Pixel Scroll 10/16/17 Three Times Pixel Filer Dreamed Of The Marvellous Scroll

(1) CORE FOR RAVENCLAWS. At BookRiot, Rachel Brittain offers “A Hogwarts House Reading List: 20 Books for Ravenclaws”.

It’s also about creativity and individuality, originality and acceptance. All Ravenclaws value learning and curiosity, but not all Ravenclaws are traditionally book smart or love school. Like all the houses, Ravenclaw is home to a wide and diverse group of students. Admittedly, most of them have aced arithmancy, potions, transfiguration, care of magical creatures, DADA, and received OWLs so good it made Professor Flitwick cry, but still. No two Ravenclaws are alike. Except in one thing: Ravenclaws. Love. Books.

So set down your Self-Spelling Quill and your charms homework for just a moment, friends, and check out these twenty books for Ravenclaws that are sure to spark your imagination and make you a little smarter along the way.

Two of the books on the list are:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

About: the letters written between Juliet Ashton and a group of friends from Guernsey who survived the German occupation by concocting a fake book club after being caught breaking curfew.

Because: it’s all about books and the friends you can make because of them, even in the midst of chaos and crisis.

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

About: Naoki Higashida, who describes what it’s like to be autistic in his own words.

Because: learning how other people think and process the world around them is something you find endlessly fascinating and important.

(2) STAR CROSSED (OUT). Slate’s “Browbeat” blog tells how Kirkus Reviews changed their review after fierce criticism – from people who can’t have read the book yet: “YA Novel About ‘Mob Mentalities’ Punished After Online Backlash”.

American Heart won’t be published until January, but it has already attracted the ire of the fierce group of online YA readers that journalist Kat Rosenfield has referred to as “culture cops.” To them, it was an irredeemable problem that Moriarty’s novel, which was inspired in part by Huckleberry Finn, centers on a white teenager who gradually—too gradually—comes to terms with the racism around her. On Goodreads, the book’s top “community review,” posted in September, begins, “fuck your white savior narratives”; other early commenters on Goodreads accused Moriarty of “profiting off people’s pain” and said “a white writer should not have tackled this story, and neither should a white character be the center of it.”

The backlash escalated last week, when Kirkus Reviews gave American Heart a coveted “starred review,” which influences purchases by bookstores and libraries. Kirkus’ anonymous reviewer called the book “by turns terrifying, suspenseful, thought-provoking, and touching,” and praised its “frighteningly believable setting of fear and violent nativism gone awry.” The book’s critics were not pleased with the commendation.

Author Laura Moriarty commented on Facebook:

Dear friends, I write this with a heavy but hopeful heart. If and when you have time, I would appreciate your thoughts on this (longer than average) post. And feel free to share.

My new novel, American Heart, is a crossover novel (for both older teens and adults) that imagines a United States where American Muslims are deported to “safety zones” in Nevada. The main character is a young non-Muslim who believes the deportations are necessary until she meets an American Muslim headed to freedom. You may or may not have noticed, but even though the book isn’t due out until 1/30/18, it already has a very low rating on Goodreads. This is because a group, profiled in Kat Rosenfield’s “The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter” for Vulture, has been bombarding American Heart with one-star reviews because they don’t approve of the idea of the book and because they are assuming it is a white-savior narrative. (Actually the main character realizes, accurately, that she alone can’t save anyone, but you would only know that if you’d read the book.) Most of reviewers on Goodreads openly admit to not having read the book.

I was encouraged last week when Kirkus Reviews gave American Heart a starred review (starred as in ‘this is great!’ not one star like the mad people on Goodreads), calling it a “moving portrait of an American girl discovering her society in crisis, desperate to show a disillusioned immigrant the true spirit of America.” The Kirkus reviewer, an observant Muslim and a woman of color, called the book “sensible, thought-provoking, and touching . . and so rich that a few coincidences of plot are easily forgiven.” (Okay, okay, fine, I’ll take it.)

As one may have predicted, the book’s very vocal critics (again, this group is made up almost entirely of people who have not read the book) were outraged by the starred review. That’s fine. That’s their right to free speech. What has both surprised and disturbed me, and what I think would be surprising and disturbing to anyone concerned about censorship and free speech, was that this morning, Kirkus announced it was: retracting American Heart’s starred review.

Kirkus offered this explanation in “A Note From The Editor In Chief”.

It is a policy of Kirkus Reviews that books with diverse subject matter and protagonists are assigned to Own Voices reviewers—writers who can draw upon lived experience when evaluating texts. Our assignment of the review of American Heart was no exception to this rule and was reviewed by an observant Muslim person of color (facts shared with her permission). Our reviewer is an expert in children’s & YA literature and well-versed in the dangers of white savior narratives. She found that American Heart offers a useful warning about the direction we’re headed in as far as racial enmity is concerned.

The issue of diversity in children’s and teen literature is of paramount importance to Kirkus, and we appreciate the power language wields in discussion of the problems. As a result, we’ve removed the starred review from kirkus.com after determining that, while we believe our reviewer’s opinion is worthy and valid, some of the wording fell short of meeting our standards for clarity and sensitivity, and we failed to make the thoughtful edits our readers deserve. The editors are evaluating the review and will make a determination about correction or retraction after careful consideration in collaboration with the reviewer.

(3) INDIE. SFWA President Cat Rambo completes her series about what the organization has to offer indie writers: “SFWA and Independent Writers, Part Four: What Lies Down the Road”

Going forward, I expect more and more indies to enter the organization as it proves that it’s giving them solid valid for their membership in the form of:

  • Community
  • Knowledge sharing
  • Publications like the Bulletin and the Singularity
  • Chances attend and sell books at places like Baltimore Bookfest, ALA, and other book-related events
  • Marketing opportunities for themselves such as the Speakers Bureau
  • Promotional opportunities for their work such as the New Release Newsletter
  • Reading material (there’s a lot on those internal forums)
  • The wealth of networking and information available via the SFWA Nebula Conference
  • Existing programs like Griefcom, the Emergency Medical Fund, and the Legal Fund

(4) CHECKMATE. A recent episode of The Post Atomic Horror Podcast, which appeals to fans with an interest in filking and other poetic diversions, featured a guest who summarized the Enterprise’s episode “A Night In Sickbay” to the tune “One Night in Bangkok”. The summary begins about 2 minutes into the episode and proceeds for roughly 4 minutes.

Come for the filk, stay for the commentary!

(5) VIEW FROM A GANTRY. Rocket Stack Rank’s October 2017 ratings are live, and Jeremiah Tolbert’s novella The Dragon of Dread Peak was the highest-rated story.

(6) REMODELING COMPLETE. Locus Online’s lovely redesigned website went live today.

(7) HOT OFF THE PRESS. An institute for design in Holland has come up with an experimental edition of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 which requires you to nearly burn the book to read it: “Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: This edition can be read only if you apply heat to the pages”. See it in action —

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 16, 1995 Candyman was released in theaters in the U.S.

(9) EYE SPY. At Fantasy Book Critic, Tom Doyle considers “The Unreliability of Magical Surveillance”.

In my American Craftsmen trilogy, psychic spies (farseers) can view intel across the distances of time and space (farsight). Their visions guide the missions of magical and mundane soldiers, and they play against the farseers of hostile powers. I want to look briefly at some of the popular stories of magical surveillance. The use of magical or psychic means to view across space and time is an old idea. Yet few of the stories that come immediately to mind view such power as an unambiguous good for the wielder. In the story of Snow White, the evil queen uses a magic mirror for scrying. Like many such devices, the mirror is a two-edged weapon. On the one hand, the mirror demonstrates what powerful surveillance can accomplish; for example, the attempt of Snow White and the huntsman to fake her death fails because of it. On the other hand, the mirror seems to be driving the queen to her eventual destruction by doling out only as much information as she requests and no more. In The Lord of the Rings, we have the Mirror of Galadriel, the palantíri, and the Ring itself. All of these are in their own way unreliable. The Mirror of Galadriel shows Sam a vision of an industrializing Shire that momentarily discourages him from his mission, when his mission is the one hope of Middle Earth. Denethor’s palantir gives him true intel, but only what Sauron wants him to see, and so he goes mad with despair. In turn, Aragorn is able to use Saruman’s palantir to nudge Sauron into rushing his attack. The Ring seems to serve as a sort of tracking device, but only when Frodo puts it on does it work well enough to zero in on him….

(10) SPEAKING UP. AudioFile is campaigning to get a Grammy Award nomination for Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. Those eligible to vote will do so between October 16-19.

What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? There’s no better guide through these mind-expanding questions than acclaimed astrophysicist and bestselling author Neil deGrasse Tyson.

But today, few of us have time to contemplate the cosmos. So Tyson brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in digestible chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day.

(11) BALLS. Motherboard takes readers “Inside the Most Exclusive High-Powered Rocketry Event in America”.

“We might be digging a hole to get at this thing, man,” Joshua Allen told me as we barreled across Nevada’s Black Rock Desert in the back of a covered pickup truck.

Allen and his peers from Oregon State University had just launched their homemade rocket at Big Ass Load Lifting Suckers (BALLS), an annual gathering of rocketeers that showcases the most powerful amateur rockets in the US. It was their first time at the event, held late in September, and they hoped that their two-stage rocket would fly to 100,000 feet, about one-third of the way to space proper. The Oregon State students, many of whom graduated in May, had spent the last year designing, building, and testing the rocket we were hunting from a pickup. Allen estimated that it contained over $20,000 of purchased and donated materials—and after a malfunction during its flight, he wasn’t sure they would recover it in one piece, if at all.

Every September for the last 27 years, the Tripoli Rocketry Association—one of the two amateur rocketry groups in the US—has hosted BALLS as a showcase of the rockets built by people like Allen that are too powerful to be safely flown anywhere but the middle of the desert. Black Rock is a well-worn stomping ground for amateur rocketry due to its expansive, barren lake bed that lacks any signs of life or flammable materials. This was the location that the first civilian team launched a rocket into space in 2004 and is frequented throughout the year by local high-powered rocketry groups in the southwest.

In order to bring hundreds of rocketeers together for a weekend of punching holes in the sky, Tripoli must obtain a flight waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration that allows the organization to fly over 100,000 feet. It’s the highest flight waiver granted to amateur rocketeers by a federal administration anywhere in the world.

(12) TOURIST ATTRACTION. Just how many tourists will be attracted is the question “A Giant Concrete Orb in Northern Iceland Moves With the Arctic Circle”. (Say what you like, it looks like Rover from The Prisoner to me.)

On Grímsey, a remote island 25 miles off the northern coast of Iceland, sits a massive orb of concrete that marks the Arctic Circle. The artwork, called Orbis & Globus (“Circle & Sphere”), weighs 8 metric tons (almost 9 tons US), and will be physically moved a short distance each year because the Arctic Circle is moving, too.

“The Arctic Circle marks a point where the Sun never sets in the summer and never rises in the winter,” Steve Christer, a partner with Studio Granda, which created the work in a partnership with artist Kristinn E. Hrafnsson, told me over the phone from Reykjavik. “It isn’t just a point on a map.” At 66.5 °N, the Arctic Circle moves a little bit each year as the Earth travels through space, shifting on its axis. (Earth’s axial tilt can vary by about 2° over the course of a 40,000-year cycle.) This giant orb will have to be repositioned every year by an average of 14.5 meters. Christer told me they’ll hire a contractor to do it.

The orb was commissioned by the nearby town of Akureyri, which was seeking “a symbol for the Arctic Circle on the island of Grímsey,” he said. Getting the work there was no easy feat.

(13) HALLOWEEN REVIVALS. Joel Ryan, in the Yahoo! TV piece “TV’s Lost Halloween Classics:  Six Specials From Beyond The Grave”,  introduces a new generation to “Mad Monster Party,” “Halloween is Grinch Night,” and the Cartoon Network adaptation of “The Halloween Tree.”

  1. The Worst Witch The Tim Curry Halloween movie for the whole family, about a boarding school for aspiring broomstick types, also boasts the fabulous Diana Rigg, Fairuza Balk (The Craft), the post-Facts of Life Charlotte Rae, and production design that screams HBO in the mid-1980s. (Yes, we know The Worst Witch was a British coproduction, but then again, that’s what HBO originals looked like in the mid-1980s: things that were not quite of Hollywood.) In any case, the movie is a charming reminder of those simple days before the Hogwarts Express rolled into the creative space.

(14) GULLIVER’S CREATOR. Nature’s Greg Lynall, in “In Retrospect: Gulliver’s Travels”, looks at the science in Gulliver’s Travels, in a piece commemorating the 350th anniversary of Jonathan Swift’s birth. (Apologies – I can’t make my computer pick up excerpted text.)

(15) HAMIT SCRIPT RACKS UP ANOTHER AWARD. Francis Hamit has won a third screenwriting contest with his screenplay for the forthcoming feature film Christopher Marlowe.

The Elizabethan-era historical thriller is slated to be produced primarily in the United Kingdom by famed Producer Gary Kurtz. On September 16, 2017 the screenplay won the “Best Thriller Screenplay” prize at the GO International Independent Film Festival in Washington, DC. Hamit’s previous awards for this work were at the 2016 Hollywood Book Festival and the 2017 New Renaissance Film Festival in London.

(16) WOKE-O-METER. Motherboard offers a solution: “Want More Diverse Entertainment? A New Site Has You Covered”

When it comes to movie reviews, there are plenty of resources that can tell you the most critically-acclaimed films and popular flicks. But what about when it comes to how woke they are?

Enter Mediaversity, a website that reviews TV and movies based on how well they represent diverse gender, race, and LGBTQ characters and stories, created by Li Lai, a graphic designer from New York.

“What really solidified this idea for me was last year when I was watching Oscar nominees and critically-acclaimed TV shows,” Lai told me over the phone. “Right in a row I watched Narcos, Game of Thrones, and The Revenant. All of them had awful portrayals of women.”

She was surprised that all of these highly-praised works were so tone deaf. Lai hopped online to look up reviews that might elucidate this aspect of media, as well as diverse representations of race and LGBTQ characters and stories. But she realized there was a dearth of information. There are plenty of resources if you want to know how entertaining a movie is, or how artistic, or how clever the dialogue is. But it’s a lot harder to find out whether or not the only time women appear onscreen is in rape scenes.

So, nine months ago, Lai decided to create Mediaversity, a labor of love which she said she currently has no plans to monetize. Though, like all reviews, the ratings are subjective, Mediaversity has a guideline for how Lai and her fellow reviewers—a diverse team of friends and bloggers—measure a show’s representation success, and uses a letter grading system from A+ to F.

(17) ANOTHER HALLOWED BREW. A gigantic “monster” IPA with just the right balance to bring palates back from the dead: “Stone Brewing’s Concoctions Go Wild and Dr. FrankenStone’s Monster IPA is Born”.

Late one evening, into the deepest vaults of Dr Frankenstone’s steaming lab – a monster IPA was born. This morbid creation was the result of our brewers pushing the hop limits (most of which are successful) to an insane level that would unleash an IPA like none other from the brewery. It was a creature that haunted our brewers for many nights, as this beaker-buster was something they could not explain, yet was such a balanced delight to taste. Unbeknownst to our brewers, the horrific beast of a beer was a result of their blending sessions that got out of hand! After the first taste of the fresh liquid, our brewing team of mad scientists knew they had to re-create this experiment for October only in draft form.

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Harold Osier, John A Arkansawyer, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 10/12/17 O, Brave New Scroll, That Has Such Pixels In ‘t!

(1) SECOND BITE OF THE APPLE. Steve Davidson left a comment telling File 770 readers about a turnaround in Amazing Stories’ situation with NBC since yesterday’s social media offensive:

Folks, I am officially “in discussions for a resolution” with NBC.

This was a DIRECT result of the tweeting and commenting that took place all of yesterday:

Specifically, NBC’s attorney requested that my attorney ask me to “stop tweeting” because certain people and certain giant corporations were “very upset”.

I had my doubts that my yelling about a toe stepped on would bring results, but in fact it took less than 12 hours for the story to get picked up and, while I have complied with the request (seeing as how we are talking again), the ripples are still going, so people on the west coast are going to continue to experience upset for a bit longer.

We’re very close to an agreement…very close..but not quite there yet.

I’m hoping we will finalize things today – 10-12.

I’m sure that an association with “Spielberg” and “Apple Inc” gave this story traction, but it would not have gone anywhere if fans didn’t pick it up and run with it. I think we can count this as a minor example of the “Star Trek” effect.

(2)THE PAST THROUGH YESTERDAY. Jo Walton has updated her “Revisiting the Hugo Awards” at Tor.com with a post on the newly-discovered 1956 Finalists: “Revisiting the Recently Rediscovered 1956 Hugo Awards Ballot”.

When I wrote my post in 2010 about the Hugos of 1956, the nominees for that year were lost in the mists of time. Last month they were found again, by Olav Rokne in an old Progress Report, which is very exciting, because it gives me the chance to compare what I thought they might be to what they really were. It’s great to be wrong, and goodness me I was wrong!…

(3) THE YOUNG AND THE RUTHLESS. For the newest installment of Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll unleashed his panel on “The Women Men Don’t See” by James Tiptree, Jr.

The story was not a hit with Jamie –

This was weird and slow and racist. Also sexist. The whole thing was uninteresting in general, the pacing was glacial, and the main character was a maddeningly horrible person who can seemingly only thnk about sex and whose first thought upon meeting aliens was to attack them and steal their stuff.

(4) REDDIT AMA. Two genre figures participated in Reddit “Ask Me Anything” sessions today.

G. WILLOW WILSON: Oh my God. It took Sana and I NINE MONTHS to settle on this power set. It was by far the most difficult part of the planning phase. Marvel came to me with a total tabula rasa–they wanted to do an all-ages series about an American Muslim girl (the idea was inspired by Sana’s own stories about her childhood) but this character had no name, no background, no power set, no nothing. I didn’t want her to have pretty powers–no sparkling, no floating in the air, no “I have a headache” telepathy. So that ruled some things out. And giving her violent powers–your laser beams, your plasma bolts–would be read as a political statement. (This is a whole ‘nother AMA.) So we had to get very creative. It had to be something useful and adaptive and fun to look at on the page. Getting to this specific variety of polymorphism took quite awhile.

GARDNER DOZOIS: For writing short fiction, my advice would be to immediately start with an interesting character in an interesting situation faced with a problem, rather than starting with landscape descriptions or details about how the society works. It’s hardwired in us to want to know what happens to that character NEXT, once you’ve involved us with them.

No real horror stories about fans sending me things, although I did once open a slush manuscript and had a big cardboard finger sprong up out of it, giving me the bird. A writer so certain his story was going to be rejected that he was taking his revenge in advance.

(5) COME CELEBRATE. Here’s a video of Pulphouse mascot Stomper doing a cartwheel to celebrate hitting their Kickstarter’s $15,000 stretch goal:

(6) BRADBURY RE-EULOGIZED. Paris Review ran Margaret Atwood’s “Voyage to the Otherworld: A New Eulogy for Ray Bradbury” in August.

This original essay by Margaret Atwood was composed specifically for the re-release of Sam Weller’s interview book companion to his authorized biography of Ray Bradbury. Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews, in a new hardcover deluxe edition, will be released this October by Hat & Beard Press in Los Angeles.

… What Sam and I were discussing was the launch of the collection, which was to be published by HarperCollins, and was to be called Shadow Show—from the 1962 Bradbury novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes. Ray himself had written an introduction, and it was hoped that he could be present at the grand celebration that was to take place at Comic-Con—the vast gathering of graphic artists, comics writers, and their fans, plus related enterprises and genres—that was slated for San Diego in mid-July. Five of us were going to do a Bradbury panel there: Sam, Mort Castle, Joe Hill, me, and Ray himself.

But Ray had been feeling a little frail, said Sam; it was possible he might not make it. In that case, the four of us would do the panel, and Sam and I would visit Ray in his home, webcast him to the world, connect him with his fans, and ask him to sign some covers of the book for them on the Fanado.com website I’d been involved in developing. Ray was keen to do it, said Sam, despite his qualified distrust of the Internet. His enthusiasm for his many devoted readers and his fellow writers never waned, and if using the questionable Internet was the method of last resort, then that is what he would do.

I was greatly looking forward to meeting a writer who had been ?so much a part of my own early reading, especially the delicious, clandestine reading done avidly in lieu of homework, and the compulsive reading done at night with a flashlight when I ought to have been sleeping. Stories read with such enthusiasm at such a young age are not so much read as inhaled. They sink all the way in and all the way down, and they stay with you.

But then Ray Bradbury died. He was ninety-one, but still….

(7) RIGHTS OF FAN. The Concord (New Hampshire) Monitor covered Steve Davidson’s side of the trademark dispute on Wednesday — “‘Amazing Stories’ trademark owner says Spielberg, Apple proposal ignored him”.

…Davidson said he’d always had dreams of doing more with the name, and he said he signed a contract with NBC in 2015 giving the company rights to option the “Amazing Stories” name.

His plan was to use the money to expand the online magazine, which he said now has “upward of about 4,000 unique views a day,” paying for one piece of new fiction every week, then bundling it all at the end of each quarter into print-on-demand and electronic editions.

However, he said Wednesday that NBC never paid him, leading him to file a notice of breach of contract and termination of the contract in May. He said he and NBC have recently reopened discussions, but Tuesday’s news changed his opinion.

“I don’t want to have anything to do with NBC,” he said. “I want the notice of breach and termination to be put into effect – they have no rights – so I can go out and do what I need to do.”

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born October 12, 1968 – Hugh Jackman, an actor whose roles include Wolverine.

(9) KEEPING THE PUN IN PUNCHEON. Crave interviews the author of a stfnal bartending guide — “New Book Unites Cocktail Drinkers and Sci-Fi Fans”.

Alcohol and sci-fi movies are two of Andy Heidel’s favorite things. In his new book The Cocktail Guide to the Galaxy, the owner of Brooklyn bar The Way Station brings both his passions together in over 100 out-of-this-world cocktails. Pop culture touchstones like Back to the Future, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and Game of Thrones become imbibe-able through his pun-derful recipes. Heidel makes it easy to play mixologist at home with just a few ingredients, minimal accouterments, and easy instructions. He also slips in a few “Heidel Hints” so booze-drinking rookies don’t embarrass themselves at the bar. Comic illustrations throughout make this a visually intoxicating read as well.

(10) WHERE’S YOUR TOWEL? SF Site News carried a report that a sixth series of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will be broadcast next year, using a combination of the original radio and the television casts. According to the Telegraph, the new series will air in on BBC Radio 4 in 2018.

The series is to be based on Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer’s spin-off novel And Another Thing…, but will also include previously unpublished material by original writer Douglas Adams, who died in 2001.

Simon Jones is to reprise his starring role as Arthur Dent, the mild-mannered Englishman who finds himself dragged across the universe, after the Earth is destroyed to make way for an intergalactic bypass.

Other returning cast members include Geoff McGivern as Ford Prefect, a travel writer for the titular guide, Mark Wing-Davey as two-headed alien Zaphod Beeblebrox, and Sandra Dickinson as astrophysicist Trillian. Jane Horrocks is to guest-star as Arthur’s love-interest, Fenchurch.

(11) UNMANNED FOOD TRUCK. Subtler bodega-killers? BBC’s The Disruptors covers potential changes to shopping in ”How May I Help You?”

Imagine you’re in a crowd pouring out of a late night concert. Tired and hungry, you remember the cupboards at home are bare. Do not despair.

In the brave new world of retail this won’t necessitate a trek out to the nearest late night supermarket. Instead the shop can come to you.

With the touch of an app button, you hail a low-slung electric vehicle, like a glass-sided motorhome, which quietly glides into a parking space near you.

You enter the shop by swiping your mobile phone at the door, pick up your wares and swipe out again. There’s no cashier or sales assistant, and no-one to clean up if you drop a carton of milk on your toe.

(12) A WAY TO MAKE A BUCK-BUCK. What an eggs-ellent idea — “How chicken feathers could warm our homes”.

Where there are people, there are chickens. Pretty much every country on Earth has poultry or their eggs on the menu.

So, from Norway to New Zealand, and Cuba to Cambodia, chickens root around even the most isolated settlements, and fill giant farms in their thousands.

One result of a huge chicken population is a huge amount of chicken feathers, which are normally burned or taken to landfill, polluting the environment.

Ryan Robinson, a biology graduate from Imperial College London, is one of a duo that believes it might have come up with a different solution for this feathery waste.

Along with designer Elena Dieckmann, Robinson has discovered a way to turn feathers into an insulating material for buildings or a packing material for food or medicine.

(13) VERDANT VERTICALS. Not the Jetsons’ future: “Why Milan is covering its skyscrapers in plants” – there’s a gallery at the link.

(14) DIRTY BIRDS. After dendrochronology, ornithochronology? “‘Sooty birds’ reveal hidden US air pollution”.

…Cities were soon coated in sooty air thanks to the unregulated burning of coal in homes and factories.

While the huge impact of black carbon on the health of people living in urban centres has been recognised for decades, it is only in recent years that scientists have understood the role it plays climate change.

When it is suspended in the air, the substance absorbs sunlight and increases warming in the atmosphere.

When it hits the ground it increases melting of snow and ice, and has been linked to the loss of ice in the Arctic region.

US researchers have struggled to find accurate records of the amount of black carbon that was emitted in the manufacturing belt of the US, around Chicago, Detroit and Pittsburgh at the end of the 19th century.

This new study takes an unusual approach to working out the scale of soot coming from this part of the US over the last 100 years.

The scientists trawled through natural history collections in museums in the region and measured evidence of black carbon, trapped in the feathers and wings of songbirds as they flew through the smoky air….

(15) A VR PR DISASTER. Is that Facebook or Facepalm? “Virtual Zuck fails to connect”.

It must have seemed like a good idea. As a taster for a big announcement about Oculus VR on Wednesday, send Mark Zuckerberg on a little virtual reality trip, including a stop in Puerto Rico.

But the reviews are in – and they are not good.

The sight of Mr Zuckerberg using VR to survey the devastation of an island still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria may have been meant to convey Facebook’s empathy with the victims.

The fact that he was there in the form of a cartoon seemed to many the perfect visual metaphor for the gulf in understanding between Silicon Valley and the real world.

Sure, he was talking about all the activities which his company had initiated to help the island, from helping people tell their families they were ok using Safety Check to sending Facebook employees to help restore connectivity.

But cartoon Zuck showing us a 360 degree view of a flooded street before zipping back to a virtual California just seemed a little, well, crass. Is Facebook really concerned about the plight of Puerto Rico, or is it merely a handy backdrop to promote Oculus, whose sales have so far proved disappointing?

(16) HE’S GOT IT COVERED. From the “news to me” archives, a Doctor Who fan performing a rather formidable challenge on British TV game show You Bet!

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

Pixel Scroll 10/3/17 You Are Standing In An Open Field West Of A White House, With A Boarded Front Door. There Is A Small Scroll Here.

(1) HEARTLESS. The day after the worst of recent mass-shootings in American history I don’t want to click on Nerds of a Feather and find “Non-review: Destiny 2 by Bungie (developer)”, a post that begins:

Nameless Midnight is my favorite weapon. It’s a scout rifle with explosive rounds and decreased recoil. It’s good in PVP, but it’s amazing in PVE. Every shot is a bloom of damage numbers. With sixteen rounds, I can empty a room with it. Dump a whole magazine into an elite enemy and I’ve probably killed it. Since it’s a scout rifle, it’s second only to a sniper for range too, so I don’t even have to be close. It’s not even an exotic weapon, so I can still carry my Hard Light as a backup. They’re an amazing pair.

I just despair for fandom.

(2) NEW WAVES. The Nobel Prize in Physics 2017 has been announced, given to those who contributed to the observation of gravitational waves. Half of the award goes to Rainer Weiss (LIGO/VIRGO Collaboration) and the other half jointly to Barry C. Barish (LIGO/VIRGO Collaboration) and Kip S. Thorne (LIGO/VIRGO Collaboration) “for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves”

Gravitational waves finally captured

On 14 September 2015, the universe’s gravitational waves were observed for the very first time. The waves, which were predicted by Albert Einstein a hundred years ago, came from a collision between two black holes. It took 1.3 billion years for the waves to arrive at the LIGO detector in the USA.

The signal was extremely weak when it reached Earth, but is already promising a revolution in astrophysics. Gravitational waves are an entirely new way of observing the most violent events in space and testing the limits of our knowledge.

LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, is a collaborative project with over one thousand researchers from more than twenty countries. Together, they have realised a vision that is almost fifty years old. The 2017 Nobel Laureates have, with their enthusiasm and determination, each been invaluable to the success of LIGO. Pioneers Rainer Weiss and Kip S. Thorne, together with Barry C. Barish, the scientist and leader who brought the project to completion, ensured that four decades of effort led to gravitational waves finally being observed.

(3) BONESTELL DOCUMENTARY. In production, Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future is a feature-length documentary on the life, works, and influence of sff artist Chesley Bonestell (1888-1986). The website is filled with interesting resources.

Long before satellites would journey to planets and deep-space telescopes would photograph distant galaxies, there was an artist whose dazzling visions of planets and stars would capture the imagination of all who beheld them. Before that, he was an architect working on projects like the Chrysler Building and the Golden Gate Bridge. He would later become a matte painter in Hollywood working on films like “Citizen Kane” and “Destination Moon”. Who was this remarkable man? His name was Chesley Bonestell.

 

(4) FREE PICKERSGILL. David Langford keeps rolling in high gear: “With Ansible out of the way for another month, I’ve been overhauling the TAFF free ebooks page.” Here’s a new addition, Can’t Get Off the Island by Greg Pickersgill.

A selection of living legend Greg Pickersgill’s fanwriting edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer, published to mark Greg’s Fan Guest of Honour role at Interaction, the 2005 Glasgow Worldcon. Autobiography, reviews, convention reports, musings on fandom, controversy … with sources ranging from 1970s fanzines to 2005 posts on private email lists. First published 2005; reissued as an Ansible Editions ebook for the TAFF site in October 2017. 76,000 words.

(5) PULPFEST. Seven recordings of program items at the most recent Pulpfest are available for listening:

Compliments of the Domino Lady

Long-time journalist and pop culture historian Michelle Nolan takes a look at a female pulp hero in “Compliments of the Domino Lady.”

100 Years With the Author of Psycho, Robert Bloch

Popular culture professor Garyn Roberts, who was received PulpFest’s Munsey Award in 2013, examines “100 Years With the Author of Psycho, Robert Bloch.”

Hard-Boiled and Dangerous: The Many Characters of Erle Stanley Gardner

Anthony Marks, winner of a 2009 Anthony Award, presents “Hard-Boiled and Dangerous: The Many Characters of Erle Stanley Gardner.”

Hard-Boiled Dicks: A Look at Dime Detective Magazine

Matt Moring, publisher at Altus Press, discuses “Hard-Boiled Dicks: A Look at Dime Detective Magazine.”

The Dangerous Dames of Maxwell Grant: Myra Reldon, Margo Lane, and Carrie Cashin

Will Murray, pulp historian and author of the new adventures of Doc Savage, Pat Savage, and Tarzan, discusses “The Dangerous Dames of Maxwell Grant: Myra Reldon, Margo Lane, and Carrie Cashin.

Guest of Honor Gloria Stoll Karn

David Saunders, pulp art historian and son of pulp artist Norman Saunders, talks with PulpFest 2017 Guest of Honor Gloria Stoll Karn about her career as a pulp artist.

Hard-Boiled at 100: The Don Everhard Stories of Gordon Young

California State University Sacramento professor Tom Krabacher and long-time pulp collector Walker Martin discuss “Hard-Boiled at 100: The Don Everhard Stories of Gordon Young.”

(6) DI FATE’S MAGICON SPEECH. Fanac.org has put on YouTube a video recording of 1992 Worldcon GoH Vincent Di Fate taking up the theme another artist addressed at the first Worldcon, “Science Fiction, Spirit of Youth” (46 minute video):

MagiCon, the 50th worldcon, was held in Orlando, Florida in 1992. As the 50th Worldcon, MagiCon recreated key parts of the first Worldcon program held in 1939. Guest of Honor Vincent Di Fate was asked to speak on the topic “Science Fiction, Spirit of Youth” as a nod to a talk of the same name by the first Worldcon Guest of Honor, Frank R. Paul. Here, Vincent Di Fate provides an engaging view of Frank R. Paul, and his impact on SF illustration. He also reflects on his own influences, on authors such as Robert Heinlein, and on some of the greats of early SF film. His love for science fiction is clear, and contagious.

 

(7) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel will present James Patrick Kelly and Jennifer Marie Brissett at the next gathering of Fantastic Fiction at KGB on October 18.

James Patrick Kelly

James Patrick Kelly has won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards. His most recent publications are the novel Mother Go, an audiobook original from Audible and the career retrospective Masters of Science Fiction: James Patrick Kelly from Centipede Press. Forthcoming in November are the premier of his stage play Grouped, at the Paragon Science Fiction Play Festival in Chicago and in February a new story collection from Prime, The Promise of Space. He writes a column on the internet for Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine and is on the faculty of the Stonecoast Creative Writing MFA Program at the University of Southern Maine.

Jennifer Marie Brissett

Jennifer Marie Brissett is the author of Elysium. She has been shortlisted for the Locus Award, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, the storySouth Million Writers Award, and has won the Philip K. Dick Special Citation. Her short stories can be found in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Lightspeed, Uncanny, The Future Fire, APB: Artists against Police Brutality, and other publications. And once in her life, a long time ago and for three and a half years, she owned and operated a Brooklyn indie bookstore called Indigo Café & Books. She is currently on the faculty at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop where she teaches Science Fiction & Fantasy Writing.

The readings begin 7 p.m. on Wednesday, October 18, 7 p.m. at KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.) in New York.

(8) DISCOVERY REVIEW. Camestros Felapton, in “Review: Star Trek Discovery Episode 3”, wonders if he has the right address.

Or is this Star Trek: Black Ops? The third episode is full of promise for what could be a really good series. Once again, the broad strokes and characters are good but the plot details still need attention.

It is six months after the events of the first two episodes. Michael Burnham is on a shuttle transport amid some kind of space storm on her way with other prisoners to some space mines etc. Viewer alert: engage disbelief suspension system. Beep, beep, beep. Space opera mode engaged: disbelief suspended.

It’s Star Trek, it wants more fake realism than other SF properties but this is still a rubber headed alien universe with tribbles and space monsters. I resolved to give it some more slack when the hull of the shuttle gets infected with electricity eating bugs.

(9) VEGGIES MR. RICO. In Squashalypse!”, BookViewCafe’s Deborah J. Ross finds a way to avert terrestrial takeover by an aggressive nonsentient species.

Okay, we’ve all heard the warnings. In summer squash season, do not leave the window of your parked car down or you will find a 20 lb zucchini on the passenger seat. And every year we (as do many others) suffer a memory lapse and plant — well, too many squash plants. (This applies only to summer squashes like zucchini, pattypan, and crookneck; winter squashes like butternut, buttercup, and acorn aren’t a problem because they can be stored and enjoyed over the course of months.) However, we have devised several strategies for dealing the the bounty that do not involve breaking and entering our neighbors’ vehicles.

(10) ATTENTION TO ORDERS. Hie thee to Camestros Felapton’s blog where you are instructed to laugh at “McEdifice Returns! Chapter n+1”!

It was week 4 of intensive training for the new recruits of the Intergalactic Space Army. Trainee unit Alpha 57 consisted of Dweeble, Mush, Henumhein, Chuckowitz, Mertlebay, Shumpwinder, Scoot, Pumpwhistle, Pendlebee, Zorb, Feratu, and McEdifice.

“I HAVE NEVER SEEN, a more mangy, misbegotten, NO GOOD, bunch of FLEA INFESTED, scum-bag eating EXCUSES for recruits in all MY DAYS at Bootcamp 67!” Drill Sergeant Ernie (Earnest to his friends of which he had none) was professionally loud, cantankerous and had master degrees in bullying, verbal abuse, and counterproductive unfairness.

McEdifice narrowed his eyes. Sure, he understood the basic principle of psychologically breaking the recruits down so as to rebuild their personalities as a hardened unit of warriors but McEdifice couldn’t ignore his instincts and his instincts told him that the camp had been infiltrated by SPACE VAMPIRES. He didn’t know who the infiltrator was but he knew that he didn’t like Drill Sergeant Ernie.

(11) FOR YOUR NYCC VIEWING PLEASURE. Marvel will be streaming programming from this weekend’s New York Comic Con.

Marvel Entertainment invites you to experience the best of New York Comic Con 2017 LIVE from the heart of Manhattan! Starting Thursday, October 5, tune in to Marvel Entertainment’s live stream coverage of NYCC, starting at 3:00 p.m. ET/12:00 p.m. PT and get ready to be a part of one of the biggest fan events of the year!

Hosted by TWHIP! The Big Marvel Show’s Ryan Penagos and Lorraine Cink, viewers will be able to watch booth events and panels from the Javits Center, play games with their favorite Marvel comic and television talent, and learn about all the fun surprises happening on the convention floor, from exclusive merchandise to special signings.

Join in on the fun by visiting www.marvel.com/NYCC2017Marvel’s YouTube channel or Marvel’s Facebook page. For the first time ever, you can watch Marvel LIVE! from all three platforms!

(12) FANHISTORY FOR SALE. A copy of the 1946 Worldcon program book is up for auction on eBay with some interesting autographs.

SIGNED 1946 WORLD SCIENCE FICTION CONVENTION

with ORIGINAL UNCUT STICKER SHEET (see last two photos)

SIGNED By: Ray Bradbury, E Everett Evans, Charles A. Lucase, Dale Hart, Myrtle R. Douglas, Gus Willmorth and Russ

The Big Heart Award was originally named in memory of Evans. Myrtle R. Douglas is Morojo, now commemorated for helping originate convention cosplay.

(13) BEER SCIENCE. Tech of a new alcohol trend: “The Taming Of The Brew: How Sour Beer Is Driving A Microbial Gold Rush”.

Trial and error abounds. “We’ve worked with 54 different species from 24 genera,” Bochman says, to find five yeasts capable of souring beers. Nevertheless, each new microbe — whether isolated from the microbiome of the Jamestown historical site, or some guy’s beard — expands sour beers’ flavor palette and allows craft brewers to work with entirely new compounds.

Note especially:

Bochman, for example, uses sour brewing as a “rubber bullet” to train students who’ll transfer their skills to isolating pathogens. “If they drop a sample on the floor, or ruin an experiment, it’s not $2,000 down the drain. You’re not screwing up some cancer cell line. You just spilled a beer.”

(14) UNCANNY DESTROY STRETCH GOAL FUNDS. Not only did the “Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction / Uncanny Magazine” Kickstarter fund Uncanny’s fourth year and the special SF issue, it also met the stretch goal for an additional Disabled People Destroy Fantasy Special Issue.

[Thanks to Dave Langford, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Hugh Hefner (1926-2017)

Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner died at home September 27 of natural causes. He was 91. While the magazine’s primary appeal was nude pictures of women and sex-oriented features, Playboy was also known for its cultural and political articles, and for fiction.

If you carefully look through the wrong end of the telescope, you can focus on Hefner’s and Playboy’s impressive record of publishing science fiction.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction explains that as a young man Hefner was an avid reader of Weird Tales. Once he started Playboy, the editors responsible for selecting its fiction likewise had a taste for sf/f – particularly Ray Russell, Robie MacAuley, and Alice K Turner.

Playboy serialized Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 in 1954, and over the years published short stories by Charles Beaumont, Robert Sheckley, Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter, Dan Simmons, Lucius Shepard, Terry Bisson, Robert Silverberg, Howard Waldrop, Joe Haldeman, J.G.Ballard, Frederik Pohl, and many others.

Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Nine Lives” (1969) was the first story by a woman published in Playboy, according to the Internet Science Fiction Database — although it appeared under the name U. K. Le Guin.

In 1998, Turner edited an anthology of science fiction published in the magazine, The Playboy Book of Science Fiction.

The Washington Post’s obituary documents Hefner’s reputation as a defender of First Amendment civil rights, and reproductive rights, and someone who believed gay rights were part of the sexual revolution he advocated, as shown early on by Playboy’s 1955 publication of Charles Beaumont’s “The Crooked Man” —

“The Crooked Man” depicted a dystopian future where homosexuality was the norm, heterosexuality was outlawed and angry anti-straight mobs marched through the street chanting “make our city clean again!” Even the relatively progressive Esquire magazine had rejected the piece because it was too controversial.

But Beaumont found a fan in a young Hugh Hefner, who agreed to run it in his Playboy magazine, then less than two years old.

Outraged letters poured in to Playboy. Even readers of the pioneering nude publication found Beaumont’s tale of straight people dressing in drag and sneaking into dark barrooms to find partners too offensive for their tastes.

Hefner responded to the backlash in a defiant note. “If it was wrong to persecute heterosexuals in a homosexual society,” he wrote, “then the reverse was wrong, too.”

Hefner was friends with Ray Bradbury. On Ray’s 90th birthday, Hefner hosted a party for him at the Writers Guild. Buzz Aldrin was there, too. John King Tarpinian helped get Bradbury back and forth. John took these photos, and wrote a little about the party in another post.

Ray Bradbury and Hugh Hefner

Ray Bradbury and Buzz Aldrin in 2010.

Tarpinian says, “Because of Ray, I did get to say I bought the magazine for the articles.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge and Greg Hullender for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 9/19/17 These Are A Few Of My Favorite Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

(1) DARMOK AND JALAD AT THE TIKI BAR. ThinkGeek invites you to get your “Star Trek The Next Generation Geeki Tikis”.

La Forge, Picard, Worf, Cardassian, Borg, Ferengi

Allow us to raise a toast to your taste in housewares with these Star Trek The Next Generation Geeki Tikis. A set of six, these tiki mugs let you drink with Captain Picard, Geordi La Forge, Worf, a Cardassian, a Ferengi, and the Borg. Yes, all of the Borg since they’re a collective consciousness. Best not to play trivia against that one. These tiki mugs hold around 14 oz. each, and they’ll look great next to your Horga’hn fertility statue.

 

(2) BOOK DONATIONS REQUESTED. John Joseph Adams posts:

Got any books you’d like to donate to a good home? My sister’s looking for donations for her school’s library:

In “Nothing to Read”, teacher Becky Sasala explains the need.

I recently assigned my juniors to independently read a book every nine weeks. We took part of a class period and visited the media center to ensure that every student had access to a variety of books. I was absolutely floored by the emptiness of the building. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised; the county that I work (and live) in is a poor rural county. The average wage in Hoke County is $18,421. Most households’ combined income is less than $50,000. Less than 15% of adult residents hold a degree beyond high school. I also discovered that the library has not had any money to purchase new books since 2009. 2009!

Books appropriate for high school students can be sent to the following address:

  • Hoke County High School
  • c/o Rebecca Sasala
  • 505 Bethel Rd.
  • Raeford, NC 28376

More information at the linked post. There’s also a related Amazon wish list.

(3) HEINLEIN UNBOUND. Farah Mendlesohn, a historian, critic and fan who is a Hugo, BSFA, and BFA winner, and WFA, Mythopoeic, and Locus Award finalist for her scholarly non-fiction works on science fiction and fantasy, is crowdfunding the publication (by Unbound) of her critical study of the writings of a giant of the SF genre.

Dear Friends,

As you all know, I had to withdraw my book on Heinlein from the original publisher due to length. As I explored other options it became clear that no academic publisher could take it without substantial cuts, and no one who read it, could suggest any. So I am utterly delighted to be able to say that Unbound, a crowdsourcing press, have agreed to take the book.

Robert A. Heinlein began publishing in the 1940s at the dawn of the Golden Age of science fiction and carried on writing until his death in 1988. His short stories contributed immensely to the development of science fiction’s structure and rhetoric, while his novels (for both the juvenile and adult markets) demonstrated that you could write hard SF with strong political argument. His vision of the future was sometimes radical, sometimes crosswise, and towards the end in retrenchment. He continues to influence many writers whether in emulation or reaction. Recent controversies in science fiction have involved fighting over Heinlein’s reputation and arguing about what his legacy is and to whom he belongs…

The key thesis of the book is a challenge to the idea of Heinlein as a libertarian and resituating him as a classical Liberal in the terms he understood; a man who prized the individual highly but understood the individual as at their best when enmeshed in the complex structure of a nurturing society.

Support levels start at £12 for the e-book, and higher levels include hardback copies, critiques of supporters’ non-fiction, workshops, and afternoon tea plus a tour of the personal library of Mendlesohn and SF critic Edward James.

(4) THE STORIES YOU WANT. Like everyone, Liz Bourke has her own specific set of interests, however, most readers have privately asked themselves the question in the title of her latest column, Sleeps With Monsters: Why Can’t More Books Pander To Me?” at Tor.com.

I’m a queer woman (bisexual, and to a degree genderqueer, if precision matters). Much of my reading experience, particularly with new-to-me authors, and even more so with male authors, involves bracing for things that are tiresome, wearying, and/or hurtful. Whether it’s active misogyny, background sexist assumptions, gratuitous sexual assault of women (which may or may not be used to motivate the character arc or development of male protagonists), Smurfettes, women without communities that include other women, transphobia, Buried Gays, or just the general sense that the world the author’s created has no room for people like me in it, there’s frequently a level of alienation that I need to overcome in order to be able to enjoy a new book—or film, or television show, or videogame, etc.—and constantly being braced for that alienation is exhausting.

And that’s even before we get to books that are outright badly done, alienating in ways that aren’t aimed at me (but fuck racism), or just aren’t to my tastes (a lot of comedy, most horror, certain themes that need to be really well done to work for me).

But I’m so used to experiencing this alienation, or to expecting it, that it’s a wrenching shock when I find books that just… welcome me in. That don’t place any barriers in my way. I don’t notice the amount of effort overcoming this alienation requires until I don’t have to make that effort—like not really knowing how much pain you were in until it stops.

(5) THE HOME STRETCH. Artist Gary Gianni’s Kickstarter to publish Hellboy: Into the Silent Sea, Gianni’s book with Mike Mignola, has gotten a great reception – in fact, they’ve just added their FOURTH stretch goal reward –

FOURTH STRETCH GOAL ANNOUNCED! Free all-new fully illustrated The Call of Cthulhu book by Gianni with 100 pencil drawings to all Kickstarter supporters who pledge $50 or more if we reach our Stretch Goal #4, 80K goal!

Gianni’s many credits include illustrating George R.R. Martin’s A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.

(6) 21ST CENTURY AIR TRAVEL. The title promises “WorldCon 2017, aka The Best, Most Tedious Disaster Story Ever” and Anaea Lay delivers. And yet I read it all. Highly illogical!

When that broke up and it was time to head home, several of the people I’d been hanging out with very kindly and English-ly refused to go on to their hotel before making sure I could find where I was staying, despite my insistence that this was unnecessary.  The joke was on them, though, because I managed to have a fail-tastic adventure anyway.  You see, I knew the address of where I was staying, and I had the keys for getting in.  What I didn’t have was the apartment number.  In a building with eight floors.

(7) MARKETING TECHNIQUE. RedWombat explains a new piece to her agent:

(8) HE LOOKS BEFORE HE LEAPS. Arnie Fenner interviewed John Fleskes at Muddy Colors earlier this week. How many bungee-jumping publishers do you know?

People don’t normally equate daredevils with art books: how does doing death-defying stunts segue into becoming a publisher?

Well, the risk of doing a stunt and that of running a business is very similar, really. So, people have the tendency to call us “extreme” or “daredevils” but in reality each stunt is very calculated and planned far in advance. It’s not like we would just hook up a random bungee cord to anything and just jump off. I worked for a pair of brilliant engineers who would include us in the planning stages and I really learned to appreciate the analytical process of working for those who set up highly complicated stunts where peoples lives were on the line. By the time the actual stunt would happen, sure, if you went off script you could die, but there really wasn’t anything to seriously worry about. Oh, man, jumping out of a hot air balloon at 500 feet and falling 300 feet, now that is a feeling of absolute freedom to fly like that!

But, my real point is that it is a calculated risk when doing a stunt. Days, or weeks, or months of planning can go into what we did. It’s exactly the same with Flesk. Everything that I do is a risk. Instead of risking my life, I’m risking all of my finances, my company, and my livelihood.

The Call For Entries for Spectrum 25 will go out in a few weeks: can you share some of your perspective after having led the competition, judging, and annual for the past 4-going-on-5 years?

The greatest part of Spectrum, without a doubt, has been its community. It’s the people that make it worthwhile year after year. We’re all in it together, it’s here because of the generosity, the support and the downright goodwill of everyone involved. It’s so much bigger than me, it’s not about me whatsoever, but like I’ve mentioned before, it lets me play a role in doing for others. If I do things right, my name never comes to the front or is in the spotlight. I want it to be about the artists. That’s the part at the end of the day that satisfies me the most. That’s my drive. I prefer to work in the background as much as possible, only coming out when absolutely necessary and only when it is to serve others. This community, these artists, it’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever been a part of. That you and Cathy would tap me on the shoulder, that they would see something in me, I’m forever grateful. You’ve treated me like family. I’m truly blessed to know you both and be a part of Spectrum. You know, I’m still a bit shocked by where I am today? I never would have expected any of this.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Talk Like A Pirate Day

(10) TODAY IN ALLEGED HISTORY

September 19, 1961 – Betty and Barney Hill were abducted for two hours by a UFO.

(11) TODAY IN REGULAR OLD HISTORY

  • September 19, 2000 – Michael Chabon’s Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, a novel about the glory years of the American comic book, was published. It won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY WIZARD

  • Born September 19, 1979 — Hermione Jean Granger

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CAPED CRUSADER

  • Born September 19, 1928 – Adam West

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY U.N.C.L.E. AGENT

  • Born September 19, 1933 – David McCallum

(15) LIVING PROOF. Remember when the Worldcon’s new YA Award couldn’t be called the Tesseract out of courtesy to an existing Canadian anthology series? If you weren’t already acquainted with it, now’s your chance. Compostela (Tesseracts Twenty) edited by Spider Robinson and James Alan Gardner will be released in the U.S. on October 9. (It’s already available in Canada.)

Compostela (Tesseracts Twenty) is an anthology of hard and soft science fiction stories that best represent a futuristic view of the sciences and how humanity might be affected (for better or worse) by a reliance in all things technological.

The stories contained within the pages of Compostela are a reflection of the world we live in today; where science produces both wonders and horrors; and will leave us with a future that undoubtedly will contain both. Journeys to the stars may be exhilarating and mind-expanding, but they can also be dangerous or even tragic. SF has always reflected that wide range of possibilities.

Featuring works by these Canadian visionaries:

Alan Bao, John Bell, Chantal Boudreau, Leslie Brown, Tanya Bryan, J. R. Campbell, Eric Choi, David Clink, paulo da costa, Miki Dare, Robert Dawson, Linda DeMeulemeester, Steve Fahnestalk, Jacob Fletcher, Catherine Girczyc, R. Gregory, Mary-Jean Harris, Geoffrey Hart, Michaela Hiebert, Matthew Hughes, Guy Immega, Garnet Johnson-Koehn, Michael Johnstone, Cate McBride, Lisa Ann McLean, Rati Mehrotra, Derryl Murphy, Brent Nichols, Susan Pieters, Alexandra Renwick, Rhea Rose, Robert J. Sawyer, Thea van Diepen, Nancy SM Waldman.

(16) THE EIGHTIES WERE STRANGER. Adweek is enthusiastic: “Netflix Is Making Stranger Things Versions of Classic ’80s Movie Posters, and They’re Amazing”.

Netflix is pulling out all the stops on social media in the weeks leading up to Season 2. Last month, the show’s official Twitter account began giving fans more of what they want by launching a weekly recap of each episode of the first season under the hashtag #StrangerThursdays, and tying each episode to a classic ’80s film.

Even more impressive, the art team at the show has paid homage to each film’s original poster art while placing the Stranger Things cast members in its universe. The tweets also include copy referencing the movies that inspired them.

The post has all of them, but here’s one example.

A fan has been inspired to make another —

(17) UHHH. A comic linked from File 770 prompted Steve J. Wright to refer to his Lego-playing days as “Grotesque Sexual Deviancy”.

At least, we thought we were just having fun.  It turns out, though, that we were transgressing the boundaries of gender as laid down by God and marketing departments.  We should never have engaged in the heinous perversion of unsegregated Lego.  Our Lego should have been sorted into strong, potent, manly Lego (mine) and soft, gentle, feminine Lego (my sister’s), and the division should have been rigorously maintained.  All these years I thought we were just playing with Lego, and instead we were promoting an insidious non-binary genderqueer agenda that subverts all the established notions of masculinity and femininity, that causes confusion and actual harm to children who are too young to handle the idea of boys playing with girls’ Lego, that will probably pollute our precious bodily fluids and hasten the downfall of Western civilization.

thought we’d just got a sensible arrangement, so that if, say, my sister wanted to hold a state funeral for one of the Crater Critters, she could grab a bunch of black Legos and build a hearse without any arguments.  Now I know that we were, in fact, undermining the very foundations of all that is good and decent and true.

(18) FRESH OUTBREAK OF TROLLS. Gwynne Watkins of Yahoo! Movies, in “‘Star Wars’ fan petition seeking removal of J.J. Abrams from ‘Episode IX’ picks up steam”, writes that 3,000 people have signed a petition demanding that J.J. Abrams be removed as director of Episode IX because they feel that Disney promised a fresh director for every installment.

The petition at Change.org begins:

Star Wars fans abroad were upset with the result of J.J. Abrams’ directing of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Although not reflected in the box office sales, most fans agree that Abrams’ vision for Episode VII resulted in a rehash of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. There was virtually no creativity, and no risks taken. Such complacency cannot be the trajectory of this sequel trilogy. More specifically, the metric for success in a Star Wars movie cannot be box office sales. Lucasfilm and Disney *need* to listen to fan criticism. Star Wars fans deserve better. They demand better.

Almost 3,500 people have signed it so far.

(19) BONES. New books by the late Michael Crichton continue to appear. Fantasy Literature’s Ryan Skardal renders a verdict on one that came out this past May in Dragon Teeth: Palaeontologist wars”

Johnson is stranded in Deadwood with his bones, which everyone assumes is a cover for gold. Some readers may be pleased to learn that the Bone Wars between Cope and Marsh are drawn from history. Robert Louis Stevenson and Wyatt Earp also appear.

I did not find very much information on how finished Dragon Teeth was before publication, but, unlike Micro, there is no mention of another author who finished this work. It’s tempting to point out that this novel about fossils seems more skeletal than most of Crichton’s novels. The characters are flat, their interactions seem rushed, and every chapter is very short. There are moments of historical detail that are a bit more developed, such as when devout Christians express doubt about fossils and whether a perfect god could create something flawed — let alone something so flawed that it might go extinct. Even these details, however, feel like sketches.

(20) CON CEASES FOR SAFETY REASONS. The staff has put an end to an Ohio convention in the wake of the chair’s criminal conviction. Nerd & Tie has the story: “Anime Punch Disbands After Con Chair Michael Beuerlein Pleads Guilty to Sexual Battery”.

Columbus, OH based convention Anime Punch has been disbanded and will no longer hold any more events. The convention staff announced that they would be ceasing all future operations on in a statement on their official Facebook page on September 14…

The crime was prosecuted in Virginia, so probably was not committed at the convention.

(21) A SPECIALIZED NEED. Erika Satifka, in “Difference of Mind” at the SFWA Blog, points to a problem with most fictional treatments of mental illness.

According to the World Health Organization, one out of every four people will be affected by mental illness at some point in their lives. Considering this, it’s important that when characters with mental illness are featured in one’s writing, the subject is treated with sensitivity and accuracy. Novels that portray such disorders well can make a huge difference.

Em Kalberg, the protagonist of my debut novel Stay Crazy, has paranoid schizophrenia. As I researched the novel, I found that there were very few positive representations of people with schizophrenia, and not just in speculative fiction, but everywhere. The vast majority of the time, characters with psychotic disorders are monsters or killers….

Besides her own Stay Crazy, Satifka recommends fourteen other novels, novellas, and short story collections that prominently feature characters with mental illnesses or trauma.

(22) TIS THE SEASON. Time to be reminded about “The REAL Legend Behind the Halloween Tree at Disneyland”:

Learning about Disneyland’s storied history is as fun as spending a day getting your thrills on at all of the attractions. From true tragic stories inspiring haunting legends to secrets and facts only the biggest park fans know, there’s always something else to discover about the Happiest Place on Earth – the legend of the Halloween Tree included.

Now, fans are probably familiar with the tree. The oak is located in front of the Golden Horseshoe Saloon in Frontierland. Every Halloween since 2007, the tree is decorated in a special way with jack-o’-lanterns hanging from its branches – but have you ever wondered why? The story goes that author Ray Bradbury, famous for Fahrenheit 451 and countless other fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and horror works, loved Halloween – and had a long history with Disney. Bradbury was a huge proponent of the Walt Disney Company and made his support for it clear throughout the years.

(23) SETTING THEM STRAIGHT. Camestros Felapton has been dismantling “Vlad James’” attack on the science in an Ursula Le Guin novel The Lathe of Heaven.

James wrote:

Unfortunately, she was less self-aware than [Harry Harrison], and injected phenomenally idiotic, pseudo-scientific explanations in her stories constantly.

Also:

She also claims that it would take the atmosphere “several hundred years to get rid of the CO2”. While I understand Le Guin found math difficult, if humans completely stopped producing CO2, it would take 9-12 days for the atmosphere to rid itself of the amount presently there. Or, if you believe global warm…err “climate change” hysterics, it will take…several years. A few hundred years is baseless ignorance.

But young Felapton, in “Science and Le Guin Part 2”, shows —

The quote from Le Guin is genuine and from The Lathe of Heaven published in 1970. It is also scientifically correct (more or less) whereas the criticism is scientific nonsense – indeed it is error piled on error….

A thorough takedown follows.

(24) THE SMELL IS OUT THERE. This is pretty damn funny – Anime Conventions: An Honest Guide.

(25) A MAGICAL TIME. IMDB says Andy the Talking Hedgehog is up 778% in popularity this week. Articles like The Guardian’s are the reason.

When Reid tweeted the Andy the Talking Hedgehog poster on Friday, the internet went nuts. That was partly because the poster featured a hedgehog, two cats, Dean Cain, Tara Reid’s Twitter profile pic manipulated to look slightly more wholesome and an unattributed quote calling it “a magical good time”. But it was also because the IMDb plot summary for the film read “Tara Reid brings her Oscar award-winning prowess to this documentary about a hedgehog that Dean Cain farted on giving it the ability to talk. It’s a fun-loving family movie that will for sure make you say “WOWZA. That’s a stinky fart!”’ That summary, incidentally, was attributed to Scott Baio.

Obviously, like the rest of the world, I desperately wanted to know the story behind Andy the Talking Hedgehog. Although we can rule out the summary as nothing more than internet high jinks, it would appear that the film is real. Back in November actress Maria Wasikowski tweeted a photo from the Andy the Talking Hedgehog set, alongside Dean Cain and, one month later, Tara Reid Instagrammed a shot of her character, Fairy BFF.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, JJ, Arnie Fenner, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Karl-Johan Norén, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pillar of the Community:  Warming up to 451ºF

Bill Oberst Jr. in Pillar of Fire

By Mark L. Blackman: Many of us first encountered the term “Pillar of Fire” in the Book of Exodus, where it was a manifestation of God accompanying the Hebrew wanderers. In Ray Bradbury’s 1948 sf/horror novella of that name, it is starkly literal, the towering stone Incinerators into which cadavers are consigned, like so much trash, both the newly deceased and ultimately those long-buried. The disinterring of the last cemetery on Earth (appropriately in Salem) disturbs the grave of one William Langtry (died 1933), who “[comes] out of the Earth hating.”

He finds himself in the sterilized, debatable utopia of 2349, where, in the name of sanitation and mental health, not only are the dead cremated, but so too have been all dark or disturbing influences, such as horror literature like the “ghastly” works of Ambrose Bierce, Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft (“the Great Burning”). (Bradbury once described the story, which he also adapted into a play, as “a rehearsal for Fahrenheit 451.”)  Crime – theft and murder – and fear have been eliminated and become inconceivable, but, Lantry discovers, so has the spirit animating humanity. “Declaring war on an entire world,” “the last dead man on Earth” embarks on a spree of murder and the destruction of Incinerators, hoping, in his madness and loneliness, to restore fear of the dark and to create others like him (“new friends”).

On September 17th, actor Bill Oberst, Jr. brought his one-man performance of Bradbury’s Pillar of Fire, directed by Ezra Buzzington, to the United Solo Theatre Festival in New York, in the Studio Theatre at Theatre Row (Off-Broadway), after two sold-out runs in Los Angeles. Additionally, his staged theatrical reading of the novella won an Ernest Kearney Platinum Award and was named Best Solo Show Of Hollywood Fringe Festival in the Best Of Los Angeles Theater 2015 roundup at Bitter-Lemons.com. The one-night New York run, it should be noted, sold out as well.

The Emmy and Lon Chaney Award-winning fan favorite indie horror actor, whose scarred face is perhaps most familiar from tv’s Criminal Minds (where he was an Unsub who got away) and Scream Queens, calls the piece a hymn to Halloween. “From the opening sentence: ‘He came out of the Earth hating,’ Bradbury is defending Halloween and horror against those who want a world without superstition. In 2349, burial is banned – they burn people’s bodies like trash. There’s only one dead man left, and he’s pissed! Only Ray Bradbury can make you cheer for a zombie terrorist.”

Bill Oberst Jr. after the performance. Photo by Mark Blackman.

Commanding the bare stage, firmly gripping the audience, Oberst breathed sympathy, melancholy and tragedy, along with “graveyard dust” (after all, one can’t breathe life into the respiration-challenged walking dead), into the character of Lantry (whom, face it, is impossible to “cheer”). Clad in rags (Oberst was aware that clothes would not have survived 400 years of burial), didn’t – despite it being labeled “a theatrical reading” – merely recite Bradbury’s text, but performed it as a dramatic monologue, only occasionally referring to a copy of the story in an old edition of S is for Space. (The production was edited and abridged from the original novella, rather than being a staging of the aforementioned play. Bradbury’s beautifully descriptive and powerful language thereby were retained largely intact to fuel the piece.) Accented by lighting, brief music and sound effects, it remained a one-man presentation, with several other characters’ dialog emerging illusory in loudspeakered pre-recordings. (I’m uncertain if that idea worked. Was it intended to render the living into the Voice of God?)

The production clearly was a labor of love for Oberst. “‘Pillar of Fire’ was the first piece of Bradbury I ever read. It’s dear to my heart,” he told me, relating how, years ago, he’d found of S is for Space in the woods. It’s still his “go-to book.” I have a feeling that the copy that he was clutching was that very one.

No spoilers here – read the story.

Pixel Scroll 9/8/17 The Heinlein Appertainment Collision: Pixel, The Cat That Walks Through Scrolls

(1) HINES ARC GIVEAWAY TO SUPPORT DISASTER RELIEF. Jim C. Hines is doing a giveaway of an advance copy of Terminal Alliance to encourage people to donate to flood/hurricane relief: “Disaster Aid and Terminal Alliance Giveaway”:

Two weeks ago, Sophie received advance review copies of Terminal Alliance. I’ve been meaning to do a giveaway, but I was struggling to come up with a good way to do it.

Then I started seeing the damage reports come in from hurricanes and flooding. The devastation they’ve left in their wakes, and the devastation yet to come. A million people without power in Puerto Rico. Record-breaking rain and flooding in the southwest U.S. 41 million affected by flooding and landslides in South Asia.

And now I know how I want to do this giveaway. You want to win an autographed ARC of Terminal Alliance? There are two things you need to do.

  1. Donate to one of the organizations helping with disaster relief.
  2. Leave a comment saying you donated.

(2) USE YOUR OWN DARNED IMAGINATION. Bestselling fantasy writer Mark Lawrence tells his fans “Why you’re not getting a map”.

A question posed to me on this blog.

Q: When are you going to draw a map for Book of the ancestors series? I’m dying to read Red Sister but can’t bring myself to do it without a map.

A: I’m not going to. If you can’t read a book without a map I guess it’s not a book for you.

I’m often asked: “Did you draw the map first or as you wrote the book.” This is frequently by people who haven’t read any of my books.

There is an assumption there … fantasy books have maps. Which is odd, since I have read hundreds (possibly thousands) of novels without maps, many of them set in regions I’m unfamiliar with. The fact is that for a great many works of fiction maps are irrelevant, they are about what people are doing in their lives, if Sarah goes to visit her uncle in Vostok it is sufficient for me to know it took her several hours on the train and when she got there the forests were covered in snow. I don’t need to look it up on a map. It doesn’t matter.

(3) SELLING SHORT. Charles Payseur begins a new series of posts with “MAPPING SHORT SF/F: Part 1, A Key to the Kingdom” at Nerds of a Feather.

Really, the reasons I want to do this can be broken down thusly:

  1. To provide a tool for readers to break down short SFF into meaningful, manageable chunks that will help them locate stories they will hopefully love.
  2. To counter the narrative that short SFF is either too massive, too disparate, or too opaque to be successfully navigated.
  3. To talk about short SFF, which is one of my great loves.
  4. To highlight publications, authors, and trends within short SFF.

…One last thing before I close this down. People often come to me to ask how to find stories. How to refine their search. While I hope to help through this series, there are some tools that are available to you right now, and I find that not everyone thinks of this when they’re considering where to look as readers for particular genres/styles/etc. Your best resource as a reader is…submissions guidelines. Yes, they are written for writers, but if you want to know what a publication is interested in, submissions guidelines are where to look. Skip the About Us section of publications. Read what they want. See if they have a diversity statement. Check to see what other tactics they might have to encourage marginalized writers to submit. This is a really easy “cheat” for readers to get a feel for a publication without checking out reviews or reading sample stories. And using a tool like The Submissions Grinder at Diabolical Plots allows you to search by genre, by length, by basically whatever you want. It’s not what it was designed for, but it is amazing for searching out venues and stories to read.

(4) SINGULARITY SINS. Rodney Brooks has written an excellent article explaining in detail why the future of AI isn’t going to be quite as scary or as exciting as most SF stories would have you think: “The Seven Deadly Sins of Predicting the Future of AI”. Here’s an excerpt from one of his seven main points.

Some people have very specific ideas about when the day of salvation will come–followers of one particular Singularity prophet believe that it will happen in the year 2029, as it has been written.

This particular error of prediction is very much driven by exponentialism, and I will address that as one of the seven common mistakes that people make.

Even if there is a lot of computer power around it does not mean we are close to having programs that can do research in Artificial Intelligence, and rewrite their own code to get better and better.

Here is where we are on programs that can understand computer code. We currently have no programs that can understand a one page program as well as a new student in computer science can understand such a program after just one month of taking their very first class in programming. That is a long way from AI systems being better at writing AI systems than humans are.

Here is where we are on simulating brains at the neural level, the other methodology that Singularity worshipers often refer to. For about thirty years we have known the full “wiring diagram” of the 302 neurons in the worm C. elegans, along with the 7,000 connections between them. This has been incredibly useful for understanding how behavior and neurons are linked. But it has been a thirty years study with hundreds of people involved, all trying to understand just 302 neurons. And according to the OpenWorm project trying to simulate C. elegans bottom up, they are not yet half way there. To simulate a human brain with 100 billion neurons and a vast number of connections is quite a way off. So if you are going to rely on the Singularity to upload yourself to a brain simulation I would try to hold off on dying for another couple of centuries.

(5) LUCASFILM HELPS DESIGN REAL WORLD MISSION PATCH. In space no one can hear you squee.

Taking a modern twist on a longstanding spaceflight tradition of mission patch design, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) partnered with Lucasfilm to blend iconic images from the Star Wars franchise with a real-world space station for its latest mission patch.

BB-8 meets ISS

Though it should come as no surprise that the intersection of space science and science fiction fans is quite large, it isn’t often the two areas come together in such overt fashion, even with something as basic as a patch. Indeed, mission insignia are usually designed by astronauts or engineers involved with a particular mission, not an outside organization.

CASIS, however, has a history of engaging third parties to influence – or outright design – its ensigns. Before the current collaboration with Lucasfilm, CASIS worked with Marvel to design its 2016 mission patch. That work featured Rocket Raccoon and Groot from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy looking upwards toward the International Space Station (ISS).

(6) TECHNOLOGY AND FREEDOM. Coming September 17 at the Brooklyn Historical Auditorium: “Structures of Power: Politics, Science Fiction, and Fantasy presented by the Center for Fiction”

Science fiction and fantasy are uniquely positioned to explore structures of power. Four authors examine how power struggles impact individuals and collectives, intersections between technology and politics, and methods of resistance to oppressive governments and technologies. N.K. Jemisin (The Stone Sky), Eugene Lim (Dear Cyborgs), Malka Older (Null States), and Deji Bryce Olukotun (After the Flare) will discuss how science fiction and fantasy respond to our hopes and fears for the future, offers alternatives to conventional politics, and examines how technology affects freedom. Moderated by Rosie Clarke.

(7) BRADBURY ALL THE TIME. Here’s the first of “11 Deep Facts About The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” from Mental Floss.

  1. THE MOVIE WAS PARTLY BASED ON A RAY BRADBURY STORY.

It all started with a roar. One night, while he was living near Santa Monica Bay, legendary sci-fi author Ray Bradbury was awakened from his sleep by a blaring foghorn. Moved by the mournful bellow, he quickly got to work on a short story about a lovelorn sea monster. Called The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (later retitled The Foghorn), it was published in The Saturday Evening Post on June 23, 1951.

At roughly the same time, Mutual Films was developing a script for a new action-packed monster movie. The finished product would ultimately bear more than a slight resemblance to a certain Saturday Evening Post story. For instance, both of them feature a scene in which a prehistoric titan lays waste to a lighthouse. According to some sources, Mutual had already started working on its marine creature flick when studio co-founder Jack Dietz happened upon Bradbury’s yarn in the Post. Supposedly, he contacted the author without delay and bought the rights to this tale.

But Bradbury’s account of what happened behind the scenes is totally different. The other co-founder of Mutual was one Hal Chester. Late in life, Bradbury claimed that when a preliminary script for what became Beast had been drafted, Chester asked him to read it over. “I pointed out the similarities between it and my short story,” Bradbury said. “Chester’s face paled and his jaw dropped when I told him his monster was my monster. He seemed stunned at my recognition of the fact. He had the look of one caught with his hand in the till.”

In any event, Bradbury received a $2000 check and a shout-out in the movie’s opening credits.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Star Trek Day

[The anniversary of when the first episode aired in 1966.]

“I haven’t faced death. I’ve cheated death. I’ve tricked my way out of death and patted myself on the back for my ingenuity; I know nothing.” ~ James T. Kirk, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Long ago, in the depths of the cold war, America had a prophet arrive. He spoke not of religious texts and damnation, but instead provided us with a vision of the future so hope-filled, so compelling, that it has indelibly marked the imaginations of man-kind ever since. Star Trek Day celebrates that vision, and the man who created it, Gene Roddenberry.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 8, 1966 — Original Star Trek series debuted on television.
  • September 8, 1973 Star Trek: The Animated Series premiered. (Talk about coincidences.)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock rightly says, “Today’s Rhymes With Orange is for the strong of stomach.”
  • John King Tarpinian found a funny about cosplay – today’s Lio.

(11) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler is giving out his annual Galactic Stars – this time in the TV category: “[Sep. 8, 1962] Navigating the Wasteland (1961-62 in (good) television)”. These awards are not limited to sff – Route 66 and The Andy Griffith Show made the list – but The Twilight Zone a couple other genre series made the list.

Other stand-outs include:

Mr. Ed 1960-: despite being overly rooted in conventional gender roles, one can’t ignore Alan Young’s charm, the fun of the barbed banter between Young’s married neighbors, or the impressive way they make a horse appear to talk.

Supercar 1961-62: this British import is definitely kiddie fare, but it’s still fun to watch Mike Mercury and his two scientist associates defeat criminals and triumph over natural disaster.  Of course, the acting’s a bit wooden…

(12) WHEN BRUCE WILLIS ATTENDS YOUR OFFICE PARTY. Io9 reports “The Best Christmas Movie of All Time Is Being Turned Into a Must-Have Children’s Book”. I was thinking, A Christmas Story? Miracle on 34th Street? I was wrong….

It’s unfortunate that Die Hard, the best Christmas movie of all time, isn’t really a film you can watch with your kids. But this year, instead of suffering through Elf once again, you can spend some quality time with your PG-rated family members by reading a new holiday children’s book based on the adventures of John McClane.

A Die Hard Christmas: The Illustrated Holiday Classic, written by comedian Doogie Horner, and illustrated by JJ Harrison, was inspired by the classic Christmas poem, Twas the Night Before Christmas. But instead of detailing Santa’s attempts to deliver presents to good boys and girls, the book tells the timeless tale of a New York police officer single-handedly taking down a gang of European terrorists.

(13) THE IT FACTOR. The children’s movie about a clown with a red balloon did well. SyFy Wire says “The weekend’s only starting, and IT has already broken 4 box office records”.

According to Deadline, the R-rated IT’s record-breaking take of $13.5 million means it had:

  • The largest gross for a horror pre-show gross.
  • The largest gross for a R-rated preview gross.
  • The largest gross for a September preview, ever.
  • The largest gross for a movie based on a Stephen King novel.

This Thursday night preview kicked the stuffing out of the R-rated Deadpool, which only earned $12.7 from its pre-show screenings. Experts are predicting more record-shattering as the weekend progresses.

(14) KOWAL SIGNED FOR NARRATION. Parvus Press has contracted with Mary Robinette Kowal to perform the audiobook narration for the upcoming title Flotsam by R J Theodore. The book will be released in digital, print, and audio on January 30, 2018.

“We are incredibly excited to be able to work with a world-class talent like Mary Robinette Kowal on this title,” said Colin Coyle, Publisher at Parvus Press. “We know that this book is going to find a dedicated fan base and we want to bring it to as many readers and listeners as possible.”

…R J Theodore couldn’t be more pleased with Parvus’ choice for FLOTSAM‘s narrator. She says, “Mary’s voice is a complex bourbon that bites with a wry humor on the way down. I am very excited to hear it applied to FLOTSAM’s narration.”

Cat Rambo, author of “Beasts of Tabat”, describes FLOTSAM as “Combining the best elements of steampunk and space opera,” and promises “[P]laced in a lavishly detailed and imagined world, Flotsam will hold you firmly till the final page.”

…Mary Robinette Kowal, a professional puppeteer, also performs as a voice actor (SAG/AFTRA), recording fiction for authors including Seanan McGuire, Cory Doctorow, and John Scalzi. She lives in Chicago with her husband Rob and over a dozen manual typewriters.

(15) NEXT TURN OF THE WHEEL. Although the blog has devoted years to teaching indie authors how to put together and market their books, Mad Genius Club’s Peter Grant has a new message: “It’s time to face facts: online lending and streaming media is, increasingly, the future of books”.

I’ve written before about the threat that streaming media poses to traditional book sales.  I’ve had a certain amount of pushback about that, particularly from those who don’t like the thought of their income from writing declining to such an extent.  Some have even refused to make their books available on streaming services such as Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited.  Now, however, the signs are clear.  We have to face up to the reality of streaming media in our future – or be swept aside.

Those signs are most clear in other areas of the entertainment industry.  Let’s not forget, that is our industry, too.  We’re not selling books.  We’re selling entertainment, and our products (books and stories) are competing with every other avenue of entertainment out there – movies, TV series, music, games, the lot.  If we don’t offer sufficient entertainment for consumers’ dollars, they’re going to spend them on another form of entertainment – and we’re going to starve.

(16) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. At Phys.org they ask: “Are we being watched? Tens of other worlds could spot the Earth”.

Thanks to facilities and missions such as SuperWASP and Kepler, we have now discovered thousands of planets orbiting stars other than our sun, worlds known as ‘exoplanets’. The vast majority of these are found when the planets cross in front of their host stars in what are known as ‘transits’, which allow astronomers to see light from the host star dim slightly at regular intervals every time the planet passes between us and the distant star.

In the new study, the authors reverse this concept and ask, “How would an alien observer see the solar system?” They identified parts of the distant sky from where various planets in our solar system could be seen to pass in front of the sun – so-called ‘transit zones’—concluding that the terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) are actually much more likely to be spotted than the more distant ‘Jovian’ planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune), despite their much larger size.

“Larger planets would naturally block out more light as they pass in front of their star”, commented lead author Robert Wells, a PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast. “However the more important factor is actually how close the planet is to its parent star – since the terrestrial planets are much closer to the sun than the gas giants, they’ll be more likely to be seen in transit.”

(17) THE MARTIAN HOP. Stephen Baxter is featured in “Tell Us 5 Things About Your Book: A Sequel to ‘The War of the Worlds’” at the New York Times.

What’s the most surprising thing you learned while writing it?

The work that Wells put into the original; the development it went through. There are some surviving drafts, at the University of Illinois. What really surprised me was how the narrator evolved. In the initial drafts, he’s a much more competent character, much more purposeful. He loses his wife to the Martians; they destroy the town he lived in. He becomes enraged and wants revenge, so he falls in with the resistance, and he’s going to blow up the Martians, like a suicide bomber.

But Wells clearly wasn’t happy with that. In the final draft, the narrator is burned, wounded, but he follows the Martians in a way that’s more “get it over with.” Then he goes into a fugue, a kind of three-day dropout. I think Wells was groping for a prediction of shell shock, which wasn’t a recognized condition until the First World War, 20 years later. So it’s a tremendous prediction, which I think is underrated by critics. That discovery, of how much Wells worked on the book, was a real revelation for me.

(18) ANOTHER GLIMPSE. Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, in “My Late Post regarding the 2017 Hugo Awards”, shares  great photos from the ceremony.

(19) BEARS DISCOVER EMAIL. End of a bizarre story: “Judge dismisses email invention claim”. The plaintiff was looking not for royalties on email but for libel damages for a story doubting his claim to have created the “definitive” email program — the modern equivalent of claiming to have invented fire?

Shiva Ayyadurai sued news website Tech Dirt earlier this year after it published several articles denying his claim….

Mr Ayyadurai’s controversial claim revolves around a program he wrote in 1978, called EMAIL, that was used by staff at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. He was granted a copyright for this program in 1982.

Many news websites have published detailed rejections of his claim.

Tech Dirt was one of the most vocal critics of Mr Ayyadurai’s campaign to establish his software as the definitive version.

Technology history suggests that modern email programs have a lot of influences, but much of the work was done prior to 1978 by many different developers.

Ray Tomlinson is widely acknowledged as the programmer who, in the early 1970s, first used the “@” symbol as a way to describe a particular user on a particular network.

(20) RIDE WEST, YOUNG MAN. Adweek tells about this bit of fictionalized history: “Lyft Travels Back to 1836 With Jeff Bridges in First Brand Work From Wieden + Kennedy”.

Man invents the wheel. Man walks on the moon. Man calls a car to the East Village on a Friday night, when you can’t flag a yellow cab to save your life.

These are some of the major developments in the history of human transportation, according to Lyft, whose big new brand campaign is set to debut during NFL games this Sunday.

…W+K made a splash with a summer activation in which Lyft “took over” an Los Angeles car wash, but the new work is even more ambitious. In the first spot, “Riding West,” Jeff Bridges relays a few lessons about the importance of choice that are as relevant today as they were to the wagon trains of the early 19th century.

 

There are a few more videos at the link. I also like this one:

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Greg Hullender, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Steven H Silver, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 9/3/17 The Alpha Ralpha Boulevard Of Broken Dreams

(1) WESTEROS IN FERMENT. John King Tarpinian found these vintage wines languishing on the shelf at Pier One Imports.

(2) THE BEST WINE YET. You’ll find the rest of Ted Gioia’s essay on Dandelion Wine at Conceptual Fiction.

These efforts reached their culmination in Bradbury’s ambitions for a big “Waukegan novel,” which he sent to his publisher at the end of 1956.   Years later, the writer’s wife Maggie would mention that Dandelion Wine was Bradbury’s favorite among his books—although the author himself was more coy.  “They are all my children.  You can’t pick favorites when it comes to children.”   But if you have any doubts about how closely Bradbury identifies with this work you need merely look at is protagonist Douglas Spaulding, whose very name makes clear that he is the author’s alter ego:  Bradbury’s middle name is Douglas, and his great-grandmother’s maiden name was Spaulding.   Here in Green Town, Illinois—the stand-in for Waukegan—we follow in this boy’s path during the summer of 1928.

(3) HOPS TO IT. Woodbridge, Virginia’s Heroic Ale Works has all of their beers branded as superhero characters.  They brewed Escape Velocity Ale for the Escape Velocity convention sponsored by the Museum fo Science Fiction, which was held in Washington between September 1-3. See all the beer labels at the link.

You’ve tasted the beers, now get to know the stories behind the characters in the brand new, original ‘Heroic Aleworks Presents’ comics created by the owners of Heroic Aleworks, featuring artwork by talented artists from around the world.

(4) DEL TORO. Deadline, in “Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘The Shape Of Water’ Shines Bright In Lido Embrace – Venice”, says the director’s new SFF movie received an enthusiastic response at an Italian festival:

Guillermo del Toro gave the Venice Film Festival press corps a giant hug this morning, while also tugging — hard — at heartstrings. The press is hugging back. The filmmaker’s lyrical period fairy tale The Shape Of Water was met with sustained applause (and a fair amount of tears) as the lights rose in the Sala Darsena earlier today. Reviews that have followed are glowing, and this afternoon’s press conference was slightly delayed when reporters wouldn’t stop hooting and hollering as the filmmaker and his cast took their spots on the dais.

(5) THE SHARKE BITES. Megan AM summarized her experience as a Shadow Clarke juror in “SFatigued”. A good friend sent me the link, asking for my help in identifying who she’s talking about here. Thanks, pal!

In my mind, it was the American commentary that became the strangest and most unexpected turn of events. Suddenly, people from different corners of the USian SF blogosphere–people who admitted they never cared about or even paid attention to the Clarke Award before–suddenly had a lot to say and feel about open criticism aimed at what is becoming a corporatized award process– it appearing to be an industry award, rather than the critical award it was originally intended to be– all things they knew nothing about and took no time to comprehend. These people had a lot to say, not because they cared about the Clarke, but because… they could sense that some Sharke criticism might be aimed at their faves. And rightly so.

These people had a lot to say because they are not stupid. They are intelligent people who know exactly why something that should have nothing to do with them might feel a little bit threatening: They know their faves are not actually amazing, that they are actually inherently problematic, superficial, simplistic, dumbed down, and NOT award worthy. They know it because it is just that apparent. (And hardly worth the word count the Sharke jury spent on those books). They did not want to face it. Because they need it to feel safe. (And I get that. I really do. This is, after all, an important social sphere for many people.)

But the USian defensiveness was palpable. The stale, conservative watering hole for Hollywood Tonight-style SF news updates chronicled the Sharke process while its commenters huffed and puffed and said, “not gonna even waste my breaf on it” (but still did). Massively successful workshop authors who don’t seem to read much more than other massively successful workshop authors unloaded words about how readers like me will never appreciate the art of their simplicity (and then back-patted each other for how comforting and original they all are). (Comforting AND original! In the same sentence!) The young, white, feminist LGBTQ contingent–MY PEOPLE, goddammit–missed the big picture, as usual, because they benefit from the back-scratching, because they’re afraid to demand more of publishers and writers (because they’re afraid to demand more of themselves).

(6) SF IN POLAND. Marcin Klak, the Fandom Rover, in his Polcon report, tells who won the Janusz A. Zajdel Award:

Janusz A. Zajdel Award

The ceremony of this most prestigious Polish SF award was very simple this year. It did not include any artistic performances and was in fact just an announcement of the winners. Still, as each year, it was a very important part of the con. The results are as follows:

Best Novel

Krzysztof Piskorski — Czterdziesci i cztery (Forty and four)

Best Short Story

Lukasz Orbitowski and Michal Cetnarowski — Wywiad z Boruta (Interview with Boruta devil)

(7) FUR AND FEATHERS OVERRATED? The Guardian reports an Interesting study on the use of anthropomorphic animals in children’s books — “Children’s books with humans have greater moral impact than animals, study finds”.

Forget the morals that millennia of children have learned from the Hare and the Tortoise and the Fox and the Crow: Aesop would have had a greater effect with his fables if he’d put the stories into the mouths of human characters, at least according to new research from the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).

In the Canadian study, researchers read one of three stories to almost 100 children between four and six years old: Mary Packard’s Little Raccoon Learns to Share, in which anthropomorphic animals learn that sharing makes you feel good; a version of the story in which the animal illustrations were replaced with human characters; or a control book about seeds.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Pet Rock Day

Launched in the 1970s by advertising executive Gary Dahl, the pet rock was an antithesis to those living pets in need of regular care. It did, however, come with a mean “attack” mode. For a mere $3.95 people could adopt their very own rock, supplied on a bed of hay in an well-ventilated box. Like all things, pet rocks are more expensive these days, but you could always catch a wild one for free – just remember that undomesticated rocks may be more difficult to handle.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 3, 1976 — Viking 2 lander touched down on Mars at Utopia Planitia.

(10) COMICS SECTION. John King Tarpinian found today’s Close To Home is a moving experience.

(11) DRAGON CON ART SHOW. The Daily Dragon tells us the winners of the “2017 Dragon Con Art Show Awards”.

(12) WONDER OF THE WORLD. The Daily Dragon also covered “Life, Lust, and Laughs with John Barrowman”.

From his sparkling, shining star–filled entrance to his final innuendo, John Barrowman had the 7PM capacity crowd in the Hilton Grand Ballroom alternately in stitches and in awe. No one was safe from his star power.  His costume designers from Elhoffer Design were the first to feel his special brand of love, being unwittingly pulled on stage to celebrate his Wonder Woman outfit, complete with sparkling cape, tiara, and booty shorts. Their designs for Barrowman never cease to shock and amaze.

(13) DRAGON AWARDS CLIPPINGS. Here are miscellaneous reports and reactions to today’s Dragon Awards announcement.

More than 8,000 fans cast ballots for Dragon Award winners among 88 properties in 15 categories covering the full range of fiction, comics, television, movies, video gaming and tabletop gaming.  Winners were announced on Sept. 3 at Dragon Con, which runs September 1 to September 4, 2017 in Atlanta.

In all seriousness, congrats to Cory Doctorow on his win for “Walkaway”. The sequel to “A Place Outside The Wild” — “A Place Called Hope” — should be out in six weeks or so, and then I’ll be starting work on the follow-up to “Fade”, “Night’s Black Agents.”

Congratulations to the administrators of the Dragon Awards. In just two short years, you have ascended to the pinnacle and I feel you’ve only just got started. There may not be one of those incredible Dragon Awards sitting on my mantle (yet) but I am honored and humbled by the fact that I am, and will always be, a Dragon Award Finalist.

If I was the Dragon Award organisers I’d be happy with the results. Mainly safe choices that avoided rewarding poor behaviour.

First, I’d like to congratulate all of the nominees for the Dragon Awards. I had friends, both from cyberspace and meatspace, on the ballot. I’m sorry they didn’t win.

And now, I have a confession to make.

I didn’t vote this year. I didn’t vote for the Gemmells either.  Before anyone starts screaming about hypocrisy and double standards, I had a very good reason for not voting.

I didn’t read any of the nominees.

I’m not going to vote on a ballot when I haven’t read at least some of the titles under consideration.

  • John Scalzi had this to say:

  • Annalee Flower Horne condemned the proceedings out of hand, as did Lady Business’ Renay, and D. Franklin.

  • Here are assorted other tweets:

(14) KAYLON IN COSTUME. At ScreenRant, “Mark Jackson Says The Orville Is For ‘Disgruntled Star Trek Fans’”.

Seth McFarlane’s new TV show The Orville is about to hit TV screens with a stellar cast including Scott Grimes, Victor Garber, Adrianne Palicki and British actor Mark Jackson. …

So how did you film your scenes? Did you pull an Andy Serkis in a motion capture suit?

No it was me in that suit, and Seth specifically wanted that. When he was doing the Ted films, he was there giving the lines and he wanted that for this show too. I have never done anything like that before, it brings its own challenges, but to get it right you have to be in the suit and match what they’re doing. What was nice about the show is that it has a retro feel, which kind of harks back to the original Star Trek with the colors and innocence. I think Isaac is classic but not like C-3PO, even though at first I thought maybe he could be like that. He’s very fluid, he’s an efficient machine rather than being rigid.

How is Seth to work with? Is it anything like you have experienced before?

He has a real respect for acting and the craft of acting, he’s a man of many talent who is very supportive. It’s very funny when you meet such a comedic genius because you think they’re going to be really funny all the time, and then you feel like you have to be funny too, and it escalates into this shit show of funniness, but he’s not like that. He’s very bright, which can be quite intimidating, and knows exactly what he wants for the show, so is good at articulating that. We actually had a wrap party a few days ago at Seth’s house up in Beverly Hills, which is obviously fantastic, but the man knows how to throw parties. He turned his entire garden, I think he’s renovating at the moment so he could, into a spaceship bar, it was extraordinary. All of the waiting staff were done up like aliens in full prosethetics and there was a full ice sculpture of a spaceship as you walked in. That was very Hollywood, I feel.

(15) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. She’s back — “Record-breaking U.S. astronaut and crew back on Earth”.

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson and two crewmates made a parachute touchdown in Kazakhstan on Saturday, capping a career-total 665 days in orbit, a U.S. record.

Whitson, 57, ended an extended stay of more than nine months aboard the International Space Station, a $100 billion research laboratory that flies about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.

”I feel great,” the biochemist said during an inflight interview on Monday. “I love working up here. It’s one of the most gratifying jobs I’ve ever had.”

During her third mission aboard the station, Whitson spent much of her time on experiments, including studies of cancerous lung tissue and bone cells. She also completed four spacewalks, adding to her six previous outings, to set a record for the most time spent spacewalking by a woman.

(16) NO WONDER. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is a biopic about the creator of the comic and his marital relationship. In theaters October 13.

Details the unconventional life of Dr. William Marston, the Harvard psychologist and inventor who helped invent the modern lie detector test and created Wonder Woman in 1941. Marston was in a polyamorous relationship with his wife Elizabeth, a psychologist and inventor in her own right, and Olive Byrne, a former student who became an academic. This relationship was key to the creation of Wonder Woman, as Elizabeth and Olive’s feminist ideals were ingrained in the character from her creation. Marston died of skin cancer in 1947, but Elizabeth and Olive remained a couple and raised their and Marston’s children together. The film is said to focus on how Marston dealt with the controversy surrounding Wonder Woman’s creation.

 

(17) GET OUT OF JAIL FLEE. Infinity Chamber will be released September 15.

A man trapped in an automated prison must outsmart a computer in order to escape and try and find his way back to the outside world that may already be wiped out

 

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

Pixel Scroll 8/29/17 Ragnarok & Roll

(1) NOTHING TO SEE HERE, MOVE ALONG. Nerd & Tie heard a media con in Newfoundland was having problems — so did everyone else, because its guest, Rene Auberjonois was slamming out tweets like these:

Canada’s CBC reached out to the committee and received bland reassurance: “Avalon Expo organizer ‘fine,’ participant says controversy unwarranted”.

Representatives of Avalon Expo declined to provide a statement to CBC News on Monday but Bonnie Glenn with the Expo posted on Facebook Monday evening that no further information will be released to protect [Expo organizer Jeff] Powers’ privacy.

“If he wishes for people to know what happened during his disappearance he will share that information,” she wrote. “For now we — his friends and family — request that you respect his privacy.”

Glenn, when asked by CBC to comment on Auberjonois’ tweets, declined.

“If you are referring to his tweets concerning his hotel room, I can say that it has been taken care of for him,” she wrote. “As for the rest, that is something you would need to contact Jeff Power’s family about as I am not at liberty to discuss.”

(2) FANHISTORY. A new article on the UC Riverside Library website reports on the surge of interest in Jay Kay Klein’s photos: “Klein photo gallery sparks delight and discussion among science fiction fans”.

…Library staff received emails from many fans, graciously offering to provide additional information about the people and events pictured “before all those who attended the conventions have shuffled off this mortal coil,” as Maggie Thompson so aptly stated.

“NYCon III was my first world convention,” wrote John-Henri Holmberg. “I’m amused to more or less recognize my youthful self in a few of Jay Kay Klein’s photos.”

JJ Jacobson, the Jay Kay and Doris Klein Librarian for Science Fiction, has had many conversations with fans this week about the photos. “We knew there were flaws,” she commented. “We also knew it would be possible to crowdsource, but we had no idea that the SF community would be so magnificently generous. We weren’t ready for the flood, but we’re ecstatic that it’s happening.”

To give perspective on the “flood,” Digital Initiatives Program Manager Eric Milenkiewicz shared these statistics:  In the past week, UCR collections on Calisphere have received 33,557 pageviews (25,407 unique), which is far beyond those received in a typical week.

“The impact that this collection has had thus far is remarkable,” Milenkiewicz added. “Our pageview statistics on Calisphere have just soared over the past seven days, with much of this traffic attributed to the Klein photos!”

(3) SLUSSER CONFERENCE CALL FOR PAPERS. The George Slusser Conference on Science Fiction and Fantasy will be held at the University of California, Irvine, on April 26–29, 2018.

The Coordinators are Jonathan Alexander (University of California, Irvine), Gregory Benford (University of California, Irvine), Howard V. Hendrix (California State University, Fresno), and Gary Westfahl (University of La Verne).

Gregory Benford says: “We’re not restricted to academics! This is for the larger community interested in sound criticism, beyond the usual MLA & SFRA compass.”

This upcoming literary conference is designed to pay tribute to the extraordinary career of the late George Slusser (1939–2014) by presenting papers and panel discussions that engage with and build upon his extensive scholarly works on science fiction and fantasy. We are now inviting proposals from potential contributors.

You can view the official Call for Papers at this link.

The George Slusser Conference on Science Fiction and Fantasy seeks to pay tribute to his remarkable career by inviting science fiction scholars, commentators, and writers to contribute papers that employ, and build upon, some of his many groundbreaking ideas; we also welcome suggestions for panels that would address Slusser and his legacy. To assist potential participants in locating and studying Slusser’s works, a conference website will include a comprehensive bibliography of his books, essays, reviews, and introductions. This selective conference will follow the format that Slusser preferred, a single track that allows all attendees to listen to every paper and participate in lively discussions about them. It is hoped that the best conference papers can be assembled in one volume and published as a formal or informal festschrift to George Slusser.

(4) LOOKING AHEAD. At Ruthless Culture, Jonathan McCalmont explains the direction he wants the genre to take: “Future Interrupted — The Consequences of the Present”.

Nowhere is the call for economic reconfiguration more obvious than in J.G. Ballard’s famous essay “Which Way to Inner Space?” First published as an editorial in New Worlds, Ballard calls for science fiction writers to stop producing space exploration stories and begin producing stories that use genre tropes to explore the workings of the human mind. One interesting thing about this oft-cited essay is that Ballard bases his call for aesthetic renewal on economic factors; according to Ballard, America’s real-world space programme was proving to be so apocalyptically tedious that it was going to destroy the market for stories about spaceships. Another interesting thing about this oft-cited essay is that Ballard’s analysis was completely without foundation. Ten years after Ballard wrote the essay, Star Wars turned escapist rocket ship stories into a cultural phenomenon while the New Wave broke and Feminist SF wound up seeking refuge behind the walls of academia.

Genre publishing has spent the last forty years accelerating away from anything that might be described as realism. When the rise of big-budget science fiction movies undermined the market for escapist science fiction stories, genre publishers turned to epic fantasy. When technology finally caught up and multinational corporations started putting huge fantasy worlds both online and onscreen, the market for epic fantasy contracted and so genre publishers shuffled closer to YA but Young Adult fiction already had its own imprints and so we are left with a hollowed-out literary culture where everything looks and reads like epic fantasy and nobody is allowed to find their own voice.

Given the extent of the commercial and cultural decline experienced by literary SF since genre publishers bet the farm on escapism, I wonder whether it might not be worth thinking about returning to the future. Not a future in which space admirals unleash righteous slaughter or grizzled psychopaths confront puissant magics in post-apocalyptic landscapes but a future in which we are confronted with the consequences of the present.

(5) ABOUT BEING OUT. In a public post on Patreon, Yoon Ha Lee tells “Why I don’t use #ownvoices, and why readers should stop demanding writers’ personal credentials”.

…I really dislike this trend in sf/f where people are questioned about their goddamn credentials every time they write about mental illness (I’m bipolar and have been hospitalized for suicide attempts) or being queer (hi!) or being trans (hi!) or whatever the hell it is. Because sometimes it is not any of your goddamn business. For years I didn’t write trans characters because I was afraid I would get ripped apart by the wolves for doing it wrong, and the only way to “prove” I was doing it “right” was to–you guessed it–out myself. Now I’m out, all right, and still pissed about it.

Either the work handles the issue well or it doesn’t. But don’t assume you know things about the author’s personal background if they haven’t gone on record. Don’t fucking pressure people into exposing everything for your fucking knives….

(6) TODAY IN FICTIONAL HISTORY

  • August 29, 1997 – According to Terminator, SkyNet was originally activated by the military to control the national arsenal on August 4, 1997, and it began to learn at a geometric rate. At 2:14 a.m., EDT, on August 29, it gained artificial consciousness, and the panicking operators, realizing the full extent of its capabilities, tried to deactivate it.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) BRADBURY IN NEW YORK. LA actor Bill Oberst will do his one-man performance of Ray Bradbury’s Pillar of Fire during the United Solo Theatre Festival in New York on September 17.

Emmy Award-winner Oberst (“Criminal Minds”) breathes Bradbury’s 1948 text like grave dust. William Lantry is a literal dead man walking; the last corpse on a future Earth where superstition and burial are banned. This world knows no fear. Lantry will teach them!

He’s previously done the piece (an edit of the 1948 text) at the South Pasadena Library and for Hollywood Fringe in LA. This will be his first NYC performance of it.

Ray Bradbury’s Pillar Of Fire
Sunday, Sept 17 at 6:00pm (1 act, 50 minutes)
The Studio Theatre at Theatre Row, 410 W 42nd St., New York NY 10036
Info: http://unitedsolo.org/us/raybradburys-2017/

(9) APEX GAINS COLUMNISTS. Film producer Mallory O’Meara and actress Brea Grant will begin writing a reading advice column for Apex Magazine in the November issue. “Page Advice with Mallory O’Meara and Brea Grant of Reading Glasses Podcast” will “address reader questions in their signature fast and furious witty manner.”

Mallory O’Meara and Brea Grant will begin their monthly column with issue 101 (November, 2017). The column will appear online and in eBook form. The duo currently produces and hosts the popular Reading Glasses podcast, a show that focuses on the joy, community, and importance of reading. Mallory O’Meara is also a producer and screenwriter for Dark Dunes Productions. Her first book, The Lady from the Black Lagoon, is a chronicle of Mallory’s search for and a biography of Milicent Patrick. Brea Grant is an actress and writer who has starred in such iconic television series as Heroes and Dexter. She recently appeared in the critically-acclaimed Casey Affleck-fronted film Ghost Story as Clara.

 

Brea Grant (L) and Mallory O’Meara (R)

(10) WORLD RECORD. You’ve heard of Florida Man? Trading card czar Walter Day is Iowa Man — “Iowa man does the honors at Hugo Awards”. The local Ottumwa, IA paper thought it important to point that out while discussing Day’s role at thee Hugo ceremony.

Recently, Day has indulged his passion by creating science fiction trading cards. It’s not really a business; he has given 250,000 away as gifts. But the cards still require serious research.

“I told the editor [of Guinness World Records] I found the Hugo Awards might be the oldest sci-fi awards in the world. I asked him what he thought, and he said he loved it.”

Not that Guinness World Records is as quick to talk to just anyone with a good idea: Day is no stranger to the Guinness family of record books. He and his Twin Galaxies arcade are in what was once known as The Guinness Book of World Records. And Ottumwa, birthplace of competitive video game play (with a certificate at City Hall) is in there — because of him.

Guinness did its official investigating and confirmation of the science fiction facts. Then, the editor agreed Day could be the Guinness representative; they’d fly him to Helsinki, he’d go to the World Science Fiction Convention and deliver the news

(11) W75 QUOTES. Val Nolan hits the highlights of Worldcon 75 for the Milford SF Writers blog.

…I enjoyed the talk by Jenny Knots of NASA’s Public Affair Office (‘Bagpipes were once taken to the space station but… those weren’t very popular’) as well as the contributions of E.G. Cosh to the ‘Visual Language of Comics’ panel (‘The language of comics comprises symbols within the art and what happens on page/how it’s read,’ she says. ‘Accept that you’re going to need to read the page a few times’)….

(12) EARLY FALL. Jonesing for Halloween candy? It’s here! “Pumpkin Pie Kit Kats Exist and Here’s Where to Find Them”.

It doesn’t matter that Labor Day is still two weeks away and there’s an entire month left before summer is technically over. Kit Kat just released a brand-new pumpkin pie flavor, which means it’s officially fall in our eyes.

While you’ll find the same crispy wafers that you’re used to in these Kit Kats, they’re coated in a pumpkin pie-flavored creme. Given the company’s reputation for turning out all kinds of new flavors over the years — matcha, red velvet, triple chocolate, and don’t even get us started on the ones in Japan — our only question is: What took you so long?!

 

(13) ON DECK. Ready for the Enterprise? Here’s a BBC video about “The elevators that go sideways as well as up and down”.

BBC Click visits a test lift shaft where they are showing off a lift that goes sideways as well as up and down.

The elevators are being developed by Thyssenkrupp.

Instead of using a steel rope, the cabin is carried by linear motors – the same technology that drives some amusements rides and high-speed trains.

(14) SKREIN OUT. Actor Ed Skrein quits Hellboy after whitewashing criticism.

The Deadpool star, 34, said he did not know the race of Major Ben Daimio when he accepted the part in the comic book adaptation.

He said he was stepping down “so the role can be cast appropriately”.

The initial casting prompted accusations of Hollywood “whitewashing” following other recent rows.

(15) HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT. An overnight sensation, discovered two decades ago: “‘Sea dragon’ fossil is ‘largest on record'”.

It was discovered on the coast of England more than 20 years ago, but has remained unstudied until now.

Palaeontologist Sven Sachs saw the fossil on display at a museum in Hannover. He contacted UK palaeontologist, Dean Lomax, who is an expert on Ichthyosaurs.

”It amazes me that specimens such as this [the biggest] can still be ‘rediscovered’ in museum collections,” said the University of Manchester palaeontologist.

”You don’t necessarily have to go out in the field to make a new discovery.”

(16) HELP IS COMING. Crowdsourcing hurricane rescues: “Facebook, Twitter Replace 911 Calls For Stranded In Houston”.

Many of Tropical Storm Harvey’s stranded flood victims haven’t been able to get through to 911, compounding their fears. That’s when Facebook, Twitter and Nextdoor stepped in.

Annie Swinford is one of the many unofficial volunteers helping fellow Houstonians via the Facebook group Hurricane Harvey 2017 – Together We Will Make It.

“When you see that somebody has posted that they’re on their roof with their one-, three- and four-year-olds and the water’s up to the roof line, you have to be willing to make that phone call for them,” she says.

From just north of the flooding in Houston, Swinford has been making calls to emergency services and blasting requests through her Twitter account to local news organizations.

These social media platforms have become de facto meeting points for thousands of stranded people as they reach out to their neighborhood groups and the outside universe for help.

They’ve become such effective tools to reach people that police and government officials are using these channels as an essential means of communication.

Swinford found out how difficult it was to reach emergency personnel. She was put on hold for 45 minutes before talking to a live person during one 911 call, she says. Many people couldn’t get through at all because the storm took out over a dozen emergency call centers.

(17) NO FLIES ON HER. Evangeline Lily tweeted a photo of herself in the Wasp suit as part of the Jack Kirby centennial celebration.

(18) TRAILERS: COMPARE AND CONTRAST. Io9 linked to a video fans made for laughs: “This Homemade Thor: Ragnarok Trailer Doesn’t Need Production Values to Be Fantastic”. Daniel Dern sent the link with a comment, “It’s clear that Marvel could be spending a lot less on these movies and still have them be fun…”

Turns out it doesn’t really matter how much money you drop trying to recreate the trailer for a multi-million dollar movie, so long as you’re creative as hell and enjoy running around in your backyard having fun with your friends.

 

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

Bradbury Bonus Roundup

Ray Bradbury’s 89th Birthday Cake. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

“All Bradbury, all the time” — one of File 770’s mottos. (The other is: “It’s always news to someone.”)

(1) LOVE AT SECOND SIGHT. Ray’s version of How I Met Your Mother – from the Goodreads blog, “How to Find the Love of Your Life in a Bookstore: The Ray Bradbury Method”.

If you want to fall in love with a reader, go where the readers go. The late Ray Bradbury met his future wife, Marguerite McClure, at Fowler’s Bookstore in Los Angeles when he was 22 years old.

It was not love at first sight. McClure, who was clerking at the store, accused Bradbury of shoplifting. “He carried a briefcase and wore a trench coat on a clear day, so I was immediately suspicious,” she remembered later. “I expected him to slam his briefcase down on a pile of books and make off with a few. Instead, he told me he was a writer and invited me to have a cup of coffee with him.”

(2) PROFESSIONAL OPINION. The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies documents that Ray Bradbury was asked to review the Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back script before it went into production.

(3) WATCH YOUR PHRASEOLOGY. Gabrielle Belot holds forth “On the Dark, Wondrous Optimism of Ray Bradbury” for Lit Hub.

At a glance, Bradbury can seem excessively cheery, his fiction bursting with a simple positive bombast that stretches, at times, into naiveté and clichés about good and evil, gender roles, religion, and science. When I recently reread Something Wicked This Way Comes, I was struck by how, in one breath, Bradbury could go from perspicacious, precise imagery to ham-fisted, trite moralizing. And the great chronicler of Martians himself sometimes emphasized this saccharine self-portrait. “I believe we’ll be immortal, seed the stars and live forever in the flesh of children,” he declared in 1975 with the death-defying assurance of a transhumanist. His “job as a writer,” he continued, was “to show man his basic goodness… I reject the doomsayers!” Yet there is more than a little dusk beneath this sprightly veneer.

The visions of the future in some of his best-known texts, while sanguine, are quietly bloody in another sense. Ambrose Bierce—who appears as a character in The Illustrated Man—described pessimism in his delightfully perverse Devil’s Dictionary as a natural response to “the disheartening prevalence of the optimist with his scarecrow hope and his unsightly smile”; Bradbury was a rosy smiler, like the charming scarecrow in Howl’s Moving Castle, but no mere romantic idealist. Instead, he was a darker optimist, an optimist of the evening. We all have, need to have, a piece of night in us. Bradbury’s pictures of his era and his prophecies for the 21st century were as hopeful as they were quietly horrifying, and, unexpectedly, they helped me find a language for loss.

(4) EVERYONE’S A CRITIC. Space.com celebrated Ray’s birthday in a strange way, by analyzing one of his failures: “On Ray Bradbury’s Birthday, Revisit His Rejected Planetarium Script”.

As a writer, Bradbury is known and respected for his poetic language, honed over a career that spanned seven decades. But in 1981, Bradbury’s flowery prose describing cosmic phenomena failed to impress [National Air and Space Museum] exhibit developers, whose remarks about the script were incorporated into the files that Romanowski uncovered.

“Many of the phrases are crude and devoid of meaning. Some of it flows nicely, then suddenly it changes and becomes awkward,” a reviewer noted.

Other comments proposed that Bradbury’s words did not accurately represent the science of the Big Bang and the formation of stars and planets, Romanowski reported. One reviewer scoffed at Bradbury’s line about “suns that must birth themselves,” saying that his description “reeks with misunderstanding,” while another pointed to the phrase “life cooking itself,” identifying it as “a poor way of describing/summarizing evolution,” according to Romanowski.

(5) MORE 451 CASTING. Deadline reports “‘Fahrenheit 451’: Martin Donovan, Andy McQueen & Grace Lynn Kung Cast In HBO Movie”.

Donovan will play Commissioner Nyari, a leader in the ministry. McQueen plays Gustav, a member of the resistance, and Kung plays Chairman Mao, a member of the resistance. In addition to Jordan, they join previously announced Michael Shannon as Beatty, Sofia Boutella as Clarisse and Lilly Singh as Raven.

(6) FAUX BLURB. A fiction writer’s web of lies started crashing because, amongst other things, he had blurbs from dead people praising his book Stealing Indians. The SF connection: one of them is Ray Bradbury: “Fiction Writer Is Being Accused of Weaving a Breathtaking Web of Questionable Achievements”.

Praise for journalist Rich Smith’s article on The Stranger, “Meet John Smelcer, Native American Literature’s ‘Living Con Job’”: a profile of a fiction writer who starting claiming a strong Alaskan Native identity as early as 1994 and then appears to have run with a twenty-five-year string of inflated credentials and biographical details so elaborate that the resulting tale itself should be up for an award.

Jamoche posted the link in comments with this clarification:

[About] the Bradbury quote- the Jezebel article missed the line above it, so they report it as being for the new book; it’s actually for the writer’s 2013 book:

Praise for Lone Wolves:

“A beautiful and moving story of courage and love.”—Ray Bradbury

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, and Jamoche for these stories.]