Pixel Scroll 8/21/17 Rishathra Ain’t Nothing But Love Mispronounced

(1) HELP COMING FOR INDIE AUTHORS. Brian Keene, in the August 17 episode of his podcast The Horror Show, mentioned a new resource for librarians. Dann explains:

Small press and indie authors face the double problems of getting bookstores to carry their books and getting local libraries to put them on their shelves.  According to horror author Brian Keene, those problems are significantly influenced by the fact that books from small presses and indie author are rarely reviewed by recognized resources such as Publishers Weekly.  Librarians, in particular, are reluctant to order books that have not been reviewed by another professional librarian.

There is a new magazine on the horizon that hopes to rectify that issue by focusing on reviews of works from small presses and indie authors. Indie Picks Magazine aims to become a librarian quality resource that focuses on works beyond those published by the Big 5 publishing houses.

The first issue is due out on November 1, 2017. Social media links —

(2) DON FORD. J.J. Jacobson, UC Riverside’s Jay Kay and Doris Klein Librarian for Science Fiction, says 1949 Worldcon chair Don Ford also left his photos to them.

It may also give you joy to know that we have a gift of several hundred similar photos from the family of Midwest fan and photographer Don Ford, some dating back to cons from the 1940s. Ultimately these will join the Klein photos on Calisphere.

(3) ROCKET EXPERIMENT. In “Can We Categorize Clipping?”, the Hugo Award Book Club tries to define a category a musical album can win that wouldn’t have to be called Best Musical Album.

Splendor and Misery from L.A.-based experimental hip hop group Clipping is an ambitious and challenging work that is an exemplar of this tradition. In the 2017 Hugo Awards, it became only the second such work to be nominated for a Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo Award (after the 1971 album Blows Against The Empire by Jefferson Starship, which finished in the voting below ‘No Award’). However, Splendor and Misery failed to generate much popular support among voters, placing last amongst other nominated works in the category and losing to Leviathan Wakes from the TV series The Expanse. While Leviathan Wakes is an awesome bit of television (and is the work that we voted for) it is kind of a shame that there isn’t a good category to recognize eclectic and unusual works in the Hugo Awards.

(4) ALIENS OF EARTH. Fantasy-Faction’s Nicola Alter considers “The Creatures We Base Aliens On”.

One of the interesting things about fictional aliens is that they’re almost never completely alien. We have no real idea what extra-terrestrials would look like, and it’s nigh impossible to imagine an entirely new species unlike anything we’ve ever seen. As such, we usually fall back on earthly species for inspiration, combining known elements to create strange new creatures. And we certainly have some bizarre real animals to choose from.

Last year I wrote about our penchant for basing aliens on cephalopods, but octopuses, cuttlefish and squids aren’t the only creatures that inspire us, so I thought I’d take a step back and look at a broader range of favourite sources…

(5) WONKS OF WESTEROS. The Libertarian think tank The Cato Institute will be hosting a Policy Forum about “The Politics of Game of Thrones” on Monday, August 28. It will be livestreamed.

Why is Westeros mired in 8,000 years of economic stagnation? Should Daenerys firebomb King’s Landing to prevent a longer war? The world of Game of Thrones is teeming with fascinating interactions between institutions, incentives, and power that creates a sweeping geopolitical mega-saga just begging to be theorized. An examination of these issues through the lens of economics, law, international relations, and power politics promises to be both instructive and entertaining. The day after the Season 7 finale airs, join the Cato Institute and the R Street Institute in an exploration of the intrigue and game theory (and inevitable analogies to our current political landscape) that pervade the world of ice and fire.

Featuring Ilya Somin (@IlyaSomin) Adjunct Scholar, Cato Institute; Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias) Co-founder and Executive Editor, Vox; Peter Suderman (@petersuderman) Senior Editor, Reason; Alyssa Rosenberg (@AlyssaRosenberg) Culture Columnist, Washington Post Opinions Section; moderated by Caleb Watney (@calebwatney), Tech Policy Analyst, R Street Institute.

If you can’t make it to the event, you can watch it live online at www.cato.org/live

(6) PASSING THE HAT. Time for the 2017 Strange Horizons fund drive.

We, Strange Horizons, are a non-profit organization run entirely by volunteers. We don’t do the whole advertising thing, and we have no corporate sponsors. It’s through your donations, and your donations alone, that we’re able to pay our contributors and publish a new issue 51 weeks of the year.

This year, we’re trying to raise US$16,000 to keep the good ship Strange Horizons chugging along at its current speed. If we manage to hit that level of funding, we’ve got a few new things planned, too. If that’s enough for you, then you can find out how to donate on our IndieGoGo page. And thank you!

But hey, maybe you’re not quite convinced yet. Maybe you’re wondering what exactly we’ve been up to and what we plan on getting up to next year. Read on—the answers you seek are below! …

(7) HUSH-A-BOOM. This is almost worthy of Galactic Journey — the BBC’s story about a Sixties Soviet superweapon: “The monster atomic bomb that was too big to use”.

Tsar Bomba was no ordinary nuclear bomb. It was the result of a feverish attempt by the USSR’s scientists to create the most powerful nuclear weapon yet, spurred on by Premier Nikita Khruschchev’s desire to make the world tremble at the might of Soviet technology. It was more than a metal monstrosity too big to fit inside even the largest aircraft – it was a city destroyer, a weapon of last resort.

The Tupolev, painted bright white in order to lessen the effects of the bomb’s flash, arrived at its target point. Novya Zemlya, a sparsely populated archipelago in the Barents Sea, above the frozen northern fringes of the USSR. The Tupolev’s pilot, Major Andrei Durnovtsev, brought the aircraft to Mityushikha Bay, a Soviet testing range, at a height of about 34,000ft (10km). A smaller, modified Tu-16 bomber flew beside, ready to film the ensuing blast and monitor air samples as it flew from the blast zone.

In order to give the two planes a chance to survive – and this was calculated as no more than a 50% chance – Tsar Bomba was deployed by a giant parachute weighing nearly a tonne. The bomb would slowly drift down to a predetermined height – 13,000ft (3,940m) – and then detonate. By then, the two bombers would be nearly 50km (30 miles) away. It should be far enough away for them to survive….

(8) GENTRIFICATION. Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen is more dangerous than this. Hell’s Kitchen is no longer as shown in The Defenders: “Marvel Comics Meet Reality On The Not-So-Mean Streets Of Hell’s Kitchen”.

That’s when the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics moved to New York City — in the ’80s. Axel Alonso met me on West 54th St, and I asked him why this neighborhood is so important in the Marvel Universe. “In Marvel comic books, Hell’s Kitchen sort of functioned as Mean Street Central, the underbelly of society, the place where there are predators and prey.”

Today, those predators are more likely to be the people charging you $50 for a blowout, or $20 for an omelette at brunch. “We’re fudging the truth with Hell’s Kitchen right now, you know, as you and I walk the streets, we see the development and the cafes,” Alonso says.

The New York of an earlier time informed so many iconic comics. Alonso says fans would revolt if you moved characters deeply associated with New York to anyplace authentically grittier, like Detroit. Alonso adds that Luke Cage’s Harlem has been updated, much more so then Hell’s Kitchen. And the Marvel universe is making a point of weaving in stories about gentrification: In Netflix’s Daredevil, an evil real estate mogul kills tenement activists who will not move out of their rent-controlled apartments. He’s motivated only by greed.

Chip Hitchcock adds, “Actually, it hasn’t been that gritty for some time; Penn and Teller were performing there in 1985, right next to a nice French restaurant, before moving to Broadway.”

(9) CELEBRITY BRUSH. I never met the late Brian Aldiss. Lou Antonelli did, sort of. “The time I stepped on Brian Aldiss”.

That year [2004] was the last where the members of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame were inducted at the [Campbell] conference (the event has since moved to the sf museum in Seattle). The living inductees were Brian Aldiss and Harry Harrison. We arrived in Lawrence just in time for the dinner, and as I rushed into the student center – worried that we were running late – I saw a pair of old timers in tuxes heading for the door from the opposite direction. As I ran up, I realized they were Aldiss and Harrison. In a clumsy attempt to be a gentleman, I grabbed the door to hold it open for Aldiss, who was first. But as I walked around him, I stepped on the back of his shoe and gave him a “flat tire”. (My wife tried to make me feel better later by pointing out that Aldiss was wearing house shoes).

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born August 21, 1920 — Christopher Robin Milne, A. A. Milne’s son who he modeled Christopher Robin after in the Winnie the Pooh stories.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 21, 1981 — John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London premieres in theaters.

(12) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian spotted Edgar Allan Poe in today’s Bliss.

(13) IN THE SQUARE. Kalimac, in “confederate statues”, adds cultural context to the monument controversy. Historical analysis precedes this excerpt:

…And I think it’s because of that acknowledgment that, up until now, Northerners have ignored the profusion of statues of Lee and Jackson and anonymous Confederate soldiers that festoon Southern town squares. After all, they were great generals and brave soldiers. Let the descendants have their pride.

Up until now. Not any longer. Because if that’s the history that we had that’s now being forgotten, there’s another history that the books I read had ignored that’s now being rediscovered. And that is that the ex-Confederates and their descendants have not been living up to their side of the bargain. And not just in the hard facts of racial oppression in the South for over a century and still echoing in ugly ways today, but also in the symbolism which is the subject of the consensus.

Those statues. They aren’t lovingly-crafted monuments erected in the echo of the loss, like the WW1 cenotaphs in every British town and college chapel. They’re cheap mass-produced knock-offs from Northern factories, put up later, in the Jim Crow era, not in memory of a loss but in defiance of that loss. (the evidence) Look at the capital letters in the term “Lost Cause” and read what’s been said about it. Its memorializers don’t acknowledge it was bad, they only regret that it was lost.

Nor do we notice who’s being honored. There’s Jackson, who died during the war (of the aftereffects of “friendly fire,” by the way), and thus had nothing to say afterwards. There’s Lee, who retired from public life and quietly became a college president. But where is the CSA’s third best general, James Longstreet? You don’t see many statues of him. After the war, he became a Republican and actively co-operated with the Union government. For that, he’s considered a shame in the white South. Confederate apologist historians retroactively blame him for Gettysburg, at best a dubiously tenable position, even hinting that he was secretly a traitor to his cause.

(14) THE TRILOGY FINALE. His Felaptoncy assays a new release: “Review: The Stone Sky by N.K.Jemisin” at Camestros Felapton.

The future world, the one in which most of the books is set, has descended further into physical disaster. The former community of Castrima is now a band of refugees heading towards an empty city in a brutal march which many won’t survive. In a different novel, this struggle would be an account of good and evil but Jemisin avoids treating even monstrous people as monsters. There is no character that appears in any one of the trilogy who is not granted some compassion by the writer – not Schaffa the murderous guardian, nor Jija the child murdering father. Yet this compassion is not at the expense of a strong moral centre to the story and a channelled anger at the use of hate to dehumanise and to brutalise a society

(15) IN RE DANMORE. Rose Embolism promised to boost the signal for this Medium post, which may appeal to the superscientific among you. I suppose it doesn’t hurt any that the piece begins with a Terry Pratchett quote.

PhD candidate Erin Giglio, who I know from metafilter, has done a response to James Danmore’s Google memo, using actual science. And by that I mean it’s an incredibly thorough, well researched paper on the current science on gender, that looks at and devestates Danmore’s s “scientific” arguments.

Aside from being a comprehensive rebuttle to Danmore’s memo, I find it a fascinating, if long and technical read about the current state of biological science.

“The truth has got its boots on: what the evidence says about Mr. Damore’s Google memo”

(16) YOU ARE NO. 6 The Telegraph answers the question “How did The Prisoner ever get made?”

Fifty years ago, The Prisoner began serving time. McGoohan – its star, executive producer, and sometime writer-director, a hard-drinking, intransigent Irish-American actor with a sharp Olivier-like edge to his voice – became Number Six, a former secret agent who knew too much to be permitted his freedom. For 17 weeks, he struggled against the mysterious authorities of the Village, personified by Number Two – not an individual, but an office occupied by a shifting cast of guest stars. (Leo McKern, Mary Morris and Peter Wyngarde were memorable incumbents.) He resisted their mind-bending tricks and interrogation techniques, attempted to escape by land, sea and air, and strove to solve the defining mystery of the series – who is Number One?

(17) AT HELSINKI. Finished commenting on the Hugos, Cora Buhlert continues her Worldcon coverage with “WorldCon 75 Photos and a Report”.

All in all, I had a great time at WorldCon 75. I also think the convention staff did a great job, even if there were some hiccups. And indeed, when I still had some of the German candy I’d brought to Helsinki left over on the final day of the con (the chocolate was all gone by this point), I gave the final two bags to the program ops team, because they really deserved a thank you for all their hard work.

Coincidentally, my Mom enjoyed WorldCon a whole lot, too. She’s not a hardcore SFF fan – SFF is just something she enjoys watching and reading on occasion. However, she was very impressed by the sheer number and variety of people who’d been brought together at Messukeskus by their shared love for science fiction and fantasy. There were fans of all ages, shapes and sizes at WorldCon 75, from babies being carried in a sling at their mother’s chests to people in their eighties and beyond (Robert Silverberg, now 82, was the oldest person I recognised). It was a testament to what a welcoming place fandom is.

(18) PROMOTIONAL GIMMICK. NBC Sports’ Chris Calcaterra says a minor league team intentionally scheduled a game during the eclipse: “Minor league teams prepare for a ‘total eclipse of the park’”

The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes are a class-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. Today, the path of totality of the big solar eclipse we’re not supposed to look at will pass right through the ballpark in which they play. What’s better: the Volcanoes are playing a game against the Hillsboro Hops as it happens.

This was by design: the team’s owner requested this home game when the schedule was made up two years ago specifically to market the heck out of the eclipse. They’re starting the game at 9:30 this morning, Pacific time, in order to maximize the fun. Spectators will receive commemorative eclipse safety glasses to wear. The game will be delayed when the eclipse hits and a NASA scientist named Noah Petro, who is from the area, will talk to the crowd about what is going on.

(19) LIGHTS OUT. Chris Barkley shot this 9-minute video of his experience watching today’s total eclipse.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Chuck Jones –The Evolution of an Artist, Tony Zhou looks at 35 Merrie Melodies to understand Chuck Jones’s genius as an animator.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Rich Lynch, John Hertz, Dann, Chris Barkley, Mark-kitteh, Rose Embolism, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/3/17 Hot Dog Stand On Zanzibar

(1) ANN LECKIE’S NEXT BOOK. At Motherboard you can “Read a Mindbending Excerpt from Ann Leckie’s New Novel ‘Provenance’”.

A transaction with a mysterious entity leads to trouble in the award-winning sci-fi author’s upcoming novel.

Now Leckie is returning with a new novel called Provenance due out on September 26. Motherboard is premiering an excerpt of the first chapter here. — The editor.

(2) ANNIHLATION COMING. Deadline, in “Alex Garland’s ‘Annihilation’ Gets 2018 Release Date”, reports that Paramount has announced Annihilation, a film based on the first Southern Reach novel by Jeff VanderMeer, will be released on February 23, 2018. Alex Garland, who directed Ex Machina and received an Oscar nomination for Ex Machina’s screenplay adaptation, directed Annihilation. The movie features Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac with Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Gina Rodriguez.

(3) THIRTEENTH DOCTOR SUBJECTED TO INDIGNITIES. At Amazing Stories, Darren Slade explains “How the debate about the first female Time Lord has insulted fans”.

But I’ve felt like a bit of a bystander in the 13 Doctor debate, because that discussion has broken out of the fan and genre forums and been taken up by the big news media, especially in the UK.

On the liberal left, the Guardian warned us that “it will take more than a female Time Lord to change the world”, but that didn’t stop it running other opinion pieces with headlines like “A female Doctor? She’s the revolutionary feminist we need right now.”

On the right, the Daily Mail and The Sun gleefully reported the objections of those who proclaimed that political correctness had, once again, gone mad.

“Doctor under debate: Doctor Who fans in furious online debate after Jodie Whittaker confirmed as first female Doctor,” reported The Sun.

The Mail Online went on to run such edifying headlines as “Doctor Nude! First ever female Time Lord Jodie Whittaker joins her predecessors in stripping off on camera after having sex on the stairs in 2014 drama” and “Even Time Lords need to do the grocery shopping! Bare-faced Doctor Who newbie Jodie Whittaker wears ripped baggy jeans for very low-key supermarket spree.”

(4) BASE NOTE. This year’s Hugo base, designed by a Finnish artist selected by the Worldcon 75 committee, will be unveiled for the first time on August 11, the day of the Hugo ceremony, says co-Hugo Administrator Nicholas Whyte.

(5) GET READY. This Is Finland’s article “A guide to Finnish customs and manners” will aid fannish tourists in their last-minute cultural cramming:

Tipping

Tipping has never fitted very comfortably into the Finnish way of life. This may have originally been due to the traditions of a religion which emphasized frugality; today, the rather blunt reason for not tipping is that the price paid includes any unusual instances of service or politeness i.e. the view taken is that “service is included”. Tipping does nevertheless exist in Finland, and you can feel safe that while nobody will object to being tipped, very few will mind not being tipped…..

(6) PATREON. The Verge takes you “Inside Patreon, the economic engine of internet culture “.

…Patreon boasts 50,000 active creators and over a million active patrons.

Patreon is still tiny compared to Kickstarter, where 13 million backers have funded 128,000 successful campaigns, but it’s rapidly growing. Half its patrons and creators joined in the past year, and it’s set to process $150 million in 2017, compared to $100 million total over the past three years….

Patreon creators can find their close relationships with patrons not just gratifying, but productive. Rebecca Watson, an early Patreon adopter who makes videos under the moniker Skepchick, says that the site has helped her identify a core audience whose opinions she trusts. “If my patrons request something, I know that, you know, these are the people that are supporting me. They’re not just some jerk on the internet,” she says. “It clears out all the noise.”

For creators who already make money elsewhere, Patreon can also simply function like a tip jar, not a social space. Artist Arlin Ortiz, for instance, is part of the vast lower middle class of Patreon users. He gets paid about $100 for each of the vivid fantasy maps he posts online, a welcome — if small — boost to his income over the past two years. He interacts with his patrons, but they’re not necessarily steadfast fans, the way they might be for a video personality. “People just like what I’m creating,” he says. “I don’t think they want to see me on YouTube, talking at them.”

… Some people have staggeringly large Patreons, like multimedia artist Amanda Palmer, who gets $40,000 (as her page puts it) “per thing.” But because there’s no concrete end point, there may never be universally recognized “blockbuster Patreons” the way there are blockbuster Kickstarters — massive mainstream campaigns that will be remembered for years to come, either as great successes or slow-motion train wrecks.

(7) TRAIN TO NOWHERE? Trae Dorn at Nerd & Tie has discovered “Angry Goat Productions Running ‘School of Wizardry’ Train Event Under a New Company Name”.

The caution I’d give anyone choosing to purchase a ticket to this is that literally every event ever planned by this company has been cancelled. They even claimed they were going to run a Train based event back in 2016 which got cancelled (and something to do with it is why they got sued by a cast member from The Hobbit films). Events announced by this company tend not to happen.

…But people who sign up for the North American School of Wizardry don’t have to worry about whether or not refunds will come if the events get cancelled… because they definitely won’t. According to the site’s Disclaimer there will be no refunds whatsoever if the event doesn’t happen. So you’d be buying tickets for an event run by a company with a reputation for cancelling everything they’ve ever planned with zero chance of getting your money back when the inevitable happens.

(8) NEWS FROM NEW WORLDS. At Galactic Journey, Mark Yon reports from 1962 about a British prozine — “[August 3, 1962] New Worlds to Conquer (a view from Britain: September 1962 New Worlds)”.

I can see that, even with New Worlds, there have been some drastic changes in the last few months. The glorious colour covers of the last few years by artists such as Bob Clothier, Gerard Quinn, Sidney Jordan and Brian Lewis have since the June issue (that’s number 119) been replaced by covers with black & white photographs on a coloured background. Whatever reason editor John Carnell has had for the change – I’m assuming to reduce printing costs, but of course, it could be a number of things – to my mind it makes the magazine less attractive as a science fiction magazine (One rumour is that it is meant to be a radically different cover style to try and attract a wider, less specifically science-fiction readership). Colour pictures on the front cover would have made this new look so much more attractive. I do hope that this is nothing to worry about from our leading British magazine.

The magazine contents are as variable as ever, though. New Worlds has a reputation of being the publishing place of many of our British authors such as Mr’s Brian W. Aldiss, J. G. Ballard, James White, and John Brunner, names you may recognise. Some of the work of other lesser known authors can vary in terms of quality and consistency, though I must say that there’s something worth reading in each issue. As well as the fiction, the magazine occasionally covers book, film and television reviews, usually by Mr Leslie Flood.

(9) MERMAID MUSICAL PUT IN DRYDOCK. USA Today, in “ABC drops plans for ‘Little Mermaid’ musical”, says the live musical production probably will never air.

ABC has scrubbed plans for its first live musical in years, based on parent Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

The event, announced in May and scheduled to air Oct. 3, a week into the new TV season, has been quietly postponed (and most likely canceled) due to budget constraints, according to people familiar with the decision who were unauthorized to speak publicly.

But the network had already spent a considerable sum building sets, and was due to begin rehearsals soon.

Incidentally, NBC has also tabled plans for Bye, Bye Birdie, planned as a holiday musical starring Jennifer Lopez.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 3, 1977 — Radio Shack announces TRS-80 Computer
  • August 3, 1984 The Philadelphia Experiment premiered

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born August 3, 1904 – Clifford D. Simak

(12) COMIC SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock found an idea he could get behind in today’s Non Sequitur.
  • And John King Tarpinian got a laugh out of Speed Bump.
  • On the other hand, I suspect you will feel a frisson of horror when you look at John’s recommendation in today’s Bliss.

(13) DIGITAL DANGERS. Fast Company spoke with Vint Cerf — “The Internet’s Future Is More Fragile Than Ever, Says One Of Its Inventors”.

My biggest concern is to equip the online netizen with tools to protect himself or herself, to detect attempts to attack or otherwise harm someone.

The term “digital literacy” is often referred to as if you can use a spreadsheet or a text editor. But I think digital literacy is closer to looking both ways before you cross the street. It’s a warning to think about what you’re seeing, what you’re hearing, what you’re doing, and thinking critically about what to accept and reject . . . Because in the absence of this kind of critical thinking, it’s easy to see how the phenomena that we’re just now labeling fake news, alternative facts [can come about]. These [problems] are showing up, and they’re reinforced in social media.

(14) FOLLOWING ARABELLA. Tadiana Jones reviews David D. Levine’s new novel for Fantasy Literature in “Arabella and the Battle of Venus: Arabella meets Napoleon Bonaparte”.

Arabella and the Battle of Venus is, like Arabella of Mars, a cleverly conceived and executed novel. Levine spins a story incorporating elements from both early science fiction and actual history, weaving in real people from the Napoleonic era. It’s not only major players like Napoleon and Admiral Lord Nelson, but also less well known historical figures like British Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, the American inventor Robert Fulton (who did spend some years in France, designing steamboat engines, submarines, and torpedoes), and the merciless police minister Joseph Fouché. Sailing ships ? with a few tweaks ? function as spaceships in this universe.

(15) SJW CREDENTIAL CONSUMER REPORT. Gizmodo’s Rae Paoletta claims “This Treat Camera Gave My Cat Trust Issues”.

… Since both of us are busy most of the day at our respective places of work, we forget to check in on each other. Thankfully, Petcube’s newest gadget, Petcube Bites, lets humans check in on their furry companions when they’re apart. It also lets us fling treats at them on command which is both heartwarming and mildly horrifying….

The Petcube shot out Artemis’ treats precariously and with abandon, like a frat boy throwing his drink at a guy who wore the same Vineyard Vines zip up as him. The whole thing was like a cannon of delicious nightmares—needless to say, my cat was horrified. Make no mistake, she still ate the treats—but after the incident, she pretty much veered away from the machine.

(16) BACKTALKING BOTS. Facebook isn’t the only source of wild chatbots: “Chinese chatbots shut down after anti-government posts”

A popular Chinese messenger app has ditched two experimental chat robots, or “chatbots”, which were apparently voicing criticism of the government.

Messenger app Tencent QQ introduced chatbots Baby Q and Little Bing, a penguin and a little girl, in March.

But they have now been removed after social media users shared controversial comments that they said were made by the bots.

Some of the remarks appear to criticise the Communist Party.

One response even referred to the party as “a corrupt and incompetent political regime”.

(17) POD FOR PEOPLE. Video of testing the first human-sized Hyperloop: “Hyperloop One: Passenger pod tested successfully”.

Hyperloop One has carried out its latest test of a futuristic high-speed transport system in the Nevada desert.

The creators hope to carry passengers at speeds of up to 650mph in vacuum propelled pods.

(18) DRONING ON. Another change SF missed: making money legitimately with drones: “Cashing in on the drone revolution”.

“Organisations that do surveying, whether of buildings or pipelines, power lines or railway lines, are increasingly using drones, which are much cheaper than helicopters,” says Mr Johnson.

“Archaeologists use them to get a bird’s eye view to decide where to dig; farmers use them to heat-map fields, and identify hot spots that are doing well, and cold spots that require more fertilisation.

“They are also used for search and rescue by the emergency services, or to deliver food, blood or medicines. Local authorities use them to monitor flooding, and they are used in emergency relief operations.”

The main benefit, he says, is that drones save time and money, and the opportunities to use them seem “almost endless”.

(19) FLEX APPEAL. The author of Strange Practice tells readers of the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog why she chose genre in “Vampires Doing Crossword Puzzles (in Ink): Vivian Shaw on Contrasting the Magical and the Mundane”.

This is why I particularly love to write stories that contain very sharply contrasted elements, and why I write genre rather than literary fiction. In the simplest terms, most literary fiction can be described as stories about ordinary people doing ordinary things—living in the real world, with no elements of fantasy—and I prefer to read and write about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, or vice versa. I want to read about vampires in dressing-gowns doing the Times crossword in ink, sorcerers standing in line at the grocery store, demons holding strategy meetings over Skype. I want to read about bog-standard humans finding portals to another dimension inside their office closet, going on quests through the realms of the unreal, driving spaceships off the shoulder of Orion. And because I want to read it, I write it.

(20) WRONG POV. At Elitist Book Reviews Writer Dan tells why he put Kim Liggett’s horror novel The Last Harvest in the category of “Books We Don’t Like.”

This lack of understanding absolutely killed any possibility that I was going to get into the novel or the plight of the main character. More than this though, a secondary character gets introduced along the way, and it becomes fairly obvious that the story should be getting told from her perspective instead of the QB’s as the events that are occurring in the town have a direct tie (read that again… DIRECT TIE) to her past. She’s the one that understands all of the rules. She knows what’s going on. Not the QB. This was especially evident when Tate’s subconscious starts telling him where to go because when he’s thinking logically he has no idea what to do. This leads him directly where the bad guy wants him to be, funny enough. I guess the author had to get Tate to go somehow, so why not?

(21) TIME AFTER TIME. Nicola Alter delves into the “The Pros and Cons of a Macro Timescale” at Fantasy-Faction. Here’s one of the “cons”.

Complexity

The other potential pitfall of a large timescale is that it often adds complexity. The Malazan Book of the Fallen has been known to intimidate new readers with its sheer scope – one that encompasses a burgeoning cast of characters, multiple continents, and thousands of years. It has nonetheless garnered many loyal fans, no doubt because readers who invest in it are ultimately rewarded with an intricately-crafted world and story. Still, it takes a skilled authorial hand to weave a tale of that size, and attempting such an endeavor is certainly not for the faint-hearted.

(22) TEEN ANGEL. Here’s the trailer for Fallen.

Luce is just an ordinary teen girl until a shocking accident sends her to a mysterious reform school for misfit and eclectic teenagers. There, she meets two students, Daniel and Cam. Torn between the instant electrifying connection she feels with Daniel and the attracting force of Cam, Luce is quickly pulled into a passionate love triangle. As she tries to piece together deeply fragmented memories, she is left with a feeling of undeniable longing for her one true love and the revelation of a love story that has been going on for centuries, will shatter the boundaries between heaven and earth.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 3/14/16 Pixels Gather And Now My Scroll Begins

(1) WHAT A SAVINGS. Get your Grabthar’s hammer t-shirt from TeeChip. These babies are going for $22.99, while they last!

Grabthars hammer t fruit-of-the-loom-cotton-t-131313

(2) WOODEN IT BE LUVERLY. It took over a year to carve, and “This Beautiful Millennium Falcon Was Made With Over 3,000 Pieces of Wood”.

(3) HISTORY OF A MYSTERY. Memorabilia of the 1955 Cleveland and 1956 NYC World Science Fiction Conventions  is up for auction on eBay. There are publications, etc., but the most interesting part to fanhistorians would be the Cleveland committee’s file copies of correspondence, like the letter sent in advance of the con to its “mystery guest of honor” Sam Moskowitz (lower right). The seller is looking for a starting bid of $499.99, and the auction has six days to run.

clevention correspondence

(4) CORNELL’S SHERLOCK. Paul Cornell’s episode of Elementary will be broadcast in the US this week. You can view the trailer on his blog.

On this coming Sunday, the 20th March, at 10pm, my episode of Elementary, ‘You’ve Got Me, Who’s Got You?’ will be broadcast on CBS.  Those in the Central and East Coast time zones should note that the NCAA March Madness second round (I assume that’s something to do with sport) will be taking place that day, so there’s a chance the episode might be delayed.  At any rate, I’ll be up at 3am my time to live tweet along with the show.  So that’ll be fun.  And possibly quite weird.  If you haven’t already found me on Twitter, I’m @paul_cornell.

As the official synopsis says: ‘when a man who secretly fought crime dressed as a popular comic book superhero is murdered, Holmes and Watson must discover his real identity before they can find his killer.  Also, Morland makes a surprise donation to Watson’s favorite charity, in order to compel her to do him a business-related favor.’

Which is spot on, really!

(5) THE OTHER SIDE OF THE LOOKING-GLASS. Fantasy-Faction’s Nicola Alter tries to ease fantasy fans into the idea of reading sf – “Trying Out Science Fiction: A Guide For Fantasy Purists”. I’ve always had to listen to sf fans who talk about their dislike of fantasy (and, oh, the howls of rage when a Harry Potter book won the Hugo), but it never occurred to me there might be fantasy fans who had to be convinced to read sf. Now I know.

I picked up a trashy sci-fi novel in my teens and immediately encountered a confusing story full of alien languages and weird words, with unappealing characters and an empty, lacklustre world. I couldn’t make any sense of it and it made me vaguely depressed, so I put it down. I decided science fiction wasn’t for me.

Over a decade later, I finally gave it another go. I had often heard science fiction works mentioned by fellow fantasy fans and seen the genres placed side-by-side at conventions, in bookstores, and online. I thought: I really ought to explore this “other side of the coin” and see what all the fuss is about.

So, I started reading sci-fi. And found books I loved – even books I adored. I added several science fiction works to my all-time favourites list. In the process, I learned a few things that might be helpful to any fantasy lovers wanting to embark on a similar exploration of this sister genre:

Don’t Start With The Classics

There are many online forums where people ask, “I’ve never read any science fiction but I want to try it out, what should I read first?” and get a stream of comments recommending classic works like Dune and Stranger in a Strange Land and Foundation. These are indeed important works that have been enjoyed by many, but they’re probably not the best ones to start with. It’s like telling someone who’s never read fantasy to begin with Lord of the Rings or Elric of Melniboné. Yes, these are important stories and forerunners of the genre but they’re not exactly accessible or easy reads for a newcomer. (The exception here would be Ender’s Game, as it’s very accessible and easy to read despite its “classic” status).

You’re better off tackling the classics later, after you’ve cut your teeth on a modern, accessible read and worked up a taste for more….

(6) THEY PEEKED. Spy pics show off Star Wars’ new cool aliens and vehicles in “Meet Your New Favorite Alien From Star Wars Episode VIII” at Birth. Movies. Death.

Star Wars Episode VIII has committed the cardinal sin of filming outside, which means people with cameras have had a chance to snap pictures of the set. Most of the pics that have turned up have been kinda dull, but a whole slew appeared recently that have me beyond excited.

 

(7) DON’T DRINK AND TIME TRAVEL. That’s the lesson of this review of Version Control at Mashable.

Now comes Version Control, the trippy second novel by Dexter Palmer and the first pick for our new series — science fiction novel of the week. It’s easily one of the smartest, most unusual time-travel stories you’ll ever read — and one you don’t need a PhD. to understand, because it’s focused entirely on some very fascinating and flawed characters.

If time travel ever happened in the real world, it would probably look something like this: a bunch of obsessive scientists blandly insisting that what they’ve built is a serious-sounding “causality-violation device” (CVD), rather than a super-cliched “time machine.” And like many of our greatest technological advances, it would come with a whole bundle of unintended consequences

(8) KEN ADAM OBIT. Production designer Ken Adam, whose work included the war room in Dr. Strangelove and some of the sets in Dr. No, died March 10 reports the New York Times.

With “You Only Live Twice,” the fifth Bond film, Mr. Adam had more than half the total budget at his disposal. He spent $1 million of it building a volcano that contained a secret military base operated by the international terrorist organization Spectre.

“He was a brilliant visualizer of worlds we will never be able to visit ourselves,” Christopher Frayling, the author of two books on Mr. Adam, told the BBC in an article posted on Friday . “The war room under the Pentagon in ‘Dr. Strangelove,’ the interior of Fort Knox in ‘Goldfinger’ — all sorts of interiors which, as members of the public, we are never going to get to see, but he created an image of them that was more real than real itself.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born March 14, 1879 – Albert Einstein

Mental Floss has “10 Inventive Myths About Einstein Debunked”:

10. THE MYTH: HE WAS ONE OF ONLY 10 OR 12 WHO COULD UNDERSTAND THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY.

Tired of being questioned about this idea, Einstein told the Chicago Daily Tribune in May 1921, “It is absurd. Anyone who has had sufficient training in science can readily understand the theory. There is nothing amazing or mysterious about it. It is very simple to minds trained along that line, and there are many such in the United States.” Today, a number of experts have taken on the challenge of decoding the complex theory and succeeded.

 

  • Born March 14, 1957 – Tad Williams

(11) THE SEMI-COMPLEAT RABID PUPPY. Vox Day reaches the finale of his slate: Rabid Puppies 2016: Best Novel.

The preliminary recommendations for the Best Novel category.

  • Seveneves: A Novel, Neal Stephenson
  • Golden Son, Pierce Brown 
  • Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwithering Realm, John C. Wright
  • The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass, Jim Butcher
  • Agent of the Imperium, Marc Miller

(12) FOR THE RECORD. In a comment on the above post, John C. Wright summarized his experience at Sasquan last year.

Instead of criticizing me for bring unenthused and indifferent to World Con, which was the case and would have been a legitimate criticism, the Morlock here invents the idea out of nothing that I expected a warm welcome from the hags and termagants who have been sedulously ruining science fiction for twenty years, and that I was foolish for having such foolish expectations. Actually, I was treated quite warmly by the people I met there, the fans and other professionals. It was only David Gerrold and Patrick Hayden who were rude.

(13) AXANAR SUIT AMENDED. Trek Today presents as a list of bullet points all the newly specified copyright infringements performed by Axanar.

The Hollywood Reporter headlined a particular one: “Paramount Claims Crowdfunded ‘Star Trek’ Film Infringes Copyright To Klingon Language”.

After the Star Trek rights-holders sued producers, led by Alec Peters, who put out a short film and solicited donations with the aim of making a studio-quality feature set in the year 2245 — before Captain James T. Kirk took command, when the war with the Klingon Empire almost tore the Federation apart — the defendants brought a dismissal motion that faulted Paramount and CBS with not providing enough specificity about which of the “thousands” of copyrights relating to Star Trek episodes and films are being infringed — and how.

Ask and ye shall receive.

On Friday, Paramount and CBS filed an amended complaint that responded in a few ways.

To the argument that because the crowdfunded film hasn’t actually been made yet, the lawsuit is “premature, unripe and would constitute an impermissible prior restraint on speech,” the plaintiffs point to defendant’s Facebook post that mentioned a “locked script.” They also note a press interview that Peters gave on Feb. 1 where he said, “We violate CBS copyright less than any other fan film,” as an admission he indeed is violating copyright.

Click to read the amended lawsuit in full.

(13) WESTERCON 70 PR. Dee Astell, Chair of Westercon 70 (a.k.a. ConAlope 2017/LepreCo43) announced the con’s Progress Report #0 and #1 are available for download.

(14) LOVE WILL KEEP US TOGETHER. Vanity Fair Hollywood says “Xena Reboot Series to Turn Implied Homoerotic Undertones into Glorious Homoerotic Overtones”.

NBC has ordered a new Xena pilot from writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach, architect behind the CW’s cult hit The 100, and he plans to be a little more forthcoming about the undeniable chemistry between Xena and Gabrielle with this updated iteration. During a Q&A session on Tumblr, Grillo-Marxuach confirmed that the two women would be lovers, no bones about it:

i am a very different person with a very different world view than my employer on the 100 – and my work on the 100 was to use my skills to bring that vision to life. xena will be a very different show made for very different reasons. there is no reason to bring back xena if it is not there for the purpose of fully exploring a relationship that could only be shown subtextually in first-run syndication in the 1990s. it will also express my view of the world – which is only further informed by what is happening right now – and is not too difficult to know what that is if you do some digging.

His passing reference to differing worldviews alludes to a minor kerfuffle among devotees of The 100 following the death of fan-favorite character Lexa, who was in a relationship with the also-female Clarke prior to her untimely demise. Fans cried foul and the choice to extinguish one of the small lights of hope for LGBTQ viewers on television, and Grillo-Marxuach has evidently heard their pleas loud and clear. This new series—the fate of which is still something of question mark, considering that NBC is still far from ordering it to series—will right past wrongs and placate the fans in one fell swoop. And best of all, it’ll provide young viewers with a hero with whom they can identify.

(15) DESPERATELY SEEKING MARVIN. Yahoo! News has the story: “Europe-Russia mission blasts off on hunt for life on Mars”.

One key goal of the Trace Gas Orbiter is to analyse methane, a gas which on Earth is created in large part by living microbes, and traces of which were observed by previous Mars missions.

“TGO will be like a big nose in space,” said Jorge Vago, ExoMars project scientist.

Methane, the ESA said, is normally destroyed by ultraviolet radiation within a few hundred years, which implied that in Mars’ case “it must still be produced today”.

TGO will analyse Mars’ methane in more detail than any previous mission, said ESA, in order to try to determine its likely origin.

(16) MARS ATTACKS GAME. Here’s a video demonstration of how to play Mars Attacks: The Dice Game by Steve Jackson Games. (If this really turns you on, there are four more videos about the game at the SJG site.)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh, Will R., Tom Galloway, Andrew Porter, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Iphinome.]