Pixel Scroll 12/12/17 If You Don’t Scroll Your Files, You Can’t Have Any Pudding!

(1) THE DOCTOR’S OLD BOSS HAS MORE TO SAY. In Part III of the Radio Times interview we learn “What are Steven Moffat’s Desert Island Doctor Whos – and why did Matt Smith ‘punch his pillow in frustration’?”

Apart from the Doctor, which character have you most enjoyed writing for?
Maybe River Song. She’s quite close to the Doctor, so is that a cheat? Partly because we never wore her out; she wasn’t there all that often. And of course Alex Kingston is awesome and beautiful. Also, I bloody loved writing Missy, and I’m conceited enough to think I did good job. And Michelle Gomez was the only casting decision I took entirely on my own – I just insisted it had to be her – and I’m incredibly proud of the result.

What was your happiest moment or experience on the programme?
Oh, there were a lot of those. I suppose in terms of a single moment the day after the 50th and realising that it had actually worked. The ratings and reviews were through the roof. Everybody everywhere was happy. That was one of the rare moments where I actually thought I know what I’m doing. It lasted about four seconds.
But it’s also the friendships that you make. I remember reading a review when the Weeping Angels two-parter came out [in 2010] and it referred to Matt Smith’s “amazing new Doctor”.

He was a hit from the word go really, wasn’t he? Certainly was for me.
That may be how it seemed on the outside but on the inside we were more fraught. David had been the face of Doctor Who and when we announced Matt, people thought he was too young, too pretty, his chin is ridiculous. Matt went through a year of being hated, before the show went out. He still talks about it. He used to go to bed and punch his pillow in his frustration. He couldn’t believe in himself or that it was going to work. But then it did – everybody realised what we’d known for year, that he’s not just a young pretty actor, he’s an awesome actor. And, yes, that was instant

(2) ALL CREATURES GREAT AND WEIRD. Let Fantasy-Faction tell you about “The Ten Strangest Races in Fantasy Literature”.

To me one of the most wonderful things about reading fantasy is the chance to encounter strange and magical beings that couldn’t possibly exist in the real world. Ferocious and exotic warriors, wise immortals, fey creatures as beautiful as they are mysterious, people made from wood or stone, animals that walk and talk like humans, and humans who can fly or throw fire with a thought. These races that never were, offer us the chance to sample new perspectives on life, question the very things that make us human, or just imagine what it would be like to have the body of a giant or the ability to fry a person’s brain by looking at them funny.

But in a genre peopled by a suspiciously large quantities of elves and dwarves it can be hard to find truly original beings to liven up your fantasy reading. So I’ve gathered together ten of the strangest, most interesting and most thought-provoking races in fantasy literature for your amusement….

First example —

  1. Gallivespians – Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials

The title and bearing of a haughty French aristocrat, the body of a wingless pixie and the poisoned spurs of a platypus; with these powers combined you get – the Gallivespians!

The name Gallivespian is actually a play on words. The ‘vesp’ part of it comes from the Latin word for wasp; so you could roughly translate the whole word to mean ‘gall-wasp people’. It’s an apt name considering their tendency to ride around on large dragonflies and their willingness to sting anyone who gets in their way….

(3) WILD GUESSWORK. Nerds of a Feather’s Joe Sherry and Dean E.S. Richard take what might be their very last chance to engage in “Rampant Last Jedi Speculation”. After all, the movie will be out in a couple of days.

Let’s speculate some more on Rey’s parents!

Joe: I’m still going to roll with my far fetched idea of Rey being the daughter of Mara Jade. To quote myself from the first time we had this conversation

Do it like this: She was one of Luke’s students in his New Jedi Academy school thing that he founded after Return of the Jedi. She, with another student (or not, I don’t care), had a daughter. Ben Solo turned, killed that particular class of students, and Luke hid Rey on Jakku rather than take her with him when he ran and hid.

Dean: Gawd, I love that so much. Mara Jade is the best of the old EU. My problem with that is that I doubt they go that deep, though. The closer we get, the more I lean towards her being Han and Leia’s daughter. There are a million signs that point to it, which have been covered ad nauseum at this point. It’s not the most creative, to be sure, but I prefer it to her being Luke’s kid.

Unless they bring in Mara Jade.

Joe: Force bless Mara Jade.

(4) FREE ANTHOLOGY. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination has published Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities: A Collection of Space Futures, a book of stories and essays about the near future of space exploration, supported by a grant from NASA. It features stories by Madeline Ashby, Steven Barnes, Eileen Gunn, Ramez Naam, Carter Scholz, Karl Schroeder, and Vandana Singh, and an interview with Kim Stanley Robinson, plus essays by experts in space science, history, economics, and other areas. Edited by Ed Finn and Joey Eschrich, with guest editor Juliet Ulman.

The book is available for free in various digital formats, or folks can buy it at cost print-on-demand. The place to find all of that is http://csi.asu.edu/books/vvev.

Why should we go to space? To learn more about the universe and our place in it? To extract resources and conduct commerce? To demonstrate national primacy and technological prowess? To live and thrive in radically different kinds of human communities? Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities takes on the challenge of imagining new stories at the intersection of public and private—narratives that use the economic and social history of exploration, as well as current technical and scientific research, to inform scenarios for the future of the “new space” era.

Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities provides fresh insights into human activity in Low Earth Orbit, journeys to Mars, capturing and mining asteroids, and exploring strange and uncharted exoplanets. Its stories and essays imagine human expansion into space as a kind of domestication—not in the sense of taming nature but in the sense of creating a space for dwelling, a venue for human life and curiosity to unfurl in all their weirdness and complexity.

(5) FAST SERVICE. Rocket Stack Rank’s Greg Hullender already has a review up — “Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities, edited by Ed Finn and Joey Eschrich”.

Sort-of Optimistic

Although CSI says they want optimistic views of the future, only three of the stories envision a future that’s better than today’s world, and one is actually a dystopia.

Of the seven stories, we recommend one and recommend against one, which is exactly the distribution we expect to see, hence we called the anthology average overall.

(6) THE BITE FANTASTIC. If you haven’t read these yet, Camestros Felapton wastes no time persuading you to do so — “Review: River of Teeth – Taste of Marrow Sarah Gailey”.

This pair of novellas is much better to read as a single novel. The first introduces the premise of a 19th-century alternative version of America, where hippos are ranched and some live feral in the Mississipi river.

River of Teeth follows a plot where former Hippo rancher Winslow Houndstooth recruits a party of outlaw misfits to run a job for a federal agent. The job in question is blowing a dam to destroy an artificial lake that has become infested with bloodthirsty feral hippos.

(7) SOCIAL MEDIA CASUALTY. Storify is folding in May, which is awfully inconvenient for those like me who find it a helpful for documenting news in tweet form: “Storify End-of-Life”. Apparently there will be a successor online service:

What changes are being made to Storify.com?

Unfortunately, Storify will no longer be available after May 16, 2018.

Can I still create a new account?

As of December 12, 2017, no new Storify.com accounts can be created.

What should customers using Storify.com expect?

Existing Storify customers can continue to use all capabilities of the service until May 16, 2018, except for the ability to create new stories which will end on May 1, 2018. Be sure to export any content you would like to keep by May 16, 2018, using the export functionality in Storify.

What are my options if I want to continue to use Storify?

Storify.com will no longer be available after May 16, 2018. If you are interested in gaining access to Storify 2, a feature of Livefyre, you will be required to purchase a Livefyre license.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 12, 1972 — Orange soil discovered by Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt during their second day of exploration on the lunar surface.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 12, 1893 – Edward G. Robinson, who ended up as Soylent Green.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy found what it would be like if the younger Jacob Marley could see and hear the Ghost of Christmas Past and the older Jacob Marley in Brewster Rockit.

(11) MOUNTAIN PEEK. Tor.com’s Alex Brown offers a list of “The Top Spec-Fic Comics of 2017” calculated to grow Mount TBR:

It’s that time of year when everyone writes up lists of the best of the best and the worst of the worst. And Pull List is no exception. We’ve had a pretty great year for new comics, especially in the indie realm. DC’s Rebirth is still chugging along while Marvel continues to shoot itself in the foot then blame everyone else but themselves. As always, there’s lots of meh stuff cluttering up the market, but finding good quality series is pretty easy as of late.

Don’t think of this roundup as a “best of” but rather a list of “really cool titles you should be reading.”

(12) DU-PAR’S BITES THE DUST. The Du-Par’s in Studio City will go away on January 1. Not only will its real-life customers feel the loss, so will readers who have dined there vicariously with Detective Harry Bosch (he’s in there all the time.)

Rumors began swirling regarding the shutter over the weekend and Eater was able to confirm the news after speaking with management at the property. The Du-Par’s team remains adamant that they will be back in Studio City at some point, with a whole new location, but so far they don’t have a line on exactly when or where that will take place. So for now, eager eaters hoping to enjoy the restaurant’s signature pancakes will have until the first of the new year. Reached for comment this morning, one worker said that the restaurant certainly wasn’t closing “for lack of customers or bad food,” but rather a stalled lease renegotiation.

(13) APEX MAGAZINE. Beginning with issue 104, Apex Magazine will be available in its standard eBook form and in POD-printed trade paperback format.

The trade paperback will contain all the content published in the eBook. A monthly recurring print subscription is available directly from Apex or via their Patreon page. These subscription issues will be mailed approximately two weeks after the release date of the eBook edition.

This link provides more detailed information about their various subscription options.

(14) SHORT FICTION. Charles Payseur reviews “Higher, My Gallows” by Alice Brook (20907 words): “Quick Sips – GigaNotoSaurus December 2017”.

December brings one of the longest stories to GigaNotoSaurus, a novella with an interesting mix of elements and its sight set on retribution, rot, and stubborn pride. The setting finds magic weaved into everyday life, though in strange ways, and sets up a situation where a woman running from her mistakes falls in with a group of police officers to help with magic-related mysteries. It’s a wonderful setup that evokes both noirish grit (there’s plenty of blood, grime, and spit) and some more modern sensibilities. It’s also a lot of damn fun, so let’s just jump right into the review!

(15) FINDING THE GEMS. Natalie Luhrs’ latest iteration of In Short, her short fiction review series, covers several stories including —

“Making Us Monsters” by Sam J. Miller and Lara Elena Donnelly

“Making Us Monsters” was written by Sam J. Miller and Lara Elena Donnelly and published in the most recent issue of Uncanny. It’s an epistolatory story about Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, in which Sassoon receives letters from Owen years after they were sent, years after Owen was killed in action. These aren’t any old letters, though, they’re both love letters and an examination of the kind of trauma experienced by soldiers in the Great War. This wasn’t an easy story to read—there’s a “doctor” who is more interested in brutalizing his patients than helping them and there is a lot of internalized self-hatred on the part of Sassoon and Owen. But I found it to be a worthwhile and engrossing read, nonetheless.

(16) CHIZINE POLICY. ChiZine’s guidelines for its submission window ending December 31 have been up since August, but an author sent me the link today.

ChiZine Publications is open again to submissions, until Dec. 31, 2017. BUT, PLEASE READ OUR NEW GUIDELINES, especially this bit: Given that CZP is an SF/F/H publisher, genres which have traditionally been dominated by straight white men, we have decided for this submission round that we will only be open to subs from people who identify as belonging to one (or more) of the following groups: Aboriginal Peoples, culturally diverse groups, people of colour, mixed race people, people who are Deaf or have disabilities, Canada’s official language minority communities, non-binary/LGBTQIA+, people who identify as women.

ChiZine has always been committed to cultural/gender diversity, but the last time we ran stats, despite asking for more diversity, 83% of the submissions we received… were still from men. (We could not tell people’s ethnicity or orientation from our stats, since we don’t ask for that information.) But we felt that it was time to take a more firm step toward helping address the imbalance. Please feel free to share.

http://chizinepub.com/czp-submissions/

[That link now returns a 404 message.]

One writer made critical comments at the time the guidelines were posted. Here is part of Bret Savory’s reply:

Edwin, we’ve been in business for 20 years, and this is the first time we’ve extended a specific invitation to the minorities named in our current submission guidelines. We’re just trying to give those folks a shot in a field dominated by straight white men—which we’ve been publishing alongside everyone else, as I said, for 20 years. You obviously don’t actually know about ChiZine as a company, but just saw these guidelines and decided to pounce on us to prop up your own narrative.

I’m a straight white male myself (to specify, this is Brett Savory, since these responses all come from our company account), and I approve this message. (Ha.) Our next submission window will be just like the ones from the past 20 years—open to everyone; we’re just trying to raise up some voices you don’t hear from as often as we could in this field. If that’s “racist,” “sexist,” and “bigoted” to do once every 20 years, then we’re guilty as charged.

(17) SCALZI ENTERS THE BOOTH. The results of John Scalzi’s photo session remind me of this description from Dave Langford’s The Leaky Establishment:

Roy Tappen’s lab security pass, “…with a photo labelled R TAPPEN, SSO, but in fact showing an unshaven homicidal maniac with a crippling hangover and at least one glass eye, photographed after forty-eight hours of strenuous axe-murdering.”

 

(18) GET READY. There’s a new book coming from Peter Watts next May: The Freeze Frame Revolution.

She believed in the mission with all her heart.

But that was sixty million years ago.

How do you stage a mutiny when you’re only awake one day in a million? How do you conspire when your tiny handful of potential allies changes with each shift? How do you engage an enemy that never sleeps, that sees through your eyes and hears through your ears and relentlessly, honestly, only wants what best for you?

Sunday Ahzmundin is about to find out.

(19) MARKET. Superversive Press is looking in the logical place for submissions to its Planetary Anthology – Uranus.

Theme: rebirth and new beginnings

Superversive Press is looking for contributions to the Uranus edition of the Planetary Anthology. Stories should be between 3,000 and 7,500 words. Stories should center on themes of rebirth and new beginnings in the broadest sense possible. Interpretations can range from rebirth of a character or a new beginning on a new world, to spiritual, philosophical, and theological ideas. These themes need not be specifically part of the plot, just part of the story.

(20) WE INTERRUPT THIS GENEALOGY. Here’s another shocking consequence of the studio merger —

(21) BRIGHT. Out today, Bright trailer #3 –

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

Pixel Scroll 11/30/17 Go Not To The Filers For Counsel, For They Will Say Both Scroll And Pixel

(1) IT GETS WORSE. Amal El-Mohtar tweeted about her horrendous experience at the hands of TSA while trying to enter the U.S. to attend a retreat. Begins here —

She missed her flight, needed to get rebooked, had to go through Customs a second time (another bad experience), and spent long hours at the airport waiting for the next flight. Here are a couple of the tweets from that thread:

There was an outpouring of sympathy, support, and indignation, for example:

(2) BEWARE. David Gerrold shared this warning on Facebook:

A friend has sent me a cautionary note not to do business with Atomic Network. (I wouldn’t anyway, I’m currently involved in a much more promising effort.) But the advice is appreciated. I won’t repeat the long explanatory message here, the language is a little blunt and might cross a couple lines, but the evidence presented is damning enough on its own merits. The point is that SF content creators and investors would probably not be happy with the track record of the CEO and his previous ventures. Consider this a Writer Beware warning.

I believe this is the website for Atomic Network.

(3) MORE CON TRADEMARK LITIGATION. Two Boston anime conventions are going to court: “Anime Boston sues to block similarly named event in Hanover”.

The New England Anime Society of Somerville, which puts on the annual Anime Boston show at the Hynes, this week sued two of its former volunteers, who are using the phrase “Boston Anime Fest” to promote their own show at the Hanover Mall, which is somewhere south of Boston.

In addition to trying to stop the organizers from associating themselves with the show that’s actually in Boston, in a trademark lawsuit filed in US District Court, New England Anime has filed a request for a temporary restraining order to try to block the Hanover show, schedule for Dec. 8 and 9.

Although the main name of the Hanover show is the Boston SouthCoast Comic Con & Collectibles Extravaganza, its Web site, with a URL of www.bostonanimefest.com, prominently features a Boston Anime Fest logo.

New England Anime says the branding is likely to confuse anime fans into thinking it has something to do with the Hanover show, which it does not. That the new show’s organizers, Fantastic Gatherings, Inc. – founded by the two former Anime Boston volunteers – and Interactive Meet and Greet Entertainment, initially linked their social-media accounts to Boston Anime, is also an issue.

(4) BOOKSELLERS LOVE IT. Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage has been named the Waterstones book of the yearThe Guardian has the story.

Pullman pronounced himself delighted to have won an award chosen by booksellers, which he called “the most important channel between the publishers and the public”.

“Writers are at one end of a complicated network that includes editors, reviewers, designers, printers, and many other real people – as well as phantoms such as the writer the readers imagine and the readers the book seems to expect,” he said. “Part of this great living network or ecology of the book world is the ancient and distinguished profession of bookselling, which I respect and value very much.”

(5) BEST SFF OF 2017. And The Guardian thinks it none too soon for Adam Roberts to tell his picks for “The best science fiction and fantasy of 2017”.

A year ago, Amitav Ghosh usefully stirred things up with his rebuke to “realist” modes of writing. Where, he asked, is all the fiction about climate change? Well, it turns out that the answer is science fiction. Genre writing has been exploring the possible futures of climate change for many years, and 2017’s three best novels engage in powerful and varied ways with precisely that subject. Kim Stanley Robinson is the unofficial laureate of future climatology, and his prodigious New York 2140 (Orbit), a multilayered novel set in a flooded Big Apple, is by any standard an enormous achievement. It is as much a reflection on how we might fit climate change into fiction as it is a detailed, scientifically literate representation of its possible consequences.

Just as rich, though much tighter in narrative focus, is Paul McAuley’s superb Austral (Gollancz), set in a powerfully realised near?future Antarctica transformed by global warming. Jeff VanderMeer’s vividly weird Borne (4th Estate) takes a different, neo-surrealist approach to the topic. You won’t soon forget its star turn, a flying bear as big as a cathedral rampaging through wastelands….

(6) NABORS OBIT. Actor and singer Jim Nabors (1930-2017), best known for playing Gomer Pyle on two TV series, died November 30. I didn’t know he had any genre-related connections beyond his character’s tendency to say “Shazam!” in place of an expletive, however, SF Site News notes that his credits include

…the Saturday morning children’s show The Lost Saucer with Ruth Buzzi. He also made appearances in an episode of Knight Rider and provided voicework for Off to See the Wizard.

 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born November 30, 1937 – Ridley Scott
  • Born November 30, 1985 — Kaley Cuoco

(8) CAPTAINS OUTRAGEOUS. You’ll all be thrilled to know — “William Shatner ends Star Trek feud, unblocks Jason Isaacs on Twitter”.  According to Entertainment Weekly:

Shatner never publicly said why he blocked the Star Trek: Discovery star in the first place, but we’re pretty sure it had something to do with an interview that arguably mischaracterized Isaacs as saying he would never want Shatner to be a guest star on the new series

(9) SIR JULIUS. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ) declares that nominations for the 2018 Sir Julius Vogel awards are open.

Nominations for the 2018 Sir Julius Vogel awards are now being accepted. The nomination period will close at 8.00 pm on 2 February 2018.  The awards recognise excellence and achievement in science fiction, fantasy, or horror works created by New Zealanders and New Zealand residents, and first published or released in the 2017 calendar year.

…Anyone can make a nomination and it is free! To make a nomination, go to http://www.sffanz.org.nz/sjv/sjvAwards.shtml  and fill out the web-based nomination form.

Get busy reading NZ authors and watching NZ movies to find work to nominate. We have a list of New Zealand works that may be eligible for nomination here.

(10) LE GUIN. Arwen Curry, who’s making a Kickstarter-funded documentary about the writer, worried that Ursula K. Le Guin’s home might have been threatened by the recent Northern California fires. All is well, writes Curry: “In Thanks for Houses”.

We were also worried for Kish, Ursula K. Le Guin’s family ranch in the Napa Valley. Thankfully, it was spared. After the air cleared, we drove up to capture some of our film’s final images, of the land where she spent the long summers of her childhood, and the setting for her 1985 masterwork, Always Coming Home. We filmed the buzzards circling, the wild oaks, the river beginning to swell, the sunset-colored vineyards, “the blue hills on the left and the blue hills on the right.”

(11) LIVE-ACTION MULAN MOVIE. The Guardian tells how Disney has avoided controversy with a Mulan casting decision: “Liu Yifei gets starring role in Mulan, as tide turns against ‘whitewashing'”.

A Chinese actor will play the title role in a live-action remake of Disney’s Mulan, a move seen as a victory for Asian actors in Hollywood after repeated controversies over “whitewashing”.

Liu Yifei, who also uses the name Crystal Liu, was picked to star in the film after a worldwide search that screened nearly 1,000 candidates. The 30-year-old actor has appeared in more than a dozen films in China and began her career in television.

The decision to cast a Chinese actress was widely praised on social media after a series of controversies over whitewashing and follows Beyoncé’s casting in the upcoming Lion King remake.

Hollywood has attracted widespread criticism for casting white actors to play Asian characters. Tilda Swinton, Scarlett Johansson and Emma Stone have all played characters who were Asian in the source material.

(12) SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME. The Los Angeles Times speculates whether The Shape of Water will earn Guillermo del Toro an Academy Award. Video at the link.

Is this the year that Guillermo del Toro — close friends with Cuarón and Iñárritu since the ’90s and, like them, one of Mexico’s most acclaimed and successful filmmakers — wins his Oscar?

Del Toro stands as a strong contender for directing “The Shape of Water,” a lavish, deeply felt love story involving a pair of outsiders — a mute cleaning woman (Sally Hawkins) and an Amazonian water creature (frequent Del Toro collaborator Doug Jones).

(13) CAN I GET A WITNESS? NPR reports “Arkansas Prosecutors Drop Murder Case That Hinged On Evidence From Amazon Echo”.

Arkansas prosecutors have dropped their case against James Bates, whom they had charged with first-degree murder partly with the help of evidence collected by an Amazon Echo smart speaker. On Wednesday, a circuit court judge granted their request to have the charges of murder and tampering with evidence dismissed.

The prosecutors declared nolle prosequi, stating that the evidence could support more than one reasonable explanation.

The move marks a curious end to a still more curious case, which had revolved around the role played by a personal assistant device that’s supposed to begin recording as soon as someone says its wake word — “Alexa,” in this case — in its presence.

… At the time of Victor Collins’ death, the Echo had been out on the market in the U.S. for only several months, and the search warrant issued for the device’s recordings prompted some fears that the new technology was opening another battlefield over personal privacy protections.

(14) FETCH! From NPR — “Scientists Train Bacteria To Build Unnatural Proteins”:

One feature of this new system is that these germs need to be fed the precursors for the X and Y components, as well as synthetic amino acids, which are the building blocks for the artificial proteins.

“There’s actually an advantage of having to do it this way,” he says, and that’s safety.

“I think synthetic biology by its very nature scares a lot of people, because you’re sort of playing with life and trying to optimize it to do new things. And people say, ‘Hey, wait a minute — that could be dangerous. What if they escape into nature?’ And I think that’s a significant concern. I think people should be worried about that kind of thing.”

But because his organisms need to be fed man-made starting materials, they can’t survive outside the lab, he says.

(15) CROWDSOURCED SCIENCE. Sometimes you do need a weatherman…. The BBC tells about the “Huge weather rescue project under way”.

It is shaping up to be a mammoth citizen science project.

Volunteers are wanted to digitise early 20th Century weather records covering the UK and other parts of Europe.

The temperature, pressure, rainfall and wind observations are in handwritten tables and need to be converted to a form that computers can analyse.

The data comes from the Met Office’s “Daily Weather Reports”, which were started by Robert FitzRoy shortly after the agency was founded in 1854.

If this old information is recovered, it can then be used to reconstruct past conditions.

That will put more context around some of the changes now occurring in our atmosphere, says Prof Ed Hawkins, from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science and Reading University.

“Whenever we have big weather events today we need to ask ourselves, have we seen them before? And if we go further and further back in time and don’t recognise such big storms or such heavy rainfall, then we can be more confident that the changes we’re seeing today really are the result of shifts in the climate system,” he told BBC News.

(16) DIAGNOSING NARRATIVE DISORDER. Malka Older’s Null States, sequel to Infomocracy, inspires a discussion of the writer’s imagined society: “’Patchwork Futures’: Sci-fi meets the political thriller” in Harvard Magazine.

In the future imagined by Malka Older ’99, author of Infomocracy and its new sequel, Null States, the inability to distinguish narrative from reality has become a medical diagnosis, officially codified as “narrative disorder.” Older describes the condition as a rewiring of the mind in a world shaped by shared narratives. “On the one hand, there’s an addiction to narrative content, to wanting to distract ourselves with stories,” she says. “But this is also changing how our brains work. We’re changing our expectations of what’s going to happen and the way people act and the kinds of characters we’re likely to meet, and by changing those expectations we end up changing reality, because people act on those expectations.”

(17) THE VILLAIN’S RIDE. “Epic Star Wars Build Test: Colin Furze x X Robots” comes courtesy of British eBay, and features Colin Furze who decided to build a full-size fighter of the sort Kylo Ren uses, and then tested it in front of some kids from the Peterborough Star Wars Club.  The kids are happy and there are lots of fireworks.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mark Hepworth, Steven H Silver, David K.M .Klaus, Darnell Coleman, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, NickPheas, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 10/21/17 Stars in My Pocket Like Scrolls of Pixels.

(1) HEART SURGERY. Vulture grilled Kirkus’s editor-in-chief Claiborne Smith about changes made to a review in the face of a swarm of critics: Kirkus Editor-in-Chief Explains Why They Altered That American Heart Review.

Kirkus was well-aware from the start that American Heart was something of a lightning rod, which Smith says was not a concern. “As you know, we’re no stranger to controversy,” he says, referring to the recent outrage surrounding Kirkus’s starred review for The Black Witch. And the response to this controversy, according to Smith, stemmed from a long-standing policy of listening when readers have something to say: “We do investigate [criticisms] and consider all of those claims.”

Yet while investigating criticisms may be business as usual, Smith admits this is the first time during his tenure that a review has been pulled and altered in this way. And while the Muslim woman who wrote the original review was involved in the editing process — “the decision to retract the star was made in full collaboration with the reviewer,” he says — altering the review does not appear to have been her idea in the first place. According to Smith, Kirkus concluded internally that edits would be made before reaching out to the reviewer.

“We wanted her to consider if changing what we thought was sort of reductive word choice, and adding deeper context, is something she thought might be appropriate,” he says, though he emphasizes it was ultimately her call: “I did not dictate that to her. She made that decision on her own.” (The word choice in question likely refers to text in the original review that referred to Sadaf as “a disillusioned immigrant,” which some commenters took exception to.)

Kirkus’s critics are skeptical of that claim; among the more cynical takes on the controversy is that Kirkus used the reviewer’s identity as a shield, only to then suppress her voice when it didn’t toe the line. Smith bristles at that: “It’s like no one believes that this reviewer has a mind and can change her opinion. Is that so difficult to believe?”

The answer isn’t necessarily clear. Would Kirkus’s reviewer have changed her mind independently, even if the review hadn’t been pulled for evaluation? Or did she feel pressured to alter what had proven to be a deeply unpopular opinion when asked if she wanted to, even without explicit instructions to do so? What is clear, though, is that the choice to un-star American Heart reflects something noteworthy about Kirkus’s framework for critique — one in which a book’s value is determined not just by the quality of its storytelling, but also by its politics. The sentence added to the review indicates that writing the book from Sarah Mary’s point of view remains an admirable choice from a craft perspective (“an effective world-building device”), but wrong from a moral one (“it is problematic that Sadaf is seen only through the white protagonist’s filter”). And while Smith says the call-out of said problematic element is not meant to dissuade readers from reading the book — “If readers don’t care that this novel is only told about a Muslim character, from the perspective of a white teenager, that’s fine” — he acknowledges that Kirkus does care, and does judge books at least in part on whether they adhere to certain progressive ideals. When I ask if the book’s star was revoked explicitly and exclusively because it features a Muslim character seen from the perspective of a white teenager, Smith pauses for only a second: “Yes.”

(2) INDIA 2049. “Call for Submissions: India 2049 – Utopias and Dystopias”. Mithila Review is doing this issue as a fundraiser, and is basically paying only an honorarium. Submissions for India 2049 are open until April 30, 2018.

“The developing countries such as those in the South Asia and Africa are not sufficiently depicted in typical SF stories.”— Cixin Liu, Mithila Review

Mithila Review is seeking submissions for India 2049: Utopias and Dystopias, an anthology of short stories and comics devoted to the exploration of Indian futures, utopias and dystopias, set in India, South Asia or beyond.

Editors: Salik Shah & Ajapa Sharma

Word Limit: 4000-12,000 words

Comics: Up to 24 pages

Deadline: April 30st, 2018

Eligibility: Stories should be set in India, South Asia, or told from Indian or South Asian perspective. We want excellent, characters-driven and thoughtful stories from emerging and established voices around the world. Your citizenship or nationality, or lack of it, isn’t a bar to submission. Please free to re/define India or South Asia to make it relevant to the future/s you’re creating. If you are new to Mithila Review, please go through our existing issues to get a taste and understanding of the kind of stories that define Mithila Review.

(3) THE SCI-FI PIPELINE. From IndieWire, “The New Golden Age of Studio Science-Fiction is Upon Us”

The New Golden Age of Studio Science-Fiction is Upon Us

We’ll be seeing a lot of major studios releasing auteur-driven science-fiction over the next couple years. Here are some of the titles you need to know about:

“Downsizing,” Alexander Payne

Alexander Payne is well regarded as a humanist and a sharp observer of middle-aged existential crises, which makes the thought of him directing a science-fiction movie all the more intriguing…. “

“Annihilation,” Alex Garland

…Studios were clearly paying attention to “Ex Machina’s” success, as Paramount quickly landed Garland to direct the big budget adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s novel “Annihilation.” …

Ready Player One,” Steven Spielberg

You’d have to go back to “War of the Worlds” in 2006 to find the last pure Steven Spielberg science-fiction blockbuster….

“Gemini,” Ang Lee

Ang Lee’s unpredictable career has taken him from gay romances to historical dramas, war films, literary adaptations, and period pieces, but with “Gemini” he’s finally set to bring his boundless visual scope to the science-fiction genre….

“Ad Astra,” James Gray

James Gray has been upping the stakes of his narratives and working with larger budgets with each new film, so it was only a matter of time before the director would join forces with a studio to make something truly epic. “Ad Astra” sounds like that kind of mainstream breakthrough after the indie success of “The Lost City of Z.” Brad Pitt plays an astronaut who sets out on a mission through the solar system to find his father (Tommy Lee Jones), who disappeared 20 years earlier on a one-way mission to Neptune….

“Alita: Battle Angel,” Robert Rodriguez

Robert Rodriguez has only ever made big-budget action films for family audiences (see the “Spy Kids” franchise and “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl”), which is part of the reason the upcoming “Alita: Battle Angel” could mark a whole new chapter in the director’s career. The idea for a film adaptation of Yukito Kishiro’s acclaimed manga series was first brought to James Cameron by Guillermo del Toro, but the director’s work on “Avatar” kept the project from being properly developed….

“The Predator,” Shane Black

Normally a studio reboot of “The Predator” franchise wouldn’t inspire much anticipation (and fans clearly weren’t too interested in the 2010 installment directed by Nimród Antal), but 20th Century Fox has made the exciting decision of putting none other than Shane Black in the director’s chair….

“Avatar” Sequels, James Cameron

The second “Avatar” movie will arrive over a decade after the original became the highest grossing movie of all time (adjusted for inflation). It’s been so long since “Avatar” conquered the box office that no one is really begging for a sequel anymore, and yet you’d have to be crazy not to be at least a little excited for another opportunity for James Cameron to play on the biggest canvas imaginable….

(4) HAWAIIAN SHIRT FRIGHT. High Seas Trading Company is willing to sell you the shirt off its back in time for Halloween: Classic Horror Monsters.

(5) ZINE TRANSCRIBERS SOUGHT. Slate Magazine, in “Retyping the Future’s Past”, tells about the University of Iowa Libraries project to crowdsource transcription of some of its holdings, like the Rusty Hevelin fanzine collection. I didn’t get involved myself because as it was put to me, the zines were not out of copyright so the transcriptions would not be made publicly available, only to scholars working through the library. My fellow fanzines fans would not immediately benefit from my work.

However, the face value the offer is certainly true – you get to read the ones you work on.

If you’d like to participate, you need to do little more than set up a free account with DIY History, select an issue from the hundreds available, and dive in. It’s hard to guess what you might find within, but the possibilities are promising. As some of us still do today, the science fiction fans of decades past imagined different worlds, sometimes better ones. Retyping their words is a welcome reminder that we have yet to write our own future.

(6) YESTERDAY’S DAY

International Sloth Day

We missed this.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born October 21, 1929 – Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Born October 21, 1956 – Carrie Fisher

(8) TAKING ONE FOR THE TEAM. Camestros Felapton has got himself a copy of Vox Day’s new book SJWs Always Double Down and penned a review titled “Reading Vox Day So You Don’t Have To…Again: Part 1”. Though not even Camestros takes that title literally – by the time he reaches Chapter 4 he’s writing:

Skim, skim, Google, skim, Twitter again (the social media platform so terrible that Vox came crawling back to it after his tantrum at Gab), some band I haven’t heard of. The chapter was supposed to be about ‘convergence’ but it was just another list of complaints.

(That being the case, it’s lucky for Camestros that this book seems to have only one Chapter 5.)

Did I mention that this chapter is called “The Convergence Sequence”. I guess I had assumed that previous chapter would be about that. Anyway this chapter is about how convergence happens (hint: women are all conspiring against Vox to get him). The previous chapter was “Convergence” so maybe chapter 4 was the first Chapter 5*

The convergence sequence, Vox claims, is this: 1. Infiltration. This is when women, oops sorry, “SJWs” join things and do work. Now you might think that would be both a good thing and inevitable that helpful, nice people predisposed to being helpful and nice would do things. This is bad though because then they’ll expect the think they joined to also be helpful and nice.

“SJWs are particularly drawn to HR in the corporate world and community management in the open source world, because these organizational roles tend to combine the two things that SJWs seek most, power over others and an absence of personal responsibility. They can also be found in volunteer roles; SJWs tend to have a lot of time on their hands and volunteering for the jobs that no one else wants to do is one of their favorite ways to make themselves appear indispensable to those who are in charge of the organization…. But if you want to identify the initial SJW in an organization, look for a longtime volunteer, usually female, who is quiet, selfless, well-regarded by everyone, and heavily relied upon by the leadership.”

See, I wasn’t being sarcastic earlier or even exaggerating. Note the key elements he sees as symptoms of being a “SJW” – not a tendency to quote Gramsci or use the term “intersectionality” or a hard to suppress desire to punch Nazis. Nope the key symptoms of Vox’s fear are:

  1. Being a woman (or ‘female’ as Vox says in what I presume is a Ferengi impression)
  2. Quiet
  3. Selfless
  4. Well-regarded by everyone
  5. Relied upon by leadership

I wonder if Vox ever reads the New Testament and if he does, does he shout “obvious SJW!” every so often.

(9) E.T.IQUETTE. John C. Wright tries to reconcile his preferences with contemporary practices in “A Courteous Note about Courtesy in Names”.

People with modern hence fake standards meeting someone loyal to older hence real standards are in the same position as that younger brother.

You have no idea what a cruel practical joke has been played on you by the modern inversion of the forms of courtesy, nor how much sincerity, fellowship, and elegance has been deliberately removed from the world.

But I am not a king nor a pope, so there is no reason why someone who knows me only through my public words and works should be required to address me by my Christian name.

It would be rather presumptuous of me to assume that I can impose the burdens of intimate friendship on you.

You have done me no wrong. Please do not fret over so minor a matter.

To which I should add a general word: I am prone to wrath, as it is one of my besetting sins, and would do well to avoid a sharp tongue. I find that, for myself, speaking formally to people who give a last name, and calling him by his last name, makes it easier to resist the temptation to be shrewish and rude.

A man or woman whose Internet handle is some presumptuous yet joking phrase or nickname is much harder to take seriously, and much harder for someone like me to treat seriously. I was able to keep my temper with Dr. Andreassen for years, or nearly so, despite his studied provocations, merely because I addressed him formally.

Someone with a dippy handle like “Gharlane of Backdoor” or “4ssclown Pharting” or “Visions-from-Trippy-High” inadvertently will create in me the impression the I am addressing a pimply and nasal sophomore in teeth braces with a dull sense of humor who is most likely on mood medication.

(10) DUBBING. Myke Cole supplies a caption for the iconic image from Blade Runner 2049:

(11) ALT SIGHT. Uprising Review’s unironic reference in their latest podcast to guest Jon Del Arroz as “the #1 Hispanic voice in science fiction” is more easily understood if you know that it recently devoted bandwidth to topics like “Help Fund A Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Charlottesville,” Dawn Witzke’s Dragon Con report, and a link roundup featuring JDA’s harassment of a Filer.

(12) I’M MELTING, MELTING. NPR explains why these are: “‘Impossible To Save’: Scientists Are Watching China’s Glaciers Disappear”.

Li calls out to scientists hiking nearly 1,000 feet above. In their bright parkas, they look like neon-colored ants. They call back, their voices bouncing off an ice and stone amphitheater that cradles the eastern glacier.

Scientists are the only people allowed here. The government has banned tourism on the glacier and shut down factories in the town below, laying off 7,000 workers to try to lessen the impact of pollution.

But local sources of pollution account for just 30 percent of the damage to glaciers, says Li. The other 70 percent is caused by global carbon emissions that have warmed the entire planet.

The central goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change — which the Trump administration has promised to pull the U.S. out of, but to which China is still a party — is to limit the rise in global average temperature to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Tianshan is one of those rare places where the impact of climate change policy can be measured and seen.

“If every country sticks to the emissions reductions in the Paris Agreement, these two glaciers will be around for another hundred years,” says Li. “If not, then temperatures will continue to rise, and the glacier we’re walking on? It’ll be gone in 50 years.”

(13) HIS FAMILIARS. The Washington Post’s Savannah Stephens has an interview with Philip Pullman about La Belle Sauvage, including why he wanted to write prequels to “His Dark Materials” and what is his personal daemon — “Philip Pullman on what drew him back to the world of His Dark Materials”.

Q: Who were you most excited to revisit besides Lyra?

A: Hannah Relf is someone who appears near the beginning and near the end of “His Dark Materials.” She’s a woman whom I like very much and someone I respect a great deal. I was glad to give her a part that’s important in “La Belle Sauvage.” She lends Malcolm books, and she’s interested in his life, his thoughts, his education. Her character pays tribute to an old lady who had a big house in the village that I used to live in when I was a boy. She took an interest in me, and she let me borrow books from her library. She had books on every wall — bookcases all through her house. She very generously allowed me to come and borrow a couple of books every week. She didn’t tell me, “Oh no, you can’t have that, dear. That’s not for you.” She said, “Take anything you like. Read anything you like. We’ll talk about it when you bring it back.” I thought that was so nice, so I gave that part to Hannah Relf.

(14) A GOOD PLACE TO CRASH. They don’t want anybody underneath when these come down: “The place spacecraft go to die”.

The equivalent point in the ocean – the place furthest away from land – lies in the South Pacific some 2,700km (1,680 miles) south of the Pitcairn Islands – somewhere in the no-man’s land, or rather no-man’s-sea, between Australia, New Zealand and South America.

This oceanic pole of inaccessibility is not only of interest to explorers, satellite operators are interested in it as well. That’s because most of the satellites placed in orbit around the Earth will eventually come down, but where?

Smaller satellites will burn up but pieces of the larger ones will survive to reach the Earth’s surface. To avoid crashing on a populated area they are brought down near the point of oceanic inaccessibility.

Scattered over an area of approximately 1,500 sq km (580 sq miles) on the ocean floor of this region is a graveyard of satellites. At last count there were more than 260 of them, mostly Russian.

The wreckage of the Mir space station lies there. It was launched in 1986 and was visited by many teams of cosmonauts and international visitors.

With a mass of 120 tonnes it was never going to burn up in the atmosphere, so it was ditched in the region in 2001 and was seen by some fishermen as a fragmenting mass of glowing debris racing across the sky.

(15) HAMMERING. According to the BBC: “Thor out of five: Marvel’s latest has critics raving”.

Thor is a case in point. Whether toplining his own films or chipping in as part of the Avengers ensemble, this relic from Norse mythology has always seemed out of step with the rest of the extended franchise.

By recognising and embracing his core ridiculousness, though, Thor: Ragnarok may have finally found a way to integrate the character and his world into the wider MCU landscape.

Despite taking its title from a Norse word for apocalypse, the latest Marvel film is a joyously irreverent hoot in which superhero heroics are almost an afterthought.

The scenes in which Chris Hemsworth’s Thor banters and bickers with the now-talking Hulk are a delight, as are any in which Jeff Goldblum appears as the ostensibly villainous but actually rather affable Grandmaster.

(16) LIGHTNING STRIKING AGAIN AND. It’s a jungle out there.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/20/17 The Fan In The High Pixel

(1) WELCH’S STAR WARS VINTAGES. Collect and swill ’em all!

The Force is strong with these ones! Welch’s new Star Wars™ themed Sparkling Red 100% Grape Juice is the perfect addition to your celebration, or to your collection. Find all 4 unique designs, including the limited edition!

(2) PULLMAN ON THE AIR. Starting next Monday, BBC Radio 4 is presenting a 10-part audio narration of Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage, volume 1 of Pullman’s new The Book of Dust trilogy.

Episode 1 at 10:45 PM (GMT), Monday 10/23. As usual with BBC, the episodes will be available for online listening “shortly after broadcast”.

This is part of BBC’s Book At Bedtime series, which is more of an audiobook-on-radio than the dramatic adaptations they’ve done elsewhere on their schedule.

Accompanying the novel installments will be nonfiction essays by Pullman, “Dreaming of Spires”:

In these personal, entertaining and deeply thoughtful essays, Philip Pullman examines the art of storytelling.

Written over a period of 30 years, they reflect on a wide range of topics including the origins of his own stories, the practice of writing and the storytellers who have most inspired him.

(3) FORMERLY FORBIDDEN. Cat Rambo conducts an “Interview with Sherwood Smith on Omniscient Point of View in the Inda Series”.

Recently the question of omniscient POV has come up in several classes, so I started reading some examples of it. One of the best I hit was Sherwood Smith’s Inda series. I figured, why not go to Sherwood and ask some questions about how she pulled that off.

What drew you to using omniscient point of view for the Inda series? What sorts of stories work particularly well with that POV? Were there any models that you looked when working with it?

I had always written in omni. I’m a visual writer (with all its pluses and pitfalls), which means I see a movie in my head—not just dialogue but characters’ inner lives. Omni always seemed the easiest way to get that movie down.

But when I started selling, I was told to switch to limited third, which I had to learn.

Segue up a couple decades, I was desperate to escape the limitations of third, and omni was no longer (trigger doom music) Forbidden….

(4) BECKY CHAMBERS’ NEXT NOVEL. Hodderscape invites you to “Read the first extract from Becky Chamber’s Record of A Spaceborn Few

When we heard that Becky Chambers was writing a new book set in the world of the Wayfarers we were over the moon. When we read the blurb and heard that one of the main characters was an alien academic (squee!) we were way over the moon and somewhere near Jupiter. Then we read this extract and we shot into a whole other galaxy entirely.

Record of a Spaceborn Few arrives 26th July 2018 and is available to pre-order now.

(5) FILERS AND REFILERS. Librarians at an Auckland public library kept finding books that had gone missing from their shelves “reshelved” in nooks & crannies.  Turns out bookloving homeless people were responsible (because they didn’t want the books to be lent out before they got a chance to finish reading). The New Zealand Herald has the story: “The curious case of the missing books at Auckland Library”.

“A lot of the guys that come in are extremely well-read and have some quite eccentric and high-brow literary tastes … people are homeless for so many different reasons, and being intelligent and interested in literature doesn’t preclude that.”

According to Rivera, around 50 homeless people visit the library daily.

The story also has been taken up by The Guardian.

(6) FOR YOUR SJW CREDENTIAL. Cat bowls hand-painted by celebrities are being auctioned for the benefit of “Architects For Animals Giving Shelter”. They include the handiwork of William Shatner, Elvira, and Jeri Ryan.

(7) HOVERCRAFTER. IBM’s Science and Star Wars video series talks about how superconductors are the future of mass transportation – an installment featuring Kevin Roche, engineer scientist at IBM Research Almaden who coincidentally is also chair of next year’s Worldcon in San Jose.

(8) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Episode Five-Oh! Book ‘em, Danno! Scott Edelman invites everyone to “Bask in Basque beef stew as Eating the Fantastic turns 50 with guest Xia Jia”.

Here we we are, more than 20 months later, and those of you who’ve followed my journey have listened as I’ve shared at times full meals—at times a donut, during my two lightninground episodes—with more than 75 guests. And the feasting’s not over yet!

This time around, I’m inviting you to join me and my guest for lunch during Worldcon at Parrilla Española, the oldest Spanish restaurant in Helsinki.

And who is this episode’s guest?

Xia Jia, whose short stories have been published in Nature, Clarkesworld, Year’s Best SF, Science Fiction World, and many other venues. She’s won five Galaxy Awards for Chinese Science Fiction as well as six Nebula Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy in Chinese. But her science fiction skills have been visible on more than just the page, because she directed the 2007 science fiction film Parapax, in which she also acted, appearing as three different identities of the protagonist across parallel universes.

We discussed how reading science fiction gave her the courage to take risks; what it means when she says she writes not hard SF, nor soft SF, nor slipstream, nor cyberpunk, but “porridge sci-fi;” why Ray Bradbury matters so much to her; the challenges of writing in Chinese, writing in English, and translating from one language to the other; our mutual love for Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler; how The Three-Body Problem changed the perceptions of science fiction in China, why she has faith she’ll eventually get to Mars, and more.

(9) MAY OBIT. Julian May (1931-2017) died October 17.

John Hertz profiled her in “May the Force Be With Her” in 2015, after he accepted her First Fandom Hall of Fame Award on her behalf.

She has always spelled her name Julian, and although after marrying T.E. Dikty (1920-1991, elected posthumously in 2013) she sometimes declared copyright as Julian May Dikty, she continued to write under the name Julian May — among others, including, I’m told, Wolfgang Amadeus Futslogg, by which I dare not address her.

Her fanzine was Interim Newsletter, rendering her to some extent a surrogate for all of us. Her story “Dune Roller” was in the December 1951 issue of Campbell’s Astounding, with four interiors by herself (it was made into a 1972 film, credited to her as Judy Dikty). Eight months later she chaired Chicon II, at the age of twenty-one….

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 20, 1932 — James Whale’s The Old Dark House opens in theaters.
  • October 20, 1943 Son of Dracula premieres.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • October 20, 1882 – Bela Lugosi

(12) COMICS SECTION.

John King Tarpinian believes in Frankensteinly speaking as practiced by The Argyle Sweater.

(13) SPEAK UP. Mary Robinette Kowal is boosting the signal.

(14) SOUND INVESTMENT.  Atlas Obscura takes us “Inside the World of a Halloween Sound-Effects Artist”.

…Jumping ahead to the late 1950s, vinyl records allowed people to bring albums of sound effects home. Novelty records by the likes of Spike Jones, featuring funny monster songs and spooky stories set to eerie effects, became popular. However, possibly the first record with a track of just spooky sounds seems to be a record released by Disney in 1964 called Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House. The album features effects that are now Halloween staples: moaning ghosts, barking dogs, clattering chains, and screaming victims, interspersed with short, often comedic, vocal segments that established them. “Disney’s Haunted House album, which was rereleased in 1995, seems to have become a staple in the U.S.A. in particular,” Haggerwood says.

(15) ANOTHER WORLD. At Nerds of a Feather, The G kicks off a new series of posts: “WORLDBUILDING: A Big World and Beyond”.

Welcome to the first post in our Worldbuilding series, where our writers explore various elements of imagining place, people and culture. Today I’m going to discuss where inspiration for fantasy worlds comes from, and what I’d like to read more of in that regard. Obligatory disclaimer: this is an opinion piece. You may agree, if our tastes align or if the arguments put forth resonate with you; or you may disagree, if they do not. That’s healthy. There is ample space for all kinds of approaches to fantasy, and life would be boring if we all wanted to read the same things. -G

Second-world fantasy is not historical, but draws from human histories, cultures and mythologies. The most famous and influential fantasy author, J.R.R. Tolkien, drew heavily from Nordic and Celtic mythologies in constructing Middle Earth. Most fantasy published since The Lord of the Rings has been similarly Eurocentric, utilizing the tropes he established and/or popularized as well as other widely-known (European) sources: Arthurian Legends, the Brothers Grimm, Niebelungenlied and various medieval bestiaries. Many, like Tolkien, are also in a sense a retelling of Song of Roland, or Herodatus–wherein a “civilized” stand-in for the West is threatened by a horde from the geographic periphery.

(16) TASTER’S CHOICE. Also at Nerds of a Feather, Charles Payseur uploads his monthly short fiction reviews: “THE MONTHLY ROUND – A Taster’s Guide to Speculative Short Fiction, 09/2017”.

The stories very much run the gamut between joyous and crushing, but each one is beautiful in its own way, and each brings its unique flavor to this early autumn tasting experience. So settle in and raise a glass, and let’s get to it. Cheers!

Tasting Flight – September 2017

“Pan-Humanism: Hope and Pragmatics” by Jess Barber and Sara Saab (Clarkesworld)

Notes: Expertly balanced between darkness and light, the story tastes like a breath of fresh air after a lifetime of smog, warms and lifts and offers a hope of healing.

Pairs with: Amber Bock

Review: Amir and Mani grow up in a Beirut strained by climate change, by water-scarcity, by the fear of doing greater harm. Both characters, because of their world and because of the weight of history, know only too well the cost of possession, of privatization. Both enter into service to try and heal the planet and bring water and hope and life back to a world that is on the brink. At the same time, they find themselves drawn to one another, and yet mindful that how humans treat the world, and how they treat each other, is linked, and that treating people like possessions, just like treating the Earth like a possession, leads only to corruption, deprivation, and loss. The story, through the exploration of these characters lives and relationships, begins to build a picture of what it might take to make the world work better. It stresses that it’s not technology alone that will save us, because without a philosophy to match, the exploitation and consumption will continue to escalate, pushing past all obstacles and barriers and safeguards. I love how the story implies that humanity needs a different framework in order to respect humans and the environment, in order to put cooperation and compassion ahead of personal ambition or passion. And it is a beautiful story that touches on how love still works in this philosophy, not quite in the same way that we now expect but still in profound and powerful dimensions that allow Amir and Mani’s story to be one of hope and healing and triumph, even as it is often about longing and distance as well. It is an amazing piece, and one of my very favorite stories of the year, period.

(17) WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE. At Centauri Dreams, an interesting piece on whether robotics might make the traditional SF vision of asteroid mining practical — “Robotic Asteroid Mining: Bootstrapping the Solar System Economy”.

While the prospects for humans in space dimmed somewhat, a renewed flowering of developments in AI and robotics burst onto the scene with capabilities that astonished us each year.  On the endlessly orbiting ISS, while astronauts entertained us with tricks that we have seen since the dawn of spaceflight, autonomous robots improved by leaps and bounds.  Within a decade of a DARPA road challenge, driverless cars that could best most human drivers for safety appeared on the roads.  Dextrous robots replaced humans in factories in a wide variety of industries and threaten to dramatically displace human workers. DeepMind’s AlphaGo AI beat the world’s champion GO player with moves described as “beautiful” and well within the predicted time frames.  In space, robotic craft have visited every planet in the solar system and smart rovers are crawling over the face of Mars.  A private robot may soon be on the Moon.  In orbit, swarms of small satellites, packing more compute power than a 1990 vintage Cray supercomputer, are monitoring the Earth with imaging technologies that equal those of some large government satellites. On Earth we have seen the birth of additive manufacturing, AKA 3D printing, promising to put individual crafting of objects in the hands of everyone.

What this portends is an intelligent, machine-based economy in space.  Machines able to operate where humans cannot easily go, are ideally suited to operating there.  Increasingly lightweight and capable, and heedless of life support systems, robotic missions are much cheaper..  How long before the balance tips overwhelmingly in the machines’ favor? Operating autonomously, advanced machines might rapidly transform the solar system.

(18) FASHION VIOLATIONS. Kelly Woo’s Yahoo! piece, “Halloween horror: 19 terrible ‘sexy’ movie and TV costumes no one should ever wear”, is clickbait that warns that women who want to dress up as Sexy Freddy Kruger, Sexy Strawberry Shortcake, and Sexy Remote Control, don’t do it!

So-called sexy Halloween costumes have gotten out of control in the last few years, with manufacturers doing their best to crank out a “sexy” version of pretty much anything. Even characters that have no business being sexy are now tarted up — and it’s time for the madness to end. Click through to see 19 terrible “sexy” pop culture costumes that simply should not exist.

(19) KEEPS ON TICKING. Lisa Taylor is enthusiastic about The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones — review at The Speculative Herald.

I’ll cut straight to it: The Salt Line is one of my favorites for the year. The entire concept of killer ticks sounds like it could be campy or over the top. That is not at all the case. The ticks are described in such a realistic and terrifying way that it truly becomes plausible. Or at least feels plausible. The author is able to use enough facts grounded in science to create this terrifying epidemic. This book did remind me a bit of Joe Hill’s The Fireman in that way. It depicts a world that has been ravaged by some disease, where people’s ways of life are altered because of them. I suppose there are a number of books that could fit this, but the over all tone and presentation and just the quality of writing put me in mind of Hill. That is a huge compliment from me as Hill is one of my favorite, must read authors.

(20) IT IS THE END, MY FRIEND. Talk about “news to me” – I never heard there was another ending: “Frank Oz restores dark original ending of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ for Trump era”.

The first time Warner Bros. screened Little Shop of HorrorsFrank Oz’s 1986 film musical, test audiences ate it up like a bloodthirsty plant devouring a sadistic dentist. They rooted hard for Seymour (Rick Moranis), the nerdy 1960s shop assistant who makes a devil’s bargain with a man-eating plant to win the love of his co-worker Audrey (Ellen Greene). Every scene met with laughter and applause — until the plant devoured Seymour and Audrey, and the audience went silent. After two previews and many livid comment cards, Oz and screenwriter Howard Ashman decided to scrap the original, 23-minute ending — in which the plant eats everyone and takes over the world — in favor of giving Seymour and Audrey their happily-ever-after. Oz has no regrets. “My job is to entertain,” he tells Yahoo Entertainment, and the new ending was “more satisfying to the audience.” However, film fans have long mourned the disappearance of the original ending, which included a heartbreaking reprise of Audrey’s ballad “Somewhere That’s Green” and a fantastic montage of the plant, named Audrey II, rampaging, Godzilla-style, across New York City.

This month, Little Shop of Horrors will be screened for the first time nationwide with its original, darker ending restored. Oz wonders if the film will have a new resonance in the Trump era, when America’s real-life monsters thrive on blood, greed, and the misguided good intentions of countless Seymours….

(21) THE KINDEST CUT OF ALL. Vanity Fair interviews the principals to find out “How The Princess Bride Built Film’s Most Beloved Sword Fight”.

For six months, Princess Bride star Mandy Patinkin had trained to become Inigo Montoya, the world’s greatest swordsman. His worthy opponent, the Man in Black/Westley—played by Cary Elwes—had four months of prep under his belt as well. Spirits were high as the actors performed their duel for director Rob Reiner on the Cliffs of Insanity set for the first time, in London in 1986.

Elwes and Patinkin finished, drawing applause from the film’s crew. Then, both drenched in sweat, they looked to Reiner, who voiced his own response: “That’s it?” It wasn’t exactly the reaction they had hoped for.

(22) THE PEN IS MIGHTIER. Marked down to $6,862.50! “Montegrappa Limited The Iron Throne Game Of Thrones Limited Edition Fountain Pen & Rollerball Set Matching Number”.

But if you can’t swing that, there’s always “Montegrappa Limited DC Comics Superhero Set Ballpoint” for  $3,920.00.

(23) SPACE JOCKEY. Jockey statues have mostly gone out of fashion – unless it’s one created by H.R. Giger. You’ve got less than a week to put in your bid at Nate Sanders Auctions: “H.R. Giger Hand-Painted Model of Space Jockey & the Derelict Spaceship From ”Alien” — Measures Over 3 Feet by 3 Feet, Personally Owned by 20th Century Fox Executive Peter Beale”. Minimum bid: $100,000.

The enormous Space Jockey and cavernous spaceship are quintessential Giger, renowned for human-machine melded beings called biomechanoids; the walls of the spaceship appear to be either vertebrae from a once living creature, or cogs in a vast industrial machine system, or perhaps both. Space Jockey is fused into his command station and wears either a mask, or has an elephantine trunk extending from his face. In the ”Alien” set — which was built based on this model — Space Jockey sits 26 feet tall, dwarfing the characters of Kane, Dallas and Lambert who find him dead, his rib cage blasted open, serving as foreshadowing to what awaits the crew later in the film. So pivotal was the scene — establishing the world of the Alien creature and serving as ground zero for the film’s mythology — that Ridley Scott insisted upon its construction, despite the enormous cost of building the life-size (or larger than life) set. Space Jockey so enthralled the audience of ”Alien”, that the character would even go on to serve as a critical and central story point in Scott’s ”Promethus”, the ”Alien” origin story released in 2012.

(24) HORROR MUST ADVERTISE. Adweek has the story behind a series of seasonal candy commercials: “The Makers of the ‘Bite Size Horror’ Ads Tell Us All About Their Wonderfully Spooky Creations”

Halloween advertising has been a treat this year, thanks to Fox and Mars candy brands, which teamed up for a wonderfully creepy series of two-minute “Bite Size Horror” films that have been airing on Fox TV networks.

The series has included four films— “Floor 9.5” for Skittles, “The Road” for M&Ms, “The Replacement” for Starburst, and “Live Bait” for Snickers. (The campaign was created by Fox Networks Group’s integrated agency All City. Tony Sella from All City is the executive producer of the campaign, and Arby Pedrossian from Fox Digital Studio is the producer.)

 

[Thanks to Bruce Arthurs, John King Tarpinian, Lenore Jean Jones, Michael Brian Bentley, JJ, Alan Baumler, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Soon Lee, and Mark Hepworth for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 10/14/17 We Can Pixel It For You Scrollsale

(1) FIRES SHUTTER FAMOUS MONSTERS CON. The Famous Monsters Halloween Convention scheduled for October 25-27 in San Jose has been officially cancelled due to Northern California wildfires.  Senior Manager Philip Kim wrote on the convention website:

On Sunday evening, October 8th, 2017, a historically violent wind blew through the Bay Area. This extreme wind proliferated what is now one of California history’s most dangerous cluster of wildfires, still raging in Sonoma County and claiming more homes and lives by the day. We are told this may be days to weeks before total containment, as the heavy winds are predicted to return this weekend, adding to an already horrific situation. Though containment efforts are underway, it is catastrophic here with no sign of slowing down. This, by legal or any other definition, is an act of God.

Though the show is in San Jose, the majority of our staff live and work in Sonoma County. My family and I have been evacuated from our home since Tuesday and have no idea when we will be allowed back or if we will have a home to go back to. We are currently shut down to guarantee the safety of our staff. I made great efforts to see if we could turn the show into a fundraiser, but there were a few key obstacles that would not allow us to achieve this. This may have been my greatest sadness.

My team and I are grateful to everyone who trusted us and believed in our show. It has been one of the hardest decisions of my Famous Monsters career, but we are officially canceling Famous Monsters Halloween 2017.

(2) IN EMERGENCY, DIAL 9-3/4. A BBC story called “Hogwarts Express Rescues Family Stranded in Highlands” says a family stuck in a remote part of Scotland was saved when the Hogwarts Express, a steam train that makes daily runs in the western part of Scotland, made an emergency stop to pick them up.

Jon and Helen Cluett and their four young children were staying at a remote bothy in Lochaber when their canoe was swept away by a swollen river.

Facing a long walk back to their car across boggy land, they phoned the police for advice.

To their delight, they arranged for the steam train used in the Harry Potter films to pick them up.

The train, called The Jacobite, is used for excursions on the West Highland Railway Line, crossing the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct that also features in the movies.

(3) DOES 2049 STINK? James W.  Harris is not a fan — “Blade Runner 2049 – The Evil of Heartless Sequels”.

Without the voiceover, both films are just action flicks of heartless machines killing heartless machines. Why has Ridley Scott never understood the Romeo and Juliet beauty of having a love story between lovers from two opposing houses? In Blade Runner 2049 we are taken on a meaningless thrill ride where it’s impossible to tell human from replicant – and I really didn’t give a shit either. There are a few touching scenes in Blade Runner 2049, but they are so artificial as to cause existential angst. At times we feel for K, our replicant protagonist, but the scenes are so obviously manipulating us that it’s hard to genuinely care.

(4) YOUTUBE CLICKBAIT OF THE DAY. And for those of you who favor the flop thesis there’s –

(5) MORE HELSINKI WORLDCON RESOURCES. Jani Ylönen’s Worldcon 75 podcasts:

(6) OF WORLDCONS YET TO COME. JJ recommends the discussion on Reddit at NextWorldcon.

This subreddit is about the next Worldcon – and the ones after that one. You can talk about the ones that are confirmed and the ones that are still only bidding to become a Worldcon. To be completely hosnest, you can probably get away with talking about past Worldcons too, but the main focus here is the future.

This is also a good place to meet new people who are going to the next Worldcon and people who can offer good advice the host city for the next Worldcon or advice for people who has never been to Worldcon before.

(7) SFF ART HISTORY. Adam Roberts and Graham Sleight are working to fund publication of “Wonders and Visions: A Visual History of Science Fiction” through Unbound.

Our book tells the story of science fiction through its most iconic, beautiful, interesting and (sometimes) crass cover art: from the earliest days of publishing in the 19th-century, through the glory days of Pulp magazine covers and the Golden Age, into the endless visual experimentation of the New Wave and so to the post-Star Wars era, when a ‘visual logic’ comes to dominate not just science fiction but culture as a whole.

With over 350 full-colour images and more than 50,000 words of text this is more than simply an anthology of famous science fiction covers–it is an ambitious attempt to tell the whole history of the genre in a new way, and to make the case that science fiction art, from the sober future-visions of Chesley Bonestell, to the garish splendours of Hannes Bok, from the Magritte-like surrealism of Richard Powers, Frank Freas, Judith Clute, and Ed Emshwiller to the amazingly talented designers and artists of the 21st-century, exists as a vital and neglected mode of modern art as such.

… There will be three main types of entry. Firstly, there will be several hundred key covers: one or sometimes two images + plus 150-200 words of text, of the ten (or more) most iconic and recognisable covers from each decade of our history: from Wells and Verne to H Rider Haggard’s Barsoom and E E ‘Doc’ Smith’s Lensman, from Arthur C Clarke’s Childhood’s End and Asimov’s Foundation to Leigh Brackett and Joanna Russ’s Female Man, from Cyberpunk masterpieces by William Gibson and Pat Cadigan to dystopias by Octavia Butler and Cormac McCarthy, to twenty-first century SF.

Second there will be more extended visual comparative studies, one or two page spreads that compare multiple covers for the same book, to see the way different artists and publishers have approached the task of visualising some of the most famous novels in the history of the genre: The Day of the Triffids; Dune; Left Hand of Darkness and more, as well as surveys of the work of famous illustrators, or publishing houses.

Third there will be milestone entries: examples of groundbreaking or unusual covers, usually the first example of (among other things) a fine late 19th-century illustrated binding for a SF title; a garishly coloured SF magazine cover; a Golden Age fix-up paperback, a psychedelic 1960s New Wave title, a movie-tie-in; a graphic novel adaptation of a classic: Shelley’s Frankenstein as first SF novel; Auf Zwei Planeten as first Martian invasion; Time Machine as first time travel; Orphans of the Sky as the first Generation Starship novel; Leo and Diane Dillon’s illustrations for Ellison’s Dangerous Visions; early computer-generated SF art; and Metal Hurlant revolutionising the potential of SF comics.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 14, 1926 — A. A. Milne’s classic, Winnie-the-Pooh, was published.
  • October 14, 1947 — Charles Yeager, piloting a Bell X-1 jet, became the first person to break the sound barrier.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinain says today’s The Argyle Sweater demonstrates another failed attempt to find a use for overly large garden produce.
  • Nor does true romance run a smooth course at Bizarro.
  • And then there was this premonition in 1966….

(10) PUMPKIN VINE. Is the wine good? Otherwise $1,600 it’s a lot of money to spend for a cute label: 2013 Stacked Jack Cabernet Sauvignon Etched 6L

This bottle is even more unique, as it features etched custom artwork. We affectionately refer to the label as “Stacked Jack,” was created by award-winning children’s book illustrator John Manders. Third generation family member and General Manager Nat Komes discovered John’s art while reading to his kids at the St. Helena library. Inspiration comes from many places!

(11) MUSIC OF THE FEARS. Remember that day Art Garfunkel went shopping with George Lucas? Their lovechild is on sale at BrainyTee.

(12) LOCKDOWN. The New York Times story “Twitter Users Split on Boycott Over Platform’s Move Against Rose McGowan” cited Brianna Wu:

Plenty of those participating in the protest came from outside the celebrity ranks.

“I love this platform, but it’s time to do better. See you all in 24 hours,” wrote Brianna Wu, a congressional candidate in Massachusetts

(13) MR. SCI-FI. Star Trek writer Marc Scott Zicree, Mr. Sci-Fi, spends a few minutes considering which is better, Star Trek: Discovery or The Orville. What do you think?

(14) EXHALE. The BBC reports how “NASA carbon space observatory ‘watches Earth breathe”.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) tracked the behaviour of the gas in 2015/2016 – a period when the planet experienced a major El Niño event.

This climate phenomenon boosts the amount of CO2 in the air.

The US space agency’s OCO satellite was able to show how that increase was controlled by the response of tropical forests to heat and drought.

The forests’ ability to draw down carbon dioxide, some of it produced by human activity, was severely curtailed.

The science has significant implications because the kind of conditions associated with El Niños are expected to become much more common under global warming.

(15) BASED ON A SOMEWHAT TRUE STORY. NPR’s Mark Jenkins reports that “‘Professor Marston And The Wonder Women’ Is Strangely Subdued” — and loose with facts:

Sweet and rather silly, the movie is entertaining. It’s rarely persuasive, however, and generally seems like a missed opportunity.

Among the film’s most characteristically Hollywood traits is its rampant fictionalization. A complete accounting of the script’s liberties would require a dissertation, but it’s telling that Robinson has the Marstons meet Olive while she’s enrolled at Harvard/Radcliffe, where Bill is a professor and Elizabeth is a Ph.D candidate. In fact, Bill did get three degrees, and Elizabeth a master’s, from the university. But Bill didn’t teach, and Olive never studied, at Harvard or its sister school.

(16) PULLMAN PREVIEW. NPR delivers “First Read: Philip Pullman’s ‘The Book Of Dust'”.

Malcolm Polstead, the 11-year-old at the center of the story, sees a great deal of the secret life of Oxford from the perspective of the rivers and the canal in his canoe La Belle Sauvage. Here he witnesses something he’d never expected to see, and discovers something that will change his life.

— Philip Pullman

Malcolm let the canoe drift to a halt and then silently slipped in among the stiff stems and watched as a great crested grebe scrambled up onto the towpath, waddled ungracefully across, and then dropped into the little backwater on the other side.

(17) VIRTUAL CALORIES. BBC wants to show you “The city where the internet warms people’s homes”.

“The cloud” is a real place. The pictures you post on Instagram, the happy birthday wishes you leave on Facebook pages, and the TV shows you stream on Netflix aren’t living in a nebulous ball of condensation in the sky. They live on a massive series of servers – all connected together in rows and towers in giant warehouses.

Few people have ventured into these data centres. But in the Swedish capital Stockholm, I went inside these information labyrinths, and discovered that they’re not just housing data. All the heat they give off is helping to warm homes in the city of over 900,000 people. How does it work? And could it create a new business model for the tech industry worldwide?

(18) THE X IN MAISIE. Did you know Arya Stark is a mutant? In Marvel’s The New Mutants, in theaters April 13.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/6/17 Surely You’re Scrolling, Mr. Fileman

(1) ANOTHER MASTERPIECE OF CONRUNNING. Mothership says Akiba Town, held this weekend in Singapore and which markets itself as a “Japanese culture event bringing in official anime merchandise along with fan artists and guest cosplayers” — was a mess: “S’pore-organised cosplay event riddled with multiple problems, slammed by cosplay community”. It changed venues a week before the event, allowed stolen artwork to be sold as official merchandise, oversold vendor space, and the list goes on….

(2) A STELLAR GATHERING IN SCANDINAVIA. Sff authors and editors outside The English Bookshop, Uppsala, Sweden:

Front: Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Amal el-Mohtar, Likhain, Ann Leckie, Jo Walton, Fran Wilde, Vivian Shaw, Arkady Martine (Dr. AnnaLinden Weller), Patrick Nielsen Hayden.

Back: Amanda Downum, Max Gladstone, Ada Palmer, Elizabeth Bear, Scott Lynch.

(3) CANADA’S BIRTHDAY PARTY BUGS SOME PEOPLE. It’s one thing to have bats in your belfry – quite another to have a giant spider: “Ottawa archbishop surprised by negative reaction to robotic spider on cathedral”.

The spider, named Kumo, is one of two giant robots created by a street theater company of artists, technicians and performers based in Nantes, France. The company, La Machine, was in Ottawa July 27-30 as part of celebrations marking Canada’s 150th birthday.

The spectacle of robots, music and other special effects drew tens of thousands to Ottawa’s downtown.

The show opened July 27 in the evening, with Kumo “waking up” to organ music from inside the cathedral. As the spider, suspended from cranes, climbed off its perch between the towers, “snow” fell from above as part of the event’s special effects.

“I don’t understand how allowing a mechanical spider to stand on the cathedral is anything but disturbing, disappointing and even shameful,” wrote Diane Bartlett on the archbishop’s Facebook wall.

…Archbishop Terrence Prendergast said he was surprised by the negative reaction to an artistic initiative after critics called the spider’s placement “sacrilegious,” “demonic,” and “disrespectful” of a sacred space.

“My cathedral staff and I anticipated that some … might object, but thought it would be minimal, as nothing demeaning was intended in the spider being near the church,” said the archbishop in an email interview with Canadian Catholic News.

“I regret that we had not sufficiently understood that others would see this event so differently. I say to those who were shocked that I understand that this would have been upsetting for them and that I regret that a well-intentioned effort to cooperate in a celebration was anything but that for them.”

(4) MY NAME IS…JACK. A nine-year-old “guardian of the galaxy” has applied to NASA for the Planetary Protection Officer job which was discussed here the other day.

(5) SUMMERTIME. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler says a Fritz Leiber story is the saving grace in a stinker issue of IF — “[August 6, 1962] Bookkends (September 1962 IF Worlds of Science Fiction)”.

So in this languorous time, about the only consistent pasttime I can enjoy, aside from my records, is the ever-growing pile of stf (scientifiction, natch) magazines.  One of the ones I look forward to is IF, which, if it is not always stellar, usually has a few items of interest.  This month, the September 1962 issue has a lot of lousy stories, and editor Pohl cunningly placed the best one in front so as to dull the impact of the sub-par stuff that follows.  But the last tale is a fine reprise of the first, quality-wise.  See if you agree:

A famous author and actor, Leiber’s works often approach sublimity.  This is one of them, combining both beautiful prose and cutting edge science fiction….

(6) A TO Z. When yesterday’s Scroll said a website had picked an sf author for every letter of the alphabet – all male — Karl-Johan Norén immediately set about balancing the books with his own alphabetical list of 26 influential sf authors – all women:

A Eleanor Arnason

B Leigh Brackett

C C. J. Cherryh

D Pamela Dean

E Carol Emshwiller

F C.S. Friedman

G Mary Gentle

H Nalo Hopkinson

I Jean Ingelow

J Shirley Jackson

K Katharine Kerr

L Megan Lindholm

M Judith Merrill

N Andre Norton

O Octavia Butler

P Meredith Ann Pierce

Q Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

R Joanna Russ

S Mary Shelley

T James Tiptree, jr.

U Ursula K Le Guin

V Joan Vinge

W Kate Wilhelm

X Xia Jia

Y Jane Yolen

Z Marion Zimmer Bradley

(7) DISABLED HAVE GRIEVANCE WITH A LONDON COMICON. The Guardian reports “Young adult literature convention under fire over disabled facilities”.

Authors who appeared at the YALC young adult literature convention over the weekend, including Alex Wheatle and Joanne Harris, have spoken out about what they feel was a lack of disabled facilities at the event. Their complaints centre on the sequestering of one of two disabled toilets for the use of celebrities attending the associated Comicon festival on a lower floor.

Organisers of the event, tied to the London Film and Comic Convention (Comicon) at Olympia in London, were accused by one visitor of “ablism” after wheelchair users ended up squeezing into busy lifts and negotiating crowds to reach accessible toilets on the Comicon floor.

Actor and playwright Athena Stevens, who has cerebral palsy, described organiser Showmasters’ decision to rope off one of the facilities for famous figures attending Comicon – including Benedict Cumberbatch – as “ablist”….

Disabled charity Scope said that defining “reasonable” provision of toilet facilities was a grey area under the Disability Discrimination Act, but it did seem that Showmasters had shown a disregard for their disabled attendees over access to them.

Showmasters, however, denied claims that accessible facilities were unavailable on the same floor as the literary festival, which attracted 40,000 visitors, but acknowledged problems on Saturday. “There were two disabled toilets on that floor, and one was behind the green room wall,” he said. Overcrowding at lunchtime on Saturday had meant that wheelchair users were forced to use facilities on another floor, a spokesman conceded, but not for the whole weekend. Showrunners will consult disabled people to ensure there was no repetition of the problem, he added.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 6, 1996 A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin is released.
  • August 6, 2003 — Asteroids renamed to honor final Shuttle Columbia crew

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born August 6, 1934 — Piers Anthony
  • Born August 6, 1970 – Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan

(10) OH, SWEET SUMMER CHILD. Where’s the prestige in writing cheap books? The Guardian listens as “Philip Pullman leads writers condemning ‘pernicious’ book discounts”.

With more than two months to go before Philip Pullman’s long-awaited new novel from the world of His Dark Materials is published, pre-orders have sent La Belle Sauvage flying up bestseller lists. But with booksellers already slashing the cover price in half, the award-winning author has spoken out about how cheap books devalue the experience of reading, and called for an end to the “pernicious” doctrine of “market fundamentalism” if literary culture is to survive.

Pullman is president of the Society of Authors, which is launching a campaign for publishers to stop damaging authors’ earnings by discounting bulk sales to book clubs and supermarkets, and has slammed the cut-price culture in his trade.

“I don’t like it when I see my books sold cheaply,” Pullman said. “But I’d like to think I’m speaking on behalf of all authors who are caught in this trap. It’s easy to think that readers gain a great deal by being able to buy books cheaply. But if a price is unrealistically cheap, it can damage the author’s reputation (or brand, as we say now), and lead to the impression that books are a cheap commodity and reading is an experience that’s not worth very much.”

(11) A MISS IS AS GOOD AS A MILE. “That’s one small step for Tallinn…”: driverless bus service gets through first three days with “no major incidents”: “‘No major incidents’ as driverless buses launch in Estonia”

A pair of vehicles are operating on a route through the city as part of the Baltic state’s presidency of the European Union, and have so far managed not to collide with any other road users, national broadcaster ERR reports.

But there have been a number of near misses since the launch on Saturday, ERR says. An eyewitness reports that one of the buses failed to give way to a police car with its lights flashing on Monday; while an ERR photographer saw a bus ignore a red light at a pedestrian crossing, ploughing on regardless of the “surprise” it had provoked.

Despite no-one driving, local traffic law means that there still has to be a responsible person on board, meaning that all passengers are greeted by a host. They’ve been tasked with explaining the technology to passengers new to the world of autonomous vehicles, ERR says.

(12) AVOID BEING A STARVING ARTIST. Brad R. Torgersen’s seven items of writing advice in “Random crumbly bits of author stuff” end with —

7) So don’t quit your damned day job. Seriously. Do. Not. Quit. Your. Day. Job. It sucks trying to write full-time and work full-time. It sucks more not paying bills and being forced out of your house or your apartment. It sucks even more depending on the good will of your relatives, or your church, or government programs. If I had $10 for every embarrassed pauper author who proudly proclaimed, “I am a full-time writer, so fuck you,” and then (s)he went back to begging for lunch money, I wouldn’t have to work anymore. Starving artistry is not a holy calling. Really, it’s not. I know I am gonna get burned at the stake for saying it. But seriously, do not check out of the “mundane” work force. Not unless you’ve got a metric ton of dough in the bank, or you’ve got a spouse who eagerly volunteers to carry the mundane load — while you labor at the desk in the attic. But if you’ve got responsibilities to meet, and mouths to feed, please, meet them and feed them. As Steven Barnes said at Norwescon ’07, suffering for your art may be noble, but making your family suffer for your art, just means you’re an asshole.

(13) INHUMANS. In this“Marvel’s Inhumans” clip, Maximus and Medusa face off.

(14) YOUTUBE ARCHEOLOGY. Today I discovered there’s a whole subgenre of YouTube videos which take the musical intros to famous TV series and swap in visuals from Star Trek. I admire the effort, although they’re rarely funny. I found this one from 2008 to be somewhat amusing — it starts with the advantage that the original A-Team intro included a lot of self-referential humor.

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman. John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 6/30/17 There’s A Million Ways To Scroll, Ev’ry One’s A Pixel

(1) AND ALL THAT ROT. Omnivorcious interviews “Mira Grant” and M.R. Carey in “The Scientific Case for Zombies”.

It turns out the idea of living dead—depending how you define both “living” and “dead”—may not be as far-fetched as it might seem. Some science fiction writers have found inspiration—and trepidation—in real-life parasites. We talked to two of them, Mira Grant and M.R. Carey, about their newest books and the concept of scientific zombies.

…Carey searched for a pathogen that met his criteria for the cause of the hungry epidemic, and realized that Cordyceps fit perfectly. It was also a unique choice. “At the time nobody had ever used a fungus as the vector for a zombie plague,” he says, though the creators of a console game called The Last of Us came up with the same idea independently, around the same time.

… Besides reading, Grant also “spent a lot of time on the phone with the CDC, which was an incredible amount of fun.” Grant savored the information she gleaned that way, but her friends “had to make new rules about what I was allowed to discuss over food,” so they didn’t lose their appetites.

(2) MITHER TONGUE. I don’t suppose the Scots laugh when they read this, do they, but my God… “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone finally arrives in Scots translation”.

Though still working on the translation, Fitt and his publisher released the opening paragraph, which reads: “Mr and Mrs Dursley, o nummer fower, Privet Loan, were prood tae say that they were gey normal, thank ye awfie muckle. They were the lest fowk ye wid jalouse wid be taigled up wi onythin unco or ferlie, because they jist widnae hae onythin tae dae wi joukery packery like yon.”

In his first adventure, Harry leaves the cruel Dursley family to attend Hogwarts wizarding school, which has long been understood to be based somewhere in the Scottish Highlands, where Scots speakers exist in their highest numbers.

(3) WU CAMPAIGN. Candidate for Congress Brianna Wu’s fundraising email says Our national tech policy is failing:

Something has to change. Our elections are being targeted by Russia, our shipping system was hijacked this week and congress continues to try to spy on you with your smartphone.  It doesn’t have to be this way. I have a plan

Just 15 people in the US House determine our nation’s tech policy on the Science and Technology Subcommittee.

Meaning just 8 votes control our policy on privacy, encryption, and net neutrality. The giant telecoms have a voice. Shouldn’t you?

Please contribute, so we can get Brianna Wu elected to US Congress in 2018, representing Massachusetts District 8!  Help fight for a braver, bolder Democratic party!

(4) DECLINE AND FALL OF THE GALACTIC EMPIRE. Will they succeed where others have failed? “Skydance Trying Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ As TV Series; David Goyer, Josh Friedman To Adapt”.

Isaac Asimov science fiction trilogy Foundation heavily informed Star Wars and many other sci-fi films and TV series, but for decades it has confounded Hollywood attempts at a straight adaptation. I’m hearing that Skydance, David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman are going to try to crack it. Skydance Television is closing a deal with the Asimov estate to try turning Foundation into a sprawling TV series.

… The biggest creative quandary, I’ve heard from those who tried to adapt Foundation, is that so many of Asimov’s themes found their way into George Lucas’s Star Wars that the challenge is to not appear to be ripping off one of Hollywood’s most successful film franchises, even though Asimov wrote his books 75 years ago. Considering that Lucasfilm continues to borrow from that mythology with myriad Star Wars sequels and spinoff films, perhaps a TV series is the best bet.

(5) QUALIFYING MARKET. Joe Stech, publisher/editor of Compelling Science Fiction, is delighted to report —

Compelling Science Fiction is now one of the few magazines worldwide that is considered a professional “Qualifying Market” by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America: Short fiction Qualifying Markets

SFWA is a wonderful organization that supports authors in a huge number of ways (our own publishing contract is adapted from SFWA’s model magazine contract). SFWA also hosts the annual Nebula Awards. While we have always paid professional rates, this recognition means that our published authors will find it much easier to use their publication in our magazine to meet SFWA membership requirements, because we have already been vetted.

(6) NOT JUST FOR COMPULSIVE READERS: Jason’s Featured Futures is back with another selection of stories (with links and comments) in the “Summation of Online Fiction June 2017”.

The twelve prozines of June produced thirty-eight stories and I read thirty-five of them at about 165K words. (Tor.com should have posted a fourth story on the 28th but didn’t. If it comes out today or tomorrow, I’ll update this post accordingly.) The random flukes of this month were a large number of honorable mentions (with not so many recommendations) which were mostly SF, half of which came from almost the entire issue of Compelling Science Fiction. Given that, I’ll basically do a mini-review of the whole issue after the lists.

(7) DEATH FROM ABOVE. Scientists have found what appears to be a 250-kilometer-wide crater near the Falkland Islands. Is it ground zero for Earth’s largest-ever extinction event? “Did a Planetary Society citizen scientist help find one of Earth’s biggest impact craters?”

About 66 million years ago, a 10-kilometer-wide hunk of rock smashed into Earth near what is now Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.

The impact created a global dust cloud that snuffed out the sunlight, leading to the demise of 80 percent of Earth’s plants and animals—including most of the dinosaurs. A 200-kilometer-wide crater buried near the city of Chicxulub is all that’s left. It’s ground zero for one of the world’s most notable extinction events.

But throughout Earth’s history, there have actually been five major extinction events. The largest of these occurred about 250 million years ago, when a whopping 96 percent of life on Earth died. Scientists aren’t sure what caused the event, known as “the Great Dying.” If it was a Chicxulub-sized impact; no one has ever found the crater.

Until possibly now.

A trio of scientists—one of whom is funded by The Planetary Society—thinks they may have found it. Off the coast of South America, near the Falkland Islands, there appears to be a 250-kilometer-wide crater buried under ocean sediment. An upcoming paper in the August edition of the peer-reviewed journal Terra Nova suggests it was formed by a massive asteroid or comet bigger than the one that hit Chicxulub.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Asteroid Day

A global awareness event where people from around the world come together to learn about what we can do to protect Earth from an asteroid impact. Did you know that, as you’re reading this, there are likely one million near-Earth asteroids large enough to do severe damage if they hit Earth? We don’t have to go the way of the dinosaurs. Learn more about what we can do to reduce the threat:

 

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 30, 1971Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was released.
  • June 30, 1972 — The fourth film in the series — Conquest of the Planet of the Apes — premiered theatrically.

(10) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian calls your attention to Bizarro for June 30.

(11) DISNEYLAND. When the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland is updated the bride auction scene will be going away. However, the iconic redhead will still be around – as a pirate helping to rob the townspeople. According to the Orange County Register:

The pirates will no longer be saying “We wants the Redhead” in Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland after the auction scene undergoes a modification in 2018.

The Walt Disney Company plans to make changes to the auction scene in the classic attraction at Disneyland, Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris in the coming year, according to Suzi Brown, spokeswoman for the Disneyland Resort.

While the scene has long been a favorite of many Disney fans, it has occasionally been the brunt of criticism for what some believed to be a “sexist” approach to women. Years ago, the scene that comes after the auction scene, which used to have pirates chasing women, was changed to pirates chasing women for food, and one where a woman was chasing a pirate.

When asked about the sexism Brown said, in a statement, “We believe the time is right to turn the page to a new story in this scene, consistent with the humorous, adventurous spirit of the attraction.”

In the auction scene, the Redhead will become a pirate, helping the Auctioneer gather valuables from the townspeople to auction off to the pirates.

The first version of the attraction to receive the new scene will be at Disneyland Paris next month, with the two domestic parks receiving it within the next year or so.

There was nothing amusing or cute about what real-life pirates did when they sacked a town, so in the midst of a musical horror fantasy about such an event it’s interesting where they think they need to redraw the line in 2017 to keep people from being reminded of that.

(12) URB APPEAL. Andrew Porter noticed you can now buy a condo in Detroit where the 1959 Worldcon (Detention) was held. If that idea appeals to you.

When the Fort Shelby became a Doubletree Hotel in 2008 on the first ten floors, the developers used tax credits to turn the 56 units above into apartments. Now that the time has passed for the credits, the apartments can be turned into condos, and a few of them have already listed.

They start at $280,000 for a one-bedroom and go up to $570,000 for a three-bedroom on a higher level. Six penthouses will also be available on the 21st floor, and those will run from $350,000 to $815,000.

According to the Loft Warehouse, the listing firm, four are ready now and another 19 are in the pipeline for the year as apartment leases run out.

(13) FRED AND WILMA SELL THEIR HOUSE. After dropping a million from the asking price, “‘Flintstones’-style house in California sells for $2.8M”.

A California house designed to resemble a home from the Flintstones cartoon sold for nearly $3 million after multiple price drops.

Judy Meuschke of Alain Pinel Realtors said the unique property sold for $2.8 million in May after arriving on the market for a price of $4.2 million in 2015.

The property features a rounded, stone-like exterior with grey and orange walls, closely resembling the cavelike homes in the Flinstones’ home of Bedrock City.

 

(14) ONE MILLION BC. More information about the forthcoming Marvel Legacy.

It all starts with MARVEL LEGACY #1.

Journey to the dawn of time, as Marvel introduces you to the first Avengers from 1,000,000 BC – when iconic torch-bearers such as Odin, Iron Fist, Starbrand, Ghost Rider, Phoenix, Agamotto, and Black Panther come together for the startling origin of the Marvel Universe, in MARVEL LEGACY #1 on sale this September in comic shops everywhere!

MARVEL LEGACY #1 isn’t simply a history lesson,” says SVP and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort. “Rather, it’s the starting gun to a bevy of mysteries, secrets, and revelations that will reverberate across the Marvel Universe in the weeks and months to come! No character, no franchise will be untouched by the game-changing events that play out across its pages. Jason and Esad pulled out all the stops to fat-pack this colossal issue with as much intrigue, action, surprise, mystery, shock, and adventure as possible!”

(15) PULLMAN’S MATERIALS. Entertainment Weekly interviews the author: “Golden Compass’ Philip Pullman on returning to His Dark Materials”.

Golden Compass author Philip Pullman surprised millions of fans late last year when he announced that he would be returning to the world of the immensely popular His Dark Materials trilogy.

His three new books — the first set 10 years before the original trilogy and the next two coming after the events in those books — will once again transport readers to Lyra’s Oxford. The first volume in the companion Book of Dust trilogy is La Belle Sauvage (for which you can exclusively see the cover below), which centers on Malcolm Polstead and is in fact named for his canoe, which will become a central part of the story. But fans needn’t worry, as not only will Lord Asriel (and his daemon Stelmaria) definitely make an appearance in the book along with baby Lyra Belacqua (the main protagonist of the best-selling books), but careful readers of the previous books may remember that Malcolm himself had had a brief appearance in them….

This new trilogy has an interesting timeline. What inspired you to make the first book in this companion trilogy more of a prequel to the original trilogy, as opposed to a sequel like the two proceeding books?

The story I found myself telling had a beginning that closely involved Lyra, but it happened when she was about six months old. Then came an interval, during which some of the consequences of the first part were worked out in the story of His Dark Materials, when she was about 11 or 12. But other things were still lying in the ground, waiting to germinate. About 10 years after the events in His Dark Materials, the first shoots of those other things begin to emerge from the ground. But because they’re not really a consequence of His Dark Materials, I don’t want to call them a sequel; and because I don’t like the word “prequel,” I didn’t want to call the first book by that word. So I call The Book of Dust an “equel.”

(16) RESERVATIONS MADE. There is no end in sight for superhero movies. SyFy has the story: “Fox schedules 6 more Marvel movies from 2019-2021”.

If you thought Fox was slowing down on movies based on Marvel Comics properties, the 2018 slate, featuring New Mutants on April 13, 2018, Deadpool 2 on June 1, 2018, and X-Men: Dark Phoenix on November 2, 2018, probably put that thought to bed. If even that plan didn’t show you their dedication to the franchise, well, this should: 20th Century Fox has reserved release dates for 2019, 2020, and spring 2021 marking six Marvel movie releases in just 21 months.

New Fox/Marvel movies will hit theaters on June 7, 2019, November 22, 2019, March 13, 2020, June 26 2020, October 2, 2020, and March 5, 2021. The production house has not indicated at all whether those will be X-Men or Fantastic Four films, the two properties they currently own film rights to from Marvel Entertainment. This is a common practice in the blockbuster release category nowadays;

(17) FLYING CLOUD. “This enormous Chinese blimp could replace satellites”. The link leads to a BBC video.

There’s a new type of airship called the Cloud, and it has a silver lining. (It’s also a giant, floating communications hub.) Finn Aberdein goes to watch a nerve-wracking flight with its maker KuangChi Science.

(18) THE WONDER WOMAN WHO MARRIED A MAN. It’s cosplay. In “The ultimate fantasy wedding: Wonder Woman weds Deadpool at Awesome Con”, the Washington Post’s Megan McDonough talks about how Megan Mattingly and Adam Merica got married at Awesome Con, and how her Wonder Woman gown was stitched together by three female cosplayers in 48 hours.

They decided right away that a full cosplay wedding, right down to the dress, would suit them best. By that point, Megan had accumulated a following in the cosplay community (she has more than 45,000 followers on Instagram) and founded the local group DC CosGeeks. She also didn’t want a repeat of her first wedding, which was much more conventional.

(19) LIFE CYCLES. Artis Lives on Vimeo is a fun cartoon promoting the Amsterdam Royal Zoo.

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

Pullman and the Grenfell Tower Fundraiser

Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials, offered to let readers bid for a chance to name one of the characters in his next book to benefit the victims of the recent Grenfell Tower disaster. A teacher is bidding for the name of one of his students, a resident of the tower who did not survive the fire — “Teacher’s bid to name Philip Pullman character after Grenfell Tower pupil gets £16,000 backing”.

Authors and well-wishers raising money for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire are augmenting a bid by a teacher to name a character in His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman’s new book after one of his former pupils, who lost her life.

Nur Huda, 16, died in the fire along with her parents Abdul Aziz and Fouzia, and her siblings Yasin, 21, and Mehdi, 8.

The teacher’s £1500 bid has been augmented by others’ donations, both small and large (one for £5000).

Many in the publishing industry are joining the Authors for Grenfell Tower online auction, offering items to help raise money for British Red Cross’s relief fund for Grenfell Tower residents and neighbors.

In addition to Pullman, sff donors include:

[Thanks to Nigel for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 6/21/17 Pay No Attention To That Scroll Behind The Pixel

Commence appertainment in 5..4…3…2…

(1) BOMBS AWAY. Contrasting Giles Coren’s first novel experience with his own career, Ben Jeapes explains “Why everyone should be a science fiction fan” at Milford SF Writers.

…Ten years later he felt brave enough to make a documentary about it. Links have changed since I first saw it, but search “Giles Coren my failed novel” and you’ll find it. It’s really quite touching as you see the penny begin to drop. He speaks to the reviewers who had slated it. He listens in on a book club tearing it apart. He takes the first chapters to a creative writing course workshop. He tries rereading it himself and finds it unbearable. (He can’t get through the Bad Sex Award-winning passage without breaking down into laughter.) He listenes in awe to the likes of David Mitchell and Jeffrey Archer as they describe their highly disciplined writing habits, and admits to the latter that he had basically been lazy.

And he comes to the conclusion that this was the first novel everyone has – the one that should be written and then spend the rest of eternity in a trunk in the attic. Only, because he was Giles Coren, his got sold for a £30k advance. You sense that even he feels the injustice of this. No one likes being done a favour.

But here’s the thing. Coren was born in 1969. He’s in his late 40s, but I can’t imagine his discoveries and revelations being news to anyone past their late 20s or even late teens. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve been spoiled by growing up in the science fiction community, where expertise and experience flow like milk and honey. I read Dave Langford’s columns in 8000 Plus. I went to Milford. I jostled with the large crowd trying to get through the narrow doorway of Interzone acceptance. I knew it took hard work. I knew that if you didn’t think this was your best yet then you didn’t send it in. How did anyone not know that?

Conclusion: everyone should be an sf fan….

(2) WHERE THE IDEAS COME FROM. The Red trilogy features in “The Big Idea: Linda Nagata” today at Whatever.

Next, it occurred to me that if I set the new book even closer to the present time, I might have a chance of pushing beyond the science fiction genre and making inroads into the military thriller market.

Hey, we can all dream.

The Red trilogy was written around a unit of US Army soldiers. Following that similar-but-different philosophy, I decided the new novel would involve a private military company, because that would allow for more freedom with the plot.

Even with the benefit of hindsight, this all still makes sense to me. But in selecting my protagonist, I embarked on a major gamble.

My version of brainstorming is to engage in swiftly typed stream-of-consciousness question-and-answer sessions. It’s the best way I know to develop ideas. I was brainstorming the possible identity of my main protagonist when I typed this:

Hey. Maybe she’s middle aged. (How to kill a novel in one bad move.)

Generally speaking, middle-aged women are not considered to be cool main characters of the sort that commonly inhabit techno-thrillers. So this was a perfect example of the creative and logical parts of my mind contending with one another. The logical part immediately recognized the risk, but the obstinate, defiant, creative part turned out to be in charge.

(3) A STATISTIC. Here’s Clarkesworld’s box score.

(4) OPIE TO DIRECT ‘HAN SOLO’? Let’s just drop his name here: “Ron Howard Top Choice To Take Over Han Solo Film?” Deadline has the story.

Deadline hears that Ron Howard has emerged as front-runner to replace Phil Lord & Christopher Miller on the untitled Han Solo Star Wars spinoff film. Disney dropped a shocker this afternoon with the announcement that the duo exited a picture that has been in production since February at London’s Pinewood Studios. This after an inability to recover from creative rifts with Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. The latter has been mentioned as possible to step in, but I’m putting my money on Howard.

(5) ‘BOTS! IT HAD TO BE ‘BOTS! I suspect this review is more entertaining than the movie. Nick Schager at The Daily Beast says “‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ Is Two-and-a-Half Hours of Racist Robot Torture”.

Those fans will be thrilled to hear that the latest entry in the canon du Bay-hem, Transformers: The Last Knight, more or less picks up right where its predecessor left off—by which I mean, in an orgiastic stew of detonations, jingoism, and sequences in which CGI vehicles make that weird wrink-wronk-wrank-wank noise as they turn into CGI titans. The only thing missing is Wahlberg unsubtly lusting after his offspring. Luckily, though, he’s still playing a character named Cade Yeager—a moniker that would make Keanu Reeves’ Point Break hero Johnny Utah stand up and slow-clap in appreciation—and this time around, he at least has an amusingly floppy new haircut. Oh, and there’s a three-headed Transformers dragon who’s amassed from ancient Autobots who used to hang out with a drunken Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table. If you were worried that Bay had lost his touch for sublimely absurd, wantonly steroidal toy cinema, you can lay your fears to rest.

(6) PALEO-HEDGEHOG. Live long enough and you see strange things happen, like 1991 becoming “the good old days” — “Sega Forever makes Genesis classics free on mobile”.

We have no shortage of shiny, life-like HD games these days, but if you’d like to revisit older titles from a bygone era, Sega has got your back. The video game company has just officially launched the first wave of the Sega Forever collection with five titles meant to begin “a retro revolution that will transport players back through two decades of console gaming.” Starting today, the 1991 version of Sonic the Hedgehog, fan-favorite RPG Phantasy Star II, classic arcade-style beat ’em up Comix Zone, platformer Kid Chameleon and Greek mythology-themed beat ’em up Altered Beast will be available on Google Play and iTunes as free ad-supported games. If you have an iPhone or an iPad, your games will even come accompanied by iMessage sticker packs.

(7) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. After reporting the other day that he was too shy to try, Wil Wheaton got to meet David Tennant after all.

(8) ALIEN TRIPPER. Mark Kaedrin ranks the finalists in another category — “Hugo Awards: Novelettes”. There’s an alien in first place, and another in last place.

So we come to the short fiction categories of this year’s Hugo Awards. This year, I start with the Novelettes, that odd category that fits stories that are longer than a short story but shorter than a novella. If the past several years are any indication, these stories actually tend to be my favorite of the short fiction finalists. Short stories have been almost uniformly a disaster for the past few years (partly the doing of the Puppies, but it was an issue for me even before then). Novellas somehow seem to be bloated and overlong while still missing the depth you get from a novel (with the notable exception of Bujold’s Penric novellas, which I love). Novelettes hit the Goldilocks zone, providing enough space for a complete narrative, but not so much that the story drowns in hooptedoodle. Does the trend continue this year? Let’s find out:

  1. Touring with the Alien by Carolyn Ives Gilman – Mysterious alien ships arrive one night without warning. Translators (comprised of formerly abducted humans) emerge and claim the aliens come in peace and don’t want anything. A woman is hired by the government to drive around a translator so that he can see the sights. It turns out that the aliens are intelligent but unconscious, which has some interesting implications. This story works well, with a good exploration of consciousness with the occasional detour into other areas. The ending has a twist that’s pretty easy to see coming (though it does elicit some questions as to the premise of this whole road trip – aren’t there, like, security clearances or something? Is the trip even necessary?), but it works. Lots of open questions, but at least we’re getting something that’s engaging with an interesting idea and trying to hit that sense of wonder that makes SF so great. Short and sweet, this is certainly not perfect, but it’s got some solid ideas and it works well enough…

(9) NOMINATED NOVELLA. Elan Samuel praises “The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe – Kij Johnson”  at Warbler Books.

A strange and delightful congruity connects The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe with the last Hugo-nominated book I reviewed, The Ballad of Black Tom. Both reach back toward Lovecraft, grab hearty handfuls of story, and mold it into works that manage the requisite respect for the author of such incredible tales while openly challenging his prejudices. You can refresh your memory about how Victor LaValle elegantly reframes Lovecraft into a tale of loss and revenge in last month’s review. We’re here today to talk about Kij Johnson’s brilliant, expansive, and enthralling The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe.

(10) INSIDE THE VOTING BOOTH. Ariela Housman of Geek Calligraphy gives readers the lowdown about how she’s voting in three categories on her Hugo ballot – including a thorough discussion of Best Fanartist, which is something you rarely see. Here’s part of her take on the Best Novel finalists.

Best Novel

Novels are my favorite thing to read and what I read the most of. I had already read a number of the nominees before nominations opened, much less after they closed.

  1.  A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers I adored The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, which was an utterly delightful reading experience. But it lacked the emotional punch that the sequel delivers here. I’m a sucker for “what does it mean to be a person?” books, and this one comes at it from both ends in a devastating way.
  2. Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee I will admit that I couldn’t finish this one, which I started before award season. I bounced off it in much the same way I bounced off Ancillary Justice my first time around. Serious culture shock, working too hard to absorb the world to be able to sit back and enjoy the story. Though I finished AJ on my first attempt, it took me until my third readthrough to just enjoy it. I suspect it will be the same here. As is, I recognize the technical accomplishment already.

(11) FB. After being away for a while Joe Vasicek put a set of fresh eyeballs on Facebook and here’s what he found:

First, the site is a mess. It’s like a weird cross between Goodreads and MySpace. I know there’s a lot of people who love Goodreads, but sorry, that site is almost impossible to navigate. Way too much clutter, with the option you’re looking for hidden in some tiny link that doesn’t actually look like a link. Unless you’re a frequent user, you constantly feel like you’re lost. That’s Facebook now. It’s very unfriendly for new users, which I know is like me and ten people living in Yurts in Mongolia, but still. In terms of user-friendliness, it’s going the way of MySpace.

Second, Facebook has become really slutty. Again, first impressions here. It’s really interesting when Facebook has nothing to base their algos off of. I assume from what I’m seeing that the recommendations default to its power users, which at a cursory glance are mostly chicks and dude bros. Also, some of the group recommendations I’m seeing are insanely over the top in terms of sheer raunchiness. Since when did Facebook turn into Potterville?

He’s also a critic of multiracial emojis.

But Joe, what’s the harm in an emoji that reflects your skin tone? Two things. First, social media divides us far more than it unites us. It walls us off into tribes, helping us build our own custom echo chambers full of people who only agree with us. It’s an incubator for much of the divisiveness in society right now. Second, there is a very real effort in the country today to divide us all by race.

(12) THE FRENCH HAVE AN EQUATION FOR IT. Of concern to Traveling Jiants everywhere: “Why suitcases rock and fall over”.

It’s a common experience when dashing for a train or plane while lugging a two-wheeled suitcase.

The bag rocks alarmingly from side-to-side and threatens to overturn.

Now, scientists have investigated this conundrum of everyday physics. Speeding up rather than slowing down can solve the problem, they say.

Alternatively, you can pivot the handle of the suitcase as close to the ground as possible.

French scientists studied a model suitcase on a treadmill to see what goes wrong when a suitcase rocks out of control at high speed. They developed equations to explain why two-wheeled trolleys have a tendency to rock from one wheel to the other.

(13) ON RELIGION. Annalee Newitz at Ars Technica reviews American Gods season 1: “American Gods may be the best show about religion on TV”

The first season of American Gods ends with an image that compacts the many themes of the series into one odd moment. It’s an aerial shot, slowly revealing a line of cars, buggies, and other vehicles crowding the tiny road to a neglected Wisconsin tourist trap called The House on the Rock. Without giving you any spoilers, I can say that this scene captures American Gods‘ perspective on religious faith in America.

And now, with a generous dose of spoilers, I will tell you what I mean by that….

(14) LOST LIGHT. The Wertzone is sarcastic about the need for a Watchmen TV series: “Damon Lindelof penning frankly unnecessary WATCHMEN adaptation for HBO”.

Scriptwriter Damon Lindelof will be helming the new project, as he continues to play Russian Roulette with his career. He charmed millions of fans with his TV series Lost, only to annoy them with a somewhat confused ending, and then really annoyed lots of people with his scripts for Star Trek (2009) and Prometheus (2012), which were both troubled. More recently, however, he has won plaudits for his work on HBO’s The Leftovers, which recently concluded a three-season run with a lot of critical acclaim and plaudits.

(15) NEW GAME OF THRONES TRAILER. Game of Thrones Season 7 premieres this July. “It may be the first day of summer, but #WinterisHere on 7.16.”

(16) PHILIP “TWO SHEDS” PULLMAN. House Beautiful reports “Author Philip Pullman’s old shed is Shed of the Year 2017 contender”.

This shed has an impressive literary history – it was once owned by renowned author Philip Pullman. He allegedly even wrote His Dark Materials trilogy within it. It was passed down to current owner Ted, who is an author himself. But this shed comes with one strict rule – it must be freely passed on to the next steward of creative endeavours.

(17) STRANGE MAN. There’s a common saying that “Inside every man, there’s X trying to get out.” How often does X = dragon? I Am Dragon (2017) Movie Trailer.

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 3/2/17 Doing The Trilogy Backwards

(1) RECURSIVE NEWS. The Large Hadron Collider gets a pixel tracker.

Officials said the replacement of a key component inside the CMS experiment represented the first major upgrade to the LHC – the world’s biggest machine.

Engineers have been carefully installing the new “pixel tracker” in CMS in a complex and delicate procedure on Thursday 100m underground….

More than 1,200 “dipole” magnets steer the beam around a 27km-long circular tunnel under the French-Swiss border. At certain points around the ring, the beams cross, allowing collisions to take place. Large experiments like CMS and Atlas then record the outcomes of these encounters, generating more than 10 million gigabytes of data every year.

The CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) pixel tracker is designed to disentangle and reconstruct the paths of particles emerging from the collision wreckage.

“It’s like substituting a 66 megapixel camera with a 124 megapixel camera,” Austin Ball, technical co-ordinator for the CMS experiment, told BBC News.

In simple terms, the pixel detector takes images of particles which are superimposed on top of one another, and then need to be separated.

(2) COLLECTING THE CURE. A bidder paid top dollar for a moldy piece of history.

The mold in question — which actually outpaced early expectations to be sold for a whopping $14,617, according to The Associated Press — is a capsule of the original Penicillium chrysogenum Alexander Fleming was working with when he discovered the antibiotic penicillin. Encased in a glass disc, inscribed with the words “the mould that first made Penicillin,” and signed by Fleming himself, the little sample comes from the collection of Fleming’s niece, Mary Anne Johnston.

(3) GOLD RUSS. James Davis Nicoll has the panelists reading “When It Changed” by Joanna Russ at Young People Read Old SFF.

With this story we enter the 1970s, the last decade in the Young People project . I knew which story I wanted to begin the decade with: Joanna Russ’ 1972 Nebula-winner “When It Changed”. Noted author and critic Russ’s story is a reply to such classics as Poul Anderson’s Virgin Planet, stories in which planets populated entirely by women are granted that most precious of treasures, a man and his unsolicited advice. Russ was not always entirely pleased by the status quo. Subtle hints of her displeasure can be detected in this classic first contact tale.

Of course, we live in a modern era of complete equality between the sexes. Who knows if this story can speak to younger people? Let’s find out!

Here’s one participant’s verdict –

….I’d still be willing to suggest that “When It Changed” is the most relevant of all the stories we’ve read so far in this project. I’m sure this is a very hard to believe statement, especially when you compare the story to some of the others we’ve read (i.e. dolphin-people and doomsday don’t-let-the-sun-set cultists), but I’m willing to say it and stand by it, for a few reasons….

(4) DEALING WITH IT. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s “Business Musings: Writing with Chronic Health Problems” deals with something I’m sure many writers are doing after seeing people’s comments here.

It wasn’t until I got a Fitbit on a lark that exercise became do-not-miss for me. Why? Because I can hit my 10,000 steps even when I’m sick. I shuffle around the house like the walking dead, determined to hit that magic number, because I’m anal, and because finishing my steps every day before midnight is something I can control.

The knee injury got in the way. I made my doctor give me a schedule and benchmarks so that I wouldn’t start up again too soon, but also so that I would start as soon as I could. He thought I was nuts, but he did it. And I followed it, even though I didn’t want to. (I wanted to hobble around the house to hit that magic 10,000 steps.) Even with an injured knee, I got 3,000-4,000 steps per day (using crutches), because I really can’t sit down for very long.

It drives me crazy.

So why am I telling you all of this? This is a writing blog, right?

Because dozens of you have asked me, both privately and in comments, how I write with a chronic health condition.

There really is a trick to the writing while chronically ill. But the trick is personal, and it’s tailored to each individual person.

So, more personal stories—and then tips.

(5) MoPOP. Nominations for next year’s inductees to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame are being taken from the public through April 16.

We’ve opened up our Hall of Fame nominations to the public so that you can choose the creations (e.g. a movie, video game, book, comic/graphic novel, superhero, etc.) and creators (e.g. director, actor, writer, animator, composer, etc.) that have most inspired you!

MoPOP also says the public will be able to vote for the selected finalists later this year, although it’s unclear what impact that vote will have. The website says —

Founded in 1996, the Hall of Fame was relocated from the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas to its permanent home at MoPOP in 2004. Nominations are accepted from the public and the final inductees are chosen by a committee of industry experts.

A public was invited to vote was taken on last year’s nominees, too, but as it says above, selected experts chose the inductees.

(6) NEBULA NOMINEE. Brooke Bolander, who calls this “sputtering,” writes a pretty good thank-you: “Nebula Finalist Frenzy, or: IT HAPPENED AGAIN WTF BBQ”.

Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies,” my thousand-word rage bark published in Uncanny Magazine, is a finalist for the Best Short Story Nebula. Again, to everyone who put it on their ballot: holy shit, thank you so goddamned much. I was helping clean up after a family funeral when I got the call, so to say that I needed that good news is a grave and frankly insulting understatement to the gift you all handed me. I didn’t expect to get on the ballot last year. I figured it was probably the last time I’d be within six city blocks of a ballot for a long, long time, if ever. Is being a finalist again so soon intimidating? You’d better fuckin’ believe it, buster. Is trying to figure out how I am going to follow this up absolutely bowel-twistingly terrifying, the fear that I’ll never write anything else worthwhile once again lurking at the edges of my internal narrative like a shadow beneath a 1 AM streetlamp? DING DING DING.

(7) SURVIVOR. Pat Cadigan is deeply reflective in this installment of “Still Making Cancer My Bitch”.

…At the same time, however, it’s a little spooky to think that, had my cancer followed its standard course––had I not gotten so extremely lucky––I wouldn’t be here now. And the two friends I lost were supposed to be living their lives as usual. John Lennon once pointed out that life is what happens while you’re making other plans. Truer words were never spoken.

A few days ago, I had started writing a post about survivor guilt. There have been a few posts I found very difficult and uncomfortable to write but this one was impossible. I have seldom written nonfiction; it’s really not my metier. I did write two nonfiction books in the late 1990s, one about the making of Lost In Space and another a year later about the making of The Mummy; they were assignments I lucked into and I think they turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. But I digress.

Survivor guilt is one of those things easier felt than explained––easier done than said, if you will. You can’t write about it without sounding like you’re fishing for comfort: Please forgive me for still being alive. You know people are going to tell you that you have nothing to feel guilty about. Except for the few whom you secretly suspect don’t forgive you.

Personally, I’ve always thought of survivor guilt as something suffered by people who have been through terrible catastrophes––natural disasters, mass transit crashes, explosions, wars. These people have been through extreme trauma and injury themselves. So claiming I have survivor guilt sounds self-aggrandising. The truth is, I’ve never been in pain and thanks to my family and my ongoing support system of friends far and wide, I’ve never felt alone or like I had no one to talk to.

What I’m feeling is more like survivor embarrassment. It’s like this: you find out you’re terminal, and you make a big deal out of it, because what the hell, it is a big deal, to you anyway. Then, holy guacamole! Things take a completely unexpected swerve and it turns out you’re not as terminal as they thought. You’re not exactly well, not in remission, but you’re stable and you’re not leaving any time soon unless someone drops a house on you. (And even then, it would probably depend on the house.)

(8) BEAR NECESSITIES. Worldcon 75 has received a 5000 € grant from Art Promotion Centre Finland. If you read Finnish, you can find out the details in the organization’s press release.

(9) ROCK SOLID EVIDENCE. “Oldest fossil ever found on Earth shows organisms thrived 4.2bn years ago”. The Telegraph has the story.

Oldest fossil ever found on Earth shows organisms thrived 4.2bn years ago

It’s life, but not as we know it. The oldest fossil ever discovered on Earth shows that organisms were thriving 4.2 billion years ago, hundreds of millions of years earlier than previously thought.

The microscopic bacteria, which were smaller than the width of a human hair, were found in rock formations in Quebec, Canada, but would have lived in hot vents in the 140F (60C) oceans which covered the early planet.

The discovery is the strongest evidence yet that similar organisms could also have evolved on Mars, which at the time still had oceans and an atmosphere, and was being bombarded by comets which probably brought the building blocks of life to Earth.

….Space expert Dr Dan Brown of Nottingham Trent University added: “The discovery is exciting since it demonstrates how quickly life can form if the conditions are right on a planet or moon.

“This makes it clear to me that as soon as we find conditions on an exoplanet that would favour life as we know it, the probability of finding some form of life on that planet is very high. However, we are not talking about little green aliens but about microorganisms.

(10) ABSTRACT THINKING. Click here for the table of contents of the March issue of Science Fiction Studies which brings us, among other headscratchers, Thomas Strychacz’ “The Political Economy of Potato Farming in Andy Weir’s The Martian” —

Abstract. This essay examines the diverse political-economic registers of Andy Weir’s The Martian (2011) in terms of its symbolic response to the material and ideological crises of the Great Recession. The 2008 financial collapse in the US led to millions losing their homes and posed a serious challenge to the legitimacy of mainstream economic principles. Published at the height of the crisis, and concerning itself with the monumental challenge of bringing just one person home, the novel writes contested economic discourses into cultural fable. On Mars, Mark Watney’s potato farming evokes the paradigmatic neoclassical economic figure of homo economicus, the self-interested, maximizing agent who constantly prioritizes competing choices in order to allocate scarce resources rationally. NASA’s Earth, conversely, is a fantastic world of “unlimited funding” where, overturning two centuries of (neo)classical economic principle, “every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out” (Weir 368-69). The novel’s confused attempts to reconcile homo economicus with a workable concept of the common good can be historicized. Other prominent documents of the recessionary era—the US government’s official Report on the Financial Crisis and Occupy Wall Street’s Declaration among them—manifest the same yearning to restore a vanishing sense of commonwealth.

(11) REVENGE OF THE SON OF THE RETURN OF THE SHADOW CLARKE. Two more shortlists from Shadow Clarke jurors.

One of the things I wanted to do with my shortlist was to explore the idea of the Arthur C. Clarke Award as an institution that challenges the near-monopoly that genre publishing has over not only the field’s annual hype cycle but also over the construction of literary excellence. Traditionally, the Clarke Award has filled this role by smuggling a few choice mainstream titles over the ghetto walls but what if those disruptive tendencies were allowed to manifest themselves more fully? What if the Clarke Award came to represent genre publishing industry’s systematic failure to drive the genre forwards?

In order to come up with a deliberately counter-cultural shortlist, I made several passes through the submissions list in order to rule things out before making more positive choices about the things I wanted to read and write about:

…Second pass: Genre publishing has slowly developed a near-monopoly on the means through which individual works acquire a word-of-mouth buzz. This monopoly is partly a result of publishers and authors developing direct relationships with reviewers and partly a result of critics and reviewers losing influence in the age of Goodreads and Amazon reviews. With most of genre culture’s systems of recommendation skewed in favour of genre imprints and established genre authors, I chose to prioritise works that were either produced outside of conventional genre culture or which have been marginalised by genre publishing and forced towards smaller publishing venues….

…The task of compiling a shortlist is slightly different for the shadow Clarke juror, because there is more scope to set a personal agenda. What do I want my shortlist to be? This question came into sharp focus when I looked at the list of submissions, and realised that I wouldn’t want to shortlist any of the books that I’d already read.

So I have had to fall back on books that I would like to read. On that basis, I decided to orient my shortlist around the idea of discovery, focusing primarily on authors I hadn’t read much before, and taking note of a few strong recommendations from trusted sources….

Mark-kitteh sent the links along with these comments: “I did a spot of tallying up:

  • The Underground Railroad — Colson Whitehead 5
  • Central Station — Lavie Tidhar 4
  • A Field Guide to Reality?— Joanna Kavenna 4
  • The Many Selves of Katherine North?—?Emma Geen 3
  • The Power — Naomi Alderman 3
  • The Gradual?— Christopher Priest 3

“Which conveniently makes a potential shortlist of 6. It’s unlikely to be the final result, but the jurors seem to have more to agree on than to disagree.

“They are followed by another 7 chosen by two jurors, plus 10 singletons with a lone champion. Nick Hubble has the honour of being the only juror with at least one other agreeing with all his choices.”

(12) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Monopoly Board Games produced after September 2008 come with $20,580 in play money. Standard editions produced before that came with $15,140.

(13) TODAY’S DAY

Today is Dr. Seuss Day, a full twenty-four hours to make a mess with the Cat in the Hat, dance around with the Fox in Sox, hear a Who with Horton, count the red and blue fish, help the Grinch see the error of his ways, and listen to Sam I Am’s friend complain about his dish of green eggs and ham, the ungrateful hairball!

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

(15) EARLY BARR. At Galactic Journey, Victoria Silverwolf has an eye for talent — “[March 1,1962] Hearts and Flowers (April 1962 Fantastic)”:

Appropriately, The April 1962 issue of Fantastic is full of romance, along with the sense of wonder demanded by readers of speculative fiction.

Before we get to the mushy stuff, however, Judith Merril offers us a mysterious look at The Shrine of Temptation.  George Barr’s beautiful cover art appears to have inspired this ambiguous tale of good, evil, and strange rituals.  Barr’s work has appeared in a handful of fanzines for a few years, but I believe this is his first professional publication.  Based on the quality of this painting, I believe the young artist has a fine career ahead of him.

(16) IT’S MERVEILLEUX. At The New York Review of Science Fiction: “Brian Stableford: Madme De Villaneuve and the Origins of the Fantasy Novel”

The first concerted attempt to define and characterize a genre of fantasy fiction was made by Charles-Joseph Mayer between 1785 and 1789 when he published the 41 exemplary volumes of Le Cabinet des fées, ou Collection choisie des contes de fées et autres contes merveilleux [The Cabinet of the Fairies, or, Selected Collection of Fairy Tales and Other Marvelous Tales] in parallel with Charles Garnier’s Voyages imaginaires, songes, visions et romans cabalistiques [Imaginary Voyages, Dreams, Visions, and Cabalistic Fiction]. The latter is now regarded as most significant for the volumes containing imaginary voyages that can be affiliated in retrospect to the nascent genre of roman scientifique [scientific fiction] but, as the full title illustrates, it contains a good deal of material that would nowadays be considered to belong to the fantasy genre, and some of the items, such as Madame Roumier-Robert’s “Les Ondins, conte moral” (1768; tr. as “The Water-Sprites”) would have been perfectly at home in Mayer’s collection. It was, however, Mayer’s assembly that identified the two principal strands of the genre of the merveilleux as the mock folktales that became fashionable in the literary salons of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in association with the court of Louis XIV and tales written in imitation of Antoine Galland’s collection of Les Mille-et-une nuits (1707–19), which claimed to be translations of Arabian folklore, although many of the inclusions are drastically rewritten from the original manuscripts or wholly invented by Galland.

(17) PULLMAN. In “Paradise regained: ‘His Dark Materials’ is even better than I remembered”, the Financial Times’ Nilanjana Roy uses the forthcoming publication of The Book of Dust to discuss how she read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy ten years ago and how much she enjoyed these books. (The article is behind a paywall; the link is to a Google cache which can be read after taking a survey.)

The first in the trilogy is the most memorably dazzling, a classic quest story where the young Lyra travels to the north, befriending armoured bears and witch-queens. She has a daemon, Pantalaimon — most people in her world do, the daemon being an animal who is the external manifestation of a person’s inner spirit — and that is what I remembered most about the trilogy. When His Dark Materials came out, most of my friends abandoned their dignity and played games of Guess His Daemon? assigning slinking jackals or brown marmorated stink bug daemons to those they didn’t like.

(18) IT PAYS NOT TO BE IGNORANT. BoingBoing tells about the Norwegian news site that makes readers pass a test proving they read the post before commenting on it.

The team at NRKbeta attributes the civil tenor of its comments to a feature it introduced last month. On some stories, potential commenters are now required to answer three basic multiple-choice questions about the article before they’re allowed to post a comment. (For instance, in the digital surveillance story: “What does DGF stand for?”)

(19) THE CULTURE WARS.  Yes, it’s Buzzfeed – perhaps someday you’ll forgive me. “This Far-Right Tweet About ‘The Future That Liberals Want’ Backfired Into A Huge Meme”. A lot of tweets have been gathered in this post – here are three examples, the tweet that started everything, one of the pushback, and a third from the bizarre spinoffs.

(Buzzfeed says the photo was originally posted on @subwaycreatures, where it was used to “showcase the beauty of New York’s diversity.”)

Finally:

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title inspiration credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lis Carey.]