Pixel Scroll 4/29/18 First Step On Our New Homeworld. That’s One Small Pixel For A Fan, One Giant Scroll For Fankind

(1) AVENGERS KEEP THE REGISTER RINGING. The Hollywood Reporter has the numbers: “Box Office: ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Passes ‘Star Wars: Force Awakens’ With Record $250M U.S. Bow”

Disney and Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War kicked off the summer box office in high style over the weekend, opening to a record-setting $250 million in North America and $380 million overseas for a global total of $630 million, the top worldwide debut of all time. The superhero mashup accomplished the feat without China, where it doesn’t unfurl until May 11.

(2) HAPPY CUSTOMER. Doc at Sci-Fi Storm praises the new MCU film: “Avengers: Infinity War breaks records, looks at $250M opening; Non-Review”.

There is very little I can say about the movie that isn’t a spoiler, so I’ll limit myself to what little there is that isn’t. This movie is practically non-stop, with powerful action sequences and emotional points throughout. There are so many characters we know I’m amazed they were given the amount of time that they could!

(3) END OF A LUCKY STREAK. Abigail Nussbaum tells Asking the Wrong Question readers why Avengers: Infinity War” doesn’t work for her.

…So even though I wouldn’t say that I walked into Avengers: Infinity War with high hopes, I had certain expectations from it.  I’m not a great fan of any of the MCU’s team-up movies–I think Avengers is more impressive for being attempted than for its limited success; I get more annoyed with Age of Ultron whenever I think about it; and though I praised Civil War when I first watched it, it has aged very poorly for me, and I now remember mainly its risible politics and the fact that it has made me dislike Steve Rogers.  But for all that, I still believed that the question aroused by the Infinity War concept–how can Marvel rope together dozens of characters from multiple storylines into a battle against a single universe-destroying villain, and make a successful and entertaining movie out of it?–would be answered with the same definitive success as previous ones.  I didn’t expect to love Infinity War, but I expected it to work.

Instead, it is barely even a movie.  The answer to “how can you give each of these lovingly crafted characters the space and attention they deserve” turns out to be “you can’t”….

(4) KERMODE ON AVENGERS. Mark Kermode’s review for the BBC is spoiler free. But IanP notes: “However as he is not a dyed in the wool comic fan he didn’t manage to fully engage emotionally with the film, while fully understanding while fans will. Overall I think he admired what they’d managed to do without it actually working for him.”

(5) ALONG FOR THE RIDE. A Blue Origin New Shepard space vehicle was launched Sunday on a suborbital hop carrying a dummy astronaut. His name?  Mannequin Skywalker. Cnet has the story: “Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin launch used rocket, and fleas, to space”.

After a number of delays Sunday morning, a Blue Origin New Shepard rocket blasted off from the west Texas desert just after noon Central Daylight Time, sending a crew capsule carrying a dummy named “Mannequin Skywalker” on a brief trip to space.

For the eighth time, Jeff Bezos’ commercial space company successfully tested the system it hopes to use to send paying passengers on suborbital flights in the coming months.

The spacecraft reached an altitude of 350,000 feet (106,680 meters), or about 5 percent higher than previous New Shepard test flights. That height sent the rocket beyond the internationally accepted boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space, called the Karman Line.

(6) SATURN TESTS. In 1963, Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus wonders why it’s taking so long to get to the moon. Who knew we’d be asking that question again in 2018. “[Apr. 29, 1963] When a malfunction isn’t (the flight of Saturn I #4 and other space tidbits)”.

Enter the two-stage Saturn I, whose first stage has eight engines, like the Nova, but they are much smaller.  Still, altogether, they produce 1.5 million pounds of thrust — that’s six times more than the Atlas that will put Gordo Cooper’s Mercury into orbit next month.  The Saturn I’s second stage will likely also be the third stage on the Saturn V.

The Saturn I has had the most successful testing program of any rocket that I know of.  It’s also one of the most maddeningly slow testing programs (I’m not really complaining — methodical is good, and it’s not as if Apollo’s ready to fly, anyway).

(7) NEW VORKOSIVERSE NOVELLA ON THE WAY. Lois McMaster Bujold read part of this story on her last tour says ULTRAGOTHA – “The Flowers of Vashnoi bloom in May”.

I am pleased and somewhat surprised to report that a new Vorkosiverse novella is upcoming, probably in late May.

Title is “The Flowers of Vashnoi”, cover label is going to be “an Ekaterin Vorkosigan novella”, and the length is about 22,400 words, roughly the same as “Winterfair Gifts”.

As usual, no pre-order will be set up; you can just buy it when it goes live, at our usual three online vendors Kindle, iTunes, and Nook. I will certainly post the news when that occurs.

Final revisions are almost complete – it’s down to the stage where I spend all morning adding two sentences and all afternoon taking them back out, which is generally a sign to stop. The other part to be nailed down is the e-cover, still in development, so no sneak peek yet.

Possibly my shortest novella, this one has, oddly, taken the longest of anything to complete. My computer files claim I started the first draft back in November, 2011. (I could not even remember.) It ran along well for a while, then hit a brick wall and died on impact, I thought. I believed it was buried forever, but apparently it was just cryofrozen, because it came back to life a couple of months ago when I was trying and failing to boot up a new adventure for Penric and Desdemona. When my backbrain hands me a gift like that, I’ve found it’s better not to refuse it.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY MOGUL

  • Born April 29, 1923  — Irvin Kershner. The Force was with him.

(9) MYTHIC CHOW. Atlas Obscura’s Anne Ewbank ponders “Why Do Fantasy Novels Have So Much Food?”.

Food in fantasy dates back to early myths and legends, which are full of symbolic, often menacing fare. The Greek goddess Persephone ate six pomegranate seeds in the underworld, consigning her to spend six months of the year with Hades, the god of death. European tales and poems abound with mystical fairies or elves using food to lure humans. In the poem “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” written in 1819 by Romantic poet John Keats, a knight falls in love with a fairy girl, who feeds him “roots of relish sweet, And honey wild, and manna-dew.” But one day, the knight wakes up to find himself abandoned and half-mad for what he lost. In 1859, poet Christina Rossetti wrote “Goblin Market,” about eerie, otherworldly creatures that sell fruit that, once tasted, drive people crazy for more.

The trope of dangerous fairy food still exists in modern fantasy, says Dr. Robert Maslen. Maslen is a senior lecturer at the University of Glasgow, where he founded one of the world’s first master’s degrees in fantasy literature. He gives two modern examples: the film Pan’s Labyrinth and Ellen Kushner’s novel Thomas the Rhymer. When food comes with consequences, it’s a sign that “we’re in a world where the rules are very different.”

(10) TAFF REPORT. Now you can pick up Jim Mowatt’s 2013 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund trip report – Where I Lay My Hat. Let Jim tell you about it —

After years of desperate procrastination the Taff report of my 2013 Taff trip to North America is now complete. It tells the tale of my visits to Toronto, Abingdon, Seattle, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Las Vegas, San Antonio (Worldcon) and New Orleans. It features art from (in order of appearance) Alan White, Al Sirois, Stu Shiffman, Carrie Mowatt, D. West, Taral Wayne, Brad Foster, Allison Hershey, Ulf Skei, Valeri Purcell, Julie McMurray and Anne Stokes. There are many fine full colour photos of frolicking fans and I’ve even shoved a few words in there. I’m recommending a donation to Taff of about 20 pounds (28 or 29 dollars) and you can donate using the Taff donations buttons at taff.org.uk. Email me,  jim (at) umor.co.uk or John Purcell at 2017taff2019 (at) gmail.com and we’ll post out a copy.

(11) CONTASTROPHE. Aja Romano’s “Great Con Disasters Of The Past: A Thread” begins here:

(12) DON’T BLOW YOUR CHANCE. Atlas Obscura shares “The Uncanny Delights of the World Balloon Convention”.

…This year’s WBC was held in mid-March, in San Diego, California. According to the official website, close to 900 people attended, from 52 countries. The best of the best participated in the Convention’s nine separate competitions, battling to take home titles in everything from “Large Sculpture” to “Balloon Hat.”

The competitors are incredibly skilled. (Most are “Certified Balloon Artists,” which means they have passed a qualifying exam.) Several categories require creating entire landscapes out of gas and latex. Incredible details are achieved with a limited palette of shapes. Sometimes the juxtapositions are funny: The winner of the “Fashion & Costume” category has reimagined a lightsaber as a long, floppy balloon. In the “Large Sculpture” winner, a tiger sports armor that, if you zoom in, looks like sausage links….

(13) APRIL SUMMATIONS BRING MAY FEATURES: Jason has summed Summation: April 2018 over at Featured Futures.

Ten of this month’s eleven noted stories (five recommended) come from the 50 (of just over 200,000 words) that I’ve read with a publication date between April 1 and April 28. Nature and Terraform had a good month with a recommended story and an honorable mention each. Some venues appeared for just the first or second time this year (Grievous Angel, On Spec (reviewed for Tangent), and Strange Horizons (with an especially strong story)), though some of the usual suspects (BCS, Clarkesworld, and Lightspeed) also pitched in. Aside from unusual venues, this month’s wombat is a relatively large number of SF (and no fantasy) honorable mentions.

The eleventh noted story is another first-time appearance. It comes from Slate’s “Future Tense Fiction” department and coverage of that is one of three changes in Featured Futures to report. The latest “Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up” caught up on the stories already released this year and future stories will be continue to be covered there.

Meanwhile, Lightspeed and Nightmare have been covered in the “Wrap-Ups” but will be covered as monthly issues beginning in May.

Lastly, Featured Futures is going to the final frontier: coverage of  short fiction in books. So far, there are a couple of collections and maybe an anthology I’ll see about covering in May.

(14) SHARKTICLE. Another Shadow Clarke juror tells what they will be reading: “Negotiating Cartography by Samira Nadkarni”.

 …As a small cross-section: I started reading Sami Schalk’s Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)Ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction—whose introduction discusses Jasbir Puar whose work I’m following for another project on queerness and warfare— while waiting for Janelle Monàe’s Dirty Computer to drop. Monàe’s vehemently queer 44-minute emotion picture will locate itself around a technocratic society in which citizens are termed “computers,” a section of whom are now on the run from an authoritarian government. Based on what we’ve seen of the three tracks dropped so far, the project is also fiercely Black, and strongly rooted in the political. It’s impossible not to think back to Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures: The Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race (followed by a film of the same name starring Monàe, Taraji P. Henson, and Octavia Spencer) which made evident the links between women (Black women in particular) and the history of computers. Knowing that early production units were called “kilo-girls” to denote the number of hours worked and that these women were called “computers,” Monàe’s choice of a return to “computers” as words for people in videos peopled almost exclusively by Black people, and heavily peopled by Black women in this futuristic melding of technology, activism, and talking back to an authoritarian regime feels poignant and part of an evolving expression of futurity located in historicity.

… All of this was with me when I sat down to make this shortlist. I’m hoping the explanation helps contextualise my interest in books that not only talk about power, but also may talk about the complications of power that may come even with resistance and reclamation.

(15) RON HOWARD EXPLAINS IT ALL. …In a new Solo: A Star Wars Story “Becoming Solo Featurette.”

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, ULTRAGOTHA, Mark Hepworth, Steve Bartlett, Jim Mowatt, Carl Slaughter, Jason, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Mister Dalliard.]

Pixel Scroll 2/7/18 In Space Nobody Can Hear Your Red Tesla’s GPS Scream “Recalculating!”

(1) ABIGAIL NUSSBAUM. Last year’s Best Fan Writer Hugo winner announced that she won’t accept a nomination this year.

Third, this is something that I was pretty sure I wanted to do last August, but I gave myself some time to consider it, and now I’m certain: I’d like it known that if I were to receive a nomination in the Best Fan Writer category for the 2018 Hugos, I would respectfully decline the nomination.

I’ve debated with myself about whether and how to make this announcement.  Not, to be very clear, because I’m uncertain about not wanting to be a nominee again.  Without sounding like I’m complaining–since it all turned out so wonderfully in the end–being a prospective and then actual Hugo nominee is one of the most stressful experiences I’ve ever had.  It certainly didn’t help that the period during which I became a viable candidate coincided so perfectly with the various puppies’ campaign against the awards, so that on top of the regular pressures of will I be nominated/will I win, I spent a lot of my time wondering whether my nomination would be scuttled by a fascist terror campaign (which is, in fact, what happened in 2015 and 2016).  By the time 2017 rolled around, I had been on the Hugo merry-go-round for four years, and it was pretty hard for me to enjoy the convention or the lead-up to the awards from wondering whether this was finally going to be my year.

So while I may one day want to be nominated for the Hugo again (and maybe in another category too, if I’m eligible), I have no interest in going through the whole rigmarole again so soon, and especially when you consider that there are several other great potential nominees whose crack at the Hugo was scuttled by puppy interference.  It seems like absolutely the right thing to stand back.

(2) GEORGE R.R. MARTIN. Martin, in his Hugo eligibility post, asks people not to nominate A Song of Ice and Fire for Best Series — but feel free to nominate “The Sons of the Dragon” for novella. (Following this excerpt, he has more to say about the Best Series category itself.)

The only writing I had published in 2017 was “The Sons of the Dragon,” which was published in THE BOOK OF SWORDS, Gardner Dozois’s massive anthology of original sword & sorcery stories. Like “The Rogue Prince” and “The Princess and the Queen” before it, “Sons” is more of my (fake) history of the Targaryen kings of Westeros. By length, it is a novella… but it’s not a traditional narrative. By design, it reads like history, not fiction; but since the history is entirely imaginative, it’s still fiction, even if dressed up as (fake) non-fiction.

It has been pointed out to me that the publication of “The Sons of the Dragon” makes the entirety of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE eligible to be nominated as Best Series. I suppose that’s so. All I can say to that is: please don’t. If you like fake history and enjoyed “The Sons of the Dragon,” by all means nominate the story as a novella… but it’s really not part of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, and sneaking in the entire series by means of a technicality seems wrong to me.

(3) TRADEOFFS. I was interested to see Abigail Nussbaum and I had the identical thought about this piece of news.

(4) FULLER BRUSH-OFF MAN. Two showrunners have left the building: “Apple’s ‘Amazing Stories’ revival loses showrunner Bryan Fuller”.

Apple has yet to launch any of the original shows funded by its $1 billion war chest, but it’s already losing part of its production team. Hollywood Reporter has learned that showrunner Bryan Fuller (of Star Trek and American Gods fame) has left Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories revival for the tech giant. The departure was “amicable,” according to sources, and stemmed from creative differences. Reportedly, Fuller wanted to make a Black Mirror-style show that wasn’t what Apple intended.

Fuller wasn’t new to the Amazing Stories continuation. He’d been around since 2015, when the series was attached to NBC and Spielberg wasn’t involved. He’s had some relatively short stints lately: he was booted from American Gods after the production company wanted to reduce the per-episode fee, and left Star Trek: Discovery over cost and casting issues with CBS.

The Hollywood Reporter source story has added this update:

Hart Hanson, who had partnered with Bryan Fuller on Amazing Stories, has also exited the anthology as Apple and producers Universal Television are now searching for a showrunner.

(5) HOOKED. K.M. Alexander argues “Your Fave is Problematic—That’s Okay”.

My favorite character from A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin’s fantasy epic, is Jaime Lannister, the heir to the Lannister family, Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, and an all-around terrible person. No, really. There are forum threads dedicated to his awfulness, and I don’t disagree with anything they say. He is awful; that’s not up for debate. But I don’t care; I still like him. There is something about his wit, his tenacity, his strange sense of honor, and his odd drive to do right by his family that draws me in as a reader. He’s my favorite.

In his Banquet Speech, William Faulkner observes good writing as “the human heart in conflict with itself.” I adore that line. As a character, Jamie embodies that for me. There is so much to loathe but a lot to like. It makes him complicated, and it makes him human. However, in some circles, my statement draws ire. How can I enjoy reading about someone so terrible? After all, he is someone who symbolizes the opposite of many values I hold dear. To those people, it doesn’t make sense; it feels two-faced and hypocritical.

These voices are nothing new. I remember hearing them as a kid from conservatives, and I’ve heard them as an adult from progressives. Recently they’ve become particularly pronounced on social media, shouting down and hunting those who dare explore life through the lens of problematic fiction. Over the last few years, I’ve seen several authors attacked—on social media, within articles, in reviews, and on blogs. Fans have gone after them for the problematic circumstances, events, and behavior of characters within their novels. It’s not surprising; it’s an extension of the same attitude we have seen play out in the social sphere. In addition to holding real-life humans accountable, fandom is now trying to hold fiction accountable….

(6) SIGNING OFF. The Geek Feminism Blog says they are “Bringing the blog to a close”. No specific reason given, but they did take a look back —

Alex Bayley and a bunch of their peers — myself included — started posting on this blog in 2009. We coalesced around feminist issues in scifi/fantasy fandom, open culture projects like Wikipedia, gaming, the sciences, the tech industry and open source software development, Internet culture, and so on. Alex gave a talk at Open Source Bridge 2014 about our history to that point, and our meta tag has some further background on what we were up to over those years.

(7) NEXT IN THE JURY BOX. A new Shadow Clarke juror greets the readers: “Introducing Samira Nadkarni”.

More than anything else, community as a space for discussion and critique forces an awareness of frameworks. A friend, Shabnam, once took a lot of time to point out to me that my excitement about a book that I believed destabilised gender and problematised caste in Indian contexts was, in fact, written to privilege the upper caste cis gaze. Her emphatic point at the time was that if someone mentions a gender and caste dystopia, I should look at whose interests are being played to, and that if the book couldn’t decenter the very idea of cis and caste-based constructs of gender, then this book was not innovative in its destabilisation at all. While this was applied to a specific book series, it was an excellent lesson to take away, learn from, and cross apply to future criticism: the fact that stepping away from standard representation itself is not enough until we think about who it privileges and what it says.

These are big questions for me, and I think also big questions more generally, about how inclusion can be kindness and violence all at once, and how navigating that critically can be fraught. For me in particular, I have strong feelings about postcolonial SFF writing in general (and this is primarily what I read in my spare time), and this also forces me to recognise how this is playing to a different set of privilege systems locally that can continue to foster violent hierarchies, or aren’t being dealt with or made visible enough yet. It’s complicated and I’m honestly not equipped to do it alone.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 7, 1940 — Walt Disney’s vision of Pinocchio debuted.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cath spotted a comic that perfectly fits out recent “Cats Sleep on SFF” theme in Georgia Dunn’s Breaking Cat News from 2016.

(10) SUPER BOWL BET. Here’s how the Boston Public Library paid off after losing its Super Bowl bet.

(11) FREE READS. Asimov’s has made four Locus-recommended stories available as free reads.

Congratulations to the authors of our stories on the Locus Recommended Reading List. We’ve posted the tales here for your enjoyment. If you’re voting in the Locus Poll and you haven’t read the stories or you’d like to refresh your memory please take a look at them now.

BEST NOVELETTE

The Discrete Charm of the Turing Machine, Greg Egan – Nov/Dec 2017
Wind Will Rove, Sarah Pinsker – Sept/Oct 2017

BEST SHORT STORY

Persephone of the Crows, Karen Joy Fowler – May/June 2017

An Evening with Severyn Grimes, Rich Larson – July/August 2017
Confessions of a Con Girl, Nick Wolven – Nov/Dec 2017

(12) BOARD MEETING. “Superdense wood is lightweight, but strong as steel” – Daniel Dern saw the story and asked, “How many existing sf/f ref’s does this conjure up? The first that comes to (my) mind is Howard Chaykin’s Ironwolf comic books… possibly also from Sean McMullen’s Moonworlds Saga, e.g. Voyage of the Shadowmoon.”

View the video

Newly fabricated superstrong lumber gives a whole new meaning to “hardwood.”

This ultracompact wood, described in the Feb. 8 Nature, is created by boiling a wood block in a water-based solution of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfite. The chemicals partially strip the wood of substances called lignin and hemicellulose, which help give wood its structure and rigidity. Then the block gets squeezed between metal plates heated to 100° Celsius at a pressure of 5 megapascals — about 50 times the pressure of sea-level atmosphere. That squashes the gaps between the cell walls in the wood, shrinking the block to about 20 percent its original thickness and making it three times denser.

Researchers found that the densified wood could withstand being stretched or pulled 11.5 times harder than its natural counterpart without breaking. That makes it about as strong as steel, even though it’s more lightweight. Stainless steel pellets fired from an air gun and moving at 30 meters per second easily busted through a typical wooden plank, but got lodged in a stack of densified wood sheets with the same total thickness.

(13) ASIMOV LAUNCHED. From The Verge I Iearned — “The Falcon Heavy test flight included a copy of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels”.

SpaceX has just successfully launched its new Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time, and just before launch, the company revealed on its live stream that inside the rather unique cargo of a Tesla Roadster, the company had placed an “Arch” storage system containing Isaac Asimov’s Foundation book series.

An Arch is a “5D, laser optical quartz storage device” that is meant to be able to survive even in the harsh conditions of space, built by the Arch Mission Foundation. The foundation’s goal is to preserve libraries of human knowledge for interstellar travel (and to protect information in the event of calamity to Earth itself). It’s a goal that the group says was inspired by Asimov’s novels, which see mankind working to write an “Encyclopedia Galactica” to protect mankind against a coming dark age.

(14) IT’S OFFICIAL. Netflix has released Marvel’s Jessica Jones – Season 2 Official Trailer.

Jessica Jones is back as New York City’s tough-as-nails private investigator. Although this time, the case is even more personal than ever before. Fueled by a myriad of questions and lies, she will do whatever it takes to uncover the truth.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Todd Dashoff, Mark Hepworth, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Cath, Kevin Mangan, Will R., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]