Pixel Scroll 1/11/18 Agent 770, With A License To Scroll

(1) YOUNG PEOPLE. James Davis Nicoll asked the crew at Young People Read Old SFF their response to Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild”. Two of the four readers said it was their first experience with the author. (The others didn’t say one way or the other.)

Octavia E. Butler was one of a small handful of African American SF authors back in the 1970s, an era when SF was often whiter than a crowd of naked albinos holding loaves of Wonder Bread in a snowstorm. Butler’s stories often focused on people doing their best from a position of profound weakness, striving despite slavery, apocalypse or worse. This example of her work won the 1984 Nebula Award for Best Novelette, the 1985 Hugo Award for Best Novelette, the 1985 Locus Award for Best Novelette and the 1985 Science Fiction Chronicle Award for Best Novelette.

Young People Read Old SFF also recently tackled “The Light of Other Days” by Bob Shaw. Some liked it, but Mikayla did not disappoint….

Bob Shaw was born in Northern Ireland. Over the course of the three decades of his career, he won three BSFA awards and was nominated for the Hugo, the Locus, the Campbell, and the Clarke.

The Light of Other Days is an atypical Shaw. It is a classic idea story, a story in which an author tries to show unexpected implications of some new development. Slow glass, a material in which the speed of light is so slow it takes decades for light to pass from one side to the other of a thin sheet, was one of the rare examples of an idea veteran editor John W. Campbell considered actually original at the time of publication. It was shortlisted for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story and for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story.

Of course, just because professionals and fans liked a story half a century ago is no guarantee modern readers will. Let’s see what they thought….

(2) HUNGARIAN BLOGGER. Bence Pintér recommends the new English-language blog of Balázs Farkas, a Hungarian author; especially his post on Black Mirror.

Black Mirror needs to reinvent itself. The sooner, the better.

Don’t get me wrong. The fourth season has cleverly written, beautifully directed episodes throughout, as usual. It’s still the prime science-fiction anthology, and one of the most relevant TV series, even if contemporary science-fiction writers and futurologists already explored most of its ideas. The problem is, the new season didn’t have any new ideas, at all…

Also recommended, his thoughts on the comedy in Get Out

Last year Get Out was nominated for a Golden Globe in the category of Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Many consider Get Out one of the best horror films of 2017. I was intrigued for months, but I rarely watch movies nowadays, but I decided to see Get Out for myself and see whether it’s a comedy or a horror. Well, I found out it’s neither, but can be interpreted as both, and it’s really fascinating to see why.

And on the short fiction of Aleister Crowley.

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”

The interesting thing about Aleister Crowley is that he really believed this. We don’t consider him a fiction writer (at least not primarily), but he went and did it for a while, because he could do whatever and whenever. So he wrote fiction, but only between 1908 and 1922, that’s merely fifteen years from his prolific and incredibly versatile mind. This was an era when he approached the literary world as a critic and writer, although at first quite reluctantly (“I had an instinctive feeling against prose; I had not appreciated its possibilities,”  he wrote, later admitting that“the short story is one of the most delicate and powerful forms of expression”). He wasn’t only a writer, but he still made sure that his legacy includes a large collection of miscellaneous prose, now presented in a prestigious (and affordable) Wordsworth edition, titled The Drug and Other Stories.

(3) INSIDE THE SHELL. In The New Yorker, Teddy Wayne tells why “A Storm Trooper Reconsiders His Support for Snoke”.

…Except things started changing when Snoke passed that big tax bill. The very next day, we’re told our pensions are getting cut—which hardly matters, because Storm Troopers have a seventy-five-per-cent fatal occupational-injury rate. (Some from combat, but mostly guys falling into chasms off narrow ship walkways that for some reason don’t have guardrails.)

Sure, the galaxy’s health insurance wasn’t perfect, but at least I got a little subsidy from Vadercare. Snoke repeals the individual mandate and all these Storm Troopers, fresh out of the academy, thinking they’re invincible, go, “Awesome—I’m young and healthy, Han Solo’s dead, screw it.” My premiums suddenly shoot through the roof, so I’m going without it this year and hoping I don’t run into a freaking Jedi Knight. But how am I gonna pay for the infirmary visit when a trespassing Resistance fighter conks me on the head to steal my uniform and gain access to a ship’s inner sanctum, which now seems to happen every other year? And if my arm’s sliced off with a lightsabre, you think my Storm Trooper’s comp will cover the robotic prosthetic?

(4) A FAITHFUL 451. The Hollywood Reporter interviews co-writer, exec producer and director Ramin Bahrani, who assures them “HBO’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’ Will Stay True to Ray Bradbury’s Central Themes”.

Bahrani, who co-wrote the telepic alongside Amir Naderi and reteams with Shannon after he starred in their feature 99 Homes, confessed that he told his agent at one point that he should call HBO and refund the network’s money because he felt that he couldn’t finish the script. He spoke at length about the parallels between Bradbury’s 1953 work and what’s happening in the world today.

“I don’t want to focus so much on [Trump] because I don’t want to excuse the 30 to 40 years prior to that; he’s just an exaggeration of it now,” he said. “I don’t want us to forget what Bradbury said — that we asked for this. We elected [politicians] over many decades, we’re electing this thing in my pocket [pulls out his cellphone]. Between the technological advancements in the last 20 years and politics, Bradbury’s biggest concern about the erosion of culture is now.”

Bahrani said he never had the opportunity to meet with Bradbury before his death but did an extensive amount of research, watching and reading multiple interviews and more. “Bradbury’s novel was set in the future where he was predicting having screens on the wall that you could interact with. Social media and supercomputers like my phone are real now. [The film] is not set in the distant future like Bradbury’s novel but an alternate tomorrow where technology is here right now — like Amazon’s Alexa,” he said. “One of the things in the film is storing knowledge, books in DNA. This exists now. All your drives could be stored 100-fold in DNA. There was no reason to put it in the future; it’s just [set in] a strange tomorrow.”

(5) THE TOLL. Kameron Hurley, who I admire for her unflinchingly transparent posts about her life as a writer, tells a heartbreaking story about her experiences in 2017 — “The Year I Drowned My Emotions”.

Depression is a complex state of being. I know we want to try and pretend it’s easy. Just pop a pill, increase your meds, try new meds, find something that works! But there’s also depression caused by external forces, and that’s the sort of depression that you can paint over with pills, sure, but the root of it is still there, like painting over a crack in your wall.

I was already feeling overwhelmed and deflated in the months leading up to the election. I was struggling with the reality that I’d produced three books in a year but still had to function at a day job, and the relentless treadmill of publishing was still going, without the sort of reward I needed in order to maintain my sanity. I’ve talked before about how writing all those books and then promoting books and having a weird dude-bro day job (at the time) conspired to murder me. What we don’t acknowledge is that when you experience that kind of breakdown followed by grief and disappointment, you can’t just… get back up like nothing happened.

(6) HADLEY OBIT. At ComicMix, Glen Hauman reports “Cinamon Hadley, The Girl Who Was Death, Has Died”.

Cinamon Hadley, whose appearance inspired the look of Death in the Sandman comic series, passed away today according to Sandman co-creator Neil Gaiman.

The body-piercer and goth icon whose portrait was immortalized as the second eldest in a family of anthropomorphized forces called the Endless, Hadley was described as extremely tall, extraordinarily thin, with bone-white skin, impeccable make-up and thin, black hair.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 11, 1937 — Felix Anthony Silla, known for his role as the costumed character of “Cousin Itt” on television’s The Addams Family.

(8) ADVENTURE OR COOKBOOK? Having seen the movie, this one has me a little worried – Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Chewie and the Porgs:

From Emmy award-winning writer Kevin Shinick comes a lovable tale of Chewbacca the Wookiee and the pesky porgs of Ahch-To Island. Featuring adorable illustrations by artist Fiona Hsieh.

(9) WATCHWORTHY. In “Consumption: 2017”, John Harden makes “a list of everything I watched in 2017 plus my very excellent and totally correct opinions on same.”

I make this list every year, for fun and as a reference. As always, it only reflects things seen for the first time. “POLTERGEIST on TV, 14th viewing” doesn’t make the list. Nor do films not viewed in their entirety, for example, Guy Ritchie’s THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E, which got ejected from the Blu-Ray player after 15 minutes. I’d never seen Henry Cavill in anything before but he seems to emit some kind of anti-charisma particle.

I didn’t bother making a numbered best-of list this year. But if I had, LOGAN would be at the top. It’s perfect. Damn you James Mangold, for making me cry at your Wolverine movie.

(10) SLOW DOWN, YOU MOVE TOO FAST. How fast is the universe expanding? “‘Serious gap’ in cosmic expansion rate hints at new physics”.

To calculate the Hubble Constant, Prof Riess and others use the “cosmic ladder” approach, which relies on known quantities – so-called “standard candles” – such as the brightness of certain types of supernova to calibrate distances across space.

However, a different approach uses a combination of the afterglow of the Big Bang, known as the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), as measured by the Planck spacecraft and a cosmological model known as Lambda-CDM.

The Hubble Constant obtained using these data is 66.9 kilometres per second per megaparsec. (A megaparsec is 3.26 million light-years, so it follows that cosmic expansion increases by 66.9km/second for every 3.26 million light-years we look further out into space).

The gap between the two is now at a confidence level of about 3.4 sigma. The sigma level describes the probability that a particular finding is not down to chance. For example, three sigma is often described as the equivalent of repeatedly tossing a coin and getting nine heads in a row.

A level of five sigma is usually considered the threshold for claiming a discovery.

However, Prof Riess said that at the three sigma level “this starts to get pretty serious I would say”.

(11) EYES IN THE SKY. “Finnish start-up ICEYE’s radical space radar solution” — swarms of small cheap satellites for continuous coverage.

Big things sometimes come in small packages. That’s the hope of Finnish start-up ICEYE, who are about to see their first satellite go into orbit.

The young company are making waves because they’re attempting what no-one has dared try before; indeed, what many people had previously said was impossible.

ICEYE aim to launch a constellation of sub-100kg radar micro-satellites that will circle the Earth, returning multiple pictures daily of any spot on the globe, whether it’s dark or light, good weather or bad.

The special capability of synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) satellites to sense the planet’s surface whatever the conditions is loved by government and the military, obviously – and they make sure they always have access to this kind of imagery.

But here’s the rub: the spacecraft that gather this sort of data have traditionally been big, power-hungry beasts.

(12) ANCIENT WINGS. BBC invites you to “Meet the butterflies from 200 million years ago”. They evolved nectar-suckers before there were flowers.

Newly discovered fossils show that moths and butterflies have been on the planet for at least 200 million years.

Scientists found fossilised butterfly scales the size of a speck of dust inside ancient rock from Germany.

The find pushes back the date for the origins of the Lepidoptera, one of the most prized and studied insect groups.

… “These finds push back the evolution of this group with proboscises – with a tongue – by about 70 million years,” said Dr van de Schootbrugge.

“Our finds show that the group that was supposed to co-evolve with flowers is actually much older.”

(13) REEL STINKERS. ComicMix’s Arthur Martinez-Tebbel looks back on the worst of the year in “Box Office Democracy: Bottom 6 Movies of 2017”. At the very bottom is —

  1. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

If this was just about wasted potential, Valerian would easily be on the top of this list.  There are five worse movies this year but none of them have a fraction of the visual artistry displayed here by Luc Besson.  Valerian has some of the best design I’ve seen in a movie all year and two of the most inventive chase sequences maybe ever.  It also features a terrible script that meanders forever over trivial nothing and merrily skips past dense plot without a moment for inspection.  I loved watching the action but I never really understood why any of it was going on.  Toss on top some of the worst chemistry I’ve ever seen between an on-screen couple (and honestly maybe Dane DeHaan isn’t ready to be a leading man) and this is an unpleasant movie to watch at any volume above mute.

(14) BURROWER DOWN UNDER. Introducing Vulcanops jennyworthyae – “Giant bat: Remains of extinct burrowing bat found in New Zealand”

The fossilised remains of a giant burrowing bat that lived in New Zealand millions of years ago have been found on the country’s South Island.

The teeth and bones of the extinct bat were found to be three times the size of an average modern bat.

The bat, which weighed around 40g (1.41oz), not only flew but also scurried about on all fours looking for food.

The remains were recovered from ancient sediments near the town of St Bathans.

(15) ALTERED CARBON. Netflix has released Altered Carbon Official Trailer # 3.

In the distant future, human consciousness can be digitized and downloaded into different bodies. Brought back to life after 250 years by Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy) the richest man on Earth, ex-Envoy soldier Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman / Will Yun Lee) must solve Bancroft’s attempted murder for the chance to live again in a world he doesn’t recognize. Altered Carbon debuts exclusively on Netflix February 2nd, 2018.

 

(16) SCORCHED EARTH. The Official Trailer –

The planet has suffered an environmental collapse; the air became dangerous to breathe, the water became toxic, and billions of people died. Generations later, mankind has finally re-established a rudimentary society, in an attempt to pick up the pieces that continue to blister in the sun. Attica Gage (Gina Carano) is a bounty hunter with a chance at the bounty of a lifetime: to bring down the ruthless outlaw, Elijah Jackson. Gage infiltrates Jackson’s gang, and everything is going to plan until she meets a slave girl who reminds her of her dead sister. With her loyalty to only herself now tested, Gage learns that there might be more to life than just survival.

 

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mark Hepworth, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 12/19/17 Good King Pixel Scroll Looked Out On The Feast of File

(1) VISUAL SCIENCE. Nature brings us “2017 in pictures: The best science images of the year”.

The spectacular total solar eclipse that swept the United States dominated headlines as it delighted scientists and the public alike in August 2017 (the composite image above shows the event’s progression as seen from Perryville, Missouri). The year also brought innovations in spaceflight and surprising insights into species past. Here are the striking shots from science and the natural world that caught the eyes of Nature’s editors.

Here’s one —

BACK-SEAT OCTOPUS: This interspecies piggyback ride was caught by photographer Michael Hardie in the waters off Hawaii. The image was a finalist in the annual Smithsonian.com photo contest.

(2) SCIENCE HEADINLINES. Nature also posted this roundup — “2017 in news: The science events that shaped the year”.

From political chaos to cases of sexual harassment, scientists have had a tough year. But there were also bright spots, including approval of a new type of cancer treatment and the detection of gravitational waves from a neutron-star collision….

On 12 July, an iceberg twice the size of Luxembourg broke free from the Antarctic Peninsula. It carried away roughly 12% of the surface area of Larsen C — Antarctica’s fourth-largest ice shelf. The shelf’s fate remains unclear but, if it collapsed, Larsen C could unleash glaciers containing enough water to boost global sea levels by a centimetre.

(3) VISIT FROM THE GRINCH. Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link’s Small Beer Press, which has published work by such authors as Ursula K. Le Guin and Sofia Samatar, and Sarah Rees Brennan, received its “Worst Business Holiday Present Ever”.

Our distributor Consortium/Ingram just finished negotiations with Am*zon for the next year and forwarded the results. Ouch. After the distro’s fee, we will now receive less than 1/3 of the retail price on each book sold on Am*zon. (The details are confidential and not be shared — which is fine, it’s all fine.)

It is hard to pay printing, royalties, artists, advertising and marketing, rent, etc. with less than 1/3 of retail.

I know not everyone has a good local bookstore, a local branch of a chain, or a decent library, but if you have, *please* consider buying/borrowing books there. Am*zon still want to crush all competition (Bezos’s first name for the business was Relentless dot com) in all markets that they enter. They are fantastic at customer service, especially compared to some local businesses, but they are terrible for everyone else, suppliers, intermediaries, etc.

The discount creeps up a little more every year — something has to give. I suppose it won’t be Am*zon. Guess it will be us Small Gazelle Presses who want to publish interesting books, work with a wide range of people and artists, and see if we can send these weird things out into the world and find readers.

(4) EAVESDROPPING. Luckily they loved her part — “Kelly Marie Tran surprises fans discussing ‘Star Wars’ at the next table”.

At long last, Star Wars: The Last Jedi has hit theaters, and those of us who were hyped for our girl Kelly Marie Tran as Rose finally got to see her get her Resistance on and join the fight in a galaxy far, far away.

So what’s the verdict on The Last Jedi? What are people saying? Sure, you can go read some critics’ reviews, log on to some message boards or jump in on a discussion thread on your Facebook wall. Or you can listen in on people talking about it at the next table. That’s what Kelly Marie Tran did.

 

(5) PRESCRPTION. Jason Sanford considers “Why the red pill doesn’t wake people to our world’s true reality”.

“If you are not one of us, you are one of them.” That’s a hell of a political statement. That’s the type of statement embraced by history’s worst political movements, movements which have killed millions in pursuits of their goals.

The Matrix is a great SF film, one of the best of the last few decades. But as political theory the film is extremely simplistic. After all, there’s a word for people who go through life with such an extreme “us or them” attitude: psychopaths.

While simplistic “us or them” arguments resonate with many people, our greatest achievements come when we put this attitude aside. When we stand with those we have disagreements with but with whom we can still find common ground.

And it’s this human determination to reach for common ground which makes me stay optimistic about the future. Because I believe in people. I believe most people try to do good and try build a better world….

(6) THE AXE. The Hollywood Reporter says “‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’ Canceled at BBC America”.

Never a ratings breakout, viewership was down year-over-year compared with season one. Season two averaged slightly less than 250,000 total viewers. The decision to cancel Dirk comes after BBC America bid farewell to critical darling Orphan Black in August.

(7) TV HOPES. Guy Gavriel Kay reports his The Fionavar Tapestry will get a shot at television:

Short version: I’ve entered a development agreement with the really impressive production company that did “Orphan Black” – to produce The Fionavar Tapestry as a television series.

There are many stages to any project as big as this one will be, but I’m genuinely happy – these are really good people, several of them with a personal passion for the trilogy (including Kris Holden-Ried, who was all-in some time ago, as it worked its way through the ‘process’).

He posted a full press release which includes this description of the work:

The Tapestry tells the tale of five young men and women who are brought to Fionavar – the first of all worlds. Told they are simply to be guests for the 50th anniversary celebration of a king’s ascension to the throne, each of the five discovers they have a greater, dangerous role to play as they’re thrust into a war between the forces of good and evil, whose outcome will affect all worlds, including our own.

Kay draws upon a variety of creatures and mythologies, predominantly Celtic and Norse, to create the world of Fionavar, and the saga also features the legendary story of King Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere, heroes of medieval literature.

(8) CEBULSKI STORY GOES MAINSTREAM. Marvel Comics editor C. B. Cebulski’s previous life as a Japanese comics writer, mentioned in recent Scrolls is a story that now has been picked up by the Washington Post: “The curious tale of the Marvel comics editor who pretended to be a Japanese writer”.

Although it was long-rumored in the comic book world that Yoshida was, indeed, Cebulski, no one investigated deeply. Since he retired the pseudonym fairly quickly, the rumors might have died.

But in November, Cebulski was named the editor in chief of Marvel Comics, arguably the most prominent job in his industry, and the rumors resurfaced. Since the comic book industry is often criticized for its lack of creators of color, the fact that its new figurehead was a white man who had pretended to be an Asian writer drew outcry.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 19, 1871  — Mark Twain received a patent for suspenders. (We’ll file this under “Things writers do when they should be writing.”)
  • December 19, 1958 — The first known radio broadcast from outer space was transmitted when President Eisenhower’s recorded voice issued a holiday greeting for the whole world from the Atlas satellite which was launched the previous day.
  • December 19, 1972 — Apollo lunar-landing program ends when the last three astronauts to travel to the moon splash down.
  • December 19, 1986 Little Shop of Horrors, the movie, was seen for the first time.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian learned that Yoda has day job – from today’s Brevity.

(11) GOLDEN AGE COMIC STRIPS. Garry Trudeau reviews Cullen Murphy’s My Father and His Friends in the Golden Age of Make-Believe in the New York Times Book Review:

With harlots in fish-net stockings hanging on each arm, a self-satisfied grandee, shades and ascot in place, struts down a city sidewalk. A policeman clears the way, and as he kicks a blind beggar into traffic, he bellows, “Out of the way, you swine! A cartoonist is coming!”

To the few hundred American oddballs who draw funny pictures for a living, there’s never been a more hilariously inapt portrait of a cartoon professional than the one described above, inked by the great B. Kliban late in his career. Many of us have a copy pinned to our walls, not to keep us humble (we have no choice), but to celebrate our forced distance from the more conventional metrics of success. As Cullen Murphy admits in his warm and graceful memoir, “Cartoon County,” comics creators have long been among the most dimly perceived of celebrities, and when they venture out into society, they are usually sized up as dentists or insurance adjusters long before the awful truth comes tumbling out.

(12) TOP MOVIES. Three critics caucus to produce “NPR’s Favorite Movies Of 2017”. Genre callouts: Blade Runner 2049, Coco, Get Out, The LEGO Batman Movie, Logan, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Thor: Ragnarok, Wonder Woman, Your Name. Also of interest: Ex Libris (Wiseman documentary about the NYC public library).

(13) STRAIGHT TO FANS. Blockchaining as a way to connect artists directly to fans: “How did music producer Gramatik raise $2m in 24 hours?”

Gramatik – real name Denis Jasarevic – is a Slovenian electronic music producer and DJ with a worldwide fan base.

He’s become the first music artist to “tokenise” himself using the Ethereum application, Tokit. It allows users to embed their intellectual property rights, revenue and royalties into a programmable digital token.

Fans and investors who “buy” the token using the Ether cryptocurrency can then – potentially – share in the revenue from an artist’s work.

… When his GRMTK token was launched in November it raised $2.25m (£1.65m) in Ether digital currency in just 24 hours.

“I’m cool with being the guinea pig,” Gramatik explains. “This tech has the potential to change the industry.”

(14) HIDDEN TREASURE. Not just a cigar: “Interstellar object may hold ‘alien’ water”

The body showed no signs of “outgassing” as it approached the Sun, strengthening the idea that it held little if any water-ice.

But the latest findings suggest water might be trapped under a thick, carbon-rich coating on its surface.

(15) MAKING BOOK. Congratulations to John Scalzi for winning DecNoWriMo –

(16) HAVE YOU NO DECENCY? Andrew Husband, in “Porg Recipes For The ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Fans In Your Life” on Uproxx, says that porgs are not only cuddly, they’re also tasty as he shares recipes for Porg in Green Milk Sauce and Fire-Roasted Porg.

Yes, you read that right. Despite being protected by several national and international conservation organizations, puffins are considered a rare delicacy in Nordic countries. And seeing as how The Last Jedi‘s porgs are based on the puffins writer/director Rian Johnson saw while filming at Skellig, it makes sense their preparation would be similar. Like “Porg in Green Milk Sauce” (as opposed to blue milk), a slight variation on an Icelandic dish in which the arctic birds are cooked with a buttery sauce rich in creamy dairy and some sweet additions.

(17) OMG! The horror! Atlas Obscura investigates “Why Chuck E. Cheese’s Has a Corporate Policy About Destroying Its Mascot’s Head”.

Several weeks ago, a local Patch report in Illinois revealed a seemingly disturbing underpinning of the Chuck E. Cheese universe: A former employee told the paper that a company policy required them to demolish branded items, among them the cartoon character’s head, which is part of the costume. A Patch video captured two former employees of the recently-shuttered Oak Lawn location bashing Chuck’s brains in with a sledgehammer.

Why did executives at CEC Entertainment, Inc. establish a policy mandating the destruction of their business’s beloved namesake?

(18) JEDI. Love the title: “Rian Johnson Murders the Prequels – A Spoiler Soaked Review of the Last Jedi” by Camestros Felapton. It’s a spoiler post, but here’s a non-spoilery excerpt:

Luke does not bring balance to the force (yet). By implication Anakin did not bring balance to the force. Kylo Ren can barely bring balance to his emotional state for hour-long stretches. Maybe Rey will but who knows? Putting the prequels and the original trilogy together, it was always unclear how Anakin, even by killing the Emperor, brings balance to the force. If he did somehow do it, it clearly wasn’t worth the price of firstly a galactic war and then a galactic Empire

(19) LE GUIN. NPR’s Jason Heller reviews Ursula K. Le Guin’s No Time To Spare — “Ursula K. Le Guin’s Voice Rings Out In New Nonfiction Collection”.

Le Guin’s clinical, theoretical way of framing complicated social and literary ideas makes sense. Her parents were the noted anthropologists Alfred Louis Kroeber and Theodora Kracaw — a fact that doesn’t usually come up in her nonfiction. She makes an except in “Indian Uncles,” one of The Wave in the Mind‘s most heartfelt essays. She originally delivered it as a lecture in 1991 at the University of California at Berkeley, where her father taught and her mother studied. Le Guin recounts, from her point of a view, part of the events surrounding the famous case of Ishi, a member of the Native American Yahi people who became the subject of Kracaw’s 1961 book Ishi in Two Worlds.

Ishi died in 1916, thirteen years before Le Guin was born, but in “Indian Uncles” she writes eloquently and intimately about the how Ishi’s time with her parents inspired and haunted them throughout their lives, and how her own life was shaped by this invisible “uncle.”

(20) EVERYBODY INTO THE POOL. The Shape of Water “Making of” featurette.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Man” is a cartoon by Steve Cutts on YouTube giving a very nasty history of the last 500,000 years.

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Bill, David K.M. Klaus, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 12/17/17 Scroll Your Pixel Wings And Fly Away

(1) OLD CHESTNUTS ROASTING. John Scalzi’s “8 Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know About Your Favorite Holiday Music” might make you suspect he gets his inside pop music history the same place Lucy Van Pelt finds her little-known facts about nature. But his facts are much funnier!

“Little Drummer Boy”

…Most of these drafts were only fragments, although Davis completed “Little Didgeridoo Boy” and had it performed for Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies during a 1964 trip to the United States. Menzies was reported to ask Davis how a didgeridoo happened to be anywhere near Bethlehem in biblical times. Davis would later write disparagingly of Menzies’ “Philistine musical nature” and shoved that version of the song into a box. In 2001, musical artist Madonna was reported to have considered recording the didgeridoo version with herself playing the instrument, but the idea was shelved to avoid offending Australian aboriginal sensibilities. Madonna went on to make the film Swept Away instead.

(2) COLLECTING COLLECTIBLES. Amy B. Wang of the Washington Post profiles Star Wars autograph collectors, who will happily pay $200 for Felicity Jones’s signature and $295 (in cash) for Mark Hamill’s and who make sure they have Vis-a-Vis blue permanent markers, which are no longer made and sell for $415 a box on eBay — “Want an autograph by ‘Star Wars’ Mark Hamill? Bring the right marker and $295 in cash.”

Welcome to the modern world of autograph collecting, a passion that has evolved into a highly choreographed commercial endeavor. It’s rare these days to write to a PO box and receive an autographed headshot or to bump into a famous figure on the street and ask him to sign a napkin. Increasingly, getting an autograph requires a fan’s time and money.

Despite this, autograph seeking has reached a fever pitch for the Star Wars fandom, a reflection of the series’s hold on popular culture.

(3) YOUNG ARTHUR. Kim Huett says. “Since the centenary of Arthur C. Clarke’s birth has been celebrated by all and sundry it seems only appropriate that I come in late with the story nobody else knows to tell” — “The Young Arthur Clarke”. (Here follows the lead-in – the principal story is at the link.)

Believe it or not but there was a time when Arthur C. Clarke was not yet a famous science fiction author. Way back in the late thirties he was merely known as an aspiring author and genius who had been nicknamed ‘Ego Clarke’ by his good friend William F. Temple. Why ‘Ego’? Something to do with Arthur C. Clarke being very sure of himself I believe. I’m reminded of a an exchange between Bill Temple and Arthur’s brother that occurred during Clarke’s first visit to the USA. While out on a late evening stroll Arthur’s brother exclaimed in horror that Arthur had forgotten to take the Moon with him. Bill Temple assured him that everything was fine, that Arthur had a US edition over there. You simply don’t make that sort of joke about an unassuming friend. (For more about the Temple/Clarke relationship please read Temple of the Sphinx.)

(4) SMOFCON MEMBERSHIPS. Next year, SMOFCon 36 will be held in Santa Rosa, California. Chair Bruce Farr announced:

Membership rates are presently $50 for full, or $25 for Con Suite Only memberships. After December 31, 2017 full memberships will go up to $60. The link to our online Registration page is here.

We’ve added some space for Thursday pre-convention meetings just down from the Hospitality Suite. There is also a meeting room close by the Hospitality Suite throughout the convention for socializing so that the Hospitality parlors won’t be overcrowded.

If you have any questions or comments, the below links are active from the Committee page on our website.

(5) JUMANJI. The December 16 Parade has an interview with Jack Black by Mara Reinstein, where Black recalls his friendship with Robin Williams and explains why he is barely on social media: “Jack Black Dives into Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”.

Black filmed Jumanji with its original star at the forefront of his mind.“He had a profound influence on the industry,” he says of the legendary comic. Black recalls being an 8-year-old kid in Southern California and seeing the rising star as alien Mork from the planet Ork in a 1978 episode of Happy Days (which would lead to Williams’ own breakout sitcom, Mork & Mindy).

“It was a big moment for me,” he says. “He came on like a hurricane. I remember being like ‘Who is that? That guy is amazing! I believe he’s an alien!’ Throw any other actor in there and it’s ridiculous. But Robin Williams took you on this fantastic journey with this absurd premise because he committed so completely.”

(6) GIVENS OBIT. In “Robert Givens, R.I.P.”, Mark Evanier pays tribute to a former Disney animator who died December 14.

Bob Givens got out of high school in 1936. In 1937, he went to work for the Walt Disney Studio, mostly as animation checker on Donald Duck cartoons and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In 1940, he moved over to the Warner Brothers cartoon studio where one of his first jobs was doing the redesign of a rabbit character who would henceforth be known as Bugs Bunny.

(7) POPVICH OBIT. Marina L. Popovich, a test pilot who broke more than 100 flying records and who was the first Soviet woman to break the sound barrier, died November 30 reports the New York Times:

Despite their initial skepticism, most male instructors and pilots came to be in awe of her.

“She learned strikingly fast,” Nikolai A. Bondarenko, a test pilot, wrote in his memoirs, adding that she had piloted an L-29 fighter jet “as confidently as she walked the ground.”

In “The First Soviet Cosmonaut Team: Their Lives and Legacies” (2009), the space historians Colin Burgess and Rex Hall wrote that most of Ms. Popovich’s success “would lead to later speculation that she was about to become the first Soviet woman to travel into space.”

At one point the Soviet space program did train female cosmonauts, and Ms. Popovich was admitted for testing. But ultimately only one, Valentina Tereshkova, was sent into space. Ms. Popovich said that she was advised to focus on her family, and that she was forced out of the program.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 17, 1843 — Charles Dickens’ classic story “A Christmas Carol” is published.
  • December 17, 1969 – Project Blue Book, a program dedicated to the investigation of UFOs, was terminated. For more than 20 years, the U.S. Air Force had examined 12,618 sightings. Most of these were found to be caused by man-made objects such as balloons, satellites, and aircraft; natural or astronomical phenomena; weather; and hoaxes. Today, 701 remain unexplained
  • December 17, 2003 — The third and final Lord of the Rings movie opens.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 17, 1973 — Rian Johnson, director of some outer space movie.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy asks if this is unfair competition at the Olympics – In the Bleachers.
  • John King Tarpinian says he would have one of these if he still had an aquarium – Close To Home.

(11) OPENING WEEKEND THREATS. Sure sounds scary, but shouldn’t a real Jedi be able to do some kind of mind trick on himself to avoid seeing spoilers?

(12) AVOIDING SPOILERS. And if you haven’t seen the movie, don’t watch this video. Well, actually, do what you like, I’m not your mother!

(13) PORG$. The Washington Post’s Hau Chu looks at the porgs by telling readers about the Ewoks, because George Lucas, thinking about his daughter, “wanted her–and all children–to have a STAR WARS character that would appeal specifically to them” — “Porgs are the latest Star Wars creature aimed at hearts and wallets”.

 Porgs appeared for only a split second in the trailer, but one glimpse of the creatures was enough to stir up a frenzy. A Google search produces more than 3 million results for porgs, many of them revolving around one question: What are they?

The birdlike creature was inspired by puffins on Skellig Michael, an island off the southwest coast of Ireland. That island was the filming location for Ahch-To, the planet where Luke Skywalker appears at the end of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

“You fall into those deep, soulful eyes. I think a lot of people are going to want a porg as a pet,” said Pablo Hidalgo, creative executive for Lucasfilm, the company that has produced the Star Wars movies.

(14) HEAD CANON. “No, Lord Helmet, I didn’t see you playing with your dolls!” “For ‘Last Jedi’ Director, The Journey To ‘Star Wars’ Began With Action Figures”.

Johnson has been a Star Wars fan since he was a little boy in Denver, playing with his action figures.

“My mom surprised me and got me a Jawa,” he recalls. “I wanted a Jawa, and she got it for me. But then you always end up losing the main characters, and you’re left with like Hammerhead and like the walrus man; with the weird droid whose name you don’t know, who’s missing a leg. Those were the first movies I was making in my head.”

(15) REIMAGINED. A different take on the iconic headgear.

(16) ALSO PLAYING. NPR loved SW VIII and hated Ferdinand, but says the obscure Spanish Birdboy is “A Dark, Beautiful, Boundary-Pushing Animated Film”.

Just how dark is Birdboy: The Forgotten Children, a trippy animated folktale from Spain about a bunch of talking animal adolescents searching for a better life? Well, even the tottering alarm clock seemingly there for comic relief wails to its owner, “Why do you always have to hurt me?” In fact, the bulk of the movie consists of adorable, anthropomorphic objects and critters getting hurt, often in some grisly fashion: an inflatable PVC duck who screams when he’s deflated; a chirping bird who gets shot to death, leaving behind starving chicks; a baby Jesus doll who cries an alarming amount of blood when his owner squeezes him. Yessir, the Happy Meal toys are sure to go flying off the shelves for this one.

(17) ASKING THE WRONG QUESTION. Abigail Nussbaum is back from the theater with her take on “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”. This is a full review, so BEWARE SPOILERS.

Whatever else can be said about this film, it is so much its own thing that I half-wonder whether general audiences won’t reject it for being neither the fun romp they associate with Star Wars, nor the grim but still conventionally-structured deviation from the norm that was The Empire Strikes Back.  It is the first Star Wars film to actually try to be about something[1], and what it’s about is, well, Star Wars.  It’s a film that is in direct conversation with the previous works in this series, most especially Return of the Jedi and the prequels.  It spends slightly more than half its running time fooling you into thinking that it’s merely going to recapitulate these movies, only to pull the rug out from under you, along the way asking some pointed questions about the Star Wars‘s universe’s core assumptions.  This doesn’t entirely work, but the mere existence of the attempt, in a film universe as little given to self-reflection as this one, is shocking.  It’s a Star Wars movie that is interesting.

(18) THE UPSIDE DOWN. The BBC tells how “Rocket rumbles give volcanic insights”.

What do volcanoes and rockets have in common?

“Volcanoes have a nozzle aimed at the sky, and rockets have a nozzle aimed at the ground,” explains Steve McNutt, a geosciences professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

It explains why he and colleague Dr Glenn Thompson have installed the tools normally used to study eruptions at the famous Kennedy Space Center.

Comparing the different types of rumblings could yield new insights.

(19) DROPPING CHUNKY. There’s a madness to this method: “Biologists With Drones And Peanut Butter Pellets Are On A Mission To Help Ferrets”.

She said there are only about 300 black-footed ferrets left in the wild, and they depend almost entirely on prairie dogs to survive. And protecting the prairie dog population is beneficial to species beyond the ferrets.

“Prairie dogs are Chicken McNuggets of the prairie, where so many species eat them,” Bly said.

But in recent years, prairie dog towns across the American West have been exposed to a deadly disease called sylvatic plague. While it’s treatable in humans, sylvatic plague can wipe out entire prairie dog towns in less than a month. And that means no more food for endangered black-footed ferrets.

So Bly, Matchett and a team of scientists and engineers have spent this year vaccinating prairie dogs in central Montana against the plague using drones.

Drone pilots fly the machines across the prairie, dropping blueberry-sized pellets about every 30 feet. They are flavored to taste like peanut butter, and prairie dogs love peanut butter. The kicker is that they’re laced with a live vaccine that protects them from the plague.

(20) YOUR NEXT SIDEWISE AWARD WINNER. Sounds legit.

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