Pixel Scroll 5/6/17 And He Called For His Pipe, And He Called For His Scroll, And He Called For His Pixels, Three.

(1) DUALING. Sherwood Smith discusses “Tremontaine: When Collaboration Really Works” at Book View Café.

Nowadays, collaborations are happening in all kinds of forms, in print form in our genre not just the traditional pair of co-authors: there was a rise of senior writer-and-junior writer combos, and the continued series.

Then there are the collaborations that share a lot in common with film development, in which writers gather (in film it’s the writers’ room) and hammer out a story between them all.

Then they either go off separately and write portions, or they pass material back and forth, each adding or subtracting or putting their own spin on the emerging narrative.

The most successful of these that has come to my attention lately is Tremontaine, which initially came out in episodes from Serial Box.

Serial Box in itself is interesting: they are using a TV model for readers. The episodes come out weekly, and I believe most if not all are developed by teams. The episodes individually are cheap—less than you’d spend on a Starbucks coffee….

(2) UP ABOVE THE BEAR SO HIGH. Jeff VanderMeer may inspire a new subgenre of sff with the great reception being given to his new novel Borne:

Wow. In Canada, the #1 hardcover bestseller in Calgary for the week is Borne. Thanks, Calgary. You must really love giant psychotic flying bears. (Borne was #5 in Canada overall, across all 260 indie bookstores that report in.)

(3) STAR TREKKIN’. Visit the edge of space with Captain Kirk. Space.com tells how — “‘Star Trek’ Icon William Shatner to Take Zero-G Flight in August”.

This August, William Shatner will get closer to the final frontier than he ever did in his “Star Trek” days.

The 86-year-old actor, who famously portrayed Captain James T. Kirk in the original “Star Trek” TV series and a number of movies, has signed up for an Aug. 4 flight with the Zero Gravity Corporation (Zero-G). The Virginia-based company sells rides on its modified Boeing 727 aircraft G-Force One, which flies in a series of parabolic arcs to give passengers brief tastes of weightlessness.

“Going weightless will turn a dream into reality,” Shatner said in a statement. “I’ve always wondered what it would be like to actually explore the final frontier, and now I have the opportunity to experience zero gravity firsthand. It will be an incredible adventure.”

You have a chance to share this adventure with Shatner, if you wish: Zero-G is selling a limited number of tickets aboard the actor’s flight for $9,950 apiece, plus 5 percent tax. (For perspective: a seat aboard a normal Zero-G flight runs $4,950, plus 5 percent tax.) Go to Zero-G’s website if you’re interested.

(4) TOURING CHINA. China Miéville is coming to the U.S. later this month on a book tour promoting October: The Story of the Russian Revolution, which is non-fiction.

(5) COMING ATTRACTION. Teaser poster for the FORUM FANTÁSTICO convention taking place in Lisbon, Portugal this September.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

In The Big Bang Theory series Wil Wheaton is a recurring character. In one episode, Sheldon goes to Wil’s house to confront him. The house number is 1701…a homage to the USS Enterprise.

John King Tarpinian adds, “Something even more trivial got me thinking: ‘A homage or an homage?’

(7) TODAY’S DAY

Free Comic Book Day

History of Free Comic Book Day Free Comic Book day was established by Joe Field in 2001. While writing for a magazine of the comic industry, he noted that there had been a resurgence in purchases in the wake of the recent flow of comic book franchise movies. Society and finances were both looking favorably on this unending wealth of stories, and so it was that he suggested the institution of a Free Comic Book Day to spread the fandom as wide as possible.

(8) FUR AND FEATHERS. Special effects aficionados will love the preview reel for the upcoming SIGGRAPH conference.

SIGGRAPH 2017 brings together thousands of computer graphics professionals, 30 July – 3 August 2017 in Los Angeles, California, USA.

 

(9) A FEATURE NOT A BUG. Dragonfly cyborgs will fight terrorism reports Fox News — “How insect cyborgs could battle terrorism”.

The US military, like others around the world, has long pursued tiny flying robots to deploy for surveillance. Armed with tech like cameras and sensors, these flying robots could gather data that larger technology or humans could not.

To be useful in realistic conditions, the drones would need to be able to fly for long periods of time and be able to navigate around obstacles. They also need to be able to carry the weight of the data gathering systems.

(10) THE WORLD ON A STRING. If you like expensive toys, here’s a chance to pay a lot for “Yomega – Star Wars – Darth Vader – The Glide Yo-Yo” – tagged at $118.25.

  • Now available for a limited time, Yomega has produced its professional level yo yo, The Glide, in a collectible Star Wars Series with laser etching of Darth Vader and both Rebel and Imperial symbols.
  • The Glide has been engineered to the highest competition level standards. Machined from airplane grade aluminum, with a silicone pad return system and the world famous Dif-e-Yo KonKave bearing, this is a yo-yo meant for the most discerning player.
  • If you want the “Force to be With You” this is a must have piece for your collection.

Or for the same price you can rock the rebel logo — “Yomega – Star Wars -Rebel Symbol – Glide Yo-Yo”.

(11) GETTING PAID. Someone who should be able to buy as many yo-yos as he wants is Alan Dean Foster – Inverse recalls how “How George Lucas Made a Young, Anonymous Author Rich”. (And as Foster explains in the story, it’s something Lucas didn’t have to do.)

Alan Dean Foster, the author of the very first Star Wars book, remembers George Lucas doing him a huge solid, even when the fledgling director wasn’t rich.

The original Star Wars was released on May 25, 1977, and a full six months before that, on November 12, 1976, its novelization hit bookstore shelves. Though the author of the book — Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker — is listed under George Lucas’s byline, the novelization was in fact ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster.

(12) THIS BOX OFFICE WEEKEND IN HISTORY

Directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire in the title role, the eagerly awaited comic book adaptation Spider-Man was released on Friday, May 3, 2002, and quickly became the fastest movie ever to earn more than $100 million at the box office, raking in a staggering $114.8 million by Sunday, May 5.

(13) BRADBURYVERSARY. Seventy years ago this week, recalls Phil Nichols, Ray Bradbury’s first book was published.

DARK CARNIVAL, a hardcover from Arkham House, collected Ray’s finest dark fantasy stories, most of them having previously been published in WEIRD TALES magazine.

Some of the classic story titles you may recognize: The Lake, The Small Assassin, The Jar, The Homecoming, The Crowd, The Scythe, There Was An Old Woman, Uncle Einar. Some of his best-ever fiction; and some of the best fantasy fiction of the twentieth-century.

Ray revised some of the stories between their WEIRD TALES appearances and their first book appearance. Then, with the passing years, he came to have second thoughts about some of the stories, and so he re-wrote them again when they were re-packaged for a new book, THE OCTOBER COUNTRY. The OCTOBER COUNTRY remains in print to this day.

Because of THE OCTOBER COUNTRY, Ray allowed DARK CARNIVAL to retire, and only once permitted a re-printing. That was for a special limited edition from Gauntlet Press. Both the original book and the Gauntlet edition are out of print today….

(14) BRICK AND MORTAR. Atlas Obscura takes you inside “Internet Archive Headquarters” in San Francisco.

With the stated mission of providing “universal access to all knowledge,” the Internet Archive is one of history’s most ambitious cataloging projects. So far millions of books, movies, television, music, software, and video games have been collected and digitized by the project, and that’s not counting the billions of websites they’ve been archiving over the past two decades with the Wayback Machine.

Fitting of such an ambitious project, the archive’s brick-and-mortar headquarters are also quite grand. The old Christian Scientist church in San Francisco’s Richmond district was chosen largely because the church’s front resembled the Internet Archive’s logo: the Library of Alexandria’s Greek columns. Inside the beautiful building you’ll find dozens of employees and volunteers digitizing everything from old home movies, to old LPs, to 8-bit video games….

(15) THUMBS DOWN ON DARK TOWER TRAILER. According to Forbes, “‘The Dark Tower’ Should Be A Surrealist Western, Not A Superhero Blockbuster”.

When I pictured The Dark Tower movie, I thought about the structure and pacing of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly mixed with the tone of The Road with the aesthetics of The Cell. If that sounds wacky, good, because The Dark Tower is wacky as hell. It’s a western with high fantasy elements thrown in, mixed with every book Stephen King has ever written, and actually includes Stephen King as a character himself in one of the most surreal storylines in literary history.

But what I’m seeing from this trailer weirds me out in a bad way….

(16) IN LIVING BLACK & WHITE. Terror Time forewarns — “LOGAN – B&W Version of Film Hitting Theaters In May”.

Fans of Wolverine will be getting an extra treat very soon. A Black & White version of the film ‘Logan’ will be hitting theaters May 19th and it will also be included on the DVD when that hits the shelves. Only down side of this awesomeness is that it will only be released in U.S. theaters.

This all started when the film was first released and a fan tweeted at the director James Mangold asking if a B&W version could be done like Mad Max. The director replied in kind and here we are.

(17) NEIL CLARKE, MOVIE STAR? I’m sure it’s just a coincidence. Watch the Absolutely Anything trailer.

Neil Clarke, a disillusioned school teacher, suddenly finds he has the ability to do anything he wishes, a challenge bestowed upon him by power-crazed aliens. Unbeknownst to Neil, how he employs his newfound powers will dictate the fate of mankind — one wrong move and the aliens will destroy Earth. CAST: Simon Pegg, Kate Beckinsale, Rob Riggle, Robin Williams, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and JohnFromGR for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg Hullender.]

Pixel Scroll 11/28/16 As Some Day It May Happen That A Pixel Must Be Found, I’ve Scrolled A Little List

(1) NOM DE GLOOM. Turns out nobody will ever voyage to Alpha Centauri – because the astronomical equivalent of the post office has given it a change of address – “Alpha Centauri Gets a New Moniker as 227 Star Names Are Clarified”.

Alpha Centauri” is getting the boot. The longstanding star name has been displaced by its ancient counterpart in a new International Astronomical Union (IAU) catalog that designates 227 official names for different stars in the sky.

The move was intended to reduce confusion, according to the IAU. For instance, a star like Fomalhaut has at least 30 different names, so it’s difficult to figure out what to call it — or even how to spell it. Variations over the years have included Fumalhaut, Fomalhut and even the unusual Fomal’gaut.

The IAU, which is the official arbiter of astronomical names, chose single names to refer to those stars that have historically had many. Some of the decisions may rattle longtime observers, however. For example, the binary star Alpha Centauri, which lies 4.35 light-years from the sun, is now known officially as “Rigil Kentaurus,” the ancient name for the system.

(2) WHELAN ART PROJECT. Michael Whelan has a Kickstarter going for a new book with Baby Tattoo. The book is being published to coincide with an exhibition of Michael’s art at the Riverside Art Museum in Southern California in February.

It’s actually done very well already – the target was $10,000, and $54,056 has been raised with 22 days to go.

whelan-beyond

(3) DON’T SPOON FEED THE AUDIENCE. Misha Burnett made a good point in a comment at Mad Genius Club.

I think that “overbackstorying” is one of the signature literary sins of our age. During the after-film discussion with my roommate after we had we had seen “Dr. Strange” the subject came up of filmmakers not trusting audiences to pick up on subtleties.

I can just imagine a remake of “Citizen Kane”.

“Come in now, young man–you can’t stay out there with your new sled, which is called ‘Rosebud’ all day!”

“But I love my new sled, which is called Rosebud! No matter what happens for the rest of my life, this will be the moment I’ll remember on my deathbed!”

(4) YOU CAN TALK TO THE HORSE, BUT NOT NECESSARILY OF COURSE. Fantasy Faction reposted Aaron Miles’ insightful article “A Question of Technology”.

How fantasy elements interact with technology is another aspect of worldbuilding to consider. Necessity is the mother of invention, the creation of a tool to aid in a task. But when you have characters that can make it rain at will, it seems pointless to dig ditches for irrigation. Does your world have magical solutions instead of technological ones, how prevalent is magic and its availability in solving daily problems? The opposite can be true as well, does your world have technological solutions to magical problems? Has a castle population built giant net launchers and long range crossbows to help defend themselves from dragon attacks? Perhaps they’ve developed fire resistant armour and building materials. This is an example of the necessity point in action, it’s human nature to try and counter a hostile force. In a world ruled by magic users, perhaps a resistance has created mechanical devices that negate their powers; maybe your heroes need them to complete a quest?

The level of technology in your work can influence the plot and what kind of solutions the writer can present to their characters. Is a character sick or injured? Is there a medical cure, it is easily available or a rarity? What about travel, does your world have domesticated horses, are there paved roads that allow them to make good time?

(5) WISHLIST OF A FAN’S DREAMS. Corrina Lawson made a list of “Fictional Presents We’d Love to Receive This Holiday Season” for B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Translation Microbe (Farscape) Lots of translation devices pop up in science fiction universes, including the Babel Fish in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but you have to stick that leech-like thing in your ear. Ew. The Translation Microbe from Farscape also has to be sent into the body (via injection), rooting itself at the base of the brain. But it’s painless, aside from the initial injection, and there’s nothing living in your head. As for Star Trek‘s universal translator? That’s a machine that can be lost or destroyed, and you don’t want to be caught out as a stranger in a strange land.

(6) ATKINS OBIT. Lon Atkins (1942-2016) has died. Guy Lillian III sent this tribute about the legendary fan.

Lon Atkins, lost either yesterday or just this morning, was a titan in our Southern fannish world. His Rebel Award, his Fan GoHship at the DSC, were beautiful if finally inadequate reflections of his contribution to our early days as a regional fandom and our growth into the vibrant and important segment of SFdom we’ve become.  He was Official Editor of SFPA for four years and kept it going through its slimmest days.  His fabled battles at the Hearts table with his great frtiend Hank Reinhardt were not only legendary, but entertaining, helping to build the sense of community that marks the region and its game.  He did the best apazines — the best-written, the best-reproed, the most comprehensive — I have ever seen.  And he was a gentleman.

I am lost in regret.  Lon was a mentor and a model for how a good man conducts himself in science fiction fandom.  MELIKAPHKAZ forever!

(7) JIM C. HINES RESUMES FUNDRAISING AUCTIONS. He took a few days off for the holiday, but Jim C. Hines today is taking bids on an autographed, personalized series from Sherwood Smith.

Welcome back to the third of 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions.

Transgender Michigan was founded in 1997, and continues to run one of the only transgender helplines in the country, available 24/7 at 855-345-8464. Every tax-deductible donation helps them continue to provide support, advocacy, and education.

Auction number three is for a personally autographed hardcover set of either the  INDA or DOBRENICA series, by author Sherwood Smith. Sherwood is also willing to personalize the books if the donor wishes — doodles, notes about something they’re interested in on the text, etc.

(8) FOR THOSE WHO COULD NOT MAKE IT IN PERSON. The exhibit ended its local run yesterday, and will be moving on to other cities. Steve Weintraub has done his best to show Collider readers what they missed — “Over 150 Pictures from the Cool & Unusual ‘Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters’ LACMA Exhibit”.

As you’ll see in the pictures below, not only will you notice things from his films like Cronos, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim, and Crimson Peak, you’ll see the 1907 edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, original Moebius artwork, original comic book pages from Alan Moore’s From Hell, concept art from films like Walt Disney’s The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Sleeping Beauty, Fantasia, Alice in Wonderland, James Cameron’s Aliens, Drew Struzan’s poster for Pan’s Labyrinth, his love of all things Dracula, Frankenstein, H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe, and so much more.

Since most people will never be able to check out the At Home with Monsters exhibit, while walking around I took a ton of pictures. Even though I snapped over 150 high-resolution pics, trust me when I say I didn’t come close to capturing everything there and if you’re near the Art Gallery of Ontario or the Minneapolis Museum of Art when the exhibition opens in either city, I strongly suggest stopping by and seeing it for yourself.

(9) WORLD FANTASY PROGRAM. From Tor.com we learn that the 2017 World Fantasy Con is gathering program ideas. The convention’s theme is Secret Histories – The Use of History in Fantasy. Use their online form.

(10) THE MAGICIANS ON SYFY. This is no fantasy. Lev Grossman’s The Magicians returns for Season 2 on January 25.

(11) THE HOLE YOU SAY. Cards Against Humanity raised over $100,000 on Black Friday by broadcasting a video of a giant hole and asking its users to throw the money in!

This has raised a lot of questions in NPR’s newsroom, some of which Cards Against Humanity endeavored to answer on its site:

What’s happening here?

Cards Against Humanity is digging a holiday hole.

Is this real?

Unfortunately it is.

Where is the hole?

America. And in our hearts.

Is there some sort of deeper meaning or purpose to the hole?

No.

What do I get for contributing money to the hole?

A deeper hole. What else are you going to buy, an iPod?

Why aren’t you giving all this money to charity?

Why aren’t YOU giving all this money to charity? It’s your money.

Is the hole bad for the environment?

No, this was just a bunch of empty land. Now there’s a hole there. That’s life.

How am I supposed to feel about this?

You’re supposed to think it’s funny. You might not get it for a while, but some time next year you’ll chuckle quietly to yourself and remember all this business about the hole.

How deep can you make this sucker?

Great question. As long as you keep spending, we’ll keep digging. We’ll find out together how deep this thing goes.

(12) JONATHAN LIVINGSTON YODA. CinemaBlend makes sure were there when a “Star Wars Bad Lip Reading Video Turns Empire Into Hilariously Funky Seagull Song”.

The folks at Bad Lip Reading have produced some stellar videos over the course of the last few years, but this one might actually be their magnum opus. Reimagining Luke Skywalker’s time with Yoda on Dagobah, the video follows the mismatched pair as the ancient Jedi master sings to a clearly annoyed Luke. Using the speech of the Yoda puppet as a template, the video features a voiceover that replaces the wise teachings of the alien warrior with utter nonsense about seagulls, logs giving birth to sticks, and getting hit in the neck with a hacky sack. It’s undoubtedly one of the weirdest Star Wars related videos that we have ever seen on the Internet, but it’s also that weirdness that makes it so utterly awesome.

 

[Thanks to Arnie Fenner, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Guy H. Lillian III, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Iphinome.]

Pixel Scroll 7/2/16 The Ancillary Swords of Lankhmar

(1) THIS IS THE END MY FRIEND. Melinda Snodgrass advises writers about “Sticking the Landing” at SFFWorld.

All of these various skills work in concert, but I think if a writer fails to deliver a satisfying ending — the ending that has been promised by the story then the entire project is likely to fail.  It doesn’t matter how good the ride or delightful the journey.  If the final scene is disappointing and leaves the reader/viewer/player feeling cheated they probably aren’t going to be recommending that book or film or game to their friends and family.

There are various ways to state this — “keeping your promise”, “sticking the landing”, “providing a sense of closure”.  Often people who dismiss this requirement do so by sniffing “that the readers/viewers/players just want a happy ending.”  That may be true, and it’s probably a topic for a different essay, but let me say that I think there is case to be made for the happy ending.  Too often critics seem to equate darkness with importance.

So how do you make an ending satisfying?  First, you have to lay in the ultimate solution and the tools to bring about that solution in the beginning of the book or film or game.  You can’t suddenly ring in a new player, or a new fact, a new magic power or super power for the protagonist to use at the end and expect to keep your fans.  They will rightly feel cheated, that you hid the football from them and didn’t play fair.  Worse is the conclusion that you didn’t really know what you were doing and just grabbed for some kind of resolution.  Often those kind of ending don’t seem organic and true to the world that was created, the rules of that world, and the problem as presented…

(2) BUY-IN. Sherwood Smith responds to the question “Reading: What makes YOU believe?” at Book View Café.

A lot of these readers are lured by what I call the seduction of competence: characters who have agency, especially with panache. Anyone who has dreamed of stepping forward and having the right idea, which everyone responds to, and leading the way to righting an egregious wrong instead of cowering back waiting for someone else to act (or, worse, stepping forward just to be shouted down scornfully, or totally ignored) probably looks for characters who either start out as heroes, or attain heroism through hard work.

So those are the easy ones: readers willingly invest in characters they can fall in love with, or identify with, or admire. And then there are the characters who fascinate for whatever reason, like the many who couldn’t get enough of Hannibal Lector. Some are drawn to characters who are monstrous, or ridiculous.

(3) VERSATILITY. Coach Paul Cornell visited Convergence today.

(4) THE INK NO LONGER STINKS. Technology has turned the corner, in the latest installment of M.D. Jackson’s series: “Why Was Early Comic Book Art so Crude (Part 4)”.

But there were two other factors that changed the nature of comic books. One was technological and the other was economical.

The technology of printing was changing with the adoption of flexography. Flexography is a high speed print process that uses fast-drying inks and can print on many types of absorbent and non-absorbent materials. The flexopress is cheaper because the inks are water based, which meant they dried quicker and were easier to clean up. The flexographic presses also are lighter and take up less room.

For years comics were printed on low-grade, absorbent papers that were not meant to last. Early comics were rare because the paper degraded so quickly. The distribution system also was designed to put comic books in as many places as they could find kids to buy them. Remember the spinner racks of comics in your local drug store? Comic books, then retailing for about 25 – 30 cents per title, were available everywhere, but they were not made to last.

In the 1980’s the comic book companies began printing certain titles on a better quality of paper, Baxter paper. It was smoother and whiter and the inks and colors looked much better than your regular comic book fare….

(5) CONVERGENT EVOLUTION. Jennifer Frazer, in “The Artful Amoeba” blog on Scientific American, rounds up the photographic evidence for “Butterflies in the Time of Dinosaurs, With Nary a Flower in Sight”.

Jurassic butterflies disappeared a full 45 million years before the first caterpillar decided to grow up and become a beautiful butterfly. Again

…Apparently, way back when Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, a group of insects called lacewings produced butterflies. Not the butterflies we see flitting around today from the Order Lepidoptera, but floating, flapping, nectar-sucking flibbertigibbits nonetheless, with wings adorned with eyespots, veins, and scales….

(6) THOSE DAYS OF YESTERYEAR. At Getty Images you can view footage of the Sinclair oil dinosaur exhibit from the 1933 World’s Fair.

PAN along Brontosaurus dinosaur over to a Triceratops confronting a Tyrannosaurus Rex and down to a duck-billed Hadrosaurid; all dinosaurs were part of the Sinclair Oil exhibit.

(7) FOR SOME VALUES OF HISTORY. Vox Day interrupted his Castalia House status report to endorse the assault on Judith Merril’s memory

Meanwhile, Barry Malzburg makes it clear that some women have always been bent on destroying science fiction.

— because, after all, the measure of a man’s intelligence is how closely he agrees with you, regardless of whether you’ve ever heard of Barry Malzberg before.

(8) QUITE RIGHT.

(9) GAME DEMO. Based on the work of Jeff VanderMeer.

(10) DEEP DIVE INTO BUSIEK/ROSS.

Osvaldo Oyala’s “Marvels and the Limited Imagination of Nostalgia”.

I had not read Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross’s Marvels in quite some time, probably 15 years or more, and despite having a memory of quite liking it when I first read it in the 90s sometime, my suspicion was that it would not hold up to that memory. And, while I was right, it also was not so hagiographic that I could just dismiss it. On the surface it certainly seems that way—unapologetically nostalgic about Marvel’s Golden and Silver Age—but it is actually constructed with competing visions that grant it a bit—a little bit—more complexity, even if ultimately it fails as anything except a sharp reaction to the moment in mainstream comics from which it emerged.

After Phil Sheldon lets a young mutant girl his daughters were sheltering run off into the anti-mutant riotous streets (a reference to a story in 1953’s Weird Science #20) it is difficult to take any of his moral claims seriously (from Marvels #2).

Marvels is a look back at the emergence of Marvel Comics’ heroes through the eyes of “Everyman” photojournalist, Phil Sheldon, from the first appearance of characters like the Original Human Torch and Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner in 1940, through the death of Gwen Stacey in the early 70s. Sheldon, as a kind of stand-in for the Marvel reader, displays complex and shifting attitudes towards the superheroes he calls “Marvels.” In each of the four issues we see his different perspectives on Marvel’s super-characters. From a deep fear of their raw power and capricious behavior that shifts to an appreciative awe of their demi-god stature as forces of nature in the first issue to a threatening cynicism that leads him to retire from his livelihood snapping pictures of their conflicts, adventures and social appearances in the last issue, when Gwen Stacey’s death becomes just another minor detail buried in a seeming endless cycle of superhero fisticuffs and collateral damage. In between, he participates in paranoid anti-mutant riots before abandoning his bigotry upon realizing mutants can be “our own children” (which made me roll my eyes so hard they still hurt), and later grows angry at the flaring bouts of negative public sentiment against heroes like the Fantastic Four, the Avengers and Spider-Man, fuming at the lack of gratitude displayed for their having saved the city or the world over and over again. And in case we might forget Sheldon’s special insight into the world of superheroes, in the first issue he loses an eye, calling to the One-Eyed Man or Blind Seer trope. At every stage when everyone else seems to return to hating or being suspicious of the superhero figure, Sheldon sees through public fear and pettiness (despite sometimes feeling it himself) to an understanding of the world he occupies that evokes something akin to the awe of Moses before the burning bush. As he says in the first issue after the rubble from the epic confrontation between the original Human Torch and the Sub-mariner takes his eye (a re-telling of the events of Marvel Mystery Comics #8 and 9), “It isn’t going to be them that adapts to us. The world is different now.” In other words, he can see with his Odin-eye what the general public cannot or will not, everyday people exist in the superhuman world, not the other way around. As Geoff Klock posits in his seminal book of comic book literary criticism, How to Read Superhero Comic Books and Why, unlike the transformative comic book texts like Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns that ask, “What would it be like if superheroes lived in our world? Marvels…ask[s], what would it feel like if we could live in theirs?” (77). And the answer is, kinda fucking scary.

This narrative vision constructed by Busiek, however, manifests in the near-photorealistic painting of Alex Ross which provides a Rockwellian patina of troubling idealism that passes for “realism.” ….

(11) LEWIS DRAMATIZED. The Most Reluctant Convert, a stage show about C.S. Lewis, will be in town July 10-23 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre in Irvine, CA.

Max McLean brings to life one of the most engaging personalities of our age and takes audiences on Lewis’ fascinating theatrical journey from atheism to Christianity. Adapted exclusively from Lewis’ writings, McLean inhabits Lewis from the death of his mother, his estranged relationship with his father and the experiences that led him from vigorous debunker to the most vibrant and influential Christian intellectual of the 20th Century. Experience a joyous evening of Lewis’ entertaining wit and fascinating insight. Cherish every minute of the extraordinary journey of C.S. Lewis as The Most Reluctant Convert.

Lewis’ experience is synopsized in a Director’s Note.

In 1950, C.S. Lewis received a letter from a young American writer expressing his struggle to believe Christianity because he thought it “too good to be true.” Lewis responded, “My own position at the threshold of Christianity was exactly the opposite of yours. You wish it were true; I strongly hoped it was not…Do you think people like Stalin, Hitler, Haldane, Stapledon (a corking good writer, by the way) would be pleased on waking up one morning to find that they were not their own masters…that there was nothing even in the deepest recesses of their thoughts about which they could say to Him, ‘Keep out! Private. This is my business’? Do you? Rats!… Their first reaction would be (as mine was) rage and terror.”

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

(13) GENTLEFEN, BE SORTED. Want to be enrolled in the North American wizards’ school? Potterverse will run you through the process.

“Ilvermony House: Thunderbird”

Named by Chadwick Boot after his favourite magical beast, the Thunderbird, a beast that can create storms as it flies. Thunderbird house is sometimes considered to represent the soul of a witch or wizard. It is also said that Thunderbird favours adventurers.

(14) LINEAGE UNLOCKED. A recent episode of Game of Thrones inspired Adam Whitehead to draw conclusions about Jon Snow — “When Theories Are Confirmed: Twenty Years of Speculation”.

BEWARE SPOILERS. OR AT LEAST SPECULATIVE ATTEMPTS AT SPOILERS.

However, its status as the biggest mystery in fantasy had already long been supplanted. In 1996 George R.R. Martin published the first novel in A Song of Ice and Fire, A Game of Thrones. A minor subplot revolves around the status of Eddard Stark’s bastard son, Jon Snow, born out of wedlock to Eddard and…well, someone. His wife, Catelyn, believes it was a Dornish noblewoman, Ashara Dayne of Starfall. Eddard himself has told King Robert Baratheon – incredibly reluctantly – that it was a serving girl named Wylla. In A Storm of Swords the young lord of Starfall, Edric Dayne, also confirms (to Arya Stark) that it was Wylla, who was his wetnurse.

(15) NONE DARE CALL IT SLASH. NPR found there is plenty of fan fiction online about the 2016 candidates, Bernie, Donald, and others now out of the running.

In another story, written in the style of a Western, Jeb Bush fights to protect a Florida school from a Sharknado.

“You think ‘it can happen anywhere,’ never realizing that it can happen anywhere.

A SHOT —

The shard of glass in Jeb’s hand shatters by the scrape of a bullet. Jeb drops the ground, rolls through the booze-soaked ground. He jumps up to a squat and whips out the old pistol and holds it to the bullet hole in the doorway. The engraved barrel shimmers: Gov. Jeb Bush.

Florida hasn’t been safe since the Sharknados started coming. When I was in my 40s, the kids used to tease about the swamp sharks. Gave me the heebie-jeebies over a plague of mutant sea creatures that roamed the Everglades.”

In the 2016 presidential cycle, where everything seems unpredictable, fiction allows voters to determine exactly what happens next – whether it’s set in the present day or some kind of alternate universe where sharks rain down in a natural disaster.

(16) WHEN TWO FANTASISTS MET. Walt Disney and Roald Dahl hung out together in 1942 – who knew?

More than a decade before Walt Disney welcomed guests into his land of fantasy and two decades before author Roald Dahl penned his excursion into The BFG’s cave and Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, these two creative legends crossed paths in 1942 when The Walt Disney Studios optioned Dahl’s first book, The Gremlins, for an animated feature. With Disney’s The BFG coming to theaters on July 1, D23 takes a look at the connection between these two creative visionaries.

The Gremlins was fashioned from stories told by English airmen who attributed equipment failures and other mishaps to mischievous little saboteurs. From these tales, Dahl—then a Flight Lieutenant for the Royal Air Force—created a story and specific characters for his book.

(17) LACKING CHARACTERS. In an “Uninvent This” feature for The New Yorker, Ted Chiang contemplated “If Chinese Were Phonetic”.

So let’s imagine a world in which Chinese characters were never invented in the first place. Given such a void, the alphabet might have spread east from India in a way that it couldn’t in our history, but, to keep this from being an Indo-Eurocentric thought experiment, let’s suppose that the ancient Chinese invented their own phonetic system of writing, something like the modern Bopomofo, some thirty-two hundred years ago. What might the consequences be? Increased literacy is the most obvious one, and easier adoption of modern technologies is another. But allow me to speculate about one other possible effect.

One of the virtues claimed for Chinese characters is that they make it easy to read works written thousands of years ago. The ease of reading classical Chinese has been significantly overstated, but, to the extent that ancient texts remain understandable, I suspect it’s due to the fact that Chinese characters aren’t phonetic. Pronunciation changes over the centuries, and when you write with an alphabet spellings eventually adapt to follow suit. (Consider the differences between “Beowulf,” “The Canterbury Tales,” and “Hamlet.”) Classical Chinese remains readable precisely because the characters are immune to the vagaries of sound. So if ancient Chinese manuscripts had been written with phonetic symbols, they’d become harder to decipher over time.

Chinese culture is notorious for the value it places on tradition. It would be reductive to claim that this is entirely a result of the readability of classical Chinese, but I think it’s reasonable to propose that there is some influence. Imagine a world in which written English had changed so little that works of “Beowulf” ’s era remained continuously readable for the past twelve hundred years. I could easily believe that, in such a world, contemporary English culture would retain more Anglo-Saxon values than it does now. So it seems plausible that in this counterfactual history I’m positing, a world in which the intelligibility of Chinese texts erodes under the currents of phonological change, Chinese culture might not be so rooted in the past. Perhaps China would have evolved more throughout the millennia and exhibited less resistance to new ideas. Perhaps it would have been better equipped to deal with modernity in ways completely unrelated to an improved ability to use telegraphy or computers.

(18) STRONG LURE. At BookRiot, Derek Attig feels there’s no need to bait the hook when what you’re offering is as irresistible as “100 Must-Read Books about Libraries & Bookstores”.

I’m not even sure why I’m writing an introduction to this list. It’s a hundred books about libraries and bookstores! That should sell itself.

But sure. Fine. I’ll make the pitch.

Books are a crucial part of our lives (especially yours, since here you are being a great big nerd on Book Riot), but I think we don’t always pay enough attention to the institutions that get those books into our grubby, greedy little hands. Sure, we’ll bicker about Amazon sometimes or squee over a bookmobile, but how much time do we take to really explore and think about what libraries and bookstores really mean?

Not enough!

(19) SORRY ABOUT THAT. Godzilla and fellow monsters apologized at a Japanese press conference for acts of destruction. Why, yes, it’s another scheme to sell toys – how did you guess?

The world of gachapon vending machine capsule toys just got even weirder with a new lineup of figurines from top Japanese toy producer Bandai. Called the “Godzilla Toho Monsters Press Conference”, the series depicts Godzilla, along with three other kaiju monsters from the acclaimed movie production and distribution company Toho, all appearing at fictional press conferences, complete with microphone stand and name plaque. These types of formal apologies are commonly seen on television news reports around Japan, in cases where high-profile politicians and celebrities formally atone for scandals and wrongdoings, expressing remorse to the public with deep, heartfelt bows. Only this time, it’s a group of well-known movie monsters making amends for their actions.

Godzilla apologizes

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Paul Weimer, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peter J.]

Pixel Scroll 3/12/16 Crosseyed and Pixelless

(1) A TERRAN ECLIPSE. Click to see the Astronomy Picture of the Day for March 11

This snapshot from deep space captures planet Earth on March 9. The shadow of its large moon is falling on the planet’s sunlit hemisphere. Tracking toward the east (left to right) across the ocean-covered world the moon shadow moved quickly in the direction of the planet’s rotation. Of course, denizens of Earth located close to the shadow track centerline saw this lunar shadow transit as a brief, total eclipse of the Sun. From a spacebased perspective between Earth and Sun, the view of this shadow transit was provided by the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) spacecraft’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC).

(2) GROKKING THE FULLNESS. In “Fandom Needs to Change to Insure Its Future Survival”, Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson devotes 3,500 words to thinking outside his box on the subject of Worldcons.  (The newer ideas are in the last half of the piece.)

Fandom is growing.  It’s growing tremendously.  Unfortunately, the major percentage of that growth is taking place under the auspices of institutions and organizations that are not themselves fannish (or are fannish so long as being so is in service to making a profit).

As fans, we like to say that we’re not in “competition” with events such as SDCC or Dragoncon.  Not only do we dismiss Anime conventions and multi-media cons as doing something that we’re not doing, we discount the experience that attendees and staff gain from these events.  In our minds there is a difference between the conventions that are connected to fan history and largely follow fannish traditions (you buy a membership, not a ticket;  we don’t pay guest to appear;  we’re focused on the literature; those aren’t real conventions) and those that aren’t.  We go to great pains to try and distinguish the bona fides of small ‘f’ fans and large ‘F’ fans.

But here’s the problem:  the non-traditional conventions are offering the vast majority of “fannish experiences” these days.  Traditional conventions have such a small footprint in national awareness that so far as most potential fans are concerned, non-traditional events ARE fandom.

In short, it is non-traditional events that are educating the public about what fandom is and what it’s all about.  Not traditional fandom.

(3) INCOMING. Neil Clarke analyzed the “2015 Clarkesworld Submissions Stats”, complete with beautiful graphs.

In 2015, we received submissions from 109 different countries. In the above chart, the blue bar represents the percentage of total submissions for that country. The green bar indicates the percentage of all acceptances. (Reminder: The Chinese translations are handled by a separate process and not included in these numbers.)

Note: If you feel inclined to proclaim that this data indicates that I have a bias towards international submissions, perhaps you should read this editorial. That said, it pleases me that Clarkesworld has a more global representation of science fiction. There’s a lot of great work written beyond our shores.

(4) AND A DEAFENING REPORT. James H. Burns had a blinding insight.

Hanging out at Joe Koch’s comics warehouse the other day, it suddenly occured to me, that if Barry West was Catholic, he would have no problem with Lent.

(Or, if he were Jewish, no problem with Yom Kippur.)

Why?

Because the Flash is the FASTEST man alive.

(5) SILENT SPRING AHEAD. Matt Novak has a clever question – “What Time Is The End of The Daylight?”

What time is the end of the daylight? The sun is expected to die in roughly 5 billion years. But humans—provided we survive any number of ecological, nuclear, or alien-based disasters—are only expected to last about another 1 billion years on Earth.

So technically the “daylight” will be over for humanity in 1 billion years, which is again, predicated upon the absurd assumption that we make it that long anyway.

(6) YA WORLDBUILDING. Alwyn Hamilton picks “The Top 10 invented worlds in teen books” for The Guardian.

8) Crown & Court Series by Sherwood Smith

I have recently been led to understand that the world in Sherwood Smith’s brilliant duology is supposed to be ours, set far in the future on a distant planet, where the magic is alien science. This would certainly explain why they share many touchstones with our world, while also having two moons for the characters to gaze up at and trees willing to exact revenge. But the true magic in these books for me is in the complexities of the ballroom. Smith has created a complete court to rival Versailles in intrigue, with fan language, complicated symbolism woven covertly into jewelry, long lineage that gives you the feeling every character does have a twisting family tree, and old traditions so tangible you’re sure they must have been in fashion once in our world too.

(7) CHICKENS, NOT POTATOES. This week’s The Simpsons has a Bradbury-esque title: “The Marge-ian Chronicles.”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 12, 1971 The Andromeda Strain opens in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY.

  • Born March 12, 1923 – Mercury astronaut Wally Schirra.

(10) UNCORK NO ALIEN BEFORE ITS TIME. Io9 will hook you up: “Orson Welles Hosted a NASA Documentary About Aliens in the ’70s and It Is Amazing”

It is damn near impossible to explain the joy that comes from watching Who’s Out There, a documentary on aliens made by NASA in 1975 starring real scientists, regular people, and then Orson Welles, pontificating into the camera. I cannot emphasize this enough: Spend half an hour watching this.

(11) FEARSOME. “11 Books That Scared The Master of Horror, Stephen King, And Will Terrify You, Too” from Bustle.com.

King obviously has a way with words, and his Twitter is no exception. Full of hilarious thoughts and weekly answers to reader questions, it’s always entertaining. He alternates between adorable tweets featuring his dog, Molly (aka The Thing of Evil), and recommending the books he’s reading. Being the master of horror that he is, I consider him an authority on recommendations in that genre. You could make an entire reading list based on Stephen King recommendations, and be set for a long time.

Here are 11 books that scared the unshakable Stephen King, and so are pretty much guaranteed to keep you up at night and/or give you nightmares. But hey, that’s the fun part!

(12) RAGE SHORTAGE. Lela E. Buis dropped a post about J.K. Rowling into the well of the internet but never heard it splash —  “No comments on cultural appropriation?”

Since I’ve not gotten any comments on this question at all, I’m going to assume either 1) it’s Saturday and everyone is out enjoying the spring weather or 2) there’s not much interest in what J. K. Rowling publishes on her Website.

Besides this, I’m not sure there’s a whole lot of concern about cultural appropriation except as a tool to attack people who are perceived as targets in some way. I expect Native Americans are fairly used to being abused, so another semi-fictional essay on skinwalkers isn’t going to affect their social outlook one way or the other.

(13) THE LONG VIEW. “11 Amazing Discoveries By the Mars Orbiter”  at Mashable.

4. Fresh craters

The MRO has also treated scientists to views of relatively fresh craters on Mars.

One crater — which appeared in photos in 2010 — was not in images taken in 2008, meaning that whatever impact created the crater happened in between those years.

(14) THE ZERO LIFE. “Fukushima’s ground zero: No place for man or robot” from Reuters.

The robots sent in to find highly radioactive fuel at Fukushima’s nuclear reactors have “died”; a subterranean “ice wall” around the crippled plant meant to stop groundwater from becoming contaminated has yet to be finished. And authorities still don’t know how to dispose of highly radioactive water stored in an ever mounting number of tanks around the site.

(15) BATMAN SINGS. In the episode of The Hollywood Palace originally aired October 8, 1966 Adam West sings “The Orange Colored Sky” and “The Summer Wind.”

(16) IT’S GOT CHARACTER. “Ed Wood’s ‘Plan 9’ Studio To Be Preserved” says LA Weekly.

A storied Hollywood building once used by late pulp film director Ed Wood will be preserved by its new owners, said the sellers’ agent, Kay Sasatomi of Silver Commercial Inc.

That’s good news for fans of the low-budget auteur and for fans of the low-budget building.

The 13,650-square-foot Ed Wood structure on a seedy stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood is said to have also been used as rehearsal space by Jimi Hendrix, The Doors and Guns N’ Roses.

The director housed his Quality Studios at the address, and classics including Plan 9 From Outer Space and Glen or Glenda were filmed there, according to Silver Commercial.

The building features a ground-floor dive bar, Gold Diggers, that plays home to Thai bikini dancers.

The residential hotel next door is a flophouse made famous when a suspect in the Beverly Hills murder of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen committed suicide as police descended upon the block.

There’s a lot of character here.

(17) STICKING IN HIS TWO CENTS WORTH. Spider-Man appears in the last seconds of Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War – Trailer 2.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Will R., Andrew Porter, and David K.M. Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 1/2 Sacrificing Poisoned Pixels While Dancing Naked in the Scrolls

(0) APOLOGY TENDERED. Greg van Eekhout is quite right to be displeased —

I was so struck with the association sparked between two posts about not having a book out in 2016 that I quite insensitively plowed over the real life causes he was relating. I apologize for making light of his situation.

(1) HOW TO IMPROVE. Sherwood Smith’s post “Beginning Writer Errors” at Book View Café shares the distilled wisdom she found in an old set of notes taken during a Loscon panel by that name.

I think these lists interesting mostly because they reveal writerly process at least as much as they do beginner errors. Some of the best discussion arose out of what some considered no error at all, and others considered advice for revision, not for first draft errors, and what the difference was.

For pants writers (those who sit down and let the tale spin out through their fingers before going back to see what they have) one set of rules might be helpful and another useless; for plotters and planners, a completely different set….

Panelist’s Three’s list suggests to me that that writer works by a completely different process:

  1. Ending every chapter on a transition.
  2. Letting the narrative voice tell readers what to think.
  3. Long, clumsy sentences.

To number one, half the panelists disagreed. Note: “transitions are natural chapter breaks.” The writer defended it: “this pattern reads artificial.”

(2) HELP HELPS. “Joe Hill Calls Bullshit On The Crazy Artist Cliché” by Hayley Campbell at Buzzfeed.

“I was just really paranoid and really depressed and really unhappy and full of really nutty ideas. I would call my dad with my latest crazy ideas and he would patiently listen. He was the only person who could listen to me. And he’d talk me through and explain why my latest idea about being pursued and prosecuted and persecuted was irrational.”

Hill wouldn’t go into what he calls his “terrible, lunatic notions”, because he doesn’t like revisiting them. But eventually his dad suggested that seeing someone professionally could help him out – an idea Hill had resisted because he was convinced the paranoia and “lunatic ideas” were connected to his creativity. “I thought if I got help, I wouldn’t be able to write any more.”

It all goes back to another cliché: the crazy artist. But as a crazy artist, he got no actual work done. The three novels he couldn’t finish are testament to that cliché being bullshit.

“I got into therapy and I got on a pill, and what I discovered was getting help didn’t make me less creative. What was making me less creative was being a depressed crazy person. Figuring out how to be happy and have fun with the kids again, how to have fun with my life and work, actually made me a better writer, not a worse writer.”

(3) BEST SF FILMS OF 2015. JJ says Brian Merchant’s “The 11 Sci-Fi Films That Defined 2015”at Motherboard is “A ‘Best SF Films’ list that isn’t just a re-hash of other lists.” Part of the proof – The Martian ranks ahead of The Force Awakens – and three other movies rank above them.

The major themes that bubbled up in the year’s science fictional slipstream included income inequality, artificial intelligence, transgender rights, and the power and necessity of the scientific endeavor itself. Young adult dystopias showed signs of flagging, while classic-mold sci-fi mega franchises boomed (with one exception). There were not one but two great feminist-leaning SF films; one a bona fide blockbuster hit, another a powerful, slow-burning indie. There was an already-beloved animated short about our possible futures.

(4) THE HEISENBERG CERTAINTY PRINCPLE. Jonathan M is right, however, it is equally clear that when no one was paying attention to them, they were not starved out of existence for lack of it.

(5) STEAMING PILE. Just one person’s opinion, but I think this logo (first posted last April) isn’t that different from the real 1988 Hugo Award base.

1988 Hugo Award base by Ned Dameron

1988 Hugo Award base by Ned Dameron

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • BORN January 2, 1920 – Isaac Asimov

(7) JASON WINGREEN OBIT. Yahoo! News reports actor Jason Wingreen passed away January 1.

The Brooklyn native appeared in three episodes of The Twilight Zone, most notably portraying the real train conductor in the 1960 episode in “A Stop at Willoughby.” …[He] died a memorable death as Dr. Linke on the 1968 Star Trek episode “The Empath.”

… On The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Wingreen auditioned for the part of Yoda. He didn’t get that role (Frank Oz did), but he was given four lines of dialogue spoken by the masked Boba Fett, the feared bounty hunter who captures Han Solo (Harrison Ford).

“I think the actual work, aside from the hellos and goodbyes and all that, could have been no more than 10 minutes,” he said. He received no credit for his work (it didn’t become publicly known that the voice was his until about 2000)…

(8) MEADOWLARK LEMON OBIT. Meadowlark Lemon, who passed away December 27, starred in a few Saturday morning outings (animated, and otherwise) as James H. Burns recalls in an appreciation written for the NY local CBS affiliate website.

In 1979, there was yet another Globetrotters cartoon, The Super Globetrotters, in which they became super heroes, but Lemon was not part of that mix. That same year, though, he co-starred in the fantasy comedy theatrical feature film, The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh (along with Julius Erving (Doctor J!), Debbie Allen and Stockard Channing). According to some sources, the movie–about a failing professional basketball team, saved by stocking its roster according to the players’ astrological signs–has developed something of a cult following….

(9) FIFTH! “Indiana Jones 5 Confirmed By Disney” is the headline. Tarpinian’s suggestion for the movie title is “Indiana Jones and the Rocking Chair of Gold.”

Speaking to Yahoo earlier in 2015, Spielberg said he’ll likely work on the film and that it would star Harrison Ford. Bradley Cooper and Chris Pratt were rumoured to play a younger version of the archeologist.

He said: “Now I’ll probably do an Indy 5 with Harrison, [so] it’ll be five for Harrison, four for Tom [Hanks].”

In a separate interview with French radio RTL, Spielberg said: “I am hoping one day to make it to an Indiana Jones V. I would hope to make it before Harrison Ford is 80 and I get much older.”

Spielberg’s quotes suggests that both he and Harrison Ford are on board for the sequel, though neither has officially said as much.

(10) FIRST! While you’re waiting for the new Indy film, Open Culture recommends you click on “Great ‘Filmumentaries’ Take You Inside the Making of Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark & Jaws.

Even casual filmgoers will recognize these movies, and they’ll feel, shortly after pressing play on [Jamie] Benning’s Inside Jaws and Raiding the Lost Ark, as if they’ve just settled in to watch them again, though they’ll see them as they never have before. Serious film fans will, as the form of the filmumentary emerges, recognize the basis of the concept. Described as “visual commentaries,” these productions take the concept of the commentary track and step it up considerably, overlaying the original film’s soundtrack with the words of a veritable chorus of those who worked on it — actors (even some not ultimately cast), crew members, designers, producers, hangers-around — sourced and sometimes even recorded by Benning.

 

(11) LOGAN’S RUN AND AUTHOR APPEARANCE. William F. Nolan, co-author of Logan’s Run, will be on hand when the Portland Geek Council presents the film Logan’s Run on January 17.

(12) TWU WUV.  “Jared Weissman Made Harry Potter Fictional Wizard’s Broomstick For Girlfriend”. With DIY photos taken as he made a copy of the Nimbus 2000.

“Shelby has been obsessed with Harry Potter for a long time now and about a year ago decided she wanted to start collecting prop replicas,” Weissman told Mashable in an email. “We went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter this past summer where she bought the Sorcerer’s Stone, Tom Riddle’s diary, and a plaster scroll that says Dumbledoor’s Army with 6 wands mounted on it (Harry, Ron, Hermoine, Luna, Neville, and Ginny).”

From that point on, it was pretty clear to Weissman what the perfect Christmas gift for Shelby would be.

(13) FROSTY PERSONALITY. The Game of Thrones parody “Winter Is Not Coming” is a French commercial from Greenpeace about climate change.

(14) IMPERIAL TRAILER PARK. If you’re not burnt out on Star Wars stuff, Mark-kitteh recommends a fan-made trailer for Empire Strikes Back, deliberately aiming for a modern trailer style. Mark adds,

For reference, I found a vid of the 1979 original as well. It’s an interesting contrast – the original has a fun high-energy vide, but is a bit too breathless (and spoiler-filled!) for modern tastes.

 

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Will R., JJ, Nigel, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day JJ.]

Pixel Scroll 12/19 File Be Home for Christmas

(1) EXACTLY.

(2) NO SERVICE. Geek Bar Chicago has posted an announcement that anyone discussing Star Wars spoilers before Christmas will be asked to leave.

The folks at Geek Bar have been extremely stoked about the release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” even offering customers a discount if they show their ticket stubs. But that’s also forced the bar to instill a strict no-spoilers policy, so strict that they’ll boot fans out of the bar if they ruin the movie for other customers. They even posted a sign on the bar’s front door as a warning to guests who blab about important plot lines.

(3) TOLKIEN’S LANGUAGES. John Garth observed on Facebook:

Among this quarter’s crop of additions to the Oxford English Dictionary is “waybread” – a coinage by Tolkien, whose first civilian job was as an assistant lexicography at the Dictionary. Never mind inventing Elvish languages: he’s still helping to invent the English one.

December 2015 Update

Around 500 new words, phrases, and senses have entered the Oxford English Dictionary this quarter, including phabletwaybread, and bank of mom and dad. You can read more about the new and revised words and meanings in this article by Jonathan Dent, Senior Assistant Editor of the OED

(4) FREEDOM. David Brin does threat analysis in “Who Controls the Internet” at Contrarian Brin.

The End of the Internet Dream? Ever since Congress passed Al Gore’s bill, around 1990, setting the Internet free to pervade the world and empower billions, repressive governments have complained, seeing their despotic methods undermined. And yes, democratic governments have often muttered: “Why’d we go and do that?” as their citizens became increasingly rambunctious, knowing and independent-minded!

As we’ll see below, the ruling classes in undemocratic lands have been striving to adapt, and showing real signs of success. So frets Jennifer Granick who was keynote speaker at Black Hat 2015 – a hacker’s conference.  “In 20 years, the Web might complete its shift from liberator to oppressor. It’s up to us to prevent that.”

(5) RECOMMENDATIONS. Rocket Stack Rank has published a consolidated list of short-fiction recommendations for the 2016 Hugo Awards.

These are divided by category (Novella, Novelette, and Short Story) and result from combining the recommendations of eight different reviewers.

In email, Gregory N. Hullender answered the obvious question head on:

So is it a slate? I don’t think so. The buckets are alphabetical by title, and none of the top few totals to exactly five. Also, we’ve gone out of our way to show people how to (legally) get copies of all these stories; no one can accuse us of urging anyone to vote without reading.

(6) AUTOMATED CODE WRITING. Platinum Rule, The Code of Conduct builder supplies appropriate language based on the user’s answers to basic questions.

However, I found it would quit working when I reached the question about sponsors, which means it’s more a curiosity than anything else.

(7) BEAR INTERVIEW. Suvudu interviews Elizabeth Bear, co-author of An Apprentice to Elves.  

SUVUDU: Elizabeth, it’s a pleasure to have an opportunity to talk with you. You and Sarah Monette wrote one of my favorite short stories, “Boojum”, which I’ve raved about for years. Stumbling upon the Iskryne series was a real treat. How did the two of you meet, and what is it that first got you working together?

Elizabeth Bear: We were introduced by a mutual friend on livejournal because we were both interested in Elizabethan Theatre. I was working on the book that eventually came to be called Ink and Steel, and she was writing her dissertation. We kind of stuck, and we started writing some collaborations to blow off steam from our allegedly real work.

(8) THE BLUE MARBLE REDUX. NASA has released a new high-resolution Earthrise image.

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) recently captured a unique view of Earth from the spacecraft’s vantage point in orbit around the moon.

“The image is simply stunning,” said Noah Petro, Deputy Project Scientist for LRO at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The image of the Earth evokes the famous ‘Blue Marble’ image taken by Astronaut Harrison Schmitt during Apollo 17, 43 years ago, which also showed Africa prominently in the picture.”

(9) LOCAL STAR WARS. The BBC explores the question “Could a war in space really happen?”

In the past the nuclear balance between the US and the USSR helped to prevent war in space. The modern world is more complex and already some 60 countries are active in space. So is a war involving attacks on satellites now becoming more likely?

Millions have been enjoying the Hollywood version of conflict in distant parts of the universe as the new Star Wars film is released. It’s enjoyable escapism – space conflict is, after all, nothing to do with reality. Or is it? According to military analyst Peter Singer of the New America Foundation, “the idea of… fighting in space was once science fiction and now it’s real”.

Space wars may not involve intergalactic empires or spacecraft zapping each other. If they occur they are likely to be focused on things that matter hugely to all of us – satellites.

(10) LASERS AT WAR. “US Air Force planes armed with laser guns soon and maybe shields too” asserts Marie Singer at Market Business News.

US Air Force planes could be armed with Star Wars type laser guns by the end of this decade, and maybe shields that protect aircraft from incoming missiles and bullets, says the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), which is scheduled to demonstrate the technology by 2020.

Larger aircraft are already able to carry laser weapons fit for their size. However, developing effective and usable laser technology for the smaller warplanes is more challenging. Apart from being small enough not to undermine the fighter jet’s agility, they need to be accurate and effective when travelling at supersonic speeds.

(11) Today In History

  • December 19, 1960 – NASA’s first successful launch of a Mercury Redstone rocket. (Via io9.)
  • December 19, 1986 – The Little Shop of Horrors musical remake, was seen for the first time on this date. Both Martin Scorsese and John Landis were attached to direct before the job finally went to Frank Oz.  The original had an unknown actor playing in the title role, Jack Nicholson.

(12) Today’s Birthday Boy

  • Born December 19, 1975 – Brandon Sanderson

(13) FORWARDING ADDRESS. Jeffrey A. Carver has moved his blog Pushing a Snake Up a Hill. Click the link and you’ll discover where.

(14) BANDERSNATCH REVIEW. Sherwood Smith reviews Diana Pavlac Glyer’s new book in “Bandersnatch—writing and writers’ groups” at Book View Café.

In The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community, (which I talked about here) Diana Pavlac Glyer established herself among the foremost Inklings scholars. It’s one of those rarities, a deeply academic book that is also immensely readable.

That book proved that the Inklings really were a collaborative group, and not a bunch of lone geniuses who got together regularly to read bits then retreated to their man caves for more solitary labor.

In Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings, she shows how they did it. I reviewed the book specifically over at Goodreads,  but in this post I’d like to use the book as a springboard to write up some thoughts about writing groups and different meanings of collaboration, as this is a subject (or net of subjects) that I always like discussing.

(15) THE BOOK OF PUPPY. Matthew Foster’s Welcome to the Doomsphere: Sad Puppies, Hugos, and Politics was released in Kindle form on December 17.

After several years of unrest in science fiction fandom, a gang of authors under the banners Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies came to town to change the Hugo awards and perhaps publishing, and to turn over a few tables. Regular fandom responded, with many of the major names in F&SF literature being drawn into the brawl. What followed was cheating, lies, insults, rape and death threats, challenges to duel, letters to the police, harassment, boycotts, racial slurs, accusations of censorship, and according to one major Pup author, sodomy…so much sodomy.

For nearly six months, the best authors of our generation stopped writing books and started arguing. Was it the culture wars entering literary science fiction? Was it mainly White, mainly male fans trying to turn back the clock? Was it an attack on freedom of speech? Was it revenge for past slights or a cunning plan to sell a lot of books?

Foster told his Facebook followers the book has already received the first of what he predicts will be many one-star reviews.

(16) THE DOCTOR. I didn’t know any Antonelli apologists before Dr. Mauser raised his hand in “The Antonelli Affair” at Shoplifting in the Marketplace of Ideas.

If one takes the position that Gerrold is merely an internet blowhard, and that he doesn’t actually mean any of it to take place outside of his fevered imagination, then contacting the police over an internet crank was probably taking things too far. And to Lou’s credit, he did what any proper gentleman should have done, he admitted his mistake (such as it was) and apologized.

His apology fit all of the criteria I’ve spelled out before for what makes up a proper apology. He laid out exactly what he had done, owned it, admitted that his actions were inappropriate, made it right by retracting his police complaint, and promised to not do it again. He did not try to justify it by saying anything about what Gerrold had said that concerned him enough to think a police report was necessary. That would be trying to shift blame, and not proper for a true apology.

Mr. Gerrold graciously accepted the apology, and in any civilized society, this would be the end of the issue.

Of course, this is not a civilized society we’re talking about, this is Fandom.

In any case, the SJW side of fandom rose in coordinated furor over this revelation, making all kinds of demands for Lou’s head, literally and figuratively.

Dr. Mauser finds fault with everyone else’s behavior but Antonelli’s, who immediately abandoned the self-imposed penance he announced at the time: “I need to ponder the hurt I have caused. To give me time to think, after Sasquan I am taking a half-year hiatus from attending any conventions and/or submitting any fiction.”

(17) THE LONGEST DAY. Robert Kerr shot this picture at the Hollywood and Highland Metro Red Line station on the way home from seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens yesterday.

Jedis on the subway. Photo by Robert Kerr.

Jedis on the subway. Photo by Robert Kerr.

John King Tarpinian’s caption: “After a hard day at Padawan school even Jedi need to take the subway back to Coruscant.”

(18) POINT AND SHOOT. Grim humor from Cheezburger – a comic “That Wouldn’t Be a Long Movie – Sean Bean as 007 in….

[Thanks to Will R., Iphinome, Michael J. Walsh, Soon Lee, Steven H Silver, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 12/5 Old Man Zombie Song: “I’m scared of living, and I’m tired of dying”

(1) CLICHE KILLER. Charlie Stross has left the story! Or at least heaved the book across the room. He’s posted a rant about “Science-fictional shibboteths” with examples of “what makes me yell when I kick the tires on an SF/F novel these days.”

…Disbelief can be shattered easily by authorial mistakes—one of the commonest is to have a protagonist positioned as a sympathetic viewpoint character for the reader behave in a manner that is not only unsympathetic but inconsistent with the protagonist’s parameters. But there are plenty of other ways to do it….

But then we get to more specific matters: specific shibboleths of the science fictional or fantastic literary toolbox that give my book-holding hand that impossible-to-ignore twitch reflex.

(Caveat: I am talking about books here. I basically don’t do TV or film because my attention span is shot, my eyeballs can’t scan fast enough to keep up with jerkycam or pull in enough light to resolve twilight scenes, and my hand/eye coordination is too crap for computer games.)

Asteroidal gravel banging against the hull of a spaceship. Alternatively: spaceships shelting from detection behi nd an asteroid, or dodging asteroids, or pretty much anything else involving asteroids that don’t look like this….

(2) SILVER BELLS. A Krampus parade in Austria. The video (a public Facebook post) is highly entertaining. Jim Rittenhouse nicknamed the marchers “the 324th Krampus Brigade” but it’s a genuine local custom. (Well, I’m not sure about the giant silver bells on their buttcheeks….)

What is this…? An Austrian tradition!

The Krampus is an old tradition. It has its origins before Catholicism reached the mountains in Austria and Bavaria. In the past, were the winter was cold and strong, before the Krampus a so called Perchte should punch the winter away with a rod. When Catholicism reached the described areas, the Perchte was transformed into the Krampus, just like other profane rites. So the Krampus got the bad part of the Nikolaus-Krampus team. With the  Krampus scaring the kids. The good kids are rewarded by the Nicklaus whereas the bad kids are punished by the Krampus.

The Parade called “Krampuslauf” serves to present the masks . Many hundreds or thousands of people look at this ” Krampuslauf ” in different locations in Austria.

(3) Today In History

(4) Today’s Birthday Boys

  • Born December 5, 1890: Fritz Lang
  • Born December 5, 1901: Walt Disney

(5) MYTHIC FIGURES. Seen in Paris a couple of weeks ago —

vader COMP

(6) SORCERER TO THE CROWN. The Independent profiles author Zen Cho.

Perhaps somewhat unwittingly, Zen Cho has become something of a poster-girl for the growing chorus of voices clamouring for more diversity in science fiction and fantasy literature.

It seems a given that a genre that deals with the different, the new, and the unfamiliar as a matter of course should quite naturally embrace diversity and progressiveness in both its practitioners and its characters.

But the recent debacle over the genre’s Hugo Awards – to cut a very long story very short, the awards nominations were flooded by a concerted campaign from a couple of fandom factions who think SF should really be the preserve of straight white males, and a spaceship should be a spaceship and not a metaphor for anything else – shows that there are still clearly-delineated battle lines over this….

Zen Cho’s response has been more measured, and delivered in really the best way an author can – she’s written a novel that simultaneously manages to tackle questions of race, gender, and social justice while being a thumping good read.

Sorcerer to the Crown is a Regency fantasy that posits an alternative-history England where magic is practised openly, but where political shenanigans within the source of the magic, the Fairy Court, are limiting England’s power … and just when it needs it most as the Government ramps up its war with the French.

(7) AN UNEXPECTED LANCELOT. Sherwood Smith covers the history, then reviews the mystery, in “Arthurian Cycle with a New Twist” at Book View Café.

But after a lifetime of sampling all these various versions, I’ve never really taken to this storyline. It’s a doom and disaster tale that turns on adultery. Not my cuppa.

I did have to teach Malory back in my teaching days, getting puzzled kids through fifteenth century English mainly by teasing out stories that could relate to their lives now, and then painting a picture of life then. We read it in spite of the story, kind of, because personality was pretty sparse: the characters are all pretty much one thing, especially the women.

But there’s one Arthurian story I really like a whole lot, and that’s this one, by Carol Anne Douglas, the first half of which is entitled Lancelot: Her Story. I’ve been reading drafts over a number of years, as she slowly reworked and layered the story into what it is now.

She’s studied those earlier versions, and it shows in the episodic nature of the narrative, the easily accessible prose, and of course the famous people and incidents. But she added a twist: Lancelot is a woman. And Arthur and his Knights don’t know it.

(8) TOP 10 WARS. From Future War Stories, “FWS: Top Ten Most Interesting Wars of Military Science Fiction” Many good picks, and plenty of fodder for discussion since my own list wouldn’t overlap that much. What about yours?

  1. The Cylon Wars from BSG

The Cylon Wars have been a founding event in both BSG series, and neither have been seen in any length until the 2012 web-only miniseries Blood & Chrome. In the 2004-2009 Reimagined Series, the rebellion of the intelligence machines, known as Cylons, was about fifty two years before the Cylon Holocaust (BCH), and lasted for 12 years. This war united the 12 Colonies of Kobol under the Articles of Colonization, and saw the construction of the Battlestars that we know and love. This conflict transformed the 12 Colonies and paved the way for its destruction decades later and the rise of our society here on Earth. But, we saw very little of the actually, despite the Caprica series.

In the original 1978 series, the Cylons were actually an reptilian alien race that used robotic soldiers to wages their wars after their own population was nearly exhausted to maintain their empire.

The Cylons of the original series waged an 1,000 year war with the 12 Colonies of Man, until finally achieving victory, and destroying the 12 Colonies of Man. Of course, both Cylons had help in destroying the 12 Colonies in the form of the Baltar characters. After the end of the SyFy Channel reimagined series in 2009, it was believed that a new series would be created around the Cylon War and William Adama’s experiences in the war, along with the series Caprica. Again, the Galactica would be front-and-center. This would have allowed us to see the war that had been floating around science fiction since the 1970’s. That promised series was not delivered in the form that we fans expected. BSG: Blood & Chrome was downgraded to an online miniseries of a 10 episodes. The show we thought we were going to get was just okay, and the Cylon Wars remains an unseen war. What is interesting about the Cylon War mentioned in both series, is that creators took two very different ideas on the war and the Cylons.

(9) VIRTUAL CHERNOBYL. Preview the virtual tour of Chernobyl now being assembled for an April online debut.

Take a virtual tour of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster zone – without leaving your sofa

The town of Prypiat is not a place which is likely to feature on many travel-lovers’ bucket lists.

Almost three decades ago, its 350,000 residents’ lives changed forever when the Chernobyl nuclear disaster turned their home into a terrifying radioactive danger zone.

Prypiat might not be the sort of destination you’d fancy visiting in real life, but soon you will have the chance to take an amazing virtual tour of this abandoned Soviet ghost city.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster next year, a Polish games developer called The Farm 51 is offering “anyone with access to virtual reality devices an unprecedented trip to the area without leaving the comfort of their homes”.

… “Virtual visitors will be free to explore and engage with places that have hitherto been off limits.”

The Farm 51 spent days filming the town’s eerie locations in unprecedented detail, digitising its spooky swimming pool, ferris wheel and bumper cars.

Anyone brave enough to take a virtual tour can do so starting from April 26 next year – the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.

(10) GOOGLE BESTSELLERS. At The Digital Reader, “Google Play Reveals Its Best-Selling eBooks, Videos, and Games for 2015”. Depressingly, five of the 10 top books  are “Fifty Shades…” of something. But The Martian by Andy Weir and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs also sneaked in there.

After seeing Google’s list, I was better prepared to discover that science fiction is only the seventh among the top selling fiction categories at Smashwords — “2015 Smashwords Survey Reveals Insights to Help Authors Reach More Readers”.

[Last three of ten points.]

  1. Avoid $1.99.  For the fourth year in a row, $1.99 was a black hole in terms of overall earnings.  On a unit sales basis, although $1.99 books outperformed all books priced $5.00 and above, it dramatically underperformed on overall earnings, earning 73% less than the average of all other price points.  If you write full length fiction and you have books priced at $1.99, trying increasing the price to $2.99 or $3.99, and if your book performs as the aggregate does, you’ll probably sell more units.  Or if it’s short and $2.99+ is too high, try 99 cents instead because the data suggests you’ll earn more and reach about 65% more readers.  I’m not entirely certain why this is the case.  It’s not because our retailers pay lower levels for sub-$2.99 books.  They don’t.  Our retailers pay the same for $1.99 as they do for $9.99.  There’s something about the price point that readers don’t like.  Who knows, maybe readers see 99 cents as an enticing promotional price, $2.99 and up as a fair price, and $1.99 as the price for lesser quality books that couldn’t make the $2.99 grade.  Your theory is as good as mine.
  2. Bestselling authors and social media. Bestselling authors are more likely to have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, and more likely to have a blog.  Not a huge surprise, though it’s worth noting there are plenty of successful authors who have minimal presence on social media.
  3. Top 10 Fiction categories during the one year period: 1.  Romance.  2.  Erotica.  3.  YA and teen fiction.  4.  Fantasy.  5.  Mystery & detective.   6.  Gay and lesbian fiction.  7.  Science fiction.  8.  Historical.  9.  Thriller & suspense.   10.  Adventure.

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Alan Baumler, Will R., John King Tarpinian, and Brian Z. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor  of the day Anna Nimmhaus .]

SFWA Readings in SoCal

Science Fiction Writers of America is launching a Southern California Reading Series on May 31. Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore will host these free, quarterly events at its San Diego and Redondo Beach locations.

The inaugural readings will take place Saturday, May 31 at 2 p.m. at the San Diego store (7051 Clairemont Mesa Bl.). Featured authors will be Cecil Castellucci, Nalo Hopkinson, and a third to be announced.

The second event is scheduled for Saturday, August 30 at 2 p.m. at Mysterious Galaxy’s Redondo Beach location (2810 Artesia Blvd, Redondo Beach). Readers that day will be Stephen Blackmoore, Sofia Samatar, and Sherwood Smith.

Book View Cafe Launches Beyond Grimm

Book View Café’s latest anthology is Beyond Grimm: Tales Newly Twisted, offering updated classic fairy tales by Vonda N. McIntyre, Laura Anne Gilman, Sherwood Smith, Judith Tarr, and others.

From the press release:

These are not your grandmother’s fairy tales.

From the far-ranging imaginations of Book View Café authors comes this delirious collection of classic tales newly twisted into dark, dangerous, and occasionally hilarious retellings. From the golden isles of Greece to the frozen north, from fairytale castles to urban slums, join us on an unforgettable journey!