Panthers and Trekkers and Apes, Oh, My!

Curated by Carl Slaughter: (1) ScreenPrism identifies disturbing social issues in the Planet of the Apes franchise

(2) Planet of the Apes interviews

(3) Black Panther family portrait.  “A combination of The Godfather and James Bond.”

(4) Must see TV: The Avengers, hosted by Joan Collins

(5) Discovery will maintain Star Trek continuity

(6) “These Boots Are Made for Walking”

(7) Wonder Woman music

(8) Electric cellist Tina Guo does Game of Thrones and Wonder Woman.

(9) Adrianne Palicki as the bad girl in the Aquaman pilot.

(10) James Cameron on Terminator 2 in 3D.

(11) 10 actors who could be the next Joker

(12) Kit Harington spoofs several Game of Thrones auditions.

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your patience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(7) TODAY’S DAY

  • Typewriter Day

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

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

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

(9) COMIC SECTION

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

What about monsters then?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(7) TODAY’S DAY

Garfield the Cat Day

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

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She also has Storyfied the panels she livetweeted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 5/20/17 Men And Women in [YOUR AREA] Are Scrolling BIG BUCK$ With THIS ONE WEIRD PIXEL

(1) BACK TO THE PRESENT. Rob Hansen has added a preliminary version covering 1991-2000 UK zines to his British Fanzine Bibliography.

(2) GETTING THE BOMB EARLY. Gregory Benford discusses his latest book The Berlin Project with Scientific American in “An Alternate History of the Atomic Age”.

Tell me more about your research process, how you developed this.

I simply went in and read enormous amounts of known correspondence, mostly in the Manhattan Project. It took me four and a half years of work and writing, plus personally knowing most of the characters.

I found all sorts of amazing things — like a memo between Groves and Pres. Eisenhower, where Groves asked Eisenhower’s permission to deploy Geiger counters with every infantry battalion that made a landing at Normandy on D-day. I asked my father James Benford about that — he went into Normandy on the fifth day. He said he remembered them vaguely, and then I found in fact the Geiger counters stayed in the field for about a month before we realized the Germans were not going to use their uranium — of which they had over 150 tons — as essentially a pollutant, a crude terror weapon. But they certainly contemplated doing it — we know that.

The entire history of nuclear weapons is filled with scientists considering the future using science fiction as a prompt. As a scientist and an author of science fiction, I find that fascinating. The idea of using radioactive dust as a weapon came from a short story by Robert Heinlein: “Solution Unsatisfactory,” published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1941, which was about the strategic standoff that would occur from the development of nuclear weapons. But in Heinlein’s story the weapons aren’t explosives, they’re contaminants. That idea went through Astounding directly into the ears of the German rocket scientist Wernher Von Braun, who was still receiving and reading the magazine through a subscription he began in the 1930s via deliveries through the German embassy in Stockholm. He read about it and relayed it to Albert Speer, so the Nazi elite must have known of it as a weapon. The U.S. kept it secret because it occurred to them also, at the same time as Heinlein — in fact, some believe because of Heinlein. There are a bunch of now-declassified memos I have read about uranium as a contaminant, and I quote them in the book! All the memos, letters and so forth in the book are real. I didn’t make them up!

(3) FOR THE BIRDS. A science fiction writer with her own brand of coffee — Balzac’s Atwood Blend. There’s name recognition for you.

Balzac’s is delighted to partner with Canadian author and bird lover Margaret Atwood in creating a Smithsonian Institute certified Bird Friendly blend to help raise funds and awareness for Canada’s Pelee Island Bird Observatory (PIBO).

(4) WHAT COMES AFTER F. Fran Wilde will teach a workshop on “Cussin’ in Secondary Worlds”.

Cursewords, expletives, and more — those things your characters say when nothing else will do — tells you more about the world (including issues of class, cultural taboos, and more) than you might imagine. How cussing and worldbuilding interrelate. AKA the class where we say F*ck a lot.

Join Norton Award winning author Fran Wilde, author of Updraft, Cloudbound, and The Jewel and Her Lapidary for a workshop that will leave you ready to swear magnificently.

Classes are taught online via Google hangouts and require reliable Internet connection, although in the past participants have logged on from coffee shops, cafes, and even an airplane; a webcam is suggested but not required…

The workshop is happening Saturday, June 10, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific Time. Click the link for further details, cost, and information about how to register.

(5) PINING FOR THE FJORDS? Once more real life outstrips science fiction — RockPaperShotgun reports “Many pet rabbits will die in Second Life on Saturday”.

Virtual rabbits across Second Life [official site] will fall asleep on Saturday then never wake up, now that the their digital food supply has been shut down by a legal battle. The player-made and player-sold Ozimals brand of digirabbits are virtual pets that players breed and care for in the sandbox MMO, and even need to feed by buying DRM-protected virtual food. But they rely on servers. Waypoint reported earlier today that the seller of Ozimals and the Pufflings virtuabirds has received a legal threat he says he cannot afford to fight, so they’ve shut down. By Saturday, rabbits will run out of food and enter hibernation.

The rabbits aren’t dead, they’re sleeping. They simply can never wake up.

The “breedables“ craze, which Ozimals played a big role in, may have peaked a while back but a lot of virtual animals still exist. Well, for now. If digirabbits can’t eat, they enter “hibernation’ after 72 hours and will only wake up when fed again. Ozimals need to check in with servers but these shut down on Wednesday, so no rabbits can be fed. Even players who’ve bought a big supply of food will find their rabbits, er, very still forever. I’ve read that some are already gone….

Sounds awful! But before you start thinking up five or six ways this tragedy could have been averted, the company already has:

Ozimals did give rabbit owners a brief chance to save their rabbits. Before shutting down, they gave away items which make rabbits not need food — and leaves them sterile. Some rabbits will live on forever, the last of their kind. If you wish that fate upon your rabbit, apparently some kindly players have a stash you’re welcome to.

(6) MORE SUPER TV. The CW has debuted the first trailer for Black Lightning.

(7) LISTEN UP. “On Star Trek: Discovery and Michelle Yeoh’s accent”: Swapna Krishna tells why a particular moment in the new Star Trek: Discovery trailer was so moving.

This article is about one specific moment in the trailer: when Michelle Yeoh’s character, Captain Philippa Georgiou, speaks for the first time.

“It’s hard to imagine you’ve served under me for seven years,” she tells First Officer Michael Burnham, played by the exquisite Sonequa Martin-Green, as they walk through a searing desert.

This line might seem innocuous, and it is. But that didn’t stop me from bursting into tears the second I heard Yeoh deliver the line. Why?

Because Michelle Yeoh kept her accent.

(8) TERMS OF COMPLIANCE. Gary Westfahl begins “Contractual Obligations: A Review of Alien: Covenant” with a reassurance and a warning.

In contemporary Hollywood, the announced information about a film often conveys an implied contract — a covenant, as it were — between filmgoers and filmmakers: if you buy a ticket to see this movie, you are guaranteed to experience certain desired forms of entertainment. Thus, a picture with the word “Alien” in its title, directed by Ridley Scott, promises potential viewers that they will observe numerous images of H. R. Giger’s iconic “xenomorphs” bursting out of human bodies and energetically attacking any person in their vicinity. And unquestionably, Alien: Covenant fulfills its contractual obligations: so, if you have been longing to watch scene after scene of lunging aliens latching on the faces of intended victims and gruesomely slaughtering every one of them, this film represents the answer to your prayers. The very open question is whether anyone without that fervent yearning will want to sit through two hours and three minutes of this otherwise lamentable movie.

(9) MORE SPOILERS. As Carl Slaughter phrases it:

Michael Fassbender versus Michael Fassbender:

If there’s anything better than an alien, it’s an android.

If there’s anything better than an android, it’s 2 androids.

If there’s anything better than 2 androids, it’s 2 identical looking androids.

If there’s anything better than 2 identical looking androids,

it’s 2 identical looking androids with opposite character.

Matthew Jacobs titles his review for HuffPo “An Ode To Michael Fassbender Seducing Michael Fassbender In ‘Alien: Covenant'”.

Alien: Covenant“ has two Michael Fassbenders. Both are androids. They engage in existential disputes on a remote planet. They debate the poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley. One teaches the other to play a flute. More importantly, they kiss.

These two Michael Fassbenders form the hallmark of “Alien: Covenant,” the sixth installment in the 38-year-old “Alien” franchise. One Fassbender is the prototype David, returning from “Covenant” predecessor “Prometheus.” David’s devilish God-like tendencies have annexed the planet where the titular colony ship is investigating a rogue radio transmission. For his next trick, Fassbender plays Walter, a new-and-improved humanoid that takes care of the Covenant and strains to protect his crewmates from the extraterrestrial beasts David has cultivated.

(10) IT’S A WRAP. The movie arrives June 9, heralded by The Mummy – Official Trailer #3

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. And Paul Weimer, who always retweets the best stuff. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 5/18/17 For I Am A Bear Of Very Little Files, And Long Scrolls Bother Me

(1) NO NEED TO SAY MORE. Michael Swanwick recounts what he labels the shortest and most succinct discussion about the horror genre in the history of the speculative fiction community:

MICHAEL SWANWICK: “I don’t like horror because it scares me.”

ELLEN DATLOW: “That’s why I love it.”

(2) A FINE ROMANCE. Welcome to 21st-century dating. “This Man Is Suing His Date For Texting During ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy'”.

Texting during a movie is rude.

Brandon Vezmar from Texas is taking a stance on the issue by suing his Bumble date after she used her phone during a movie. The Austin American-Statesman reported that Vezmar filed a small court claim for $17.31, the price of a 3D showing of “Guardians of the Galaxy 2.”

“It was kind of a first date from hell,” he told the local newspaper.

The 36-year-old said that his date was on her phone “at least 10-20 times in 15 minutes to read and send text messages.” According to Vezmar, he told her she should text outside, so she left and took the car in which they both arrived.

Ouch.

Vezmar claimed he tried to text and call his date before taking the matter to court. He tweeted a screenshot once his date sent a statement to KVUE anonymously to say that, while she felt bad that his feelings were hurt, she chose to leave because he made her feel unsafe.

“His behavior made me extremely uncomfortable, and I felt I needed to remove myself from the situation for my own safety,” the statement read. “He has escalated the situation far past what any mentally healthy person would.”

Director James Gunn, who might have stayed safely out of this, unfortunately decided to show his ass, as if texting in the theater was the entire issue.

(3) TRAILER PARK. Aziz H. Poonawalla goes into deep analysis about the Star Trek: Discovery trailer.

But really, hairless Klingons? With a H.R. Geiger armor aesthetic?

It’s not like we haven’t seen the 60’s aesthetic embraced by modern television. Deep Space Nine went there and did it brilliantly — they arguably made the TOS USS Enterprise look even more gorgeous than any of her successors, and they didn’t change anything about her at all — just lighting and texture. Enterprise itself managed to authentically portray a pre-Kirk technology chic that had a more industrial feel, which was utterly believable as the ancestor to the softened look of the Kirk era. I do not accept that the Kelvinization of the Prime timeline was necessary to modernize the production. After all, the aesthetic of The Expanse and Dark Matter is thoroughly modern but doesn’t have the same Kelvin fascination with chrome and glass. Not that I want any Trek to go the grunge-fi look, but I do at least want Trek to honor it’s own identity. This feels like a rejection — purely a Han shot first decision.

(4) MESSAGE TO THE PAST. If the term “calendrical rot” hadn’t been invented for a different purpose, and we had a way to send it into the past, it would find the perfect Petri dish in this incredibly technical discussion of alternate timelines in Star Trek held on Reddit in 2015.

(5) SASQUATCH APPROPRIATED. In the Walrus, Robert Jago introduces his op-ed about Canada’s latest cultural appropriation controversy with an sff illustration: “On Cultural Appropriation, Canadians Are Hypocrites”.

Harry and the Hendersons is a 1987 fantasy movie about a Seattle family’s encounter with a friendly bigfoot (Harry) and their efforts to protect him from harm before releasing him in the mountains of the Pacific northwest. It’s a forgettable film, but it has undoubtedly been seen and heard in more Indigenous homes than has the story of Sasq’ets–the original sasquatch.

Sasq’ets, whose name was one of the few Halkomelem words to make their way into English, was one of a host of other legendary “wild people” living in the forests on the Pacific coast. For hundreds of generations, Salish and Kwakwaka’wakw children were raised on the stories of the wild people and taught to listen for their characteristic hu-hu-hu calls. Sasq’ets, along with Dzunuka, were said to capture wayward children, take them away from their families, and eat them. With their supernatural healing powers, the wild ones were thought to be invincible; only once was a wild person taken by angry villagers and burned alive. But to the mortals’ horror, the ashes began buzzing in a tiny chorus of little hu-hu-hu’s, and each particle sought out human flesh. This was the origin myth of mosquitos.

Sasq’ets taught our children to stay out of the forests at night. It connected us to our part of the world, in the same way that Hansel and Gretel or Little Red Riding Hood connected Europeans to their ancient forests–and possibly for the same purposes. Our stories are works of genius and beauty, and vital to our relationship with the land. By no means do I want to restrict our legends to Indigenous people. I want you to know about Sasq’ets, and the psychedelically odd stories of the spirit of the South Winds, and all of the legends of our country.

But when the story is taken from us and told by outsiders without our involvement, its identity can be lost, and Sasq’ets becomes Bigfoot. The cultural dominance of non-Natives means that a B-movie like Harry and the Hendersons can have more influence over Salish children than the legend that inspired it.

(6) WESTLAKE’S BOND. Daniel Dern says be on the lookout for copies of Donald Westlake’s James Bond novel(ization) released last fall. “I’ve already just put a reserve-request in to my library.”

Forever And A Death

In the mid-1990s, prolific mystery and crime thriller author Donald E. Westlake submitted two treatments for the 18th Bond film (which would ultimately become ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’)….Never one to waste a good story, Westlake turned his treatments into a novel.

Dern adds:

Fewer Filers than normally expected might be familiar with Westlake, since he wrote near-zero scifi, by choice. OTOH, he wrote lots of great mystery/thriller/crime and other novels and stories, ranging from humorous, e.g. his John Dortmunder stories, and his tabloid-reporter ones, to serious, notably the ones written as Richard Stark.

See the Donald Westlake site.

My favorite Westlake book: Up Your Banners

(7) MACE WINDU GETS HIS OWN BOOK. The Jedi have always been the galaxy’s peacekeepers — but with the Clone Wars on the horizon, all that is about to change.

This August, writer Matt Owens (Elektra) will team with artist Denys Cowan (Nighthawk, Captain America/Black Panther: Flags of Our Fathers) to unveil the exciting story of one of the Jedi’s greatest warriors in STAR WARS: JEDI OF THE REPUBLIC — MACE WINDU #1!

One of the most accomplished and storied members of the Jedi High Council, his wisdom and combat prowess are legendary. Now, in this new story, readers will get to see Mace Windu lead his Jedi into battle, and face the ultimate test of leadership!

(8) PETER OLSON OBIT. SF Site News reports that Boston area fan Peter Olson (1949-2017) died April 28. He was active in NESFA and participated in the Ig Nobel Awards.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born May 18 — R. Laurraine Tutihasi
  • Born May 18 — Diane Duane

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 18, 1897 — Frank Capra

(11) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian says Ziggy has a point.

(12) WHIP OUT YOUR ROLL OF HUNDREDS. Nicole Pelletier on Good Morning America has a piece called “Classic Disney animation art featuring Snow White, Pinocchio headed to auction” about how a tranche of Disney cels from the 1940s is headed for auction in an event sponsored by Bonhams and Turner Classic Movies.

Bonhams Fine Art Auctioneers and Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will present the movie memorabilia auction, “An Important Animation Art Collection, The Property of a Gentleman” in New York City on June 5.

The sale will feature more than 290 original Disney animation drawings, storyboards, posters, concept art and celluloids, according to Bonhams’ press release.

(13) WARNING LABEL. While I was browsing Bertie MacAvoy’s Amazon page, I especially enjoyed this self-introduction:

Robert A.MacAvoy

If you are young to the S.F. field and don’t know who I am, I will prep you by warning that I often kill off my heroes, sometimes at the most unexpected times. But never in a depressing manner. I’ve never wanted to depress my readers. My outlook is essentially comic.

(14) DRYING OFF. This may be the first good news I’ve ever heard about a convention associated with the Ozarks. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn reports how some fans are overcoming a natural disaster: “West Plains, MO Based Oz-Con Plans Game Day Event to Make Up For Canceled Day of Con”.

I think any reasonable person would forgive the con, considering this was an extreme, unpredictable situation where homes and lives were literally lost. What’s the Sunday of a con compared to that? To the extreme credit of the Oz-Con organizers though, they still want to try to make it right.

Yesterday Oz-Con organizers announced an event they’re calling “Flood Con.” It’s a free game day the con is hosting from 9:00am until 10:00pm on June 17th at the Missouri State University-West Plains Student Rec Center. Admission is free, but they’ll also be accepting cash donations and canned food items to help with ongoing flood relief in the area. There will be video games, tabletop games, and fellow geeks to have a grand old time with.

Admittedly, I haven’t heard much about sff in the Ozarks — just that famous story about the time Larry Niven arrived expecting to be GoH of Ozarkon only to find out the con had been cancelled. (Fans involve swear they tried to get a message to him, but in those pre-internet days it failed to reach him on the road.)

(15) FAME IN PIXELS. Who needs a monument when you can be an answer on Jeopardy!

(16) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY TO TV. Get Out writer-director Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot and Warner Bros Television are teaming on Lovecraft Country, a one-hour drama that has been given a straight-to-series order by HBO.

There is connective tissue to Peele’s breakout genre feature Get Out, which brought a Black Lives Matter theme to the horror genre. Lovecraft Country, the 2016 novel from Matt Ruff, focuses on 25-year-old Atticus Black. After his father goes missing, Black joins up with his friend Letitia and his Uncle George to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America to find him. This begins a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and the malevolent spirits that could be ripped from a Lovecraft paperback. The goal is an anthological horror series that reclaims genre storytelling from the African-American perspective.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, JJ, Dawn Incognito, Daniel Dern, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ky.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amber Benson, John Scalzi, and Cory Doctorow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

K. M. Szpara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

And here is Genevieve Burgess’ post for Pajiba.

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 4/17/17 The Godstalk Dis-Scrolls the Pixels

(1) ASK AGAIN LATER. While quizzing CBS Interactive president Marc DeBevoise, Vulture asked when we’ll see Star Trek: Discovery.

I have to ask you about Star Trek: Discovery. It’s been delayed a bit, and you parted ways with Bryan Fuller. You still haven’t announced a premiere date, or even a launch window. Where is that right now? And how big of deal is that going to be?

It’s going great, I’ve actually been up there [to the set]. It is, you know, phenomenal. It is huge. And we’re very excited about the content, the creators, the actors, all coming together. As you said, we’re not tied to any specific release date. It’ll be there when we’re ready to do it, and when we feel it’s in a great place. We’re not worried about anything here. We’re excited, and we’ll have more specifics as we get closer to what will likely be the release dates.

Is it likely going to be the fall?

We’re not stating.

Which prompted ScienceFiction.com to give its post about this news the title “To Boldy Delay: CBS Still Non-Committal About When ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Will Actually Premiere”.

(2) WORST-CASE SCENARIO. Chuck Tingle has a backup plan if CBS keeps postponing the series:

(3) WHO’S WHO? So, have they picked the next Doctor Who? Bookies are taking no chances.

Now there has been no official announcement but the finger has so strongly been pointing in the direction of Kris Marshall, that Ladbrokes bookies have suspended all bets on the actor getting the gig.

(4) INTO THE FRAY. Kristine Smith is another sff writer who’s become more active in politics since November, as she explains to Book View Café readers:

Like so many other folks, I was driven by the results of the last election to become more involved in the political side of things. I joined/rejoined organizations, donated money, read blogs, subscribed to magazines. But then I thought about it some more, and for the first time decided I wanted to take it one step further. I had followed so many discussions in which it was stated that work at the state and local levels had become even more important, and tried to think of what I could contribute.

One of the organizations that I had rejoined was the Sierra Club. I had always loved the outdoors in general, but in addition I had come to care about the region of northeast Illinois in which I lived — the local state and city parks and open spaces had come to mean a lot to me, and the area as a whole was faced with a number of environmental issues. So I read the Club newsletters, combed through the websites, and decided that I would apply to join the local state lobbying team.

… I was told that it takes three years to build the skills and knowledge necessary to be a good lobbyist. We have to hold our own against the people who do this for a living, who’ve been doing it for years. While I felt good about what I had experienced to that point, the proof is in the legislation that passes, and that process can take years and is at the mercy of the push and pull that occurs with any negotiation. At this point, I think I want to try and stick it out. It’s how things get done.

(5) ONLY A MOTHER. Laura Miller, a reviewer for The New Yorker, loves Jeff VanderMeer’s novel Borne:

…The postapocalyptic imagination is shot through with unacknowledged wish fulfillment.

Not in VanderMeer’s hands, though. VanderMeer belongs to a loose group of literary writers, the New Weird, who bend the old devices of genre fiction to unaccustomed ends. His best—and best-known—work is the Southern Reach Trilogy, three novels published in succession, in 2014. The saga recounts the experiences of several people charged with investigating a stretch of coastal land where something uncanny has occurred. Within the borders of Area X, all human inhabitants have vanished, and the natural world has returned to its pristine state, without a trace of man-made pollutants. Much to the alarm of the authorities, the border of Area X is expanding. In a startling reversal, the world shaped by humanity—what one character describes as “dirty, tired, imperfect, winding down, at war with itself”—has been contaminated and invaded by purity.

Rachel’s city is the opposite of Area X. The river that rings it is a “stew of heavy metals and oil and waste that generated a toxic mist.” Not long ago, a shadowy operation known as the Company set up a biotechnology facility that cranked out freakish new organisms, then set them loose on the city’s streets to see what happened. Mord is the result of one such experiment, a creature manufactured to protect the Company from the increasingly restive locals. Now Mord runs amok, like the dragon in Spenser’s “Faerie Queene.” Many of the survivors have begun worshipping him as a god.

A bear the size of a department store given the power of flight: VanderMeer couldn’t care less about technological plausibility, and “Borne” isn’t, at heart, science fiction. With the toppling of the old forms of order, Rachel, Wick, and the other residents of the city have been plunged into a primordial realm of myth, fable, and fairy tale. Their world is a version of the lost and longed-for territory of fantasy and romance, genres that hark back to an elemental, folkloric past roamed by monsters and infested with ghastly wonders.…

(6) PLANS FOR THIRD GUARDIANS MOVIE. James Gunn will direct and write Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3.

James Gunn is officially set to return to the Guardians Of The Galaxy universe to write and direct the third installment in the Marvel franchise. The director made the announcement today via his Facebook page, ahead of the start of the Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 U.S. press junkets.

Beginning by answering a couple of questions that he knew he was going to get asked during the press tour, Gunn went straight to “the question that comes up perhaps the most is, ‘What’s the deal with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and are you going to direct?’”

“So, after many months of ruminations and discussions, I know the answer. I could save this answer for the first, random interviewer to ask me during the press junket but instead I thought I’d share it with the most important people in the Guardiansverse – you, the fans, who have been so incredibly supportive and enthusiastic over the past five years, it has moved me to tears on a regular basis,” Gunn explained. “So, yes, I’m returning to write and direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.”

(7) WHY PUPPIES CAN’T COUNT. Well, I really don’t know why. Especially a doctor!

Dr. Mauser in “Where’s the Beef?” notes the dropoff in Hugo nominating votes since last year.

This, by the way, is not good financial news for WorldCon. 2-3,000 memberships is $100-$150,000 they won’t have in their coffers, and that kind of money buys a LOT of Wooden Asterisks. The Sad Puppies might have been the best thing to happen to WorldCon in a long time, but now that they’ve “Gone and started their own award” (which really, they didn’t) some WorldCon treasurer is probably wishing they were still around.

A supporting membership is 35 Euros, about $37 US. The rest is left as an exercise for the reader.

(8) CAN’T FIND HIM. Meanwhile, on Chuck Tingle’s timeline….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY MEDIA FIGURES

  • Born April 17, 1997Locus Online premiered. Congratulations and happy anniversary to Mark R. Kelly.

(10) IT’S A MYSTERY. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler is experiencing premieres of the kind of movies that people in the year 3000 will find hard to understand. Heck, The Traveler is right there in 1962 and he doesn’t understand…how some of them got made in the first place….

Those of you deeply in the know are aware that Sid Pink made the Scandinavian answer to Godzilla last year, Reptilicus, and Ib Melchior brought it to the states (where it has had a limited release).  It was, to all accounts, pretty awful.

The unlikely Danish-American team of Sid Pink and Ib Melchior is back, gracing our drive-ins with the latest American International Pictures extravaganza, Journey to the Seventh Planet.  It is a space exploration flick, as one might guess, and (praising damned faintly) it’s not as bad as it could have been.

(11) FLY UNTIED. A matter of “great” concern: “Untangling The Mystery Of Why Shoelaces Come Untied”.

Chris Daily-Diamond, the third co-author, shot the video and did a lot of the legwork (pun intended) on the experiments.

Based on the video, and the other tests they did on shoelace knots, the team says two things happen when a lace comes untied. First, the impact of the shoe on the ground loosens the knot. With the knot loosened, the whipping of the free ends of the laces — as the leg swings back and forth — makes the laces slip.

As the foot hits the ground and the laces swing repeatedly, the knot loses integrity until, in a matter of seconds, it fails altogether.

The researchers also have some advice to keep shoes from coming untied. It’s all in how you tie the knot.

Chip Hitchcock opines, “This is just the sort of work Proxmire would have had a field day with — ignoring that the researchers think that learning about macro knots will help with the study of molecular knots.”

(12) BACK INTO THE TREES. Why is everybody trying to make robots walk? A crop-monitoring robot will swing like Tarzan: see the video here.

The prototype robot, called Tarzan, will gather information about the plants and send it to the farmer.

The team plan to test Tarzan on a soybean farm later this year and believe it will be ready for release in three years.

(13) RED PENCIL. An NPR editor is ready to surgically remove a hackneyed phrase from the news writing lexicon – “It Sounds Like Science Fiction But… It’s A Cliché”.

In the 1994 film Timecop, Jean-Claude Van Damme plays a police officer who uses a time machine to catch criminals. Time-traveling law enforcement may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but if one researcher has her way, it will soon become science fact.

See what I did there? That paragraph encapsulates the most tired cliché of science writing: “It sounds like science fiction but it’s true. ”

Sounds like Sci-Fi gets used everywhere, from CNN, to The New York Times, to yes … here on NPR. And once you see it, you can’t unsee it. The best examples usually include a reference to a mid-1990s sci-fi film, just to make crystal-clear what science fiction this particular science fact refers to.

In 15 years of reporting, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve run into “Sounds like Sci-Fi.” And last year, I became a science editor here at NPR. NPR’s Ethics Handbook carries a warning on cliches:

“Reporters and news writers are under deadline pressure, and these are the phrases that spring to mind. The editor’s job is not to let them get away with it.”

(14) ROBOT CENSUS. Rise of the robots: a summary.

The world’s robot population is expanding quickly – sales of industrial robots are growing by around 13 per cent a year, meaning the robot “birth rate” is almost doubling every five years.

There has long been a trend to “offshore” manufacturing to cheaper workers in emerging markets. Now, robots are part of the “reshoring” trend that is returning production to established centres.

They do more and more things – they’re lettuce-pickers, bartenders, hospital porters.

But they’re still not doing as much as we’d once expected.

In 1962 – a year after the Unimate was introduced – the American cartoon The Jetsons imagined Rosie, a robot maid doing all the household chores. That prospect still seems remote.

(16) WHAT IS THE LAW? Eleanor Arnason introduces us to “The Law of Jante”.

From The Guardian:

The Dano-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose wrote about it more than 80 years ago, setting down the regulating mechanisms that operate on Scandinavians from below, in what he called the Law of Jante. According to Sandemose, the 10 commandments that regulate our social behavior are:

1. You mustn’t think you’re special.

2. You mustn’t think you’re as good as we are.

3. You mustn’t think you’re smarter than us.

4. You mustn’t imagine you’re any better than us.

5. You mustn’t think you know more than we do.

6. You mustn’t think you’re more important than us.

7. You mustn’t think you’re good at anything.

8. You mustn’t laugh at us.

9. You mustn’t think anyone cares about you.

10. You mustn’t think you can teach us anything.

I think these ten commandments are a bit harsh. But a lot of them sound familiar to me as a Minnesotan.

(17) DOCTOR HUMOR. While visiting Martha Wells’ Tumblr, I found she had a series of GIFs with a really amusing anecdote about a Doctor Who actor.

(18) DELANY. Andrew Porter sends along a link to the livestreamed video of Samuel R. Delany’s 75th birthday celebration at the NYRSF Readings with a note, “In wide shots, you can see Moshe Feder sitting at upper center; I am in yellow shirt, upper right.”

(19) SELF-IMPROVEMENT BESTSELLER WRITES MANGA. Time to clean up my act!

Yesterday, the folks at Ten Speed Press took to Instagram to announce that Marie Kondo will be releasing her next book at the end of June. Her 2011 book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, has gained near-biblical significance for those of us whose domestic interiors (and resultant psychological states) resembles natural disaster sites. “I believe this must be the first time that a book from Japan has sold so well except manga and fiction,” the editor-in-chief of Unmark Publishing, Kondo’s original Japanese publishing house, once commented of that original book’s stratosphere-shattering success. Well, looks like Kondo’s trying to capitalize on that territory, too. Her next book is a manga.

Marie Kondo’s new book comes out June 27, 2017. It’s available for preorder here.

(20) FREE SAMPLES. Todd Allen’s Kickstarter appeal to publish his collection Legal Termination of a Warlock and Other Tales needs another $424 to fund with 23 days to go.

Mister Lewis calls himself a “physics consultant,” but what he really consultants on are problems that defy the laws of physics.  Problems like whether there’s a supernatural reason all those musicians are dying or how to build an ironclad legal case for firing a warlock from your company.  And like any consultant, he frequently finds himself doing unpleasant work for unpleasant people.

It’s a genre bender filtering urban fantasy, horror and detective fiction through a sardonic worldview.  The influences are The Night Stalker by way of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Art Buchwald.

I’ve already written a couple stories about Mister Lewis and I’d like to try something a little different as I move forward with the series.  I’d like to write a story each month – a novelette or longish short story.  I’m calling it novelettes, but if you wanted to call a monthly e-zine, I wouldn’t argue with you.  The idea is to have a new story show up each month like an issue of Batman… except without the serials and annoying crossover events.

What will these read like?  Lucky you, I’ve already written two adventures and they’re online for free, so you can make an informed decision:

(21) CELEBRITY EASTER EGGS. A lot of sff and other amusing references here:

On this episode, see how we took the faces from your favorite TV show characters and superstars and turned them into an Easter Egg!

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, and Jeff VanderMeer for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 3/31/17 Once The Pixel Is Scrolled, Mr. File Is No Longer Your Friend

(1) SOMETHING EXTRA FOR YOUR STOCKING. Fans associate Doctor Who and Christmas because of the annual specials. But do you remember the Max Headroom Christmas episode? No, you don’t, because it was never produced…. Until now.

George R.R. Martin, who wrote that script (!), is in fact hosting a week-long Max Headroom marathon at the Jean Cocteau Cinema from May 13-20.

Twenty minutes into the future… thirty years into the past… it was 1987, and Max was the hottest television personality in the world, with the hottest television show….

Yes, that’s right. We’ve having a whole week of Max, to celebrate his 30th anniversary. We’ll be screening all fourteen episodes of his show: the original British pilot, “Twenty Minutes Into the Future,” and the American remake of same, plus every one of the ABC hours that followed….

Oh, and one more thing. We’ll also be featuring, for the very first time anywhere, two Max Headroom episodes that have never been seen or heard before anywhere, two episodes written by a guy you won’t find listed anywhere in the credits for the show: me.

Yep. That’s right. MAX HEADROOM is the great “what if” in my own television career.

For me, MAX came along after my stint on TWILIGHT ZONE and before BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. When ABC first greenlit the US show, they ordered six original scripts to follow the pilot, almost all of which ended up getting assigned to writers just coming off TZ. I was one of those. Mine was supposedly to be… hmmmmm, let me see now… the fourth episode of the series. My title was “Mister Meat.”…

I got a second chance when MAX was picked up for a second season, however. As a freelancer, I got the choice assignment of writing the Christmas episode. And this time I went to town. Wrote the story, rewrote the story, wrote the teleplay, revised the teleplay. “Xmas” was the title of the episode, and it got as far as pre-production…

And then the show was cancelled. Rather suddenly and unceremoniously, I must say. America was spared from celebrating Xmas with Max.

Ah, but with strange aeons even death may die… and like all good writers, I never throw anything away. So as part of our Jean Cocteau M-M-M-Maxathon, the world will meet “Mister Meat” and “Xmas” for the first time. “Mister Meat” is just a short treatment, so I will be reading it myself on the third day of the marathon, in the slot it would have filled if it had been filmed. Come and hear the episode that ABC deemed too offensive and disgusting for Ronald Reagan’s America.

As for “Xmas”… hell, we have a whole finished script of that one, so we’re going to be performing it, live, on the tiny little stage at the Jean Cocteau. Lenore Gallegos will direct, and the parts of Edison Carter, Bryce, Theora, Blank Reg, Max himself, and all the rest of the gang from Network 23 and the ZikZak corporation will be performed by a fearless cast of local actors…

(2) OTHER THINGS NEVER BEFORE DISPLAYED. Oxford’s Bodleian Library will host a major Tolkien exhibit in 2018 , and will publish a companion book.

The Bodleian Library is set to release a book – Tolkien: The Maker of Middle-earth – next year to accompany a major Tolkien exhibition due to take place at the Library.

The exhibition, due to take place in June 2018, will feature an unparalleled collection of Tolkien manuscripts, letters, illustrations and other material from the Bodleian’s Archives. The Bodleian houses the majority of Tolkien’s archives, and many of the items have never before been publicly exhibited. The collection, and the accompanying book, has been described as “unprecedented” by Samuel Fanous, the Head of Publishing at the Bodleian.

(3) THE TRAVELER SPEAKS. Gideon Marcus re-introduces the concept behind his brilliant blog — “[Mar. 31,1962] Read All About It! (What Is The Galactic Journey?)”

This weekend, the Journey travels to WonderCon, a midlin’-sized fan convention with an emphasis on comics and science fiction.  It’s a perfect opportunity to introduce Galactic Journey to a host of new readers, folks who have a keen interest in what this column has to offer.

So what is Galactic Journey?  Quite simply, it is the most comprehensive ‘zine you’ll find covering all of the coolest, the quirkiest, the most far out stuff, as it happens, day-by-day.

In 1962.

…When he started documenting this trip, it was October 21, 1958.  Sputnik was just a year old.  Buddy Holly was still around.  Now, three and a half years later, we have a new President.  We have a new dance craze.  There have been five men in space.

Along the way, he and his fellow travelers have written on every aspect of current science fiction and fantasy…

Galactic Journey is one of my favorite things on the internet – inventive and full of fascinating references to things beloved, forgotten, or never known to begin with!

(4) WEATHER REPORT. Darren Garrison employed his famous phrase-making skills again in comments: “Breaking news; Rainn makes Mudd.”

Star Trek: Discovery” has cast “The Office” alum Rainn Wilson in the role of Harry Mudd, Variety has learned. It is unknown how many episodes Wilson will appear in at this time.

Mudd was a charismatic interstellar con man who had repeated run-ins with the crew of the Enterprise in the original “Star Trek.” The character, who was first played by Roger C. Carmel, also appeared in an episode of “Star Trek: The Animated Series.”

YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY. In comments, kathodus pointed out that you can play Ms. Pac-Man on a map based around the area supposedly containing Pratchett’s locale: https://www.google.com/maps/@51.0300925,-1.9468899,18z/data=!1e3.

You just need to click the little Pac-Man icon at the bottom left of the map. Reportedly, this will work until April 2. But when I tried to play, and it said my browser did not support the game, and recommended I download Chrome.

(5) NO FOOLING. The Horror Writers Association will begin taking applications for its HWA, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Dark Poetry, and Rocky Wood Memorial Scholarships on April 1.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 31, 1969 — Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five published

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • March 31, 1943  — Christopher Walken, whose sci-fi and horror movie credits include The Mind Snatchers, Brainstorm, The Dead Zone, Sleepy Hollow, and Blast From The Past.

(8) BIG DEAL, YES OR NO? Well, it must be for the BBC to run an article reporting “Doctor Who gets first openly gay companion” – although they had to work a little harder to define what exactly is the news here, bearing in mind Doctor Who’s wife is bisexual, and how often the show’s had gay supporting characters.

Bill Potts’s sexuality will be revealed pretty much straightaway in her second line of dialogue when the show returns to BBC One on 15 April.

“It shouldn’t be a big deal in the 21st Century. It’s about time isn’t it?” Pearl Mackie, who plays Bill, told the BBC.

“That representation is important, especially on a mainstream show.”

She added: “It’s important to say people are gay, people are black – there are also aliens in the world as well so watch out for them.

“I remember watching TV as a young mixed race girl not seeing many people who looked like me, so I think being able to visually recognise yourself on screen is important.”

“[Being gay] is not the main thing that defines her character – it’s something that’s part of her and something that she’s very happy and very comfortable with.”

Gay and bisexual characters have featured in Doctor Who before, such as Captain Jack and River Song, but this is the first time the Doctor’s permanent companion has been openly gay.

Although Captain Jack – played by John Barrowman – travelled with the Doctor for a number of episodes, he was not a full-time companion in the traditional sense.

(9) COMIC SECTION. Truly an inside sf joke in Bliss today.

(10) THE FEW, THE PROUD, THE RECOMMENDED. Jason of Featured Futures returns with another report from the March campaign on the Speculative Front with his “Summation of Online Fiction: March 2017”.

Compelling was off this month and the other twelve prozines produced forty-nine stories of 168K words. Only three of those struck me as especially noteworthy but that was partly offset by several honorable mentions. Tor.com came alive (mostly thanks to Ellen Datlow) when most other zines were below their average. Like Tor, Nightmare was also a little more impressive than usual–and in a month when it had a lot of competition, as many zines seemed to want to include some horror in this spooky month of March…

(11) PLIGHT FLIGHT. UK gaming companies may stage a counter-Brexit.

Some 40% of British gaming companies say they are considering relocating some or all of their business because of Brexit.

Companies cited losing access to talent and funding as major risks when Britain leaves the bloc.

A survey by industry group Ukie polled 75 of the more than 2,000 games firms in the UK, most of which worked in development.

(12) DATA. Counting authors’ uses of text in Ben Blatt’s book — “Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve’ Crunches The (Literary) Numbers”.

But that’s what statistician Ben Blatt’s new book, Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve, sets out to do, thin slice by thin slice.

He loaded thousands of books — classics and contemporary best-sellers — into various databases and let his hard drive churn through them, seeking to determine, for example, if our favorite authors follow conventional writing advice about using cliches, adverbs and exclamation points (they mostly do); if men and women write differently (yep); if an algorithm can identify a writer from his or her prose style (it can); and which authors use the shortest first sentences (Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Mark Twain) versus those who use the longest (Salman Rushdie, Michael Chabon, Edith Wharton).

Unexpected results include Tolkien being #5 in use of exclamation points, while Elmore Leonard is dead last.

(13) NEW TRANSLATION AWARD. As Oneiros said in comments: “Not strictly SFF but there is a new UK-based prize for women in translation”.

Coventry’s University of Warwick has announced the launch of the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation, to have its first winner in November.

The goal of the prize, according to the announcement, is “to address the gender imbalance in translated literature and to increase the number of international women’s voices accessible by a British and Irish readership.”

Prof. Maureen Freely, head of English and comparative literature studies—and perhaps better known as the president of English PEN—is quoted in the university’s announcement, saying, “We’ve come a long way with the championing of world literature over the past decade, welcoming in a multiplicity of voices which have gone on to enrich us all.

“In the same period, however, we’ve noticed that it’s markedly more difficult for women to make it into English translation.

“This prize offers us an opportunity to welcome in the voices and perspectives that we have missed thus far.”

…The prize money of £1,000 (US$1,235) is to be split evenly between the winning female writer and her translator(s). Publishers are invited to submit titles starting on April 3. A shortlist is to be announced in October and the winner is to be named in November.

(14) THE VASTY FIELD OF TOLKIEN. David Bratman responds to “A reviewer’s complaint” on the Tolkien Society blog.

That’s part of the title of a little opinion piece by Thomas Honegger in the latest issue of Hither Shore (v. 12, dated 2015), “To whom it may concern – a Reviewer’s Complaint.” Honegger’s complaint is over a lack of “a certain minimal level of professional quality” in Tolkien studies. He mentions fact-checking and proofreading, but his main concern is lack of bibliographical research, scholars unaware of major and basic work in the areas they are covering. “How are we going to advance Tolkien studies if scholars in the field are ignorant of each others research?”

Well, I know how and why this happened. It’s the explosion in the size of our field. About 30 years ago – it seems such a blip in time – I wrote an article for Beyond Bree giving a potted summary of every book about Tolkien that had ever been published, including the art books and parodies. I had them all in my head, and almost all of them on my shelves. I couldn’t do that any more. There’s just too much stuff out there.

(At this point a real article would provide statistics. This is not a real article, and I lack both time and inclination to do that work right now. But if you’ve been paying attention to the field over the years, you know this too.)

Scholars were used to knowing off the top of their heads what work had been done in specific areas of the field. Perhaps they’re still trying to do so, but failing.

Thomas Honegger has, of course, the answer to this. Research. There are bibliographies, online databases, etc. And don’t I know it. I’m right in the middle of doing my lonesome best at compiling the bibliography of Tolkien studies for 2015 that will be going in the next issue of Tolkien Studies….

(15) HONORVERSE WAR COLLEGE. Baen Books hosts “Honorverse Analytics: Why Manticore Won the War” by Pat Doyle and Chris Weuve.

Pat and Chris are members David Weber’s Honorverse consulting group, BuNine. Both are defense professionals who use their day-job expertise to help David flesh out the background worlds and ways of the Honor Harrington series novels. The analysis below is an example of the sorts of briefs and articles BuNine prepares for David as he continues his imaginative journey exploring the Honorverse and bringing his stories to millions of readers.

…The size disparity between the two star nations goes beyond just resources. It also effects what is known as strategic depth, which is usually viewed as the ability to trade space for time. Think for a moment about the disparity between Israel (a country with no strategic depth) and Russia (a country with a lot of strategic depth, as Napoleon and Hitler discovered). At the beginning of the war Manticore has virtually no strategic depth, as the vast majority of both its population and its economic wherewithal is concentrated in the Manticore home system. Haven, on the other hand, has lots of strategic depth—it can and does lose star systems over the course of the war with little decrease in its own warfighting capability. Worth noting, though, is that strategic depth is a more nebulous concept in the Honorverse than in our own universe. Even leaving aside the hyperbridges, the nature of hyperspace travel in the Honorverse has the effect of making space non-contiguous, by which we mean that you can get from point A to point C without going through point B. In theory, then, the Royal Manticoran Navy could appear above Nouveau Paris without warning, just as a Havenite Fleet could do the same at Manticore.

(16) A SERVICE TO MANKIND. Timothy the Talking Cat, being the altruist that he is, thinks anybody should be able to turn out a Cattimothy House book cover in five minutes, not just its publisher. Read “A Message from the CEO of Cattimothy House” and go play.

Here’s a screenshot of the control panel and my first masterpiece.

(17) WHAT’S THAT FLOATING IN THE PUNCHBOWL? Were you in need of a libertarian take on Beauty and the Beast? Look no farther – let Dan Sanchez tell you about “Belle’s Tax-Funded Fairy Tale Life”, a post at the Foundation for Economic Education.

Not to be a childhood-ruining killjoy, but who paid for all this? It’s not like the Beast is an entrepreneur: the local Steve Jobs, providing the townspeople with mass-produced magic mirrors that can make FaceTime calls.

As the new film’s opening sequence makes explicit, the prince paid for his lavish lifestyle by levying taxes—so high that even lefty Hollywood regards them excessive—on the hard-working, commercial townspeople discussed above. The party-animal prince being transformed into a sulking beast may have amounted to a 100% tax cut for the town; no wonder the townspeople are so cheerful and thriving when we first meet them!

(18) DANSE MACABRE. This is bizarre – is that enough reason to use the service in the ad? Get the background from AdWeek in “Skeletor Dances to the Theme From Fame in the Most ‘80s-Tastic Ad You’ll See This Year”.

With an undead head and inhuman abs, Skeletor might literally live forever, which could explain why he’s now jamming out to the lyrically appropriate theme from Fame.

Mattel’s cackling villain from the 1980s cartoon (and blatant toy marketing machine) He-Man and the Masters of the Universe returns to the marketing world after a three-year hiatus, most recently having taken over Honda’s Twitter feed in 2014.

Now Skeletor is shilling for MoneySuperMarket, a British financial-comparison site that promises to help users save on insurance, bank rates and more. And, as you’d imagine, He-Man isn’t far behind.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Jason, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Oneiros, kathodus, Darren Garrison, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]