Pixel Scroll 12/13/17 It’s Crackers To Scroll A Rozzer The Pixel In Snide

(1) RECOMMENDED BY NINE OUT OF TEN. The BBC scanned the media and concluded: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi has critics in raptures”. (Except for Variety and The Verge.)

“Rousing.” “Thrilling.” “Addictively bold.” Just a few of the superlatives the critics are using to describe the latest film in the Star Wars saga.

The Last Jedi, writes the Telegraph, is “enormous fun” and “will leave fans beaming with surprise”.

The Guardian calls it “an explosive sugar rush of spectacle” possessing “a tidal wave of energy and emotion”.

Variety, though, swims against the tide, describing it as “the longest and least essential chapter in the series”.

Rian Johnson’s film, says Peter Debruge, is “ultimately a disappointment” that “gives in to the same winking self-parody that is poisoning other franchises of late.”

Writing in The Verge, Tasha Robinson tends to agree: “Audiences will likely come away from The Last Jedi with a lot of complaints and questions.”

(3) SPACE BALONEY. A history of fake Star Wars news — “Inside the ‘Star Wars’ Fake News Con That Tortured Fans for 20 Years” from Thrillist.

There was little legitimate movie news on the internet in early 1997, most tidbits trickling down from Hollywood’s print trade magazines, but the pioneering gossips and rumormongers of today’s post-and-verify-later model of online journalism hustled to find scoops and stake a claim with the eager readership. In its infancy, Ain’t It Cool News dished out flashy updates from its network of film industry spies; Corona’s Coming Attractions was a meticulous clearinghouse of rumors on just about every movie in development; for those that required all Star Wars, all the time, there were laser-focused sites like TheForce.net and RebelScum.com, which aggregated the latest Star Wars news (while occasionally dropping scoops of their own).

There was an embarrassment of rumor riches, and though a high percentage of the Star Wars scoops were bunk, people dove right in, elated that the most beloved film franchise of their youth had blasted back to the fore of pop culture. There was no reliable editorial oversight, only a treasure hunt, and the burden of bullshit detection fell on the reader. Which is how ludicrous stories — like the howler that nearly half the footage shot for The Phantom Menace came back from the lab out of focus — gained real traction in 1998.

(3) LICENSE TO SHILL. Techdirt’s Timothy Geigner began his coverage of last week’s SDCC v SLCC jury trial with some brutal criticism for Rose City Comic Con, who accepted a free license from SDCC to use the “comic con” name: “Opening Statements In The Trademark Battle Of The Comic Cons, While Other Regional Cons Go Full Judas”.

Of course, the problem with this study is that no matter what the public in the SDCC’s sample indicated, the simple fact is that comic conventions throughout the country have been using the term “comic con” with wild abandon. As they did so, it seems that the SDCC was in some sort of trademark hibernation for years, with no action against all of these national comic cons that I can find. SLCC made the same point in its opening argument, their defense seemingly settling on the notion that the term “comic con” had become generic….

It seems that the SDCC fully anticipated this defense and decided to attempt to undermine it by finding a comic con out there, any comic con, to enter into a laughably cheap licensing agreement. That SDCC is doing this only at the same time it is bringing this suit to trial makes its motive plain and naked. It’s a shameless attempt to give its long-abandoned trademark the imprimatur of now having an actual licensee. As disappointing as the SDCC’s actions are, those of the sellout cons are all the more so. Just read the press release from Rose City Comic Con in Portland about how it licensed the “comic con” mark and you’ll get an idea of just how likely it is that the SDCC basically scripted this thing for them.

“Rose City Comic Con, Portland, Oregon’s largest comics and pop-culture convention, is proud to announce its association with San Diego Comic Convention for its three-day event taking place September 7-9, 2018 at the Oregon Convention Center. Rose City Comic Con received the license at no additional cost to the show, and acknowledges the trademark owned by San Diego Comic Convention and is excited to affiliate itself with the prestigious event.”

“Comic-Con, the San Diego convention, is without question the biggest and most important event in the comics and popular arts industry every year. To have the respected event recognize the hard work of Rose City Comic Con by providing a license agreement is really remarkable for the city of Portland and the incredible community of creators we’re lucky to have here,” said Rose City Comic Con founder Ron Brister.

So moist does Rose City seem to be over its free license that it must have failed to understand the motive for this free gift by the SDCC and the damage it might do to all of the other comic cons out there that are now or might in the future be under threat by SDCC. Now, I don’t believe that SDCC managing to squeeze a few licensees from this national barrel of turnips suddenly means that it didn’t long ago abandon the “comic con” mark, but it seems obvious that these sorts of free licenses aren’t for everyone. I expect the SLCC, for instance, would have jumped at a free license early on in this process. Perhaps it would instead have stood its ground on principle, but given the enormous cost in time and money, not to mention that this thing has dragged out now for several years, I doubt it.

So nice job, Rose City. While one con fights not just for its life, but for the common sense notion that “comic con” should no longer be considered a legit trademark, you went full Judas. Hope those 30 pieces of silver are worth it.

(4) DEAD ON ARRIVAL. The train left Helsinki on December 13 on its way to Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland. One of the passengers won’t make it alive. Adweek reveals how “TBWA Is Turning a Speeding Train Into an Escape Room for Murder on the Orient Express”.

The “Escape Train” will travel 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) over 13 hours. The plot follows thus: A mysterious death has occurred aboard the train. Which player can identify the killer among them?

…The game was designed and built by InsideOut Escape Games, an escape room game pioneer in Finland. Challenges and puzzles will be movie-inspired, with two train carriages reserved exclusively for execution, but over a dozen cabins will be available for players to explore over its 13-hour run.

Online, people will also be able to watch the action as it happens.

“This is a rare opportunity to build a whole new type of game—it taking place on an actual train, with other passengers on board, adds a lot to the dynamics of an escape room experience,” says InsideOut’s Ágnes Kaszás. “To my knowledge, it is the longest-running game ever made, and we are very excited to be able to design it in the spirit of the new hit movie. It’s a dream come true, both for us and the players!”

 

(5) HELPS TO MAKE THE SEASON BRIGHT. Kim Huett asks, “What about a bonus full-colour Doctor Strangemind post given we’re heading into Christmas? Sure, why not.” So in “Virgil Finlay & Fungi! In Colour!”, Huett gives one of sf’s great artist a little help:

Hopefully this seasonal fungi will help to brighten up the lives of those of you currently trudging through winter. I like to think a dead fir festooned with such colourful parasites would look every bit as festive as the traditional sort.

(6) JUSTICE LEAGUE NEEDS A DOG. In “(Super)man’s Best Friend”, Claremont McKenna College fellow Steven J. Lenzner tells Weekly Standard readers that recent movie and TV versions of Superman have neglected Krypto, who is a good dog who wants to protect Superman.

We readers are shown Krypto’s thoughts—and those thoughts, both in form and content, show him to be a model dog. Krypto thinks only in the present tense, employing—to the extent possible—one-syllable words with concision; that is to say, he thinks as one would imagine a dog thinking. Moreover, the content of his thoughts goes far toward explaining the old adage that dog is a Kryptonian’s best friend. Krypto is, as befits a good American dog, deeply concerned with his happiness—and what makes him happy, above all, is his master’s praise: “Good boy.” The first word of the story is Krypto’s (“Man”), as is the last word (“Happy”). And in between Krypto displays the cardinal canine virtues: loyalty, courage, and affection. Krypto loves his friends and hates his enemies. And his circle of friends has a limited radius. He has none of that easy and indiscriminate affection that diminishes the charm of a dog’s love for its master.

(7) IT’S BULL. In “Hitler banned it; Gandhi loved it: ‘The Story of Ferdinand,’ the book and, now, film”, the Washington Post’s Karen McPherson discusses the classic children’s book written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson, which has just been remade as Ferdinand.  She discusses how the previous animated version of the film, Disney’s 1938 Ferdinand the Bull, won an Academy Award and how Leaf and Lawson’s book was praised by Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and denounced by Adolf Hitler, who called the book “dangerous democratic propaganda.”

Leaf wrote “The Story of Ferdinand” in less than an hour one rainy fall afternoon as a gift to his good friend Lawson. Contending that “dogs, rabbits, mice and goats had all been done a thousand times,” Leaf focused his story on a Spanish bull named Ferdinand who eschews fighting for flower-sniffing, refusing to fight even when forced to face the matador in the ring. Instead, Ferdinand sits down to enjoy the fragrance of the flowers adorning the hair of women spectators.

(8) PEDAL TO THE MEDAL. Pretty soon it’s the robots that will be citius, altius, fortius: “A humanoid robot carried the Olympic torch in South Korea”.

One of the traditions of the Olympics is the torch relay, in which people carry the flame from Olympia, Greece to the location of the Games. In 2018, the Olympic Games will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the torch relay is currently underway. Earlier this week, the HUBO, the humanoid robot, carried the flame for part of its journey.

HUBO only covered 150 meters (about 500 feet) with the torch, but its presence was largely symbolic. As part of its torch duties, HUBO performed an example of a disaster rescue operation in which it cut a hole in a brick wall (while still holding the torch). It was intended as a “display of innovation and creativity,” according to PyeongChang 2018 Organizing Committee President LEE Hee-beom.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 13, 1951 The Day The Earth Stood Still received its theatrical premiere in the UK.
  • December 13, 1996 — Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! came out on this day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CHIMNEY SWEEP

  • Born December 13, 1925 – Dick Van Dyke

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Usually you look in the Bible for what happened “In the beginning…” but Chip Hitchcock found the answer at Mr. Boffo.

(12) BIG BIRD. When they had happy feet, you got out of their way: “Giant Prehistoric Penguins Once Swam Off The Coast Of New Zealand”.

An international team of scientists have announced the discovery of a previously unknown species of prehistoric penguin.

The bird waddled around off the east coast of New Zealand between 55 and 60 million years ago. And it was a giant as far as penguins go. The researchers estimate that it probably weighed about 220 pounds and was around 5 feet 10 inches tall.

“That’s about as tall as a medium-sized man,” says Gerald Mayr, a paleontologist at the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Franfurt, Germany, and the lead author of the new study published today in Nature Communications. “This particular specimen is one of the largest known fossil penguins.”

The largest living penguin, on the other hand, the Emperor penguin, is a good bit shorter — around 4 feet.

The scientists have named the new species Kumimanu biceae, which means ‘monster bird’ in the Maori language. (Kumi is the name of a monster in Maori mythology and manu means bird.)

The new finding is really cool, says Julia Clarke, a paleontologist at the University of Texas, Austin, who wasn’t involved in the study. “I mean, what’s not cool about a human-sized penguin?” she says.

(13) THANKS FOR YOUR TECH. Despite their service being blocked, Google will open an artificial intelligence centre in China.

Google is deepening its push into artificial intelligence (AI) by opening a research centre in China, even though its search services remain blocked in the country.

Google said the facility would be the first its kind in Asia and would aim to employ local talent.

Silicon Valley is focusing heavily on the future applications for AI.

China has also indicated strong support for AI development and for catching up with the US.

(14) DOZOIS REVIEWS. The title of his December 13 entry is “Gardner Dozois Reviews Short Fiction” but most of it is brief descriptions of stories recently on Tor.com or in F&SF. Should that be what you’re looking for, you’ll find it at Locus Online.

(15) GLOBAL SWARMING. The BBC expects “Robot swarms to map the seafloor”.

It’s one of those truisms that we know the shape of the surface of Mars and the Moon far better than we know our own planet.

The reason for this is Earth’s oceans: they cover 71% of the globe and are impenetrable to the satellite mapping techniques we use so capably on those other worlds.

The scientific community has set itself the ambitious goal of correcting this anomaly.

The aim is to have no feature on the ocean floor larger than 100m unmapped by 2030.

It’s a huge task when you consider at the moment the vast majority of the water-covered parts of Earth are known to a resolution no better than about a kilometre.

Some big technological shifts will be required in the next 10 years to correct the picture. And that is really the raison d’être behind the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE.

A $7m pot has been offered to find the systems and strategies that will bring about a step change in bathymetric (depth) mapping.

(16) PIPE DOWN. Kameron Hurley talks back to that Bitter Midlister Voice in her head, in “What Comes Next? Everything”.

… We have all met or heard from bitter midlisters. These are the people who publicly rant about how the success of their bestselling peers has nothing to do with quality, but with luck, or favoritism, and how the game is rigged against them. They bloviate on forums and social platforms about how they didn’t get the sort of success they were owed. This is often how you can differentiate the bitter midlister from those simply exhausted by the –isms inherent in publishing. Bitter midlisters feel that they are owed success by virtue of their existence, instead of simply that they understand they need to work harder in a system rigged to favor certain types of books and authors….

It used to be that when I wrote, I’d be railing against all the outside voices, the supposed gatekeepers, the editors and agents who rejected my work. As I’ve become more skilled, I realize that my greatest enemy isn’t them at all, and never was. My greatest enemy these days is just myself, and the BMV™.

I have a great deal to achieve in this, the second half of my life. The last year of horror had led me to double down on my worst tendencies, to withdraw, to simply endure. But I want the next thirty years of my life to be more than mere endurance. I want to truly thrive. I want to come into my own as a skilled artist, as a novelist. It’s always been my goal to be an exceptionally skilled novelist, the best, and I won’t get there by hiding in my house in Ohio with a pillow over my head and nursing the BMV™

(17) COULD HOLD A THOUSAND ROSETTAS. “Nasa’s New Horizons probe strikes distant gold” — the target past Pluto is at least two objects.

The American space agency’s New Horizons mission has struck gold again.

After its astonishing flyby of Pluto in 2015, scientists have just discovered that the probe’s next target is not one object but very likely two.

Earth-based observations suggest the small icy world, referred to simply as MU69, has a moonlet.

It seems New Horizons will now be making a two-for-the price-of-one flyby when it has its encounter on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, 2019….

(18) TICKETY BOO. “Dracula ticks in amber tell ancient blood-sucking tale”. The BBC report reminded Chip Hitchcock of Brian Aldiss’s “Poor Little Warrior,” which describes human-size parasites (possibly ticks?) on a Brontosaurus; these are more typical in size.

Scientists say the discovery, which has echoes of Jurassic Park, is the first direct fossil evidence that ticks fed on the blood of dinosaurs.

The research is published in the journal, Nature Communications.

”Ticks parasitised feathered dinosaurs; now we have direct evidence of it,” co-researcher Dr Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History told BBC News.

…Together, these findings suggest that ticks have been sucking the blood of dinosaurs for almost 100 million years.

(19) RENDEZVOUS WITH…? Is the weird shape unnatural? Stand by, while “Interstellar asteroid checked for alien technology”.

A project searching for intelligent life in the cosmos is going to check the first known interstellar asteroid for signs of alien technology.

The odd-shaped object was detected as it sped towards the Sun on 19 October.

Its properties suggested it originated around another star, making it the first such body to be spotted in our cosmic neighbourhood.

An initiative backed by billionaire Yuri Milner will use a radio telescope to listen for signals from it.

The team’s efforts will begin on Wednesday, with astronomers observing the asteroid, which is currently speeding away from our Solar System, across four different radio frequency bands.

(20) BATTLE OF THE SJW CREDENTIALS. It’s a Conestoga catastrophe.

(21) THE SHAPE OF WATER. The Shape of Water director Guillermo del Toro appeared with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. He begins by saying his manager’s call about the Golden Globe nominations woke him up “it took me four nominations to find the glasses.”

(22) LEGO ANNIHLATION. Mark Hepworth sent the link with a note: “Either genius, or a tragic waste of Lego. The main event starts at about 2:50.”

David, Henrik and Sylvia plays with Lego. This time it’s the giant 1.2 meter, 3152 piece, 3.5 kg heavy Star Wars – Super Star Destroyer. This episode has a twist to it. We mount the Super Star Destroyer on the rocket sled and accelerate it up to 108km/h. Very rapid disassembly follows.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 11/29/17 I Have Discovered A Truly Marvelous Pixel, Which The Margin Of This Scroll Is Too Narrow To Contain

(1) ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTING. A week ago Bleeding Cool reported “Adult-Themed Site Cosplay Deviants Has Trademarked Cosplay is NOT Consent”.

An explosion of chatter has erupted online as people have taken notice that the cosplay-themed porn website Cosplay Deviants trademarked the phrase “Cosplay is NOT Consent.”  The idea that this particular site is positioning itself as the “champion” or “leading edge” of the effort to have more conventions implement and post harassment policies has taken the community by surprise…

Additionally, there have been comments online to the effect of Cosplay Deviants CEO Troy Doerner approaching conventions attempting to get royalties for using the Cosplay is not Consent trademark.

In the face of negative public reaction, Troy Doerner says he has now legally abandoned the trademark.

So here’s the thing: I will continue to work to combat harassment of cosplayers in the fan community hourly, daily, and yearly until I retire from all of this. Cosplay is NOT Consent is a phrase that carries weight, impact, and meaning for those that listen to the message and not just read the words.

I have no intention of stopping my work supporting this vital movement in fandom.

I have, however, decided to legally abandon the trademark… a process which was finalized just prior to this post. There have been a number of valid points made regarding securing it, and (even if it was for the right reasons) doing so isn’t a simple solution to a very complicated topic. We’ve heard the community and we will continue to be a part of this discussion, but this just seems like the best course of action.

So thank you to everyone that professionally shared your opinions and feedback with me to help lead to this decision. It wasn’t an easy conclusion to come to, but that’s the best part of being a part of this business: the opportunity to learn, evolve, and finding new ways to grow.

Online records show the trademark surrender was received November 28.

(2) RSR. Keffy and several coauthors have written “An Open Letter With Respect to Reviews Published on Rocket Stack Rank”. This is just one of a number of points:

The reviewer, who is not trans and/or non-binary, makes judgments about the validity of pronouns and identities, and decides which author “makes good use of [transness]” and which authors do not. This is problematic and hurtful. This is a way of saying “you do not belong.” A way of saying “stories about you don’t belong.” When reviews specifically cite pronouns of characters as justifications for rating a story down, a line is crossed. A line where not only writers but readers may find their identity questioned, belittled, and willfully misunderstood. A line that RSR crosses often and with seeming impunity.

Over a hundred people have cosigned the letter in comments.

(3) FAKE NEWS. CBR.com reports the deception continued for over a decade: “The Strange Tale of CB Cebulski’s Time as Akira Yoshida”.

The comic book world was rocked today by news that new Marvel Editor-in-Chief, C.B. Cebulski, has admitted that he wrote under the pseudonym “Akira Yoshida” for two years from 2004-2005 while he was an editor at Marvel Comics.

The first work by “Akira Yoshida” was published at Dark Horse Comics in early 2004, but then he debuted at Marvel with an Elekta miniseries.

… Finally, today, Cebulski admitted to Rich Johnston that he was, in fact, “Akira Yoshida,” telling Johnston:

I stopped writing under the pseudonym Akira Yoshida after about a year. It wasn’t transparent, but it taught me a lot about writing, communication and pressure. I was young and naïve and had a lot to learn back then. But this is all old news that has been dealt with, and now as Marvel’s new Editor-in-Chief, I’m turning a new page and am excited to start sharing all my Marvel experiences with up and coming talent around the globe.

(4) WHALEFALL. Ursula Vernon’s Hugo acceptance and sea life speech, “An Unexpected Honor”, has been posted by the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Well. This is an unexpected honor. My fellow winners have said some very meaningful things up here on the stage tonight.

I want to talk to you about dead whales….

(5) WHERE’S MY CAR AT. The internet vote on this was so close they almost had to throw it to the House of Representatives.

(6) NO TURKEYS HERE: Jason, at Featured Futures, gives out a list of, and some comments on, some of the month’s fiction he was most thankful to read with the “Summation of Online Fiction: November 2017”.

As I mention in the relevant recommendation, I belatedly discovered that the SFWA had added the flash zine Grievous Angel to its list of pro markets, so I caught up on it. Even with its intermittent microfiction help, this was a light month in which I read about 134K words from thirty-four of thirty-six November stories. This month’s recommendations and honorable mentions, especially for science fiction, are also fairly light. There were still several good stories, though, and the 238th number of Beneath Ceaseless Skies was especially noteworthy.

(7) WRITING ADVICE. Author Susan Triceratops invites you to “Ask A Triceratops” at Camestros Felapton’s blog:

So would I include a love story in a zombie survival novel? You betcha! A group of survivors learning how to be tough in a world full of remorseless yet stupid predators? That’s practically soap-opera for a triceratops. You may not believe this but your average T-rex was either an idiot or a drunk or both.

(8) VESTIGES. It makes me glad to know someone has preserved this sort of thing, although I could not afford to own it: “The Bugle Which Sounded Taps for Lincoln”. The bid is up to $80,000. And come to think of it, if I had that money I wouldn’t be spending it on a collectible.

According to a June 17, 1923, article in the Columbus Dispatch, “the historic bugle has been located in Columbus and will be used in blowing the assembly call in the ‘Pageant of Memories’ which will be given at the state G.A.R. encampment June 26. The bugle is the property of H. M. Cook, who inherited it from his father, Hiram Cook, who was a member of President Lincoln’s bodyguard.”

The historic bugle has remained in the Cook family ever since. In 1973, it was loaned to the Smithsonian Institution as part of an exhibit of artifacts of slain presidents, and displayed alongside the bugle which sounded taps for President Kennedy. A photograph of the Smithsonian display accompanies the bugle, along with as letter of thanks from the Associate Curator of the Division of Political History. It has been consigned for auction by a direct descendent of Hiram Cook whose notarized affidavit accompanies the lot.

(9) FLASH EXEC PRODUCER FIRED. Variety reports “‘Flash,’ ‘Arrow’ EP Andrew Kreisberg Fired Amid Harassment Allegations”.

Andrew Kreisberg has been fired from his role as executive producer on superhero dramas “The Flash,” “Arrow,” “Supergirl” and “Legends of Tomorrow” amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment.

“After a thorough investigation, Warner Bros. Television Group has terminated Andrew Kreisberg’s employment, effective immediately,” said the studio in a statement.

…Warner Bros. Television, which produces the DC Comics-inspired dramas for the CW, suspended Kreisberg Nov. 10 from both productions and launched an investigation into multiple claims of sexual harassment on the series. Berlanti and Schechter met with the casts and crews of their series in the days after the allegations surfaced in a Variety report.

In a piece published Nov. 10 at the time of Kreisberg’s suspension, 19 women and men who worked on the Warner Bros.-Berlanti shows described being subjected to or witnessing incidents  similar incidents of inappropriate touching and endemic sexual harassment. The sources spoke with Variety on condition on anonymity. Kreisberg has denied the allegations.

[Hat tip to SF Site News.]

(10) KEILLOR FIRED. The former Prairie Home Companion host has been canned, too. “Garrison Keillor Fired for ‘Inappropriate Behavior’ 1 Day After Defending Al Franken”Jezebel has the story.

Garrison Keillor, the former host of National Public Radio weekend staple, A Prairie Home Companion, has been fired by Minnesota Public Radio for “inappropriate behavior.”

In a statement to the Associated Press, Keillor confirmed that he had been fired over what he cryptically described as “a story that I think is more interesting and more complicated than the version MPR heard.” MPR confirmed Keillor’s termination to the AP, writing in a statement that it is, “terminating its contracts with Garrison Keillor and his private media companies after recently learning of allegations of his inappropriate behavior with an individual who worked with him.” MPR added that it will no longer re-air episodes of Prairie Home Companion where Keillor is the host. “The program’s current iteration hosted by Chris Thile will get a new name,” the AP reports.

(11) FEELING BETTER. The Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge blog explores “How Independent Bookstores Have Thrived in Spite of Amazon.com”.

Here are some of Raffaelli’s key findings so far, based on what he has found to be the “3 C’s” of independent bookselling’s resurgence: community, curation, and convening.

  • Community: Independent booksellers were some of the first to champion the idea of localism; bookstore owners across the nation promoted the idea of consumers supporting their local communities by shopping at neighborhood businesses. Indie bookstores won customers back from Amazon, Borders, and other big players by stressing a strong connection to local community values.
  • Curation: Independent booksellers began to focus on curating inventory that allowed them to provide a more personal and specialized customer experience. Rather than only recommending bestsellers, they developed personal relationships with customers by helping them discover up-and-coming authors and unexpected titles.
  • Convening: Independent booksellers also started to promote their stores as intellectual centers for convening customers with likeminded interests—offering lectures, book signings, game nights, children’s story times, young adult reading groups, even birthday parties. “In fact, some bookstores now host over 500 events a year that bring people together,” Raffaelli says.

(12) INSIDE JOB. B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog recommends these “10 Fiendishly Clever Sci-Fi Locked Room Mysteries”.

The locked room whodunnit is a stalwart of the mystery genre—the seemingly impossible crime committed inside a sealed-off room. Agatha Christie had several famous locked-room mysteries, including Murder on the Orient Express, the latest cinematic adaptation of which is currently chugging through a successful theatrical run. But locked room mysteries aren’t just Poirot’s home turf—more than a few SFF authors haven’t been able to resist the lure of the format, crafting fiendish puzzles in science-fictional contexts (locked rooms beget locked spaceships easily enough). The 10 books listed here offer fantastic sci-fi mysteries that rival anything in Christie’s oeuvre.

First on their list:

Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty
A locked-room mystery nestled comfortably inside a big-idea sci-fi premise, Lafferty’s latest is a interstellar page-turner that puts an innovative twist on cloning tropes. Societal and climate collapse drives humanity to send 2,000 cryo-frozen people to a distant, Earth-like planet on a ship crewed by six criminals who volunteer to be cloned again and again as they shepherd their precious cargo to its final destination. Every time the crew is cloned, they maintain their collective memories. When they wake up at the beginning of the novel, however, their former bodies are dead—brutally murdered in various ways. The ship is in shambles (the gravity is off, the controlling artificial intelligence is offline, and they’re off-course); and their memories (and all other records) have been erased. The six have to clean up the mess—but they also have to figure out who killed them and why, and how to survive within a paranoid pressure-cooker of a ship.

(13) THE BARRICADES. Cat Eldridge sent the link along with the advice, “Do read the comments — there’s a lot of hate for the show which is actually quite good. I think too many haters of Discovery were the same ones who hated Enterprise in that both shows deviated in major ways from the so-called canon of the now fifty-year old TOS.  A show that at times was perfectly horrid.” — SyFy Wire’s Swapna Krishna discusses “The problem of gatekeeping in Star Trek fandom”.

…Some, like me, love it. Others don’t. Still others are angry about the delivery method. Whatever your feelings on the show are, they’re your business. No show is perfect, and no show is for everyone, and that’s okay.

That being said, there’s been a disturbing trend among the ranks of Star Trek fandom that has turned its back on the show. It’s not enough that they don’t like it; they’ve decreed that anyone who enjoys the show isn’t a real Star Trek fan. And they’ll pop up in Facebook comments, in Twitter mentions, everywhere they can to make sure you know it.

I’ve been called a lot of things because of my vocal support for Star Trek: Discovery, from a fake Star Trek fan to a shill for CBS. The words don’t bother me. The mindset behind them, the gatekeeping of what a “real” fan is, does. The fact is that some people, mainly men, are trying to tell those of us who are enjoying the show that we aren’t “real fans” of Star Trek. And it just so happens that the bulk of these fans are women and people of color.

(14) BEYOND THE PAPER CRANE. This news will do more than lift your spirits: “Robot Muscles Inspired By Origami Lift 1000 Times Their Weight”.

The delicate art of paper folding is playing a crucial role in designing robotic artificial muscles that are startlingly strong. In fact, the researchers say they can lift objects 1,000 times their own weight.

The researchers say the muscles are soft, so they’re safer compared to traditional metal robots in environments where they would interact with humans or delicate objects, and they can be made out of extremely low-cost materials such as plastic bags and card stock. Their findings were published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

(15) BAG YOUR TRASH. Space junk mission “”RemoveDebris” prepares for launch”.

A mission that will test different methods to clean up space junk is getting ready for launch.

The RemoveDebris spacecraft will attempt to snare a small satellite with a net and test whether a harpoon is an effective garbage grabber.

The probe has been assembled in Surrey and will soon be packed up ready for blast off early next year.

Scientists warn that the growing problem of space debris is putting spacecraft and astronauts at risk.

It is estimated that there are about half a million pieces of man-made rubbish orbiting the Earth, ranging from huge defunct satellites, to spent rocket boosters and nuts and bolts.

(16) LEAP YEAR. Not quite Mark Watney’s jump — but this doesn’t use special effects: “Daredevils jump from a mountain into a plane”. Video at the link.

Fred Fugen and Vince Reffet from France jumped from Jungfrau mountain into a moving plane.

It was to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Patrick de Gayardon’s achievement in 1997, when he jumped from an aircraft into a moving plane

(17) LUNARBABOON. Huffington Post profiles online comic creator Chris Grady: “Dad’s Sweet Comics Promote Empathy, Tolerance And Love”. Some of the examples in the article use genre references.

As Lunarbaboon gained a bigger following, [Chris] Grady decided to use his popularity for good. He often draws comics with positive messages that touch on social justice, gender issues, xenophobia and more.

“I think it is impossible not to be influenced by the world around you. There is a lot of bad things happening in the world, but there is also a lot of good,” he said. “I try to find the good or humorous in the difficult things that happen to us every day.”

(18) BLUE MARBLE. Video taken during a spacewalk: “Footage of Earth from the International Space Station”.

NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik filmed his maintenance mission outside the International Space Station. The mission took Mr Bresnik and astronaut Joe Acaba six hours and 39 minutes.

(19) BACK TO THE CANDY-COATED FUTURE. Adweek covers what happened next in “21 Years Later, M&M’s Unwraps a Sequel to Its Classic Christmas Ad”.

For over 20 years we’ve watched Santa and Red faint on Christmas Eve. Now find out how Yellow saved Christmas that fateful night and showed everyone the true meaning of the holidays.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, mlex, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 11/26/17 I Can’t Believe I Pixeled In Front Of The Dean Of Science Fiction

(1) PRONOUNS AND ROCKET STACK RANK. Bogi Takács wrote a series of tweets criticizing Greg Hullender’s statements in reviews about the usage of pronouns for non-binary characters in stories reviewed at Rocket Stack Rank, adding many screenshots of examples. Takács also pointed out the reviews are given a certain implied authority because Rocket Stack Rank is linked from the official The Hugo Awards site as a “Third Party Recommendation Site.”

Get into the thread here:

The Hugo connection is illustrated here:

The comments on the Hugo linkage include one from Patrick Nielsen Hayden:

For those who are unfamiliar, here is Bogi Takács’ brief bio from Patreon:

I’m Bogi Takács, a Hungarian Jewish agender trans person (e/em/eir/emself or singular they pronouns) currently living in the US as a resident alien. I write speculative fiction and poetry – I have had work published in various professional venues like Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Apex and Strange Horizons.

Other comments on RSR, Hullender’s views, and their impact included —

(2) COCO CASHES IN. On opening weekend in the U.S., “Pixar’s ‘Coco’ feasts on ‘Justice League’ at box office”.

Pixar’s “Coco” sang its way to the fourth best Thanksgiving weekend ever with an estimated $71.2 million over the five-day weekend, a total that easily toppled Warner Bros.’ “Justice League.”

“Coco” rode strong reviews and an A-plus CinemaScore from audiences to the top spot at the domestic box office. According to studio estimates Sunday, it grossed $49 million from Friday to Sunday. Centered on the Mexican holiday Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), “Coco” has already set box office records in Mexico, where it has made $53.4 million in three weeks.

(3) BSFA AWARDS. The British Science Fiction Association invites members to “Nominate for the BSFA Awards” between now and December 31:

The BSFA awards are presented annually by the British Science Fiction Association, based on a vote of BSFA members and – in recent years – members of the British national science fiction convention Eastercon. They are fan awards that not only seek to honour the most worthy examples in each category, but to promote the genre of science fiction, and get people reading, talking about and enjoying all that contemporary science fiction has to offer.

…Nominations are open until 31st December. This will be the first round. Then from 1st January to 30th January the opportunity for members to vote for their shortlist from the collated suggestions will be provided. This will be the second round.

To nominate in the first round, fill in the form here: http://tinyurl.com/BSFA2017nominations

or email your nominations to awards@bsfa.co.uk. A form and process for the second round will be made available on this page after the first round has closed.

(4) FLORIDA EXPANDS RIGHT TO CHALLENGE TEXTBOOKS. The Associated Press has the story: “New Florida law expected to increase textbook challenges”.

A parent in Florida is citing profanity and violence in trying to get the local school to ban Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” — itself a cautionary tale on the banning of books. Another wants to remove Walter Dean Myers’ “Bad Boy” for using the word “penis” and a homophobic slur.

Elsewhere in Florida, some say global warming and evolution are a hoax and should not be taught in textbooks unopposed. Others say their local school’s textbooks shortchange Islam’s role in the world, while their opponents argue it’s the danger posed by Muslim terrorists that’s underexposed.

Under a bill passed by the Florida Legislature this year, any district resident — regardless of whether they have a child in school — can now challenge material as pornographic, biased, inaccurate or a violation of state law and get a hearing before an outside mediator.

The mediator advises the local school board, whose decision is final. Previously, challenges could only be made by parents to the school or district. There was also no mediator and fewer mandates. Districts must now also post online a list of all new books and material by grade level to make monitoring easier.

(5) THANKSGIVING AT THE ISS. A day like any other day, only turkey was there: “Happy Space Thanksgiving: How the Food-Stuffed Holiday Went Orbital”.

One Thanksgiving party will literally look down upon them all, as the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) continues its longstanding tradition of observing the festive harvest holiday from orbit. This year’s menu includes irradiated smoked turkey, rehydratable cornbread dressing, green beans and mushrooms, broccoli au gratin, mashed potatoes, candied yams, sweet tea, and thermostabilized cherry blueberry cobbler for dessert.

Space.com says “Thanksgiving in Space Means Turkey, Work and Football for Astronauts”:

“They don’t actually have the day off on Thursday,” NASA spokesman Dan Huot told Space.com in an email, adding that the crew has “a lot of cargo-unloading tasks to complete” with the Cygnus spacecraft that arrived last Tuesday (Nov. 14). However, the astronauts will at least have Friday off, Huot said.

Along with over 7,700 lbs. (3,500 kilograms) of supplies and science equipment, the Cygnus cargo craft delivered the crew their Thanksgiving dinner and some other tasty treats, like pizza and ice cream. Holiday gifts and care packages from the astronauts’ families also shipped with Cygnus. With that trove of holiday goodies just waiting to be unpacked, the astronauts have plenty of incentives for working through the holiday

(6) AFTER THE STUFFING. Here’s how it looks from the Batcave:

(7) ANTHOLOGY APPEARANCE. Cora Buhlert highlights her recently-published story: “New science fiction anthology with a new “In Love and War” story available: The Guardian, edited by Alasdair Shaw”.

The Guardian includes eleven science fiction stories by international authors, all featuring guardians of some kind. My own story in the anthology, “Baptism of Fire” is a prequel story to my In Love and War space opera romance series, so all you fans of Anjali and Mikhail (come on, I know there are some of you out there) rejoice.

(8) ALAS, POOR ALANTIM. Motherboard invites you to “Watch a Robot Eulogize Its ‘Brother’ at Moscow’s New Cemetery for Dead Machines”; video at the link.

The sad news is that this Alantim could not be revived after the attack. But the silver lining is that its death inspired Olga Budnik, a spokesperson for the Muscovite tech hub Phystechpark, to create the world’s first dedicated robot cemetery.

“Alantim was a really good robot,” Budnik told me in an email. “It was supportive, always polite, always happy to see you. You know, like a pet. And [the cemetery] was an idea to bury it like a pet. Not disassemble or carry it to the trash. To say good-bye.”

On October 31, Alantim’s Earthly remains were placed at the Phystechpark cemetery site next to a box for collecting other dead robots. He was eulogized by another Alantim, who honored his dearly departed “brother” for being “very useful to your people and Russian science,” according to a Russian-to-English translation of the ceremony as seen at the top of this article.

(9) COURT IS IN SESSION. Lauren Davis briefs io9 readers about “Six Strange Cases of Science Fiction Trademarks”.

J.R.R. Tolkien
Ownership Claimed by: The J.R.R. Tolkien Estate

The J.R.R. Tolkien Estate owns numerous trademarks based on Tolkien’s works, as well as registered trademarks on Tolkien’s name. Last year, a fellow who sold buttons reading “While you were reading Tolkien, I was watching Evangelion” through Zazzle was contacted by Zazzle, who said that they were removing the buttons at the Tolkien Estate’s request. Later, Zazzle restored the buttons, saying that they had been removed erroneously due to a miscommunication, but it shined a light on the estate’s ownership of Tolkien’s name and left lots of folks wondering where the line was. When are you invoking Tolkien the brand and when are you referring to Tolkien the man?

The estate also owns the right to publicity for Tolkien’s name and image, which they used to challenge the publication of Steve Hillard’s historical fiction book, Mirkwood: A Novel About JRR Tolkien. Eventually Hillard and the estate settled, with Hillard agreeing to make some changes to the book’s appearance to make it look less like one of Tolkien’s novels. A Mirkwood movie is in the works.

Bonus Round: Like any other trademark holder, the Tolkien Estate has to be vigilant about enforcing their trademarks. But some are stranger than others. In 2004, the estate issued a cease and desist letter to the owner of the domain Shiremail.com, claiming the estate owned the trademark on the word “shire.” The word “shire,” which means an administrative subdivision, such as a county, has been around since the 12th century.

(10) BOARDMAN OBIT. Perdita Boardman (1931-2017) died November 26 after a long illness. Mark Blackman writes:

Perdita was best-known in Northeast Fandom for hosting Lunarians meetings and running the Lunacon Con Suite for many years, and with her husband, John, hosting a monthly fannish gathering called First Saturday. For their long service, she and John were voted Honorary Members of the Lunarians.

Her younger daughter, Deirdre, shared the following on Facebook:

I wanted to share with family (& friends) about the passing of my mom this morning peacefully in her sleep.

Many know she has been suffering from severe dementia well over a decade now, but she became very sick about two weeks ago and moved to hospice care.

Born Dec 27, 1931 in Baxter Springs, KS she grew up outside of Detroit, bounced around a bit living in Chicago, San Francisco, Virginia and finally settling in New York City about 1960, first in Manhattan, then Park Slope and finally her well known home in Flatbush. She spent her final years in Frederick, MD to be closer to Karina & I.

She has loved science fiction & fantasy (as well as mysteries & regency romances) novels since the 50s and was an avid reader.

She was a talented artist, master seamstress and knitted the most amazing sweaters!

I could go on all.

One of her funny quotes from the other day after being annoyed by nurses prodding her was, “I am Perdita Ann Lilly Nelson Boardman and I am going to sleep”

Good night mom.

(11) LE GUIN AS CRITIC. Ursula K. Le Guin reviews You Should Come With Me Now by M John Harrison – stories “for the uncommon reader” in The Guardian:

One of these brilliantly told stories, “The Walls”, begins: “A man, let’s call him D, is seen digging his way out through the wall of his cell. To help in this project, D has only the thinnest and least reliable tools: two dessert spoons (one stainless steel, one electro-plated nickel silver); half of a pair of curved nail scissors; some domestic knives lacking handles; and so on. The cell wall, constructed from grey, squarish cinder blocks about a foot on a side has been carelessly mortared and laid without much attention to detail. But this lack of artifice makes no difference; none of the knives is long enough to reach the last half inch of mortar at the back of each block, and the more D uses them the shorter they get. Each block must, eventually, be loosened and removed by hand, a task which can take several months, and which leaves him exhausted.”

A close attention to detail characterises this story and contributes much to its effectiveness, and yet, like the careless mortaring of the cinder blocks, it makes no difference in the end. Why and how does D have two dessert spoons? What does he live on during these months (which become years)? Who brings it to his cell? We have nothing with which to fill in unstated facts, as we’re used to doing when reading fiction, because the story is consistent only in pulling the carpet out from under its own feet. It is a play of imagination in a void. Its power is that of a dream, in this case a bad one, the kind that keeps repeating itself with variations in an endless loop of frustration.

This holds for all the stories collected in You Should Come With Me Now. Some of them are surrealistic, some are spoofs, some are fables; many are funny, all are inventive; none entirely escapes the loop….

(12) 25 WAYS TO RUB YOUR LAMP. A Yahoo! Movies piece, “Disney’s ‘Aladdin’: 25 magical fun facts for 25th anniversary”, has lots of trivia about Aladdin, including how Patrick Stewart nearly played Jafar but couldn’t get out of his Star Trek: The Next Generation commitments and how there is a hidden Aladdin reference in Hamilton.

  1. The animators crafted the Genie around Williams’s rapid-fire improv. Co-director Ron Musker said Williams did 25 takes for the movie’s first scene, “and they were all different.” The entertainer would stick to the script for the first few takes, “then he would riff.” Musker said Williams recorded 16 hours’ worth of material, forcing the creative team to piece the character together “like a ransom note.”

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy quit groaning at the Tolkien pun long enough to send a link to today’s Brevity.

(14) HE’S DEAD ED. The Smithsonian covers nine theories about “The (Still) Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe” (2014 article.)

On September 27 [1849] —almost a week earlier—Poe had left Richmond, Virginia bound for Philadelphia to edit a collection of poems for Mrs. St. Leon Loud, a minor figure in American poetry at the time. When Walker found Poe in delirious disarray outside of the polling place, it was the first anyone had heard or seen of the poet since his departure from Richmond. Poe never made it to Philadelphia to attend to his editing business. Nor did he ever make it back to New York, where he had been living, to escort his aunt back to Richmond for his impending wedding. Poe was never to leave Baltimore, where he launched his career in the early 19th- century, again—and in the four days between Walker finding Poe outside the public house and Poe’s death on October 7, he never regained enough consciousness to explain how he had come to be found, in soiled clothes not his own, incoherent on the streets. Instead, Poe spent his final days wavering between fits of delirium, gripped by visual hallucinations. The night before his death, according to his attending physician Dr. John J. Moran, Poe repeatedly called out for “Reynolds”—a figure who, to this day, remains a mystery.

(15) MISSING FROM THE MARQUEE. The project loses some name cachet as “Adam Nimoy Steps Down From Directing Deep Space Nine Doc, Release Pushed Back” – story at TrekMovie.com.

On Saturday there were two announcements from What We Left Behind, the upcoming crowd-funded Star Trek: Deep Space Nine documentary.  Adam Nimoy, while remaining involved, will no longer be directing, and the release date  is likely being pushed back.

Nimoy stepping back

In a statement posted on Facebook Saturday, Adam Nimoy revealed he was stepping down as director for What We left Behind, but he will continue to be a producer and advisor on the doc. The reason given for the change was that he needed more time to focus on other responsibilities. From the statement:

“The real creative force behind the DS9 documentary was well in place before I came along. I was happy to lend them support and guidance to push the project along so that it could be completed in time for the 25th anniversary of the show which is coming up in 2018. I wish the creative team all good things as they Boldly Go!”

(16) WINDOW ON THE UNIVERSE. Motherboard’s article about the “Casting of a Giant Mirror for the First Extremely Large Telescope” has a good infographic comparing the relative sizes of all the existing large telescopes, as well.

(17) HARD SF. Down these mean starlanes a man must go…. A Twitter conversation begins here:

(18) COMPLETE HORSESHOE. Here’s another statistic I never knew anyone kept – the record for world’s largest horseshoe sculpture: “Camberley artist’s dragon ‘could obliterate’ world record”.

Mr Poolman’s sculpture is described as “not just a dragon but a tableau”, telling the story of a village bringing a dragon from the sky with arrows and stones.

“It’s partly collapsed,” Mr Powell said, “brought to the ground, in its death throes.”

Tens of thousands of old horseshoes were provided by farriers in Hampshire – some of them were used whole and others cut into smaller pieces.

“A complete horseshoe is quite limiting in what it can be made into,” Mr Poolman said.

(19) NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER. Brandon Sanderson isn’t just on the list, he’s #1 —

(20) UNDER THE TREE. We continue our cavalcade of holiday presents with –

(21) MULTITASKING. It’s a Jedi thing: “Elle UK Interviews Daisy Ridley While She Builds A Lego Millennium Falcon”.

She’s talented and beautiful and she plays Luke Skywalker’s new padawan, Rey, in one of the most anticipated “Star Wars” films of all time, but now comes the true test: Can Daisy Ridley build the Millennium Falcon with Legos?

Elle UK interviewed the “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” actress, asking her things like when was the last time she cried, what color her lightsaber would be, and if her father still prefers “Star Trek” (ouch) ? all while she’s tasked with building the Millennium Falcon out of Legos.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Happiness by Steve Cutts is a cartoon on Vimeo about rats trying to survive the rat race as commuters, consumers, and at work. I’m having trouble getting it to embed, so here’s the link — https://vimeo.com/groups/motion/videos/244405542

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

Pixel Scroll 10/26/17 He Came Scrolling Across The Pixels With His Godstalks And Guns

(1) BEAMING UP OR BEAMING DOWN? How likely is The Orville to stick around? Follow the ratings chart and compare it to the competition. Although interest has tailed off since the first couple of episodes, its audience is comparable to a lot of other shows in its time slot.

(2) DUD DAD. The first glimpse of Ambassador Sarek in 1967 did not prepare us for this. But Emily Asher-Perrin is persuasive: “We Can Safely Say That Sarek of Vulcan is Sci-fi’s Worst Dad”.

Look, I have been waiting years to say this and I just can’t hold back anymore. Science fiction is full of horrible dad figures. We know this. There are so many that we’d be hard pressed to decide the winner of that Battle Royale, particularly given the scope of their terribleness. Anakin Skywalker Force-choked his pregnant wife and tortured his daughter. Howard Stark emotionally abused his son into creating the “future” he wanted to bring about, and never managed to utter the words I love you. Admiral Adama made his eldest son feel totally inferior to both his dead son and his surrogate daughter, and then left him alone on a new world so he could spend three minutes with his dying paramour. Sci-fi dads are generally bad at their jobs.

But you know who it the absolutely worst? Spock’s dad.

Yeah. I’m looking at you, Sarek of Vulcan…

It’s a great hook for an article. It’s even greater if you’re old enough to remember that Jane Wyatt, the actress who played Spock’s mother in TOS, had spent years playing the mother in that ultimate patriarchal sitcom Father Knows Best.

(3) SCARY METER. The “2017 Halloween Poetry Reading” is up at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association website, with soundfiles of the poets reading their works.

This year’s Halloween poems are being curated by our own Ashley Dioses, who recently released her new book, Diary of a Sorceress. Congratulations, Ashley!

Already, poems are available by emerging and award-winning poets such as Melanie Stormm, F.J. Bergmann, John C. Mannone, Angela Yuriko Smith, Richaundra Thursday, Joshua Gage, Adele Gardner, Gary Baps, Celena StarVela, Marie Vibbert, and Deborah Davitt. Others will be added as Halloween comes closer!

(4) BREAK IN THE ACTION. Paul Cornell says “The Future of the Shadow Police” isn’t rosy.

Readers have been asking me for a while now about when the next Shadow Police novel is coming out.  The unfortunate answer is: I don’t know, verging toward never.  I’m afraid Tor UK have dropped the line.  Now, this is no cause for anger at them.  I serve at the pleasure of publishers.  I’m used to the ups and downs.  (And I know I have several ups coming my way soon, so I feel strong enough to write about this.)

I might, at some point in the future, consider using a service such as Unbound to publish the last two books in the series.  (There were always going to be five.)  And if a publisher were to get in touch, seeking to republish the first three, then go forward, I’d have that conversation.  But the aim right now is to continue with the flourishing Lychford series, and look to use the next non-Lychford novel to move up a league division or two, and then return to Quill and his team from a position of strength.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.  I’ve loved the reader reaction to the Shadow Police books.  I promise I will finish that story when it’s possible to do so.  I thought you all deserved an explanation.

(5) AS SEEN ON TV. Today, Jeopardy! obliquely referenced the various Puppy campaigns in a question:

Any member of the World Science Fiction Society can vote for this literary award, which has led to some drama.

Rich Lynch says nobody got it. Steven H Silver called it a “Triple stumper.”

(6) ROCK’N ROLL IS HERE TO SLAY. In Slate’s Definitive Ranking of Songs in Which Aliens Exterminate All Life on Earth”, the downbeat is really down.

#2: “The Last Transmission,” The Comas

Now that’s what I call “music about aliens systematically wiping out humanity!” This song, bone-deep in its pessimism, explains in some detail why we’ve got this coming: we’re oblivious to everything around us; we’re afraid for reasons we don’t understand; and above all, we’re gonna be a cakewalk for the aliens to conquer. And has there ever been a lyric that crystalized this particular moment in time as well as “At this time, sirs, I recommend that we proceed to Phase Three: Eradicate them all for the glory of our interstellar queen”? Probably. But once the interstellar queen arrives and starts eradicating us, this is going to be the hottest jam of the summer.

 

(7) DRAGON ART. Hampus calls this a “Meredith painting” – an artist paints an elaborate dragon in one stroke. Apparently this is a thing in Japanese art.

(8) BATTLE ROBOTS. The culmination of a series of robotic brawls — “Two Giant Robots Enter a Steel Mill for a 3-Round Slugfest. Which One Leaves?”

Back in 2015, American startup MegaBots Inc challenged Japanese company Suidobashi to a Giant Robot Duel–a knock-down dragout, totally-not-staged fight between the US and Japanese robot teams. On Tuesday night, the final fight went down. Here’s the breakdown, starting with Round 1:

Iron Glory (MK2) is fifteen feet tall, weighs six tons, has a 22-foot wingspan at full extension, a top speed of 2.5 miles per hour, a 24 horsepower engine, and is armed with a missile launcher and a six-inch cannon that fires 3-pound paintballs. Iron Glory is described as favoring a “Western” combat style, with an emphasis on distance and ranged weaponry….

 

And if that’s not enough coverage for you, there’s also “USA and Japan’s giant robot battle was a slow, brilliant mess”.

(9) SAGA FIGURES. Funko is working with Skybound Entertainment to produce figures from the Saga graphic novel series. Nine figures have been announced, which include a couple of variants and one exclusive to Barnes and Noble: “Funko SAGA Pops are Coming!” The figures will be available in February of 2018.

It’s no secret that we here at Skybound LOVE Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples’ Eisner Award winning comic SAGA. We love it so much that in the past couple years we’ve teamed up with Brian and Fiona to bring you a ton of amazing merch for the series. Today, we’re happy to announce that everyone’s favorite space opera is OFFICIALLY get the Funko Pop! vinyl treatment.

We’ve got Marko, Alana, The Will, Prince Robot & Lying Cat coming your way and they’re adorable! These guys will be dropping at a shop near you in February. Make sure to keep an eye out for retailer exclusives (like Izabel at Hot Topic) and chase variants. You can see the first images for the figures below. Let us know in the comments which Funko pop you’re most excited for (the correct answer is: ALL OF THEM. Just fyi).

(10) BIRD UPDATE. In October 2015, File 770 linked to a GoFundMe appeal by science fiction writer RP Bird (RP’s Cancer Survival Fund). Terhi Törmänen has news about a new appeal for help:

RP Bird survived cancer treatment but is not in good health and still suffers from chronic and almost debilitating pain. He’s actually currently quite desperate as you can read from his latest appeal.

He’s been able support himself through a low-paying part time job that he’ll probably lose in very near future.

He’s launched a new appeal to raise money to be able to go trough further facial and dental surgery to improve his ability to e.g. eat properly and lessen the pain and other health issues stemming from the cancer and its treatment. The state will pay for the operations but he does not have any savings to pay rent for his one-room accommodation and other very modest living expenses while he’s going through the operations and recovering from them. His appeal is quite reasonable $ 2000.

I think that if you’d mention his desperate situation in the File 770 the appeal might have a chance to succeed and a life could be saved.

(11) SOPHIA THE SAUDI ROBOT. The BBC asks, “Does Saudi robot citizen have more rights than women?”

Meet Sophia, a robot who made her first public appearance in the Saudi Arabian city of Riyadh on Monday.

Sophia was such a hit she was immediately given Saudi citizenship in front of hundreds of delegates at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh on 25 October.

But as pictures and videos of Sophia began circulating on social media many started to ask why a robot already seemed to have secured more rights than women in the country

Sophia, created by Hong Kong company Hanson Robotics, addressed the audience in English without the customary headscarf and abaya, a traditional cloak which Saudi women are obliged to wear in public.

“I am very honoured and proud for this unique distinction,” she said. “This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with a citizenship.”

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SJW CREDENTIAL RENEWED. Bruce Arthurs tells “My Best True Cat Story” at the Undulant Fever blog.

…Hilde and I exchanged looks as we drove slowly by, but didn’t want to upset Chris before church. So I drove them to church, then came back, retrieved the body, took it home, and buried it in the back yard, with a lot of tears. (He may not have been THE World’s Best Cat, but he was a contender.)…

(14) IT’S IN THE BAGON. “Do you have a hoard that needs guarding? A dragon could be your greatest ally,” says the person behind the Dragon Bagons Kickstarter.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign to launch Bagthulhu’s conquest of the globe, Wayward Masquerade is back with a range of CR10 cuties that want to hoard all your dice. They’ve raised $6,216 of their $18,260 goal as of this writing, with 26 days left in the appeal.

(15) CEREAL JUSTICE WARRIOR. Saladin Ahmed’s tweet in protest yielded an immediate promise from Kellogg’s to change some art.

USA Today reports “Kellogg’s revamping racially insensitive Corn Pops boxes”.

Kellogg’s will be redesigning Corn Pops cereal boxes after a complaint about racially insensitive art on the packaging.

The Battle Creek, Mich.-based cereal and snack maker said on Twitter Wednesday it will replace the cover drawing of cartoon characters shaped like corn kernels populating a shopping mall. The corn pop characters are shown shopping, playing in an arcade or frolicked in a fountain. One skateboards down an escalator.

What struck Saladin Ahmed was that a single brown corn pop was working as a janitor operating a floor waxer. Ahmed, current writer of Marvel Comics’ Black Bolt series and author of 2012 fantasy novel Throne of the Crescent Moon, took to Twitter Tuesday to ask, “Why is literally the only brown corn pop on the whole cereal box the janitor? this is teaching kids racism.”

He added in a subsequent post: “yes its a tiny thing, but when you see your kid staring at this over breakfast and realize millions of other kids are doing the same…”

Kellogg’s responded to Ahmed on the social media network about five hours later that “Kellogg is committed to diversity & inclusion. We did not intend to offend – we apologize. The artwork is updated & will be in stores soon.”

(16) BREAKFAST IN SWITZERLAND. Newsweek reports experiments at CERN still cannot explain how matter formed in the early universe: “The Universe Should Not Actually Exist, Scientists Say”.

David K.M. Klaus sent the link along with this quotation:

“Don’t you see, Tommie?  I’ve explained it to you, I know I have.  Irrelevance.  Why, you telepaths were the reason the investigation started; you proved that simultaneity was an admissible concept…and the inevitable logical consequence was that time and space do not exist.”

I felt my head begin to ache.  “They don’t?  Then what is that we seem to be having breakfast in?” ”Just a mathematical abstraction, dear.  Nothing more.  She smiled and looked motherly.  “Poor ‘Sentimental Tommie.’  You worry too much.” Time For The Stars by Robert A. Heinlein, 1956

(17) BREAKFAST IN WAUKEGAN. The Chicago Tribune says you can find some alien eats in Bradbury’s birthplace: “Waukegan eatery gets its moniker from famous son Ray Bradbury”.

Science fiction author and native son Ray Bradbury wrote about 1920s Waukegan as “Green Town” in three books, “Dandelion Wine,” “Something Wicked This Way Comes” and “Farewell Summer.”

Bradbury died in 2012. A park, two arts festivals, and a tavern downtown bear his name

Robert Sobol, owner of Green Town Tavern in Waukegan’s downtown district, originally opened the place under a different name in 2006. His business partner left and Sobol took over the bar two years later. Sobol was looking for a new name, so he held a contest asked his customers to think of one. Green Town was declared the winner with the most votes….

Green Town Tavern offers a Saturday Happy Thyme Breakfast from 8 a.m. to noon and features breakfast dishes like the Green Town Omelette — three eggs, bacon, sausage, onions, peppers and cheddar cheese with hash browns — and “Waukegan’s Finest Bloody Mary.”

(18) KINGPIN. If you follow Daredevil, this will probably be good news for you: “‘Daredevil’ Brings Back Vincent D’Onofrio For Season 3; Erik Oleson Joins As New Showrunner”. Deadline has the story.

Vincent D’Onofrio has been set to reprise as Wilson Fisk for the third season of Daredevil, I’ve learned. As the Kingpin crime lord, the Emmy nominee was the main villain in Season 1 of the Netflix series and made an imprisoned appearance in last year’s Season 2. The ex-Law & Order actor hinted to fans recently that official word on his Daredevil return was in the cards with a banner photo of the Fisk character up on his Twitter page

(19) KARLOFF AND LUGOSI: A HALLOWEEN TRIBUTE. Steve Vertlieb invites you to read his posts about the iconic horror actors at The Thunder Child website.

He was beloved by children of all ages, the gentle giant brought to horrifying screen existence by electrodes and the thunderous lightening of mad inspiration. Here, then, is my Halloween look back at the life and career of both Frankenstein’s, and Hollywood’s beloved “Monster,” Boris Karloff.

Here is my affectionate Halloween tribute to Bela Lugosi…his “horrific” career ascension, as well as its poignant decline…as we remember The Man Behind Dracula’s Cape.

(20) OHHHKAYYYY….. Polygon reports “Boyfriend Dungeon is all about dating your weapons, and it looks rad”.

We’ve already found our favorite mashup of 2019: Boyfriend Dungeon, a dungeon crawler from indie team Kitfox Games (Moon Hunters, The Shrouded Isle), which combines hack-and-slash gameplay with very, very cute guys and girls.

Boyfriend Dungeon is exactly what it says on the tin, based on the first trailer. Players are a tiny warrior fighting through monster-ridden areas. Scattered across the procedurally generated dungeons are a bunch of lost weapons — which, once rescued, turn out to actually be extremely cute singles.

That’s when the dungeon crawler turns into a romance game, and it’s also when we all realized that Boyfriend Dungeon is something special. Every romance option has their own specific weapon to equip, from an epee to a dagger and then some. Players work to level up those weapons, but also to win over these sweet babes during dialogue scenes. If this isn’t the smartest combination of genres we’ve seen in some time, we don’t know what is.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Dann, Steven H Silver, Rich Lynch, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]

Pixel Scroll 9/15/17 Old Pixel’s Scroll Of Practical SJW Credentials

(1) SUPERSJW? The forthcoming issue of Action Comics is in the news — “Superman Protects Undocumented Workers From Armed White Supremacist in Latest Comic”. The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

The moment in the book released Wednesday comes a week after President Trump ended DACA.

Perhaps it is just a coincidence, but perhaps not.

In the recent issue of Action Comics #987, “The Oz Effect,” released Wednesday, Superman arrives in the nick of time to protect a group of undocumented immigrants from a white man sporting an American flag bandanna, wielding a machine gun, who is going to shoot them for taking his job.

Breitbart, picking up the story from The Hollywood Reporter, gave it a predictable spin:

…In an act of Super socialism, once police arrive, our Social Justice Supes orders them to protect the illegal aliens to make sure they are “safe and cared for.”

This latest episode should not surprise anyone.

DC Comics long ago declared that Superman is no longer American. Where once the hero touted the ideals of “truth, justice, and the American way,” like a good leftist, Superman is now a “citizen of the world.”

(2) DISCOVERY NOVEL SERIES BEGINS. I was interested to see the first Star Trek: Discovery tie-in novel is already out, though the timing couldn’t be better — Star Trek: Discovery: Desperate Hours by David Mack.

An all-original novel based upon the explosive new series on CBS All Access Aboard the Starship Shenzhou, Lieutenant Michael Burnham, a human woman raised and educated among Vulcans, is promoted to acting first officer. But if she wants to keep the job, she must prove to Captain Philippa Georgiou that she deserves to have it. She gets her chance when the Shenzhou must protect a Federation colony that is under attack by an ancient alien vessel that has surfaced from the deepest fathoms of the planet’s dark, uncharted sea. As the menace from this mysterious vessel grows stronger, Starfleet declares the colony expendable in the name of halting the threat. To save thousands of innocent lives, Burnham must infiltrate the alien ship. But to do so, she needs to face the truth of her troubled past, and seek the aid of a man she has tried to avoid her entire life—until now.

(3) OUT OF HIS SHELL. Scott Edelman invites fans to join John Kessel for a seafood feast in Episode 47 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

John Kessel

Kessel’s latest novel, The Moon and The Other, was released in April from Saga Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. He’s a two-time Nebula Award winner, first in 1982 for his novella “Another Orphan,” then in 2008 for the novelette “Pride and Prometheus.” He set a new record with that second award, in that the 26 years between the two was (at the time) the longest gap for a winner in Nebula history. His short story “Buffalo”—one of my all-time favorites in or out of genre, and one which I reread often—won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award in 1992.

We discussed why he suddenly has two novels coming out within a year two decades after his last one, how attending the 1969 St. Louis Worldcon changed his life, the ways in which his objections to “The Cold Equations” and Ender’s Game are at their heart the same, his early days attempting to emulate Thomas M. Disch, the time-travel short story he couldn’t whip into shape for Damon Knight, which author broke his 26-year Nebula Awards record for the longest gap between wins, the secret behind the success of his many collaborations with James Patrick Kelly, and more.

(4) WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS. Hampus Eckerman is living the sci-fi life while visiting France.

Most hotels have got the bible to read, but my hotel in Paris has got The Island of Dr. Moreau! On the other hand, my TV-set scares me.

(5) MORE SHORT FICTION REVIEWS, In “A New SFF Review Site Looks Interesting”, Camestros Felapton aims our attention at the inaugural work of SFF Reviews, Sara L. Uckelman’s review of “The Salt Debt” by J. B. Rockwell. In Uckelman’s explanatory post about the site she says:

Our aim is provide short reviews of short SFF stories that reflect a diversity of voices and opinions from both the authors and the reviewers. Other than a few formatting requirements to ensure the reviews are presented and tagged in a uniform fashion, and one content requirement — don’t be mean! — reviewers are free to write their reviews as they please. Some people will focus on the story; some on the narration; some on the language. Some of the reviews will be more slanted to the factual and the objective; some will be the reviewer’s own personal response to a piece. Some reviews will be longer than others, but don’t be surprised if most come in around 200 words — after all, one doesn’t want a review to be longer to read than the story itself!

(6) OKORAFOR VISION. On Twitter she winces at the “Afrocentric” and wishes they had at least said Afrofuturist – the A.V. Club’s news item, “HBO orders new sci-fi series from author Nnedi Okorafor and producer George R.R. Martin”.

HBO has officially closed a deal to grab a new TV show from George R.R. Martin, with Deadline reporting that the network has finalized plans to develop a Martin-produced adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor’s 2010 novel Who Fears Death. Set in a post-apocalyptic Africa, the book tells the story of a young girl who seeks to discover the meaning behind her own magical powers, as well as the nature of the powerful forces trying to end her life.

(7) POURNELLE OBIT IN NYT. It’s rather remarkable that in “Jerry Pournelle, Science Fiction Novelist and Computer Guide, Dies at 84” the New York Times obituary writer makes only the most minimal reference to Pournelle’s voluminous political writings, which have been deeply controversial within the sf community.

Dr. Pournelle was also known to many through lively columns for Byte magazine in which, beginning early in the home-computing age, he talked about personal computers and the software for them. Much of any given column was about his own experiences at “Chaos Manor” — his name for his home, and for the column — trying out new software products and wrestling with bugs, glitches and viruses.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 15, 1965 — Beach-horror hybrid The Beach Girls and the Monster opens in theaters.
  • September 15, 1965 — Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires premieres in its native Italy.
  • September 15, 2015 Rocket Stack Rank went live.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born September 15, 1940 – Norman Spinrad
  • Born September 15, 1942 – Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

(10) PLANS FOR X-MEN. Marvel will be producing a six-issue arc revisiting the complete history of the X-Men universe.

Marvel Comics and Eisner Award-winning indie cartoonist indie Ed Piskor are teaming up for an unexpected, unprecedented, and uncanny undertaking. Best known for documenting the history of hip hop with the award winning HIP HOP FAMILY TREE graphic novels, Ed Piskor will sample and distill more than 8,000 pages of superheroic storytelling to create a definitive remix of the first 280 original issues of X-Men comic books and 30 years of complicated continuity into one seamless masterpiece of superheroic storytelling. Piskor will write, draw, ink, color and letter all six 40 page issues of X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN, which Marvel will publish over three years as three separate but interconnected mini-series X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN, X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN-SECOND GENESIS and  X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN-X-TINCTION.

“X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN is a tribute to everything comic book fans love about the X-Men from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original run and Chris Claremont’s, epic 16-year stint as the series’ writer,” said Piskor. “It’s a compelling and complete story with a beginning, middle and an end, featuring everything from Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, Cerebro and the Danger Room to the Mutant Massacre, the Reavers, Gambit, and Genosha.”

(11) ACTRESS TO REPRISE HALLOWEEN ROLE. Horror Freak news reports “Jamie Lee Curtis Returning as Laurie Strode in “HALLOWEEN” 2018!”

If fans of John Carpenter’s seminal horror classic Halloween (released in 1978) weren’t happy about the planned reboot in the works at Blumhouse, they will be now. The indie powerhouse just announced that iconic Scream Queen and original Final Girl Jamie Lee Curtis has joined the cast and will be reprising the role of Laurie Strode, Michael Myers’ sister. The news came down via Twitter.

(12) TARANTINO TREK. Dirk Lilley, in “What Kind of Star Trek Movie Quentin Tarantino Would Like to Make”  on CinemaBlend, summarizes some intelligent comments Tarantino made to the Nerdist Podcast. including why he would like to remake “City On the Edge of Forever.”

The director specifically mentions “City on the Edge of Forever” as an episode that would make a great movie. It’s one of the great Trek classics, but as Quentin Tarantino pointed out, the episode really only focuses on our main three of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, and the rest of the crew would be virtually non-existent. That wouldn’t really work for a modern film adaptation. You’ve got to find something for Zoe Saldana and John Cho to do.

(13) FORNAX 20. Charles Rector has just posted the 20th issue of his fanzine Fornax to eFanzines.

Included in its contents are Bill Burns’s comments on the sad state of the Hugo Awards for Best Fanzines with blogs increasingly being counted as fanzines and winning the awards. Also, an essay about what in Rector’s view is the increasing problem of such pro authors such Sarah A. Hoyt, Larry Correia, Vox Day, and others’ trashing both fans and fandom. Fornax the 20th also has articles about road rage, how to do TV advertisements relating to hiring handicapped people as well as articles and stories by Robin Bright and Gerd Maximovic.

(14) SPLIT PERSONALITIES. The Verge’s Angela Chen explains how “These robots mind meld when they need to work together”.

Shapeshifting robots already exist; they either have a centralized “nervous system” that controls where each unit is, or each of the units works by itself and they sometimes link up. But centralized systems are weak and can’t scale, while self-organizing robots are hard to control and clumsy. Researchers created a new robot that has the strengths of both: the individual units can control themselves — but they can also connect to each other and become a single, precise robot. The study was published today in the journal Nature Communications.

In the new system, the robot is made of different units controlled by one “brain,” sort of like the nervous system in our bodies. This brain is the leader of the pack and, using Wi-Fi, gathers data from the other robots and controls them if they come into contact. “The robots in our multi-robot system are autonomous individual robots that, when they attach to each other, become a new single robot with a single control system,” study co-author Marco Dorigo, wrote in an email to The Verge. Then, if they detach, they go back to being autonomous system with their own control systems. Dorigo calls this new method “mergeable nervous system,” and says it is a more precise way to control all the units.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Launching Flowers Into Outer Space” is a piece from Great Big Story about a Japanese artist who launches high-altitude balloons from Nevada with flower displays to see what happens to the flowers in space.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Moshe Feder, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Lis Carey, Gregory Hullender, and Alan Baumler for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 8/24/17 Is The Grisly Pixel Scrolling?

(1) THE GREAT UNREAD. James Davis Nicoll fesses up – now you can, too: “Twenty Core Speculative Fiction Works It May Surprise You To Learn I Have Not Yet Read Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”. Who knew there were 20 sff books altogether than he hadn’t read, much less ones not by Castalia House authors? Here are a few examples:

  • Re: Colonised Planet 5, Shikasta by Doris Lessing
  • The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
  • England Swings SF edited by Judith Merril

(2) MOVING DAY. Meanwhile, at another of his platforms, James Davis Nicoll has gone silent while he works on moving that website.

Why was my site down? Because it turns out the soft-on-Nazis fuckwits running DreamHost thought it would be a good idea to host the Daily Stormer. My site will be moving. Until it has been moved, I won’t be updating it; I will go back to posting reviews on DW.

(3) GENRE TENSIONS. Here’s what Teleread’s Paul St. John Mackintosh deemed to be the takeaway from an all-star panel at Helsinki: “Worldcon 75: Horror and the World Fantasy Award”.

[Stephen] Jones pointed to the origins of the WFA Awards and their parent convention, the World Fantasy Convention, during the horror boom of the mid-1970s. The first WFC, held in Providence, RI in 1975, had as its theme “The Lovecraft Circle,” and that Lovecraftian association has persisted ever since, despite the name on the billboard. Jones attributed the perceived bias towards horror at fantasy and other conventions to the view that “the horror guys the people who go to all the fun conventions.” [Ellen] Datlow, conversely, reported that “from the horror people’s point of view, in the past ten years, they always feel there’s a bias towards fantasy.” Her analysis of actual awards and nominations showed no bias either way, and she saw this as “all perception,” depending on which end of the imaginative literature spectrum it’s seen from. [John] Clute described the situation as “pretty deeply confusing altogether,” given that the WFC externally was intended as a fantasy convention, and the final result has become “terminologically inexact,” though Jones pointed out that “the community itself has changed and mutated, as has the genre.”

(4) VOICE OF EXPERIENCE. Simon Owens reveals “What’s behind the meteoric rise of science fiction podcasts?” – and these are just the drama podcasts, never mind all the nonfiction ones…

According to Valenti, a serialized fiction podcast is an inexpensive way for aspiring filmmakers to gain recognition in the industry. “The reason you’re seeing all these shows crop up is because it’s so much less expensive to experiment and prove yourself as a storyteller in this medium, more than any other,” he said. It used to be that Hollywood directors got their foot in the door with short, independent films, but even those kinds of projects require significant resources. “With podcasts, you don’t have to spend any money on locations,” he explained. “You don’t have to spend any money on cameras, hardware, or hiring a cinematographer. And even if you have the footage, and you had a decent camera, which you probably had to rent because they cost thousands of dollars a day, you’re getting someone to color grade everything after it’s over.” Podcasts rarely require anything more than decent mics, actors, and audio mixing technology. And speaking of actors, your average voiceover performer costs much less to hire than a SAG member.

(5) INKY AWARDS. The shortlists for the 2017 Inky Awards were announced August 15 – the Gold Inky for Australia titles, and the Silver Inky for international titles. The award recognises achievement in young adult literature, with nominees and winners selected by voters under the age of 20. Some of these titles are of genre interest. Voting is currently open for the winners. [H/T Earl Grey Editing Services.]

(6) MORE WORLDCON WRITEUPS. The conreports keep on coming.

Kelly Robson: “What it’s like to lose a Hugo Award”

The Campbell was the second-to-last award, and sure, I was disappointed not to win, but not horribly. On a scale of one to ten, it was about a three at the time and now is zero. I’m very happy for Ada. She deserves every success.

However, I did feel foolish for thinking I could win, which was painful but mostly dispersed by morning. Being a finalist is wonderful. Winning would have been amazing, but it does come with a certain amount of pressure. So maybe — just maybe — being a finalist is the best of both worlds. And that lovely pin in the first picture is mine forever.

Ian Sales: “Kiitos, Helsinki”

My second panel of the con was at noon on the Saturday, Mighty space fleets of war. When I’d registered at the con, I’d discovered I was moderating the panel, which I hadn’t known. I checked back over the emails I’d been sent by the con’s programming team. Oops. I was the moderator. The other two panellists were Jack Campbell and Chris Gerrib. As we took our seats on the stage, Mary Robinette Kowal was gathering her stuff from the previous panel. I jokingly asked if she wanted to join our panel. And then asked if she’d moderate it. She said she was happy to moderate if we wanted her to, but we decided to muddle through ourselves. The panel went quite well, I thought. We got a bit of disagreement going – well, me versus the other two, both of whom admitted to having been USN in the past. I got a wave of applause for a crack about Brexit, and we managed to stay on topic – realistic space combat – for the entire time. I’d prepared a bunch of notes, but by fifteen minutes in, I’d used up all my points. In future, I’ll take in paper and pencil so I can jot stuff down as other members of the panel speak.

Marzie: “The Long Overdue WorldCon Recap!”

This was the first WorldCon I’ve attended and while I had voted in previous Hugo Awards, and attended other Cons (for instance NYCC) I was kind of taken aback by how non-commercial WorldCon is. A case is point is that there are no publishers hawking books at WorldCon, which, on the one hand is great because you don’t get tempted to buy a bunch of stuff and spend a fortune shipping it home and on the other hand is bad because if you’ve travelled a long way with a carry-on only bag, you’re probably packing clothes, not books for your favorite author to sign. Some authors take it all in stride, bringing their own small promotional items they can sign (Fran Wilde, Carrie Vaughn) or will happily sign anything that you set in front of them (Max Gladstone kindly signed a WorldCon postcard for my friend and fellow blogger Alex, who couldn’t come to WorldCon because of Fiscal Realities of New Home vs. Sincere Desire. So other than some interesting panels (climate change in science fiction and fantasy, readings by Amal El-Mohtar and Annalee Newitz, while I can say that pigeonholing fantasy genres is not for me!) the author signings and beloved kaffeeklatsches, the latter limited to ten people, are the definitely the most exciting thing about WorldCon.

Ian Moore: “Helsinki Worldcon write-up Part 1: estrangement, We3, crowds”

Tomi Huttunen introduced the concept of Estrangement, which derives from Russian art theorist Viktor Shklovsky who discussed the topic (Ostrananie) in an article in 1917. Huttunen and others on the academic track offered varying definitions of the concept, noting that different people in the past had come at this in a different way. For all that he was someone primarily associated with the avant-garde, Shklovsky’s own definition appeared to imply that all art involved a process of estrangement because of the difference between an actual thing and its artistic representation. Brecht later attempted his own definition, which appeared to be more about uncanny valley or the German concept of the unheimlich, which I found interesting as for all his ground-breaking approach to theatre Brecht had not particularly involved himself in work that strayed into non-realistic territory.

“Helsinki Worldcon write-up Part 2: Saunas, Robert Silverberg & Tanith Lee #Worldcon75”

On Thursday I did not quite get up in time to make it from where I was staying to the convention centre in time for the presentation on Tove Jansson’s illustrations for The Hobbit (which apparently appear only in Scandinavian editions of the book for Tolkien-estate reasons). I did make it to a panel on Bland Protagonists. One of the panelists was Robert Silverberg, a star of Worldcon and a living link to the heroic age of Science Fiction. He is a great raconteur and such an entertaining panelist that I wonder whether people do not want to appear on panels with him for fear of being overshadowed.

“Helsinki Worldcon write-up Part 3: Moomins, Clipping #Worldcon75”

After the Tanith Lee discussion there were a lot of potentially interesting things happening but we felt that we had to go to a session on the Moomins (entitled Moomins!). As you know, these are character that appeared in books written and illustrated by Tove Jansson of Finland. They started life in books and then progressed to comics and subsequently to a succession of animated TV series. If you’ve never heard of them, the Moomins are vaguely hippopotamus shaped creatures that live in a house in Moominvalley and have a variety of strange friends and adopted family members. Moomin stories are pretty cute but also deal with subjects a bit darker and more existential than is normally expected in children’s books.

(7) ROBOCRIMEVICTIM. It is a lawless country out there: “Popular Robots are Dangerously Easy to Hack, Cybersecurity Firm Says”.

The Seattle-based cybersecurity firm found major security flaws in industrial models sold by Universal Robots, a division of U.S. technology company Teradyne Inc. It also cited issues with consumer robots Pepper and NAO, which are manufactured by Japan’s Softbank Group Corp., and the Alpha 1 and Alpha 2 made by China-based UBTech Robotics.

These vulnerabilities could allow the robots to be turned into surveillance devices, surreptitiously spying on their owners, or let them to be hijacked and used to physically harm people or damage property, the researchers wrote in a report released Tuesday.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Pluto Demoted Day

Many of us are fascinated by outer space and its many mysteries. Our own solar system went through a change in classification on 2006, when Pluto was demoted from a planet to a dwarf planet. Pluto Demoted Day now takes place every year to mark that very occasion. While sad for fans of the former ninth planet of the solar system, Pluto Demoted Day is an important day for our scientific history and is important to remember.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 24, 1966 Fantastic Voyage premiered theatrically on this day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born August 24, 1951 – Orson Scott Card

(11) COMIC SECTION. Finnish comic  Fingerpori has a joke about the George R.R. Martin signing at W75. Tehri says it translates something like this (with the third frame being a sight gag):

First panel: (The guy’s name is Heimo Vesa) “What’s going on?”

“George R.R. Martin’s signing queue.”

Middle panel: “Well, I must experience this”.

(As in once in a lifetime thing.)

And Mike Kennedy says today’s Dilbert Classic confirms that publishers exist in order to stomp on potential author’s dreams.

(12) SHE HAS A LITTLE LIST. Kayleigh Donaldson asks “Did This Book Buy Its Way Onto The New York Times Bestseller List?” at Pajiba.

Nowadays, you can make the bestseller list with about 5,000 sales. That’s not the heights of publishing’s heyday but it’s still harder to get than you’d think. Some publishers spend thousands of dollars on advertising and blogger outreach to get that number. Everyone’s looking for the next big thing and that costs a lot of cash. For the past 25 weeks, that big book in the YA world has been The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, a searing politically charged drama about a young black girl who sees a police officer kill her friend, and the fallout it causes in her community. Through publisher buzz and exceedingly strong word of mouth, the novel has stormed to the forefront of the YA world and found thousands of fans, with a film on the way. Knocking that from the top of the NYT YA list would be a major deal, and this week it’s going to happen. But something’s not right.

Handbook For Mortals by Lani Sarem is the debut novel from the publishing arm of website GeekNation. The site announced this news only last week, through a press release that can be read on places like The Hollywood Reporter, not a site known for extensive YA coverage. Sarem has an IMDb page with some very minor acting roles, several of which are uncredited, but details on the book are scanter to find. Googling it leads to several other books with the same title, but most of the coverage for it is press release based. There’s little real excitement or details on it coming from the YA blogging world, which is a mighty community who are not quiet about the things they’re passionate about (believe me, first hand experience here).

YA writer and publisher Phil Stamper raised the alarm bells on this novel’s sudden success through a series of tweets, noting GeekNation’s own low traffic, the inability to even buy it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and its out-of-nowhere relevance…

(13) AMAZONIAN BOGOSITY. While reporters are dissecting the bestseller list, Camestros Felapton turns his attention to Amazon and the subject of “Spotting Fakery?”

One thing new to me from those articles was this site: http://fakespot.com/about It claims to be a site that will analyse reviews on sites like Amazon and Yelp and then rate the reviews in terms of how “fake” they seem to be. The mechanism looks at reviewers and review content and looks for relations with other reviews, and also rates reviewers who only ever give positive reviews lower. Now, I don’t know if their methods are sound or reliable, so take the rest of this with a pinch of salt for the time being.

Time to plug some things into their machine but what! Steve J No-Relation Wright has very bravely volunteered to start reading Vox Day’s epic fantasy book because it was available for $0 ( https://stevejwright.wordpress.com/2017/08/23/a-throne-of-bones-by-vox-day-preamble-on-managing-expectations/ ) and so why not see what Fakespot has to say about “Throne of Bones” http://fakespot.com/product/a-throne-of-bones-arts-of-dark-and-light

(14) WORLD DOESN’T END, FILM AT ELEVEN. Kristine Kathryn Rusch got a column out of the eclipse – “Eclipse Expectations”.

The idea for the post? Much of what occurred around the eclipse in my small town happens in publishing all the time. Let me lay out my thinking.

First, what happened in Lincoln City this weekend:

Damn near nothing. Yeah, I was surprised. Yeah, we all were surprised.

Because for the past 18 months, all we heard about the eclipse was what a mini-disaster it would be for our small town. We expected 100,000 visitors minimum. Hotel rooms were booked more than a year in advance—all of them. Which, the planners told us, meant that we would have at least that many people camping roadside as well.

The airlines had to add extra flights into Portland (the nearest major airport). One million additional people were flooding into Oregon for the five days around the eclipse. Rental cars were booked months in advance. (One woman found an available car for Thursday only and the rental car company had slapped a one-day rate on the car of $850. Yeah, no.)

The state, local, and regional governments were planning for disaster. We were warned that electricity might go down, especially if the temperature in the valley (away from us, but near the big power grids) soared over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 Celsius). Our internet connection would probably go down, they said. (Great, we said. Our business is on the internet. Phooey!) Our cell phones would definitely go down.

The state called out the National Guard, expecting all the trouble you get when you cram too many people in a small space. The hospitals staffed up. We were told that traffic would be in gridlock for four days, so plan travel accordingly. Dean and I own three retail stores in the area, so we spent weeks discussing scheduling—who could walk to work, who couldn’t, who might stay overnight if need be. Right now, as I write this, Dean is working our new bookstore, because the bookstore employees live 6 miles away, and couldn’t walk if there was gridlock. The schedule was set in stone; no gridlock, but Dean was scheduled, not the usual employee, so Dean is guarding the fort (so to speak).

(15) MAKING BOOKINGS. Website Focus on Travel News has made note of the Dublin win: “Dublin to host the 77th Annual World Science Fiction Convention”.

The successful Dublin bid was led by James Bacon, with support and guidance from the bid committee, Fáilte Ireland, Dublin Convention Bureau (DCB) and The CCD. Dublin was confirmed as the 2019 location by site selection voters at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki where 1,227 votes were received, of which Dublin won 1,160 votes.

“It’s fantastic that we had such a large turnout, indicating strong support for the bid,” said James Bacon, Dublin 2019 chair. “Voting is a vital part of the process so twelve hundred votes is a great endorsement and I’m very pleased it’s a new record for an uncontested bid. Given New Orleans and Nice have declared for 2023 and Perth and Seattle for 2025, that we remained unopposed is indicative of the enthusiasm, strategic determination and commitment from all involved with the bid. It’s absolutely magnificent to be able to say we are bringing the Worldcon to Ireland and we cannot wait now for 2019.”

(16) HELP IS COMING. Drones at serious work: “Tanzania Gears Up To Become A Nation Of Medical Drones”

Entries like these popped up as Keller Rinaudo browsed a database of health emergencies during a 2014 visit to Tanzania. It was “a lightbulb moment,” says the CEO and co-founder of the California drone startup Zipline.

Rinaudo was visiting a scientist at Ifakara Health Institute who had created the database to track nationwide medical emergencies. Using cellphones, health workers would send a text message whenever a patient needed blood or other critical supplies. Trouble is, while the system collected real-time information about dying patients, the east African country’s rough terrain and poor supply chain often kept them from getting timely help. “We were essentially looking at a database of death,” Rinaudo says.

That Tanzania trip motivated his company to spend the next three years building what they envisioned as “the other half of that system — where you know a patient is having a medical emergency and can immediately send the product needed to save that person’s life,” Rinaudo says.

(17) ROBOPRIEST. St Aquin? Not yet: “Robot priest: the future of funerals?” BBC video at the link.

Developers in Japan are offering a robot “priest” to conduct Buddhist funeral rites complete with chanted sutras and drum tapping – all at a fraction of the cost of a human.

It is the latest use of Softbank’s humanoid robot Pepper.

(18) UNDERSEA DRIVING. Call these “tunnel pipe-dreams”: “The Channel tunnel that was never built”.

The Channel Tunnel linking Britain and France holds the record for the longest undersea tunnel in the world – 50km (31 miles) long. More than 20 years after its opening, it carries more than 10 million passengers a year – and more than 1.6 million lorries – via its rail-based shuttle service.

What many people don’t know, however, is that when owner Eurotunnel won the contract to build its undersea connection, the firm was obliged to come up with plans for a second Channel Tunnel… by the year 2000. Although those plans were published the same year, the tunnel still has not gone ahead.

The second ‘Chunnel’ isn’t the only underwater tunnel to remain a possibility. For centuries, there have been discussions about other potential tunnelling projects around the British Isles, too. These include a link between the island of Orkney and the Scottish mainland, a tunnel between the Republic of Ireland and Wales and one between Northern Ireland and Scotland.

[Thanks to JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Eldridge, lauowolf, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, and Robot Archie for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day rcade.]

Pixel Scroll 7/20/17 Be Vewy Quiet – I’m Hunting Pixels

(1) CORE DYSTOPIAS. James Davis Nicoll tempts fate every two weeks with a list of core sf. Today’s entry is “Twenty Core Dystopias Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”. The first four items are:

  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin
  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

(2) SCA JOINS THE 21ST CENTURY. The Society for Creative Anachronism has promulgated “The SCA Harassment and Bullying Policy”.

The SCA prohibits harassment and bullying of all individuals and groups.

Harassment and bullying includes, but is not limited to the following: offensive or lewd verbal comments directed to an individual; the display of explicit images (drawn or photographic) depicting an individual in an inappropriate manner; photographing or recording individuals inappropriately to abuse or harass the individual; inappropriate physical contact; unwelcome sexual attention; or retaliation for reporting harassment and/or bullying. Participants violating these rules are subject to appropriate sanctions. If an individual feels subjected to harassment, bullying or retaliation, they should contact a seneschal, President of the SCA, or the Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman. If a participant of the SCA becomes aware that someone is being harassed or bullied, they have a responsibility pursuant to the SCA Code of Conduct to come forward and report this behavior to a seneschal, President of the SCA or Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman.

The following statement must be posted at gate/troll at every SCA event in a size large enough for people to see it as they enter our events. This language must likewise be quoted in ALL site handouts at every event a site were a handout is made available.

THE SCA PROHIBITS HARASSMENT AND BULLYING OF ALL INDIVIDUALS AND GROUPS.

Participants engaging in this behavior are subject to appropriate sanctions. If you are subjected to harassment, bullying or retaliation, or if you become aware of anyone being harassed or bullied, contact a seneschal, President of the SCA, or your Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman.

(3) POTTER SPIRITUALITY. Michelle Boorstein and Julie Zauzmer of the Washington Post discuss the “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text” event at the Sixth and I Synagogue in “Hundreds pack DC hall to discuss podcast exploring Harry Potter as a sacred text”. The podcast is now #2 on iTunes and “has inspired face-to-face ‘Potter’ text reading groups–akin to Bible study rather than book club–in cities across the country.”

Touring the country this summer, the podcasters have been met night after night by adoring, mostly millennial crowds who want to soak up their secular meaning-making. For the growing slice of Americans who label themselves “spiritual but not religious,” Casper ter Kuile and Vanessa Zoltan are kind of pop stars.

The irony is, the pair are skeptical about secularism.

“It doesn’t speak to people’s hearts and souls,” Zoltan said during a recent interview. “I get that people get connection and meaning from Soul Cycle, but will [those people] visit you when your mom is dying?”

Zoltan and ter Kuile are complicated evangelists for their own cause. Even as their following grows, they are still pondering some big questions: Can non-traditional types of meaning-making build community? Can texts that are deeply moving to readers truly hold them to account in the way Scripture has among the God-fearing?

(4) JOB INSECURITY. The Washington Post has a piece by Travis M. Andrews and Samantha Schmidt on the firing of Kermit’s voice, Steve Whitmire.  Reportedly, Whitmire was publicly grumpy, as in a 2011 interview on “Ellen” where he said he “was often mistaken for a green fire hydrant.”  Also, Howard Stern (!!) has weighed in, saying that “the odds of you making a money-generating career” as a puppeteer are “next to nothing” and “do not lose that job under any circumstances.”

(5) MINDS FOR MISCHIEF. Nicole Hill has picked out “6 Robots Too Smart for Their Own Good” at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Robots, man. You can’t live without them (unless you vacuum the old-fashioned way), and quite often, you can’t live with them—at least, not without massive, horrifying, oft-accidental repercussions.

That’s not to say all robots are bad. Quite the opposite. Sometimes, though, their massive brains work in ways that aren’t quite healthy—for them or for us.

Clever 4-1 (Prey of the Gods, by Nicky Drayden)

In a novel chock full of dueling goddesses, genetic engineering, and general mayhem, Clever 4-1 manages to stand above the fray while contributing directly to it. You see, Clever 4-1 awakens both at a troubling time and in the nick of time: the personal assistant robot gains sentience just as his master has awakened his own inner divinity. Just as an ancient demigoddess unleashes a plan to regain her former glory by bathing South Africa in blood. Just as all hell is breaking loose, Clever 4-1 starts out to find others of his kind who have gained sentience, to marshal their forces, to assist and do good. As with any nascent movement, you’ll have your leadership coups, and Clever 4-1 has to balance politicking with near-constant danger on his shoulders. Well, not shoulders.

(6) THE OLD SWITCHEROO. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn found there was a completely obvious reason for Louisville Fandom Fest to announce a last-minute change of venue.

You see, this announcement came in the wake of the Kentucky Expo Center telling the world the con wouldn’t be held there first. After attendees were concerned that the con wasn’t listed on the Kentucky Expo Center’s event calendar, they reached out to the venue asking what was up. The venue’s management responded on Twitter that not only was the convention not being held there this year, but that the con never had a contract for the space.

Although, as JJ points out:

What the Kentucky Expo Center actually said was:

We do not have a contract for FandomFest at our facility.

This leaves open the possibility that there was a contract at some point, but that it was cancelled, due to contractual breaches such as, I dunno, maybe something like non-payment of advance reservation fees.

(7) STREET VIEW. Google Maps adds the International Space Station.

The International Space Station has become the first “off planet” addition to Google Maps’ Street View facility.

Astronauts helped capture 360-degree panoramas of the insides of the ISS modules, as well as views down to the Earth below.

Some of the photography features pop-up text descriptions, marking the first time such annotations have appeared on the Maps platform.

(8) HENDERSON OBIT. LASFS member Lee Henderson, who sometimes handled the gaming room at Loscon, died July 17. He was working on an auto when the car jack became dislodged and the car collapsed on top of him.

He is survived by his wife and two children. His mother, Rita, has started a GoFundMe hoping to raise $10,000 for funeral expenses.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Space Exploration Day

The origins of Space Exploration Day date back to man first walking on the moon, with the day itself first observed to commemorate this historic event during events held in the early 1970s. It is about more than just the moon landings though and is intended to pay homage to the incredible achievements of the past and fire up enthusiasm for the benefits of space exploration efforts to come in the future.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 20, 1969 — Neil Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the Moon. He also placed the U.S. flag there.
  • July 20, 2017 – John King Tarpinian munched his commemorative Moon Pie, as he does each year on this date.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 20, 1949 — Guy H. Lillian III

(12) LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARILY EXPENSIVE TOYS. Nerdist doesn’t want you to miss its exclusive news story – about Mattel’s Justice League Barbies.

For almost sixty years now, Barbie has been a Jane of all trades, having had careers as a school teacher, a pop star, a super model, and even an astronaut that one time. Name an occupation, and Barbie has probably had her turn at the wheel at some point. And now, Barbie is getting her chance to be one of the iconic superheroes of the Justice League!

(13) FORMERLY THE FUTURE. Yesterland is a site about retired Disneyland attractions, like the Flying Saucer ride.

If you’ve never looked at this ride closely, you might think it’s just a colossal air hockey table with a fleet of ride vehicles that can scoot above it. But it’s much more complicated—and much more ingenious—than that.

The Flying Saucers ride uses a big, blue oval, bisected into two halves, each with thousands of round air valves, Each half has a movable arm. There are four fleets of 16 saucers. Unlike other “batch load’ attractions, this one loads efficiently.

As the ride cycle begins, a giant arm slowly swings away from the loading area, releasing your group of saucers. Air valves directly below your saucer lift it up.

Tilt your body to make your saucer scoot across ride surface. Wherever you go, your saucer actuates air valves as you pass over them. All the lift comes from below. Your saucer has no moving parts—or, more accurately, you’re the only moving part of your vehicle. You can go remarkably fast. ….

(14) GAME OF THRONES ALUMS FIND THE LOST CAUSE. The New York Times sums up reaction to David Benioff’s and D. B. Weiss’ next project, Confederate.

It was supposed to be HBO’s next big thing: a high-concept drama from the creators of “Game of Thrones,” set in an alternate America where the Southern states seceded from the Union and slavery continued into the present day.

Instead, the new series, called “Confederate,” has provoked a passionate outcry from potential viewers who are calling out HBO and the creators over how they will handle this volatile mixture of race, politics and history. Several historians and cultural critics are also skeptical about whether the “Game of Thrones” team, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, are the right people to address the subject and if it should be attempted at all.

“Confederate” arrives at a time when many minorities feel their civil rights are under siege, and when issues surrounding the Civil War and its legacy — the propriety of displaying Confederate flags; the relocations and razings of Confederate monuments — continue to confront Americans on an almost daily basis.

To its critics, the show’s promise to depict slavery as it might be practiced in modern times is perhaps the most worrisome element of “Confederate.” They say that slavery, a grave and longstanding scar on the national psyche, especially for black Americans, should not be trivialized for the sake of a fantasy TV series.

(15) FOZ MEADOWS ON ‘CONFEDERATE’. Here are the first few tweets in Foz Meadows’ commentary.

(16) JEMISIN ON HISTORY. N.K. Jemisin tweeted her skepticism about the supposed gradual withering away of slavery that’s postulated in both real and alternate history. Well-placed skepticism, I’d say – this is a country that needed almost a full century after the Civil War to pass the Voting Rights Act. The same attitudes would have conserved slavery. Follow this tweet to find her complete statement.

(17) DEL ARROZ ON JEMISIN. Jemisin says at her Twitter account “I use robust autoblockers due to harassment.” No wonder. Jon Del Arroz spent a day this week rounding up people to harass Jemisin after supposedly discovering he was one of those blocked.

(18) THANK YOU VOTERS OF THE INTERNET. The heir of Boaty McBoatface is a Swedish train says The Guardian“Trainy McTrainface: Swedish railway keeps Boaty’s legacy alive”.

It’s happened again. A public vote to name four trains running between the Swedish cities of Stockholm and Gothenburg has resulted in one of the four being called Trainy McTrainface in an echo of the name chosen by the British public for the new polar research vessel.

Trainy McTrainface received 49% of the votes in a poll, jointly run by Swedish rail company MTR Express and Swedish newspaper Metro.

That placed it well ahead the other three options: Hakan, Miriam and Poseidon.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, lurkertype, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, John DeChancie and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 7/18/17 Fahrvergnügen 451

(0) What’s Daniel Dern’s title a reference to? Some commercials that aired before many of you were born.

(1) COLONIZE OR QUARANTINE? Pilita Clark, the Financial Times environment correspondent, complains “Elon Musk’s inter-planetary fantasy spells danger for Mars”.  (This link goes straight to a paywall, but via Google I found a way around.)

What is troubling is that he (Musk) seems to think of Mars mush as early European explorers viewed Africa and the Americas, as places to be colonised regardless of the consequences.

Mars is in a pristine state and experts say it should stay that way if we are to find proof of past or present life there.  Plonking a city of 1m humans on it would wreak havoc with such efforts, according to veteran space scientists such as Andrew Coates of University College London, whois working on the ExoMars rover due to launch in 2020.

Prof Coates says the big global dust storm on Mars could carry specks of terrestrial matter across the planet that scientists could mistake for evidence of Martian life.  He also worries about Mr Musk’s breezy attitude to the brutally cold weather on Mars, where temperatures average minus 63C.

(2) THE BREW THAT MADE KENTUCKY FAMOUS. We’ve mentioned Wil Wheaton’s beer before. Here’s this year’s edition of “Drew Curtis / Wil Wheaton / Greg Koch Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout.

COLLABORATORS

Drew Curtis, Fark.com Creator & Patent Troll Killer

Wil Wheaton, Actor & Web Celeb

Greg Koch, CEO & Co-founder, Stone Brewing

It’s been four years since this otherworldly stout burst out of our collective proverbial chests. Four years since the primally viscous first release ooze-snaked across the galaxy. This specialty imperial stout draws its huge flavor from wheat (that’s Wil, natch), pecans and bourbon barrels (two homages to Drew’s home of Kentucky) and Greg’s lifelong quest for pushing the limits of “why the hell not?” to make bigger, bolder beers. The result is a mind-blowing amalgamation of intense yet smooth flavors, perfect for a warm summer evening, a cozy winter’s night or the approaching destruction of the entire human race (be it externally or internally inflicted).

For this year’s bottle art, we were thrilled to entrust the task to heralded comic book writer and artist Walt Simonson. He was gracious enough to work with us in exchange for our donation to The Hero Initiative, a charity organization that provides retirement funds for golden-age comic book artists.

(3) MARVEL’S LIVESTREAM FROM SDCC. Marvel Entertainment will air the action from their booth at Comic-Con starting Thursday, July 20.

Hosted by TWHIP! The Big Marvel Show’s Ryan Penagos and Lorraine Cink, and Marvel Gaming host Jessica Brohard, viewers will be able to watch booth events with their favorite Marvel comic, television and movie talent, hear panel recaps from special guests, and learn about all the fun surprises happening on the convention floor, from exclusive merchandise to special signings. Join in on the fun by visiting www.marvel.com/SDCC2017 or Marvel’s YouTube channel.

 

  • Thursday, July 20: 11:00 a.m. PT/1:00 p.m. ET – 5:00 p.m. PT/8:00 p.m. ET
  • Friday, July 21: 11:00 a.m. PT/1:00 p.m. ET – 5:00 p.m. PT/8:00 p.m. ET
  • Saturday, July 22: 11:00 a.m. PT/1:00 p.m. ET – 5:00 p.m. PT/8:00 p.m. ET
  • Sunday, July 23: 11:00 a.m. PT/1:00 p.m. ET – 3:00 p.m. PT/6:00 p.m. ET

(4) FROG FURY. The New York Times covers the brawl: “Kermit the Frog Performer and Disney Spar Over an Ugly ‘Muppet’ Firing”.

“This is my life’s work,” said Mr. Whitmire, 58, who lives in the Atlanta area. “The only thing I’ve done my whole adult life, and it’s just been taken away from me. I just couldn’t understand why we couldn’t resolve this.”

Disney, which acquired the Muppets in 2004 from the Jim Henson Company, painted a wholly different picture, portraying Mr. Whitmire as hostile to co-workers and overly difficult in contract negotiations. Members of the Henson family said they supported the dismissal as well.

… Henson’s family, which still runs the Jim Henson Company, chose Mr. Whitmire to replace Henson as Kermit in 1990 after Henson unexpectedly died of pneumonia at the age of 53. Some of those same family members say they supported the decision to replace Mr. Whitmire, though they are no longer involved with the Muppets.

“He played brinkmanship very aggressively in contract negotiations,” Lisa Henson, president of the Jim Henson Company, and Jim Henson’s daughter, said in a telephone interview.

Ms. Henson said Mr. Whitmire was adamantly opposed to having an understudy for his role, which presented problems when it came to what she called “B-level performances, such as a ribbon-cutting.” She said he was unwilling to appear on some of these occasions but also refused to develop an understudy and that he “blackballed young performers” by refusing to appear on the show with them.

Brian Henson, the company’s chairman and Jim Henson’s son, said that while Mr. Whitmire’s Kermit was “sometimes excellent, and always pretty good,” things changed when he was off set.

“He’d send emails and letters attacking everyone, attacking the writing and attacking the director,” he said.

Whitmire, meanwhile, has continued to characterize himself as indispensable in posts at Muppet Pundit, such as — “The Muppet Performers are not Interchangeable”.

The point is that there is so much vital and significant knowledge that was gained by the dwindling few of us who consistently stood next to Jim. From his characters to his methods and philosophies, it’s stuff you can never fully intuit from watching the Muppets. I know that to be true because I, too, was a completely obsessive Muppet fan with preconceived notions of my own that had to be unlearned when Jim hired me in 1978.

I approach The Muppets as a lineage tradition. For the inside knowledge-base steeped in its origins to survive and be passed down, there has to be a line of transmission, or you had to be there. For the Post-Jim performers to really understand enough about the Muppets to carry on the lineage they need to continue to be around the core performers Jim mentored as long as any of those people are willing and able to share.

None of this is a value judgement of any individual, it is a pointing out of the value of historical perspective so long as that perspective is used progressively. Having had the opportunity to spend the last 27 years cultivating knowledge of Jim along with feeling his presence through Kermit, I find myself at a place where evolving Jim’s vision has begun coming from a deep empathetic connection to him.

So, I see my most important task as providing a taste of the atmosphere created by Jim Henson to those Post-Jim core performers who will never otherwise come by it. My hope was to install it directly into their hearts and minds so that they could, in turn, be inspired to do the same for the next generation of performers instead of the characters becoming stale copies of their former selves. But, as I look around at what is presently transpiring it’s clear to me that the job is far from done.

(5) NO SH*T! Eliot Peper of Harvard Business Review tells “Why Business Leaders Need to Read More Science Fiction”.

At the end of the 19th century, New York City stank. One hundred fifty thousand horses ferried people and goods through the streets of Manhattan, producing 45,000 tons — tons! — of manure a month. It piled up on streets and in vacant lots, and in 1898 urban planners convened from around the world to brainstorm solutions to the impending crisis. They failed to come up with any, unable to imagine horseless transportation.

Fourteen years later, cars outnumbered horses in New York, and visions of manure dystopia were forgotten.

If 19th-century urban planners had had access to big data, machine learning techniques, and modern management theory, these tools would not have helped them. They simply would have confirmed their existing concerns. Extrapolating from past trends is useful but limiting in a world of accelerating technological change.

Science fiction can help. Maybe you associate it with spaceships and aliens, but science fiction offers more than escapism. By presenting plausible alternative realities, science fiction stories empower us to confront not just what we think but also how we think and why we think it. They reveal how fragile the status quo is, and how malleable the future can be…..

Science fiction isn’t useful because it’s predictive. It’s useful because it reframes our perspective on the world. Like international travel or meditation, it creates space for us to question our assumptions. Assumptions locked top 19th-century minds into believing that cities were doomed to drown in horse manure. Assumptions toppled Kodak despite the fact that its engineers built the first digital camera in 1975. Assumptions are a luxury true leaders can’t afford.

(6) FOR SOME VALUES OF OVERDUE. John Ostrander reminisces about a career spent pushing deadlines in “The Digital Dog Ate My Homework. Honest.”

In my earliest days as a pro writer, I did everything on typewriter (first manual and then electric; rumors that I chiseled them on stone tablets are just mean). I didn’t have a computer until later and, even when I did, some companies (including DC) were not equipped to receive them electronically. So that meant printing them up on my dot-matrix printer and then rushing them off to FedEx for overnight delivery.

Unless you called in your package by a certain time, usually much earlier than you had the work done, you had to take the package to the nearest FedEx office. If you didn’t hit the office by closing time (usually around 6 PM), you had to make the Midnight Run to the main FedEx office out by the largest airport around. More than once, Kim was the driver while I finished collating the pages, stuffing them in the envelope, and addressing the delivery slip. Let me tell you, Speed Racer had nothing on Kim. She’d run stoplights and take stop signs as suggestions to be ignored. Often, we’d meet other local freelancers also making the death defying Midnight Run. It almost got to be a club.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 18, 1986 Aliens burst into theaters.
  • July 18, 2001 Jurassic Park III opened.
  • July 18, 2008 The Dark Knight, the fifth film in the big-screen Batman series, opens in theaters around the United States.

(8) EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE. At Fantasy Literature, Bill Capossere and Tadiana Jones each review Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us by Sam Kean. Capossere begins:

Informative, witty, vivid, often compelling, sometimes juvenile, knowledgeable, clear, and written throughout with verve and panache via what feels like a wholly singular voice, Sam Kean’s Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us (2017) is what every non-fiction book should aspire to. It’s been a while since I’ve so enjoyed a work of non-fiction so thoroughly and consistently.

Kean divides his exploration of air into three large sections, the first dealing with the origin of our current atmosphere, one of many our planet (if not humanity) has seen….

Jones is just as enthusiastic:

Kean has a vivid and engaging style of writing, with a wry sense of humor, which elevates Caesar’s Last Breath far above most pop science books. Gas molecules are described as feral, oxygen as a madman, our moon as an albatross (as compared to the gnats that circle most other mooned planets), and gravity as “that eternal meddler” that won’t abide two planets in the same neighborhood. I learned about the Big Thwack (when a hypothetical planet called Theia smashed into our earth, vaporizing itself and eventually reforming into our moon), the Oxygen Catastrophe of 2,000,000,000 BC, and the mushroom cloud-shaped cakes baked during the heady days of the late 1940s when nuclear blasts didn’t really seem all that dangerous.

(9) INSIDE BASEBALL. Jennifer Brozek shared “10 Things I Learned While I Was A Director-At-Large for SFWA” at the SFWA Blog.

6: Authors, even your favorite author, are only human.

Everyone has either heard the story, or experienced it themselves: “I used to love reading AuthorX, but then I met them and discovered they are terrible. I can’t read their work anymore.” Sometimes it is hard to discover your idols are human with human wants, needs, foibles, opinions, habits, and flaws. When you work on SFWA’s Board of Directors, you usually see all the behind-the-scenes stuff.

Sometimes, you work with an author/editor on a SFWA project and it doesn’t go as smoothly as you like. Sometimes, it appears as if an author once admired has nothing but scorn for the work you are doing and no desire to help out—just kvetch and complain. Sometimes, authors come to the Board at their worst—financial or medical difficulties, personal conflicts that threaten to spiral out of control, issues with editors, agents, or publishers. They don’t have their “public face” on. They are human. They make mistakes. They can be hurt. They put their pants on one leg at a time.

This is one of those learning lessons that really surprised me. I’m not sure why. I just know it did.

(10) STARFINDER’S APPENDIX N. Paizo is producing a new science fantasy RPG named Starfinder, and they’ve released an image of the “Inspirational Media” pages from the game.  It’s a wide list of old and new SF, not just books but also comics, movies, and games.

In the comment thread one of the developers remarks, “That said, I am excited to see fans talking about the things that moved them that we didn’t include. Those suggestions, and the conversations they start, are to me the greatest legacy of all these inspirational media appendices.”

Few appendices have made as big a splash in gaming history as Gary Gygax’s Appendix N. (I thought Cosmo’s appendix bursting at Gen Con that one year might have it beat, but he reminded me that was technically a gallbladder removal, so it’s OUT OF THE RUNNING!) That formative list of novels hit in 1979, in the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide. In it, Gygax laid out some of the works that had made the largest impact on him in the creation of Dungeons & Dragons, from Leigh Brackett and Robert E. Howard to Jack Vance and Andre Norton. In doing so, he created a reading list for an entire generation of gamers and fantasy fans, and had a tremendous impact on the genre as a whole.

When we created the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook in 2009, we gleefully took the opportunity to publish our own version of Appendix N, keen to introduce fans to our new favorites like Clive Barker and China Miéville, along with grand masters like C. L. Moore. Yet it was ultimately still a fairly small list—just a single column of text—and cribbed heavily from Gygax, focusing solely on novels.

When I first sat down to paginate the Starfinder Core Rulebook, I knew that space was going to be at a premium. I had, by some estimates, 800+ pages of content to cram into something even smaller than Pathfinder’s 576 pages. Yet I also knew that just one page of inspirational media wasn’t going to be enough. In order to make a game like Starfinder, we had to stand on the shoulders of innumerable giants, both childhood heroes and our friends and peers. We couldn’t in good faith restrict ourselves to just literature, either. How could you have Starfinder without Star Wars and Alien? Without Shadowrun and Warhammer 40,000? Without Starcraft and Mass Effect? It just wouldn’t be the same.

(11) BIG EARS. BBC News video: “Telescopes to reach nine billion light years away”.

South Africa has started to set up radio telescopes far more powerful than any current ones in use around the world, in its pioneering search for extra terrestrial activity.

(12) WATER HAZARD. In Washington, D.C. a security robot drowns in a fountain mishap. “We were promised flying cars, instead we got suicidal robots.”

A security robot in Washington DC suffered a watery demise after falling into a fountain by an office building.

The stricken robot, made by Knightscope, was spotted by passers-by whose photos of the aftermath quickly went viral on social media.

(13) RETURN TO TONE. Ian Leslie’s post “Unfight Club” on Medium contends there is a way to have discussions on Twitter without devolving into flame wars, virtue signalling, etc. etc.  If only.

  1. Beware the moral surge. The moral surge is the rush of pleasure you get?—?the dopamine hit?—?when you assert your moral integrity in public. A certain kind of columnist lives for it; much of social media is driven by it. Virtue signalling is its outer manifestation, but I’m talking about an inner mechanism. We’re all subject to it, and that’s not a bad thing in itself?—?it makes sense that we should feel good for ‘doing the right thing’ in the eyes of our group. But when you ingest too much of this drug, or get dependent on it, you end up giving your own bad behaviour a pass. When you’re addicted to the moral surge, personal abuse begins to seem like nothing when measured against high principles. ‘Anything I say to or about that person, however nasty or dehumanising, is justified, because they voted for austerity, which murders people,’ (the more apocalyptic your public language, the purer the hit). Letting your tribe see you condemn others feels good?—?so good that it degrades your own moral machinery. Viciousness becomes a virtue. Don’t let this happen to you: recognise your susceptibility to the moral surge, and be wary of it.

(14) THE EARLY 21ST CENTURY. Martin Wisse calls The New Weird “The last whites only literary movement in science fiction”.

As said, diversity when looked at from that white, middle class male perspective tends to focus on who’s being written about more than on who’s doing the writing. Not that this isn’t important in its own right, but it will still reflect the same limited perspective and no matter how well intentioned, often reducing anybody who isn’t (white, male, middle class) to the exotic. Diversity from this perspective is always from the outside looking in, making it easy to fall into stereotypes, cultural appropriation, orientalism and othering. You get things like making mutants as a metaphor for the Civil Rights struggle and thinking that’s enough, or writing alternate history in which America is conveniently empty when the Europeans land. This sort of diversity is only possible if your audience and peers are the same as you, or you can at least pretend they are.

The New Weird happened at arguably the last time that you could still hold up this pretence without immediadely being contradicted by the very same people you’re denying the existence of. Twitter, Youtube and Facebook didn’t exist yet, blogging was in its infancy and existing fannish and science fiction online spaces were still dominated by, well, white middle class men. What made Racefail not just possible but inevitable was that between the New Weird and Racefail the internet became not just mainstream but ubiquitous as both access and ease of access increased; it’s no coincidence that much of Racefail took place on Livejournal, one of the earliest social media sites and one that had long been home to sf fandom. Tools or sites like Twitter or Tumblr have only made it easier for everybody to let their voice be heard, harder to ignore people when they address you directly. It has its advantages and disadvantages, but the upshot is that science fiction can no longer pretend to be just white, middle class or male.

(15) LICENSE REVOKED. John C. Wright says “Dr. Who Is Not”.

The replacement of male with female is meant to erase femininity. In point of fact, and no matter what anyone thinks or wishes, readers and viewers have a different emotional relationship to female characters as male. This does not mean, obviously, that females cannot be protagonists or cannot be leaders. It means mothers cannot be fathers and queens cannot be kings.

It means if you want a female Norse warrior goddess, go get Lady Sif or Valkyrie, and leave Thor alone. It means if you want female Time Lady from Gallifrey, go make a spin off show starring Romana or Susan or The Rani, and leave The Doctor alone.

I have been a fan of Dr Who since age seven, when Tom Baker was the Doctor. I have tolerated years of public service announcements in favor of sexual deviance that pepper the show. But this is too much to tolerate.

The BBC has finally done what The Master, the Daleks and the Cybermen have failed to do. They killed off the Doctor.

Dr. Who is dead to me.

(16) ON HIS GAME. So can John shout BINGO! yet?

(17) PRO TIPS. Now I’m wondering what anyone would be asking David about File 770 at his site. Maybe, “Why doesn’t Mike pay for material”?

(18) TWEETS OF FAME. To satisfy your appetite for something that has nothing whatever to do with science fiction, we present this link to Bored Panda’s “The 10+ Most Hilarious Parenting Tweets Of The Year So Far”. Here’s #2 on their list —

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “A Single Life” is an animated short nominated for an Oscar in 2014 by Job, Joris, and Marieke which asks what happened if you had a 45 RPM record that enabled you to travel through time?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Francis Hamit, Chip Hitchcock, and Nancy Sauer for some of these stories. Title credit goes to  File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 6/17/17 Fiery The Pixels Fell. Deep Thunder Scrolled Around Their Shoulders

(1) DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE. Decided this weekend, the 2019 Eurocon will be hosted by TitanCon 2019 in Belfast, NI. The con is scheduled to complement the dates of the expected Dublin Worldcon.

Our proposed dates are Thursday 22 to Saturday 24 August 2019. That is the weekend after the proposed WorldCon (currently being bid for and running unopposed) to be held in Dublin, Ireland on Thursday 15 to Monday 19 August 2019.

We will also be running our traditional TitanCon Coach Tour on Sunday 25 August visiting beautiful locations around Northern Ireland that have been used as filming locations in HBO’s Game of Thrones.

(2) PHONE CALL FROM THE PAST. Today Galactic Journey had its inaugural video conference call from 1962. Sartorially splendid in his white dress shirt and narrow black tie, The Traveler, Gideon Marcus, shared the split screen with Janice Marcus (his editor), and Professor Elliott (whose blog promises to “Document the obscure”).

He started with a recap of significant genre news, including the new issue of F&SF with Truman Capote and Zenna Henderson on the cover, and developments in film, music, and gaming, like Avalon Hill’s recently released Waterloo.

The Traveler masterfully rolled clips like the technical director in those control booth scenes from My Favorite Year, showing us a performance by the band The Shadows (some of them smoking onscreen) and the trailer for Journey to the Seventh Planet (which surprisingly did not end John Agar’s movie career on the spot).

The trio also took questions from the audience — there were about 18 of us on the call — and gave us 1962’s perspective on dogs in space and something called the Radar Range.

If you’d like to take your own trip 55 years back in time, the session was recorded — here’s the link.

(3) FAUX DINO. The Nerdist admires Neil deGrasse Tyson despite his earnestness about certain topics. “GODZILLA Gets Debunked by Neil deGrasse Tyson”.

But, let’s face it, sometimes the good Dr. Tyson is kind of a killjoy. Especially when it comes to debunking the scientific possibility of your favorite science-fiction franchises. He loves to be that guy, the one to tell you how Superman couldn’t really exist, or how this or that sci-fi movie got it wrong, etc. He loves to be Captain Buzzkill sometimes.

The latest example of Neil deGrasse Tyson telling us how one of our favorite science fiction icons simply could never be real happened on his Star Talk radio podcast. According to Tyson, beloved kaiju Godzilla simply could not exist in the real world, because the laws of physics could not allow for it to happen. A giant creature the size of Godzilla would be way too heavy for his limbs, and would therefore collapse under his own weight. Tyson kills your dreams of Godzilla ever emerging from the oceans in this clip from his Star Talk Radio podcast, which you can watch down below….

(4) MIND IN A VACUUM. Or maybe we would find a little of Tyson’s earnestness useful here — “Is the Universe Conscious?”

For centuries, modern science has been shrinking the gap between humans and the rest of the universe, from Isaac Newton showing that one set of laws applies equally to falling apples and orbiting moons to Carl Sagan intoning that “we are made of star stuff” — that the atoms of our bodies were literally forged in the nuclear furnaces of other stars.

Even in that context, Gregory Matloff’s ideas are shocking. The veteran physicist at New York City College of Technology recently published a paper arguing that humans may be like the rest of the universe in substance and in spirit. A “proto-consciousness field” could extend through all of space, he argues. Stars may be thinking entities that deliberately control their paths. Put more bluntly, the entire cosmos may be self-aware.

The notion of a conscious universe sounds more like the stuff of late night TV than academic journals. Called by its formal academic name, though, “panpsychism” turns out to have prominent supporters in a variety of fields

(5) WTF? That was my first thought upon reading in Variety that YouTube personality Lilly Singh has been cast in HBO’s adaptation of Fahrenheit 451.

Based on Ray Bradbury’s classic novel of the same name, the show depicts a future where media is an opiate, history is outlawed, and “firemen” burn books — Montag, a young fireman, forsakes his world, battles his mentor, and struggles to regain his humanity.

Singh will play Raven, a tabloid vlogger who works with the fire department to spread the ministry’s propaganda by broadcasting their book-burning raids to fans. She joins an A-list cast that includes Michael B. Jordan, Michael Shannon, and “The Mummy” star Sofia Boutella.

I’ve watched a lot of her comedy videos — my daughter is a fan — and she’s talented and funny. This sounds like she’s being given a dramatic role, so we’ll have to see how well that works. I don’t automatically assume Ray Bradbury would be unhappy with the choice — after all, he seemed to like Rachel Bloom’s YouTube act well enough.

Ray watching “F*** Me Ray Bradbury” for the first time. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

(6) MORE RAY TO SHARE. BBC’s Radio 3 program The Essay ends a five-part series with “Ray Bradbury’s The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit”.

Five writers recall clothes and accessories that resonate vividly in works of art: The series started with a white dress and ends with a pristine white suit …

Author and journalist John Walsh describes the transformative powers of a ‘two-piece’, worn in turn by a motley bunch of blokes in Los Angeles and celebrated in Ray Bradbury’s story ‘The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit’.

(7) TOUPONCE OBIT. Ray Bradbury scholar William F. Touponce (1948-2017) died of a heart attack on June 15, His colleague at the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, Jonathan Eller, has posted a thorough and heartfelt appreciation.

Our good colleague, steadfast friend, and long-time Ray Bradbury scholar William F. Touponce passed away from a sudden heart attack on 15 June 2017. Bill joined the faculty of the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts in Indianapolis (IUPUI) in 1985, and attained the academic rank of Professor of English and adjunct Professor of American Studies during his twenty-seven years with the school. In 2007 Bill co-founded the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies and became the Center’s first director. During his four-year tenure as director, he established The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury and a scholarly annual, The New Ray Bradbury Review. He retired from the faculty in 2012, but continued to pursue his scholarly interests as Professor Emeritus right up until his passing.

…During the first decade of the new century Bill wrote introductions and volume essays for seven special limited press editions of Bradbury’s works; these included an edition of the pre-production text of Ray Bradbury’s screenplay for the 1956 Warner Brothers production of Moby Dick (2008). In 2007, we co-founded the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies within the Institute for American Thought, and Bill agreed to take on the direction of this new and exciting enterprise. During his four-year tenure as director, he established The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury multi-volume series, and a scholarly journal, The New Ray Bradbury Review.

(8) FURST OBIT. Stephen Furst, best known to fans as Vir Cotto on Babylon 5 has passed away. The LA Times obituary sums up his career.

Furst’s breakout role was as Dorfman in the 1978 film “Animal House,” which also marked the film debut of “Saturday Night Live” star John Belushi.

…He was later a regular on “Babylon 5” and “St. Elsewhere.”

In addition to his acting career, Furst directed several low-budget films, and was a producer on the 2009 drama “My Sister’s Keeper,” starring Cameron Diaz.

(9) TODAY’S FANNISH ANNIVERSARY

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 17, 1931 — Dean Ing
  • Born June 17, 1953 — Phyllis Weinberg

(11) CARRIE FISHER REPORT. An Associated Press story by Anthony McCartney, “Coroner Releases Results of Carrie Fisher Death Inquiry”, says the coroner determined that Fisher died from a variety of causes, one of which was sleep apnea, “but investigators haven’t been able to pinpoint an exact cause.”

Carrie Fisher died from sleep apnea and a combination of other factors, but investigators were not able to pinpoint an exact cause, coroner’s officials said Friday.

Among the factors that contributed to Fisher’s death was buildup of fatty tissue in the walls of her arteries, the Los Angeles County coroner’s office said in a news release late Friday. The release states that the “Star Wars” actress showed signs of having taken multiple drugs, but investigators could not determine whether they contributed to her death in December.

Her manner of death would be listed as undetermined, the agency said.

(12) FOLLOW THE MONEY. Kara Dennison returns with “CONVENTIONS: Where Does Your Money Go?”

The Alley

Artists and vendors, this is for you. This is a whole other concept of paying for cons.

I’ve worked both as a seller in Artist Alley and an AA head, so I’ve seen a lot of sides of this. Tables at events can go for anywhere from $40 to (apparently now) $300, all for a six-foot table with a hotel tablecloth and two chairs. And seriously what the heck.

Here’s what the heck.

For starters, renting those tables actually costs the cons money. Yeah. To take them out of storage and use them for three days, the con has to pay the hotel. That’s a part of the contract. Each hotel chain will have their own version of pricing for that, but that fits into your fee.

Beyond that, the price is reflective of the fee to rent the space the Alley is in, as well as the sort of business the con believes you can expect to do. Not a guarantee, but an estimate. If you shell out $100 for a table, that’s in essence the con saying “A good vendor doing their part can expect to take home at least $100 this weekend.”

To be fair, some cons out there really overestimate themselves. The best way to make sure a price is fair is to talk to regular vendors at the event (in your medium, if possible) and see if it evens out. I’m describing to you how a scrupulous Artist Alley works — if something seems off, do your homework.

That said, there are some cons that know they are too small to bring the goods and will actually cut their prices or waive the table rental fee. If a table is extremely low-priced at an event, it’s not because all tables should be that cheap — it’s because the staff is aware of their attendance size and trying to be fair to artists. Artist Alley fees should be judged against their con, not against each other.

(13) THE X-PERSON FRANCHISE. The word from Vanity Fair ” Sophie Turner Is Now Officially the Future of the X-Men Franchise”.

Fox today confirmed a number of suspicions that had been swirling around the next installment of the central X-Men franchise. For the foreseeable future, just like Cyclops, the mutants will be seeing red as Jessica Chastain joins Sophie Turner at the center of X-Men: Dark Phoenix.

Doubling down on the investment the studio made in Turner as head of the new class of mutants in X-Men: Apocalypse, the sequel is now, Deadline reports, officially subtitled Dark Phoenix–a reference to a famous comic storyline involving her powerful character, Jean Grey, breaking bad. It’s the same storyline X-Men explored with Famke Janssen as Jean Grey in the weakest installment of the franchise: The Last Stand. To lean in on a storyline from the least-loved X-Men film and draft Turner, whose debut in the franchise certainly didn’t make Apocalypse any better, is a risky choice. But Fox is full of gambles that pay off these days (see: Deadpool, Logan) and will shore up this foray into bold, new (yet familiar) territory with a trio of returning stars.

(14) SECURITY. China launches a quantum comsat.

The term “spy satellite” has taken on a new meaning with the successful test of a novel Chinese spacecraft.

The mission can provide unbreakable secret communications channels, in principle, using the laws of quantum science.

Called Micius, the satellite is the first of its kind and was launched from the Gobi desert last August.

It is all part of a push towards a new kind of internet that would be far more secure than the one we use now.

The experimental Micius, with its delicate optical equipment, continues to circle the Earth, transmitting to two mountain-top Earth bases separated by 1,200km.

(15) GLOWBOT. Swimming robot to investigate Fukushima: “‘Little sunfish’ robot to swim in to Fukushima reactor”.

It’ll be a tough journey – previous robots sent in to the ruined nuclear reactor didn’t make it back.

(16) A PIXAR FRANCHISE KEEPS ROLLING. NPR likes Cars 3: “‘Cars 3’ Comes Roaring Back With A Swapped-Out (Story) Engine”

The multi-billion-dollar success of Pixar’s Cars series can be chalked up to a great many things, but don’t discount the little vroom-vroom frowns the cars make with their dashboard eyes when they want to go fast. When Lightning McQueen, the Owen Wilson-voiced stock car with the bright flames decal, guns for pole position, he squints so much that any human who might be driving him wouldn’t be able to see the road. But of course there are no humans in this world, unless you count the invisible giant kids who must be steering the racers with their hands and making the motor sounds themselves.

That enduring childhood (typically but by no means exclusively boyhood) fascination with moving vehicles has propped up this franchise for the backseat set, seeing it through three feature-length films, a spin-off Planes series, and countless toy tie-ins.

(17) IAMBIC TWO-AND-A-HALF-METER. The Science Fiction Poetry Association is having a half-price sale on their t-shirts.

(18) FEWER NAUGHTY BITS. Row over cleaned-up movies: “Sony sanitising films row – the story so far”.

If you’ve been on a long-haul flight recently, you might have noticed the films being shown were a bit different from their cinematic release.

They’re usually a bit shorter as they’ve been made family-friendly for any young eyes who can see your screen.

Earlier this month Sony decided to make these sanitised versions available to download at home, choosing 24 titles including Ghostbusters and Easy A.

But now they’ve had to backtrack after filmmakers complained about the move.

(19) SUBCONTINENTAL SUBCREATOR. “India’s Tolkien”: “Amish Tripathi: ‘India’s Tolkien’ of Hindu mythology”. I wonder, has he been introduced to “America’s Tolkien”?

Meet best-selling Indian author Amish Tripathi who has just released his much anticipated fifth book, Sita: Warrior of Mithila, that re-imagines the life of the Hindu goddess from the epic Ramayan.

With four million copies in print, the former banker, who has successfully turned centuries-old mythological tales into bestselling works of fiction, is one of the highest selling Indian authors writing in English.

Chip Hitchcock says “India has snobs just like the west: ‘Although critics say his books lack any literary merit, they admire him for his ability to “create completely new stories from old ones”.’“

(20) PIONEERING. Oregon breaks new legal ground in personal identification — “Male, female or X? Oregon adds third option to driver’s licenses”.

Oregon on Thursday became the first U.S. state to allow residents to identify as neither male nor female on state driver’s licenses, a decision that transgender advocates called a victory for civil rights.

Under a policy unanimously adopted by the Oregon Transportation Commission, residents can choose to have an “X,” for non-specified, displayed on their driver’s license or identification cards rather than an “M” for male or “F” for female.

The policy change was cheered by supporters as a major step in expanding legal recognition and civil rights for people who do not identify as male or female. This includes individuals with both male and female anatomies, people without a gender identity and those who identify as a different gender than listed on their birth certificate.

(21) BRONZE AGE. Is this the style of armor Patroclus wore? “Dendra panoply, the oldest body Armour from the Mycenaean era”.

The earliest sample of a full body armor in Greece was found at the Dendra archeological site, located in the Argolis area. Discovered in May 1960 by Swedish archaeologists, the discovered breastplate, and backplate made of bronze, date to the 15th century BC. These pieces are part of the Dendra full-body armor, composed of fifteen pieces, including leg protectors, arm-guards, helmet and the parts mentioned above. The pieces were held together with leather lacing, covering the entire body of the soldier.

The breastplate and backplate are linked on the left side by a hinge, and together with the large shoulder protectors, these pieces consisted the upper body armor. Two triangular-shaped plates are attached to the shoulder protectors, providing protection for the armpits. The armor also includes a neck protection plate. Three pairs of curved shields hang from the waist, giving protection to the groin and the thighs. This artifact is unique for its armguard, and as for the leg protectors, it is assumed that they were made of linen and are a standard piece of armor seen in illustrations from the Mycenaean age.

(22) EMISSION IMPOSSIBLE. Speaking of Homeric — what about Our Wombat!

[Thanks to Joe H., Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Rich Lynch, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, and rcade for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 6/7/17 Pixel Me Your Best Shot, File Away!

(1) A LITTLE LIST. James Davis Nicoll returns with “Twenty Core Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic Speculative Fiction Works Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”.

As with the previous core lists, here are twenty Post-Apocalyptic Speculative Fiction Works chosen entirely on the basis of merit and significance to the field.

There are two filtering rules:

Only one work per author per list

Any given work can appear on only one list

(2) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES! Sign up for video conference call from 1962 hosted by The Traveler from Galactic Journey.

Hello, friends and fellow travelers!

As some of you are aware, Galactic Journey is a frequent presenter at conventions around the country. In a mix of seminar and road show, the Journey brings the past to life with a personal appearance.

Well, this month, we’re going to take that to the next level — using Visi-phone technology developed for the 1962 Seattle World Fair, the Journey will be appearing live Coast to Coast (and beyond) at 11 a.m. [PDT] on June 17.

Tune in, and you’ll get a peek behind the scenes at the Journey, meeting the Traveler, himself, and potentially the Young Traveler and the Editor! We’ll show off some of our favorite vintage toys, answer your questions — and there will be prizes for the best ones!

RSVP for this no-charge event — The Traveler personally guarantees it’ll be worth every penny you spend!

(3) WORLDBUILDERS AND WORLDRUNNERS. Political lessons with John Scalzi, Charlie Jane Anders, Cory Doctorow, and Annalee Newitz at Inverse“Here’s Why Sci-Fi Authors Will Always Tell You To Fuck Off”.

“People will visit my website or Twitter feed where apparently I have political opinions,” said Scalzi. “Then I get the sorrowful email that says, ‘I thought I was coming to you for entertainment, but you’re telling me how to think and regretfully I must not read your books anymore.’ They’re expecting me to say something like, ‘No, don’t leave.’ They’re not expecting the email I actually send, which is ‘Dear whomever: kiss my ass.”

(4) IF IGNORANCE IS BLISS. Discussions about cultural appropriation are not typically about the Irish, but they could be. Fantasy-Faction Brian O’Sullivan discusses “Wading in the Cultural Shallows: How Irish Mythology Became A Commodity for Fantasy”.

One night at a party I was introduced to a woman who proudly informed told me she’d named her baby daughter ‘Banshee’ in celebration of her Irish heritage. Even at the time I was pretty stunned by the announcement. For an Irish person (and I would have thought most people would have known this), this was the equivalent to naming her daughter — Death.

About two weeks later, at another party (I had a life back then!), I was cornered by a different woman demanding a translation for the chorus from Clannad’s haunting Theme Song from Harry’s Game. The Irish lyrics for the chorus had been written on her CD sleeve as ‘Fol dol de doh fol-de de day’!) which she thought was absolutely beautiful and must mean something mythically profound.’ Needless to say, she wasn’t particularly impressed when I translated it as ‘La, la la la, la la laaah!’

These are just two examples of the cultural disconnect between Irish people and those who dabble in Irish mythology. They are however only two of the hundreds I’ve personally experienced over the last twenty years or so and I know many other Irish people who’ve had similar experiences. It’s actually a source of continual bemusement to to see how bizarrely and inaccurately our culture’s been represented over that time.

…I don’t believe for a moment that it’s any author’s intention to be offensive when they use mythologies that aren’t their own. In fact, I’d suspect the vast majority of them would be dismayed if they knew their work was somehow considered offensive. Unfortunately, authors write stories based on their own experiences or what they’ve managed to learn and, frankly, sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know. Different cultures aren’t easily transferable (although if you spend enough time living in them or studying them intensely you can certainly pick up a lot) and this makes wading in the mythological shallows that much more dangerous. This is particularly the case with Irish mythology as there’s so much misinformation already out there (many people, for example, through no fault of their own, still believe W. B. Yeats is a credible authority on Irish mythology!).

(5) WEIMER IN THE WILD. If this is what DUFF delegates get to do, everyone will be running next time. (Having lunch with Ian Mond and Likhain.)

Of course, some things you can do without traveling 12,000 miles:

(6) HERITAGE SPACE AUCTION RESULTS. Heritage Auctions released some sales figures from Space Exploration Auction #6173,which had total sales of $822,203 .

Vintage NASA photographs were strong, especially the nice Selection of “Red Number” Examples we were pleased to offer. The definite “star” of this category was the iconic Apollo 8 “Earthrise” Photo (NASA Image AS8-14-2383) of the earth above the moon’s horizon, taken by Bill Anders on Christmas Eve 1968 from lunar orbit. This is one of the most reproduced images of the twentieth century and one tenacious bidder laid claim to this early red number print for $10,625. Another exciting lot was a Collection of Sixteen Apollo 11 Photos (twelve red number and four blue number) which included an example of the famous Buzz Aldrin “visor” portrait. Six bidders competed for the group before one took it home for $7,812.

Robbins Medallions are always a popular category. In this auction, two examples made particularly strong showings. A beautiful Unflown Apollo 15 Medal partially minted with flown “treasure” silver from a 1715 Spanish treasure shipwreck ingot closed at $7,500. A rare Flown STS-6 Space Shuttle Challenger Medal (one of only sixty-seven carried on the mission) brought in $11,250. Of particular interest, a notarized presentation letter signed by the entire four-man crew accompanied this one. This was the first from this mission that Heritage has offered in ten years of Space auctions.

One-of-a-kind items are always difficult to estimate and there were a few in this sale that performed quite a bit better than our best guess. Project Mercury was represented in this category by a Capsule Flight Operations Manual that sold for $10,625. At what price would two sets of Gemini Spacecraft Crew Hatch Door Assembly Shingles and their associated blueprints be valued? The answer, supplied by six eager bidders, is $11,250.

(7) HELSINKI BOUND TRAVELER SEEKS ADVICE. Daniel Dern has asked me to put out his request for information, as in, “Seeking European SIM card suggestions for Helsinki Worldcon”.

I’m sure I’m not the only fan who’s not a frequent international (here, “not living in Finland”) traveler, trying to suss out a reasonable (as in “affordable” and “non-complex”) answer to having (moderate) cellular connectivity during and pre/post-Worldcon.

Here’s my particular constraints/deets (obviously, YMMV):

o Aside from Worldcon, looking at ~2 weeks in Denmark/Norway/Sweden.

o I’m in the US. However, since a) my carrier is AT&T, whose international rates are excessive, and/but b) not planning to bring my primary phone, so a) is moot. Yes, I know that being a T-Mobile’s customer would be a simple, goodly-priced answer, but that’s not an option here.

o I’ll be packing an unlocked Android phone. Probably my Moto G4, if I can find it. That’s what I’m looking for a pre-paid refillable SIM card for.

o Initial landing is Copenhagen.

o Main cellular uses: for brief local phone calls to restaurants, etc, and texting “where are you?” etc. Some data. Everything else can be done using Skype (and other VoiPs), etc over WiFi.

o Probably looking for a multi-country 30-day pass with 1 or 2GB data and some local phone, ideally unlimited texting.

Web search is turning up bunches of suggestions, but other than wading through comments, I have no clue. Experienced Eurotravellers, what say ye?

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

There’s a lot to know about Forbidden Planet’s Robby the Robot/. Like, who was inside?

“One of the first things you do when you design a robot or monster,” [Art Director Robert] Kinoshita recalled in an interview, “is to try to confuse the audience as to where you put the guy inside. It’s difficult to completely fool an audience because they know there is someone inside. But if you make an effort to confuse them it can work in your favor and make the whole creation more believable. Robby was designed so that the man inside could see out of the voice box below the glass head.” Although many people were fooled by Robby’s disproportionate form, he was controlled by Frankie Darro from inside, and his voice was provided by talented actor and announcer Marvin Miller, who gave Robby that distinctive, sophisticated wit so loved and remembered by audiences everywhere.

(9) STALKING THE WILD GANACHE. Gourmet chocoholic Camestros Felapton gives Americans an advance look — “Review: Kinder Joy — eating refined sugar so you don’t have to”.

For those of us outside of the US, the Kinder Surprise egg is a familiar sight. A thin chocolate egg which encases a plastic capsule within which is a small toy. Often you have to assemble the toy and sometimes they are themed collectibles. The chocolate itself — well it’s is an acquired taste. Mass manufactured chocolate is one of those paradoxically regional things.

Americans have not had ready access to Kinder Surpises because of the dangers of them eating the encased toy accidentally. However, the more recent Kinder Joy egg has sidestepped the problem. It retains the egg shape but has two seperate halves — one with chocolate (sort of) in it and the other with a toy.

Wednesday I saw one in the wild and bought one and ate the bits you are supposed to eat. This is my story….

(10) INVISIBLE COVER REVEAL. Jim C. Hines and Mary Anne Mohanraj have revealed the cover and contributors list for Invisible 3, the third volume of collected stories shared by authors and fans “about the importance of representation in science fiction/fantasy.” See the image at the link.

The introduction is by K. Tempest Bradford. The contributors are Alex Conall, Alliah, Alyssa Hillary, Benjamin Rosenbaum, Brandon O’Brien, Carrie Sessarego, Chelsea Alejandro, Dawn Xiana Moon, Fran Wilde, Jaime O. Mayer, Jennifer Cross, Jeremy Sim, Jo Gerrard, Mari Kurisato, MT O’Shaughnessy, Rebecca Roanhorse, Sean Robinson, and T. S. Bazelli.

There isn’t an official release date yet. Hines says that will be coming very soon.

(11) TO INFINITY. Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s space opera collection Infinite Stars is available for pre-order. I thought the table of contents looked pretty interesting — it helps that Lois McMaster Bujold’s Borders of Infinity is one of my favorite sf stories.

(12) BAD WRAP. Entertainment Weekly reports “The Mummy reboot slammed as ‘worst Tom Cruise movie ever’ by critics”. Quotes at the site.

After spending over three decades dazzling audiences across large-scale action-adventures on the big screen, Tom Cruise’s latest genre spectacle, The Mummy, is set to unravel in theaters this Friday. Movie critics, however, got a peek under wraps this week, as movie reviews for the blockbuster project debuted online Wednesday morning. The consensus? According to a vast majority of them, perhaps this romp should’ve remained buried.

(13) NAPOLEON DID SURRENDER. James Davis Nicoll sends along a link to The Watchtower restaurant website, a nerd-themed tavern in Waterloo, Ontario.

They have a fantasy-themed origin story.

Their plethora of monthly events includes Nerd Nite.

On the final Wednesday of every month, KW’s own Nerd Nite takes over the Watchtower. Join us for unique, informative, and entertaining presentations, trivia, and socializing in a fun, positive, and inclusive atmosphere. Presentations are done on a ton of nerdy topics!

They also have a series of YouTube videos of their barmaster making some of their signature drinks.

(14) ROLL THE BONES. One researcher says, “There is no Garden of Eden in Africa. Or if there is a Garden of Eden it’s the size of Africa. — “Oldest Homo sapiens fossils ever found push humanity’s birth back to 300,000 years” at USA Today.

Digging on a hilltop in the Sahara Desert, scientists have found the most ancient known members of our own species, undermining longstanding ideas about the origins of humanity.

The newfound Homo sapiens fossils — three young adults, one adolescent and a child of 7 or 8 — date back roughly 300,000 years, says a study in this week’s Nature. The next-oldest fossils of Homo sapiens, the scientific name for humans, are about 200,000 years old.

(15) NEST UNFEATHERED. The argument goes on: “Study casts doubt on the idea of ‘big fluffy T. rex'”

Primitive feathers have been identified in some members of the Tyrannosaur group, leading to speculation that the king of reptiles also sported feathers.

In the latest twist, researchers analysed skin impressions from a T.rex skeleton known as Wyrex, unearthed in Montana.

They also looked at relatives that roamed during the Late Cretaceous in Asia and other parts of North America, including Albertosaurus and Gorgosaurus.

Skin patches from the neck, pelvis and tail of Wyrex show scaly, reptilian-like skin, says a team led by Dr Phil Bell of the University of New England, Australia.

(16) BOND. 20 LB. BOND. Is your printer tattling on you? “Why printers add secret tracking dots”.

On 3 June, FBI agents arrived at the house of government contractor Reality Leigh Winner in Augusta, Georgia. They had spent the last two days investigating a top secret classified document that had allegedly been leaked to the press. In order to track down Winner, agents claim they had carefully studied copies of the document provided by online news site The Intercept and noticed creases suggesting that the pages had been printed and “hand-carried out of a secured space”.

In an affidavit, the FBI alleges that Winner admitted printing the National Security Agency (NSA) report and sending it to The Intercept. Shortly after a story about the leak was published, charges against Winner were made public.

At that point, experts began taking a closer look at the document, now publicly available on the web. They discovered something else of interest: yellow dots in a roughly rectangular pattern repeated throughout the page. They were barely visible to the naked eye, but formed a coded design. After some quick analysis, they seemed to reveal the exact date and time that the pages in question were printed: 06:20 on 9 May, 2017 — at least, this is likely to be the time on the printer’s internal clock at that moment. The dots also encode a serial number for the printer.

(17) A CLASSIC. Bruce Gillespie’s SF Commentary #94, 60,000 words of lively book talk and analysis, is available for download from eFanzines.com:

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, David K.M. Klaus, Daniel Dern, Gideon Marcus, John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh, and James Davis Nicoll for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]