Pixel Scroll 3/12/17 The Band Played Scrolling Matilda

(1) ALL WISDOM, Last October, The New Yorker’s Sheelah Kolhatkar interviewed Talmon Marco, CEO of Juno, a ride-hailing app that is trying to take business from Uber and Lyft by offering its drivers more pay and stock options.

When I asked Marco why he was so sure that Juno would still be around, he said, half jokingly, that he had acquired all the wisdom he needed by reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. “Oh, my God,” he said. “It’s the Bible.  Everything is there.”

…I asked Marco to share what he had learned from the book, and he hesitated.  “Now you’re really putting me on the spot,” he said.  After thinking for a few seconds, he went on, “It claims the math never works in a restaurant, which explains why the bill never adds up.” He wasn’t sure if that was still true, because, he said, he stopped looking at restaurant checks a long time ago — preemptively handing your credit card to the server saves the five minutes it takes to get the bill, look at it, and send it back with the payment.

“It was a very popular book, especially when I was growing up, among geeks in the eighties and nineties,” Marco went on.  “You have to ask the founders of Snapchat.”

(2) A BOOK OF HER OWN. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Gabby Rivera, whose “Latina, queer, superpowered and superpopular character” America Chavez has made appearances in the Marvel books Young Avengers and The Ultimates and has now appeared in her own comic book from Marvel, America.

 “Superhero comics seemed so out of my league that I never even imagined it as something I could do. But the second the opportunity came my way, it felt so right,” Rivera told The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “I’ve always dreamt up wild, powerful and carefree superheroes that look like me and my family: thick, brown, goofy, beautiful. And now I get to see them come to life. ‘America’ is going to be all those things and it’s [going to] be wild.”

Before beginning to write “America,” the new solo series (illustrated by Joe Quinones) that debuted in print and digitally last week, Rivera dived into stacks of comic books featuring the superstrong heroine who can fly and punch star-shaped dimension-hopping holes into the air. Rivera called it her “crash course” on all things America.

(3) PODCASTING TIME LORD. Scott Edelman writes, “I was very pleased to have gotten live on the second weekend of March 2017 an episode of Eating the Fantastic recorded the second weekend of March 1995! How? You’ll see.”

Episode 31 is a 1995 World Horror Con Flashback:

So prepare to time travel back to a 1995 mall food court lunch as I talk about my first job at Marvel Comics, how I broke into writing for Tales from the Darkside, and the beginnings of Science Fiction Age magazine, while Adam-Troy Castro reveals how he created the first story in the first issue of that magazine, as well as how a cab ride he feared he wouldn’t survive turned into one of his most memorable works of fiction.

(4) AS THE TWIG IS BENT. Crooked Timber is running one of their seminars on Ada Palmer’s “Terra Ignota” books — Too Like the Lightning, and the just-released Seven Surrenders. So far they have posted –

Ada Palmer’s new book – Seven Surrenders – is out today. So too is our seminar….

Almost all science fiction, as J.G. Ballard remarked in the introduction to Vermilion Sands, is really about the present day. This is certainly less true today than it was in 1971, but it is still often the case that the relationship between our present and the future world that is depicted – or between the present of the imagined world and that future’s past, when anyone inside the story decides to look back – is oddly straightforward and uninteresting. This is certainly not something that can be said of Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota books.

In the genres of science fiction and fantasy, when a book is written in an unusual mode, it’s usually either a gimmick or window-dressing. Window-dressing is when for instance a Victorian feeling book has a faux Victorian style as part of that feel. An example of this would be Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, where Heinlein doesn’t have to tell us that the English spoken on the moon is heavily influenced by Australian and Russian, he gives us a first person narrative devoid of articles and peppered with Russian borrowings and Australian slang. It’s great, but really it’s just scenery, everything else would be the same if he’d chosen to write the book in third with just the dialogue like that. It’s quite unusual to read something where the mode is absolutely integral to what the book is doing. In Womack’s Random Acts of Senseless Violence, the decaying grammar and vocabulary of the first person narrator, Lola, mirrors the disintegration of society around her, and we the reader slowly move from a near future with a near normal text to a complete understanding of sentences that would have been incomprehensible on page one, in a world that has also changed that much.

Too Like the Lightning and Seven Surrenders tell the story of beautiful, brilliant, compassionate people who are also terribly vulnerable. They are Eloi who have convinced themselves Morlocks do not exist; they are victim-beneficiaries of two hundred years of willful ignorance of growing rot. Like the dragon Smaug, they’ve rested on their hoard for centuries, adding layer after layer to their invulnerable bejeweled armor—but they cannot see the armor’s chink, the soft space waiting for Bard the Bowman’s arrow.

The arrow is shaped like God.

(5) AMERICAN GODS. The creators of the American Gods TV series told attendees at a SXSW panel the show has new meaning in “a climate that vilifies immigrants”.

When Neil Gaiman’s American Gods comes to television next month, it’s going to look a little different than fans of the book remember — and its creators hope they’ll take away a subtle political message alongside the myths and magic.

“Our first task of adapting is to make the show that we wanted to see as an audience member,” said Bryan Fuller, one of the showrunners. But “it’s definitely a different show than we set out to make, because the political climate in America shat its pants,” he said. “We are now telling massive immigration stories in a climate that vilifies immigrants. And so we have a strange new platform to start a different kind of conversation.” Fellow showrunner Michael Green agreed. “The book is joyful, it celebrates a lot of things that we love about America, and have since become weirdly odd about America,” he said.

Neil Gaiman echoed the sentiment on Twitter after the panel. “I don’t think we preach,” he told a fan. “And we didn’t think we were making a politically relevant show, just adapting a book about immigrants and America.”

(6) POLITICAL ACTION FIGURES. You may or may not ordinarily be interested in a review and photos of Pinhead Hellraiser III 1/6th action figure by ThreeZero, but Cat Eldridge predicts many readers will be entertained by the political statement at the very end of the review…

(7) NAFF. The National Australian Fan Fund, to send one Australian fan to the Natcon, has opened voting. The winner will attend Continuum 13 in Melbourne, June 9–13.

There are four candidates from three states:

  • Jason Fischer (SA)
  • Talitha Kalago (QLD)
  • Fe Waters (WA)
  • Jay Watson (WA)

More details available here. Voting ends April 16.

(8) AT THE BACK OF THE PACK. Rolling Stone has ranked all the cast members from Saturday Night Live since the beginning of the show in the 1970s. Although he went on to have a hugely successful acting career in the Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man movie franchises, this fellow came in last place —

  1. Robert Downey Jr.

Era: 1985-1986

Robert Downey Jr. is a comic genius. Making him unfunny stands as SNL’s most towering achievement in terms of sucking. How do you fuck up a sure thing like Downey? He’s funny in anything. I mean, dude was funny in Weird Science. He was funny in Johnny Be Good. He was funny in Iron Man. But he met his Kryptonite, and it was SNL, where he spent the 1985-1986 season sucking up a storm. His greatest hit? A fart-noise debate with Anthony Michael Hall. In a perverse way, the Downey Fail sums up everything that makes SNL great. There are no sure things. No rules. No do-overs. No safety net — when you flop on SNL, you flop big. And that’s the way it should be. The cameras roll at 11:30, ready or not. Live from New York — it’s Saturday Night.

(9) COSTUMING HISTORY. A video compilation of Kat Bushman’s convention masquerade entries from 1967-2000.

(10) LONG-LASTING HORROR. On Fivebooks, Darryl Jones, who teaches at Trinity College in Dublin, is asked to recommend the best horror stories. He turns to 1897 and reminds us why The Island of Dr. Moreau and The Great God Pan are still worth reading.

Can you give some examples?

One of the best places to look for examples is late-Victorian England. Think of 1897, the year of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, which marks the zenith of the British Empire.

1897 also saw the publication of a number of landmark works which were very anxious about the status and lasting power of the British Empire. These works often envisage colonial or intergalactic Others coming to invade London, the imperial metropolis. London gets invaded, London gets destroyed.

(11) KEEP ON TINGLING. A reworking of a popular meme —

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, David K.M. Klaus, Standback, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 1/28/16 Groundhugo Day

Enterprise taken apart

(1) QUITE THE MODEL KIT. “USS Enterprise Conservation Begins Phase II” at The Smithsonian’s Airspace Blog gives full details.

The final painting of the Enterprise model will begin in April, using newly discovered reference photos from our appeal to Trek fans in the fall. The team will also build new nacelle domes with LED lights to mimic the spinning effect seen on television. For reference, they will first build a 1:1 mock-up of the original mechanism, which utilized mirrors, motors, nails, and Christmas lights. Conservator Ariel O’Connor explains, “Although the original nacelle dome lights did not survive, we can replicate the original effect in a way that is safe to install on the model.  The LED lights can be programmed to match the original VFX footage while eliminating the burnt-out bulbs, extreme heat, and motor problems that troubled the original lights. It is a wonderful solution to re-light the nacelles while ensuring the model’s safety and longevity.”

(2) OCTAVIA BUTLER. Radio Imagination celebrates the life and work of Pasadena science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler (1947–2006). Organized by Los Angeles-based arts nonprofit Clockshop, the program centers on ten contemporary art and literary commissions that explore Butler’s archive at the Huntington Library. New work will premiere alongside performances, film screenings, and literary events throughout the year.

(3) THERE IS NO NUMBER THREE. The Guardian link to a news item about 500 new fairytales being discovered in a German archive proved to be infested with some kind of code that could not be seen with the text editing tools at my disposal, but overwrote the rest of the post with a busted survey question….! After deducing which entry was causing the problem, I chopped it out. And I’m ready to be done for the night!

(4) WALTON SEMINAR. Out of the Crooked Timber is hosting a “Jo Walton Seminar” using her books The Just City and The Philosopher Kings. (A third book in the sequence, Necessity, comes out in June).

Several posts are already online.

One of the great appeals of the Thessaly series is the implicit invitation: join us in Socratic dialogue beneath the lemon tree, arguing practical philosophy with the best company from all of history.  But I am not a philosopher king, and definitely not a Gold of the Just City. As evidence, between the first and second sentences of this paragraph, I took ten minutes to reassure a baby who’d pinched her finger in a dresser drawer. Over the past couple of days I’ve engaged in crafts and cleaning, cooking and political argument and snarky write-ups of old horror stories.

All of which speak to my soul, and all of which feel like part of The Good Life even if I sometimes wish the temporal ratios were different.

“It was the most real thing that had ever happened.” – Jo Walton, The Just City

Thanks to Jo Walton for writing an SF novel in which people, including a pair of gods, try to realize Plato’s Republic. (I’ve only read the first Thessaly novel, The Just City. So if what follows is premature? That sort of thing happens.)

This is an experimental novel. Succeed or fail, you learn from an experiment. But even well-constructed experiments can be failures. That’s the risk.

Logically such a thing should exist. A novelization of Plato’s Republic, I mean. How can no one have written this already? But can such a damn thing be written ? Surely it will fail as a novel, somewhat, at some point. But how? Only one way to find out.

So Walton’s literary endeavor might be said to parallel Athene’s serene, mortal-bothering, bookish Utopian progress, in the novel. Like Athene, Walton doesn’t crack a smile. (There are some cracks at the end – in Athene’s exterior – but let’s leave those out. Don’t want to spoil the ending.)

Walton’s work is a mash-up: of genres, most obviously, with elements of science fiction (time travel and robots), fantasy (gods), historical fiction (recreation of past society) and the novel of ideas – but also of temporalities. Time-travelling Athene gathers together a bunch of dedicated Platonists from across the following 2500-odd years, helps them collect children and works of art from a more restricted period (unaccountably, no one bothers collecting some Canova or Alma-Tadema), gives them some robots from the future for the heavy work, and dumps the whole lot back in the bronze age, where (in theory) they’re not going to disturb anyone else. In theory (again), this farrago will be held together by a shared dedication to the ideals of Plato’s Republic, whether voluntary (the generation of Masters brought together from across time and space) or instilled (the Children and their descendents). In practice…

One of the reasons this is a neat trick from the novelist’s point of view is that it side-steps most of the boring questions of authenticity that bedevil most fictional engagements with the classical world.

More to come from  Ada Palmer, Leah Schnelbach, Sumana Harihareswara, and Crooked Timber bloggers Maria Farrell, Henry Farrell, and Belle Waring.

Crooked Timber’s past seminars on genre literature have been —

And in May 2015, Crooked Timber organized a seminar on the work of Ken MacLeod with contributions from Farah Mendlesohn, Cosma Shalizi, Sumana Harihareswara, Jo Walton, and Henry Farrell, with a response by Ken MacLeod.

(5) MINI INTEGRAL TREES. Have you seen the Air Bonsai?

Great if you’re wanting to recreate The Hallelujah Mountains from “Avatar” (or a Roger Dean painting) as a diorama.

(6) THE FUTURE IS BACK. Following years of waiting, the DeLorean car made memorable by Back to the Future has returned to production.

After more than 30 years, the DeLorean Motor Company will resume production of the iconic 1982 model DeLorean, made famous by the “Back to the Future” film trilogy.

This marks the first time that the car will be manufactured in America, according to an NBC affiliate.

The car company was previously prohibited from producing the famed model because the futuristic designs belonged to John DeLorean’s estate and not the auto business, which went bankrupt in 1982.

The company was revitalized by CEO Stephen Wynne and moved to Humble, Texas, in 1987. The company operated as a refurbishment facility, repairing and replacing parts for older DeLorean models for consumers around the world.

(7) ZICREE CLASS. Marc Scott Zicree, is running a one-day Supermentors Class – Life Lessons from Rod Serling, Ray Bradbury & Guillermo Del Toro.

Many of you know that with my books The Twilight Zone Companion and Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities and my friendship with Ray Bradbury, I’ve had some of the greatest mentors who ever worked in film, TV and books.

Life Lessons From Rod Serling, Ray Bradbury & Guillermo Del Toro — a One-Day Class I’ll be teaching Sunday, February 21st, both in person here in L.A. and via Skype and audio download, drawn from what I’ve learned from my great mentors. Just $99 (normally $199) if you sign up by the end of the month. Log onto www.paypal.com and indicate you want to pay marc@zicree.com Here’s a video describing the class.

 

(8) MUMY OUT AS OSCAR VOTER. Actor Billy Mumy says he has been purged as an Academy Awards voter under the new rules, and his ”to whom it may concern” protest letter has been posted online.

Like so many other Academy members who have a long history in the film industry, you are now punishing me for a lack of consistent employment, when it is beyond my own ability to cast myself or even find representation who can get me into the meetings and auditions these days for quality roles and films in the first place.

I have careers in music and writing and I chose to stay home for several years when my two children, who have both worked as actors in major studio feature films, were young. I don’t see why that should now render my vote unworthy.

I’m deeply saddened and disappointed by the actions the Academy has taken, without any discussion first amongst the members, to capitulate to a handful of whiners who threaten to “boycott” by not dressing up, walk the red carpet and sit in the audience because they feel the actors branch didn’t do our jobs of nominating candidates for Oscars this year to their personal satisfaction.

The nomination process is not racist. Surely you realize that members of the Academy don’t get together in clandestine meetings to discuss who they’re going to nominate or not nominate. Personally, I was shocked that neither Michael Caine or Harvey Keitel received a nomination for their excellent work in “Youth”, but I certainly don’t consider it a deliberate slight because they’re senior citizen Caucasians.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 28, 1813 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen was published.
  • January 28, 1977 – Stephen King’s The Shining is published.
  • January 28, 1986 – The space shuttle Challenger blew up shortly after launch, killing all seven crew members: Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire high school teacher, Ronald McNair, Hughes Aircraft Co. satellite engineer Gregory Jarvis, commander Francis “Dick” Scobee, pilot Michael Smith, flight engineer Judy Resnik and Ellison Onizuka.

Soon afterwards, Ray Bradbury discussed the disaster with Nightline host Ted Koppel.

 

Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted a poetic memorial.

https://twitter.com/neiltyson/status/692776305411096577/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

A memorial service was held today at the Kennedy Space Center. The “Time of Remembrance” will mark the 49th anniversary of the 1967 Apollo launch pad fire that killed Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee on Jan. 27, 1967; the 30th anniversary of Challenger’s loss on Jan. 28, 1986; and the 13th anniversary of the Columbia shuttle disaster on Feb. 1, 2003, that killed commander Rick Husband, pilot William McCool, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark, David Brown, Michael Anderson and Israeli flier Illan Ramon.

(10) NEITHER SNOW NOR SLEET. “How ‘Arrow’ Actor Stephen Amell And His Costars Handled A Canceled Convention”

The “Arrow” cast knows how to make the best out of a bad situation. The snowstorm forced Heroes and Villains Fan Fest to cancel the Saturday portion of their event, but many people were already at hotels near the Meadowlands Convention Center in Secaucus, New Jersey — including several celebrity guests. Cast members from “Arrow” and “The Flash” were nearby, so they didn’t let the snow stop them from meeting with fans.

In the afternoon, the stars wandered down to the lobbies of their hotels to meet their snowed in fans. John Barrowman (Malcolm Merlyn on “Arrow”) posted a video on Facebook with fans in his hotel and said that he and Stephen Amell (Oliver Queen on “Arrow”) were doing the same thing at separate hotels.

(11) WHO SAID THAT? “The Voice Actors of The Force Awakens” identifies the actors’ specific contributions. SPOILERS PROBABLE.

You may have seen a section in the credits of The Force Awakens titled “Additional Voices,” with some familiar names listed. But who or what did all those familiar names play? I’m happy to finally reveal everyone below, running through the film chronologically. (There are also a couple of actor cameos in there that shall remain nameless (for now).)

(12) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Kate Paulk told Mad Genius Club readers “The List” will be out in March. She also previewed a coming attraction:

Tune in tomorrow for a guest post by the fascinating Ben Yalow with more information about the history of the Hugo categories.

(13) KNOW THE SHADOW. Ricky Whittle of “The 100” has been cast as Shadow in Starz TV’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

Gaiman said in a statement, “I’m thrilled that Ricky has been cast as Shadow. His auditions were remarkable. The process of taking a world out of the pages of a book, and putting it onto the screen has begun. ‘American Gods’ is, at its heart, a book about immigrants, and it seems perfectly appropriate that Shadow will, like so much else, be Coming to America. I’m delighted Ricky will get to embody Shadow. Now the fun starts.”

(14) HOLY CERTIORI! “Supreme Court asked to consider Batmobile copyright case” reports Comic Book Resources.

A manufacturer of unlicensed Batmobile replicas has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to determine whether Batman’s signature vehicle is indeed protected by copyright.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Mark Towle of Gotham Garage filed a writ of certiorari today asking the justices to review his nearly five-year-old dispute with DC Comics.

Towle, who produced replicas of  the 1966 and 1989 Batmobiles that sold for as much as $90,000 each, was sued in 2011 by DC, which claimed copyright and trademark infringement, trademark counterfeiting and unfair competition.

[Thanks to Brian Z., Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Soon Lee, and Steven H Silver for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]