Pixel Scroll 6/7/17 Pixel Me Your Best Shot, File Away!

(1) A LITTLE LIST. James Davis Nicoll returns with “Twenty Core Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic Speculative Fiction Works Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”.

As with the previous core lists, here are twenty Post-Apocalyptic Speculative Fiction Works chosen entirely on the basis of merit and significance to the field.

There are two filtering rules:

Only one work per author per list

Any given work can appear on only one list

(2) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES! Sign up for video conference call from 1962 hosted by The Traveler from Galactic Journey.

Hello, friends and fellow travelers!

As some of you are aware, Galactic Journey is a frequent presenter at conventions around the country. In a mix of seminar and road show, the Journey brings the past to life with a personal appearance.

Well, this month, we’re going to take that to the next level — using Visi-phone technology developed for the 1962 Seattle World Fair, the Journey will be appearing live Coast to Coast (and beyond) at 11 a.m. [PDT] on June 17.

Tune in, and you’ll get a peek behind the scenes at the Journey, meeting the Traveler, himself, and potentially the Young Traveler and the Editor! We’ll show off some of our favorite vintage toys, answer your questions — and there will be prizes for the best ones!

RSVP for this no-charge event — The Traveler personally guarantees it’ll be worth every penny you spend!

(3) WORLDBUILDERS AND WORLDRUNNERS. Political lessons with John Scalzi, Charlie Jane Anders, Cory Doctorow, and Annalee Newitz at Inverse“Here’s Why Sci-Fi Authors Will Always Tell You To Fuck Off”.

“People will visit my website or Twitter feed where apparently I have political opinions,” said Scalzi. “Then I get the sorrowful email that says, ‘I thought I was coming to you for entertainment, but you’re telling me how to think and regretfully I must not read your books anymore.’ They’re expecting me to say something like, ‘No, don’t leave.’ They’re not expecting the email I actually send, which is ‘Dear whomever: kiss my ass.”

(4) IF IGNORANCE IS BLISS. Discussions about cultural appropriation are not typically about the Irish, but they could be. Fantasy-Faction Brian O’Sullivan discusses “Wading in the Cultural Shallows: How Irish Mythology Became A Commodity for Fantasy”.

One night at a party I was introduced to a woman who proudly informed told me she’d named her baby daughter ‘Banshee’ in celebration of her Irish heritage. Even at the time I was pretty stunned by the announcement. For an Irish person (and I would have thought most people would have known this), this was the equivalent to naming her daughter — Death.

About two weeks later, at another party (I had a life back then!), I was cornered by a different woman demanding a translation for the chorus from Clannad’s haunting Theme Song from Harry’s Game. The Irish lyrics for the chorus had been written on her CD sleeve as ‘Fol dol de doh fol-de de day’!) which she thought was absolutely beautiful and must mean something mythically profound.’ Needless to say, she wasn’t particularly impressed when I translated it as ‘La, la la la, la la laaah!’

These are just two examples of the cultural disconnect between Irish people and those who dabble in Irish mythology. They are however only two of the hundreds I’ve personally experienced over the last twenty years or so and I know many other Irish people who’ve had similar experiences. It’s actually a source of continual bemusement to to see how bizarrely and inaccurately our culture’s been represented over that time.

…I don’t believe for a moment that it’s any author’s intention to be offensive when they use mythologies that aren’t their own. In fact, I’d suspect the vast majority of them would be dismayed if they knew their work was somehow considered offensive. Unfortunately, authors write stories based on their own experiences or what they’ve managed to learn and, frankly, sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know. Different cultures aren’t easily transferable (although if you spend enough time living in them or studying them intensely you can certainly pick up a lot) and this makes wading in the mythological shallows that much more dangerous. This is particularly the case with Irish mythology as there’s so much misinformation already out there (many people, for example, through no fault of their own, still believe W. B. Yeats is a credible authority on Irish mythology!).

(5) WEIMER IN THE WILD. If this is what DUFF delegates get to do, everyone will be running next time. (Having lunch with Ian Mond and Likhain.)

Of course, some things you can do without traveling 12,000 miles:

(6) HERITAGE SPACE AUCTION RESULTS. Heritage Auctions released some sales figures from Space Exploration Auction #6173,which had total sales of $822,203 .

Vintage NASA photographs were strong, especially the nice Selection of “Red Number” Examples we were pleased to offer. The definite “star” of this category was the iconic Apollo 8 “Earthrise” Photo (NASA Image AS8-14-2383) of the earth above the moon’s horizon, taken by Bill Anders on Christmas Eve 1968 from lunar orbit. This is one of the most reproduced images of the twentieth century and one tenacious bidder laid claim to this early red number print for $10,625. Another exciting lot was a Collection of Sixteen Apollo 11 Photos (twelve red number and four blue number) which included an example of the famous Buzz Aldrin “visor” portrait. Six bidders competed for the group before one took it home for $7,812.

Robbins Medallions are always a popular category. In this auction, two examples made particularly strong showings. A beautiful Unflown Apollo 15 Medal partially minted with flown “treasure” silver from a 1715 Spanish treasure shipwreck ingot closed at $7,500. A rare Flown STS-6 Space Shuttle Challenger Medal (one of only sixty-seven carried on the mission) brought in $11,250. Of particular interest, a notarized presentation letter signed by the entire four-man crew accompanied this one. This was the first from this mission that Heritage has offered in ten years of Space auctions.

One-of-a-kind items are always difficult to estimate and there were a few in this sale that performed quite a bit better than our best guess. Project Mercury was represented in this category by a Capsule Flight Operations Manual that sold for $10,625. At what price would two sets of Gemini Spacecraft Crew Hatch Door Assembly Shingles and their associated blueprints be valued? The answer, supplied by six eager bidders, is $11,250.

(7) HELSINKI BOUND TRAVELER SEEKS ADVICE. Daniel Dern has asked me to put out his request for information, as in, “Seeking European SIM card suggestions for Helsinki Worldcon”.

I’m sure I’m not the only fan who’s not a frequent international (here, “not living in Finland”) traveler, trying to suss out a reasonable (as in “affordable” and “non-complex”) answer to having (moderate) cellular connectivity during and pre/post-Worldcon.

Here’s my particular constraints/deets (obviously, YMMV):

o Aside from Worldcon, looking at ~2 weeks in Denmark/Norway/Sweden.

o I’m in the US. However, since a) my carrier is AT&T, whose international rates are excessive, and/but b) not planning to bring my primary phone, so a) is moot. Yes, I know that being a T-Mobile’s customer would be a simple, goodly-priced answer, but that’s not an option here.

o I’ll be packing an unlocked Android phone. Probably my Moto G4, if I can find it. That’s what I’m looking for a pre-paid refillable SIM card for.

o Initial landing is Copenhagen.

o Main cellular uses: for brief local phone calls to restaurants, etc, and texting “where are you?” etc. Some data. Everything else can be done using Skype (and other VoiPs), etc over WiFi.

o Probably looking for a multi-country 30-day pass with 1 or 2GB data and some local phone, ideally unlimited texting.

Web search is turning up bunches of suggestions, but other than wading through comments, I have no clue. Experienced Eurotravellers, what say ye?

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

There’s a lot to know about Forbidden Planet’s Robby the Robot/. Like, who was inside?

“One of the first things you do when you design a robot or monster,” [Art Director Robert] Kinoshita recalled in an interview, “is to try to confuse the audience as to where you put the guy inside. It’s difficult to completely fool an audience because they know there is someone inside. But if you make an effort to confuse them it can work in your favor and make the whole creation more believable. Robby was designed so that the man inside could see out of the voice box below the glass head.” Although many people were fooled by Robby’s disproportionate form, he was controlled by Frankie Darro from inside, and his voice was provided by talented actor and announcer Marvin Miller, who gave Robby that distinctive, sophisticated wit so loved and remembered by audiences everywhere.

(9) STALKING THE WILD GANACHE. Gourmet chocoholic Camestros Felapton gives Americans an advance look — “Review: Kinder Joy — eating refined sugar so you don’t have to”.

For those of us outside of the US, the Kinder Surprise egg is a familiar sight. A thin chocolate egg which encases a plastic capsule within which is a small toy. Often you have to assemble the toy and sometimes they are themed collectibles. The chocolate itself — well it’s is an acquired taste. Mass manufactured chocolate is one of those paradoxically regional things.

Americans have not had ready access to Kinder Surpises because of the dangers of them eating the encased toy accidentally. However, the more recent Kinder Joy egg has sidestepped the problem. It retains the egg shape but has two seperate halves — one with chocolate (sort of) in it and the other with a toy.

Wednesday I saw one in the wild and bought one and ate the bits you are supposed to eat. This is my story….

(10) INVISIBLE COVER REVEAL. Jim C. Hines and Mary Anne Mohanraj have revealed the cover and contributors list for Invisible 3, the third volume of collected stories shared by authors and fans “about the importance of representation in science fiction/fantasy.” See the image at the link.

The introduction is by K. Tempest Bradford. The contributors are Alex Conall, Alliah, Alyssa Hillary, Benjamin Rosenbaum, Brandon O’Brien, Carrie Sessarego, Chelsea Alejandro, Dawn Xiana Moon, Fran Wilde, Jaime O. Mayer, Jennifer Cross, Jeremy Sim, Jo Gerrard, Mari Kurisato, MT O’Shaughnessy, Rebecca Roanhorse, Sean Robinson, and T. S. Bazelli.

There isn’t an official release date yet. Hines says that will be coming very soon.

(11) TO INFINITY. Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s space opera collection Infinite Stars is available for pre-order. I thought the table of contents looked pretty interesting — it helps that Lois McMaster Bujold’s Borders of Infinity is one of my favorite sf stories.

(12) BAD WRAP. Entertainment Weekly reports “The Mummy reboot slammed as ‘worst Tom Cruise movie ever’ by critics”. Quotes at the site.

After spending over three decades dazzling audiences across large-scale action-adventures on the big screen, Tom Cruise’s latest genre spectacle, The Mummy, is set to unravel in theaters this Friday. Movie critics, however, got a peek under wraps this week, as movie reviews for the blockbuster project debuted online Wednesday morning. The consensus? According to a vast majority of them, perhaps this romp should’ve remained buried.

(13) NAPOLEON DID SURRENDER. James Davis Nicoll sends along a link to The Watchtower restaurant website, a nerd-themed tavern in Waterloo, Ontario.

They have a fantasy-themed origin story.

Their plethora of monthly events includes Nerd Nite.

On the final Wednesday of every month, KW’s own Nerd Nite takes over the Watchtower. Join us for unique, informative, and entertaining presentations, trivia, and socializing in a fun, positive, and inclusive atmosphere. Presentations are done on a ton of nerdy topics!

They also have a series of YouTube videos of their barmaster making some of their signature drinks.

(14) ROLL THE BONES. One researcher says, “There is no Garden of Eden in Africa. Or if there is a Garden of Eden it’s the size of Africa. — “Oldest Homo sapiens fossils ever found push humanity’s birth back to 300,000 years” at USA Today.

Digging on a hilltop in the Sahara Desert, scientists have found the most ancient known members of our own species, undermining longstanding ideas about the origins of humanity.

The newfound Homo sapiens fossils — three young adults, one adolescent and a child of 7 or 8 — date back roughly 300,000 years, says a study in this week’s Nature. The next-oldest fossils of Homo sapiens, the scientific name for humans, are about 200,000 years old.

(15) NEST UNFEATHERED. The argument goes on: “Study casts doubt on the idea of ‘big fluffy T. rex'”

Primitive feathers have been identified in some members of the Tyrannosaur group, leading to speculation that the king of reptiles also sported feathers.

In the latest twist, researchers analysed skin impressions from a T.rex skeleton known as Wyrex, unearthed in Montana.

They also looked at relatives that roamed during the Late Cretaceous in Asia and other parts of North America, including Albertosaurus and Gorgosaurus.

Skin patches from the neck, pelvis and tail of Wyrex show scaly, reptilian-like skin, says a team led by Dr Phil Bell of the University of New England, Australia.

(16) BOND. 20 LB. BOND. Is your printer tattling on you? “Why printers add secret tracking dots”.

On 3 June, FBI agents arrived at the house of government contractor Reality Leigh Winner in Augusta, Georgia. They had spent the last two days investigating a top secret classified document that had allegedly been leaked to the press. In order to track down Winner, agents claim they had carefully studied copies of the document provided by online news site The Intercept and noticed creases suggesting that the pages had been printed and “hand-carried out of a secured space”.

In an affidavit, the FBI alleges that Winner admitted printing the National Security Agency (NSA) report and sending it to The Intercept. Shortly after a story about the leak was published, charges against Winner were made public.

At that point, experts began taking a closer look at the document, now publicly available on the web. They discovered something else of interest: yellow dots in a roughly rectangular pattern repeated throughout the page. They were barely visible to the naked eye, but formed a coded design. After some quick analysis, they seemed to reveal the exact date and time that the pages in question were printed: 06:20 on 9 May, 2017 — at least, this is likely to be the time on the printer’s internal clock at that moment. The dots also encode a serial number for the printer.

(17) A CLASSIC. Bruce Gillespie’s SF Commentary #94, 60,000 words of lively book talk and analysis, is available for download from eFanzines.com:

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, David K.M. Klaus, Daniel Dern, Gideon Marcus, John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh, and James Davis Nicoll for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Sir Julius Vogel Awards Photos

Sir Julius Vogel Award set. Photo by Paul Weimer.

Paul Weimer’s DUFF trip took him to Lexicon in New Zealand this weekend, where he shot these photos of the 2017 Sir Julius Vogel Awards presentation.

  • Back row: Dan Rabarts, Lee Murray, Octavia Cade, Keith Smith, Lynelle Howell, Publisher Marie Hodgkinson accepting for Emma Weakley, and AJ Fitzwater
  • Front row: Jean Gilbert, Eileen Mueller, and Lynelle Howell’s daughter dressed as a “Living Sir Julius Vogel Award”.

Here are links to some more good photos in public posts on Facebook:

Pixel Scroll 6/3/17 Hello Pixel My Old Friend, I’ve Come To Scroll With You Again

(1) SCORING WONDER WOMAN. Vox explains that Wonder Woman’s score/rating is 93% or 76%, depending on how you look at it, in “Why people are freaking out over Wonder Woman’s stellar Rotten Tomatoes score”

To be clear, a 97 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating doesn’t mean that critics scored the movie at 97 on a scale of 1 to 100, or that Wonder Woman is a perfect movie — rather, it signifies that an overwhelming majority of critics have given the movie a positive review. The average critical rating for the movie is around a 7.6 out of 10 according to Rotten Tomatoes, and a 76 according to Metacritic, both of which take into account any actual score, like a star rating or a letter grade, that a critic gave the movie.

(2) WORD PROBLEM. Or, for those of you who find a verbal response more helpful that a number, Gary Westfahl offers “A Working Model for Superhero Films: A Review of Wonder Woman” at Locus Online.

One important lesson to learn seems obvious enough: since the DC superheroes first became popular because of their appearances in comic books, filmmakers should generally remain faithful to the contents and spirit of their original adventures. One of the irksome aspects of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was his willingness to tinker with Superman’s and Batman’s back stories and ignore facets of their established characters, so that one watches these films regularly thinking, “Superman would never do that,” or “Batman would never do that.” In contrast, though Snyder is co-credited with Wonder Woman‘s story, its other writers — Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs — must be primarily credited with a film that, with minor changes to be noted, is remarkably faithful to the longstanding traditions of Wonder Woman (even though she is never called Wonder Woman in the film), projecting a strong awareness and respect for the three aspects of the heroine that make her almost unique (and her gender, though relevant, is not the most significant issue).

(3) OMNI FOR SALE — BUT SHOULD IT BE? The entire run of Omni magazine is available for purchase from Amazon for $2.99/issue (or free if you have Kindle Unlimited.) — see Omni archive.

But SFWA President Cat Rambo points out there are unanswered questions about the rights to market the fiction in these issues:

Be aware that there’s some questions about those runs of Omni. While the nonfiction seems to have been often work for hire, I don’t believe that’s true of the fiction, and I also don’t think they’re paying the writers of that fiction. At least, they have not replied to repeated and increasingly pointed queries on my part about it. I’ve asked affected fiction writers to mail me if they know their work has been stolen by these folk.

(4) GET OUT THE KLEENEX. The New York Times debuted its feature New York Stories by getting some artists (including Tom Gauld) to draw header illustrations for selected articles.

First one I read was the lost dog story — “World (or at Least Brooklyn) Stops for Lost Dog” by reporter Andy Newman. Big tearjerker.

Bailey, a 2½-year-old goldendoodle, lived a placid, largely uneventful life on a block of handsome brownstones in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, until 7:15 on the morning of Oct. 24.

That was when her owner leashed her to a metal chair outside Henry’s Local, a coffee shop on Henry Street, and went in for an iced latte.

Another customer entered the cafe. Bailey, startled, jumped to the side. The chair crashed to the sidewalk. The noise spooked Bailey further.

She bolted — down Henry Street, dragging the clattering chair behind her, with her owner, Orna Le Pape, in pursuit, yelling: “Bailey, stop! No! No!”

The NYT allows ten free articles before you a paywall. But there are ways around that, as you probably know.

(5) HARRY POTTER FAN FILM. ScienceFiction.com interestingly reports, “Warner Bros. Okays ‘Harry Potter’ Fan Film ‘Voldemort: Origins Of The Heir’”. The spectacular-looking trailer was linked in the Scroll the other day — now it looks like the makers will be allowed to do their feature.

But considering that this borders on copyright infringement, this trend has caused studios much alarm and has even caused some to call in the lawyers. For example, CBS and Paramount went after a ’Star Trek’ fan film titled ‘Axanar’ and tied that production in litigation for over a year. Eventually, things settled down and the filmmakers were allowed to proceed with their project with certain conditions, but it set a precedent for studios and future fan films that have recently played out with Warner Bros. and a ‘Harry Potter’ fan film titled ‘Voldemort: Origins of the Heir’. Luckily, just as with the ‘Star Trek’ production, it would seem that the studio has given the fans their blessing to move forward with their labor of love.

While speaking with Polygon, ‘Origins of the Heir’ co-director Gianmaria Pezzato of Tryangle Films revealed that after WB had their Kickstarter campaign shut down in July 2016, the two parties came to some kind of agreement that would allow Pezzato, co-director Stefano Prestia, and the whole crew to continue their work. However, there were some conditions:

“We had a private and confidential discussion with Warner Bros who contacted us during the period of the crowdfunding campaign. The only thing we can say is that they let us proceed with the film, in a non profit way, obviously.”

With WB’s blessing, Tyrangle is back in business. It’s a good thing too because their film looks really awesome. I mean, when fans can create a House Elf as well as some of the best animators in the business, it would be a crime for a cease and desist to keep the movie from coming to fruition.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 3, 1965 — Astronaut Edward H. White II was the first American to perform a “spacewalk” when he stepped outside of his spacecraft

(7) YESTERDAY IN HISTORY

  • June 2, 1950 Influential sci-fi film Rocketship X-M opens in theaters.
  • June 2, 1989 Nicolas Cage stars in horror comedy Vampire’s Kiss.

(8) YESTERDAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born June 2, 1915 — Lester del Rey

(9) WATCH FOR THE BLINK. Offering more participation than SETI@home: “Citizen Scientists Comb Images To Find An ‘Overexcited Planet'”.

“Maybe Mesklin is out there just waiting to be discovered,” comments Chip Hitchcock.

Professional astronomers have been turning to the public for help with their research. So far, these “citizen scientists” have helped characterize distant galaxies and discovered gravitation lenses.

Now you can add finding brown dwarfs to the list. An article just published in Astrophysical Journal Letters describes a brown dwarf discovered with the help of four volunteers through an online crowdsourced search.

The project is called Backyard Worlds: Planet 9. When NPR reported on it in February, the focus was on finding the planet that astronomers predict exists at the farthest reaches of the solar system.

(10) EARTH, THE FINAL FRONTIER. “This is exactly what Captain Kirk was portrayed as trying to do in the beginning scenes of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier,” David Klaus points out. “I didn’t think it actually was physically possible to do, and the ability to make such a climb was part of the fictional Star Trek future.” — “‘Free solo’ climber conquers El Capitan without rope, safety gear”

Alex Honnold, a celebrated 31-year-old rock climber, on Saturday became the first person to scale Yosemite’s El Capitan, a nearly 3,000-foot granite wall, without using ropes or other safety gear, according to National Geographic

(11) DUFF DOINGS. Down Under Fan Fund delegate Paul Weimer tweets more highlights from the New Zealand leg of his trip.

(12) WISCON. In “That was Wiscon!”, Sigrid Ellis has both favorable things to say about the con, and some other specific observations bracketed by the following excerpts.

Wiscon still has room for improvement in areas of social justice, but this year was certainly better than five years ago. I think it helps that a number of people No Longer Feel Welcome at Wiscon and have decided to go to OddCon instead. Which, is sad for people who liked OddCon, but good for Wiscon.€¦

(A note on Not Feeling Welcome at Wiscon: If you no longer feel welcome at Wiscon because people criticize you and tell you you are saying and doing bigoted things, perhaps you should examine that in your heart. Listen. Read up on the topic. Challenge your views. Think on it a while. Perhaps, apologize. Perhaps grow as a person. Or, you know, clutch your bigotry to your chest and flounce away on a cloud of hurt privilege and drama. That’s a choice you can make, sure, why not.)

(12) TO SEE THE UNSEEN. The Washington Post’s Julie Zauzmer discusses how children’s book author Marissa Moss decided to make her memoir of her husband’s death, Last Things, a graphic novel in order to best convey her emotions about her husband’s death: “In graphic memoir, children’s author aims to show adults what they don’t see about death”.

…Part of the problem, Moss said, is that American culture isolates death from everyday life, cordoning off the messy experiences of illness and grief in hospital rooms and nursing homes. Most people don’t see the ill or bereaved until they become the mourner themselves.

With her memoir “Last Things,” published last month, Moss becomes one of a growing group of writers attempting to expose these hidden yet universal processes. From tell-all bloggers posting about every stage of sickness and death, to Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s “Option B” published after her husband’s untimely death, Moss joins in to illustrate grief — in her case, quite literally.

A prolific children’s book writer best known for her popular “Amelia’s Notebook” series, Moss has been telling stories through a mix of words and pictures for decades. But when she first sat down to create a memoir of Harvey’s illness, she only wrote prose.

Publishers balked. …

(13) CLUB MEETING. The Hugo Award Book Club takes up a popular sequel in “A Closed And Common Orbit — Book Club Review”.

Generic Space Setting

Becky Chambers’ strength is not world building. Both of her books so far feature fungible aliens from central casting, off-the-shelf worlds, and a feel-good interstellar society not dissimilar from the United Federation of Planets.

But this is actually not a bad thing, since digging into the world doesn’t detract from what’s important in the book: the relationships and the characters. Numerous novels in recent years have been marred by too much focus on the universe, and not enough focus on the characters.

(14) WE’RE HERE. At The Bearded Trio Paul Gibbs studies the only Name of the Game episode anybody still cares about: “L.A. 2017: A look back at Steven Spielberg’s Early Sci-Fi Time Travel Movie”.

When I first [heard] two years ago that Steven Spielberg had directed a science fiction TV movie called L.A. 2017, I was puzzled. How could I not know about this? I pride myself on my extensive knowledge of Spielberg’s work, and even on the relative completeness of my personal collection (when people try to catch me by asking if the collection includes Duel, I smirk and reply it even includes the far lesser known Something Evil.). How could i not be aware of this one?

(15) TOY TIME. Forbes writer Ollie Barder is excited: “Bandai Unveils Its Perfect Grade Millennium Falcon Model Kit And It Is No Hunk Of Junk”.

For Star Wars fans, Bandai is now the go to resource for the best toys and model kits for the entire franchise. Its latest offering though is all kinds of epic; a massive 1/72 scale Perfect Grade Millennium Falcon kit.

If you are not familiar with the term “Perfect Grade“ that comes from Bandai’s Gundam model kit, or gunpla, line. It’s the highest grade in terms of complexity, gimmicks, detailing, scale and price. The results are usually incredibly though and I have availed myself of a few of these kits over the years, so I speak from experience here.

In this instance, the Millennium Falcon matches the same 1/72 scale as its X-Wing and TIE Fighter kits, so you can totally do a huge nerdy diorama if you so wish.

The size thing is a big point here, as this kit is massive. It’s also gimmick ridden and full of lights and a removable cockpit cover.

 

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, Chip Hitchcock, Joe H., Cat Rambo, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 5/30/17 When A Pixel Meets A Pixel, Scrolling Through The Rye

(1) CATREON. Cat Rambo has updated her Patreon appeal video.

(2) WHERE’S WEIMER? DUFF traveler Paul Weimer has reached Hobbiton in New Zealand.

(3) OPTION. Steve Davidson announced that the Experimenter Publishing Company has formed Experimenter Media LLC to develop the Amazing Stories name.

Amazing Stories, the iconic title of the world’s first science fiction magazine and the title of a well-known Steven Spielberg helmed 1980s anthology show, has been optioned for a multi-year deal with Experimenter Media LLC, a newly minted development studio.

The title was previously optioned by NBC/Universal Television in 2015.

Experimenter Media intends to develop the show as an anthology series that will showcase top quality writing by some of the greatest Science Fiction authors in the field.

(4) SAUR PRAISE. “Several-day trips provide a good way to (try) catch(ing) up on my sf (deadtree) magazine reading,” says Daniel Dern. “The highlight for this past weekend was Richard Chedwyk’s latest ‘saur’ story, ‘The Man Who Put the Bomp,’ in F&SF, March/April 2017.

“If you’re a long(-enough) regular reader of F&SF (since 2000, based on info I’m about to cite), you’ve been enjoying these charmingly delightful ‘Saur Stories’ (including the 2004 Nebula short story “Bronte’s Egg”).

“I wouldn’t dream of spoiling your reading enjoyment with any actual details. I will say that this story answers or at least addresses some of the questions about the saurs. Although not all.”

Here’s F&SF’s “Gallery of Covers for Richard Chwedyk’s Saur Stories”

(5) GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION. Can this job be automated? “Robot priest delivers blessings in five different languages”:

The video shows a man selecting one of five languages from a screen on BlessU-2’s chest which prompts the robot to begin reciting Bible verses while raising its arms in the air as its hands began to glow.

“We wanted people to consider if it is possible to be blessed by a machine, or if a human being is needed,” Stephan Krebs of the church responsible for the robot told The Guardian.

Krebs added the robot was not designed to “robotize our church work,” but create a new discussion around religion 500 years after Martin Luther sparked a cultural upheaval by posting his 95 theses to a church in the 16th century.

 

(6) CLASS M PLANET. It may be Earth-sized but, baby! It’s cold outside — “New potentially habitable ‘super-Earth’ orbiting star 21 light years away has just been spotted”.

Astronomers have found a new “super-Earth” circling an M-dwarf star, and it could be habitable. The dwarf star, designated as GJ 625, is around 21 light years away from our solar system and is around 1/3rd the size and mass of the Sun.

Super-Earths are a kind of exoplanet with a greater mass than the Earth, but not exceeding the mass of ice giants such as Neptune or Uranus. Although the term “super-Earth” is generally used to refer to the mass of the planetary body, scientists also use the term to describe planets that are visually larger than Earth.

(7) WHO DAT? While viewing the Paddington 2 trailer, Peter Capaldi’s face popped out at me. Whoever “Mr. Curry” is, the soon-to-be-former Doctor Who is playing him in this movie. Paddington 2 hits UK cinemas on November 10.

Featuring an all-star returning cast of Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin with Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington and Imelda Staunton as Aunt Lucy and joined by new cast members Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson.

 

(8) IMPERIAL MIDLIFE CRISIS. They say clothes make the man — but what do they make him? “I’ll take the sandtrooper in white: Meet the rebel scum making Star Wars armour sets for a living”.

“I think a lot of the older men are buying it because they’ve always wanted to look like a character from Star Wars but have never been able to afford the originals,” says Edwards. “There is that thinking if you dress up as a stormtrooper and look at yourself in the mirror, then you are transported into the world of Star Wars.”

So, where does a 30-something who wants a piece of the legend go? Not the mass market of sub-£1,000 suits that targets the fancy dresser.

No, they tap a cottage industry of British specialists — Ainsworth’s Shepperton Design Studios, Edwards’ CfO, and RS Prop Masters in the UK.

This trio is busy vacuum forming sheets of white ABS plastic using curved moulds to a 1.5mm thickness, cutting out and assembling around 30 pieces per suit, making straps, body suits, eyepieces, mics, boots and blasters. Prices run from £1,200 — around $1,550.

And in case you were wondering, there are few concessions on size or girth. The original stormtrooper was 5ft 10in and 110lbs. He remains so. The most you can expect is a little extra plastic around the overlapping at the edges if you’re a little large for a stormtrooper.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Loomis Day

The History of Loomis Day. As with many things, the history of Loomis Day is actually the history of a man, and an event, and how they changed the world to come. Mahlon Loomis was a dentist in the 1800’s who had an idea that had nothing to do with teeth. He knew about the electrical properties of the atmosphere, and like Tesla had conceived of an idea to transmit electricity through the air to a distant location. His idea was, perhaps, off a bit. He thought to ‘charge’ a layer of the atmosphere to create an electrical conduit between two metal towers set high on mountaintops (Sound familiar?). What we find interesting about this entire process is that in the end, most if not all of Loomis’s theories on how the atmosphere worked and, indeed, how his own apparatus worked were completely wrong.

Click here for the rest of the story.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born May 30, 1908  — Mel Blanc, voice of Bugs Bunny and many, many others cartoon characters.
  • Born May 30 — Anna Feruglio Dal Dan
  • Born May 30 — Ross Chamberlain
  • Born May 30 — Paul Oldroyd
  • Born May 30 — Nancy Lebovitz

(11) LISTEN UP. Seven of Laura Resnick’s “Esther Diamond” stories are available from Graphic Audio.

(12) CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR. Dave Farland tells Writers of the Future entrants who didn’t reach the highest rungs “Why You Only Got an Honorable Mention”.

Right now on my computer, I have a story up. I’ve read the first two pages, and although I’m a little soft on the opening paragraph, the rest of the first page is quite intriguing. My reaction is, “Looks like I’ll have to read this one.” In other words, I’m looking forward to reading it. I’m hoping that it can be a grand prize winner. I’m hoping that someday I’ll be able to say, “I was the one who discovered this author.”

Why do I feel that I have to read this particular story? First off, it has an engaging idea at its core. I know that from the first page. Second, the author is writing with clarity and grace. Third, the pacing is just right. In short, there are a lot of good things happening here for a first page.

Stories that keep me reading all the way through will almost always get an Honorable Mention. That’s my way of saying, “You’re writing almost at a professional level, but this one didn’t quite do it for me.” Or better yet, “I’d really like to see more from you. Keep trying!”

There are four simple reasons why a story may not rise above Honorable Mention.

* The idea for the story isn’t particularly fresh or interesting. You may not realize it, but the basic concept of your story has probably been done before. For example, let’s say that you decide to write a story about “Zombie Sharecroppers.” Great. You might write it beautifully, and I might get through the entire tale and enjoy it. But ultimately I have to look at it and ask, “Is the basic tenet of the story fresh and original? Did the author give it a surprise twist that lifted it above similar stories?” If the answer to both of those questions is no, then it will probably not get higher than an Honorable Mention. You’ll need to come at me next time with a fresh idea….

(13) SURROUNDED BY ALIENS. In the Washington Post, Ben Guarino uses the release of Alien: Covenant to discuss what we know about parasites, concluding that the notion in the Alien franchise that “a parasite could become a hybrid of human and host organism…has some scientific merit.”– “Disgusting ‘Alien’ movie monster not as horrible as real things in nature”.

The new film, according to Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday, is “a largely turgid, often thoroughly unpleasant affair.” Savvy moviegoers certainly expect some amount of unpleasantness — that sensation being par for the course whenever egg-laying parasites are involved.

But for all the cinematic aliens’ gravid grotesquerie, there exists a world where they would simply be chumps. It is a place crawling with more deceptive, more horrible things. Welcome to Earth.

The inhabitants of our planet directly inspired “Alien” screenwriter Dan O’Bannon and director Ridley Scott. O’Bannon in part looked to horror writer H.P. Lovecraft and previous works of science fiction. But he also plumbed the depths of nature, patterning “the Alien’s life cycle on real-life parasites,” as he said in his 2003 essay “Something Perfectly Disgusting.”

(14) FINELY TUNED EAR. Can you tell which track was written by computer? “For Video Soundtracks, Computers Are The New Composers”.

Four years later, Villegas, who works at a technical college, has a side business doing product reviews on his YouTube channel. He found that adding a little music really improved his videos.

“It just adds that third dimension that is missing sometimes,” he says.

But he hit a snag. Music is expensive. Villegas would either have to pay for rights or pay a composer.

“I upload weekly,” Villegas says. “So for me to pay a composer for 52 separate custom songs … wouldn’t make sense in the return on investment for me.”

Then Villegas discovered Jukedeck, a company that creates and sells computer-generated music. Jukedeck charges as little as 99 cents a track for a small business and $21.99 for a large business.

Chip Hitchcock comments, “The human track is by Vivaldi; IMO this means the program might be able to play checkers, but it’s a long way from winning at go.”

(15) BUBBLE AND SQUEAK. Preserving the sounds of old computers: “Fossils Of Technology: ‘The Imitation Archive’ Turns Near-Extinct Machines Into Music”.

Computers are part of the everyday sounds of our times — for a while. But as each new digital device slips into inevitable obsolescence, so do their signature sounds. Composer Matt Parker thought that meant losing touch with some of our history — so, he’s has created an archive of 126 sound recordings from the historic computers of Bletchley Park, the site where British mathematicians, scientists and spies broke German’s military codes during World War II. And he’s worked those sounds into a new series of musical compositions on an album called The Imitation Archive.

(16) THE GLASS HARMONICA CEILING. “The woman who could ‘draw’ music” (but was ignored because sound engineering was man’s work).

Few people know Daphne Oram, but she helped shape the sounds, and songs, we listen to today. A pioneer of electronic music, she wrote Still Point — thought to be the world’s first composition which manipulates electronic sounds in real time — in 1949. In 1957, she set up the famous BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The same year, she began working on her Oramics machine, which turned graphical gestures into music: the user could ‘draw’ the sounds they wished to hear.

(17) RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP. Wouldn’t you know it belongs to Microsoft? “Inside the quietest place on Earth”.

If LeSalle Munroe stands still for a few moments in his “office”, something unsettling can happen — he can hear the blood rushing around his body and his eyes squelch as they move in his skull.

While many people work in places filled with the tip-tap of keyboards, the hubbub of chatter from colleagues and a constant hum of computers, Munroe is surrounded by almost total silence. His office is the quietest place on the planet.

The specially constructed chamber is hidden in the depths of Building 87 at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, where the firm’s hardware laboratories are based. Products like the Surface computers, Xbox and Hololens have all been developed here. Microsoft’s engineers built the room — known as an anechoic chamber — to help them test new equipment they were developing and in 2015 it set the official world record for silence when the background noise level inside was measured at an ear-straining -20.6 decibels.

(18) HE’S MAD, YOU KNOW. Wikipedia’s Featured Article for May 30 — “Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book”:

Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book is a graphic novel by American cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman, published in 1959. Kurtzman aimed it at an adult audience, in contrast to his earlier work for adolescents in periodicals such as Mad. The social satire in the book’s four stories targets Peter Gunn-style private-detective shows, Westerns such as Gunsmoke, capitalist avarice in the publishing industry, Freudian pop psychology, and lynch-hungry yokels in the South. Kurtzman’s character Goodman Beaver makes his first appearance in one of the stories.

Kurtzman created the satirical Mad in 1952, but left its publisher EC Comics in 1956 after a dispute over financial control. After two failed attempts with similar publications, Kurtzman proposed Jungle Book as an all-original cartoon book to Ballantine Books to replace its successful series of Mad collections, which had moved to another publisher….

(19) LONDON TOWN. If you want to hear more about London Comic Con than just Flash Gordon and The Hulk throwing tantrums, read the BBC’s mini-interviews with cosplayers and creators who were there.

Comic book illustrator Karen Rubins

“I’m here to sell my comics and prints and meet people who like my work.

“I work for a comic called The Phoenix with a strip called The Shivers by Dan Hartwell, and our characters include girl heroes solving mysteries and standing up to supernatural threats.

“In the comic village here at Comic Con there’s at least 50% female artists and it’s a great space to work, it’s really inclusive and there’s loads of different comics you can discover.”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/15/17 Scroll Sat Alone On His File Of Stone, And Pixeled And Godstalked A Bare Old Bone

(1) ADVANCED ALT-MARKETING. Jon Del Arroz is convinced you can sell more books if you fight with the right people. And the right people are on the left.

His business had a good day on Monday, as he garnered negative attention from Paul Weimer, and tangled on Twitter with SF Bluestocking’s Bridget McKinney.

Things got rolling after this Weimer tweet:

Jon took all that back to his blog and positioned himself as a staunch defender of Anne McCaffrey against a benighted feminist in “The Cult Of The New And Its Destruction Of Culture”.

…It started because I was talking to a Tordotcom reviewer. A Hugo Nominated Fanzine writer chimed in to tell me how irrelevant I am by referencing my last novel, how she looked up “Rescue Run” and found that there was “nothing in sci-fi that returned on a google search”.

I corrected, of course, stating not only is there my extremely highly regarded, award nominated and well-reviewed book, but that I chose the title intentionally as an homage to the late great Anne McCaffrey, who wrote a book by the same name. This work was demeaned by her first as “it’s only a short story” (It’s a novella, actually) and this person who is nominated for the Hugo Award for fanzine work, retorted to that by calling Anne Mccaffrey “old and irrelevant.”

… And of Hugos? This fanzine writer who writes self-described “feminist” commentary on science fiction is attacking the first woman ever to win the award! For shame! It boggles my mind to see this kind of lack of reverence for her.

When it comes to protecting the reputation of Anne McCaffrey, I didn’t know Jon had a dog in this fight. Now I know he’s got at least a puppy.

(2) HIGH ON KYLO. If you think the death of Han Solo might make people question having children at all, that’s because you haven’t met last year’s crop of new parents: “Turning to the Dark Side: Kylo is the fastest growing baby name in the US in honor of the latest Star Wars villain” — the Daily Mail has the story.

  • The name, inspired by Star Wars’ Kylo Ren, has jumped a massive 1,467 spaces
  • Popular culture also inspired parents to name their girls after popstar Kehlani
  • The most popular boys’ name is still Noah and it’s Emma for girls once again
  • Despite being in news every day, Donald and Hillary proved unpopular names

… The Social Security Administration released its annual list of the 1,000 most popular baby names for 2016 on Friday.

(3) ANOTHER CAPTAIN ON ANOTHER BRIDGE. This part is obvious – The Verge says “Seth MacFarlane’s upcoming TV series looks like a parody of classic space adventure shows” – but the idea that it takes inspiration from GalaxyQuest is hopeful.

(4) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Why do the Imperial Stormtroopers all appear to be left-handed?  It’s because their ammunition magazines on their weapons are on the left side, so it’s easier to hold the guns left-handed.

So is this Lego Storm Trooper inaccurately showing a right-hander?

(5) BONUS TRIVIAL TRIVIA

And while we’re on the subject of Star Wars, did you know….? (Via Scifihistory.net.)

(6) BOOTHE OBIT. Powers Boothe, who appeared in Deadwood and Sin City died May 15 at the age of 68. Boothe also played Gideon Malick in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, first in The Avengers (2012), then on TV in ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 15, 1856 – L. Frank Baum

(8) HEADQUARTERS IN THE SADDLE. Gamer and comic owner lives the life as a jouster: “The boss who lives as a medieval knight”.

Given how Jason spends his weekends, you might imagine that his day job is equally daring, that he is some sort of professional stuntman.

Instead, he is the chief executive of one of the UK’s largest computer games companies – Rebellion Developments.

Jason set up the Oxford-based business with his younger brother Chris in 1992, and today it has an annual turnover of more than £25m.

Still wholly owned by the two siblings, its best-selling titles include Sniper Elite and Rogue Trooper.

For the past 17 years the company has also owned cult UK comic book series 2000 AD, and publishes a range of novels.

(9) CALLING DR. DYSON. Maybe there is a Ringworld? “The most mysterious star in the galaxy”.

The starlight dips in an irregular pattern, suggesting that something is intermittently blocking the star. This bizarre behaviour, first reported in autumn 2015 and not seen in any other star, has scientists baffled. Researchers have proposed a myriad of explanations, including black holes, comet swarms, and interstellar clouds. But a conclusive answer remains elusive. And one hypothesis in particular has raised eyebrows: aliens.

Yes, aliens.

Perhaps, researchers have posited, an advanced alien civilisation has constructed a vast structure encircling their star, maybe an enormous power plant that harnesses the star’s energy. When parts of the structure pass in front of the star, it creates dips in the starlight.

(10) I HEARD THE NEWS TODAY. A local Albuquerque TV station recently  devoted 1-minute video bio to — “George R.R. Martin Living and Loving New Mexico”.

(11) UNLUCKY STRIKE. The Chicxulub asteroid hit “the worst possible place”:

Scientists who drilled into the impact crater associated with the demise of the dinosaurs summarise their findings so far in a BBC Two documentary on Monday.

…It is becoming clear that the 15km-wide asteroid could not have hit a worse place on Earth.

The shallow sea covering the target site meant colossal volumes of sulphur (from the mineral gypsum) were injected into the atmosphere, extending the “global winter” period that followed the immediate firestorm.

Had the asteroid struck a different location, the outcome might have been very different.

“This is where we get to the great irony of the story – because in the end it wasn’t the size of the asteroid, the scale of blast, or even its global reach that made dinosaurs extinct – it was where the impact happened,” said Ben Garrod, who presents The Day The Dinosaurs Died with Alice Roberts.

(12) ORION DELAYED. And we’re getting farther from returning to the Moon — “NASA nixes Trump’s moonshot plan” reports The Register.

NASA will miss its deadline for the first flight of the Orion capsule and the Space Launch System, with the launch moved from 2018 to 2019.

The agency’s Bill Gerstenmaier also told media in a briefing last Friday that as well as delaying the first flight (designated Exploration Mission One, EM-1), the EM-2 mission that will carry astronauts will probably miss its original 2021 date.

In February, the new Trump administration asked NASA to assess the feasibility of changing the EM-1 mission, planned as an uncrewed jaunt into cislunar space between Earth and Luna, to instead carry human cargo around the moon.

NASA has concluded that it can’t justify the cost of such a change to the schedule.

(13) FLYING TOYOTA IN YOUR FUTURE? The car maker pushes in a big stack of chips: “Toyota ‘backs flying car project’ in Japan”.

Japanese carmaker Toyota has announced its backing for a group of engineers who are developing a flying car.

It will give 40 million yen (£274, 000) to the Cartivator group that operates outside Toyota city in central Japan.

The Nikkei Asian Review reports Toyota and its group companies have agreed in principle to support the project.

So far crowdfunding has paid for development of the so-called Skydrive car, which uses drone technology and has three wheels and four rotors.

(14) GIFTED CHILDREN. Here is the trailer for Fox’s series The Gifted, set in the X-Men universe. It will air this fall.

(15) INSTANT CLASSIC. Bill filed the numbers off an old earworm in this update to “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah”

With apologies to Allan Sherman

Hello Scrolls and Hello Pixels
Many posts are just for ticks. You’ll
Find that some are entertaining.
But not those that end up being all mansplaining.

I follow daily the blog of Glyer.
And I’ve become a faithful Filer.
You remember Rabid Puppies?
Their campaign to win the Hugos got them bupkis.

Some folks come here to rant and foment
But I’d prefer a Meredith Moment
A nice movie for my Roku,
Or a book to put on top of Mount Tsudoku.

[bridge]
Let’s go scroll, we pixel filers
Let’s go scroll, my reading pile has
Climbed so high. It’s not so long til the
Ballots are due in Helsinki.

I see my comment is second fifth.
It’s regarding Bob Asprin’s Myth.
But it’s missing a URL link
So I shall leave and appertain myself a cold drink.

[Thanks to Lex Berman, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to  File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 4/21/17 Pass The Pixel On The Left Hand Side

(1) MYSTERY SOLVED. Yesterday’s Scroll reported the episode of Fargo where someone picked up a rocket-shaped trophy as a weapon, which several people identified (incorrectly) as a Hugo. Today Movie Pilot ran a story about the episode’s Easter eggs and repeated the Hugo Award identification – illustrated with photos for comparison — in item #5.

When the sheriff drives back to her step-dad’s house to get the statue he’d made for her son, Nathan, she discovers the door ajar and the place a mess. Before heading up the stairs to investigate, she grabs something that looks very much like a Hugo Award, in case she needs to defend herself.

A Hugo trophy is awarded to the best sci-fi and fantasy writer of the year, meaning Ennis Stussy might have at one point won the award. Could he have been a witness to the alien encounter all the way back in 1979, inspiring him to write sci-fi?

The Fargo award is not a physical Hugo (whatever may be intended). Movie Pilot’s comparative Hugo photo is, and I was vain enough to hope it was one of mine (several have been photographed for archival purposes). After searching I found they used Michael Benveniste’s photo of a 1987 Hugo, and I definitely did not win in Brighton (although I won the year before and after), and the 1990 Worldcon bid I chaired was also annihilated in the voting…..

Whose Hugo is it? The plaque in the photo is hard to make out, but the phrase “edited by” is there, which narrows it the Hugo for Best Semiprozine or Best Fanzine, and there being an initial in the middle of the person’s name, it must be the 1987 Hugo given to Locus, edited by Charles N. Brown.

(2) NOTICING A TREND. JJ says at some point “Hugo award” entered the popular lexicon as “that’s some far-fetched confabulation you’ve got going on there.”

(3) ROAD WARRIOR. John Scalzi did a LA Times Q&A in which he shared “10 things you don’t know about authors on book tour”

  1. You have to be “on”

When people show up to your event, they expect to be entertained — yes, even at an author event, when technically all you’re doing is reading from your book and maybe answering some questions. As the author, you have to be up and appear happy and be glad people showed up, and you have to do that from the moment you enter the event space to the moment you get in a car to go back to the hotel, which can be several hours. It’s tiring even for extroverts and, well, most authors aren’t extroverts. Being “on” for several hours a day, several days in a row, is one of the hardest things you’ll ask an introverted author used to working alone to do. And speaking of work …

(4) IF I HAD A HAMMER. An advance ruling from @AskTSA.

(5) A VISIT FROM THE TARDIS. The Register claims “Doctor Who-inspired proxy transmogrifies politically sensitive web to avoid gov censorship” – a headline almost as badly in need of deciphering as HIX NIX STIX PIX.

Computer boffins in Canada are working on anti-censorship software called Slitheen that disguises disallowed web content as government-sanctioned pablum. They intend for it to be used in countries where network connections get scrutinized for forbidden thought.

Slitheen – named after Doctor Who aliens capable of mimicking humans to avoid detection – could thus make reading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights look like a lengthy refresher course in North Korean juche ideology or a politically acceptable celebration of cats.

In a presentation last October, Cecylia Bocovich, a University of Waterloo PhD student developing the technology in conjunction with computer science professor Ian Goldberg, said that governments in countries such as China, Iran, and Pakistan have used a variety of techniques to censor internet access, including filtering by IP address, filtering by hostname, protocol-specific throttling, URL keyword filtering, active probing, and application layer deep packet inspection.

(6) NAFF WINNER. Fe Waters has been voted the 2017 National Australian Fan Fund (NAFF) delegate and will attend Natcon at Continuum in Melbourne in June.

Waters got into fandom in 1990, started attending Swancon in 1995, and after being inspired by the kids’ programming at AussieCon IV took on organizing the Family Programme for Swancon 2011–2013. For her Family Programme work she was awarded the Mumfan (Marge Hughes) Award in 2013. In 2016 she was the Fan Guest of Honour at Swancon.

The National Australian Fan Fund (NAFF) was founded in 2001 to assist fans to travel across Australia to attend the Australian National Convention (Natcon).

(7) NEIL GAIMAN, BOX CHECKER. Superversive SF’s Anthony M, who liked Neil Gaiman’s 17th-century vision of the Marvel universe — Marvel: 1602 (published in 2012) – nevertheless was displeased by its revelation of a gay character: “Marvel: 1602” and the Wet Fish Slap.

….Or even, if you are really, really incapable of not virtue signaling, if it’s truly so very important to you that people know you’re Totally Not Homophobic, why on earth would you have this character tell Cyclops he’s gay?

It was stupid, it was pointless, and it was insulting that Gaiman decided to make his story worse in order to tell the world that he was Totally Cool With Being Gay. It was a way of telling the reader that he cared less about them than about making himself look good to the right people….

(7-1/2) SEVEN DEADLY WORDS. Paul Weimer watched Mazes and Monsters for his Skiffy and Fanty podcast. You can listen to what he thought about it here, but wear your asbestos earbuds because Paul warned, “That episode is most definitely not safe for work, because I ranted rather hard, and with language not suitable for children….”

(8) AROUND THE SUBWAY IN 25 HOURS. “50 Years Ago, a Computer Pioneer Got a New York Subway Race Rolling” is a fascinating article about a Vernian proposition, and may even involve a couple of fans from M.I.T. in supporting roles, if those named (Mitchell, Anderson) are the same people.

A six-man party (Mr. Samson, George Mitchell, Andy Jennings, Jeff Dwork, Dave Anderson and Dick Gruen) began at 6:30 a.m. from the Pacific Street station in Brooklyn. But when they finally pulled into the platform at Pelham Bay Park after a little more than 25 hours and 57 minutes, reporters confronted them with an unexpected question: How come they hadn’t done as well as Geoffrey Arnold had?

They had never heard of Mr. Arnold, but apparently in 1963 he completed his version of the circuit faster (variously reported as 24 or 25 hours and 56 minutes). Worse, he was from Harvard.

“I decided to take it on a little more seriously,” Mr. Samson recalled.

With his competitive juices fired up, he got serious. He collaborated with Mr. Arnold on official rules and prepared for a full-fledged computer-driven record-breaking attempt with 15 volunteers on April 19, 1967.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 21, 1989 — Mary Lambert’s Stephen King adaptation Pet Cemetery opens

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CITY

  • April 21, 753 BC – Rome is founded.

(11) SAD ANNIVERSARY. An interview by his local paper — “Pine Mountain author Michael Bishop to release book of short stories” – notes it’s been 10 years since his son was killed is a mass shooting at Virginia Tech.

Q: What led you to write “Other Arms Reach Out to Me: Georgia Stories” as a collection?

A: First, this book gathers almost (but not quite) all my mainstream stories set in Georgia or featuring characters from Georgia in foreign settings (see “Andalusia Triptych, 1962” and “Baby Love”) in a single volume. So, in that regard, it represents the culmination of a career-long project that I did not fully realize that I had embarked upon, but that I did always have in the back of my mind as an important project.

You will notice that “Other Arms” opens with a hommage to and an affectionate parody of the short fiction of Georgia’s own Flannery O’Connor (called “The Road Leads Back”) and that it concludes with a controversially satirical take on gun politics in Georgia set in an alternate time line (“Rattlesnakes and Men”).

I might add that this last story grows out of our lifelong desire to see the United States adopt sensible nationwide gun legislation that mandates background checks in every setting. We also are advocates for the banning of sales to private citizens of military-style weapons, high-capacity magazines, and certain excessive kinds of body-maiming ammunition without extremely good reasons for them to own such armament, which is totally unnecessary for protecting one’s home and hunting.

(12) MERGE WITH TV. The Into The Unknown exhibit at The Barbican in London runs June 3 to September 1. Visitors will be able to “Step Into A Black Mirror Episode”.

Walking into a Black Mirror.

Is that something you can see yourself doing?

Because if so, we have some good news for you: as part of their new show exploring the history of sci-fi, Into The Unknown, The Barbican are going to turn their huge Silk Screen entrance hall into an immersive take on the oh-so-gloriously bleak episode 15 Million Merits.

Quite how they’re doing this is still under wraps, but we do know that moments from the episode will be re-edited, mashed-up, and displayed on huge six-foot video installations surrounding you. We’re assuming that there will also be exercise bikes….

(13) ALWAYS NEWS TO SOMEONE. How did I miss this Klingon parody of Psy’s “Gangnam Style” at the height of the craze in 2012?

(14) WOZ SPEAKS. Steve Wozniak’s convention starts today. CNET made it the occasion for an interview — “Woz on Comic Con, iPhones and the Galaxy S8”.

Wozniak, commonly known as “Woz,” sat down with CNET a week before the second annual Silicon Valley Comic Con to talk about the geek conference he helped start in San Jose, California; what superhero he’d like to be; what features he’d like to see in the next iPhone; and why he’s excited to get his Galaxy S8.

Even though California already has a Comic Con — the massive event in San Diego — Wozniak said there’s plenty of room for more. “We’re going to have a big announcement at the end of this one,” he said. “We’re different and better, and we don’t want to be linked in with just being another.”

Last year marked the first time Silicon Valley hosted its own Comic Con, and this year it expands into areas like virtual reality and a science fair. The show kicks off Friday and ends Sunday.

“We’ll have the popular culture side of Comic Con, but we’ll mix in a lot of the science and technology that’s local here in Silicon Valley,” he said. “It seems like [tech and geek culture are] made for each other in a lot of ways.”

(15) THE TRUTH WILL BE OUT THERE AGAIN. Another season of X-Files is on the way says ScienceFiction.com.

You can’t keep a good TV series down – well, unless you’re Fox with ‘Firefly,’ I guess.  But hey, maybe Fox feels some remorse over this too-soon axing, so they are making up for it by giving 1990s hit sci-fi/conspiracy show ‘The X-Files‘ another go!

Originally, ‘The X-Files’ ran from 1993-2002 on TV, with two theatrical films in the mix as well.  Off the air but never truly forgotten, the show reached a sort of “cult status,” enough so that Fox made the call to bring the show back for a limited 6-episode revival in early 2016.  Based on the success of that experiment, Fox has rewarded series creator Chris Carter with a 10-episode order for this new season to debut either this Fall or early 2018 on the network.

(16) CELL DIVISION. A news item on Vox, “The new Oprah movie about Henrietta Lacks reopens a big scientific debate”, reminds Cat Eldridge of an sf novel: “There’s a scene in Mona Lisa Overdrive where Gibson hints strongly that one of the characters is a runaway cancer that’s contained within a number of shipping containers…”

This practice went on for decades without much controversy — until the bestselling book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot came along in 2010. The story sparked a debate among the public, researchers, and bioethicists about whether this practice is ethical — and whether the benefits to science truly outweigh the potential harms to individuals whose donations may come back to haunt them.

On Saturday, a new HBO movie starring Oprah based on the book will surely reignite that debate. The movie strongly suggests the practice of using anonymous tissues in research can be nefarious and deeply disturbing for families — while at the same time great for science. And so the research community is bracing for a backlash once again….

(17) WORKING. “Analogue Loaders” by Rafael Vangelis explains what would happen if real-life objects had to “load” the way computers do when we boot them up.

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, Mark-kitteh, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Clack.]

Paul Weimer Wins DUFF

Congratulations to Paul Weimer on being officially named the 2017 Down Under Fan Fund Delegate. Co-administrator Lucy Huntzinger announced that he received virtually all the first place votes. Weimer was running unopposed. Full voting statistics will be released later.

He will travel from Minnesota to Continuum, the 56th Australian National Science Fiction Convention in Melbourne this June.

Update: Huntzinger has posted the voting figures:

There were 21 valid ballots submitted in North America and 19 in Australasia for a total of 40. Paul received 37 first place votes.

Of the 21 North American votes cast, 19 listed Paul Weimer in 1st place, 2 listed Hold Over Funds in 1st place.

Of the 19 Australasian votes cast, 18 listed Paul Weimer in 1st place, 1 listed No Preference in 1st place.

DUFF received two valid ballots with no votes listed and a request to accept the fee included as a donation only. We also received one ballot with no fee submitted; it was disqualified.

Pixel Scroll 3/1/17 Old Man Pixel, He Just Keeps Scrollin’ Along

(1) HELSINKI NEWS. Worldcon 75 is holding an Academic Poster competition and would very much like participation from as many university students and researchers as possible.

We are hosting a science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) poster competition for undergraduate students, graduate students and post-doctoral researchers. The competition is also open to posters that explore the connections between STEMM subjects and SF/fantasy/horror. There will be a €100 prize for the poster that best communicates research to the general public.

Presenters will be able to share their research with an audience that is very interested in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine, but where many audience members will not have been formally educated in STEMM subjects. In addition, presenters will be invited to give five minute mini-talks on Saturday 12th August 2017 explaining their research. Taken together, the posters and mini-talks represent an exciting opportunity for the presenters to practice research communication, and for audience to learn about cutting-edge research.

If you are interested in displaying a poster then fill in our web form below or follow this direct link to the form.

The deadline for applications is 1st May 2017 and we will inform you of our decision by mid-June.

(2) DREAM FULFILLED. Phil Kaveny, who I know from the Mythopoeic Society, announced the script for his play “The Munitions Factory” is available from Amazon Kindle.  He calls it “My project of a lifetime.”

The Munitions Factory is a play about love, money, revolution, and the military industrial complex. Set in Imperial Germany in 1917 during the worst winter in German history, The Munitions Factory is really about our world in the 21st century. It is a hard driving play that will jar you out of your complacency, and it is also a compelling love story about characters who walk the razor’s edge between desperate love and repulsion that is common in wartime.

(3) DOWN TO THE WIRE. In comments Jonathan Edelstein pointed out that “a team headed by the heroic Jake Kerr is putting together a 2017 Campbell-eligible anthology.”

The submission form is here for any Campbell-eligible authors (first pro publication in 2015 or 2016) who want to submit a sample of last year’s work.

(4) ODDS FAVOR THE HOUSE. The Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance opened voting today for the CLFA Book of the Year Awards.

CLFA an online group of readers, authors and other creative individuals who want to see more freedom-friendly storytelling in the marketplace. We provide our members with networking opportunities as well as a safe, friendly and open environment for both political and creative discussions. We are currently at over 1300 members strong, with new participants joining us on a daily basis….

CLFA Book of the Year Awards, now in their third year, seek to recognize the best in freedom-friendly fiction. To qualify for entry in the CLFA 2017 Book of the Year contest, the work has to be over 50k words and first published in any form in 2016. Our members voted to arrive at the Top 10 list, which is now open to the public for the final vote.

Voting is open until midnight on March 31, 2017. Winners to be announced in April 2017. Voting happens here.

The finalists are:

  • Iron Chamber of Memory by John C. Wright
  • Discovery by Karina Fabian
  • Set to Kill by Declan Finn
  • By the Hands of Men, Book Three: The Wrath of a Righteous Man by Roy M. Griffis
  • Murphy’s Law of Vampires by Declan Finn
  • Chasing Freedom by Marina Fontaine
  • Domino by Kia Heavey
  • Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge by John Ringo
  • Souldancer by Brian Niemeier
  • Brings the Lightning by Peter Grant

At the moment Peter Grant’s novel from Castalia House is leaving the field behind. He’s got 50 votes to 25 votes for John C. Wright’s novel (also from Castalia House). Last year’s Dragon Award-winning Souldancer by Brian Niemeier has one vote so far.

(5) INJUSTICE. Australia writer Tom Taylor, of Injustice Gods Among Us and Injustice 2 comics, told his Facebook readers he won’t be at Emerald City Comic Con this week and or other U.S. events.

Sadly, I won’t be attending Emerald City Comicon in Seattle this week.

I have also turned down all other US signing and convention invitations so far this year.

I know I’m far from the only person concerned about traveling to the States at this time, but I wanted to explain my decision.

I want to start by saying this decision was incredibly difficult. I was really looking forward to this trip. I have traveled to the US regularly since 2009. This year, I have four different books with three different publishers, and a TV series to promote. Beyond this, I have fans and colleagues I was looking forward to meeting. I also have many good friends in the States, and I was looking forward to catching up with all of them. Truth be told, I’m missing them.

But America, through no fault of most of its citizens, doesn’t feel like a safe or welcoming travel destination at this moment.

There have been reports of interrogation, phone data downloads, requests for social media accounts, returns and five-year travel bans and everyone from children to the elderly being detained. All of this has many people I’ve spoken to reconsidering or cancelling their US travel plans.

I’ve had friends and people I work with suggest I leave my phone at home, or delete my twitter account for a month before I come.

I refuse those terms.

My twitter account isn’t complimentary towards the current administration, but it’s far from inflammatory and shouldn’t need to be scrutinized to gain entry to a country where free-speech is so highly valued.

Traveling fifteen hours on a plane is bad enough. Travelling towards uncertainty, half-worried about being caught in limbo by overzealous border security, with my wife and children wondering why I haven’t called, is nightmare fuel…..

(Via Comicsbeat.)

(6) PENRIC SEQUEL. Lois McMaster Bujold’s latest novella Mira’s Last Dance (Penric & Desdemona Book 4) is out.

(7) VOTE FOR PAUL WEIMER. Ten days ‘til Down Under Fan Fund voting closes. The deadline is midnight, March 10 (PST). Our Paul Weimer is the only candidate for the trip to the Australian National Convention, but the contribution of $5 or more accompanying your vote will help keep the fund going during and after Paul’s trip. Click here to get started.

CANDIDATE PLATFORM

Paul Weimer

I’m a podcaster for the Skiffy and Fanty podcast, the SFF audio podcast, a noted SF/F book reviewer and a regular panelist at local cons. I am also an amateur photographer. I have only been to one international con, the Worldcon in London in 2014, and would love to broaden my international fandom connections. If I have the honor of being selected, I aim to build the links I already have with Australian fandom (in things like being a prior participant in The Australian SF Snapshot) into face to face interviews, meetings, and more with fans and genre folk at Continuum and elsewhere in Australia. Have camera and recorder and ready to travel!

Nominators: North America: Mike Glyer, Arref Mak, and Jen Zink. Australasia: Gillian Polack and Alexandra Pierce.

(8) GLOWING REVIEWS. Jason continues to burn the midnight oil and has melted down another month of online science fiction and fantasy offerings into a shiny list of favorite stories in “Summation of Online Fiction: February 2017” at Featured Futures.

Thirteen February pro-rate webzines (the same as last month’s list except that a new bimonthly issue of Compelling replaced the defunct Fantastic) produced forty-three stories of 196,912 words. I most appreciated six (amounting to 14% of the whole)…

(9) SMALL WORLD, BIG NEWS. ChiZine Publications has cut an illustrated book deal with George A. Romero, creator of The Night of the Living Dead. They have acquired The Little World of Humongo Bongo, an illustrated book, originally published in French.

The Little World of Humongo Bongo is the tale of fire-breathing giant Humongo Bongo, who lives on the tiny planet of Tongo. Gentle and curious, his world is thrown upside down when he encounters a race of tiny people named the Minus, who initially worship him as a God but then turn on him when they succumb to fear, greed and the lust for power….

The Little World of Humongo Bongo will be published in Fall/Winter 2017, in association with Dave Alexander’s Untold Horror, a multi-media brand dedicated to exploring the greatest horror stories never told.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 1, 1692 — The Salem Witch Trials began in Massachusetts with the conviction of West Indian slave, Tituba, for witchcraft.

(11) CALLING ALL SMOFS. Kevin Standlee shared the news that as of yesterday there was still no bid for the 2019 Westercon, to be selected this July in Tempe.

Any site in Western North America (or Hawaii) is eligible. (Nobody filed by the end of December 2016, so the exclusion zone is suspended.) The filing deadline for the ballot is April 15, 2017. If no bid files by then, site selection won’t have any bids on the ballot, and I probably will have to ask Tempe for a larger room and longer time slot for the Westercon Business Meeting.

So here’s your chance to host a Westercon!

The bidding requirements are in the Westercon Bylaws, Article 3. The bylaws are on the Westercon web site at http://www.westercon.org/organization/business/

It’s approximately the same as Worldcon, with minor differences. The outline is the same: file bidding papers, and if the voters at the administering Westercon select you, you get the bid. If nobody wins, the Business Meeting decides.

(12) SLCC UPDATE. Here’s Bryan Brandenburg of the Salt Lake Comic Con appearing before the Utah Legislature (to the right of the flag). In his address, Bryan emphasized that their intent is to fill the void and not replace the other commercial events.

(13) ROBOMALLCOP. Francis Hamit is sufficiently impressed with the company that he bought some stock. “I thought this might be of interest. Securitas is the largest provider of contract human security officers in the world. Knightscope is a new company with a unique robotic system that does not replace human officers but does greatly extend their range.” And they have some good news.

Knightscope, developer of advanced physical security technologies focused on significantly enhancing US security operations, and Securitas AB (SECU-B.ST), the world’s second largest private security company, announced today that the parties are extending their channel partner agreement through February 2020. The agreement gives Securitas Security Services USA, Inc., a subsidiary of Securitas, rights to offer Knightscope’s technologies to its significant existing customer base, while Knightscope continues to develop new technologies and provide operational support.

Hamit adds:

Any resemblance to the Daleks is strictly coincidental. I am sure.

(14) UNDERSTANDING FUTURISM. New from McFarland, Science Fiction and Futurism: Their Terms and Ideas by Ace G. Pilkington.

Science and science fiction have become inseparable—with common stories, interconnected thought experiments, and shared language. This reference book lays out that relationship and its all-but-magical terms and ideas. Those who think seriously about the future are changing the world, reshaping how we speak and how we think.

This book fully covers the terms that collected, clarified and crystallized the futurists’ ideas, sometimes showing them off, sometimes slowing them down, and sometimes propelling them to fame and making them the common currency of our culture.

The many entries in this encyclopedic work offer a guided tour of the vast territories occupied by science fiction and futurism.

Beware, it will help multiply the number of books on your TBR pile. In his Foreword, David Brin says, “Provocative and enticing? Filled with ‘huh!’ moments and leads to great stories? That describes this volume.”

(15) RING THAT BELLE. John Ostrander talks about The Other in “The Face in the Mirror” at ComicMix.

The most recent issue of Entertainment Weekly featured an article about and interview with Emma Watson, playing Belle in the upcoming live-action Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. She may be best known for playing Hermione in the Harry Potter films. In addition to being very talented, Ms. Watson is also very smart and very articulate. As the article notes, she has also been a leader in feminist causes.

In the article, she’s asked why it is hard for some male fans to enjoy a female hero. (Witness the fanboy furor at the all-female remake of Ghostbusters and the female leads in the last two Star Wars films.) She replied: “It’s something they [some male fans] are not used to and they don’t like that. I think if you’ve been used to watching characters that look like, sound like, think like you and then you see someone [unexpected] up on the screen, you go ‘Well, that’s a girl; she doesn’t look like me. I want it to look like me so that I can project myself onto the character.’. . .for some reason there’s some kind of barrier there where [men] are like: ‘I don’t want to relate to a girl.’”

That sounds right to me. We’ve seen that attitude prevalent not only in movie fans but comic fans as well. There’s a wish fulfillment, a fantasy fulfillment, in comics and comics-related TV and movies, in fantasy as well and we want to be able to easily project ourselves into that. For some male fans, a woman doesn’t cut it. The bias also can extend to seeing someone of a different race as the hero. I think it’s certainly true about sexual identity as well. To appeal to a certain demographic, the hero, the lead, cannot be female, or black, or gay. And heaven forbid they should be all three; tiny minds might explode….

Are you Arab? Do you wear a turban? Are you black? Are you gay? Are you female? Then you are not like me, you are “Other.” And that is inherently dangerous. We cannot be equal. It comes down to “zero-sum thinking” which says that there is only so many rights, so much love, so much power to be had. If I have more of any of these than you, I must lose some for you to gain.

Some of the people feel they don’t have much. I remember a line from Giradoux’s one-act play The Apollo of Bellac: “I need so much and I have so little and I must protect myself.” Sharing is not gaining; sharing is losing what little you may have.

Except it’s not. If for you to keep your power intact, you must deny someone else the power to which they have a right, it’s not really your power. It’s theirs and it’s been stolen.

Pop culture has its part to play. Putting women, blacks, gays, Latinos, and others in the central role helps normalize the notion of equality. Mary Tyler Moore did it; Bill Cosby (gawd help me) did it, Rogue One does it. However, pop culture can – and has – also re-enforced negative stereotypes. So – how do we engage it for more positive results?

Denny O’Neil, many years ago, when he was editing a special project I was working on told me, “You can say anything you want but first you have to tell a story.” That’s your ticket in. “Tell me a story” appeals to the very roots of who we are as human beings. It’s how we explain and codify our world. If you want to open a closed mind, go through the heart. Don’t lecture; engage. Show, don’t tell. Showing women, blacks, LGBTQ, Latinos, Asians, and so on as heroes, as something positive, normalizes the notion. If I can be made to identify with them then The Other is no longer strange; they are me and, thus, not other.

(16) BRADBURY ASSOCIATIONAL ITEM. I’d tell you to start shaking the change out of your piggy bank except that will only work if you filled it with gold sovereigns. Still available on eBay, Ray Bradbury-owned oil painting by Raymond Bayless. Price: $15,000.

Ray Bradbury personally owned Raymond Bayless painting, titled, “War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells”. Art depicts the famous naval battle from the story between a martian “Tripod” weapon and English ironclad, the HMS Thunder Child. Cityscape along the horizon is on fire, and the ship also goes up in flames with a cloud of black smoke, the martian chemical weapon, rising from it. Painting features a color palette of predominantly light blues and greys, accented in orange, black and white. Signed, “Raymond Bayless 91,” at lower left. A sticker on verso is also signed by the artist. Oil on Masonite painting is framed to an overall size of 18.75″ x 24.75″. Near fine. With a COA from the Bradbury Estate.

[Thanks to David Doering, Cat Eldridge, Francis Hamit, JJ, Jonathan Edelstein, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John From GR.]

2017 DUFF Race Begins

Voting on the Down Under Fan Fund delegate to Continuum, the 56th Australian National Science Fiction Convention in Melbourne, Australia, has opened and will continue until March 10, 2017 at 23:59 PST. There is one candidate in this year’s race, our own —

Paul Weimer

I’m a podcaster for the Skiffy and Fanty podcast, the SFF audio podcast, a noted SF/F book reviewer and a regular panelist at local cons. I am also an amateur photographer. I have only been to one international con, the Worldcon in London in 2014, and would love to broaden my international fandom connections. If I have the honor of being selected, I aim to build the links I already have with Australian fandom (in things like being a prior participant in The Australian SF Snapshot) into face to face interviews, meetings, and more with fans and genre folk at Continuum and elsewhere in Australia. Have camera and recorder and ready to travel!

Nominators: North America: Mike Glyer, Arref Mak, and Jen Zink. Australasia: Gillian Polack and Alexandra Pierce.

It’s important for fans to vote because that’s a source of funds for Paul’s trip. (Votes should be accompanied by a minimum contribution of $5 in US, Australian, Canadian, or New Zealand currency, or an equivalent sum in other currencies. Any contributions in excess of the minimum voting fee will be gratefully accepted.)

You can vote online using this form, or you can print a copy of the ballot by downloading the PDF.

DUFF was founded in 1972 to exchange delegates from Australia, New Zealand and North America.

Delegates are chosen as active members of the SF community whom fans on the visited side would like to meet. The delegate travels as much as possible, makes friends, radiates goodwill, and becomes the Administrator in turn until the next cycle. There is an expectation (not always fulfilled!) that delegates will write a trip report during or after their trip. Delegates’ trip reports are sold to support the Fund.

The current administrators of the fund are Lucy Huntzinger in North America, and Clare McDonald-Sims in Australia.

Pixel Scroll 12/30/16 Use File 770; It Softens Your Pixels While You Read The Books. You’re Scrolling In it!

(1) OUR NEIGHBOR. It’s official —

A team of astronomers composed of P. Kervella (CNRS / U. de Chile / Paris Observatory / LESIA), F. Thévenin (Lagrande Laboratory, Côte d’Azur Observatory, France) and Christophe Lovis (Observatory of the University of Geneva, Switzerland) has demonstrated that Proxima, the nearest star to the Sun, is gravitationally bound to its neighbors Alpha Centauri A and B. The nearest stellar system to the Earth is therefore a triple star. Proxima is known to host the nearest exoplanet, a telluric planet orbiting in its habitable zone. This discovery implies that the four objects (Alpha Cen A, B, Proxima and Proxima b) share the same age of ~6 billion years.

 

Paul Gilster discusses the discovery at Centauri Dreams.

Now as to that orbit — 550,000 years for a single revolution — things get interesting. One reason it has been important to firm up Proxima’s orbit is that while a bound star would have affected the development of the entire system, the question has until now been unresolved. Was Proxima Centauri actually bound to Centauri A and B, or could it simply be passing by, associated with A and B only by happenstance?

(2) THE REPRESSION INHERENT IN THE SYSTEM. YouTube’s Nostalgia Critic demands to know “Where’s the Fair Use”?

(3) PAYING TO VOLUNTEER. While it’s commonly expected at the conventions I’ve worked that volunteers will be members of the con, this is a new one on me – having to join a secondary group in order to volunteer. “Phoenix Comicon announces changes to volunteering; paid fan group membership required” reports An Engishman in San Diego.

Square Egg Entertainment, the organisation behind Phoenix Comicon, today announced a sizeable change to its practice of staffing – and pooling volunteers for – their three annual events:  Phoenix Comicon, Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest, and Keen Halloween. Square Egg will no longer be staffing these shows with hired hands, instead now filling those roles from the organising committee and paid membership of the Blue Ribbon Army (which originally started out as a fan group for PHXCC, and has subsequently become a social club with 501(c)(7) status).

Members of the Army have to be at least 18 years old and – here’s the kicker for a number of fiscally-minded volunteers – they also do have to become fully paid-up members of the fan group, with membership prices to join starting at $20 per year and going up to $100 per year. That’s right: you effectively have to now pay to become a Phoenix Comicon volunteer.

For what it’s worth, the Blue Ribbon Army leadership isn’t being compensated

Are your board members paid?

All Blue Ribbon Army board members are unpaid volunteers. All financial information, as required by law for a 501(c)7 organization, will be posted.

(4) BOTTOM OF THE GALACTIC BARREL. Love this article title — “15 Star Wars Characters Who Are Worthless At Their Jobs” from ScreenRant.

  1. Storm Troopers – Just Bad At Their Jobs

They just had to be here, as they’re cinematic legends when it comes to utterly failing at your job. Imperial Stormtroopers, as we’re told, are precise. The Empire has access to vast resources, so you’d think its military force would be well up to scratch. Stormtroopers even get a pretty good showing the first time we see them, managing to take over Princess Leia’s ship with only a few casualties. And then almost every time after that we see them, they’re getting destroyed like they put their helmets on backwards and their armor is made of tinfoil….

(5) BILLIONAIRE BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS. Three of the “10 Books Elon Musk – ‘Tesla Founder and Billionaire’ wants you to read” are SFF, beginning with –

1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Back when Elon Musk was a moody teen growing up in Pretoria, South Africa, he went looking for the meaning of life in the work of grumpy philosophers. It didn’t help. Then he came upon The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which taught him that the hardest part was to properly phrase the question but that once this was done the answer was easy. It changed his whole perspective.

(6) A CRACKED THEORY. Cracked brings all its scholarly powers to bear in “Snow White is a LOTR Sequel: A Mind-Blowing Theory”.  

Mortal man Beren and elf maiden Luthien Tinuviel (of the New Jersey Tinuviels) are forebears of the kings of Numenor and Gondor. Seeing as how the love story of Beren and Luthien echoes through the millennia in their great-great-many-times-great-grandchildren, it comes as no surprise that a similar fate awaits Aragorn and Arwen’s descendant, Snow White.

The family resemblance would only be uncannier if Steven Tyler cast her in inappropriately weird videos during her early teens.

At this point you may be thinking that we’re smoking too much of that pipe with Gandalf, but have you noticed Snow White’s rapport with the birds and beasts of the wild? The way they listen and respond to her?

Doesn’t this suggest a deep connection with nature, as someone with Elvish blood would have?

(7) COMING ATTRACTIONS. Plenty of genre flicks on Film School Rejects’ “The 52 Most Anticipated Movies of 2017”.

…[Our] 52 Most Anticipated Movies list is always a big hit because it operates under a simple premise: if you’re going to see one movie for every week of the new year (and you should), these are the ones on which we’d stake a claim. Because we spend a great deal of time thinking about upcoming movies and an even sadder amount of time researching them, we’re exactly the kind of people who are qualified to give out said advice. Qualified enough to say, with confidence, that these 52 movies are likely to be worth your time. They may not all turn out to be great, but they will be worth seeing and discussing throughout the year….

Beauty and the Beast (March 17)

Neil Miller: If we’re being honest?—?and we are at all times?—?Disney’s live-action parade of remakes is actually turning out to be a better idea in practice than it was on paper. Both Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella and Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book gave us an interesting take on their respective stories. Neither was the disaster that many, perhaps out of a dedication to an anti-remake stance, had predicted. This is what gives us further hope for Beauty and the Beast, the success of which will rest mostly on the shoulders of Disney’s live-action effects teams and Emma Watson, both of which have proven track records. Six weeks ago, Disney released a trailer that showed off both of these things in action. The Beast effects that cover up Dan Stevens’ handsome mug look good and Emma Watson looks right at home as Belle. We’re still not sure of those CGI housewear items with anamorphic features, but we’ll see how that pans out in the final product.

(8) DUFF VOLUNTEER. Paul Weimer has announced his candidacy for the Down Under Fan Fund.

(9) REMEMBERING RICHARD ADAMS. In 1843 Magazine, Miranda Johnson, an environment correspondent for The Economist, discusses her grandfather Richard Adams, including how Adams’s experiences fighting in Operation Market Garden in World War II informed the battles in Watership Down, how her family all became characters in her grandfather’s novels, and what happened when Adams had lunch with Groucho Marx.

He also never forgot friends he made during his service. One in particular, Paddy Kavanagh, stuck with him for his fearless defence of the Oosterbeek perimeter as part of Operation Market Garden during September 1944. Paddy gave his life so that my grandpa’s platoon could escape. So my grandfather brought him back in the character of Bigwig in “Watership Down”, who stands alone to defend a tunnel in the rabbits’ new warren. Originally in the story, Bigwig also died. But my mother and aunt protested so much that my grandpa changed the tale. “We said nobody must die,” my aunt recalls, “except for Hazel, because it seemed an important part given his old age.”

(10) HOLLYWOOD MEMORIAL. ULTRAGOTHA found the story and JJ tracked down a photo —

Carrie Fisher doesn’t have a Star on the Walk of Fame, so fans appropriated a blank one and are leaving tributes. Including two cinnamon buns.

(11) WWCD 2017. Redbubble is selling merchandise with the WWCD art and giving the money to charity —

100% of the proceeds will be donated to bipolar disorder through the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation: https://bbrfoundation.org/

what-would-carrie-do

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 30, 1816 — Percy Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft were married.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born December 30, 1980 — Eliza Dushku
  • Born December 30, 1982 — Kristin Kreuk.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 30, 1865 – Rudyard Kipling

(15) PRINTS IN THE FORECOURT. Filmmaker Roger Corman, a former Worldcon GoH, has been immortalized in concrete at a slightly less well-known theater than you usually think of when it comes to this sort of thing —

Roger Corman may not be a household name, but among movie fans he’s a cult hero.

In October, a tribute was held at the Vista Theatre to celebrate his 62-year career.

The legendary filmmaker was immortalized October 12th in the cement of the Vista’s forecourt with a handprint ceremony, alongside those of Dark Shadows star Jonathan Frid; James Bond girl Honor Blackman; special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen and Cassandra Peterson—also known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.

“I think it’s kind of fun that [my handprints] will be out there forever,” said Corman before burying his hands deep in a patch of cement on the edge of Sunset Drive.

(16) MARS. Charles E. Gannon was part of a Dragon Con panel reported in Space.com“Space Colonies Will Start Out Like the Wild West, Grow Family-Friendly”

Like in the Old West, the goal would be for the colony to become self-sustaining, the panel said. Once a colony could support itself, it would no longer need to rely on materials from Earth to survive. When asked if an organization on Earth could realistically hope to control what was happening on Mars, Davis said, “If they’re still getting their caloric intake from someplace else, yup, you can.” [Poll: Where Should Humanity Build Its First Space Colony?]

Gannon named the biggest challenge facing a colony that aimed to grow independent from the people back home: the supply of volatiles, particularly oxygen and water. The first explorers would need to find a way for colonists to harvest those on the new world, Gannon said.

“If you have to ship those to the colony, it will be both economically and physically dependent and probably never be profitable or really safe,” Gannon said.

Even if an underground colony relied on rocks to shield itself from deadly radiation, it would still need enough water for similar shielding during vehicular missions, he said, making ice harvesting crucial to the colony’s survival.

“There are plenty of other [challenges],” he said. “But this is the minimum ante for long-term self-supportability.”

(17) PLANET NINE FROM OUTER SPACE. NPR tells us “Astronomers Seeking Planet 9 Hope To Soon Catch A Glimpse”.

On the top of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea mountain Thursday, astronomers will point the large Subaru Telescope toward a patch of sky near the constellation of Orion, looking for an extremely faint object moving slowly through space.

If they find what they’re looking for, it will be one of the most important astronomical discoveries in more than a century: a new planet in our solar system.

Technically, a new planet hasn’t been discovered since Neptune was spotted in 1846. Pluto, discovered in 1930, was demoted to “dwarf planet” a decade ago. If a new planet is found, it will be the new Planet Nine.

(18) TRADING INSULTS. Huffington Post’s “Self-Publishing: An Insult To The Written Word”  by Laurie Gough, “Award-winning author of three memoirs…a journalist and travel writer”, begins —

As a published author, people often ask me why I don’t self-publish. “Surely you’d make more money if you got to keep most of the profits rather than the publisher,” they say.

I’d rather share a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump than self-publish.

The rest of the article carries on in the same condescending tone which so aggravated Larry Correia that he stormed back from a self-imposed internet vacation to write a reply, “Fisking the HuffPo’s Snooty Rant About Self-Publishing” for Monster Hunter Nation. (Gough’s article is quoted in italics. Correia’s replies are bold. Of course they are…)

The problem with self-publishing is that it requires zero gatekeepers.

Nope. The problem with self-publishing is that there are so many competitors that the challenge is to differentiate yourself from the herd. Sure, lots of them are crap (I can say the same thing for tradpub too), but if you find a way to market yourself and get your quality product in front of the right market, then you can make quite a bit of money.  

From what I’ve seen of it, self-publishing is an insult to the written word, the craft of writing, and the tradition of literature.

From what I’ve seen, I’d say the same thing about the Huffington Post.

As an editor, I’ve tackled trying to edit the very worst writing that people plan on self-publishing just because they can.

As an actual editor who gets paid for this stuff, that sentence reads like garbage.

I’m a horrible singer. But I like singing so let’s say I decide to take some singing lessons. A month later I go to my neighbor’s basement because he has recording equipment. I screech into his microphone and he cuts me a CD. I hire a designer to make a stylish CD cover. Voilà. I have a CD and am now just like all the other musicians with CDs.

Only you just described exactly how most real working bands got their start. Add a couple of kids with a guitar and drums, set up in your buddy’s garage, and start jamming. Eventually you will get good enough that you can book some local gigs, and if people like you, they will give you money for your stuff.

Except I’m not. Everyone knows I’m a tuneless clod but something about that CD validates me as a musician.

Nobody gives a crap about “validation”. Validation don’t pay the bills.

(19) MEDIA FAVES. It’s Aliette de Bodard’s turn to bestow Smugglivus year-end cheer at The Book Smugglers.

In media, the most striking thing I watched this year is actually from last year: it was the masterful Doctor Who episode “Heaven Sent”, a tour de force by Peter Capaldi that slowly starts making horrifying sense throughout its length (and that I actually paused and rewatched just to make sure it all hung together — it does and it’s even more impressive on a rewatch). I haven’t had time to consume things from this year: most of my watching has been old things, like Black  Orphan (I can’t believe it took me this long to find out about it, it’s so good, and Tatiana Maslany is just amazing playing all the clones), and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, period mysteries featuring the awesome Phryne Fisher (and her amazing wardrobe).

(20) CATCHING UP WITH CAMESTROS. Doctor Who was on Camestros Felapton’s telly on Christmas — “Review: The Return of Doctor Misterio – 2016 Dr Who Christmas Special”.

In the 2016 Christmas Special, Moffat lays out a gentle Richard Curtis-like romantic comedy but about superheroes and alien brain parasites. No puzzles and an evil invasion plot from the bad guys that echoed both Watchmen and the Aliens of London episode from series 1 of the reboot. A wise choice that made for a funny and light episode.

The episode was not a deconstruction of the superhero genre but played the tropes simply and straight but also at a relatively shallow level. Primarily a play on the Clark Kent/Lois Lane, secret identity, romance angle but with an added play on romantic comedy trope of the woman who somehow can’t see the man she actually is looking for is standing right next to her.

(21) CAMESTROS IS A MARATHON NOT A SPRINT. Then he dashed out to see the new Star Wars movie – “Review: Rogue One”.

Well, that was fun in a Blake’s 7 sort of way.

What I liked about the film was it had a certain freedom to it. The story has one simple job: by the end of the plot, the plans for the Death Star have to be on a Rebel spaceship pursued by Darth Vader. How to get to point B is undetermined and indeed where point A is to start with nobody knows. Indeed, the film initially is a bit confused about where A is, flitting from one plane to another. However, after some initial rushing around the galaxy, the story comes together.

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, captures a nice sense of both bravado and cynicism as the daughter of the man who designed the Death Star. Her emotional journey isn’t complex but given the number of genre films in which people appear to act incomprehensibly it was nice to have a character whose motivations were personal and direct. Her shift from reluctant rebel to a leader of a commando force is shaped overtly and plausibly by plot events.

(23) CAN’T END TOO SOON. By then the year 2016 was just about done – and Camestros designed the most suitable container for its farewell journey.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mark-kitteh, Michael J. Walsh, David K.M. Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall.]