Cats Sleep on SFF: Harriet the Invincible

Nickpheas expands his family and the meme:

People seemed pleased to hear of Harriet’s arrival. Don’t know if this pushes the cats sleeping on SF meme beyond breaking point, but here she is, with a book about her namesake by Red Wombat.


Photos of other felines (or your newborn babies) resting on genre works are welcome. Send to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com

Pixel Scroll 2/20/18 Not All Pixels Scroll Up In Value. Some May Scroll Down

(1) NEW DOCTOR WHO LOGO. Merchandise with the Thirteenth Doctor’s new logo is on sale starting today.

(2) MEDICAL MARVEL. Pat Cadigan reports some good news in her latest update: “I Have Cancer But Cancer Doesn’t Have Me”.

The level of cancer in my body has fallen again. The hormones I’m taking are still killing off cancer cells.

Today I saw a new members of my oncologist’s team. It was all I could do not to start dancing around her office. Although who knows—she might have danced with me. She looked amazed when she checked the results of my blood test.

On our way out, Chris and I ran into a few fellow-travellers who said they liked my lucky short—i.e., the one that says, I’m Making Cancer My Bitch. I love my lucky shirt.

(3) HEDGEHOG DAY. Daniel P. Dern has been keeping an eye on superhero TV and provided this update for the Scroll:

In last night’s Legends of Tomorrow (B-lister superheroes travelling through time and space to fix history hiccups usually using the Dr “House” method of first making things much much worse…) Season 3 Episode 11, ”Here I Go Again” — “Zari [not from our time period] finds her place on the team when she gets caught in a time loop that results in the Waverider blowing up over and over again.”

The fun part is that when she realizes what’s happening, she tries describing it, one of the from-our-time heroes says “OK, on the next cycle, find me and say, ‘Groundhog Day.'” (which, of course, on the first try, she instead says ‘Hedgehog Day.’)

(And another of the from-our-time heroes counters with a Star Trek time loop citation…)

Fun episode, marred only IMHO by (SPOILER ROT13ed) znxvat vg ghea bhg gb or n pbzchgre-vaqhprq plorefcnpr rkcrevrapr engure guna npghny Tebhaqubt Qnl ybbcvat. Cuhv.

(Just like bar bs gur yngre Beivyyr rcvfbqrf univat ~3/4 bs gur rcvfbqr erirnyrq gb or orra n “Jr’ir unq lbh va n ubybqrpx fpranevb sbe cflpubgurencl” znthssva, sru.)

Like one of the recent episodes of The Magicians (scrolled recently), it’s gratifying to see characters from our time period exhibit familiarity with sf pop culture enough to use them as information shortcuts.

(4) A TRUTH UNIVERSALLY ACKNOWLEDGED. Robin Reid says, “I just finished John Kessel’s latest, Pride and Prometheus (Mary Bennett from Pride and Prejudice meets Victor Frankenstein and his Creature)” and recommends Liz Bourke’s review “Literary Fusion: Pride and Prometheus by John Kessel” at Tor.com.

There are three main points of view in Pride and Prometheus. The most interesting, by my lights, is Mary Bennett, younger sister of Elizabeth Bennett. Several years have passed since the end of Pride and Prejudice, and Mary has passed thirty years of age and is entering into spinsterhood. She has an interest in natural philosophy, especially fossils, and feels as though she should find a man to marry, but does not feel as though there is a man who will marry her. When she encounters Victor Frankenstein, a young man haunted by some secret of his past, she finds herself oddly compelled by his presence. Mary’s part of the narrative is told in the third person, unlike the other two narrators, who recount their parts of the story in the first person. This matches the approach of the original narratives.

(5) KEEP ON TRUCKING. Time to celebrate: “NASA’s Opportunity rover sees its 5,000th day on Mars”.

This weekend, NASA’s Opportunity rover spent its 5,000th day on Mars. While that is a feat in and of itself, it’s even more impressive when you consider that it was only planned to last 90 Martian days, or sols. Both Opportunity and its companion rover Spirit were launched towards Mars in 2003, landing on two different parts of the planet in January 2004. Neither were expected to make it through Mars’ harsh winter though, which lasts about twice as long as ours and is severely lacking in light, but NASA’s team discovered that pointing the rovers towards the north and towards the sun was enough to keep them powered through the winter. Further, making sure the rovers were on north-facing slopes each winter helped to keep them going for years longer than they were ever intended to function.

(6) HEROIC EFFORT. The Nielsen Haydens’ Making Light suffered a server problem and at the moment the latest post displayed is dated 2008. I wish them the best of luck and a complete return to the internet of all their text and comments.

(7) MORE GENRE FROM THE TOY FAIRE. See photos of toys hyped at the NYC Toy Fair at the link.

With new installments of Star Wars, Jurassic Worldand the Avengers headed our way this summer, movie fans have plenty to cheer about. The same goes for toy lovers, who can look forward to action figures, play sets, board games, and other playthings based on 2018’s biggest blockbusters and hottest television shows. Yahoo Entertainment spent the past weekend at New York City’s annual festival for toys, Toy Fair, where we got to see both the new and retro movie- and TV-related toys that everyone will be talking about this year. Scroll through the gallery and start getting your holiday wish lists ready now.

They include —

Lego ‘Star Wars’ Kessel Run Millennium Falcon

It took Han Solo only 12 parsecs to make his famous run through the Kessel Mines. See if you can lap that record as you assemble this 1,414-piece Lego Millennium Falcon, which comes complete with laser turrets and a Dejarik board

Ultimate Co-Pilot Chewie

It’s the Star Wars answer to Teddy Ruxpin: an interactive Chewbacca doll who talks, uh, growls on command and can also be rocked to sleep or tickled into a laughing fit. Warning: Kids might have to compete with their parents for cuddle time with this adorable Wookiee.

(8) APES AT 50. Mark Kermode talks about the 50th anniversary of Planet of the Apes release and wonders if Star Wars will look as good at the same age.

“Of course,” says IanP, “Star Wars isn’t growing old as gracefully with all its repeated facelifts …”

(9) ALMOST ERASED. Vulture interviews “The Man Who Made Black Panther Cool”:

Christopher Priest broke the color barrier at Marvel and reinvented a classic character. Why was he nearly written out of comics history?

“I’m an asshole. I’m abrasive. I am so sure that I’m right about virtually everything. I can sing you an aria of reasons to not like me,” says comics writer Christopher Priest, his bass voice rising to the brink of anger but never quite tipping over. “Not liking me because I’m black is so juvenile and immature, because there’s many reasons to not like me.” He’s speaking, as he often does, about the racism — both overt and structural — that he’s faced in the comics industry over his 40-year career. But that set of attributes, seen from another angle, can apply to the reasons to like him, or at least admire him — he’s unwaveringly outspoken, endearingly opinionated, as well as a pioneer in the comics industry. He’s also likely the only comics writer to have taken breaks from his career at various times to toil as a musician, pastor, and bus driver.

(10) NEBULA TOOL. Now that the Nebula finalists are out, Rocket Stack Rank has prepared an annotated version with links to the stories (where possible), synopses, reviews, etc. — “2017 Annotated Nebula Award Finalists”

Greg Hullender explains, “By sorting the list according to how many different sources of recommendation each one got, we make it easier to see where the Nebulas are acknowledging broadly popular stories and where the SFWA members have a unique perspective.”

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 20, 1962  — Astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 20,  1926 Richard Matheson (links to SyFy Wire’s commemorative article.)

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Daniel P. Dern got the Amazon reference in Grimmy.
  • Chip Hitchcock noticed something super about Arlo and Janis.

(14) A LITTLE MISTAKE. If either of us had actually gone to a copyediting school, I’d wonder if RedWombat and I graduated from the same one:

(15) INTERNET VISUALIZED. Looking back: “The Father Of The Internet Sees His Invention Reflected Back Through A ‘Black Mirror'” contrasts idealistic inventor Vint Cerf with William Gibson’s what-will-really-happen.

While Cerf and his colleagues were busy inventing, the young aspiring science fiction writer William Gibson was looking for a place to set his first novel. Gibson was living in Seattle, and he had friends who worked in the budding tech industry. They told him about computers and the Internet, “and I was sitting with a yellow legal pad trying to come up with trippy names for a new arena in which science fiction could be staged.”

The name Gibson came up with: cyberspace. And for a guy who had never seen it, he did a great job describing it in that 1984 book, Neuromancer: “A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding.”

(16) GOODLIFE. The scum of the Earth has been around longer than they thought: “Origins of land plants pushed back in time”.

A seminal event in the Earth’s history – when plants appeared on land – may have happened 100 million years earlier than previously thought.

Land plants evolved from “pond scum” about 500 million years ago, according to new research.

These early moss-like plants greened the continents, creating habitats for land animals.

The study, based on analysing the genes of living plants, overturns theories based purely on fossil plant evidence.

“Land plants emerged on land half a billion years ago, tens of millions of years older than the fossil record alone suggests,” said study author, Dr Philip Donoghue of the department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol.

(17) AFROFUTURISM. The Washington Post’s Sonia Rao, in the wake of Black Panther, gives an overview of Afrofuturism and discusses forthcoming Afrofuturist projects, including Janelle Monae’s new album Dirty Computer and a forthcoming TV production of Octavia Butler’s Dawn directed by Ava DuVernay.“The resurgence of Afrofuturism goes beyond ‘Black Panther,’ to Janelle Monáe, Jay-Z and more “.

Monáe released a trailer on Friday for “Dirty Computer,” a new album with an accompanying narrative film. The 30-second teaser, set to air ahead of some “Black Panther” showings, presents clips of a dystopian world set to guitar feedback and snapping fingers. Monáe’s co-star Tessa Thompson is abducted by a man dressed in military gear. We cut to the two embracing on a beach. Seconds later, Monáe lies on an examination table while someone strokes a mysterious tattoo on her arm.

“They drained us of our dirt, and all the things that made us special,” she narrates. “And then you were lost. Sleeping. And you didn’t remember anything at all.”

Monáe’s work has exhibited Afrofuturist influences for years — the Quietus, an online British magazine, proclaimed back in 2010 that she “brandishes the acetylene torch for radical Afrofuturism.” In her multi-album “Metropolis” saga, the singer’s alter ego, Cindi Mayweather, is a messianic android who was sent back in time to lead a protest movement against an oppressive regime.

 

(18) CORRECTING AN OMISSION. Yesterday’s Scroll quoted K. Tempest Bradford’s tweet contrasting her own fundraiser to JDA’s, but she didn’t get all the benefit from that she might have because the tweet didn’t link to her YouCaring page — “Send K. T. Bradford To Egypt! (For Research)”. She had reached $3,135 of her $5,000 goal, but earlier today a couple of large donations put her over the top. Congratulations!

(19) THE FRANCHISE. With six you get Sharknado Bloody Disguting has the details:

Not surprisingly, Sharknado 6 is coming this Summer, and the first plot details, along with an early piece of poster art, have come to us out of EFM today.

In the sixth installment…

“All is lost, or is it? Fin unlocks the time-traveling power of the SHARKNADOS in order to save the world and resurrect his family. In his quest, Fin fights Nazis, dinosaurs, knights, and even takes a ride on Noah’s Ark. This time, it’s not how to stop the sharknados, it’s when.”

Tara Reid, Ian Ziering and Cassie Scerbo return.

Sharknado 6 will premiere on July 25, 2018.

(20) BIG BANG’S BILLIONAIRE GUEST. Supposedly Sheldon has already met him: “Bill Gates to Guest Star on ‘The Big Bang Theory’ — But Remember When He Punched Sheldon in the Face?!”

Bill Gates is headed to The Big Bang Theory!

ET has learned that Gates will be guest starring as himself in an upcoming March episode of the hit CBS comedy. The famed Microsoft founder will be stopping by Penny’s work and when this news reaches Sheldon, Leonard and the rest of our geektastic gang, the guys do everything in their power for a chance to meet him.

But here’s a Big Bang fun fact for you: Sheldon has actually already met the infamous tech billionaire on the CBS comedy and let’s just say their first interaction did not go very well. In fact, Gates punched Sheldon in the face!

(21) SUGGESTION BOX. Here’s a fan video proposing the way to begin Jodie Whittaker’s first episode as Doctor Who.

There are many great stories, but none as great as this. This is the story of the girl who fell from the stars. And this is how it begins… Without the Tardis and without hope, the Doctor is sent plummeting towards the planet below. The Doctor must come to terms with her new body quickly and escape her incoming demise. Here is a concept scene I’ve created for the upcoming debut episode for the Thirteenth Doctor! Just a bit of fun really but actually turned relatively believable. I have this theory in my mind that the Tardis would materialise underneath the Doctor as she’s falling and catches her. I’ve tried to imagine this as best as possible in this video!

 

[Thanks to Dave Langford, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, IanP, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Daniel P. Dern, Alan Baumler, Robin A. Reid, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 2/18/18 The Turn Of A Friendly Pixel

By JJ:

(1) THE DOCTOR IS | IN | . Gallifrey One, the Doctor Who convention, is taking place in Los Angeles this weekend, and fans are posting some great photos:

(2) THE LEFT MENU OF DARKNESS. The Paris Review, which has previously interviewed Ursula K. Le Guin, has recently published an article by Valerie Stivers in which the author created a series of recipes based on food from Le Guin’s The Left Hand Of Darkness. Dishes include Hot Beer For Two, Batter-Fried “Sube-Egg” Porridge with Winter Vegetables, and others:

Overall, I found Winter’s low-food-chain ingredients easy to work with; they fit in well with our modern sustainability-oriented cooking, an approach Le Guin, a passionate environmentalist, would have welcomed. The sticking point was the drinks. The characters in The Left Hand of Darkness consume hot beer, which, Ai explains, may sound gross but “on a world where a common table implement is a little device with which you crack the ice that has formed on your drink between drafts, hot beer is a thing you come to appreciate.” Some research revealed that even on Earth, hot beer was common prior to refrigeration and often contained nutritious items like eggs or half-curdled cream. I tried several recipes that were uniformly undrinkable until coming up with an adaptation of something I read about in a Wall Street Journal story calling hot beer a trend. As improbable as it sounds, the results were wonderful, and I can only urge you all to try it. Remember, sometimes it’s nice to be speculative – in beers as well as in love and in fiction.

(3) IN MEMORIAM. In “Two Seattle Memorials to Ursula K. Le Guin”, Cat Rambo provides specifics for those who wish to attend:

Folio Forum: A Tribute to Ursula Le Guin
Tuesday, February 20, 2018, 7:00 PM
The Seattle Athenaeum, 314 Marion Street, Downtown Seattle
$10 at the door; $8 for Folio Members, SFWA Members, and Town Hall Members
Complimentary wine reception to follow
Noted local authors and fans honor the great writer, plus a recording of Le Guin, reading her famous story

 

Celebration of the Life and Work of Ursula K. Le Guin
Sunday, February 25, 7:00 PM
Blue Moon Tavern, 712 NE 45th St, Seattle, Washington 98105
$free (please support our venue by buying food and drink!)
Please join us for a reading to commemorate the words and worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin (1929–2018).

(4) ABUSER MANUAL. Lurkertype points to a graphic sequence where “Someone kinda like The Little Mermaid ‘splains how to fight sealioning”.

(5) ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERS TO THE ELDER GODS. In “Octlantis is a Just-Discovered Underwater City Engineered by Octopuses”, Ephrat Livni describes a revelation in octopod behavior:

Gloomy octopuses – also known as common Sydney octopuses, or octopus tetricus – have long had a reputation for being loners. Marine biologists once thought they inhabited the subtropical waters off eastern Australia and northern New Zealand in solitude, meeting only to mate, once a year. But now there’s proof these cephalopods sometimes hang out in small cities.

In Jervis Bay, off Eastern Australia, researchers recently spotted 15 gloomy octopuses congregating, communicating, dwelling together, and even evicting each other from dens at a site the scientists named “Octlantis.”

The discovery was a surprise, Scheel told Quartz. “These behaviors are the product of natural selection, and may be remarkably similar to vertebrate complex social behavior. This suggests that when the right conditions occur, evolution may produce very similar outcomes in diverse groups of organisms.”

(6) CAN’T LET IT GO. In “Why (some of the) Right Hates Elsa”, Camestros Felapton unpacks some of the criticisms of the Disney animated movie Frozen from conservative blogs, and tries to determine why, more than 4 years after its release, the film still seems to generate so much antipathy in some quarters:

The issue is not hard to diagnose. Frozen is mainly conventional Disney – in some ways even less than that. The plot is slight compared to other classic Disney films (e.g. the Lion King) and the songs (bar one) are unmemorable. Yet it does a few things and those things are interesting…

The story rejects romantic love as its central message and instead centres on the familial love of two sisters.

This being Disney, there really is zero implications about Elsa’s sexuality EXCEPT that at no point does she act out of desire for a romantic relationship with anybody of any gender. And with that we get to part of the multiple issues the right continue to have with the film.

(7) IF I COULD TURN BACK TIME. A new Kickstarter promotes the 6th Extinction Card Deck, a playable poker deck showcasing 54 extinct animals and birds from the ice age to the 1980’s, as illustrated by 34 different artists. One of the artworks featured is by Oor Wombat; her designated lifeform has not yet been revealed, but perhaps we can pry it out of her with a suitable bribe.

The Kickstarter has thus far achieved $843 in pledges toward a goal of $3,600, with 25 days left to go.

(8) GO MAKE ME A SAMMICH. Forget digging to China, here’s the new global craze: Earth Sandwich. (click on the photo on the left, then click on the right arrows to scroll through the gallery)

(9) CHALLENGE ACCEPTED, REDUX. The January 22 Pixel Scroll (Item #13) reported the viral campaign of New York native Frederick Joseph to set up screenings of Black Panther for children across the U.S. through the #BlackPantherChallenge. The website for the challenge is now live; donors can click on any of the icons on the map to see existing GoFundMe challenges and choose one to which to contribute. (unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a “list” view, so in areas with numerous challenges, zooming in on the map is required to differentiate between them)

(10) HOT COUTURE. On the Daily Dot, Gavia Baker-Whitelaw interviews Gersha Phillips, who designed the costumes for Star Trek: Discovery:

In the end, Discovery wound up with a more sleek and high-tech look. The new uniforms follow the classic idea of color-coded Starfleet departments (gold, silver and bronze accents for Command, Science, and Operations), but also take inspiration from contemporary athleisure brands.

Speaking to Gersha Phillips, we delved into Discovery’s fashion influences from Alien to Balenciaga. She’s a fount of knowledge about the canon background for costuming details like Klingon armor (Klingons have different internal organs!), and cosplayers have her to thank for the Mirror Universe’s beautiful gold capes.

(11) #BOWIEURCAT. Somehow, I don’t think that this is quite what the Thin White Duke had in mind.

(12) BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born February 18, 1919Jack Palance, Actor (Batman, Solar Crisis)
  • Born February 18, 1948Sinéad Cusack, Actor (The Ballad of Tam Lin, V for Vendetta)
  • Born February 18, 1984Genelle Williams, Actor (Warehouse 13, Bitten)

(13) MORE GALLIFREY ONE PHOTOS.

(14) FIRE THE CANON. Grant Snider, at Incidental Comics, asks “Who Controls the Cannon of Literature?”

(15) MAPPING THE WORLDS. Sarah Gailey contributes to what has now become a series of posts on cartography in SFFnal worlds with “Hippos, Worldbuilding, and Amateur Map-Making”:

About a year ago, I attended a panel on worldbuilding in young adult literature. All of the authors on the panel were young, brilliant, dynamic women. They wore flower crowns and they talked about mapmaking and spreadsheets. They were impressive as all get-out. I have never felt more intensely envious in my life.

I was jealous of their flower crowns, of course. I was also jealous of the easy way they talked about going in-depth on planning color schemes for each chapter they wrote, and the Pinterest boards they referenced for their character aesthetics. I was jealous of the way their worldbuilding all seemed to start from the ground up, because that seemed to me to be a whole other level of professional-writer-ness. My worldbuilding has always leached out from my character development – I write how a character moves, and their movement defines the world they live in. The women on this panel were talking about writing thousands of words about the world their characters inhabited, all before they put a single line of dialogue on a page. They were clearly worldbuilding masters. I was in awe.

It only took seven words for my awe to become fear.

(16) THE TOR BOYCOTT IS STILL TOTALLY WORKING. The Tucson Festival of Books will take place from March 10-11, and you can do your part for the Tor Boycott by checking out their author sessions. Tor/Forge and Tor.com Publishing authors Candice Fox, Nancy Kress, K Arsenault Rivera, Myke Cole, Annalee Newitz, Kristen Simmons, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., and Patty Garcia will be participating. A schedule can be found at the link.

(17) DEMAND EXCEEDS SUPPLY.

(18) BIRTHING PAINS. Jill Lepore, in a very long and very interesting essay at The New Yorker about childbirth, grief, and the de-feminization of Shelley’s best-known work, says in “The Strange and Twisted Life of “Frankenstein”: (content warning for miscarriage and infant death)

Because Shelley was readily taken as a vessel for other people’s ideas, her novel has accreted wildly irreconcilable readings…

“This nameless mode of naming the unnameable is rather good,” Shelley remarked about the creature’s theatrical billing. She herself had no name of her own. Like the creature pieced together from cadavers collected by Victor Frankenstein, her name was an assemblage of parts: the name of her mother, the feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, stitched to that of her father, the philosopher William Godwin, grafted onto that of her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, as if Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley were the sum of her relations, bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh, if not the milk of her mother’s milk, since her mother had died eleven days after giving birth to her, mainly too sick to give suck – Awoke and found no mother.

(19) RULE 34 MEETS THE SHAPE OF WATER. (warning: this item is utterly Not Safe For Work) Doug Jones, who plays the fishman in Guillermo del Toro’s fantastical movie, admits of the glow-in-the-dark erotic accessory currently being marketed:

With a light chuckle, I can tell you it’s not exactly what I’d hoped for. After pouring my heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears into this romantic, beautiful, magical role, the last thing I want to be remembered for is a silicone appendage that comes in two sizes.

(20) NOT EXACTLY WHAT I MEANT BY “SPIDEY-SENSE”.

 (21) UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE. The exhibit “A Conversation Larger Than the Universe: Science Fiction and the Literature of the Fantastic from the Collection of Henry Wessells” will run from January 25 to March 10, 2018 at The Grolier Club. Publishers Weekly describes the exhibition:

This erudite and altogether fascinating collection of essays from Wessells (Another Green World) explores the development of science fiction from its roots, focusing on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which the author considers “the point at which science fiction emerges from the gothic.” He then takes the reader on a personal journey through his favorite books, pointing out historic firsts such as Sara Coleridge’s Phantasmion (1837), the first fantasy novel published in English. He surveys the publishing history of some of the pillars of the genre, including Philip K. Dick, James Blish, Thomas M. Disch, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Robert Sheckley, as well as highlighting the work of authors whose names are less well known by the general public, such as Avram Davidson and R.A. Lafferty.

(22) MAKE THE ROBOT HAPPY. An SF & Fantasy Humble Bundle from Angry Robot is currently available, including books from Anna Kashina, Carrie Patel, Christopher Hinz, Dan Abnett, Danielle L. Jensen, Foz Meadows, Ishbelle Bee, Jay Posey, Justin Gustainis, Kaaron Warren, Keith Yatsuhashi, Megan O’Keefe, Peter Mclean, Peter Tieryas, Rod Duncan, and Wesley Chu. 10 days are left to grab the bundle, which benefits humanitarian charity Worldbuilders (be sure to click on “Choose where your money goes” before going through the checkout process).

(23) GIVE MY REGARDS TO KING TUT. Io9 says, “You Can Now Watch the Original Stargate Movie for Free”:

Back in 1994, few could have predicted what Stargate would become. The original film was a hit, but what happened after is damn near unprecedented. Not a theatrical sequel, no, but several popular television series and a rabid fandom that far overshadowed the people who saw the original movie in theatres.

But it did start with that original movie, directed by Roland Emmerich, starring Kurt Russell and James Spader. And though it’s been available in multiple formats since its initial release, this week MGM put the full film on YouTube for free.

 

[Thanks to Camestros Felapton, Cora Buhlert, Greg Machlin, Hampus Eckerman, James Davis Nicoll, jayn, Juliette Wade, lauowolf, lurkertype, Mark-kitteh, Paul Weimer, Rob Thornton, and Robin A. Reid for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 Contributing Editor of the Day JJ.]

Pixel Scroll 2/17/18 Scrolls of Mystery and Imagination

By JJ:

(1) THE RIGHT STUFF, WITH A NEW WRINKLE.

Most of you may remember that at just 9 years old I raised funds via GoFundMe to attend my first Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama and that one day I will be an astronaut, scientist and an engineer. Since then outlets like GoFundMe not only help my STEM dreams come true but others as well. Just this year through GoFundMe I raised over $20,000 to send over a 1000 girls to see the movie Hidden Figures because it was important to me that girls know that with drive, determination, and hard work you be anything, a scientist, a mathematician, an engineer, an astronaut or maybe the President of the United States even when the odds are against you!

I am 14 now and using my voice to not only bring girls of color to STEM/STEAM but all kids all over the U.S. and abroad.

I’m so excited about the upcoming movie A Wrinkle in Time, which is scheduled to come out spring 2018.

My goal is to send a 1000 girls to see this movie.

Why? I have a lot of reasons but the main ones are:

  1. It shows young, black girls deserving a chance to be a part of the scifi cultural canon.
  2. It has a female protagonist in a science fiction film. A brown girl front and center who looks like me in the role of Meg, a girl traveling to different planets and encountering beings and situations that I’d never seen a girl of color in.
  3. Most impressive and importantly, it’s a fantasy film that is not about some white boys fighting evil, but about a black girl overcoming it.

Thanks to donors, including a $10,000 gift from JJ Abrams and his wife Katie McGrath, the goal has been exceeded. Richardson says that any funds raised above what is needed for the movie event will go to projects, events, and scholarships to bring diversity and gender equality to the STEM field.

(2) ELIMINATING CONFUSION. The opening weekend of Marvel’s Black Panther film has unsurprisingly been marked by attacks and trolling. No sooner had the screenings started, says Lauren Rearick at Teen Vogue, than posts began appearing on social media claiming that white people who attended showings of the movie were being attacked by black people.

The social media posts in question have used images from previous acts of violence that have absolutely nothing to do with the film. Among the photos being used include a woman who was attacked at a bar in Sweden last month, and Colbie Holderness, ex-wife of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter who recently opened up about alleged domestic abuse.

People on social media are fighting back against the false claims by sharing links to Teen Vogue and other articles documenting the fake photos.

Trolls have also been targeting theatres showing the film, determined to set them straight about the fictional nature of the film:

Variety reported that Black Panther’s box office take after Thursday and Friday reached almost $76 million, marking the eighth-highest opening day ever, and third largest for Marvel, according to comScore.

(3) GIVE THE SHOGGOTH A TIME HUG. Dr. Janelle Shane, whose work with neural networks turned loose on generating Harry Potter fiction, Dungeons & Dragons game scripts, and Christmas Carols has previously featured on File 770, last week set her twisted brainchild to composing Candy Heart messages, using messages taken from real candy as input. The neural network not only uses words it is fed, but it creates what it thinks are similar words to use in its results as well. Some of the stranger romantic messages it generated:

ALL HOVER

OOG LOVE
TIME HUG
SWOOL MAT
BEAR WIG
TWEET UP BAT
LOVE 2000 HOGSYEA
YOU ARE BOA
SWEAT PEAR

Dr. Shane adds:

There was yet another category of message, a category you might be able to predict given the prevalence of four-letter words in the original dataset. The neural network thought of some nice new four-letter words to use. Unfortunately, some of those words already had other meanings. Let’s just say that the overall effect was surprisingly suggestive. Fill out the form here and I’ll send them to you.

(4) ORIGIN STORY. Oor Wombat has revealed the possible inspiration for her Hugo Whalefall speech:

(5) DELIBERATELY SCUTTLED. Barnes and Noble appears to be scaling back operations, as a prelude to a complete shutdown. But the ship didn’t sink on its own, says blogger audreyii_fic in “The entirely unnecessary demise of Barnes & Noble”:

On Monday morning, every single Barnes & Noble location – that’s 781 stores – told their full-time employees to pack up and leave. The eliminated positions were as follows: the head cashiers (those are the people responsible for handling the money), the receiving managers (the people responsible for bringing in product and making sure it goes where it should), the digital leads (the people responsible for solving Nook problems), the newsstand leads (the people responsible for distributing the magazines), and the bargain leads (the people responsible for keeping up the massive discount sections)…

We’re not talking post-holiday culling of seasonal workers. This was the Red Wedding. Every person laid off was a full-time employee. These were people for whom Barnes & Noble was a career. Most of them had given 5, 10, 20 years to the company. In most cases it was their sole source of income.

There was no warning.

But it gets worse…

The Barnes & Noble executives do not intend to rebuild.

How do I know this? Because every decision from the upper levels is being made solely to increase cash on hand.

(6) HOPES DASHED. Benjamin C. Kinney, whose essays on neuroscience have been featured on File 770 in the past, relates a tale of woe in “The Story that Never Was”:

I hit a writer milestone yesterday, though a sad one it is. You see, about a month ago, I had another short story accepted at a professional SFF magazine! I was just waiting on the contract to make it official, and then tell you all about my delightful Fairy Gentrification story. The eldritch diner with the portal between worlds was torn down for condos years ago – but there’s one last fairy chevalier stranded in this world, seeking out the owners’ son.

But, alas, it is not to be. Because the magazine has died, with my story in its casket.

The publication in question, PerVisions, has been defending a trademark suit against their original name, Persistent Visions, by an animation production company of the same name, and according to Publisher Christophe Pettus in a story on Locus Online:

The core reason for us having to stop accepting work is that our budget for acquisitions was largely consumed by a long and unpleasant dispute over the name of the publication. Although the other party was not in the publishing industry and we had no intention of causing any confusion with their services, ultimately, it became clear that no compromise except changing the name of the journal was possible.

Sadly, working through that legal issue was very expensive, and consumed our available capital. I would not ask to publish material that I could not pay a decent rate for, and keeping authors in suspense while the future of the journal is decided is not fair to them.

The website will remain live, so that stories they previously published will be preserved.

(7) BELIEVE IT OR NOT. Deadline reports that the 80s TV series The Greatest American Hero is getting a reboot:

With New Girl coming to an end, series’ co-star Hannah Simone has been tapped for the title role in ABC’s single-camera comedy pilot The Greatest American Hero, from the Fresh Off the Boat duo of Rachna Fruchbom and Nahnatchka Khan. In the reimagining with a gender switch of Steven J. Cannell’s 1981 cult classic, the unlikely (super)hero at the center, played by William Katt in the original, is being reconceived as an Indian-American woman.

 

(8) STANDLEE STILL, STAY SILENT. Kevin Standlee has announced that he will not be adding any Hugo recommendations to the Bay Area Science Fiction Association’s list this year:

I’m not making any Hugo Award recommendations this year. As one of the members of this year’s Hugo Awards Administration Subcommittee, I don’t want my own personal preferences being seen as trying to influence anything. But BASFA continues with its practice of meeting to discuss works/people they think are Award-worthy… if you go to BASFA’s web site, you should see a link to this year’s recommendations. Or you can just download the 2018 BASFA Hugo recommendations PDF directly.

(9) NO ROOM AT THE INN. GenCon attendees with accessibility needs report that this year’s hotel room reservation system is unable to allocate ADA accessible rooms online, and that fans have to wait up to 2 weeks to hear if they have an ADA room. Meanwhile, the hotel room blocks continue to be sold online to other members, and hotels which run out of regular rooms are apparently assigning their ADA rooms to online registrants instead of holding them back for accessibility applicants.

Maria Turner: IMPORTANT PSA:

Housing will no longer be allowed to be traded to avoid cancellation fees.

AND people requesting ADA rooms may not get confirmation they actually got an ADA room for TWO WEEKS!!! This is totally unacceptable. Totally. I am awaiting a response from Gen Con on this matter.

Todd Bunt: I am sad today. My friend a disabled veteran cannot get a room this year since there were no ADA room reserved. He has a hard time walking but the only room he can get is 10 miles away. Last years he got an ADA room in one of the hotels attached to the convention center. (t made it easy for him to go to the room to rest during the day. He was looking forward to going to GenCon this year but that was taken from him. Maybe next year they can hold some ADA rooms for those that need the help.

Daniel Lagos: Has anyone who needed an ADA room at any hotel in the Gencon block, who called and got the answering machine for the call center, actually gotten a call back yet?

I had an 8:44pm time for getting a room, and I left my information in my message. So far, I haven’t gotten a call yet. (more comments follow)

Doug Triplett: Arrrgh. I tried to call the ada line and they shut it off. Said it wasn’t working this weekend. Anyone else had an issue with that today. And in the portal the closest hotel is at least 10 miles away. This sucks!

Miriam Breslauer: NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!

Gencon set my housing request time to 10:28 pm. Because I need an ADA room I had to call them. There was no one there, because it was outside business hours! WTF! I am beyond pissed. Hopefully, they just call me back tomorrow and there are magically still some rooms left.

Not cool Gencon. Not cool at all.

Maria Turner: Does anyone know where one submits an ADA complaint re the hotel reservation process icw a major convention?…

What is wrong with the process is the way the search criteria is processed.

1) ADA requirement is not a component of the housing acquisition query screen

2) Hotels with all available rooms are returned as available

3) it is not until a person goes to a hotel returned from the initial query that one requests an ADA room with no idea if there is even one available at that hotel or not

4) No one will confirm for me if hotels are selling ADA rooms to non-ADA attendees as current law provides if there is demand that exceeds their supply of non-ADA rooms

5) ADA attendees wait up to two weeks to receive confirmation that their reservation for the room and/or hotel they requested is accepted

6) non-ADA attendees receive confirmation immediately their reservation was accepted.

7) ADA attendees may be moved to other hotels

I’ve been back and forth with Mike Boozer regarding the process, and he’s unresponsive citing supply and demand when that’s not the issue.

All the people I know who have obtained ADA rooms have had to do so out of block. I’m not paying $770/night at the JW, so we’ll likely be commuting if we don’t get a room via Authors/Artists housing block this weekend.

ADA Room checkbox needs to sit on that initial screen, the available hotels list returned should be only hotels with ADA room availability.

Thus far, there do not appear to be any posts on Gencon’s Facebook page which address the situation.

(10) ECLECTIC LADY. Janelle Monáe, who starred in the Hugo-nominated Hidden Figures as well as releasing Afrofuturist music albums The ArchAndroid, Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), and The Electric Lady (which was nominated for a Tiptree Award in 2014) has announced a new SFFnal album Dirty Computer:

Janelle Monáe has confirmed early details of her follow up to 2013 album The Electric Lady. Titled Dirty Computer, the album currently has no release date but a trailer starring Monáe alongside actress Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok and the upcoming Annihilation) can be seen below.

(11) BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born February 17, 1912 – Andre Norton, Author (Beastmaster, Witch World)
  • Born February 17, 1925 – Hal Holbrook, Actor (Capricorn One, Creepshow)
  • Born February 17, 1954 – Rene Russo, Actor (The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, Thor)
  • Born February 17, 1981 – Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Actor (Inception, Looper)
  • Born February 17, 1991 – Bonnie Wright, Actor (Harry Potter)

(12) WALKAWAY GONE WALKABOUT. Cory Doctorow, author of 2017’s Walkaway, will be doing a Down Under book tour for the novel starting next week, with stops in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide in Australia, and Wellington in New Zealand. Perhaps he’ll wave to Camestros as he passes through Aberdeen.

(13) MOUNT TSUNDOKU, IN 12 PARTS. Grant Snider’s Incidental Comics features a story which may sound familiar to many Filers: My Bookshelf

(14) A NOVEL WAY TO DEAL WITH MARKETING SPAM.

(15) RE-VISITING A… ER, CLASSIC? According to SyFy, a feature film version of the TV series “V” is in the works:

Desilu Studios has announced it’s going to bring V The Movie, based on the classic 1983 miniseries, to theaters in a big-budget film version that will be written and directed by Kenneth Johnson, creator of the original show.

The two-part miniseries aired on NBC in 1983 and chronicled an invasion of Earth by vicious reptilian aliens who disguised themselves as friendly humanoids, triggering a human resistance movement. A metaphor for revolution against a fascist government, V was hugely popular with audiences, spawning a 1984 sequel, V: The Final Battle, a short-lived 1985 show called V: The Series, and a 2009 reboot that lasted for two seasons on ABC.

Casting, production details, and a release date for V The Movie are all yet to be determined.

(16) MORE YOUNG PEOPLE READ OLD SFF. This time out, James Davis Nicoll has them reading Tanith Lee’s horror story “The Gorgon”, and the reactions cross the whole spectrum, from “intriguing and mysterious” to “annoying and racist”, with some bonus commentary on imprudent alcohol consumption.

(17) THE NO AWARD AWARD. In the February 2, 2018, issue of the Times Literary Supplement, J.C. says:

In early December, we stumbled on a blog at the Paris Review Daily site, written by Ursula K. Le Guin, on the subject of one of our most coveted awards, the Jean-Paul Sartre Prize for Prize Refusal. It is open to any writer who has refused a literary prize.

“I first learned about the Sartre Prize from NB”, Ms Le Guin wrote, “the last page of London’s Times Literary Supplement, signed by J.C. The fame of the award, named for the writer who refused the Nobel in 1964, is or anyhow should be growing fast.” Ms Le Guin flattered us further by quoting from a past NB: “So great is the status of the Jean-Paul Sartre Prize for Prize Refusal that writers all over Europe and America are turning down awards in the hope of being nominated for a Sartre”. As we noted at the time, and Ms Le Guin repeated it, “The Sartre Prize itself has never been refused”…

Ursula Le Guin died on January 22, aged eighty-eight. She left us with an idea, however: “I do hope you will recommend me to the Basement Labyrinth so that I can refuse to be even nominated, thus earning the Pre-Refusal of Awards Award, which has yet to be named”. It has a name now: The Ursula K. Le Guin Prize, for writers who refuse shortlisting, longlisting and any other form of nomination for literary prizes. The essay, “A Much Needed Literary Award”, is included in her final book, No Time To Spare: Thinking About What Matters, published in December last year.

(18) MARKET REPORT. David Steffen has compiled the “SFWA Market Report for February” for the SFWA Blog, listing those publications which are opening or closing for submissions.

(19) STROSS SHOUTS AT CLOUDS. Not every SF work needs to conform to strict worldbuilding standards, writes Cora Buhlert “In Defence of Wallpaper Science Fiction”:

A few days ago, Paul Weimer pointed me on Twitter to this post by Charles Stross in which Stross laments the current state of the science fiction genre, because a lot of SF writers these days focus more on plot, action, characters and their relationships than on worldbuilding, particularly on economics, which is the aspect of worldbuilding that is closest to Stross’ heart.

Whenever Stross posts a variation of this “other people are doing science fiction wrong” rant, it inevitably gets my hackles up…

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a kernel of truth in Stross’ post. Because all too often, things show up in science fiction, just because “that’s the way things are”, whether in genre or life, regardless if this makes sense in this particular setting. The prevalence of Galactic Empires vaguely modeled on the Roman or British Empire in science fiction is a result of tropes being imported from other genre works unexamined, as is the fact that every future military ever is either modelled on the US Marine Corps of the 20th/21st centuries or the British Royal Navy of the 18th and 19th centuries and that every starship is modelled on a modern aircraft carrier…

So if all that Stross’ post did was implore science fiction writers to interrogate their worldbuilding choices and ask themselves “Why did I choose this?” and “Does this even make sense for the world that I built and if not, how can I make it fit?”, I would probably have heartily applauded. However, that’s not all he does.

(20) THE PUNCH LINE. So an SFF writer, a zombie, and a cat walk into a bar…

(21) THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS.  A Kickstarter has gone live for Tiny Wastelands, a post-apocalyptic RPG, and it’s already blown way past its goal in the first few days, racking up $22,906 in pledges against its original goal of $6,000.

Tiny Wastelands is post-apocalyptic roleplaying in a minimalist package! Using the rules in this book, you’ll be able to play survivors of lost and destroyed civilizations, mutants rampaging the wastelands and so, so much more.

Stretch goals include additional micro-settings for the game written by various authors, including this one already achieved:

$14,000: Paul Weimer takes us to High Plains Drift!

“The High Plains of the Dakotas are wide, flat, and deadly. Between the mutant prairie dogs, what lurks in the minuteman silos, and the farmers turned bandits who have adapted farm tractors to war vehicles, survival on the plains is nasty, brutish and short.

What makes it unique? Farm Tractor war vehicles, mutant wildlife and endless horizons in a hardscrabble world.”

(22) WHICH CAME FIRST? Hampus Eckerman believes that Filers will enjoy this SFF film short from 2016:

[Thanks to Camestros Felapton, Cora Buhlert, Hampus Eckerman, lauowolf, PJ Evans, RedWombat, Standback for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 Contributing Editor of the Day JJ.]

Pixel Scroll 2/3/18 As God Is My Witness, I Thought Pixels Could Scroll!

(1) QUEEN OF PULP. Twitter’s Pulp Librarian today did a retrospective of illustrator Margaret Brundage, “the Queen of Pulp,” with lots of her Weird Tales covers from the 1930s. Jump on the thread here —

(2) ELLEN KLAGES DONATES CLARION WEST INSTRUCTORSHIP. Clarion West announced Karen Lord is the recipient of “The Sally Klages Memorial Instructorship 2018”.

The Sally Klages Memorial Instructorship will be awarded in 2018 in memory of Sally Klages, with love from her sister Ellen Klages….

Ellen Klages’ tribute begins —

Sally was a writer. I never heard her say that she wanted to be one; she simply proclaimed, proudly, that she was. She wrote every day in tiny, cramped cursive: working on her autobiography, lectures to her Invisible Friends, instructions about how life ought to be led.

Like many of us, she owned dozens of notebooks and countless pens, and was never without them. She once packed a gallon-sized Ziploc bag of pens and markers into her carry-on bag for a two-hour flight, “in case one runs out.” Writing was her joy, her recreation, her solace.

Sally was born with Down Syndrome. As far as she was concerned, that wasn’t a handicap — it was what made her special. And she was. She was Valedictorian of her class at Northeast Training Center, and an employee at Columbus State University for 17 years. She was one of the founding members of the Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio (DSACO), she was on the board of the National Down Syndrome Conference, and was a featured speaker there in 1989. An active participant in the Special Olympics, she won more than three dozen medals in swimming, diving, track and field, bowling, and cross-country skiing….

[Via Locus Online.]

(3) PICACIO AT THE MIKE. In “Your 2018 Hugo Awards MC Is….” John Picacio tells why he is proud to be Worldcon 76’s choice.

Today, the 76th World Science Fiction Convention has announced me as the Master of Ceremonies for this year’s Hugo Awards in San Jose, CA, while also announcing that the Hugo Awards’ Nominations Period is now open! Having won two Hugos for Best Professional Artist, I know how much the Hugos mean to the sf/f field, and it’s a huge honor to serve this stage in front of my colleagues and heroes. Worldcon 76 asked me to be the 2018 Hugo MC last August so it’s been fun keeping that under wraps the last five months, even after being announced as this year’s Artist Guest of Honor.

There’s some history that comes along with this role.

  • I’m the first visual artist to ever be a Hugo Awards MC. I think this could perhaps be a harbinger of Hugo Ceremonies to come. Many of our best visual creators — such as Brom, Todd Lockwood, Ruth Sanderson, Gregory Manchess, and more — are becoming author / artist / storytellers, conjuring the words and pictures of their own bestselling books and media. Our next generation of illustrators are aspiring to tell their own stories, just as much as becoming hired guns. I suspect there will be more artists following through the Hugo MC door behind me, and they’ll likely come from this expanding universe of hybrid, contemporary artists.
  • I’m only the third Worldcon Guest of Honor to also serve as Hugo Awards MC at the same Worldcon. I believe Connie Willis and David Gerrold are the only others to do this in the con’s 76-year history. We must all be insane. ?.
  • I’m especially proud to be the first Mexicanx to ever serve as a Hugo Awards MC. I love being first, but the most important thing is that I’m not the last. With the daily assaults upon our DREAMers, villainizing of our culture by racists, and terroristic threats against our citizens, we’re living in an important moment for Mexicanx north and south of the border. I’m looking forward to sharing my spotlight with all of them.

(4) WITHOUT A SHADOW OF A DOUBT. 2016 Clarke Award judge David Gullen discusses what the experience taught him about his own fiction writing: “Things I Learned Judging the Arthur C. Clarke Award” at Medium.

At some point during reading those 113 books it occurred to me what a difficult thing writers are trying to do and just how many different things each author is trying to get right. It’s not just character and plot and pace and tension, world-building, good dialogue, effective exposition, setting story questions and keeping story promises, it’s also trying to get that motivating vision in your head down onto the page. Even a pretty ordinary book takes a lot of effort. If you assume each of those books took 6 months to write?—?and many would have taken more?—?that is 57 years of effort, not far from the entire productive life of a single person.

(5) THE WRITER’S EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER. A tweet from Annie Bellet.

(6) READERCON PRUNES PROGRAM INVITE LIST. Several older, white male writers who have participated on Readercon’s program in previous years have posted to Facebook over the past month that they have been notified they won’t be on this year’s program, or simply haven’t received the expected invitation. There’s no reason they have to be happy about it, and understandable if it triggers a bit of insecurity and resentment. However, the whiff of controversy around this development is not completely unlike Jon Del Arroz’ certainty that politics were the real reason he was rotated off BayCon programming.

Allen Steele wrote on Facebook yesterday:

The other convention I’ve usually gone to in the past, but will no longer attend, is Readercon. I’ve been an invited guest since Readercon 2 (had to skip the first one because of a schedule conflict), and have attended most of the 36 previous conventions … and then last year, without any sort of notice or explanation, I wasn’t invited. I was recovering from last year’s pancreas operation, so I probably wouldn’t have been able to show up anyway, but I wondered why nonetheless.

This year, I have an explanation … just not a good one. It appears, in an effort to be fair to young new writers, Readercon has been sending out form email letters to older authors such as myself (everyone known to have received the letter is male and above age 50), telling them that they’ve been dropped from the program participant list and therefore will not be invited guests.

Oh, we’re still welcome to attend, if we pay the registration fee. In fact, because of our exalted former status, we’re entitled to a 25% discount … if we go to a private registration site and enter the password (get this) PASTPRO.

So not only have we been told that we’re not welcome to come as professionals, we’re also being told that we’re no longer professionals, period.

I haven’t received the letter … but neither have I been invited. As I said, I wasn’t invited last year either, nor was I ever offered a reason why. To their program chair, I sent a polite letter calmly explaining why the letter is demeaning, insulting, and for the convention disastrously short-sighted; the response I got was a “so sorry you feel that way” blow-off. This pretty much confirms that I’ve been cast into the outer darkness for being … well, let’s not go there. And even if I’m not on the “past pro” list, I won’t come to a convention that would treat my friends and colleagues this way.

I mention this because I usually see at Readercon quite a few people who follow this page. Sometimes they bring copies of my books so I can sign them, and they need to know in advance not to use valuable suitcase-space. Sorry, guys … this year, it’s Boskone and the Hong Kong SF Forum only. At least those conventions still have respect for senior authors.

A month ago Ian Randall Strock said he got the letter and named two others who’d received it:

It seems Readercon has begun their apparently new tradition of uninviting past guests. Last year, it was Darrell Schweitzer. Today, I got the letter, as did Warren Lapine.

Anyone else get the email (under the subject line “Thank you for your service to Readercon”) starting out “There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll be straightforward: you won’t be receiving an invitation to participate in programming for Readercon 29.”?

Another thought occurs: are they only doing this to folks who are also dealers, thinking we’ll be there anyway? I’ll have to run the numbers to see if it’s worth attending.

Readercon 29 takes place July 12-15 in Quincy, MA.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 3, 1993 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in television syndication.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY SUBCREATOR

  • Born February January 3, 1892 – J.R.R. Tolkien [never mind….]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy sends Pearls Before Swine with an observation that sounds just like the kind of dismal thing Kurt Vonnegut would come up with. So you’ll love it, right? (?)
  • John King Tarpinian discovered a horrific satirical cereal box in Off the Mark. (Was that a description or a pleonasm?)
  • JJ admires Grant Snider’s The Specter of Failure at Incidental Comics.
  • Via RedWombat –

(10) ARE YOU SURPRISED? Mental Floss tempts readers with “16 Surprising Facts About Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451”. Some are no more surprising than this —

  1. BRADBURY DID NOT WRITE FAHRENHEIT 451 IN NINE DAYS.

A popular apocryphal story is that Bradbury hammered out Fahrenheit 451 in just over a week. That story is wrong: It was the 25,000-word “The Fireman” that he wrote in that time period. The author would later refer to the short story as “the first version” of the eventual novel. But over the years, he would often speak about “The Fireman” and Fahrenheit 451 interchangeably, which has caused some confusion.

  1. HE WROTE HIS FIRST VERSION ON A RENTED TYPEWRITER IN A LIBRARY BASEMENT.

Bradbury and wife Marguerite McClure had two children in 1950 and 1951, and he was in need of a quiet place to write but had no money for renting an office. In a 2005 interview, Bradbury said:

“I was wandering around the UCLA library and discovered there was a typing room where you could rent a typewriter for 10 cents a half-hour. So I went and got a bag of dimes. The novel began that day, and nine days later it was finished. But my God, what a place to write that book! I ran up and down stairs and grabbed books off the shelf to find any kind of quote and ran back down and put it in the novel. The book wrote itself in nine days, because the library told me to do it.”

  1. HE SPENT $9.80 ON TYPEWRITER RENTAL.

Bradbury’s nine days in the library cost him, by his own estimate, just under $10. That means he spent about 49 hours writing “The Fireman.”

(11) NOT YOUR TYPICAL FLORIDA MAN STORY. From Futurism, “Florida Man Becomes First Person to Live With Advanced Mind-Controlled Robotic Arm”.

Prosthetics have advanced drastically in recent years. The technology’s potential has even inspired many, like Elon Musk, to ask whether we may be living as “cyborgs” in the not-too-far future. For Johnny Matheny of Port Richey, Florida, that future is now. Matheny, who lost his arm to cancer in 2005, has recently become the first person to live with an advanced mind-controlled robotic arm. He received the arm in December and will be spending the next year testing it out.

The arm was developed by Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab as part of their program Revolutionizing Prosthetics. The aim of the program, which is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is to create prosthetics that are controlled by neural activity in the brain to restore motor function to where it feels entirely natural. The program is specifically working on prosthetics for upper-arm amputee patients. While this particular arm has been demoed before, Matheny will be the first person to actually live with the prosthesis. The program does hope to have more patients take the tech for a longterm test run, though.

(12) FROM SOMEWHERE BESIDES LAKE WOEBEGONE. Since the firing of Garrison Keillor A Prairie Home Companion has a new host and a new name – Cat Eldridge reviews “Live from Here, the show formerly known as APHC, hosted by Chris Thile” at Green Man Review.

… Where Kellior was the sedate, downbeat host who wanted you to be part of the Lake Woebegon community, Thile is more than a bit manic, bouncing around in delight apparently as he gets to interact with musicians and other folk who he obviously admires a lot. APHC put me to sleep, LFH is definitely designed to keep me actively listening.

Shovel & Rope, a really good Americana couple, is dok good a bluesy travel song as I listen this moment. (By now I’d usually have decided to turn Kellior off.) Some minutes later, Gabby Moreno is playing a very lively (I think) a Tex-Mex song. Need I say Thile is really excited like her being on Live from Here?

… I’m an hour in and still not even close to tuning out though the comedy riff just now was meh but I’m not a fan of most such comedy anyways. That segued into a very nice and quite tasty bit of jazzy music by Snarky Puppy which is enhanced by the production team cleverly positioning mics in the audience which is more than a bit raucous all show long which they really demonstrate when Chris musically deconstructs  ‘I’ll Be There’ in words and music….

(13) FAR SIDE OF THE KERFUFFLE. Most of the post is more abuse, so won’t be excerpted here, but Vox Day hastened to say Foz Meadows won’t be getting an apology from him: “I’ll take ‘things that will never happen’”. He adds —

Third, Dave Freer didn’t sic me on anyone about anything. I don’t recall having any communication with him in years. I just checked my email and I haven’t received even a single email from him since I set up my current machine in April 2016. Nor have I spoken to him.

(I’m not creating an Internet Archive page for this one so people can somehow feel okay about insisting on reading the insults.)

(14) COUGH IT UP. Add this contraption to the list of things science fiction never predicted: “When The Flu Hits Campus, The Gesundheit Machine Will Be Ready”.

Those sick enough will get sent around the corner to a room with a crazy-looking, Rube-Goldberg-like contraption known as the Gesundheit machine.

For half an hour, the student sits in the machine. As the student breathes, the machine collects whatever virus they’ve got from the droplets in their breath.

The researchers will then use the student’s contacts to try to figure out how infections spread from person to person: “roommates, study buddies, girlfriends and boyfriends,” Milton says. “We’re going to swab them every day for a week to see if they get infected.”

If the student’s contacts get infected, researchers will try to pin down whether they got the bug from the original subject or someone else.

“We’re going to deep sequence the genetic code of the agent to see if it was really exactly the same thing,” Milton explains. He’s aware that confirming that your roommate gave you a horrible flu could ruin some perfectly nice relationships, but it’s for science.

(15) MELTING, MELTING. BBC tells how “Space lasers to track Earth’s ice”.

Ice is the “climate canary”. The loss, and the rate of that loss, tell us something about how global warming is progressing.

In the Arctic, the most visible sign is the decline of sea-ice, which, measured at its minimum extent over the ocean in September, is reducing by about 14% per decade.

At the other pole, the marine floes look much the same as they did in the earliest satellite imagery from the 1960s, but land ice is in a negative phase.

Something on the order of 160 billion tonnes are being lost annually, with most of that mass going from the west of the White Continent.

(16) STAR WARS MEETS PETER RABBIT. Daisy Ridley is still a rebel. And a rabbit.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Bill, JJ, John King Tarpinian, John Picacio, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, Mark Hepworth, Chris Garcia, Will R., Vox Day, StephenfromOttawa, Christopher Rowe, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jamoche.]

Pixel Scroll 1/19/18 The Scroll Pixel Wagon Is A-‘Comin Down The Street, Oh Please Let It Be For Me

(1) WASHINGTONIAN WOMBAT. The Washington Post’s Mary Quattlebaum profiles Ursula Vernon, whose comic five-volume Hamster Princess series retells “fairy tales with a strong female hero,” in “Ursula Vernon elevates a rodent to royalty”.  The latest, Whiskerella, retells Cinderella but with mice.

‘I always wondered why the girl didn’t save herself,” Ursula Vernon said about the fairy tales she read as a kid. “I mean, why doesn’t Snow White just whack the evil queen instead of relying on the prince?”

Vernon decided to retell fairy tales with a strong female hero. In her popular Hamster Princess series, Harriet eagerly rescues anyone in danger.

Often, though, the high-spirited hamster creates the very situations she must rescue herself and others from.

In “Whiskerella,” the fifth book in this hilarious series, Harriet takes on a bossy fairy godmouse. The godmouse wants Ella, a pretty hamster, to go to royal balls and meet a prince to marry. But Ella doesn’t like any of the rude princes she meets. And she hates wearing the magical glass slippers! They pinch her feet.

(2) GENERATIONAL CHANGE. The Paris Review’s Dara Horn notes that her daughter has a lot of choices that weren’t available to her growing up — “Finding Science Fiction and Fantasy for Female Readers”.

… Something enormous has happened in the years between my childhood and my daughter’s—a shift that might have started somewhere around The Golden Compass series, or with novels by Tamora Pierce and Francesca Lia Block or dozens of other books I had grown too old to read, and then accelerated with the runaway success of the Twilight and Hunger Games series. A young-adult landscape emerged where science fiction and fantasy was no longer targeted only at boys, and girls were no longer expected to read only stories about empathetic middle-school friends. This phenomenon is complex, an elaborate give-and-take between the changing roles of women and the rising demand for stories of the fantastic, and I don’t pretend to understand the many social and commercial forces that brought it into being. But I can’t help but notice the vast difference between my daughter’s bookshelf and mine—the many magical books waiting for her when she finished A Wrinkle in Time, hungry for more—and rue the imagined worlds I missed by being born too soon….

(3) COMMON DENOMINATOR. Stina Leicht makes a wise suggestion in “Sometimes Your Experience is What You Bring”.

Reading is an interactive experience. This is a big part of what makes literature an art form. Writers don’t get to dictate your experience of their work. We’ve never had that level of control–even if sometimes we wish we did.[1] A literary work is always one part what the reader brings to the piece. Readers aren’t passive. Reading engages the imagination. If the piece you’re reading doesn’t do this, the piece in question has failed in its job. That’s the definition of interactive. So, if you’re missing a sense of wonder from all modern SFF, then maybe it’s time for some self-examination? As a therapist once told me: “If every relationship is a failed relationship, maybe it’s time to have a look at the common denominator in all those relationships.” Hint: the biggest common factor is yourself. So, maybe it’s time to admit that maybe the lack of wonder isn’t the author’s fault? Because no author, no matter how talented or how powerful the work, can give you back your childhood.

(4) ERIC FLINT HEALTH UPDATE. There’s good news, as Eric Flint posted yesterday on Facebook.

I saw my oncologist today. The results of a CT scan I took last week have come in and everything looks good. There’s no indication of any kind that the lymphoma has come back. So YAY for medical science and nurses and doctors and everybody who works in hospitals and clinics.

And, okay, a grudging YAY for the poisons that killed the cancer faster than they killed me. They call it “chemotherapy.” This is a bit like calling attempted murder “homicide therapy.” But, what the hell, it seems like it worked, so a grudging YAY for homicide therapy.

(5) RARE BOOK DESTRUCTION. A flood in a bookstore basement ruined some King rarities, among others —“Stephen King ‘horrified’ by loss of his manuscripts in bookstore flooding” in the Bangor Daily News.

Stephen King said Wednesday that he was “horrified” to learn that tens of thousands of dollars worth of rare books — including his own original manuscripts and rare editions — were ruined after a burst pipe flooded the basement of several downtown Bangor businesses.

Gerald Winters’ bookstore, which specializes in rare and limited edition copies of King’s books, was among the handful of businesses damaged by flooding from the broken pipe in front of 46 Main St.

“I’m horrified. As a book lover, my heart goes out to him,” King told the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday. “I will eventually reach out and see if I can help in any way.”

Winters estimates he lost about 2,000 books, and as many as seven of King’s original typed manuscripts, including, “Dolan’s Cadillac,” “Maximum Overdrive,” and “The Eyes of the Dragon.” Dozens of first- and limited-edition King books, galleys, signed copies and prints in different languages are among the items believed to be damaged.

(6) THE ARTIST’S OWN COLLECTION. The Society of Illustrators in New York is hosting “Under the Influence: The Private Collection of Peter de Sève” through March 17.

This very special exhibit offers guests the unique opportunity to view the personal collection of Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame recipient, Peter de Sève, and to learn what pieces in it inspire (and intimidate!) him. Spanning over 200 years, the show includes gems by legendary artists including: Edmund Dulac, Vivienne Flesher, Frank Frazetta, A.B. Frost, Carter Goodrich, Ana Juan, Moebius, T.S. Sullivant and many more.

Peter de Sève has created some of the most beloved images in the worlds of print and animation over the course of his 40-year career. From his design of the neurotic, saber-toothed “Scrat,” to his many unforgettable New Yorker magazine covers, de Sève has been producing classic images that continue to provoke and delight.

(7) GENRE HISTORY BOOK EXHIBIT. A Conversation larger than the Universe will be on view at The Grolier Club in New York City from January 25 through March 10.

A Conversation larger than the Universe is a history of science fiction in 70 literary artefacts and a highly personal tour through the bookshelves of Henry Wessells. The books—many signed or inscribed by their authors—magazines, manuscripts, letters, and artwork date from the mid-eighteenth century to the present and will allow the viewer to explore the ideas and people that have defined the literatures of the fantastic, from Mary Shelley and H. G. Wells to Philip K. Dick, Joanna Russ, James Tiptree, Jr., and William Gibson…

Beginning with the origins of science fiction in the Gothic, this ‘Conversation’ contemplates topics such as the End of the World (and After), Imaginary Voyages, Dystopia, Women Authors, Literary Innovation, Humor, the Sixties, Rock ’n’ Roll, Cyberpunk, Steampunk, and what’s happening in science fiction and the fantastic right now. The exhibition adopts a broad description of Science Fiction encompassing Fantasy and Horror as well as bibliography and scholarship in the field.

In connection with the exhibition, a one-day Symposium on Science Fiction with a panel of distinguished authors, editors, and scholars will be held on Tuesday 6 March, 6-7:30 p.m.

Henry Wessells is an antiquarian bookseller in New York City and author of Another green world (2003) and Extended Range (2015). A frequent contributor to The New York Review of Science Fiction, his work has appeared in NatureLady Churchill’s Rosebud WristletWormwoodInterzoneThe Washington Post Book World, and other publications. He is also editor and bibliographer of American science fiction author Avram Davidson.

(8) WHO’S IN THE SUIT? Scott Edelman hopes a File 770 reader can solve these mysteries:

(9) THE COMING THING IN POETRY. The SPECPO blog interviews Holly Lyn Walrath, SF&F Poetry Association member and editor of Eye To The Telescope’s Time issue, in “Lone Stars, Abstractionism and Other Thoughtcrimes: Talking with Holly Lyn Walrath”

What are some of the trends you see in speculative literature that are really exciting you? Is there anything that’s boring you or that you see potentially as a literary dead-end?

I get really excited about experimental forms now appearing in speculative literature—hybrid works, erasures, and stories that cross genres. I’m thinking of the early work of Ken Liu using faux-erasure, as well as writers like Bogi Takács exploring hypertext poetry, Michael Janairo’s video poem from Mithila Review. Speculative literature is exploring more and more the definition of what we consider speculative literature. Another example is Riddled with Arrows, a new literary journal that focuses on writing about writing. It’s great to see so many venues and editors willing to showcase these new forms.

(10) POSSUM SPRINGS ETERNAL. Abigail Nussbaum discusses the pervasive pop culture influence of the game Night in the Woods.

You’ve probably heard about Night in the Woods even if you haven’t played it, or have only a vague idea what it is.  Released by indie studio Infinite Fall last year after a highly-successful kickstarter campaign, the game, an adventure-slash-ghost-story starring anthropomorphic animals who live in a dying Rust Belt town, is an irresistible combination of cute and spooky.  Its story, in which twenty-year-old college dropout Mae returns to her home of Possum Springs, reconnects with her friends and family, and slowly begins to realize that there are dark doings afoot, seems designed to appeal to a certain type of young fan, with its themes of early-adulthood aimlessness, coming of age, and mental illness.  Graphics from the game have been cropping up on my twitter feed and tumblr dash for months, almost instantly iconic due to the game’s simple yet evocative (and expertly-executed) design.  What surprised me, however, when I finished the game last week and went looking for in-depth discussions of it, is how little talk there seems to have been about Night in the Woods‘s politics.  To me, they feel not just important, but like the key to the entire exercise.

(11) COOK OBIT. Southern fan Don (Dea) Cook, an active Southern fan who also sent many stories for File 770, has died of cancer. (I haven’t seen the date yet.) He shared the Rebel Award with Bob Shaw in 1994. Don and his wife, Samanda Jeude, were Fan GoHs at the 1997 Balticon. He chaired an Atlanta bid for the 1995 Worldcon (losing to Glasgow). He also served for a time on the Worldcon’s Mark Protection Committee.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 19, 1809 – Edgar Allan Poe, in Boston, MA.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian recognized we needed to see this “how many X does it take” joke in Bizarro.

(14) STAR-CROSSED FELAPTON. In “Captain Bob and the Space Patrol”, Camestros Felapton makes a foredoomed attempt to write a completely apolitical sff story.

Captain Bob marched towards the silver-chrome rocket ship.

Did I say ‘captain’? That won’t do. I really don’t want anything political in this story. ‘Captain’ that suggests a rank and a rank suggests all sorts of thing. I mean sure, you can be captain of a civilian ship – it just means you are the one in charge but even that assumes Bob lives in a society in which hierarchal chains of command are the norm. Because this story must have no politics, I don’t want to suggest that his ship is necessarily run as some sort of anarcho-syndicalist commune of like-minded space travellers but I also don’t want to rule out the possibility by calling Bob ‘captain’. Mind you, if I don’t call him ‘captain’ does that rule out possibility that Bob lives in a society like ours? I guess even if he is a captain then ‘Bob’ is still his name.

I’ll stick with just plain Bob. The reader can add ‘captain’ or ‘daily short-term decision maker decided by lot’ accordingly.

(15) PORK PRODUCT. If you enjoy reading negative things about McDonald’s McRib sandwich, this 2011 article is for you: “A Conspiracy of Hogs: The McRib as Arbitrage”.  And there’s more! — an appealing conspiracy theory.

The physical attributes of the sandwich only add to the visceral revulsion some have to the product?—?the same product that others will drive hundreds of miles to savor. But many people, myself included, believe that all these things?—?the actual presumably entirely organic matter that goes into making the McRib?—?are somewhat secondary to the McRib’s existence. This is where we enter the land of conjectures, conspiracy theories and dark, ribby murmurings. The McRib’s unique aspects and impermanence, many of us believe, make it seem a likely candidate for being a sort of arbitrage strategy on McDonald’s part. Calling a fast food sandwich an arbitrage strategy is perhaps a bit of a reach?—?but consider how massive the chain’s market influence is, and it becomes a bit more reasonable.

Arbitrage is a risk-free way of making money by exploiting the difference between the price of a given good on two different markets?—?it’s the proverbial free lunch you were told doesn’t exist. In this equation, the undervalued good in question is hog meat, and McDonald’s exploits the value differential between pork’s cash price on the commodities market and in the Quick-Service Restaurant market. If you ignore the fact that this is, by definition, not arbitrage because the McRib is a value-added product, and that there is risk all over the place, this can lead to some interesting conclusions. (If you don’t want to do something so reckless, then stop here.)

(16) STREET SMARTS. If you’ve fallen behind on Sesame Street – say, by two to four decades – this article in The New Yorker will catch you up: “The Evolution of “Sesame Street” on HBO”.

“Sesame Street” perpetually evolves as guided by trending theories of education: when the game-show host Guy Smiley ambushes Bert into a round of “Estimation Crustacean,” which is a math quiz contested by a shellfish, the scene reflects current thinking on teaching arithmetic. Also, this noble program tailors its tone and content for its audience as elastically as the most craven network talk show. Because fewer adults actually pay attention to “Sesame Street” these days, the series has turned down the dial on pop-culture parodies, such as one spoofing “Mad Men,” from 2009, with an advertising executive thanking his staff for making him happy. (“Good work, sycophants,” the Muppet Don Draper says.) And “Sesame Street” responds to media technology at a deliberate pace. Last year saw the début of Smartie, an animated yellow phone, as a new sidekick for Elmo. “Look it up” is her catchphrase. Elmo, of course, converses with Smartie in his distinctive falsetto, a voice that, with practice, an adult can train himself not to really hear. Smartie, too, is slightly annoying. But I would trust her to babysit.

The most recent renovation of the Sesame Street courtyard, which is properly called the Arbor, involves one bold reconfiguration of the landscape. There now exists a view of a bridge. The shape of its tower suggests the Verrazano-Narrows, but its color apes the “international orange” of the Golden Gate Bridge, and it angles into the background as if Hooper’s Store is selling milkshakes in Dumbo. I find the bridge slightly disconcerting, and I can point to textual evidence that Oscar the Grouch shares my concerns. And yet it opens up a hospitable space. The bridge reaches out to expand the sense of place and extend a generous welcome. This land is your land, to the New York Island.

(17) HOLD ONTO YOUR… SEAT. Bored Panda has photos of “30+ Epic Toy Design Fails That Are So Bad, It’s Hilarious”. I don’t know if I want to run any of the photos as an excerpt, since so many are unintentional dick jokes, but they are hilarious as advertised.

We’ve seen our share of crappy design, but store shelves are so abundant with them, there’s always more to poke fun at. For example, toys. They’re usually designed and made by adults, so you’d expect a considerable amount of consideration before manufacturing them, right? Well, not so much. Bored Panda has collected some of the most questionable toys to prove that some designers have no clue what they’re doing.

From a doll head, used as an actual pony tail to a psychotic Elmo, it seems ridiculous someone actually greenlighted these ideas.

(18) WHO SAID CATS DON’T LIKE WATER. Atlas Obscura fills us in on “The Little-Known History of Seafaring Pets”.

When researchers conducted the first global study of ancient cat DNA they found that our feline friends were domesticated in the Near East and Egypt some 15,000 years ago, and later spread to Europe thanks in part to mariners, from the Phoenicians to the Vikings, who often took them on board to ward off rodents (another frequent human companion at sea, though not by design). A few thousand years later, the Romans took chickens on board military ships to predict the outcomes of battles—if the hens ate, victory could be expected. Roman general Publius Claudius Pulcher tried this trick before the Battle of Drepana against the Carthaginians in 249 B.C. He ignored the bad omen and threw the birds overboard. The Roman fleet was nearly wiped out. Despite this anecdote, the roles played by our maritime animal companions rarely make the history books. It is only recently that cultural institutions around the world have begun to pay attention to the history of animals at sea.

(19) COULD BE. Once he read Emma Straub’s “My Father Supported My Career—Until He Didn’t” in Real Simple, Andrew Porter decided, “This likely explains why, when I went into the bookstore she owns here in Brooklyn, and offered the people there (she was not present) scans of the many photos of Peter Straub (her father) I’d taken over the years, I never heard back from her.”

But this scenario happened again and again. I wrote books; my father read them and pronounced them wonderful, surefire hits…and then they wouldn’t sell. Still, my dad’s faith in me never wavered, even as I worked a host of other jobs—for a fancy cookbook publisher, at a clothing store for teens and tweens, as a personal assistant to a musician, in a bookstore. I even taught writing classes in my living room. Some of the jobs, like being a bookseller, were great and contributed to my writing life. Some, like selling overpriced jeans to 12-year-olds, were only good insofar as they were fodder for future stories. And they were—because it finally happened. I sold a book! I was going to make it big!

Sort of. My first book, a collection of stories, sold for a very modest amount of money—about enough to buy half of a fancy handbag. I was beyond thrilled. My parents came to every single event I did in New York City, always in the front row, laughing loudly in all the right spots. And then shortly thereafter I sold a novel for what felt like a lot of money, enough for my husband and me to turn the dank basement of our house into an actual office space, complete with the hot pink cabinets of our dreams.

That’s when things got weird. I was getting lots of press—magazines took my photograph and wrote articles about me, and I got asked to do zillions of events. Whenever I would call my dad to tell him about the new bits of press or things on the schedule, he would say, “Why didn’t they ask me to do that?” As if it made sense for Vogue to ask him to write a short story inspired by one of the new fall trends. At first, it seemed funny, but then I realized that he was serious—he was actually jealous. “Why didn’t they ask me to do this [any number of silly events at bars in Brooklyn that he wouldn’t have wanted to do in the first place]?” I think one of the problems was that my dad saw everything I did—he had Google Alerts set up for my name, so he’d often call to tell me that he’d seen something before I had.

(20) STAR WARS REBELS. The end begins when Star Wars Rebels returns with its final episodes. Monday, February 19 on Disney XD.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Janice Gelb, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, mlex, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 1/13/18 The Man Who Scrolled Christopher Columbus Ashore

(1) THE FIRE THIS TIME. The Paris Review tells about “Staging Octavia Butler in Abu Dhabi”. This really is the best article about the opera I’ve seen so far.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by Jean Nouvel, opened in November after years of delay and a cost rumored to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The same weekend as LAD’s grand opening, the NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center hosted the world premiere of Parable of the Sower, an opera composed by the singer/songwriter Toshi Reagon, a queer Brooklyn-based activist, and based on the prophetic novel by Octavia Butler. At first glance, it seems unlikely that a “starchitect” museum in Abu Dhabi, where gas is cheap and water is expensive, would stage an opera about a fiery, drought-ridden apocalypse. And yet, taken together, the museum and the opera initiate a set of conversations—about art and culture and change—that upend stereotypes about the Gulf.

The book Parable of the Sower (1993) was intended as the first of a trilogy. It’s set in a world where California is burning, rivers have dried up, and the president sells entire towns to the highest corporate bidder. Violence is everywhere, and not even houses of worship are safe. In the second book, Parable of the Talents (1998), a president is elected who promises to “make America great again.” The third book was never published. Given Butler’s prescience about America’s worst impulses, perhaps it’s best that the third book never came out: Do any of us really want to know how bad things might become?

The teenage heroine of the story, Lauren Olamina, flees her town on the outskirts of Los Angeles after the neighborhood is burned and looted by “pyros,” people addicted to a drug that makes fires better than sex. Along with two other survivors from the neighborhood massacre, Lauren decides to walk north, perhaps to Canada or to anywhere where “water doesn’t cost more than food.”

(2) COSMOS RENEWED. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak told readers that “Fox has renewed Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos for a second season”.

The networks made the announcement today during the Television Critics Association winter press tour, and deGrasse Tyson and producer Seth McFarland confirmed the news on Twitter, saying that the season will air in Spring 2019 on Fox and the National Geographic channel.

(3) SHARPENING CRITICS. Britain’s Science Fiction Foundation is taking applications for the “2018 Masterclass in Science Fiction Criticism”.

Applications are now open for the 2018 Science Fiction Foundation Masterclass in Science Fiction Criticism. The 2018 Masterclass, the Eleventh, will take place from Friday 29 June to Sunday 1 July. This year we will be at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. Three days of extremely enjoyable discussion and exchange of ideas in the delightful environment of the city of Cambridge, the Masterclass is highly valued by past students.

The 2018 Class Leaders are:

Nick Hubble (Brunel University) – Nick is co-editor of the Science Fiction Handbook (2013) and London in Contemporary British Fiction (2016)

John J. Johnston (Egypt Exploration Society) – John is co-editor of the mummy anthology Unearthed, his introduction for which was shortlisted for the BSFA Award for Non-Fiction.

Stephanie Saulter (author) – Stephanie is the author of Gemsigns and its sequels

(4) PKD SERIES CALLED WEAK. James Poniewozik of the New York Times finds the new series disappointing: “Review: In ‘Electric Dreams,’ the Future Seems Outdated”.

I can’t blame the weaknesses of “Electric Dreams,” whose first season arrives on Amazon on Friday, on the source material: The episodes’ writers had great leeway to stray from the originals. (The same happened with Amazon’s Dick adaptation “The Man in the High Castle.”)

Nor is a lack of star power at fault. The credits of the 10 self-contained episodes include Greg Kinnear, Anna Paquin, Bryan Cranston (one of 14 — 14! — executive producers) and Janelle Monáe (the actress-singer who recorded “The ArchAndroid” plays an arch android).

But this license and talent, plus the lavish scale of production, add up to little that feels freshly imagined or newly provocative.

(5) BUT CONTRARIWISE. The Daily Beast’s Karen Han takes the opposite view: “Philip K. Dick’s ‘Electric Dreams’ Showcases the Best of What Sci-Fi Can Offer”.

…That said, if Black Mirror is a nightmare, then Electric Dreams is… well, a gorgeous dream.

There’s plenty of darkness in Amazon’s new series, but it’s fundamentally geared toward the light. Like every anthology series, it’s a bit of a grab bag, but there’s something special to be found in each episode, and the heights reached by the best installments are more than worth the patience required to get through the less coherent entries.

(6) SMUGGLERS TREASURE. The Book Smugglers have a new volume out: “Announcing Gods and Monsters: The Anthology (and a Giveaway)”. They’re giving away three copies – see the post for details.

From a thief and a stolen goddess, to twin sisters more different than their fathers ever could have imagined. From a priestess fighting gods incarnate, to a cursed artifact and journal concealing a great evil. From a young boy discovering his godly lineage and power, to two trans boys falling in love and summoning demons. Gods and Monsters collects six tales of great and terrible powers, including:

  • “Beauty, Glory, Thrift” by Alison Tam
  • “The Waters and Wild of Winter Street” by Jessi Cole Jackson
  • “A Question of Faith” by Tonya Liburd
  • “It Came Back” by Samantha Lienhard
  • “Duck Duck God” by José Iriarte
  • “Avi Cantor Has Six Months To Live” by Sacha Lamb

All stories originally edited and published by The Book Smugglers.

(7) HAPPY FAIL SAFE DAY. This was a push-notice to every cellphone in Hawaii. It took them 38 minutes to push a notice of false alarm. No matter what they said, today will not be the day before the Day After after all.

(8) NATAL DAY. Steven H Silver continues his Black Gate series — “Birthday Reviews: Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Maze of Maal Dweb”.

Clark Ashton Smith was born on January 13, 1893 and died on August 14, 1961. Along with H.P. Lovecraft, he was one of the major authors at Weird Tales, writing stories which were similar to the dark fantasies Lovecraft wrote.

Smith maintained a correspondence with Lovecraft for the last 15 years of Lovecraft’s life. While Lovecraft wrote about Cthulhu, Smith wrote about the far future Zothique. Smith was named the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award winner in 2015.

(9) WEIRDER STILL. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett sent the link to this anecdote about E. Hoffman Price with the note: “Today we explore one of the more unexpected consequences of smoking. If this had happened to Kipling it’s possible that line about a good cigar being a Smoke might not have been written.” — Smoking, more dangerous than you ever knew..

So. Everybody has heard of Howard Philips Lovecraft I presume? Well of course you have, even Xbox playing preteens can tell you that Lovecraft is Cthulhu’s agent. How about Robert E. Howard then? Well of course you have, even Netflix watching preteens can tell you Howard is Conan’s agent. (Though you can confuse them by asking which Conan does he represent?)

So what about E. Hoffman Price? Hah, got you there, you thought I was going to ask about Clarke Ashton Smith next, didn’t you? No, Smith is for another day when I’m feeling a little more eldritch. Not that E. Hoffman Price couldn’t write a pretty effective weird story when he was in the mood. He started selling weird shorts back in the 1920s and didn’t stop until not long before he passed away in the 1980s. I doubt anybody keeps selling that long if they don’t have the knack for it….

(10) CHECK IT OUT. The ACME Corporation has an admirer:

(11) EMBERG OBIT. Bella Emberg (1937-2018): British actress, died 12 January, aged 80. Television work includes Doomwatch (two episodes, 1970-71), Doctor Who (three episodes, in 1970, 1974 and 2006), The Tomorrow People (one episode, 1977).

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 13, 1888 — National Geographic Society founded.
  • January 13, 1930 — Mickey Mouse comic strip debuted in newspapers.
  • January 13, 1957 — The Wham-O Company developed the first frisbee
  • January 13, 2008 — The Terminator franchise premiered Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock calls it “misapplying the supernatural” in this installment of Bizarro.
  • John King Tarpinian notes in Close to Home that one person’s sci-fi is another’s biography.

(14) BEWARE THE PEAR. Here’s a tweet of some RedWombat-inspired cosplay –

Know Your Meme’s explanation of “LOLWUT” includes this RedWombat reference —

The surrealist painting of the laughing fruit, titled The Biting Pear of Salamanca[1], was posted to deviantART on February 27th, 2006 by Ursula Vernon. Inspired by pop surrealism, she wrote that the pear “lives off low-flying birds, hand-outs, and the occasional unwary sightseer.”

(15) COMING TO VIDEO. The Hellraiser series continues on video:

Experience a terrifying new chapter in the legendary Hellraiser series when Hellraiser: Judgment arrives on Blu-ray (plus Digital), DVD, Digital, and On Demand February 13 from Lionsgate. The tenth film in the classic horror series tells the story of three detectives as they struggle to solve a horrifying murder, but instead find themselves thrust into the depths of Pinhead’s hellacious landscape. Including horror icon Heather Langenkamp (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare), it was written and directed by Gary J. Tunnicliffe (Hansel & Gretel).

 

(16) SUPER BLUE BLOOD MOON. Apparently, January 31 brings four lunar events for the price of one. The Crescenta Valley Weekly covers that, JPL’s 60th anniversary, and tells about a forthcoming mission, in “Inspired by Past, JPL Looks to the Future”.

On Jan. 31, there are several things happening. That night will see a full moon, a super moon (when the Moon is full at its closest approach to earth in its elliptical orbit), a blue moon (the second full moon in a month), and a lunar eclipse blood moon (when the earth passes between the sun and moon, blocking out all of the light for a short while and giving the moon a reddish hue before and after). It’s a super blue blood moon. In addition, it is the 60th anniversary of the veritable birth of JPL.

“After Sputnik in 1957, the U.S. was just completely freaking out because the Soviets were the first into space. You’ve got this thing flying a couple hundred miles overhead beeping and it is a symbol of Soviet space technology and dominance. What people don’t realize is the U.S. response to Sputnik came from Caltech.

“The first satellite was Explorer I. So this Jan. 31 will be the 60th anniversary of the launch of Explorer I. It was designed, built and operated by Caltech and what would become JPL,” Gallagher said. “Our most iconic photo [at JPL] is of William Pickering, who ended up being the first director of JPL, James Van Allen, who discovered the Van Allen radiation belt that was named after him, and Wernher Von Braun. [The three] are standing at the National Academy of Science holding Explorer I over their heads. It is an amazing picture. And that is the birth of JPL, and how we got started. We are very excited about that.”

Moving further into the year there are missions that will look to explore space, but also those meant to look back at our home planet, to better understand our world’s behavior and our relationship to it.

“In spring 2018, there is something called GRACE Follow-On, or GFO, that will launch as an Earth Science mission. GRACE stands for Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment, so it is a follow-on to the first GRACE and it is going to continue that work,” Gallagher said.

GRACE operated for 15 years and eventually died long past its expected lifetime. It consisted of two spacecraft that made highly accurate measurements of the variation of Earth’s gravity. This provided all types of information about what was going on under the Earth’s surface in drought areas or big areas of subsidence that opened up. GRACE tracks changes caused by additional water in the ocean, because this all affects gravity.

“It’s something that has a lot of practical benefits to society,” said Gallagher. “There is also a smaller instrument that is going to be launched called Eco Stress in June 2018. That’s also an Earth Science mission.”

(17) EVEN OLDER. The “Rocket Research Institute, founded in Glendale, celebrates 75 years”.

When the Glendale Rocket Society was founded by students at Clark Junior High— the current site of Crescenta Valley High — the Battle of Stalingrad during World War II had just commenced and Dwight D. Eisenhower had not yet taken command of the Allied Forces in Europe.

The organization’s leader, George James, 14 years old at the time, brought the society to Glendale High, where it gained a small but devoted membership of students interested in the study of rockets.

“We have carefully avoided inviting those who have no other interest in the subject beyond idle curiosity,” James told the Glendale News-Press in 1946. “All of our members contribute something to the project.”

Now, 75 years later, the group has survived as the Rocket Research Institute, a nonprofit educational group staffed by engineering, space and safety professionals who contribute toward space- and rocket-education advocacy.

Originally inspired by a Buck Rodgers comic strip, James’ interest in rocketry during high school secured him a job at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an assistant testing mechanic when the facility employed about 300 people.

(18) FIRSTS. Syfy Wire digs into the history of The Twilight Zone: “Firsts: The first episode of The Twilight Zone premiered in 1959”.

Syracuse, New York native and World War II combat veteran Rod Serling had been working as a freelance scriptwriter in radio and television for years, scoring his big breakthrough in 1955 with “Patterns,” broadcast live on Kraft Television Theatre. That led to more work and a string of acclaimed teleplays such as “Requiem for a Heavyweight” (1956), “The Comedian” (1957) and “A Town Has Turned to Dust” (1958).

But Serling, an activist at heart who dealt with many of his social and political concerns in his writing, had been increasingly frustrated with corporate censorship by small screen sponsors that continually forced him to change his scripts. He reckoned that a series in which he could hide commentary on the contemporary world inside science fiction and fantasy tales would get the censors off his back.

CBS gave Serling the green light to move forward with his idea for a half-hour science fiction anthology series, which he dubbed The Twilight Zone, after the success of “The Time Element,” a sci-fi script he sold to CBS for The Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse in 1958. “The Time Element” was originally conceived as a pilot script for the program.

(19) BE THE ART. Good Show, Sir reports Lee Moyer, artist, designer and illustrator, has created a gallery of sci-fi cover recreations on his website. For example –

(20)  DUCK TECH. Cat Eldridge sent the link with the warning, “This is heart-wrenching.”

My Special Aflac DuckTM, part of Aflac’s ongoing Aflac Childhood Cancer CampaignTM and developed by Sproutel, is an innovative, smart robotic companion that features naturalistic movements, joyful play and interactive technology to help comfort children coping with cancer. With a year of child-centered research behind it, My Special Aflac Duck is a part of Aflac’s 22-year commitment to providing care and support for children who have cancer. Aflac’s goal is to distribute this smart companion to the nearly 16,000 children in the U.S. who are newly diagnosed with cancers each year, free of charge.

 

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Einstein-Rosen —

Summer of 1982. Teo claims he has found a wormhole. His brother Óscar does not believe him – at least not for now.

[Thanks to JJ, Steve Green, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Will R., David K.M. Klaus, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, Mark Hepworth, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 1/7/18 Your Majesty Is Like A Scroll With Pixels On Top

(1) BOOK SMUGGLERS AT 10. Happy birthday to The Book Smugglers. They celebrated their tenth anniversary today:

Welcome to Smugglivus 2017: A Year In Review. Today, January 7, 2017, is our bloggoversary–and it’s a big one. Today we officially turn ten years old. To celebrate, we’re looking back at 2017 to document our year, as well as our top 10 moments since starting The Book Smugglers a decade ago.

A lot of interesting achievements and reminiscences in this post.

(2) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Myke Cole and Joseph Helmreich on Wednesday, January 17, 2018, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, New York).

Myke Cole

Myke Cole is the author of the military fantasy Shadow Ops series and its prequel trilogy, the Reawakening series, both from Ace/Roc. His Sacred Throne series is forthcoming from Tor.com in February. His first nonfiction (military history) book, will be out from Osprey in the fall. Myke appeared on CBS’ hit TV show Hunted, as part of a team of elite investigators tracking fugitives across the southeastern United States.

Joseph Helmreich

Joseph Helmreich has contributed writing to NewsweekNY Daily News, and Tor.com, and is author of the recent sf thriller, The Return (St. Martin’s Press, March 2017) about a physicist who gets abducted by an alien ship on live TV.  When not writing, Joe is a ventriloquist, illustrator, voice-over actor and member of alternative folk duo, Honeybrick. He lives in New York City and works in film distribution.

(3) SALAM AWARD. The 2018 jury for the Salam Award will be Elizabeth Hand , E. Lily Yu and Anil Menon. The award promotes imaginative fiction in Pakistan.

Last year’s winner was Firuza Pastakia for her story The Universe is a Conscientious Gardener.

(4) FANTASY MINIATURES. Dangerous Minds showcases some cute miniature models of Fauns, Jackalopes, Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen, and Unicorns. Here’s Exhibit A:

Warning: Cuteness overload ahead

Silvia Minucelli is an engineer and freelance artisan who creates itsy-bitsy, ickle figurines using polymer clay and a toothpick—can you imagine how painstaking and difficult that must be? Minucelli produces and sells her delightful models under the name Mijbil Creatures—named after the famous otter in Gavin Maxwell’s book Ring of Bright Water.

(5) PKD ON TV. The New York Times’ Jonathan Ringer tells how “With ‘Electric Dreams,’ Philip K. Dick Gets the TV Anthology Treatment”.

…The actors attracted to the series included Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” (also one of the show’s executive producers), Steve Buscemi, Maura Tierney and the avant-R&B singer Janelle Monáe. And “Electric Dreams” attracted writers and directors like Dee Rees (“Mudbound”), Peter Horton (“American Odyssey,” “Thirtysomething”) and Alan Taylor (“Game of Thrones”).

Dick’s daughter, Isa Dick Hackett, whose production company Electric Shepherd oversees adaptations of her father’s work, reached out in 2012 to Mr. Dinner, executive producer of FX’s “Justified,” and invited him to look at the short stories. “Michael really had the idea to do it as anthology,” said Mr. Moore, a friend of Mr. Dinner’s who was brought on soon after.

Mr. Dinner, who had a deal with Sony, also recruited Mr. Cranston, who, like the others, is a major Philip K. Dick fan. All four brought in people they’d worked with as well as reaching out to talent they admired. “I sent Janelle Monáe a letter and asked her if she’d want to be a part of it,” Ms. Hackett said. “I knew that she was a big fan of my dad’s.”

David Klaus sent these comments with the link:

There’s an irony in that Star Trek was sold as the first s.f. t.v. series unlike previous s.f. series which had all been anthology shows, to have continuing characters and standing sets, to reduce production costs.

It could also be said another of Robert Heinlein’s great gifts to science fiction was the typewriter he bought and gave to PKD so that he could earn his way out of being so broke he couldn’t pay a library overdue fine.

(6) BLATHER. The New York Times interviewed an expert about “How To Speak Gibberish”. And it wasn’t even a member of Congress.

… In 2014, Sara Maria Forsberg was a recent high-school graduate in Finland when she posted “What Languages Sound Like to Foreigners,” a video* of herself speaking gibberish versions of 15 languages and dialects. Incorporate actual phonology to make a realistic-sounding gibberish. “Expose yourself to lots of different languages,” says Forsberg, now 23, who grew up speaking Finnish, Swedish and English.

Assemble your raw linguistic materials. Shortly after her YouTube video went viral — it has since been watched more than 19 million times — Lucasfilm contacted Forsberg and asked her to make up a language for one of the alien fighter groups in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” The actors were Indonesian, so Forsberg studied online videos in various Austronesian languages including Bahasa Indonesia and Sundanese, a language spoken in western Java. “Listen for repeated syllables,” she says. Write them down phonetically. Note the rhythm of the language. Look at the way a speaker’s lips and tongue give shape to his or her words. You don’t need to be a linguist to get an impression of real syntactic rules, which you can borrow. It helps to love listening to the singsong quality of people talking. For Forsberg, “it’s like music.”…

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

A friend was watching Queen of Outer Space with Zsa Zsa Gabor and noticed the title stuff did not appear until 17 minutes into the flick.

He then recalled that George Lucas was fined by the Directors Guild for not having the opening credits.  George paid the half million dollar fine and quit the Guild — see “How famous Star Wars title sequence survived imperial assaults” at The Conversation.

Star Wars creator George Lucas had to fight to maintain his vision of going straight into the story through the use of his rolling text sequence. He thought that opening credits were nothing to do with making a movie, seeing them as an example of the old-school posturing that he and his new Hollywood contemporaries had spurned. In this he could well have been inspired by George Mélies’ A Trip to the Moon (1902), which is regarded as the first sci-fi film and avoided using any credits because the visual narrative was so strong.

Lucas did end up having to put the studio and Lucasfilm idents at the start of the reel, but he put his own directing and producing credits at the end of the film. He argued that credits would destroy the impact of the opening, and put them at the end of the film instead.

Lucas did the same thing for Empire Strikes Back in 1980, which was directed not by himself but by Irving Kershner. This time the Directors Guild of America objected, even though Kershner didn’t mind. The guild wanted the movie withdrawn from theatres, the opening re-titled with Kershner’s directing credit at a cost of US$500,000 (£1.4m today), and that Lucas pay a $25,000 fine.

Lucas was incensed and took the guild to court. When it countersued, he decided to pay the fine to avoid entangling Kershner in the dispute. It was a pyrrhic victory for the guild, however. Lucas resigned from both the writers’ and directors’ guilds and all future Star Wars opening titles were untouched and consistent with the original.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 7, 1929 — The Buck Rogers in the 25th Century A.D. comic strip debuted. (The character’s first appearance was in a story published by Amazing Stories in 1928.)

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • January 7, 1934 – Flash Gordon. This has been long regarded as his “birthdate” because that was the day Alex Raymond’s strip was first published.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) WOMBAT ON THE AIR. Information wants to be free —

(12) REMEMBERING THE GREAT RAY BRADBURY. Steve Vertlieb hopes you will read his piece for AmericanMusicPreservation.com, “A Ray Bradbury Remembrance (Film Music Review 14th Anniversary Special)”.

Here is my affectionate tribute to cherished friend Ray Bradbury, whose loving presence occupied my world and my heart for nearly four decades. Ray was one of the most distinguished writers of the twentieth century and, with H.G. Wells, perhaps the most influential, legendary science fiction writer of the past one hundred years. More importantly, however, Ray was a gentle little boy whose love of imagination, fantasy, and stories of other worlds influenced hundreds of writers and millions of admirers all over the world. His monumental presence upon this planet warmed and inspired all who knew him, and I was honored to call him my friend for thirty-eight years. Here, once more, is my loving remembrance of the life and world of Ray Bradbury, “I SING BRADBURY ELECTRIC.”

Steve’s article begins —

He was a kindly, gentle soul who lived among us for a seeming eternity. But even eternity is finite. He was justifiably numbered among the most influential writers of the twentieth century. Among the limitless vistas of science fiction and fantasy he was, perhaps, second only in literary significance to H.G. Wells who briefly shared the last century with him. Ray Bradbury was, above all else, the poet laureate of speculative fiction.

(13) KARMA. The house directly to the left of what was Ray Bradbury’s is listed on Air BnB and other sites as a party rental  You can even search for it by name, Cheviot Wonderland.

The large floor plan with gorgeous floor to ceiling windows overlooking the breathtaking pool area makes entertaining a breeze. With a state of the art chef’s kitchen and dining room that seats 10, tastefully dazzle your guests with a perfect setting for your dinner parties.

Los Angeles architect Thom Mayne razed Bradbury’s longtime Cheviot Hills home and built a place of his own design, which was finished in 2017.

(14) SIMULTANEITY PRINCIPLE. Andrew Porter points out there will be two conventions a few miles apart, same town, same weekend, July 27-29. Confluence is at the Sheraton Pittsburgh Airport Hotel. And Pulpfest is at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry. He says —

They’re about 8 miles apart, NW of downtown Pittsburgh. You’d think both conventions could do some sort of deal together. Maybe a shuttle between the two. I bet both sets of dealers would be happy with the exposure.

Also, judging from people’s Facebook posts, Confluence will be gaining some writers who have been trimmed from ReaderCon programming (another July convention).

(15) ANOTHER ADDICTIVE GAME. They say literally anybody can play: “China’s Most Popular Mobile Game Charges Into American Market”.

Chinese tech giant Tencent is trying to do something that’s never been done before: take the biggest online mobile game in China global.

Kings Of Glory, sometimes also translated as Honor Of Kings, boasts over 200 million monthly players worldwide. In China, it’s been reported that tens of millions play daily. The game is so popular that Tencent had to implement a daily time restriction for young players to “ensure children’s healthy development.”

(16) JUST IN TIME. The doctor will see you – right after he levels up. “Gaming addiction classified as disorder by WHO”.

Gaming addiction is to be listed as a mental health condition for the first time by the World Health Organisation.

Its 11th International Classification of Diseases (ICD) will include the condition “gaming disorder”.

The draft document describes it as a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour so severe that it takes “precedence over other life interests”.

Some countries had already identified it as a major public health issue….

(17) MORE TRIVIA. Mad Genius Club has 10 times more people who want to read JDA’s blog than we have here. At least. Didn’t we know that already?

(18) ROWLING SITES. The Washington Post’s Tom Shroder tells how to go about “Discovering the magic of Edinburgh” in a travel piece about his visit to the places where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in longhand, and a trip to Greyfriars Graveyard, whose tombs include Thomas Riddle (the real name of Lord Voldemort).

It was the first of what I came to think of as our Edinburgh Harry Potter moments — when the ordinary Muggle reality suddenly parted to reveal something magical. As it turned out, this wasn’t entirely fanciful thinking on my part. I only discovered later that J.K. Rowling herself said, in a 2008 speech accepting the Edinburgh Award, “Edinburgh is very much home for me and is the place where Harry evolved over seven books and many, many hours of writing in its cafes.”

The city’s remarkably consistent buildings of mottled brown stone blocks, the most spectacular of them with sharply peaked roofs and ostentatious turrets, are clear inspiration for the architecture of the Hogwarts School of Wizardry. The tombstones in the fabulously gloomy Greyfriars Kirkyard in the oldest part of the city bear the names of some key Potter characters — McGonagall, Moodie and, most notably, Thomas Riddle, the birth name of Harry’s nemesis, Lord Voldemort. Tourists flock to the cafes where the then-impoverished author wrote out her stories in longhand: the Elephant House, Nicholson’s (now called Spoon), the baroquely gorgeous Balmoral Hotel.

(19) ADDRESSER UNKNOWN. An anonymous piece at write.as summarizes Jon Del Arroz’ track record and concludes —

The most mind-boggling thing of all about Jon is, he insults and harasses people, then wonders why folks don’t want him around. If you call SFWA terrorists, insult women in science fiction related podcasts, insult people in the comic industry, call folks running fandom sites bigots, then openly admit you’re going to break a convention’s rules, why would you be surprised when people start banning you? You are your own worst enemy, Jon Del Arroz. I don’t believe you anymore.

(20) WHAT THOSE TINY HANDS ARE FOR. Thanks to ScienceFiction.com I discovered this artistic triumph — “Colorado Symphony Performs ‘Jurassic Park’ Theme Led By A T-Rex”.

Last March, Colorado Symphony conductor Christopher Dragon donned a T-rex costume to lead the ensemble in a performance of John Williams’ beloved ‘Jurassic Park’ theme song. The hilarious musical moment is getting its 15 minutes of fame after a video from the concert was posted to social media.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 12/23/17 Pixels Sold Separately. Some Scrolling Required

(1) POPULAR SF ART INSPIRES FILM, Simon Stålenhags’ art book is becoming a movie reports Swedish news source Boktugg. Thanks to Hampus Eckerman for the translation:

The right to film Simon Stålenhag’s latest art book The Electric State has been sold to Russo Brothers Studio. The sale was preceded by a bidding where several studios showed their interest.

Simon says that it feels very exciting.

–        This has never been a goal, but I have loved movies since I was a kid, so it is a little bit of a dream actually. An unexpected dream!

The Passage (in English The Electric State) was released in December 2017 by the publisher Fria Ligan (The Free League). The release was preceded by a kickstarter campaign in the summer of 2017, which attracted over 3 million Swedish crowns. It is Simon Stålenhag’s third art book, his first two titles Tales from the Loop and Things from the Flood have made him a world-famous visual storyteller.

Russo Brothers Studio is run by the brothers Joe and Anthony Russo who directed several Marvel films. The film director is expected to become Andy Muschietti (who made the new film based on Stephens Kings It).

What do you think about them winning the bidding?

– They felt very good in our conversations. But above all, I’m very happy to have Barbara and Andy Muschietti with me, I loved It and they are absolutely amazing people. We just had the same picture of what is important in the book, and in movies in general, says Simon.

Simon Stålenhag himself will be an executive producer for the film, which means that he will be involved in all important decisions, such as role crew, scriptwriting and selection of managerial positions.

Will the story work as it is in the movie format or does it need to be adapted?

–        I suspect we will want to get a little more drama to fit the long-film format. With emphasis on “a little”, everyone in the team really agrees that the characters and the journey they make in the book is what we’re going to make a film about, says Simon Stålenhag.

(2) CHRISTMAS IN THE COLONIES. Cora Buhlert’s holiday fare includes a work in English: “Two new releases just in time for the holidays: Christmas on Iago Prime and Weihnachtsshopping mit gebrochenem Herzen”

Let’s start with the English language story. Back during the first July short story challenge in 2015, I wrote a little story called Valentine’s Day on Iago Prime, in which a couple attempts to celebrate Valentine’s Day at a new settled space colony.

I’d assumed that this was the first and last time I’d ever visit the colony of Iago Prime. However, I try to write a holiday story every year. And when I searched for ideas for a holiday story for this year, I suddenly thought “Why not write a science fictional holiday story about Christmas in a space station or interplanetary colony?” And then I thought, “Why not reuse the Iago Prime setting?”

The result is Christmas on Iago Prime. The protagonist this time around is Libby, a little girl whose scientist parents are due to spend a whole year on Iago Prime, including Christmas. Libby is not at all thrilled about this, at least at first. Kai and Maisie from Valentine’s Day on Iago Prime also appear and they have big news to share.

Available on Amazon and plenty of other ebook sellers for .99 USD/GBP/EUR.

(3) THE LONG RUN. A New York college made a video showing off its science fiction collection:

The City Tech Science Fiction Collection is held in the Archives and Special Collections of the Ursula C. Schwerin Library (Atrium Building, A543C, New York City College of Technology, 300 Jay Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201).

This large collection comes to City Tech from an anonymous donor. It includes nearly full runs of every professional science fiction magazine from 1950 to 2010, and an almost comprehensive collection of science fiction until 2010. There is also a significant amount of science fiction criticism, and selections of fringe texts, including horror and the supernatural.

 

(4) SFPA LEADERSHIP. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association announced the selection of two officers, F.J. Bergmann as Vice-President and Renee Ya as Secretary.

F.J. Bergmann (Madison, Wisconsin, USA) has been a member of SFPA since 2007, its webmaster since 2010 and recently stepped down from 5 years as Star*Line editor…

Renee Ya (Bay Area, California, USA) is a Hmong American writer, photographer, and space shamen who has been volunteering at SFPA for the last three years with varying capacity from keeper of the voting forms to periodic updates to the website.

(5) PARADIGM SHIFT. A revolutionary interpretation: “Physicists negate century-old assumption regarding neurons and brain activity”.

Neurons are the basic computational building blocks that compose our brain. Their number is approximately one Tera (trillion), similar to Tera-bits in midsize hard discs. According to the neuronal computational scheme, which has been used for over a century, each neuron functions as a centralized excitable element. The neuron accumulates its incoming electrical signals from connecting neurons through several terminals, and generates a short electrical pulse, known as a spike, when its threshold is reached.

Using new types of experiments on neuronal cultures, a group of scientists, led by Prof. Ido Kanter, of the Department of Physics at Bar-Ilan University, has demonstrated that this century-old assumption regarding brain activity is mistaken.

In an article published today in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers go against conventional wisdom to show that each neuron functions as a collection of excitable elements, where each excitable element is sensitive to the directionality of the origin of the input signal. Two weak inputs from different directions (e.g., “left” and “right”) will not sum up to generate a spike, while a strong input from “left” will generate a different spike waveform than that from the “right”.

“We reached this conclusion using a new experimental setup, but in principle these results could have been discovered using technology that has existed since the 1980s. The belief that has been rooted in the scientific world for 100 years resulted in this delay of several decades,” said Prof. Kanter and his team of researchers, including Shira Sardi, Roni Vardi, Anton Sheinin, and Amir Goldental.

(6) BACK FROM BOSTON. Marcin Klak’s conreport — “Smofcon 35 or what do you do when you are not organizing a con”.

Handling Feedback panel was not related to programming only, but the programme feedback is important for the development of the convention. There were some discussions concerning the methodology of collecting feedback, but one thing that got stuck with me the most was how to determine whether we should resign from inviting a panellist for the next year. It is obvious what to do when we receive negative feedback about the panellist’s skills. It is more complicated if we have a good panellist who is not behaving properly or who makes racist or homophobic comments during the panel. Nchanter’s solution of checking the negative feedback with co-panellists and finally basing our decision on the reaction of the person in question is a really good and fair approach. It makes sure that we verify the situation and it allows us to predict whether the same situation is likely to happen again in the future.

(7) HELL ON WHEELS. RedWombat saw a reference to “Jane Austen’s Fury Road” and started riffing….

(8) IT’S A WONDERFUL TRIVIA

Sheldon and Leonard of The Big Bang Theory were named after the actor/producer Sheldon Leonard.  He played Nick the Bartender in the Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life.  Also, producer of The Danny Thomas Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show and I Spy.

The Muppets, Bert and Ernie, were also named after two characters from It’s a Wonderful Life.  Bert the policeman and Ernie the cab driver.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 23, 1823 A Visit From St. Nicholas, attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, first published.
  • December 23, 1947 Beauty And The Beast hit theaters
  • December 23, 1952 – The original The Day The Earth Stood Still premiered in Spain.
  • December 23, 1958 — Ray Harryhausen’s The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad premiered in theatres.
  • December 23, 1960 — Art Carney starred in a Christmas-themed episode of The Twilight Zone.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) FULL KIT WANKER. For the three of you who haven’t seen this yet –

(12) BY YNGVI. Kim Huett of Doctor Strangemind knows it’s the time of year to send up a traditional favorite: “‘Twas Night Before Christmas”.

…At one point Harold Shea and the Norse god Heimdall are imprisoned by Frost Giants after losing a fight with them. While there they encountered a fellow prisoner who comes to the front of his cell every hour on the hour to yell, “Yngvi is a LOUSE!”

Thus began a debate which fascinated science fiction fandom for decades. Was this Yngvi indeed a louse or had his good name been falsely besmirched? At the Denvention, the 1941 worldcon, Milton Rothman (who went on to become a nuclear physicist and science fiction author) put forward a motion at the business meeting to the effect that Yngvi was not a louse only for it to be defeated. A subsequent motion was then passed stating that Rothman himself was a louse….

…So I sat back in my chair to wait for my guest
To reveal himself fully and the why of his quest

It took a few moments of squirming and kicking
Before he appeared rather than sticking

It was Yngvi of course, I could tell by his dress
An amazingly scrofulous, glorious mess…

(13) FUNGUS AMONG US. “When this old world starts getting me down….”: “‘Remarkable’ truffle discovery on Paris rooftop raises hopes of more”.

There was celebration among French foodies after a wild truffle was discovered on a Paris rooftop.

The discovery, at the base of a hornbeam tree in a hotel roof garden near the Eiffel Tower, is thought to be a first for the city.

Truffles usually grow further south, in more Mediterranean climes, and are dug up by specially-trained pigs or dogs.

Prices for the aromatic fungi have recently doubled to more than 5,000 euros ($6,000) a kilo.

(14) LAST JEDI. Marc Scott Zicree (“Mr. Sci-Fi”) offers the opinion of a “Star Trek Writer on The Last Jedi.”

(15) THE MALL’S MY DESTINATION. I don’t doubt it. Mine could be up there somewhere.

(16) SAVING HUMANITY. If anything can … “H.G. Wells and Orwell on Whether Science Can Save Humanity”.

…Wells foresaw many of the landmarks of 20th-century scientific progress, including airplanes, space travel, and the atomic bomb. In “The Discovery of the Future,” he lamented “the blinding power of the past upon our minds,” and argued that educators should replace the classics with science, producing leaders who could foretell history as they predict the phases of the moon.

Wells’ enthusiasm for science had political implications. Having contemplated in his novels the self-destruction of mankind, Wells believed that humanity’s best hope lay in the creation of a single world government overseen by scientists and engineers. Human beings, he argued, need to set aside religion and nationalism and put their faith in the power of scientifically trained, rational experts….

…Orwell was not bashful about criticizing the scientific and political views of his friend Wells. In “What is Science?” he described Wells’ enthusiasm for scientific education as misplaced, in part because it rested on the assumption that the young should be taught more about radioactivity or the stars, rather than how to “think more exactly.”

(17) THE SHAPE OF BEER. From The Hollywood Reporter: “Guillermo del Toro on Seeing a UFO, Hearing Ghosts and Shaping ‘Water'”.

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s taste for sci-fi and fantasy doesn’t come from nowhere. When he was younger, the acclaimed director recalls, “I saw a UFO.”

“I know this is horrible,” del Toro continues. “You sound like a complete lunatic, but I saw a UFO. I didn’t want to see a UFO. It was horribly designed. I was with a friend. We bought a six-pack. We didn’t consume it, and there was a place called Cerro del Cuatro, “Mountain of the Four,” on the periphery of Guadalajara. We said, ‘Let’s go to the highway.’ We sit down to watch the stars and have the beer and talk. We were the only guys by the freeway. And we saw a light on the horizon going super-fast, not linear. And I said, ‘Honk and flash the lights.’ And we started honking.”

The UFO, says del Toro, “Went from 1,000 meters away [to much closer] in less than a second — and it was so crappy. It was a flying saucer, so clichéd, with lights [blinking]. It’s so sad: I wish I could reveal they’re not what you think they are. They are what you think they are. And the fear we felt was so primal. I have never been that scared in my life. We jumped in the car, drove really fast. It was following us, and then I looked back and it was gone.”

(18) ALTERNATE SOLOS. Will Lerner, in “Harrison Who? Here’s The Actor Who Almost Played Han Solo” for Yahoo! Entertainment. profiles Glynn Turman, who came This Close to being Han Solo, which would have meant that Han Solo would have been played by an African-American actor.

Before Star Wars started filming in 1976, director George Lucas auditioned dozens of actors for the first episode of his space saga, since rechristened as A New Hope. Over the years we’ve learned that Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Kurt Russell all read for the part of Han Solo before the role went to Harrison Ford. But there was a lesser-known candidate who almost scored the gig: Glynn Turman.

Turman, 70, started his career on Broadway, when he was cast as a 13-year-old in the original production of A Raisin in the Sun alongside legends Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee. Steadily picking up more and more screen roles through the ’70s, Turman finally got his chance to shine in 1975 as the lead of Cooley High. In the slice-of-life feature, Turman played a proxy of sorts for screenwriter and Good Times creator Eric Monte — a gifted young writer who aspires to a life beyond his housing project. Cooley High showcased Turman’s ability to play a scoundrel capable of great achievements. It’s no big surprise that performance captured the attention of Lucas.

(19) WALLY WOOD SANG? The comics artist seems to have branched out. It’s collectible, if not very listenable.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/7/17 Pixel, It’s Scrolled Outside

(1) SOCIETY PAGE. Cat Valente and Heath Miller shared their news on Twitter. Jump onto the thread about the romantic proposal here —

Part of the announcement:

(2) A GOOD COUNTRY FOR OLD MAN. Deadline started with an Exclusive story, but now we all know — “Netflix Grabs Hold Of John Scalzi’s Sci-Fi Novel ‘Old Man’s War’ For Jon Shestack, Madhouse”.

Netflix has acquired John Scalzi’s modern sci-fi classic Old Man’s War to develop as an original film. The novel is the first in a bestselling six-book series and is considered to be one of the best of the genre over the past two decades, nominated for a Hugo Award. Jon Shestack Productions and Madhouse Entertainment will produce.

John Scalzi goes into a little more detail in his FAQ about the news: “Old Man’s War in Development at Netflix”.

Are you excited?

Hell, yes. One, because I would love to see an OMW movie. But also, two, Netflix is a place where a lot of fantastic entertainment is happening these days. It’s trying a lot of things and taking a lot of chances, and most people I know who are working with Netflix are thrilled about being there right now. It really seems like it could be a great place for the OMW universe.

So is this a movie or TV series?

It’s a movie. On your television!

(Or computer or phone or monitor or wherever you choose to watch Netflix, I don’t judge.)

(3) GODSTALKER. James Davis Nicoll brings you his list of “Twenty Core Works of Religious Speculative Fiction Every True SF Fan Should Have on Their Shelves”. Here are four examples –

  • High Deryni by Katherine Kurtz
  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller

(4) ROWLING CHALLENGED ON SUPPORT OF DEPP. Amy Zimmerman of The Daily Beast calls it “J.K. Rowling’s Cowardly Defense of Alleged Abuser Johnny Depp in ‘Fantastic Beasts’”.

… In May 2016, actress Amber Heard filed for divorce from Johnny Depp, declaring at the time, “During the entirety of our relationship, Johnny has been verbally and physically abusive to me…I endured excessive emotional, verbal, and physical abuse from Johnny, which has included angry, hostile, humiliating, and threatening assaults to me whenever I questioned his authority or disagreed with him.” In the wake of these explosive allegations, The Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon wrote a piece titled “Amber Heard Says Johnny Depp Beat Her. It Will Ruin His Career. Just Kidding!”, in which he argued that Depp, like so many accused A-listers before him, was destined to emerge from this scandal professionally unscathed.

…On the one hand, Rowling has inarguably found herself in a difficult position, and it’s hard to watch as female creators are asked to answer for the alleged misconduct and immorality of their male collaborators. In her statement, Rowling acknowledges the seriousness of the allegations against Depp, and appears to have taken the pressure to potentially recast seriously. But, make no mistake: she is supporting and defending Johnny Depp. And, in doing so, she is calling his accuser’s testimony into question.

The most damning sentence here is when Rowling cites “our understanding of the circumstances” to justify the fact that she is “genuinely happy” with Depp’s starring role; it sounds like she’s implying that, if we knew what she knew, we would feel comfortable dismissing Heard’s story too. Rowling is, finally, saying “I believe you”—but the person she’s acknowledging in this scenario is Johnny Depp, not Amber Heard

Here is J.K. Rowling’s complete statement on “Grindelwald casting”:

When Johnny Depp was cast as Grindelwald, I thought he’d be wonderful in the role. However, around the time of filming his cameo in the first movie, stories had appeared in the press that deeply concerned me and everyone most closely involved in the franchise.

Harry Potter fans had legitimate questions and concerns about our choice to continue with Johnny Depp in the role. As David Yates, long-time Potter director, has already said, we naturally considered the possibility of recasting. I understand why some have been confused and angry about why that didn’t happen.

The huge, mutually supportive community that has grown up around Harry Potter is one of the greatest joys of my life. For me personally, the inability to speak openly to fans about this issue has been difficult, frustrating and at times painful. However, the agreements that have been put in place to protect the privacy of two people, both of whom have expressed a desire to get on with their lives, must be respected.  Based on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies.

I’ve loved writing the first two screenplays and I can’t wait for fans to see ‘The Crimes of Grindelwald’. I accept that there will be those who are not satisfied with our choice of actor in the title role. However, conscience isn’t governable by committee. Within the fictional world and outside it, we all have to do what we believe to be the right thing.

(5) QUICK SIP SHORT FIC RECS. I think I missed Charles Payseur’s “Quick Sip Reviews 2017 Recommended Reading List”, posted last month.

This comes courtesy of my monthly recommendation column, The Monthly Round. The rules are fairly easy, in that the stories must come from publications I regularly read. It’s the single greatest limiting factor for the list, because I do not read everything, but this prevents me from essentially cherry-picking stories from other publications. So there are my favorite stories published at the places I read regularly and have reviewed. There’s a whole wide world of other stories out there, but I did dearly love these. So I hope that, even with that limitation in mind, the list is helpful for finding some truly awesome short SFF. If you want more info on any of the stories, there are links to each or you can do a search of this blog to find my more in-depth reviews.

(6) BLACK SF HONORED. The Root has named “The 16 Best Books of the Year by Black Authors”. Three of these books are of genre interest.

  • #1 — Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel by Jesmyn Ward, which Amazon currently lists as the top-selling book in Magical Realism.
  • #4 — Akata Warrior by World Fantasy/Hugo/Nebula Award winner Nnedi Okorafor.
  • #9 — What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky, by Lesley Nneka Arimah, a debut short-story collection from an award-winning Nigerian-American writer whose short stories hit fantasy, magical realism, science fiction, and horror.

(7) THERE ARE NO OLD, BOLD EQUATIONS. RedWombat mashes up a classic poem with a Hall of Fame story. The first tweet in response by Tim Chase is brilliant, too,

(8) JOIN THE VAMPIRE LODGE. An io9 exclusive! “Vampire Veronica Descends on Riverdale in a New Archie Horror Series”.

Between Afterlife with Archie, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and the recent addition of Jughead: The Hunger, Archie Comics’ horror imprint is flying higher than Sabrina’s broomstick ever thought possible. But there’s already another series coming to Archie Horror, and it’s got a bit of a bite to it….

Veronica Lodge, Riverdale’s socialite encounters a centuries-old creature of the night, who transforms her into a bloodthirsty vampire. Now she must descend on her unsuspecting hometown to quench her newfound hunger. Veronica now has to contend with this new transformation However, she is still the Veronica we all know and love.

(9) GULP FICTION. Fainting cloths have been in much demand since news broke that “Quentin Tarantino Might Direct a Star Trek Movie”io9 has the story.

Apparently Tarantino recently pitched an idea for a Trek movie to producer J.J. Abrams, who loved it, and they’ll soon begin to assembling a writer’s room to flesh it out. If everything falls into place, Tarantino could be interested in directing with Abrams producing.

This isn’t something that’ll be happening soon, though. Next up for the iconic director is his still-untitled 1969-set movie, which Sony Pictures just picked up. That already has a release date of August 9, 2019, so there’s no doubt that’s next for him. That leaves almost two years of time for a script to get written that could woo Tarantino into doing several things he’s never done before.

He’s never directed a feature he didn’t write. He’s never done a scifi film. He’s never done a major franchise film.

(10) EARLY BIRDS. Worldcon 76 and Dublin 2019 announced their Retro Hugo plans a few days ago and the Hugo Awards Book Club wasted no time coming up with the first set of recommendations: “Retro Hugos 1943: Novels”

It was with no small degree of excitement that we greeted the news that there would be Retro Hugo awards presented at next summer’s Worldcon. Just on principle, we love Retro Hugos, and will take any opportunity to do a deep dive into the science fiction published in a particular year. The Hugo year of 1943 (which would cover works published in 1942) has some excellent novels to choose from. We will explore other fiction categories for these awards in later posts.

Legendary science fiction pioneer Olaf Stapledon has never been nominated for a Hugo

Award in any category. The author of Last and First Men, Star Maker, and Odd John had published most of his major works prior to the first Worldcon, so even with Retro Hugos, there hasn’t been much opportunity to honour his works with the genre’s top award. Although Darkness And The Light is not one of his most well-remembered works, and although it has some flaws, it is still one that should be considered for the award.

(11) CRIDER IN HOSPICE. Crime fiction writer Bill Crider, who also won a 2015 Sidewise Award for his story “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” has entered hospice care. He signed off from his blog saying –

Things could change, but I suspect this will be my final post on the blog. I met with some doctors at M. D. Anderson today, and they suggested that I enter hospice care. A few weeks, a few months is about all I have left. The blog has been a tremendous source of pleasure to me over the years, and I’ve made a lot of friends here. My only regret is that I have several unreviewed books, including Lawrence Block’ fine new anthology, Alive in Shape and Color, and Max Allan Collins’ latest collaboration with Mickey Spillane, The Last Stand, which is a collection of two novellas, “A Bullet for Satisfaction,” an early Spillane manuscript with an interesting history, and “The Last Stand,” the last thing that Spillane completed. It saddens me to think of all the great books by many writers that I’ll never read. But I’ve had a great life, and my readers have been a big part of it. Much love to you all.*

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 7, 1972 — The crew of Apollo 17, while on their way to the Moon, took a photo of Earth from about 28,000 miles.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born December 7, 1915 — Leigh Brackett, well-known sf author and screenwriter. George Lucas hired Brackett to write the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back, which she completed shortly before she died in March of 1978.

(14) ALL BRADBURY. Courtesy of Cora Buhlert, here’s a brief clip from a German cultural TV program  presenting a new illustrated German edition of Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes”. (Video.)

(15) THE GOLD RUSH IS OVER. In “Business Musings: Sustainability”, Kristine Katherine Rusch argues that the market for independently published books has “matured” and that authors should expect much slower growth and lower incomes from here on.

I’m talking about the changes in income to writers who were not rushing to every new way of doing something, writers who were not gaming algorithms, writers who were producing a lot, interacting professionally with their fans, and doing everything right.

Those writers received major rewards, both in sales and in income, in the early years of indie publishing. Those rewards have diminished, because we are entering into a mature market.

What does that mean, exactly?

In business, markets respond to things in similar ways, whether we’re talking markets for shoes or markets for books.

When something is new, everyone wants it. When something is new, the growth is usually exponential. We see that in all kinds of new markets over the years, from desktop computers twenty-five years ago to smart phones ten years ago. There’s always something cool, and consumers flock to it, sometimes in very large numbers.

In publishing, we went through a shift, from traditional only to anyone-can-do-it indie, because of the rise of the neat-o ereader, the Kindle, from Amazon, which gave that ereader a platform and an ecosystem.

Year to year, the number of people who joined the new ecosystem was huge. Other players created viable ereaders and ebook ecosystems. You didn’t just have to use Amazon to publish a book. You could do it on other platforms.

(16) SEVENTIES SF RARITY. The British Film Institute tells “How lost British TV sci-fi Thwum was rediscovered”.

On 16 December 2017, BFI Southbank is offering the first opportunity for over 40 years to see Thwum, a sci-fi-themed 1970s rarity that had long been thought lost forever – and Pete Postlethwaite’s first TV appearance with it.

At the time of Thwum’s broadcast in 1975, it was still common practice for TV companies to wipe much of their output, meaning that many television programmes from the era are now sadly missing. Since 1993, it’s been the mission of the BFI’s Missing Believed Wiped initiative to track down and screen material long AWOL from the official TV archives. Finds over the years have included material from television programmes such as The Avengers, Till Death Us Do Part, Dad’s Army, Armchair Theatre and Top of the Pops.

The case of Thwum provides an interesting example of how missing UK TV material can be recovered….

(17) THE KING IS DEAD. Google’s general-purpose AI beats chess specialist: “Google’s ‘superhuman’ DeepMind AI claims chess crown”. It won or drew 100 games 4 hours after being given the rules of chess.

Even so, one human chess grandmaster was still hugely impressed by DeepMind’s victory.

“I always wondered how it would be if a superior species landed on earth and showed us how they played chess,” Peter Heine Nielsen told the BBC.

“Now I know.”

(18) WHERE YOUR PIZZA DELIVERS ITSELF. There are limits: “San Francisco to restrict goods delivery robots”.

Opponents are concerned about the safety of pedestrians, particularly elderly people and children.

Walk San Francisco, a group that campaigns for pedestrian safety, wanted a complete ban.

A range of companies have begun trialling small robots that can deliver food and other goods.

They use sensors and lasers in a similar way to self-driving cars in order to navigate their routes.

(19) ON A HOLE FAR AWAY. BBC tells where “Farthest monster black hole found”.

The matter-munching sinkhole is a whopping 13 billion light-years away, so far that we see it as it was a mere 690 million years after the Big Bang.

But at about 800 million times the mass of our Sun, it managed to grow to a surprisingly large size in just a short time after the origin of the Universe.

The find is described in the journal Nature.

The newly discovered black hole is busily devouring material at the centre of a galaxy – marking it out as a so-called quasar.

(20) PETRIFEYED. They say it may not be possible to find one any earlier: “Researchers find ‘oldest ever eye’ in fossil”.

An “exceptional” 530-million-year-old fossil contains what could be the oldest eye ever discovered, according to scientists.

The remains of the extinct sea creature include an early form of the eye seen in many of today’s animals, including crabs, bees and dragonflies.

Scientists made the find while looking at the well-preserved trilobite fossil.

These ancestors of spiders and crabs lived in seas during the Palaeozoic era, between 541-251 million years ago.

(21) FTFY. They’re not riotously funny, though some are clever or wonderfully bitter: “These Parody Book Covers Of Famous Classics Will Make Any True Literary Nerd Laugh Out Loud”. Here’s a sample:

(22) SHOULD THAT BE PETREON? Another Patreon critic heard from.

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth, Paul Weimer, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Cora Buhlert, Cat Eldridge, rcade, Greg Hullender, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Allan Maurer, Chip Hitchccock, Darrah Chavey, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chris S.]