Pixel Scroll 7/14/17 In The Country Of The Pixelated, The First-Fifth Man Is God(stalk)

(1) GAME OF THRONES AND WORLDCON 75 MAKE NEWS. George R.R. Martin mentioned in his blog the other day (“Tick, Tick, Tick”) that Game of Thrones’ David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are coming to Worldcon 75 in Helsinki for the Hugo Awards ceremony.

Chair Jukka Halme confirmed it and the story made it into Finland’s biggest newspaper (Helsingin Sanomat). You can get all the details there…if you read Finnish: “Game of Thrones -sarjan tekijät tulevat vierailulle Suomeen elokuuss”.

(2) TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN. The July 2 New York Times Magazine has an article by Steven Johnson called “Greetings, E.T. (Please Don’t Murder Us)” about the search for extraterrestrial life and the debate about whether we should wait for aliens to contact us (the “SETI” approach) or actively send messages to outer space (a method known as “METI”).  Johnson interviews David Brin, who is fiercely opposed to actively broadcasting messages of our existence to other worlds:

Before Doug Vakoch had even filed the papers to form the METI nonprofit organization in July 2015, a dozen or so science-and-tech luminaries, including SpaceX’s Elon Musk, signed a statement categorically opposing the project, at least without extensive further discussion, on a planetary scale. ‘‘Intentionally signaling other civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy,’’ the statement argued, ‘‘raises concerns from all the people of Earth, about both the message and the consequences of contact. A worldwide scientific, political and humanitarian discussion must occur before any message is sent.’’

One signatory to that statement was the astronomer and science-fiction author David Brin, who has been carrying on a spirited but collegial series of debates with Vakoch over the wisdom of his project. ‘‘I just don’t think anybody should give our children a fait accompli based on blithe assumptions and assertions that have been untested and not subjected to critical peer review,’’ he told me over a Skype call from his home office in Southern California. ‘‘If you are going to do something that is going to change some of the fundamental observable parameters of our solar system, then how about an environmental-impact statement?’’

(3) KAISER. JoAnn Kaiser reopened The Magic Door within a week of the death of her husband, Dwain, reports David Allen in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin “Pomona bookstore’s reopening binds community after owner’s death”.

But Saturday she was revived, buoyed by her family and friends. A 12th anniversary sale that had been set to end July 5 instead continues, with all merchandise 30 percent off. The sale pricing may continue indefinitely.

Her goal is not to keep the store long-term. For one thing, she’s 82. But she wasn’t going to let the tragedy mark the end of Magic Door.

“I could have locked the door. I’m not a door-locker,” JoAnn Kaiser told me firmly. “The plan is to get the books he loved to the people who want them, who need them. He didn’t want his books dumped. He wanted them to go to somebody.”

…The bookstore fit the Arts Colony like a glove. “It was just part of the ambience of downtown Pomona,” customer Bill Martinez told me outside after buying two books. (I recognized “The Best of S.J. Perelman” as one I had sold Dwain Kaiser a few weeks ago.)

“Everybody knew them,” Martinez said of the Kaisers. “They were part of the community, and one of the best parts.”

Mayor Tim Sandoval has visited to offer his condolences and at Monday’s City Council meeting asked for a moment of silence in Dwain Kaiser’s memory.

…Not every customer knew of Dwain Kaiser’s death. Monica Berrocal was saddened when I told her. She liked to bring her children there. Once JoAnn Kaiser gave her son a Thomas the Tank Engine book. “They were always so kind,” she said.

Hino, a Pomona High graduate, greeted customers warmly from Dwain Kaiser’s usual seat and thanked them for coming. A hospital executive, he confided that this was his first retail job. He’ll be there helping out as he can, as will his sister, Kim.

“It’s very different from what I normally do,” Hino told me cheerfully. “I’m enjoying it. It’s nice. And it’s good being back in Pomona.”

…“Pomona’s resilient. I think tonight shows the best of Pomona,” JoAnn Kaiser said.

The store has a lot of books, and there are more in storage that Dwain Kaiser, due to age and mobility issues, had not seen in years. JoAnn Kaiser, with help, hopes to dig them all out, put them on the shelves and get them homes before shutting the doors for good.

“He had a mad love affair with books,” she said of her husband of 32 years.

“The support will fade. I know that. But I’m doing what he would have wanted.”

(4) BEAU GESTE. Deadpool gracefully yielded his place on the box office record lists to Wonder Woman:

(5) FOLLOW THE MONEY. What does John Scalzi have in common with Milo Yiannapoulos? Probably not much, except this one thing – Bookscan doesn’t count all their sales. Scalzi explains in “How to Screw Up a Triumphant Bestselling Debut”.

Here’s the deal: Yiannopoulos has asserted his book’s opening week sales were on the order of 100,000 copies. Contrasting this, Nielsen Bookscan, the service which tracks physical book sales via many (but not all) booksellers, including Amazon, has his first week sales as 18,268 in the US (and — heh — 152 in the UK). As most of us probably know, 18,000 is less than 100,000.

Or is it? Because here’s the thing about Bookscan — it doesn’t in fact track all sales of a book. It doesn’t track eBook sales, for example, nor does it track audiobook sales. Nor does it track sales from some small independent booksellers, who might have not signed up to be Bookscan-reporting retailers. As a result, depending on how much you sell in other formats, and where you sell your books, Bookscan can massively underreport your total sales.

I know this because that’s what Bookscan does with me. A couple of years ago I tracked the sales of the hardcover era of Lock In (which is to say, all the sales reported while the physical book was only available in hardcover). For the time it was in hardcover, Bookscan reported 11,175 hardcover sales in the US. However, overall the book sold about 22,500 copies in hardcover and about 87,500 copies across all formats (hardcover, ebook, audio).

In all, Bookscan recorded roughly 12.7% of my total sales. Which is not a lot! If Yiannopoulos were seeing a similar sort of ratio, based on his physical copy sales, he could indeed have sold something on the order of 100,000 copies of his book in the first week. He might not be lying.

With all that said, on further examination, this is why I very strongly suspect that Yiannopoulos has not, in fact, sold, 100,000 copies of his book in the first week…

(6) WE GET LETTERS. CBR.com tells you about “15 Times Fans Changed Comic Book History”.

15. INVISIBLE WOMAN’S POWERS

Other comics had certainly had an element of fan interaction in them before Marvel Comics, but Stan Lee took things to a whole other level when he began the “Marvel Age of Comics” in the early 1960s. Lee made fan interaction a key element of the success of Marvel. In Fantastic Four #11, Lee and Jack Kirby even worked in actual letters to the series into the comic book, having the characters respond to frequently asked questions.

Infamously, though, that issue also included their attempts to defend the Invisible Girl from all the hate mail she got for being seemingly useless (their “defense” was hilariously conceived – “She inspires them! Like Lincoln’s mother!” but still). They got enough of those complaints that they decided to give her invisible force fields in Fantastic Four #22, eventually leading to her becoming the most powerful member of the team!

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 14, 1999 Muppets From Space screened theatrically

(8) A KEY TO WRITING. Fantasy-Faction’s Aaron Miles gives tips: “On Character Development”.

An understanding of character development techniques can bring many benefits to your writing and help improve your work, so let’s start by establishing what it is. In essence character development is the change in nature of a character brought about by events in the narrative, it can be subtle or pronounced, and it may happen over a long period or reasonably quickly. The difficult part is actually showing it on the page, and just as importantly, showing it’s justified. For a character to change their whole nature for no apparent cause or just because the plot requires it is sloppy writing and obvious to the reader. While the methods and timeframe may very per character, a well-constructed piece of character development will follow a set formula.

Establishment

In order to show change an author must first establish an original nature to change from. When the author introduces the character they must detail their personality, opinions and mannerisms in order to make us view them as a believable and realistic person, particular focus should be given to any traits that might be relevant to later development.

For example, if you’re planning to have a cowardly character show a moment of bravery and save the day at the end of the novel, then you need at least a couple of scenes showing his cowardice in action. It could be crumbling in an argument with a shopkeeper, avoiding a hostile boss, or literally running away from a fight. Before the development even begins the author must cement a character’s nature quickly in the reader’s mind, this can be done with a variety of traditional characterisation methods and tricks and ideally is accomplished as quickly as possible. Without this establishment there is no baseline to measure development against and the change will lack meaning. Think about our introduction to Daenerys in A Game of Thrones as she is appraised and abused by her brother:

“You don’t want to wake the dragon do you?” His fingers twisted her, the pinch cruelly hard through the rough fabric of her tunic. “Do you?” he repeated.

“No,” Dany said meekly.

Without seeing the timid girl she was at the start of the story her later accomplishments and changes would be far less moving for the reader, but after Martin has shown us some early scenes of her life the reader gains a greater perspective to realise how pronounced her development is through several books.

(9) ECLIPSE VIEWING AND ECLIPSE CON. Hopkinsville, Kentucky is reputed to be the “point of greatest eclipse” for the 2017 Solar Eclipse. Just call them Eclipseville.

We’re already planning for your visit; our southern hospitality will make you and your group welcome, and your Solar Eclipse experience memorable.  So, whether you are a bona fide eclipse chaser, or just looking for the best place to experience Mother Nature’s rare eclipse show, we invite you to be with us in Hoptown.  Our community’s big enough to provide everything you’ll need and want for the 2017 Eclipse weekend experience… we’re planning a big Friday-Sunday Eclipse celebration before the sun disappears – for two minutes and forty seconds – at 1:24:41 pm CT on Monday, August 21, 2017.

And that’s where you’ll find Eclipse Con “raising awareness and funds for the Boys & Girls Club” with nationally recognized celebrities and vendors in the genres of cartoons, comics, anime, cosplay, sci-fi and superheroes

August 19-20, 2017

James E. Bruce Convention Center

Currently Confirmed Guests:

  • Samantha Newark, best known for her beloved voice-over work as the speaking voices of “Jem” and “Jerrica” on the wildly popular cartoon series Jem and the Holograms;
  • The Walking Dead’s Santiago Cirilo, who was also a member of the 101st Airborne Infantry and was stationed at Fort Campbell prior to his acting career;
  • and the award winning creator of sci-pulp series, VIC BOONE, Shawn Aldridge.

(10) IT’S DARK OUT. Mental Floss explains “How Eclipse Chasers Are Putting a Small Kentucky Town on the Map”.

Today, James McClean is an eclipse chaser. That’s not the name of some cute weekend hobby. It’s a lifestyle. For the past two decades, McClean, a professional photographer, has given up everything resembling a normal life. He has no permanent home base, opting instead to trot the globe, work odd jobs, and live on tight budgets to see solar eclipses.

Every. Single. One.

McClean has made a living as a cartographer and an aurora borealis tour guide. He’s lived on an island near Sitka, Alaska and taught photography. (When he needed Internet, he’d kayak an hour and a half to the nearest library.) He’s spent summers in Germany doing archaeology and winters in Sweden constructing, and living in, a hotel made of ice. He’s slept in bamboo huts on top of volcanic islands, backpacked through Egypt, and trudged the snows of Svalbard, Norway. One time, in Indonesia, he was invited to sip coffee in a sultan’s palace.

(11) BERNECKER OBIT. The Walking Dead suffered another loss today when stuntman John Bernecker,  seriously injured in a stunt (he reportedly missed the landing mattress while doing a 20-ft. fall), was declared brain-dead. There are many tweets with condolences from industry professionals included in the linked article.

(12) OUT, OUT DARNED SPOT. Nautilus interviews UC Berkeley’s Philip Marcus, a computational physicist and a professor in the mechanical engineering department, about “Why Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Refuses to Die”. Turns out there’s quite a bit of work been done on this.

Why did it start on Jupiter and not somewhere else?

Here on Earth, if you fly over the ocean, you can almost certainly tell when there’s an island below you because there’s a cloud hanging on top—topographic features often pin clouds to themselves. But there’s no solid surface on Jupiter until you get down to a very small core. It’s basically a ball of fluid. You don’t have differential heating between continents and oceans. You don’t have winds interrupted by mountain ranges. You don’t have all that messy stuff, so it’s got a really well organized set of jet streams on it. Once you’ve got jet streams, vortices just form naturally. You’ve got winds going in opposite directions, shearing against one another. Think of a ball bearing between two oppositely moving walls. The walls make the ball bearing spin, and the oppositely moving jet streams on Jupiter make the air between them spin. Vortices between jet streams are resistant to anything smashing into them. If I create a vortex in a bathtub and I smash it, the vortex is generally gone. If I do a simulation of a big Red Spot on Jupiter sitting between zonal winds and I smack it, try and break it in two, it’ll come back together. So I think of jet streams as gardens in which you want to grow vortices.

(13) DO PANIC. Two Travelers from Galactic Journey praise a low-budget Roger Corman production. You know, somebody should make Roger a Worldcon guest of honor someday — “[July 14, 1962] Cause for Alarm (Panic in Year Zero – a surprise summer hit film!)”.

The latest example is a tiny-budgeted film by schlockhouse American Independent Pictures, Panic in Year Zero.  The Young Traveler and I saw Panic at opening night, July 5.  There was a big promotional event headlined by Frankie Avalon, and I understand the picture made back its budget in just the evening L.A. showings!  The film has already generated some positive buzz, and I suspect it’ll be the surprise hit of the summer.

Produced by the master of the independents, Roger Corman, Panic opens with a literal bang: a typical Angelino family out on a drive toward a camping vacation sees a bright flash as their home town of Los Angeles is wiped out by Soviet bombs.  It soon becomes clear that the attack is widespread and civilization is about to deteriorate.  Our viewpoint family must brave its way to safety, securing adequate supplies and a defensible shelter, before the walls of society collapse.

(14) FORK YOU. The January 30 New Yorker article by Raffi Khatchadourian, “The Movie with a Thousand Plotlines”, is about efforts in Hollywood to create films that have alternate endings that viewers can choose among. The article focuses on efforts by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, who directed Swiss Army Man, to come up with films that fit this template.  The sf news is that both War Games and The Twilight Zone have had rights sold for interactive television series that are under development.

Treehouse is an intuitive program for a nonintuitive, nonlinear form of storytelling, and Bloch is adept at demonstrating it. In his office, he called up a series of video clips featuring the model Dree Hemingway sitting at a table. Below the clips, in a digital workspace resembling graph paper, he built a flowchart to map the forking narrative—how her story might divide into strands that branch outward, or loop backward, or converge. At first, the flowchart looked like a “Y” turned on its side: a story with just one node. “When you start, it is always ‘To be, or not to be,’ ” he said. The choice here was whether Hemingway would serve herself coffee or tea. Bloch dragged and dropped video clips into the flowchart, then placed buttons for tea and coffee into the frame, and set the amount of time the system would allow viewers to decide. In less than a minute, he was previewing a tiny film: over a soundtrack of music fit for a Philippe Starck lobby, Hemingway smiled and poured the beverage Bloch had selected. He then returned to the graph paper and added a blizzard of hypothetical options: “You can decide that here it will branch again, here it goes into a loop until it knows what to do, and here it becomes a switching node where five things can happen at the same time—and so on.”

As Bloch was getting his company off the ground, a small race was under way among like-minded startups looking for financial backing. In Switzerland, a company called CtrlMovie had developed technology similar to Interlude’s, and was seeking money for a feature-length thriller….

The article also discusses Mr. Payback, a 1995 interactive film about a cyborg – script by Bob Gale! – that was panned by Roger Ebert.

Early experiments in interactive film were likewise marred by shtick. In 1995, a company called Interfilm collaborated with Sony to produce “Mr. Payback,” based on a script by Bob Gale, who had worked on the “Back to the Future” trilogy. In the movie, a cyborg meted out punishment to baddies while the audience, voting with handheld controllers, chose the act of revenge. The film was released in forty-four theatres. Critics hated it. “The basic problem I had with the choices on the screen with ‘Mr. Payback’ is that they didn’t have one called ‘None of the above,’ ” Roger Ebert said, declaring the movie the worst of the year. “We don’t want to interact with a movie. We want it to act on us. That’s why we go, so we can lose ourselves in the experience.”

(16) IN MOLT. Joe Sherry has reached the artist categories on his Hugo ballot: “Watching the Hugos: Professional and Fan Artist” at Nerds of a Feather. Too bad it includes a slam against Steve Stiles, one of the greatest fan artists of all time.

(17) PINCH HITTER. Tor.com’s Emily Asher-Perrin discovered something at the movies: “Star Trek IV Now Exists in the Same Universe As All Marvel Films Thanks to a Special Cameo”.

When nerds make movies, beautiful things can happen. In this case, the fact that MCU producer Kevin Feige happens to be a big fan of Star Trek IV led to a cameo that now places a character from The Voyage Home into Spider-Man: Homecoming.

I won’t spoiler her spoiler – you’ll have to click through.

(18) UNEXPECTED CASTING. The Big Bang Theory’s Melissa Rauch will voice Harley Quinn in the upcoming Bruce Timm animated film Batman And Harley.

CinemaBlend is all in favor:

As far as casting decisions go, Melissa Rauch is a fairly pitch perfect choice for the role of Harley Quinn. Not only does she have a high-pitched voice that’s very reminiscent of Arleen Sorkin and Tara Strong; she also has developed a reputation as an actress through her work in a show predicated on the passion and intensity of geek culture. Something tells us that all of those years on The Big Bang Theory have given her an understanding of how fans will respond to her performance, thus ensuring that she will deliver the best possible Harley Quinn.

 

(19) POETRY CORNER. Johnstick joined the throngs who have been raining limericks in the File 770 comments section.

As prophets of eld have foretold,
and pixels of all hues have scrolled,
Death takes the clever
and redshirts forever,
plus all those whose glister’s not gold!

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

Pixel Scroll 1/15/17 We Have Always Been At Scroll With Arisia

Happy birthday CROP

(1) HAPPY NINTH BIRTHDAY FILE 770! January 15, 2008 is when I wrote my first post for File 770. That’s the day it all began, although you can find posts here with earlier dates imported from an old Blogspot site I never did much with, or are copies of posts written for Victor Gonzalez’s Trufen.net.

(2) INSTANT WINNER. Iphinome has scripted a line for the must-have confrontation scene in Star Wars IX:

Hello. My Name is Leia Organa. You killed my husband. Prepare to die.

(3) NAME ABOVE THE TITLE. Cameron gets first billing over sf in this series — “’James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction’ will debut on the cable network in 2018”.

AMC has ordered a new documentary series from James Cameron that will explore the evolution of sc-fi.

Tentatively titled James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction, the six-episode series will delve into sci-fi’s origins as a small genre with a cult following to the blockbuster pop-culture phenonmenon it is today. The show is slated to debut in 2018.

In each hourlong episode, the Avatar director will introduce one of the “big questions” that humankind has contemplated throughout the ages, and reach back into sci-fi’s past to better understand how our favorite films, TV shows, books, and video games were born, and where the genre — and our species — might be going in the future. Cameron and his contemporaries, who have helped to fuel sci-fi’s spectacular growth over the last several decades, also debate the merit, meaning and impact of the films and novels that influenced them.

(4) THE SEQUEL. Unless Hugh Jackman consents to a Deadpool/Wolverine team-up, here’s what’s on the drawing board — “’Deadpool 2’ Writers Talk Return of Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Colossus, Dopinder, and Arrival of Cable”

First, scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick chatted with Collider, confirming that when Reynolds’ anti-hero returns, Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, the two X-Men who joined him on his mission of revenge in last year’s $783 million-grossing hit, will be on screen again as well. The extent of their participation remains unknown (“They’ll make at least an appearance,” says Wernick), but clearly, the makers of the upcoming sequel — including new director David Leitch (John Wick) — are interested in maintaining some continuity between their new effort and its predecessor.

For further proof, Wernick then went on to tell Nerdist that Deadpool will also once again pal around with Karan Soni’s Dopinder, the cab driver who bonded with — and heeded the advice of — the Marvel assassin in the original film. As the writer said, “I would say that the relationship between Dopinder and Deadpool was the most fun for me. I love that relationship and I love that character. And he’ll be in the sequel.”

(5) LUPIEN OBIT. SF Site News reports that Montreal fan Leslie Lupien (1921-2016) died on October 25.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 15, 1831 — Victor Hugo finishes writing Notre Dame de Paris, also known as The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 15, 1935 — Robert Silverberg

(8) DIVERGENT AUTHOR. There is a profile of Veronica Roth by M.B. Roberts in the January 15 Parade Magazine, as part of a regular feature on how celebrities spend their Sundays.  We learn that Roth wears pajamas most days unless she is going out to exercise, how her favorite breakfast is Kashi Oat Flakes and Blueberry Clusters,and even her favorite wine (Petilant-naturel).  The profile is tied to the publication of the first book of Roth’s new series, Carve the Mark, and is unusual because it’s the first profile of a novelist in this feature, which usually interviews actors or musicians.

(9) INSIDE BASEBALL. I wrote to the person who sent me yesterday’s item about Jonathan McCalmont refusing award nominations —

I’ll use this, though it will violate the unspoken I’ll-ignore-you-if-you-ignore-me truce I have enjoyed since we moved past the whole platforming fascists thing.

McCalmont making this kind of announcement is news, after all.

McCalmont may or may not have been responding in this tweet.

There are, after all, hundreds of sf blogs in America. However, our mutual friend Mondyboy is sure he could only be talking about mine —

— because peace would be too long….

(10) READING ASSISTANCE. Greg Hullender says Rocket Stack Rank’s information for the three short fiction Hugo categories is up, as is the info for the Campbell Award.

The professional artist page will be available on January 16.

The best editor (short form) page will be available on January 23.

Hullender adds, “We decided not to try to do Best Fan Artist this year because the field is just too vast to have any hope of doing it right.”

Help Making Short-Fiction Nominations

If you’re still looking for things to read

You can find information on this page for:

The stories in each of these lists are grouped by a “recommendation score” from six prolific short-fiction reviewers, and each entry includes links to reviews.

(11) TINGLE TIME. This weekend at Arisia Pablo Vazquez and Mark Oshiro were part of a panel about Chuck Tingle. Vazquez invited the good doctor to send a statement for them to read.

The text is posted on Pablo M.A. Vazquez’s blog: Dr. Chuck Tingle’s 2017 State of the Buck Address.

The following is Dr. Chuck Tingle’s (World’s Greatest Author) State of the Buck Address, delivered by yours truly on his behalf at Arisia 2017. Enjoy the wisdom and thanks to the eternal Dr. Chuck Tingle, constantly helping us find ourselves as bucks. It is unedited, presented in its original true buckaroo purity.

here is important statement: hello this is DR CHUCK TINGLE writing to you from billings thanks to online bud name of pablo and online bud name of mark! tonight is a good way son jon and clowy are watching a BIG TIME MOVE in the living room name of MATTS DAMON TAKES LAS VEGAS it is very loud and handsome matt just punched a scoundrel. i have had three chocolate milks jon thinks i have had 1. so that is my night how is yours buckaroos? …

(12) FIRST TRUMP. I’m guessing this isn’t going to be a hagiography: “Roger Corman Revs Up ‘Death Race 2050’; ‘We Have the First Picture to Portray Donald Trump as the President of the United States”.

Prior to Death Race 2050, the Death Race franchise was revived as a 2008 feature by Paul W.S. Anderson followed by a series of direct-to-DVD spin-offs. What were your contributions to those versions?

My work as a producer on those was almost zero. They gave me the script to the first one, and the others, and asked for my notes on the first one, but other than that I had no actual function. But I know Paul Anderson and I know what he was doing [with Death Race]. He was going for a straight action picture, which was what the first draft of Death Race 2000 was as well. When I read it, I thought there was something missing, and that’s when I came up with the idea of the drivers’ killing of the pedestrians, as a way to integrate the public with the violent sport that they love. But you couldn’t take that too seriously, so that’s when I introduced the element of comedy. When I called Universal about [their plans for] Death Race, I told them that [satire] was really essential to the original idea. So they asked me if I would like to make one. I went back to the original idea and here we are.

(13) EARLY ARRIVAL. Fandango shows some alternatives to the aliens who made the screen — “’Arrival’ Concept Art Reveals Much Creepier Aliens”.

The final movie features contact with an alien species (partially pictured above) that is awe inspiring and yet comforting, albeit in a strange, unsettling kind of way. They’re enormous, but they’re gentle. They’re clearly capable of great things, but they constantly act with restraint. Their very presence is a perfect balance between shock and curiosity. Had the aliens looked a little different, however, that balance may have been thrown off quite a bit. And now thanks to some early, unused concept art from Peter Konig, we can imagine what could have been, and appreciate what ended up happening all the more.

Perhaps the most impactful difference between Konig’s proposed designs and the final version is the presence of eyes. Director Denis Villenueve wisely opted to go for a design that didn’t have eyes as a focal point, which helps defuse a lot of potential baggage by blocking up those pesky windows to the soul.

(14) STILL SPEAKING OF ARRIVAL. In “Emergency Dialect” in Real Life Magazine, Paco Salas Perez explains why Arrival is based on a surprisingly deep understanding of linguistics.

Linguists and computer scientists use a rubric known as the Chomsky hierarchy, first put forward by Noam Chomsky in 1956, which seeks to describe the major classes of formal grammars — the rules that define the possible sentences of a language. There are four types, ranked by computational power, with Type 3 being the simplest and smallest family of grammars, and Type 0 the most powerful. Any programmer is aware that some higher-level languages are more powerful than lower-level ones, but that lower-level languages are often easier to use for certain dedicated tasks that require verbose solutions in more powerful languages. The same is true for communication systems produced by evolution. Gestural systems like those found among primates are simple and highly effective: they’re based on individual signals, each associated with broad meanings like “food” or “danger,” but with no regular relations between signs, which are instead produced in an unordered and unstructured, “stream of consciousness” manner, even by primates who have been taught to sign by humans. Human language, and only human language, exhibits properties from Types 1, 2, and 3.

Heptapod B doesn’t play by the rules we’re used to….

(15) THE B TEAM. Carl Slaughter confesses, “Spoof, parody, satire, I can never remember the difference.  Anyway, if you want to watch a spoof-parody-satire series of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’, try Interns of Field’ from Screen Junkies.  If Shield is the B team to Avengers, Field is the B team to S.H.I.E.L.D. – ‘Interns, assemble!’” This video was first posted a year ago —

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Harold Osler, Gregory N. Hullender, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

Pixel Scroll 12/30/16 Use File 770; It Softens Your Pixels While You Read The Books. You’re Scrolling In it!

(1) OUR NEIGHBOR. It’s official —

A team of astronomers composed of P. Kervella (CNRS / U. de Chile / Paris Observatory / LESIA), F. Thévenin (Lagrande Laboratory, Côte d’Azur Observatory, France) and Christophe Lovis (Observatory of the University of Geneva, Switzerland) has demonstrated that Proxima, the nearest star to the Sun, is gravitationally bound to its neighbors Alpha Centauri A and B. The nearest stellar system to the Earth is therefore a triple star. Proxima is known to host the nearest exoplanet, a telluric planet orbiting in its habitable zone. This discovery implies that the four objects (Alpha Cen A, B, Proxima and Proxima b) share the same age of ~6 billion years.

 

Paul Gilster discusses the discovery at Centauri Dreams.

Now as to that orbit — 550,000 years for a single revolution — things get interesting. One reason it has been important to firm up Proxima’s orbit is that while a bound star would have affected the development of the entire system, the question has until now been unresolved. Was Proxima Centauri actually bound to Centauri A and B, or could it simply be passing by, associated with A and B only by happenstance?

(2) THE REPRESSION INHERENT IN THE SYSTEM. YouTube’s Nostalgia Critic demands to know “Where’s the Fair Use”?

(3) PAYING TO VOLUNTEER. While it’s commonly expected at the conventions I’ve worked that volunteers will be members of the con, this is a new one on me – having to join a secondary group in order to volunteer. “Phoenix Comicon announces changes to volunteering; paid fan group membership required” reports An Engishman in San Diego.

Square Egg Entertainment, the organisation behind Phoenix Comicon, today announced a sizeable change to its practice of staffing – and pooling volunteers for – their three annual events:  Phoenix Comicon, Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest, and Keen Halloween. Square Egg will no longer be staffing these shows with hired hands, instead now filling those roles from the organising committee and paid membership of the Blue Ribbon Army (which originally started out as a fan group for PHXCC, and has subsequently become a social club with 501(c)(7) status).

Members of the Army have to be at least 18 years old and – here’s the kicker for a number of fiscally-minded volunteers – they also do have to become fully paid-up members of the fan group, with membership prices to join starting at $20 per year and going up to $100 per year. That’s right: you effectively have to now pay to become a Phoenix Comicon volunteer.

For what it’s worth, the Blue Ribbon Army leadership isn’t being compensated

Are your board members paid?

All Blue Ribbon Army board members are unpaid volunteers. All financial information, as required by law for a 501(c)7 organization, will be posted.

(4) BOTTOM OF THE GALACTIC BARREL. Love this article title — “15 Star Wars Characters Who Are Worthless At Their Jobs” from ScreenRant.

  1. Storm Troopers – Just Bad At Their Jobs

They just had to be here, as they’re cinematic legends when it comes to utterly failing at your job. Imperial Stormtroopers, as we’re told, are precise. The Empire has access to vast resources, so you’d think its military force would be well up to scratch. Stormtroopers even get a pretty good showing the first time we see them, managing to take over Princess Leia’s ship with only a few casualties. And then almost every time after that we see them, they’re getting destroyed like they put their helmets on backwards and their armor is made of tinfoil….

(5) BILLIONAIRE BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS. Three of the “10 Books Elon Musk – ‘Tesla Founder and Billionaire’ wants you to read” are SFF, beginning with –

1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Back when Elon Musk was a moody teen growing up in Pretoria, South Africa, he went looking for the meaning of life in the work of grumpy philosophers. It didn’t help. Then he came upon The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which taught him that the hardest part was to properly phrase the question but that once this was done the answer was easy. It changed his whole perspective.

(6) A CRACKED THEORY. Cracked brings all its scholarly powers to bear in “Snow White is a LOTR Sequel: A Mind-Blowing Theory”.  

Mortal man Beren and elf maiden Luthien Tinuviel (of the New Jersey Tinuviels) are forebears of the kings of Numenor and Gondor. Seeing as how the love story of Beren and Luthien echoes through the millennia in their great-great-many-times-great-grandchildren, it comes as no surprise that a similar fate awaits Aragorn and Arwen’s descendant, Snow White.

The family resemblance would only be uncannier if Steven Tyler cast her in inappropriately weird videos during her early teens.

At this point you may be thinking that we’re smoking too much of that pipe with Gandalf, but have you noticed Snow White’s rapport with the birds and beasts of the wild? The way they listen and respond to her?

Doesn’t this suggest a deep connection with nature, as someone with Elvish blood would have?

(7) COMING ATTRACTIONS. Plenty of genre flicks on Film School Rejects’ “The 52 Most Anticipated Movies of 2017”.

…[Our] 52 Most Anticipated Movies list is always a big hit because it operates under a simple premise: if you’re going to see one movie for every week of the new year (and you should), these are the ones on which we’d stake a claim. Because we spend a great deal of time thinking about upcoming movies and an even sadder amount of time researching them, we’re exactly the kind of people who are qualified to give out said advice. Qualified enough to say, with confidence, that these 52 movies are likely to be worth your time. They may not all turn out to be great, but they will be worth seeing and discussing throughout the year….

Beauty and the Beast (March 17)

Neil Miller: If we’re being honest?—?and we are at all times?—?Disney’s live-action parade of remakes is actually turning out to be a better idea in practice than it was on paper. Both Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella and Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book gave us an interesting take on their respective stories. Neither was the disaster that many, perhaps out of a dedication to an anti-remake stance, had predicted. This is what gives us further hope for Beauty and the Beast, the success of which will rest mostly on the shoulders of Disney’s live-action effects teams and Emma Watson, both of which have proven track records. Six weeks ago, Disney released a trailer that showed off both of these things in action. The Beast effects that cover up Dan Stevens’ handsome mug look good and Emma Watson looks right at home as Belle. We’re still not sure of those CGI housewear items with anamorphic features, but we’ll see how that pans out in the final product.

(8) DUFF VOLUNTEER. Paul Weimer has announced his candidacy for the Down Under Fan Fund.

(9) REMEMBERING RICHARD ADAMS. In 1843 Magazine, Miranda Johnson, an environment correspondent for The Economist, discusses her grandfather Richard Adams, including how Adams’s experiences fighting in Operation Market Garden in World War II informed the battles in Watership Down, how her family all became characters in her grandfather’s novels, and what happened when Adams had lunch with Groucho Marx.

He also never forgot friends he made during his service. One in particular, Paddy Kavanagh, stuck with him for his fearless defence of the Oosterbeek perimeter as part of Operation Market Garden during September 1944. Paddy gave his life so that my grandpa’s platoon could escape. So my grandfather brought him back in the character of Bigwig in “Watership Down”, who stands alone to defend a tunnel in the rabbits’ new warren. Originally in the story, Bigwig also died. But my mother and aunt protested so much that my grandpa changed the tale. “We said nobody must die,” my aunt recalls, “except for Hazel, because it seemed an important part given his old age.”

(10) HOLLYWOOD MEMORIAL. ULTRAGOTHA found the story and JJ tracked down a photo —

Carrie Fisher doesn’t have a Star on the Walk of Fame, so fans appropriated a blank one and are leaving tributes. Including two cinnamon buns.

(11) WWCD 2017. Redbubble is selling merchandise with the WWCD art and giving the money to charity —

100% of the proceeds will be donated to bipolar disorder through the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation: https://bbrfoundation.org/

what-would-carrie-do

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 30, 1816 — Percy Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft were married.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born December 30, 1980 — Eliza Dushku
  • Born December 30, 1982 — Kristin Kreuk.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 30, 1865 – Rudyard Kipling

(15) PRINTS IN THE FORECOURT. Filmmaker Roger Corman, a former Worldcon GoH, has been immortalized in concrete at a slightly less well-known theater than you usually think of when it comes to this sort of thing —

Roger Corman may not be a household name, but among movie fans he’s a cult hero.

In October, a tribute was held at the Vista Theatre to celebrate his 62-year career.

The legendary filmmaker was immortalized October 12th in the cement of the Vista’s forecourt with a handprint ceremony, alongside those of Dark Shadows star Jonathan Frid; James Bond girl Honor Blackman; special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen and Cassandra Peterson—also known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.

“I think it’s kind of fun that [my handprints] will be out there forever,” said Corman before burying his hands deep in a patch of cement on the edge of Sunset Drive.

(16) MARS. Charles E. Gannon was part of a Dragon Con panel reported in Space.com“Space Colonies Will Start Out Like the Wild West, Grow Family-Friendly”

Like in the Old West, the goal would be for the colony to become self-sustaining, the panel said. Once a colony could support itself, it would no longer need to rely on materials from Earth to survive. When asked if an organization on Earth could realistically hope to control what was happening on Mars, Davis said, “If they’re still getting their caloric intake from someplace else, yup, you can.” [Poll: Where Should Humanity Build Its First Space Colony?]

Gannon named the biggest challenge facing a colony that aimed to grow independent from the people back home: the supply of volatiles, particularly oxygen and water. The first explorers would need to find a way for colonists to harvest those on the new world, Gannon said.

“If you have to ship those to the colony, it will be both economically and physically dependent and probably never be profitable or really safe,” Gannon said.

Even if an underground colony relied on rocks to shield itself from deadly radiation, it would still need enough water for similar shielding during vehicular missions, he said, making ice harvesting crucial to the colony’s survival.

“There are plenty of other [challenges],” he said. “But this is the minimum ante for long-term self-supportability.”

(17) PLANET NINE FROM OUTER SPACE. NPR tells us “Astronomers Seeking Planet 9 Hope To Soon Catch A Glimpse”.

On the top of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea mountain Thursday, astronomers will point the large Subaru Telescope toward a patch of sky near the constellation of Orion, looking for an extremely faint object moving slowly through space.

If they find what they’re looking for, it will be one of the most important astronomical discoveries in more than a century: a new planet in our solar system.

Technically, a new planet hasn’t been discovered since Neptune was spotted in 1846. Pluto, discovered in 1930, was demoted to “dwarf planet” a decade ago. If a new planet is found, it will be the new Planet Nine.

(18) TRADING INSULTS. Huffington Post’s “Self-Publishing: An Insult To The Written Word”  by Laurie Gough, “Award-winning author of three memoirs…a journalist and travel writer”, begins —

As a published author, people often ask me why I don’t self-publish. “Surely you’d make more money if you got to keep most of the profits rather than the publisher,” they say.

I’d rather share a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump than self-publish.

The rest of the article carries on in the same condescending tone which so aggravated Larry Correia that he stormed back from a self-imposed internet vacation to write a reply, “Fisking the HuffPo’s Snooty Rant About Self-Publishing” for Monster Hunter Nation. (Gough’s article is quoted in italics. Correia’s replies are bold. Of course they are…)

The problem with self-publishing is that it requires zero gatekeepers.

Nope. The problem with self-publishing is that there are so many competitors that the challenge is to differentiate yourself from the herd. Sure, lots of them are crap (I can say the same thing for tradpub too), but if you find a way to market yourself and get your quality product in front of the right market, then you can make quite a bit of money.  

From what I’ve seen of it, self-publishing is an insult to the written word, the craft of writing, and the tradition of literature.

From what I’ve seen, I’d say the same thing about the Huffington Post.

As an editor, I’ve tackled trying to edit the very worst writing that people plan on self-publishing just because they can.

As an actual editor who gets paid for this stuff, that sentence reads like garbage.

I’m a horrible singer. But I like singing so let’s say I decide to take some singing lessons. A month later I go to my neighbor’s basement because he has recording equipment. I screech into his microphone and he cuts me a CD. I hire a designer to make a stylish CD cover. Voilà. I have a CD and am now just like all the other musicians with CDs.

Only you just described exactly how most real working bands got their start. Add a couple of kids with a guitar and drums, set up in your buddy’s garage, and start jamming. Eventually you will get good enough that you can book some local gigs, and if people like you, they will give you money for your stuff.

Except I’m not. Everyone knows I’m a tuneless clod but something about that CD validates me as a musician.

Nobody gives a crap about “validation”. Validation don’t pay the bills.

(19) MEDIA FAVES. It’s Aliette de Bodard’s turn to bestow Smugglivus year-end cheer at The Book Smugglers.

In media, the most striking thing I watched this year is actually from last year: it was the masterful Doctor Who episode “Heaven Sent”, a tour de force by Peter Capaldi that slowly starts making horrifying sense throughout its length (and that I actually paused and rewatched just to make sure it all hung together — it does and it’s even more impressive on a rewatch). I haven’t had time to consume things from this year: most of my watching has been old things, like Black  Orphan (I can’t believe it took me this long to find out about it, it’s so good, and Tatiana Maslany is just amazing playing all the clones), and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, period mysteries featuring the awesome Phryne Fisher (and her amazing wardrobe).

(20) CATCHING UP WITH CAMESTROS. Doctor Who was on Camestros Felapton’s telly on Christmas — “Review: The Return of Doctor Misterio – 2016 Dr Who Christmas Special”.

In the 2016 Christmas Special, Moffat lays out a gentle Richard Curtis-like romantic comedy but about superheroes and alien brain parasites. No puzzles and an evil invasion plot from the bad guys that echoed both Watchmen and the Aliens of London episode from series 1 of the reboot. A wise choice that made for a funny and light episode.

The episode was not a deconstruction of the superhero genre but played the tropes simply and straight but also at a relatively shallow level. Primarily a play on the Clark Kent/Lois Lane, secret identity, romance angle but with an added play on romantic comedy trope of the woman who somehow can’t see the man she actually is looking for is standing right next to her.

(21) CAMESTROS IS A MARATHON NOT A SPRINT. Then he dashed out to see the new Star Wars movie – “Review: Rogue One”.

Well, that was fun in a Blake’s 7 sort of way.

What I liked about the film was it had a certain freedom to it. The story has one simple job: by the end of the plot, the plans for the Death Star have to be on a Rebel spaceship pursued by Darth Vader. How to get to point B is undetermined and indeed where point A is to start with nobody knows. Indeed, the film initially is a bit confused about where A is, flitting from one plane to another. However, after some initial rushing around the galaxy, the story comes together.

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, captures a nice sense of both bravado and cynicism as the daughter of the man who designed the Death Star. Her emotional journey isn’t complex but given the number of genre films in which people appear to act incomprehensibly it was nice to have a character whose motivations were personal and direct. Her shift from reluctant rebel to a leader of a commando force is shaped overtly and plausibly by plot events.

(23) CAN’T END TOO SOON. By then the year 2016 was just about done – and Camestros designed the most suitable container for its farewell journey.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mark-kitteh, Michael J. Walsh, David K.M. Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall.]  

Pixel Scroll 3/2/16 A Scanner Barkly

(1) LE GUIN DOCUMENTARY FUNDED. Arwen Curry e-mailed word to supporters of the Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin documentary Kickstarter that they reached $200,000 in pledges today.

Now that we have raised our entire budget, our NEH grant will be released. That means we’ll be able to stop fundraising and start production right away….

That also means everyone will get Ursula’s list of What to Read in 2016! I can’t wait to see what’s on there.

With 48 hours left in the campaign, pledges are still trickling in. Rest assured, we’ll use every dime toward making the film more worthy of its subject. As we move forward over these next months, I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

(2) THE EAR DOCTOR. Big Finish will bring back David Tennant and Catherine Tate as the Tenth Doctor and his companion Donna Nobel in three forthcoming audio dramas reports Radio Times.

More details in “Everything we know about the new David Tennant and Catherine Tate Doctor Who Adventures”.

And there’s an audio excerpt at “Keep calm – but we’ve got the exclusive first clip of David Tennant and Catherine Tate’s return to Doctor Who”.

According to the Big Finish website, the stories will see the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble travel to a spaceport, discover a deadly weapon called the Time Reaver and find deadly iPads at the London Technology museum. In other words, some classic action from for the returning characters.

(3) INGENIOUS FELAPTON. Camestros Felapton asks: Can you identify the titles of these 2015 novels from a combination of emojis? (Repeated here for the benefit of anyone who didn’t see it in last night’s comments.) Note — there may be a problem with this transcription — it shows up okay in the draft, but the preview is all question marks. We’ll see….

1. 🐘 🌙
2. ⌚ 🐙
3. 🍎 🍏 🍎 🍏 🍎 🍏 🍎
4. 🌱 🌞 🍂 ❄ ❓
5. ⬆ √

(4) YOU WILL BELIEVE A BOOK CAN FLY. Rob Boffard thinks launching a book is a literal act. He celebrated his new book by sending a recording of himself doing a reading into suborbit — “Sci-Fi Novel ‘Zero-G’ Soars to Edge of Space”

A new sci-fi novel launched on a truly fitting mission last month, as documented in a new video: Rob Boffard’s “Zero-G” cruised to the upper stratosphere for a very unusual author reading at the edge of space.

The book ascended via weather balloon on Jan. 18 from the town of Ross on Wye in southern England. Once the rig got high up in the sky, an audio recording of Boffard reading the prologue and the first chapter began to play loudly. Boffard’s crew documented the process in an extended video, as well as through tweets as it all happened.

 

(5) ROWLING’S SECRET PAN PLAN. Emily Asher-Perrin makes her case for believing “Dumbledore’s Origin Story is the Predecessor to Peter Pan” at Tor.com.

When J.K. Rowling was writing The Tragic Tale of Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald, do you think she realized that she was actually writing a very scary version of Peter Pan? I had a minor brain explosion last week while rereading The Deathly Hallows, and the more I think about it, the more adamant I become…

…wanna go down a weird rabbit hole with me?

Sure, it’s not an exact parallel, but there are plenty of uncanny similarities that remind me of Peter Pan when I think of Albus Dumbledore’s youth. Before I go trying to explain my train of thought, let me first give you my cast of characters—

  • Grindelwald: Peter Pan
  • Albus: Wendy Darling
  • Aberforth: John Darling
  • Ariana: Michael Darling

Here’s the piece of Rowling’s text that put me in mind of Pan in the first place:

…and there on the window ledge sat perched, like a giant bird, a young man with golden hair. In the split second that the lantern’s light illuminated him, Harry saw the delight upon his handsome face, then the intruder shot a Stunning Spell from his wand and jumped neatly backward out of the window with a crow of laughter.

(6) GROSS INCOME. “Ask the Tax Czarina: Bartering ” at the SFWA Blog tries to dispel magical thinking about a common source of noncash income.

To sum up, here are some real world examples. My client provides editing and mentoring services for writers. I prepare and sign her tax return, which includes her writing business. I will have bartered tax return preparation income and a deduction for her editing services. My client has bartered editing income and a deduction for her tax return being prepared. While tax return preparation usually goes on Schedule A as an itemized deduction, it may be deducted directly against a business, if that’s the reason my client has her tax return prepared and signed by a paid preparer. The transaction offsets for both of us, it’s a wash. Assuming the amount is under $600, neither of us issues the other a Form 1099-MISC….

In summary, barter transactions are reportable. Transactions that wash are less of an issue than transactions that don’t. The above examples demonstrate that bartering might or might not result in net taxable income for either or both parties. Sometimes it’s clear how the transaction should be treated and sometimes it’s not.

(7) SPACE TO THINK. Tor.com has 10 of Kyle Cassidy’s photos of sf authors’ writing spaces. The lens used to shoot Samuel Delany’s work area makes it look like the International Space Station. Most of the others look like the comfortable living rooms of affluent people – no shots of people with laptops on borrowed tables at Starbucks – with the exception of Joe Haldeman who is writing in the dark by the light of a lantern.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 2, 1933 — The movie King Kong premiered in New York.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born March 2, 1949  — Gates McFadden. Cheryl Gates McFadden is an American actress and choreographer. She is best known for playing Dr. Beverly Crusher in the Star Trek: The Next Generation television series and in the four subsequent films.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 2, 1904 — “Dr. Seuss,” Theodor Geisel.

(11) A SERIES OF WORLDCONS REMEMBERED. Kevin Henney writes down his vivid impressions of Worldcons of decades gone by for asemantic.

Two years later, again with Josh, I visited Worldcon ’86 in Atlanta. For a teenager from North London, even cocooned within the convention hotels, this visit to the American South was an eye-opener…. the view from the front seat revealed a shifting cultural landscape you didn’t see on TV. Sidewalks were invisibly colour coded, black one side, white the other. Worldcon’s name that year, ConFederation, also shows how far we’ve come — you’d have to be a sad puppy to think that name was appropriate now.

I was there for the full five days. There were five of us saving money and shift-sleeping in a room for two, but I used that room for little more than storage and showering. I did the first three days on three hours sleep, giving myself the luxury of seven hours over the final two — a sleeping pattern I could get away with only as an adolescent (or, a few years later, as a new parent). Worldcon was big even back then. It was non-stop sessions, parties, caffeine, bumping into American gods like Frederick Pohl, faux phaser fights in hallways between Klingons and Starfleet (pick a side, go on pick a side…), talking to people you didn’t know, making friends that you did actually keep in touch with for a couple of years, even without cyberspace assistance of email and social media.

And some of whom I would meet again at Conspiracy in Brighton at the same Metropole hotel I’d visited in 1984. Tom and I were there for the weekend…

This Worldcon was smaller and less grand than the one in Atlanta, with a 1980s British seaside-town twist. But it still dwarfed 1984 Eastercon. There were writers I’d seen at SeaCon and in Atlanta, there were guests of honour (including Jim Burns), there were up-and-coming writers (a certain Iain Banks, with and without the M, comes to mind), there was Hawkwind (Tom’s kind of thing, but thanks I’ll pass), there were parties (in the hotel and on the beach) and more.

And then I took a break from cons and fandom. Quite a long break. A fairy-tale sleep whose spell was broken in part by Josh (yup, same one, after all these years) and BristolCon. And in good time for Loncon, Worldcon 2014….

(12) OF ALL THE NERVES. Soft tissues like this are rarely preserved — “Exquisitely detailed 520 million-year-old fossil shows individual nerves” in the Washington Post.

Chengjiangocaris kunmingensis wasn’t exactly a beautiful animal: The crustacean-like Cambrian creature had a long, segmented body and an unholy number of legs that it used to scuttle across the ocean floor. But scientists are oohing and ahhing over the ugly arthropod anyway, and for good reason. The nervous system of one 520 million-year-old specimen shows some of the best and most well-preserved nerves ever seen in an animal of that era.

According to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the fossil may be the oldest and most detailed example of a central nervous system yet identified, with even individual nerves — rarely preserved soft tissue — visible enough to study.

(13) CORMAN SUES CITCO. A 1996 Worldcon GoH, “Roger Corman Lawsuit Blames Citco for Losing $60 Million of Family’s Money”.

The famed filmmaker says he wasn’t told that his money was being managed by troubled hedge fund manager Buddy Fletcher.

Roger Corman and his wife Julie Corman, together responsible for hundreds of films and the mentoring of some of Hollywood’s biggest directors and actors, have filed a lawsuit that says they put money in an investment fund managed by George Soros before the money was moved and they ended up losing up to $60 million.

According to the complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, the administrator of the Soros fund was the Citco Group. The Cormans’ primary contact there was Ermanno Unternaehrer.

In 1996, Unternaehrer convinced the Cormans to put money in a fund managed by Citco, instead of with Soros, alleges the complaint. The Cormans say they were told that “the Citco fund was a safe, secure place to invest their moneys, and that Citco would administer and manage the fund to ensure continued high performance.”

For the next six years, things seemed fine. In 2002, Unternaehrer is said to have recommended that a vehicle named “Pasig, Ltd” be set up in the British Virgin Islands for tax reasons. Corman says he initially was a director of the newly incorporated company, but a few months later, upon advice, Corman says he resigned, becoming only a signatory on the account. By 2008, the lawsuit says that there was $73 million under Citco’s “complete control” and management fell to Alphonse “Buddy” Fletcher.

(14) NOT ON YOUR AM DIAL. “Repeating fast radio bursts recorded for the first time” at Science News.

Fast radio bursts from deep space have never been seen to repeat — until now.

Ten blasts of radio waves recorded last May and June all come from the same direction, researchers report online March 2 in Nature. So did a signal detected in 2012, say Laura Spitler, an astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, and colleagues. All 11 signals were detected at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, last a few milliseconds and, except for one, all appear to originate in other galaxies (SN: 8/9/14, p. 22). For the repeater, each of the signals encountered the same amount of intergalactic plasma, meaning they traveled the same distance. That shared feature makes an ironclad case for a common source, says Duncan Lorimer, an astrophysicist at West Virginia University in Morgantown and co-discoverer of the first FRB, reported in 2007. The question now is what fraction of sources repeat, he says. There may be multiple classes of FRBs, with some recurring and some not, each triggered by something different.

(15) THE GUY WHO DIDN’T MAKE MILLIONS. “Russ Heath’s Comic About Being Ripped Off By Roy Lichtenstein Will Give You A New Appreciation For The Hero Initiative” at Comics Alliance.

If you’re not familiar with the Hero Initiative, they’re one of our favorite organizations here at ComicsAlliance — a nonprofit set up to create a “financial safety net” for comic book creators in need, helping with medical bills and living expenses. It’s one thing to know that they’re doing good things in the world, but Heath’s comic, showing both the help provided during his surgery and the simple pleasure of a bottle of wine, really shows just how much good they’re doing.

(16) THE BEAST WITH THREE BACKS. J.K. Rowling has the story:

J.K. Rowling just confirmed that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the Harry Potter prequel currently in production with Warner Bros., won’t just be one movie. It will be THREE.

She made the announcement on Twitter, in response to a tweet from a fan who’d heard that the stage play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, would also be a movie. It won’t. But that’s okay, because now we’ve got three prequels to look forward to

(17) SPACE AGE LEFTOVERS. Abandoned In Place: Preserving America’s Space History by Roland Miller, published on March 1, collects images of the now-discarded facilities that helped America reach outer space.

Stenciled on many of the deactivated facilities at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the evocative phrase “abandoned in place” indicates the structures that have been deserted. Some structures, too solid for any known method of demolition, stand empty and unused in the wake of the early period of US space exploration. Now Roland Miller’s color photographs document the NASA, Air Force, and Army facilities across the nation that once played a crucial role in the space race.

Rapidly succumbing to the elements and demolition, most of the blockhouses, launch towers, tunnels, test stands, and control rooms featured in Abandoned in Place are located at secure military or NASA facilities with little or no public access. Some have been repurposed, but over half of the facilities photographed no longer exist. The haunting images collected here impart artistic insight while preserving an important period in history.

(18) A UK MARKET. Unsung Stories is an  independent publisher of “intelligent genre fiction – science fiction, fantasy, horror and importantly those works that blur the boundaries between genres.”

They have recently launched a new digital line of short works and novellas, Unsung Signals.

Unsung Signals features mid-length fiction, stories too long for magazines or journals but too short for traditional book-length publication. We believe stories should be as long as they need to be. We’re giving the writers the freedom to write the way they want without the need to pad or trim unnecessarily, to give a home to work that would otherwise be left unpublished, or altered to fit a format.

Here are a few details about their market for short stories —

How long is short?

We will consider stories up to 3000 words (preferred length is under 2000 words though).

Payment and Rights:

We pay £25 per story.  For this we get first electronic rights exclusive for three months, with non-exclusive archival rights. We’ll pay within 30 days of publication via PayPal.

(19) FINDING DORY TRAILER. Disney-Pixar has dropped the first full Finding Dory trailer.

The long-awaited sequel to the beloved 2003 hit Finding Nemo puts the focus this time on the forgetful fish Dory, voiced again by Ellen DeGeneres. Taking place six months after the original underwater adventure, the sequel sends Dory on a quest to find her long-lost family, with the help of Marlin (voiced again by Albert Brooks), Crush (voiced by returning director Andrew Stanton) and several other returning ocean creatures

 

[Thanks to JJ, and John King Tarpinian, Gregory N. Hullender, Gary Budden, and James H. Burns for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

George Clayton Johnson (1929-2015)

One of the most fan-friendly pros ever, George Clayton Johnson passed away at 12:46 p.m PST on December 25 from cancer. He had been in hospice care in his final days and there were many premature reports of his death.

Born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Johnson wrote that he loved reading the pulps “while surviving an Okie upbringing, a broken home, an alcoholic mother and institutional lockstep in a state orphanage with an occasional escape into a public library or a movie house.”

He briefly served as a telegraph operator and draftsman in the Army. Using his benefits under the G.I Bill he enrolled in an Alabama college, then dropped out to travel, supporting himself as a draftsman.

On coffee breaks working as a draftsman detailing wind-tunnels for U.S. Steel, and later the boss of my own drafting service in Van Nuys designing ticky tacky for the San Fernando Valley, and later still while hanging out, a beatnik-wild bird, faced with foreclosure and crab-grass in my G.I. home in Pacoima, trying to be a writer, I drove myself and all who met me into a frenzy over the question, “What is a story?”

Those who taught him the answer included members of “The Group,” also referred to as “The Southern California School of Writers,” among them Charles Beaumont, William F. Nolan, John Tomerlin, Richard Matheson, OCee Ritch, and Chad Oliver.

He began to sell. Alfred Hitchcock Presents developed one of his submissions into the 1959 episode “I’ll Take Care of You.”

Then the script he wrote with Jack Golden Russell, bought “blind” as a vehicle for Frank Sinatra’s “Rat Pack”, became Ocean’s Eleven (1960). However, it was heavily rewritten and earned them only a story credit.

That same year he connected with The Twilight Zone series, which bought his story “All Of Us Are Dying.” Rod Serling turned it into the 1960 episode “The Four Of Us Are Dying.”

Johnson would go on to write four episodes of The Twilight Zone, such as “Kick the Can”, “Nothing in the Dark” featuring a very young Robert Redford, and “A Game of Pool” with Jonathan Winters and Jack Klugman. Two others were based on his stories, and one more was done from his story under a pseudonym.

Accepting an Emmy for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama for The Twilight Zone in 1961, Rod Serling thanked the “three writing gremlins who did the bulk of the work: Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, and George Clayton Johnson.”

George created some monumental tv and film stories, though he didn’t always enjoy paydays worthy of his efforts. The Wikipedia relates —

In 1960, George Clayton Johnson submitted a story to The Twilight Zone called “Sea Change” which was purchased by Rod Serling. The premise of the story was, “Off the coast of California, there’s a man in a boat. Through an accident his hand is cut off. Miraculously, he re-grows a new hand. But what he doesn’t realize is that out there in the kelp beds, the hand is re-growing a new man…”

Serling planned to produce “Sea Change” for the 1960 season, but General Mills, a sponsor for The Twilight Zone at the time, rejected it for being too violently graphic. Serling was then forced to call Johnson and ask him to buy the story back (for $500.00),

In 1962, Johnson convinced Ray Bradbury to let a short film be made from Ray’s story “Icarus Montgolfier Wright.” Johnson wrote the screenplay. Joseph Mugnaini created the images and Ross Martin (later of Wild Wild West) voiced the narration. Although it screened for only twelve days at a theater in Westwood, the film wound up being nominated for an Oscar.

George Clayton Johnson and Ray Bradbury watch restored "Icarus Montgolfier Wright"

George Clayton Johnson and Ray Bradbury watch restored “Icarus Montgolfier Wright” at the Motion Picture Academy in 2008.

Johnson also wrote episodes of Honey West, Kentucky Jones, Kung Fu, The Law and Mr. Jones, Mr. Novak, and Route 66.

On the print side, he sold stories to Rogue editor Frank Robinson, and William F. Nolan at Gamma.

Johnson also had six credits as an actor. The first was as a Coast Guard officer in a 1961 episode of Sea Hunt. His last role was as Father Time, in a soon-to-be-released film by Gabe Bartalos titled Saint Bernard. Look for it in 2016.

Johnson and William F. Nolan appeared in The Intruder (1962), which they call the only Roger Corman movie to have lost money at the box office.

“I loved being an actor, and between Bill and me we set up a couple of very archetypal evil guys,” Johnson remembered. “It all came about because the people we were hiring on the spot [in Missouri] to read for these parts…could not say lines.”

Nolan and Johnson liked to tell how they made make funny faces when standing behind the lead actor, William Shatner, as he spoke his lines.

Johnson went from making fun of Shatner’s lines to writing them, scripting the first aired episode of Star Trek, “The Man Trap” (1966), in which he also coined Dr. McCoy’s iconic line, “He’s dead, Jim.”

His next big splash was co-writing with William F. Nolan the cult classic Logan’s Run. As Nolan tells it, “George wanted to immediately create a screenplay, but I felt strongly that it should be a novel first. George acquiesced, and we rented a motel room to remove distractions and for three weeks we took turns at the typewriter. The rest is history.”

They sold the novel to Dial Press, and the screen rights to MGM for $100,000. Although they despaired of the movie ever being made as the project passed through the hands of various producers and directors, it finally came out in 1976.

Logan's Run collaborators William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson in 2009.

Logan’s Run collaborators William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson in 2009.

The first time I met George Clayton Johnson was in the 1970s when I was student living at home Sylmar. I learned he lived in nearby Pacoima and went over to his house to drop off a copy of my crudely mimeographed fanzine. He and his wife, Lola, were very kind to me on that quick visit.

I also saw him speak at a LASFS meeting in 1972 when he was freshly returned from teaching at the Clarion SF Workshop. One of his statements I have never forgotten. He said everyone has one story in them – their own. And if they pay close attention when they write that first story, they may be able to write another, and another. Otherwise, they never become writers.

Johnson was known to everyone as a gracious, accessible and friendly individual, and continued to be celebrated down the years by all his colleagues and readers. John King Tarpinian helped organize Johnson’s annual birthday celebration at Mystery & Imagination Bookshop in Glendale, where Johnson often did signings and gave talks, many of them reported here on File 770.

For George Clayton Johnson’s 86th birthday, L.J. Dopp did a wonderful painting titled “The Fictioneer,” with images from George’s most famous TV and movie work. The only reward Dopp wanted was the thrill of seeing the expression on George’s face when he saw it for the first time.

GCJ tribute by LJ Dopp

Johnson would say that he always wanted to “leave his footprints in the sand,” and that he did.

He is survived by his wife, Lola Johnson, daughter Judy Olive, and son, Paul B. Johnson. Paul says in around 30 days he will announce a “lifetime celebration” party that will be held in his memory.

Sci-Fest Radio Brings Frankenstein To Stage

sci fest frankenstein

Sci-Fest Radio Theatre will present the 1944 radio version of Frankenstein live on stage on January 11, 2016.

Scheduled to join the cast are Philip Anthony-Rodriguez (Grimm), Linda Park (Star Trek: Enterprise), Gates McFadden (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Alfred Molina (Spiderman II), and John Rabe (NPR’s Off-Ramp).

This fundraiser for Sci-Fest LA will also be the occasion to honor legendary filmmaker Roger Corman with the first-ever Sci-Fest LA Icon Award.

A wine reception, red carpet and silent auction begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Colony Theatre in Burbank. Corman will be honored at 8 p.m., and the performance will follow.

Tickets are being offered as a reward to donors who make a tax deductible donation of $100, $75 or $55.  See the Sci-Fest LA website for details.

Pixel Scroll 8/1 Scroll forth, my song, like the rushing river

Ten stories, three videos and a partridge in a pear tree.

(1) It’s a privilege to be included in this Sasquan program item:

Writing About Controversies

M. J. Locke [Laura Mixon] , John Scalzi , Mike Glyer , William Frank (Moderator) , Eric Flint

Since before the Great Exclusion Act of 1939, the science-fiction community has had its share of controversies, feuds and flame wars — between pros, between fans, between pros and fans. Maybe more than its share. Discussion about these controversies — whether in fanzines or online — has often generated more heat than light.  How can we research and write about controversial issues in the field? Is it ever possible to just stick to the facts?  Panelists talk about what they’ve learned about how to approach these issues.

August 23, 3:00 p.m., CC – Bays 111A

(2) Fraser Cain discusses what would happen if a black hole met an antimatter black hole.

Here’s the part you care about. When equal amounts of matter and antimatter collide, they are annihilated. But not disappeared or canceled out. They’re converted into pure energy.

As Einstein explained to us, mass and energy are just different aspects of the same thing. You can turn mass into energy, and you can turn energy into mass.

Black holes turn everything, both matter and energy, into more black hole.

Imagine a regular flavor and an antimatter flavor black hole with the same mass slamming together. The two would be annihilated and turn into pure energy.

Of course, the gravity of a black hole is so immense that nothing, not even light can escape. So all energy would just be turned instantaneously into more black hole. Want more black hole? Put things into the black hole.

Cain says if this is your rescue plan in case you fall into a black hole, you’re out of luck.

(3) You may need a break after science-ing the shit out of that last item. Here’s the comic relief.

[Bill] Nye recently read some unflattering tweets in support of a Kickstarter campaign for a documentary about him, which, to be honest, we kind of hope just turns out to be two more hours of tweets.

 

(4) Ken Liu’s novel Grace of Kings is available from the Kindle Store for $1.99 today, as I learned from SF Signal. So far I’ve only read his short fiction. Now I’m diving into his novels.

(5) I listened to five minutes of the Superversive Hugo livestream today, long enough to hear a male voice opine that No Award will not win any of the categories. And I thought to myself, that kind of boldly contrarian thinking is exactly what a livestream panel needs to pull an audience.

(6) Talk about a dog’s breakfast…

(7) Tempest Bradford has a modest proposal.

Does she mean that literally, or is this another case where an idea suffers because it can’t be fully unpacked in a tweet? Think of all the minority/marginalized groups cishet white men belong to. Religious minorities. People with disabilities. Participants in 12 Step programs. (Do I need to say that I have seen convention panels involving each of these topics?) This rule needs to go back to the drawing board.

(8) August 2 is National Ice Cream Sandwich Day.

The modern version of the ice cream sandwich was invented by Jerry Newberg in 1945 when he was selling ice cream at Forbes Field.  There are pictures from the early 1900?s, “On the beach, Atlantic City”, that show Ice Cream Sandwiches were popular and sold for 1 cent each.

And here is the ObSF ice cream sandwich content.

c_c_sandwich_1

(9) I think it’s rather sad that the person who took the trouble of setting up this robotic tweet generator doesn’t know how to spell Torgersen.

(10) File 770’s unofficial motto is “It’s always news to someone.” The Hollywood Reporter must feel the same way. Capitalizing on the imminent release of Fantastic Four, THR just ran a story about the first (1994) movie adaptation of the comic produced by Roger Corman.

If you haven’t seen the movie that’s not because it was a box office bust. It was never allowed to get anywhere near the box office. Sony exec Avi Arad ended up destroying every available print.

Here’s the trailer, uploaded to YouTube in 2006.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Beverly Garland

Mike Deckinger sends a link to Beverly Garland‘s obituary. “It should be of interest to File 770 readers, as she began her career in some early Roger Corman cheapies.”

Beverly Garland, the B-movie actress who starred in 1950s cult hits like “Swamp Women” and “Not of This Earth” and who went on to play Fred MacMurray’s TV wife on “My Three Sons,” has died. She was 82.