest in a family of anthropomorphized forces called the Endless, Hadley was described as extremely tall, extraordinarily thin, with bone-white skin, impeccable make-up and thin, black hair.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 11, 1937 — Felix Anthony Silla, known for his role as the costumed character of “Cousin Itt” on television’s The Addams Family.

(8) ADVENTURE OR COOKBOOK? Having seen the movie, this one has me a little worried – Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Chewie and the Porgs:

From Emmy award-winning writer Kevin Shinick comes a lovable tale of Chewbacca the Wookiee and the pesky porgs of Ahch-To Island. Featuring adorable illustrations by artist Fiona Hsieh.

(9) WATCHWORTHY. In “Consumption: 2017”, John Harden makes “a list of everything I watched in 2017 plus my very excellent and totally correct opinions on same.”

I make this list every year, for fun and as a reference. As always, it only reflects things seen for the first time. “POLTERGEIST on TV, 14th viewing” doesn’t make the list. Nor do films not viewed in their entirety, for example, Guy Ritchie’s THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E, which got ejected from the Blu-Ray player after 15 minutes. I’d never seen Henry Cavill in anything before but he seems to emit some kind of anti-charisma particle.

I didn’t bother making a numbered best-of list this year. But if I had, LOGAN would be at the top. It’s perfect. Damn you James Mangold, for making me cry at your Wolverine movie.

(10) SLOW DOWN, YOU MOVE TOO FAST. How fast is the universe expanding? “‘Serious gap’ in cosmic expansion rate hints at new physics”.

To calculate the Hubble Constant, Prof Riess and others use the “cosmic ladder” approach, which relies on known quantities – so-called “standard candles” – such as the brightness of certain types of supernova to calibrate distances across space.

However, a different approach uses a combination of the afterglow of the Big Bang, known as the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), as measured by the Planck spacecraft and a cosmological model known as Lambda-CDM.

The Hubble Constant obtained using these data is 66.9 kilometres per second per megaparsec. (A megaparsec is 3.26 million light-years, so it follows that cosmic expansion increases by 66.9km/second for every 3.26 million light-years we look further out into space).

The gap between the two is now at a confidence level of about 3.4 sigma. The sigma level describes the probability that a particular finding is not down to chance. For example, three sigma is often described as the equivalent of repeatedly tossing a coin and getting nine heads in a row.

A level of five sigma is usually considered the threshold for claiming a discovery.

However, Prof Riess said that at the three sigma level “this starts to get pretty serious I would say”.

(11) EYES IN THE SKY. “Finnish start-up ICEYE’s radical space radar solution” — swarms of small cheap satellites for continuous coverage.

Big things sometimes come in small packages. That’s the hope of Finnish start-up ICEYE, who are about to see their first satellite go into orbit.

The young company are making waves because they’re attempting what no-one has dared try before; indeed, what many people had previously said was impossible.

ICEYE aim to launch a constellation of sub-100kg radar micro-satellites that will circle the Earth, returning multiple pictures daily of any spot on the globe, whether it’s dark or light, good weather or bad.

The special capability of synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) satellites to sense the planet’s surface whatever the conditions is loved by government and the military, obviously – and they make sure they always have access to this kind of imagery.

But here’s the rub: the spacecraft that gather this sort of data have traditionally been big, power-hungry beasts.

(12) ANCIENT WINGS. BBC invites you to “Meet the butterflies from 200 million years ago”. They evolved nectar-suckers before there were flowers.

Newly discovered fossils show that moths and butterflies have been on the planet for at least 200 million years.

Scientists found fossilised butterfly scales the size of a speck of dust inside ancient rock from Germany.

The find pushes back the date for the origins of the Lepidoptera, one of the most prized and studied insect groups.

… “These finds push back the evolution of this group with proboscises – with a tongue – by about 70 million years,” said Dr van de Schootbrugge.

“Our finds show that the group that was supposed to co-evolve with flowers is actually much older.”

(13) REEL STINKERS. ComicMix’s Arthur Martinez-Tebbel looks back on the worst of the year in “Box Office Democracy: Bottom 6 Movies of 2017”. At the very bottom is —

  1. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

If this was just about wasted potential, Valerian would easily be on the top of this list.  There are five worse movies this year but none of them have a fraction of the visual artistry displayed here by Luc Besson.  Valerian has some of the best design I’ve seen in a movie all year and two of the most inventive chase sequences maybe ever.  It also features a terrible script that meanders forever over trivial nothing and merrily skips past dense plot without a moment for inspection.  I loved watching the action but I never really understood why any of it was going on.  Toss on top some of the worst chemistry I’ve ever seen between an on-screen couple (and honestly maybe Dane DeHaan isn’t ready to be a leading man) and this is an unpleasant movie to watch at any volume above mute.

(14) BURROWER DOWN UNDER. Introducing Vulcanops jennyworthyae – “Giant bat: Remains of extinct burrowing bat found in New Zealand”

The fossilised remains of a giant burrowing bat that lived in New Zealand millions of years ago have been found on the country’s South Island.

The teeth and bones of the extinct bat were found to be three times the size of an average modern bat.

The bat, which weighed around 40g (1.41oz), not only flew but also scurried about on all fours looking for food.

The remains were recovered from ancient sediments near the town of St Bathans.

(15) ALTERED CARBON. Netflix has released Altered Carbon Official Trailer # 3.

In the distant future, human consciousness can be digitized and downloaded into different bodies. Brought back to life after 250 years by Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy) the richest man on Earth, ex-Envoy soldier Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman / Will Yun Lee) must solve Bancroft’s attempted murder for the chance to live again in a world he doesn’t recognize. Altered Carbon debuts exclusively on Netflix February 2nd, 2018.

 

(16) SCORCHED EARTH. The Official Trailer –

The planet has suffered an environmental collapse; the air became dangerous to breathe, the water became toxic, and billions of people died. Generations later, mankind has finally re-established a rudimentary society, in an attempt to pick up the pieces that continue to blister in the sun. Attica Gage (Gina Carano) is a bounty hunter with a chance at the bounty of a lifetime: to bring down the ruthless outlaw, Elijah Jackson. Gage infiltrates Jackson’s gang, and everything is going to plan until she meets a slave girl who reminds her of her dead sister. With her loyalty to only herself now tested, Gage learns that there might be more to life than just survival.

 

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