Pixel Scroll 12/17/17 Scroll Your Pixel Wings And Fly Away

(1) OLD CHESTNUTS ROASTING. John Scalzi’s “8 Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know About Your Favorite Holiday Music” might make you suspect he gets his inside pop music history the same place Lucy Van Pelt finds her little-known facts about nature. But his facts are much funnier!

“Little Drummer Boy”

…Most of these drafts were only fragments, although Davis completed “Little Didgeridoo Boy” and had it performed for Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies during a 1964 trip to the United States. Menzies was reported to ask Davis how a didgeridoo happened to be anywhere near Bethlehem in biblical times. Davis would later write disparagingly of Menzies’ “Philistine musical nature” and shoved that version of the song into a box. In 2001, musical artist Madonna was reported to have considered recording the didgeridoo version with herself playing the instrument, but the idea was shelved to avoid offending Australian aboriginal sensibilities. Madonna went on to make the film Swept Away instead.

(2) COLLECTING COLLECTIBLES. Amy B. Wang of the Washington Post profiles Star Wars autograph collectors, who will happily pay $200 for Felicity Jones’s signature and $295 (in cash) for Mark Hamill’s and who make sure they have Vis-a-Vis blue permanent markers, which are no longer made and sell for $415 a box on eBay — “Want an autograph by ‘Star Wars’ Mark Hamill? Bring the right marker and $295 in cash.”

Welcome to the modern world of autograph collecting, a passion that has evolved into a highly choreographed commercial endeavor. It’s rare these days to write to a PO box and receive an autographed headshot or to bump into a famous figure on the street and ask him to sign a napkin. Increasingly, getting an autograph requires a fan’s time and money.

Despite this, autograph seeking has reached a fever pitch for the Star Wars fandom, a reflection of the series’s hold on popular culture.

(3) YOUNG ARTHUR. Kim Huett says. “Since the centenary of Arthur C. Clarke’s birth has been celebrated by all and sundry it seems only appropriate that I come in late with the story nobody else knows to tell” — “The Young Arthur Clarke”. (Here follows the lead-in – the principal story is at the link.)

Believe it or not but there was a time when Arthur C. Clarke was not yet a famous science fiction author. Way back in the late thirties he was merely known as an aspiring author and genius who had been nicknamed ‘Ego Clarke’ by his good friend William F. Temple. Why ‘Ego’? Something to do with Arthur C. Clarke being very sure of himself I believe. I’m reminded of a an exchange between Bill Temple and Arthur’s brother that occurred during Clarke’s first visit to the USA. While out on a late evening stroll Arthur’s brother exclaimed in horror that Arthur had forgotten to take the Moon with him. Bill Temple assured him that everything was fine, that Arthur had a US edition over there. You simply don’t make that sort of joke about an unassuming friend. (For more about the Temple/Clarke relationship please read Temple of the Sphinx.)

(4) SMOFCON MEMBERSHIPS. Next year, SMOFCon 36 will be held in Santa Rosa, California. Chair Bruce Farr announced:

Membership rates are presently $50 for full, or $25 for Con Suite Only memberships. After December 31, 2017 full memberships will go up to $60. The link to our online Registration page is here.

We’ve added some space for Thursday pre-convention meetings just down from the Hospitality Suite. There is also a meeting room close by the Hospitality Suite throughout the convention for socializing so that the Hospitality parlors won’t be overcrowded.

If you have any questions or comments, the below links are active from the Committee page on our website.

(5) JUMANJI. The December 16 Parade has an interview with Jack Black by Mara Reinstein, where Black recalls his friendship with Robin Williams and explains why he is barely on social media: “Jack Black Dives into Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”.

Black filmed Jumanji with its original star at the forefront of his mind.“He had a profound influence on the industry,” he says of the legendary comic. Black recalls being an 8-year-old kid in Southern California and seeing the rising star as alien Mork from the planet Ork in a 1978 episode of Happy Days (which would lead to Williams’ own breakout sitcom, Mork & Mindy).

“It was a big moment for me,” he says. “He came on like a hurricane. I remember being like ‘Who is that? That guy is amazing! I believe he’s an alien!’ Throw any other actor in there and it’s ridiculous. But Robin Williams took you on this fantastic journey with this absurd premise because he committed so completely.”

(6) GIVENS OBIT. In “Robert Givens, R.I.P.”, Mark Evanier pays tribute to a former Disney animator who died December 14.

Bob Givens got out of high school in 1936. In 1937, he went to work for the Walt Disney Studio, mostly as animation checker on Donald Duck cartoons and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In 1940, he moved over to the Warner Brothers cartoon studio where one of his first jobs was doing the redesign of a rabbit character who would henceforth be known as Bugs Bunny.

(7) POPVICH OBIT. Marina L. Popovich, a test pilot who broke more than 100 flying records and who was the first Soviet woman to break the sound barrier, died November 30 reports the New York Times:

Despite their initial skepticism, most male instructors and pilots came to be in awe of her.

“She learned strikingly fast,” Nikolai A. Bondarenko, a test pilot, wrote in his memoirs, adding that she had piloted an L-29 fighter jet “as confidently as she walked the ground.”

In “The First Soviet Cosmonaut Team: Their Lives and Legacies” (2009), the space historians Colin Burgess and Rex Hall wrote that most of Ms. Popovich’s success “would lead to later speculation that she was about to become the first Soviet woman to travel into space.”

At one point the Soviet space program did train female cosmonauts, and Ms. Popovich was admitted for testing. But ultimately only one, Valentina Tereshkova, was sent into space. Ms. Popovich said that she was advised to focus on her family, and that she was forced out of the program.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 17, 1843 — Charles Dickens’ classic story “A Christmas Carol” is published.
  • December 17, 1969 – Project Blue Book, a program dedicated to the investigation of UFOs, was terminated. For more than 20 years, the U.S. Air Force had examined 12,618 sightings. Most of these were found to be caused by man-made objects such as balloons, satellites, and aircraft; natural or astronomical phenomena; weather; and hoaxes. Today, 701 remain unexplained
  • December 17, 2003 — The third and final Lord of the Rings movie opens.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 17, 1973 — Rian Johnson, director of some outer space movie.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy asks if this is unfair competition at the Olympics – In the Bleachers.
  • John King Tarpinian says he would have one of these if he still had an aquarium – Close To Home.

(11) OPENING WEEKEND THREATS. Sure sounds scary, but shouldn’t a real Jedi be able to do some kind of mind trick on himself to avoid seeing spoilers?

(12) AVOIDING SPOILERS. And if you haven’t seen the movie, don’t watch this video. Well, actually, do what you like, I’m not your mother!

(13) PORG$. The Washington Post’s Hau Chu looks at the porgs by telling readers about the Ewoks, because George Lucas, thinking about his daughter, “wanted her–and all children–to have a STAR WARS character that would appeal specifically to them” — “Porgs are the latest Star Wars creature aimed at hearts and wallets”.

 Porgs appeared for only a split second in the trailer, but one glimpse of the creatures was enough to stir up a frenzy. A Google search produces more than 3 million results for porgs, many of them revolving around one question: What are they?

The birdlike creature was inspired by puffins on Skellig Michael, an island off the southwest coast of Ireland. That island was the filming location for Ahch-To, the planet where Luke Skywalker appears at the end of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

“You fall into those deep, soulful eyes. I think a lot of people are going to want a porg as a pet,” said Pablo Hidalgo, creative executive for Lucasfilm, the company that has produced the Star Wars movies.

(14) HEAD CANON. “No, Lord Helmet, I didn’t see you playing with your dolls!” “For ‘Last Jedi’ Director, The Journey To ‘Star Wars’ Began With Action Figures”.

Johnson has been a Star Wars fan since he was a little boy in Denver, playing with his action figures.

“My mom surprised me and got me a Jawa,” he recalls. “I wanted a Jawa, and she got it for me. But then you always end up losing the main characters, and you’re left with like Hammerhead and like the walrus man; with the weird droid whose name you don’t know, who’s missing a leg. Those were the first movies I was making in my head.”

(15) REIMAGINED. A different take on the iconic headgear.

(16) ALSO PLAYING. NPR loved SW VIII and hated Ferdinand, but says the obscure Spanish Birdboy is “A Dark, Beautiful, Boundary-Pushing Animated Film”.

Just how dark is Birdboy: The Forgotten Children, a trippy animated folktale from Spain about a bunch of talking animal adolescents searching for a better life? Well, even the tottering alarm clock seemingly there for comic relief wails to its owner, “Why do you always have to hurt me?” In fact, the bulk of the movie consists of adorable, anthropomorphic objects and critters getting hurt, often in some grisly fashion: an inflatable PVC duck who screams when he’s deflated; a chirping bird who gets shot to death, leaving behind starving chicks; a baby Jesus doll who cries an alarming amount of blood when his owner squeezes him. Yessir, the Happy Meal toys are sure to go flying off the shelves for this one.

(17) ASKING THE WRONG QUESTION. Abigail Nussbaum is back from the theater with her take on “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”. This is a full review, so BEWARE SPOILERS.

Whatever else can be said about this film, it is so much its own thing that I half-wonder whether general audiences won’t reject it for being neither the fun romp they associate with Star Wars, nor the grim but still conventionally-structured deviation from the norm that was The Empire Strikes Back.  It is the first Star Wars film to actually try to be about something[1], and what it’s about is, well, Star Wars.  It’s a film that is in direct conversation with the previous works in this series, most especially Return of the Jedi and the prequels.  It spends slightly more than half its running time fooling you into thinking that it’s merely going to recapitulate these movies, only to pull the rug out from under you, along the way asking some pointed questions about the Star Wars‘s universe’s core assumptions.  This doesn’t entirely work, but the mere existence of the attempt, in a film universe as little given to self-reflection as this one, is shocking.  It’s a Star Wars movie that is interesting.

(18) THE UPSIDE DOWN. The BBC tells how “Rocket rumbles give volcanic insights”.

What do volcanoes and rockets have in common?

“Volcanoes have a nozzle aimed at the sky, and rockets have a nozzle aimed at the ground,” explains Steve McNutt, a geosciences professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

It explains why he and colleague Dr Glenn Thompson have installed the tools normally used to study eruptions at the famous Kennedy Space Center.

Comparing the different types of rumblings could yield new insights.

(19) DROPPING CHUNKY. There’s a madness to this method: “Biologists With Drones And Peanut Butter Pellets Are On A Mission To Help Ferrets”.

She said there are only about 300 black-footed ferrets left in the wild, and they depend almost entirely on prairie dogs to survive. And protecting the prairie dog population is beneficial to species beyond the ferrets.

“Prairie dogs are Chicken McNuggets of the prairie, where so many species eat them,” Bly said.

But in recent years, prairie dog towns across the American West have been exposed to a deadly disease called sylvatic plague. While it’s treatable in humans, sylvatic plague can wipe out entire prairie dog towns in less than a month. And that means no more food for endangered black-footed ferrets.

So Bly, Matchett and a team of scientists and engineers have spent this year vaccinating prairie dogs in central Montana against the plague using drones.

Drone pilots fly the machines across the prairie, dropping blueberry-sized pellets about every 30 feet. They are flavored to taste like peanut butter, and prairie dogs love peanut butter. The kicker is that they’re laced with a live vaccine that protects them from the plague.

(20) YOUR NEXT SIDEWISE AWARD WINNER. Sounds legit.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Worldcon 75 Pass Along Funds

The Helsinki committee announced at Smofcon they will be distributing surplus funds from Worldcon 75. Also, members will soon get an email telling how those who weren’t at the con can receive an electronic and/or paper copy of the souvenir book by post.

Initial pass along funds:

  • €12,000 to Worldcon 76;
  • €12,000 to Dublin in 2019;
  • €12,000 to Worldcon 2020

Donations:

  • €1,200 to the WSFS Mark Protection Committee
  • €1,000 to Worldcon Heritage
  • €25,000 to Finnish fan groups

Worldcon 75 also announced that it would be doing staff reimbursements of €95 per staffer.

Vice-chair Colette H. Fozard confirmed the above amounts and added:

An e-mail will be going out within the next week to all members that will have the following information:

(a) notice of the publication of PR6 – a wrap up report;

(b) reopening of Worldcon 75’s online merchandise shop for a short time; and

(c) information on how to receive electronic and/or paper copy of the souvenir book by post.

Pixel Scroll 12/4/17 She’ll Be Scrolling Six White Pixels When She Files

(1) HOME IS THE HUNTER. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson shared “SMOFCON 35: A Brief Report”:

…I had dinner with the talented and lovely Regina Kanyu Wang, a contributor to these pages, one of the actifans of China’s largest fan group AppleCore and the Executive Editor of Storycom, that has, among other things, worked with Clarkesworld magazine to bring translated Chinese SF to the west.

We talked about the cultural revolution, the reception of science fiction in China, censorship, the possibilities of a Chinese Worldcon, the fact that fans are fans the world over, different strains of “Asian” science fiction (the differences between Japanese SF and Chinese SF:  Japanese SF is far more influenced by western tropes than Chinese SD) and I felt like I took a crash course in the subject.  I’ve a lot more to learn, as do we all, but my prediction is that in not so many years, China is going to be dominating this market.

I also spent a fair amount of time helping out with the NASFiC bid for Utah in 2019.  They joined a wine and other liquors tasting party on Saturday evening (I don’t imbibe, but I sure as heck can carry cookies and danish to the room).  As a result of my generosity, I have been allowed to purchase a supporting membership (Grabthar’s Hammer level) and have been volunteered to run the bid table at the 2018 Boskone in February.  (An actifan’s reward is more work!)…

(2) NATIONAL NETWORK PICKS UP EL-MOHTAR STORY. Amal El-Mohtar’s horrible experience with TSA made the Montreal news this morning: Canada’s CBC has picked up the story — “Ottawa author detained by U.S. border guards says system ‘broken'”

El-Mohtar, born and raised in Ottawa, has been crossing the border into the U.S. three to four times a year for at least the last five years because that’s where many of her fans are.

With an Arabic-sounding name, she said she expects to be racially profiled, endure intense questioning and pat downs.

“Every time, I’d get the allegedly random extra screening. Every time. To the point where I’d always make jokes about, if only the lottery were this kind of random.”

This time, however, she was sent for secondary screening, which she said was particularly degrading.…

(3) YA HARASSMENT SURVEY. Anne Ursu, a Minneapolis YA author, is collecting data about “Sexual Harassment in Children’s Book Publishing”.

(4) BENEFIT FOR REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS. Children of a Different Sky, edited by Alma Alexander, is now available online (including at Amazon). Alexander told Carl Slaughter about the project in a File 770 interview.

It is a themed fantasy anthology, about migrants and refugees, and it is a charity anthology, with all the profits from the sales of the book above anything required for housekeeping and production are going straight to two selected charities working with refugees and migrants both in the USA and globally.

The contributors are Jane Yolen, Aliette de Bodard, Seanan McGuire, Irene Radford, Gregory L. Norris, Brenda Cooper, Joyce Reynolds-Ward, Randee Dawn, Jacey Bedford, Nora Saroyan, Marie Brennan, and Patricia McEwen

(5) CAN REBELS AND THE FEDERATION STOP THE EMPIRE? Trek Wars is the Star Wars/Star Trek Crossover Fan-Trailer.

The Death Star is on a direct course for Earth, the crew of the starship Enterprise teams up with the Rebel Alliance to stop it!

 

(6) NEXT UP AT KGB READING SERIES. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present N.K. Jemisin and Christopher Brown on Wednesday, December 20, 7p.m. at the KGB Bar.

N.K. Jemisin

N(ora). K. Jemisin is the author of the Broken Earth Trilogy, the Inheritance Trilogy, and the Dreamblood Duology. Her work has been nominated for the Nebula and World Fantasy Award; shortlisted for the Crawford, the Gemmell Morningstar, and the Tiptree; and she won a Locus Award for Best First Novel. In 2016, she became the first black person to win the Best Novel Hugo for The Fifth Season; she won again in 2017 for The Obelisk Gate.

Her short fiction has been published in Clarkesworld, Tor.com, WIRED, and Popular Science. She writes a New York Times book review column, Otherworldly, covering recent Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Christopher Brown

Christopher Brown is the author of Tropic of Kansas, a novel published in 2017 by Harper Voyager that was recently nominated for the Compton Crook Award. He was a World Fantasy Award nominee for the anthology he co-edited, Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic.  His next two novels, the beginning of a series of speculative legal thrillers set in the world of Tropic of Kansas, are slated for publication by Harper in summer 2019 and 2020. His short fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies. He lives in Austin, where he also practices technology law.

The KGB Bar is located at 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs), New York, NY.

(7) OPERATIC VERSION OF OCTAVIA BUTLER WORK KICKSTARTER. Toshi Reagon has started a Kickstarter appeal to fund “Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower: The Opera”.

This opera, which I composed in collaboration with my mother, Dr Bernice Johnson Reagon lives in an unprecedented intersection of science fiction, opera, African-American art & spirituality, feminism, and climate activism.

It features a cast of 15 amazing singers of singular talent and diversity, and a 5 member orchestra which includes my band BigLovely, and a striking set design and visual installation, and a dream team of designers and creatives.

We are asking that you join us, and support us as we finish the creation of this ambitious project and bringing it to communities around the country and the world. It’s urgent, we have to do this now.

They have received $10,205 of the $30,000 goal as of this writing, with 23 days remaining in the drive.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born December 4, 1964Marisa Tomei. She got her screen debut in an uncredited role (as “Health Club Girl”) in The Toxic Avenger (1984) — arguably one of the most gruesome creatures known to man.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian learned from the December 2 Bliss that while there are things man was not meant to know, that doesn’t mean nobody knows them.

(10) MARTHA WELLS. The holiday season continues at The Book Smugglers with “Books of My Year – A Smugglivus post by Martha Wells”.

For Smugglivus, I thought I’d do a list of recommendations for some of the favorite books I’ve read this year, or am reading this year, or am about to read this year.

First on the list —

Substrate Phantoms by Jessica Reisman

An SF novel about love, loss, and contact with a truly alien intelligence too strange for humans to understand. If you love thoughtful far future SF with brilliant worldbuilding, this is for you.

(11) FROM TOLKIEN’S PANTRY. Lembas is “A bite of energy” – its origin and use is discussed at Middle-earth Reflections:

Different in strengthening properties and generally more pleasant than its brother cram, made by Men to keep them going in the wild, lembas was a special kind of waybread baked by the Elves alone. The name lembas is a Sindarin one: it is derived from an older version lenn-mbass meaning “journey-bread”. As the name implies, one could and needed to eat it on long journeys when there was no other food to support a traveller or if one’s life was in peril after receiving a hurt. With lembas being a very special — and essentially Elvish — kind of food, Galadriel and the Elves showed the Fellowship a great honour by giving it to them.

(12) THE WRITING DAY. RedWombat takes a break.

(13) A MANLY ANTHOLOGY. Superversive SF’s “Submission call for ‘To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity’” is open ‘til February 14, 2018.

We want…

  • Stories showing the masculine virtues in a positive light.
  • Stories that introduce or reintroduce young men to the manly virtues.
  • Stories that pay homage to men and masculinity.

I love that the post’s last line is –

Contact me at manlyantho@superversivepress.com if you’re not sure.

(14) LOOK OUT BELOW. MeTV is ready to tell you — “Here’s what’s on the ground in ‘The Jetsons'”.

It goes like this: While The Flintstones seemingly takes place in the Stone Age, and The Jetsons is set in 2062, the two worlds co-exist. The Flintstones is the post-apocalyptic life on the surface under The Jetsons. Barney and Wilma live on the ground underneath George and Jane.

It’s a fun theory to debate at parties, but there is one big problem. We see what is on the surface in The Jetsons.

One of the most common misconceptions about The Jetsons is that the cartoon never shows the ground beneath Orbit City. The Jetson family lives in the Skypad Apartments. George works at Spacely Space Sprockets. Both cylindrical buildings project into the sky like birdhouses on long poles. It is a world of flying cars.

This optimistic vision of the 21st century often left viewers wondering — what is on the ground? Well, the answer is… hobos, walking birds, concrete and parks….

(15) ALT-CAT. Every day is a tough one when you’re battling fake news.

(16) DEL ARROZ ON CEBULSKI. Jon Del Arroz, now writing for The Federalist (called by a Bloomberg Politics writer “a source of original interviews and real-time arguments between conservatives and libertarians”) says “The Manufactured Outrage At Marvel’s New Editor In Chief Is Just A Power Play”. He calls the Cebulski story a “phony controversy” —

When Cebulski was named, it had a lot of comic readers scouring the Internet to find out who he was, and if he looked like he’d be able to right Marvel Comics’ sinking ship.

Most comic professionals praised the move. Longtime Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis said, “Creators, you’re about to be treated and fed SO [sic] well. This is a great day for comics. All in it together!” Christos Gage, writer of Netflix’s “Daredevil” season one, said, “Excellent choice in [Cebulski] as new Marvel EIC. He loves comics and comic book creators.” Even Marvel’s most vocal of critics seemed pleased with the move.

It didn’t take long for the gossip entertainment news to attack Cebulski, however. This week, Cebulski is the victim of manufactured identity politics outrage, in an attempt by the media to get him fired before his work as editor in chief even begins. Bleeding Cool, IO9, and the Huffington Post, outlets notorious for hyper-partisan clickbait, attacked Cebulski over the fact that 13 years ago he used a pseudonym to write a few books for Marvel. If it sounds like something not even worth mentioning, you’d be right, but it has the leftist outrage machine calling for Marvel to remove him.

Then with his usual rhetorical prestidigitization, Del Arroz equates Cebulski’s writing under an Asian pseudonym with D.C. Fontana going by her initials, and makes other leaps of illogic, such as —

If the media is right that Cebulski had to use a minority moniker to get a job, it means white men aren’t considered for the work, or at the very least, minorities are preferred. Therefore, pro-white racism in entertainment doesn’t and didn’t exist as far back as 15 years ago.

(17) HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR EGGS? Ethan Alter, in a Yahoo! Entertainment piece called “How all those ‘Star Wars’ cameos wound up in surprise box-office hit ‘Wonder'”, interviews Wonder director Stephen Chblosky about why his film packed with Star Wars Easter eggs,

Star Wars plays a small but significant role in Wonder; not only is it the singular obsession of the film’s main character, Auggie Pullman (played by Jacob Tremblay — a noted Padawan in his own right), but Chbosky also wrangled surprise cameo appearances by two residents of George Lucas‘s far, far away galaxy: a certain Wookiee co-pilot and a sinister Sith-turned-emperor, who appear in fantasy sequences imagined by Auggie, who initially prefers the company of fictional characters because real people struggle to adjust to his facial deformities caused by a rare medical condition. “I will point out, very proudly, that on Dec. 15 there will be two Chewbacca movies in theaters — that has never happened!” Chbosky says, laughing. “I really hope that being part of Wonder might help the box office of The Last Jedi. They’re really struggling over there.”

(18) FINAL PRANK. Carrie Fisher pulled a fast one on Mark Hamill.

Hamill, 66, spoke about his fond memories of his dear friend on a recent visit to the set of “Popcorn With Peter Travers.” He also recalled the last prank she pulled on him before she died on Dec. 27, 2016.

“We were sort of in an unofficial contest to get to 1 million Twitter followers first,” he explained of their competition from summer 2016. “She was 63,000 ahead of me … I said, ‘Game on girl!'”

As of now, Hamill has more than 2 million followers and Fisher posthumously has 1.19 million. Hamill, who was trailing in the beginning, said he started pulling these ridiculous stunts like offering up exclusive “Star Wars” clips to gain followers and catch up to Fisher.

“I felt bad, I was really gaining,” he said, so he also came up with a plan where the two could cross the milestone together, as on-screen brother and sister. “I sent her an email and I said, ‘Hey Carrie want to explode the internet?’ … We had never seen our wax figures at Madame Tussauds.”

The plan was to go, take pictures with the wax Luke and Leia figurines, then post on the internet to fans’ delights. But Fisher never emailed him back.

“Three of four days later, there she is at Madame Tussauds posing with my figure, posing with her figure, I went, ‘What!?’ I was livid,” he said. “I went to the studio the next day [and went right to her trailer]. I said, ‘Carrie, what did you do!? It was like … you threw the party and you didn’t invite me!'”

According to Hamill, she just looked up at him and said, “Should have I not done that?”

(19) LUNAR GLIMPSE. The only supermoon of 2017 rose on Sunday, December 3. Here are three galleries with some of the best photos.

(20) INTERVIEW WITH THE CAPTAIN. The Hollywood Masters features Patrick Stewart on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

[Thanks to DMS, Cathy Palmer-Lister, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 12/2/17 And With Strange Pixels Even Scrolls May File

(1) I SEE BY YOUR OUTFIT. Smofcon, the con for conrunners has convened in Boston.

  • John Scalzi is there to share what pros expect from conventions.

  • Steve Davidson of Amazing Stories is on hand, too.

The convention is well attended for Smofcons, registration and hospitality were working efficiently the last time I passed through and many interesting conversations have been heard and overheard.

  • An issue of Journey Planet with a con programming theme has been released in time for Smofcon.

  • Jeeze, I played the inaugural version of this game in 1987.

  • Richard Gadsden’s additions to the “Fannish Inquisition” questionnaire are inspired by the virtual wall of TSA.

(2) JUMP IN. Charles Payseur shares his experience and advice to encourage the growth of a deeper and more diverse field of sff short fiction reviewers. “So You Want To Be A Short SFF Reviewer?” at Quick Sip Reviews.

Hi. My name is Charles Payseur and I began reviewing short SFF in early 2014 for Tangent Online, with Dave Truesdale as my guide and mentor. If you shuddered just a bit there, I’m sorry. But imagine, little baby queer me, just getting into the field in my mid 20s, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. And running into that. I’ve had an Education. One that’s been somewhat dearly bought, but here I am, closing in on four years later.

Short SFF is a field dominated by broken stairs and strange pitfalls. What’s more, it seems to attract some (fairly loud) people who really like to make objective statements of merit with regards to stories and are absolute shit at admitting when they’re in the wrong while simultaneously being wrong fairly frequently and jerks generally. It’s a field that chews and spits out a great many excellent reviewers while seeming to find time to praise and promote the most toxic and insensitive. It’s often tiring, draining, and infuriating. But it’s also kind of amazing. Welcome!

My general goal in this is just to give something of a guide for people wanting to get started in short SFF reviewing. Because the field needs more and more diverse voices if it’s to self-govern away from the most toxic examples of short SFF reviewer. It’s not a comprehensive guide, but I’ve left my contact info toward the bottom if you have any more questions. So yeah, let’s get started!

(3) GOOD TO GO. NASA will be able to keep the mission going awhile longer: “Voyager 1 Fires Up Thrusters After 37 Years”.

If you tried to start a car that’s been sitting in a garage for decades, you might not expect the engine to respond. But a set of thrusters aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft successfully fired up Wednesday after 37 years without use.

Voyager 1, NASA’s farthest and fastest spacecraft, is the only human-made object in interstellar space, the environment between the stars. The spacecraft, which has been flying for 40 years, relies on small devices called thrusters to orient itself so it can communicate with Earth. These thrusters fire in tiny pulses, or “puffs,” lasting mere milliseconds, to subtly rotate the spacecraft so that its antenna points at our planet. Now, the Voyager team is able to use a set of four backup thrusters, dormant since 1980.

…Since 2014, engineers have noticed that the thrusters Voyager 1 has been using to orient the spacecraft, called “attitude control thrusters,” have been degrading. Over time, the thrusters require more puffs to give off the same amount of energy….

On Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, Voyager engineers fired up the four TCM thrusters for the first time in 37 years and tested their ability to orient the spacecraft using 10-millisecond pulses. The team waited eagerly as the test results traveled through space, taking 19 hours and 35 minutes to reach an antenna in Goldstone, California, that is part of NASA’s Deep Space Network.

Lo and behold, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, they learned the TCM thrusters worked perfectly — and just as well as the attitude control thrusters.

(4) MAKE IT SO. Food & Wine reports “New ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ Holiday-Themed Beer Getting National Release”.

Courtesy of New York’s Shmaltz Brewing Company comes Star Trek: The Next Generation 30th Anniversary Ale – Captain’s Holiday. Yes, that’s a mouthful, but this beer is trying to cover a lot of bases. Not only is this tropically-tinged beer brewed with natural citrus flavors intended as a holiday release, this “Collector’s Edition” product is also meant to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation which first aired back in 1987. As such, the name “Captain’s Holiday” actually comes from the title of an episode of that series in which “the crew convinces Captain Picard to take a much-needed vacation on the pleasure planet Risa” (of course).

(5) MYTHLORE AT 50. Help the Mythopoeic Society pick what belongs in the collection — “Reader’s Choice: The Best of Mythlore’s First Fifty Years”.

IN 2018 WE CELEBRATE THE FOUNDING OF MYTHLORE, the scholarly journal of the Mythopoeic Society, which published its first issue in January 1969. Reader’s Choice: The Best of Mythlore’s First Fifty Years will collect and reprint the very best articles, artwork, reviews, letters, and creative work, all nominated by readers, along with commentary about the journal’s founding and history, and will be published in time for Mythcon 49.

(6) A GRATEFUL WILLIS. In Connie Willis’ “Thanks on Thanksgiving” post she remembers three people who had a big influence on her.

  1. My eighth-grade teacher, whose name I do remember.

Mrs. Werner was my home-room teacher, and every day after lunch she read aloud to us, one of which was Rumer Godden’s AN EPISODE OF SPARROWS.  This is NOT a children’s book, even though its heroine, Lovejoy, was ten years old.  She was also a thief.  She lived in post-war London, and when she decided she wanted to build a garden in the rubble of a bombed-out church, she not only shoplifted seeds and a trowel, but recruited other kids to steal for her.  She was also thoroughly unpleasant.  Not without reason.  She had a slutty mother with an assortment of nasty boyfriends and was often left with strangers for months at a time.  As I say, not a book for junior-high-schoolers.

I have no idea what anybody else in the class thought about the book, but I loved it AND Lovejoy.  It was my first introduction to Rumer Godden, who I fell in love with, especially her novel about grief, IN THIS HOUSE OF BREDE.  It was also my first introduction  to how you can take a classic and update it (AN EPISODE OF SPARROWS is actually Frances Hodgson Burnett’s THE SECRET GARDEN retold.)

And it was my first introduction to the Blitz, planting a seed which blossomed when I went to St. Paul’s years later and fell in love with the fire watch and the history of London during the war–which had a HUGE impact on my life.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 2, 1979 Star Trek appeared in the funny papers with a daily comic strip.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 2, 1914 – Ray Walston – your choice, My Favorite Martian, or the Devil in Damn Yankees.

(9) CLASSIC MACHADO. Jane Dykema, in “What I Don’t Tell My Students About ‘The Husband Stitch’” at Electric Lit, says, “The first story in Carmen Maria Machado’s ‘Her Body and Other Parties’ brings up big questions about who we believe and why.”

I was first introduced to the husband stitch in 2014, when a friend in medical school told me about a birth her classmate observed. After the baby was delivered, the doctor said to the woman’s husband, “Don’t worry, I’ll sew her up nice and tight for you,” and the two men laughed while the woman lay between them, covered in her own and her baby’s blood and feces. The story terrified me, the laughter in particular, signaling some understanding of wrongdoing, some sheepishness in doing it anyway. The helplessness of the woman, her body being altered without her consent by two people she has to trust: her partner, her doctor. The details of the third-hand account imprinted into my memory so vividly that the memory of the story feels now almost like my own memory. Later that year, Machado’s “The Husband Stitch” was published, and sometime after that, I read it, and the details of Machado’s scene were so similar, down to the laughter, down to the words “don’t worry” (though in Machado’s story they’re directed at the woman), that I’m not sure now what I remember and what I read.

(10) ELEMENTARY. “The Serial-Killer Detector” in The New Yorker tells how A former journalist, equipped with an algorithm and the largest collection of murder records in the country, finds patterns in crime.

Hargrove created the code, which operates as a simple algorithm, in 2010, when he was a reporter for the now defunct Scripps Howard news service. The algorithm forms the basis of the Murder Accountability Project (MAP), a nonprofit that consists of Hargrove—who is retired—a database, a Web site, and a board of nine members, who include former detectives, homicide scholars, and a forensic psychiatrist. By a process of data aggregating, the algorithm gathers killings that are related by method, place, and time, and by the victim’s sex. It also considers whether the rate of unsolved murders in a city is notable, since an uncaught serial killer upends a police department’s percentages. Statistically, a town with a serial killer in its midst looks lawless….

(11) HEAD ‘EM OFF AT THE PASS. Sounds like a Kage Baker story. The Pharaoh’s city from The Ten Commandments is still under the sand south of San Francisco: “Sphinx head discovered beneath sands of California blows dust off one of the greatest stories of extravagance in Hollywood history”.

The head of a sphinx uncovered from beneath the sand dunes of California has blown the dust off one of the greatest stories of extravagance in Hollywood history.

The perfectly intact 300-pound plaster head was unearthed by archaeologists excavating the set of Cecil B. DeMille’s 95-year-old movie set for The Ten Commandments.

The piece, buried in the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, is unlike anything found on previous digs, said Doug Jenzen, Executive Director of the Dunes Center.

“The majority of it is preserved by sand with the original paint still intact.

 

(12) BABELFISH.  The BBC tells about “The translator that sits in your ear”.
So how does the Pilot earpiece work? It uses a sophisticated microphone array along with noise-cancelling algorithms to listen to spoken words from and around the user.

“Those words are passed to the cloud where it is processed through speech recognition, machine translation, and speech synthesis, before it is sent back to the user and anyone else whose Pilot earpiece is synced into the conversation,” explains Ochoa. “This happens within minimal delay, usually in milliseconds.”

There are a number of competitors hot on the heels of the Pilot, including Clik, Skype, and Google, which last month launched its Pixel Buds, complete with the ability to translate in real time between 40 languages. The Pilor earpiece currently works with 15 languages, but can be ugraded to translate more. But with its head start, and now its prestigious nomination, the Pilot may be a step ahead.

(13) FAKE GUARDIAN. Someone’s trying to act like the actor: “Chris Pratt alerts fans to ‘pervy imposter'”.

Guardians of the Galaxy’s Chris Pratt has taken to social media to alert his fans to a “pervy dude” who has been allegedly impersonating him online.

“Somebody is trying to pretend to be me on Facebook,” he wrote on Instagram.

The US actor claimed the “imposter” had been “apparently hitting on a lot of different female fans, trying to get their numbers and who knows what else.”

“I find this behaviour reprehensible,” he continued. “If I find out who it is I’ll have their account shut down.”

(14) MEGAFAME. I read both authors, but it felt surreal to see Lee Child and N.K. Jemisin sharing the marquee in the same article.

(15) A WARNING TO PEOPLE IN THE FUTURE.

(16) GREAT COLLECTION. John O’Neill is “Remembering Frank M. Robinson’s Legendary Pulp Collection” at Black Gate.

A complete collection of Weird Tales is a towering achievement. Weird Tales, which had chronically poor circulation, is one of the most sought-after pulps on the market, as it was the most important home of the most significant pulp writers of early fantasy, including H.P Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and many, many others. Copies in good condition typically go for several hundred dollars each, and early issues for significantly more than that….

The 1970s might have been the last time it was possible to compile a collection like this, at least for any kind of reasonable sum. His entire collection was auctioned off while Frank was still alive by John Gunnison at Adventure House, and netted a total well north of a million dollars.

(17) ALL WET. Den of Geek goes “Diving Into The Shape of Water with Michael Shannon”, an actor who will also be in HBO’s Fahrenheit 451.

Den of Geek: Have you and Guillermo ever talked about working together before?

Michael Shannon: No, this was totally out of the blue. I didn’t know Guillermo. I was out here doing something silly, I don’t know. Maybe I was out for the indie film Spirit Awards or something and my agent said, “Guillermo del Toro wants to have lunch with you while you’re in town this weekend.” I said okay. So he came to my hotel and we sat at this table out back, and he just laid it all out. Said, “I’ve been writing this movie for a long time. I’ve been writing it with particular people in mind, and you’re one of those people. Are you interested?” And I said okay. That was it. It’s an astonishingly simple and concise story.

He said he wrote Strickland with your voice in his head. So when you got to read the character, what struck you about the character?

I thought it was funny. I thought it was a funny character. I saw a lot of humor in it. I liked the opportunity to play some uptight, confused government agent guy. I mean he’s kind of a train wreck inside, but he’s presenting this exterior of authority and competency, which is a total fabrication at the end of the day.

(18) DON’T BE SHY. In 1962 some authors didn’t want to be known for writing sf. Not much different from 2017, eh? Galactic Journey’s Victoria Silverwolf gives a rundown on the situation of half a century ago: “[DECEMBER 2, 1962] THEY CAME FROM THE MAINSTREAM (SF BOOKS NOT PUBLISHED AS SF)”.

Russian-born writer Vladimir Nabakov, best known for his controversial novel Lolita (toned down somewhat in this year’s film adaptation), creates a very unusual structure in his new book, Pale Fire.  It consists of a poem of 999 lines by an imaginary poet, followed by footnotes written by an equally fictional critic.  Read together, the poem and footnotes come together to form a plot of impersonation, exile, and murder.  What makes this a work of science fiction is the fact that it takes place in a world different from our own.  The story deals with the deposed king of the European nation of Zembla.  It takes place in an alternate version of the USA, which contains the states of Appalachia and Utana.

(19) CUISINE OF THE FUTURE. Sometimes that future doesn’t seem very far away.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Worldcon, NASFiC and Smofcon Bidder Questionnaires Released

Smofcon 35, the convention for conrunners, taking place December 1-3 in Boston, asked Worldcon, NASFiC and Smofcon bidders, and seated Worldcon committees to answer a questionnaire. The responses have been posted at Smofcon’s website under Fannish Inquisition.

There will also be a Q&A session at the con – publishing these questionnaires in advance helps keep that time from being taken up with basic information. If you want to submit a question, see the information at the end of this post.

Smofcon Bids

Worldcon Bids

Seated Worldcons

NASFiC Bids

Submitting Questions to the Fannish Inquisition

At the Fannish Inquisition, all questions will be asked by the Inquisitors. The Inquisitors welcome your questions. They will ask them (possibly edited and combined), leaving you anonymous. Before the convention, E-mail questions to fi@smofcon35.org. At the convention, there will be a drop-off point in the con suite.

2017 CanSMOF Scholarships

CanSMOF Inc. has announced the recipients of three scholarships given to aid fans attending SMOFcon 35 in Boston, a convention for conrunners.

The first scholarship, open to a Canadian citizen or resident, was awarded to Amanda Brant of Winnipeg MB.

The second, open to a non-North American resident, was awarded to Marcin Klak of Krakow, Poland.

The third, open to anyone involved in running conventions, regardless of their place of residence or citizenship, Nina Törnudd of Helsinki, Finland.

The first and third scholarships are for up to 500 CAD, and the second, up to 1000 CAD.

CanSMOF Inc is the organization that ran the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal.

SMOFcon 35 will be in Boston. MA, December 1-3, 2017.

Pixel Scroll 7/8/17 All Pixels Lead To Trantor, And There Is Where All Scrolls End

(1) WHO NEWS. Jenna Coleman will be part of the Doctor Who Christmas Special reports The Sun:

Showrunner Steven Moffatt will also depart the BBC show at the end of the year and new reports claim the “Time Lord will bid a final goodbye to Clara Oswald as well as Bill Potts”.

A source told the Mirror: “Jenna Coleman has agreed to film something new as Clara.

“It’s become a tradition now for the companions to reappear as the Doctor regenerates and Jenna isn’t letting the side down.

“It’ll help to give Peter the send-off he deserves after three years.”

Jenna’s comeback is in line with the other companions returning to say goodbye as Billie Piper returned as Rose Tyler for David Tennant’s exit in 2009 and Karen Gillan also came back for Matt Smith’s farewell in 2013.

(2) ARACHNOANTHEM. Here’s the first two stanzas of Camestros Felapton’s awesome review of Spider-Man: Homecoming done to the tune of that theme song.

Spider film, spider film
I just went to see a new spider film,
Was it good? Listen bub.
It didn’t recap the story of how he got radioactive blood.
Watch out, its a quite good spider film

Spider theme, spider theme,
Movie starts with the spider theme,
Yes, you know that classic song
But without the words to sing along
Watch out, earworm spider theme…

(3) SPIDER FAN. NPR also likes Spider-Man: “‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Finds Its Footing With A Less Confident Spidey”

At last: A Spider-Man movie!

…says no one. The new Spider-Man: Homecoming, which celebrates Peter Parker’s immigration to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a headliner after his scene-stealing appearance in Captain America: Civil War last year, is, according to the most recent data available, the sixth big-screen Spidey flick since 2002. Who needs another?

Well, if they’re going to be as fizzy and funny and warmhearted as this, keep ’em coming.

(4) SWEARING FOR SCHOLARS. Yesterday’s Scroll item about stfnal swearing prompted David Langford to note in comments that the Science Fiction Encyclopedia’s recently added its own article about “Swearing”.

…The tradition of swearing by God or a variety of gods has been sanitized and science-fictionalized in various ways, perhaps most famously by E E Smith in his Lensman sequence, whose spacefarers swear vigorously by the invented “space-gods” Noshabkeming and – especially – Klono. “By Klono’s TUNGSTEN TEETH and CURVING CARBALLOY CLAWS!” cries Kim Kinnison when surprised in Children of the Lens (November 1947-February 1948 Astounding; 1954); reference is elsewhere made to this entity’s golden gills, gadolinium guts, iridium intestines and so forth. Unusually, Kinnison in Gray Lensman (October 1939-January 1940 Astounding; 1951) offers a defence of such swearing by Klono to his wife-to-be (who thinks it rather silly):

He’s got so much stuff – teeth and whiskers, claws and horns, tail and everything – that he’s much more satisfactory to swear by than any other space-god I know of. […] A man swears to keep from crying, a woman cries to keep from swearing. Both are sound psychology. Safety valves – means of blowing off excess pressure.

(5) ARISIA’S SMOFCON SCHOLARSHIPS. The group that puts on Arisia also funds SMOFcon scholarships, $1000 to be divided among selected applicants. (They don’t just do a handy-dandy press release like the CanSMOF crew I publicized yesterday.) See Arisia’s application guidelines at the linked page.

(6) FORWARD THINKING. At Black Gate, Derek Künsken lists his choice of the “hardest” science fiction in “Any Sufficiently Advanced Technology…” The late Robert L. Forward figures prominently:

I found out about Robert Forward, a NASA scientist, when reading Stephen Gillett’s World-Building and so ordered it. Forward has some clunky character work and I wouldn’t say his female characters published in 1980 age well, but he outsciences Clement. I have four of Forward’s novels.

(7) A WALKING HISTORY OF SF TV. Joshua Sky has just completed and published a new interview on Omni with the showrunner of The Expanse, Naren Shankar:

Naren Shankar has a long-running career in science fiction television. He’s written for such critically acclaimed series as Star Trek: The Next Generation, SeaQuest DSV, Farscape, and The Outer Limits. Naren has also been a showrunner for CSI and currently serves as a showrunner for SyFy’s The Expanse. Coming from a science-educated background, Naren has been able to help push real science in television shows. I had the opportunity to chat with him and get his perspective on the evolution of genre TV, his career, and all things The Expanse.

You have an amazing TV background. You’ve done so many different shows. Walk me through your origin story.

…After graduating, I decided to stay on in graduate school. I was in Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering; I had stayed on in Cornell. And one of my friends decided he was going to move out to Los Angeles and become a screenwriter. We always loved movies, we always loved television shows and that was always sort of part of late night TV watching in the fraternity. And my other friend was Ron Moore.

Ron was a political science major. About a year after our first friend went out to LA to try and become a screenwriter, he dragged Ron out there. Now, I had started college really early. I just turned 16 when I entered college. I was really young and was two years ahead of Ron, but we were the same age. I was several years into graduate school as I was working on my doctoral research. The way I describe it, I started feeling more and more like an expert on a smaller and smaller corner of the universe. And it felt kind of isolating. So what started happening is that I began taking courses in the arts, and history and literature again. Actually doing them, while I was doing my research. And what was happening was that I found that side of things extraordinarily fulfilling, and my lab rather lonely.

I actually remember the moment. I was walking back from this amazing lecture in a course that I was taking on the history of American foreign policy.  This yearlong course by a brilliant lecturer named Walter LaFeber. And I walked out of this lecture and I was heading to my lab and I was thinking, “Fuck, I can’t be an engineer.” (Laughter)

It was literally that kind of moment. But I had about a year and a half to go —and so, I gutted it out. I finished and got my degree. And then when I got out of school, I got a couple job offers and didn’t really like them. I almost got a job offer from Apple Computer, which I probably would’ve taken, as an engineering software evangelist, but I didn’t get it. It had come down to two people. So I didn’t get that and I didn’t really know what to do. Ron was out in LA and he was just starting to break into the business and get his first gig. He said, “Come and be a screenwriter!” And I was like, “… That sounds great!”

It was literally that much thought.

(8) JOAN LEE REMEMBRANCES. Entertainment Weekly’s Nick Romano, in “Revisit Stan and Joan Lee’s Sweet X-Men: Apocalypse Cameo”, has a still from the X-Men movie and a tweet from Bryan Singer about Joan Lee’s passing.

Also, Marvel Entertainment has released a video clip of Stan Lee telling about meeting his future wife for the first time.

On April 14, 2017 Joe Quesada, Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer, sat down with Stan Lee at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills, Calif. The video below was originally planned to be part of a series from the event scheduled for release later this year. In remembrance of Joan Lee and her importance to Marvel and the history of comics as a whole, we felt it appropriate to release this now.

 

(9) ELLIS OBIT. Nelsan Ellis (1978-2017): American actor and playwright, died July 8, aged 39 (heart failure). Genre appearances in True Blood (81 episodes as ‘Lafayette Reynolds’, 2008-14), Gods Behaving Badly (2013).

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 8, 2011 — NASA launched its last space shuttle, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

(11) COMIC SECTION. John A Arkansawyer warns there may be Wonder Woman spoiler in this (quite funny) installment of Non-Adventures of Wonderella.

(12) HANDMAID’S AUDIENCE. Damien Walter makes a provocative joke. Or is it true?

I’m seeing two distinct groups of responses to The Handmaid’s Tale.

Men – this show is dull, nothing is happening, going to stop watching.

Women – this show is horrifying! Its my worst nightmare played out scene by scene! Going to stop watching.

Not good for ratings.

(13) FROM THE ANCIENT SEAS. BigThink’s 2016 article “Antikythera mechanism” includes a link to a YouTube video about a working reconstruction – made with Legos.

In June of 2016, an international team of experts revealed new information derived from tiny inscriptions on the devices parts in ancient Greek that had been too tiny to read—some of its characters are just 1/20th of an inch wide—until cutting-edge imaging technology allowed it to be more clearly seen. They’ve now read about 35,00 characters explaining the device.

The writing verifies the Antikythera mechanism’s capabilities, with a couple of new wrinkles added: The text refers to upcoming eclipses by color, which may mean they were viewed as having some kind of oracular meaning. Second, it appears the device was built by more than one person on the island of Rhodes, and that it probably wasn’t the only one of its kind. The ancient Greeks were apparently even further ahead in their astronomical understanding and mechanical know-how than we’d imagined.

 

(14) HELLS YES. Steve Davidson sees the Worldcon on the horizon and urges fans to ratify the Three-Stage Voting proposal (3SV) that received its first passage at 2016’s business meeting.

One week from today, voting closes on the fabulous Hugo Awards.  They’ll be handed out at Worldcon 75, being held in Helsinki, Finland, on August 12th, 2017.

The ballot this year is remarkably puppy free;  that doesn’t mean there aren’t any puppy noms on the final ballot, but there aren’t any puppy-dominated categories as there have been in years past.  It’s taken four-five years now, but WSFS (that’s the World Science Fiction Society, of which anyone who has joined this year’s con, or next year’s con, is a member.  That’s right, Worldcon attendees and supporters, you’re all members of a WORLD society, not just a science fiction convention), in its slow, sometimes frustrating yet inexorable manner, has responded to the assault on the awards effectively.

In fact, there’s only one more step (well, two if you add in my suggestion that follows) required for forever ending puppy sadness:  the ratification of 3SV.

Step 1:  Ratification of Three Stage Voting. While this will turn Hugo Awards voting into a three stage, as opposed to a two stage process, and doing so will add more work for administrators and shorten the time frames for each stage a bit, the advantages FAR outweigh this.

3SV, as it has come to be known, will allow all of the voters to take an advance look at what will be on the final ballot, and then vote again on whether or not they BELONG on the final ballot.  Finalists that receive above a certain number of “not on my Hugo Awards Final Ballot” will be removed and replaced by the next most eligible nominee(s)….

(15) SYNCOPATIC EQUATION. At Jed Hartman’s A + B = Awesome website, every time you refresh it you get an idea of the form “It’s A with/crossed with B with/in C.”

Tom Galloway says, “My favorite so far is ‘It’s Oliver Twist meets The Prisoner with dinosaurs,’ to which I came up with ‘Please sir, can I have some more information’ and a T Rex Rover.”

Hartman explains:

Renowned literary agent DongWon Song gave a great talk at this weekend’s SLF writing workshop, about how to pitch your work. One of the things he talked about is the idea of starting a pitch with the “A + B = Awesome” format, to suggest two other well-known works that your work is similar to in some way.

There was a lot more to the idea than that, but that part inspired me to put together a little pitchbot that provides suggestions for combining two works.

Note that this is intended entirely for entertainment purposes. (And it isn’t intended to criticize the “A + B = Awesome” paradigm, which is a far more useful pitching tool than I would have expected before hearing DongWon talk about it.)

A couple of writers who’ve seen this have said that it could also work as a writing-prompt generator.

(16) Q + P. Let’s play that game in real life – Tom Galloway introduces the next link:

In the grand tradition of Archie vs. The Punisher and Archie vs. Predator (Obj Dave Barry: I’m not making these up), come fall we’ll be getting Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica.

Entertainment Weekly reports “Gotham and Riverdale to collide in Harley & Ivy Meet Betty & Veronica”.

The series will be co-written by Marc Andreyko and Paul Dini, with art from Laura Braga. Dini originally created Harley Quinn on Batman: The Animated Series, the show that also established the character’s flirty friendship with Poison Ivy. The new series will find them pitting their girl power against Riverdale’s most famous pair. When a proposal emerges to drain the wetlands between Gotham and Riverdale, Ivy sticks up for her beloved fauna by enlisting Harley to kidnap valuable heiress Veronica Lodge and her best friend, Betty. Chaos, you may assume, ensues.

Who wouldn’t pay to see that? (Raises hand.)

(17) THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD. First world problems.

(18) SHADOW CLARKE JURY MARCHES ON. In less than three weeks the winner of the Clarke Award will be known. The Shadow Clarke Jury is getting in its last licks – will the sf genre go down for the count?

This statement will not be popular among the Wayfarer’s legions of loyal fans and advocates, but I’m going to make it anyway because I believe it to be true: there is no real science fiction in A Closed and Common Orbit. In a climate where novels of so-called literary SF are often castigated by SFF commentators for using the trappings of science fiction to grant legitimacy and authenticity where none has been earned, when it comes to empty gestures the Wayfarer novels – clasped rapturously by fandom to its collective bosom – trump them all. I would not want to waste valuable time arguing over whether A Closed and Common Orbit is in fact eligible for the Clarke Award – the book is marketed as science fiction, there are AIs, aliens, distant planets, job done. Whether it deserves its place on the current shortlist is another matter entirely.

Organising and participating in this year’s shadow Clarke jury is turning out to be a pleasure on multiple levels, not least exchanging thoughts and opinions and discoveries with my fellow Sharkes. Speaking purely for myself though, the most significant effect of this experiment has been to make me question the very validity of ‘science fiction’ as a literary genre. In a literary landscape where everything is up for grabs, and where the tropes of science fiction – time travel, genetic and social engineering, apocalypse scenarios of every variety, artificial intelligence and mass surveillance – are increasingly becoming both core subject matter and metaphorical framing device for novelists of every nation and literary inheritance, can we usefully continue to argue for science fiction as a literature apart, worthy not just of separate study but of special pleading?

There are, in broad terms, two types of fiction. For convenience, although I am not happy with either term, I shall call them mode and genre. A genre work might include crime fiction, ghost stories, love stories and so on; they are identified by the type of story they tell. A war story would not count as a war story if war itself was not central to the story, if it did not include the familiar markers of battle, soldiers or any of the expected paraphernalia and effects of war. Modes, on the other hand, might include contemporary mainstream literature, historical fiction and science fiction. These are identified less by the the story told than by setting, style, affect, and other less readily defined characteristics. There is no specific type of story that must be told if a work is to count as historical fiction, it may be a love story or a war story or a story of political intrigue, but it must be set in the past.

I thought my feelings about this book were all sewn up. I actually began drafting this review with a hundred pages still to go, so secure did I feel in my opinion of After Atlas as the Clarke equivalent of His Bloody Project in last year’s Booker line-up: my hands-down favourite as a reading experience, though perhaps insufficiently innovative or controversial to justify its winning. And then came the ending, the unveiling of the central mystery, and I found myself thinking back to the autumn of 2015, when I went to see Guillermo del Toro’s lavishly over-produced haunted house movie Crimson Peak. I wasn’t expecting much from that movie, if anything, and so I spent the first hour and a half feeling excited at how wrong I’d been in my prejudgements. The film looked amazing, as predicted. Far more surprising was the conviction of the performances and – what’s this?? – a strongly scripted storyline I actually cared about. I began mentally drafting a blog post: how wrong I’d been about this film, how Del Toro had actually managed to square the circle and make a genuinely decent horror movie whilst operating within commercial constraints.

Since the 2013 all-male Clarke shortlist, it’s been assumed that Clarke jurors have been striving for gender parity of authors when constructing their shortlists, but more recently, through the data analysis of Nicola Griffith, we’ve become aware of the even greater problem of protagonist gender disparity: Apparently, genre readers and critics prefer to award books about males, regardless of author gender. I’ve often noticed that this is particularly true of the of the investigative-type police procedural mystery narratives, a modality SF writers often like try on, and exactly true of the police procedural selections on both the Clarke and Sharke lists.

While I wouldn’t be so hyperbolic as to say there is a deafening silence about female investigative protagonists, because there are a ton, but within SF, and especially within the SF book awards machine, the general perception of this mode is that it belongs in the masculine realm. The pragmatic, dogged, stiff upper lip investigator is a common, easy mold for authors to sink into, and although women protagonists could easily slip into that role, we readers, unfortunately, get more Mulders than Scullys.

Two novels that don’t appear to have anything in common, but are written by two powerhouses of opposing camps of the British literary community: Clarke winner and regular fan favorite, Tricia Sullivan, and Baileys Prize winner and regular contributor to various media on all things sci-fi, Naomi Alderman. Within the cloisters of British science fiction, these are two famous SF writers with a persistent presence in the field, yet neither has managed to vault over the high, imposing barbed walls of American commercial success.

It’s no secret that The Wayfarers series is written by someone whose writing is heavily influenced by the two-dimensional, wrap-it-all-up-before-the-credits, don’t-scare-off-the-advertisers format of television, so it’s no surprise to me that this book reads like a novelization of a TV/movie that has already been made. (No, I’m not talking about Firefly. This series is nothing like Firefly.) Fans and reviewers have been hooked by the low-risk palling around of characters, the exotic alien foods, and the explainy, back-and-forth dialogue that attempts to teach open-mindedness. It is Doctor Who without the danger and squirm; Farscape without the oppressive political foes, Friends without the humor and occasional cringe.

Of all the six Clarke-listed novels, The Underground Railroad best does what I think a Clarke-winning novel should do. It has Handmaid’s Potential: it employs the tools of science fiction (anachronistic technology and alternate settings and timelines) to examine and illuminate the present reality, and will make more sense to people of the future than it does right now because we are too embedded in the system that it critiques. It’s the only novel on the list that I think will be remembered and still considered important in twenty years.

Some might be surprised to see that I’ve ranked A Closed and Common Orbit above Occupy Me, but at least ACACO does what it sets out to do—which is very little—while Occupy Me just feels messy and careless, a frivolous taking on of experimentation and entertainment that achieves neither.

(19) SPIRITED CINEMA. NPR seems ambivalent about this strange film: “In ‘A Ghost Story,’ A House Is A Home For All Time”

Through much of A Ghost Story, Casey Affleck or a stand-in plays a dead soul, draped in a sheet with cut-out eye holes. This low-budget approach to the supernatural might suggest that writer-director David Lowery is playing a Halloween trick on movies that take the paranormal seriously. Except that he opens the tale with a line from “A Haunted House,” a story by Virginia Woolf, not Stephen King.

(20) THE MARS MY DESTINATION. Meanwhile, the Mars project David Levine was on now has a cast of high schoolers: “To Prepare For Mars Settlement, Simulated Missions Explore Utah’s Desert”.

Victoria LaBarre was climbing out of a canyon and into a bright, vast, seemingly lifeless landscape when she started to experience an astronaut’s nightmare.

“Suddenly,” she said, “I couldn’t breathe.”

The symptoms were real — maybe from claustrophobia, or from exertion at high altitude. But LaBarre didn’t unlatch her helmet to get a breath of fresh air because, in this simulated Mars exercise in the Utah desert, she was supposed to be an astronaut. The canyon was standing in for Candor Chasma, a 5-mile-deep gash in the Red Planet’s surface. On Mars, there’s no oxygen in the air — you do not take off your helmet.

So, instead, LaBarre radioed for help from fellow members of Crew 177. The team of students and teachers from a Texas community college had applied together to live and work for a week this spring in a two-story metal cylinder at the privately run Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah.

(21) BOOS AND BOOZE. You’ll feel no fear (or much of anything else) after a few of these — Let’s Get Monster Smashed: Horror Movie Drinks for a Killer Time will be out in hardcover on August 28.

A horror movie inspired cocktail book with gross-looking but delicious party drinks, all wrapped up in an awesome ’80s VHS package. There are 55 recipes spread across 5 chapters (shots, gelatin, punches, special fx, and non-alcoholic) inspired by classic pulp horror movies of the ’80s and ’90s, complete with viewing recommendations. The movies may be weird, the drinks may look gross, but the elevated drink making techniques and unusually tasty recipes keep readers and their guests interested and coming back for more. Great for theme parties, Halloween festivals, movie fans, and retro enthusiasts.

[Thanks to Tom Galloway, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Steve Green, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, David Langford, and John A Arkansawyer for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

2017 SMOFCon Scholarships Available

CanSMOF Inc. is offering up to three scholarships for convention runners to be used towards the cost of attending SMOFCon 35, being held in Boston, December 1-3, 2017. SMOFCon is the annual convention about organizing Science Fiction conventions.

The first Scholarship of up to 500 CAD is open to a Canadian citizen or resident involved in running conventions with a preference for those who have not previously attended a SMOFCon.

The second scholarship of up to 1000 CAD is open to anyone not residing in North America*, involved in running conventions with a preference for those who have not previously attended a SMOFCon.

The third scholarship of up to 500 CAD is open to anyone involved in running conventions, regardless of their place of residence with a preference for those who have not previously attended a SMOFCon.

Applicants will automatically be considered for any and all scholarships for which they are eligible. Preference will be given to fans who have not previously attended a SMOFCon, but this is not necessary to be an applicant. The submission deadline is September 10th, 2017, 23:59 SST (UTC-11). We reserve the right to not award any or all scholarships. Any questions should be directed to smofcon.scholarship@gmail.com.

To apply for a scholarship, simply follow this link: https://goo.gl/forms/lPeGaCiqrNyEGr7o2

CanSMOF Inc. is the organization that hosted the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal.

More information on Smofcon 35 may be found here. General information about Smofcons, including a list of past Smofcons may be found here

*North America: defined as Canada, Mexico, the United States of America, the islands of the Caribbean, St. Pierre et Miquelon, Bermuda, and the Bahamas.

2017 Smofcon To Be Held in Boston

An unopposed bid to hold Smofcon 35 in Boston was awarded the 2017 event by members of this year’s Smofcon, meeting this weekend in the Chicago area.

The 2017 Smofcon, led by Laurie Mann (chair) and Kris “Nchanter” Snyder (hotel), will be held November 30-December 3 at the Back Bay Hilton in downtown Boston. Memberships can be bought at the website.

Kevin Standlee tweeted a list of cities interested in future Smofcons.

Three of them responded to the Fannish Inquisition questionnaire circulated by this year’s Smofcon committee —

The responses of these bidders for future-year Worldcons are also available on the site:

Bidding

Pixel Scroll 12/3/16 I Pixeled A Scroll In Reno, Just To Watch It Cry….

new-york-ghost

(1) HATCHED BEFORE YOUR EYES. Mashable reveals “All the ‘Harry Potter’ Easter eggs you missed in the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ opening”.

Fantastic Beasts is the type of film that has so much going on it’s all too easy to miss the little things — particularly when you realise how much effort goes into every single prop.

From the posters that pop up along the streets of New York to the books that line the shelves in people’s houses, everything has been carefully considered and crafted to slot neatly in to J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world.

The company behind these details — or “hero props”, as they’re known in the industry — is a graphic design studio called MinaLima. If you’ve ever seen a Harry Potter film, you’ve seen their work.

“Anything that’s scripted — in this case say the Marauder’s Map; The Daily Prophet; any of the books or letters or magazines — so anything that’s scripted that helps tell the story and keep it moving along, we would have to design them and usually make them as well,” Miraphora Mina, a graphic designer at MinaLima, told Mashable.

(2) YOU WON’T BELIEVE NUMBER 4. MeTV lists “8 mean, green facts about ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’”.

3. Boris Karloff is the narrator.

One of horror’s most respected actors voiced the children’s special. Originally, Geisel didn’t like Karloff’s casting because he feared it would make the program too scary.

grinch

(3) THE MUSIC MAN. Theater-goers are hearing someone else’s music in a Star Wars movie this month, but the maestro will be back on the podium soon. ScreenRant reports “Star Wars: John Williams Begins Recording Episode 8 Score This Month”.

Series spinoff, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, releases later this month and will be the first film in the series not scored by Williams. That distinction will instead go to Michael Giacchino (Doctor Strange), who took over for Alexandre Desplat (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) after reshoots delayed the start of the process. Unfortunately, this left Giacchino with only four weeks to finish the score.

In a recent discussion with John Williams for a piece in Variety, it was revealed that Williams will begin the process of scoring Star Wars: Episode VIII this December, and expects to continue the process through March-April of 2017. That leaves a 4 to 5-month time span for Williams to make the score really shine and potentially more time to spare since the film doesn’t release until December.

(4) TAOS TOOLBOX. Walter Jon Williams says applications started coming in on the first day.

December 1 is the first day to receive submissions for Taos Toolbox, the master class for writers of science fiction and fantasy, taught this year by Nancy Kress and Walter Jon Williams, along with guests George RR Martin, Steven Gould, and Emily Mah Tippetts.

And in fact applications have started to arrive right on schedule.

If you think you want to do this professionally, you can do yourself no bigger favor than to send us your application.

(5) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #8. The eighth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for an Autographed Book (Print or Audio) by Nicole Kornher-Stace.

Today’s auction is for an autographed copy of either the paperback or audio CD (your choice) of Kornher-Stace’s Norton-nominated YA novel ARCHIVIST WASP.

archivist-wasp-cover

About the Book:

Wasp’s job is simple. Hunt ghosts. And every year she has to fight to remain Archivist. Desperate and alone, she strikes a bargain with the ghost of a supersoldier. She will go with him on his underworld hunt for the long-lost ghost of his partner and in exchange she will find out more about his pre-apocalyptic world than any Archivist before her. And there is much to know. After all, Archivists are marked from birth to do the holy work of a goddess. They’re chosen. They’re special. Or so they’ve been told for four hundred years.

Archivist Wasp fears she is not the chosen one, that she won’t survive the trip to the underworld, that the brutal life she has escaped might be better than where she is going. There is only one way to find out.

(6) A GOOD START ON RECOVERY. Sarah A. Hoyt phrased her health update like this:

So, for the record, I’m still not dead.

While I did have some sort of a heart event, with continuing irregularities after, it is not in any way a “conventional heart attack.”  Those are the good news….

And she provides more diagnostic details in the post.

(7) FLINT NOT WELL. Eric Flint shared alarming health news of his own in a public post on Facebook today.

I’ve been quite sick for the past three months, with the kind of symptoms that are not easy to sort out. The main ones were: constant fatigue, getting tired easily, occasional dizziness, frequent shortness of breath.

I finally went to the doctor earlier this week, and he did some blood work that showed that my hemoglobin and iron had dropped through the floor. So, he send me to a gastrointestinal specialist and yesterday he did an upper endoscopy on me. (Which they call an EG…D for reasons that escape me.)

Anyway, great news! I have a bleeding ulcer in my stomach!

Well… okay, it’s not technically an ulcer because the stomach lining hasn’t been completely perforated. They’re calling it something like “erosion,” But what it means is that I’ve been losing blood internally, probably over a long period of time until the symptoms became noticeable.

Why do I call this “good news”? Because the alternative was a hell of a lot worse. I do have heart disease — quite mild, but it’s there –. and those same symptoms (fatigue, getting tired easily, shortness of breath, dizziness) are the classic symptoms that your heart’s starting to fly south for the winter.

I’ll take a little blood loss, thank you. My Viking ancestors would have spit the blood into their mead cups and kept partying. (One of their few saving graces.)

Tomorrow, Lu and I are going on the Sail to Success cruise for which I’m one of the instructors. (Yes, the doctor told me it was okay.)

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 3, 1973 — Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Telly Savalas star in Horror Express.
  • December 3, 1993 — Guillermo Del Toro’s Cronos opens in Del Toro’s native Mexico.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born December 3, 1960 — Daryl Hannah
  • Born December 3, 1968 — Brendan Fraser

(10) THESE AREN’T THE ROOKIES THEY’RE LOOKING FOR. The Fort Worth Police Department is using a Star Wars theme in its recruiting videos. Applicant Darth Vader takes an interview in the first video.

And from Facebook, here’s FWPD’s introduction to the follow-up video:

The Galactic Empire’s second attempt at getting into a Fort Worth Police Academy class. The next civil service exam dates are Jan.10-11, 2017. We are accepting applications until Dec.12, 2016.

Visit http://fortworthtexas.gov/hr/PoliceRecruitment/ for more information. “Good luck and may the “force” be with you.”

 

(11) THE EXPECTED FANNISH INQUISITION. Representatives of three seated WSFS conventions gave updates and responded to questions at SMOFCon 34, the annual SF/F genre conrunners conference, December 3, in Rosemont (Chicago area), Illinois.

SMOFCon 34 Fannish Inquisition: 2017 NASFiC San Juan (16:00)

SMOFCon 34 Fannish Inquisition: 2017 Worldcon Helsinki (17:29)

SMOFCon 34 Fannish Inquisition: 2018 Worldcon San Jose (13:41)

(12) BABY IT’S COLD OUTSIDE. Gotta love that Finnish sense of humor. Wonder if they’ll do something special for Worldcon travelers?

(13) SUSPICIOUS PUPPY VOTING TREND. A post on the Merriam-Webster blog caught my eye — “In a Time of Uncertainty, a Divided Nation Searches for Puppies. So many puppies. But none of them will be Word of the Year”.

Words that trended this year: Fascism. Misogyny. Acrimonious. Nasty. Bigot. Puppy?

…But people didn’t just suddenly begin searching for puppies. Both puppies and flummadiddle began to trend after we observed that our top lookup has been fascism for the past several weeks.

[Thanks to JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]