Pixel Scroll 1/21/17 Scrolling, Scrolling, Scrolling, Keep Those Pixels Scrolling, File-wide….

(1) ON THE MARCH.

(2) GRAPHIC NOVEL WINS DIVERSE BOOKS AWARD. The Washington Post’s Ron Charles says that Rep. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin have won the Walter Dean Myers Award (or “Walter”) for Outstanding Children’s Literature for March: Book Three.  The award is sponsored by We Need Diverse Books, which promises to buy 2,000 copies of the graphic novel and donate them to libraries.

Responding to the news that he had won the Walter, Lewis said via email: “I am deeply moved for our book to receive this award. It is my hope that it will inspire more people to read and to use their pen to inspire another generation to speak up and speak out.”

(3) BREAKTHROUGHS. Barnes & Noble SF/F blog has listed “20 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books with a Message of Social Justice”.

From the Time Machine to Kirk and Uhura‘s unprecedented kiss, speculative fiction has often concerned itself with breaking barriers and exploring issues of race, inequality, and injustice. The fantastical elements of genre, from alien beings to magical ones, allow writers to confront controversial issues in metaphor, granting them a subversive power that often goes unheralded. On this, the day we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., let us consider 20 novels that incorporate themes of social justice into stories that still deliver the goods—compelling plots, characters you’ll fall in love with, ideas that will expand your mind. Let’s imagine a day when the utopian ideals of Star Trek are more than just the stuff of science fiction.

(4) SEER. Nature profiles Arthur C. Clarke in honor of his 100th birthday (last month).

In 1945, Clarke inadvertently launched a career as a futurologist with his outline for a geostationary communications satellite. In a letter (‘V2 for ionosphere research?’) published in February’s issue of Wireless World and inspired by the German V2 rockets then landing on London, he made a revolutionary proposal:

An ‘artificial satellite’ at the correct distance from the earth would make one revolution every 24 hours; i.e., it would remain stationary above the same spot and would be within optical range of nearly half the earth’s surface. Three repeater stations, 120 degrees apart in the correct orbit, could give television and microwave coverage to the entire planet.

Clarke realistically concluded: “I’m afraid this isn’t going to be of the slightest use to our postwar planners, but I think it is the ultimate solution to the problem.” He followed up with a more detailed piece in Wireless World that October, envisioning “space-stations” that relied on thermionic valves serviced by an onboard crew supplied by atomic-powered rockets.

(5) SCIENCE THE SH!T OUT OF THIS. Is dome living worse than dorm living? Six simulated Hawaiian Martians will find out — “Freeze-dried food and 1 bathroom: 6 simulate Mars in dome”.

Crammed into a dome with one bathroom, six scientists will spend eight months munching on mostly freeze-dried foods — with a rare treat of Spam — and have only their small sleeping quarters to retreat to for solace.

The simulated stay on Mars with a carefully selected crew of researchers embarked on a mission Thursday to gain insight into the psychological toll a similar real-life voyage would have on astronauts. It’s part of a NASA-funded human-behavior experiment that could help the space agency send humans to the red planet in the next 20 years.

The man-made dome that the four men and two women call home is outfitted with futuristic white walls and an elevated sleeping platform on the world’s largest active volcano in Hawaii. The vinyl-covered shelter spans 1,200 square feet, or about the size of a small, two-bedroom house.

A video released by the group shows the six scientists in matching red polo shirts arriving and entering the dome to farewell handshakes from program associates

(6) THE WORST. AlienExpoDallas forwards its picks as the “Top 5 Villains of Sci-Fi”.  Did they get it right?

Just like the clothes make the man, the villain makes the hero! (Unless you’re Batman — then you make the villains… in any case, I digress.) Today we live in a world where the villain gets his due — specifically villains of the sci-fi variety. Villains in sci-fi have a special gravitas where no matter how evil the scheme or horrid their actions, you somehow find yourself rooting for them. So with that, here are our top 5 villains of sci-fi!

Number 5 is Ozymandias, from Watchmen.

(7) VISITED BY THE MUSE. Amanda Palmer posted this photo on Instagram yesterday.

neil gaiman writing down ideas for his new novel as 9,000 people exit the nick cave show in sydney.

 

neil gaiman writing down ideas for his new novel as 9,000 people exit the nick cave show in sydney.

A post shared by Amanda Palmer (@amandapalmer) on

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 21, 1789 — First American novel, The Power of Sympathy, published in Boston

(9) PEER REVIEWED. Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame, co-authored a paper on AI/machine learning, based on a short film she directed.

The Twilight actress recently made her directorial debut with the short film Come Swim, and in it used a machine learning technique known as “style transfer” (where the aesthetics of one image or video is applied to another) to create an impressionistic visual style. Along with special effects engineer Bhautik J Joshi and producer David Shapiro, Stewart has co-authored a paper on this work in the film, publishing it in the popular online repository for non-peer reviewed work, arXiv.

(10) FIFTH OF KONG. There’s a new series of TV spots for Kong: Skull Island. In keeping with Scroll tradition, I picked #5.

(11) F.U.D. People are getting pretty good at recognizing fake news. Like Brian Niemeier’s insinuation about this year’s Worldcon supporting membership rate.

Worldcon 75’s supporting membership rate was fixed when the four rival bids for 2017 set the cost of a site selection voting membership in the summer before the 2015 Worldcon. It’s not a recent decision.

And have a look at the supporting membership rates for the five most recent Worldcons.

  • LoneStarCon 3 (2013) supporting membership: $60
  • LonCon 3 (2014) supporting membership: $40
  • Sasquan (2015) supporting membership: $40
  • MidAmeriCon II (2016) supporting membership: $50
  • Worldcon 75 (2017) supporting membership: $40

A $40 rate is a typical rate, not a cut rate.

(12) DEE GOOTS. In Andi Gutierrez’ The Star Wars Show episode “Rogue One Secrets Explained”, she interviews Leland Chee, Pablo Hidalgo, and Matt Martin of the Lucasfilm Story Group, delving into Star Wars Rebels Easter eggs, production details, and much more.

(13) THE COOLEST PROJECT. Star Wars Han Solo in Carbonite Refrigerator! Do you want one badly enough to make it yourself?

Frank Ippolito unveils another dream build! His Han Solo in Carbonite refrigerator is exactly the kind of brilliant idea that’s not easy to execute. We walk through the build process and show how Frank sourced accurate parts from the Star Wars replica prop community and added awesome features like glowing lights!

 

(14) INSTANT CLASSIC. Camestros Felapton wove together several recent memes as replacement lyrics for an Otis Redding tune.

Oh the Gorn may be weary?
Them Gorns they do get weary
Wearing those same old metallic shorts, yeah yeah?
But when the Gorn gets weary
Try a little pixelness….

[Thanks to Rose Embolism, Rob Thornton, Gregory Benford, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

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 12/23/16 Kissin’ By the Pixel Scroll

(1) TAILOR-MADE AWARDS. Who can resist a title like that? From The Book Smugglers “The 2016 Unconventional, Not At All Traditional, And Completely Unscientific Book Awards by Sarah Kuhn”.

Choosing a “best of” list is one of those tasks that always seems to send me down a rabbit hole of over-analysis, self-doubt, and internal hand-wringing, somehow ending in watching the same “pug confused by butterfly” video over and over again until I can’t remember what I was doing in the first place.

So! Instead of doing a “best of” list, I’m handing out very specific awards to the books that delighted me in very specific ways in 2016. All of these books brought me so much joy and will surely have a spot on my re-read shelf for years to come.

Best Use of Emoji Flirting Hold Me by Courtney Milan

Courtney Milan is one of my favorite authors, a virtuoso at combining endearing characters, ingenious plots, and scorching hot chemistry on every single page. In Hold Me, the much-anticipated sequel to the brilliant Trade Me, Maria Lopez and Jay na Thalang hate each other at first sight—but don’t realize they’re falling in love via the internet magic of online chat. It’s a tricky feat to give characters palpable, believable chemistry when they’re not even in the same room, but Milan’s depiction of Maria and Jay’s whipsmart, banter-y texts and emails made me die a kazillion swoony deaths. And of course their special use of emojis is [emoji of cat with heart-eyes].

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Nalo Hopkinson is Scott Edelman’s guest on the milestone 25th episode of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson

For the 25th episode of Eating the Fantastic—which is also the final episode of 2016—my guest and I brunched at Aggio during a break from the Baltimore Book Festival. Aggio is a restaurant from Chef Bryan Voltaggio which the Baltimore City Paper recently dubbed as offering the Best Modern Italian in town.

I’d eaten at Aggio before, but that was when it was still a pop-up within a different Voltaggio restaurant, Range, in Friendship Heights—where, by the way, I recorded an earlier episode of Eating the Fantastic with Carolyn Ives Gilman, which I hope you’ll be moved to download for dessert once you’re done with the entree of this episode.

My guest for this meal was the always entertaining Nalo Hopkinson, winner of the 1999 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. And she’s more than lived up to the promise of that award, winning the World Fantasy Award for her short story collection Skin Folk, as well as winning the Sunburst Award, the Prix Aurora Award, and many others. Plus her novel, Sister Mine, won my own personal award for being one of my favorite novels of 2013.

(3) CHARTING SF. Mark-kitteh sent a link with an introduction, “A long and interesting survey of the field by the VanderMeers (also the introduction to their recent Big Book of Science Fiction). I liked their determination to look more internationally.”

Since the days of Mary Shelley, Jules Verne, and H. G. Wells, science fiction has not just helped define and shape the course of literature but reached well beyond fictional realms to influence our perspectives on culture, science, and technology. Ideas like electric cars, space travel, and forms of advanced communication comparable to today’s cell phone all first found their way into the public’s awareness through science fiction. In stories like Alicia Yáñez Cossío’s “The IWM 100” from the 1970s you can even find a clear prediction of Information Age giants like Google?—?and when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, the event was a very real culmination of a yearning already expressed through science fiction for many decades.

Science fiction has allowed us to dream of a better world by creating visions of future societies without prejudice or war. Dystopias, too, like Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, have had their place in science fiction, allowing writers to comment on injustice and dangers to democracy. Where would Eastern Bloc writers have been without the creative outlet of science fiction, which by seeming not to speak about the present day often made it past the censors? For many under Soviet domination during those decades, science fiction was a form of subversion and a symbol of freedom. Today, science fiction continues to ask “What if?” about such important topics as global warming, energy dependence, the toxic effects of capitalism, and the uses of our modern technology, while also bringing back to readers strange and wonderful visions.

(4) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION. The finale of Jim C. Hines’ Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is the TGM raffle to win a book from DAW Books.

In 24 hours, I’ll be drawing the rest of the winners for the DAW Books raffle, which will officially wrap up the fundraiser.

To enter, just  donate $5 to Transgender Michigan and email me a copy of the receipt at jchines -at- gmail.com, with the subject line “DAW Raffle Entry.”

Winners will receive one of the following:

Tad Williams Bundle: each bundle includes one copy of Otherland: City of Golden Shadow (hardcover first edition, first printing)  plus 1 Advance Review Copy of The Heart of What Was Lost.

DAW December Release Bundle: each bundle includes one copy of all DAW December titles: Dreamweaver, Tempest, Alien Nation, and Jerusalem Fire, plus a bonus ARC (dependent on stock).

You can donate more than $5. For example, donating $20 would get you four entries. However, you can only win a maximum of one of each bundle.

Looking at the number of bundles remaining, and the number of entries, every $5 you donate will get you an approximately 1 in 6 chance to win. (And hey, even if you don’t win, you’ve gotten yourself a tax deduction and supported a good cause! Not a bad way to wrap up the year, eh?)

I’ll do one more post in a few days to announce the final results. My thanks to everyone who donated, signal-boosted, bid, and otherwise supported the fundraiser. It makes a difference.

(5) PETER DAVID IMPROVING. Kathleen has good news — “Peter David Update Finally Progress”.

I saw Peter yesterday and he was able to stand and take a few steps. This is monumental to getting him home. He is still in pain but nothing compared to that he was even the day before. We know this because he hasn’t taken any painkillers since Wednesday so again a good sign.

So the nebulous might be date is rapidly turning into Saturday, which will mean that he will be home for Chrismas/Hanukkah.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 23, 1823: “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, first published.
  • December 23, 1958The 7th Voyage of Sinbad opens in American theaters. There’s your average non-Christmas movie. John King Tarpinian says, “Ask people if they know who Ray Harryhausen is and you’ll most likely get a blank stare.  Ask them if they remember seeing a movie with sword fighting skeletons and all of a sudden their eyes glow bright.”
  • December 23, 1986: U.S. pilots, Dick Rutan and Jeanna Yeager, landed the experimental aircraft Voyager in California after a record nine days, 3 minutes and 44 seconds round-the-world flight without stopping or refueling.

(7) COUNTING ON WOMEN. Aziz Poonawalla writes about “Rogue One, the Force, and gender”.

A (female) friend of mine loved Rogue One, but noted an imbalance in the Force:

Wept tears of joy. And not to nitpick the film’s clear feminist intentions, but couldn’t at least a handful of the nameless cannon-fodder strike force be women?

The ramblings that follow began as a long-winded reply, but grew so unwieldy and disorganized that I decided it fit better here. Spoilers may follow.

I thought the gender distributions were significant and consistent with the themes of Balance in the Force, and the tension between Dar and Light, in the movie canon to date. The Empire was entirely male – scientists, warriors, leaders. The Rebellion has women in elite warrior roles (pilots) alongside men, but political leadership is always female, and heroes are equally female (Leia, Rey, and Jyn vs Luke, Finn, and Solo, though the latter was usually just plot catalyst). The Rebellion’s leadership from Mon Mothma to Leia has been female, but the Republic during the Clone Wars was male-led, even before Palpatine (though the Senate had prominent female members). The villains have always been male, with the exception of the Seventh Sister from Rebels (but Rebels is a true ensemble cast and will skew the analysis).

(8) ANYBODY THIRSTY? Space.com poetically sees “Water, Water Everywhere on Dwarf Planet Ceres”.

There’s water, water everywhere on the dwarf planet Ceres, according to new research. New observations have provided direct evidence that water ice is ubiquitous on the surface and shallow subsurface of this massive asteroid.

Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt that lies between Mars and Jupiter, and has long been suspected of containing significant amounts of water — estimates projected up to 30 percent of its total mass. Evidence has pointed to water ice being mixed with the rock on Ceres’ surface, and in a few rare cases, more concentrated patches of exposed ice have been found. Ceres has even belched up plumes of water vapor.

(9) A HOMER RUN. There are many strange stories in Odysseus’s long journey home after the sack of Troy, but where do they come from? The BBC speculates about “The strange inspirations behind Greek myths”.

One of the early wrong turns comes when strong northerly winds carry Odysseus off course to the land of the lotus-eaters. The sailors enjoy the local delicacy so much that they forget about returning home and Odysseus has to drag them back to the ships. There are multiple theories for what the lotus could be, such as strong wine or opium.

Another contender is a plant called Diospyros lotus – the scientific name means “fruit of the gods”. The fruits in question are round and yellow with succulent flesh that is said to taste like a cross between a date and a plum. That explains its common name: “date plum”. But could tasty fruit be enough to convince Odysseus’s men to stay put forever?

(10) GREETINGS FROM AN IMAGINARY SEASON. At Fantasy-Faction, Laura M. Hughes reviews Hogfather by Terry Pratchett.

‘On the second day of Hogswatch I . . . sent my true love back, A nasty little letter, hah, yes indeed, and a partridge in a pear tree—’

Of the quarter or so of the Discworld I’ve explored, Hogfather is my favourite. Vadim Jean’s TV adaptation is superb: I watch it religiously every Christmas, struck each time by just how much of it – dialogue, stage directions, settings, narration, everything – is lifted directly from the source material. This should tell you much about the quality of the book itself, for rare indeed is an original story ‘adapted’ for the screen with so few alterations.

For me, reading Terry Pratchett’s work is not only a joy but an indulgence, too. Sir Terry is one of my major influences. Those books of his I’ve read, I’ve re-read again and again, taking the time to savour the deliciousness of the prose, the wryness of tone, the trademark humour that is at once delightful and poignant.

(11) SANTA YODA!

(12) CHEWBACCA SINGS SILENT NIGHT. After listening to this, you will know why a silent night is treasured by so many…

Merry Wookie Christmas from HISHE and James Covenant! The brilliant idea for “Chewbacca Sings Silent Night” was actually created in 1999 by Scott Andersen (story here: http://room34.com/chewbacca/) and since then his audio has been shared many times, often without crediting him.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mark-kitteh, Scott Edelman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Redheadedfemme.]

Pixel Scroll 12/21/16 Ancillary of Green Gables

(1) MARS’ VIRGIN FIELD EPIDEMIC. Nautilus writer Christopher McKay, in a piece called “Make Mars Great Again”, says that Mars has life because of microbes sent aboard non-sterile Mars probes, and if the planet gets warmer in a century these microbes can be used for terraforming.

Mars is currently inhabited by an estimated 1 million microbes. They coat the surfaces and crowd the innards of our robotic landers and rovers, which international policy requires to be cleaned, but not fully sterilized. The bugs are dormant, but viable. If Mars warmed up and water began to flow again, these microorganisms would revive and reproduce. And it is within our power to make that happen.

The concept of terraforming—making a barren world suitable for widespread life—is well developed in science fiction. The term was first used in a science-fiction story published in 1942. It implies the creation of a copy of Earth, which need not be the goal, but the word caught on. (It is definitely more euphonious than the suggested alternatives of “ecopoiesis” or “planetary ecosynthesis.”) In the ’90s the award-winning science-fiction trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars centered on the science and ethics of terraforming. But terraforming is no longer just science fiction.

(2) DIFFERENT CURRENCIES. Sarah A. Hoyt raises compelling points in “Some Hard Thinking About Our Business”. Why doesn’t everybody go indie? And how much money is it costing them to go with traditional publishers?

So I am continuously puzzled watching indie authors who are doing better by an order of magnitude than any traditional writer I know succumbing to the lure of a traditional contract.  I’m not disapproving, mind you — who the hell am I to be disapproving of other people’s business decisions? If I had my time again, I doubt I’d have made most of the ones I made.  I’d still want to write for Baen, but that’s about it — I’m just jaw-dropped shocked.  Because they’ll be giving up 90% of their income or so.  But perhaps they want the respectability.  And perhaps they think it will give them further reach.

Is the reach thing true?  For now.  For a time. More on this later.

Is the respectability that important?  Sure, if you want to have some sort of job as a “real writer” such places are starting to choose indies, but not really.  Some conferences too (though we’re not absolutely sure, in this new era how much attendance of conventions contribute to sales, with the remarkable exception of hard copy books [more on that later.]) expect you to flash your “real writer” credentials in the form of  contract.  I even understand it from the social point of view, where when you’re at a party and people ask what you do, the question after you answer “writer” is “so have anything published?” (Or maybe that’s just to me, because of the accent.)  Mind you, you can answer “Sure” and  list your books and not say “indie” but I also know that when I say “Sure, x books with Berkley, x with Bantam and x with Baen” people’s attitude changes completely.  And I can see that when people suspect you’re indie they say “So you published yourself” and dismiss it.  I know that’s a stupid reason to give up 90% of your income, but humans are social animals and I can see “not being embarrassed at parties” making a difference.  I can even see the velveteen writer thing, wanting to be a “real” writer in your own eyes, the way you envisioned it.

(3) LONG RELIEF. At MLB blog Cut4, “Superfan Sean Doolittle reviews ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”‘. Doolittle is a pitcher for the Oakland A’s.

Big Star Wars fan Sean Doolittle was kind enough to take some time away from his rigorous offseason sock-throwing regimen to write a film review of Rogue One … yes, really! Enjoy it all below, and don’t worry — there are no major spoilers, as Sean knows what he’s doing. 

What really separates this movie from any other episode in the Star Wars franchise, though, is how dark and harsh it is. Rogue One is as much a war drama, with real, raw emotion, as it is a sci-fi adventure movie. This movie drops you into the middle of a brutal galactic civil war, one that’s taken everything from these characters and turned them into soldiers willing to fight for the Rebellion.

(4) NOT THE REASONS FOR THE SEASON. I thought Tor.com had a great discussion-generating post idea in “The Non-Holiday Movies We Always End Up Watching Over the Holidays” but they had more misses than hits as far as my tastes are concerned. (Anyone else watched Rocky II this month? I did.)

And it’s a discussion you can have on more than one level. I decided to watch Tracy and Hepburn in Desk Set the other night I’d long since forgotten that most of the climactic events happen at the office Christmas party. So can I count it as “non-holiday” or not?

(5) GHIBLI AND GRAVY. The YouTube video “Studio Ghibli in Real Life” is a charming YouTube video in which Studio Ghibli characters are placed into real-life Japanese settings.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 21, 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Hollywood, California. It was the first animated feature-length film with sound and color.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born December 21, 1937 – Jane Fonda

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 21, 1957 — Tsutomu Kitagawa, a Japanese actor and stuntman best known for playing Godzilla in the Millennium (or Shinsei) series. He also played the costumed actor for the Blue (and occasionally, Black) Ranger in many of Toei Company’s Super Sentai Series in the 1980s, better known in the US as Power Rangers.

(9) BRAIN CANDY. John Scalzi did not write an incisive political commentary today.

Me: I want to write a long piece on politics today!

Brain: Sorry, man. Not up for it. Too much thinking involved.

Me: But I have important things to say!

Brain: You should have thought about it before you decided to fuel me exclusively on Christmas cookies for three days straight….

(10) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #22. The twenty-second of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for a set of autographed books from Pamela Dean.

Today’s auction is for a set of books from Pamela Dean, including signed hardcover first editions of THE DUBIOUS HILLS and JUNIPER, GENTIAN, AND ROSEMARY, along with a signed mass-market paperback set of the reissue of the SECRET COUNTRY trilogy. That’s a total of five autographed books for you to enjoy!

About THE DUBIOUS HILLS: Centuries after a group of warring wizards eliminate war from the Dubious Hills, the Hills are a place where knowledge and ability are parcelled out in strange ways. Only the group known as the Akoumi understand death, only the Gnosi know how to teach, and only the Physici can know pain. Dean weaves a strange and compelling examination of knowledge, responsiblity and death.

About JUNIPER, GENTIAN, AND ROSEMARY: Three sisters live comfortably with their parents: Juniper, 16, who likes cooking and computer chats; Gentian, 13, who likes plays and astronomy; Rosemary, 11, who likes Girl Scouts. Enter Dominic, handsome as the night, quoting poetry, telling riddles, and asking help for a complex and fascinating science project. Gentian isn’t interested at first–she has her own life. But gradually her life, and her time, belong more and more to Dominic and his project, and her father begins to fear that the lad may be more than a charmer…

About THE SECRET COUNTRY: Each vacation for the past nine years, cousins Patrick, Ruth, Ellen, Ted, and Laura have played a game they call the “Secret”—and invented, scripted world full of witches, unicorns, a magic ring, court intrigue, and the Dragon King. In the Secret, they can imagine anything into reality, and shape destiny. Then the unbelievable happens: by trick or by chance, they actually find themselves in the Secret Country, their made-up identities now real. The five have arrived at the start of their games, with the Country on the edge of war. What was once exciting and wonderful now looms threateningly before them, and no one is sure how to stop it… or if they will ever get back home.

(11) THE SIGNIFICANCE OF MENTIONING RACE. Foz Meadows engages a recent controversy involving YA commentators — “YA, Race & Assimilation: A Response”.

Which is why, returning to the matter of QOP and Whitney Atkinson, pro-diversity advocates are so often forced to contend with people who think that “separating races” and like identifiers – talking specifically about white people or disabled people or queer people, instead of just people – is equivalent to racism and bigotry. Whether they recognise it or not, they’re coming from a perspective that values diverse perspectives for what they bring to the melting pot – for how they help improve the dominant culture via successful assimilation – but not in their own right, as distinct and special and non-homogenised. In that context, race isn’t something you talk about unless you’re being racist: it’s rude to point out people’s differences, because those differences shouldn’t matter to their personhood. The problem with this perspective is that it doesn’t allow for the celebration of difference: instead, it codes “difference” as inequality, because deep down, the logic of cultural assimilation is predicated on the idea of Western cultural superiority. A failure or refusal to assimilate is therefore tantamount to a declaration of inequality: I’m not the same as you is understood as I don’t want to be as good as you, and if someone doesn’t want to be the best they can be (this logic does) then either they’re stupid, or they don’t deserve the offer of equality they’ve been so generously extended in the first place.

Talking about race isn’t the same as racism. Asking for more diversity in YA and SFF isn’t the same as saying personhood matters less than the jargon of identity, but is rather an acknowledgement of the fact that, for many people, personhood is materially informed by their experience of identity, both in terms of self-perception and in how they’re treated by others at the individual, familial and collective levels. And thanks to various studies into the social impact of colour-blindness as an ideology, we already know that claiming not to see doesn’t undo the problem of racism; it just means adherents fail to understand what racism actually is and what it looks like, even – or perhaps especially – when they’re the ones perpetuating it.

(12) APOLLO 11 ON YOUTUBE. Ars Technica helps relive history – “Heinlein and Clarke discuss the Moon landings as they happen”.

Thanks to documentaries and YouTube, the younger set can experience some of the flavor of the late 1960s today, as well as what the Moon landing meant at the time to America and the world. The zeitgeist of hope and possibility might perhaps best be captured in a CBS News discussion on July 20, 1969—Apollo 11 landing day. Hosted by the inimitable Walter Cronkite, the great newsman interviewed science fiction authors Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein about the implications of NASA’s achievement. The program featured a discussion just after the landing, with a second segment following the first moonwalk by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

“Time just stopped for me, I think it stopped for everybody,” a 51-year-old Clarke said, describing how it felt to watch the lunar module touch down. “My heart stopped. My breathing stopped.”

(13) CURSUS HONORUM. James Langdell raises a good question:

How do you become a Ghost Of Christmas Past? Do you work your way up after starting out as Ghost Of National Pickle Day Past?

(14) THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS LAUGHS. Curator John King Tarpinian delved into the archives for these Stan Freberg Christmas parodies —

  • Green Christmas

  • Christmas Dragnet (1953) / Yulenet (1954)

  • The Night Before Christmas (1955)

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

Pixel Scroll 12/20/16 Where’s The Pixel? There Was Supposed To Be A Scroll-Shattering Pixel!

(1) CUTTING ROOM FLOOR. From ScienceFiction.com I learned about Vashi Nedomansky’s video that collects all the Rogue One material used in publicity that never shows up in the movie.

It is a good sign when on the first weekend a film is out fans are already scrutinizing footage and looking for information about how it was put together, and trying to figure out if there are any extra pieces to the puzzle out there that they can view. Fortunately for us all, one man in particular was so enamored by ‘Rogue One‘ (and I do not blame him as I too loved the movie) that he took the time to comb through the teaser, the trailers, and all of the promos he could find for ‘Rogue One’ and discover 46 shots used in the marketing campaign that did not actually make the final cut of the film.

 

(2) THOSE WERE THE DAYS. AND STILL ARE. There’s a lot to learn about the history of sf publishing from “Tor’s Best- and Worst-Selling Author: A Conversation Between Tom Doherty and L.E. Modesitt Jr.” at Tor.com.

The next phase of the conversation was something that can really only result when you get a couple of people with several decades of industry experience together.

DOHERTY: Of course, when I became publisher of Ace, that was the year that the Science Fiction Writers of America discontinued the publisher Hugo. I could almost take that personally. Pat LoBrutto, who was at Ace then, went over to Doubleday, and I brought Jim Baen in from Galaxy. Jim’s heart always was in short stuff, though. He loved military science fiction, but he really loved magazines and the magazine approach. Eventually, well—I liked much of what Jim did, but I didn’t want it to be all we did.

MODESITT: Well, but that’s what he’s done at Baen, in essence.

DOHERTY: And it worked out fine because, when I brought David in from Timescape, Ron Bush had gone from publisher of Ballantine, where he had renamed the Ballantine science fiction Del Rey after Judy-Lynn, over to Pocket Books. As president of Pocket Books, Ron tried to hire Jim away, because Ron, having come out of running Del Rey, was very high on science fiction and wanted a strong science fiction line over there, but Jim didn’t want to go to work for a big corporation. I knew Ron quite well over the years, so I called him up and said “hey Ron, look, Jim doesn’t want to join a big corporation, but he’s always dreamed to have his own company to do things in the way he saw them. And he’s a fine editor. You’re trying to hire him, you know that. Suppose we make a company for you to distribute, and you’ll be the distributor and we’ll be the publisher. We’ll make what we can make but you’ll make a guaranteed profit on the distribution.” And he thought, why not?

MODESITT: Well, it’s still working for him.

DOHERTY: It’s still working, and that’s how we started Baen Books. I actually gave Jim the inventory to start Baen. I allowed him to take any authors who wanted to go to the startup with Simon & Schuster, any authors that he had brought in that he had worked on. And that was the initial inventory, the first year of Baen. So they would have been Tor books.

MODESITT: I don’t know. I think it worked out better for all sides.

DOHERTY: I think it worked out just great. Baen is still a healthy company doing nicely under Toni [Weisskopf], and, hey, I’m still a partner over there.

MODESITT: Sort of the silent partner.

DOHERTY: A very silent partner. They do it all themselves. It would be conflict of interest to get too involved, but it’s fun to be part of it even on the outside.

(3) DARK SIDE OF THE ENT. Mariel Katherine shares “My Darth Vader Christmas Tree.”

(4) ALL WE ARE SAYING IS, GIVE ALT A CHANCE. From the Newsthump style manual —

“I’m not Sith, I’m Alt-Jedi, clarifies Darth Vader”

The Alt-Jedi are best known for rejecting mainstream Jediism in favour of provocative behaviour designed to outrage the consensus, such as force-choking people and destroying worlds in colossal gouts of laser fire.

(5) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #21. The twenty-first of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for a manuscript critique – up to 80K words – by Leah Bobet.

Attention authors: today’s auction is for the critique of a manuscript, up to 80,000 words, from award-winning author Leah Bobet. You’ll send your manuscript to Bobet by February 1, and she’ll return your critique by March 15.

This auction is open worldwide.

(6) BOND. 24-POUND BOND. Remember when writers only had to worry about producing manuscripts? Now Writers Digest is even offering advice about “5 Life-Saving Techniques for Surviving a Garden Gnome Attack During the Holidays”.

Keep reading if you want to live.

Garden gnome attacks rise sharply during the holidays. This phenomenon is because people’s affection for Santa’s elves causes them to confuse friendly North Pole helpers with the vicious murdering murderers known as garden gnomes (gnomus hortus).

We must always remember that while gnomes enjoy a public image whitewash that passes them off as symbols of merriment and goodwill, they are secretly planning home invasions all over the world in a grand plan of evisceration and death. (Wait a minute—does that gnome look a little closer to the pet door than yesterday? Better board up the house just to be safe.) While we don’t know why gnomes attack us—for our metal? our spices?—we can be certain that they want us all dead. In 2016, the Gnome Defense Hotline based in Berlin has recorded 1,017 confirmed attacks worldwide….

(7) POPPINS RETURNS. Mary Poppins is coming back to the screen in 2018. SciFiNow says Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury and Lin-Manuel Miranda will be in there with her somewhere. But I hope they get busy filming, because two of the three are quite antique.

Mary Poppins Returns set to take place 25 years after the events of the original film, and will see Mary Poppins, um, return to the Banks’ household when Jane and Michael experience a personal loss.

Chicago and Into The Woods director Rob Marshall is helming the film, which will feature an original screenplay from David Magee based on childrens’ author PL Travers’ The Mary Poppins Stories. Marshall, John DeLuca and Marc Platt are producing. It will also feature an all-new score by Marc Shaiman and original songs by Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

Joining Streep as Topsy, Miranda was Jack the Street Lamplighter and Lansbury in an unconfirmed role in Mary Poppins Returns are Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins, Colin Firth as bank manager William Weatherall Wilkins, Ben Whishaw as Michael Banks, Emily Mortimer as Jane Banks and Christian Dixon as the Milkman.

(8) THE SCRIPT DOCTOR IS IN. Jason Sanford loathes Passengers but says he has come up with a quick rewrite which totally fixes the film. I haven’t read the end of his post because I’m not ready for spoilers, though he insists he’s morally entitled to deliver them. The fact is, I don’t know if I’m even going to see the film. Whenever I’m ready Sanford’s link will be waiting for me here….

In light of Passengers being a SF story loved only by manipulative stalkers orbiting the manosphere, here’s a quick script rewrite which saves the film and keeps the rest of us from wasting two hours of our life on sexist BS.

And yes, spoilers.

Big big spoilers.

But if you still want to see this crap film you deserve to have it spoiled.

(9) A CONDEMNATION OF HARRY POTTER. Mimi Mondal, who grew up in Calcutta, asserts “Characters Are Not A Coloring Book Or, Why the Black Hemione is a Poor Apology for the Ingrained Racism of Harry Potter” at The Book Smugglers.

This adamant refusal to see color is the reason why I didn’t feel awkward with Harry Potter at the age when I started reading it; the reason why I can no longer read it without cringing. And color isn’t even the only thing that Harry Potter refuses to see. Sexuality,  religion—you name it. Harry Potter isn’t an offensive text, but it’s equally inoffensive to the homophobic, xenophobic readers. And maybe those are the things that we need to talk about, when we are shocked that the fandom we loved so much as children also managed to nurture the people who are so hateful towards our mere existence.

The inescapable fact is that most minorities never really did exist in Harry Potter, except in a tokenistic way, or retconned into the narrative afterwards. Much before the controversy over the black Hermione, there was the controversy over the gay Dumbledore—one that played out pretty much along the same lines. Nothing in the books suggests that Dumbledore couldn’t have been gay, but nothing in them actually establishes, leave alone defends, his homosexuality either. You can read the vaguest hints of a homoerotic friendship with Grindelwald, but the fan-fiction community had been shipping everyone with everyone else for years, and I can never be sure of what might have been an intended hint in the books. (Sirius Black and James Potter were definitely homoerotic too, right? Non?) In the actual books, Dumbledore was just the generic unpartnered male. I’d have never known, if I didn’t read the “official” announcement on Rowling’s website, that she intended him to be gay.

….I want the racists in my stories, and I want the racists to lose. I want people like the Dursleys to call people like me Paki, nigger, gangster, terrorist, job-stealer, the proverbial dogs that their country is going to, and then I want to see them eat their words. I want to see the Death Eaters swelling with ancestral wealth built over centuries of slavery and colonialism—because aren’t they all old British aristocrats, and how else did those people get rich?—and mouthing their ancestral slurs. (Do you really think Draco Malfoy would’ve let Hermione off with just “Mudblood”, if she happened to be black?) I don’t want Mudblood to be a half-hearted allegory for gay, non-white or any other minority, I don’t want house-elves to enact a half-baked allegory of slaves, because minorities are not allegorical in this world, they’re not equal to the straight white people, and I’m sure Rowling knows that as well as I do.

Now that people have been reading and re-reading these books for going on two decades some have discovered the intrinsic social issues — struggles of the minority wizards versus the majority Muggles, between the wizard-born and “mudbloods,” of totalitarians against the free, or the exercise of supernatural power without allegiance to a deity (controversial among evangelical Christians) – aren’t virulent enough to keep pace with what they’ve learned about life in the real world. (Which is not a complaint you can make about Huckleberry Finn, whatever else someone might think about it.) So were the books inadequate from the start, or is this a consequence of someone who loved them outgrowing them? Rowling dislikes the first possibility as much as anyone, and has tried to patch things by reinterpreting several characters after the fact. But her efforts have been fatally undercut by making a hash of the Pottermore expansion into Native American magic. What does Mondal’s text say should be done with Harry Potter now? I find she doesn’t feel a strong need to erase these books from her Kindle – she simply says “I hate to discover myself more and more rejected by it on each subsequent read.” Mondal may still be making up her mind about the ultimate answer.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Dave Langford, and Jim C. Hines for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cadbury Moose.]

Pixel Scroll 12/19/16 Rock-Paper-Pixel!

(1) THESE AREN’T THE PRACTITIONERS WE’RE LOOKING FOR. A Jedi group was unable to convince the UK’s Charity Commission that they are a religion reports The Guardian — “Jedi order fails in attempt to register as religious group”.

A Star Wars-inspired organisation has failed to use the force of its arguments to convince the charity watchdog that it should be considered a religious organisation.

The Temple of the Jedi Order, members of which follow the tenets of the faith central to the Star Wars films, sought charitable status this year, but the Charity Commission has ruled that it does not meet the criteria for a religion under UK charity law.

The commission wrote that Jediism “lacks the necessary spiritual or non-secular element” it was looking for in a religion.

The Temple of the Jedi Order was an “entirely web-based organisation and the Jedi are predominantly, if not exclusively, an online community,” the commission noted. There was “insufficient evidence that moral improvement is central to the beliefs and practices of [the group].”

(2) A SWING STATE’S VIEW OF ROGUE ONE. John Scalzi shares his reactions to the new movie and its marketing strategy in “Rogue One, or, the Disneyfication of Star Wars is Complete (and This is a Good Thing)”. There are no spoilers in the review, however beware the comments where spoilers are allowed.

And this random dude in Piqua, Ohio was absolutely correct: Disney yet again did not fuck up Star Wars. In fact, for two films running the folks at Disney have produced two really top-notch Star Wars films, a feat that has not been managed in thirty-five years — or possibly ever, depending on whether you believe the original Star Wars, as epochal as it undeniably was, is actually good, which given its pastiche-heavy, merely-serviceable plot and script, and leaden acting and direction, is debatable. The Disneyfication of the Star Wars universe is now complete, and this is a good thing. As I’ve noted before, Disney, for all its sins, consistently drives to entertain, and drives to entertain intelligently, meaning that it doesn’t see its audience as a mark but as a partner. Disney gives us thrills and fun, and we give them money, and wait for the cycle to repeat, as it does, consistently.

Yes, fine, Scalzi, but how is the film itself? Well, Rogue One is different from the other Star Wars films, consistently darker and more adult than any since Empire and really the first where I, at least, didn’t feel like the potential additions to the merchandising lines were a key driver of story (hello, BB-8, adorable as you are).

(3) HE’S NOT ACTUALLY FEELING BETTER. Washington Post writer Michael Cavna, in “One of the best performances in ‘Rogue One’ is by an actor who died in 1994”, looks at how Peter Cushing is “acting” in Rogue One despite being dead for decades and how this could lead the way for other dead actors to make posthumous comebacks.

This all feels like an organic continuation of what some of the sharpest minds at Lucasfilm/ILM/Disney-Pixar et al. (including effects veteran/ILM executive John Knoll) have been pushing toward since at least the dawn of the ’80s, as the digital milestones began to come fast and furious. The power to manipulate the pixel forever beckons the imagination now, and 2016 has put the state of that long, Jedi-like journey on distinct display.

After all, Disney even gave us a scene this year in which Robert Downey Jr., looking like his ’80s-era self, registers as mostly real in “Captain America: Civil War,” even if the CGI tweaks of a motion-capture performance can still be distracting when involving a too-human countenance.

(4) COMPARATIVE IMPORTANCE. Some people review the story, some the marketing, some the effects, some the film’s rank in the hierarchy of quality. Here’s what John C. Wright reviews, in “Rogue One (Spoiler Free Review)”.

I freely confess I had precisely zero interest in seeing this film, but a friend who was visiting for the evening came by, and we talked each other into going to see it.

I was very pleasantly surprised. This was a good film.

As with many a film of late, my main reluctance was fear of some Leftwing sucker punch. Far too many shows I used to watch had the habit of pausing the action for a Two Minute Hate against all I hold dear, like a satanic version of a Public Service Announcement.

I had heard from several sources that the cast starred no white males except as villains, and I had even heard that the writer did this deliberate as a message to express hatred for America in general and for all Conservatives in particular. His vision was to portray the Empire as Trump-supporting, Make the Galaxy Great Again, White Supremacist Patriarchs, and the rebellion as the multi-culti proletarians rising up against their oppressors. Therefore this film had all the earmarks of being just one more  bit of Lefteroo Hate-Whitey bigot-prop, like Disney’s POCAHONTAS.

My misgivings turned out to be entirely unfounded.

I was a little surprised that the main male protagonist was Caucasian, and for a while I wondered what the writer’s comment that there were no Caucasians among the protagonists. The actor is named Deigo Luna.  I had not remembered (because I am not a psychiatrist) that in the delusional world-system of the Left, Spaniards are not considered to be from Europe hence are not considered Caucasians. Spaniards are considered by the Left to be oppressed by Whites, and are not considered, for some reason, to be responsible for the introduction of black slaves to the New World. Go figure.

So, there is no pro-Left nor anti-White nor Anti-West message in this film. If the film makers meant there to be one, they failed miserably.

(5) MEASURING AUTHOR POPULARITY. Today, John Ringo posted a “Redshirt call” on Facebook.

To explain for people who haven’t seen this before, I just need a name. Just post “Me” in the comments. If you’ve been named before please don’t post. One of the first comments wins. I may go back to it for subsequent names. No guarantees of how much ‘screen’ time you get. May or may not die. (Right now, probably falls into ‘won’t’.) I’m the final judge and there is no appeal.

Go.

One hour later 496 volunteers had left comments.

(6) PUT ANOTHER CANDLE ON THE INTERNET. Congratulations to Ethan Mills whose Examined Worlds is celebrating its second blog-iversary.  

I started this blog primarily as a place to post philosophically-enriched reviews of all the science fiction books I was reading.  I figured I spent so much time reviewing books on Goodreads (check out my Goodreads profile!) that I might as well make a blog out of them.  While I primarily blog on science fiction and philosophy, I have strayed into other territories, especially politics both within and without science fiction fandom and academia.  See My Favorite Posts for some of the posts I’ve found particularly enjoying or fulfilling to write.

(7) THEN IT’S NOT MY PROBLEM. Annalee Newitz deconstructs the Blade Runner 2049 teaser trailer for Ars Technica.

Then the scene shifts to a glowing red landscape, perhaps in a heavily polluted desert outside LA. We get to see Ryan Gosling’s Officer K, looking tough and cool in his knee-length leather jacket, because global warming shouldn’t stop the fashion train. There’s a haunting image of a giant (replicant?) head on the ground, which seems like it might be a reference to some of the images from the famously trippy 1973 sci-fi movie Fantastic Planet.

Officer K is trying to solve a mystery that takes him right to the mysterious lair of Deckard, who has apparently been missing for decades. It almost looks like Deckard is living in a spiffed-up version of Sebastian’s home for broken replicants in the first film.

Mark-kitteh says of the trailer, “I think there needs to be a mashup where Harrison Ford says ‘Chewie, we’re home.’”

(8) PARAGRAVITY COMICS. Stephen Haffner of the Haffner Press is now shipping the comic strip collection Beyond Mars, written by Jack Williamson, artwork by Lee Elias, edited and designed by Dean Mullaney, with an introduction by Bruce Canwell. The 160-page full-color hardcover is $55

Drawn from the same setting of Jack Williamson’s novels SEETEE SHIP and SEETEE SHOCK, BEYOND MARS takes place 200 years in the future, when a new force—paragravity—has enabled men to live and breathe on the asteroids. The strip stars Mike Flint, a spatial engineer who lives on Brooklyn Rock, an asteroid “beyond Mars.” With Sam, his green-skinned metallic partner from Venus, Flint gets involved in a series of lighthearted adventures, battling space pirates, teaming up with beautiful and strong-minded women, and dealing with addicts of the mysterious drug called “star dust.” The restored color is outstanding and the artwork is creative and imaginative. Bruce Canwell contributes a wonderful introduction, putting this in the context of early 1950s science fiction. The book also includes original art by Lee Elias on other features like Black Cat, Terry & the Pirates and Tommy Tomorrow.

(9) DARMOK AND JELAD AT THE MANGA. Brigid Alverson of B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog calls out “The Best New Manga Series of 2016”.

Whatever you say about the balance of 2016, it was a good year for manga. Publishers expanded their lines in all different directions, bringing us new titles from popular creators as well as interesting debuts from newcomers. The category has grown richer than ever before, with more manga for more tastes. Here’s a look at 15 of the best series that launched in the past year.

Princess Jellyfish, by Akiko Higashimura The women who live in the Amamizu-kan boardinghouse are fans (otaku) of very specific things: Trains, jellyfish, kimonos, The Records of the Three Kingdoms. They’re happily nerdy together, but they freeze whenever they run up against someone stylish, and members of the opposite sex are out of the question—in fact, they call themselves the “amars” (nuns). So it’s a huge shock to Tsukimi, the jellyfish fanatic, when a stylish girl helps her rescue a jellyfish—and an even bigger shock when the girl turns out to be a boy. Not just any boy, though: Kuranosuke is the younger son of a wealthy, politically connected family, and although he dresses as a woman to dodge any notion that he would go into politics himself, he understands how things work. When a developer announces plans to buy and raze Amamizu-kan, Kuranosuke helps the amars glam up to do battle. Meanwhile, Tsukimi has caught the eye of Kuranosuke’s nerdy older brother, and the attraction is mutual—but he doesn’t realize the beautiful girl he encountered at the jellyfish tank in the aquarium and the dowdy amar in sweats are the same person. Princess Jellyfish puts a uniquely manga spin on some classic rom-com tropes, and the result is a refreshingly funny story about fashion, politics, and extreme nerdiness….

(10) DARNED NEAR THE BEST. Pornokitsch’s array of contributors have assembled an eclectic and far-reaching list of things they liked or nearly liked — “Pornokitsch’s Absolute and Definitive Guide To The Best of Everything in 2016”. Here’s one example —

Erin

The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual. From the founders of one of New York’s most celebrated cocktail meccas, this book is part mixologist’s handbook, part all-American tale of two Irish boys making it in the Big Apple (complete with Gangs of New York reference). Be warned: the list of ingredients sometimes read more like a scavenger’s hunt than a recipe, but if you’re prepared to put in the work, you’ll be rewarded.

Hibernacula. My favourite thing about NYCC this year was visiting this jewelry shop on a tip from Seanan McGuire. I was lucky to come away only a few hundred dollars lighter in the wallet, not because the fantasy-inspired designs are so expensive, but because there are just so damn many of them I want to buy. I settled for a silver ring inspired by Castiel of Supernatural, plus this Cthulhu-friendly pendant. I’m still dreaming about commissioning a piece based on the Bloodbound novels, because garnet studded jewelry would be the best.

Ticket to Ride: Rails and Sails. If you’re a fan of Ticket to Ride – and really, who isn’t – you should definitely check out the latest release in the franchise. Not only is it two games in one, with a world side of the board and a Great Lakes side, it’s got enough twists and extra layers of strategy to keep even the most hardened T2R veterans on their toes.

Read what villains Erin liked (and didn’t) in 2016. Or, better yet, read The Bloodsworn, the awesome conclusion to her epic fantasy trilogy

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

Pixel Scroll 12/17/16 Side Effects Include Pixels, Pixellation, Scrolls, Curled Edges And, In Extreme Cases, Death. Ask Your Medical Provider.

(1) WHEATON COSPLAYS HIMSELF. Wil Wheaton was about to leave the house for Rogue One when an idea occurred to him — “ICYMI: A tiny bit of trolling”.

It was raining and what passes for cold, here in Los Angeles, so I went to my closet to grab a scarf, and I realized that I could do a tiny bit of silly trolling, inspired by the Big Bang Theory version of myself:

One guy walked up to me and said, “that’s the wrong franchise, buddy,” to which I replied, “Oh … is it?”

(2) YAKKETY CAT. Something in the air has caused Camestros Felapton to bring us “The Cat Equations”.

Camestros was not alone.

There was nothing to indicate the fact but the small alert tab in the corner of his customised Tiffany iPad. The drawing room was empty but for himself; there was no sound other than the murmur of the drives — but the alert tab was flashing. It had been showing nothing but a reminder of the upcoming village fete when the little drawing room had been launched from the surface of the planet; now, an hour later, it was modestly attempting to get his attention. There was something in the broom closet across the room, it was saying, some kind of a body that radiated heat.

It could be but one kind of a body — a living, talking, cat body….

(3) LEAVING CALIFORNIA ROLL BEHIND. Learn from the best: “A sushi master alights in Redondo Beach” is Richard Foss’ latest culinary profile.

In 1996 Kuri-san was looking for new challenges just as a genius was looking for staff. Nobu Matsuhisa emigrated from Japan to Peru in the early 1970s and when he couldn’t find Japanese ingredients he substituted what was available. Over time he created a new style of sushi that became hugely popular and was widely imitated. He opened his restaurant Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills in 1977 and it became a celebrity hangout. Matsuhisa was one of the hottest places in LA in the ‘90s, and a friend of Kuri-san’s let him know that a coveted position was just about to become available because one of Nobu’s chefs was leaving to start his own restaurant. Kuri-san applied, was accepted, and found himself in a different world.

“He was using all these things I had never seen on sushi before, jalapeno, cilantro, wow. There was something different every day,” he remembered. “At first I didn’t like some things, the flavor of cilantro, but it was very interesting and certainly I was learning. Japanese people and Americans both came in and I had to explain things to them. Americans didn’t want to try sea urchin and things Japanese people think is normal, Japanese didn’t want to try jalapenos.”

American customers see Kuri-san cutting fish and think that’s the most important part of his skill. It is at least as important that he procure the best quality seafood, and much of his day is spent doing exactly that. Some species he buys through specialty seafood companies that he has developed a relationship with, but others require a trip to the downtown LA fish market. He needs to see the large fish like tuna, to look at the eye to see how clear it is, a certain sign of freshness. At other times he deals with fish brokers face-to-face and interrogates them about exactly when and where their products were caught. There are many liars in the seafood industry who try to pass of inferior fish as wild, but Kuri-san is one of the few who knows the look and scent of the authentic fish and can detect the fakers. 

(4) NOT QUITE THE END OF THE WORLD…YET. Michael Stipe and Stephen Colbert recapped 2016’s most depressing moments with a parody of R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”

Colbert sang a hilarious spoof of year’s biggest, worst headlines, like: “Oh, great, it starts with an outbreak, Zika, and Harambe,” mimicking Stipe’s trademark rapid fire delivery.

 

(5) HUGH CASEY FUNDRAISER. Philadelphia fans will hold HughCon on January 29 to raise money and will help cancer patient Hugh Casey defray his expenses.

hughcon

Hugh Casey has given a lot to the Philly fan community over the years, and now it’s time to give something back, now that he needs it the most as he recoveres from cancer surgery. Thus came the idea for “HughCon”. The Rotunda has donated their space, Star Trek-themed band The Roddenberries have donated their time and talent, a number of makers and vendors have donated items for our silent auction, and a lots of people have donated their time and effort in order to bring to you a celebration of fandom and geekiness. Any revenue raised will be donated directly to Hugh to help him with his expenses. So come support Hugh, as he’s supported us for all these years! $15 online, $20 at door.

TICKETS AVAILABLE AT http://hughcon.brownpapertickets.com/

This is an all-ages show, but minors must be accompanied by a legal guardian. This also means no alcohol on the premises, but there are plenty of restaurants and bars in the area that you can go to

(6) HOLIDAY GOODIES. Puns are a necessary ingredient for the Orbit Books Bake-off.

(7) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #19. The nineteenth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for an autographed set of the three Necromancer Chronicles books by Amanda Downum, along with either a print or audio book of DREAMS OF SHREDS & TATTERS.

About THE DROWNING CITY (Book one of the Necromancer Chronicles):

Symir — the Drowning City. home to exiles and expatriates, pirates and smugglers. And violent revolutionaries who will stop at nothing to overthrow the corrupt Imperial government.

For Isyllt Iskaldur, necromancer and spy, the brewing revolution is a chance to prove herself to her crown. All she has to do is find and finance the revolutionaries, and help topple the palaces of Symir. But she is torn between her new friends and her duties, and the longer she stays in this monsoon-drenched city, the more intrigue she uncovers — even the dead are plotting.

As the waters rise and the dams crack, Isyllt must choose between her mission and the city she came to save.

(8) THE EXPANSE, SEASON 2. Here’s trailer #3.

Earth. Mars. The Asteroid Belt. It’s time to pick a side. The Expanse returns February 1st on Syfy. More about ‘The Expanse’: This hour-long, ten episode series is based on the popular New York Times bestselling book series collectively known as The Expanse, written by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (under the pen name James S. A. Corey). Abraham and Franck will be show producers. The multi-installment, best-selling book series is published in 17 countries, including China, France, Japan, Australia, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom. One in the series, Leviathan Wakes, was nominated for a Hugo Award as well as a Locus Award, while “Caliban’s War” was nominated for a Locus Award.

 

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 17, 1843 – Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is published.
  • December 17, 1969 — A program dedicated to the investigation of UFOs (called Project Blue Book) was terminated. For more than 20 years, the U.S. Air Force had examined 12,618 sightings. Most of these were found to be caused by man-made objects such as balloons, satellites, and aircraft; natural or astronomical phenomena; weather; and hoaxes. Today, 701 remain unexplained

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born December 17, 1975 — Milla Jovovich

(11) TOUGH TRIVIA. Playbuzz presents “The Ultimate 2016 SFF Quiz from Orbit Books”. Note: this is mostly a TV, film, and video game quiz.

I scored 17 out of 40 – and three of the ones I got right were random guesses. Surely you can do better!

(12) A BIDDER IN MOTION TENDS TO REMAIN IN MOTION. The Smithsonian says at auction this book wildly exceeded its predicted sale price — “Most Expensive Science Book Sells for $3.7 Million”.

There are plenty of awesome, new science books to keep geeks happy this Christmas. But one anonymous science-lover recently received the ultimate stocking stuffer—Laura Geggel at LiveScience reports that the most expensive printed science book was recently sold at Christie’s in New York. An anonymous buyer purchased a rare first edition of Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica for $3.7 million.

According to Jasper Jackson at The Guardian, the auction house believed the book would sell for $1 to $1.5 million. The most recent sale surpasses an English-language edition of the Principia which was presented to King James II which sold in 2013 for $2.5 million.

If there’s any science book that deserves to set a sales record, it’s the Principia. Published in 1687, the book sets out for the first time Newton’s three laws of motion, which shaped the course of modern physics. Geggel reports that Einstein called the book “perhaps the greatest intellectual stride that it has ever been granted to any man to make.”

(13) REMEMBER THE VIRTUAL GOLDFISH? This seems like a logical (if potentially creepy) extrapolation of the Siri concept — Azuma Hikari, the “Virtual Home Robot”, your waifu in a bottle.

Right now, only a Japanese-speaking version is available:

Q : Will Azuma Hikari be able to speak English? Or will she be able to speak English in the future?

A : Azuma Hikari can only speak Japanese. For other languages, we are still studying it based on the status of the current limited pre-order.

(14) A DEEPNESS IN THE SKY. Space.com hosts a gallery of “26 Cosmic Photos from the Hubble Space Telescope’s Ultra Deep Field”.

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope holds the world record for peering farther into deep space than any other telescope of its time. It has imaged some of the most distant galaxies ever observed, allowing the telescope to look back in time to when the universe was in its infancy. This image, called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, offers a core sample of the deep universe with diverse galaxies of various ages, sizes, shapes and colors.

(15) MAGIC BOOKS. Adrian Liang interviews Brandon Sanderson for Omnivoracious, the Amazon Book Review.

Amazon Book Review: Tell me about your latest book.

Brandon Sanderson: My latest book is Arcanum UnboundedArcanum Unbounded is a collection of my short fiction from the shared universe that all my fantasy books take place in. About half of the stories are expansions on the books. I’ll often take a character and do a side story with them that just didn’t fit in the book, but I knew what happened with them and I write that out. About half of the stories are standalone stories on new worlds with new magics, exploring what it’s like to live in the Cosmere. One of the stories won a Hugo. They’ve all been, individually, bestsellers on their own, and this is the opportunity to get them all together, with a new Stormlight Archive story that is a big chunk of the book. We’ve tried to make it super nice. For people who already have the stories, we’ve tried to make this hardcover be the book you have on your shelf and that you loan to your friends. The hardcover has illustrations too for each story; one is a map of the solar system—it’s an old Da Vinci-style drawing of someone imagining what the solar system is like. Each story also has an in-world foreword by a character who is studying each of the planets, and an afterword by me—not in-world—about how I wrote it and why.

(16) AD ASTRA. New York’s Hayden Planetarium will present the Frontiers Lecture: Can We Reach The Stars? on January 23.

Professor of physics Greg Matloff discusses recent developments that have advanced the possibility of interstellar travel for robots and humans, from the discovery of a potentially habitable planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the star closest to the Sun, to the announcement of an interstellar probe called Project Starshot. Learn how advances in photon sailing, nano-spacecrafts, and high-powered lasers may bring the stars within reach.

(17) DON GLUT’S MONSTER MUSEUM.  Don Glut guides you on a video tour of his Monster Museum – just watch out when he offers to shake hands.

Karlos Borloff pays a visit to Donald F Glut’s home Monster museum in Burbank, Ca. for a guided tour of his vintage & rare artifacts & creations !! As seen on TV !!

 

(18) WHO IS NUMBER ONE? Here is Rolling Stone’s selection of the “40 Best Science Fiction TV Shows of All Time”. Babylon 5 is only #20. The Twilight Zone is #2. Who is #1? (Not The Prisoner – he’s #5…)

It’s odd to think that, once upon a time, a TV show set in space — one that declared, in its opening narration, as the cosmos being the “final frontier” — was considered the pop-cultural equivalent of an unwanted party-crasher. Yes, a concept like Star Trek was both of its time and clearly ahead of it; history has more than vindicated Gene Rodenberry’s notion of boldly going where no man had gone before. But given the number of top-notch shows set in the far reaches of the galaxy and that used genre for pulpy and profound purposes over the last 30 or so years, it seems crazy to think that one of the most groundbreaking SF series was a network pariah and a ratings dud. Today, there’s an entire cable network devoted to this kind of programming. You can’t turn on your TV/Roku/cut-cord viewing device without bumping into spaceships, alien invasion and wonky sci-fi food-for-thought.

Science fiction has been around in one form or another since the early-ish days of television, both here and abroad, and its legacy now looms larger than ever. So what better time to count down the 40 best sci-fi TV shows of all time? From anime classics to outer-space soap operas, spooky British anthology shows to worst-case-scenario postapocalyptic dramas, primetime pop hits to obscure but beloved cult classics, here are our choices for the best the television genre has to offer — submitted, for your approval.

(19) FRITZ LANG REBOOT. According to The Verge, “The creator of Mr. Robot is adapting sci-fi masterpiece Metropolis as a miniseries”.

Sam Esmail, the celebrated auteur behind the cybersecurity drama Mr. Robot, is working to adapt the 1927 Fritz Lang film Metropolis as a miniseries, according to a report from The Hollywood Reporter. The project is in the very early stages of development, the report says, and it’s unclear what role Esmail will play in the finished project. It’s not expected to hit screens for another two or three years, which likely means Esmail will first finish out his four- to five-season roadmap for Mr. Robot before turning his focus on the adaptation. Season three of Mr. Robot is set to debut some time in 2017

(20) SWEET EMOTION. Hum stars a robot and a hummingbird and a sink full of dirty dishes.

A solitary dish washing robot living out his life in the back room of a restaurant is enlightened to the world that exists beyond his four walls, with the help of a small friend he breaks free of confinement to pursue his dream of exploration.

Hum was the film we created for our junior year advanced production class in 2015 while attending Chapman’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts. The film was created over one semester (February 2015 – May 2015) with a budget of $2000. We hope you enjoy the film and are compelled to share it with your friends and family, you are what motivates to continue telling stories.

 

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Andrew Porter, Dawn Incognito, JJ, Camestros Felapton, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 12/16/16 Pixel Bell Rock

(1) DUCKTALES. As a kid I loved my father’s Donald Duck imitation. He was so funny. That memory immediately came to mind when I read David Tennant will voice Scrooge McDuck in the reboot of Disney DuckTales. I can’t stop imagining Tennant doing my father’s duck accent. Admittedly, Tennant’s character doesn’t sound like Donald, even so, will the voice of the deadly serious Tenth Doctor really be transformed into the dialect of a Scottish billionaire duck?  ScienceFiction.com has the story.

To announce the cast for the highly-anticipated reboot, Disney XD released a video of the all-new stars singing the original series’ theme song. Headlining the quack pack for the upcoming globe-trotting adventures is ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Jessica Jones’ star David Tennant, who will no doubt bring his particular Scottish burr to Uncle Scrooge. He’ll be joined by ‘Powerless’ and ‘Community’ star Danny Pudi, ‘Parks and Recreation’ favorite Ben Schwartz, and ‘Saturday Night Live’ staple Bobby Moynihan as the voices of mischief-making Huey, Dewey and Louie, respectively. The cast will be rounded out by Beck Bennett as Launchpad McQuack, Toks Olagundoye as Mrs. Beakley, and Kate Micucci as Webby Vanderquack. But to get in on the fun that is that unforgettable theme song, check out the video below of the cast participating in a ‘DuckTales’ sing-along:

 

(2)LICENSED TROUT. My good friend, who chooses to be identified as “Kilgore Trout” for purposes of this news item, is organizing a convention, and like good conrunners should he is licensing the music they’ll be using. But Kilgore was bemused by the aggressive terms of the ASCAP agreement —

I note their list of potentially infringing uses:

Please note that your organization is responsible for any music used at the event, including music used by exhibitors, speakers or music provided overhead by the facility in your meeting/event rooms.  

Examples of reportable music uses:

Live music (bands, soloist,pianist, harpist, etc), Disc Jockeys, karaoke, Guitar Hero or mechanical music (Internet streaming or downloaded music, CD’s, Records, Radio, iPod music,DVD’s, Videos, background music provided by the hotel or facility)

Music during the receptions & closing ceremonies

Lead in & exit music

Music used during meetings, PowerPoint presentations

Pro-speakers using music at part of their speeches, whether live or

mechanical

CD players,iPod, Music via computers in booths or exhibits

Music utilized during awards banquets, event dinners and parties

Comedians and magicians using music or parodies of songs

Multiple or large screen TV’s used at events

Flash Mobs

Zumba, Yoga and group relaxation sessions using music

Event video/DVD streamed or archived on your event website

In particular, I want to highlight “flash mobs”, “large screen TVs”, and event video as reportable. I have asked for clarification, as surely they can’t mean the presence of TVs requires a license.

Also, note the requirement for a license if the hotel provides background music in the facility. (Isn’t that an issue between ASCAP and the hotel?)

(3) DON’T RAIN ON MY PARADE. WIRED rounded up all the grumpy, sneezy and dopey designers in town to “shove a lightsaber through the Death Star’s design”. Go ahead, click on it and reward their bad behavior….

Despite its reputation as a symbol of fear and oppression and its confounding vulnerability to proton torpedoes, the Death Star continues to be a subject of endless fascination—especially in the design world. In advance of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, a new book—Death Star Owner’s Technical Manual—lays bare the plans for the station that, presumably, get stolen by rebels, transmitted to Princess Leia, secreted in an R2 unit on board the Rand Ecliptic, and eventually made possible the Death Star’s destruction. Oh, sorry: spoilers.

Point is, the drawings of the planet-killing not-a-moon may look like gobbledygook to you, but to a trained designer, they’re fare game for criticism. And when WIRED asked a bunch of designers, architects, and other professionals for their assessments, most were not kind. That’s not just because of the Death Star’s evil connotations, but due to obvious design flaws. These include, among many other things, limited amenities for stormtroopers and other employees, defense vulnerabilities, severe aesthetic disappointments, and a real lack of creativity when it comes to disposal of waste heat.

Architect Cameron Sinclair, founder of Small Works, a firm that specializes in building solutions in post disaster zones and underserved communities, calls it “yet another techno-driven ego play by the Empire,” primarily blaming a lack of community engagement during the building’s conceptual phase. “If you look at the accommodation wings, there is little room for troopers and their families. No educational spaces, no decent public places and extremely limited access to fresh produce. (Seriously, vertical food farms have been around for generations.) All the communal spaces have been downsized due to an over emphasis on unproven technology.”

(4) LONG LIST EBOOK. David Steffen wants you to know that the Long List Volume 2 ebook was released this week. Hie thee hence!

(5) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #18. The eighteenth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for a TGM Fundraiser: Manuscript Critique from Jessica Reisman.

Attention authors: today’s auction is for the critique of a manuscript, up to novella length (39,999 words), from author Jessica Reisman. Reisman is the author of more than 25 published stories, several of which have been honorable mentions in various Year’s Best anthologies. She won the Southeastern Science Fiction Achievement Award (SESFA) for her story “Threads.”

(6) A BUNDLE OF BRONZE. Captainco is offering a Forrest J Ackerman statue & Tales From The Acker-Mansion Bundle.

Celebrate Uncle Forry’s Centennial with a very limited faux bronze statue of Forrest J Ackerman by Dark Horse, accompanied by the Tales From The Acker-Mansion anthology. A perfect gift for any Monster Kid you know or the Monster Kid in yourself. A $300+ value for only $200!

statue-ackermansion-bundle_large

(7) MORE FAVES. Smash Dragons has picked its “Best of 2016”.

Well it’s that time of the year again. The festive season is in full swing here at the lair (no, I’m not drunk… yet), and I figured it was time I reflected on what has been an amazing year for genre fiction.

Looking back over the books I read in 2016 made me realise just how lucky I am to be a reader. I’ve witnessed the emergence of some stunning new talent this year, and I’ve rediscovered some old favourites along the way. To paraphrase George R R Martin, I’ve lived a thousand different lives over the past twelve months, and I’ve loved every single one of them! Choosing a top ten proved extremely difficult. I struggled to make my selections for a long time. However, after much deliberation and thought I managed to nut it out, and I’m pretty happy with the list I came up with. Most of the top ten have full reviews (those that don’t never fear, I will get to them soon), which I have provided links to if you’d like to check them out. I’ve also linked purchase information. It is the season of giving after all, and as a friend of mine pointed out when you buy a book you are buying two gifts essentially (one for the reader, and another for the author of the book you purchased). So be generous to those around you!

So without further ado, I give you my top ten best reads of 2016!

1 – The Fisherman by John Langan/Crow Shine by Alan Baxter

I cheated a little here, but I really couldn’t seperate the two. The Fisherman is a magnificent character- driven cosmic horror that crawled under my skin and refused to budge. Langan is a masterful storyteller, and The Fisherman is hands down one of the best books I’ve ever read, period. You can buy The Fisherman here.

Crow Shine is also an incredible book that is filled to the brim with rich and powerful dark fiction. It is one of the best collections I’ve ever read, and Baxter is one of the best short fiction writers working in the world today. I loved this book so much I even forked out a lot of money to buy a signed limited edition copy of it! Highly recommended. Check out my full review here, and buy yourself a copy here.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 16, 1901: Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit was first published.
  • December 16, 1983 – Nazis are forced to turn to a Jewish historian for help in battling the ancient demon they have inadvertently freed from its prison in The Keep, seen of the first time on this day.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born December 16, 1917 – Arthur C. Clarke
  • Born December 16, 1928 — Philip K. Dick

(10) THESE AREN’T THE CRITICS I’M LOOKING FOR. This NPR review makes Rogue One sound “meh”.

You won’t get more plot than that from me, because plot is the chief attraction in Rogue One. With Stormtroopers lurking ’round every intergalactic corner, director Gareth Edwards hasn’t much time for such other Star Warsian charms as character, grace, whimsy and, most of all, fun. He does like to linger over battles, although I can’t say their outcomes are ever much in doubt, the fears of a pessimistic droid (voiced indispensably by Alan Tudyk) notwithstanding.

We’ve been here before, and will doubtless go here again, probably with more imagination, and hopefully with more seeming to ride on the outcome. Rogue One is allegedly a standalone story, but it’s also a prequel, tied so tightly to the stories we’ve already heard that most 9-year-olds will be able to tell those nervous Nellies in the rebel alliance how it’s all going to come out, even before Jyn delivers the script’s flatfooted version of a St. Crispin’s Day speech.

(11) CURTAIN OF HISTORY DRAWN BACK. Another NPR review — “’Hidden Figures’ No More: Meet The Black Women Who Helped Send America To Space”.

Shetterly grew up in the 1960s in Hampton, Va., not far from NASA’s Langley Research Center. She’s African-American, and her father, extended family and neighbors were all scientists, physicists and engineers at NASA. But it wasn’t until about six years ago that she understood the magnitude of the work black women were doing there. She recently told NPR’s Michel Martin, “I knew that many of them worked at NASA. I didn’t know exactly what they did.”

Shetterly spent the next six years searching for more information. She researched archives and interviewed former and current NASA employees and family members. In her book, she details the journeys and personal lives of Langley’s star mathematicians, and recounts how women computers — both black and white — broke barriers in both science and society.

(12) PREDICTING THE PRESENT. The BBC tells “Why Children of Men has never been as shocking as it is now”.

Alfonso Cuarón’s dystopian thriller is one of the 21st Century’s most acclaimed films – and its version of the future is now disturbingly familiar. Nicholas Barber looks back….

If the plot harks back to two classic fictions of the 1940s, Casablanca and Nineteen Eighty-Four, the setting is breathtakingly contemporary. Cuarón doesn’t use captions or speeches to explain what has happened to civilisation, but, judging by the old newspapers we glimpse, society has been rocked by climate change, pollution, nuclear accidents, social division, and terrorist bombings. Nevertheless, all of Britain’s troubles have been blamed on asylum seekers, who are locked in cages, and then bussed to hellish shanty towns. “Poor fugees,” says Theo’s hippy friend Jasper (Michael Caine). “After escaping the worst atrocities, and making it all the way to England, our government hunts them down like cockroaches.”

The blame game

Ring any bells? Mass migration was a major issue in 2006, so it’s not surprising that it should be so central to Children of Men. But, a decade ago, no one had predicted the Syrian refugee crisis, or that the US’s President-elect would propose registering Muslims, or that the UK would vote to leave the European Union after a campaign that focused on immigrant numbers. Today, it’s hard to watch the television news headlines in Children of Men without gasping at their prescience: “The Muslim community demands an end to the army’s occupation of mosques.” “The homeland security bill is ratified. After eight years, British borders will remain closed. The deportation of illegal immigrants will continue.” In 2006, all of this seemed plausible enough, but perhaps a little strident, a little over-the-top.

(13) CHECK YOUR PHONE. Here are “20 Extremely Real Texts From Superheroes” selected by Cracked.

Sometimes we like to take a break from writing words about superheroes to look at images of words written by superheroes. To show you what we mean here’s another installment from our friends over at Texts From Superheroes. Check out their website here.

(14) COVER LAUNCH. Orbit has unveiled the cover and title for N. K. Jemisin’s final Broken Earth book.

The highly lauded and award winning Broken Earth series by N. K. Jemisin comes to its remarkable conclusion in THE STONE SKY. The first book in the series won the Hugo award and was shortlisted for the Nebula, Audie, and Locus award, was the inaugural Wired.com book club pick, and was a New York Times Notable Book of 2015. The sequel, The Obelisk Gate, was chosen as one of NPR’s Best of the Year and one of Amazon’s Best Books of 2016.

THE STONE SKY, publishing in August 2017, closes out a trilogy that is haunting, beautiful, and surprisingly prescient. Our earth-shattering cover for the third book was designed by Wendy Chan.

jemisin_stonesky-tp

(15) FREE FANZINES. Bruce Gillespie has made three of his fanzines available for download as PDF files from eFanzines:

SF Commentary 92, July 2016. 70,000 words. Ray Sinclair-Wood’s ‘Poems of the Space Race’, Michael Bishop’s ‘Scalehunter: Lucius Shepard and the Dragon Griaule Sequence’ and ‘I Must Be Talking to My Friends’: a cat story, plus 80 correspondents. Cover art by Carol Kewley and Ditmar.

SF Commentary 93, December 2016. 60,000 words. First part of John Litchen’s ‘Fascinating Mars: 120 Years of Fiction About Mars’; Colin Steele’s ‘The Field’: the year’s SF and fantasy books; and two accounts of ‘My Life, Science Fiction, and Fanzines’ — Bruce Gillespie and James ‘Jocko’ Allen. Cover art by Ditmar and Elaine Cochrane.

Treasure 4, October 2016. 50,000 words. Mervyn Barrett’s tales of the Melbourne SF Club during the 1960s; Robert Lichtman’s pocket history of FAPA; four tributes to John Collins (from Robyn Whiteley, Bruce Gillespie, Don Collins, and Gail Reynolds); Jennifer Bryce’s ‘Travels in the UK, 2014 and 2015’; and Robert Day’s tales of another fandom — trainspotting around Britain and Europe. Plus many correspondents.

(16) RAGE. The New Inquiry has a transcript of a panel with Deji Bryce Olukotun, Maria Dahvana Headley, and Haris Durrani — “The Changing Faces of Sci-Fi and Fantasy”.

The trio discussed the limits of heroism, the politics of reality-building, and the whitewashing of publishing. The following is a transcript, edited for length, of their conversation.

DEJI BRYCE OLUKOTUN  When PEN approached me to help organize the event, I was in the middle of reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther comic books, which are super popular: they sell out every week. I felt real enthusiasm that a writer of color who was a National Book Award winner and MacArthur Fellow was tackling comic books, but at the same time, I wasn’t thrilled with some of his depictions of African themes and cultures.

Let me explain a little more what I mean. I was excited that Ta-Nehisi Coates, who has been a comic book fan his whole life, is tackling the genre, but I had critiques about his technique–some of the dialogue, some of the writing. I felt the dilemma that a lot of people feel if you are from a marginalized group. A lot of voices, especially black voices aren’t making it on the page with major publishers. Was I going to actually destroy opportunities if I spoke out against his work and said, “Well, I love this part of the story but I don’t like this part”?

(17) READING THE NIGHT AWAY. Not a new article, but seasonally appropriate! From NPR, “Literary Iceland Revels In Its Annual ‘Christmas Book Flood’”.

In the United States, popular holiday gifts come and go from year to year. But in Iceland, the best Christmas gift is a book — and it has been that way for decades.

Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country in the world, with five titles published for every 1,000 Icelanders. But what’s really unusual is the timing: Historically, a majority of books in Iceland are sold from late September to early November. It’s a national tradition, and it has a name: Jolabokaflod, or the “Christmas Book Flood.”…

What kind of books, exactly?

“Generally fiction and biographies would be the mainstays, although it varies a lot,” Bjarnason says. “Two years ago one of the surprise best-sellers was a pictorial overview of the history of tractors in Iceland.”

That book, And Then Came Ferguson, wasn’t the only unusual breakout success. Another, Summerland: The Deceased Describe Their Death And Reunions In The Afterlife, came out last year. The book, by Gudmundur Kristinsson, an author in his 80s who believes he can talk to the dead, sold out completely before Christmas 2010 — and sold out yet again after being reprinted in February 2011.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, and David Steffen for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Redheadedfemme.]

Pixel Scroll 12/15/16 Pixels? We Don’t Scroll No Stinking Pixels!

(1) ROBERT J. SAWYER SWEARS. In his year-end newsletter, Robert J. Sawyer reveals one of the perks of being added to the Order of Canada.

On Canada Day, July 1, 2016, I was named a Member of the Order of Canada, the highest civilian honour bestowed by the Canadian government; I was honoured for “accomplishments as a science-fiction writer and mentor and for contributions as a futurist.” This makes me the first person ever to be admitted into the Order for work in the science-fiction field.

I will be presented with a medal by the Governor General of Canada early in the new year, and now am entitled to append the post-nominal initials C.M. to my name.

As a bonus, I’m now also empowered to officiate at Canadian citizenship ceremonies. I’ve been having the time of my life swearing in new citizens at the Mississauga office of the Canadian Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship; I’ve sworn in about 500 new Canadians so far, from over 40 countries.

(2) LESSONS FROM URSULA. Nancy Jane Moore reports on The Tiptree Symposium at Book View Café.

“This is another lesson I take from Ursula: Sometimes if you don’t fit in the world, the world has to change.” — Karen Joy Fowler

Those words from Karen’s keynote speech at the ‘2016 Tiptree Symposium’ summed up my experience. The two-day event at the University of Oregon celebrating the work of Ursula K. Le Guin was a powerful antidote to the bombardment of horribles that continue to assault us after the election debacle. I came away feeling transformed.

For me, the most powerful item on the program was “Le Guin’s Fiction as an Inspiration for Activism,” a panel featuring adrienne maree brown (co-editor of Octavia’s Brood) and Grace Dillon (professor at Portland State University in the Indigenous Nations Studies Program), and moderated by Joan Haran (of the University of Oregon and Cardiff University in Wales).

(3) THE CALIFORNIA SPACE PROGRAM. Motherboard’s Jason Koebler concludes “California’s Hypothetical Plan to Start a Space Agency Is Legal and Feasible”.

In a scathing speech Wednesday in front of some of the most important climate scientists in the world, California Gov. Jerry Brown vowed to fight Donald Trump’s anti-environmental policies every step of the way. One audacious promise particularly stood out: Brown said that if Trump turns off NASA’s climate-monitoring satellites, the state “is going to launch its own damn satellites.”

Trump’s advisors have indeed said he will crack down on “politicized science,” and Trump campaign advisor Bob Walker noted that this would include NASA’s Earth Sciences Division, which operate several Earth-monitoring satellites. No one knows yet if Trump will actually have NASA turn off satellites that are much more expensive to make and launch than they are to operate, but for the sake of preparedness, I decided to look into whether or not California could actually keep Brown’s promise. I spoke to several space lawyers in an attempt to suss out how, logistically and legally, a California Space Agency would work.

(4) THE BUZZ. At The Hollywood Reporter “Rogue One: What the Critics Are Saying”.

Critics are divided, but mostly positive, about the appeals of Gareth Edwards’ ‘Star Wars’ spinoff.

If, as trailers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story put it, rebellions are based on hope, then it’s possibly true that the same can be said for anticipation for the next movie in the beloved science-fiction franchise. Now, however, the first reviews for Rogue One have hit the internet, giving fans their first chance to see whether or not that hope has been misplaced.

(5) YOUTH AGAINST AGE, At Young People Read Old SF, curator James Davis Nicoll turned his crew loose on Kate Wilhelm’s “Baby, You Were Great”.

Young People Read Old SFF has reached the 1960s. That means the fraction of stories by women is about to increase sharply [1], to reflect the increasing number of women in science fiction. And what better woman to herald that rising tide than the award winning Kate Wilhelm?

First published in the 1950s, Kate Wilhelm is a science fiction, fantasy, and mystery writer. With her husband, Damon Knight, she established both the Clarion and the Milford Writer’s Workshop. Her award nominations and wins include the Nebula, the Hugo, the Apollo, and the Locus. In 2016, the Solstice Award, given to individuals who have had a significant impact on the science fiction or fantasy landscape, was renamed in her honour.

They hated it. And they give solid reasons. But when you consider background facts like the story originally was published in the second of Damon Knight’s avant-garde Orbit anthologies, a book that featured not one but two stories by Joanna Russ, that may only mean the author’s intended message reached them.

(6) THE HORROR. The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog posted a Best Horror Books of 2016 piece. And if I was a better person I would remember who to credit for mentioning that in comments.

This year was an interesting one for horror. Not only did genre fans see new books from established heavy hitters, they welcomed a grandmaster’s novel back into print after 52 years, encountered incredible debuts, rafts of new and disturbing short stories, and at least one satire that frightens just as easily as its source material. If there were room to list every horror book released this year, we could easily just do that. The competition was tough, and many late nights were spent pondering the list and debating where the line lays between horror and dark fantasy. Finally, final selection of contenders emerged from the chaos. Submitted for your approval, here are the 15 best horror books of 2016.

(7) MEYER OBIT.  Steven H Silver of SF Site News reports former Worldcon chair Kathleen Meyer died December 13.

Chicago area fan Kathleen Meyer (b.1948) died on December 13. Meyer was a long-time member of the ISFiC Board of Directors, serving as the organization’s Treasurer. She chaired Windycon XI and XII in 1984-5 and Windycon XV in 1988. In 1991, Meyer chaired Chicon V, that year’s Worldcon. She also worked on Capricon programming operations for several years

(8) THESE BOOTS WERE MADE FOR WALKIN’. Gizmodo has a photo of the boots that left the last human footprints on the moon.

Today marks the end of Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan’s three days exploring Taurus-Littrow for Apollo 17. These extravehicular activity boots were specifically designed for Cernan. They fit over the boots integrated into the base spacesuit, adding an extra layer of protection against thermal extremes and sharp moon rocks. Manufactured by International Latex Corporation, the boots have a silicone sole with woven stainless steel uppers, and are equipped with additional layers of beta cloth and beta felt. They seal with velcro.

The boots have been a part of the human spaceflight collection at the National Air and Space Museum since 1974.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

In 1954, Davy Crockett, a show that may be considered TV’s first miniseries, aired in five segments on the Disneyland program.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 15, 1974 Young Frankenstein debuted.
  • December 15, 1978: Superman, starring Christopher Reeve, premiered.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 15, 1945 – Steve Vertlieb

(12) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #17. The seventeenth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for an autographed copy of The Lost Planet by Rachel Searles.

Today’s auction is for an autographed paperback copy of the book THE LOST PLANET, by Rachel Searles.

About the Book:

This is what the boy is told:

  • He woke up on planet Trucon, inside of a fence line he shouldn’t have been able to cross.
  • He has an annirad blaster would to the back of his head.
  • He has no memory.
  • He is now under the protection of a mysterious benefactor.
  • His name is Chase Garrety.

This is what Chase Garrety knows:

  • He has a message: “Guide the star.”
  • Time is running out.

(13) EXPAND YOUR TOOLSET. Cat Rambo has posted her schedule of live writing classes for the first quarter of 2017. There’s also a couple of opportunities still available in 2016.

There is still room in the two live classes left this year, both happening next weekend. The first on Saturday is Linguistics for Genre Writers with Juliette Wade, at the usual 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time. This class differs from pretty much every other one I’ve seen in that Wade doesn’t just cover linguistics and worldbuilding, but how to use the principles of linguistics to strengthen, deepen, and otherwise improve your prose. I heartily endorse it.

The second, which is also a really fun and informative class, is To Space Opera and Beyond with Ann Leckie. Technical difficulties hindered the first sessions but everything is smooth and running well now! In this class, Ann talks about space opera, its characteristics, how to handle them, and the process of writing not just a single novel but a series, while we provide writing exercises to take away and use to apply what Ann has told you. Ann is a lively and congenial teacher, funny without being snarky, and above all encouraging and inspiring. I’m really looking forward to the next class, which happens on Sunday, December 18, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time. There is still room in that and the Saturday, January 7 class at the same time.

I am offering the six session Writing F&SF Stories Workshop again, in three different sections:

Section 1: Tuesday afternoons 1-3 PM, January 3, 10, 17, 24, 31, and February 7 Section 2: Wednesday evenings 7-9 PM January 4, 18, 25, and February 1, 8, 15 Section 3: Sunday evenings 5-7 PM January 8, 15, 22, 29 and February 5, 12

I am offering the Advanced Story Writing Workshop on Tuesday evenings 5-7 PM starting January 3rd and going for six weeks. The Advanced Workshop focuses on workshopping stories each week along with lecture, discussion, and in-class writing exercises designed to help you continue to refine your skills and expand your toolset.

There’s also another dozen stand-alone classes listed at the post.

(14) CAN YOU DIG IT? Scientists are hot on the undersea trail: “Nickel clue to ‘dinosaur killer’ asteroid”.

Scientists say they have a clue that may enable them to find traces of the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs in the very crater it made on impact.

This pointer takes the form of a nickel signature in the rocks of the crater that is now buried under ocean sediments in the Gulf of Mexico.

An international team has just drilled into the 200km-wide depression.

It hopes the investigation can help explain why the event 66 million years ago was so catastrophic.

Seventy-five percent of all life, not just the dinosaurs, went extinct.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chi Hitchcock, Steven H Silver, JJ, and Kendall for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]