Pixel Scroll 2/16/18 There Are Six Pixels On This Scroll: Two At The Rear, Two At The Front And Two Over The Tick Box

(1) 2017 HUGO VIDEO. Worldcon 75 Hugo Ceremony video has been posted. Due to technical difficulties, it omits the first 15 minutes of the event and the first winner presented (Best Fan Artist). They did capture the remaining two-plus hours of the ceremonies. (Oor Wombat’s “Whalefall” acceptance speech begins at 1:48.)

(2) INSPIRED.SPECPO catches up with a longtime poet — “Fairy Tales and Finding Poetic Inspiration: An interview with Ruth Berman”.

Ruth Berman

How did you get started as a writer?
When I was about five, the family took a train trip to Florida during winter vacation.  Looking out the train window at the full moon shining on a lagoon, I felt that it was so beautiful that had to compose a poem about it. As I did not know how to write, I dictated the result to my oldest brother to write down for me so that I could keep it until I could read. (No, I won’t quote it. Five-year-olds don’t compose very good poetry.)

Who are some of your favorite science fiction and fantasy influences?
The members of the Twin Cities Sf Poetry writing group and of the Aaardvaark writing group. Anthony Boucher, Poul Anderson, Ursula K. LeGuin, J.R.R. Tolkien, Diana Wynne Jones, Avram Davidson, Terry Pratchett, Fritz Leiber, L. Frank Baum, Lewis Carroll.

What keeps you going as a writer?
Sometimes nothing does. But at some point when I haven’t had any ideas for a long time, something will set me off again, so I try not to worry during the dry spells. I read a lot of non-fiction in the fields of mythology, folktales, history, and science, looking for ideas — sometimes find some in the process, sometimes not. Also sometimes get ideas from other people’s fiction, especially if I disagree with a story. Sometimes, if the situation calls for characters to have coats of arms, it helps to stop and ask myself what a character’s coat of arms is — which I seem to find more helpful than the more usual prompts of asking what music the character likes or hates, what foods, books, clothes — that sort of thing.

(3) LE GUIN TRIBUTE IN PORTLAND. Ursula K. Le Guin’s family says a public tribute is being planned, date to be determined.

Dear readers and friends,

We are deeply honored by the outpouring of affection and admiration for Ursula and her life’s work.

Many have asked whether we are planning a public event to commemorate and honor Ursula; others have asked where one could direct donations in her name.

We are working with Literary Arts to plan a tribute, to be held in April or May 2018 in Portland, free and open to the public.

(4) NO BOOM. The LA Review of Books considers an atomic scientist’s spec-fic story: “Listening to the Dolphins: Leo Szilard on Nuclear War”.

LEO SZILARD’S short story “The Voice of the Dolphins,” published in 1961, imagines a history of the world written in 1990. The story begins with the sentence, “On several occasions between 1960 and 1985, the world narrowly escaped an all-out atomic war.” One of the 20th century’s greatest physicists, Szilard knew whereof he spoke: along with Enrico Fermi, he was responsible for creating the first nuclear chain reaction in 1942. Szilard understood very well the history, physics, and destructive power of the Bomb. He could have chosen to write a tense record of the 1945 explosion at Hiroshima, along the lines of John Hersey’s classic study, or he might have related the history of the Bomb’s invention à la Richard Rhodes. Instead, he chose to write a piece of fiction — dry almost to the point of tedium — about the geopolitical future of the Atomic Age.

His choice is fascinating, not least because it suggests that Szilard’s interests as a man of science extended far beyond the domain of physics into the social and political spheres. His actions belie the sort of caricature of scientists found in Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle (1963) and other midcentury texts — an autistic tinkerer who leads the world to the brink of destruction by solving a military problem without any thought for the consequences. On the contrary, Szilard’s fiction is a serious attempt to grapple with the ethico-political impact of the epochal invention he in large part helped to author.

(5) CLAIM TO FAME. Kim Huett says, “Time to take it down a notch after writing such a serious post last week. You will note that I am the first person to ever combine Walt Willis and Mystery Science Theater 3000. (I’m possibly the only person who could.)”

Can Huett live up to this boast? Read “The Notorious Bert I. Gordon” and see.

Okay, so now we all know that MST3K is a TV show that revolves around showing a movie of dubious quality and providing a humorous commentary which, in this, the future world of today, is a little thing we like to call riffing. I doubt riffing is a new or revolutionary practise, I imagine people have been moved to talk back to the screen ever since the very first bad movie was shown in front of an audience. I even have evidence of a primitive form of movie riffing happening at a British science fiction convention. Consider this quote from Walt Willis writing about the Loncon in Quandry #22 (edited by Lee Hoffman, August 1952). This particular Loncon (there has been more than one SF convention called this) was held 31 May & 1 June, 1952 and in London of all places:

The final event was a showing of Metropolis, which in a way was the best part of the official programme. This was because there was no incidental music to drown fan comment on the action, some of which was brilliant. Dan Morgan shone especially. When the hero suddenly mimed exaggerated alarm the way they do in silent films and dashed madly for the door Dan remarked “FIRST ON THE RIGHT”. That started it and the whole worthy but rather dull film was enlivened by a ruining commentary from the audience which I wish I had space to quote…

(6) LAST RESTING PLACE. Atlas Obscura has photo features of a number of gravesites, including those of two Inklings —

The bones of C.S. Lewis, one of the 20th century’s literary greats, rest within a peaceful cemetery. Nearby, an etched glass window bearing characters from his most famous fantasy world adds a whimsical touch of childhood magic to the churchyard….

The grave of C.S. Lewis lies within the cemetery of the Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry just outside of Oxford. He was buried there in November of 1963, and even today it’s common to find flowers placed atop his tombstone.

The names Lúthien and Beren can be found inscribed on the shared grave of the famous writer and his beloved wife and muse.

The final resting place of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892–1973) and Edith Mary Tolkien (1889-1971) is covered in an abundance flowers, plants, and offerings from fans in the verdant cemetery of Wolvercote in Northern Oxford. They are buried together in a single grave in the Catholic section of the cemetery.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 16, 1923 — In Thebes, Egypt, English archaeologist Howard Carter enters the sealed burial chamber of the ancient Egyptian ruler King Tutankhamen.

(8) THE HORROR. Gizmodo may have violated the Geneva Convention by posting this online — “Man Redefines Horror By Building a Singing Furby Organ”.

(9) AMUSING CONCEIT. Here’s the Black Panther trailer done as an 8-bit game video:

(10) SUPERHEROES LIKE ME. The Washington Post’s David Betancourt interviews Ryan Coogler, who talks about how he has loved comics since he was a kid and how he was brought into the MCU by Nate Moore, Marvel’s only African-American producer: “‘Black Panther’s’ Ryan Coogler has always been searching for superheroes who look like him”.

“I went to the comic book shop that was by my school and asked if they had any black characters,” Coogler recalled.

That was the moment Coogler discovered the Black Panther.

While in film school at University of Southern California, where he graduated in 2011, that love of comics remained — and after Marvel Studios started its connected cinematic universe with 2008’s box office hit “Iron Man,” Coogler began imagining that one day he might direct a superhero movie.

Betancourt has another article about how he is half African-American and half Puerto Rican and is excited about a superhero movie featuring people who look like him: “I’m a 37-year-old Afro-Latino comic nerd. I’ve waited a lifetime for ‘Black Panther.’”

Imagine waiting a lifetime for a hero, at times thinking he’ll never come. Imagine being there when he finally shows up.

That’s the feeling for many of us — fans of color who love superhero culture — as we anticipate the live-action movie debut of the Black Panther, indisputably the greatest black superhero of all time.

In Marvel Cinematic Universe years, it’s only been a decade since 2008’s “Iron Man” introduced a new era of epic, interconnected storytelling on-screen. But for those of us who discovered Black Panther in the comics — the character first appeared in 1966 — the wait has been much longer.

(11) SETI SLOWDOWN. First they need to find intelligent life on earth – the BBC reports “Crypto-currency craze ‘hinders search for alien life'”.

Scientists listening out for broadcasts by extra-terrestrials are struggling to get the computer hardware they need, thanks to the crypto-currency mining craze, a radio-astronomer has said.

Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) researchers want to expand operations at two observatories.

However, they have found that key computer chips are in short supply.

“We’d like to use the latest GPUs [graphics processing units]… and we can’t get ’em,” said Dan Werthimer.

Demand for GPUs has soared recently thanks to crypto-currency mining.

“That’s limiting our search for extra-terrestrials, to try to answer the question, ‘Are we alone? Is there anybody out there?’,” Dr Werthimer told the BBC.

“This is a new problem, it’s only happened on orders we’ve been trying to make in the last couple of months.”

Mining a currency such as Bitcoin or Ethereum involves connecting computers to a global network and using them to solve complex mathematical puzzles.

Here’s an even more direct measure of the impact of this currency mining — “Bitcoin energy use in Iceland set to overtake homes, says local firm”.

Iceland is facing an “exponential” rise in Bitcoin mining that is gobbling up power resources, a spokesman for Icelandic energy firm HS Orka has said.

This year, electricity use at Bitcoin mining data centres is likely to exceed that of all Iceland’s homes, according to Johann Snorri Sigurbergsson.

He said many potential customers were keen to get in on the act.

(12) SEVENTH DOCTOR WHO RETURNS. BBC Worldwide Americas and Titan Comics are bringing back the Seventh Doctor for a new three-part comic series stars the Seventh Doctor, as played by Sylvester McCoy, alongside classic companion Ace (Sophie Aldred).

Hitting stores and digital platforms in June 2018 with a double-sized first issue, DOCTOR WHO: THE SEVENTH DOCTOR #1, written by Seventh Doctor script editor and showrunner Andrew Cartmel, and writer Ben Aaronovitch (Rivers of London). Doctor Who: The Seventh Doctor expands Titan Comics’ hugely popular and critically acclaimed Doctor Who comics line.

Actor Sylvester McCoy starred as the Seventh Doctor from 1987 to 1989 anchoring hundreds of novels and comic strips before regenerating in the 1996 TV movie. As well as this new comic, the Seventh Doctor’s era lives on in a tremendously successful series of audios from Big Finish. McCoy’s portrayal as the Doctor was, at first, a light-hearted eccentric who darkened into a secretive, mysterious, and cunning planner across the course of his tenure.

In Titan Comics’ new mini-series, an unknown alien intelligence in orbit around the Earth. Astronauts under attack. A terrifying, mysterious landing in the Australian interior. The future of the world itself at stake. Counter Measures activated. The Seventh Doctor and Ace are slap bang in the middle of it all! This is OPERATION VOLCANO!

(13) EVIL EMPIRE. Eric Chesterton, in the MLB.com piece  “The Yankees Will Give Away An Aaron Judge Jedi Bobblehead For Star Wars Night,”  have a picture of the Coveted Collectible that all Filers who are Yankees fans will have to have!

(14) DESPITE POPULAR DEMAND. The irresistible charm of exactly what? explains why “Michael Fassbender is starring in a feature-length sequel to Kung Fury”.

The retro ’80s mash-up short Kung Fury made the improbable leap from kitschy Kickstarter project to the Cannes Film Festival, and now it will be getting a feature-length sequel starring Prometheus and Steve Jobs star Michael Fassbender. Variety reports that the creator and star of the original Kung Fury, David Sandberg, is also set to appear in the movie as the titular hero. David Hasselhoff, who had a role in the short, is also expected to return.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Will R., Rev. Bob, Daniel Dern, Carl Slaughter, Kim Huett, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 1/19/18 The Scroll Pixel Wagon Is A-‘Comin Down The Street, Oh Please Let It Be For Me

(1) WASHINGTONIAN WOMBAT. The Washington Post’s Mary Quattlebaum profiles Ursula Vernon, whose comic five-volume Hamster Princess series retells “fairy tales with a strong female hero,” in “Ursula Vernon elevates a rodent to royalty”.  The latest, Whiskerella, retells Cinderella but with mice.

‘I always wondered why the girl didn’t save herself,” Ursula Vernon said about the fairy tales she read as a kid. “I mean, why doesn’t Snow White just whack the evil queen instead of relying on the prince?”

Vernon decided to retell fairy tales with a strong female hero. In her popular Hamster Princess series, Harriet eagerly rescues anyone in danger.

Often, though, the high-spirited hamster creates the very situations she must rescue herself and others from.

In “Whiskerella,” the fifth book in this hilarious series, Harriet takes on a bossy fairy godmouse. The godmouse wants Ella, a pretty hamster, to go to royal balls and meet a prince to marry. But Ella doesn’t like any of the rude princes she meets. And she hates wearing the magical glass slippers! They pinch her feet.

(2) GENERATIONAL CHANGE. The Paris Review’s Dara Horn notes that her daughter has a lot of choices that weren’t available to her growing up — “Finding Science Fiction and Fantasy for Female Readers”.

… Something enormous has happened in the years between my childhood and my daughter’s—a shift that might have started somewhere around The Golden Compass series, or with novels by Tamora Pierce and Francesca Lia Block or dozens of other books I had grown too old to read, and then accelerated with the runaway success of the Twilight and Hunger Games series. A young-adult landscape emerged where science fiction and fantasy was no longer targeted only at boys, and girls were no longer expected to read only stories about empathetic middle-school friends. This phenomenon is complex, an elaborate give-and-take between the changing roles of women and the rising demand for stories of the fantastic, and I don’t pretend to understand the many social and commercial forces that brought it into being. But I can’t help but notice the vast difference between my daughter’s bookshelf and mine—the many magical books waiting for her when she finished A Wrinkle in Time, hungry for more—and rue the imagined worlds I missed by being born too soon….

(3) COMMON DENOMINATOR. Stina Leicht makes a wise suggestion in “Sometimes Your Experience is What You Bring”.

Reading is an interactive experience. This is a big part of what makes literature an art form. Writers don’t get to dictate your experience of their work. We’ve never had that level of control–even if sometimes we wish we did.[1] A literary work is always one part what the reader brings to the piece. Readers aren’t passive. Reading engages the imagination. If the piece you’re reading doesn’t do this, the piece in question has failed in its job. That’s the definition of interactive. So, if you’re missing a sense of wonder from all modern SFF, then maybe it’s time for some self-examination? As a therapist once told me: “If every relationship is a failed relationship, maybe it’s time to have a look at the common denominator in all those relationships.” Hint: the biggest common factor is yourself. So, maybe it’s time to admit that maybe the lack of wonder isn’t the author’s fault? Because no author, no matter how talented or how powerful the work, can give you back your childhood.

(4) ERIC FLINT HEALTH UPDATE. There’s good news, as Eric Flint posted yesterday on Facebook.

I saw my oncologist today. The results of a CT scan I took last week have come in and everything looks good. There’s no indication of any kind that the lymphoma has come back. So YAY for medical science and nurses and doctors and everybody who works in hospitals and clinics.

And, okay, a grudging YAY for the poisons that killed the cancer faster than they killed me. They call it “chemotherapy.” This is a bit like calling attempted murder “homicide therapy.” But, what the hell, it seems like it worked, so a grudging YAY for homicide therapy.

(5) RARE BOOK DESTRUCTION. A flood in a bookstore basement ruined some King rarities, among others —“Stephen King ‘horrified’ by loss of his manuscripts in bookstore flooding” in the Bangor Daily News.

Stephen King said Wednesday that he was “horrified” to learn that tens of thousands of dollars worth of rare books — including his own original manuscripts and rare editions — were ruined after a burst pipe flooded the basement of several downtown Bangor businesses.

Gerald Winters’ bookstore, which specializes in rare and limited edition copies of King’s books, was among the handful of businesses damaged by flooding from the broken pipe in front of 46 Main St.

“I’m horrified. As a book lover, my heart goes out to him,” King told the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday. “I will eventually reach out and see if I can help in any way.”

Winters estimates he lost about 2,000 books, and as many as seven of King’s original typed manuscripts, including, “Dolan’s Cadillac,” “Maximum Overdrive,” and “The Eyes of the Dragon.” Dozens of first- and limited-edition King books, galleys, signed copies and prints in different languages are among the items believed to be damaged.

(6) THE ARTIST’S OWN COLLECTION. The Society of Illustrators in New York is hosting “Under the Influence: The Private Collection of Peter de Sève” through March 17.

This very special exhibit offers guests the unique opportunity to view the personal collection of Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame recipient, Peter de Sève, and to learn what pieces in it inspire (and intimidate!) him. Spanning over 200 years, the show includes gems by legendary artists including: Edmund Dulac, Vivienne Flesher, Frank Frazetta, A.B. Frost, Carter Goodrich, Ana Juan, Moebius, T.S. Sullivant and many more.

Peter de Sève has created some of the most beloved images in the worlds of print and animation over the course of his 40-year career. From his design of the neurotic, saber-toothed “Scrat,” to his many unforgettable New Yorker magazine covers, de Sève has been producing classic images that continue to provoke and delight.

(7) GENRE HISTORY BOOK EXHIBIT. A Conversation larger than the Universe will be on view at The Grolier Club in New York City from January 25 through March 10.

A Conversation larger than the Universe is a history of science fiction in 70 literary artefacts and a highly personal tour through the bookshelves of Henry Wessells. The books—many signed or inscribed by their authors—magazines, manuscripts, letters, and artwork date from the mid-eighteenth century to the present and will allow the viewer to explore the ideas and people that have defined the literatures of the fantastic, from Mary Shelley and H. G. Wells to Philip K. Dick, Joanna Russ, James Tiptree, Jr., and William Gibson…

Beginning with the origins of science fiction in the Gothic, this ‘Conversation’ contemplates topics such as the End of the World (and After), Imaginary Voyages, Dystopia, Women Authors, Literary Innovation, Humor, the Sixties, Rock ’n’ Roll, Cyberpunk, Steampunk, and what’s happening in science fiction and the fantastic right now. The exhibition adopts a broad description of Science Fiction encompassing Fantasy and Horror as well as bibliography and scholarship in the field.

In connection with the exhibition, a one-day Symposium on Science Fiction with a panel of distinguished authors, editors, and scholars will be held on Tuesday 6 March, 6-7:30 p.m.

Henry Wessells is an antiquarian bookseller in New York City and author of Another green world (2003) and Extended Range (2015). A frequent contributor to The New York Review of Science Fiction, his work has appeared in NatureLady Churchill’s Rosebud WristletWormwoodInterzoneThe Washington Post Book World, and other publications. He is also editor and bibliographer of American science fiction author Avram Davidson.

(8) WHO’S IN THE SUIT? Scott Edelman hopes a File 770 reader can solve these mysteries:

(9) THE COMING THING IN POETRY. The SPECPO blog interviews Holly Lyn Walrath, SF&F Poetry Association member and editor of Eye To The Telescope’s Time issue, in “Lone Stars, Abstractionism and Other Thoughtcrimes: Talking with Holly Lyn Walrath”

What are some of the trends you see in speculative literature that are really exciting you? Is there anything that’s boring you or that you see potentially as a literary dead-end?

I get really excited about experimental forms now appearing in speculative literature—hybrid works, erasures, and stories that cross genres. I’m thinking of the early work of Ken Liu using faux-erasure, as well as writers like Bogi Takács exploring hypertext poetry, Michael Janairo’s video poem from Mithila Review. Speculative literature is exploring more and more the definition of what we consider speculative literature. Another example is Riddled with Arrows, a new literary journal that focuses on writing about writing. It’s great to see so many venues and editors willing to showcase these new forms.

(10) POSSUM SPRINGS ETERNAL. Abigail Nussbaum discusses the pervasive pop culture influence of the game Night in the Woods.

You’ve probably heard about Night in the Woods even if you haven’t played it, or have only a vague idea what it is.  Released by indie studio Infinite Fall last year after a highly-successful kickstarter campaign, the game, an adventure-slash-ghost-story starring anthropomorphic animals who live in a dying Rust Belt town, is an irresistible combination of cute and spooky.  Its story, in which twenty-year-old college dropout Mae returns to her home of Possum Springs, reconnects with her friends and family, and slowly begins to realize that there are dark doings afoot, seems designed to appeal to a certain type of young fan, with its themes of early-adulthood aimlessness, coming of age, and mental illness.  Graphics from the game have been cropping up on my twitter feed and tumblr dash for months, almost instantly iconic due to the game’s simple yet evocative (and expertly-executed) design.  What surprised me, however, when I finished the game last week and went looking for in-depth discussions of it, is how little talk there seems to have been about Night in the Woods‘s politics.  To me, they feel not just important, but like the key to the entire exercise.

(11) COOK OBIT. Southern fan Don (Dea) Cook, an active Southern fan who also sent many stories for File 770, has died of cancer. (I haven’t seen the date yet.) He shared the Rebel Award with Bob Shaw in 1994. Don and his wife, Samanda Jeude, were Fan GoHs at the 1997 Balticon. He chaired an Atlanta bid for the 1995 Worldcon (losing to Glasgow). He also served for a time on the Worldcon’s Mark Protection Committee.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 19, 1809 – Edgar Allan Poe, in Boston, MA.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian recognized we needed to see this “how many X does it take” joke in Bizarro.

(14) STAR-CROSSED FELAPTON. In “Captain Bob and the Space Patrol”, Camestros Felapton makes a foredoomed attempt to write a completely apolitical sff story.

Captain Bob marched towards the silver-chrome rocket ship.

Did I say ‘captain’? That won’t do. I really don’t want anything political in this story. ‘Captain’ that suggests a rank and a rank suggests all sorts of thing. I mean sure, you can be captain of a civilian ship – it just means you are the one in charge but even that assumes Bob lives in a society in which hierarchal chains of command are the norm. Because this story must have no politics, I don’t want to suggest that his ship is necessarily run as some sort of anarcho-syndicalist commune of like-minded space travellers but I also don’t want to rule out the possibility by calling Bob ‘captain’. Mind you, if I don’t call him ‘captain’ does that rule out possibility that Bob lives in a society like ours? I guess even if he is a captain then ‘Bob’ is still his name.

I’ll stick with just plain Bob. The reader can add ‘captain’ or ‘daily short-term decision maker decided by lot’ accordingly.

(15) PORK PRODUCT. If you enjoy reading negative things about McDonald’s McRib sandwich, this 2011 article is for you: “A Conspiracy of Hogs: The McRib as Arbitrage”.  And there’s more! — an appealing conspiracy theory.

The physical attributes of the sandwich only add to the visceral revulsion some have to the product?—?the same product that others will drive hundreds of miles to savor. But many people, myself included, believe that all these things?—?the actual presumably entirely organic matter that goes into making the McRib?—?are somewhat secondary to the McRib’s existence. This is where we enter the land of conjectures, conspiracy theories and dark, ribby murmurings. The McRib’s unique aspects and impermanence, many of us believe, make it seem a likely candidate for being a sort of arbitrage strategy on McDonald’s part. Calling a fast food sandwich an arbitrage strategy is perhaps a bit of a reach?—?but consider how massive the chain’s market influence is, and it becomes a bit more reasonable.

Arbitrage is a risk-free way of making money by exploiting the difference between the price of a given good on two different markets?—?it’s the proverbial free lunch you were told doesn’t exist. In this equation, the undervalued good in question is hog meat, and McDonald’s exploits the value differential between pork’s cash price on the commodities market and in the Quick-Service Restaurant market. If you ignore the fact that this is, by definition, not arbitrage because the McRib is a value-added product, and that there is risk all over the place, this can lead to some interesting conclusions. (If you don’t want to do something so reckless, then stop here.)

(16) STREET SMARTS. If you’ve fallen behind on Sesame Street – say, by two to four decades – this article in The New Yorker will catch you up: “The Evolution of “Sesame Street” on HBO”.

“Sesame Street” perpetually evolves as guided by trending theories of education: when the game-show host Guy Smiley ambushes Bert into a round of “Estimation Crustacean,” which is a math quiz contested by a shellfish, the scene reflects current thinking on teaching arithmetic. Also, this noble program tailors its tone and content for its audience as elastically as the most craven network talk show. Because fewer adults actually pay attention to “Sesame Street” these days, the series has turned down the dial on pop-culture parodies, such as one spoofing “Mad Men,” from 2009, with an advertising executive thanking his staff for making him happy. (“Good work, sycophants,” the Muppet Don Draper says.) And “Sesame Street” responds to media technology at a deliberate pace. Last year saw the début of Smartie, an animated yellow phone, as a new sidekick for Elmo. “Look it up” is her catchphrase. Elmo, of course, converses with Smartie in his distinctive falsetto, a voice that, with practice, an adult can train himself not to really hear. Smartie, too, is slightly annoying. But I would trust her to babysit.

The most recent renovation of the Sesame Street courtyard, which is properly called the Arbor, involves one bold reconfiguration of the landscape. There now exists a view of a bridge. The shape of its tower suggests the Verrazano-Narrows, but its color apes the “international orange” of the Golden Gate Bridge, and it angles into the background as if Hooper’s Store is selling milkshakes in Dumbo. I find the bridge slightly disconcerting, and I can point to textual evidence that Oscar the Grouch shares my concerns. And yet it opens up a hospitable space. The bridge reaches out to expand the sense of place and extend a generous welcome. This land is your land, to the New York Island.

(17) HOLD ONTO YOUR… SEAT. Bored Panda has photos of “30+ Epic Toy Design Fails That Are So Bad, It’s Hilarious”. I don’t know if I want to run any of the photos as an excerpt, since so many are unintentional dick jokes, but they are hilarious as advertised.

We’ve seen our share of crappy design, but store shelves are so abundant with them, there’s always more to poke fun at. For example, toys. They’re usually designed and made by adults, so you’d expect a considerable amount of consideration before manufacturing them, right? Well, not so much. Bored Panda has collected some of the most questionable toys to prove that some designers have no clue what they’re doing.

From a doll head, used as an actual pony tail to a psychotic Elmo, it seems ridiculous someone actually greenlighted these ideas.

(18) WHO SAID CATS DON’T LIKE WATER. Atlas Obscura fills us in on “The Little-Known History of Seafaring Pets”.

When researchers conducted the first global study of ancient cat DNA they found that our feline friends were domesticated in the Near East and Egypt some 15,000 years ago, and later spread to Europe thanks in part to mariners, from the Phoenicians to the Vikings, who often took them on board to ward off rodents (another frequent human companion at sea, though not by design). A few thousand years later, the Romans took chickens on board military ships to predict the outcomes of battles—if the hens ate, victory could be expected. Roman general Publius Claudius Pulcher tried this trick before the Battle of Drepana against the Carthaginians in 249 B.C. He ignored the bad omen and threw the birds overboard. The Roman fleet was nearly wiped out. Despite this anecdote, the roles played by our maritime animal companions rarely make the history books. It is only recently that cultural institutions around the world have begun to pay attention to the history of animals at sea.

(19) COULD BE. Once he read Emma Straub’s “My Father Supported My Career—Until He Didn’t” in Real Simple, Andrew Porter decided, “This likely explains why, when I went into the bookstore she owns here in Brooklyn, and offered the people there (she was not present) scans of the many photos of Peter Straub (her father) I’d taken over the years, I never heard back from her.”

But this scenario happened again and again. I wrote books; my father read them and pronounced them wonderful, surefire hits…and then they wouldn’t sell. Still, my dad’s faith in me never wavered, even as I worked a host of other jobs—for a fancy cookbook publisher, at a clothing store for teens and tweens, as a personal assistant to a musician, in a bookstore. I even taught writing classes in my living room. Some of the jobs, like being a bookseller, were great and contributed to my writing life. Some, like selling overpriced jeans to 12-year-olds, were only good insofar as they were fodder for future stories. And they were—because it finally happened. I sold a book! I was going to make it big!

Sort of. My first book, a collection of stories, sold for a very modest amount of money—about enough to buy half of a fancy handbag. I was beyond thrilled. My parents came to every single event I did in New York City, always in the front row, laughing loudly in all the right spots. And then shortly thereafter I sold a novel for what felt like a lot of money, enough for my husband and me to turn the dank basement of our house into an actual office space, complete with the hot pink cabinets of our dreams.

That’s when things got weird. I was getting lots of press—magazines took my photograph and wrote articles about me, and I got asked to do zillions of events. Whenever I would call my dad to tell him about the new bits of press or things on the schedule, he would say, “Why didn’t they ask me to do that?” As if it made sense for Vogue to ask him to write a short story inspired by one of the new fall trends. At first, it seemed funny, but then I realized that he was serious—he was actually jealous. “Why didn’t they ask me to do this [any number of silly events at bars in Brooklyn that he wouldn’t have wanted to do in the first place]?” I think one of the problems was that my dad saw everything I did—he had Google Alerts set up for my name, so he’d often call to tell me that he’d seen something before I had.

(20) STAR WARS REBELS. The end begins when Star Wars Rebels returns with its final episodes. Monday, February 19 on Disney XD.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Janice Gelb, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, mlex, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 11/20/17 I’ll Be Over Here Eating My Lunch Alone On The Pixelground

(1) TURKEY FIRST. ULTRAGOTHA chastized me for yesterday’s Scroll title:

Mike, Mike, Mike. Please. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet! Can’t we have our Pixellated Turkey with Scrollbean Casserole and all the fixins before being subject to Scrollnuts Roasting on an Open Glyer?

(2) ATTENTION REDWOMBAT READERS. T. Kingfisher’s Clockwork Boys is available for pre-order.

For those following along at home, this is the Thing With The Paladin And The Ninja Accountant. And it is Book One! It is not a standalone! Book Two will be out, hopefully February-ish! (It is, however, a duology, not a trilogy or whatever.)

(3) LINE UP AND SIGN UP. The makers of Pacific Rim Uprising are offering someone a chance to be in the movie – sign up at Jaeger Academy.

Do you have what it takes to become a Jaeger Pilot? Welcome to Jaeger Academy, where you will learn to pilot the most powerful machines to ever walk the Earth, and become the most heroic version of yourself. Enlist now to test yourself in Pan Pacific Defense Corps missions for the chance to become immortalized in the Hall of Heroes, have your name in the film credits, name a Jaeger from the film, and more! Join the Uprising now to stand tall for all humanity.

 

(4) A LIST OF THE BEST. The B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog calls these 25 books “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2017”. I’m surprised that this is the first time I’ve heard of a third of these titles. And their runner-up list has several titles I expect to be award nominees.

Which brings us to the books below—25 titles that stood out in a particularly strong year for SFF, a year during which many of us looked to the speculative to help us grapple with the strangeness around us—or to offer us an escape from it. Taken collectively, they are: provoking, thoughtful, compelling, challenging, unique. And, most certainly, they are all so very 2017. These are the best science fiction and fantasy books of the year. (Never fear, short fiction fans: we’re covering anthologies and collections in a separate list—horror too.) 

(5) ELEVENFOX. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog also has the cover reveal for Elevenfox Gambit, actually titled Revanant Gun.

Yoon Ha Lee Answers 5 Questions About Revenant Gun

What are we looking at on the cover of Revenant Gun?
The cover shows my protagonist Jedao’s flagship (“command moth,” in the parlance of the books), called the Revenant, and the Fortress of Pearled Hopes.

(6) LE GUIN, MOTHERHOOD, AND WRITING. David Streitfeld does the asking in “Writing Nameless Things: An Interview with Ursula K. Le Guin” at the LA Review of Books.

When did you write?

After the kids were put to bed, or left in their bed with a book. My kids went to bed much earlier than most kids do now. I was appalled to learn my grandchildren were staying up to 11:00. That would have driven me up the wall. We kept old-fashioned hours — 8:00 p.m., 9:00 p.m. I would go up to the attic, and work 9:00 to midnight. If I was tired, it was a little tough. But I was kind of gung-ho to do it. I like to write. It’s exciting, something I’m really happy doing.

Does being in the Library of America make you feel you’ve joined the immortals? You’re now up there with all the greats — Twain, Poe, Wharton.

I grew up with a set of Mark Twain in the house. Collections of authors’ work were not such a big deal. And my agent was hesitant about the contract, since the pay upfront was less than she’s used to settling for. She’s a good agent. Her job is to make money. What I did not realize is that being published in the Library of America is a real and enduring honor. Especially while you’re still alive. Philip Roth and I make a peculiar but exclusive club.

(7) MWA AWARDS. Mystery Writers of America announced the recipients of its 2018 Special Edgar Awards – Grand Master, Raven and Ellery Queen:

Jane Langton, William Link, and Peter Lovesey have been chosen as the 2018 Grand Masters by Mystery Writers of America (MWA). MWA’s Grand Master Award represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as for a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality.  Ms. Langton, Mr. Link, and Mr. Lovesey will receive their awards at the 72nd Annual Edgar Awards Banquet, which will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on April 26, 2018.

…The Raven Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing.  The Raven Bookstore and Kristopher Zgorski will receive the 2018 Raven Award.

The Raven Bookstore in Lawrence, Kansas, celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2017. The store was opened in 1987 by co-owners Pat Kehde and Mary Lou Wright. Kehde kept the store for 28 years, weathering the Borders storm with a plan to “stay the same size and cultivate [the] clients.” Heidi Raak took over the store in 2008. Current owner and poet Danny Caine took over in August of 2017; he is a longtime employee of the shop. The Raven has two store cats, Dashiell and Ngiao.

The Ellery Queen Award was established in 1983 to honor “outstanding writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry.” This year the Board chose to honor Robert Pépin. Mr. Pépin began his literary career in 1964 as a translator of English-language novels. Since then he has been a translator, editor, and publisher of some of the most important authors of the past century including Lawrence Block, Alex Berenson, C.J. Box, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, James Church, Miles Corwin, Martin Cruz Smith, and Robert Crais.

[Hat tip to Locus Online.]

(8) MORE ON TOLKIEN SAINTHOOD. Here is an initiative of the Student Association of Roman pontifical universities and sponsored by the Conference of rectors of Roman pontifical universities.

(9) DENISE DUMARS. The SPECPO blog interviewed a veteran sf poet who’ll be at Loscon this weekend: “From Sheet Lightning to Paranormal Writing: An interview with Denise Dumars”.

Looking back at your first poetry collection Sheet Lightning to now, what’s changed most about your process in putting a manuscript together?
I rarely think in terms of “putting together a manuscript” when it comes to poetry and short fiction. The poems come one at a time, and rarely do I have a theme for a collection. My most recent collection is an exception to that rule: Paranormal Romance: Poems Romancing the Paranormal was a themed volume; more than half the poems dealt with paranormal research of the type that I find really funny—you know, the ghost hunters and all their gadgets. But the other half of the book is more serious as it deals with New Orleans and the paranormal. Every collection is different. Right now I have a collection of haiku that I’m trying to figure out where to send—it’s call the Punk Rock Picnic Haiku, as it was written over time as I went to punk rock concerts with the rest of my elderly punk set at Liquid Kitty, a club that was recently bought by someone who turned it into a rich businessman’s lounge. The haiku series is a memorial to a time and place. I keep meaning to create a collection of specifically science fiction poems and a collection specifically of horror and dark fantasy poems.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) PRIME TIME. GeekWire says the Electric Dreams release date has been set:

Amazon today announced that its new anthology series “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams” will premiere on Jan. 12, exclusively on Prime Video. The much-anticipated streaming series will be comprised of 10 standalone episodes, each set in different worlds — five to 5,000 years in the future…

 

(12) MOON MEN. Bad Astronomer Phil Plait enjoys himself while demolishing another conspiracy theory in “No, that’s not a stagehand in an Apollo astronaut photo”.

I was checking Facebook Sunday, and saw I was tagged in a post by Evan Bernstein, from Skeptics Guide to the Universe. Dreading what I’d see if I went to the page, I clicked the link anyway. I can’t help it. Bad astronomy is like catnip to me.

I wasn’t disappointed. Evan had a link to an article in NewsweekNewsweek — that is a credulous account of a guy on YouTube who calls himself Streetcap1. This particular video shows an image from the Apollo 17 mission, which landed two astronauts on the Moon in December 1972.

… That’s clearly the figure of a human. I think we’d all agree on that. Where I part ways with Streetcap1 is that he is guessing that’s a stagehand or someone else standing there when this photo was taken. In his video he points out features he thinks he sees on the figure, including — and I swear I’m not making this up — long hair. Because this was “back in the early ’70s.”

Yes. He said that.

(13) LET ‘ER RIP. Camestros Felapton is decompressing from the first season of Star Trek: Discovery by launching a weekly review of older Trek TV episodes — “Trek Tuesday* – Errand of Mercy”.

The obvious pretext for including this episode as background for Discovery is that it is the first Klingon episode. Like Discovery, Starfleet finds itself rapidly falling into war with the Klingons. However, my main reason for picking on it is as an example of what Discovery is failing to do, which is to examine some of the assumptions of Star Trek that arise out of its post-WW2 and US hegemonic roots.

… Kirk and Spock beam down to the planet, leaving Sulu in charge of the Enterprise with strict others to skedaddle if the Klingon fleet turns up. Kirk and Spock find the Organians to be a technologically primitive people, with little in the way of government. The Organians lsiten politely to Kirk’s offer of Federation membership and help against the Klingons but they politely decline. Shortly thereafter the Klingon fleet arrives and invades Organia.

It needs to be said that the Klingons are both comical and appalling. The Klingon army is a few guys marching across the set. The makeup manages to be racist in a way that is insulting both to black people and Chinese people – apparently they literally used shoe polish. The Klingon commander, Kor, is perhaps the most urbane Klingon in the Trek canon beating even Christopher Plummer’s Shakespeare quoting Klingon from the movies. At this point in Trek, the Klingons are just a generic military dictatoship, more 1984 than the syncretic mix of Viking-Samurai from later versions.

(14) DEADER THAN A SUPER DOORNAIL. The Hollywood Reporter’s Ciara Wardlow asks the question n“Has ‘Justice League’ Killed the Superhero Origin Story?” and argues that the answer is “Yes.”

At first glance, this may appear like the Warner Bros.’ DC universe taking shortcuts in order to try to catch up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but there is something else important to be considered. Namely, that the MCU’s Phase One strategy to build up to The Avengers is no longer an option. It’s too reliant on solo origin stories. Even within Phase One, audiences were getting a little restless with the formula by the time Captain America: The First Avenger rolled around only two months after Thor.

There’s nothing wrong with origin stories, and even just this year we got a great one with Wonder Woman. But the cinematic reboot craze jumpstarted by 2005′ Batman Begins lead to such an explosion of origin stories that the market has grown saturated. There is still a niche or two left available here and there. “Quality female superhero origin story” was still wide open for Wonder Woman, and can probably fit a few more entries before things start getting too crowded. But origin stories revolving around one Great Big Hero are naturally going to end up hitting the same narrative beats and plot points. Switching up various elements can keep things interesting for a while, there are limits that the superhero genre is inching very close to surpassing — a boundary where pleasantly or at least tolerably familiar crosses into the territory of boringly repetitive.

(15) LIFE IMITATES ART. “Finally, You Can Have Breakfast at Tiffany” – the New York Times has the story.

There are certain movie scenes that are so iconic that they still retain their importance in the pop-culture lexicon, even decades later. When Holly Golightly, played by Audrey Hepburn, stepped out of a yellow cab and sauntered to the window of Tiffany & Co. in the 1961 film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” with Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s “Moon River” playing in the background, such a scene was created.

As Holly ate a croissant and carried a cup of coffee, she was still, unfortunately, on the outside of the building. Since 1837, Tiffany’s has been a preeminent luxury jeweler and not a place where you could actually have breakfast. However, that changed on Friday, with the opening of the Blue Box Café, at the company’s venerable flagship store at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in New York City. Menu items will be seasonal and reflect a sophisticated take on a variety of New York dishes.

Located on the fourth floor of the building, which houses a recently renovated home and accessories section, the café is a bright, airy space, with the “Breakfast at Tiffany” breakfast starting at $29….

(16) SKILLZ. Finally, a school that teaches something students believe will be useful after they graduate…. The BBC explains “Why Singapore is training professional gamers”.  (Video preceded by obnoxious ad)

 A career in gaming would once have been unthinkable in Asia. But with the global e-sports market forecast to hit $1.5bn in three years, Singapore wants to help train new gamers how to go professional.

(17) PIG BELLY. Why this one won’t melt as quick as expected: “Antarctic glacier’s rough belly exposed”.

The melting Antarctic ice stream that is currently adding most to sea-level rise may be more resilient to change than previously recognised.

New radar images reveal the mighty Pine Island Glacier (PIG) to be sitting on a rugged rock bed populated by big hills, tall cliffs and deep scour marks.

Such features are likely to slow the ice body’s retreat as the climate warms, researchers say.

(18) CUISINE ALCHEMY. Carrots in blackberry yogurt? “The surprising ingredients behind common foods” (video).

Some of our daily staples are made of strange things that enhance their taste or their looks, or make them cost-effective.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Goodbye Uncanny Valley” in Vimeo, Alan Warburton looks at the state of computer graphics today, including a look at edgy projects that are on the verge of development in the future.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/1/17 Surely This Has Been Done Already?

(1) TALESPINNER. Ken Liu’s Star Wars book is out today.

Star Wars: Legends of Luke Skywalker [is] a set of tall tales about the Jedi Knight that have been passing from cantina to freighter and from mouth to audio receptor ever since a certain farm boy left Tatooine for the wider galaxy far, far away…

Devan Coggan interviews me for Entertainment Weekly: “Ken Liu Tells Star Wars Tall Tales in The Legends of Luke Skywalker:

Legends follows a number of young deckhands working aboard a ship bound for Canto Bight (a casino world featured in the upcoming The Last Jedi). Together, they swap six different stories about Luke, each passed down from a different storyteller. One comes from a droid who claims to have witnessed Luke singlehandedly lead a droid rebellion, while another comes from a tiny, flea-like creature who claims to have had a pivotal role in Luke’s escape from Jabba’s palace. One of the particular highlights is the tale told by a former Imperial engineer, who says that Luke Skywalker was nothing but a piece of propaganda made up by the Rebellion. The real Luke is a con artist named Luke Clodplodder, who orchestrated a massive scam with his friends aboard a ship called the Century Turkey.

(2) BORDERLANDS GETS ITS PERMANENT HOME. Via Shelf Awareness, the good news: “Success: Borderlands will buy Haight St. building thanks to its fans”.

Unable to secure a large loan from a bank, Beatts put the question to Borderlands’ clientele – would they be interested in funding the purchase for 1373 Haight St?

They were. In 18 days, lenders put up $1.9 million.

Recycled Records currently occupies the building, but the record store owner was planning to retire after the sale of the building, Beatts said.

Were any lessons learned?

“I learned that I’m the kind of person who can raise close to two million dollars in two and a half weeks, that was a surprise. I also learned that, if you really want to achieve your goal, you have to pursue every single solution,” Beatts wrote in an email to Mission Local.

He’d made offers on two other buildings before Haight Street panned out, and had toyed with other funding models before settling on the patron loan approach.

(3) IN THE SLAM. SPECPO visits Minneapolis: “Outreach report: The Not-So-Silent Planet [MN]”.

This month I had the chance to see the work of the folks at Word Sprout who organize The Not-So-Silent Planet.

As a regular event, The Not-So-Silent Planet currently holds the distinction of being the longest-running speculative literature slam in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the famed Kieran’s Pub. We’ll have to do some research to verify, but so far it seems like it may also well be the longest-running speculative literature slam in the country or even the cosmos. But then again, space is a very big place.

Typically held in the Poet’s Room at Kieran’s, it’s an evocative space with great energy and a supportive and enthusiastic audience. For an October reading they had almost a dozen readers and audience members including their special guest Kyle Dekker, organizer Phillip Andrew Bennett Low, and Riawa Thomas-Smith. There was a good mix of poetry, short stories, flash fiction, and experimental works.

(4) GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN. Io9’s Charles Pulliam-Moore tells how “The Gotham City Sirens Are Taking Over Riverdale in Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica”‘.

The premise to DC and Archie Comics’ crossover special Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica reads like a piece of fan fiction, something television or film studio executives dream about but would never dare actually writing. Obviously, this is why the comic’s first two issues, written by Marc Andreyko and Paul Dini with illustrations from Amanda Conner and Laura Braga, so damned good. They’re so ridiculously absurd, it’s almost impossible not to enjoy the hell out of them. [SPOILERS FOLLOW]

Daniel Dern sent the link with a comment: “Looked fun when I skimmed the new issue (#2) at the comic store, I’ll wait until the six issues are available as borrowable book (or issues show up via one of the legitimate free/low-cost digital comic services I’m using).”

(5) ANOTHER CASUALTY. Book World customers are going into mourning – the chain is shuttering its 45 stores: “Closing the books: Book World to close all its stores and liquidate inventory”.

Book lovers in the Brainerd area are likely to shed a tear at Tuesday’s announcement by Book World Inc.—it is closing all its stores because of poor sales and online competition.

The Appleton, Wis.-based company will liquidate all its inventory starting Thursday in an “everything-must-go” sale at all of its 45 locations across seven states, including the one in Baxter.

“We anticipate that running at least through the end of the year … into January, but that’s really contingent on inventory—and certainly staffing plays a part in that, too—but primarily inventory,” said Book World Senior Vice President Mark Dupont.

The family-owned independent chain of bookstores located throughout Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and Missouri offers a huge selection of books for all ages.

(6) IN THE REARVIEW MIRROR. TIME Magazine anointed this pair the winners of the internet’s Halloween costume contest:  “This Couple Won Halloween By Pranking People With Their ‘Levitating’ Star Wars Bike”.

YouTube vloggers Jesse Wellens and Carmella Rose dressed up as Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, but not in their classic Star Wars garb. Instead, they dressed as Luke and Leia as rebels zipping through the forest world of Endor from The Return of the Jedi and the only thing missing was an Ewok or two.

While that retro costume would certainly rate well with Star Wars fans, Wellens and Rose had a plan to put their costume over the top. With a little help from some friends at Lithium Cycles, they built a replica of a Speeder Bike that looked like it was actually floating and rode it through the streets of Manhattan. The sight was exhilarating enough that even wizened, seen-it-all New Yorkers couldn’t help but gawk.

 

(7) ON THE BLOCK. Robby the Robot is one of the star attractions in Bonham’s Out of This World auction on November 21.

There’s also a good article about Robby at New Atlas: “The original Robby the Robot goes up for auction”

Forbidden Planet was MGM’s first major science fiction film. Robby cost US$120,000 to build (US$1.2 million in today’s money) and was constructed out of vacuum-form Royalite plastic, acetate, and aluminum with rubber hands, a Perspex transparent “head” and a pair of men’s size 10.5B black leather loafers inside the feet for the actor wearing the 100 to 120 lb (45 to 54 kg)) prop/costume, which was articulated like a suit of armor.

But Robby was more than a suit. He included seven war-surplus electric motors to power his mechanical “scanners” and “brain,” plus a “mouth” made of blue neon tubes run by a 40,000 Volt power source run via a cable out of the robot’s heel or onboard batteries.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born November 1, 1917 — Zenna Henderson
  • Born November 1, 1923 — Gordon R. Dickson

(9) COMICS SECTION

  • John King Tarpinian finds a bittersweet farewell to Halloween in Lio.
  • Mike Kennedy was convinced that it sucks to be chosen after reading today’s Basic Instructions.

(10) DUBIOUS HOLIDAYS FOR CHILDREN. Camestros Felapton is back in full stride, in another argument with Timothy the Talking Cat: “McEdifice Returns: Chapter We’ll Be Back After This Short Break”.

“Well I for one endorse the concept,” replied replied replied Camestros, “After all you made up International Tim Day, Catmas and The Feast of Saint Felix the Squirrel Killer.”

“It is a DISTRACTION you fool! A distraction from our important work!” replied replied replied replied Timothy, slamming his tiny fist-like paw on the desk in front of him. “I need some help from you with this project and you are off doing who knows what for that mechanical fusspot!”

“I was burning what Americans call ‘candy’ in a pre-emptive bonfire night.”

“Bonfire night?”

“Ah, yes – you miss out every year because pets must be hidden on bonfire night. It is an annual British festival of fireworks and municipal arson based on 17th-century anti-Catholicism and remembrance of a time some time tried to blow up parliament but with syncretic elements of pagan pre-winter festivals. Also traditionally children beg for money by demonstrating to adults that they have made an effigy of a man who was tortured to death which they will burn later. It is very traditional.”

“Now who is making stuff up?” said the cat skeptically.

“On reflection Catmas sounds more plausible.” agreed Camestros. “So what help do you need?”

(11) HALLOWEEN FOR THOSE NOT IN THE WORLD SERIES. MLB.com has pictures: “The baseball world pulled off some epic Halloween costumes this year”. Here’s one of them:

(12) THE GREAT UNREAD. Mental Floss revisits “15 Children’s Books No One Reads Now”. The list includes a story that stresses how important it is to stay between the lines.

12. TOOTLE BY GERTRUDE CRAMPTON

Ask anyone about anthropomorphic trains and their first response is likely to be “Thomas the Tank Engine.” Or, if you’re a purist, “The Little Engine That Could.” “Tootle,” first published in 1945, is likely way down the list, if he even comes up at all. But for many years, the industrious engine was on track to become one of the best-selling books of all time.

Andrew Porter says, “Gosh, I have the Little Golden Book of this, which includes numerous wonderful illustrations, including –”

(13) ON OLD OLYMPUS’ TOWERING TOPS. Chip Hitchcock suggests, “Since we’re discussing variations in religion, a note on a fannish religion,” “The Other Reformation: How Martin Luther Changed Our Beer, Too”

On this day 500 years ago, an obscure Saxon monk launched a protest movement against the Catholic Church that would transform Europe. Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation changed not just the way Europeans lived, fought, worshipped, worked and created art but also how they ate and drank. For among the things it impacted was a drink beloved throughout the world and especially in Luther’s native Germany: beer.

The change in beer production was wrought by the pale green conical flower of a wildly prolific plant — hops.

Every hip craft brewery today peddling expensive hoppy beers owes a debt of gratitude to Luther and his followers for promoting the use of hops as an act of rebellion against the Catholic Church. But why did Protestants decide to embrace this pretty flower, and what did it have to do with religious rebellion?

Therein foams a bitter pint of history.

In the 16th century, the Catholic Church had a stranglehold on beer production, since it held the monopoly on gruit — the mixture of herbs and botanicals (sweet gale, mug wort, yarrow, ground ivy, heather, rosemary, juniper berries, ginger, cinnamon) used to flavor and preserve beer. Hops, however, were not taxed. Considered undesirable weeds, they grew plentifully and vigorously — their invasive nature captured by their melodic Latin name, Humulus lupulus (which the music-loving Luther would have loved), which means “climbing wolf.”

(14) TIME TO CONFESS. Keeping up the seasonal theme: “After 20 Years, Can Cornell Finally Bust Open Its Great Pumpkin Mystery?”

In 1997, someone speared a massive pumpkin on the spire atop of Cornell’s McGraw Tower … 173 feet in the air.

No one knew who. No one knew why. And no one knew how.

In fact, for a while, no one even knew — for sure — if it was a pumpkin. Suspicions grew as the gourd lingered on, month after month. But some students figured that one out with the help of a drill attached to a remote-controlled weather balloon, which captured a sample. (Seriously.)

It was definitely a pumpkin.

But the other mysteries remain today. And Farhad Manjoo — Cornell alum, former editor-in-chief of the school paper and now a tech reporter at the New York Times — wants answers.

He calls the pumpkin-ing of the tower “the greatest prank in Cornell history.” And he’s asking the pranksters — or those who love them — to step forward and claim their glory.

(15) SPLASH. More data on Chicxulub: “Asteroid impact plunged dinosaurs into catastrophic ‘winter'”.

An independent group earlier this year used a global climate model to simulate what would happen if 100Gt of sulphur and 1,400Gt of carbon dioxide were ejected as a result of the impact.

This research, led by Julia Brugger from the University of Potsdam, Germany, found global annual mean surface air temperatures would decrease by at least 26C, with three to 16?years spent at subzero conditions.

“Julia’s inputs in the earlier study were conservative on the sulphur. But we now have improved numbers,” explained Prof Morgan.

“We now know, for example, the direction and angle of impact, so we know which rocks were hit. And that allows us to calibrate the generation of gases much better. If Julia got that level of cooling on 100Gt of sulphur, it must have been much more severe given what we understand now.”

(16) STILL GOING AROUND. Play it again: “The firm saving vinyl”.

Whether gathering dust in your loft or currently spinning on your turntable, it’s a fair bet that at least some of your vinyl records came from a small factory in the Czech Republic.

The facility in question is the headquarters of GZ Media, based in the small town of Lodenice, 25km (16 miles) west of the Czech capital, Prague.

GZ is today the world’s largest producer of vinyl records, of which it expects to press 30 million this year, for everyone from the Rolling Stones and U2, to Lady Gaga and Madonna.

The success of the company is a far cry from the early 1990s, when vinyl records appeared to be on the way out, with music fans having switched en masse to compact discs.

(According to an NPR interview a few years ago, Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Casady is a fan of vinyl.)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Dave Doering, and Daniel Dern for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the diurnal period Acoustic Rob.]