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

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

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

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

Two of the books on the list are:

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

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

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

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

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

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

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

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

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

Author Laura Moriarty commented on Facebook:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come for the filk, stay for the commentary!

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

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

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

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 9/23/17 Appertained Horror

(1) APPROACHES TO MILSF. Greg Hullender’s review of “Infinity Wars, edited by Jonathan Strahan” for Rocket Stack Rank includes this analysis:

Make Love not War

The stories take the following attitudes toward the military:

Hate it. Soldiers are doing evil: 7

Despise it. Soldiers are wasting their lives: 3

Admire/respect it. Soldiers are heroes: 5

All of the recommended stories are from the last group, which is a little odd. It’s perfectly possible to write a great story from an anti-military point of view or with an anti-war message (e.g. Catch 22), but that’s not what we find in this volume. Perhaps it’s just a lot easier to write good military SF if you don’t actually hate the military.

(2) I SCREAM. Freddie In Space and artist Frank Browning invite you to cool down with Ben & Jerry’s Horror Movie Ice Cream flavors. There are over two dozen like this –

(3) LET DARKNESS FALL. Coming October 10 at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination:

The recent solar eclipse transfixed the world. People in the path of totality marveled at the corona and how the air temperature dropped briefly and, in some parts of the country, the cicadas began to sing as if it were night. But the eclipse also offers a world of possibilities for scientific discovery. Jay Pasachoff, Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy at Williams College, joins us at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination to discuss his observations of eclipses–66 solar eclipses, including 34 total solar eclipses–and the NSF and National Geographic supported discoveries these have yielded. Dozens of cameras, including a pair of frame-transfer CCDs, were trained on the corona to isolate the specific emissions of 13-times-ionized iron (“the coronal green line”) and 9-times-ionized iron (“the coronal red line”) at high cadence, to attempt to distinguish among models for how the corona is heated to millions of degrees. Dr. Pasachoff will discuss this work and plans for future total, partial, and annular eclipse observations over the next few years, including the 2023 and 2024 American eclipses.

(4) REFORMAUTOMATION. The Babylon Bee promises “New Martin Luther-Shaped Amazon Echo Will Rudely Answer All Your Theology Questions”.

Dubbed the “Amazon Luther,” the new device is programmed to answer all your theology questions in the Reformer’s trademark aggressive tone and style.

An Amazon rep gave a demo at the press conference announcing the device, showing off some of its dynamic responses:

“Luther, can you tell me about the Pope?”

The Pope is a mere tormentor of conscience. The assembly of his greased and religious crew in praying is altogether like the croaking of frogs, which edifies nothing at all.

“Luther, am I a good person?”

You are a sinner, you’re dead, you’re eaten up with corruption. Every free choice of yours is evil and not good.

“Luther, is Joel Osteen a solid preacher?”

Yes, Joel is an excellent person, as skillful, clever, and versed in Holy Scripture as a cow in a walnut tree or a sow on a harp.

(5) DANIEL OBIT. Actress Jennifer Daniel (1936-2017) died August 16. Her film appearances included the Edgar Wallace Mysteries film series, Gideon’s Way and the Hammer horror films The Kiss of the Vampire (1963) and The Reptile (1966).

(6) WE LIVE IN HIS VISION OF THE FUTURE. The New York Times eulogizes architect Gin Wong, who died September 1: “Gin Wong, Who Designed Futuristic Buildings in Los Angeles, Dies at 94”. He put his creative mark on the city with CBS Television City, the Los Angeles International Airport theme building, and his 1960 design of a Union 76 gas station in Beverly Hills:

— that remains one of his most beloved and enduring. With its red, swooping canopy angling toward the sky, the gas station wed the space age to the mundane task of filling up in a city devoted to cars.

Mr. Wong designed the gas station while working for his former teacher and mentor, William L. Pereira, around the time that he was also credited with creating the startling, spider-like Theme Building at the Los Angeles airport. Writing in The Los Angeles Times in 2010, the critic Bob Pool called the building “part spaceship, part flying saucer” and said that Mr. Wong had “set out to create a futuristic building that would both reflect its relationship with aviation and stand the test of time.”

…While running Mr. Pereira’s company in the late 1960s, Mr. Wong oversaw the design of the Transamerica Pyramid, the striking 853-foot-tall building that pierces the sky in San Francisco.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 23, 1846 — Planet Neptune was discovered.
  • September 23, 1962 The Jetsons aired its very first episode.
  • September 23, 1968 Charly premiered in theaters, based on Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.

(8) SFF MADE IT HAPPEN. Lezli Robyn thanks the sff community for donating to her GoFundMe appeal all the money needed for her eye surgery.

I am feeling so very overwhelmed, happy, and so very thankful. Gofundme donators have now raised the entire $8000 needed for a new and 100% successful cross-linking surgery on my eyes to halt the progression of my Keratoconus !!! I would love to thank my family and friends and the many authors, editors, publishers, artists and readers/fans of the sf/fantasy field for amazingly generous donations made to the surprise fundraiser my boss, Shahid Mahmud (who deserves the most thanks!), created to help me raise the money.

I have so many people to thank. I am especially thankful to the readers who donated—the people who, like me, might not have too much to spare, but still donated anyway. Even one of the first fans of my writing, a voracious reader, donated and left such a lovely message on my fundraiser (I’m looking at you, Jo Van Ekeren) that it moved me to tears.

In fact, I have been brought to tears several times over the amazing outpouring of generosity of the donations and the lovely messages written by those who have shared the fundraiser all over the web. And, let me tell you, it’s quite the bittersweet experience for me when I cry. My tears fill in the thinned parts of my corneas that the Keratoconus has eroded over the years, creating a more even, rounded, surface. So even if it was sadness that had caused my tears, for that split second my vision sharpens I experience a moment of wonder and surprise as I see how beautiful and vibrant the world really is, until gravity or the blink of an eye causes the tears to fall to my cheeks.

So, I thank you for the tears; I thank you for your generosity. I have always maintained that the sf/fantasy community operates a lot like a family. It might be a sometimes dysfunctional and controversial family at times, but it is a field notorious for paying it forward to the younger generation. Well, you guys have paid it forward this month to give me sight, in a field I like to think is full of vision for the future, and I can’t show my appreciation enough. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.

(9) LAW LAW LAND. A new legal specialty: “An Accident On The Moon, Young Lawyers To The Rescue”.

…Boggs and her two teammates are the North American finalists for this year’s competition, and next week they’ll go up against teams from South Africa, Greece and India for the big prize.

Each team argues both sides of a case set in the future, in space. This year’s case is, in the broadest terms, about a traffic accident on the moon….

Titan believes that Perovsk’s mining operation is releasing pollution and contaminating experiments, so they send a rover to investigate.

“They collide,” says Boggs. “Now everyone’s upset.”

Perovsk sues Titan over the damaged equipment in the International Court of Justice. Titan accuses Perovsk of breaking the law by polluting the moon. It’s unclear who should pay for what, and why. Rovers don’t carry insurance, and there’s a larger question about who has the right to use, or pollute, the moon in the first place.

Boggs says the case exemplifies one of her favorite things about space law: it’s ambiguous.

“It’s sort of hard not to say anything controversial in space law because everyone has a different opinion about what space law should do,” she explains. Space law is largely based on two treaties, the Outer Space Treaty and the moon Agreement, plus more general international law applied to space. But there’s tension within the treaties about what space should be used for.

(10) IT’S GREAT TO BE A GENIUS, OF COURSE. Brian Niemeier, in “The Convergence of Science Fiction”, joined a YouTuber to share his unique insight into sff history.

YouTuber Max Kolbe recently had me on his show to explain how the SJW convergence of tradpub science fiction happened. Max is particularly interested in the sudden shift from stories that took the Christian worldview for granted to overtly atheistic, anti-religious works. We discussed how John W. Campbell ended the reign of the pulps and how the Futurians fomented a Marxist revolution in SF publishing.

The Futurians? So…. The SJW Convergence happened…before World War 2? Before Heinlein published his first story? Before the invention of the paperback? Not just before TOR books was started, but before Tom Doherty enrolled in kindergarten? Talk about reductio ad absurdum….

(11) IN VINO SFF. Paste says “Final Fantasy 30th Anniversary Commemorative Wine Will Be a Thing”.

We’re used to something like a coin, a keychain or at the very least toilet paper as commemorative items—but Square Enix, along with The Wine House in Los Angeles, are taking the more classy route. The two wines offered will be limited edition, one being “a 2016 Château des Bois red wine with hints of strawberry” called “Ifrit Rouge,” named after the classic fire summon from Final Fantasy. Along with Ifrit Rogue will come its counterpart, “Shiva Blanc” (after an ice summon), “a well-balanced 2015 Château des Bois white wine.”

Both bottles will be adorned with a 30th Anniversary logo, and will be packaged in boxes featuring art of the summons the drinks are named after. Of course, you have to be of the legal drinking age of 21 to order these online, with Ifrit Rogue available online here, and Shiva Blanc here. According to The Wine House’s website, these will ship in the beginning of this November to arrive by the end of that month

(12) CLASSICAL AND NEOCLASSICAL TREK. Alex Zalben watches a succession of Star Trek series pilots/first episodes and tweets his judgments. This pair will get you into the thread.

(13) RECALL BOOK WE WILL. If this Saudi artist is never heard from again, you’ll know why:

A social studies textbook in Saudi Arabia was recalled for including a photo depicting a Star Wars character next to a king.

The black and white photo, by Saudi artist Abdullah Al Shehri, features the small, green Jedi Yoda seated next to King Faisal as he signed the United Nations Charter in San Francisco in 1945.

…Shehri, a 26-year-old artist who goes by the nickname Shaweesh, created the image as part of a series that inserts pop culture characters into historical photos and learned it had turned up in a textbook through a text from his mother.

“I am the one who designed it, but I am not the one who put it in the book,” he told the New York Times.

Shehri said he decided to insert Yoda into the photo because he reminded him of King Faisal and is the same color as the Saudi flag.

“He was wise and was always strong in his speeches,” he said. “So I found that Yoda was the closest character to the king. And also Yoda and his light saber — it’s all green.”

Sure, absolutely, I don’t doubt it for a moment.

(14) THE WAY THE FUTURE WASN’T. Noah Smith in “What We Didn’t Get” in his blog Noahpinion compares the successful predictions of the cyberpunk era to the failures of 1950s sf writers to adequately foresee the future and concludes that the reason Silver Age writers didn’t adequately predict the future was that “we ran out of theoretical physics, and we ran out of energy.”

If you watch Star Trek or Star Wars, or read any of the innumerable space operas of the mid-20th century, they all depend on a bunch of fancy physics. Faster-than-light travel, artificial gravity, force fields of various kinds. In 1960, that sort of prediction might have made sense. Humanity had just experienced one of the most amazing sequences of physics advancements ever. In the space of a few short decades, humankind discovered relativity and quantum mechanics, invented the nuclear bomb and nuclear power, and created the x-ray, the laser, superconductors, radar and the space program. The early 20th century was really a physics bonanza, driven in large part by advances in fundamental theory. And in the 1950s and 1960s, those advances still seemed to be going strong, with the development of quantum field theories. Then it all came to a halt. After the Standard Model was completed in the 1970s, there were no big breakthroughs in fundamental physics.

(15) THE KID WHO NEVER STOPS INVENTING. Well, that kind of negativity won’t fly with Molly!

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

Pixel Scroll 8/28/17 This Little Pixel Went To Market

(1) PROFESSOR JOSHI HEARD FROM AGAIN. Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi, who has repeatedly attacked World Fantasy Award board member Ellen Datlow since the board decided to replace the Lovecraft award statuette, recently climbed aboard his hobby horse to complain about Datlow being named a guest of a Lovecraft-themed convention

August 22, 2017 — NecronomiCon, R.I.P.

Once upon a time there was a convention devoted to H. P. Lovecraft named NecronomiCon Providence. It was run by a well-meaning but somewhat weak-willed individual (rather reminiscent of Edward Derby in “The Thing on the Doorstep”) named Niels Hobbs. The initial conventon of 2013 was a wondrous event that left all participants and attendees feeling good about the state of Lovecraft studies and of Lovecraft’s recognition in the wider literary community. The convention of 2015 was generally successful but had some awkward moments.

By the time the 2017 convention was in the planning stages, trouble was brewing. Specifically, it appeared that Mr. Hobbs had been captured (and, indeed, rather willingly) by the forces of political correctness, so that the focus became less on Lovecraft himself and more on those aspects of weird fiction that those horrible dead white males had evilly suppressed. (It is not entirely clear how this suppression occurred, but let that pass.) And it also appeared that Mr. Hobbs had been swayed by various forces hostile to Lovecraft in the initial stages of programming.

Consider the naming of the redoubtable Ellen Datlow as a special guest. Now it is well known—and Mr. Hobbs should certainly have known it—that Ms. Datlow was instrumental in removing the Lovecraft bust as the emblem of the World Fantasy Awards, an act that would strike any fair-minded person as one that denotes a certain animus against the dreamer from Providence….

…There must be something wrong with a Lovecraft convention that has alienated the two figures—Robert M. Price and myself—who, over the past forty years, have done more to promote Lovecraft scholarship than any individuals on the planet. (I hardly need remark that, with the notable exception of Sam Gafford, no member of the NecronomiCon convention committee has made the slightest contribution to Lovecraft studies.)

And today he posted a roundabout defense of Lovecraft’s racism:

August 28, 2017 — Real and Fake Liberalism

I am a far-left liberal. Especially in the wake of the ongoing nightmare of the Trump administration, I have been speaking out loud and clear about the multifarious derelictions of conservatives and Republicans of all stripes…

What I do not do is launch furious attacks on H. P. Lovecraft for his racism. Of course he was a racist; everyone knows that. But I fail to see what good it does to attack him for this admitted failing at this late date. He has been dead for nearly three-quarters of a century; what is more, his views had no influence on the culture of his own time, or even on his small cadre of friends, colleagues, and correspondents. Indeed, it is telling that Frank Belknap Long, who met Lovecraft on an almost daily basis during his years in New York (1924–26) and frequently in later years, has testified that “during all of those talks on long walks through the streets of New York and Providence, I never once heard him utter a derogatory remark about any member of a minority group who passed him on the street or had occasion to engage him in conversation”—an inexplicable circumstance if one believes that Lovecraft was “obsessed” with the issue of race.

It is easy to condemn Lovecraft as a racist; it gives one a momentary feeling of self-righteous virtue and superiority. But it accomplishes nothing. It does nothing to combat the racism that we increasingly see in our midst today. If this is all you can do, you are indulging in fake liberalism…..

You can see the full text of all these posts by clicking the links. (Note: Joshi’s blog does not assign URLs to separate entries, they’re all under “News.”)

(2) DATLOW RESPONDS. Yesterday, Ellen Datlow went on Facebook and posted a rebuttal against Joshi’s effort to blame her for replacing Lovecraft on the award.

I loathe getting involved in mud-slinging so am posting this with some trepidation.

S.T. Joshi is apparently outraged at my being a GOH at Necronomicon and at my editing anthologies of Lovecraftian fiction. This is why -and I quote this from his blog:

“Now it is well known—and Mr. Hobbs should certainly have known it—that Ms. Datlow was instrumental in removing the Lovecraft bust as the emblem of the World Fantasy Awards, an act that would strike any fair-minded person as one that denotes a certain animus against the dreamer from Providence.”

Facts: I am one of the entire board of the World Fantasy Convention who made the decision to change the physical award from the bust of H.P. Lovecraft to a new physical image. The late David Hartwell brought the issue to the board and we unanimously agreed it was time to retire Gahan Wilson’s amazing (in my opinion) piece of art. I was no more instrumental than any other member of the board…..

(3) NOT EMPLOYEES. The class action lawsuit claiming that Magic: The Gathering judges should be classified as employees and retroactively paid was dismissed. “Judge tosses case brought by Magic: the Gathering judge who wants to be paid”Ars Technica has the story.

A federal judge in California has dismissed a proposed class-action labor lawsuit brought in late 2015 by a man who says that he has now worked for more than 20 years as a “judge” in Magic: the Gathering tournaments and demands to be paid.

In the court ruling, which was issued Wednesday, US District Judge Edward Davila sided with the defendant, Wizards of the Coast. The judge noted that, while Paul Yale’s years of experience to master all of the details of the popular card game and to become certified as a tournament arbiter takes time and extensive knowledge, “the complaint makes clear that Defendant’s program is purely voluntary and could be abandoned at any time.”

(4) AMA FOR JEMISIN. N.K. Jemisin will guest on Reddit’s Ask Me Anything feature on August 30.

(5) UNEXPECTED FINDS. These science history documents at Harvard had been lost, then found, and now have been found again: “A team of women is unearthing the forgotten legacy of Harvard’s women ‘computers’”.

Between 1885 and 1927, the observatory employed about 80 women who studied glass plate photographs of the stars, many of whom made major discoveries. They found galaxies and nebulas and created methods to measure distance in space. In the late 1800s, they were famous: newspapers wrote about them and they published scientific papers under their own names, only to be virtually forgotten during the next century. But a recent discovery of thousands of pages of their calculations by a modern group of women working in the very same space has spurred new interest in their legacy.

Surrounded by steel cabinets stuffed with hundreds of thousands of plate glass photographs of the sky, curator Lindsay Smith Zrull shows off the best of the collection.

“I have initials but I have not yet identified whose initials these are,” Smith Zrull says, pointing at a paper-sized glass plate crowded with notes taken in four different colors. “One of these days, I’m going to figure out who M.E.M. is.”

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 28, 1845Scientific American first published.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS & GIRLS

  • Born August 28, 1899 – Cinematographer James Wong Howe. (A long-time friend of Ray Bradbury’s. His wife, Sanora Babb, was an original member of Ray’s writing group.)
  • Born August 28, 1916 – Jack Vance
  • Born August 28, 1917 – Jack Kirby
  • Born August 28, 1948 – Vonda McIntyre
  • Born August 28, 1951 – Barbara Hambly

(8) PIXAR EXHIBIT. The Science Behind Pixar is now open at the Science Museum of Minnesota and TELUS World of Science – Edmonton.

The Science Behind Pixar is a 13,000 square foot exhibition touring two copies — one nationally, and one internationally. It was created by the Museum of Science, Boston, in collaboration with Pixar Animation Studios. This website features some of the activities, videos, and images from the exhibition that describe the math, computer science, and science that go into making computer animated films.

 

(9) ILLUMINATING THOUGHT. Io9 contends The Defenders’ Best Storytelling Trick Doesn’t Use Any Words at All”.

There are a handful of ways that The Defenders openly nods to its comic book roots, like pairing up somewhat random characters like Karen and Trish for no reason other than to have scenes featuring them together or having certain people like Misty make uncharacteristic decisions just to drive the plot forward. Of all the comic book-y narrative and aesthetic conventions that are used, the one that stands out most strikingly is the show’s lighting and use of color.

(10) LEEPER FILM REVIEW. At SFCrowsnest, “Anti-Matter (aka Wormholes) (2017) : a film review by Mark R. Leeper”.

CAPSULE: Quantum teleportation may have side effects. This film is like a Whitman Sampler of cutting edge physics ideas packed into a Science Fiction mystery. ‘Anti-Matter’ is very much auteur Science Fiction. Newcomer Keir Burrows writes and directs based on his own story. This is a film that could well earn a cult following. There is little visual flash to the story but it is an accomplished technical mystery. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

(11) FORBIDDING PLANETS. Nerds of a Feather’s Vance K is a great admirer of the film made to capitalize on people’s love of Robby the Robot. His writeup, “Microreview [film]: The Invisible Boy”, includes a satirical reconstruction of the producer’s dialogue with screenwriter Cyril Hume.

PROD: Right. Listen, baby. This Forbidden Planet, it’s a humdinger. It’s doing gangbusters. We need a sequel, ready to shoot, right away.

CH: I told you a science fiction version of Shakespeare’s Tempest would work.

PROD: Whatever, whatever. This Shakespeare guy, friend of yours? If he’s got other ideas, great. But listen, we need another movie with Robby the Robot, right now. Like, yesterday. Something real…science fiction-y. For the, uh, for the geeks and stuff.

CH: Yeah, that’s great. Making a film on such a huge canvas was fantastic. We could explore other worlds…maybe on their way back to Earth…

PROD: You kidding me? No, they’re on Earth. Jesus, that fake planet cost me a fortune. And black-and-white. Color film was a nightmare. I chewed through three pillows in my sleep just from seeing the lab bills.

CH: So…a black-and-white sequel, on Earth, to a Technicolor space tragedy that takes place 300 years in the future?

PROD: On the nose, baby! And present-day. No space cities, or future science, or none of that. Just put the robot in it.

(12) DRONES ALOFT. Jess Miller goes through all the steps: “How to Fly a Drone – The Ultimate Guide”.

Whether it’s amateur racing or professional photography, drones can now do plenty of stuff. They can even move things from place to place.

If you’ve got one and you don’t know how to fly it yet, don’t despair – flying a drone isn’t rocket science.

It’s not exactly a walk in the park, either.

The thing is, with a little bit of determination and practice, you’ll soon get the hang of flying your drone.

We’re here to help you with that.

(13) AMERISPLAINING. Caroline Mersey feels Worldcon suffers in comparison with Nine Worlds: “A Tale of Two Cons: Nine Worlds 2017 and WorldCon 75”.

The panels themselves felt short – 45 minutes compared to the hour, hour and a quarter of Nine Worlds.  This meant they never really got beyond scratching the surface of a topic.  Panellists rarely got to speak more than twice during a discussion.  And some of them felt either poorly organised or poorly moderated – with panellists unsure why they had been selected for a particular panel, or with moderators taking a wildly different interpretation of the brief than appeared in the programme.

That sounds like I’m being harsh, and I guess I am.  But that didn’t stop it being an amazing event and an opportunity to meet and hear from people I don’t normally get to encounter in the UK.  But what really made the event was the awesome crowd of people I met and hung out with over the five days of the event, swapping ideas for panels and badge ribbons.

In two years’ time WorldCon will be in Dublin.  There’s a huge buzz about it already, and I’ve bought my membership.  I can feel in my water that it will be another big event.  Hopefully there will be a bit more sensitivity when it comes to some of the cultural issues (I can’t say I’m looking forward to having Irish history mansplained at me by Americans – I fear there will be some crashing insensitivity displayed, but it will at least highlight the difference between Irishness and the wholly separate identity of being Irish-American).

(14) ROCKET STACK RANK GOES TO THE WORLDCON. Greg Hullender posted his “WorldCon 75 Takeaways”.

Meeting People

Last year, at MidAmeriCon II, we gave away a lot of ribbons, but almost no one had ever heard of us. This year, almost half the people we spoke to at least had a vague idea who we were. A couple of authors told me that they knew who we were because whenever they searched on Google for the title of their stories, RSR’s review came up first, so our SEO strategy seems to be working. Because I had a bad cold the entire time, we didn’t do the Stroll with the Stars events nor did we attend any parties other than a brief appearance at the Hugo Losers’ Party, opting to go home early and sleep. We did attend the File770 events, and enjoyed meeting people we’d only ever seen online.

Greg has solid, more detailed analysis of several business meeting and program items that interested him.

(15) WITH BOOKMONSTER. Selenay tells “What I did on my vacation: Worldcon edition”.

Worldcons aren’t for everyone, but I’ve loved both the ones I’ve been to. Spending several days talking about nerd stuff, seeing other people get excited about the same things I am, is a fantastic experience. I’ve returned with new ideas, new plot bunnies, and new lists of things to read and watch. I got to meet people I’ve only talked to online before. I got to see old friends. It was everything I wanted it to be and that’s really the best anyone can hope for out of a Worldcon.

(16) FIFTY-FIFTY. Theodore Logan and family attended the con together — “Hugo Awards”

At 12:00 I took Calvin and Julian to a kids’ meet-and-greet with American astronaut Kjell Lindgren, who flew on a recent ISS mission. He set up a slide show of pictures of Earth from space, talked about being in space, and answered questions from the kids in the audience. (I was surprised that no one asked about managing human waste in low earth orbit. When Calvin raised his hand I gave it a 50/50 chance that he was going to ask, but he asked something else.) Most of the kids in the audience were Finnish (and some required simultaneous translations from their parents). According to the membership statistics, there were only 19 child memberships from the US (and only 10 kid-in-tow memberships for kids under 6 like Julian). Half of the total child members were from Finland, explaining why they were well represented at the childrens’ programming track.

(17) WORLDCON CHAIRS PHOTO. From Kevin Standlee’s Flickr archive:

Worldcon Chairs 2017 (15)

(18) FANTASY MAPS. Paul Weimer joins the fray in: “Not the Territory: In defense of (Good) SFF Maps”

There have been a slate of articles lately about maps in fantasy. Alex Acks has talked about the terrible geology in Tolkien’s Middle Earth Map and then gone on to tell why they aren’t a fan of fantasy maps in general. Adrian Daub has talked about his love of maps, but the problems of Eurocentric maps. There are others, some of whom have been gathered by Camestros Felapton.

We’re at the point in the cycle where a defense of the form, of countering the arguments put forth, and by gum, as an amateur cartographer in my own right, I am the person to do so. It might be facile to hashtag #notallmaps, but, really, not every map is a geologic mess, not every map is a Eurocentric western ocean oriented map, with an eastern blend into problematic oriental racial types. Not every map has borders which strictly follow natural barriers and does not have the messy irregularity that real world maps and borders have.

(19) POSTER GIRL. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna profiles Roz Chast, who designed the poster for this year’s National Book Festival: “Roz Chast writes — and draws — a love letter to New York”.

In April 1978, at age 23, she dropped off her cartoon portfolio at the New Yorker offices on a whim. “I had no hope of selling a cartoon to them because my stuff didn’t look anything like the stuff they ran, but they used cartoons, so why not?” she recounts. “To my shock, I sold a cartoon to the New Yorker. [Comics editor] Lee Lorenz was extremely supportive and encouraging. I remember he told me that [editor William] Shawn really liked my work. I had no idea who he was talking about, but it sounded like a good thing, so I nodded appreciatively.”

[Thanks to John Hertz, Marc Criley, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Greg Hullender, Martin Morse Wooster, and Stuart Gale for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 7/12/17 All The King’s Centaurs

(1) TOP COMICS. NPR asked followers the name their favorite comics and graphic novels. Here are the results: “Let’s Get Graphic: 100 Favorite Comics And Graphic Novels”.

We assembled an amazing team of critics and creators to help winnow down more than 7,000 nominations to this final list of 100 great comics for all ages and tastes, from early readers to adults-only.

This isn’t meant as a comprehensive list of the “best” or “most important” or “most influential” comics, of course. It’s a lot more personal and idiosyncratic than that, because we asked folks to name the comics they loved. That means you’ll find enormously popular mainstays like Maus and Fun Home jostling for space alongside newer work that’s awaiting a wider audience (Check Please, anyone?).

Lots of good stuff on this list. Here’s an absolutely chosen-at-random example:

Astro City

by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson

At once a sprawling adventure anthology and a witty metariff on the long, whimsical history of the superhero genre, Astro City offers a bracingly bright rejoinder to “grim-and-gritty” superhero storytelling. Writer Kurt Busiek and artist Brent Anderson — with Alex Ross supplying character designs and painted covers — don’t merely people their fictional metropolis with analogues of notable heroes, though there are plenty of those on hand. The universe they’ve created pays loving homage to familiar characters and storylines even as it digs deep to continually invent new stories and feature new perspectives. Astro City is a hopeful place that dares to believe in heroes, sincerely and unabashedly; reading it, you will too.

(2) LAST YEAR’S HARDEST SF SHORT FICTION. Rocket Stack Rank has a new post surveying “Hard SF in 2016”.

Greg Hullender explains, “We’d have done this earlier in the year, but we were experimenting with new features like place and time, and we ended up gradually going back through all 814 stories annotating them. Still, I think the result is of interest.

It has been eighteen months since we explored the Health of Hard Science Fiction in 2015 (Short Fiction), so we’re overdue to take a look at 2016. This report divides into three sections:

(3) TZ REBOOT. Can this writer bring The Twilight Zone back to life? “Christine Lavaf to Pen ‘The Twilight Zone’ Reboot”.

Screenwriter Christine Lavaf is working on a reboot of The Twilight Zone.

Warner Bros has been trying to develop the new movie version of the hit horror since 2009 and a number of directors were lined up to helm the production, but each left the project before shooting could begin.

However, Warner Bros has now announced Christine will be working on the script despite a director having not yet been found to oversee the production, according to Variety.

The original plan for the movie was for it to be inspired by the 1983 Twilight Zone: The Movie horror, which was produced by Steven Spielberg and John Landis and had four segments each with a different director. But the new movie will reportedly follow just one story, which will include elements of The Twilight Zone universe.

(4) DRAWING A BLANK. Australian artist Nick Stathopoulos told his Facebook readers “No Archibald joy this year.”

Last year his painting of Deng Adut was a runner-up for the Archibald Prize for portraits — awarded annually to the best portrait, “preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist resident in Australasia” – and the winner of the Archibald Prize People’s Choice award.

Stathopoulos is a long-time fan, 10-time winner of the Australian NatCon’s Ditmar Award, and a past Hugo and Chesley Award nominee. He is frequently in contention for the annual Archibald awards.

(5) ARTISTS AT WORK. The Meow Wolf “art collective” in Santa Fe got their start with a $3.5 million investment from George R.R. Martin, and many of their “immersive installations” are sf related. Natalie Eggert’s article “This 140-Person Art Collective Is Pursuing An Alternative Model For Artists to Make A Living” for Artsy talks about how Meow Wolf has created 140 jobs with income coming from people who pay $20 to look at their “immersive installations.”

Since the Santa Fe-based art collective Meow Wolf opened its permanent installation, the House of Eternal Return, in March 2016, the project has been an unmitigated success in terms of viewership and profits. Housed in a 20,000-square-foot former bowling alley, the sprawling interactive artwork welcomed 400,000 visitors in its first year—nearly four times as many as expected—and brought in $6 million in revenue for the collective’s more than 100 members.

One of the most popular attractions in Santa Fe, the House of Eternal Return invites visitors into an elaborate Victorian house that is experiencing rifts in space-time. Open up the refrigerator or a closet door and get swept away into a new environment, each one designed by different artists of the Meow Wolf collective. There is no set route to follow and you can climb on, crawl through, and touch everything in sight. Tickets to enter the fun-house-like installation cost $20 for adults (on par with admission to a New York museum), with discounted rates available for New Mexico residents, children, senior citizens, and the military.

The installation’s sci-fi narrative, lawless abandon, and production quality have captured the imaginations of viewers, while its success has caught the art world’s attention. Could this be a sustainable, alternative avenue for artists to collaborate and make a living outside of traditional art world models?

(6) SENDAK BOOK MS. REDISCOVERED. Atlas Obscura reports: “Found: An Unpublished Manuscript by Maurice Sendak”.

Since the beloved children’s author Maurice Sendak died in 2012, the foundation set up in his name has been working to collect and sort through his artwork and the records of his life. While working through some old files, Lynn Caponera, the president of the foundation, found the typewritten manuscript for a book. When she looked more closely at it, she realized it was story she didn’t remember, reports Publishers Weekly.

What she had found was the story for Presto and Zesto in Limboland, a work that Sendak and collaborator Arthur Yorinks had worked on in the 1990s and never published. “In all honesty, we just forgot it,” Yorinks told Publishers Weekly.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 12, 2013  — Pacific Rim debuted.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 12, 1912 — Artist Joseph Mungaini, who illustrated the 1962 Oscar-nominated film Icarus Montgolfier Wright based on Ray Bradbury’s story.

(9) LUCY LIU. Rebecca Rubin in Variety says that Lucy Liu will direct the first episode of season 2 of Luke Cage coming in 2018.  She previously directed four episodes of Elementary.

(10) STAND BY FOR A NEW THEORY. NPR’s Glen Weldon says new Spider-Man wins because we see learning rather than origin: “Origin-al Sin: What Hollywood Must Learn From ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming'”.

Spider-Man: Homecoming dispenses with his origin story completely, which is, at this point, a wise move. Given Spidey’s status as Marvel’s flagship character and his concurrent cultural saturation, it’s perhaps even inevitable, because: We know.

We get it. Spider-bite, spider powers, great responsibility. We’ve, all of us, been there.

And yet! Even without seeing precisely how and why Peter Parker gets from the here of normal life to the there of fantastic, thwippy powers, Tom Holland is eminently, achingly relatable. His Peter is someone in whom we easily see ourselves at our most excited and anxious. Which is the whole secret.

(11) THIS SUCKS. Using ROVs to scoop up invasive species: “Can a robot help solve the Atlantic’s lionfish problem?”. There’s a video report at the link.

Robots in Service of the Environment has designed an underwater robot to combat a growing problem in the Atlantic Ocean: the invasive lionfish.

(12) MAJOR DEVELOPMENT. A league of their own? Overwatch starts city-based videogaming league: “Overwatch: Bigger than the Premier League?”

Its developer Activision Blizzard has just announced the first seven team owners for a forthcoming league. It believes, in time, the tournament could prove more lucrative than the UK’s Premier League – football’s highest-earning competition.

Several of the successful bidders have made their mark with traditional sports teams, and the buy-in price has not been cheap.

The BBC understands the rights cost $20m (£15.5m) per squad. For that, owners get the promise of a 50% revenue split with the Overwatch League itself for future earnings.

The fast-paced cartoon-like shooter was designed to appeal to both players and spectators. It’s low on gore and features a racial mix of male and female heroes, including a gay character – a relative rarity in gaming.

(13) THEY’RE PINK. Adweek covers a parody of female-targeted products: “‘Cards Against Humanity for Her’ Is the Same Game, but the Box Is Pink and It Costs $5 More”.

In a savage parody of women-targeted products like Bic for Her pens, and Cosmo and Seat’s car for women, Cards Against Humanity has released Cards Against Humanity for Her. It’s the exact same game as the original, but comes in a pink box and costs $5 more.

The press release is a gold mine of hilarity.

“We crunched the numbers, and to our surprise, we found that women buy more than 50 percent of games,” said Cards Against Humanity community director Jenn Bane. “We decided that hey, it’s 2017, it’s time for women to have a spot at the table, and nevertheless, she persisted. That’s why we made Cards Against Humanity for Her. It’s trendy, stylish, and easy to understand. And it’s pink.”

Bane added: “Women love the color pink.”

The game is available for $30 on CardsAgainstHumanityForHer.com, which has all sorts of ridiculous photos and GIFs. The limited-edition version “is expected to sell out,” the brand said.

From the FAQ (where it’s in pink text).

When I inevitably purchase this without reading carefully and then find out it’s the same cards as the original Cards Against Humanity, can I return it and get my money back? That color looks great on you! No.

(14) SHARKE REPELLENT. Mark-kitteh sent these links (and the headline) to the latest posts by the Shadow Clarke jury. He adds, “Only two of these, but the Becky Chambers roundtable is likely to provide enough rises in blood-pressure on its own.”

The inclusion of A Closed and Common Orbit on this year’s Clarke shortlist follows hard on the heels of Chambers’s 2016 shortlisting for her debut novel, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. In a very short time, Chambers’s books have proven extraordinarily popular and drawn an enthusiastic fan response. Unsurprisingly, ACACO has also been shortlisted for the 2017 Hugo. The novel has also drawn praise from reviewers, such as Adam Roberts in the Guardian. However, despite the shadow Clarke jury being split fifty-fifty between those who found ACACO to be a compulsive read and those who struggled to find any interest in it whatsoever, this is also the novel that has come closest to unifying what is often a more diverse body of opinion than it might appear from the outside. We are unanimous in thinking that ACACO is not one of the six best SF novels of the year and, in contrast to the other five works on the list, there is nobody among us who would make any kind of case for its inclusion on the Clarke shortlist.

I am possibly not the right audience for this novel. I have read a number of stories by Yoon Ha Lee before this without being particularly impressed by any of them. The novel, Ninefox Gambit crystallized some of those discontents. In no particular order:

1: Yoon Ha Lee has read too much Iain M. Banks. The influence is everywhere and inescapable: the grotesque deaths, the over-elaborate weapons (including one I couldn’t help identifying as the Lazy Gun from Against a Dark Background), and, of course, the central conceit in which the mind of an ancient general is implanted in a younger person on a suicide mission is a straight lift from Look to Windward. But Banks’s humanity is missing. With Banks you always knew where the author stood, ethically and emotionally; not so with Lee, this is a cold book.

(15) FROM PERKY TO UNBEATABLE. Lesley Goldberg of The Hollywood Reporter, in “Marvel’s New Warriors Sets Its Cast–Including Squirrel Girl”, says that the cast of this ten-episode series on Freeform has been set, and Milana Vayntrub, best known as the Perky Salesperson in 5,271,009 AT&T commercials, has been cast as Squirrel Girl.

Milana Vayntrub (This Is Us) has landed the breakout role of Squirrel Girl, while Baby Daddy grad Derek Theler will stay in business with Freeform after landing the role of Mister Immortal in Marvel’s first live-action scripted comedy.

The duo lead the ensemble cast in the 10-episode series about six young people learning to cope with their abilities in a world where bad guys can be as terrifying as bad dates. Joining Vayntrub and Theler are Jeremy Tardy as Night Thrasher, Calum Worthy as Speedball, Matthew Moy as Microbe and Kate Comer as Debrii.

(16) ETCHED IN STONE. It’s been awhile since I checked in on Declan Finn, and I found one of his posts on Superversive SF that could lead to lively discussion.

In “Pius Rules for Writers”, Declan Finn’s advice comes from his viewpoint as a reader.

I was recently asked what rules, as I reader, I wish writers would follow. I came up with a few.

Rule #1: Don’t preach at me. Tell the damn story…

I think this is self explanatory. Heck, even Star Trek IV, which is straight up “save the whales,” did a fairly good job of this. It was mostly a character driven comedy: let’s take all of our characters as fish and through them so far out of the water they’re in a different planet, and watch the fun start. Even the whales that must be saved for the sake of all of Earth are little more than MacGuffin devices, there for the story to happen.

But 2012? Or The Day After Tomorrow? Or Avatar? Kill me now.

Serious, I went out of my way to make A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller about the history of a Church, complete with philosophy, and it somehow still managed to be less preachy than any of these “climate change” films.

(17) NEWMAN’S NEXT. Joel Cunningham of the B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog has great news for Planetfall fans (and a cover reveal) in “Return to Emma Newman’s Planetfall Universe in Before Mars.

I still remember the feeling of closing the cover on a early, bound manuscript copy of Emma Newman’s Planetfall in 2015, sure I had read one of the finest science fiction novels of the year—even though it was only April (I wasn’t wrong).

Considering it’s a complete work, I was surprised—and very pleased—at the arrival of After Atlas, a standalone companion novel set in the same world—another book that, incidentally, turned out to rank with the best of its year (but don’t just take our word for it).

I just can quit being fascinated by this setting—a near future in which 3D printing technology has made resources plentiful, but post-scarcity living has not been evenly distributed, where missions to the stars only expose the dark secrets within the human heart—and it seems Newman can’t quite break away from it either: she’s writing at least two more books in the Planetfall series, and today,we’re showing off the cover of the third, Before Mars, arriving in April 2018 from Ace Books….

(18) NOT YOUR TYPICAL POLICE SHOOTING. Consenting cosplayers suffered a tragic interruption: “Police Shoot People Dressed As The Joker And Harley Quinn”.

Australian police shot a man and a woman dressed as comic book characters while they performed a sexual act at a nightclub early Saturday morning, news.com.au reported. The man and the woman were dressed as the Joker and Harley Quinn.

Dale Ewins, 35, was shot in the stomach by police. Authorities said they shot him because he pointed his toy gun at them and they believed it was a real weapon. However, club security said Ewins did not aim the gun at them.

Zita Sukys, 37, was shot in the leg. Both were attending the Saints & Sinners Ball, described as a party “for Australian swingers and those who are just curious.” Promotions for the party also said it has “a well-earned reputation as Australia’s, if not the world’s, raunchiest party.”

(19) FAN FASHION. The Dublin in 2019 bidders think you would look great in their logo shirt. Half-off sale!

(20 TOON FASHION. Why Cartoon Characters Wear Gloves is a video from Vox which goes back to 1900 to answer this question.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Greg Hullender, Chip Hitchcock, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/9/17 Help, I’m Floating And I Can’t Get Down

(1) D FRANKLIN AWARD PREMIERES. Nominations are open for a new award recognizing work in disability advocacy in SFF literature — “Announcing the D Franklin Defying Doomsday Award”.

This award is possible thanks to D Franklin, our wonderful Patron of Diversity who pledged the top pledge in our Pozible campaign!

The Defying Doomsday Award is an annual shortlist and prize. The award jury comprises Twelfth Planet Press publisher, Alisa Krasnostein, and Defying Doomsday editors, Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench. The award will grant one winner per year a cash prize of $200 in recognition of their work in disability advocacy in SFF literature.

Eligible works include non-fiction or related media exploring the subject of disability in SFF literature. Works must have been published in 2016.

We are now seeking nominations for the 2016 Defying Doomsday Award. Please submit your nominations to Tsana and Holly by filling in this form: https://goo.gl/forms/Kq8jGrXlAcdNumxy1

Submissions are open until July 31. The winner(s) will be announced in September.

(2) NOW ON SALE. It’s not exactly a Meredith moment, but until the end of May you can save $200 on The Virginia Edition of Robert A. Heinlein’s collected works. That lowers the price tag to $1,300 in the U.S., or $1,600 for an international destination.

(3) SCIENCE BOOM. You can watch a flock of “Science Movies on Netflix in May”. Two examples –

Available May 5

The Mars Generation (Netflix, 2017): Could humanity’s future include travel to Mars? Astrophysicists and astronauts weigh in on the challenges of long-distance spaceflight and the dream of missions that could transport people to the Red Planet. Meanwhile, teenage trainees at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center immerse themselves in work toward making that dream a reality.

Available May 15

Command and Control (PBS, 2017): Building a nuclear arsenal comes with incredible risks, and most Americans may be unaware that in 1980, an accident at a nuclear missile complex in Damascus, Arkansas, nearly resulted in the detonation of a warhead 600 times more powerful than the bomb that leveled Hiroshima. Based on recently declassified documents, this fascinating glimpse into the American nuclear weapons program tracks its history, and evaluates the human errors and accidents along the way that could have doomed us all.

(4) THE BEER THAT HITCHHIKERS MADE FAMOUS. Martin Morse Wooster knows: “Short’s Brewing is notorious among beer geeks for its crazy beers.  So of course they produce Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster!  (It’s a really cool Space Invaders-style label.)”

(5) ANONYMOUS LONGLIST. Here’s something you don’t see every day, Edgar. An anonymous longlist for the 2017 James White Award has been announced – the titles of 17 short stories listed without the authors’ names, because the entries are still undergoing an anonymous judging process.

The administrators say the shortlist will come out within two weeks, and the winner announced soon after that.

(6) ABOARD THE QUEEN MARY. Ellen Datlow has posted her photos from StokerCon 2017 on Flickr. Below: Elizabeth Hand and Nancy Holder.

Elizabeth Hand and Nancy Holder

(7) WIN WWII QUICKER. Gregory Benford shares “The Big Idea” that led to his novel The Berlin Project.

How many more concentration camp victims would have survived if the war had ended one year earlier?  For one, Anne Frank. Most CC victims succumbed eventually to the rugged conditions… The difference between 1944 and 1945 as the end of the war is probably quite significant in terms of lives.

The central context for this novel came from the protagonist I chose to follow through it, Karl Cohen. I also folded in my experience of living in the US occupation of Germany in 1955-57, where my father commanded combat units.

Karl’s words made me think, because in the last year of war, whole societies collapsed. A million died each month, the Soviet Union captured many countries into subjugation, and the devastation of the Axis powers took decades to repair.

Alternative histories are ways of thinking. The entire history of nuclear weapons is interlaced with scientists considering the future, often using science fiction as a prompt. The 1913 “atomic bombs” of H. G. Wells and the Robert Heinlein and Cleve Cartmill stories in Astounding Science Fiction were indeed broadly discussed at Los Alamos –as told to me in detail by Teller.

The wartime investigation into the Astounding stories, as I depict from documents I found, now seems odd indeed. The fiction writers had no classified information at all, just good guesses. Still, this possibility was viewed as very important by the security agencies, including the FBI. As Robert Silverberg has wryly remarked, “Turning war secrets into second-rate SF stories might seem, to the dispassionate eye, a very odd way indeed of betraying one’s country.”

Karl Cohen was my father in law. In 2000 he was voted to be among the 50 most prominent American chemists of the 20th Century. But he was haunted by what he felt was his personal failure to convince the U.S. government to pursue the centrifuge approach during the war. He died in 2012 at age 99. Alas, I had only begun on the novel.

(8) A GLOWING SMILE. Win WWII – and prevent tooth decay! Atlas Obscura tells how Manhattan Project experts got sidetracked in their pursuit of Nazi nuclear technology in “The Mysterious Case of the Radioactive Toothpaste”.

(9) SAVE YOUR MONEY. BookRiot’s Kay Taylor Rea advises which of the Best Novel Hugo finalists to buy, borrow, or bypass.

Death’s End by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu

The final book in the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, Death’s End really goes for broke in its attempts to be an epic tale. I struggled through it for much the same reason I struggled through the first two books: the depictions of women are by turns baffling and infuriating. If you were bothered by that in the first two novels, I warn you it’s still at issue here. The woman at the center of Death’s End, engineer Cheng Xin, is by turns patronized, deified, and vilified both by the male characters and the narrative itself. If you can ignore this, and the author’s tendency toward paragraph upon paragraph of info-dumping, there are certainly the bones of a very compelling tale of humanity’s future within these pages. The science involved is fascinating, and if you’re on the hunt for oldschool hard science fiction this might fit the bill.

Verdict: Bypass unless you’ve read the first two and have a hankering for more hard SF.

(10) WHO IS NUMBER ONE? MeTV offers “TV Aliens, Ranked”.

Mr. Spock, ‘Star Trek’

Was this really a competition? Mr. Spock is beloved by the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise and fans of Star Trek alike. Even though Williams Shatner tried to take the lead on the original series, Spock’s likability and Leonard Nimoy’s depiction made him the most popular character on one of the most popular series of all time.

(11) WESTON OBIT. G.I. Joe inventor Stan Weston died May 1. The Hollywood Reporter recalls:

When Mattel’s Barbie dolls were introduced in 1960, Weston realized boys were an untapped market for the doll industry after noting that many of them played with Ken dolls. He conceived of the idea of a military action figure and in 1963 sold what would become G.I. Joe to Hasbro. The runaway hit would go on to be one of the most enduring toy lines in history, spawning hit TV shows and films as well.

…In 1989, he was among the inaugural class for the Licensing Industry Hall of Fame, which includes notables Walt Disney, George Lucas and Jim Henson.

(12) TODAY’S DAY

Jerry Goldsmith Day

Today Oscar- and Emmy-winning composer Jerry Goldsmith posthumously received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He scored a vast number of movies, including many genre films. Director Joe Dante, for whom Goldsmith scored Gremlins, Explorers, and Innerspace, lent impetus to the award, saying he’d been “flabbergasted” to learn Goldsmith had not already received the honor. Dante told Variety, “Any film he scored was automatically improved tenfold.”

 

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 9, 1980 — Sean Cunningham’s Friday the 13th premieres in theatres.
  • May 9, 1997 The Fifth Element is released in the U.S.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 9, 1860 – J.M. Barrie

(15) COMPETITIVE LENGTHS. Greg Hullender says, “Inspired by a blog post from Rich Horton I did a quick analysis of the lengths of novellas overall vs. the lengths of the ones that are Hugo finalist.” — “Story Lengths and Awards: When Does Size Matter?” at Rocket Stack Rank.

It looks like (this year, at least), when it came to getting nominated for the Hugo, longer stories definitely did better than shorter ones in the Novella category and (less dramatically) in the Novelette category, but length had no effect on short stories.

In fact, the effect is so dramatic that the longest novella published by any print magazine is shorter than the shortest novella in the Hugo finalist list!

(16) DIAL 2140. Carl Slaughter did a mini-roundup on a popular new novel.

The New Yorker described Kim Stanley Robinson as “generally acknowledged as one of the greatest living science-fiction writers.”  The Atlantic described Robinson as “the gold-standard of realistic, and highly literary, science-fiction writing.” Robinson’s novels have won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and Campbell awards.  His body of work won the Heinlein award.  He was an instructor at Clarion and the 68th World Science Fiction Convention guest of honor.  Major themes in his novels:  nature and culture, ecological sustainability, climate change and global warming, economic and social justice, and scientists as heroes.

“The environmental, economic, and social themes in Robinson’s oeuvre stand in marked contrast to the libertarian science fiction prevalent in much of science fiction (Robert A. Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle being prominent examples), and his work has been called the most successful attempt to reach a mass audience with a left wing and anti-capitalist utopian vision since Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1974 novel, The Dispossessed.”  –  Wiki

Robinson’s latest novel, NewYork 2140 , which came out in March from Orbit, is about residents of New York coping the the drastic affects of climate change, namely rising sea levels.

As the sea levels rose, every street became a canal. Every skyscraper an island. For the residents of one apartment building in Madison Square, however, New York in the year 2140 is far from a drowned city.

There is the market trader, who finds opportunities where others find trouble. There is the detective, whose work will never disappear — along with the lawyers, of course.

There is the internet star, beloved by millions for her airship adventures, and the building’s manager, quietly respected for his attention to detail. Then there are two boys who don’t live there, but have no other home– and who are more important to its future than anyone might imagine.

Lastly there are the coders, temporary residents on the roof, whose disappearance triggers a sequence of events that threatens the existence of all– and even the long-hidden foundations on which the city rests.

Praise for New York 2140:

“Science fiction is threaded everywhere through culture nowadays, and it would take an act of critical myopia to miss the fact that Robinson is one of the world’s finest working novelists, in any genre. NEW YORK 2140 is a towering novel about a genuinely grave threat to civilisation.”  ?  The Guardian

“An exploration of human resilience in the face of extreme pressure…starkly beautiful and fundamentally optimistic visions of technological and social change in the face of some of the worst devastation we might bring upon ourselves.”  ?  The Conversation

“As much a critique of contemporary capitalism, social mores and timeless human foibles, this energetic, multi-layered narrative is also a model of visionary worldbuilding.”  ?  RT Book Reviews (Top Pick!) on New York 214

“A thoroughly enjoyable exercise in worldbuilding, written with a cleareyed love for the city’s past, present, and future.”  ?  Kirkus

“The tale is one of adventure, intrigue, relationships, and market forces…. The individual threads weave together into a complex story well worth the read.”  ?  Booklist

(17) SPINRAD REVIEWED. Rob Latham shares his qualified enthusiasm for Norman Spinrad’s The People’s Police in “An Unkempt Jeremiad” at LA Review of Books.

I would affirm that The People’s Police is a continuous pleasure to read were it not for the poor production values that persistently hobble the story. While the physical book is well designed, including an arresting dust-jacket by Michael Graziolo, the text itself is littered with distracting typos, oddly repeated words (e.g., “his vehicle had come around again to where where Luke was standing”), and passages still showing the raw compositional process (e.g., “what the upstate Holy Rollers were calling called the People’s Police”). A better job of editing would have caught these various solecisms, as well as the embarrassing fact that some anecdotes — e.g., that Huey Long built “a half-assed half-scale replica of the White House” as his governor’s mansion — are recounted twice, thus compromising their effectiveness. Every time I began to fall under the spell of Spinrad’s kooky grandiloquence, some glaring error like this would throw me out of the story. This is particularly unfortunate given that, as noted above, The People’s Police marks the author’s dogged attempt to break back into the US market after a decade of frustrations.

All in all, though, I think the novel should be well received, as it manifests most of the strengths of Spinrad’s long career….

(18) APOCALYPSE OHIO. There were a few angsty moments at the Scalzi compound today.

(19) AT RISK COMICS. I scanned CosmicBookNews’ list of Marvel comics titles on the bubble, holding in mind the recent controversy about whether diversity sells.

Titles with an asterisk are already cancelled as of July.

CA: Sam Wilson – #21 – 18,650
Gwenpool – #14 – 17,972
Captain Marvel – #4 – 17,893
US Avengers – #5 – 17,880
Ultimates 2 – #6 -17,350
Dr. Strange & Sorcerers Supreme – #7 – 16,887
Man-Thing – #3 – 16,199 [Mini]
Hawkeye – #5 – 16,031
Totally Awesome Hulk – #18 – 16,009
Spider-Man 2099 – #22 – 15,273
Elektra – #3 – 15,113*
Silver Surfer – #10 – 15,041
World Of Wakanda – #6 – 14,547*
Nova – #5 – 14,525*
Silk – #19 – 13,524*
Thunderbolts – #12 – 13,780*
Kingpin – #3 – 13,765*
Rocket Raccoon #5 – 13,373*
Power Man & Iron Fist #15 – 13,055*
Bullseye – #3 – 12,912 [Mini]
Star lord – #6 – 12,278*
Squirrel Girl – #19 – 11,074
Occupy Avengers – #6 – 10,296
Unstoppable Wasp – #4 – 9,780
Great Lakes Avengers – #7 – 8,370
Moon Girl and Devil Dino – #18 – 7,966
Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat – #17 – 6,943*
Mosaic – #7 – 5,876*

On the fence:

Ms. Marvel – #17 – 20,881

(20) GUARDIANS INSIDE INFO. Don’t view this unless you are ready for SPOILERS. Looper picks out Small Details In Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 Only True Fans Understood.

After all the hype, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 proved itself a worthy successor to the first film. With another Awesome Mix Tape blasting and another round of adventures for Star-Lord and his gang of unlikely heroes, Vol. 2 offered up the same mix of action and comedy fans have come to love. And like the first installment, the newest Guardians is packed with Easter eggs. Here are all the small details only true fans noticed in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Major spoilers ahead!

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Roger Silverstein, Cat Eldridge, Ellen Datlow, ,Andrew Porter, Kat, Kendall, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 4/23/17 Scroll White And The Seven Pixels

(1) BORN ON THE SEVENTH OF JULY. In “Spinning a high-tech web”, the LA Times provides an elaborate, photo-illustrated preview of Tony Stark’s upgrade to the new Spider-Man suit that will be seen in Spider-Man: Homecoming, due in theaters July 7.

(2) FILK HALL OF FAME. The 2017 inductees to the Filk Halll of Fame were announced at FilkOntario this weekend:

(3) FAHRENHEIT 451 TO SMALL SCREEN? The Bradbury novel is on the road to development once more. “HBO to Adapt Fahrenheit 451, starring Michael B. Jordan”  — BookRiot has the story.

Now, HBO is “moving toward a production commitment” (via Variety) on a feature-length adaptation of Bradbury’s 1953 novel starring Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Chronicle, Fantastic Four) as the protagonist Guy Montag and Michael Shannon (Man of Steel, Boardwalk Empire) as Montag’s boss, Captain Beatty.

The film will be directed by Ramin Bahrani (99 Homes, At Any Price), who is co-writing with Amir Naderi (99 Homes, The Runner). David Coatsworth (production manager on Underworld: Evolution, Ender’s Game, My Big Fat Greek Wedding) will serve as producer.

(4) THEY’RE HUUGE! “Black Holes Are Bigger Than You Thought” accuses Yahoo! News. (Just how big did you think they were? How did Yahoo! News find out?)

Now meet S5 0014+81.

It’s the largest black hole ever discovered and is heavier than our Sun by 40 billion times (40, 000, 000, 000) in the last observation.

If you plug in the equation above, you’ll find that this black hole has a Schwarzschild radius of about… 119 billion kilometers, along with a said diameter of about 236,39 billion km.

(5) THE TOUGHEST AROUND. Let Den of Geek point you at “17 really difficult LEGO sets”.

The Tower Of Orthanc

It may look simple enough on the box, but The Lord Of The Rings’ Tower Of Orthanc is actually a real tough cookie. Because most of its 2,359 pieces are jet black and slim, working out which bit goes where is the stuff of nightmares (in, um, a good way). The Treebeard that comes with it will make the struggle worth it… honest.

Buy The Tower Of Orthanc now for £348.07.

(6) TODAY’S DAY

  • April 23 — World Book and Copyright Day

Pays tribute to authors and books and their social and cultural contribution to the world

(7) DID YOU KNOW? Last year the International Costumers’ Guild participated in a “friend of the court” brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, joining Public Knowledge, the American Library Association, and others, asking the Court to protect the rights of clothing designers and costumers to freely practice their craft.

(8) AT HOME. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak reports “Netflix will invest billions to shoot its original content in California”:

Netflix is betting that filming closer to home will produce better content. In 2015, the streaming giant has announced that it would be doubling its output of original content, and it is aiming to have original productions make up half of its of its streaming catalog in the coming years. The goal is to entice users to come to the service by providing content that can’t be found elsewhere, but that goal is proving to be a strain on the existing film studio infrastructure. To cope, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos announced that the company would be investing $6 billion to expand infrastructure in California, rather than chase tax incentives offered by states.

Sarandos explained to The Wrap that the company determined that going after the incentives leads to diminishing returns when it comes to their final products. Filming out of state is hard on the actors and crew of a project, and the move will help bring projects back home to California. That could prove to be costly for the company, even as California has increased its own tax incentive program in recent years. While remaining in the state will likely cost Netflix more, Sarandos seems to think that the extra cost will be worth spending.

(9) SQUEAK UP. YouTube’s TheBackyardScientist set up 10 megaphones end-to-end to see how loud a noise he could make.

The video, posted to YouTube by TheBackyardScientist, features Kevin Kohler explaining he was inspired by Bart Simpson‘s prank in the season 8 Simpsons episode The Secret War of Lisa Simpson to place 10 megaphones end-to-end and test the results.

Bart’s experiment led to a shock wave that shattered all of the windows in town — as well as Homer’s fridge full of beer — but Kohler quickly ran into a problem Bart didn’t face: a feedback loop.

 

(10) BITE ON. The number of people who give their smartphones to dogs as chew toys is probably smaller than the number of men who have walked on the moon, but for them — “There’s an anti-dog label inside the Galaxy S8 — here’s what it means”. Let The Verge explain it to you.

Basically, you don’t want Fido in a situation where a battery could hiss and explode in its mouth. It’s obviously possible that a child could bite through the battery as well, but the likelihood of him / her piercing through the battery is lower.

(11) ARTIFICIAL DOG INTELLIGENCE. Amazing. How is it mine doesn’t do that?

(12) FIX THE SLATING PROBLEM FOREVER. That’s what Greg Hullender would like to do. At Rocket Stack Rank he summarizes his views about the effectiveness of 3SV, EPH(+) and their combination. He says, “I  think it makes it really clear that we need both 3SV and either EPH or EPH+. Otherwise, even small slates (100 to 200 people) will be able to control a significant amount of the final ballot, including adding embarrassing nominees.”

For each year, we produced two theoretical maximum graphs. A “finalist graph,” which shows what percentage of finalists a slate could have captured for a given number of slate voters, and a “sweeps” graph, which shows what percentage of entire categories a slate could have captured.

Looking at those four pairs of graphs (2.1-2.4 below), we will draw the following conclusions;

  • Std (5/6) by itself is far too weak.
  • EPH doesn’t protect enough finalists, but it is excellent at preventing sweeps.
  • EPH+ is an improvement on EPH, but it’s still not enough by itself.
  • 3SV is much stronger for protecting finalists, especially for modest numbers of slate voters, but it’s vulnerable to sweeps, and it breaks down for slates above about 300 people.
  • The 3SV/EPH and 3SV/EPH+ combinations are far, far stronger than either component alone. Either combination is probably sufficient, but the second one is stronger.

Accordingly, we conclude that the Business Meeting should ratify both EPH+ and 3SV. That should protect the Hugos from slating interference for the nonce.

(13) DREAM CASTING. Enjoy “Miles To Go” hosted at Archive of Our Own. Note – Password = Vorkosigan (as it says at the post).

There once was a man who dreamt of the stars…

A fanvid based on the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold.

…Obviously, it’s not so easy to make a feast for a fandom with no existing visual source. But where there’s a will, or in my case an enormous and driving folly, there’s a way. It was always going to be an ensemble vid, with Miles as the star, but the question was how to cast it. I did eventually solve that problem, and I won’t discuss my solution in detail here because… spoilers.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Robin Reid, JJ, Doctor Science, Greg Hullender, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 3/20/17 The Pixelated Empire. Filed, Scrolled And Godstalked Since The Fifth Era

(1) WHAT DID YOU NOMINATE? Arifel compiled the votes reported in “What Did You Nominate for the 2017 Hugos?” and posted the top-level results in comments:

If you want to see the complete tallies with everything that got even one mention, go to this Google drive document.

(2) SECOND STAGE FANSMEN. Rocket Stack Rank is hosting its own compilation of File 770 commenters’ votes in the short fiction categories, which has the advantage of linking to the works online, as well as to RSR’s reviews.

(3) ONE LUMP OR TWO? Congratulations are in order and everyone is invited to “Celebrate 10 Years of the Black Gate Blog!”

There was precisely one comment on that post, a pingback from something called “The Scrolls of Lankhmar.” 8,355 blog posts and 10 years later, the Black Gate blog is stronger than ever, with a staff of 45 volunteers, and two Hugo nominations and a World Fantasy Award under our belt.

Just one thing surprises me – that they are counting Hugo nominations they turned down — withdrawing after the first (though too late to be removed from the ballot), and declining the second. They even got an Alfie for turning down the second.

I admit I was stumped to discover the Science Fiction Awards Database, maintained by Mark R. Kelly of Locus Online, also credits them with two nominations.

I think the final arbiter ought to be the Sasquan and MidAmeriCon II reports of Hugo voting statistics. Black Gate appears in the 2015 report with 489 votes received and the notation “withdrawn after deadline.” In the 2016 report Black Gate is not reported receiving any votes because it was not on the ballot, and in the section counting nominating votes, it is shown above the cutoff but with its name lined out.

So my personal opinion is – Black Gate has one Hugo nomination because it has only appeared on the final ballot one time.

That answer would also square with the way the Science Fiction Awards Database skips over 1996 in its list of File 770’s nominations. I withdrew because I was chair of the Worldcon that year, but the final report shows I still got enough votes to have been a finalist. Since File 770 wasn’t on the ballot, it should not be counted as a 1996 finalist, and isn’t.

(4) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. WIRED writes about “A Stunning Video of Mars That Took Three Months To Stitch Together – By Hand”.

If you should one day find yourself in a spacecraft circling Mars, don’t count on a good view. The Red Planet’s dusty atmosphere will probably obscure any window-seat vistas of its deep valleys and soaring mesas. “The best way to see the planet’s surface would be to take a digital image and enhance it on your computer,” says planetary geologist Alfred McEwen, principal investigator on NASA’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment. He would know: In the past 12 years, the powerful HiRISE camera has snapped 50,000 spectacular, high-resolution stereo images of the Martian terrain from the planet’s orbit, creating anaglyphs that anyone can view in 3D using special glasses. The highly detailed stereograms depict the planet’s surface in remarkable detail—but 3D glasses aren’t always handy, and still images can only convey so much about Mars’ varied topography.

 

(5) THE WEED OF CRIME. Two of quarterback Tom Brady’s stolen Super Bowl-worn jerseys were recovered from a credentialed member of the international media. A couple of weeks before, Brady had posted a parody suspects list on his Facebook page that includes Gollum and other genre characters.

(6) BEST-OF COMPILATION. At Bookscrolling, “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2016 (A Year-End List Aggregation)”

“What are the best Science Fiction & Fantasy books of 2016?” We aggregated 32 year-end lists and ranked the 254 unique titles by how many times they appeared in an attempt to answer that very question!

There are thousands of year-end lists released every year and, like we do in our weekly Best Book articles, we wanted to see which books appear on them the most. We used 32 Science Fiction & Fantasy book lists and found 254 unique titles. The top 42 books, all appearing on 3 or more lists, are below with images, summaries, and links for learning more or purchasing. The remaining books, along with the articles we used, can be found at the bottom of the page.

(7) OUT OF STEAM. “Denver Based Steampunk Convention Anomaly Con Callls It Quits” – a former guest, Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn, is sorry to see it go.

After seven successful events, Denver, CO based steampunk convention Anomaly Con has called it quits. Organizer Kronda Siebert made a lengthy post to both the con’s official website and Facebook page explaining their reasoning. For the most part it sounds like losing ten of their twelve directors over the years (and not having replacements) was a large part of the decision,

(8) BRESLIN OBIT. Columnist Jimmy Breslin died March 19. While reading about him I followed a link to his 1963 piece “Digging JFK grave was his honor”. It was deeply moving and I thought you might like to see it, too.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

World Storytelling Day

Once upon a time, a long time ago (well, actually, back in 1991 in Sweden), a Storytelling Day was held. The ethos behind this event caught on around the globe, and now we celebrate World Storytelling Day on an international level. The aim of World Storytelling Day is to celebrate the art of oral storytelling, with as many people as possible around the world telling and listening to stories in their own languages on the same day. People taking part can link up with others around the globe who are also contributing – making it a truly international festival that creates new friends and promotes positive understanding of cultures around the world! So, go on, sit down with your friends and loved ones and join the United Nations of storytellers on this day of celebrating cultural folklore and the art of oral storytelling! Why not spin a yarn, and pass down your stories to the next generation?

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY FOWL

  • Born March 20 Sesame Street’s Big Bird  

(11) COOKING CORNER. She deserves her own show on the Food Channel.

(12) THE PEOPLE’S CLARKE. More input from the Shadow Clarke Jury.

As readers of the finished work we, of course, don’t begin with a blank page. We start with the first chapter, a half-page that introduces its text in the broadest of strokes: “I grew up in a world of music, in a time of war,” says Priest’s narrator. “I became an inadvertent traveller in time.” In this short chapter, Priest effectively summarises the entire novel. But this only serves to emphasise that being provided with the scaffolding is not the same as being able to walk around the whole edifice. This reflects a key aspect of The Gradual the extent to which an extraordinary experience can be captured in a linear narrative.

If science fiction doesn’t make us look differently at our world, then science fiction doesn’t have a point.

Let me unpack that. Science fiction makes changes in the world, that is one of the key things that makes it science fiction. But that change must connect in some way with how we understand the here and now. An alien in a story makes it science fiction, yes, and the author may have taken great pains to specify the greenness of the skin or the exact length of the tentacles, but unless the intrusion of the alien reflects upon what it is to be human it is little more than wallpaper. When H.G. Wells wrote about Martians invading Surrey it wasn’t a novel about Martians, but about being human in the face of that invasion, about people used to being colonisers suddenly finding themselves colonised. The way the novel looks out into the world is why The War of the Worlds is still read today.

One of the ways in which genre reviewing differs from mainstream reviewing is that genre reviewers have traditionally been willing to go after books that get their facts wrong and fail to achieve verisimilitude. It is easy to understand why mainstream reviewing tends to frown on this type of approach as questioning an author’s use of style directs discussion back towards the book while questioning an author’s grasp of how space elevators are supposed to work only ever results in people slapping their slide-rules down on the table.

I mention this as while I think there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in Joanna Kavenna’s fourth novel, my enjoyment of the book was hampered by my initial urge to disagree with every word of it. In fact, the only thing that kept me from throwing the book across the room was a growing suspicion that I did not so much disagree with A Field Guide to Reality as agree with it far too much.

The story begins in thirteenth-century Oxford where the great and the good of medieval philosophy dine on bread and discuss the nature of reality. Rather than portraying this fledgling academic community as a place of potential and great innovation, Kavenna presents it as dark, dank, and treacherous. Outside the colleges, monks get stabbed for the contents of their pockets. Inside the colleges, monks get burned for the contents of their heads.

(13) REGAL SWIMMER. BBC’s video of this 18th-century masterpiece is a public post on Facebook

The Silver Swan, made by James Cox in London in about 1773, is a life-size clockwork automaton that imitates the behaviour of a real swan. The mechanism is clockwork, of great quality. It plays music, moves its head, preens, and eats a fish.

The Wikipedia entry explains further:

The swan, which is life size, is a clockwork driven device that includes a music box. The swan sits in a “stream” that is made of glass rods and is surrounded by silver leaves. Small silver fish can be seen “swimming” in the stream.

When the clockwork is wound the music box plays and the glass rods rotate giving the illusion of flowing water. The swan turns its head from side to side and also preens itself. After a few moments the swan notices the swimming fish and bends down to catch and eat one. The swan’s head then returns to the upright position and the performance, which has lasted about 32 seconds, is over

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mark-kitteh, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 2/8/17 With Many Alternative Facts About The Square Of The Hypotenuse

(1) TOUGHER THAN IT LOOKS. Sue Duff thought it would be easy to destroy the Earth, but noooo! She explains the difficulties in a guest post for SFFWorld.

When I plotted out my five-book series a couple years ago, I knew that by book four, it would be time to give my characters a break and began to torture my worlds. I needed to increase the stakes across both dimensions for the big finale in book five. It took quite a bit of research, in spite of my amateur earth and space science interests, and found that it’s not easy to make reality align with your imagination! The challenge was to have my antagonist destroy Thrae, Earth’s mirror dimension, while salvaging enough of the planet to support life. Luckily, I sat on a panel with two NASA scientists at Denver Comic Con and cornered them afterwards to verify my research. I was thrilled, and more than a little relieved, to discover that the details were accurate!

(2) LOCUS AWARD POLL IS OPEN. John Scalzi has beaten me to a pair of headlines today – I’m lucky he spends most of his time on books. John was first with the Audie Awards, and now this —

(3) SHADOW CLARKE. Paul Kincaid tells how he thinks the shadow Clarke jury will operate.

I have never been involved with a shadow jury before, so I’m probably going to be making it up as we go along. But my take on it is that the Clarke Award has become central to the way we see science fiction in Britain, so the shadow jury will use it as a jumping off point from which to expand the discussion of science fiction.

We’ll be starting with the submissions list, which is due to be published shortly and which is probably the best and most convenient way to discover what science fiction has been published in Britain during any particular year. From this we will each, individually, draw up our own preferred shortlists, based on what we’ve read and what we want to read. (No plan survives an encounter with the enemy, so I assume that as we read through our chosen books our views about what should or should not be on the shortlist will change. In many ways, I suspect that will be the most interesting part of the exercise.) We will also, of course, be reading the actual shortlist when that is announced, so the whole exercise will be a scaled-up version of Maureen Kincaid Speller’s wonderful Shortlist Project from a few years back.

(4) THE RIGHTS. Read “SFWA Statements on Register of Copyright and Copyright Reform” at the SFWA Blog.

On January 31, SFWA submitted two sets of copyright-related commentary (authored by SFWA’s Legal Affairs Committee) — one to the Librarian of Congress offering recommendations for choosing the new Register of Copyrights, and one to the House Judiciary Committee regarding its first proposal for copyright reform. SFWA also signed onto a submission from the National Writers Union to the US Copyright Office concerning Group Registration of Contributions to Periodicals.

(5) HEAR THIS ONE BEFORE? From the “Traveler” essay in Larry Niven’s Stars and Gods collection:

Lost luggage? Air France lost a passenger in the Soviet Union, because he annoyed them. They dropped Tom Doherty in Moscow when he only had an internal passport for Leningrad.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY PUPPETEER

  • Born February 8, 1969 – Mary Robinette Kowal

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GARÇON

  • February 8, 1828 — Jules Verne

(8) SQUEE. Walter Jon Williams has signed the contract for three more books in the Praxis series. He discusses the deal in “Unto the Breach”.

And so (I hear you ask) why seek publication by the Big Five after all?  Because (1) they offered me money, and (2) I don’t want to put all my career eggs into a single basket.   Ebook sales are volatile, many sales are generated by gimmicks that quickly grow obsolete, and I’m in competition with a couple million self-published authors who can’t write their way out of a paper bag, but who get just as much shelf space as I do.  If you’re published by a traditional publisher, it demonstrates that someone cared enough for your work to pay more than taxi-fare money for it.

And if the books fail, I’ll get them back, and then I’ll market them myself.  Win/win.

The headline was JJ’s reaction to the news.

(9) CONGRATULATIONS. Jason Sanford’s short story collection Never Never Stories has been translated and released in China by Douban Reads.

The collection is being released as two separate books with similar but different covers. Here’s the link to Never Never Stories Book 1 and here’s Book 2.

(10) MAKE YOUR OWN KESSEL RUN. Graeme McMillan at The Hollywood Reporter says Disney has announced that Star Wars Land will open in Disney World’s Hollywood Studios section in 2019, with a smaller one in Anaheim. They’re mum about what will be in it, but it’s 14 acres!

It’s like ‘La La Land,’ but with less dancing and more Jedi.

Disney is planning something big to mark the conclusion of the current Star Wars trilogy. How big? The size of a theme park.

On a call with investors, Disney CEO Bob Iger on Tuesday revealed that the 14-acre Star Wars Land attraction at Walt Disney World in Orlando will open in 2019, the same year as Star Wars Episode IX, the final chapter in the current “Skywalker Saga” arc of the beloved space opera.

Construction started on the Hollywood Studios attraction last April, following its August 2015 announcement. Until Iger’s statement on Tuesday, Disney had remained quiet about the attraction — which will be paired with a similar one in Disneyland Anaheim — beyond the release of concept artwork last summer. While it’s still unconfirmed just what the attraction will include, a Disney Parks blog post promised “guests will get the opportunity to pilot the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy” after climbing on board a full-size replica of the Millennium Falcon.

(11) THE BOX SCORE. These are the authors who wrote the most short fiction in 2016 that was published in any of the eleven publications or eleven anthologies Rocket Stack Rank reviewed last year. — “2016 Prolific SF/F Short Fiction Authors”

Here are Rocket Stack Rank’s 35 most prolific science fiction & fantasy short fiction authors of 2016. Click on their names in the two tables below to see their stories, and use the Score and AvgScore columns to try some authors you might not have read before. They were selected from the 818 original stories reviewed by RSR in 2016, which include 568 authors who wrote 5.8 million words published in 11 SF/F magazines and 11 SF/F anthologies. (RSR does not read horror magazines or horror anthologies.)

Greg Hullender adds, “Not a surprise to see Rick Larson and Robert Reed at the top in terms of number of stories. The counts by number of words are strongly affected by novella writers, but still interesting.  Could be a useful resource to people looking for a new author to try out.”

(12) THE BOOKS YOU LOVE. Biblio.com has tips on “Storing A Book Collection”.

We routinely hear from customers who want to know the best way to store collectible books. Sadly, even more commonly, we hear from customers who have inadvertently stored their books improperly, eroding the value of their beloved book collection.

We thought we’d take an opportunity to share with you some tips for proper storage of books, gleaned from not only our own personal experience, but that of seasoned professional booksellers. But before we dive right in to the stacks, let’s preface the whole thing by reminding you that:

CONDITION IS EVERYTHING!

Even the most scarce of titles is rarely worth much when it is in poor condition or beyond repair. Mildew, broken spines, torn or faded dust jackets, cocked bindings and similar issues can conspire to move a desirable book from the display case to the bargain bin.

Ok, that said, let’s learn how we can keep your book collection from ruin when you need to put it in storage for a period of time…

(13) OB SF. The Washington Post’s Michael E. Ruane, in “An American filmed the German army in WWI — until they became the enemy”, has an interesting article about the Library of Congress’s restoration of On the Firing Line with the Germans, a documentary Wilbur H. Durborough did on the Eastern Front in Germany in 1915.

The sf connection is that Durborough’s cameraman, Irving G. Ries, had a long, distinguished career in Hollywood capped by an Oscar nomination for his work on the special effects in Forbidden Planet in 1956.

(14) THE MATRYOSHKA TWEETS. It began when Cat Rambo reminded SFWA members to make their Nebula nominations.

(15) DISBELIEF SUSPENDERS. College Humor poses the question — Which Is Nerdier: Star Wars or Star Trek?

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

Pixel Scroll 1/28/17 The More You Hive, The Less Pixelated You Are

(1) CORTANA’S WRITERS. The Financial Times’ Emma Jacobs, in “Robots replacing our jobs? Microsoft’s Cortana is creating them”, interviewed Joanthan Foster, principal content publishing manager for Microsoft’s Cortana, who oversees a staff of 28 (including a children’s novelist and a playwright) tasked with giving this personal digital assistant a personality.

“Why, for example, does Cortana have to have a favourite movie? ‘Because people are asking that,’ says Mr Foster.  For a while, her favourite film was ET (she skews to science fiction) but today it swings between Star Wars and Star Trek films.  Her favourite TV show is Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

Another sf reference:  Cortana’s name “is a reference to a buxom character clothed in a transparent sheath in the video game Halo.”

How to access this article – Look it up on Google and you will be able to click through to read it. If you use the link above directly, you will hit a paywall.

(2) ASTRONAUT FASHIONS. Washington Post reporter Christian Davenport, in “A first look at the path NASA astronauts will walk when the U.S. launches humans into space again”, has an overview of activities at Cape Canaveral, with reports on activities by Boeing, Blue Origin, Moon Express, and SpaceX.  But the news here is about the Boeing spacesuits.

Then there’s the sleek new blue Boeing spacesuit that, at 20 pounds, weighs 10 pounds less than the one worn by shuttle astronauts. It comes with gloves that work on touch screens and lightweight boots designed by Reebok that feel like slippers. Instead of having a huge fishbowl bubble helmet, as the shuttle astronauts’ suits did, the new suit’s helmet slips over the head like a hood.

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(3) MOVING POSTERS. Disney released a collection of motion posters featuring the cast of the upcoming live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. UPI has the story.

(4) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. On February 15 the hosts of the reading series, Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, will present Michael Cisco and Nicholas Kaufmann. Begins 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar.

Michael Cisco is the author of several novels, including The Divinity StudentThe NarratorThe Great Lover, Animal Money, The Wretch of the Sun, and a short story collection, Secret Hours.  His fiction has appeared in The WeirdLovecraft Unbound, and Black Wings (among others). His scholarly work has appeared in Lovecraft StudiesThe Weird Fiction ReviewIranian Studies, and Lovecraft and Influence. He lives and teaches in New York City.

Nicholas Kaufmann’s work has been nominated for a Bram Stoker Award, a Thriller Award, and a Shirley Jackson Award. His novel Dying is My Business from St. Martin’s Press was selected for the Los Angeles Times Holiday Book Gift Guide, and the sequel, Die and Stay Dead, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. His latest novel is In the Shadow of the Axe, out now from Crossroad Press with an introduction by Laird Barron.

(5) STICK A FORK IN IT. Write On by Kindle, Amazon’s attempt at a Wattpad competitor, is closing down March 22, a year after leaving beta testing. Users have been advised:

Your Amazon.com account will not be affected by the closure of Write On. If you don’t have any content you wish to save, no further action is required on your part.

If you do have content you wish to save, we encourage you to download your posted and drafted stories by March 22.

(6) HURT OBIT. Actor John Hurt died January 25 at the age of 77. The Vanity Fair tribute listed some of his many genre credits –

The cause of death was not immediately reported; Hurt was diagnosed in 2015 with pancreatic cancer, but in October of that year announced that he was “thrilled” to have had his final scan, “and it‘s all gone brilliantly.”

… He earned his first BAFTA award in 1976, for playing gay author and ranconteur Quentin Crisp in the TV film The Naked Civil Servant; that same year, he played notorious Roman emperor Caligula in the TV film classic I, Claudius.

As a trained actor with a resonant voice and an unmistakable screen presence, Hurt could be a leading man—as in the 1984 version of George Orwell’s 1984 and David Lynch‘s The Elephant Man—but may be more familiar to audiences as a supporting player, from the first, unlucky victim of the chestburster in 1979’s Alien to 2016’s Jackie, in which he plays a priest who has the ear of a mourning Jacqueline Kennedy. He earned Oscar nominations for his roles in 1979‘s Midnight Express, as a heroin addict doing time in a Turkish prison, and in The Elephant Man. He’ll also be remembered by a generation of children as the mysterious Mr. Ollivander, wand salesman, from the Harry Potter films. And thanks to a 2013 appearance as the War Doctor on Doctor Who, he will also forever belong to a legion of fans.

In the last decade of his career alone, Hurt worked with some of the world’s most fascinating directors, from Guillermo del Toro in the Hellboy series to Steven Spielberg on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to Lars von Trier on Melancholia to Joon-ho Bong on Snowpiercer.

— To which we can add The War Doctor in Doctor Who, the voices of Aragorn and Hazel (the rabbit) in the animated Lord of the Rings and Watership Down respectively, and still be guilty of leaving some out.

David Tennant, John Hurt, Matt Smith.

David Tennant, John Hurt, Matt Smith.

(7) GARRAY OBIT. Artist Pascal Garray (1965-2017), a prolific Smurfs creator, passed away January 17.

During his career of 26 years, he also participated in the creation of 17 albums of ‘The Smurfs’ (‘Les Schtroumpfs’), and was the lead artist on at least six albums since 2002. The other regular Smurfs artists are Ludo Borecki, Jeroen de Coninck and Miguel Díaz Vizoso, while most of the writing is done by Thierry Culliford, Alain Jost and Luc Parthoens. Garray had just finished drawing the 35th Smurfs album (‘Les Schtroumpfs et les Haricots Mauves’, about bad eating habits), when he passed away on 17 January 2017.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 28, 1981 — Elijah Wood (actor)

(9) RSR’S GUIDE TO SHORT FORM EDITORS. Greg Hullender of Rocket Stack Rank introduces its recently-posted guide to those eligible for the Best Editor Hugo – Short Form category.

With luck, this won’t be as controversial as it was last year. We’ve made it clearer that you’re supposed to use this data to vet a list of editors of works you’ve read—not to construct a slate of people whose publications you’ve never read (or even heard of).

Since people are more likely to know works than editors, we start by helping them find the editors who produced different publications. It’s a lot of work to figure out who’s qualified, so we’ve done that too.

Then, like last year, we show how much work each editor produced and how well that work was reviewed—both in terms of word count and percentage, which we encourage people to use to see how the editors in their list stack up.

New this year is a chart showing how much fiction from new writers each editor published, since this was the commonest thing people asked for last year. There are also sortable tables with the raw data so people don’t need to stare at charts to try to guess which editors were in the top four or five.

As ever, we’d love to hear ideas for what would make this easier to do.

(10) SEMIPROZINE HUGO. Neil Clarke’s Semiprozine.org announced last month they are “Currently updating directory”, which hopefully will happen soon because I need an authoritative answer to settle a difference of opinion!

We are currently updating the directory to reflect any changes in eligibility for the year ending December 31, 2016. Feel free to comment on this post if you have questions.

(11) COACHING. George R.R. Martin reminds everyone how TV shows can be eligible for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo – Long Form, whether you want them to or not.

This is truly the Golden Age for science fiction and fantasy on television, with more interesting series than ever before… most of them serial dramas. WESTWORLD, for instance. Terrific show. But the entire season is one story. To me, it makes no sense to pick an episode at random and nominate it in Short Form, when every episode depended so much on what had come before and what was to follow. I will be nominating WESTWORLD season one in Long Form, and I urge other WESTWORLD fans to do the same. Then we have STRANGER THINGS, recent Golden Globe nominee, another cool new genre show… I loved the series, but looking back, did I love one episode? No, I loved the whole story, so I’d nominate STRANGER THINGS, season one. Ditto for PENNY DREADFUL, the final season, which wrapped up in fine style last year. You could also make a case for MR. ROBOT, if you consider that sf.

And, of course, there’s GAME OF THRONES. Our sixth season won an unprecedented number of Emmys, setting an all-time record. And there are individual episodes that won Emmy acclaim: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss won for writing for “Battle of the Bastards,” Miguel Sapochnik took the directing Emmy for the same episode, and “The Door” also earned a directing nomination for Jack Bender. But it was the season as a whole that won for Best Drama, and for me, at least, it makes the most sense to nominate GAME OF THRONES, season six, in Long Form.

(12) GREATEST ANIMATOR. Brian Phillips on MTV.com has an article called “The Little Gray Wolf Will Come”, a profile of Yuri Norstein, whose short films “Tale of Tales” and “Hedgehog in the Fog” are regarded as among the greatest pieces of Soviet animation but who has been stuck for 40 years working on a full-length version of Gogol’s The Overcoat that he may never finish.

Here he is, an old man, onstage at the Dom Kino. Cinephiles of Moscow, your evening’s entertainment: Yuri Norstein, 74, white-bearded, small, stout, urbane, rumpled, and mischievous. Sitting in front of a pale gold curtain, with a bump on his nose the size of a pistachio shell. Considered by many to be a great, if tragically self-defeating, Russian artist. Considered by many to be the finest animator in the world.

He did not move to Moscow last week; he knows what they say about him. How he sabotaged his own career at what should have been its peak. How he has not managed to release a new film in 37 years. How he made Hedgehog in the Fog, a movie every Russian child knows by heart, and then Tale of Tales, which international juries have more than once named the greatest animated picture ever made. How he threw it all away to chase an absurd, unattainable ideal, an animated adaptation of Gogol’s short story “The Overcoat” that he has toiled at for nearly 40 years and has never been able to finish. He takes questions at events like this, and the sequence is always the same. First a few respectful queries about his past work, his process, his inspirations. Then, when some brink of nerve has been crossed: When will you finish The Overcoat? Do you think you ever will?

(13) TIMEY-WIMEY STUFF. Science Alert says “Scientists have confirmed a brand new form of matter: time crystals”.

First predicted by Nobel-Prize winning theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek back in 2012, time crystals are structures that appear to have movement even at their lowest energy state, known as a ground state.

Usually when a material is in ground state, also known as the zero-point energy of a system, it means movement should theoretically be impossible, because that would require it to expend energy.

But Wilczek predicted that this might not actually be the case for time crystals.

Normal crystals have an atomic structure that repeats in space – just like the carbon lattice of a diamond. But, just like a ruby or a diamond, they’re motionless because they’re in equilibrium in their ground state.

But time crystals have a structure that repeats in time, not just in space. And it keep oscillating in its ground state.

Imagine it like jelly – when you tap it, it repeatedly jiggles. The same thing happens in time crystals, but the big difference here is that the motion occurs without any energy.

A time crystal is like constantly oscillating jelly in its natural, ground state, and that’s what makes it a whole new form of matter – non-equilibrium matter. It’s incapable of sitting still.

(14) WHAT THE DOCTOR SAYS. David Tennant told The Last Leg viewers it’s all going to be okay:

[Thanks to Dawn Incoognito, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day J-Grizz.]

Pixel Scroll 1/16/17 I’m A Boxticker, Jim, Not A Pixel!

(1) DEDICATED TO MEREDITH. It’s ”Appreciate a Dragon Day”.  According to the Donita K. Paul website:

Appreciate a Dragon Day was started in 2004 by Mrs. Paul to celebrate the release of DragonSpell. We encourage you to join us as we celebrate literacy and have some fun!

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(2) NEANDERTHALS. Jon Mooallem delivers a thoroughly fascinating account of paleoanthropological research in “Neanderthals Were People, Too” at the New York Times.

For millenniums, some scientists believe, before modern humans poured in from Africa, the climate in Europe was exceptionally unstable. The landscape kept flipping between temperate forest and cold, treeless steppe. The fauna that Neanderthals subsisted on kept migrating away, faster than they could. Though Neanderthals survived this turbulence, they were never able to build up their numbers. (Across all of Eurasia, at any point in history, says John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “there probably weren’t enough of them to fill an N.F.L. stadium.”) With the demographics so skewed, Stringer went on, even the slightest modern human advantage would be amplified tremendously: a single innovation, something like sewing needles, might protect just enough babies from the elements to lower the infant mortality rate and allow modern humans to conclusively overtake the Neanderthals. And yet Stringer is careful not to conflate innovation with superior intelligence. Innovation, too, can be a function of population size. “We live in an age where information, where good ideas, spread like wildfire, and we build on them,” Stringer told me. “But it wasn’t like that 50,000 years ago.” The more members your species has, the more likely one member will stumble on a useful new technology — and that, once stumbled upon, the innovation will spread; you need sufficient human tinder for those sparks of culture to catch.

I picked that paragraph because it reminds me of Robert Zubrin’s argument about the need for population growth as a prerequisite in developing a starship.

To achieve a 200-times increase over today’s GDP, we will need a population of 54 billion. We will need energy of 2500 terawatts by the year 2200.

Pounding away at the opposite conclusions reached in Paul Ehrlich’s famous book The Population Bomb, Zubrin said, “If humans destroyed more than they made, the earth would be barren already. The real resource is human creativity.” Every mouth comes with a pair of hands and a brain. If we accept Malthusian advice, and act to reduce the world’s population, we will impoverish the future by denying it the contributions the missing people could have made.

(3) THE AI TROPE. Ann Leckie’s “Vericon 2016 GoH Speech” overflows with interesting ideas, just like her fiction.

The very first robot story–the first ever use of the word “robot” in fact–is a robot uprising story. But when Karel ?apek wrote RUR he wasn’t worried about artificial intelligence. The robots of his story aren’t mechanical, they’re made of some sort of synthetic biological material. And the word “robot” which ?apek famously coined, comes from a Czech word for “slave.” It’s a story about the revolt of people made on an assembly line (the first actual assembly line had debuted just ten years earlier). It’s a story about the rebellion of people who were built to be the cheapest, most efficient workers possible, workers you didn’t have to pay, or feed anything in particular, or take any notice or care of. In other words, slaves. And ?apek ‘s story hit a nerve. It didn’t just give us the word for robot, it is the ultimate model for nearly all the robot uprising stories since. So that model–robots as slaves, with all the assumed dangers attendant on enslaving people who outnumber you–is the model we’re using when we think about super smart machines. This has not been lost on any number of science fiction writers, who have used robot and AI stories to comment explicitly on oppression and racism. But just personally–well, I won’t go into my problems with the whole “slaves in my allegory are machines and the masters are human beings” bit, though that’s kind of icky when you think about it, but on top of that I think it’s a dangerous model to use as a basis for actual, serious real world predictions about artificial intelligence.

(4) AUSSIE FANHISTORY. Now available at eFanzines.com, issues of iOTA, a fanzine with news of Leigh Edmonds’ Australian fandom history project.

Here are a pair of excerpts from iOTA #2:

  • The purpose of this little efanzine is to serve as a progress report on my current history project which is to research and write a history of Australian fandom, focusing on the period between 1956 and 1975. It is also a place where I can publish little bits and pieces of the writing and art of Australia’s fan past to help introduce you to the rich vein of material that previous generations of fans have left us.
  • Fanzine Review what you missed in 1939. Our friend Robin Johnson turns up with the most interesting things at times.  Usually it is old airline timetables – and we share an interest it air transport so we can find hours of harmless interest and amusement in airline timetables – but not on this occasion. This time it was a little fanzines with a pink cover produced in the old fashioned way using carbon paper.  (If you are not aware of this form of reproduction, I’m thinking about writing a little series called something like ‘Reproductive Pleasures’ in some future issues.  Some people have never heard of carbon paper, which means that they are young and happy folk.) This little pink and carbon paper produced fanzine is Ultra 1, produced by Eric Russell in Sydney, bearing the date October 1939.  It is probably the fourth fanzine title to be published in Australia after John Devern’s single issue of Science Fiction Review published in February 1939, Australian Fan News, a single issue of which was published by William Veney, Bert Castellari and Eric Russell in May 1939 and three issues of the JSC Bulletin (Junior Science Club) published by Vol Molesworth and Ken Jeffreys in June 1939.  (Thanks to Chris Nelson for his extensive research in this area.)  Of these early titles Ultra was among the early successful Sydney fanzines, seeing fourteen issues published between October 1939 and December 1941 when the commencement of the Pacific War brought an end to most of this kind of frivolity in Australia.

(5) GERONIMO! Neil Clarke has quit his day job and gone into editing full-time.

I’m quite excited—and a little terrified—by the prospect of taking the leap. There are a bunch of uncertainties, like healthcare costs and filling the income gap between Lisa’s new job and my old one, but we’re close enough to give this career switch a try. As some of you know, this has been a major goal of mine since my heart attack four years ago. At age fifty, and after ten years working part-time, I’m finally going to be a full-time editor!

Naturally, my first priority has to be those uncertainties I mentioned: income gap and insurance. As I see it, I have a few things to target:

  1. I’ve altered the Clarkesworld Patreon goals to include direct salary and healthcare expenses. Would be nice if it was that simple, but I figure it’s worth putting out there….

(6) HOW TO MAKE IT TO THE FINISH LINE.  The New York Times tells “Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books”. Some of these titles are of genre interest.

Even books initially picked up as escape reading like the Hugo Award-winning apocalyptic sci-fi epic “The Three-Body Problem” by the Chinese writer Liu Cixin, he said, could unexpectedly put things in perspective: “The scope of it was immense. So that was fun to read, partly because my day-to-day problems with Congress seem fairly petty — not something to worry about. Aliens are about to invade!”

…To this day, reading has remained an essential part of his daily life. He recently gave his daughter Malia a Kindle filled with books he wanted to share with her (including “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” “The Golden Notebook” and “The Woman Warrior”). And most every night in the White House, he would read for an hour or so late at night — reading that was deep and ecumenical, ranging from contemporary literary fiction (the last novel he read was Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad”) to classic novels to groundbreaking works of nonfiction like Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” and Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Sixth Extinction.”…

(7) CERNAN OBIT. “Gene Cernan, last man to walk on Moon, dies aged 82” reports the BBC.

Captain Cernan was one of only three people to go to the Moon twice and the last man to leave a footprint on the lunar surface in 1972.

The final words he spoke there were: “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return with peace and hope for all mankind.”

He was the commander of the Apollo 17 mission at the time.

Twelve people have walked on the Moon, and only six of them are still alive today

(8) THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Neil Armstrong, recalling how it felt to look back at Earth from the surface of the moon: “I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 16, 1948 – John Carpenter.

(10) QUOTABLE QUOTE: “In England, I’m a horror movie director. In Germany, I’m a filmmaker. In the US, I’m a bum.” – John Carpenter.

(11) BRANDON EASTON INTERVIEW. From Motherboard, “How Diversity Writing Programs Can Help Sci-Fi Live Up to Its Ideals”.

Motherboard: What do you think is really the problem that people aren’t talking about?

Brandon Easton: A lot of the reason why white writers who are entry level aren’t getting work has nothing to do with diversity programs. It’s because showrunners are hiring their buddies who are also EP’s [executive producers] and co-producer level who have these immense salaries that eat up the budget, so that they can’t hire anybody underneath a story editor level. This is what’s going on. Everyone knows this, yet still you have all these disgruntled writers scapegoating diversity programs instead of talking about the real issue at hand, which is nepotism. If you look at how many people graduate from these programs every year that number is so fucking low, it doesn’t even register as a percentage.

Motherboard: Science fiction has a long history of being open-minded about multiculturalism. Some argue that it’s the most open-minded of the genres. Do you think that’s true?

Brandon Easton: Science fiction as a literary genre, in theory, has open-minded concepts. And the fact is that historically, black writers have not been allowed in because for a while the editors, the people who controlled it, the publishing industry itself, even if someone had a great story – once racial politics were revealed, those people didn’t get to work. Now, if you’re talking about TV and film, there has been some really cool stuff that has progressive undercurrents thematically, but, when it comes to hiring practices we still revert back to straight white men as writers and creators of science fiction. Again, I do believe science fiction in its content itself can be extremely progressive and extremely life affirming, but we’re talking about the content versus the content creators. And I think that’s the issue.

Motherboard: I still think science fiction is special versus the other genres. Not only historically in terms of casting, but because when I read the genre, I don’t care what the race of the writer is. I just want to be blown away. Show me a new way of thinking.

Brandon Easton: I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. What I’m saying is that it helps when people get the opportunity. That’s where the problem is. If you want to be really serious about it, the only genre that’s really helped black people more than anything else has been comedy. Historically, I’m going back to the early 1900s, comedy was the only place where black writers could get a chance to write. Several generations of mainstream black stars came out of comedy: Will Smith, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Jamie Fox, Bill Cosby, Chris Tucker, Eddie Murphy, Steve Harvey, Tyler Perry, Wanda Sykes, Whoopi Goldberg and so many others. Comedy is where African Americans have had a shot, as opposed to science fiction, particularly television, has almost been completely closed to black writers.

(12) PRIZEWORTHY. Jonathan Edelstein’s picks in short fiction – “Another year of awards” at Haibane.

I’ll start with novelettes rather than short stories, because that way I can start with my favorite story of 2016: Polyglossia by Tamara Vardomskaya (GigaNotoSaurus, March 2016). GigaNotoSaurus doesn’t usually get much attention from reviewers and critics, but this is a rich, multi-layered story that is well deserving of an award.

Polyglossia is a story of linguistics, cultural survival, family and resistance to oppression – not necessarily in that order – set in a low-magic fantasy world that suggests the early twentieth century. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of good world-building, and the world of this story is intricately detailed and plausible; more than that, the world-building is integrated into the plot and informs the characters’ actions such that no detail is wasted. The linguistics are also tightly integrated into the plot – the author is a Ph.D. candidate in linguistics with an interest in the philosophy of language, and it shows – and the politics of language and cultural preservation come to play a key part in its resolution. At the same time, the story calls into question what we call family, what duties we owe to our ancestors, and how to balance those duties against the exigencies of politics. Polyglossia is rewarding on several levels – thus far, I’ve never failed to get something new out of it with each rereading – and if I had to pick one story that defined speculative fiction for me in 2016, it would be this one.

(13) STEALING A MARCH. Dan Wolfgang very carefully avoids stepping on Sarah A. Hoyt’s Sad Puppies turf while offering slates for the Dragon Awards and Hugo Awards in “A Very Special Message About Pooka Related Sadness”.

Sad_Pookas--678x381

The post is labeled “satire,” but here are typical examples of the names and works populating the slates:

Best Editor, Long Form

Best Semiprozine

Best Fanzine

(14) ROCKET RESOURCE. Greg Hullender sends word that Rocket Stack Rank has posted its page to help people pick artists for the 2017 Best Professional Artist Hugo.

We’ve added some features to make this easier to use, based on our own use (we’ve both already used it ourselves to make our own nominations) but we’ve realized that Eric and I use it very differently, so we’d welcome feedback from others. As with much else involving awards, there’s no one “right” way, so it’s good to support a number of different ways.

Eric is the artistic one (he can actually draw), so he wants to see several pieces by the same artist and makes judgments on that artist’s style overall. When he sees things he likes, he wants to visit that artist’s site, look at their gallery—even read interviews with the artist.

I don’t know art, but I know what I like. I want to quickly flip through all the pictures, extract the ones that I like, and then winnow down the list. (“Extract” means “Press ctrl-click on the author’s name at the top of the lightbox.” That opens a new tab, with that author’s work at the top of it.)

So this year the list contains eligible pictures as well as some that aren’t eligible (either they’re from last year or else they’re from semiprozines). The award is for an artist, not a particular work, after all, and this provides a bit more context on many of the artists. No one is listed who doesn’t have at least one eligible work, though, and those are highlighted.

Since the usual way to use the list is by opening the lightbox and then flipping through the pictures, we inserted an image of the Hugo rocket to separate artists. Eric found that useful, but I discovered that I paid almost no attention to which artist was which until after I’d selected about fifteen pictures I liked.

Winnowing the list wasn’t that hard (for me—Eric’s process was more sophisticated). I looked at all fifteen just at the thumbnail scale, and dropped three or four that I decided weren’t really as good. I dropped a few more because they really only had one picture I’d liked and the rest looked different. (In one case, I went to the artist’s home page to confirm that other pics in his/her gallery really did look like the single picture I was using to judge.) When I had six, I eliminated one because I didn’t like any of that artist’s pictures that were actually qualified for 2016. (So much for the idea that it’s about the artist, not the art.)

To fill out the Hugo Ballot, I copy/paste the author’s name from the web site and for the example of that author’s work, I use a link to that artist’s place on the main Professional Artists’ page. For example, http://www.rocketstackrank.com/2017/01/2017-professional-artists.html#JulieDillon points to Julie Dillon’s work on our page. (It’s what you get when you click on her name in the lightbox.)

We’d love to know how well this works for other filers and what we might do to make it better.

(15) HIDDEN HISTORY. Lauren Sarner, in “Tim Powers Loves Conspiracies” at Inverse, interviews the author of The Anubis Gates, Last Call and Declare about hanging out with Philip K. Dick and the allure of conspiracy.

What was Philip K. Dick like?

Since his death, there has arisen a kind of caricature of him. If you just read casually, you’d get the impression that he was this drug addled, crazy visionary who imagined God spoke to him. Actually he was a very sociable, funny, realistic, generous, gregarious friend. Not at all the William Blake crazy mystique the general impression has become. If you read his last few books, like VALIS and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, you can see that this was a rational, skeptical, humorous person. But it always does annoy me when people say, ‘Didn’t he like live in a cave and wander up and down the street talking to himself?’

(16) YOU CAN TELL A BOOK (COVER) BY ITS COVER. JJ sent this link — “The Cover of Each Max Gladstone Book Has Predicted the Cover of the Next One” from Tor.com — with a recommendation:

Okay, this is not new, but it is too fucking funny (you have to read all the way to the end for the final cover).

I say it lives up to the hype…

(17) RESURRECTED TALENT. IMDB shows some pretty hefty credits for Citizen Vader (2014):

A lonely widower stalks his deserted mansion, gloomily contemplating ending his own life. His last word may hold the key to what has sent him down this dark path.

 

Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)

Aidan Duffy
George Lucas (characters)
Orson Welles (characters)

Music Department

Bernard Herrmann original score music
John Williams original score music

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Hampus Eckerman, Aziz H.Poonawalla, Cat Rambo, Andrew Porter, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]