Pixel Scroll 4/8/18 Do Not Go Pixel Out Of That Good Hive, Buzz, Buzz, Against The Flying Of The Five

(1) WALK / DON’T WALK. This not-quite-infinite series of variations on Le Guin’s famous story: “Once upon a time there was a city called Omelas, where everyone lived good and happy and fulfilling lives” is a hoot!

“…the best predictions of our scientists suggest that there will be a slight average decrease in various hard-to-measure kinds of happiness, which nevertheless in total adds up to more suffering than this child experiences.”
And Outis said to the elder, “I will have no part in this evil thing.” And he took the child and bathed him and cared for his wounds. And the average happiness increased in some ways and decreased in others, and the net effect might have been negative, but the best results on the matter had p > 0.05, so the scientists of Omelas could not rule out the null hypothesis.

(2) SUE ‘EM, DANNO. Dorothy Grant gives the rundown on a scam to inflate payments from Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program in “Book stuffing, KU reads, and Amazon’s Doing Something” at Mad Genius Club.

While I would hope that everyone who reads this is interested in being a real author making up real stories that are your own, writing them down, and publishing them, we are all aware that there are scammers out there, and people who care more about the money, than acting ethically or the readers. We also know that Amazon has a habit of taking a wide swath of potential wrongdoers, then filtering out and restoring the innocent.

Yep, they’re doing it again.

  1. David Gaughran gave us the first heads-up on twitter that Amazon has filed suit against an author for book-stuffing.

Forbes article here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamrowe1/2018/04/07/amazon-has-filed-suit-to-stop-the-six-figure-book-stuffing-kindle-scam/#2af7a11b7344

Book stuffing is when authors take all their works and stuff them into the back of every other book to artificially inflate their page count. Some authors even stuff in newsletters: the goal is to inflate the page count as much as possible, and thus the payout on KU page reads.

(3) ATOMIC PILES OF LAUGHS. Scott Tobias profiles “artificial intelligence-assisted comedy” in “Can algorithms be funny? Veterans of Clickhole and the New Yorker team up to find out” at the Washington Post. What they do is put giant amounts of text into a computer and produce “interactive text collages.”  For example, they put all the Harry Potter novels into a computer and came up with a pastiche that said, “Ron’s ron shirt was just as bad as Ron itself.”  A lot of the weird pastiches they produce are sf.

Onstage at the Hideout, a small Chicago music club, two performers read passages from Civil War love letters. “Oh darling wife of the war,” one begins, “I shall always be a husband to you and the children and all the folks in our neighborhood.” He goes on to complain that “the boys from the army have taken my breakfast.” The news is worse back home. “Our horses are sadly on fire,” his wife laments. But they’re ever reunited, she promises, “I would kiss you as many times as there are stitches in the children.”

Rest assured, every word from these letters is authentic. It’s just that the words have been scrambled up by a computer algorithm and pieced back together, one by one, by writers with an ear for the absurd.

(4) WESTERCON BID NEWS. Seattle (SeaTac, using the same hotel as Norwescon) has formally filed what Kevin Standlee says is likely to be the only bid for the 2020 Westercon.

(5) REINCARNANIMATION. MovieWeb has learned that “Lucasfilm Has Digital Clones of Every Star Wars Actor”.

The digitally recreated Grand Moff Tarkin and Young Princess Leia in Rogue One were unsettling and creepy for some Star Wars fans. But that technology is almost two years old and only improving at an expedient rate. The next time an actor gets digitally inserted into a Star Wars movie, it’s gong to be a lot harder to tell the difference. And before long, the line will be completely burred. Soon, Lucasfilm and Disney could have the potential to create a whole Star Wars movie featuring an authentic young Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, which practical effects built around them. And this will be entirely possible, even for Carrie Fisher, as Lucasfilm has confirmed they have digital clones of all Star Wars actors both young and old.

Incredible, right? As of now, these digital clones are being used sparingly and are often mixed with live-action footage of the actor to create scenes that would be impossible to shoot or are deemed far to expensive to do practically. We’ve seen this with Tarkin and Leia in Rogue One, and we’ve also seen it in The Last Jedi, even if you didn’t know that’s what you were looking at.

(6) MCCANN OBIT. Chuck McCann died April 8 reports Mark Evanier. Much of his career revolved around children’s television, however, the Wikipedia recalls that he was in vogue as a TV/movie actor back in the Seventies —

In the 1970s, McCann’s life and career shifted west, and he relocated to Los Angeles. He made frequent guest appearances on network television shows including Little House on the Prairie, Bonanza, Columbo, The Rockford Files and The Bob Newhart Show. He appeared in the 1973 made-for-TV movie The Girl Most Likely to… and was a regular on Norman Lear’s All That Glitters.

In addition, he co-starred with Bob Denver in CBS’s Saturday-morning sitcom Far Out Space Nuts, which he co-created. The 1970s also brought him fame in a long-running series of commercials for Right Guard antiperspirant: he was the enthusiastic neighbor with the catch phrase “Hi, guy!” who appeared on the other side of a shared medicine cabinet, opposite actor Bill Fiore.

McCann impersonated Oliver Hardy in commercials for various products (teaming with Jim MacGeorge as Stan Laurel),

John King Tarpinian sent along a photo of McCann meeting Ray Bradbury.

Ray Bradbury and Chuck McCann

If you want to see his act, watch “Chuck McCann & Dick Van Dyke as Laurel & Hardy & The Honeymooners.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born April 8, 1974 – Nnedi Okorafor

(8) CANDLES ON THE CAKE. Steven H Silver celebrates Okorafor’s natal day at Black Gate in “Birthday Reviews: Nnedi Okorafor’s ‘Bakasi Man’”.

Nnedi Okorafor was born on April 8, 1974.

Okorafor won her first Carl Brandon Award for the novel The Shadow Speaker and she won the Carl Brandon Award and the World Fantasy Award for her novel Who Fears Death, which was also nominated for the Nebula Award. She won the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award for her novella Binti in 2016. Her fiction has also been nominated for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, the British Science Fiction Association Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the Andre Norton Award. Okorafor has collaborated with Alan Dean Foster and Wanuri Kahiu on short diction. She co-edited the anthology Without a Map with Mary Anne Mohanraj.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Daniel Dern is right – Curtis knows how to throw a party.

(10) POISONING PIXELS IN THE SCROLL. Nature celebrates an April birthday boy: “Tom Lehrer at 90: a life of scientific satire”.

Much of Lehrer’s oeuvre — some 50 songs (or 37, by his own ruthless reckoning) composed over nearly three decades — played with tensions at the nexus of science and society. His biggest hit, That Was The Year That Was, covered a gamut of them. This 1965 album gathered together songs Lehrer had written for That Was The Week That Was, the US satirical television show spawned by the BBC original. ‘Who’s Next?’ exposes the dangers of nuclear proliferation. ‘Pollution’ highlights environmental crises building at the time, such as undrinkable water and unbreathable air.

The rousing ballad ‘Wernher von Braun’ undermines the former Nazi — who designed the V-2 ballistic missile in the Second World War and later became a key engineer in the US Apollo space programme. In Lehrer’s view, it was acceptable for NASA to hire von Braun, but making him into an American hero was grotesque. “‘Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?’/‘That’s not my department,’ says Wernher von Braun” — lines that still resonate in today’s big-tech ethical jungle.

(11) FINDING THE RETRO NOMINEES. Nicholas Whyte, with an assist from Carla, presents “How to get the 1943 Retro Hugo finalists” —

(12) CAST OF FAVORITES. And for your collecting pleasure, here is where you can get a copy of the Fifth Annual Science Fiction Film Awards (1978).

The 5th Annual (first televised) Science Fiction Film Awards. Hosted by Karen Black & William Shatner (who performs an absolutely jaw dropping rendition of Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s “Rocket Man”) Starring Buzz Aldrin, Richard Benjamin, Ray Bradbury, Mark Hamill, Charlton Heston, Wolfman Jack, Quincy Jones, Piper Laurie, Christopher Lee, Paula Prentiss, Ralph the Robot, Lord Darth Vader, and many more. Included are the original broadcast TV commercials from 1978!

(13) GOOD IS NOT BAD. Rich Horton is working his way through the Hugo nominees. Here are his comments on Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty.

…But even before the award nominations, Six Wakes was getting some good notice, and I bought it and read it after the Nebula nod. And, you know what – I liked it. It’s a good fun fast-moving read. I’m glad I read it.

But – well – you saw that coming, right? There had to be a but. The thing is, there are lots of enjoyable novels published any year, and I’m glad when I encounter those. But I can enjoy a novel and not think it worthy of an award. And, really, that’s the case with Six Wakes. It’s fun, it’s pretty darn pure hard SF (with the understanding that “hard SF” absolutely does NOT mean “SF that gets all the science right”), it’s exciting. But, it also has some annoying logic holes, and it doesn’t really engage with the central (and very worthwhile) moral issues it raises as rigorously as I wish it had, and the prose is just OK….

(14) ARISTOTLE. Nitsuh Abebe explores the question “Why Have We Soured on the ‘Devil’s Advocate’?” at the New York Times Magazine.

…That name dates back to the 17th century, when the Roman Catholic Church created an office popularly known as the advocatus diaboli — a person tasked with making the case against the canonization of new saints, scrutinizing every report of their miracles and virtue. How could a claim be trusted, the thinking went, if it hadn’t been rigorously tested? Plenty of educators will still tell you that devil’s advocacy isn’t just useful as a practical matter but also as an intellectual exercise: Imagining other perspectives and plumbing their workings is essential to critical thinking.

But on today’s internet, the devil’s advocate is less admired than ever, and it’s often the advocate’s own fault. The problem isn’t just debate-club tedium. Last year, on Slate, the writer Maya Rupert neatly outlined just how toxic devil’s advocates could be on a topic like race. She noted that they often seemed to be adopting the stance of a disinterested logician in order to air beliefs they knew were socially unacceptable to hold in earnest; the phrase “just to play devil’s advocate,” she wrote, had come to occupy the same role in her life as “not to sound racist, but. … ” A black person continually asked to consider — just hypothetically, just for a moment — whether she was possibly inferior to other humans would have to be masochistically broad-minded to entertain this challenge more than a few times before dismissing it, and the sort of people who presented it, forever.

A little more than a decade ago, around the same time online sentiment began to turn against the devil’s advocate, it also seized on a close cousin: the “concern troll.” If the devil’s advocate playacts disagreement with you for the sake of strengthening your argument, the concern troll is his mirror image, a person who pretends to agree with you in order to undermine you. The concern troll airs disingenuous worries, sows doubt, saps energy, has reservations, worries that things are going too far. At first, the term described purposeful double agents — people like the congressional staffer suspected, back in 2006, of posing as a Democrat to leave comments on liberal blogs suggesting everyone abandon the candidate vying for a Republican incumbent’s seat. But the term has evolved in such a way that, at this point, a person can very easily qualify as a concern troll without even knowing it.

A tidy summary on the “Geek Feminism” Wiki site explains why this is the case: Even earnest concern-airing can be pernicious, turning every discussion into a battle over basic premises. …

(15) UNEVENLY DISTRIBUTED. The BBC reports “The Swedes rebelling against a cashless society” where the elderly are especially likely to be left out.

However, while Sweden’s rush to embrace digital payments has received plenty of global hype, and is frequently flagged as an example of the Nordic nation’s innovation, there are growing concerns about the pace of change.

Some worry about the challenges it poses for vulnerable groups, especially the elderly.

“As long as there is the right to use cash in Sweden, we think people should have the option to use it and be able to put money in the bank,” says Ola Nilsson, a spokesperson for the Swedish National Pensioners’ Organisation, which is lobbying the government on behalf of its 350,000 members.

“We’re not against the cashless society, we just want to stop it from going too fast.”

(16) THE LIGHTS IN THE SKY ARE… What we can see from the ground is only part of what happens: “Hunting mystery giant lightning from space”.

The electrifying effects of storms are frequently observed from the space station.

Yet when lightning strikes downward, something very different is happening above the cloud tops.

Known as Transient Luminous Events (TLEs), these unusual features were first spotted by accident in 1989.

Minnesota professor John R Winckler was testing a television camera in advance of an upcoming rocket launch, when he realised that two frames showed bright columns of light above a distant storm cloud.

(17) SOLVING FOR 2001. The BBC Culture post “Why 2001 remains a mystery” actually dwells less on mystery, and more on interesting parallels with Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove.

It’s been 50 years since the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and we’re still trying to make sense of it. Stanley Kubrick’s science-fiction masterpiece is regularly voted as one of the greatest films ever made: BBC Culture’s own critics’ poll of the best US cinema ranked it at number four. But 2001 is one of the most puzzling films ever made, too. What, for instance, is a shiny rectangular monolith doing in prehistoric Africa? Why does an astronaut hurtle through a psychedelic lightshow to another universe, before turning into a cosmic foetus? And considering that the opening section is set millions of years in the past, and the two central sections are set 18 months apart, how much of it actually takes place in 2001?

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Chadwick Boseman hosted Saturday Night Live last night, and appeared in a Black Jeopardy! sketch:

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Kevin Standlee, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Nicholas Whyte, ULTRAGOTHA, Carl Slaughter, Danny Sichel, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ky.]

1943 Retrospective Hugo Award Finalists

The finalists for the 1943 Retrospective Hugo Awards were announced on Saturday, March 31, 2018

There were 204 valid nominating ballots (192 electronic and 12 paper) received from members of the 2017, 2018, and 2019 World Science Fiction Conventions.

The final ballot to select the winners will open in April 2018. The winners of the 1943 Retrospective Hugo Awards will be announced at a ceremony on Thursday, August 16.

The Hugo Awards, presented first in 1953 and annually since 1955, are science fiction’s most prestigious award, and one of the World Science Fiction Convention’s unique and distinguished institutions.

Since 1993, Worldcon committees have had the option of awarding Retrospective Hugo Awards for past Worldcon years prior to 1953 where they had not been presented 25, 50, or 100 years prior to the contemporary convention, with the exception of the hiatus during World War II when no Worldcon was convened. A recent change in this policy has now allowed for Retro Hugos to be awarded for the years 1942-1945.

1943 Retrospective Hugo Award Finalists

Best Fan Writer

  • Forrest J Ackerman
  • Jack Speer
  • Arthur Wilson “Bob” Tucker
  • Harry Warner, Jr.
  • Art Widner
  • Donald A. Wollheim

Best Fanzine

  • Futurian War Digest, edited by J. Michael Rosenblum
  • Inspiration, edited by Lynn Bridges
  • The Phantagraph, edited by Donald A. Wollheim
  • Spaceways, edited by Harry Warner, Jr.
  • Voice of the Imagi-Nation, edited by Forrest J Ackerman and Morojo
  • Le Zombie, edited by Arthur Wilson “Bob” Tucker

Best Professional Artist

  • Hannes Bok
  • Margaret Brundage
  • Edd Cartier
  • Virgil Finlay
  • Harold W. McCauley
  • Hubert Rogers

Best Editor – Short Form

  • John W. Campbell
  • Oscar J. Friend
  • Dorothy McIlwraith
  • Raymond A. Palmer
  • Malcolm Reiss
  • Donald A. Wollheim

Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form

  • Bambi, written by Perce Pearce, Larry Morey, et al., directed by David D. Hand et al. (Walt Disney Productions)
  • Cat People, written by DeWitt Bodeen, directed by Jacques Tourneur (RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.)
  • The Ghost of Frankenstein, written by W. Scott Darling, directed by Erle C. Kenton (Universal Pictures)
  • I Married a Witch, written by Robert Pirosh and Marc Connelly, directed by René Clair (Cinema Guild Productions / Paramount Pictures)
  • Invisible Agent, written by Curtis Siodmak, directed by Edwin L. Marin (Frank Lloyd Productions / Universal Pictures)
  • Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, written by Laurence Stallings, directed by Zoltan Korda (Alexander Korda Films, Inc. / United Artists)

Best Short Story

  • “Etaoin Shrdlu,” by Fredric Brown (Unknown Worlds, February 1942)
  • “Mimic,” by Martin Pearson (Donald A. Wollheim) (Astonishing Stories, December 1942)
  • “Proof,” by Hal Clement (Astounding Science Fiction, June 1942)
  • “Runaround,” by Isaac Asimov (Astounding Science Fiction, March 1942)
  • “The Sunken Land,” by Fritz Leiber (Unknown Worlds, February 1942)
  • “The Twonky,” by C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner (Astounding Science Fiction, September 1942)

Best Novelette

  • “Bridle and Saddle,” by Isaac Asimov (Astounding Science Fiction, June 1942)
  • “Foundation,” by Isaac Asimov (Astounding Science Fiction, May 1942)
  • “Goldfish Bowl,” by Anson MacDonald (Robert A. Heinlein) (Astounding Science Fiction, March 1942)
  • “The Star Mouse,” by Fredric Brown (Planet Stories, Spring 1942)
  • “There Shall Be Darkness,” by C.L. Moore (Astounding Science Fiction, February 1942)
  • “The Weapon Shop,” by A.E. van Vogt (Astounding Science Fiction, December 1942)

Best Novella

  • “Asylum,” by A.E. van Vogt (Astounding Science Fiction, May 1942)
  • “The Compleat Werewolf,” by Anthony Boucher (Unknown Worlds, April 1942)
  • “Hell is Forever,” by Alfred Bester (Unknown Worlds, August 1942)
  • “Nerves,” by Lester del Rey (Astounding Science Fiction, September 1942)
  • “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag,” by John Riverside (Robert A. Heinlein) (Unknown Worlds, October 1942)
  • “Waldo,” by Anson MacDonald (Robert A. Heinlein) (Astounding Science Fiction, August 1942)

Best Novel

  • Beyond This Horizon, by Anson MacDonald (Robert A. Heinlein) (Astounding Science Fiction, April & May 1942)
  • Darkness and the Light, by Olaf Stapledon (Methuen / S.J.R. Saunders)
  • Donovan’s Brain, by Curt Siodmak (Black Mask, September-November 1942)
  • Islandia, by Austin Tappan Wright (Farrar & Rinehart)
  • Second Stage Lensmen, by E. E. “Doc” Smith (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1941 to February 1942)
  • The Uninvited, by Dorothy Macardle (Doubleday, Doran / S.J.R. Saunders)

Like a Sinking Star

By John Hertz:  Speaking of this year’s Retrospective Hugo Awards i.e. for 1942, I realize I should call your attention to that strange masterwork of that strange master, the novelette “To Follow Knowledge” by Frank Belknap Long. We think of him, if at all, as a horror writer, which indeed he was.  He won a Bram Stoker for Lifetime Achievement in 1987.

Ten years earlier we put him in the First Fandom Hall of Fame – that’s how long he’d been with us as of three decades ago – pun intended – and in 1978 the World Fantasy Convention too gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award.

At his death in 1994 he was so impoverished his remains were interred in a potter’s field.  Some of us, including my friend Ben Indick, heard afterward, wouldn’t stand for it, and raised money for a re-interment, which was done in 1995.

The title “To Follow Knowledge” is from Tennyson’s 1842 poem Ulysses.  Right under it Long quotes lines 31-32, possibly our motto,

To follow knowledge, like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought,

to which the story lives up.

Haunting, extraordinary, full of strangeness, it closes Groff Conklin’s 1953 anthology Science Fiction Adventures in Dimension.  Conklin may still be our best anthologist.

You can, in fact, read it online.

A Hugo for Wallace Stevens?

By John Hertz:  Since the 2018 Worldcon, in addition to the current Hugo Awards i.e. for 2017, is presenting Retro-Hugos i.e. for 1942, I’ve been reviewing that year.  You probably have too.

Details about the Hugos and Retro-Hugos are in Article 3 of the World Science Fiction Society Constitution, printed in Progress Report 2.0, which you can find here. The Retro-Hugo ballot is here. It says who is eligible to nominate.  Nominations must be received by 11:59 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on Friday March 16, 2018.

There was lots of good work in 1942.

You may have already found helps like Isaac Asimov’s 1980 anthology (novellas, novelettes, short stories), Vincent Di Fate’s 1997 anthology of visual art with commentary and color reproductions (there’s a review by me on the sidebar), Harry Warner’s history of s-f fandom in the 1940s (see the 2004 revision), and the images of 1942 fan-published material which have just recently been produced by volunteers and made available electronically.

Of course these things are neither complete nor conclusive.  Let me add that even if you’re so knowledgeable you could have written them better yourself (hello, Joe, it’s good of you to drop by and read this), they’re worth looking at.

I’ve been struck by the 1942 Wallace Stevens poem “Connoisseur of Chaos”. In fact I’ve nominated it.  That’s somewhat strange (as you might expect of me).  It’s less than 500 words.  I think it’s a wonder.  But is it a story?  Is it a Related Work?  Is it – better I shouldn’t ask the next question; but Theodore Sturgeon (“always ‘Theodore’ in print, please”) in a really excellent pun said “Science fiction is knowledge fiction.”

After all the pretty contrast of life and death
Proves that these opposite things partake of one,
At least that was the theory, when bishops’ books
Resolved the world.  We cannot go back to that.
The squirming facts exceed the squamous mind,
If one may say so.  And yet relation appears,
A small relation expanding like the shade
Of a cloud on sand, a shape on the side of a hill.

Brother Stevens, I couldn’t have written it better myself.

Pixel Scroll 3/13/18 “Use The Porgs, Luke!”

(1) DON’T PAY TO PLAY. Jason Sanford has a twitter thread about another dodgy publisher – start here:

(2) TERMS AND CONDITIONS. Amanda S. Green has a very sensible take about the disappearing Amazon review kerfuffle: “On Reviews” at Mad Genius Club.

But, before you start all this take a step back and then take a deep breath and ask yourself if you or the reader who left the review might have fallen afoul of the rules. I know how easy it is to tell your other writer friends that you’ll review their work if they review yours. You might not even do it in so many words. The problem is, in this day and age of technology, Amazon’s computers will start seeing patterns and will pull reviews that fit those patterns. Is it fair? Waggles hands. It is, however, in the rules and we agree to those rules when we open our Amazon accounts and when we then open our KDP accounts. This is why you need to be sure you read those ToS agreements before completing your account setup.

Reviews are the best advertising we have for our books. They are a way of telling potential readers we’ve put something out that is worth not only their time but their money as well. Amazon recognizes that. It also recognizes the fact the system is easily gamed and that is what these rules are designed to prevent. The rules aren’t perfect but they are the best we have right now. None of us want to return to the days of rampant sock puppet reviews — or at least we shouldn’t. After all, most readers will look askance at a book by an indie author with hundreds of reviews and not a one under 4-star. You need those lower level reviews to give legitimacy to your work.

So, if you are one of those authors who found reviews suddenly missing, contact Amazon and ask what happened. Review the ToS about reviews and move forward. Yes, it’s hard losing reviews but you’ll do yourself more good writing your next book than spending hours on the internet whinging about how evil Amazon is.

(3) DEMISE OF STEAMPUNK WORLD’S FAIR. Airship Ambassador reports “Steampunk World’s Fair – Cancelled”.  The former management was deposed after sexual abuse allegations, but the group trying to pull off  rescue has decided the task is impossible

After several weeks of discussions, and publicized business changes, following posts in late January revealing sexual abuse allegations,

Sexual abuse allegations crawling out of steampunk community (TW)

Time to Name Drop and Protect Newbies

the Silver Phoenix Society announced On February 20,2018, it was taking over the production of Steampunk World’s Fair.

…However, it was announced tonight, March 13, 2018, on the Steampunk World’s Fair Facebook page that Silver Phoenix Society’s involvement in the event was ending, effectively cancelling the May 2018 festival.

Screencaps of relevant Facebook posts and links to background articles can be found at Airship Ambassador.

(4) THOR FX. A BBC video about “The visual effects behind Thor 3” relates the fun of having to be able to redo everything at the last minute, and the skinny on mixes of CGI and live action — sometimes keeping just the face so the body could interact with (e.g.) lightning.

Al Moloney talks to Alexis Wajsbrot, the visual effects supervisor for Thor: Ragnarok. He explains how characters like the Hulk and Korg were brought to life.

(5) HAWKING OBIT. Dr. Stephen Hawking died March 14. The New York Times reports: “Stephen Hawking, Who Examined the Universe and Explained Black Holes, Dies at 76”.

…“Not since Albert Einstein has a scientist so captured the public imagination and endeared himself to tens of millions of people around the world,” Michio Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York, said in an interview.

Dr. Hawking did that largely through his book “A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes,” published in 1988. It has sold more than 10 million copies and inspired a documentary film by Errol Morris. The 2014 film about his life, “The Theory of Everything,” was nominated for several Academy Awards and Eddie Redmayne, who played Dr. Hawking, won the best-actor Oscar.

Scientifically, Dr. Hawking will be best remembered for a discovery so strange that it might be expressed in the form of a Zen koan: When is a black hole not black? When it explodes.

What is equally amazing is that he had a career at all. As a graduate student in 1963, he learned he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neuromuscular wasting disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was given only a few years to live.

The disease reduced his bodily control to the flexing of a finger and voluntary eye movements but left his mental faculties untouched.

(6) DOWN TO THE WIRE. With the Hugo nominating deadline upon us, Doctor Science shares a longlist: “Brainstorming my Hugo nominations: Best Novel and Best Series”.

Hugo nominations have to be in by Friday, so I’m going to put up my longlist and hope the process of writing helps me make up my mind. I’m resurrecting my goodreads account to better keep track of what I’ve read (and what I started but did not finish, and why).

I thought I had already written and posted reviews of most of these, but apparently I wrote many only in my head….

(7) ISHER AND TRANTOR. Meanwhile, Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club tackles “Retro Hugos 1943 — Short Stories” and tries to put the contenders in the context of the time.

If there had never been another story published in the Foundation universe, The Encyclopedists would

have stood on its own – it encapsulates essentially all of the big ideas of the series: the mathematics of history, the decline and fall of an empire, and the ennobling positivist view of the ability of humanity to alter its destiny. While later stories built on this foundational story, everything that makes the Foundation series great was right there in this initial blueprint.

In this story, Asimov offers us the series’ most unforgettable – and quotable – protagonist Salvor Hardin, the mayor of Trantor. In the context of when this story was published, just five months after Pearl Harbor, his famous quote “violence is the last refuge of the incompetent,” might be seen as an surprising anti-war exhortation.

(8) WHEN NO MAN PURSUETH. Just to make sure there’d be some drama, before he went to FOGcon, Jon Del Arroz ran this twitter poll:

Broadcasting what, you might ask? You weren’t the only one. Jon gives his version in: “Someone Tried To Get Me Kicked Out Of A Sci-Fi Convention… And You’ll Never Believe What Happened Next!” [Internet Archive]

…The man proceeded to grill me, rattling off questions in a challenging manner. “What are you doing here? Why? Are you intending on broadcasting here? Are you going to be bothering anyone?” They came in rapid succession, challenging…. I finally told him “this tone is getting pretty hostile,” as I wasn’t sure what he was getting at at all.

This is where things changed. His eyes widened a little and he said, “Oh!” The man dropped to his knees and smiled. “I’m 6’8? I guess that can be a little intimidating. Is this better?” His tone changed to something a little more humorous. Almost expertly, this man diffused the situation and the tension that had been escalating evaporated.

We started talking at length, and I learned this man was from the convention security, and that someone had complained about my presence there…

JDA was allowed to stay, and even buy a membership the next day after being vetted by the chair:

I showed up the next morning, migrated down stairs and asked to buy a ticket for the day. …I was just about to wrap up paying, when convention chairman Steven Schwartz asked me to step aside and chat with him.

It was frightening again. What was going to happen? Was this the “you need to vacate the premises” I was afraid of?

Just like the security fellow from the night before, Schwartz asked a couple of questions, his tone was pleasant, he had genuine concern — not only for the safety of others, but what blew me away was he was concerned for my safety as well. He asked some questions based on the absurd rumors propagated by Worldcon that I was some boogeyman, I let him know I never intended anything of the sort at any con nor even implied it — for FOGCon or Worldcon, and Schwartz took me as a man of my word (which I am), and told me if anyone tried to attack or harm me, he would defend me as surely as anyone else.

(9) WHEN REALITY MOVES FASTER THAN FICTION. Justina Ireland tweeted —

(10) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Bug Gaits for Animators” on Vimeo, Stephen Cunnane provides tips animators need to make sure bugs crawl properly.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/15/18 I Got 99 Problems But An Unscrolled Pixel Ain’t One Of Them

(1) MUCH MORE ON CHILDREN’S BOOK INDUSTRY HARASSMENT. At School Library Journal, Elizabeth Bird advises readers how to catch up on the fallout from Anne Ursu’s survey about sexual harassment in the children’s book industry (linked in yesterday’s Scroll, item 17) with her post “Sexual Harassment and Post-ALA YMA 2018 Thoughts (not necessarily at the same time)”.

If you have missed the current #metoo movement within the children’s and young adult literature industry, then I will break down the order in which you can catch up. While you could argue precisely where to start and where to end, the most necessary articles are as follows:

  1. Read the survey by Anne Ursu on sexual harassment in the children’s book industry
  2. Read the preceding SLJ article Children’s Publishing Reckons with Sexual Harassment in Its Ranks
  3. Read the comment section of that same SLJ article
  4. Read the Gwenda Bond article #metoo #ustoo Change Starts Now: Stand Against Harassment in the YA/Kidlit Community

(2) DASHNER APOLOGY. Comments at School Library Journal also implicated Maze Runner author James Dashner. Dashner tweeted an apology today. Deadline has the story: “‘Maze Runner’ Author James Dashner Tweets Apology Amid Harassment Allegations, Vows To ‘Seek Counseling’”.

Maze Runner author James Dashner, dropped earlier this week by his agent after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced, has tweeted an apology “to those affected” by his behavior and pledges to “seek counseling and guidance.”

“I have spent the recent days reexamining my actions and searching my soul,” Dashner writes (see the tweet below), adding he now believes he has been “part of the problem” with regard to sexual harassment and discrimination in the publishing industry.

“I didn’t honor or fully understand boundaries and power dynamics,” tweets the author, whose Maze Runner series has become a successful movie franchise. “I can sincerely say that I have never intentionally hurt another person. But to those affected I am so deeply sorry.”

Dashner was dropped by his literary agent, Michael W. Bourret, earlier this week after reader comments on the School Library Journal website named the writer, along with Thirteen Reasons Why author Jay Asher and others, of misconduct or harassment. Asher was subsequently expelled from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and dropped by the Andrea Brown agency.

(3) #METOO. Likewise, Myke Cole says he has “to own it”.

I am mentioned in the School Library Journal thread that names and shames men who have been inappropriate in their conduct with women in the field.

I wish I could say that the entire comment was false, but I would be lying to you and to myself. I have always prided myself on being “good”. I thought I had a good handle on what that was. It turns out I was wrong. And I have to be accountable to you and to myself. I have repeatedly abused my social power. I have made unwelcome advances in professional settings and that is not okay.

This is humiliating to write, but it is also necessary, because I believe in the #MeToo movement and I 100% support women coming forward to name men who have made them uncomfortable, or worse abused them.

(4) SHORT FICTION. Rocket Stack Rank’s ratings report for stories reviewed up to February 15 has been posted. Greg Hullender notes:

Because so many publications are on bimonthly schedules now, even-numbered months tend to be rather light.

The five-star story, “To Us May Grace Be Given,” by L.S. Johnson was published in 2017, so it’s eligible for this year’s Hugo awards. All the others are eligible for the 2019 awards.

(5) NEW ANTHOLOGY BENEFITS DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS. BookNest creator Petros Triantafyllou has just issued Art of War: Anthology for Charity. Proceeds will go to MSF (Doctors Without Borders). The book was just released and is available for sale in both digital and print formats. The print version includes 40 black & white interior art pieces.

The promotional text on Goodreads asks —  

How do you get forty fantasy authors to contribute short stories for a war-themed anthology without paying them? It sounds as if there should be a good punchline to that, but all Petros Triantafyllou did was twist the moral thumbscrews and tell them all the profits would go to Doctors Without Borders, a charity that works tirelessly across the world to alleviate the effects of conflict, sickness and poverty.

So, with clear consciences, several busloads of excellent and acclaimed fantasy authors have applied themselves to the task of penning a veritable mountain of words on the subject of The Art of War, expect bloodshed, gore, pathos, insight, passion, and laughs. Maybe even a wombat. Who knows. Anyway, as the original blurb said: “It’s good. Buy it.” -Mark Lawrence

The anthology collects works from authors that write within the genre including the grim dark sub-genre. The author list includes: Mark Lawrence, Ed Greenwood, Brian Staveley, Miles Cameron, John Gwynne, Sebastien De Castell, Mitchell Hogan, Stan Nicholls, Andrew Rowe, C.T. Phipps, Rob J. Hayes, Nicholas Eames, Mazarkis Williams, Ben Galley, Michael R. Fletcher, Graham Austin-King, Ed McDonald, Anna Stephens, Anna Smith Spark, RJ Barker, Michael R. Miller, Benedict Patrick, Sue Tingey, Dyrk Ashton, Steven Kelliher, Timandra Whitecastle, Laura M Hughes, J.P. Ashman, M.L. Spencer, Steven Poore, Brandon Draga, D. Thourson Palmer, D.M. Murray, Anne Nicholls, R.B. Watkinson, Charles F Bond, Ulff Lehmann, Thomas R. Gaskin, Zachary Barnes & Nathan Boyce.

(6) COMING TO AMERICA. The Tolkien, Maker of Middle-Earth exhibition discussed in yesterday’s Scroll will be making an American appearance next year, according to the FAQ.

Will the exhibition go on tour?

The exhibition will visit the Morgan Library in New York City from January to May 2019.

(7) SHARKE HUBBLE. Returning Shadow Clarke juror Nick Hubble tells why he reenlisted: “Literary Criticism and the 2018 Shadow Clarke: Introducing Nick Hubble”.

A key part of the purpose of the Shadow Jury last year was not just to comment on the award itself but also on its unofficial status as one of the key hubs, in the UK at least, for a critical articulation of the wider and deeper concerns of SFF fan, convention, and reviewing culture. I think we did achieve that to some extent but I hope that the tweaks to the format and emphasis this year will foreground that aspect of the project and help us avoid getting bogged down in controversies concerning the inclusion/exclusion of particular books from shortlists….

(8) IN VACUO. Joe Stech of Compelling Science Fiction invites readers to check out his personal blog where he provide gristly details about “What happens to animals in the vacuum of space?” Good chance to sort out science from fiction on this topic.

In the vast majority of modern shows, people sucked out into the vacuum of space freeze like popsicles in seconds. This is ridiculous. The reality is much more horrifying. In the 1960s there were several studies done on animals in high-grade vacuums that give us a real idea of exactly what would happen in the “oops, I forgot my spacesuit” scenario, and I’m going to walk you through the gory details, along with links to the original papers published in the 60s.

The first big thing to understand is how heat is transferred in space. You may remember that there are four main ways that heat can be bled off: conduction, convection, radiation, and phase change transfer (e.g. ‘enthalpy of vaporization’). When you’re in space, conduction and convection are out, because nothing cold is touching you (conduction) and there are no fluids to transfer heat away from you (convection). That leaves only radiation and phase changes that can cool you down. The infrared radiation leaving the human body is only about as much as a lightbulb, which is not going to drop your temperature extremely rapidly. You’ll also be cooled when the water in your skin boils away, but that’s only going to affect your outer layer. Your internals will be fine for a while, until they completely run out of oxygen.

So now that we’re clear that insta-freeze won’t happen, what are the actual steps in our grisly space demise? Here they are…

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 15, 1950 — Disney’s Cinderella premieres.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 15, 1935 — Grand Master Robert Silverberg

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian spotted a good Conan gag in Bliss.

(12) RETRO-HUGO TOOL. Nicholas Whyte has been working on an eligibility list for the “Best Series Retro Hugo 1943”.

….Obviously, since this category has not been awarded before, the strictures on previous winners and finalists are not relevant. But even so, the pickings are very slim. There are a number of series which started in 1942 but had not published 3 installments by the end of the year (eg Asimov’s Foundation). There are other series with many installments which however do not amount to 240,000 words (eg the Via and Adam Link sequences by Otto Binder, and I think also the Professor Jameson stories by Neil R. Jones). What I am left with is the following rather brief list…

(13) AFROFUTURISM. The CBC posted a video of author Nalo Hopkinson on the power of science fiction and why Black Panther is going to change everything — “Afrofuturism, sci-fi and why ‘it is a radical act for Black people to imagine having a future'”.

(14) THE ROAD TO HELL. Neil Gaiman tweeted some Good Omens set decoration.

(15) ARE WE THERE YET? Ironically, it may hit another planet, but not Mars. “Musk’s Tesla to stay in space for millions of years”.

The Tesla car that Elon Musk launched into space is likely to stay there for tens of millions of years before crashing into the Earth or Venus.

That’s the conclusion of an analysis by Czech and Canadian researchers.

They calculated that the roadster has a 6% chance of colliding with Earth and a 2.5% probability of hitting Venus over the next million years.

But there’s no cause for concern: if it eventually returns to Earth, most of the vehicle will burn up.

The team’s computer simulations suggest there is a very slim chance of the vehicle colliding with the Sun, but little to no chance of the car hitting Mars.

(16) AN ADMONITION. Steven Barnes wrote on Facebook

White people: please don’t go see BP this weekend: you will be denying a deserving POC a seat. If you MUST, and you are really “Woke” you’ll let said POC sit on your lap. Blocking your view. Your Liberal Guilt will be assuaged thereby.

(17) GAG ME. Paul Verhoeven preens about “How we made Starship Troopers” in The Guardian’s profile. Denise Richards is quoted, too.

Paul Verhoeven, director

Robert Heinlein’s original 1959 science-fiction novel was militaristic, if not fascistic. So I decided to make a movie about fascists who aren’t aware of their fascism. Robocop was just urban politics – this was about American politics. As a European it seemed to me that certain aspects of US society could become fascistic: the refusal to limit the amount of arms; the number of executions in Texas when George W Bush was governor.

It’s an idiotic story: young people go to fight bugs. So I felt the human characters should have a comic-book look. Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon auditioned, but I was looking for the prototype of blond, white and arrogant, and Casper Van Dien was so close to the images I remembered from Leni Riefenstahl’s films. I borrowed from Triumph of the Will in the parody propaganda reel that opens the film, too. I was using Riefenstahl to point out, or so I thought, that these heroes and heroines were straight out of Nazi propaganda. No one saw it at the time. I don’t know whether or not the actors realised – we never discussed it. I thought Neil Patrick Harris arriving on the set in an SS uniform might clear it up.

(18) WALKING DEAD WINE. Can’t beat a brand name like that, can you? And to make the vintage even more collectible, “New Walking Dead Wines Will Feature Augmented Reality Labels”.

A new Walking Dead wine will soon come to life in a store near you. We partnered with The Last Wine Company to create a Blood Red Blend and a Cabernet Sauvignon that not only taste amazing, but include some really awesome creative flourishes. Our bottles will have unique augmented reality labels that come to life when viewed through your smartphone. Each bottle is sealed with a collectible cork featuring Walking Dead artwork—walker heads, barbwire, etc.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/10/18 There Must Be Fifty Ways To Scroll Your Pixel

(1) STUDYING TOLKIEN. “The Past, Present, and Future of Tolkien Scholarship” conference will be held November 1-4, 2018 at Valparaiso University in Indiana.

This unique conference will examine the totality and comprehensiveness of Tolkien scholarship in three large groups:  the past (from the 1950s to the 2010s), the present (from the 2010s to the present), and the future (from the present to the next 20 years).  There will be four days of paper presentations, plenary speakers, discussions, film screenings, exhibits, book-signings, and music.…

The Call for Papers is out. Full details at the link.

The conference will be divided into three major days of conference papers:

  • Friday, November 2: The past of Tolkien scholarship

Plenary speaker:  Douglas A. Anderson

  • Saturday, November 3: The present of Tolkien scholarship

Plenary speaker:  Verlyn Flieger

  • Sunday, November 4: The future of Tolkien scholarship

A plenary panel discussion with Dr. Robin Reid, Dr. Dimitra Fimi, Dr. Andrew Higgins, and Dr. Brad Eden

Paper proposals on any topic or theme related to Tolkien scholarship are welcome.

(2) CTEIN AND CHTORR. David Gerrold, who has been foreshadowing good news for awhile, finally uncloaked some of the details:

I have contracts on three books. A novella section of one of those books (co-written with Ctein) will be appearing in the May/June issue of Asimov’s. I believe it is one of the better things I’ve been involved with.

The other two books are Chtorran novels and the final draft of one of them will be turned in by summer.

I have sold an option for a TV series based on one of my projects, and the option on another book was just (enthusiastically) renewed. I have also been approached to direct a film based on a favorite fantasy novel, I just finished my first rewrite of the script. (The first writer did a marvelous job of getting all the pieces on the board, my job was to energize them.)

(3) SUMMER OF ’42. Metafilter has a resource post for Retro-Hugo voters: “Some notable SF/F from 1942”.

Most of these texts are shown in the announcement video or have been discussed as possibilities in the F&SF forum or were previously selected as great SF stories of 1942 or have a record of anthologization at ISFDB. Their categorization by length derives from ISFDB also.

(4) SPECULATIVE MASCULINITIES. Galli Books has put out a call for submissions for its anthology Speculative Masculinities. Window closes April 15. Full details at the link.

Masculinity has, almost since the category of speculative fiction emerged in the early 20th century, been a concern of fiction written in the genre. A culturally dominant, Western, toxic form of masculinity has dominated storytelling in speculative fiction. In worlds as varied and diverse as the distant past of magical worlds and the far future of this one, models of maleness and masculinity tend to be the same toxic form of masculinity that dominates modern Western culture. We want to interrogate that model of masculinity, to problematise it, and to question it; we want to see other possible models of masculinity, models not centred on dominance and violence and repression of feelings; other role models for men. We are looking for fiction, essays and poetry which do this.

We are particularly looking for submissions from authors from marginalised identities and backgrounds, especially where those identities complicate the author’s relationship with masculinity, including but by no means limited to disabled writers, trans writers, and writers of colour.

(5) THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS. Bus stop 9-3/4?

(6) COMPOSER OBIT. Jóhann Jóhannsson (1969-2018): Icelandic composer, died 9 February, aged 48. Scores include Arrival (2016).

(7) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. Prozines of the past. Art by Tim Kirk.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 10, 1927 — Fritz Lang’s Metropolis premiered theatrically in his native Germany.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 10, 1906 — Creighton Tull Chaney, known by his stage name Lon Chaney Jr.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian saw Gort showing his rhythm at Bliss.
  • Chip Hitchcock says “He has a point” about this installment of Rhymes with Orange.

(11) WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? Yesterday’s Scroll included the class photo featuring 79 actors and filmmakers from across the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now Unrolled thread from @UberKryptonian has done a humorous deconstruction that tells us the participants’ secret thoughts.

Has anyone really looked at the Marvel 10 year anniversary class photo? Because there is so much going on!

For example –

Chris Evans looks like he’s mad that he has to sit next to the man that tried to murder the love of his life!

(12) A SFF MOVIE LEADS THE PACK. The New York Times asks “How Did ‘The Shape of Water’ Become the Film to Beat at the Oscars?”.

This awards season has been all about hitting the zeitgeist, or at least that’s what the media, present company included, has been telling itself and you. Best picture nominees ought to tap into the #MeToo moment or, failing that, anxieties born in the age of Trump.

But is that narrative really true? And does it fully explain how a fairy tale about a janitor who hooks up with a fishman became the movie to beat?

The film, “The Shape of Water,” stars Sally Hawkins as a cleaning lady who falls for a merman held captive in a government lab, and leads the race with 13 Oscar nominations, more than any other movie. It has also scooped up key precursor awards that often culminate in Oscar gold — last weekend, the Directors Guild of America gave the filmmaker Guillermo del Toro its top prize, two weeks after the Producers Guild of America did the same.

(13) ANOTHER RED TESLA MEME. Randy’s Random has more to say about “Setting the Record”.

A 2010 Tesla Roadster achieves the highest speed and longest range of any electric car ever — and still going strong.

Plus, it can charge from solar.

The most amazing thing to me: it’s a real photo. It’s about time someone did something to capture the imagination of kids who are deciding what to be when they grow up. Engineering, science, technology, astrophysics — they have amazing opportunities.

If nothing else, the stereotype is proven true: red cars are the fastest!

(14) DEALING WITH THE BLUES. “Welcome to the Monkey House”? — “Blue Dye Kills Malaria Parasites — But There Is One Catch”.

It’s hard to imagine that a blue dye sold in pet food stores in the U.S. to fight fungal infections in tropical fish could be a potent weapon against malaria.

…Actually, the use of the dye to fight malaria is not quite as odd as it sounds. The blue dye in question, called methylene blue, is the oldest synthetic anti-malarial drug. A paper published in 1891 tells how two scientists successfully used it to treat a malaria patient.

But there was a catch.

“The treatment being followed by an intense blue coloring of the urine, and the faeces becoming blue on exposure to light, it is not very likely that methylene blue will be much used outside of hospitals,” reads an 1892 publication of the Proceedings of the American Pharmaceutical Association.

(15) HE LIKES IT. Black Panther reviewed by Mark Kermode on BBC Radio 5. Spoiler free review (as usual) from Mark, who seems to have really liked it.

Also Kermode on the attempt to game the Rotten Tomatoes audience score for Black Panther.

(16) SEATTLE FILM FEST. The 2018 “Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival” presented by MoPOP and SIFF will feature twenty short films from all over the world at Seattle’s historic Cinerama Theater on March 24. Tickets are now on sale.

The lineup is presented in two sessions of films with a 30-minute intermission and concludes with an awards ceremony.

SFFSFF brings together industry professionals in filmmaking and the genres of science fiction and fantasy to encourage and support new, creative additions to genre cinema arts. Admitted films are judged by a nationally recognized jury comprised of luminaries in the fields of science fiction and fantasy.

Session 1: Noon-2:00pm

  • FTL (dir. Adam Stern, Canada)
  • The Sea is Blue (dir. Vincent Peone, USA)
  • Everything & Everything &… (dir. Alberto Roldan, USA)
  • Cautionary Tales (dir. Christopher Barrett and Luke Taylor, UK)
  • After We Have Left Our Homes (dir. Marc Adamson, UK)
  • GEAR (dir. Kevin Adams and Joe Ksander, USA)
  • Niggun (dir. Yoni Salmon, Israel) – US Premiere
  • Fulfilament (dir. Rhiannon Evans, UK)
  • Voyage of the Galactic… (dir. Evan Mann, USA)
  • Dead Hearts (Stephen Martin, USA)

Session 2: 2:30pm–5:00pm

  • Time Chicken (dir. Nick Black, USA)
  • The Replacement (dir. Sean Miller, USA)
  • M.A.M.O.N. (dir. Alejandro Damiani, Uruguay/Mexico)
  • Die Lizenz (dir. Nora Fingscheidt, Germany/France) – US Premiere
  • Ghost Squad (dir. Kieran Sugrue, Australia)
  • Fizzy and Frank (dir. Randall McNair, USA)
  • Haskell (dir. James Allen Smith, USA)
  • Strange Beasts (dir. Magali Barbe, UK)
  • Jiminy (dir. Arthur Molard, France)
  • The Privates (dir. Dylan Allen, USA)

For more information including film synopses and director bios, visit MoPOP.org/SFFSFF.

(17) RETURN OF THE KESH. Wire Magazine says the record label Freedom to Spend will be reissuing Ursula K. Le Guin and Todd Barton’s 1985 recording Music And Poetry Of The Kesh in physical and digital formats on March 23 — “Music And Poetry Of The Kesh reissued on LP”.

Todd Barton and Ursula K Le Guin’s recording Music And Poetry Of The Kesh, originally released as a cassette accompanying Le Guin’s 1985 book Always Coming Home, will receive a long awaited reissue next month via Freedom To Spend. Part novel, part lengthy textbook, the publication tells the story of an invented Pacific Coast people called The Kesh and a woman called Stone Telling, weaving an anthropological narrative of folklore and fantasy. For its soundtrack, words and lyrics were put together by the late novelist while the sound was composed by Barton, an Oregon based musician and Buchla synthesist with whom Le Guin had worked on public radio projects….

Both Barton and Le Guin has started work on the reissue before the novelist’s death on 22 January of this year. Moe Bowstern, a writer and friend of Le Guin, wrote the sleevenotes for this new edition in which she explains that Barton had built and then taught himself to play several instruments of Le Guin’s design, among them ‘the seven-foot horn known to the Kesh as the Houmbúta and the Wéosai Medoud Teyahi bone flute.’”

Information on streaming and purchasing the recording is available at: http://smarturl.it/fts009

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, Steve Green, Lenore Jean Jones, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, IanP, Mark Hepworth, Martin Morse Wooster, Rob Thornton, Carl Slaughter, Wobbu Palooza, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 2/8/18 I’ve Got A Plan So Cunning You Could Put A Scroll On It And Call It A Pixel

(1) 4SJ. At the Classic Horror Film Board, the webmaster’s reminiscence about Forrest J Ackerman prompted a #MeToo response from Lucy Chase Williams, and since then “Forrest J Ackerman’s #MeToo Moment …” has generated 561 comments.

Speaking of “failures” (!), I guess this is the time to remind the boys here of #MeToo. I and other young women like me were subjected to a different kind of “Forry worship.” How differently would any of you have felt, when all you wanted was to talk about monsters with the “over eager editor” of your favorite monster magazine, if your Uncle Forry had forced wet kisses on you? If he had put his hands all over you, pinching your “naughty bottom” and squeezing your “boobies”? If he had enthusiastically related with a big grin how he wanted to strip off your clothes with everybody watching? And if, in the face of your total refusal of any of his attentions every single time you saw him in person, he never didn’t try again, and again, and again? And if for years, in between those times, he mailed you letters with pornographic photos, and original stories about how naughty you were, and how he wanted to hurt and abuse you, yet all the while make you weep and beg for more? And if he continued that behavior, despite written and verbal demands to cease, entirely unabashed for more than two decades? No, I can’t forget him either — or how he turned my childhood love of monsters into something adult and truly monstrous.

(2) STAUNCH PRIZE. Earl Grey Editing reports on an interesting new non-sff award:

Not strictly SFF or romance, but still within genre, The Staunch Prize has been created to honour crime thrillers where no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered. The shortlist will be announced in September and the winner will be announced on 25 November.

(3) STAR GORGE. Michael Cavna has a roundup of all the current Star Wars projects, with the news being that Disney is also planning a streaming Star Wars TV series for fans who just want more after Solo, Episode IX, the Rian Johnson trilogy, and the Benioff and Weiss trilogy: “A guide to every Star Wars movie and TV show that’s planned right now”.

  1. Potential spinoffs of other characters

Talk continues to swirl around Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Boba Fett getting their own films, according to such outlets as the Hollywood Reporter. At this point of galloping Disney expansion, who’s to say that each won’t one day get his own TV trilogy?

  1. The streaming TV series

Iger’s new announcement comes just several months after he first said a live-action Star Wars series would happen. Expect that TV menu to grow at a significant rate, as Disney gets set to launch its own entertainment streaming services by next year.

(4) MILSF KICKSTARTER. M. C. A. Hogarth says, “I stealth launched my newest Kickstarter yesterday to see if I could keep it from blowing past the goal, but it overfunded anyway. So I guess I’ll advertise it? laugh It’s fluffy first contact sf” — “Either Side of the Strand Print Edition”:

MilSF with an all female crew, in an “Old Star Trek” vein! Because we all love first contact stories, with octopuses.

Having already hit $1,241, when the original goal was $500, Hogarth is far into stretch goal territory —

So, some stretch goals! Just in case, even though this is only a week!

  • $750 – I do a bookmark, and everyone who gets a physical reward will receive it!
  • $1000 – the audiobook! This should open an audiobook reward level (details for that when/if it happens)
  • Over $1000 – I will wiggle a lot! And then tuck that money away to pay for the final Stardancer novel (currently in revision).

But Jaguar! You say. Why are your stretch goals so modest! Why don’t you do Alysha plushes! We would totally be on board with Alysha plushes! And Stardancer t-shirts!

Because, dear backers, I don’t want to fall down on this job for you, and that means humble goals. *bows*

I admit Alysha plushes would be adorbs though.

(5) NEW SFF PODCAST. MilSF Authors JR Handley and Chris Winder have unveiled they latest joint project; the Sci-Fi Shenanigans Podcast. JR and Chris are US veterans (US Army and USMC respectively) that focus on producing MilSF stories. They have released five episodes in the last 2 weeks:

(6) LEAVE THE WHISTLE UNBLOWN. Joe Sherry continues picking contenders in the “2018 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 4: Institutional Categories”. Although the criteria he gives below disregard the actual rules for the Best Fanzine category, most of his picks are eligible anyway – no harm, no foul.

This time we are looking at what are, for lack of a better term, the “nonfiction and institutional categories”: Best Related Work, Best Semiprozine, Best Fanzine and Best Fancast. Now, those who follow this blog know how cranky The G can get on the subject of certain categories and their bizarre eligibility guidelines–and we’ve got two of them today (Best Semiprozine and Best Fancast). Nevertheless, I will do my best to stay calm and stick to the rules, frustrating as they can be. I reserve the right, will, however, get a little snarky and passive-aggressive in the process.
There are, however, some sticky issues that made putting this list together a bit difficult. Knowing what does or does not constitute a “fanzine” in the era of blogs, for example–and given that we may already be on the downward slide of that era, it only promises to get more difficult as time passes. Nevertheless, we have tried to create clear and consistent guidelines for inclusion in this category. Thus, to qualify, a fanzine: (1) must be a fan venture (i.e. must not generate a significant amount of money, or pay professional rates for work); (2) must publish a lot of content in a given year; and (3) must publish “award worthy” content. We did not discount single-author blogs from consideration, but criterion #2 makes it difficult for most single-author blogs to  merit consideration. Consequently, while a couple made it, most did not–including some very good ones.

(7) SHADOW NOMINATIONS. The Australasian Horror Writers Association reminds that nominations are open for the Australian Shadow Awards until February 28. See eligibility and submission guidelines at the link.

The Australian Shadows Awards celebrate the finest in horror and dark fiction published by an Australasian within the calendar year. Works are judged on the overall effect of a work—the skill, delivery, and lasting resonance.

[Via Earl Grey Editing.]

(8) BARLOW OBIT. John Perry Barlow, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), died February 7. NPR paid tribute:“Cyber-Libertarian And Pioneer John Perry Barlow Dies At Age 70”.

A founding member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and former lyricist for the Grateful Dead, John Perry Barlow, has died at the age of 70, according to a statement issued by the Foundation.

Barlow was a poet, essayist, Internet pioneer and prominent cyber-libertarian. He co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 1990 after realizing that the government was ill-equipped to understand what he called the “legal, technical, and metaphorical nature of datacrime.” He said believed that “everyone’s liberties would become at risk.”

Barlow described the founding of the EFF after receiving a visit from an FBI agent in April 1990 seeking to find out whether he was a member of “a dread band of info-terrorists.” Shortly thereafter, Barlow and Mitch Kapor, the creator of Lotus 1-2-3, organized a series of dinners with leaders of the computer industry for discussions that would lead to the creation of the EFF.

And the BBC remembers

In 1996, he wrote the widely quoted Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, which asked governments of the world to stop meddling in the affairs of net-centred communities.

“You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather,” he wrote.

(9) POLCHINSKI OBIT. Multiverse theorist Joseph Polchinski died February 2 reports the New York Times.

Joseph Polchinski, one of the most creative physicists of his generation, whose work helped lay the mathematical foundation for the controversial proposition that our universe is only one in an almost endless assemblage that cosmologists call the “multiverse,” died on Friday at his home in Santa Barbara, Calif. He was 63. He had been treated for brain cancer since late 2015.

Dr. Polchinski was a giant force in the development of string theory, the ambitious attempt to achieve a “theory of everything,” which envisions the fundamental particles of nature as tiny wriggling strings. The theory has brought forth ideas and calculations that have opened new fields of study and new visions of a universe that is weirder and richer than astronomers had dreamed.

…After months of treatment [for cancer], Dr. Polchinski put his energy into writing his memoir, which he posted on the internet.

“I have not achieved my early science-fiction goals, nor explained why there is something rather than nothing,” he wrote in an epilogue, “but I have had an impact on the most fundamental questions of science.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 8, 1958Teenage Monster premiered at your local drive-in.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born February 8, 1828 – Jules Verne
  • Born February 8, 1908 — William Hartnell, the first Doctor Who.
  • Born February 8, 1942 – Stephen Hawking
  • Born February 8, 1969 – Mary Robinette Kowal

(12) KOWAL CELEBRATES. As part of her celebration Kowal pointed to a free read short story, “The Worshipful Society of Glovers” that came out last year in Uncanny Magazine. And on her blog she told about how she developed that story:

To begin… When I was writing Without a Summer I was looking at historical guilds as models for the Coldmongers. In the process, I ran across the Worshipful Company of Glovers, which is a real livery company that has been in existence since 1349. Kinda awesome, right?

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian finds Yoda remains in character even in this mundane situation, in Off the Mark.

(14) RETRO COMICS. Edmonton’s Hugo Book Club took a deep dive into the comic books that were published in 1942 and are eligible for the Retro-Hugos this summer. They suggest that in terms of Best Graphic Story “Some of the most exemplary works are little-remembered by the modern reader,” and encourage Hugo voters to consider a wide range of lesser-known works.

In 1942, the modern American comic book was still in its infancy. Sequential art published on pulp paper with gaudy CMYK illustrations was hitting the shelves at a furious pace, led by the success of best-selling books like Captain Marvel, The Spirit, and Archie. But for every Mort Meskin, Basil Wolverton or Jack Cole working in 1942, there were dozens more, often filling pages with inflexible five- and six-panel layouts, stilted dialogue, and rigidly posed figures….

Prior to 2018, the only time there was a Retro Hugo for Best Graphic Story was in 2016, when the Retro Hugos for 1941 were awarded. That ceremony saw Batman #1 take the trophy ahead of Captain Marvel and The Spirt, both of which are superior comic books. Joe Simon’s superb first 12 issues of Blue Bolt didn’t even make the final ballot.

Batman as a character may have had more popular appeal in the long-term, but those early stories are not as dynamic or innovative as The Spirit. Batman may have some science fiction elements today, but in 1940 Blue Bolt told better science fiction stories. Batman may be more popular today, but in 1940 Captain Marvel was the leading comic book character….

(15) STACKS OF FUN. The G takes “Altered Carbon, Episodes 1-3” for a test drive at Nerds of a Feather.

Netflix’s new science fiction show, Altered Carbon, is based on a novel of the same name by Richard K. Morgan. It’s basically a mashup of neo-cyberpunk, detective noir, milSF and techno thriller. Since I have particular interests in the first two parts of that equation, Altered Carbon looked to be right up my alley. So I decided to commit to 3 episodes, after which point I’d take stock. Three episodes in and I like it enough to continue. It’s not quite as good as I’d hoped, however.

Takeshi Kovacs is, or rather was, a kind of super soldier known as an envoy. Envoys were part of an insurrection against the hegemonic polity, the Protectorate. The insurrection failed and the envoys were “put in ice.” However, in the future your mind, memories and soul are stored on a “stack”–a kind of hard drive that is surgically inserted into your body. As long as the stack isn’t damaged, it can be taken out of a dead body and inserted into a new “sleeve” (i.e. a body). Religious types refuse to be re-sleeved, believing that it prevents the soul from ascending to heaven. Pretty much everyone else who can afford to do it, does.

(16) BUNDLE TIME. The latest Storybundle is The Black Narratives Bundle, curated by Terah Edun:

This month is groundbreaking for many reasons, it represents a clarion call to support and uphold cultural heritage, but more than that Black History Month is a time to celebrate accomplishments of the past and the future. From the moment I was asked to curate the Black Narratives bundle, I knew this one was going to be special. I didn’t want to just reach out to authors who were the pillars of the diverse speculative fiction community, but also the ingénues who were becoming stars in their own right.

(17) CANON TO THE LEFT OF THEM, CANON TO THE RIGHT OF THEM. Entertainment Weekly says “Firefly canon to expand with series of original books”.

It may sound like something out of science-fiction, but it’s true: More Firefly stories are on the way.

EW can exclusively report that Titan Books and Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products have teamed up to publish an original range of new fiction tying in to Joss Whedon’s beloved but short-lived TV series Firefly. The books will be official titles within the Firefly canon, with Whedon serving as consulting editor. The first book is due in the fall.

(18) DON’T YOU JUST TELESCOPE IT? At NPR, “How To Pack A Space Telescope” (text and time-lapse video).

As complicated as it as to launch and operate a telescope in space, it’s almost as complex to move a space telescope around here on Earth.

For the past 9 months or so, NASA has been testing the James Webb Space Telescope in a giant cryogenic chamber at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The $8.8 billion Webb telescope is the most powerful telescope NASA has ever built.

(19) SLICE OF LIFE. BBC tells about “Bodyhackers: Bold, inspiring and terrifying”.

Jesika Foxx has permanently purple eyeballs, and an elf-like ear. Her husband, Russ, has a pair of horns under his skin.

Stelarc, a 72-year-old Australian, has an ear on his arm. Soon he hopes to attach a small microphone to it so people can, via the internet, listen to whatever it hears.

Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow – yes, that’s his legal name – has the chip from his Sydney travel card implanted into his hand.

I met all these people during BodyHacking Con, in Austin, Texas.

Over the past three years, the event has become something of a pilgrimage for those involved in the biohacking scene – a broad spectrum of technologists, trans-humanists and performance artists. This year it also attracted the presence of the US military.

(20) FAUX COMPETITION. There should be a contest to caption this photo. My entry: “John Scalzi about to make one of his famous frozen garbage burritos.”

(21) SHARKE’S SECOND BITE. Shadow Clarke juror Maureen Kincaid Speller continues her self-introduction.

I find it difficult to talk about how I write critically because it is a thing I’ve learned mostly by doing. There was never a moment when I actively decided that I would become a literary critic. Rather, my critical practice came into being over a long period of time. Even now it is a work in progress. I always feel I could do better, and I’m forever trying to work out how.

What do I do? I read. And then I write about what I’ve read. It is as simple and as complicated as that. In ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’, an exploration of meaning in Plato’s ‘Phaedrus’, Derrida focuses on the word ‘pharmakon’, paradoxical because it means both ‘remedy’ and ‘poison’. Plato sought to argue that speech was superior to writing because it required an act of memory, an act which was weakened by the use of writing. Derrida prompts us to ask whether writing is a remedy, in that it helps you remember things; or a poison in that it enables you to forget things? And I am going to argue that critical writing is both poison and remedy, depending on how you use it.

(22) VENOM. Marvel’s Venom teaser trailer:

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, M.C.A. Hogarth, Dann, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat  Eldridge, Olav Rokne, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]

2018 Hugo Awards Nominations Open

Worldcon 76 is now taking nominations for the 2018 Hugo Awards and 1943 Retro-Hugo Awards. Voting will continue until 11:59PM PST on Friday, March 16. Eligible voters will be receiving emails with PINs for online voting in the coming days.

Members of Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, and members of Worldcon 76 in San Jose and Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon who joined before January 1, 2018 will be receiving their credentials for the online ballot over the course of the next several days via email, and Worldcon 76 members receiving paper publications will find paper ballots included with Progress Report 2, currently being printed and mailed.

“The list of eligible nominators has nearly 14,000 names on it, so we have to send the emails in waves to avoid having them flagged as spam,” noted Dave McCarty, Hugo Administrator for Worldcon 76. “PINs are being e-mailed out this weekend. We will announce once all PINs have been sent via e-mail and have directions on what you can do if you have not received your PIN.”

The nominations period ends at 11:59PM PST on Friday, March 16. Online nominations will be closed at that point, and paper nominating ballots must be received by the Hugo Administrator by that time.

The Worldcon also announced that Artist GoH John Picacio will host the Hugo Awards ceremony:

The 2018 Hugo Awards will be presented at the 76th World Science Fiction Convention, being held August 16-20, 2018, at McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California. Worldcon 76 has selected Artist Guest of Honor John Picacio to host the 2018 Hugo Awards Ceremony, considered by many attendees the high point of the convention weekend.

Mr. Picacio, a two-time Hugo winner himself, remarks, “It’s a huge honor to be the host of one of science fiction and fantasy’s biggest nights. This is going to be an historical evening and I can’t wait to be there with everyone at Worldcon 76.”
Kevin Roche, Worldcon 76 Conference Chair, noted that “I was thrilled when John accepted my invitation to host the ceremony. It was one of the first actions I was privileged to take as Chair, and I expect him to be a brilliant master of ceremonies.”

Worldcon 76 is also administering the 1943 Retrospective Hugo Awards, an opportunity for recognize works published during the wartime hiatus during which no Worldcon was convened. The Retro Hugos will be announced at a red carpet “1943 Worldcon Party” scheduled as part of First Night at Worldcon 76, on Thursday, August 16, 2018.