Pixel Scroll 11/6/16 The Sound Of One Pixel Scrolling

(1) UNREALITY CHECK. Damien G. Walter loves the Doctor Strange movie but he believes it’s time to explain again that Buddhism wont give you magic powers.

But can we please clear something up here? BUDDHISM IS NOT THE GATEWAY TO SECRET MAGICAL POWERS. It doesn’t matter how many thousands of hours you spend in meditation, you’ll never be able to summon power from other dimensions, conjure cool looking glowing sigils with wavy hand movements, or indulge in the joys of astral projection. Got it?

“Oh Damo!” I hear one of you sigh, “You’re just taking this all too seriously! Nobody believes Buddhism can REALLY give them magical powers. Any more than they believe they can really upload their mind into a computer to achieve immortality! Oh, wait, loads of people do actually believe that…” As, in fact, do many people really genuinely believe Buddhism will give them magic powers. And much as I would like to blame this on Hollywood, it’s a much, much older problem.

While I’m lucky not to have had my hands crushed in an automobile accident, my own life took me into the Himalayan mountains, to study at the Buddhist temples in Dharamsala. I’ve been a student of Buddhism for eight years now. I stepped out of a successful, creative career that was killing me incrementally and Buddhism was part of what helped me transition to a different kind of life. Now I live in Thailand, a Buddhist nation, to study Theravada Buddhism. In 2015 I travelled across India, to the capital of the Tibetan government in exile, and home of the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, to study Mahayana Buddhism.

(2) STRANGE THOUGHTS. Paul Weimer shares some thoughts about the Doctor Strange movie.

Tell me if you recognize this story from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

A brilliant, snarky, assholish rich person with amazingly skills strides through life blandly, confident that he knows everything, and often can back up his reputation with cold hard skills and knowledge. He is an endless deadpan snarker, always with a cutting jape or a quip for friend and rival alike. He has a long-suffering quasi love interest who clearly deserves better. We get to see him in his glory before an accident brings him low and nearly kills it. Worse, it doesn’t kill him, but gives him a permanent debility, changing his future plans forever. Said asshole learns to be better slowly and painfully in a period of retrenchment and regrowth, becoming a superhero in the process, and defrosting the heart of his love interest a bit whilst in the middle of battling the big baddie.

I could be describing Iron Man, but I am also describing Doctor Strange, and that is the core of one of the problems I found with the 2016 Marvel Cinematic Universe story.

(3) QUIZZING BUJOLD. Lois McMaster Bujold, who published a new novella this week, Penric’s Mission, is interviewed about her writing process (just in time for the National Novel Writing Month) — “Lois McMaster Bujold Answers Three (Okay, Four) Questions about the Writing Process”.

MD: So, National Novel Writing Month is basically about creating a first draft of at least 50,000 words. What’s your favorite thing about writing the first draft?

LMB: Finishing it. (-:

Starting it runs a close second, true. Then, probably, those moments when a sticky knot gets suddenly undone by some neat idea or inspiration that I didn’t have — often couldn’t have had — earlier.

I do rolling revisions — correcting, rewriting, re-outlining, and dinking as I go — because if I don’t get my edits in pretty early, my prose sets up like concrete, and it takes a jackhammer to pry it open. Also, by the end I will be tired and frantic and in no state of mind for careful polishing, still less major surgery. Since I’m usually doing novels or novellas, there’s too much to face, not to mention wrangle and just find, if I save all that till the finish.

This is a shift from earlier decades, when my method was to complete each chapter, print it out, run it past my test readers, and then do little more than make notes on the pages till I circled around for the final run/s. (There’s never only one.) In the past few years I’ve finally gone paperless, so I do a lot more micro-editing along the way now.

(4) WORLDCON 75 NEWS. The Worldcon 75 International Film Festival is accepting entries.  

Worldcon 75 international film festival is now open for submissions! Please read the official rules and send in your entry form and film by email or snail mail by June 1st, 2017: WORLDCON 75 INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL PDF (633 kB).

(5) OPERATION GONDOR. The Angry Staff Officer says Tolkien exemplifies sound Army doctrine, in “Warfighter: Middle-Earth”.

When I think of the six warfighting functions I always think of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

What, you don’t?

Let’s be honest, one does not immediately think of fantasy or science fiction when conversations turn to Army doctrine. Most vignettes that are used to make the subject understandable to the lowly minds of company grade officers are either historical or situational. And while there is nothing wrong with this technique, are we perhaps overlooking a missed opportunity for providing a broader understanding of our doctrine? …

Summary

Through utilizing the six warfighting functions, the Captains of the West were able to preserve their combat power, protect critical information nodes, deceive and confuse the enemy as to their true intentions, and finally mass key maneuver assets at critical points in the enemy lines. This led to an eventual tactical victory that reversed the course of ground operations in the War of the Ring.

Tolkien is assuredly cursing me profoundly in the afterlife.

(6) ON THE OTHER PAW. Rachel Neumeier decided that the B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog’s recent list of 25 cats in sf/f needed answering, so she listed the “Top ten dogs in SFF”.

  1. Barbara Hambly’s wonderful THE BRIDE OF THE RAT GOD actually made me fall a little bit in love with Pekingese, not ordinarily my favorite breed (sorry, Pekingese lovers; just a personal preference). Do NOT be misled by the title, which is deliberately B-movie campy. The story is delightful and the three Pekingese are real characters, real dogs, and also btw capable of hunting demons if any should turn up.

(7) SIGHTS SEEN AND UNSEEN. After being feted at Utopiales, Ann Leckie’s travels took her to Paris, as she tells in her latest post, “Utopiales”.

I did some very touristy things–the day I had to myself in Paris, the weather was clear and just chilly enough for a good walk, and the map told me the Louvre was only a few kilometers from my hotel, so I figured I’d go on foot. It was a nice walk! And the Louvre is just as full of looted antiquities as ever. Every now and then I’d see a familiar object–oh, hello Etruscan couple I’ve seen photos of you all over the place! Oh, that round hat looks familiar, could it be Gudea, King of Lagash? Why, yes, it is! The Dendera Zodiac I didn’t stumble across, though, I was actually looking for it. (And found it.)

I didn’t bother with the Mona Lisa. No doubt she was surrounded the way the Venus de Milo was. I found that kind of fascinating–there were dozens of other wonderful statues in the room, but everyone was just looking at her, taking pictures, and selfies.

A remark that brings to mind Art Buchwald’s famous column, “The Six-Minute Louvre” which begins:

Any sportsman will tell you that the only three things to see in the Louvre are the “Winged Victory of Samothrace,” the “Venus de Milo” and the “Mona Lisa.” The rest of the sculpture and paintings are just so much window dressing for the Big Three, and one hates to waste time in the Louvre when there is so much else to see in Paris….

(8) ANTIHARASSMENT ALLY PROJECT. Steven Saus has created #IWillBelieveYou, “An Ally Project To Support Those Affected by Sexual Harassment and Assault In Fandom and Elsewhere.”

As he explains in a post on his blog Ideatrash:

After the revelations last month (reference one, two), those of us with enough energy, privilege, and resources have to do something. Something that shows both that we will support those who have been harassed and that we do not accept harassment in the places we gather. So, building on the example of Take Back The Night, as well as #IllRideWithYou and #IllGoWithYou, I created #IWillBelieveYou.

(9) ROALD DAHL’S TV SHOW. Atlas Obscura remembers that “In 1961, Roald Dahl Hosted His Own Version of ‘The Twilight Zone’” called Way Out.

Under the gun, some enterprising producers at the network began dreaming up a creepy drama show to fill the time slot, and they went right to Dahl. While he is best remembered today for his timeless works of children’s literature like Matilda and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, for a good portion of his writing career, he was better known as an author of twisted, devilish fiction. As explained in an article originally published in Filmfax Magazine, Dahl jumped at the chance to develop the series, spurred on by the fact that the show’s time slot (9:30 p.m. on Fridays) fell right before another thematically similar little CBS show, The Twilight Zone.

The black-and-white show would begin with what became its signature image, a slow pan over a series of mist-shrouded, disembodied hands, before resting on one which would burst into flames at the title came onscreen. Then, flexing his dry British charm like a more cosmopolitan Vincent Price, Dahl would give a short intro to each episode. The bulk of the program consisted of the main tale, usually a short morality play with an ironic or surprising ending or element, which often dipped into the supernatural. Then Dahl would close out the show with another direct epilogue, much like the Cryptkeeper of the later Tales From the Crypt.

(10) HELLO, I LOVE YOU. A Vintage News story tells how “Abandoned in space in 1967, a US satellite has started transmitting again”.

In 2013 in North Cornwall, UK, an Amateur Radio Astronomer picked up a signal which he determined to be the LES1 that was built by MIT in 1965. The satellite never made it to its intended orbit and had been spinning out of control ever since.

Phil Williams, the amateur radio astronomer from near Bude, picked out the odd signal which was transmitting due to it tumbling end over end every four seconds as the solar panels became shadowed by the engine. “This gives the signal a particularly ghostly sound as the voltage from the solar panels fluctuates,” Williams said.

It’s more than likely the onboard batteries have disintegrated, and something else caused its 237Mhz transmission to resume when it was in sunlight.

The LES1 is about the size of a small automobile and should not cause any issues more than any other piece of space junk in orbit.

This proves electronics built around 50 years ago, 12 years before Voyager 1, and far before microprocessors and integrated circuits are still capable of working in the hostile environs of space. Phil refers to his hobby as “Radio-Archaeology”.

(11) TREACHEROUS HOME APPLIANCES. It’s great that Sixties electronics are still working in space, but look out for latest tech in your own home: the internet of things is a fertile environment for hackers, who can turn even the most innocuous thing to their purposes: “Why Light Bulbs May Be The Next Hacker Target” in the New York Times.

Now here’s the bad news: Putting a bunch of wirelessly connected devices in one area could prove irresistible to hackers. Researchers report in a paper made public on Thursday that they have uncovered a flaw in a wireless technology that is often included in smart home devices like lights, switches, locks, thermostats and many of the components of the much-ballyhooed “smart home” of the future.

The researchers focused on the Philips Hue smart light bulb and found that the wireless flaw could allow hackers to take control of the light bulbs, according to researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science near Tel Aviv and Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. That may not sound like a big deal. But imagine thousands or even hundreds of thousands of internet-connected devices in close proximity.

Malware created by hackers could be spread like a pathogen among the devices by compromising just one of them.

And they wouldn’t have to have direct access to the devices to infect them: The researchers were able to spread infection in a network inside a building by driving a car 229 feet away.

The new risk comes from a little-known radio protocol called ZigBee. Created in the 1990s, ZigBee is a wireless standard widely used in home consumer devices. While it is supposed to be secure, it hasn’t been held up to the scrutiny of other security methods used around the internet. The researchers found that the ZigBee standard can be used to create a so-called computer worm to spread malicious software among internet-connected devices.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michaeline Duskova, Camestros Felapton, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]

Pixel Scroll 7/2/16 The Ancillary Swords of Lankhmar

(1) THIS IS THE END MY FRIEND. Melinda Snodgrass advises writers about “Sticking the Landing” at SFFWorld.

All of these various skills work in concert, but I think if a writer fails to deliver a satisfying ending — the ending that has been promised by the story then the entire project is likely to fail.  It doesn’t matter how good the ride or delightful the journey.  If the final scene is disappointing and leaves the reader/viewer/player feeling cheated they probably aren’t going to be recommending that book or film or game to their friends and family.

There are various ways to state this — “keeping your promise”, “sticking the landing”, “providing a sense of closure”.  Often people who dismiss this requirement do so by sniffing “that the readers/viewers/players just want a happy ending.”  That may be true, and it’s probably a topic for a different essay, but let me say that I think there is case to be made for the happy ending.  Too often critics seem to equate darkness with importance.

So how do you make an ending satisfying?  First, you have to lay in the ultimate solution and the tools to bring about that solution in the beginning of the book or film or game.  You can’t suddenly ring in a new player, or a new fact, a new magic power or super power for the protagonist to use at the end and expect to keep your fans.  They will rightly feel cheated, that you hid the football from them and didn’t play fair.  Worse is the conclusion that you didn’t really know what you were doing and just grabbed for some kind of resolution.  Often those kind of ending don’t seem organic and true to the world that was created, the rules of that world, and the problem as presented…

(2) BUY-IN. Sherwood Smith responds to the question “Reading: What makes YOU believe?” at Book View Café.

A lot of these readers are lured by what I call the seduction of competence: characters who have agency, especially with panache. Anyone who has dreamed of stepping forward and having the right idea, which everyone responds to, and leading the way to righting an egregious wrong instead of cowering back waiting for someone else to act (or, worse, stepping forward just to be shouted down scornfully, or totally ignored) probably looks for characters who either start out as heroes, or attain heroism through hard work.

So those are the easy ones: readers willingly invest in characters they can fall in love with, or identify with, or admire. And then there are the characters who fascinate for whatever reason, like the many who couldn’t get enough of Hannibal Lector. Some are drawn to characters who are monstrous, or ridiculous.

(3) VERSATILITY. Coach Paul Cornell visited Convergence today.

(4) THE INK NO LONGER STINKS. Technology has turned the corner, in the latest installment of M.D. Jackson’s series: “Why Was Early Comic Book Art so Crude (Part 4)”.

But there were two other factors that changed the nature of comic books. One was technological and the other was economical.

The technology of printing was changing with the adoption of flexography. Flexography is a high speed print process that uses fast-drying inks and can print on many types of absorbent and non-absorbent materials. The flexopress is cheaper because the inks are water based, which meant they dried quicker and were easier to clean up. The flexographic presses also are lighter and take up less room.

For years comics were printed on low-grade, absorbent papers that were not meant to last. Early comics were rare because the paper degraded so quickly. The distribution system also was designed to put comic books in as many places as they could find kids to buy them. Remember the spinner racks of comics in your local drug store? Comic books, then retailing for about 25 – 30 cents per title, were available everywhere, but they were not made to last.

In the 1980’s the comic book companies began printing certain titles on a better quality of paper, Baxter paper. It was smoother and whiter and the inks and colors looked much better than your regular comic book fare….

(5) CONVERGENT EVOLUTION. Jennifer Frazer, in “The Artful Amoeba” blog on Scientific American, rounds up the photographic evidence for “Butterflies in the Time of Dinosaurs, With Nary a Flower in Sight”.

Jurassic butterflies disappeared a full 45 million years before the first caterpillar decided to grow up and become a beautiful butterfly. Again

…Apparently, way back when Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, a group of insects called lacewings produced butterflies. Not the butterflies we see flitting around today from the Order Lepidoptera, but floating, flapping, nectar-sucking flibbertigibbits nonetheless, with wings adorned with eyespots, veins, and scales….

(6) THOSE DAYS OF YESTERYEAR. At Getty Images you can view footage of the Sinclair oil dinosaur exhibit from the 1933 World’s Fair.

PAN along Brontosaurus dinosaur over to a Triceratops confronting a Tyrannosaurus Rex and down to a duck-billed Hadrosaurid; all dinosaurs were part of the Sinclair Oil exhibit.

(7) FOR SOME VALUES OF HISTORY. Vox Day interrupted his Castalia House status report to endorse the assault on Judith Merril’s memory

Meanwhile, Barry Malzburg makes it clear that some women have always been bent on destroying science fiction.

— because, after all, the measure of a man’s intelligence is how closely he agrees with you, regardless of whether you’ve ever heard of Barry Malzberg before.

(8) QUITE RIGHT.

(9) GAME DEMO. Based on the work of Jeff VanderMeer.

(10) DEEP DIVE INTO BUSIEK/ROSS.

Osvaldo Oyala’s “Marvels and the Limited Imagination of Nostalgia”.

I had not read Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross’s Marvels in quite some time, probably 15 years or more, and despite having a memory of quite liking it when I first read it in the 90s sometime, my suspicion was that it would not hold up to that memory. And, while I was right, it also was not so hagiographic that I could just dismiss it. On the surface it certainly seems that way—unapologetically nostalgic about Marvel’s Golden and Silver Age—but it is actually constructed with competing visions that grant it a bit—a little bit—more complexity, even if ultimately it fails as anything except a sharp reaction to the moment in mainstream comics from which it emerged.

After Phil Sheldon lets a young mutant girl his daughters were sheltering run off into the anti-mutant riotous streets (a reference to a story in 1953’s Weird Science #20) it is difficult to take any of his moral claims seriously (from Marvels #2).

Marvels is a look back at the emergence of Marvel Comics’ heroes through the eyes of “Everyman” photojournalist, Phil Sheldon, from the first appearance of characters like the Original Human Torch and Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner in 1940, through the death of Gwen Stacey in the early 70s. Sheldon, as a kind of stand-in for the Marvel reader, displays complex and shifting attitudes towards the superheroes he calls “Marvels.” In each of the four issues we see his different perspectives on Marvel’s super-characters. From a deep fear of their raw power and capricious behavior that shifts to an appreciative awe of their demi-god stature as forces of nature in the first issue to a threatening cynicism that leads him to retire from his livelihood snapping pictures of their conflicts, adventures and social appearances in the last issue, when Gwen Stacey’s death becomes just another minor detail buried in a seeming endless cycle of superhero fisticuffs and collateral damage. In between, he participates in paranoid anti-mutant riots before abandoning his bigotry upon realizing mutants can be “our own children” (which made me roll my eyes so hard they still hurt), and later grows angry at the flaring bouts of negative public sentiment against heroes like the Fantastic Four, the Avengers and Spider-Man, fuming at the lack of gratitude displayed for their having saved the city or the world over and over again. And in case we might forget Sheldon’s special insight into the world of superheroes, in the first issue he loses an eye, calling to the One-Eyed Man or Blind Seer trope. At every stage when everyone else seems to return to hating or being suspicious of the superhero figure, Sheldon sees through public fear and pettiness (despite sometimes feeling it himself) to an understanding of the world he occupies that evokes something akin to the awe of Moses before the burning bush. As he says in the first issue after the rubble from the epic confrontation between the original Human Torch and the Sub-mariner takes his eye (a re-telling of the events of Marvel Mystery Comics #8 and 9), “It isn’t going to be them that adapts to us. The world is different now.” In other words, he can see with his Odin-eye what the general public cannot or will not, everyday people exist in the superhuman world, not the other way around. As Geoff Klock posits in his seminal book of comic book literary criticism, How to Read Superhero Comic Books and Why, unlike the transformative comic book texts like Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns that ask, “What would it be like if superheroes lived in our world? Marvels…ask[s], what would it feel like if we could live in theirs?” (77). And the answer is, kinda fucking scary.

This narrative vision constructed by Busiek, however, manifests in the near-photorealistic painting of Alex Ross which provides a Rockwellian patina of troubling idealism that passes for “realism.” ….

(11) LEWIS DRAMATIZED. The Most Reluctant Convert, a stage show about C.S. Lewis, will be in town July 10-23 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre in Irvine, CA.

Max McLean brings to life one of the most engaging personalities of our age and takes audiences on Lewis’ fascinating theatrical journey from atheism to Christianity. Adapted exclusively from Lewis’ writings, McLean inhabits Lewis from the death of his mother, his estranged relationship with his father and the experiences that led him from vigorous debunker to the most vibrant and influential Christian intellectual of the 20th Century. Experience a joyous evening of Lewis’ entertaining wit and fascinating insight. Cherish every minute of the extraordinary journey of C.S. Lewis as The Most Reluctant Convert.

Lewis’ experience is synopsized in a Director’s Note.

In 1950, C.S. Lewis received a letter from a young American writer expressing his struggle to believe Christianity because he thought it “too good to be true.” Lewis responded, “My own position at the threshold of Christianity was exactly the opposite of yours. You wish it were true; I strongly hoped it was not…Do you think people like Stalin, Hitler, Haldane, Stapledon (a corking good writer, by the way) would be pleased on waking up one morning to find that they were not their own masters…that there was nothing even in the deepest recesses of their thoughts about which they could say to Him, ‘Keep out! Private. This is my business’? Do you? Rats!… Their first reaction would be (as mine was) rage and terror.”

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

(13) GENTLEFEN, BE SORTED. Want to be enrolled in the North American wizards’ school? Potterverse will run you through the process.

“Ilvermony House: Thunderbird”

Named by Chadwick Boot after his favourite magical beast, the Thunderbird, a beast that can create storms as it flies. Thunderbird house is sometimes considered to represent the soul of a witch or wizard. It is also said that Thunderbird favours adventurers.

(14) LINEAGE UNLOCKED. A recent episode of Game of Thrones inspired Adam Whitehead to draw conclusions about Jon Snow — “When Theories Are Confirmed: Twenty Years of Speculation”.

BEWARE SPOILERS. OR AT LEAST SPECULATIVE ATTEMPTS AT SPOILERS.

However, its status as the biggest mystery in fantasy had already long been supplanted. In 1996 George R.R. Martin published the first novel in A Song of Ice and Fire, A Game of Thrones. A minor subplot revolves around the status of Eddard Stark’s bastard son, Jon Snow, born out of wedlock to Eddard and…well, someone. His wife, Catelyn, believes it was a Dornish noblewoman, Ashara Dayne of Starfall. Eddard himself has told King Robert Baratheon – incredibly reluctantly – that it was a serving girl named Wylla. In A Storm of Swords the young lord of Starfall, Edric Dayne, also confirms (to Arya Stark) that it was Wylla, who was his wetnurse.

(15) NONE DARE CALL IT SLASH. NPR found there is plenty of fan fiction online about the 2016 candidates, Bernie, Donald, and others now out of the running.

In another story, written in the style of a Western, Jeb Bush fights to protect a Florida school from a Sharknado.

“You think ‘it can happen anywhere,’ never realizing that it can happen anywhere.

A SHOT —

The shard of glass in Jeb’s hand shatters by the scrape of a bullet. Jeb drops the ground, rolls through the booze-soaked ground. He jumps up to a squat and whips out the old pistol and holds it to the bullet hole in the doorway. The engraved barrel shimmers: Gov. Jeb Bush.

Florida hasn’t been safe since the Sharknados started coming. When I was in my 40s, the kids used to tease about the swamp sharks. Gave me the heebie-jeebies over a plague of mutant sea creatures that roamed the Everglades.”

In the 2016 presidential cycle, where everything seems unpredictable, fiction allows voters to determine exactly what happens next – whether it’s set in the present day or some kind of alternate universe where sharks rain down in a natural disaster.

(16) WHEN TWO FANTASISTS MET. Walt Disney and Roald Dahl hung out together in 1942 – who knew?

More than a decade before Walt Disney welcomed guests into his land of fantasy and two decades before author Roald Dahl penned his excursion into The BFG’s cave and Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, these two creative legends crossed paths in 1942 when The Walt Disney Studios optioned Dahl’s first book, The Gremlins, for an animated feature. With Disney’s The BFG coming to theaters on July 1, D23 takes a look at the connection between these two creative visionaries.

The Gremlins was fashioned from stories told by English airmen who attributed equipment failures and other mishaps to mischievous little saboteurs. From these tales, Dahl—then a Flight Lieutenant for the Royal Air Force—created a story and specific characters for his book.

(17) LACKING CHARACTERS. In an “Uninvent This” feature for The New Yorker, Ted Chiang contemplated “If Chinese Were Phonetic”.

So let’s imagine a world in which Chinese characters were never invented in the first place. Given such a void, the alphabet might have spread east from India in a way that it couldn’t in our history, but, to keep this from being an Indo-Eurocentric thought experiment, let’s suppose that the ancient Chinese invented their own phonetic system of writing, something like the modern Bopomofo, some thirty-two hundred years ago. What might the consequences be? Increased literacy is the most obvious one, and easier adoption of modern technologies is another. But allow me to speculate about one other possible effect.

One of the virtues claimed for Chinese characters is that they make it easy to read works written thousands of years ago. The ease of reading classical Chinese has been significantly overstated, but, to the extent that ancient texts remain understandable, I suspect it’s due to the fact that Chinese characters aren’t phonetic. Pronunciation changes over the centuries, and when you write with an alphabet spellings eventually adapt to follow suit. (Consider the differences between “Beowulf,” “The Canterbury Tales,” and “Hamlet.”) Classical Chinese remains readable precisely because the characters are immune to the vagaries of sound. So if ancient Chinese manuscripts had been written with phonetic symbols, they’d become harder to decipher over time.

Chinese culture is notorious for the value it places on tradition. It would be reductive to claim that this is entirely a result of the readability of classical Chinese, but I think it’s reasonable to propose that there is some influence. Imagine a world in which written English had changed so little that works of “Beowulf” ’s era remained continuously readable for the past twelve hundred years. I could easily believe that, in such a world, contemporary English culture would retain more Anglo-Saxon values than it does now. So it seems plausible that in this counterfactual history I’m positing, a world in which the intelligibility of Chinese texts erodes under the currents of phonological change, Chinese culture might not be so rooted in the past. Perhaps China would have evolved more throughout the millennia and exhibited less resistance to new ideas. Perhaps it would have been better equipped to deal with modernity in ways completely unrelated to an improved ability to use telegraphy or computers.

(18) STRONG LURE. At BookRiot, Derek Attig feels there’s no need to bait the hook when what you’re offering is as irresistible as “100 Must-Read Books about Libraries & Bookstores”.

I’m not even sure why I’m writing an introduction to this list. It’s a hundred books about libraries and bookstores! That should sell itself.

But sure. Fine. I’ll make the pitch.

Books are a crucial part of our lives (especially yours, since here you are being a great big nerd on Book Riot), but I think we don’t always pay enough attention to the institutions that get those books into our grubby, greedy little hands. Sure, we’ll bicker about Amazon sometimes or squee over a bookmobile, but how much time do we take to really explore and think about what libraries and bookstores really mean?

Not enough!

(19) SORRY ABOUT THAT. Godzilla and fellow monsters apologized at a Japanese press conference for acts of destruction. Why, yes, it’s another scheme to sell toys – how did you guess?

The world of gachapon vending machine capsule toys just got even weirder with a new lineup of figurines from top Japanese toy producer Bandai. Called the “Godzilla Toho Monsters Press Conference”, the series depicts Godzilla, along with three other kaiju monsters from the acclaimed movie production and distribution company Toho, all appearing at fictional press conferences, complete with microphone stand and name plaque. These types of formal apologies are commonly seen on television news reports around Japan, in cases where high-profile politicians and celebrities formally atone for scandals and wrongdoings, expressing remorse to the public with deep, heartfelt bows. Only this time, it’s a group of well-known movie monsters making amends for their actions.

Godzilla apologizes

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

Top Sales of 2015 at AbeBooks

AbeBooks, an online listing service for dealers in vintage books, publishes an annual list of the volumes it sold for the highest prices.

The most expensive item sold through AbeBooks in 2015 was Storia naturale degli uccelli trattata con metodo e adornata di figure intagliate in rame e miniate al naturale. Ornithologia methodice digesta atque iconibus aeneis ad vivum illuminatis by Saverio Manetti, a famous Italian ornithology book from 1765 that went for $191,000.

That sale also set a new mark as AbeBooks’ most expensive ever. The firm’s dual record holders before that were two books which each sold for $65,000 in 2003 — a 1937 first edition of The Hobbit and a 1644 copy of Areopagitica, John Milton’s defense of press freedom.

Works of genre interest AbeBooks sold for top dollar last year were —

charlie-and-the-chocolate-factory

  1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl – $25,000 A first edition from 1964 that had been signed and inscribed by the author with the words “For Jane and Alex with much love Roald Dahl October 1964.” The bookseller was Raptis Rare Books located in Brattleboro, Vermont. Published in September 1964 by Knopf, just 10,000 copies of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were published and they sold out within a few weeks. This copy is by far the most expensive Roald Dahl book to sell via AbeBooks and probably the most expensive Dahl book to ever be sold.
  1. Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien – $19,492 Three volumes comprising The Fellowship of the Ring (signed by the author), The Two Towers, and The Return of the King, published in 1954, 1954, and 1955 respectively. All first editions.
  1. The Astronauts: The Story of Project Mercury, America’s Man-in-Space Program by Martin Caidin – $18,500 Project Mercury was America’s first mission to put men into space. First edition published in 1960 and signed by all seven of the project’s astronauts – Scott Carpenter, Leroy Cooper, Alan Shepard, Deke Slayton, John Glenn, Wally Schirra, and Gus Grissom. The project ran from 1958 and culminated in 1962 when Glenn made three orbits of the Earth.
  1. (tie) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick – $15,000 1968 first edition signed and inscribed by Dick. The book served as the basis for the Blade Runner movie. The plot is set in a post-apocalyptic world where a bounty hunter is tasked with destroying six escaped androids.

A couple of other genre works outside the top 15 that were mention in AbeBooks’ roundup —

  • The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett – $9,633 A 1983 first edition of the first book in the Discworld series that had a print run of just 506 copies, most of which disappeared into the library system. Sadly, Pratchett died in March 2015.
  • A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – $2,480 A signed 1979 first edition of one of the funniest books ever written.

Here are links to File 770’s coverage of AbeBooks’ sales roundups from the past couple of years.

Top Sales of 2014 at AbeBooks

  1. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll & illustrated by Salvador Dali – $20,000 The 1969 Maecenas Press/Random House edition, signed by the artist. The seller described the book ‘as new’ and its leather Solander box as ‘fine’. Only 2,500 copies were produced, containing 12 memorable illustrations from the surrealist.

AbeBooks Most Expensive Sales of 2013

  1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – $20,000 First edition from June 1997 – one of the 500 copies printed.

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh for the story.]

Bring Out Yer Dead!

The Sunday Times Online cannot explain why the literary estates of dead authors have suddenly become sought-after business for agents:

What’s going on? Until recently, literary estates were a cottage industry, handled by executors – a grandchild or a spouse, say – in a more or less dilatory fashion. While the work was in copyright (for 70 years after the author’s death) the family would reply to correspondence, renew rights and preserve the writer’s good name. If the estate was represented, it was by the same agent who represented the author during his lifetime. One did not poach dead people.

It now seems the rules have changed. The playground accusation of some British agents is that [American literary agent Andrew] “Wylie started it”, which does not explain why so many have followed his example. Agencies are businesses. They do not promote authors for fun. Estates, meanwhile, are notoriously hard work to manage. Why are they now so attractive?

Five of the eight authors on Sunday Times Online’s list of “literary estates every agent wants” have written fantasy or science fiction: J.R.R. Tolkien, T.S. Eliot, Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton and C.S. Lewis.

[Thanks to John Mansfield for the link.]