Pixel Scroll 6/23/17 Fifth Scroll And Seven Pixels Ago

(1) ASK LOVECRAFT OUT AT YOUTUBE. Ask Lovecraft has been taken down by YouTube for reasons that are unclear. The channel itself is unsearchable, and peoples’ playlists of the episodes now read “This video is no longer available because the YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated.”

The Ask Lovecraft outpost on Facebook is no more enlightening about the reasons:

We apologize for the inconvenience but in the midst of our travels, we discovered that our YouTube channel has been temporarily suspended and are working to restore it.

Thank you for your patience.

(2) FUSSIN’ AND FEUDIN’. Entertainment Weekly reveals the new series will make a change in Trek’s culture: “Star Trek: Discovery to ditch a long frustrating Trek rule”.

in “Star Trek:  Discovery Throws Out Long-Standing Trek Rule” on ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, James Hibberd says that the showrunners for Star Trek:  Discovery have thrown out the rule that crew members can’t fight each other or be portrayed negatively.

As part of Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision of the future (and one that Trek franchise executive producer Rick Berman carried on after Roddenberry’s death in 1991), writers on Trek shows were urged to avoid having Starfleet crew members in significant conflict with one another (unless a crew member is, say, possessed by an alien force), or from being shown in any seriously negative way.

This guideline wasn’t strictly followed across all 700 previous franchise episodes, of course (there are especially some notable exceptions in The Original Series). But in an aspirational effort to make the future more idyllic, Starfleet crew members typically weren’t supposed to demonstrate baser human flaws. For writers on Trek shows, the restriction has been a point of behind-the-scenes contention (one TNG and Voyager writer, Michael Piller, famously dubbed it “Roddenberry’s Box”). Drama is conflict, after all, and if all the conflict stems from non-Starfleet members on a show whose regular cast consists almost entirely of Starfleet officers, it hugely limits the types of stories that can be told.

So for the CBS All Access series coming Sept. 24, that restriction has been lifted and the writers are allowed to tell types of stories that were discouraged for decades….

(3) TECHNICAL CORRECTION. When I checked NerdConHQ’s poll “Con of the Year 2016 – FAN Votes”, leading the voting was Cyprus Comic Con in Nicosia on the island of Cyprus. Either that’s one hell of a con, or somebody is doing to this poll what the Plokta cabal did to a Scifi Channel poll back in the dawn of the internet.

(4) WISE CRACKS. In Episode 41 of Eating the Fantastic, Scott Edelman invites listeners to “Crack open fortune cookies with Dennis Etchison”.

Dennis is a writer and editor who’s a three-time World Fantasy Award winner and a three-time British Fantasy Award winner. His 1982 debut short story collection, The Dark Country, is one of the best horror short story collections ever. And you don’t have to take my word for how good he is—some guy named Stephen King has called him “one hell of a fiction writer.”

We discussed how Philip K. Dick staged scenes as he wrote his stories, Ray Bradbury’s baffling advice which helped Etchison make his first fiction sale, whether he’d still have become a writer had he not been an only child, why most writing workshops don’t work, how he came to write his best-selling Halloween novel for John Carpenter in six weeks, the speech he really wanted to give when he received his Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association, and more.

(5) FROM THE TOP OF THE STACK. In “Recent Reading”, Ann Leckie shares her thoughts about The Last Good Man by Linda Nagata, All Systems Red by Martha Wells, and Barbary Station by R.E. Stearns.

(6) SO SUMO. Who doesn’t love fighting robots, right? The Verge has video: “These autonomous sumo wrestling bots are freakishly fast”.

If you haven’t seen robot sumo wrestling before, then you’re in for a treat. Trust me. Most robot versions of human sports are underwhelming, but as this video compilation shows, the mechanical take on Japan’s national sport is very fast and very furious. And why? Because engineers aren’t trying to copy human performance. Instead, they concentrate on the qualities that robots excel at: namely lightning-fast decision-making and insane turns of speed.

(7) TODAY’S DAY

  • Typewriter Day

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

There’s a sound we all know, even if we don’t quite recall it. It’s the mechanical clatter of a typewriter in action. It is reminiscent in the soulless tapping of keys on modern keyboards and recalled in the sounds of the elite of the keyboard world, the mechanical keyboard. But none of them quite reach the splendor and grandeur of a typewriter in action. Typewriter Day celebrates this humble device and the amazing pieces of literature it’s brought to us over the decades.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 23, 1956 — Abbott & Costello met the Mummy
  • June 23, 1976 — Dystopic sci-fi classic Logan’s Run races into theaters
  • June 23, 1989 — Tim Burton’s blockbuster Batman opens to huge crowds

(9) COMIC SECTION

We commend to C.S. Lewis fans’ attention Rhymes With Orange for June 21.

(10) BRILLIANT CASTING. David Thayer picked up what he likes to call his Retro-Hugo Nominee pin — a little, Flash Gordon-esque rocket — at Jim Clift’s lapel pin site. Clift has created quite a few interesting items, for example, his collection of science lapel pins.

(11) ELECTRICAL CONDUCTOR. The orchestra that recorded Star Wars used modern tech for advertising: processed motion capture of Simon Rattle as poster backgrounds. “Watch Conductor Simon Rattle Turn Into A High-Tech Tangle Of Spaghetti” advertises London Symphony Orchestra.

Now here’s a creative way to promote your upcoming symphony season and up your brand: Strap your conductor in a motion capture suit, switch on a dozen high-tech cameras, and get an artist to translate the data into kaleidoscopic shapes and colors.

Then sit back and watch as Simon Rattle, who takes over the storied London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) this fall, morphs into an oozing blob, a twisting tower of metallic rods and, rather deliciously, a tangle of angel hair pasta. (Well, that’s what it looks like to me.)

 

Chip Hitchcock adds, “And Disney would plotz if he could see some of the web advertising from the same tech: web advertising from the same tech.”

(12) WHAT WOULD SCOTTY THINK? Entertainment Weekly teases more images from Star Trek: Discovery.

Here’s a first look one of the transporter rooms (yes, there are more than one) featured in the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery. Above we see Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) preparing to beam down to … somewhere.

You’ll notice they’re wearing body armor (another interesting addition) and have old school The Original Series phasers at the ready. In the foreground on the left is the back of Lt. Saru (Doug Jones) a new form of alien in the Trek universe who plays a key role.

This particular transporter bay is aboard the U.S.S. Shenzhou and it’s unlike any that Trek fans have ever seen before. So if you love this new design, great, it’s in the show. If you don’t, hold that thought, because the transporter bay in the U.S.S. Discovery is very different from this one (and has not yet been seen).

Star: Trek Discovery is a prequel set 10 years before the events in The Original Series and focuses on two Starships, the Discovery and the Shenzhou. The Discovery is a newer vessel while the Shenzhou is an older model. The bridge scenes in the trailer are also aboard the Shenzhou rather than the Discovery.

 

(13) RELIC OF WAR. My benighted boast about my site traffic is destined to live on in the annals of humor unto the second fifth generation. Someone screencapped this hack of File 770’s Wikipedia entry. The punchline at the end of the second paragraph made me laugh.

(14) PLANETARY AWARD. Your 2016 Planetary Award winners are:

  • Best Short Story: “Athan and the Priestess” by Schuyler Hernstrom (Thune’s Vision)
  • Best Novel: Swan Knight’s Son by John C. Wright

Any book blogger, podcaster, or “booktuber” is eligible to nominate for the award. This year’s nominators included Jeffro Johnson, Jon del Arroz, Brian Niemeier and The Injustice Gamer.

(15) APPROACHING THE FINNISH LINE. SFWA broadcasts Sylvia Spruck Wrigley’s “Ten Tips For First-Time Travelers to Helsinki”.

WorldCon in Helsinki is THE social event of the year, and we’re all really looking forward to it. However, for many people, it might be the first time traveling to a country where English is not the native language. This can be nerve-wracking because it is impossible to know what to expect. In a vague attempt to help, I’ve created this ten-point list of how to cope.

1) Research before you go. Read articles. Pick up a travel book. If you are comfortable with Reddit, browse through https://www.reddit.com/r/helsinki/ or even take part in https://www.reddit.com/r/Worldcon75/ and get to know people before you even arrive. Use Google Street View to explore your neighborhood. Look up the address and phone number of the American consulate. Install Duolingo and practice five minutes of Finnish a day for four weeks.

[Thanks to JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belong to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 6/19/17 Have Scroll, Will Pixel Reads The File Of A Man

(1) DISCOVERY PREMIERE SET. SciFiNow.uk has the headline story: “Star Trek: Discovery air date confirmed, beaming down in September”.

The show will launch on Monday 25 September. Which is actually not that far away when you think about it, we can be patient.

Another important detail is that the 15 episode series is going to be split into two chunks. So we’ll get weekly episodes from 25 September through to 6 November. Then there will be a break until it returns in January 2018. So, there will be more patience required, but not too much.

“Star Trek, one of the most iconic and influential global television franchises, returns 50 years after it first premiered with STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. STAR TREK: DISCOVERY will follow the voyages of Starfleet on their missions to discover new worlds and new lifeforms, and one Starfleet officer who must learn that to truly understand all things alien, you must first understand yourself. The series will feature a new ship, new characters and new missions, while embracing the same ideology and hope for the future that inspired a generation of dreamers and doers.”

(2) ON AN EVEN KEEL.  Adam-Troy Castro makes an important point about keeping things in perspective: “I Am Not Owed Awe”.

There’s a scene during the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon, the same work that introduced Hannibal Lecter, filmed twice for the movies and once for the TV series, where the serial killer known as the Tooth Fairy tells a captive, “You owe me awe.” This is megalomania, and one way you know the speaker is fucking crazy.

Nobody except a madman or a total asshole thinks he’s owed awe. Oh, you can make a certain exception to someone who occupies a position where awe is expected: a President, a Pope, a King, a legendary musician. In many cases, though, even they know that they receive awe because of what they are, not so much because of who they are. Get elected President, and even if you’re a total piece of shit you will expect to be greeted by orchestras playing “Hail to the Chief.” It’s part of the job description. Write Game of Thrones and you will receive awe because people are rapt. But that is not awe for you, the being who took a shit and didn’t quite manage to fully clean his ass this morning. You are still a flawed being.

Artists can earn awe. Artists can come to expect awe. The sane don’t think they’re owed awe. And the sane don’t get upset, to the point of rallying legions of single-minded asshole fans, to run amuck harassing people for the sin of not treating them with awe. That’s crazy. That’s tunnel-vision of the most insipid sort.

I am not owed awe. You are not owed awe. Nobody is owed awe.

(3) SF COSTUMING FANHISTORY. The International Costumers Guild has released a video about 16 People Who Defined Masquerade Costuming.

These artists helped to shape the art of Masquerade Costuming, which has been recognized as a legitimate art form by 4 English speaking countries and Japan as of 2014. The images are being collected for preservation by the Library of Congress.

 

(4) BOLLYHORRORWOOD. The BBC begins with some contrarian career advice in “The benign menace of Bollywood’s cult ‘monster'”.

“Don’t do a horror film unless you’re the monster. Horror audiences come to see the villains, and they come back again when those villains are in the sequels,” wrote The Economist magazine, listing things an actor should never do.

In India, many of the best-known Indian “villains” got into cinema hoping to be the hero. Things didn’t go to plan and they spent their screen-time plotting fantastic heists and murders, eyeing the heroine and getting beaten up. With some notable exceptions, like Vinod Khanna and Shatrughan Sinha – villains turned heroes – this was the norm.

What about monsters then?

In India, the movie monster became a staple of horror films made by a group of brothers called, simply, the Ramsay Brothers. Five of the seven brothers are still around, and one of them, Shyam, is still quite active.

Between 1972, when they made their first proper movie Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche, literally “six-feet under”, and 1994, when they made their last big movie, Mahakaal, the Ramsay brothers churned out movie after B-grade horror movie.

(5) LEIGHTON OBIT. Fanzine fan Rodney Leighton (1948-2017) died June 18. The SF Site News story says the Nova Scotia fan stayed with paperzines to the end. His titles included Life of Rodney, The Mail Carrier Brought It, and Rodney’s Fanac. His friends Steve George, and later Chuck Connor, put scans of these zines on eFanzines so he’d have some feedback from readers on the internet.

(6) BILL DANA OBIT. Comedian Bill Dana, famed for his Jose Jimenez character, died June 15 reports SF Site News. Dana was also a comedy writer – he created Don Adams’ “Would you believe…?” gags.

While Dana’s ethnic humor would not be accepted today, it was still in vogue sixty years ago. According to The Hollywood Reporter

The nation was introduced to Jimenez in a comedy sketch on [Steve] Allen’s variety show in November 1959. Struggling to speak English, Jimenez appeared in a Santa Claus outfit as an instructor at a school for wannabe Kris Kringles and interviewed by “Man on the Street” Pat Harrington Jr.

“I said, ‘My name … Jose Jimenez,’ and the [live] audience laughed,” Dana, a Massachusetts native of Hungarian-Jewish descent, recalled in a 2007 interview with the Archive of American Television. “I remember thinking, ‘This guy just said his name and everybody [went crazy] …’

…On Garry Moore’s variety program, Dana appeared as Jose the Astronaut, then recorded a comedy album with that material from a live show at the famed hungry i nightclub in San Francisco.

He sent a test pressing of the disc to the original seven Mercury astronauts — and they loved it. Alan Shepard took the code name “Jose,” and Jimenez became the astronauts’ “mascot,” Dana said. When they weren’t working, the pilots hung out at Dana’s house, and years later, he was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame. (Footage of him as Jimenez on The Ed Sullivan Show can be seen in the 1983 film The Right Stuff.)

…Though it seems hard to believe in this age of political correctness, Dana and his character were embraced by the Latino community. He was honored by the National Hispanic Media Coalition and worked, largely behind the scenes, as an activist. He gave up playing the character but later regretted that.

The José Jimenez character was also one of the figures who popped his head out the window watching Batman and Robin climb a building on Batman.

(7) TODAY’S DAY

Garfield the Cat Day

Garfield The Cat Day is celebrated annually on 19th June. The day is set aside to honor all things related to the ginger feline. Garfield was famously created by cartoonist Jim Davis and appeared in a cartoon strip on 19th June 1978. Garfield’s owner: Jon Arbuckle and his dog friend; Odie, also appear in the cartoon strip.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 19, 1958 — Wham-O filed to register Hula Hoop trademark
  • June 19, 1992 Batman Returns hit theaters.

Batman Returns, released June 19, 1992, featured less kid- friendly characters than its predecessor. Gone was Jack Nicholson’s The Joker, and in his place were the grotesque Penguin (Danny DeVito) and a sexy Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer), whose costume bore a striking resemblance to something that could be purchased at a BDSM shop.

These bold characters helped make the movie a classic, but also alienated corporations such as McDonald’s that had a newfound interest in the movie franchise business via promotional tie-ins – and complained loudly about the film’s darker tone.

(9) SINCE GAMERGATE. Keri Allan’s article “Fair play: How welcome are women in games design teams?”, in for Engineering & Technology, the on-line newsletter of the UK professional body, the Institute of Engineering and Technology, includes a quote from Brianna Wu and a mention of Rhianna Pratchett.

Sampat says it’s a mistake to believe that the furore of GamerGate ended sexism in the sector. “In a lot of ways it sucked being a female developer before GamerGate, and things are slowly getting worse because people treat ‘women in games’ as a solved problem – like GamerGate was a weird year-long blip and now sexism in our industry is gone. (But) the boots on the ground are still there being assholes to women.”

Having written about anonymous harassment of women in the industry during the height of GamerGate, Brianna Wu began to receive threats of her own. She believes there’s now a better sense of the issues out there, but policies aren’t necessarily changing in response. Feeling so strongly about equal treatment in the workplace, she’s now running for Congress.

“What makes me want to scream is that no one knows me for my engineering work, only my views on women’s equality. I’ve worked so hard to become an engineer, but the truth is you’re put in this impossible situation where you can smile, go along with the system and get fewer opportunities, or speak out and be put in this box. There’s a heightened awareness, but these congenital problems aren’t really solved. I believe women need to step up and run for office, and I hope to use my position to hold hearings on sexism in the tech industry.”

Other responses to GamerGate have included promoting the hashtag #OneReasonToBe. This was started by games narrative writer Rhianna Pratchett so women could share positive experiences about working in the industry and reasons why they love games. This has gone on to spawn a popular annual panel at the Games Developer Conference (GDC), highlighting great things the sector has to offer women.

(10) ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW. Catherynne M. Valente’s Refrigerator Monologues gets an 8/10 rating from Dina at SFF Book Reviews:

From the New York Times bestselling author Catherynne Valente comes a series of linked stories from the points of view of the wives and girlfriends of superheroes, female heroes, and anyone who’s ever been “refrigerated”: comic book women who are killed, raped, brainwashed, driven mad, disabled, or had their powers taken so that a male superhero’s storyline will progress….

Each gets to tell her story in turn and here’s where my love for this book begins. Because it may be fun figuring out which superhero you’re reading about, but it is even more fun how every woman tells her story in her own voice. Pretty Polly (the Harley Quinn of this universe) talks just like you’d imagine she would. Kind of sweet-ish and girly, with a fair bit of madness added to the mix. Blue Bayou sounds angry, Paige Embry is just totally endearing, and Julia Ash (whose villain’s is aptly named Retcon) felt kind of resigned. The voices always fit and the stories these women have to tell are engaging and intriguing for more than one reason. First of all, they’re just interesting stories. Secondly, they would have fit so beautifully into their respective universes – why isn’t there space in a Spider Man movie to show Gwen Stacy as more than just the hero’s girlfriend. She had a life before him and she had a life with him, just like all the others. Their demise was incredibly heartbreaking, although obviously we know from the start that they die and if you remember the original comic books how they die. To me, that’s just another sign of how amazing a writer Valente is. If you know what happens and how it happens, and all she does is give you a little background info, give the character who is about to die a little agency and personality, and it hits you deep in the guts anyway, then yeah… that’s a great writer!

(11) CYBERPUNK DAYS. Jesse at Speculiction looks back at Lewis Shiner’s 1984 novel Frontera.

As the title hints, Frontera is about a liminal zone.  Proverbially this would be between civilization and the wilds, but in the novel’s context, there are more specific terms.  One would certainly be between existent and breaking technology.  Another is locations possible to be inhabited by humanity; Mars can be altered for human life to survive, but it’s an unnatural existence.  And the last major frontier addressed is the personal.  Dislocated from home, the major characters on Mars all are dealing with existentialist angst.  Few, if any, live in a mental comfort zone.  Curtis, the colony leader, channels his uncertainty through rigid control in an attempt to mitigate his underlying fears.  Kane dreams wild dreams of Greek dramas by night and by day questions Pulsystems intents for him. (Given how strongly our solar system reflects contemporary civilization’s dependence on the Greeks, this is a nice parallel.)  Reese, the aging astronaut, can’t face up to certain realities, and takes comfort in drink.  And disaffected by the political scene, Marysia attempts to come to terms with her new life on Mars in balance with what she knew on Earth.

(12) STYLE MAVEN. Scott Edelman is preparing to make a fashion statement at the Worldcon.

(13) FROZEN DEITIES. Fantasy-Faction’s Laura M. Hughes praises The Blood-Tainted Winter by T.L. Greylock.

Speaking of gods: no doubt you’ll recognise a few of the names mentioned throughout this story. Odin, of course; Loki, too, as well as others such as Heimdall and the Valkyries. The Blood-Tainted Winter isn’t self-conscious of itself as a Norse fantasy, yet Raef’s tale evokes a vivid sense of place and time that thoroughly immerses the reader in a land of gods, battle and betrayal. Greylock doesn’t force the Norseness so much as nurture it, weaving familiar aspects of the mythology into the book in a way that doesn’t dominate or overshadow the story being told.

You could argue that the book’s beginning is a little too leisurely; however, I enjoyed having the opportunity to get to know the protagonist a little better – and to feel pleasantly surprised and intrigued when the following chapters have him reacting in a most unexpected manner. I will say that Greylock does a wonderful job of patiently unfolding the story through the eyes of its protagonist. Raef is distant and, at times, unfathomable (though not unlikeable), functioning more as a window onto events than as someone the reader can sympathise with or live vicariously through.

(14) EARL GREY TIME. Elizabeth Fitzgerald has her Australian National Convention report up – Continuum 13.

In keeping with the natures of the protagonists, Seanan had two different kinds of cake from Cake and Madness. One was a traditional cupcake with glittery frosting. And the other… well, the other was a bit disturbing.

Watching it be eaten was a little like finding myself in the middle of the zombie apocalypse.

She also has Storyfied the panels she livetweeted.

And to wrap up the night, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff discussed 1001 ways to die in space. They left the room crying with laughter, thanks to their morbid senses of humour.+

(15) BOTS. The BBC gets a JPL spokesman to tell about “Five robots that are changing everything”.

From robot simians that can clean up nuclear accidents, to powered exoskeletons that enable you to lift huge objects, robotic technologies are developing incredibly quickly. Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu, chief engineer at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, talks us through five robots that are changing the world.

(16) FUNNY COMMERCIAL. Sometimes people see an item and ask “Why’s that on File 770?” I have carefully searched this video without detecting any science fictional references. So when somebody asks that question, I am going to need to quickly change the subject.

Maybe I can change it with the help of an anecdote Cat Eldridge sent along with the link, about his own Coca-Cola experience.

True story. Well mostly. Once upon a time in a country where we had no intelligence assets I had a medical officer who insisted it was safer to drink coke than it was to drink the water, even the water hotels insisted had been boiled. This was the high octane stuff, full of real sugar. Drank at least three bottles a day while I was in country.

Now that the two female staffers who decided to mix and eat a salad and not soak it in iodine had a very unpleasant outcome when they discovered most explosively that it was grown in night soil… Need I tell you what night soil is? There’s a good reason the Viet Cong dipped their pungee sticks in it…

(17) NEW MEDIA CON. At VikingsCon, “Meet the cast of the History show Vikings”. They promise Amy Bailey (“Kwenthrith”) and Alexander Ludwig (“Bjorn”) will be on hand October 21-22 at the site in Maryland.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Bill Burns, Cat Eldridge, David K.M. Klaus, Lex Berman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 6/10/17 The Scrollish Pixelman’s Union

(1) FISHING FOR COMPLIMENTS. Share a grilled snook to die for with Elizabeth Hand in Episode 40 of Scott Edelman’s podcast Eating the Fantastic.

Elizabeth Hand

We discussed why she probably won’t take LSD on her deathbed, what made her a fan of Marvel rather than DC when she was a kid, her unusual fee for writing term papers back in college, the true meaning of Man’s Search for Meaning, the unfortunate occupational hazard of book reviewing, who was the best science fiction writer of all time (and why), plus more.

(2) MAD PLASTIC DISEASE. Cedar Sanderson raises the spectre of hostile Nature in “Take two aspirin”:

Toni Weisskopf shared a photo on Facebook of a computer module absolutely infested with an ant nest, seething with eggs, and her comment was that she’d like to see more stories like that in science fiction. It’s an excellent point. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve read ( and written) where the tech performs flawlessly. Which does happen. There are also stories where it doesn’t, but how many can you think of where the characters have to deal with an infestation? How would we prevent that, control it, and what kind of adaptations will we see?

I’d run across an article recently about bacteria which will break down plastics that were formerly thought invulnerable. Then there was another one speculating about why less plastic (by an order of magnitude) is found in the ocean than projected, and the discovery of novel bacteria on that plastic. The concern was focused on reducing pollution, but what happens when bacteria evolve to eat stuff we want to stay intact and functional? The stories about nanotech making gray goo aren’t that far off from what bacteria are already capable of — only fortunately they are not so fast to act.

(3) STINKS ON DRY ICE. Entertainment Weekly has the roundup: “‘The Mummy’ reboot slammed as ‘worst Tom Cruise movie ever’ by critics”.

Universal’s first foray into the depths of its Dark Universe probably would have benefitted from a brighter guiding light.

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

(4) 451 CASTING. Probably fortunate, then, that this bit of promotion came out before The Mummy opened: “HBO’s Fahrenheit 451 casting heats up as The Mummy’s Sofia Boutella boards”

If you were already fired up for HBO’s upcoming movie adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic novel Fahrenheit 451, then prepare to throw a couple more books on the barbie, cause this cast is starting to cook.

Just ahead of her titular turn in this weekend’s The Mummy, Sofia Boutella has signed on to join Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle, Creed, Fantastic Four) and Michael Shannon (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, 99 Homes) as the core players in the film from writer/director Ramin Bahrani (99 Homes).

According to THR, Boutella will play the female lead Clarisse, “an informant caught between” Jordan’s Montag — a fireman whose job it is to burn books, but who ends up rebelling against such a scorching notion after meeting free-spirited Clarisse — and Shannon’s Fire Chief Beatty, Montag’s mentor.

(5) ROSARIUM OPENS ANTHOLOGY. Rosarium Publications invites submissions of science fiction, fantasy, horror, interstitial, and unclassifiable works to Trouble the Waters: Tales from the Deep Blue, edited by Sheree Renée Thomas, Pan Morigan, and Troy L. Wiggins.

TROUBLE THE WATERS: Tales from the Deep Blue will be a new anthology of water-themed speculative short stories that explore all kinds of water lore and deities, ancient and new as well as unimagined tales. We want stories with memorable, engaging characters, great and small, epic tales and quieter stories of personal and communal growth. Science fiction, fantasy, horror, interstitial, and unclassifiable works are welcome. We are seeking original stories in English (2500 — 7000 words; pays 5-6 cents per word) from writers of all walks of life from this beautiful planet and will accept some select reprints (pays 2-3 cents per word). Deadline: November 1, 2017. Projected publication: November 2018, Rosarium Publishing, www.rosariumpublishing.com. Please send submissions as a .doc, .docx, or .rtf file in standard mss formatting with your name, title, and word count to: TroubletheWaters2018@gmail.com

Complete submission guidelines can be found here.

(6) DYSTOPIAS. The Financial Times’ Nilanjana Roy, in “Future Shocks”, reviews Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne and Hao Jingfang’s “Folding Beijing” to see if our love of dystopias as something to do with the continued decline in urban life around the world.

The nightmare near-future city that a writer like Prayaag Akbar, by contrast, summons in his first novel, Leila (2017), rests on a distinctly South Asian set of fears. About a mother’s search for the daughter she was separated from, it is set in a frightening world where cities are segregated into zones of Purity, citizens sorted by their community, surnames, castes and religion.

This background came out of his discomfort with the way Indian cities have developed. “They are segmented, self-enclosing,€ he told me recently. “We practise a kind of blindness — you teach yourself not to see the tragedies that unfold in public spaces.”

These concerns — about cities splitting into walled enclaves, residents separated from each other’s lives by fears of pollution, contamination, or a striving after purity — find startling expression in Hao Jingfang’s Hugo award-winning “Folding Beijing”….

(7) BRADBURY. BookRiot’s Andy Browers is your guide to “A Friend In High And Low Places: Finding Ray Bradbury Where You May Not Expect Him”.

While I hate to ruin surprises, here are four places you might find yourself in his presence, sometimes peripherally, sometimes looking him right in the bespectacled eye.

Star Trek (aka “Star Track”, as my grandma called it)

Too obvious? Maybe. He and Gene Roddenberry, the fella who dreamed the franchise up, were pals who sat at the same midcentury science fiction table in the cafeteria. Bradbury famously loved all things space and rocket related, and it is fitting that he gets a couple of nods as the namesake of a Federation star ship. In the saucily-named episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation “Menage a Troi”, for instance, which ship is bestowed the great honor of relieving the pain of fandom everywhere by arriving to whisk away Wesley Crusher to Starfleet Academy? The U.S.S. Bradbury, the first of its class.

Wesley missed the space bus by saving the day in that episode, much to the chagrin of a large swath of viewers at home who were sick of having a kid on the Bridge. (Wil Wheaton, I was cheering for you. Please know that.) (Mostly because I kept hoping Wesley would scream TRAAAAIIIIIN in slow motion, which as far I know never happened.)

(8) ORPHAN BLACK. Carl Slaughter advises, “If you haven’t watched Tatiana Maslany portray as many as 14 cones in Orphan Black, you’re missing a treat.”

View Entertainment Weekly’s photo gallery, “‘Orphan Black’ A to Z: Dive Into the Show’s DNA Before Its Final Season”.

(9) STREET MEMORIAL. Here’s Pat Evans’ photo of the mementos being left today on Adam West’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. West died on Friday from leukemia.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 10, 1692 — Bridget Bishop was the first person to be hanged at the Salem Witch trials.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CREATORS

  • Born June 10, 1928 Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak.
  • Born June 10, 1952 — Kage Baker

(12) FAMOUS BOOKSTORE HAS A BACKUP PLAN. The original Books of Wonder, inspiration for the bookstore owned by Meg Ryan’s character in the 1998 comedy You’ve Got Mail, is opening a second location as a contingency plan in case it can’t afford the coming rent hike — “Books of Wonder to Open Upper West Side Location”.

Books of Wonder, the renowned children’s bookstore on 18th Street in New York City, announced Thursday that it would open a second location, on West 84th Street, sometime this summer.

According to the store’s founder and owner, Peter Glassman, the 18th Street store’s lease will expire at the end of 2019. “Given the rise in retail rents along 18th Street, I am not optimistic about our ability to renew the lease,” he said. Though he said he planned to seek a new location in that area, the impending uncertainty was part of his decision to open another branch on the Upper West Side.

“I wanted to make sure we had another location open and well established before the current store’s lease expires, so if we have difficulty finding a new location and have to close for a few months we would have another location to serve our customers, not be out of business for any period of time, and not have to lay off my wonderful staff,” he said.

Andrew Porter adds,

When they opened, originally on Hudson Street in the lower Village, they were primarily an SF/fantasy-oriented store. They took out full-page ads in my Algol/Starship, then in SF Chronicle. The store regularly has readings and signings by SF/F YA and children’s authors, for example, with Sarah Beth Durst. It has also published numerous books by and about L. Frank Baum.

 

Peter Glassman. Photo by Andrew Porter:

Sarah Beth Durst and Bruce Coville at her signing in 2015. Photo by Andrew Porter.

(13) TOMBSTONE TERRITORY. This just in from the Australian National Convention.

(14) DEADPOOL’S NEXT RAMPAGE. Marvel pulls back the shroud, er, curtain.

If you’re Deadpool and you kill the entire Marvel Universe, why not eat some chimichangas…and then kill all over again? Proving there’s nothing like revenge, the superstar team of Cullen Bunn (X-Men Blue, Venomverse) and Dalibor Talajic (Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe, Redwolf) reunite to bring you Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe Again, and the Merc with the Mouth has never been more ready to return to that katana.

“This is not a sequel to the original story,” warns series writer Cullen Bunn. “This is an all new murderous rampage. The Marvel Universe has changed a great deal since the first series. So, of course, Deadpool had to up his game and change his tactics.”

 

(15) WONDER MOTHER. Marguerite Bowling, in a Daily Signal piece called “Wonder Woman Can Get the Job Done Pregnant, So Can You” says that Gal Gadot’s reshooting fight scenes while five months pregnant should be an inspiration to women. (The Daily Signal is a news website run by the Heritage Foundation.)

But here’s another fun fact that shows you can proudly be pro-mom and pro-career woman: Israeli actress Gal Gadot was five months pregnant with her second child when she did reshoot scenes for the movie that included a climactic battle scene.

To get around her then-visible baby bump, costumers cut an ample triangle on her iconic suit and replaced it with a bright green cloth that allowed the movie’s special effects team to change her figure post-production.

Given the prevailing negative news that shows women facing all sorts of career challenges by wanting to have a baby, it’s refreshing to see a successful woman embrace her pregnancy and still do an exceptional job.

(16) MIL-SF. Jeffrey C. Wells says “I Can’t Believe it’s not Baen: Rick Shelley’s Lieutenant Colonel” — and throws in a funny bingo card as a bonus.

If you didn’t figure it out from the title, or the cover, Lieutenant Colonel is Military Sci-Fi (Mil-SF for short), a genre devoted to chronicling how and why people are gonna shoot at each other in the future. And, also unsurprisingly, Lieutenant Colonel is the fifth book in Shelley’s “DMC” series, with each earlier book having sequential titles like Lieutenant, then Major, then Captain, and so on. Not exactly creative, but what can you do.

In any case, this series centers around a dude named Lon Nolan as he works his way up through the ranks in the Dirigent Mercenary Corps (from which we get the “DMC” acronym). Lon is your typical officer– professional, honorable, and — kind of boring. Dude makes Honor Harrington seem like Hamlet. Wait, no, that’s not a good analogy, ‘cause Harrington gets shit done. But I digress.

…Thankfully, Lieutenant Colonel doesn’t delve into super preachiness. Though it did inspire me to create MIL-SF BINGO! Just print this off next time you read about space-soldiers shooting space-lasers at space-commies, and check off the boxes as you go along!

(17) WIDER SPECTRUM. An Adweek story tells how “Equinox Extends LGBTQA from A to Z With a New Alphabet for Pride Month”.

It’s Pride Month! And every year, around this time, a certain kind of pundit hops on a soapbox to complain about how the term “LGBTQA” just keeps getting longer, and isn’t that just ludicrous?

Actually, it isn’t. In fact, it’s not nearly long enough. And a campaign from Wieden + Kennedy New York highlights why.

For Equinox and the LGBTQA Community Center, the agency has produced “The LGBTQAlphabet,” whose chill and choreographed film goes down the list of not six letters but 26. The goal is to show that a handful of labels isn’t remotely sufficient to encompass the complex identities of the world’s 7 billion people.

(18) SHARKES KEEP NIBBLING. Here are more recent reviews from the Shadow Clarke jury, and a guest post by the actual Clarke Award director.

This is the future we were promised. This is what all those science fiction novels from way back told us to expect: silver-finned rocket ships taking us out to the frontier towns of Mars and beyond; clanking metal robots wanting to be human; people transformed into something monstrous by whatever is out there.

And Tidhar, whose work has always displayed an over-fond preference for intertextual references to other science fictions, makes absolutely certain we recognise that these are other writers’ futures. The digital vampire is called a Shambleau, a pointed reference to the first of C.L. Moore’s Northwest Smith adventures. There are repeated references to someone called Glimmung on Mars, which of course recalls Philip K. Dick’s children’s novel, Nick and the Glimmung, which is, of course, set on Mars. And the presiding spirit that dominates the whole novel is probably Cordwainer Smith, with the way space is repeatedly described as the “Up and Out”, as well as casual references to C’Mell and Mother Hitton. There are more, some less familiar than others; I’m pretty sure that there are references to Edward Whittemore’s little-known but brilliant Jerusalem Quartet scattered throughout this novel. Someday, I suspect, someone might produce a concordance for Central Station, teasing out all of the echoes of and references to other works of science fiction. It will be a thick volume.

Of course, no one has gone broke by playing to the geeky self-regard of the science fiction fan. In recent years, self-referential science fiction books, novels like Among Others by Jo Walton that deliberately draw attention to other science fiction works, have proved especially popular.

If not for my commitment to the Sharke process I wouldn’t have chosen to write about Occupy Me; it’s unlikely that I would have finished reading it at all. My immediate response was akin to a toddler presented with something green and fresh and healthy: stampy feet; scowly face; a protesting shriek of ‘I don’t like it!’. I bounced off the book hard and repeatedly, and continued to do so despite dosing myself with Gareth’s blazingly positive review and Nina and Paul’s balanced perspectives at the midway point. Whatever the book’s thematic qualities, whatever its madcap quirks — and often because of them — I couldn’t stomach it. I find it impossible to see or be fair to the better parts of the novel because I’m painfully fixated on the fundamental ways in which it fails for me. Under usual circumstances I would think it ill-advised to throw a hat into the critical ring when I have so little critical perspective to share but I will try to explain.

While the Clarke Award can never guarantee having every potentially eligible book submitted, we are able to offer a reasonably comprehensive ‘state of the nation’ snap shot via our lists, not only of the books themselves but also for deeper analysis into the numbers of submitting publishers, the demographic breakdowns of authors and similar should people want to take those numbers and run with them.

More immediately, after my first couple of spins in the director’s chair I was starting to learn all of the ongoing debates, criticisms and wishes that surrounded the award’s announcements every year.

The award was, in no particular order, overly predictable, willfully unpredictable as a tactic to generate PR controversy, trying too hard to be the Booker, ignoring the heartlands of SF, full of wrongheads (a lovely fannish term that one), and so on and so on — Business as usual for a book award in other words.

(19) DRINK IT OR ELSE. Atlas Obscura recalls a series of 1950s commercials for Wilkins Coffee that featured violent Muppets prototypes.

In the ads, Wilkins — who bears a striking resemblance to Kermit the Frog — tries to convince another proto-Muppet, Wontkins to drink Wilkins Coffee. Wontkins almost always refuses. In retaliation, Wilkins shoots him, stabs him, or otherwise inflicts physical harm upon him.

 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mark-kitteh, JJ, John King Tarpinian and Lace for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr, with a little help from his friends.]

Pixel Scroll 5/29/17 The Time Has Come, The Pixel Said, To Talk Of Many Scrolls

(1) TO THE MAX. George R.R. Martin’s never-produced Christmas script for Max Headroom finally came to life — at the Jean Cocteau Theatre: “Merry Xmas to All, and to All a Good Max”.

Our week-long M-M-Maxathon concluded on Satuday night at the Jean Cocteau with a staged table reading of “Xmas,” my thirty-year-old unproduced (until now) MAX HEADROOM script. And I have to say, we went out on a high note. We had a sold-out theatre, and the audience seemed to enjoy every moment of the performance, laughing and applauding at all the right places. After thirty years, I was not at all sure how well my old script would hold up… especially with an audience of Max Headroom fanatics, many of whom had just sat through an entire week of Max, watching every one of the produced episodes. MAX HEADROOM was a really smart show, with some fine writing… tough acts to follow. But most of the viewers seemed to think “Xmas” was just as good as what had gone before, which gratified me no end…

 

(2) SUPER SNIT. There was some huffing and puffing at the London Comic Con between a pair of famous actors although no blows were actually struck, no matter the New York Post’s headline — “Flash Gordon and The Hulk fight at Comic Con”.

It was a real-life battle of the superheroes at a comic fest over the weekend — when Hulk actor Lou Ferrigno got into a brawl with “Flash Gordon” star Sam Jones, and fans had to jump in and break them up.

“I don’t know if I was the real superhero, because if there was a clash of the Titans, I would have got squashed,” said Darryn Clements, who stepped in to help separate the musclebound actors at London’s ComicCon on Saturday, according to the Sun.

In fact, the duo were back at their adjoining tables the next day peaceably signing for fans.

The Hulk talking to Flash Gordon! #IncredibeHulk #flashgordon #MCMComicCon #LouFerrino #superheroes #legends #ExcelLondon #londoncomiccon

A post shared by Social Work Helper, PBC (@socialworkhelper) on

(3) TROLL PATROL. A Twitter troll prompted a question during an MSNBC interview: “George Takei shuts down racist criticism of new “Star Trek’ series”.

“People are finding the time to hate on “Star Trek’ for having diversity,” host Joy Reid prompted. “What?”

“Well you know — today, in this society, we have alien life-forms that we call trolls,” Takei replied.

He explained: “And these trolls carry on without knowing what they’re talking about and knowing even less about the history of what they’re talking about. And some of these trolls go on to be presidents of nations.”

(4) URSINE DESIGN. I don’t know why this surprises me. Build-A-Bear offers a whole flock of Star Wars-themed products, including Darth Vader Bear.

Never underestimate the power of the dark side. Our exclusive Darth Vader Bear comes with his signature helmet, cape and control chest panel, permanently attached. Complete your destiny and add Darth Vader’s iconic Breathing Sound, Imperial March Song and his red Lightsaber.

(5) THE (DONUT) HOLE TRUTH. Scott Edelman writes: “Yes, I know, the William F. Nolan episode of Eating the Fantastic was only released Friday — but I couldn’t resist bringing live this donut celebration of Balticon as it was ending, to assuage the sadness of the guests who’d have to wait another year to return — Eating the Fantastic — 13 guests devour 12 donuts and reminisce about 51 years of Balticon.”

Since last July’s Readercon Donut Spectacular episode of Eating the Fantastic has proven to be so popular, I thought I’d try harvesting memories about another long-running con, and so plopped myself down in a high-traffic area of the Balticon hotel with a dozen Diablo Donuts. But first, I shared this photo on social media so the hungry hordes would know to be on the lookout for me.

(6) UNRAVELING THE SLEEVE OF CARE. Camestros Felapton, recognizing the world’s hunger for quality writing advice, nevertheless has decided to let them starve a little longer — “If You Want to Write a Book, Write Every Third 5 Minute Interval in a Period of 15 Minutes, Also Never Sleep”.

Here at Felapton Towers and via our leading Science Fiction/Fantasy/Military History publishing arm Cattimothy House, we meet and train many aspiring authors — people who we’ve turned from mere robotic vacuum cleaners into leading voices in modern fiction. We’ve compiled all our experience and writing advice into this one article that WILL help you turn your dreams into a book!

So you are about to write a book? Remember, on the day you start, millions of others will be starting a book also. Worse, BILLIONS of people live on Earth and many of them are also capable of thinking about starting a novel. Bear in mind that approximately only SIX books are published each year and of those FOUR are guide books to Disneyland. In order for your book to be published, it has to be better than the books those several billion people on Earth might write. Most of those people have more interesting lives than you and also probably nicer personalities.

Lesson 1: You have to defeat your rivals. Your book has to be better than your rivals. Looking at that the odds, that implies you’d be best trying to sabotage them from finishing their book. But how? Well, articles like this can help! Find a blog, a writers group or maybe a popular online media organisation and instead of writing a book, write an article full of bad writing advice! BINGO! All those billions of rivals will read it, follow your advice and either write a terrible book or give up in exhaustion…

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 29, 1889 — James Whale, who said: “A director must be pretty bad if he can’t get a thrill out of war, murder and robbery.”

(8) COMIC SECTON. Cat Eldridge recommends xkcd’s “Opening crawl”.

(9) HOW THE DRAGON ROLLS. Click to read Declan Finn’s recommendations for the Dragon Awards. Hey, you got to respect the guy’s frankness —

DISCLAIMER: I have not read all of the following. In some cases, I’ve had less and less time to read the more I write. And I’ve submitted to … a lot this year, so I’m a little all over the place. Also, there are some genres I just don’t read, usually. I tend to avoid Horror and Alternate History, even though there are some books that are going to change my mind (Brian Niemeier and Lou Antonelli, for example, for horror and Alt History, respectively). If you have thoughts or suggestions, then by all means, COMMENT. And now, UNLEASH THE DRAGONS

(10) WORDS & PICTURES. Joe Sherry resumes “Reading the Hugos: Graphic Story” at Nerds of a Feather.

We continue our Reading the Hugos series with a look at Graphic Story. I can’t help but compare a bit to the five finalists from last year’s ballot and only Invisible Republic would make the cut here. I was already impressed with Monstress, Saga, and Paper Girls as each collection was on my nominating ballot. Heck, I was impressed enough by Paper Girls to include both of the published collected editions on my ballot – so I was definitely glad to see the first book make the cut. Beyond that, this list is dominated by two publishers with an even split between Marvel and Image. Granting that these are generally some excellent books and were on my ballot, I still would have liked to have seen a wider variety of publisher’s on the list. I just can’t say specifically what because I’m not well read enough in what’s going on in comics today – which I would also guess might be the case of a lot of voters. Or maybe I’m just projecting. Either way, let’s get to this year’s finalists.

(11) FILMMAKER TEASES NEXT PROJECT. Popular Mechanics says “It’s Humans Versus Aliens in Neill Blomkamp’s New Sci-Fi Project” .

Teasing a new sci-fi studio called Oats Studios since April, Neill Blomkamp’s ready to show us what he has in store for his future sci-fi ambitions. A new trailer, released today, for a short film currently named “Volume 1” will stream on Steam “soon.” But while the particulars of the movie are lacking in detail, the trailer is nothing short of a top-notch sci-fi film.

 

(12) ONLY A MEMORY. Carl Slaughter recalls:

At age 27, Josh Trank became the youngest director to open a film at #1 with Chronicle. He was hired to direct a standalone Star Wars film and assigned to direct the Fantastic 4 reboot. The Fantastic 4 set was plagued with production problems and received a 9% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Lucasfilm fired him when Fantastic 4 controversies spilled onto the Internet. He has not been seen on the speculative front since.

 

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Scott Edelman, Cat Eldridge, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Rambo.]

Pixel Scroll 5/26/17 Hey Mr. Tatooine Man, Use The Force For Me

(1) PHOENIX COMICON SUSPECT NAMED. Phoenix’s 12News, in “Phoenix Comicon suspect said things would get bloody, according to court papers”, reports the suspect’s name is Mathew Sterling.

The man Phoenix police arrested Thursday for carrying four loaded guns inside the Phoenix Convention Center during Phoenix Comicon has been booked for attempted murder and several more charges. A judge set his bond at $1 million on Friday.

Police said 31-year-old Mathew Sterling made threats to harm a performer at the event. Police also believe he intended to attack officers as well.

According to court documents, Phoenix police received a call from the Hawthorne Police Department in California. Hawthorne police said a witness reported reading Facebook messages from Sterling who was posting pictures of Phoenix officers and threatening to shoot them.

Sterling resisted when approached by police at Phoenix Comicon and even ripped off an officer’s police patch on his uniform, according to court paperwork. He was eventually overpowered and taken into custody.

Police say Sterling was armed with a shotgun and three handguns that were all fully loaded. He was also carrying a combat knife, pepper spray and throwing stars. Police said he was wearing body armor.

Signs posted throughout the Phoenix Convention Center prohibit these kind of items at the event. Sterling avoided the stations where prop weapons are secured and marked, according to court records.

He later told police in an interview that he believed the signs and law prohibiting weapons at the venue did not apply to him, according to court paperwork.

Court documents show Sterling admitted to carrying the weapons into the venue and told police he was the Punisher — a popular Marvel comic book character. Sterling said if he deemed the officers to be what he called “Aphrodite officers” or “bad” officers, he would shoot them. He said these types of officers can hide behind kind faces and police badges.

According to court documents, Sterling purchased a four-day pass to the event and told police he believed with the person dead, the person’s wife and child would be happy.

Sterling appeared in court for his initial appearance Friday. He did not say a word and is being held on a $1 million bond.

Sterling was also booked for three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, wearing body armor during the commission of a felony, resisting arrest and carrying a weapon in a prohibited place.

After yesterday’s incident, Phoenix Comicon Director Matthew Solberg announced radical changes to attendee screening at the entrances to the event.

In light of recent events, Phoenix Comicon, in cooperation with the Phoenix Convention Center and the Phoenix Police Department, will be implementing enhanced screening to ensure the safety of all our attendees. This screening includes three dedicated access points, no longer allowing costume props within our convention or the Convention Center, and other methods as determined in conjunction with the Convention Center and Phoenix Police Department. We anticipate some delays as you are entering the building and we encourage you to carry as little as possible to make the process easier. …Costume props will no longer be allowed on-site. All costume props should be left at home, in your car, or in your hotel room. This includes costume props for staff, crew, costuming groups, panelists, and participants in the masquerade ball…. Convention staff is also trying to bring some relief to those stuck in line.

(2) CHEESECAKE UPDATE. The crowdfunding appeal to raise $500K for charity as an inducement for Neil Gaiman to do a reading of the Cheesecake Factory menu, reported in May 22’s Scroll, has raised $59,017 in the first four days.

(3) ENOUGH ABOUT YOU. Felicity Harley is catching heat for her narcissistic “interview” with N.K. Jemisin, “Science Fiction Author Felicity Harley talks to Hugo Award Winning Author NK Jemisin” (links to Internet Archive), where Harley spends half the time talking about herself.

…Jemisin says that she writes not to educate or convey her political views but to entertain. I questioned her on her social and political views, and since her books are speculative, I wouldn’t say she deliberately addresses these head on. Rather I think she tends to use allegory and metaphor to introduce them into her stories.

I’m a different kind of writer — I come out of a strong background of political and social activism. For instance, my current book deals specifically with corporate plutocrats and how they are exacerbating climate change, and also some of the moral and ethical dilemmas that we face as we develop highly intelligent, human forms of artificial intelligence. I’m also more of a hard core science writer — I have a three or four page glossary of scientific terms at the back of my book. I’m like an Andy Weir if you like, who I’ll be chatting with later on in this series.

I would say however, after reading her work, that Jemisin is by far the superior artist of the two of us. She writes from her colorful imagination and her Jungian dreams, weaving her political ideas like subtle silver threads throughout her narrative….

Jemisin let loose a hail of tweets about the interview and how it will reshape her policy for dealing with interview requests henceforth. (Her complete comments are available at Storify.)

(4) NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME POSTER. Tommy Lee Edwards tells The Verge: “What went wrong with the Spider-Man Homecoming poster: a veteran film artist explains”.

Not long after a pair of excellent new trailers for Spider-Man: Homecoming landed online, Sony and Marvel unveiled a poster for the film, showcasing nearly everyone in the principal cast. It is, to say the least, crowded. Peter Parker, Tony Stark, and the Vulture appear twice; poor Marisa Tomei is a tiny floating head at the bottom right; and the background features fireworks, lasers, the Manhattan skyline and the Washington Monument.

It didn’t take long for fans and critics to roast the poster on Twitter…

(5) A SHORE THING. Scott Edelman invites everyone to gobble glass noodles with the legendary William F. Nolan in Episode 38 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Welcome to the permanently moored Queen Mary, which sailed the seas from 1936 to 1967, but which is now a retired ocean liner turned hotel in Long Beach, California — and last month the home of the second annual StokerCon. My guest for this episode snuck away with me from the con for some peace and quiet in my room — and to share take-out food delivered from nearby Thai Silk….

 

William F. Nolan. Photo by Scott Edelman.

We discussed how Ray Bradbury helped him sell his first short story in 1954, the way a slush pile sale to Playboy convinced him to abandon a successful career as a commercial artist, why his Twilight Zone episode was never filmed, the difference between the real truth and Charles Beaumont’s “greater truth,” why he only acted in only one movie (and got punched by William Shatner), how Stan Freberg pranked diners aboard the Queen Mary and made them think the ship was sinking, which novel he thinks is his best (and it’s not Logan’s Run), and more.

(6) OXYGEN. On behalf of writers everywhere, Dawn Witzke pleads for your Amazon reviews: “Review the KISS Way”.

Imagine walking blindfolded into a room. You tell a story and at the end there is silence.

Feeling a bit worried? Well, that is what it’s like for authors.

We know you have our books. We know some of you have even read them. But, without reviews, it’s like that silent room.

Don’t write reviews because:

“I would, but I don’t know what to say.”

“I don’t like doing reviews, it takes so much time.”

“I didn’t like the book. I don’t want to be mean.”

I’ll admit it, I have said those things before.

However, writers depend on reviews. Reviews not only lets the author know how they’re doing their job, it helps others decide whether to buy the book or move along to another book….

(7) SUSTAINABLE SPACE. Authors argue a new vision for economically-viable space stations: “Towards an Economically Viable roadmap to large scale space colonization”.

Al Globus and Joe Strout have an analysis that space settlements in low (~500 km) Earth equatorial orbits may not require any radiation shielding at all. This is based on a careful analysis of requirements and extensive simulation of radiation effects. This radically reduces system mass and has profound implications for space settlement, as extraterrestrial mining and manufacturing are no longer on the critical path to the first settlements, although they will be essential in later stages. It also means the first settlements can evolve from space stations, hotels, and retirement communities in relatively small steps.

(8) TEMPORARY GRAFITTI. Last night stfnal creatures were illuminated on the outside of the Sydney Opera House. Here are two examples — more on Twitter.

(9) SPIT TAKE. Another unexpected consequence of tech (or maybe it was to be expected, given lawyers): Ancestry.com‘s license-in-perpetuity. The BBC has the story: “The company’s terms and conditions have stated that users grant the company a “perpetual, royalty-free, worldwide, sublicensable, transferable license’ to their DNA data, for purposes including ‘personalised products and services'”

A leading genealogy service, Ancestry.com, has denied exploiting users’ DNA following criticism of its terms and conditions.

The US company’s DNA testing service has included a right to grant Ancestry a “perpetual” licence to use customers’ genetic material.

A New York data protection lawyer spotted the clause and published a blog warning about privacy implications.

Ancestry told BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours its terms were being changed.

Headquartered in Utah, Ancestry is among the world’s largest for-profit genealogy firms, with a DNA testing service available in more than 30 countries.

The company, which uses customers’ saliva samples to predict their genetic ethnicity and find new family connections, claims to have more than 4 million DNA profiles in its database.

Ancestry also stores the profiles forever, unless users ask for them to be destroyed.

The company’s terms and conditions have stated that users grant the company a “perpetual, royalty-free, worldwide, sublicensable, transferable license” to their DNA data, for purposes including “personalised products and services”.

In a statement to You and Yours, an Ancestry spokesperson said the company “never takes ownership of a customer’s data” and would “remove the perpetuity clause”.

(10) STACEY BERG PROFILE. Here is Carl Slaughter’s overview of Stacey Berg.

ECHO HUNTER 367 SERIES
by Stacey Berg
Harper Voyager Impulse

DISSENSION

For four hundred years, the Church has led the remnants of humanity as they struggle for survival in the last inhabited city. Echo Hunter 367 is exactly what the Church created her to be: loyal, obedient, lethal. A clone who shouldn’t care about anything but her duty. Who shouldn’t be able to.

When rebellious citizens challenge the Church’s authority, it is Echo’s duty to hunt them down before civil war can tumble the city back into the dark. But Echo hides a deadly secret: doubt. And when Echo’s mission leads her to Lia, a rebel leader who has a secret of her own, Echo is forced to face that doubt. For Lia holds the key to the city’s survival, and Echo must choose between the woman she loves and the purpose she was born to fulfill.

REGENERATION

Protected by the Church for four hundred years, the people of the City are the last of humanity — or so they thought. Echo Hunter 367, made to be faithful to the Church and its Saint at all costs, embarks on what she’s sure is a suicide mission into the harsh desert beyond the City. Then, at the end of all hope, she stumbles on a miracle: another enclave of survivors, a lush, peaceful sanctuary completely opposite of anything Echo has ever known.

But the Preserve has dark secrets of its own, and uncovering them may cost Echo more than just her life. She fears her discoveries will trigger a final, disastrous war. But if Echo can stop the Church and Preservers from destroying each other, she might have a chance to achieve her most impossible dream — saving the woman she loves.

PRAISE FOR REGENERATION

  • Echo Hunter 367 may be a clone and callous killer, but she’s one with true heart and soul. Regeneration is a thrilling conclusion to Berg’s dystopia duology.” — Beth Cato, author of The Clockwork Dagger series
  • “Regeneration by Stacey Berg is a paean to resistance, hope, and love, a Canticle for Leibowitz that passes the Bechdel Test and then some. This post-apocalyptic clash of values and technology demonstrates beautifully that physical bravery can only take you so far; real change only happens when we have the courage to listen.” – Nicola Griffith, author of Hild

STACEY BERG BIO

Stacey Berg is a medical researcher who writes speculative fiction. Her work as a physician-scientist provides the inspiration for many of her stories. She lives in Houston and is a member of the Writers’ League of Texas. When she’s not writing, she practices kung fu and runs half marathons.

(11) FOLLOW THE MONEY. Lela E. Buis ponders “Why Are Literary Awards so Popular?”

A recent article by Deborah Cohen cites James English The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value. According to English, the number of literary awards has more than doubled in the UK since 1988 and tripled in the US since 1976. Not all these are for SFF, of course. Some of them are big competitions for national recognition and some are only small prizes for local authors. Still, there’s been that explosion. So why are awards so popular?

The answer appears to be economics, which is the answer to a lot of questions about human behavior, i.e. there’s money tied up in the awards process. First of all, many of the prizes charge an entry fee, which means it’s a money-making proposition for the organization offering the award. The Newbery is free. The Pulitzer charges $50. But other smaller contests often have higher fees. The Florida Authors and Publishers Association, for example, charges $75 for members and $85 for non-members to enter their contest. These small organizations tend to cater to independent publishers and authors who hope to gain some of the advantages a literary award can offer, meaning you can add “prize-winning author” to your bio.

(12) DIETARY LAWS OF THE AMAZONS. Speaking of following the money, here’s another entry in the Wonder Woman nutrition sweepstakes.

(13) GREATCOATS. At Fantasy Literature, Bill Capossere does a mock dialog involving Sebastien De Castell and his characters as a salute to “Tyrant’s Throne: A near-perfect close to a great series”.

De Castell turned to Kest. “How would you rate our chances?”

Kest rifled through the manuscript. “We’ll get four and five-star reviews and show up on a dozen Best of the Year lists, after which you’ll get one, no two, major nominations. People will be very sad it’s over and will repeatedly beg you for more. Falcio will appear on five or six €˜Best Characters in a Series’ lists, which won’t do much for his humility, I hate to say.”

“I’ll have you know I have the best humility of anyone.”

“My point exactly. I’ll get a Top 10 mention on a list of Best Swordsperson in a fantasy work, but poor Brasti will almost certainly be forgotten, unless someone makes a list of €˜Characters Who You Only Remember as €˜That Other Guy.’”

Brasti glanced up from polishing his bow.

Falcio raised a finger before Brasti could speak. “Please tell me that isn’t a euphemism. I really€”“

De Castell interrupted. “Don’t break perspective, Falcio. And yes, we all hope it isn’t a euphemism.” …

(14) HISTORY OF FINLAND. Here’s an artistic byproduct of DNA-community research: “Genomes tell their story in a stamp celebrating the 100th anniversary of Finland”.

This year, in Finland, we are celebrating the first one hundred years as an independent country. Our history books tell many details of the past decades that have shaped the present day Finland. With modern technology we can complement the written history by another readable source that has literally travelled with our ancestors throughout millenia. This readable source is, of course, the human genome that we are studying at the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) of University of Helsinki. A figure of our population genetic analysis based on the FINRISK study of the National Institute for Health and Welfare ended up in a special stamp designed by Pekka Piippo to celebrate Finland’s 100th anniversary. It is a bit fancy stamp with a price tag of 10 euros and you can see our contribution in it only in UV-light!

(15) HONORING THOSE WHO DIED IN WW2. Robert Kennedy suggests that as we begin Memorial Day Weekend in the U.S. we increase our appreciation of the cost of war by viewing The Fallen.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, Robert Kennedy, Mark-kitteh, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 5/17/17 Round Up The Usual Pixels

(1) THE REAL AMERICAN GODS. Mark-kitteh says, “This may be the perfect combo of SF and cats for us–”

(2) ANIMAL FILIBUSTER. The Washington Post’s John Kelly interviewed Ralph Nader, who has written a fantasy novel, Animal Envy, in which animals are given the power to speak via a software program and “are given a 100-hour special broadcast” to discuss all their issues — “In his odd new book, Ralph Nader talks to the animals –and they talk back”.

Ralph Nader –tireless windmill-tilter –is standing at the National Zoo recalling a conversation he once had with an editor at The Washington Post about what he felt was the paper’s less-than-adequate coverage of his presidential campaign.

“I remember saying, ‘There are times I say to myself, I wish I was a panda, given the coverage The Post gives to pandas,’” Nader said.

Well, Nader still isn’t a panda, but he is a kangaroo, a dolphin, an elephant, a crocodile, a squirrel, an owl, an Arctic tern, a German cockroach, a European corn borer, a radioactive Chernobyl beaver, and dozens of other mammals, reptiles, birds and insects.

They’re all characters he assumes in his new book, “Animal Envy: A Fable.”

He is also a cheetah: Safe at any speed…

(3) LUNCH OR HISTORICAL REENACTMENT? “Cynthia Felice and I break into the Watergate Hotel!” That’s what Scott Edelman says in his dramatic invitation to listen to Episode 37 of Eating the Fantastic.

Grab lunch at the Watergate with my unindicted co-conspirator Cynthia Felice in Episode 37 of Eating the Fantastic.

I visited the Watergate Hotel recently, and in case those of you familiar with the history of that infamous location might be thinking I went there to bring down a president with a Bob Woodward/Carl Bernstein-style investigation, let me quickly add … no. Rather, I went there to investigate the food at the recently opened Kingbird restaurant, with a guest who surprised me with her sudden visit to Washington, D.C., and whom I somehow managed to convince that a meal with me would be oh, so much more fun than visiting the National Air and Space Museum.

Joining me within the walls of the Watergate Hotel was Cynthia Felice, who published her first short story, “Longshanks,” in 1976 in the pages of Galileo, a science fiction magazine published by the late, great Charlie Ryan, and her first novel, Godsfire, two years later. She is also the co-founder with Ed Bryant — about whom, alas, I must also say late and great — of the Colorado Springs Writer’s Workshop.

We discussed how Frank Herbert’s Dune made her say, “Hey, I can do that,” the virtues of owning a motel while being a writer, the marriage advice Kate Wilhelm gave her at Clarion, what Thomas M. Disch told her that fixed one of her short stories, why we all loved the late, great Ed Bryant, the extraordinary lengths David Hartwell went to as he edited her second novel, how her collaborations with Connie Willis began, and more.

(4) THOSE SIDEKICKS, THEY DO GET WEARY. ComicMix’s John Ostrander, in “Sidekicking Around”, delves into one of comics’ well-known formulas.

Robin falls into a strange category of the child or teen sidekick. He was originally introduced to lighten up the Dark Knight Detective and, again, to give Batman someone to talk to rather than himself. Robin humanized the Bat. His popularity gave rise to a whole slew of child/teen associates such as Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Speedy, and Aqualad. Later, these five went from supporting characters to central ones when they formed their own super-team, the Teen Titans (later, just the Titans when they all outgrew their teenage years).

The original Robin, Dick Grayson, later grew out of his shorts and tights to become a full-fledged hero of his own, first as Nightwing and then later, briefly, actually taking Bruce Wayne’s place as Batman before reverting back to Nightwing. There have been other Robins since then, including one — Jason Todd — who was killed by the Joker. Don’t worry; he got better. The role is currently being filled by Bruce’s son, Damian. I believe he died as well at one point but is also now feeling better.

(5) STEAMPUNK BIBLIOPHILE RETURNS. This week 2012 Hugo Finalist Selena Chambers released Calls For Submission, her new short fiction collection.

Selena Chambers’ debut collection guides readers out of space and time and through genre and mythos to explore the microcosmic horrors of identity, existence, and will in the face of the world’s adamant calls for submission. Victorian tourists take a virtual trip through their (and the Ottoman empire’s) ideal Orient; a teenage girl learns about independence and battle of the bands, all while caring for her mesmerized, dead mother; a failed Beat poet goes over the edge while exploring the long-abandoned Government Lethal Chambers.

Chambers was a Related Work co-Hugo Finalist in 2012 with Jeff VanderMeer for their collaboration on The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature.

(6) MORE YA AWARD WSFS WANK. Kevin Standlee says, “You’d Think I’d Remember These Things”. You need to read all four steps to follow his argument, but here’s a foretaste of what you’ll be getting into if your click the link….

  1. Item 1 means that that as it currently stands, the Worldcon 75 WSFS Business Meeting does not have the authority to name a YA Award. However, the 2018 WSFS Business Meeting could apply a name to the Award in a single vote because of that provision. (Of course, this is all moot if the base proposal fails to be ratified.)

  2. Should the 2017 Business Meeting decide to ratify that YA proposal without the provision, the 2017 Meeting could then move as a new amendment to insert a name into the Award, with the name being something that could be passed in 2017 and ratified in 2018, like any other WSFS Constitutional amendment. That means the YA Award would have no official name in 2018, but (assuming 2017 passes a naming amendment that is ratified in 2018), it could get an official name for 2019 and beyond.

(7) BREW FOR TWO. Sounds like anybody who makes it through the Worldcon 75 Business Meeting will probably need to stop over in Iceland on the way home to chill out — “Beer baths to open in North Iceland in June”.

Kaldi brewery in Ãrskogssandur, just north of Akureyri in North Iceland, will be opening beer baths and spa in the coming month.

“The construction of the baths is progressing and everything is according to plan,” says Agnes Anna Siguroardottir, CEO of Kaldi brewery.

There will be seven beer baths in total, all suitable for two people. All guests that have reached 20 years in age can relax in their beer baths with a beer in hand, as there will be a pump by each bath. 20 is legal drinking age in Iceland.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Film director Stanley Kubrick was a big admirer of Steve Martin’s movie The Jerk. (Source: IMDB)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 17, 1902 –The Antikythera mechanism is recovered. Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the occasion.

(10) THE BIRD BLABS. The Vulture knows what might have been: “The Secret History of William Gibson’s Never-Filmed Aliens Sequel”

But there’s an alternate universe where the series’ propulsive momentum only increased –a reality in which the third Alien film featured advanced xenomorphs exploding in batches of half a dozen from people’s legs, stomachs, and mouths; where cold-warring rival space stations of communists and capitalists race to outdo one another with their genetic experiments on the aliens’ tissue; where a flock of the phallic horrors flies through the void of space, only to be beaten back by a gun-toting robot. Oh, and there’s a thing called the New Beast that emerges from and sheds a shrieking human’s body as it “rips her face apart in a single movement, the glistening claws coming away with skin, eyes, muscle, teeth, and splinters of bone.”

This is the alternate universe where legendary science-fiction writer William Gibson’s Alien III (that’s “III,” not “3”) screenplay was realized. It is, perhaps, a better world than ours….

You can find the screenplay in an antiquated .txt file online, and there have been occasional discussions of it on message boards and niche blogs, but for whatever reason, it hasn’t been appropriately acknowledged as the remarkable genre-fiction artifact that it is. Indeed, with studio backing and the right production team, one can imagine the finished film being on par with Alien and Aliens, and it certainly would have altered the course of the franchise’s history. With the arrival of Alien Covenant –a movie that, whatever its merits, largely retreads ideas from the series’ previous installments –it’s time to tell the story of how Gibson’s Alien III came to be, why it never crossed the finish line, and what made it special.

(11) KIDPROOFING. John King Tarpinian recommends, “Take the kids to see Alien this weekend, then put this cookie jar out. They will never “steal” a cookie again.” ThinkGeek’s Alien Ovomorph Egg Cookie Jar:

(12) CONDIGN REVENGE. Isn’t Aidan channeling me here?

(13) PUN TIME. Yes, I think this is funny, too.

(14) SHADOW CLARKE JURY GOES INTO OVERTIME. Now they need to deal with the actual Clarke Award shortlist.

With both the Sharke Six and the official Clarke shortlist now out of the bag, I thought I’d like to reflect a little on some of the books I encountered that did not make the running, either through being ineligible (i.e US-published) or through not being submitted. I’ve found myself wanting to talk about them because even now at the end of Phase One of my Sharke reading and with a sizeable number of eligible submissions under my belt, these omissions still feel notable, with discussion around the Clarke Award seeming the poorer for their absence.

The Booker Prize has already had its debate about allowing American novels into the mix, with predictably divided responses. Whether or not the Clarke should open itself up to US submissions is a discussion that lies beyond the remit of this essay, though it does seem a shame that there have been and will continue to be books that stand central to any discussion of the year’s SF and yet under current Clarke rules must remain excluded from one of its most prestigious awards.

I still haven’t reviewed two of the books on my original shortlist. As it happens, we now know that neither of the books made it onto the Sharke Six, and neither made it onto the official Clarke Award shortlist, though I suspect for rather different reasons. So I thought I would take this opportunity to consider why they might not have been chosen.

I’ll start with Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton.

Superficially, this seems to be exactly the sort of novel that has often found its way onto the Clarke shortlist. It is an elegantly, at times beautifully written novel, as here when an astronaut moves from the spinning outer ring of a spaceship to the gravity-free core:

Of all the books that I personally shortlisted for this project The Power is the one that I find most challenging to judge and to write about. I chose it precisely because of this difficulty; I had read it before and felt decidedly mixed about it. I have loved some of Alderman’s earlier work — her debut Disobedience (2006) was one of the first books that I reviewed online — and have read her assiduously, with great pleasure. Yet this fourth novel, her breakthrough book, left me unsure and unsettled. While friends and critics turned out in numbers to praise its ingenuity and confidence, its bold engagement with the dynamics of power and gender, I hung back and sat on my immediate reaction. Which was: Yes, all those things, but… I couldn’t decisively put my finger on what the ‘but’ was; it was just there, throwing up a barrier between the book and me. At the same time, I couldn’t dismiss it; I was niggled. It stayed with me. So much so, that when it came time for creating my Clarke shortlist I knew The Power had to be on it. Whatever my personal reservations, it was clearly one of the more thought-provoking and eloquent of the submitted books. I felt I owed it a re-read, to test my first response.

Other commentators have already discussed the alternate history setting of Azanian Bridges (Paul Kincaid on this site and Gautam Bhatia at Strange Horizons, while Mark Bould also provides a useful list of other African alternate histories on his own website), and I don’t see any real point in recapitulating what they’ve already said so well.

Instead, I want to focus on the relationship between Martin van Deventer, the white psychologist, and Sibusiso Mchuna, the young black man whom he is attempting to treat. Sibusiso, a trainee teacher, has withdrawn into himself after witnessing the murder of his friend, Mandla, at an anti-government rally. At a loss to know what else to do for him, his father has agreed to his being admitted to the local mental asylum for treatment. We can only speculate as to why his father did this rather than taking Sibusiso home but for now consider it as only one among many markers of the fact that Sibusiso is metaphorically as well as literally a long way from home, living in a white world, among people who have no idea about him.

(15) WE INTERRUPT YOUR READING FOR AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT. Now that Chuck Tingle’s professional porn has been linked from the Hugo Voter Packet, Hugo administrator Nicholas Whyte feels the need to clarify his cameo appearance in the work — thus his LiveJournal post “Pounded In The Butt By My Second Hugo Award Nomination, by Chuck Tingle”:

Second paragraph of third section:

“Hello, I’m Chuck,” I say, formally introducing myself.

I am quoted (well, paraphrased) in the crucial second section, in which author Chuck Tingle, miserable after the defeat of Space Raptor Butt Invasion in the 2016 Hugo Awards, receives notification from the 2017 Hugo Awards adminstrator that he has been nominated this year. Let’s just say for the record that the demands subsequently and consequently made of him as part of the Hugo process are not those actually required of Hugo finalists in real life.

(16) THE BEST DAY OF HIS LIFE. “This 10-year-old donated thousands of comic books to veterans”The Week has the story.

Carl Scheckel knows that not all heroes wear capes. In a show of support for American soldiers, the 10-year-old comic-book aficionado from New Jersey decided to collect and donate thousands of comic books to veterans in hospitals and servicemen deployed overseas. The mastermind of carlscomix.com, Scheckel gathered roughly 3,500 books for the nearby Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, When he arrived to donate them in person, officers treated him to a surprise VIP tour of the base, where he got to try on military gear and explore the inside of a place. ‘It was the best day of my life!’ wrote Carl on his website.

(17) AN OPPORTUNITY ON MARS. It’s been there for over 13 years! “Mars rover reaches site that scientists still can’t explain”.

Opportunity, which is much, much smaller than its car-sized Curiosity cousin, was sent to Perseverance Valley in hopes of shedding some light on its origins. Scientists studying Mars know that the valley was carved by some dramatic force, but with a handful of possibilities including water, wind, and even muddy rocks, there’s still no clear answer. With the rover in place, researchers plan to use its observations to generate a detailed map which will be used to plan the vehicle’s driving route along the rim and eventually into the valley itself.

(18) ON THE WAY TO THE FINAL FRONTIER. I found out about LUNAR from BoingBoing:

Motion designer Christian Stangl and composer Wolfgang Stangl created this gorgeous short film, titled LUNAR, from thousands of NASA photographs taken by astronauts.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Scott Edelman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Darrah Chavey.]

Pixel Scroll 5/2/17 Pixel Packing Mama, Lay Your Pixel Down

(1) YOUNG AGAIN. James Davis Nicoll will be doing a Phase II of Young People Read Old SFF and asks — What short works published before 1980 would File 770 readers recommend?

(2) POTTERPOLOGY DAY. Following her tradition of apologizing for killing off a character on the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, J.K. Rowling tweeted today —

And as Katherine Trendacosta astutely observed at io9:

See? She knows she’s stirring shit up and she does it anyway.

For the uninitiated, Severus Snape is the third rail of Harry Potter fandom. One side has the completely valid argument that Snape was, despite happening to be on the same side as the heroes, horribly abusive to his students and, whatever Rowling’s intent, less “in love with” Lily Evans than a stalker with “nice guy” syndrome. The other side says that his very obvious flaws make him an interesting and nuanced character, and that, regardless of everything else, he died a hero. Plus, being played by Alan Rickman in the movies made Snape a lot more approachable than he is on the page.

(3) FREE COMIC BOOK DAY. May 6 is Free Comic Book Day when participating comic book shops give away special sample comics free to anyone who comes into their shops. There are a lot of different issues involved – see the catalog.

(4) BEAGLE SUIT. Peter S. Beagle isn’t as broke as people are making him out to be says Snopes’ David Emery in “The Trials of ‘Last Unicorn’ Author Peter S. Beagle”.

Contrary to Internet rumor, the beloved science fiction and fantasy author Peter S. Beagle (perhaps best known for his classic 1968 novel The Last Unicorn) is neither destitute nor teetering on the brink of starvation.

A cry for immediate financial assistance went up shortly after the writer’s 78th birthday on 20 April 2017, in the form of tweets describing Beagle’s circumstances as “dire”:

Several posts repeated the claim that Beagle, who has been embroiled in a costly legal battle with his former manager since 2015, was having difficulty even meeting basic household expenses such as grocery bills. However, we spoke to Beagle’s lawyer, Kathleen A. Hunt of El Cerrito, California, who told us that her client’s money woes, albeit chronic, are not as acute as they have been portrayed:

It’s true that he doesn’t have lots of money, but it’s not true that his living situation is dire. Peter does need the help and support of his friends and fans, but it is not the case that he’s in danger of being on the street.

We also spoke with Beagle himself, who said he considers himself a lot better off than the average writer:

It’s always dicey, but anybody who makes a living as a writer learns to cope with lean times. Compared to so many other people, I’m fortunate.

The impromptu fund drive nevertheless resulted in a welcome infusion of cash, not to mention an outpouring of love and support from Beagle’s many online fans. “The response was pretty phenomenal,” Hunt said.

The writer’s ongoing money woes are due in part to court costs from a 2015 lawsuit he filed against Connor Cochran, owner of Conlan Press, who had managed the author’s creative and business affairs for fourteen years…

Cochran filed a counterclaim denying the allegations, and posted a series of statements on his web site alleging that Beagle was being unduly influenced by individuals close to him who seek personal gain from the suit…

At present, Beagle says he feels fine and endeavors to write every day (with varying levels of success, he admits), focused mainly on a novel he envisions as a semi-sequel to Two Hearts, which itself he describes as “kind of a sequel to The Last Unicorn.” He will appear at BayCon, the annual San Francisco Bay Area science fiction convention, in May.

The lawsuit is set to go to trial in January 2018.

(5) RHETORICAL VIOLENCE. In The Guardian, Jessa Crispin challenges a popular narrative: “The Handmaid’s Tale is just like Trump’s America? Not so fast”.

…If the television show based on the Margaret Atwood dystopia feels like propaganda, with its depiction of women raped, mutilated, and forced into shapeless cloaks and bonnets in the new American theocracy named Gilead, then it shouldn’t be a surprise viewers are responding to it as such.

There are dozens of thinkpieces claiming this show is all too real and relevant; Atwood herself called it “a documentary” of Trump’s America. Sarah Jones at The New Republic went so far as to compare Gilead to contemporary Texas and Indiana. Women are in peril. We must do something.

If this propaganda is not being used to sell us a war, we should be interested in what it is selling us instead. That so many women are willing to compare their own political situation living under a democratically elected president with no overwhelming religious ideology (or any other kind, for that matter, except for maybe the ideology of greed and chaos), with the characters’ position as sexual slaves and baby incubators for the ruling class, shows that it is always satisfying to position yourself as the oppressed bravely struggling against oppression.

The text and the thinkpieces make it clear who our enemies are: conservatives and Christians. (It shouldn’t be a surprise The New Republic piece was headlined “The Handmaid’s Tale is a Warning to Conservative Women.”)…

(6) IN JEOPARDY! Tom Galloway reports:

On Monday’s Jeopardy! episode, the defending champion Alan Lin (“a software engineer from Santa Barbara, CA”) was asked by Alex Trebek about his writing. Lin replied that he writes SF short stories, but hasn’t sold one yet. But last summer he went to this writing workshop…. Checking the Clarion site, he’s listed as an alumnus. He’s doing well; as of the end of Monday’s show, he’s a six-time winner at $123,600 and still going. But on Monday’s show, he was beaten to the buzzer by another player on the clue in the category The Book of Verbs of “‘The Cat Who ____ Through Walls’ by Robert A. Heinlein”

(Jeopardy! will be doing an uncommon midyear online tryout test at the end of the month (three nights, May 30, 31, June 1) for those others who want to tryout. See Jeopardy.com for details)

(7) SEVEN TIME STOKER LOSER. Scott Edelman has a story:

Saturday night, I was up for my seventh Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association, and emcee Jeff Strand took that opportunity to root for me … if you can call it rooting. Here’s what he had to say during his opening comments. Note that since the livestreamed video was so dark Jeff wasn’t even visible, I replaced that video with a photograph of me after I donned a new button once the results were announced in my category.

 

(8) DICK OBIT. Anne Dick died April 28 after surviving with congestive heart failure for many years. The former wife of Philip K. Dick published a biography about him in 2010, The Search for Philip K. Dick.

Tandy Ford, Anne Dick’s daughter and Philip Dick’s step-daughter, told a member of Facebook’s Philip K. Dick group, “She was still working away on her computer the night before her passing. She was a force of nature and her loss leaves a great void.”

In a 2010 profile by the New York Times’ Scott Timberg Anne Dick said:

“I think he’s what you might call a psychomorph,” Ms. Dick said recently, sitting in the boxy, modernist home she once shared with him. “He was quite different with each person. He had this enormous gift of empathy, and he used it to woo and please and control. I’m not saying he wasn’t a very nice person too; he was. He just had a very dark shadow.”

…After the breakup of their marriage, Ms. Dick said she endured seeing herself reflected in several evil-wife characters in his later novels. Yet when he died in 1982, after a series of strokes, “everything changed,” she said.

“You see a person in the round,” she continued. “I started writing this after he died, because I was still so confused by what had happened.”

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. When screenwriter William Goldman first tried to get The Princess Bride made into a movie in the 1970s, he wanted the relatively unknown actor and bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger to play the role of Fezzik. By the time the film was made in 1987, Schwarzenegger was a too big star. The part instead when to former wrestler Andre the Giant.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 2, 1933 — Although accounts of an aquatic beast living in Scotland’s Loch Ness date back 1,500 years, the modern legend of the Loch Ness Monster is born when a sighting makes local news on May 2, 1933. The newspaper Inverness Courier related an account of a local couple who claimed to have seen “an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface.” The story of the “monster” (a moniker chosen by the Courier editor) became a media phenomenon, with London newspapers sending correspondents to Scotland and a circus offering a 20,000 pound sterling reward for capture of the beast.

(11) THEIR STEELY KNIVES. Mark Lawrence explains how his Stabby Award finally arrived after some difficulty, and treats fans to a photo gallery of all the daggers and double-headed axes his work has won:

And finally here they are with my growing collection of pointy literary awards, along with the books responsible. My quest to win the Fluffy Bunny award for Friendliest Fantasy continues in vain.

(12) VIVA MAX. I can’t stay away from “five things” posts any more than a dog can avoid noticing a squirrel. Today Max Florschutz blows the myths away in “Five Things Non-Writers Should Know About Writers and Writing”.

1) Writing is a Lot of Hard Work This is one of the most common misconceptions I hear about writing. That it’s not work. That’s it’t not hard. That it’s not a “real” vocation (Yes, I hear all of these all the time).

This just plain isn’t true. Writing is a dedicated effort that takes hundreds, thousands of hours worth of both practice, planning, and devotion. Unfortunately, most people don’t think of it as something that does, because after all, they can write. They do it all the time! Text messages, letters, Facebook posts … they write all the time. How hard could it be to write a story?

The truth is that it’s very hard to write a story. It requires a very different set of tools to writing a text message, copying down the minutes of a meeting, or writing someone a letter. These things are straightforward and simple because they’re personal. Writing a story, however, is very impersonal. It has to be written from a perspective outside the writer’s own, and convey it’s tale to a vast audience of varying talent, comprehension, and capability. Writers must figure out how to paint a picture in each and every reader’s mind—a challenge considering that all of them will be very different people, and yet the same words the author pens must in each case create the same vision.

(13) AMAZON AUTHOR. Amanda S. Green continues her Mad Genius Club series with a lesson in Amazon marketing — “It’s really a business, pt. 2”.

Today, let’s talk about the Amazon author page and one or two related topics.

First of all, if you have released anything on Amazon and haven’t set up your Amazon author page, do so now. Don’t finish reading this post. Hie thee off to Author Central. You will sign in with the same user name and password that you have set up for your KDP account. Once you have, the first page you encounter is a general information page. Review everything there because there is some interesting information, especially if you haven’t been publishing for long.

(14) SHADOW CLARKE JURY FINISHES. Tomorrow the real Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist will be revealed. Today, the Shadow Clarke Jury issued its collective decision about who belongs on that list.

My final shortlistee is another popular novel among the Sharkes: the reality-bending investigation of light and perception, A Field Guide to Reality by Joanna Kavenna. While Jonathan approves of its class consciousness in the form of a cynical satire of academia, Maureen is intrigued by the alt-Oxford setting and intricate unfolding of universes, while Nina finds it good for “bust[ing] wide open” the science fiction envelope. The Sharke reviews, so far, have demonstrated just how malleable and diaphanous this novel is.

…Too often in the past, we agreed, Clarke shortlists had tended to feel weighted towards two or at the most three contenders that immediately looked stronger than the others, with the remainder simply making up the numbers. We wanted to avoid that scenario if we could, to present a genuine six-horse race.

And so the discussion proper was soon underway. The first two slots were filled very quickly – indeed, I think we all came to the meeting in the knowledge that Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station? were scoring high marks with just about every juror. Paul Kincaid called The Underground Railroad ‘essential’, and even went so far as to say he would judge this year’s Clarke Award on whether or not the official shortlist included it. Those who read the comments on the Sharke reviews here will know that I am not The Underground Railroad’s strongest advocate myself – and if the book makes it through to the official shortlist I will do my best to write in greater detail about why that is – but as I said to my fellow Sharkes I wasn’t about to step in front of a juggernaut. And as for Central Station, I was only too happy to see this very special book go through, especially since if the Clarke made any sense Tidhar would have been shortlisted twice already in previous years, for Osama and for A Man Lies Dreaming.

With two down and four to go, the question was then asked of each Sharke: of all the novels on your personal shortlist, are there any that you would say, absolutely, should be in the Sharke Six…

(15) THE GHOST BRIGADIER WHO WALKS. So why is the first thing that pops into my mind The Phantom comic strip? It’s not as if John goes around punching people in the jaw. (But if he ever did!)

(16) EVERYBODY LOOK WHAT’S GOIN’ DOWN. Galactic Journey gets another letter of comment from 1962 — “[May 02, 1962] A Good Lie (Letter Column #2)” – by a writer who wonders what the heck the U.S. is doing in Indochina.

Anyway, I thought of something I didn’t write about in my first letter to you.  (Thanks for sending some back issues of your publication.) I see that you are aware that there is something going on in Indochina that involves the US (March 31, 1961), but now, a year later, yes, it is clear that we as a nation are involved in war, but are just being sort of secretive about it.

(17) SOMETHING FOR MOTHERS’ DAY. Now on eBay, it can be yours for $28,000 – Bride of Frankenstein Movie Novel Signed by Elsa Lanchester & Forrest J Ackerman”.

First Edition. Signed and inscribed on the half-title by the film’s star, Elsa Lanchester, to Philip J. Riley, the editor of the book ‘The Bride of Frankenstein. Screenplay by William Hurlbut & John L. Balderston.  Introduction by Valerie Hobson. Foreword by Forrest J Ackerman’ which reprinted the film’s screenplay. Inscribed: “To Phil, From THE Bride of Frankenstein! Elsa Lanchester. With all my very best wishes.” Additionally signed and inscribed to Riley from Forrest J Ackerman on the front free endpaper: “Phil – Aunt Beeze is fine and here’s The Bride of Frankenstein. What else? Forry, at 59.” Ownership signature dated 1938 on the front pastedown…

(18) MIDNIGHT SEUSS. The Tennessean apprises locals of a chance to see “Dr. Seuss’ secret ‘Midnight Paintings’ at the Factory at Franklin”.

Presented by Ann Jackson Gallery (Roswell, Ga.), the exhibition on view May 5-7 charts the wider reaches of Geisel’s prolific artistic imagination, featuring nearly 100 limited edition reproductions of his work that have been largely unseen by the public. In addition to sketches, illustrations, and political cartoons he created during World War II, the major highlight of the exhibition are the selections from “The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss,” a collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures that Geisel created late at night for his personal enjoyment.

… The paintings and drawings, detached from a narrative, are more formally sophisticated and experimental.

Though they depict familiar Seussian settings populated by flamboyant characters and animals rendered in the same waggish visual vernacular as his storybook illustrations, they are more detailed, diversely colored, and at times more wondrous.

His sculptures, which comprise their own sub-collection of his secret art called, “Unorthodox Taxidermy,” are also remarkable. Using plaster, metal, and taxidermied animal parts, Geisel sculpted what look like the heads of his own outlandish animal creations — a “Goo-Goo-Eyed Tasmanian Wolghast” or “The Carbonic Walrus” — and mounted them on wood like hunting trophies.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/25/17 If All You Have Is A Pixel, Every Problem Looks Like A Scroll.

(1) POTTER SCROLLS. I made a mistake about the lead item in yesterday’s Scroll. The people behind Harry Potter and the Sacred Text are not going to sit in the Sixth & I synagogue for 199 weeks talking about Harry Potter. They’re doing a 199-episode podcast – matching the total number of chapters in the seven Harry Potter books – and the Sixth & I appearance is one of many live shows on a country-wide tour. (Specifically — Washington DC Tuesday July 18th @ 7pm — Sixth & I.)

The presenters also have several sample videos on their YouTube channel that demonstrate the lessons they illustrate with Rowling’s stories.

(2) WRITER UPDATE. When we last heard from Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, she had just come out with ”Strange Monsters”, (which Carl Slaughter discussed at Amazing Stories).  Since then, she has been nominated for a Nebula for “The Orangery” in Beneath Ceaseless Skies;  won the Grand Prize in the Wattpad/Syfy The Magicians #BattletheBeast contest, which means her story will be turned into a digital short for the TV show The Magicians;  sold ”Needle Mouth” to Podcastle;  and sold “Maneaters” and “Something Deadly, Something Dark” to Black Static.

(3) WHEN IN VROME. John King Tarpinian and I joined the throngs at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena tonight to hear the wisdom and humor of John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow, and get them to sign copies of their new novels The Collapsing Empire and Walkaway.

A bonus arriving with the expected duo was Amber Benson, once part of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, now a novelist and comics writer, who also voiced the audiobook of Scalzi’s Lock-In.

Amber Benson, John Scalzi, and Cory Doctorow.

Amber Benson, John Scalzi, and Cory Doctorow. Photos by John King Tarpinian.

(4) GAME CHANGER. Hard to imagine the sff field without her, but apparently it might have happened: Rewire tells “Why Mary Robinette Kowal Traded in Puppets for Science Fiction”

A “catastrophic puppeteer injury” wouldn’t mean the beginning of an award-winning career for most people—but Mary Robinette Kowal is a different sort of someone.

… Thus began 25 years as a professional puppeteer. Kowal toured the country with a number of shows, including another production of “Little Shop of Horrors” (she’s been a puppeteer for seven “Little Shop” productions). While helping again to bring killer plant Audrey II to life, Kowal popped a ligament in her right wrist.

For most, a bum wrist is an annoyance. But for a puppeteer, it’s a catastrophic career interruption.

(5) THE CHOW OF YOUR DREAMS. Scott Edelman is back with a new Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Actually, this one’s going up a little early. I’d normally have posted it Friday — but since I’ll be at StokerCon then, where I will either win my first Bram Stoker Award or lose my seventh, thereby becoming the Susan Lucci of the HWA — I figured I’d better get it live now so I had no distractions while aboard the Queen Mary.

In Episode 35 you’re invited to “Eat one of George R. R. Martin’s dragon eggs with K. M. Szpara”.

K. M. Szpara

I was glad to be able to return for a meal with K.M. Szpara, who has published short fiction in Lightspeed, Shimmer, Glittership, and other magazines, and has recently completed his first novel. He edited the acclaimed anthology Transcendant: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction, about which Kirkus wrote that it “challenges readers’ expectations in ways that few have managed to do before.”

Listen in and learn about his formative years writing Hanson and Harry Potter fanfic, which darlings he had to kill to complete his first novel, why rewrites are like giving a floofy poodle a haircut, what he didn’t know about short stories when he began to write them, the many ways conventions are like big sleepovers, the reason he was able to eat one of George R. R. Martin’s dragon eggs, and more.

(6) SCRATCHED. Like the rest of America you probably weren’t watching, so you won’t need to start now – SciFi Storm has the story: “Powerless indeed – NBC pulls show from schedule”.

From the “never a good sign” department, NBC has abruptly pulled the DC comics-tinged comedy series Powerless from the prime-time schedule, without any word on when the remaining episodes may air. The show, which starred Vanessa Hudgens, Alan Tudyk, Danny Pudi and Christina Kirk, struggled to find an audience from the start, despite the success of comics-based series of late.

(7) I WAKE UP STREAMING. Although NBC is shoveling a DC flop off its schedule, Warner Bros. is launching an entire service built around DC Comics properties.

Deadline.com says DC Digital will launch with a Titans series from the guy who does the shows on The CW and a Young Justice animated series: “DC Digital Service To Launch With ‘Titans’ Series From Greg Berlanti & Akiva Goldsman And ‘Young Justice: Outsiders’”

The DC-branded direct-to-consumer digital platform, in the works for the past several months, marks the second major new service launched by Warner Bros Digital Networks — the division started last year with the mandate of building WB-owned digital and OTT video services — following the recently introduced animation-driven Boomerang. The DC-branded platform is expected to offer more than a traditional OTT service; it is designed as an immersive experience with fan interaction and will encompass comics as well as TV series.

(8) SUSPENDED ANIMATION. Digital Trends sums up “‘Star Trek: Discovery’ 2017 CBS TV series: Everything we know so far”. What we know is nobody can say when it’s going to air.

The first episode of Star Trek premiered 50 years ago, and the beloved sci-fi franchise is now scheduled to return to television in 2017 with a new series on Netflix and CBS — or more specifically, on CBS All Access, the network’s new stand-alone streaming service.

CBS unveiled the first teaser for its new Star Trek series in early 2016, and the show’s official title was revealed to be Star Trek: Discovery during Comic-Con International in San Diego in summer 2016. With the latest movie (Star Trek Beyond) in theaters this past summer, many Star Trek fans are wondering exactly how the television series from executive producer Bryan Fuller (HannibalPushing Daisies) and showrunners Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts (Pushing Daisies) will fit into the framework of the sci-fi franchise as it exists now.

Star Trek: Discovery was originally slated for a January release, but the network subsequently pushed the premiere date back to an unspecified date in mid- or late 2017. Here’s everything else we know about the series so far….

(9) IT TOOK AWHILE. Disney’s Gemini Man may be emerging from development hell says OnScreen in “Ang Lee to helm sci-fi actioner Gemini Man”.

Acclaimed director Ang Lee has entered negotiations to helm the long in-development sci-fi action thriller, Gemini Man.

First developed by Disney back in the nineties, the story sees an assassin forced into battle with his ultimate opponent: a younger clone of himself. Tony Scott was previously set to helm Disney’s take, based on a pitch by Darren Lemke. Several writers have taken a pass at the project over the years, including David Benioff, Brian Helgeland, and Andrew Niccol.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 25, 1940 — Batman’s arch-nemesis The Joker debuted in Batman #1, published 77 years ago today.
  • April 25, 1950 — The board game Scrabble trademark was registered.

(11) LEFT ON. The London Review of Books’ Russian Revolution book review includes China Miéville: “What’s Left?”

…That person, as it turns out, is China Miéville, best known as a science fiction man of leftist sympathies whose fiction is self-described as ‘weird’. Miéville is not a historian, though he has done his homework, and his October is not at all weird, but elegantly constructed and unexpectedly moving. What he sets out to do, and admirably succeeds in doing, is to write an exciting story of 1917 for those who are sympathetically inclined to revolution in general and to the Bolsheviks’ revolution in particular. To be sure, Miéville, like everyone else, concedes that it all ended in tears because, given the failure of revolution elsewhere and the prematurity of Russia’s revolution, the historical outcome was ‘Stalinism: a police state of paranoia, cruelty, murder and kitsch’. But that hasn’t made him give up on revolutions, even if his hopes are expressed in extremely qualified form. The world’s first socialist revolution deserves celebration, he writes, because ‘things changed once, and they might do so again’ (how’s that for a really minimal claim?). ‘Liberty’s dim light’ shone briefly, even if ‘what might have been a sunrise [turned out to be] a sunset.’ But it could have been otherwise with the Russian Revolution, and ‘if its sentences are still unfinished, it is up to us to finish them.’

(12) ALT-MARKETING. Most of you know that two weeks ago Monica Valentinelli refused to continue as Odyssey Con GoH after discovering the committee not only still included a harasser she’d encountered before (their Guest Liaison!), but she was going to be scheduled together with him on a panel, and then, when she raised these issues, the first response she received from someone on the committee was a defense of the man involved. The con’s other two GoHs endorsed her decision and followed her out the door.

Normal people responded to that sad situation by commiserating with the ex-GoHs, and mourning Odyssey Con’s confused loyalties. Jon Del Arroz set to work turning it into a book marketing opportunity.

First, Del Arroz discarded any inconvenient facts that didn’t suit his narrative:

A couple of weeks ago, an invited headlining guest flaked on a convention, OdysseyCon. No notice was given, no accommodations were asked for, simply bailing two weeks before it happened, leaving the fans without an honored guest. The Con responded professionally and nicely, trying to work things out as much as possible, but that wasn’t enough for this person who took to social media, and got a cabal of angry virtue signallers to start swearing, berating and attacking anyone they could.

Then he showed his empathy by arranging a book bundle with the works of Nick Cole, Declan Finn, Marina Fontaine, Robert Kroese, L. Jagi Lamplighter, John C. Wright (“nominated for more Hugo Awards in one year than any person alive”), himself, plus the Forbidden Thoughts anthology, Flyers will be handed to attendees at next weekend’s con telling them how to access the books.

Because Jon evidently feels someone needs to be punished for the unprofessionalism of that guest. After the fans at Odyssey Con read those books, they can tell us who they think he punished.

(13) RUN BUCCO RUN. Major League baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates have a huge new scoreboard and an interactive video game to go with it.

After the fifth inning, the team debuted a new feature on PNC Park’s renovated digital scoreboard, which runs the length of the Clemente Wall in right field: “Super Bucco Run.”

Inspired by the hit mobile game, the Pirates had one of their fans running and “bashing” blocks while “collecting” coins and items on the scoreboard. Keeping with the tradition, the flag went up the pole at the end of the segment when the fan completed the challenge….

It was a genius bit of mid-game entertainment that the Pirates plan to rotate with more videoboard games throughout the 2017 season. Over the offseason, they updated the old scoreboard with an 11-foot high and 136-foot long LED board with features like this in mind….

 

(14) ROCKET MAN. More on the Fargo Hugo, the story that keeps on giving.

And here is Genevieve Burgess’ post for Pajiba.

The silver rocket on a base follows the exact specifications laid out for the Hugo award trophies which means that someone did their research on how to fake a Hugo. However, it does not MATCH any of the Hugo Award trophies that actually exist, which means someone did even more research to make sure they weren’t exactly copying one.

(15) FACTS ON PARADE. Yahoo! Style has a gallery of the best signs from the March for Science.

[Thanks to JJ, rcade, Stephen Burridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Jon Del Arroz, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day rcade.]

Pixel Scroll 4/14/17 A Long Time Ago, When Pixels Scrolled The Earth, A Filer Was Climbing Mount Tsundoku

(1) SF IN CHINA. At Amazing Stories, Shaoyan Hu highlights the developing science fiction scene in China

Science fiction is a growing phenomenon in China: the various organizations are living evidence of that. It’s not just Star Wars or The Three-Body Problem now, but a substantial foundation quickly coming into shape. Although speculative fiction is still a small portion of the market, the large population in China suggests a considerable potential return for whoever ventures into this new area. As it happens, quite a few principal investors already have eyes on the genre, but this is perhaps a topic for another time. For now, suffice it to say that the unceasing efforts of all the people within the SF community have given the genre a positive outlook in China and a flourishing future is yet to come.

(2) FILLING THE MISS PIGGY BANK. The Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, NY has launched a Kickstarter appeal to fund conservation of its Muppet collection reports the Seattle Times.

A museum is asking fans of Jim Henson’s Muppets to help pay for an exhibition featuring original puppets of beloved characters like Elmo, Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog.

The Museum of the Moving Image launched a Kickstarter campaign on Tuesday seeking $40,000 to help preserve the puppets for posterity.

“Jim Henson’s work has meant so much to so many people, myself included,” actor Neil Patrick Harris says in a video on the Kickstarter page. “His humor and inventiveness have inspired people to find their own creative voices.”

The Queens museum owns hundreds of Henson puppets and other objects including costumes and props, all donated by Henson’s family in 2013. Henson died in 1990.

Museum staff members are working to conserve the items along with Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, which was founded by Henson in 1979 and carries on his work, and fine-arts conservators.

The Kickstarter campaign has already raised $66,416, far in excess of its goal, with 26 days remaining.

(3) JEDI CRITIC. USA Today’s Jesse Yomtov took a look at The Last Jedi teaser trailer and decided it was time to speak up: “Why the Jedi were actually the worst and really should ‘end’”.

At the end of the first trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi (aka Episode VIII), Luke Skywalker brings up an important issue.

“I only know one truth,” he says. “It’s time for the Jedi to end.”

That sounds ominous and bad, but Luke is 100% correct. It’s not even up for debate that a group like the Jedi would be the bad guys in any other movie.

The Jedi were nearly brought to extinction at the end of Episode III, and while yeah it was the result of Palpatine’s super-evil scheme, it only got to that point because of their own incompetence and self-destructiveness.

Here are some of the most off-putting things about the Jedi Order:

(contains information/spoilers from The Clone Wars animated show, which ended three years ago so that’s kind of on you)…

(4) FINAL WORD ON CARRIE FISHER’S FUTURE IN STAR WARS. VIII yes, IX nay. That’s the word from Kathleen Kennedy.

Carrie Fisher will not appear in Star Wars: Episode IX, Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy said on Friday.

The announcement came during an interview with ABC News and was something of a bombshell, as Todd Fisher, the late actress’ brother, previously said his sister would be in the planned ninth installment of the blockbuster franchise. Kennedy said he was “confused.”

“Sadly, Carrie will not be in nine,” said Kennedy. “But we will see a lot of Carrie in eight.”

(5) FAMILY PORTRAIT. On the first day of the Star Wars Celebration happening in Florida, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford posed with Billie Lourd, Carrie Fisher’s daughter.

(6) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. Ken Liu was finally able to reveal he is at work on a Star Wars book.

So, the news is out: I’m writing a Star Wars book as part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi project. Working with the team at Lucasfilm Publishing has been such a pleasure — they’re the best.

I can’t tell you much about the book yet, except that it’s called The Legends of Luke Skywalker, it’s going to go on sale on 10/31/2017, and it’s going to be awesome….

I think a writer’s job is to build a strong, welcoming house. Readers then move in and fill the rooms with their individual experience and understanding of the world. And only then, after they’ve settled in and begun to explore, do they discover its little nooks and crannies, its hidden passages and secret staircases, and following these, they find breathtaking vistas of other planets, rogues who prize friendship more than treasure, mystical sages full of wisdom, princesses leading grand armies, and farm boys dreaming of walking among the stars …

The Star Wars universe is grand and beautiful, and it is ever expanding. To be able to build a house in this universe after my fashion, to welcome fellow fans and readers into this house, and to see them get comfortable and discover its secrets … I don’t have the words for my joy.

(7) ZUCCHINIS VS. BEETS. On March 31, Margaret Atwood discussed 10 of her favorite speculative fiction novels at the website Omnivoracious: The Amazon Book Review. But as you might expect, she has a few things to say about defining the term first:

There is still some fuzziness around the terms “speculative fiction” and “science fiction.” Some say that “speculative fiction” includes such things as horror and reality-based dystopias and vampire stories, with “science fiction” being a subset. Others make a distinction between “science fiction” – hard and soft, but involving other planets and universes accessed by devices we do not currently have and cannot realistically expect to have – and “speculative fiction,” located on this earth and containing no devices that we cannot currently foresee. Let’s just say that there is a difference in nature between stories set in a universe far, far away – some call these “science fiction fantasy” — and those set on this planet, in a future we can plausibly describe, though not infallibly predict. (No predictions are infallible.) All fictions both entertain – otherwise nobody turns the pages – and also instruct – because stories will inevitably be given a moral interpretation by readers, language and people being what they are. But the far, far away galaxy kind – let us call them “zucchinis” – will inspire less immediate fear than the other kind – let us call them “beets.”

The list below is a list of “beets.”  There are many more, but these are some of the books I have read and enjoyed. They concern this earth and what is possible on it, given the knowledge available at the time of their writing. They are mostly dystopias – they describe a world we would rather not have. But some are utopias – they point to improvements.”

From the middle of her list –

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban

A personal favourite. Written in the Future-English of a post-apocalyptic British teenager. The apocalypse has been atomic, as they once were. Young Riddley is on a quest, as his riddle-based first name and his ambulatory last one would suggest. A puppet show featuring Mister Clevver is his day job, insofar as he has one. Beware of Mister Clevver!

(8) TWEETS OF THE DAY. The investigation begins at SFWA.

(9) TAKE-OUT. Episode 34 of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast takes place in the middle of Brian Keene’s live-streamed fundraising telethon. At first, Keene couldn’t find time in his schedule —

But when it came time for Brian to record the 100th episode of The Horror Show as a live 24-hour-long telethon to raise funds for the Scares That Care charity, he had a brainstorm—that I invade his event with a meal of some sort, and record my own show as part of his livestream.

So that’s what I did—show up at a conference room of a Hunt Valley hotel with a ton of takeout from Andy Nelson’s Barbecue, which has repeatedly been voted best BBQ by Baltimore Magazine—bringing enough to feed Brian, his co-hosts, and some of the live studio audience you’ll hear in this episode, too.

Brian’s published more than 40 novels, including the best-selling The Rising, and he’s the winner of the 2014 World Horror Grand Master Award. He’s also written comics, including the adventures of the Doom Patrol.

We discussed why the ending to The Rising isn’t as bewildering as some seem to think it is, whether new horror writers should try to replicate his career path, how Marvel Comics creator Steve Gerber is responsible for him becoming a writer, the shady way Brian amassed the largest comics collection in the sixth grade, if he’s a Scully who changed into a Mulder as he got older or if he’s been a Mulder all along, and more…

(10) GETTING AROUND HELSINKI. Going to Worldcon 75? Then this info is for you:

The Helsinki Regional Transit Authority (Helsingin Seudun Liikenne) has announced that as of June 19, 2017, tickets will no longer be sold on Helsinki commuter trains, and therefore must be purchased in advance from one of the available outlets: ticket machines (map of ticket machine locations), the HSL mobile phone application, or HSL Travel Cards.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 14, 1912 – The Titanic strikes the iceberg.

(12) A NIGHTMARE TO REMEMBER. As a child, Steve Vertlieb was haunted by the image of the Titanic:

One hundred five years ago tonight, at 11:40 PM, RMS Titanic fulfilled its terrifying date with history as innumerable heroic souls perished beneath the icy waters of The Atlantic. This horrifying remembrance remains among the most profoundly significant of my own 71 years. As a little boy, during the early-to-mid-1950s, I was tormented night after night by nightmares of finding myself upon the deck of a huge ocean liner cruising the darkened waters of the Atlantic. After a time, I’d find myself walking along the brooding ocean floor, enveloped in crushing darkness, when I sensed a horrifying presence behind me. I’d turn slowly each night with fear and encroaching trepidation. As I gazed up into the watery sky, I’d find myself next to the enormous hull of a wrecked and decaying ship. I awoke screaming on each of these nights. I’d never heard of Titanic in my early years, but I was tormented by these crippling dreams, night after suffocating night, for years. To this day, the very sight and sound of the name “Titanic” sends me into cold sweats and an ominous sense of dread, and foreboding. I’ve come to believe that I may have been aboard the doomed ocean liner that awful night, and that I’d been reincarnated three decades later. I fear the ocean still. Suffice to say, it is a chilling remembrance that will forever haunt my dreams. May God rest Her immortal soul, and all those who perished that terrible night.

(13) HOPE FOR THE WORLD. It’s Good Friday, but this is not about that. Rather, James Artimus Owen draws our attention to another epochal breakthrough:

I’m…feeling some very, very strong emotions that I don’t know how to process. I think I knew, somehow, but didn’t realize until just now – Burger King really does have Froot Loops shakes. They exist. And thus give me hope for the whole world. #apexofcivilization

We confirmed this with Fox News. (How often do you get to say that with a straight face?) Froot Loops shakes debut at participating Burger King stores nationwide on April 17, but will only be around for a limited time.

So what, exactly, is in a cereal milkshake?

According to a spokeswoman for Burger King, the drink features “velvety Vanilla-flavored Soft Serve, Froot Loops Cereal pieces and sweet sauce.”

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY SLAYER

  • Born April 14, 1977 – Sarah Michelle Gellar

(15) PUPPIES FOR PRESIDENT. Lou Antonelli ran a poll on his Facebook page asking people to vote for the sf writer they’d most like to see as President of the U.S.

In Antonelli’s case, that doesn’t necessarily mean he was looking for any great departure from the current tenant of the White House – and he certainly didn’t end up with one.

TRUMPETS!

DRUM ROLL!

THROAT CLEARING…

President… Larry Correia!

The clear winner with 18 votes.

It was very close for second place. John Ringo had nine votes and Tom Kratman had eight.

A strong fourth place showing goes to an author who would not be considered right-of-center by any definition, David Brin – which shows there is come diversity of political opinion among my Friends.

Dr. Jerry Pournelle received five votes, and Ursula LeGuin – also certainly not a right-winger – received four.

(16) TAD WILLIAMS. Patrick St-Denis of Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist interviewed Tad Williams about his return to the universe of Osten Ard in The Witchwood Crown.

Stephen R. Donaldson once said that he waited for so long to write The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant because he wasn’t ready and needed to grow as an author before he felt comfortable tackling such a project. Would you say that, at least to a certain extent, this was one of the reasons why it took so long for you to finally decide to write the long-awaited sequel to Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn?

Yes, but not necessarily in the same way as Donaldson’s talking about. I said for years that I wouldn’t write a sequel to anything or even re-visit a world unless I had a story first, a story that cried out to be written. And for years Osten Ard was in that category, although I had thought a bit about the Chronicle project. Then, when I sat down one time to list off for Deborah (my wife and business partner) all the reasons I had no more stories about Simon and Miriamele and Binabik and the rest, I realized that I had left most of the main characters still very much in the bloom of their youth, and that after decades of life and growing responsibility — which I had undergone myself since I wrote it — they must all look at the world very differently. That set me to thinking, and within one night the first rudiments of the story for The Last King of Osten Ard (the title for the whole series) had begun to take real shape. So every moment I was aging, and moving from one country to another, and becoming a parent, and so on, I was actually creating a plot for new Osten Ard books without realizing it.

(17) YOUR SHADOW CLARKE JURY AT WORK. Racing to finish ahead of the shortlist announcement, scant weeks away —

This is the first novel I’ve read from my shortlist that feels like it belongs on the actual Clarke shortlist. Written by a genre outsider, but built definitively upon a classic sci-fi concept, and clearly aware of decades of science fiction fandom and inside jokes, it ticks a few those well-established Clarke-preferred boxes. It’s also quite enjoyable for those same reasons.

It follows the Toula/Tolliver family over four generations of delusions of grandeur beginning with Ottokar Toula: family patriarch, pickle cultivator, and mad scientist of the pre-Atomic Age. His “discovery” of the Lost Time Accidents is overshadowed by the work of “the patent clerk” in Switzerland, dooming the Toula name to forgotten history. That is, until his son, Waldemar, seizes upon Ottokar’s ideas and uses Nazi-era concentration camps to carry out his secret, malevolent time experiments…

We awaken in a contemporary alternate Finland, a country whose path diverged from its realworld twin’s shortly after World War One. We discover that Finland is now a eusistocracy – all for the best in the best of all possible worlds – separated technologically and politically from the ‘hedonistic democracies’ of the rest of Europe and forging its own path to racial purity, social stability and material content. In this new Finland, a systematic program of eugenics has been implemented in order to reinstitute traditional gender roles and relieve the increasing psychological and social tension that has been the inevitable result of female emancipation:

Nowadays, when people talk about science fiction being socially relevant, they often gesture towards Dave Hutchinson’s on-going Fractured Europe series and how the early books seemed to pre-empt not only the break-up of the European Union but also the brutal militarisation of European borders. Though dystopias will always have a role to play in helping us to prepare for unwanted futures, there is also something to be said for books that make a positive case for what it is that we are about to lose. Hutchinson’s books may be about the ugly, regressive, and nationalistic future we are going to get but Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station is about the beautiful, strange, and unapologetically multicultural future we need.

Science fiction is not and never has been about predicting the future. But it is about using satire, extrapolation, exaggeration, distortion and any other tools at its disposal to reflect and comment upon the present. Right now, Europe is in a parlous state. The enterprise of friendship and cooperation that began in the wake of the Second World War is under unprecedented threat from the emergence of just such nationalist movements that it was deliberately conceived to counter. There are currently populist movements whose avowed aims are directly counter to the European ideal active and prominent in the UK, France, Holland, Germany, Italy, Austria, Greece, Hungary, Poland and elsewhere. This is the world we live in. It is not the world we encounter in contemporary science fiction.

The Fractured Europe sequence may not be a perfect way of bringing this modern world into science fiction, but since it is the only way that anyone is currently attempting, it is de facto the best.

The last one is a roundup rather than a review:

…On which note, it seems only fair that I come clean regarding how I, personally, feel about my personal shortlist now that I’ve read it. Did the books I chose turn out to be as worthwhile, not to mention as Clarke-worthy, as I hoped they would be? The short answer, I suppose, would have to be partly, and no. Above a certain level, very few books are ever entirely a waste of reading time, and that certainly holds true here….

(18) BE YOUR OWN RORSCHACH. Who was that masked man? — “How what you wear can help you avoid surveillance”.

Imagine you’re living in a dystopian future. Surveillance cameras scan the streets to recognise and record the faces of passersby – but you’re wearing a HyperFace scarf. Amid a kinetic assortment of grid-like structures printed on the fabric, black squares suggest tiny eyes, noses and mouths. The cameras’ facial recognition algorithms are confused. Your identity is secure; your privacy, protected.

(19) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. On April 19, Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Laura Anne Gilman & Seth Dickinson.

Laura Anne Gilman

Laura Anne Gilman is the author of the best-selling Devil’s West novels (Silver on the Road and The Cold Eye) which NPR described as “a true American myth being found,” the Nebula-nominated Vineart War trilogy, and the story collection Darkly Human. Her writing past encompasses a ten-book urban fantasy series, a quartet of cozy mysteries, three paranormal romances, and a middle-grade Arthurian adventure. A once and future New Yorker, she currently lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Seth Dickinson

Seth Dickinson’s short stories have been published in in ClarkesworldStrange HorizonsLightspeed and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and elsewhere. He also contributed writing to video games, including Destiny: The Taken King. His first novel the epic fantasy The Traitor Baru Cormorant was published in 2015 and he’s working on a sequel.

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017, 7pm at KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

(20) CONCERN TROLL ON DUTY. Superversive SF’s “sciphi” (which I believe is editor Jason Rennie) is worried about the impact Monica Valentinelli’s decision to quit as Odyssey Con GoH will have on other women authors. Sure he is. — “Why doesn’t Monica Valentinelli want women as Guests of Honour?”

What I am wondering though is, has Monica considered the wider implications of this sort of diva behaviour? If you were organising a Con would you invite her as Guest of Honour? I wouldn’t given this is her idea of professional behaviour. More than that, this will likely cause any rational Con organiser, even if only unconsciously, to be less willing to invite any women as Guest of Honour. Who wants the headache of someone flaking at the last second because they have decided their feelings of “unsafeness” trump any consideration of professional behaviour or the enormous problems it will cause other people? Monica in her betrayal of the trust shown in her has made it harder for women everywhere. What if a guest you have invited and planned for decides to “Pull a Valentinelli” at the last second? I suppose it isn’t fair to generalise this to all female authors, as much as it would be more reasonable to generalise this to any sort of grievance peddling group instead.

The people I feel most sorry for are the Jagi Lamplighters, Sarah Hoyt’s and other female authors of the world who are actual professionals and would never engage in this sort of childish tantrum, but whose prospects are damaged by one ridiculous drama queen and idiots who are enabling her behaviour.

(21) SUPERVERSIVE SF’S RESPECT FOR WOMEN. Immediately preceding that post on the site is a reprint of one of their “more popular Superversive articles,” “The Bosom-Jiggle Factor”, which is indeed about what you were assuming. With illustrations. And the name of the author? Answer: L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright.

“The Needs of Drama vs. The Needs of Culture, as illustrated by the BJF Index:”…

The Needs of Drama—the qualities that make a story dramatic, eye-catching, intriguing. Sex, sizzle, bang, POW! Seduction! Explosions! LOTS OF CAPTIALS AND EXCAMATIONS!!!!!!

The Needs of Culture—the desire to use the story to teach lessons needed to participate in the culture, like an Asops Fable or a morality play. These stories include topics like: How to behave. How to treat friends. How to treat strangers. What is and is not moral. – the message of the work.

It is not my opinion that one of these forces is better than the other. Rather, I believe that there needs to be a harmonious marriage of the two of a work to be really great.

Too much drama leads to meaningless sex and bloodshed. Too much culture leads to boring message fiction….

(22) A WORD FROM THE SPONSOR. Because you don’t watch enough commercials already, click this link to watch Baby Groot and the GEICO gecko trying to sell you insurance.

(23) CIRQUE DU PIZZA. Hampus Eckerman is right – you shouldn’t miss this.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Rob Thornton, Steve Vertlieb, Mark-kitteh, and Hampus Eckerman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 4/3/17 The Dread Pixel Roberts

(1) MARKET FOR DIVERSITY? ICv2’s interview with Marvel’s VP of Sales David Gabriel spawned a controversial discussion about retailer or customer resistance to female characters (As you can see from the following excerpt, Gabriel has subsequently tried to walk back some of his comments.)

Part of it, but I think also it seemed like tastes changed, because stuff you had been doing in the past wasn’t working the same way.  Did you perceive that or are we misreading that?

No, I think so.  I don’t know if those customers with the tastes that had been around for three years really supporting nearly anything that we would try, anything that we would attempt, any of the new characters we brought up, either they weren’t shopping in that time period, or maybe like you said their tastes have changed. There was definitely a sort of nose-turning at the things that we had been doing successfully for the past three years, no longer viable.  We saw that, and that’s what we had to react to.  Yes, it’s all of that.

Now the million-dollar question.  Why did those tastes change?

I don’t know if that’s a question for me.  I think that’s a better question for retailers who are seeing all publishers.  What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity.  They didn’t want female characters out there.  That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not.  I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales. We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against.  That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.

[Note:  Marvel’s David Gabriel reached out to correct the statement above:  “Discussed candidly by some of the retailers at the summit, we heard that some were not happy with the false abandonment of the core Marvel heroes and, contrary to what some said about characters “not working,” the sticking factor and popularity for a majority of these new titles and characters like Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, The Mighty Thor, Spider-Gwen, Miles Morales, and Moon Girl, continue to prove that our fans and retailers ARE excited about these new heroes. And let me be clear, our new heroes are not going anywhere! We are proud and excited to keep introducing unique characters that reflect new voices and new experiences into the Marvel Universe and pair them with our iconic heroes.

“We have also been hearing from stores that welcome and champion our new characters and titles and want more!  They’ve invigorated their own customer base and helped them grow their stores because of it.  So we’re getting both sides of the story and the only upcoming change we’re making is to ensure we don’t lose focus of our core heroes.”]

(2) RISE OF YA COMICS. Discussion about the Gabriel interview led Ms. Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson to do a wide-ranging commentary on the contemporary comics market, “So About That Whole Thing”. This excerpt is the last half:

STUFF THAT IS ENTIRELY AVOIDABLE:

  1. This is a personal opinion, but IMO launching a legacy character by killing off or humiliating the original character sets the legacy character up for failure. Who wants a legacy if the legacy is shitty?
  2. Diversity as a form of performative guilt doesn’t work. Let’s scrap the word diversity entirely and replace it with authenticity and realism. This is not a new world. This is *the world.*
  3. Never try to be the next whoever. Be the first and only you. People smell BS a mile away.
  4. The direct market and the book market have diverged. Never the twain shall meet. We need to accept this and move on, and market accordingly.
  5. Not for nothing, but there is a direct correlation between the quote unquote “diverse” Big 2 properties that have done well (Luke Cage, Black Panther, Ms Marvel, Batgirl) and properties that have A STRONG SENSE OF PLACE. It’s not “diversity” that draws those elusive untapped audiences, it’s *particularity.* This is a vital distinction nobody seems to make. This goes back to authenticity and realism.

AND FINALLY

On a practical level, this is not really a story about “diversity” at all. It’s a story about the rise of YA comics. If you look at it that way, the things that sell and don’t sell (AND THE MARKETS THEY SELL IN VS THE MARKETS THEY DON’T SELL IN) start to make a different kind of sense.

(3) BOMB HATCHES. Variety’s weekend box office report says “’Boss Baby’ Tops ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ ‘Ghost in the Shell’ Bombs”.

The animated comedy bottled up a leading $49 million from 3,773 locations, edging out Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” a box office juggernaut that’s dominated the multiplexes since debuting three weeks ago. “Beauty and the Beast” added another $48 million to its mammoth $395.5 million domestic haul. The weekend’s other new release, Paramount’s “Ghost in the Shell,” bombed, taking in a demoralizing $19 million.

(4) GOFUNDME SIGNAL BOOST. “The 17-year-old son of a woman in my writing group has been diagnosed with an osteosarcoma in his right shoulder,” writes Nick Tchan, a Writers of the Future winner and Aurealis nominated author. “It’s an aggressive and rare form of bone cancer. At the very least, he’s going to have an extensive regime of chemotheraphy and a bone replaced in his right arm.

“Both he and his single mother are keen speculative fiction fans and writers. I’m putting together a GoFundMe to help pay for the time she’ll have to take off work as well as the other costs that tend to accumulate. Any funds left over from cost-of-living and treatment expenses I’m hoping to put towards something like Dragon Dictate so that he can write even if they have to amputate his arm.”

The GoFundMe link is — “LachlanB’s Recovery Fund”

We are the friends of Lachlan, a 17 year old Australian student and aspiring speculative fiction writer who has been struck by cancer. Lachlan is a compassionate, creative, bright young man who embraces life to the fullest.  A few weeks ago, he was enjoying his first week of university, planning a 3rd anniversary surprise for his girlfriend Sarah, organising his Dungeons and Dragons mates for their bi-monthly weekend session, and starting edits on the first draft of his YA fantasy novel. Cancer has interrupted his short and long-term plans. His first two weeks of university were spent undergoing a series of medical tests and consultations. Fifteen minutes into his 3rd anniversary date, he became unwell and had to go to Emergency.  He has now been diagnosed with osteosarcoma (an aggressive, painful bone cancer), and been forced to defer his university studies in order to receive the treatment he urgently needs.

The fundraiser has incentives, such as books from Grimdark magazine or John Joseph Adams’ Seeds of Change anthology, as well as print editions of Alliterate magazine.

(5) A CONVIVIAL EPISODE. Scott Edelman interviews Sunny Moraine at Washington DC’s Convivial restaurant in Episode 33 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Sunny Moraine

We discussed the best writing advice she’s heard, how being named the most promising author of 2013 messed with her mind, her favorite Ray Bradbury story (which is one of her all-time favorite stories period), why she writes Walking Dead fan fiction, the contradictions of writing a breakout book, how she decided her trilogies were meant to be trilogies, and more. (She refused, however, to tell me for whom the bell actually tolls or why birds suddenly appear every time you’re near.) Plus—I reveal how Tim Burton prevented me from eating a perfect sticky toffee pudding!

Edelman recently launched a Patreon in the hope that he’ll someday be able to afford to do episodes more frequently. He says, “Biweekly will never be enough to capture all the amazing creators out there!”

(6) PLEASE SAY THAT AGAIN. Astronomers have discovered three more Fast Radio Bursts:

FRBs have baffled scientists ever since the first one was discovered in archived data in 2007. The longstanding mystery of their origin, which is further compounded by the fact that only about two dozen such events have ever been detected, has spawned a plethora of scientific (and some that sound not so scientific) theories, including the occasional speculation that aliens are responsible for them.

For some reason, FRBs never seem to repeat, and, as a result, most theories about the origin of these mysterious pulses involve invoking cataclysmic incidents that destroy their source, for instance, a star exploding in a supernova, or a neutron star collapsing into a black hole.

This changed in 2012 when the first and only known repeating burst, named FRB 121102, was discovered by scientists at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. And, in January, over four years and several recurring bursts of this FRB later, astronomers were able to directly trace the mysterious burst to its point of origin, a dwarf galaxy 3 billion light-years from Earth.

So far, this is the only FRB whose source has been pinpointed — although even that hasn’t brought scientists any closer to understanding what birthed it.

(7) HOLLYWOOD ACCOUNTING. In a BBC video, Disney animators explain why characters have only three fingers.

Chip Hitchcock adds, “The answer’s obvious but there are some interesting bits about drawing animation scattered through the clip.”

(8) SINGLE-CELL. If E.T. phones anyone, Neil deGrasse Tyson doubts the call will be for him: “The Future of Science: What Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson Thinks About Aliens, Elon Musk and Traveling”

Neil deGrasse Tyson has no plans to meet advanced life on Earth or other planets anytime soon. The famous astrophysicist told fans this weekend he won’t be traveling to Mars via private space exploration and he doubts humans will make contact with complex organisms—that is, alien life— within his lifetime.

Tyson’s remarks came up during an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit Sunday where he promised to divulge his views on “life, the universe and everything.” Asked by one commentator whether “we will ever make contact with complex organisms within the next 50yrs?”, Tyson was not encouraging.

“I think they (we) might all be too far away from one another in space and possibly time. By complex, I’m presuming you mean life other than single-celled organisms. Life with legs, arms, thoughts, etc. It’s all about our capacity to travel interstellar distances. And that’s surely not happening in the next 50 years. Not the rate things are going today,” he wrote back.

(9) BACK TO THE FUTURE. Making the rounds of film festivals, Fight for Space recalls, “In the 1960s and 70s, the Space Race inspired a generation to pursue careers in science and technology, and then it all ended. Fight for Space looks at why.”

“FIGHT FOR SPACE” is a documentary film that asks, why haven’t we gone back to the Moon, or sent humans to Mars? Weren’t we supposed to be there in the 80s? What lead to the decline of NASA’s budget and why is it stuck in low earth orbit?

Filmed over the course of 4 years, Fight for Space is the product of thousands of Kickstarter supporters who believed that the exploration of space is worth fighting for. Over 60 interviews were conducted with astronauts, politicians, educators, historians, scientists, former NASA officials, commercial space entrepreneurs, and many other experts in the space community. It is a film like no other that tackles issues no other documentary has touched, featuring newly restored 35mm and 16mm footage from the National Archives NASA collection.

 

(10) APRIL 1 LEFTOVERS. Never realized that you’d need firmer biceps when your jetpack finally arrives. “Real-life ‘Iron Man’ flying suit built by British inventor” says a British Marine has invented and flown a turbine powered suit.

A British inventor has built his very own jet-propelled ‘Iron Man’ suit, which he says can carry him at several hundred miles per hour, thousands of feet in the air.

The suit, designed by entrepreneur Richard Browning, allows the pilot to vertically take off and fly using the human body to control flight. Browning has recently founded Gravity, a technology start-up, which has filed patents for the human propulsion technology that could re-imagine manned flight.

 

(11) LAST TO KNOW. Dave Freer tells a painful story about the announced mass market paperback edition that never happened.

I want to start by apologizing to readers here: at the end of February I said here that CHANGELING’S ISLAND was now available in mass market paperback, and provided a link. Some 96 people clicked through that, and I assume some of those good folk ordered the book. If you were one of them: I must ask you please to check your credit cards.

If you have been charged for it: you have been the victim of a fraud in which I had no part other than advertising my book in good faith. I was sent the proofs of the mmpb on the 9th of December and returned them – giving up a rather lucrative little casual job to do my bit, to have them back in time. Baen advertised the book on its website, Amazon listed it on its website. As this near non-effort appears to be the only form of publicity I actually get, I did my best, and kind folk on Facebook gave me nearly 200 likes and over 40 shares. I had some shares on Twitter, and the release of the mmpb was up on Instapundit, as well as on several other blogs besides this.

Prior experience – TOM — says this could produce around two thousand sales. I’m a minor author, and I’m very grateful for that support, be it ten or ten thousand. There’s always a few new people, and reaching new readers is vital. Mass Market Paperbacks are great as tryouts, as they’re quite cheap, and given that CHANGELING’S ISLAND seems to have been a hit with readers across a broad spectrum, I hoped I’d get more readers.

Unfortunately… the mass market paperback of the book does NOT exist. It was cancelled back in early fall of last year. That, of course is their decision, which they’re perfectly entitled to make. However, they didn’t tell me – or, it seems anyone else.  The formatting, the proofs, the listing on Baen.com still went ahead. Simon and Schuster, who distribute for Baen, put the book up on Amazon – and presumably other venues. Well, possibly….

(12) WRIGHT ON RELIGION IN SFF. Angelo Stagnaro interviews John C. Wright for the National Catholic Register. The views will be familiar to readers of his blog.

  1. What do you think is the place of such elements in science fiction?

Hmm. Good question. Science fiction is by and large based on a naturalistic view of the universe. When penning adventures about space princesses being rescued from space pirates by space marines, religion does not come up, except as local background and local color, in which case, the role of religion is to provide the radioactive altar to the Snake God of Mars to which our shapely by half-clad space princess is chained, that our stalwart hero can fight the monster.

Now, any story of any form can be used as a parable or as an example of a religious truth: indeed, my latest six-book trilogy is actually about faith, although it is portrayed in figures as being about a man’s love for his bride.

Fantasy stories, on the other hand, once any element of magic or the supernatural is introduced either declare for the Church or declare for witchcraft, depending on whether or not occultism is glamorized.

Note that I speak of occultism, not magic itself. Merlin the magician is a figure from King Arthur tales, of which no more obviously Christian stories can be found, outside of Dante and Milton, but no portrayal in olden days of Merlin glamorized the occult. Again, the way characters like Gandalf in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, Coriakin in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, or Harry Potter, even those they are called wizards, are clearly portrayed either as commanding a divine power, or, in Potter’s case, controlling what is basically an alternate technology or psychic force. There is no bargaining with unclean spirits, no rituals, not even a pack of tarot cards. These are like the witches in Halloween decorations, who fly brooms and wave magic wands, and nothing like the real practices of real wiccans, neopagans or other fools who call themselves witches.

Fools, because, as I did when I challenged God, they meddle with forces of which they have no understanding. I meddled with bright forces, and was spared. They meddle with dark, and they think they can escape the price….

Fantasy stories generally are hostile to Christianity, some intentionally and some negligently. The negligent hostility springs from the commonplace American desire for syncretism, that is, for all religions to be equal. Even some fairly Christian-themed fantasy stories yield weakmindedly to this temptation, as in Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising or A Wrinkle in Time is a science fantasy novel by American writer Madeleine L’Engle, where the forces of light are portrayed as ones where Christ is merely one teacher among many, each equally as bright and good, but makes no special nor exclusive claim. Or tales where the crucifix will drive back a vampire, but so will any other sign or symbol of any religion, from Asatru to Zoroastrianism, because all religions are equal, dontchaknow.

(13) ANCIENT VIDEOGAME HISTORY. It may be a long way for some but, for Nigel, Tipperary was once a short commute.

(14) WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH THE TICK. Carl Slaughter explains:

Like superheroes in the “The Spirit” movie and the “Ax Cop” animated series, The Tick is a superhero that requires a special appreciation.  Amazon is bringing “The Tick” to the small screen again in 2017.  Unlike Netflix, which greenlights an entire series, Amazon commissions a pilot, posts it for a month, and gives the thumbs up/down based on fan reaction and news coverage.  The pilot for the Amazon reboot was released in 2016.  Here is a documentary on the history of The Tick.

 

(15) BLASTS FROM THE PAST. Secret Screening also asks if you remember Eerie Indiana?  Remember Goosebumps?

(16) NOT A CAREER MOVE. Is it true? Why Dick Grayson Doesn’t Want to Become Batman, and Why Bruce Wayne Agrees.

[Thanks to Nigel, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Nick Tchan, Carl Slaughter, mlex, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]