Pixel Scroll 12/26/16 Yippee Ki-yay, Pixel-Scroller!

(1) ON THE SIDE OF THE HUNTERS. SF author Myke Cole will be taking a celebrity turn in the new CBS series Hunted  — “Meet The Command Center Investigators From Hunted”.

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Myke Cole, Former Military Cyber Expert

Command Center Title: Cyber Analyst A self-proclaimed “hardcore nerd,” Myke Cole uses his passion in gaming and comic book culture to give him an edge as a highly skilled Cyber Threat Intelligence Analyst for several military and law enforcement agencies.

(2) AWKWARD JUDGES NEEDED. Chuck Wendig asks readers to vote on their favorite of 43 photos posted in his The Awkward Author Photo Contest.

You will find a couple famous-faced authors in there, including Jeff VanderMeer, James Sutter, and Yvonne Navarro. Those cheeky little penmonkeys.

Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to go through these photos, find your ONE TRUE FAVORITE, and then go into the comments below and put down the corresponding number. Write only the number, if you please. I need the number to be plainly visible and easy to tally.

Voting ends 12/27, noon EST.

(3) YOU’VE SEEN THE SHOW, NOW READ THE BOOK. Vanity Fair explained in this 2014 article why TV and movie novelizations still exist.

Novelizations may have made more sense before the advent of home video. Back then, films were released in the theater and often not heard from again. The best way to relive those original memories was to read them in book format (or to use your imagination). So, in an age of DVR and digital outlets, why do people continue to buy these books? It’s the same reason they read 5,000-word TV recaps every week. It’s a way for fans to feel more connected to a story or property they love. When you have a novelization, you get to remember at least a piece of that enthusiasm you experienced the first time around.

“People just see it as one other element of the entertainment experience,” says Katy Wild, the editorial director of Titan Publishing Group Ltd., which publishes movie novelizations, including Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the soon-to-be-released Interstellar. “I think people who read movie novelizations are the people who go see those movies.”

Novelization authors are typically paid a flat fee in the low five-figure range to complete the work (if they’re lucky, they may get 1 to 2 percent royalties). The money, however, is only one reason writers sign up in the first place.

(4) THERE’S AN ARMY APP FOR THAT. In “How the smartphone became so smart”, the BBC’s chief observation is that all twelve of the key points started as government-sponsored or -supported research.

As for hard drives, lithium-ion batteries, liquid crystal displays and semiconductors themselves – there are similar stories to be told.

In each case, there was scientific brilliance and plenty of private sector entrepreneurship. But there were also wads of cash thrown at the problem by government agencies – usually US government agencies, and for that matter, usually some arm of the US military.

Silicon Valley itself owes a great debt to Fairchild Semiconductor – the company that developed the first commercially practical integrated circuits. And Fairchild Semiconductor, in its early days, depended on military procurement.

Of course, the US military didn’t make the iPhone. Cern did not create Facebook or Google. These technologies, that so many people rely on today, were honed and commercialised by the private sector. But it was government funding and government risk-taking that made all these things possible.

That’s a thought to hold on to as we ponder the technological challenges ahead in fields such energy and biotechnology.

(5) FAKE NEWS YOU CAN SEE COMING A MILE AWAY. The Onion has the story — “This Is The Golden Age Of Television,’ Claim Executives Who Have Not Yet Made Show About Robotic Wizards”.

Praising the expansive slate of high-quality fantasies, comedies, and period dramas currently in production while negligently overlooking a gaping hole in the entertainment landscape, cable and network executives reportedly continued to claim this week that we are living in a golden age of television despite having never made a show about robotic wizards. “The shows we’re seeing right now are incredibly smart and cinematic in scope—television has reached its pinnacle,” said profoundly ignorant HBO executive Julien Rhodes, who has yet to greenlight a show featuring an army of advanced cyborg warlocks who were created in a lab and armed with a full database of knowledge about the dark arts in order to fight evil spirits besieging our world. “You can turn on the TV any night of the week and find multiple complex, beautifully told stories on just about every subject [except robot wizards falling in love with one another, and occasionally their human creators, while fending off malevolent forces of untold power using hexes programmed into their hard drives]. We’re lucky to have access to such a breadth of exceptional programming.” Rhodes went on to assert that there was more diversity than ever on television despite the complete lack of pansexual android sorcerers named Aerio Zero.

(6) BROADER BAND. Chip Hitchcock forwards a news item about “A topic dear to many fans’ hearts: A British farmer builds a local broadband network — and it runs much faster than the UK standard. Especially grating to me, as Verizon has been busily running FiOS in the suburbs but has just signed an agreement to go into Boston proper where the potential users are much closer together.”

Her DIY solution to a neighbour’s internet connectivity problems in 2009 has evolved into B4RN, an internet service provider offering fast one gigabit per second broadband speeds to the parishes which nestle in the picturesque Lune Valley.

That is 35 times faster than the 28.9 Mbps average UK speed internet connection according to Ofcom.

It all began when the trees which separated Chris’s neighbouring farm from its nearest wireless mast – their only connection to the internet, provided by Lancaster University – grew too tall.

Something more robust was required, and no alternatives were available in the area, so Chris decided to take matters into her own hands.

She purchased a kilometre of fibre-optic cable and commandeered her farm tractor to dig a trench.

After lighting the cable, the two farms were connected, with hers feeding the one behind the trees.

“We dug it ourselves and we lit [the cable] ourselves and we proved that ordinary people could do it,” she says.

“It wasn’t rocket science. It was three days of hard work.”

Her motto, which she repeats often in conversation, is JFDI. Three of those letters stand for Just Do It. The fourth you can work out for yourself.

(7) PETER DAVID BACK. After being immobilized by a medical problem, Peter David is on the move again.

This time around, even a week later, I am still a bit uncertain as to what happened. First my left ankle was wracked with pain, and then my right, and then I could no longer stand up. It was as if I was going dead from the waist down, but this time the work of some virus rather than my brain turning against me. Seven days and a buttload of antibiotics later, I am now able to stand up and walk with the aid of a walker that I’ve nicknamed Imperial because really what else are you going to call a walker?

(8) GOLDEN GOOSE HUSBANDRY. The Washington Post’s Brian Fung says “The thing that ruined superhero movies could easily hurt Star Wars, too”. Rogue One has convinced Disney that the Star Wars franchise can go beyond the main sequence of films amid fears that audiences will suffer “superhero fatigue” as the number of superhero movies continue to grow.

Now, Disney faces an even greater challenge: developing Star Wars at a pace that won’t exhaust audiences, or the source material, too quickly as executives seek to grow the sci-fi franchise into the size of a small moon. Under Disney’s stewardship, Star Wars is already being compared to the Marvel universe, a sprawling media empire also owned by Disney that has contributed to what some experts call “superhero fatigue.” Although superhero movies still make loads of money, a persistent critique of the genre is their formulaic homogeneity and a relentless firehose of content. And it’s a trap that Star Wars would do well to avoid.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 26, 1973 The Exorcist makes its debut in theaters.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BIRD

  • December 26, 1933 — Caroll Spinney, Sesame Street’s Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.

(11) BELATED BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • December 24, 1910 – Fritz Leiber
  • December 25, 1924 – Rod Serling

(12) ELF AND 8 TINY REINDEER TO BEAM UP. Santa left Mary Anne Mohanraj a Star Trek The Original Series Sticky Notes Booklet.

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(13) ON THE TOY TRAIL. John King Tarpinian shares a marketing discovery —

A buddy of mine is from Port Arthur, TX (next door to Beaumont where Charles Beaumont took his name and where Janis Joplin grew up).  Anyway he collects all the Star Wars junk buying two of everything, one for him and one for his nephew.  When hunting down stuff around L.A. he often has to go to multiple places.  When he goes home-for-the-holidays he can find all that crap first try.  He believes that dealers will buy up dozens of an item at once for resale at places such as Frank & Sons, at four-fold markups.

(14) FORMERLY NOTABLE. If you ever wondered whether there is a Wikipedia article about Crystal Huff  – today she pointed out that there used to be one but there isn’t anymore. The deletionists did not approve an “NN person whose sole claim to fame is that she chairs science fiction conventions.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Crystal_Huff

(15) ON THE ROAD. Ken Liu announced his confirmed appearances for the first three months of 2017:

  • “Translation as Performance—Dual Creativities in Chinese and English” — roundtable/reading with Canaan Morse, Eleanor Goodman, and Eric Abrahamsen, part of “Asia: Past, Present, Future,” by the New England Association for Asian Studies, January 29, 10:40-12:50, Boston College.
  • Guggenheim Museum, speaker at the special exhibit, “Tales of Our Time.” Afternoon of Friday, 2/17, 2017, NYC.
  • Perth Writers Festival 2017, 2/23-26, Perth, Australia.
  • Writefest 2017, 3/10-12, Houston, TX.
  • AnomalyCon 2017, 3/17-19, Denver, CO.

(16) UNTURNED PAGES. The Book Smugglers’ Ana Grilo has another genius idea for a post — “Books I Shoved Into My Friends Faces But They Didn’t Read Anyway Smugglivus List”.

Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor

When my friends ask me what they should read next, they immediately complete their sentences with “EXCEPT BINTI, I KNOW”. It was the first book (I can call anything with an ISBN a book and it counts towards my GR challenge, ok?) I read in 2016 and probably the best. Nnedi Okorafor’s descriptions of scenes, people and movements are so vivid that all I could think about while I was reading it was that I really wished I had the ability to draw because she was creating a whole animation in my mind with her words. I’ve felt SO MANY THINGS with this novella that when I try to form a cohesive argument about why people should read it I become a little pile of guttural sounds and my last appeal usually is “but it’s only 96 pages!”. I’m really, really happy that Binti: Home is on its way, but reading Binti was a whole experience in itself, and I really think you should read it as well.

(17) MORE CHRISTMAS LOOT. Matt Kordelski showing off the C3P0 leg lamp:

Seems like the “major award” from toy story. Except its C3P0 and R2-D2 from Star Wars!

major-award-as-sw

(18) TOO SOON? That’s the Serenity, done in gingerbread.

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(19) AN EARLY START ON NEXT CHRISTMAS. A piece by Robert Evans called “The Secret, True History of ‘Jingle Bells, Batman Smells’” appeared on Cracked last year, but it’s still worth linking to as Evans traces the roots of this Jingle Bells parody deep into the 19th century.

(20) BEST COMICS OF 2016. We previously posted the link to another NPR best of list – here’s the link to NPR’s selection of the best comics and graphic novels of 2016.

(21) DOCTOR APPROACHING. The Doctor Who Season 10 trailer was released ahead of last night’s Christmas special.

[Thanks to JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Ron Glass (1945-2016)

By Steve Green: Ron Glass, American actor and director, died November 25, aged 71. Genre appearances include The Twilight Zone (“I of Newton,” 1985), Deep Space (1988), Teen Angel (17 episodes as God’s cousin Rod, 1997-98), Star Trek: Voyager (“Nightingale,” 2000), Firefly (14 episodes as Book, 2002-03) and its spin-off movie Serenity (2005), Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (two episodes, 2013-14).

The Variety obituary adds these details:

In 1975 Glass found his breakout role in “Barney Miller,” set in an NYPD station. His character was a dapper and ambitious intellectual, obsessed with launching his career as a writer. The role earned Glass a Primetime Emmy nomination in 1982 in the supporting actor category.

After “Barney Miller,” Glass would go on to star in 18 episodes of the 1982 “The Odd Couple” remake “The New Odd Couple” as well as making guest appearances on “The Twilight Zone,” “Family Matters” and “Murder, She Wrote,” among other shows. In the late 1999 he appeared on two episodes of “Friends” Ross Geller’s divorce lawyer, Russell.

In 2002 Glass joined Joss Whedon’s cult favorite “Firefly,” playing a spiritual figure with a mysterious past. Glass would also reprise the role in the 2005 movie “Serenity.”

Glass was still a regular face on American television as recently as 2014 when he appeared in an episode of “CSI.” That same year he appeared in “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” as Dr. Streiten.

The Best Movie Space Battles

By Brandon Anthony: There is a lot to love about the genre of sci-fi and space fiction, particularly on film. Distorted colors and shapes, (literally) out-of-this-world special effects, and incredible feats of technological ingenuity allow viewers to reimagine the universe. And when intergalactic conflicts arise, impressive sparks fly.

Throughout the course of movie history numerous space battles have rocked our world back here on Earth. And though the latest Star Wars certainly continues that fine tradition, it joins a lengthy list of films that have already elevated the art of war to another dimension.

Battle of Klendathu (Starship Troopers)

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Not all battles end in a victory for the good guys. The outcome of this battle was inevitable even before the first shots were fired. Poor planning and insufficient reconnoitering led the invading Federation forces to severely underestimate the Bug numbers. This led to a complete rout of a battle, in which foot soldiers were torn limb from limb and impaled during a live broadcast. Hundreds of thousands of Federation troops died. Not only was the infantry decimated, but Sky Marshal Dienes also destroyed his career through his poor leadership during this battle.

Borg Invade Sector 001 (Star Trek: First Contact)

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Star Trek‘s continuing conflict between the Borg Collective and the United Federation played out in a spectacular fashion when the Borg attempted to invade Earth yet again. Despite being ordered to stay away, Captain Picard arrived just in time to save the day. Picard’s previous assimilation helped him target the right spot on the Borg cube, and he rallied the troops and saved some Federation lives while making it look easy. The Enterprise even managed to travel through time in order to chase an escape pod. Despite their success, however, the political effects of the battle were felt long afterwards. Fans who want to revel in the details can still catch the series on cable TV (details here).

The Battle of Endor (Star Wars: Return of the Jedi)

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This battle is the culmination of the building war between the Rebel Alliance and the Imperials. The Ewoks, along with Princess Leia, Han Solo and several other key characters, fight the Imperial troops in the forests of Endor’s moon. From there the audience is transported to an epic space battle, complete with amazing close range maneuvering, as the Rebel Alliance’s fleet attacks the Death Star and the Star Destroyers. A smaller but no less important one-on-one battle occurs between Luke and his father. In each of these fights, despite being the underdog, the Rebel Alliance comes up victorious. This is the battle that turns the tide of the war, and which eventually leads to the formation of the New Republic.

Battle of Hoth (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back) hothbattle4

Another galaxy-shaking Star Wars battle took place on Hoth, though this time the Rebels were the defending force. Nor did the battle end as victoriously as in Endor, though it’s still a beautifully orchestrated battle to watch. Laser blasts fly fast and furious on the surface of the ice planet, and despite being outgunned the Rebel Alliance is able to do some damage even in the midst of retreat. It is also a great moment for Luke and Leia, who both take on positions of leadership. Princess Organa coordinates an orderly retreat while Skywalker leads the defensive troops. There is even a sweet moment between the Princess and Solo, when he lets her know it is time to leave.

Alliance vs. Reavers (Serenity)SerenityBattle5

Though Firefly only lasted one season, it gave birth to the film Serenity, which in turn gave us this wonderfully entertaining battle. The crew of Serenity manages to lure the Reaver fleet into a completely unplanned battle with the Alliance. While the befuddled Alliance troops scramble to fight the Reavers, Serenity twists and turns, “like a leaf on the wind,” to the surface of the planet to complete their final mission. They succeed on all fronts, though it is not a painless victory.

These battles are all unique. Some are won, some lost. Some take place in space, some on alien planets. What ties them together is amazing aerial choreography, tight special effects, and heroic characters. Whether winning or losing, in all cases the protagonists did themselves proud.

Where Colbert Goes,
Now Angels Fear to Tread

When Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert won NASA’s online poll to name the International Space Station’s third habitat node, the agency invoked a contest rule allowing it to pick the name regardless of the vote. Though if Firefly fans bet NASA would choose Serenity, the second most popular name – they lost!

Colbert had threatened to become “space’s evil tyrant overlord” if he didn’t get his way. NASA mollified him by dispatching astronaut Sunita “Suni” Williams to announce the chosen name during his Tuesday broadcast. SeattlePI.com reports that NASA reached down to eighth place in the poll and chose “Tranquility”, a name that refers to the Sea of Tranquility, Apollo 11’s lunar landing site.

But NASA did throw Colbert this bone:

On Tuesday’s The Colbert Report, NASA astronaut Sunita Williams announced that Colbert will get his small piece of immortality after all, as the organization voted to name a treadmill on board the space station after him.

The treadmill in question will heretofore be known as the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (COLBERT). Williams explained that treadmills are vitally important to astronauts, as they use them to prevent bone-strength loss while in space.