Pixel Scroll 8/15/17 She Said She’d Always Been A Filer, She Worked At Fifteen Blogs A Day

(1) OUT TO LAUNCH. The Planetary Society is trying to raise $100,000 for its LightSail project. They have raised $22,000+ so far.

LightSail: Help Us Get to the Launchpad

The Planetary Society’s LightSail spacecraft is getting ready to make space exploration history as the first to demonstrate controlled solar sail flight of a CubeSat.

Known as the people’s spacecraft, together we’re ushering in a new era—the democratization of space—but there’s still so much to be done and we need your support to do it.

“We have lingered for too long on the shores of the cosmic ocean; it’s time to set sail for the stars.” — Carl Sagan

We’re kicking off the final phase of preparations for the upcoming launch of LightSail 2 into space aboard the SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket. We need your help to get there.

When you make a gift today, your contribution —and your impact on the LightSail mission—will be boosted by a $50,000 matching gift challenge issued by a generous Planetary Society member!

 

(2) TOUCHING SPACE. Some of the remains of the late Hugh Daniel, known to fans as “Doctor Destructo,” are scheduled to fly to the edge of space on the next Celestis mission.

Starseeker, the eighth Celestis Earth Rise service, is scheduled to launch from Spaceport America, New Mexico on November 15, 2017. Your loved one’s flight capsule – containing a symbolic portion of cremated remains or DNA sample and engraved with a memorial message – will launch into space, experience the elegant dance of weightlessness, and return to Earth for recovery and return to you as a flown keepsake.

The Celestis flight capsules will be flown aboard an UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XL rocket, on a mission sponsored by the NASA Spaceflight Opportunities Program to conduct microgravity experiments and technology demonstrations for NASA and affiliated researchers.

You can read about Hugh Daniel at the link.

It seemed Hugh’s love of space and all things science began at birth, helped by regular dinner conversations, open houses at the University of Michigan (UofM) telescopes, Star Trek, Larry Niven, dozens of SciFi Conventions, endless conversations with amateur and professional astronomers, and many nights at the Lick Observatory. He assisted with a friend’s meteor work on Antarctica, attended private rocket launches, and even did some contract work for NASA. He always dreamed of the opportunity to make it into space himself, but he wasn’t counting on being reduced to 1 gram for the trip! Hugh didn’t believe in any form of “afterlife,” but in tribute to a warm and generous friend and beloved family member, we send a piece of him Ad Astra!

(3) IT’S THE VERSE. SPECPO brings us the “Armadillocon Poetry Thunderdome 2017”.

But what is a Poetry Thunderdome? First crafted at Comicpalooza, Thunderdome brings together a group of speculative poets to duke it out in front of an audience in a LIVE writing exercise. Audience members participate by yelling out prompts and poets are given a short period of time to write a poem in response. Hilarity ensues….

By the second round, the audience was feeling feisty. It chose “AitheistJackalope,” “Egypt,” and “Third Eye,” as the topics for our poets writing delight.

In response, Michelle Muenzler gave us this gem:

it’s not the third eye that gets you
that one has all the knowledge after all
it’s that fourth eye
the one that sees the jackalope in the corner of the bar
drinking whiskey and whining about his in-laws
just flown in from Egypt
and maybe it’s the drink talking now
but as far as you knew
there were no jackalopes in Egypt
…then again, somebody had to build the pyramids

(4) PUTTING OUT A CONTRACT. On Facebook, Heikki Sørum has photos of Eemeli Aro signing a solemn agreement to give Finnish fandom a 90 day respite before be gets them involved in his next fannish scheme. Aro was the first one to appear at a Fannish Inquisition and talk about holding a Helsinki Worldcon.

(5) LONG LIST ANTHOLOGY. David Steffen’s latest Diabolical Plots newsletter says he will produce a third Long List Anthology.

On Friday was the Hugo Award Ceremony announcing the winners of this year’s Hugo Awards, and with the nomination numbers posted after the ceremony, starts the planning of the Long List Anthology Volume Three.  If you’re not familiar with the previous two anthologies, it’s an anthology of short fiction from the longer Hugo Award nomination list–more stories that the Hugo voters loved.  Queries have been sent out and there is enough author interest to go forward, and I’m sure I’ll get more responses over the next week or so, (especially with international WorldCon travel).  I am aiming to launch the Kickstarter in early September, so the next newsletter might get sent out a bit early to coincide with it.  The anthology will have stories by the following authors and more included in the base goal or stretch goals:

  • Joseph Allen Hill
  • Yoon Ha Lee
  • Seanan McGuire
  • Ian R. MacLeod
  • Sam J. Miller
  • Sarah Pinsker
  • Cat Rambo
  • Jason Sanford
  • Caroline M. Yoachim

(6) THE SURVIVOR. The upcoming sci-fi indie short film The Survivor: A Tale From The Nearscape, which centers on a young boy as he does whatever it takes to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.

In a post-apocalyptic world where the air is toxic to breathe and oxygen is a precious resource, a young boy embarks on a perilous supply run to obtain water and medicine for his ailing mother. With just his toy robot as a companion on his journey, he faces many obstacles, but the real danger is waiting for him back home.

 

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Polyphemus was the name of the cyclops Odysseus and his crew encountered in The Odyssey.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 15, 1977 — On duty at the Big Ear Radio Observatory at The Ohio State University, Dr. Jerry Ehman heard radio noise that lasted 37 seconds and came from the direction of a star nearly 220 light-years away. The signal traveled at a frequency whose use is prohibited by international agreement and that is unlike those of most natural radio sources. It is known as the Wow signal and hasn’t been heard since.
  • August 15, 1984The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension first screened in theatres on this day.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • August 15, — Bjo Trimble
  • August 15, 1990 – Jennifer Lawrence

(10) COMIC SECTION.

(11) CAVNA. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna interviews Ian Jones-Quartey, creator of the new Cartoon Network show O.K. K.O! Let’s Be Heroes because the show is a fictionalized version of Jones-Quartey’s home town of Columbia, Maryland — “A new Cartoon Network show finds inspiration in Columbia, Md., the animator’s home town”.

“OK K.O.!” centers on a boy’s adventures at friendly Lakewood Plaza, where his kick-butt mother runs a dojo and fitness center, and where he helps out at a bodega that supplies equipment to heroes — all across Route 175 from where villainous Lord Boxman runs his big-box retail monstrosity, which sells weapons to baddies.

(12) THE GOOD OMENS SCOREBOARD. Carl Slaughter, after reading that Neil Gaiman is showrunning a screen adaptation of his and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens, found more reasons to be proud of the collaborators:

“Good Omens” is #68 in the BBC’s survey of 750,000 readers.  The 67 books preceding it on the list include “Pride and Prejudice,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “1984,” “Jane Eyre,” “Wuthering Heights,” “Great Expectations,” “Little Women,” “War and Peace,” “Gone with the Wind,” “Grapes of Wrath,” “Emma,” “Animal Farm,” “The Count of Monte Cristo,” “Of Mice and Men,” “Crime and Punishment,” “A Tale of Two Cities,” “A Christmas Carol,” and a slew of B list classics.

Plus “Lord of the Rings,” “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” “Dune,” “Watership Down,” “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” “Harry Potter,” “Alice in Wonderland,” etc.

#69-200 includes, “Vanity Fair,” “The Old Man and the Sea,” etc.

Pretty impressive list of competition for a comedy sci fi writer!

(12) BEWARE SPOILERS. Business Insider interviews Conleth Hill: “The actor who plays Varys on ‘Game of Thrones’ explains how he’s making ‘a better world for everybody else'”

Kim Renfro: On the second episode, “Stormborn,” Varys had a confrontation with Daenerys over his loyalties. What was it like filming a conversation with Emilia Clarke?

Conleth Hill: That was very exciting. Had you not done that scene people would have gone ‘well why did she take him on her team so easily?’ And we couldn’t do it in Meereen because she was off with the Dothraki and I was off, according to some people ‘mermaiding around’ with Olenna and the rest, so it was nice that we had it as soon as we got there — where she was born.

Renfro: You brought up ‘mermaiding around’ — are you sick of people asking you if Varys is a merman?

Hill: Yes. I don’t get it. I really don’t get it. I mean I’m not annoyed or anything, I think it’s funny, but I really don’t know where it comes from. I think someone got too stoned one night and came up with it.

(13) DIY. And just to make sure no customer is left behind, IKEA has published diagrams showing how to turn their rugs into Game of Thrones capes – Bored Panda has them: “IKEA Releases Instructions How To Make ‘Game Of Thrones’ Cape After Costumer Reveals Actors Wore IKEA Rugs”.

Being a member of the Night’s Watch in Game of Thrones doesn’t sound like much fun. Constant threat of danger and death at the hands of Wildlings and White Walkers. Vows of celibacy. Freezing your ass off constantly. There really is very little about their job that you’d actually want. They do however have some pretty cool capes, and you don’t need to be a Brother to get one. All you need is a $79 SKOLD IKEA rug, because believe it or not, that’s what the tough guys of the Night’s Watch have actually been wearing on their backs this whole time.

(14) PLAY PASSWORD. The NIST also approves of less-painful passwording: “Forget Tough Passwords: New Guidelines Make It Simple”.

The organization suggests keeping passwords simple, long and memorable. Phrases, lowercase letters and typical English words work well, Grassi tells NPR’s Audie Cornish. Experts no longer suggest special characters and a mix of lower and uppercase letters. And passwords never need to expire.

“We focus on the cognitive side of this, which is what tools can users use to remember these things?” Grassi says. “So if you can picture it in your head, and no one else could, that’s a good password.”

While these rules may seem suspiciously easy, Grassi says these guidelines help users create longer passwords that are harder for hackers to break. And he says the computer security industry in both the public and private sectors has received these new rules positively.

Chip Hitchcock adds, “I suspect this is a readable version of guidelines issued in June and linked to in the previous story; anybody want to dig through the bureaucratese to find out?”

(15) GAZING. London’s Great Fire monument was also intended to be a telescope: “The secret lab hidden inside a famous monument”.

Robert Hooke was a man of many passions, who applied his enquiring mind to subjects as diverse as chemistry and map making, at the sober end of the scale, and folk beliefs about toads and his own bowel movements at the other. In his day, he had a reputation as lofty as the pillar itself, variously described as “England’s Leonardo” and “certainly the greatest mechanick [sic] this day in the world”.

Today his name has largely been forgotten, but his contributions have endured. Among other things, he coined the word “cell” to describe the basic unit of life (they reminded him of Monks’ rooms, or “cells”), devised Hooke’s law of elasticity – arguably not particularly exciting, but useful – and invented mechanisms still used in clocks and cameras to this day.

After the fire, Hooke tried his hand at architecture too, designing hospitals, civic buildings and churches across the city. He didn’t get a lot of credit, partly because most of his achievements were signed off by, and mistakenly attributed to, Wren – and partly because some of them weren’t very good.

(16) DINO NEWS. Martin Morse Wooster advises: “In the Washington Post, Travis M. Andrews writes about how Britain’s Natural History Museum discovered a fossil they thought was a crocodile was actually a new creature, which they named Lemmysuchus obstusidiens after the late heavy metal rocker Lemmy Kilmister.  This critter partied all night and fought all day, specializing in crushing turtle shells with its mighty teeth. The painting by Mark Witton is very cool.” — “Meet the brutally violent prehistoric crocodile named for Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister”.

They had a new species on their hands, and it needed a name. The creature’s brash, aggressive nature brought to mind the hell-raising British heavy metal band Motorhead, known for songs such as “Killed By Death,” “Born to Raise Hell,” “God Was Never On Your Side” and “I Ain’t No Nice Guy.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Karl-Johan Norén, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, and David K.M. Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 7/13/17 Lucky Scroll Means Fine Pixel (LSMFP)

(1) LIMERICK DERBY. Fantasy Literature’s Kelly Lasiter says it’s time for “FanLit’s 2017 SFF Limerick Contest”

Your task is to create a limerick that has something to do with speculative fiction. It could be about a character, a series, an author, or whatever fits the theme…

Full guidelines at the post. Entries are made in comments there.

Here is the winning limerick (by Ben) from 2015:

The day came that I had been dreading,
It would surely end in beheading
and my family depressed
as they murdered their guests,
Never go to a Westeros wedding

(2) PIRATES WITHOUT RESERVATIONS. Otakon, the Washington D.C. Asian pop culture convention, discovered someone trying to victimize members by creating a fake hotel website. Otakon Hotel and Venue Manager John Nadzam has issued a warning. [H/T to Petréa Mitchell.]

To all of our members:

It has come to our attention that an outside party set up a pirate housing website: “otakon2017.org”.

This website was in no way associated with Otakon, Otakorp Inc., or Experient (our exclusive and official housing provider).  We have taken all efforts to shut down the site as soon as we found out, but we cannot determine if any reservations were taken, if reservations through this site will be honored, or what may have happened to any information they may have gathered.

If you did not receive a confirmation email that looks like the one at the end of this message, or if you have any doubts on your reservation’s validity, please contact Experient immediately…

There have been reports of this happening to several different conventions (genre and otherwise) now, and cons are starting to warn members about it. For example, DesignCon 2018 and ASBMR 2017 Annual Meeting have prominently posted “Beware of Unauthorized Hotel Solicitations” on their websites.

(3) MORE EMMY NEWS. The Hollywood Reporter enthuses: “Carrie Fisher Gets Posthumous Nomination for ‘Catastrophe'”.

The actress was nominated for her guest role in the Amazon comedy series’ third season as Mia, the troublesome mother of Rob (played by Rob Delaney), an American who moves to London when his one-week fling leads to an unplanned pregnancy. She had finished filming her scenes in the notable sixth episode shortly before her death in December. Fisher was 60 years old when she suffered a major heart attack during a transatlantic flight and died a few days later in the hospital.

…Fisher appeared in four episodes throughout Catastrophe‘s initial two seasons, and her third-season episode became a tribute to the late star. “It was such a shock to lose her and so unexpected and so awful, that all we had was her performance in episode six to think about,” co-creator and star Sharon Horgan told THR of Fisher’s “funny and heartfelt performance” back in April. “So, that’s what we concentrated on: making that episode a dedication to her, I guess, and beyond that, no, because it’s hard watching her onscreen so alive and yet no longer with us.”

(4) CANNED FROG. Steve Whitmire, in “It’s Time To Get Things Started…” at Steve Whitmire Muppet Pundit, says he was fired by Disney.

In 1978 when I was asked to join The Muppet Show, the Muppets were the hottest thing on the planet. I was invited to sit at the feet of the true masters, Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, and Dave Goelz; working alongside them, absorbing different skills from each, as we, along with many talented others, contributed towards the same shared vision, the vision of one man. The result became a skill-set for myself that was sort of a compilation of the best of them all.

For me the Muppets are not just a job, or a career, or even a passion. They are a calling, an urgent, undeniable, impossible to resist way of life. This is my life’s work since I was 19 years old. I feel that I am at the top of my game, and I want all of you who love the Muppets to know that I would never consider abandoning Kermit or any of the others because to do so would be to forsake the assignment entrusted to me by Jim Henson, my friend and mentor, but even more, my hero.

As I am sure you can imagine, I have experienced every possible emotion since October 2016, when I received a phone call from The Muppets Studio’s executives to say they were recasting. Through a new business representative, I have offered multiple remedies to their two stated issues which had never been mentioned to me prior to that phone call. I wish that we could have sat down, looked each other in the eye, and discussed what was on their minds before they took such a drastic action.

(5) ASTRONAUT IN CHARGE. “Former astronaut Julie Payette to be Canada’s next governor general” – the CBC has the story.

Former astronaut Julie Payette will be the Queen’s new representative in Canada, CBC News has confirmed.

The 53-year-old Montrealer, who speaks six languages, will be named the 29th governor general, a position that comes with a $290,660 annual salary and an official residence at Rideau Hall.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will make the announcement Thursday.

A computer engineer with a commercial pilot licence, Payette was picked from among 5,330 applicants in 1992 to be one of four new astronauts with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

She participated in two space flights to the International Space Station and served as the CSA’s chief astronaut between 2000 and 2007.

Payette is active on a number of causes and has served as a board member for Drug Free Kids Canada as well as being listed as a National Champion of the Trans Canada Trail.

…Acting as the Queen’s representative in Canada, the governor general also serves as commander-in-chief of the Canadian Armed Forces and represents Canada at events, ceremonies and official visits at home and abroad.

(6) POSTMODERN STOIC. Kameron Hurley tells “How Pro Writers Deal with Pro Criticism”.

You write until the words are the right ones.

So if you think that leveling up as a writer means that nobody ever critiques your work again, or every word you shit will be gold, here is your reminder: it doesn’t get easier as you go. The bar gets higher. You need to jump further, climb higher, level up. If you didn’t make a million out the gate your first time, welcome to the long slog toward the breakout book, where you constantly have to stay on top of your game or fall down and start over again.

I have heard from many writers that I was “lucky” to make it out of the implosion of my first publisher with a relatively high profile (if not high $$, though Legion sales are steady af) career afterward. The best writer career path is, frankly, to have a “hit” right out the gate and build on that success. While it’s VERY possible to get a break out later (I can think of several writers who had written anywhere from 4-11 books before their breakout book), it sure does seem easier, from the outside, to build on that success than to take the long way up like I am, slowly, slowly, selling more and more books with every contract.

But here’s the thing. I’m well aware that to write a breakout book, I have to level up my work. We like to pretend it’s ALL luck with a breakout book, and sometimes that’s true (the “Hollywood bought it!” phenomenon), but sometimes it really is about skill, about writing a story that connects with more people, a story folks can’t put down, a story that everyone goes, “You have to read this trilogy because it’s great and OMG the third book has THE BIGGEST PAYOFF AND MOST EPIC THIRD ACT.” That part isn’t luck, it’s writing a good story. And to write that good story takes consulting with other professionals and working to make the story the best it can be. You will always be the ultimate owner of anything that you write (Meyna is staying in the book!), but you have to learn when to be able to take constructive feedback for what it is and when to throw out stuff that doesn’t work with your own vision. That’s a tough skill, I admit. I struggle with it all the time. Being able to sort through feedback to find the right way through takes a lot of practice, and it’s this, too, that makes you a pro.

(7) COLLABORATION. Stewart Baker has tips for “How to Write with a Co-author” at the SFWA Blog.

There are as many different ways to share authorship of a story as there are combinations of people. Some prefer to split up the tasks of writing, with one author creating an outline that the other drafts from, or vice versa. Others might draft every other scene, or only write a particular character’s sections, and so on.

The benefits of co-authoring are potentially great: Each writer has a chance to learn new habits and strategies, and brainstorming can go much more quickly with two people involved. But, as with any kind of partnership, it’s important to establish early on how the relationship is going to work. Making assumptions about the writing process and your expectations for your co-author can lead to misunderstandings and stress, and has the potential to end friendships and scuttle careers.

(8) MARVEL GENERATIONS. Another spin on Marvel Legacy —

In a flash, the Marvel heroes are offered a gift: to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who came before them! These heroic journeys all launch from the same point: the Vanishing Point! This epic 10-issue series brings together iconic and present-day heroes such as Laura Kinney and Logan, Amadeus Cho and Bruce Banner, Clint Barton and Kate Bishop, and many more of your favorite characters. The stories of GENERATIONS begin at the Vanishing Point where time has no meaning, and these epic tales offer fans a direct bridge and prelude into the senses-shattering Marvel Legacy, as the challenges and revelations of GENERATIONS will alter the destinies of our heroes moving forward in a dramatic fashion!

 

(9) NEXT AT KGB. “Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series” hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Karen Neuler and Genevieve Valentine on July 19 at the KGB Bar. The event starts at 7 p.m.

Karen Heuler

Karen Heuler’s stories have appeared in over 100 literary and speculative magazines and anthologies, from Conjunctions to Clarkesworld to Weird Tales, as well as a number of Best Of anthologies. She has received an O. Henry award, been a finalist for the Iowa short fiction award, the Bellwether award, the Shirley Jackson award for short fiction (twice), and a bunch of other near-misses. She has published four novels and three story collections, and this month Aqueduct Press released her novella, In Search of Lost Time, about a woman who can steal time.

Genevieve Valentine

Genevieve Valentine is an author and critic. Her most recent book is the near-future spy novel ICON; her short fiction has appeared in over a dozen Best of the Year anthologies. Her comics work includes Catwoman for DC Comics and the Attack on Titan anthology from Kodansha. Her criticism and reviews have appeared in several venues including the AV Club, the Atlantic, and The New York Times. Please ask her about the new King Arthur movie.

(10) TODAY’S DAY

Embrace Your Geekness Day

Wellcat Holidays organized the holiday stating that we all should be proud of the things that define us, and little defines us as much as those things we’re passionate about. “Dungeon games, comic books, vampire dress-up” we should have no shame about anything we’re into. In fact, you should shout it loud and proud.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 13, 1984 The Last Starfighter premiered

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 13, 1940 – Sir Patrick Stewart
  • Born July 13, 1942 – Harrison Ford

(13) STORMY WEATHER. Setting up a close view of the Great Red spot: “NASA Spacecraft Gets Up Close With Jupiter’s Great Red Spot”.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft will be directly over the spot shortly after 10 p.m. ET Monday, July 10, about 5,600 miles above the gas giant’s cloud tops. That’s closer than any spacecraft has been before.

The spot is actually a giant storm that has been blowing on Jupiter for centuries. It’s huge, larger than Earth in diameter.

“It’s lasted a really long time,” says Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio and principal scientist for NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter. “No scientists really understand exactly how that storm is created or why it could last so long.”

(14) NASA BUDGET. The Planetary Society told members the House of Representatives’ NASA budget includes $62.5 million in support of a new Mars orbiter, “effectively matching the recommendations made by The Planetary Society in our report, Mars In Retrograde: A Pathway for Restoring NASA’s Mars Exploration Program.”

The committee released July 12 the report accompanying the commerce, justice and science (CJS) appropriations bill, which its CJS subcommittee approved on a voice vote June 29. At that time, the committee had released only a draft of the bill, with limited details about how the nearly $19.9 billion provided to NASA would be allocated.

In NASA’s science account, planetary science emerges as a big winner, with the report allocating $2.12 billion, a record level. That amount is $191 million above the White House request and $275 million above what Congress provided in 2017.

Some of that additional funding will go to missions to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, thought to have a subsurface ocean of liquid water that could sustain life. It provides $495 million for both the Europa Clipper orbiter mission and a follow-on Europa Lander, to be launched by 2022 and 2024, respectively. The administration’s budget request sought $425 million, devoted solely to Europa Clipper.

The report also provides additional funding for Mars exploration, including $62 million for a proposed 2022 orbiter mission. NASA sought just $2.9 million for studies of future Mars missions, raising worries among scientists that NASA would not be able to get an orbiter, with telecommunications and reconnaissance capabilities, ready in time for the 2022 launch opportunity.

(15) FIRST COMICS ENCOUNTERS. A companion piece to NPR’s survey: “Cartoonists Tell Us: What Do Comics Mean To You?”

The first comic book I ever read was an obscure DC title that I begged my parents to buy for me from a rotating rack at a New Jersey Turnpike rest stop. World’s Finest Comics #306, “The Senses-Shattering Saga of Swordfish and Barracuda!” Not the highest of high art, maybe — even the cover described S&B as “THE GREATEST SUPER-HERO TEAM SINCE — WHAT’S-THEIR-NAMES?” But still — that was the first inkling I had that comics could be portals to other worlds, purveyors of strange wonders, and certainly a hell of a lot more entertaining than the blue “sport cloth” backseat of our 1981 Corolla.

In honor of this year’s big reader poll of favorite comics and graphic novels, we’ve asked some very cool comics creators to tell us what comics meant to them, whether as children or adults.

(16) AND TOTO TOO. A “modern dystopian buffet”: “‘Tropic Of Kansas’ Rips Dystopia From The Headlines”

And as has been said a thousand times by critics far smarter than me, there is nothing that happens in science fiction that is not a reflection of our own grubby reality. We have been afraid of nuclear war, of environmental calamity, of technology, plague and politics and the enmity of our fellow man, and these dreads have always made their way into our entertainment. The worse the days, the more baroque the diversions. And these days are very bad indeed.

So this mess of a present has birthed a new breed of dystopian novels, of which Christopher Brown’s Tropic Of Kansas is the latest. Not simple dystopia, but complicated by present reality and recognizable politics. Not nameless or alien, but very much named and very close to home. And while these books have utopian leanings, they are not happy stories. No one walks away smiling. They are revolution porn.

(17) BOY NEXT DOOR. Whatever’s in that radioactive spider bite is great for romance. Page Six reports “‘Spider-Man’ co-stars Tom Holland and Zendaya are dating”, and they’re just the latest.

This isn’t the first time a “Spider-Man” movie brought us new Hollywood romances. Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield began dating while filming “The Amazing Spider-Man” in 2011. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst also dated during his stint as the superhero in the early 2000s.

We may even get to see Holland and Zendaya’s relationship bloom on-screen as well, as the end of the movie may have foreshadowed a future romance.

(18) WONDER ACCOUNTING. The Hollywood Reporter says Wonder Woman has legs —  “Box Office: ‘Wonder Woman’ Holding Better Than Any Superhero Movie in 15 Years”.

Directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman is still going strong as it heads into its seventh week. The movie, grossing $371.3 million through Tuesday, is now assured of topping out at $390 million or more domestically, becoming the No. 8 comic book adaptation of all time, not accounting for inflation. And it will soon pass up Disney and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ($385.8 million) in North America to become the top summer earner.

(19) CHICKEN GEAR. Adweek is surprised to discover “KFC Is Now Selling Apparel, Home Goods and a Meteorite Shaped Like a Chicken Sandwich”.

Last week, we mysteriously received a Colonel Sanders pillowcase in the mail, designed to look like we were sleeping together. Now, KFC has explained what that whole thing was all about: As of yesterday, the brand launched KFC Ltd., an online merchandise shop packed with limited-edition goods and high-quality fried chicken apparel.

This includes that randy pillowcase, which you can score for just $14.

It’s easy to compare this idea to Pizza Hut’s Hut Swag idea from last year. But while Pizza Hut was punting stuff like leggings, scarves and hoodies with phrases like “Pizza is bae” (why?), KFC is swinging for a somewhat more discerning (or fetishist) market. Gear includes vintage apparel, “finger lickin’ good jewelry” and—wait for it!—a meteorite they’ve carved into the shape of a Zinger sandwich (which they recently decided to launch into space). The meteorite is going for $20,000.

(20) CHICKEN BLEEP. Io9 has been digging through the documents released from a lawsuit brought by The Walking Dead’s Frank Darabont — “Frank Darabont’s Furious Emails to His Walking Dead Coworkers: ‘Fuck You All'”.

Darabont and AMC spent about six months figuring out what should remain confidential as they prepare their cases and exhibits for New York judge Eileen Bransten. After coming to an agreement, they’ve released thousands of pages of documents, which include depositions, expert testimony, and financial details for other AMC shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad. The documents show how convoluted Hollywood deals and negotiations are, for better and worse, but they also shine an unflattering light on Darabont’s behavior during his time on The Walking Dead.

One of the biggest conflicts behind the scenes of The Walking Dead was AMC’s decision to cut the budget by almost half a million dollars per episode between seasons one and two. Darabont’s solution, which was to film the whole season in one location, the infamous farmhouse, created problems and resulted in arguably the series’ worst season. Darabont became overwhelmed, struggling to create more with less (plus, AMC demanded to see all the scripts ahead of time), and it showed in his behavior toward the team. Here’s an email to executive producer Gale Anne Hurd and others from June 2011, one month before he was fired:

Fuck you all for giving me chest pains because of the staggering fucking incompetence, blindness to the important beats, and the beyond-arrogant lack of regard for what is written being exhibited on set every day. I deserve better than a heart attack because people are too stupid to read a script and understand the words. Does anybody disagree with me? Then join the C-cam operator and go find another job that doesn’t involve deliberately fucking up my show scene by scene.

This email supports the earlier rumors that Darabont became difficult to work with, along with several other messages that contain just as many profanities toward dozens more behind-the-scenes crew members: camera operators (“Ray Charles could operate better”), an episode director (“It’s like we yanked some kid with no experience out of high school and put her in charge”), and even his writing staff, as shown in a particularly tense email to an AMC executive.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Beatles, Hippies, and Hells Angels is a video on Vimeo by Fons Scheidon which is an introduction to a Sky Atlantic documentary about Apple Corps.

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

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.]

Pixel Scroll 12/22/16 “You’ll scroll your eye out, kid!”

(1) NEW BOOK REVEAL: The Refrigerator Monologues – basically it’s The Vagina Monologues for superheroes’ girlfriends. Catherynne M. Valente tells the book’s origin story at The Mary Sue.

My partner answered, “Sweetheart, you know you can’t fix Gwen Stacy dying. She was always going to die. She always dies. It’s kind of a thing.”

And I said, “YES I CAN. I’m going to write something and it’s going to be called The Refrigerator Monologues and it’s going to be The Vagina Monologues for superheroes’ girlfriends. I’m going to fix it. Hold my drink. Don’t believe me? Just watch!”

It’s not like I didn’t know Gwen Stacy was going to die. As has been noted, she always dies. But the way the movie was paced, I kind of thought they’d keep that for the third movie, because the Emma Stone/Andrew Garfield chemistry was kind of all that iteration had going for it. So, it blindsided me in a way that Gwen Stacy taking her dive should never blindside anyone born after 1970, and it was a sucker punch, because more or less the last thing Emma Stone does before she quite literally flounces off to meet her doom is snit, “Nobody makes my decisions for me, nobody! This is my choice. Mine.”

I can make my own decisions! Boom. Splat. Death. Girl down.

It felt like such a harsh slap in the face. People so often think of iconic characters as organic things that proceed semi-autonomously while the writer just records their actions, but someone chose to give her those words. They made it through many rounds of editing and screen-testing. Someone chose to have her say that right before it all goes to hell. To make those powerful words the punchline to a sad joke about female agency by punishing her for them, by making sure that no matter how modern and independent the new Gwen might seem, everything is just as it has always been. That old, familiar message slides into our brains with the warm familiarity of a father’s hug: when women make their own choices, disaster results.

(2) WRITER HOSPITALIZED. Peter David’s wife, Kathleen, reports “Yes, Peter is in the hospital. No, we are not entirely sure why”.

Well this time it is not a stroke or a heart attack. Right now we are eliminating things rather than getting a diagnosis because every time we think we know what is going on, we get another curve that sets us back to figuring out what is going on.

What we do know that Peter is in the hospital with severe leg weakness. He can’t walk and even standing is dicey.

(3) BEST TV. SciFiNow ranks the “20 Best TV Shows of 2016”. At the top of the polls is —

1) Stranger Things

We bet Netflix wished all of their shows delivered like this. Stranger Things became a phenomenon almost instantly, and it’s easy to see why. The Duffer Brothers created a show that was a love-letter to all of our favourite horror and fantasy films and books from the 80s (hands up who started re-reading Stephen King’s IT after finishing the last episode), while remaining thrilling, scary and accessible to a wider audience. It’s perfectly paced (going for eight episodes instead of 13 was a great decision), it’s both sharp and sensitive, and it is perfectly cast. There’s a reason why everyone went nuts over the Stranger Things kids, and why we were just as invested in Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Hopper (David Harbour) as we were in Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown). There’s no weak link in the ensemble, and there is nothing about the show that lets it down. From the awesome opening credits to the teasers for the second season, we love everything about this show.

(4) BEST HORROR FILMS. Lower on the same page SciFiNow also picks the 16 Best Horror Films of 2016. And what movie was the most horrific?

  1. The Witch

Now that Black Phillip is a bona fide cultural icon, what’s left to say about Robert Eggers’ The Witch? Well, perhaps the most important thing is that it’s still, after repeat viewings, a truly chilling experience. It doesn’t get less powerful, it just gets more interesting. Eggers’ much-publicised attention to detail creates a film that really does immerse in you in the cold, uncaring wilderness with this broken family that’s wondering why God has decided to abandon them, and it is a very scary place to be. There’s nothing about the film that isn’t perfect, from the cinematography by Jarin Blaschke to the score by Mark Korven, and the cast is amazing, with Kate Dickie and Ralph Ineson bringing a heartbreaking tragedy to their Puritan pilgrims and Anya Taylor-Joy providing a complex emotional anchor. There are moments when it definitely establishes itself as a genre film, but it’s the harsh reality of that life and the fear of God that really drive the horror of The Witch. It’s the horror film of the year and we can’t wait to watch it again.

(5) CURIOSITY. The child in me wants to know what story Lou Antonelli created to go with his title “If You Were a Dinah Shore, My Love”.

Looks like I will have one last publication before the end of the year. Gallery of Curiosities is slated to podcast my story “If You Were a Dinah Shore, My Love” as part of a double bill on Dec. 28. Mark your calendars!

(6) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #23. The twenty-third of Jim C. Hines’ Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for an autographed book and an album from Seanan McGuire.

Our final auction comes from award-winning and bestselling author, filker, and all-around talented person Seanan McGuire. Today’s winner will receive an autographed hardcover of EVERY HEART A DOORWAY, as well as a copy of McGuire’s album WICKED GIRLS.

About the Book:

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of things.

No matter the cost.

(7) A 3M REVIEW. James Davis Nicoll has posted a review of Heather Rose Jones’ The Mystic Marriage “Mistreated, misplaced, misunderstood”.

2015’s The Mystic Marriage is the second volume in Heather Rose Jones’ Alpennia series.

Antuniet Chazillen has lost everything: her foolish brother has been executed for treason and her mother is dead by her own hand. Antuniet has been stripped of her aristocratic rank. Determined to restore the family honour, Antuniet flees Alpennia for Austria, there to use her alchemical skills to win back for her family the respect and position her brother cost it.

In Austria she finds a treasure of rare value, a treasure others are determined to wrest from her. She escapes from Vienna to Heidelberg, but her enemies are still close on her heels. She sees no choice but to trade her virtue for transportation to safety.

Which means returning to Alpennia…

(8) SHORT BEER. Beer’d Brewing in Connecticut has a beer called Hobbit Juice. Martin Morse Wooster asks, “Is this what hobbits drink when they are tired of being small and want to ‘get juiced?’”

He’ll be here all week, folks.

(9) A VINTAGE YEAR IN SPACE. Robert Picardo hosts another installment of the Planetary Society’s video series The Planetary Post – “2016: A Magnificent Year for Space Exploration”

Greetings, fellow space fan! Robert Picardo here. As 2016 comes to a close, I thought it would be nice to look back at the year’s highlights in space science and exploration (and a few of the best bloopers from yours truly).

 

(10) BSFA AWARDS SUGGESTION DEADLINE. Members of the British Science Fiction Association – remember that December 31 is the deadline to suggest works for the BSFA Awards. The categories are — Best Novel, Best Short fiction, Best Artwork, Best work of Non-Fiction. Use the online form. Members will have the month of January to vote for the works that belong on the shortlist.

(11) WHEN SCOTTY INVADED NORMANDY. War History Online tells how  “Star Trek star shot two snipers on D-Day and was shot seven times in WWII”.

The beach was so thick with Canadians the later arrivals could not advance. As darkness fell, there was a risk they would end up shooting at each other – which was exactly what happened; not just at Juno Beach, but also at the other landing sites.

At about 11:20 that evening, Doohan finished a cigarette and patted the silver cigarette case he kept in his breast pocket. It had been given to him by his brother as a good luck charm… and a good thing, too.

Some ten minutes later, he was walking back to his command post when he was shot. Six times. By a Bren Gun. The first four bullets slammed into his leg, the fourth whacked him in the chest, while the sixth took off his right middle finger.

It was not a German sniper.  He had been shot by a nervous, trigger-happy Canadian sentry. Fortunately, the cigarette case stopped the bullet aimed at his chest. Doohan later joked it was the only time being a smoker saved his life.

(12) BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR. “The Twelve Days of Christmas:  A Tale of Avian Misery” is a cartoon on Vimeo about what happens when a British woman living in a small flat gets ALL the presents from the Twelve Days of Christmas.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and Jim C. Hines for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 6/15/16 Great Sky Pixel

(1) DEFENDING SELF-DEFENSE. Larry Correia covers a lot of ground in “Self-Defense Is A Human Right” at Monster Hunter Nation. Here’s a representative excerpt.

Orlando is yet another example that Gun Free Zones are vile, stupid ideas. The intent is to prevent people from getting hurt. The reality is the opposite. Your feelings on the matter don’t change the results. The vast majority of mass shootings have taken place in areas where regular citizens are not allowed to carry guns.

I’ve seen a lot of people over the last few days saying that the “random good guy with a gun” is a myth. That is foolish simply because we have plenty of examples where a mass shooter was derailed or stopped by the intervention of a random person who happened to be near. Just in my home state alone, which is relatively peaceful, with low crime, a low population, and above average police response time in our urban areas, I can think of several instances where a killer was interrupted or stopped entirely by somebody other than the responding officers.

Sometimes these were regular citizens with concealed weapons permits (KSL shooting, mass stabbing at Smiths) and others they were off duty police officers in regular clothing going about their daily lives who responded first (Trolley Square, Salt Lake Library hostage situation) or even a parole officer who just happened to be at a hospital (Cache) for unrelated reasons, and ended up saving lives.

The identity of the responder doesn’t matter, just that there is one as soon as possible. The important thing is how much time elapses between the beginning of the massacre and the violent response, because that is time the killer is allowed to work unimpeded. In some cases the attack was in a gun free zone and the responders had to leave, go to their vehicles, retrieve a weapon, and then return (Pearl Mississippi, and if I recall correctly the Appalachian School of Law).

Traditionally the gay community has trended overwhelmingly statistically liberal in their politics, with a correspondingly low number of gun owners. But being unarmed also makes you easier victims for evil people. This has to change.

I don’t care what your personal beliefs are, or what your lifestyle is, self-defense is a human right. Take advantage of it. Please.

(2) EUROCON HITS MEMBERSHIP LIMIT. Eurocon 2016 Barcelona has sold out four months ahead of the event.

The committee is creating a waiting list where members who no longer want their memberships can arrange an exchange with people who wish to join—email info@eurocon2016.org

Perhaps unexpectedly, the committee is also publicizing on its Facebook page things that people who don’t have memberships can do at and around the con:

Even if you are not lucky, there are several activities you can enjoy without a membership. Our DEALERS ROOM will be awesome! Bring your wallet and cards, we will make sure you keep on using them. You can also enjoy the EXHIBITIONS (three, but allow us our secrets for the moment), and there will be a number of presentations of books in the LIBRARIES of Barcelona.

Also, our friends at GIGAMESH bookstore will have special activities during the days before Eurocon, and CHRONOS bookstore has several surprises in the oven, too.

For a bit of money, if you have some left after the Dealers Room, there will be THREE PANELS open for the general public at CCCB. We are doing this in order to attract people from outside fandom, but that doesn’t mean these events can’t be enjoyed by true fans who, ahem, forgot to buy their memberships in time.

Last but not least, FILMOTECA DE CATALUNYA will project a few movies with panels afterwards featuring some of our celebrities. The tickets will not be expensive, we promise.

(3) CLASS. Showrunner Ness is conflicted — “Doctor Who spin-off will have a gay lead character”: should he take credit, or say that’s how the world should work?

Doctor Who spin-off TV series Class will feature an gay lead character, it has been confirmed.

Celebrated author Patrick Ness is helming upcoming the BBC spin-off series, which features teenagers at a school set in the Whoniverse.

The show has been described as a British take on Buffy the Vampire Slayer; and Ness revealed this week that like Buffy, one of the main characters will be gay.

After recent events in Orlando, he tweeted: “Been asked if Class will have LGBT representation in it. Will a lead character with a boyfriend who he kisses & sleeps with & loves do?

“We were keeping that secret, but today that secret doesn’t seem very important. #lovewins”

The series stars Mr Selfridge’s Greg Austin, alongside  Fady Elsayed, Sophie Hopkins and Vivian Oparah.

Ness added: “Kind of astounded that having a gay lead on Class has been such big news. One day it won’t be, one day soon.

(4) EYE ON SHORT FICTION. At Locus Online, “Rich Horton reviews Short Fiction, May 2016”.

March is science fantasy month at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which I always like. There’s something about mixing SF and fantasy that to my mind brings forth ideas wilder and more colorful than either genre provides alone. The best, which is to say, weirdest example comes from Jason Sanford (not surprisingly). ‘‘Blood Grains Speak Through Memories’’ (3/17) is set in a far future in which the environment is preserved by ‘‘anchors’’, humans en­hanced by ‘‘grains’’ on their land. ‘‘Normal’’ humans (called day-fellows) are forced to a nomadic life: if they stay too long anywhere, or interfere with the environment (use too high technology, or cut down a tree), the grains will compel the anchors to kill them. Frere-Jones Roeder is an anchor with doubts, some related to her now dead life-partner, some to an atrocity she committed at the behest of the grains long before, some expressed in her concern for her son, exiled to life among the day-fellows. When a day-fellow girl becomes infected by the grains on her territory, she is finally pushed to take a drastic step. It’s cool and strange stuff, almost gothic at times, thought-provoking and honest.

(5) DROP IN ANYTIME. Jeremy P. Bushnell selects “Five Books Riddled with Holes” for Tor.com.

I have a good friend who suffers from trypophobia, the fear of holes. (If you think you might have this, I don’t recommend Googling it, as right on top of the search results is a rather horrific array of “images for trypophobia.”) When my new novel, The Insides, came out, I had to apologize to this friend—going so far as to offer to personally hand-annotate her copy of the book with trigger warnings—because holes are at the very center of the narrative. The novel features a set of characters who use magic to cut holes into the fabric of time and space, and these holes don’t always behave as they should: sometimes they open or reopen unexpectedly, sometimes weird things come out of them.

(6) THERE’S THAT PESKY TAVERN AGAIN. Guess what shows up in “Juliette Wade takes a ridiculously close look at the worldbuilding of Ancillary Justice” on Ann Leckie’s blog?

Paragraph 1:

The body lay naked and facedown, a deathly gray, spatters of blood staining the snow around it. It was minus fifteen degrees Celcius and a storm had passed just hours before. The snow stretched smooth in the wan sunrise, only a few tracks leading into a nearby ice-block building. A tavern. Or what passed for a tavern in this town.

I’m going to start here with the word “The.” That little article has an important job, which is to tell you that “body” is something that someone already knows about. It’s as if someone just said “Wow, a body,” and then the story picked up an instant later. As readers, we are seeing it for the first time, but we can sense that observing someone outside the boundaries of the page. Thus, “the” implies the presence of a narrator. The first hint of a world comes with “the snow around it.” Our minds produce a snowy scene.

(7) PLANETARY SOCIETY. In the fifth installment of The Planetary Post, Robert Picardo and Bill Nye take a special tour of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to see the amazing new James Webb Space Telescope.

(8) EXTRA CREDIT. The Planetary Post webpage has additional links of interest.

Juno Orbit Insertion: The Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter on July 4-5 (orbit insertion is on the night of July 4 in the Americas, early July 5 in the Eastern Hemisphere). This groundbreaking mission will improve our understanding of the solar system’s beginnings by revealing the origin and evolution of Jupiter. Watch our CEO Bill Nye demystify the cutting-edge science behind NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter. Follow Emily Lakdawalla to learn when you will be able to see new Jupiter pictures from its camera, JunoCam.

Tanking It To The Streets: After an epic parade through the streets of Los Angeles, the last unflown space shuttle external tank arrived at the California Science Center to be displayed alongside the Space Shuttle Endeavour. The tank, known as ET-94, had quite an eventful journey—including a rescue at sea.

New Space Policy Podcast: Planetary Radio just launched a monthly podcast that looks underneath the hood of how NASA works. Join Space Policy Director Casey Dreier, Policy Advisor Jason Callahan, and Mat Kaplan in this new series exploring the history, politics, and process of how we get to space. A new episode will be released on the first Friday of every month. Subscribe to Planetary Radio on your favorite listening platform.

SpaceX’s Fantastic Four: Elon Musk and his team have done it again and landed a fourth first-stage booster. This makes three landings by sea and one by land. Be sure to watch the spectacular Falcon 9 landing from the side of the booster.

LightSail™ 2 Test Success: Our citizen-funded LightSail 2 spacecraft recently breezed through a major systems test. The CubeSat successfully deployed its antenna and solar panels, communicated with the ground, and unfurled its 32-square-meter solar sails in a lab setting. Read more in our full recap.

(9) JUST LIKE CLOCKWORK. Tor.com has posted the first chapter of David D. Levine’s Arabella of Mars as a free read.

Arabella-MarsA plantation in a flourishing 18th century British colony on Mars is home to Arabella Ashby, a young woman who is perfectly content growing up in the untamed frontier. But days spent working on complex automata with her father or stalking her brother Michael with her Martian nanny is not the proper behavior of an English lady. That is something her mother plans to remedy with a move to an exotic world Arabella has never seen: London, England.

However, when events transpire that threaten her home on Mars, Arabella decides that sometimes doing the right thing is far more important than behaving as expected. She disguises herself as a boy and joins the crew of the Diana, a ship serving the Mars Trading Company, where she meets a mysterious captain who is intrigued by her knack with clockwork creations. Now Arabella just has to weather the naval war currently raging between Britain and France, learn how to sail, and deal with a mutinous crew…if she hopes to save her family remaining on Mars.

Arabella of Mars, the debut novel by Hugo-winning author David D. Levine offers adventure, romance, political intrigue, and Napoleon in space—available July 12th from Tor Books. Read chapter one below, and come back all this week for additional excerpts!

(10) POWERED BY BELIEF. Kameron Hurley is a trusted interpreter of the career writer’s inner life — “Real Publishing Talk: Author Expectation and Entitlement”.

As I’ve had more interest in my work, and more opportunities have come my way, I’ve also learned how to say no to things that aren’t furthering my ultimate goal of building my work into its own powerhouse. This is another reason I still hold onto the day job, because it means I don’t have to take every deal or every opportunity. Still, it’s hard to say no. You’re always concerned about opportunities drying up. What if this is the best it ever gets? What if I don’t get an opportunity again?

And then I look at my career and I go, “We are just getting started.”

And it is this, this hope, this rally from the depths of doubt and despair, that keeps me going. You must believe in the future. You must believe you can create it. You must believe that endurance, and hard work, and persistence, will carry you through.

(11) YOON HA LEE. Aidan Moher was pleased he found a reason to persist, as he explains in “Stealing the Future: Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee”.

I have a confession to make. When I finished the first chapter of Ninefox Gambit, the debut novel from noted short fiction author Yoon Ha Lee, I thought that was all I would read. It wasn’t clicking with me. I found the world confusing, the action gruesome, and the pace difficult to keep up with. I could recognize that novel’s quality, and the originality that Lee is known for, but other books beckoned, and there was an easy, lazy whisper at the back of my head. “It’s just not for you,” it said. I listened, and moved onto another book.

Yet, here I am reviewing it.

(12) SEASON 10 SHOOTING BEGINS. CinemaBlend tells fans “Doctor Who Is Giving Fans Way More Of An Unexpected Character”.

It was announced today that Bridesmaids star Matt Lucas will reprise Nardole for the opening episode of Doctor Who Season 10, which begins filming in Cardiff on June 20. Reuniting with the Twelfth Doctor and meeting his new companion, Bill (played by Pearl Mackie), for the first time, Lucas’ Nardole will have a recurring role throughout the season. The episode is being written by showrunner Steven Moffat, and it was also revealed that Sherlock actor Stephanie Hyam will have a guest cast role this season.

(13) CYBERPUNK WOMEN. Before moving on to the positives, Geoff Willmetts starts with the shortcomings of “Cyberpunk Women, Feminism And Science Fiction by Carlen Lavigne (book review)” at SF Crowsnest.

I had slight misgivings with the preface to Carlen Lavigne’s book, ‘Cyberpunk Women, Feminism And Science Fiction’ when she starts describing the history of cyberpunk without mentioning Bruce Bethke’s 1983 short story but in the proper introduction, she clearly is well read on the subject and covers the history in the following chapter. She describes cyberpunk as belonging to the 4 C’s: corporation, crime, computers and corporeality (read that as corporations) and the changes to our world today as computer technology takes over our reality and taken to extremes. She also includes cyborgs as a near fifth C. Oddly, she misses out the meaning of ‘punk’. Not the original meaning which meant ‘prostitution’ but that of rebellion as given with the UK punk movement of the 1980s. The reason why ‘cyberpunk’ didn’t really last that long was because, unlike William Gibson’s assertion that people would rebel against computers, is because they embraced the technology instead. Many of you people reading here lived through that period and look what you’re reading this review on. Something else Lavigne misses out on is Gibson admitting that he doesn’t like computers and I suspect those who read his novels probably raised their own eyebrows as to how druggies could program computers when you really need all your attention when writing code.

(14) OUTSIDE OF A WALRUS. Camestros Felapton created a parody of Tran Nguyen’s Spectrum-winning art “Traveling To a Distant Day,” as it appeared on the cover of semiprozine Hugo nominee Uncanny.

Then he shared his analysis: “Hugo Choices 8: Best Semiprozine – Sci-Phi beats No Award” — and for a moment I panicked because I thought that meant it was the only nominee he placed above the event horizon. But no, he means all the nominees deserve to be ranked above No Award.

What Sad Puppies (particularly SP4) has inadvertently demonstrated, is that the lack of authentic conservative voices in modern science fiction lies less with sinister conspiracies or SJW gate-keepers but rather a genuine lack of conservatives writing SF/F of any great depth. Sci-Phi journal hasn’t fixed that problem but at least it is attempting to do something constructive about it.

(15) GAIMAN ON STAGE. In the Baltimore Sun Tim Smith reviews a production of Neverwhere, the fantasy novel and BBC television series by Neil Gaiman adapted for stage by Robert Kauzlaric and performed by the Cohesion Theatre of Baltimore.  He says “this theatrical version…is well worth visiting.”

Whatever the influences, Gaiman spins a good, fresh yarn. And Kauzlaric’s adaptation does a mostly smooth job of cramming in characters and incidents, while maintaining a coherent thread.

Likewise, director Brad Norris proves adept at keeping the Cohesion production cohesive, drawing nicely delineated portrayals from the actors (accents are respectably achieved), and keeping the pace taut enough to make a long play feel almost speedy.

Some of the dry wit in the script could use brighter delivery; that may emerge as the run continues. But the violent bits — the story gets pretty dark at times — are well in hand, deftly guided by fight choreographer Jon Rubin….

(16) ABOUT FEYNMAN. In a 2011 TEDX talk called “Leonard Susskind: My Friend Richard Feynman”, Stanford physicist Susskind tells Feynman stories.  Sidney Coleman is mentioned starting at about 4:06 and continuing for a minute as Feynman, Susskind, and Coleman, take on some clueless philosophers over the nature of artificial intelligence.

Richard Feynman was a very complex man. He was a man of many, many parts. He was, of course, foremost, a very, very, very great scientist. He was an actor. You saw him act. I also had the good fortune to be in those lectures, up in the balcony. They were fantastic. He was a philosopher; he was a drum player; he was a teacher par excellence. Richard Feynman was also a showman, an enormous showman. He was brash, irreverent — he was full of macho, a kind of macho one-upmanship. He loved intellectual battle. He had a gargantuan ego. But the man had somehow a lot of room at the bottom. And what I mean by that is a lot of room, in my case — I can’t speak for anybody else — but in my case, a lot of room for another big ego. Well, not as big as his, but fairly big. I always felt good with Dick Feynman.

 

[Thanks to JJ, robinareid, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

Pixel Scroll 5/17/16 There and Gernsback Again

(1) I WONDER WHAT THE KING IS DOING TONIGHT. Kameron Hurley observes that fame and fortune don’t go hand-in-hand: “Dancing for Dinner: Fame, Publishing, and Breakout Books”.

In my own life, I find I have to remind people often that I have a day job. I actually had a client email me after a conference call one time and ask, “Are you THE Kameron Hurley?” and I had to admit that I was. I had to have a conversation with my boss about online harassment, and how the release of my upcoming essay collection, The Geek Feminist Revolution, might create some pushback at my job, and how we should handle that should it happen. The whiplash you get in going to an event where people literally scream with happiness when you walk into a room and back to private life where you’re just another cog is really weird (to be truthful, I greatly enjoy my anonymity in Ohio, and don’t want it another way, but the dissonance is weird).

Yet this balancing act between public and private life, or public personae and private day job, is something that many thousands of other writers and artists struggle with every day. I was reading that Joe Abercrombie kept his day job for a lot longer than you might have thought (and even then, picked up freelancing jobs until a few years ago), and Gene Wolfe has had a day job his whole career. Most of us have to do this. It’s just… increasingly awkward to find that the fame part comes so much faster than the money part (if the money comes at all). There’s this strange assumption that by being an artist, you have traded away your private life in exchange for money. But what about those of us who never have the money to keep ourselves safe from the fame?

(2) HILL’S DARKSIDE. Coming in October from IDW, “Joe Hill’s Terrifying Scripts For Tales From The Darkside Collected”.

Originally planned as a reboot for the storied series, Hill’s scripts for these never-broadcast television episodes allow the New York Times bestselling author to stretch his creative muscles, his effortless mastery of the twisted subject matter injecting new terrors into this silver screen legend.

Joining Hill in resurrecting this classic is Charles Paul Wilson III, known to many Joe Hill fans as the artist responsible for the nightmare vision made real in their most recent collaboration…

“When I was offered a chance to reinvent Tales from the Darkside, I leapt,” said Hill. “This was a landmark show for my generation: our Twilight Zone, our Outer Limits. Right away, I wanted to do something that honored the spirit of the original Darkside… and at the same time I wanted to go bigger, to do something fresh, something with scope. In the end I wrote three scripts and sketched a vision for a whole Darkside universe. I envisioned a series of individual horror stories that would, ultimately, turn out to be connected by a single mythology. I really wanted to do something with the scale of Locke & Key. TV is tough and in the end we didn’t quite make it to the little screen. But it’s a delight and a thrill to share the scripts alongside Charles Paul Wilson’s beautifully sick illustrations. Here’s the show that could’ve been, now playing in your imagination.”

Tales From The Darkside was created by George A. Romero.

(3) MONSTER CENSUS. Max Florschutz, in “Being a Better Writer: Micro-Blast #3”, answers the question “Do I Need Fantastic Creatures in My Fantasy?”

No, actually.

All right, let me explain a bit more. Usually when we think of fantasy we think of fantastic creatures: Beings like dragons, unicorns, monstrous beasts, etc. Such creatures fill the realm of myth and legend the world over, and are a common sight in fantasy stories. But do you need one in your story?

Well, no. There are plenty of stories out there where the fantastic and the incredible happen without any sort of mythical, shocking, or otherwise out-of-the-ordinary beasts and creatures entering the narrative. A lot of stories are about human interaction, no beasts needed. You can still write a fantastic fantasy without any indication or even mention of fantastic beasts, and there are plenty of fantasy books that prove this as well. For example, take the success of GRRM’s Game of Thrones books. Granted, they pull in dragons and other fantastic beasts as the series moves on, but such elements only, if I recall correctly, appear right at the end of the first book—the rest of that introduction to the series draws more on the characters and the goings-on of a political kingdom to keep you reading (as well as lots of incest and other elements, which is why I only ever read that first book and didn’t care to move on).

My disinterest in the series aside, the first title in the series shows that your fantasy doesn’t need to have fantastical beasts in order to be gripping. You can write a fantastic amount of drama, magic, and excitement without ever needing a fantastical creature.

(4) STRAW WARS. Bence Pintér, editor-in-chief of the Hungaran SF portal Mandiner.sci-fi, recommends a funny video from Hungary. Public workers created Star Wars sculptures from bales of straw in Tiszaigar, a small village in the Great Hungarian Plain.

(5) PLANETARY SOCIETY. Robert Picardo’s Planetary Post, “A Visit to JPL.”

Welcome to the fourth installment of The Planetary Post, our monthly newsletter from Robert Picardo featuring the most notable space happenings. This month we head to JPL for a tour with two young friends.

 

(6) LONGLIST. Aaron Pound is gathering data for “The Hugo Longlist Project” at Dreaming of Other Worlds.

As I noted a few days ago, it does not appear that anyone is tracking the nominees on the Hugo longlist. There are plausible reasons for this, the most important of which is that it is entirely informal and unofficial. The Hugo administrators usually do not even bother to determine if a particular nominee is eligible in the category they have been nominated in unless it makes the list of finalists. This does not mean, however, that this data is not without value. Thus far, however, it has not been compiled into a coherent whole. This project is intended to fill in this gap by compiling all of the Hugo longlist data into a series of posts so it is all accessible in one location. Some notes:

  1. Though the Hugo statistical data that is released concerning the top fifteen nominees lists the total number of nominations each work received and ranks them accordingly, they are presented here in alphabetical order. Perusing the statistics, it is not uncommon for a work to receive the most nominations in the nominating round, but not win the Hugo award in the award selection round. This indicates to me that the raw number of nominations is not a worthwhile guide to whether one work is “better” than another in the eyes of the Hugo voters.

(7) NEBULA TRIP REPORT. Zak Zyz filled in readers about “My trip to the Nebulas, Installment 1: Cry Havoc and let slip the Blogs of War”.

I was sick as hell on Thursday but made a point to get out to see at least @MikeRUnderwood’s sales panel. Very valuable info, he first went into an explanation of a few retail-style presentation techniques useful for displaying books when working a booth at a con.

Two presentation points I plan to implement:

  1. Have bookstands, a tablecloth, and ideally a banner or a sign that complement your brand
  2. Have a stack of books underneath yours, so people know they aren’t taking your last copy.

Mike Underwood has a lot of sales and retail experience and it shows. He talked about a flowchart method to his sales pitch, favoring a soft-sell approach with a lot of emphasis on gauging the comfort and interest level of a prospective buyer. He talked about the importance of genre familiarity, knowing what’s popular for comparison not just to your own genre, but to build bridges to people who aren’t necessarily SFF readers (or even big readers at all) in larger conventions with a more diverse crowd. A final tip was offering people who were interested but not willing to commit to a sale a chance to join your email list.

This was a valuable panel that taught me a few things that will make it easier to sell books in person. He also fielded my question about selling books to independent stores, with some great advice about talking to book buyers. Just the information in this one panel was worth the price of admission to me.

I should also note Mike has an active Kickstarter going for Genrenauts.

(8) CAMERA ARTISTE. John Scalzi announced on Whatever that he posted an exquisite set of photos of the Nebula Awards banquet in this Flickr album.

(9) ZERO YOBS. Nigel battled Damien Walter on Twitter.

I don’t think Walter is actually wrong. Those looking for WSFS rules permitting an action should try the thought experiment of looking instead for rules that will prevent that action. The WSFS rules give great latitude to the committee in all matters that aren’t specifically addressed in the WSFS constitution. The necessary ingredient is for the corporate entity running the con to have the political will to act — I have no idea whether MACII has even discussed the idea. Also, it would cost money to refund memberships — don’t underestimate that issue.

(10) S.H.I.E.L.D. TRAVELS IN TIME. Comic Book Resources reports “ABC Bumps ‘Agents of SHIELD to New Timeslot”.

When “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” returns to ABC this fall, the show will air in a new timeslot: Tuesday nights at 10 pm EST. This pushes the show back an hour from its original 9 pm slot, which will now be filled by “Fresh Off the Boat” and “The Real O’Neals.”

The news follows the cancellation of “Agent Carter,” which aired during “S.H.I.E.L.D.’s” past two winter hiatuses, and ABC’s decision not to move forward with the Mockingbird-centric “Marvel’s Most Wanted” spinoff.

(11) INNOVATION. The Valley Forge in 2017 NASFiC bid has posted a new progress report on Facebook.

We’re pleased to announce the Valley Forge 2017 Mobie Fund!

Mobie Fund Mission: The Mobie Fund will provide monetary assistance to those fans who have difficulty attending NASFIC due to the financial burden of mobility scooter rental. We will seek donations from all who want to help make NASFiC accessible. Valley Forge 2017 will match donations to the fund, up to $500.

After the site selection vote at MidAmeriCon II, the 2016 WorldCon, we will accept donations in cash or through Paypal via our website. At the same time, those who wish to apply for financial assistance for mobility scooter rental can contact us through our website.

Please note: The Mobie Fund is first-come, first-serve. We will confirm that your spot is available, but it won’t be secured until we receive your registration for the con. Upon arrival at the hotel, you can pick up your pre-paid mobie at the mobie rental spot. If, at the end of the con, the Mobie Fund still has a balance, we will reimburse that money among the other mobie riders at the con.

(12) SUICIDE SPINOFF. According to Yahoo! Movies, “Margot Robbie Spearheads Proposed Harley Quinn Movie With More Female DC Comics Characters”.

Months ahead of the opening of Suicide Squad, Warner Bros. is already contemplating a spin-off for the DC Entertainment anti-heroine, Harley Quinn.

Margot Robbie, who stars as the villainess in Suicide Squad, is attached to reprise the character and would also produce the untitled spin-off, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

But in an interesting twist, the project is not a Quinn solo movie. Rather, it would focus on several of DC’s female heroes and villains.

Details are being closely guarded but names such as Batgirl and Birds of Prey have surfaced, although in what capacity, it’s not clear. Warner Bros. isn’t commenting.

There is also a scribe penning the script but those details, too, are being kept secret, although it is known that the writer is female.

(13) STANISLAW LEM HONORED. A Kraków Science Festival will be named after Stanislaw Lem says Radio Poland.

Late science-fiction writer, philosopher and futurologist, Stanislaw Lem, is the patron of the 16th edition of the Science Festival, which begins in Kraków, southern Poland, on Thursday.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Lem’s death. The slogan of this year’s festival is “Time and Space”. “Lem’s work strongly refers to the concept of time and space, which are also the domain of science,” the chairman of the festival’s organising committee, prof. Robert Stawarz, said.

(14) OLDIE BUT GOODIE. Just discovered this 2011 Robot Chicken video today: “Aliens Acid Blood.“

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Bence Pintér, JJ and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Leslie C.]

Pixel Scroll 3/29/16 Police My Tears, the Scrollman Said

(1) SIAM SINFONIETTA. Somtow Sucharitkul conducts at Carnegie Hall tonight! On Facebook, he posted a picture of his dressing room.

Somtow at Carnegie Hall

(2) SOCIETY PAGES. The Planetary Society has released the second installment of The Planetary Post with actor and Society board member Robert Picardo, their newsletter featuring the most notable space happenings.

For this issue, we took a trip to the set of the scientist-produced musical called “Boldly Go!” to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Star Trek.

 

(3) HOP ON POP. “William Shatner sued for $170 million by man claiming to be his long-lost son”

William Shatner is being sued for $170 million by a radio host who claims to be the “Star Trek” legend’s long-lost son.

Peter Sloan has boldly gone and filed legal paperwork in Florida demanding Shatner submit to a DNA test and cease claiming he isn’t his father.

Sloan, 59, claims his birth mother, late Canadian actress Kathy McNeil, had a brief affair with Captain Kirk in Toronto. She gave him up for adoption at 5 days old.

But Shatner, 85, denies Sloan is his son, and claims the local radio host is trying to unfairly live long and prosper from the connection.

(4) MEMORY NUMBER ONE. Madeleine E. Robins makes a riveting anecdote out of her earliest memory, in “My Mother Went Out for Lemons” at Book View Café.

As a small child my family lived in the top two floors (or more properly, the top floor and an attic) of a brownstone on 11th Street in New York City. Four years after this story we moved to another brownstone, also on 11th Street, where we lived in the bottom two floors.  But that’s neither here nor there in terms of this memory.

My brother would have been about six months old–I know this because it was spring (and both my brother and I were December babies, but it wasn’t swelteringly hot the way that summer in New York City so often is). I would have been about two and a half. And my mother was making dinner and realized that she needed a lemon. Rather than waking the baby and packing us both into the stroller and going down to the corner to fetch a lemon, Mom made a different call: she sat me down on the couch, told me not to move, and went out to buy a lemon….

(5) ONE RULE TO BIND THEM ALL. Jeffe Kennedy warns against violating the One Rule, in “Romance Tropes for SFF Writers” at the SFWA Blog.

The romance in the book does not end happily. It does not end with even the promise of happiness. The heroine and the hero part ways with every indication that this will be a permanent separation.

Now, there is nothing wrong with this ending for a science fiction novel. However, for a book marketed as SFR, it’s a huge violation of reader trust. It’s an ending that makes romance readers throw the book against the wall. It’s a profound betrayal that destroys their trust in an author.

An argument that gets introduced in a lot of these conversations – always from non-romance readers – is that the HEA/HFN is not mandatory. That it’s okay for a story to end tragically. Romeo and Juliet gets trotted out. And sure, that’s true! But Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare’s tragedies! Sure, there’s a romance in it. You can even say the romance is the core of the story, but that doesn’t make it a romance. Why not?

Because it ends tragically, not happily.

(6) TRUST. R. S. Belcher says “Trust Your Editor” in a post at Magical Words.

Like I said, I was pissed. I had been doing this job of writing and getting paid for it for a long time, years. I paid bills, mine and my family’s bills, on my words, and I thought, after busting my hump on this piece that it was one of the best journalism pieces I had written.

The first chicken McNugget of “wisdom” I’ll throw out here, is whatever you write, if you expect to get paid for it, expect to deal with criticism…from all corners. You have to learn how to deal with that anger or it will eat you up like acid, or worse, it will influence how you write. It will affect how fearless you get in your writing, what you do, how you say it, and what you decide to not say. If you can’t handle that, pack it in, take up alpaca herding or something, ’cause you will be a bitter, miserable, and poor writer (in more ways than one).

So, I took a few days, because my deadline allowed me to, and did nothing in regards to the article. I did not email this editor and tell him exactly what I thought of his revisions, and where he could stuff them. I did not quit in a funk, or bad-mouth the guy and his publication in social media. In other words, I didn’t shoot my career in the face with a bazooka. I raged in private, I calmed the hell down, and I got back to work.

I did every single thing this editor had wanted me to do; when all was said and done, when all the ego, and emotional sturm und drang was over, it was a better piece, a better creation of my writing, my words. My editor was right, and he was damn good at his job. The moral of this story is trust your editor.

Now, I’m not saying trust every editor, I’m saying trust your editor.

(7) TWO DADS. The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman, on sale May 31. The Fireman by Joe Hill, on sale May 17. John King Tarpinian says, “Joe Hill gave Ray Bradbury credit for the title. Both books are dedicated to the authors’ newborn babies.”

Fireman and gaiman

(8) PATTY DUKE OBIT. Patty Duke passed away March 29 at the age of 69. Sean Astin paid tribute to his mother online:

Shortly after the news was made public that his famous mother Patty Duke had passed, Sean Astin took to social media to post a heartwarming tribute — and announce that he’s launching a mental health initiative in her honor.

“I love you mom,” he wrote alongside a photo of his mother holding him as a baby. The message also included the statement that the family released to announce the passing.

Along with image, Sean posted the words, “Her work endures,” along with a link to the Patty Duke Mental Health Project.

“My mother’s life touched tens of millions of people. Her ground breaking portrayal of iconic American legend Helen Keller, launched a career that would span six decades,” Sean wrote of the crowd-funded project. “First on broadway and then on the silver screen, Patty Duke’s characterization of the extraordinary development of the blind/deaf child brought global attention to the plight of people living with those challenges.

“The nature of this kind of illuminating and compassionate work become the sacred mission of her life,” he continued. “She became a voice for the voiceless, a reassuring presence for the scared, the intimidated and the lost. She was a healer of many souls and a champion for so many in need.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

revenge of the creature

  • March 29, 1955 Revenge of the Creature was seen for the first time.  Clint Eastwood, uncredited, makes his first screen appearance in this movie as the goofy white coated lab assistant.
  • March 29, 2004 Shaun of the Dead premieres in London.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL.

  • March 29, 1968 – Lucy Lawless of Xena fame.

(11) A LENS MAN LOOKS AT NARNIA. Vishwas R. Gaitonde has some thoughts about the worldwide popularity of Lewis’ Narnia stories. “With No Inkling of the Contents: Viewing Narnia Through a Hindu Lens” at The Mantle.

Recognizing Hindu Philosophy in Narnia

I began to wonder: what would Narnia be like if it were viewed through a Hindu lens? Perhaps part of the worldwide popularity of the Narnian saga lies in people from other cultures discovering a resonance of their own spiritual beliefs—meanings that Lewis never consciously intended. But then, works of imagination are open to interpretation. As I contemplated the Christian themes in Lewis’ work, I began to wonder: what would Narnia be like if it were viewed through a Hindu lens? Could a reader find such themes throughout Narnia?

…In viewing Narnia through a Hindu lens, I have largely drawn from the Hindu school of philosophy called Advaita Vedanta, which is arguably the most popular contemporary concept of Hinduism.

Atman, Brahman, and Maya: Hindus believe that the human soul (Atman) intuitively knows that existence within a physical body is not its true nature—that it is part of the Godhead, the Universal Spirit (Brahman). But in its body prison, the soul has forgotten its real identity. This ignorance (avidya) forms the human quandary and its accompanying sorrows….

Mythology awakens within us the desire for our true selfIn The Silver Chair, Prince Rilian has similarly forgotten who he is for years whilst bewitched by the Lady of the Green Kirtle. When liberated, Rilian regains full knowledge that he is the heir to the Narnian throne. He declares, “For now that I am myself, I can remember that enchanted life, though while I was enchanted, I could not remember my true self.” Similarly, in The Horse and His Boy, Shasta is clueless about his true identity, but he knows that he isn’t who he and others think he is (a slave or serf). His intuition sets him on a quest that ultimately reveals he is the lost heir of Archenland. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Lord Rhoop is trapped on Dark Island where subconscious dreams come to life, where one is a prisoner of his or her own mind. In The Silver Chair, Jill Pole sees boulders and is fooled into thinking they may have given rise to the old wives’ tales of giants—until the boulders turn out to be actual giants. In The Last Battle, Puzzle the Donkey cloaked in a lion’s skin deceives others into thinking he is Aslan. And in Prince Caspian, Caspian longs for the old Narnia, just as the soul instinctively knows that there is a better place and a better experience (viz., Brahman, Spirit) than its current surroundings. Mythology awakens within us the desire for our true self—so just as Caspian clings to his myths, Hindus hang on to theirs.

(12) JOHN JOSEPH ADAMS. Here’s how John Joseph Adams said it, in “NEWS: Hugo Award Nomination Deadline is March 31”:

If you like a thing, and you think it’s deserving of a Hugo Award, nominate it! If you’re not familiar with a thing, but you saw it on a suggested nominations list or something of the sort, either read/watch it, and then nominate it because you like it, or don’t nominate it because you didn’t like it. Point being, please don’t nominate stuff just because it’s on somebody’s list somewhere; only nominate things you personally think are deserving.

(13) DOGGED EFFORT. At Chaos Horizon, Brandon Kempner continues “Estimating the 2016 Hugo Nominations, Part 2”.

A pretty simple model and not terribly informative so far. What you’ll glean from this is that the Rabid Puppies are likely to deliver a large block of votes to the works on their list. When we combine this chart with the estimated chart from the Typical vote and the Sad Puppy vote, that’s when we’ll be in business.

The core question is whether or not this block will be larger than other voting groups. In more lightly voted categories like Best Related Work or categories where the vote is more dispersed like Best Short Story, 400 votes is likely enough to sweep all or most of the ballot. Think about Best Related Work: the highest non-Puppy pick last year managed only around 100 votes. The top non-Puppy short story only managed 76 votes last year. Even if you triple those this year, you’re still well under 400 votes. In a more popular category like Best Novel or Best Dramatic Work, I expect the impact to be substantial but not sweeping. Perhaps 3 out of 5? 2 out of 5?

(14) WHAT A WAG. The Good Dog News can be found in this Maximumble cartoon.

(15) SHOPPING ONLINE IN THE STONE AGE. Martin Morse Wooster advises, “The YouTube video ‘Internet Shopping–Database—1984’ is another installment of the 1984 ITV series Database, in which the manager of the Nottingham Building Society reveals ‘If we give away one of these’ (keyboards) ‘We won’t have to build any more branches!’

“The excitement of shopping and looking up your bank statements on your TV is palpable!”

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

Pixel Scroll 11/3 Ten Things I Slate About You

(1) Disney has optioned the movie rights to Ursula Vernon’s childrens book Castle Hangnail for an adaptation to be produced by Ellen DeGeneres.

DeGeneres will produce with Jeff Kleeman, her partner at A Very Good Production banner.

The book tells of a 12-year old witch who shows up at a dark castle that needs a master or be decommissioned by the bureaucratic Board of Magic and its many minions, such as a hypochondriac fish and a letter ‘Q’ averse minotaur, dispersed into the world. She projects confidence as she tackles the series of tasks laid forth by the board but underneath lie several simmering secrets, including one of her being an imposter….

DeGeneres and Kleeman are busy in the television world but Hangnail is their second notable move on the movie side and keeps their feet firmly in the fantasy field. Earlier this year the duo set up Uprooted, the novel from Temeraire author Naomi Novik, for Warner Bros.

(2) A magisterial essay by Ursula K. Le Guin at Tin House, “’Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?’”.

American critics and academics have been trying for forty years to bury one of the great works of twentieth-century fiction, The Lord of the Rings. They ignore it, they condescend to it, they stand in large groups with their backs to it, because they’re afraid of it. They’re afraid of dragons. They know if they acknowledge Tolkien they’ll have to admit that fantasy can be literature, and that therefore they’ll have to redefine what literature is.

What American critics and teachers call “literature” is still almost wholly restricted to realism. All other forms of fiction—westerns, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, romance, historical, regional, you name it—are dismissed as “genre.” Sent to the ghetto. That the ghetto is about twelve times larger than the city, and currently a great deal livelier, doesn’t bother those who live in ivory towers. Magic realism, though—that does bother them; they hear Gabriel García Márquez gnawing quietly at the foundations of the ivory tower, they hear all these crazy Indians dancing up in the attic, and they think maybe they should do something about it. Perhaps they should give that fellow who teaches the science fiction course tenure? Oh, surely not.

To say that realistic fiction is by definition superior to imaginative fiction is to imply that imitation is superior to invention. I have wondered if this unstated but widely accepted (and, incidentally, very puritanical) proposition is related to the recent popularity of the memoir and the personal essay. This has been a genuine popularity, not a matter of academic canonizing. People really do want to read memoir and personal essay, and writers want to write it. I’ve felt rather out of step. I like history and biography fine, but when family and personal memoir seems to be the most popular—the dominant narrative form—well, I have searched my soul for prejudice and found it. I prefer invention to imitation. I love novels. I love made-up stuff.

(3) “The Call of the Sad Whelkfins: The Continued Relevance of How To Suppress Women’s Writing“ by Annalee Flower Horne and Natalie Luhrs in Uncanny Magazine #7 uses Joanna Russ’ text to diagnose some critics’ responses to Ancillary Justice.

I snorted. For the past week, Natalie Luhrs and I had been discussing the book in the context of the ongoing fight for the soul of the science fiction community, most recently played out in the failed attempt to take over the Hugo Awards. In HTSWW, Russ uses an alien species called the whelk–finned Glotolog to illustrate the methods by which human cultures control women’s writing without direct censorship (4). These days, the tactics the so–called “sad puppies” use to paint themselves as the true heirs of science fiction, bravely holding the line against the invading masses, are the very same tactics Joanna Russ ascribed to the whelk–finned Glotolog in 1983…

False Categorizing of the Work She wrote it, but she isn’t really an artist, and it isn’t really art. (HTSWW)

False Categorization is, essentially, bad faith. It allows the critic to shift the focus to something else—usually something trivial in the larger context, so as to dismiss the whole. So once again, we’ll look at the pronouns in Ancillary Justice. By focusing on the pronouns, the sad whelkfins are able to dismiss the entire work as nothing more than a political screed against men, as turgid message fiction that doesn’t even tell a good story.

That’s a massive tell to anyone who has actually read the book—because while the pronouns do take some adjustment, they’re a small part of the novel’s world–building and not a major source of plot or conflict. They just are, the way there is air to breathe and skel to eat.

(4) “Updates on the Chinese Nebula Awards and the Coordinates Awards” at Amazing Stories has the full list of award winners (only two were reported here on the night of the ceremony). Since Steve Davidson is able to reproduce the titles in the original language, all the more reason to refer you there.

(5) Liu Cixin participated in “The Future of China through Chinese Science Fiction” at the University of Sydney on November 3.

(6) Crossed Genres Magazine will close after the December 2015 issue reports Locus Online.

Co-publisher Bart Lieb posted a statement:

Two primary factors led to this decision. First, one of Crossed Genres’ co-publishers, Kay Holt, has been dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for more than two years. It’s made it extremely difficult for her to help with the running of CG, leaving the lion’s share of responsibilities on the other co-publisher, Bart Leib, who’s also working a day job. Magazine co-editor Kelly Jennings, ebook coordinator Casey Seda, and our team of first readers have all been heroic in their volunteer efforts, but we’ve still been unable to keep from falling behind.

The second factor is simply that the magazine has run out of funds to continue. In April 2014 we ran a successful Kickstarter to keep CG Magazine going, but once another year had passed, roughly 90 percent of those who’d pledged to the Kickstarter chose not to renew their memberships….

(7) Today In History

  • November 3, 1956 — On this night in 1956, CBS presented the first broadcast of The Wizard of Oz.  It was a major event for which the network paid MGM a quarter of a million dollars for the rights (over $2,000,000 in today’s dollars.)
  • November 3, 1976 — Brian De Palma’s Carrie is seen for the very first time

(8) Today’s Birthday Monster

  • November 3, 1954 — Godzilla was released in Japanese theaters.

(9) Today’s Belated Birthday

  • Lovecraft’s 125th birthday (in August) was celebrated in many ways in Providence. A new plaque was installed near his birthplace at 454 Angell Street, designed, created, and installed by Gage Prentiss.

(10) Today’s Yodeling Marmot

(11) “Transparent Aluminum: IT’S REAL!” at Treehugger.

Remember Star Trek: The Voyage Home, where Scotty talks into a computer mouse and then instantly figures out keyboards and gives away the formula for transparent Aluminum? And remember Galaxy Quest, where Commander Taggart tells the Justin Long character about the ship: “IT’S REAL!”

Mash those two scenes together and you have Spinel, described by US Naval Research Laboratory scientist Dr. Jas Sanghera as “actually a mineral, it’s magnesium aluminate. The advantage is it’s so much tougher, stronger, harder than glass. It provides better protection in more hostile environments—so it can withstand sand and rain erosion.” He likes it for the same reason Scotty did, according to an NRL press release

(12) Arlan Andrews told Facebook friends that Ken Burnside has answered the Alfies.

The Wreck of the Hugo

So, today I received this 3D-printed crashed rocket ship, titled “The Wreck of the Hugo” as created by artist Charles Oines and commissioned by Ken Burnside. Others went to Kary English, Mike Resnick, and Toni Weisskopf. According to Ken Burnside, the official 2015 Hugo voting tallies showed each of us recipients as runners-up to the 2500-vote NO AWARD bloc that wrecked the Hugos this year in many categories. I gratefully accept the gifted award in the spirit in which it was given, and sincerely hope that no future Hugo nominees are ever again voted off the island in such a fashion.

(That last part resonates strangely, at least in my memory, because “I accept this award in the spirit in which it is given” was Norman Spinrad’s answer when handed the Brown Hole Award for Outstanding Professionalism in 1973. And he was right to be suspicious.)

(13) Meanwhile, the curator of the Alfies, George R.R. Martin, is already making recommendations for the Dramatic Presentation categories in “Hugo Thoughts”.

In the past, I have usually made my own Hugo recommendations only after nominations have opened. But in light of what happened last year, it seems useful to begin much sooner. To get talking about the things we like, the things we don’t like. This is especially useful in the case of the lesser known and obscure work. Drawing attention to such earlier in the process is the best way to get more fans looking at them… and unless you are aware of a work, you’re not likely to nominate it, are you? (Well, unless you’re voting a slate, and just ticking off boxes).

Let me start with the Dramatic Presentation category. Long form….

(14) Damien G. Walter does best when the target is as easy to hit as the broad side of a barn. “Gus. A Case Study In Sad Puppy Ignorance”.

Firstly, is Gus actually asking us to believe that Frankenstein : A Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the famed early feminist icon, daughter of philosopher and political activist Mary Wollstonecraft, wife of romantic poet and political radical Percy Byshe Shelley, close friend of paramilitary revolutionary Lord Byron, and author of  seven novels (many science fictional) and innumerable other stories, essays and letters, all of them revealing a life of deep engagement with political and social issues of gender, class, sexuality and more, that this same Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote Frankenstein : A Modern Prometheus (a subtitle explicitly invoking the mythical act of stealing fire from the gods as an opening rhetorical reference to the risks of scientific endeavour) as, and I quote, “the sole purpose of…macabre entertainment”? Because I would suggest, on the basis of all available evidence, including every single thing ever written about Frankenstein, that Gus is in a minority on this one. In fact, I will go so far as to say that he is utterly, absurdly and idiotically wrong.

(15) John Thiel’s responses to Steve Davidson’s queries about “trufandom” appear in “The Voices of Fandom” at Amazing Stories.

Steve’s introduction notes –

I posed a series of interview questions to members of the Fan History group on Facebook.  I thought it would be a good place to start because that group is made up entirely of Trufans.

Today, I present the first in a series of responses to those questions and I should point out that, in typical Fannish fashion, the answers are anything but monolithic.  Apparently Fans have as many different ideas about what it means to be a Fan as there are Fans, which just serves to point out how difficult it is to get a handle on this question.

(16) A video interview with Dame Diana Rigg.

Five decades since she first appeared as Emma Peel in The Avengers (1961-1969), fans of the show still approach Dame Diana Rigg to express their gratitude. Rigg joins BFI curator Dick Fiddy to reflect on the influence of Peel on real-life women and acting with Patrick Macnee and Ian Hendry.

(17) Jon Michaud reviews Michael Witwer’s Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons in The New Yorker and accuses the biographer of shielding Gygax rather than exploring more deeply the controversial topic of his religious views.

Dr. Thomas Radecki, a founding member of the National Coalition on TV Violence, said, “There is no doubt in my mind that the game Dungeons & Dragons is causing young men to kill themselves and others.” In her book “Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society,” Tipper Gore connected the game to satanism and the occult. All of this prompted a “60 Minutes” segment in which Gygax rejected these myriad accusations, calling them “nothing but a witch hunt.”

What was largely unknown or omitted from this brouhaha is that Gygax was an intermittently observant Jehovah’s Witness. This startling fact crops up about halfway through Witwer’s biography, when he notes that Gygax’s “controversial” game, along with his smoking and drinking, had led to a parting of the ways with the local congregation. Up until that point, the matter of Gygax’s faith had gone unmentioned in the biography, and it is barely discussed thereafter. (The book’s index does not have an entry for “Jehovah’s Witness” or “Gygax, Gary—religious beliefs.”) Given the furor that D. & D. caused, the absence of a deeper analysis of Gygax’s faith is a glaring omission. In a recent interview with Tobias Carroll, Witwer acknowledged that Gygax “was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness. He would go door-to-door and he would give out pamphlets. He was pretty outspoken about it, as a matter of fact.” The reason for almost completely excluding it from the biography, Witwer says, is that “I couldn’t find it [as] a huge driving force in his life.…I didn’t want to be too heavy-handed with that, because I’m not clear that, especially with his gaming work and even his home life, how big a factor that was on a day-to-day basis. But I do know he was practicing.”

(18) Galactic Journey visits the year 1960 where young Mike Glyer’s favorite TV series, Men Into Space, is still on the air, and there’s even a tie-in novel by Murray Leinster.

men into space cover COMP.jpg

“Men Into Space” consists of short stories following the career of Space Force officer Ed McCauley:

As a lieutenant, McCauley makes the first manned rocket flight.

As a captain, McCauley deals with an injured crewman while piloting the first space-plane.

As a major, McCauley deals with a potentially-fatal construction accident while in charge the building of the first space station.

As a colonel, McCauley deals with a murderous personnel problem while overseeing the establishment of a series of radio relays to the moon’s far side, then deals with a technical problem aboard a rocket to Venus, and another personnel problem on a Mars mission.

Lots of nuts and bolts details about ballistics, rocket fuels, radiation, the van Allen belts, and so forth.  And with each story, McCauley deals with progressively more complex human problems as he moves up in rank.

Although 7-year-old me would have loved the tie-in novel, 35 cents would have been a king’s ransom in my personal economy….

(19) Here’s a photo of the Cosmos Award presentation to Neil deGrasse Tyson at the Planetary Society 35th anniversary celebration on October 24.

Neil deGrasse Tyson (left) accepted The Planetary Society's Cosmos Award for Outstanding Public Presentation of Science. Bill Nye (middle) was on stage as Tyson accepted the award from Nichelle Nichols (right), who is best known for playing Lt. Uhura on "Star Trek" (the original series) and who is an advocate for real-world space exploration.

Neil deGrasse Tyson (left) accepted The Planetary Society’s Cosmos Award for Outstanding Public Presentation of Science. Bill Nye (middle) was on stage as Tyson accepted the award from Nichelle Nichols (right), who is best known for playing Lt. Uhura on “Star Trek” (the original series) and who is an advocate for real-world space exploration.

Before the award was given to Tyson, Nye reminisced about meeting Tyson through the organization. Nye then showed a photo of what Tyson looked like in 1980, when he was a wrestler (Tyson wrestled in high school and college), and Tyson joked that he kicked some serious butt.

Tyson had come prepared, and showed a photo of Nye in 1980, in a “Coneheads” costume, with a silver ring around his head.

(20) The Red Bull Music Academy website has published David Keenan’s “Reality Is For People Who Can’t Handle Science Fiction”, about the influence of SF on French progressive rock from 1969 through 1985.

In 2014 I interviewed Richard Pinhas of Heldon, still one of the central punk/prog mutants to come out of the French underground. I asked him about the influence of the visionary science fiction writer Philip K. Dick on his sound and on his worldview. “Philip K. Dick was a prophet to us,” Pinhas explained. “He saw the future.”

It makes sense that a musical and cultural moment that was obsessed with the sound of tomorrow would name a sci-fi writer as its central avatar. Indeed, while the Sex Pistols spat on the British vision of the future dream as a shopping scheme, the French underground projected it off the planet altogether.

When Pinhas formed Heldon in 1974 he named the group in tribute to sci-fi writer Norman Spinrad’s 1972 novel The Iron Dream, conflating his own vision of a mutant amalgam of Hendrix-inspired psychedelic rock and cyborg-styled electronics with Spinrad’s re-writing of history.

(21) At CNN, “Art transforms travel photos with paper cutouts”:

That’s what happened when Londoner Rich McCor began adorning pictures of British landmarks with whimsical paper cutouts and posting the results online.

Originally, the 28-year-old creative agency worker intended the photos for the amusement of himself and friends.

Then he got a lesson on the impact of “viral” when Britain’s “Daily Mail” publicized some of his photos.

 

arc-de-triomphe-paris-jpg-rich-mccor-exlarge-169

 [Thanks to Rob Thornton, Mark-kitteh, Will R., Michael J. Walsh, JJ, Janice Gelb, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Cosmos Award For Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil-Cosmos-Award

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson will accept The Planetary Society’s Cosmos Award for Outstanding Public Presentation of Science in Pasadena, California on October 24. Nichelle Nichols, Lieutenant Uhura in the original Star Trek series, will present Tyson with the award during the Society’s 35th Anniversary event, More to Explore: A Space Celebration with Bill Nye.

Jennifer Vaughn of The Planetary Society details the reasons for the award.

Neil, director of New York City’s Hayden Planetarium and board member for the Society for the past 19 years, recently hosted the much acclaimed Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey television series, a re-envisioning and tribute to Carl Sagan’s original Cosmos series. His lifelong passion for science, space exploration, and the quest to understand the universe’s far-flung mysteries fuels his prolific career as a popularizer of science. What makes this particular award presentation truly remarkable for all of us is as a 17-year old Neil was deciding where to pursue his education in space sciences, Carl, our co-founder, personally reached out to Neil to help set him on his path.

 

Cosmos Award

Cosmos Award

Planetary Society Plans 35th Anniversary Celebration

35th-email-bill-nyeBill Nye the Science Guy, CEO of The Planetary Society, invites people to mark the Society’s 35th anniversary on October 24.

The “More to Explore: A Space Celebration with Bill Nye” event at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium will run 7:30-9:00 p.m. Ticket prices range from $27 to $97.

Before the event there will be a pre-show VIP dinner from 5:00-7:00 p.m. with Planetary Society dignitaries including Bill Nye, Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura), Andy Weir (author of The Martian), and others. Tickets to the dinner are $200 per person.

The Planetary Society hopes to raise $100,000 to fund its Archive with these anniversary events and related donations.