Pixel Scroll 12/15/17 You’ve Got The Wrong Android, I Scroll My Name Danger

(1) HE DOOD IT. How could he not? “Wil Wheaton Wears ‘Star Trek’ Uniform To ‘Star Wars’ FOR REAL”.

Life gloriously imitated art Thursday when actor Wil Wheaton wore a “Star Trek” costume to a screening of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

Wheaton portrayed Wesley Crusher on TV’s “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (1987-1994), and has been playing himself on “The Big Bang Theory.” In a 2015 episode of the hit sitcom, he watched a “Star Wars” movie in “Star Trek” garb, attracting boos from the audience and an insult from one moviegoer. “Live long and suck it!” he yelled back in a memorable line.

(2) A DISTURBANCE IN THE THEATER. Fans weren’t prepared to accept the first silent Star Wars movie: “Uprising at Burbank AMC after ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ starts without sound”.

According to Twitter user, Isaias Rodriguez, theater management attempted to appease the angry fans by either moving them to another screening at the same theater — albeit not in the IMAX format — or to attend a screening of the much-anticipated film at another AMC theatre Friday.

Police reportedly were called to the Southern California venue.

(3) ICE CREAM AND COOKIES. Scott Edelman invites you to lunch at the Society of Illustrators with Irene Gallo in Episode 55 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Irene Gallo

Gallo has worked as an art director at Tor Books for more than two decades, where she currently holds the title of Creative Director. She’s also the Associate Publisher of Tor.com, and is ultimately the one responsible for the look of the publishing company’s book covers, as well as its online output. She’s been nominated for a Chesley Award for her art direction an astounding 19 times, the first back in 1999, and has won 13, as early as 2001, and as recently as 2017.

We discussed what it was like the first time she realized she wasn’t the only one in the world who cared so strongly about art, how she felt the day she discovered Harlan Ellison as well as the title of his that made her go “whoa,” why seeing book covers as thumbnails started long before the trend of Internet bookselling, how a manuscript moves from cover concept through to final cover, whether the cliche that an author is the worst possible designer of their own book cover is true, how self-published authors who create their own books can get the best possible covers, and much more.

(4) WHO PREVIEW. If you want to read some “minor spoilers” for the Doctor Who Christmas Special, “Twice Upon A Time,” ScienceFiction.com is ready to oblige: “15 Things To Watch For In ‘Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time’”. If not – DON’T CLICK!

With just 11 days to go until to Peter Capaldi’s Doctor and the Steven Moffat say their final farewells, some fans are finding it hard to wait! Some sites have been granted early access to ‘Twice Upon a Time,’ so to hold us over until December 25, we have a list of hints and teasers from the episode!

(5) SJW CREDENTIALS ARE GO. Corey J. White has identified “5 of the Coolest Cats in Space” for readers of Tor.com.

The cat is on the floor, looking up at me and yelling as I type this. My original plan was for a piece on ‘Pets In Space’, but she’s threatened to vomit on my bed, under the covers, if I don’t focus solely on cats. Why? Because cats are better than dogs. I am typing this of my own free will. Please send salmon.

In all seriousness though, even dog lovers have to admit that cats would make better pets aboard a space craft: they don’t require as much food as any but the smallest dogs, unlike many dog breeds they don’t need a lot of space to run around, and they’re great at catching the rodents chewing on the cables of the life-support system.

(6) SECOND FIFTH. John Scalzi shares his “Spoiler-Free Observations on The Last Jedi”.

  1. The Last Jedi is the longest Star Wars film, and director Rian Johnson packs it full of story, so you’re unlikely to be bored, and even the laggy parts move along. With that said, there’s so much going on in the story and we’re keeping track of so many characters (Luke and Leia and Rey and Kylo and Poe and Finn and Chewie and BB-8 and R2D2 and C-3PO and Hux and Snoke and Phasma and oh look there are new characters too and what the hell are these porg things anyway?) that it can feel thin, and some bits are clearly contrived simply to give beloved characters things to do and/or give us new merchandising yes Porgs I am looking at you (I bought a porg stuffed animal at the show last night so, uh, I fell for it). I think I would have been happier with a sharper focus on fewer characters, and also I’m worried that Episode IX will be three and a half hours long and have five different endings, a la The Return of the King.

(7) PLAY BALL. Cut4.com, a Major League Baseball site, tried to attract a few clicks by assembling a baseball team out of Star Wars characters in celebration of The Last Jedi — “This is the team you’re looking for”. This one you need to follow baseball to fully appreciate:

Starting Pitchers: Obi-Wan Kenobi and Jamie Moyer

The wise old wizard, utilizing a psychological advantage to best his enemies and thrive, despite all odds. And, as a solid No. 2, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

(8) BATTLESTAR GALACTICA VET BACK ON TV. Deadline reports — “Apple Orders Ronald D. Moore Space Drama Series”.

Ronald D. Moore is heading back to space. Apple has given a straight-to-series order to a space drama from the Battlestar Galactica developer. The untitled project hails from Sony Pictures Television and Moore’s studio-based Tall Ship Productions.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 15, 1958 Frankenstein’s Daughter came out.
  • December 15, 1961 The Twilight Zone aired “Once Upon A Time,” starring Buster Keaton.
  • December 15, 1974 Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein premieres.
  • December 15, 1978 Superman – The Movie premiered in U.S. theaters.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 15, 1949 — Don Johnson, who starred with his canine companion in A Boy and His Dog.

(11) MATH PROJECT. Do we know anyone attending Emmanuel College in Boston?

(12) DUBIOUS FAN. Camestros Felapton is restraining his enthusiasm about new mix-and-match possibilities after the Disney/Fox merger for several reasons. Here’s one of them: “Disney, Fox and MCU”.

A comic book universe relies on somehow making superheroes whose basic premise is quite different work together. Marvel has juggled this by having elements that work together and elements that work as given character’s own domain. Thor can be a god-like alien being on Earth and exist side-by-side with Iron Man a human with fancy gadgets but their separate adventures put the characters in quite different characters. Some suspension of disbelief is required to accept that these characters can have their own stories without every film requiring all the Avengers to turn up to help but the settings help and each character can have separate stories.

Now add the X-men. The X-Men aren’t the X-Men without the key premise that they live in a world in which:

  • Some people get random mutant superpowers.
  • That the wider population knows this.
  • That the mutant population is feared and persecuted and suppressed.

Captain America has to be cool with this. I mean, obviously, he isn’t but for the X-Men to have their stories, basically The Avengers have to not do anything when the US government starts hunting people with giant killer robots. Also, the wider public has to be relatively OK with one bunch of super powered people and raging bigots about a different bunch. It has to be OK to get superpowers from a spider bite but not from a genetic mutation AND people have to believe that story (i.e. people don’t think Spiderman is a dangerous mutant).

(13) CHRISTMAS GOAT. Hampus Eckerman says, “Sometimes you have to go to the foreign press to understand why the Gävle goat is burned down every year. The Guardian has its own theory, totally new for me.” — “Killing Gävle – a Swedish city divided by a giant straw Christmas goat”.

Welcome to the small northern Swedish city of Gävle where there’s an annual battle over a 12-metre-high straw effigy of a goat. Local custodians try to protect a giant straw goat from mischievous pagans in a fight for the spirit of Christmas.

Every year since 1966, in the dark days of winter, the business owners pay for a goat to be built in the central square on the first day of advent. For 37 of those 51 years, the goat has been burnt down or damaged by shadowy outsiders, sometimes within a few hours of going up.

In the latest Guardian documentary, Killing Gävle, residents and those who might want to burn the goat explain their hopes and motivations as Christmas approaches and the battle over the goat is fired up once more.

The goat, which pulls Santa’s sleigh, has come to symbolise Christmas in Sweden, drawing people in from the surrounding country. Families bring their children to look in wonder and, the businesses hope, do a bit of shopping while they are there.

But there are other people in the dark forests that surround the city who hold an entirely different view of the goat. They believe in a time before Christianity appeared in Sweden, when people worshipped Norse gods including the goat goddess Heidrun (goddess of enlightenment) and the god of thunder, Thor, who rode around on two goats. Each night he would burn and then eat them, only to wake up the following morning to them having been reborn and able to pull his chariot again….

 

(14) DOPPELGANGER. When they get it right and find one that has nine planets, then we can talk: “NASA’s Kepler finds solar system like ours with eight planets” in USA Today.

Researchers used data from NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope to discover an eighth planet orbiting a star known as Kepler-90.

The planet, dubbed Kepler-90i, is a hot, rocky planet that orbits its star every 14.4 days, and was found with the help of artificial intelligence, NASA said Thursday. The discovery marks the first solar system to tie with our solar system in the number of planets orbiting one star.

(15) STAY FROSTY. Timothy Cama, in a December 12 article in The Hill called “Emails: Disney annoyed by Obama push to use ‘Frozen’ brand” said that recently unearthed emails showed a 2015 negotiation between the Obama administration and Disney about using Frozen characters to promote warnings about climate change broke down because, according to one Disney executive, “it’s in our culture to tell stories that project optimism and have happy endings.”

Papp’s outreach generated extensive media coverage at the time and attracted mockery and criticism from conservatives who already thought then-President Obama’s climate agenda had gone too far.

The effort to use “Frozen” for climate messaging was part of an extensive plan by the Obama administration to convince Americans and the world that climate change is a major issue with enormous consequences.

(16) OCEANS, NOT CANALS. The BBC considers “Pacific ‘baby island’ is natural lab to study Mars”.

It is one of Earth’s newest landforms and it could just tell us where to look for evidence of life on Mars.

The tongue-twisting volcanic island of Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai exploded out of the Pacific Ocean in 2015, and its shape has been evolving ever since as it has been lashed and bashed by waves.

Scientists are watching this slow erosion very closely.

They think they see the remnants of many such water-birthed islands on the Red Planet.

(17) FORERUNNER. The 60th anniversary of this project recently passed — “Skylark: The unsung hero of British space”.

It wasn’t a big vehicle, and it didn’t go to orbit. But the anniversary of that first flight from Woomera, Australia, should be celebrated because much of what we do in space today has its roots in this particular piece of technology.

“Skylark is an unsung British hero really,” says Doug Millard, space curator at London’s Science Museum.

“The first one was launched during the International Geophysical Year of 1957, and almost 450 were launched over the better part of half a century. It was the Skylark space rocket that really laid the foundations for everything the UK does in space.”

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Slaughterbots” on YouTube is a near-future film warning about the problems of miniature drones trained to kill.

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

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #21

Review: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

By Chris M. Barkley:  

Star Wars Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (****, 2017) with Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Andy Serkis, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Joonas Suotamo, Oscar Isaac, Benicio del Toro, Laura Dern, Gwendolyn Christie, Billie Lourd, Donhall Gleeson and Lupita N’yongo.  Written and Directed by Rian Johnson.

December 13th, Wednesday Morning, 3:15 AM.

I am wide wake in bed, on my back.

One of our cats, Luna, is lying quietly on my tummy, looking at me expectantly.

She peers at me, I look back at her.

I don’t have to be a Jedi to know what she’s is thinking; she’s thinking if stays there long enough, her six pound weight on my bladder will induce me to go to the toilet and her ensuing mewing will lead me to turn on the bathtub tap, where she will happily lap up something resembling mineral water from the faucet.

Luna, the 3 AM rambler.

Me? I’m thinking about The Last Jedi.

I’m thinking about the tickets for the advanced screening that I purchased a month ago and cleverly hid in our townhouse, JUST IN CASE OF A HOME INVASION, don’t cha know.

Eventually, Luna admits defeat and leaves. I roll over and happily dive back into dreamland.

Avoiding spoilers, specifically involving Star Wars films, has been a tradition with me since The Phantom Menace (1999). For the past year and a half, I have been dodging rumors, possible storylines, memes, photos and especially those dreaded trailers, popping up unexpectedly during my favorite shows and sporting events. My partner, Juli, became very amused at my efforts to mute the tv and cover my eyes to avoid spoilers.

I admit that these feeble attempts to recapture the stunned feeling of being enraptured in the sights, sounds and fury of my first viewing of Star Wars in the Uptown Theater on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington DC on Memorial Day weekend in 1977.

But, deep down, I know I am being naïve about this; I have stumbled across some little bits of information about The Last Jedi by accident or happenstance so there is really no real way to recapture that initial thrill of discovery.

I know that some of my close friends and acquaintances have openly declared they are not bothering to see The Last Jedi because they are tired of the relentless hype, the good vs. evil plotlines or of the odious nature of Walt Disney Company (who purchased Lucasfilm Ltd in 2012 for four billion dollars).

The Last Jedi premiered in Los Angeles this past weekend and in London yesterday, December 13th. And this evening, I, along with several dozen moviegoers, saw it for the first time, in 3-D, no less…

“THIS isn’t going the way you THINK is it!”
Luke Skywalker

As foreshadowing goes, the quote above perfectly sums up The Last Jedi. Needless to say, NOTHING goes according to plan for anyone concerned and deeper you go into the film, the more uncertain the outcome becomes.

None of the Star Wars previous films, even the worst of them, has been about holding back emotions or having a restraining story narrative. But this difference with this film is that characters matter here and their motivations and actions match the roller coaster plot.

Episode Eight’s writer/director, Rian Johnson starts out with a few simple plots that quickly branch out into several different directions: Rey (Daisy Ridley) has come seeking Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) for guidance with her newly found powers and has some trouble convincing him to help her. General Leia’s (the late Carrie Fisher) challenge is to lead her remaining Resistance forces to safety after being discovered by the forces of the First Order.

The situation proves to be so desperate that Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega) and a new-found friend, Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) undertake a dangerous (and unauthorized) side mission to save the rebel fleet.

Meanwhile, Ben Solo (Adam Driver) is trying to find a way out of the First Order doghouse after his previous failures enrage Snoke (Andy Serkis), much to the amusement and disdain of General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson).

There are some thrilling moments of revelations that are balanced out with battles sequences, cliffhangers and, surprisingly enough, some of the best character developments since the first set of films.

Also worth noting are performances by Laura Dern as a loyal Resistance Admiral and Benicio del Toro as a shady underworld thief.

The Last Jedi is a big, long, heartwarming and heartbreaking epic that will take your breath away too many times to count. At 152 minutes it is the longest film in the series and, dare I say it, one of the best.

It is memorable in every way possible. I have a feeling you’ll be seeing it several times. I know I will be!

Pixel Scroll 12/13/17 It’s Crackers To Scroll A Rozzer The Pixel In Snide

(1) RECOMMENDED BY NINE OUT OF TEN. The BBC scanned the media and concluded: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi has critics in raptures”. (Except for Variety and The Verge.)

“Rousing.” “Thrilling.” “Addictively bold.” Just a few of the superlatives the critics are using to describe the latest film in the Star Wars saga.

The Last Jedi, writes the Telegraph, is “enormous fun” and “will leave fans beaming with surprise”.

The Guardian calls it “an explosive sugar rush of spectacle” possessing “a tidal wave of energy and emotion”.

Variety, though, swims against the tide, describing it as “the longest and least essential chapter in the series”.

Rian Johnson’s film, says Peter Debruge, is “ultimately a disappointment” that “gives in to the same winking self-parody that is poisoning other franchises of late.”

Writing in The Verge, Tasha Robinson tends to agree: “Audiences will likely come away from The Last Jedi with a lot of complaints and questions.”

(3) SPACE BALONEY. A history of fake Star Wars news — “Inside the ‘Star Wars’ Fake News Con That Tortured Fans for 20 Years” from Thrillist.

There was little legitimate movie news on the internet in early 1997, most tidbits trickling down from Hollywood’s print trade magazines, but the pioneering gossips and rumormongers of today’s post-and-verify-later model of online journalism hustled to find scoops and stake a claim with the eager readership. In its infancy, Ain’t It Cool News dished out flashy updates from its network of film industry spies; Corona’s Coming Attractions was a meticulous clearinghouse of rumors on just about every movie in development; for those that required all Star Wars, all the time, there were laser-focused sites like TheForce.net and RebelScum.com, which aggregated the latest Star Wars news (while occasionally dropping scoops of their own).

There was an embarrassment of rumor riches, and though a high percentage of the Star Wars scoops were bunk, people dove right in, elated that the most beloved film franchise of their youth had blasted back to the fore of pop culture. There was no reliable editorial oversight, only a treasure hunt, and the burden of bullshit detection fell on the reader. Which is how ludicrous stories — like the howler that nearly half the footage shot for The Phantom Menace came back from the lab out of focus — gained real traction in 1998.

(3) LICENSE TO SHILL. Techdirt’s Timothy Geigner began his coverage of last week’s SDCC v SLCC jury trial with some brutal criticism for Rose City Comic Con, who accepted a free license from SDCC to use the “comic con” name: “Opening Statements In The Trademark Battle Of The Comic Cons, While Other Regional Cons Go Full Judas”.

Of course, the problem with this study is that no matter what the public in the SDCC’s sample indicated, the simple fact is that comic conventions throughout the country have been using the term “comic con” with wild abandon. As they did so, it seems that the SDCC was in some sort of trademark hibernation for years, with no action against all of these national comic cons that I can find. SLCC made the same point in its opening argument, their defense seemingly settling on the notion that the term “comic con” had become generic….

It seems that the SDCC fully anticipated this defense and decided to attempt to undermine it by finding a comic con out there, any comic con, to enter into a laughably cheap licensing agreement. That SDCC is doing this only at the same time it is bringing this suit to trial makes its motive plain and naked. It’s a shameless attempt to give its long-abandoned trademark the imprimatur of now having an actual licensee. As disappointing as the SDCC’s actions are, those of the sellout cons are all the more so. Just read the press release from Rose City Comic Con in Portland about how it licensed the “comic con” mark and you’ll get an idea of just how likely it is that the SDCC basically scripted this thing for them.

“Rose City Comic Con, Portland, Oregon’s largest comics and pop-culture convention, is proud to announce its association with San Diego Comic Convention for its three-day event taking place September 7-9, 2018 at the Oregon Convention Center. Rose City Comic Con received the license at no additional cost to the show, and acknowledges the trademark owned by San Diego Comic Convention and is excited to affiliate itself with the prestigious event.”

“Comic-Con, the San Diego convention, is without question the biggest and most important event in the comics and popular arts industry every year. To have the respected event recognize the hard work of Rose City Comic Con by providing a license agreement is really remarkable for the city of Portland and the incredible community of creators we’re lucky to have here,” said Rose City Comic Con founder Ron Brister.

So moist does Rose City seem to be over its free license that it must have failed to understand the motive for this free gift by the SDCC and the damage it might do to all of the other comic cons out there that are now or might in the future be under threat by SDCC. Now, I don’t believe that SDCC managing to squeeze a few licensees from this national barrel of turnips suddenly means that it didn’t long ago abandon the “comic con” mark, but it seems obvious that these sorts of free licenses aren’t for everyone. I expect the SLCC, for instance, would have jumped at a free license early on in this process. Perhaps it would instead have stood its ground on principle, but given the enormous cost in time and money, not to mention that this thing has dragged out now for several years, I doubt it.

So nice job, Rose City. While one con fights not just for its life, but for the common sense notion that “comic con” should no longer be considered a legit trademark, you went full Judas. Hope those 30 pieces of silver are worth it.

(4) DEAD ON ARRIVAL. The train left Helsinki on December 13 on its way to Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland. One of the passengers won’t make it alive. Adweek reveals how “TBWA Is Turning a Speeding Train Into an Escape Room for Murder on the Orient Express”.

The “Escape Train” will travel 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) over 13 hours. The plot follows thus: A mysterious death has occurred aboard the train. Which player can identify the killer among them?

…The game was designed and built by InsideOut Escape Games, an escape room game pioneer in Finland. Challenges and puzzles will be movie-inspired, with two train carriages reserved exclusively for execution, but over a dozen cabins will be available for players to explore over its 13-hour run.

Online, people will also be able to watch the action as it happens.

“This is a rare opportunity to build a whole new type of game—it taking place on an actual train, with other passengers on board, adds a lot to the dynamics of an escape room experience,” says InsideOut’s Ágnes Kaszás. “To my knowledge, it is the longest-running game ever made, and we are very excited to be able to design it in the spirit of the new hit movie. It’s a dream come true, both for us and the players!”

 

(5) HELPS TO MAKE THE SEASON BRIGHT. Kim Huett asks, “What about a bonus full-colour Doctor Strangemind post given we’re heading into Christmas? Sure, why not.” So in “Virgil Finlay & Fungi! In Colour!”, Huett gives one of sf’s great artist a little help:

Hopefully this seasonal fungi will help to brighten up the lives of those of you currently trudging through winter. I like to think a dead fir festooned with such colourful parasites would look every bit as festive as the traditional sort.

(6) JUSTICE LEAGUE NEEDS A DOG. In “(Super)man’s Best Friend”, Claremont McKenna College fellow Steven J. Lenzner tells Weekly Standard readers that recent movie and TV versions of Superman have neglected Krypto, who is a good dog who wants to protect Superman.

We readers are shown Krypto’s thoughts—and those thoughts, both in form and content, show him to be a model dog. Krypto thinks only in the present tense, employing—to the extent possible—one-syllable words with concision; that is to say, he thinks as one would imagine a dog thinking. Moreover, the content of his thoughts goes far toward explaining the old adage that dog is a Kryptonian’s best friend. Krypto is, as befits a good American dog, deeply concerned with his happiness—and what makes him happy, above all, is his master’s praise: “Good boy.” The first word of the story is Krypto’s (“Man”), as is the last word (“Happy”). And in between Krypto displays the cardinal canine virtues: loyalty, courage, and affection. Krypto loves his friends and hates his enemies. And his circle of friends has a limited radius. He has none of that easy and indiscriminate affection that diminishes the charm of a dog’s love for its master.

(7) IT’S BULL. In “Hitler banned it; Gandhi loved it: ‘The Story of Ferdinand,’ the book and, now, film”, the Washington Post’s Karen McPherson discusses the classic children’s book written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson, which has just been remade as Ferdinand.  She discusses how the previous animated version of the film, Disney’s 1938 Ferdinand the Bull, won an Academy Award and how Leaf and Lawson’s book was praised by Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and denounced by Adolf Hitler, who called the book “dangerous democratic propaganda.”

Leaf wrote “The Story of Ferdinand” in less than an hour one rainy fall afternoon as a gift to his good friend Lawson. Contending that “dogs, rabbits, mice and goats had all been done a thousand times,” Leaf focused his story on a Spanish bull named Ferdinand who eschews fighting for flower-sniffing, refusing to fight even when forced to face the matador in the ring. Instead, Ferdinand sits down to enjoy the fragrance of the flowers adorning the hair of women spectators.

(8) PEDAL TO THE MEDAL. Pretty soon it’s the robots that will be citius, altius, fortius: “A humanoid robot carried the Olympic torch in South Korea”.

One of the traditions of the Olympics is the torch relay, in which people carry the flame from Olympia, Greece to the location of the Games. In 2018, the Olympic Games will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the torch relay is currently underway. Earlier this week, the HUBO, the humanoid robot, carried the flame for part of its journey.

HUBO only covered 150 meters (about 500 feet) with the torch, but its presence was largely symbolic. As part of its torch duties, HUBO performed an example of a disaster rescue operation in which it cut a hole in a brick wall (while still holding the torch). It was intended as a “display of innovation and creativity,” according to PyeongChang 2018 Organizing Committee President LEE Hee-beom.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 13, 1951 The Day The Earth Stood Still received its theatrical premiere in the UK.
  • December 13, 1996 — Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! came out on this day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CHIMNEY SWEEP

  • Born December 13, 1925 – Dick Van Dyke

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Usually you look in the Bible for what happened “In the beginning…” but Chip Hitchcock found the answer at Mr. Boffo.

(12) BIG BIRD. When they had happy feet, you got out of their way: “Giant Prehistoric Penguins Once Swam Off The Coast Of New Zealand”.

An international team of scientists have announced the discovery of a previously unknown species of prehistoric penguin.

The bird waddled around off the east coast of New Zealand between 55 and 60 million years ago. And it was a giant as far as penguins go. The researchers estimate that it probably weighed about 220 pounds and was around 5 feet 10 inches tall.

“That’s about as tall as a medium-sized man,” says Gerald Mayr, a paleontologist at the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Franfurt, Germany, and the lead author of the new study published today in Nature Communications. “This particular specimen is one of the largest known fossil penguins.”

The largest living penguin, on the other hand, the Emperor penguin, is a good bit shorter — around 4 feet.

The scientists have named the new species Kumimanu biceae, which means ‘monster bird’ in the Maori language. (Kumi is the name of a monster in Maori mythology and manu means bird.)

The new finding is really cool, says Julia Clarke, a paleontologist at the University of Texas, Austin, who wasn’t involved in the study. “I mean, what’s not cool about a human-sized penguin?” she says.

(13) THANKS FOR YOUR TECH. Despite their service being blocked, Google will open an artificial intelligence centre in China.

Google is deepening its push into artificial intelligence (AI) by opening a research centre in China, even though its search services remain blocked in the country.

Google said the facility would be the first its kind in Asia and would aim to employ local talent.

Silicon Valley is focusing heavily on the future applications for AI.

China has also indicated strong support for AI development and for catching up with the US.

(14) DOZOIS REVIEWS. The title of his December 13 entry is “Gardner Dozois Reviews Short Fiction” but most of it is brief descriptions of stories recently on Tor.com or in F&SF. Should that be what you’re looking for, you’ll find it at Locus Online.

(15) GLOBAL SWARMING. The BBC expects “Robot swarms to map the seafloor”.

It’s one of those truisms that we know the shape of the surface of Mars and the Moon far better than we know our own planet.

The reason for this is Earth’s oceans: they cover 71% of the globe and are impenetrable to the satellite mapping techniques we use so capably on those other worlds.

The scientific community has set itself the ambitious goal of correcting this anomaly.

The aim is to have no feature on the ocean floor larger than 100m unmapped by 2030.

It’s a huge task when you consider at the moment the vast majority of the water-covered parts of Earth are known to a resolution no better than about a kilometre.

Some big technological shifts will be required in the next 10 years to correct the picture. And that is really the raison d’être behind the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE.

A $7m pot has been offered to find the systems and strategies that will bring about a step change in bathymetric (depth) mapping.

(16) PIPE DOWN. Kameron Hurley talks back to that Bitter Midlister Voice in her head, in “What Comes Next? Everything”.

… We have all met or heard from bitter midlisters. These are the people who publicly rant about how the success of their bestselling peers has nothing to do with quality, but with luck, or favoritism, and how the game is rigged against them. They bloviate on forums and social platforms about how they didn’t get the sort of success they were owed. This is often how you can differentiate the bitter midlister from those simply exhausted by the –isms inherent in publishing. Bitter midlisters feel that they are owed success by virtue of their existence, instead of simply that they understand they need to work harder in a system rigged to favor certain types of books and authors….

It used to be that when I wrote, I’d be railing against all the outside voices, the supposed gatekeepers, the editors and agents who rejected my work. As I’ve become more skilled, I realize that my greatest enemy isn’t them at all, and never was. My greatest enemy these days is just myself, and the BMV™.

I have a great deal to achieve in this, the second half of my life. The last year of horror had led me to double down on my worst tendencies, to withdraw, to simply endure. But I want the next thirty years of my life to be more than mere endurance. I want to truly thrive. I want to come into my own as a skilled artist, as a novelist. It’s always been my goal to be an exceptionally skilled novelist, the best, and I won’t get there by hiding in my house in Ohio with a pillow over my head and nursing the BMV™

(17) COULD HOLD A THOUSAND ROSETTAS. “Nasa’s New Horizons probe strikes distant gold” — the target past Pluto is at least two objects.

The American space agency’s New Horizons mission has struck gold again.

After its astonishing flyby of Pluto in 2015, scientists have just discovered that the probe’s next target is not one object but very likely two.

Earth-based observations suggest the small icy world, referred to simply as MU69, has a moonlet.

It seems New Horizons will now be making a two-for-the price-of-one flyby when it has its encounter on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, 2019….

(18) TICKETY BOO. “Dracula ticks in amber tell ancient blood-sucking tale”. The BBC report reminded Chip Hitchcock of Brian Aldiss’s “Poor Little Warrior,” which describes human-size parasites (possibly ticks?) on a Brontosaurus; these are more typical in size.

Scientists say the discovery, which has echoes of Jurassic Park, is the first direct fossil evidence that ticks fed on the blood of dinosaurs.

The research is published in the journal, Nature Communications.

”Ticks parasitised feathered dinosaurs; now we have direct evidence of it,” co-researcher Dr Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History told BBC News.

…Together, these findings suggest that ticks have been sucking the blood of dinosaurs for almost 100 million years.

(19) RENDEZVOUS WITH…? Is the weird shape unnatural? Stand by, while “Interstellar asteroid checked for alien technology”.

A project searching for intelligent life in the cosmos is going to check the first known interstellar asteroid for signs of alien technology.

The odd-shaped object was detected as it sped towards the Sun on 19 October.

Its properties suggested it originated around another star, making it the first such body to be spotted in our cosmic neighbourhood.

An initiative backed by billionaire Yuri Milner will use a radio telescope to listen for signals from it.

The team’s efforts will begin on Wednesday, with astronomers observing the asteroid, which is currently speeding away from our Solar System, across four different radio frequency bands.

(20) BATTLE OF THE SJW CREDENTIALS. It’s a Conestoga catastrophe.

(21) THE SHAPE OF WATER. The Shape of Water director Guillermo del Toro appeared with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. He begins by saying his manager’s call about the Golden Globe nominations woke him up “it took me four nominations to find the glasses.”

(22) LEGO ANNIHLATION. Mark Hepworth sent the link with a note: “Either genius, or a tragic waste of Lego. The main event starts at about 2:50.”

David, Henrik and Sylvia plays with Lego. This time it’s the giant 1.2 meter, 3152 piece, 3.5 kg heavy Star Wars – Super Star Destroyer. This episode has a twist to it. We mount the Super Star Destroyer on the rocket sled and accelerate it up to 108km/h. Very rapid disassembly follows.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 12/10/17 The Greatest Scroll On Earth

(1) LAST JEDI REVEW. Craig Miller attended the official world premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi:

No Spoilers Review: A pretty amazing achievement. More emotion than most Star Wars films. And more humor (though not a gag fest like, Thor Ragnarok). Some surprises. Including a “surprise” I thought was likely yet still surprised me when it happened by the way they did it. I haven’t quite processed where I think it should go in my pantheon of Best Star Wars Movies but it’s certainly up near the top of the list. Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back still hold the top honors but this is getting near it.

His post includes a couple of sweet photos of Kelly Marie Tran (who plays Rose) seeing a fan dressed as her character for the first time.

(2) FIRST IMPRESSIONS. Mashable collected a bunch of tweets sent by people who saw the movie: “‘The Last Jedi’ first premiere reactions are here and – you guessed it – the Force is strong”.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi held its star-studded world premiere at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Saturday night, and the credits had barely finished rolling before attendees hit Twitter to share their first reactions to Rian Johnson’s take on the Skywalker saga.

While spoilers and plot details are under strict embargo until Dec. 12 at 9 a.m. PT, that didn’t stop fans from weighing in on the tone of the movie…

(3) IMPEDIMENT TO FAKE REVIEWS. Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green brings news of “Amazon Review Policy Change & More”.

Since Amazon first opened its virtual doors, there have been concerns about reviews. Not just for books but for all the products sold through its site. It is no secret that authors have paid for reviews — and some still do. Or that there have been fake accounts set up to give sock puppet reviews. There have been stories about sellers and manufacturers planting fake reviews as well, all in the hopes of bolstering their product rankings and ratings. From time to time, Amazon has taken steps to combat this trend. One of the last times they did it, they brought in a weighted review system. This one differentiates between “verified purchasers” and those who did not buy the product viz Amazon. Now there is a new policy in place, once that should help — at least until a new way around it is found.

Simply put, Amazon now requires you to purchase a minimum of $50 worth of books or other products before you can leave a review or answer questions about a product. These purchases, and it looks like it is a cumulative amount, must be purchased via credit card or debit card — gift cards won’t count. This means someone can’t set up a fake account, buy themselves a gift card and use it to get around the policy….

(4) AND HEEERE’S PHILIP! Kim Huett asks, “Do you ever have those moments when you discover a different side to an author? Well of course you do. We all do. I did just the other day in regards to Philip K. Dick:” See “Straight Talking With Philip K. Dick” at Doctor Strangemind.

It’s in Lighthouse #14 (October 1966) that Carr published a Philip K. Dick article called Will the Atomic Bomb Ever Be Perfected, and If So, What Becomes of Robert Heinlein? This piece doesn’t read like a fully formed article in my opinion. It’s a series of unconnected paragraphs that feels more like a transcript of Dick’s responses to a series of questions that had been posed by a talk show host (Conan O’Brien most probably, I can’t imagine who else would enjoy interviewing Phil Dick). Take this line:

‘I have written and sold twenty-three novels, and all are terrible except one. But I am not sure which one.

That so feels like the sort of thing a talk show guest might say to set the tone of the interview. Watch out audience, I’m quirky and don’t take anything too seriously.

Mostly though Dick expresses the sort of blunt and sweeping opinions I never thought he was likely to come out with….

(5) MAKE IT SNOW. Let SyFy Wire help with your holiday shopping — “2017 Gift Guide: Beam up these great Star Trek gifts”. My favorite —

U.S.S. Enterprise Sushi Set

If you love Star Trek AND sushi then this awesome sushi set will hit the sweet spot. The set includes a shiny Enterprise NCC-1701 in mid-warp and propped on a wooden base, which is actually… a sushi plate. If you remove the top of the saucer section, you even get a small dish for soy sauce. Slide out the warp effects of the nacelles and voila, you have your own pair of chopsticks.

Get it for $34.99 at Star Trek Shop

(6) NO PRIZE. In the Paris Review, Ursula K. Le Guin makes a meta suggestion: “The Literary Prize for the Refusal of Literary Prizes”.

I refused a prize once. My reasons were mingier than Sartre’s, though not entirely unrelated. It was in the coldest, insanest days of the Cold War, when even the little planet Esseff was politically divided against itself. My novelette The Diary of the Rose was awarded the Nebula Award by the Science Fiction Writers of America. At about the same time, the same organization deprived the Polish novelist Stanislaw Lem of his honorary membership. There was a sizable contingent of Cold Warrior members who felt that a man who lived behind the iron curtain and was rude about American science fiction must be a Commie rat who had no business in the SFWA. They invoked a technicality to deprive him of his membership and insisted on applying it. Lem was a difficult, arrogant, sometimes insufferable man, but a courageous one and a first-rate author, writing with more independence of mind than would seem possible in Poland under the Soviet regime. I was very angry at the injustice of the crass and petty insult offered him by the SFWA. I dropped my membership and, feeling it would be shameless to accept an award for a story about political intolerance from a group that had just displayed political intolerance, took my entry out of the Nebula competition shortly before the winners were to be announced. The SFWA called me to plead with me not to withdraw it, since it had, in fact, won. I couldn’t do that. So—with the perfect irony that awaits anybody who strikes a noble pose on high moral ground—my award went to the runner-up: Isaac Asimov, the old chieftain of the Cold Warriors.

(7) TOLKIEN CANONIZATON CONFERENCE CANCELLED. The hosts of a December 18 conference in Rome to popularize the idea of canonizing J.R.R. Tolkien, an initiative of the SUPR (Student Association of Roman pontifical universities) and sponsored by the CRUPR (conference of rectors of Roman pontifical universities), say they have had to cancel the event in the face of unspecified opposition. You can see they didn’t go quietly.

(8) IMAGINING A PAST, AND A BETTER PRESENT. French novelist Jean d’Ormesson died December 6 at the age of 92 reports the New York Times.

It was only in 1971 that “La Gloire de l’Empire” — translated into English as “A Novel. A History” — secured a lasting place for him in 20th-century French literature.

The book, a fictional compendium of imagined history, won the academy’s coveted Grand Prix.

“This has to be one of the most engrossing histories ever written — yet not a word of it is true,” William Beauchamp, a French literature scholar, wrote in The New York Times Book Review when the book was published in English in the United States in 1975.

He added: “Jean d’Ormesson’s empire is pure invention; his book, fictional history. If numerous details suggest the real empires of Rome, Persia, Byzantium, of Alexander or Charlemagne, they are devices designed to achieve verisimilitude — the illusion of reality.”

When Mr. d’Ormesson entered the academy in 1973, at the age of 48, he was the youngest of its 40 members, all of them committed to maintaining the purity of the French language and to promoting French literary merit.

All were also men; the body had barred women since its founding in 1635. But that changed in 1981, when Mr. d’Ormesson sponsored Marguerite Yourcenar, a writer and classical scholar, to join the academy. Though he incurred much criticism and not a few misogynistic jibes for his championing her, she was accepted….

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 10, 2009 Avatar makes its world premiere.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY LIBRARIAN

  • Born December 10, 1851 – Melvil Dewey, inventor of the Dewey Decimal System. As a young adult he advocated spelling reform; he changed his name from the usual “Melville” to “Melvil”, without redundant letters, and for a time changed his surname to “Dui”.

(11) DOWNSIZING. Parade’s Amy Spencer, in “Sunday With…Matt Damon”, asks the star of Downsizing such novel softball questions as “What’s a situation where, in real life, you felt really small?” and “What is something small that means a great deal to you?” At least he didn’t have to answer any questions about potatoes.

(12) BEARLY THERE. Framestore animation director Pablo Grillo goes into Paddington 2: “Paddington 2: The challenges of making the film”. (Video at the link.)

(13) BEATING THE BUSHES. Botanical exploits: “How British plant hunters served science”.

Reginald Farrer (1880-1920) was one of four 20th Century botanists who made expeditions to then remote parts of China to discover and bring back plants.

He and his contemporaries – George Forrest (1873-1932), William Purdom (1880-1921) and Frank Kingdon-Ward (1885-1958) – are remembered in a new exhibition at the RHS Lindley library in London.

…Frank Kingdon-Ward, son of a botany professor, was perhaps the most prolific of the four plant collectors.

“He carried out over 20 expeditions in total – not all in China; he travelled all over, in India as well and Assam Himalayas, and really his first love was exploration,” says Sarah McDonald.

Kingdon-Ward frequently cheated death on his travels. Once, lost in the jungle, he survived by sucking the nectar from flowers. Another time, a tree fell on his tent during a storm, but he crawled out unscathed. And he survived falling over a precipice only by gripping a tree long enough to be pulled to safety.

In a letter to his sister, he wrote: “If I survive another month without going dotty or white-haired it will be a miracle; if my firm get any seeds at all this year it will be another.”

(14) MARTIAN BOG. If only Heinlein could make The Traveler happy – a magazine review at Galactic Journey. “[December 9, 1962] (January 1963, IF Science Fiction)”.

Podkayne of Mars (Part 2 of 3), by Robert A. Heinlein

Part II of Heinlein’s new juvenile(?) about Miss Poddy Fries and her space jaunt from Mars is a bit more readable than the last one, but it’s still overwritten and gets bogged in detail.  This is the spiritual successor to The Menace from Earth I’d hoped to share with my daughter, but I don’t think it’s quite good enough.  Three stars for this installment.

(15) CASTING FOR PIKACHU. Trae Dorn of Nerd & Tie reports “Ryan Reynolds Has Been Cast as ‘Detective Pikachu’ Because Why the Hell Not”.

So one of the weirdest projects out there for a while has been Legendary’s live action/cgi hybrid Detective Pikachu movie. I mean, it’s a live action/cgi hybrid Detective Pikachu movie. No one was really expecting it to happen, and now the latest news is that it has a rather unexpected star: Ryan Reynolds.

That’s right, Ryan Reynolds is going to play Detective Pikachu in the Detective Pikachu movie. I mean, it’s not bad casting – Reynolds is a talented actor – but it’s definitely weird casting. I mean, he’s a funny guy (remember, unlike most Pokemon, Detective Pikachu can talk), but it’s not a direction most people thought casting would go.

(16) DIAGNOSIS. Definitely sorry for his health problems, but how many cold sufferers inspire such a colorful description?

(17) VIRTUAL BEST OF YEAR. Jason, at Featured Futures, has posted his picks for the Web’s Best Science Fiction #1 (2017 Stories). His “virtual anthology” is a table of contents of selected links to 70,000 words of the best science fiction published online in 2017.

Web’s Best Fantasy will cover the fantasy stories. The stories for both “volumes” were chosen from fifteen markets: Apex Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld Magazine, Compelling Science Fiction, Diabolical Plots, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Flash Fiction Online, Grievous Angel, Lightspeed, Nature, Nightmare, Strange Horizons, Terraform, Tor.com, and Uncanny.

(18) EDGED WEAPONS. Gary K. Wolfe reviews Quillifer by Walter Jon Williams at Locus Online.

In one of Donald Barthelme’s funnier stories, a hapless would-be writer finds that one of the questions on the National Writer’s Examination (“a five-hour fifty-minute examination, for his certificate”) involves recognizing at least four archaic words for sword. On the basis of his new novel Quillifer, Walter Jon Williams would get that certificate with flying colors. His vocabulary of antique weaponry is formidable, as well as his command of archaic military and naval terminol­ogy: the tale is packed with enough chebeks, dirks, calivers, pollaxes, and demiculverins to win a dozen Scrabble or trivia games, not to mention such neologisms as “gastrologist,” “logomania,” “poetastical,” “credent,” and others which, as Quillifer and others proudly announce, they “just made up.” As should be evident, there’s a good deal of infectious playfulness involved here, and the question that quickly arises is whether this is going to be infectious enough, or Quillifer himself ingratiating enough, to power us through what promises to be at least three hefty volumes of episodic adventures.

(19) CAT TALES AND OTHERS. In the LA Times’ Jacket Copy section, “Michelle Dean loves Ursula K. Le Guin’s cat stories. Which is a good start”:

Here we get some thoughts on publishing too, or rather, as the book calls it, “The Lit Biz.” Posts on this theme include a lament about how often people ask her “why” she writes — she calls this question “highly metaphysical.” It also includes Le Guin’s frustration with the notion that someone, somewhere has written the Great American Novel. But that argument gradually morphs into a paean to John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” the novel Le Guin evidently feels might be closest to a Great American novel. And then also segues, in a pleasingly bloggy way, into an anecdote about how Le Guin actually knew Steinbeck in her youth and hid with him in the bushes at a terrible wedding with racist guests. “We need to get away from boring people and drink in peace,” she records Steinbeck saying on this occasion. Amen, Great American Writer.

(20) LETTERS TO SANTA. The Guardian found the North Pole in an unexpected place: “Santa Claus, Indiana gets 20,000 letters a year – and ‘elves’ reply to all of them”.

The letters, sometimes addressed to Santa Claus, Indiana, sometimes to just “Santa Claus”, come from all over the US, and even from outside the country. They’re processed by a team of 300 “elves” who write personal replies – penning up to 2,000 notes a day.

“It’s an amazing thing making children happy,” said Pat Koch, the town’s Chief Elf. Koch, 86, is in charge of the mammoth effort. She’s been handling Santa’s correspondence since she was 11 years old.

“We just sit in there and laugh and cry,” Koch said.

“We get letters from children that say: ‘We learned to use the potty’ – well, their mother writes for them – ‘So we hope Santa will come’.

“Or they stopped sucking their thumb. Or some children write very sad letters: ‘I’m living with my grandma and I want to be with my daddy.’”

The elves also receive mail from older people who are lonely and want a letter from Santa, Koch said. Sometimes inmates write to Santa Claus, asking him to send a letter to their children. Post arrives from as far away as Japan, China and Malaysia. Each is read and responded to.

(21) WRATH OF KHAN REVISITED. Orange Band gives old movies the trailers they deserve.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/6/17 Pixels Came Naturally From Paris, For Scrolls She Couldn’t Care Less

(1) MANIFESTO. Charles Payseur’s thought-provoking tweets about reviewing begin here —

Some of the points he makes include —

(2) THIS IS HORROR AWARDS. Public nominations are now open for the seventh annual This Is Horror Awards.  Click on the link for eligibility and other information: “This Is Horror Awards 2017: Public Nominations Are Open”. Here are the categories:

  • Novel of the Year
  • Novella of the Year
  • Short Story Collection of the Year
  • Anthology of the Year
  • Fiction Magazine of the Year
  • Publisher of the Year
  • Fiction Podcast of the Year
  • Nonfiction Podcast of the Year

Public nominations close at 12:01 a.m. PST on 22 December 2017. 

(3) DUFF. Yesterday’s announcement that they’re looking for Down Under Fan Fund candidates included a statement that the delegate will go to the Worldcon “or another major convention in North America in 2018.” I asked Paul Weimer, is that a change? Paul replied —

The intention for this is two fold–one to provide, in future years for situations in years where Worldcon is not in North America (if the 2020 NZ bid wins, for example, this will be an issue), and also to provide for the possibility that the winning delegate wants to focus on, say, Cancon, or another major SF con in the United States.

We expect that its almost certain that any winning delegate will want to go to Worldcon, but this provides flexibility in that regard.

(4) GREAT FANZINE. Australian faned Bruce Gillespie has released a new 90,000-word issue of SF Commentary. Download from eFanzines:

Cover by Ditmar (Dick Jenssen).

Major articles by John Litchen (the second part of ‘Fascinating Mars’) and Colin Steele (his usual book round up ‘The Field’), as well as articles by Tim Train and Yvonne Rousseau.

Major tribute to 2017 Chandler Award-winning Bill Wright by LynC and Dick Jenssen, and memories of Brian Aldiss, David J. Lake, Jack Wodhams, Randy Byers, Joyce Katz, among others.

Lots of lively conversations featuring such SFC correspondents as Michael Bishop, Leigh Edmonds, Robert Day, Patrick McGuire, Matthew Davis, Doug Barbour, Ray Wood, Larry Bigman, and many others.

(5) REZONING. The Twilight Zone is coming back. At The Verge, Andrew Liptak reports “Jordan Peele will resurrect The Twilight Zone for CBS All Access”.

The granddaddy of surreal, science fiction television anthologies is returning. CBS announced today that it has issued a series order for a revival of The Twilight Zone from Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions and Simon Kinberg’s Genre Films for its All Access streaming service.

Peele and Kinberg, along with Marco Ramirez (Marvel’s The Defenders), will serve as executive producers on the show and will “collaborate on the premiere episode.” CBS has yet to announce a release date, casting, or any other writers attached to the project. Like Star Trek: Discovery, however, the show is destined as exclusive content for the network’s paid streaming service, CBS All Access.

(6) ON BOARD. How appropriate that The Traveler at Galactic Journey has found a way to kill time! “[December 6, 1962] How to Kill Friends and Influence People (The game, Diplomacy)”.

Ah, but here’s the tricky bit.  Turns are divided into two segments.  The latter is the one just described, where players write their marching orders.  The former is a 15-minute diplomacy segment.  This is the period in which players discuss their plans, try to hatch alliances, attempt to deceive about intentions.  It is virtually impossible to win the game without help on the way up; it is completely impossible to win without eventually turning on your allies.  Backstabbery is common, even necessary.  Honesty is a vice.

Diplomacy is, thus, not a nice game.  In fact, I suspect this game will strike rifts between even the best chums.  So why play at all?  Why suffer 4-12 hours of agony, especially when you might well be eliminated within the first few turns, left to watch the rest of your companions pick over your bones?

Well, it’s kind of fun.

(7) TREACHERY IN THE PRESENT. Meanwhile, here in 2017, holiday gift shoppers might want to pick up the “CLUE®: Game of Thrones™ Exclusive Expansion”.

Add more treachery and betrayal and create an all-new game play experience while solving the mysteries in Game of Thrones Clue with this  special exclusive expansion that includes two additional character suspects and power cards as well as beautifully gold-finished weapons.

Really, though, for a genuine Game of Thrones experience it would have to be possible for all the suspects to be murdered in the same game.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 6, 1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture premiered.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY COUNTRY

  • Born December 6, 1917 — Finland

(10) COMICS SECTION. Brian Kesinger, a veteran visual artist for Disney and Marvel, has created Watterson-style mashups that merge The Force Awakens characters with Calvin and Hobbes. “Disney Illustrator Combines Star Wars And Calvin & Hobbes, And The Result Is Adorable” at Bored Panda.

(11) HAIR TODAY. Interesting how movie marketing works now. A trailer for the new Jurassic World sequel will be out Thursday, heralded by a 16-second teaser, and this behind-the-scenes featurette. SciFiNow.uk claims, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom featurette has loads of new footage and freaking out”.

Ahead of the trailer release tomorrow, a new featurette has arrived for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom which features lots of new footage and plenty of the cast and crew freaking out about how awesome the film is going to be. And Jeff Goldblum’s got a beard.

 

(12) GARY FISHER IN LAST JEDI, TOO. The cat is out of the bag, and so is the dog: “Carrie Fisher’s Beloved Dog, Gary, Will Appear in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi'”.

During the press tour for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Carrie Fisher’s therapy dog, Gary, became an internet sensation as the late actress took him everywhere for interviews and red carpets. Now, an eagle-eyed fan discovered that Gary will be making an Easter egg cameo in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” which director Rian Johnson has confirmed.

Twitter user Clair Henry found a promotion still for the movie in which Finn (John Boyega) and Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) face off at a galactic casino. On the left side of the screen, you can see a strange brown creature looking directly at the camera. That’s Gary, touched up with CGI to look like an alien pet.

(13) HELLO . A special wine collection is back in time for the season: “‘Hello Kitty’ Wine Returns In Time For The Holidays”.  The five-bottle collection goes for around $150, but you can also buy individual bottles.

The Hello Kitty wines by Torti “L’Eleganza del Vino” returns to the U.S. with new supercute designs and two new blends. Now including an award-winning Pinot Noir, a “Sweet Pink” blend, Sparkling Rosé, Pinot Nero Vinified in White, as well as a special edition Sparkling Rosé with limited edition packaging.

 

(14) CAN’T FACE IT. Forget Sad Puppies: “Sad poop emoji gets flushed after row”.

Plans to introduce a “frowning pile of poo” emoji have been flushed from the latest proposals by the group in charge of creating the symbols.

The symbol was floated as one of many to be introduced in 2018, but it angered typographers who said it was “embarrassing” to the group.

The Unicode Consortium pushes out a central list of emoji so that they show up properly on different devices.

It said changes to the “pile of poo” emoji had not been totally dumped.

Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a comment: “IME, the Unicode Consortium can be very random; around the time I started working with character storage, their principles sniffily declared that they were encoding only live characters, and would therefore not do Glagolitic (the alphabet that Cyril’s students developed into Cyrillic) — but they already had Tolkien’s Elvish alphabet(s?). They later relented, don’t ask me why.”

(15) ALL THEY’RE CRACKED UP TO BE. The BBC answers the question, “Why clowns paint their faces on eggs”. Pratchett fans may remember this was a plot point in at least one of his books.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of Faint’s collection, though, are the eggs. Each one is different, and represents the unique face design of its subject. Eggs like these are kept in only a handful of collections around the world, representing a kind of informal copyright – and much more.

(16) TREE SLEEPER. Older human: “Little Foot skeleton unveiled in South Africa”. 500,000 years older than Lucy — same species, different genus.

One of the oldest and most complete skeletons of humankind’s ancestors has been unveiled in South Africa.

A team spent more than 20 years excavating, cleaning and putting together the skeleton of Little Foot.

Its exact age is debated, but South African scientists say the remains are 3.67 million years old.

(17) BLACK MIRROR. Netflix has released a full trailer for Black Mirror Season 4. The release date is December 29.

(18) LE GUIN. At Electric Literature, “Ursula K. Le Guin Explains How to Build a New Kind of Utopia”:

…Good citizens of utopia consider the wilderness dangerous, hostile, unlivable; to an adventurous or rebellious dystopian it represents change and freedom. In this I see examples of the intermutability of the yang and yin: the dark mysterious wilderness surrounding a bright, safe place, the Bad Places?—?which then become the Good Place, the bright, open future surrounding a
dark, closed prison . . . Or vice versa.

In the last half century this pattern has been repeated perhaps to exhaustion, variations on the theme becoming more and more predictable, or merely arbitrary.

(19) SPACE COMMAND. Four days left in the Space Command: Redemption Kickstarter. Congratulations to Marc Zicree — they made their goal, and two stretch goals. To celebrate —

A scene from Space Command: Redemption in which Yusef (Robert Picardo) repairs a broken synthetic named For (Doug Jones). For more information about this new sci-fi series, follow this link:

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

Pixel Scroll 12/5/17 Pixels Scrolling In An Open File

(1) PETER JACKSON MUSEUM PROJECT AT RISK. The New Zealand Herald says the Wellington City Council got a long grumpygram from the famed director: “Peter Jackson threatening to pull plug on Wellington’s movie museum”. There are 55 things he’s unhappy about.

The Wellington City Council is refusing to comment on reports Sir Peter Jackson is threatening to pull the plug on the capital’s $150 million Movie Museum.

The famous director has been working with the council to create the new attraction i but a report this morning claims that relationship could be on rocky ground after Sir Peter sent an angry letter to the council.

Councillors have described it as a “divorce letter”, according to Fairfax.

Fairfax reports Jackson sent the letter out of anger over how the council has been managing the museum plans.

(2) MIRRY CHRISTMUS. Adweek tells how “Air New Zealand’s Christmas Ad Takes the Piss Out of Its Own Country’s Accent”.

Deck the halls! It’s yet another ad in which the fictional inner workings of Santa’s workshop are imagined in elaborate detail. This time around, Santa is a kind of corporate virtuoso, seated behind a desk, where he takes direct calls from kids and manages linguistic switching with finesse while a fawning elf takes notes on a tablet.

Chinese? No sweat.

Then the New Zealanders start dialing in. What kind of kid asks for a new beard, a biscuit ball or an ear plane?

 

(3) MARKET DAY. The “SFWA Market Report For December” begins with —

NEW MARKETS

Factor Four Magazine
If This Goes On
Kferrin.com
Ogrezine

(4) DON’T GET ‘LOST IN SPACE’. “This Spacesuit Comes with a “Take Me Home” Button” — a patent has been filed.

The system can operate the jet pack autonomously or give the astronaut directions with a combination of visual, auditory and sensory cues through a web of sensors and a helmet visor display. If something were to happen during a spacewalk (also known as an Extravehicular Activity, or EVA) the self-return system can be initiated by the astronaut, a space station crewmember or mission control.

Draper’s “take me home” system features options. According to the patent, the spacesuit’s sensors can be configured to monitor movement, acceleration and relative position of the crewmember to a fixed object, such as an accompanying orbiting spacecraft. The navigation, guidance and control modules can also accommodate various scenarios. For instance, the navigation module can be configured using GPS, vision-aided navigation or a star-tracker system. To improve the astronaut’s positioning and orientation, Draper has developed software that fuses data from vision-based and inertial navigation systems and benefits from the advantages of both sensing approaches.

(5) NPR PICKS. The 374 books in “NPR’s Book Concierge, Our Guide To 2017’s Great Reads” include 54 in the science fiction and fantasy category.

(6) WINTER JACKETS. Six SFF wrappers made a Bookish list of “The Best Book Covers of 2017”.

People say you shouldn’t judge books by their covers, but here at Bookish we’re not just readers—we’re cover-judging-rebels. As 2017 draws to a close, we wanted to pay homage to the incredible designs that stood out on bookstore shelves like works of art. Are you a rebel too? Let us know what your favorite covers of 2017 were!

But where are the covers from McEdifice Returns, I ask you?

(7) DID YOU HEAR THAT? As John Brunner said in The Shockwave Rider, “The Future arrived too soon and in the wrong order.” Gizmodo’s Adam Clark Estes argues “Don’t Buy Anyone an Echo”.

Let me make this point dreadfully clear, though: Your family members do not need an Amazon Echo or a Google Home or an Apple HomePod or whatever that one smart speaker that uses Cortana is called. And you don’t either. You only want one because every single gadget-slinger on the planet is marketing them to you as an all-new, life-changing device that could turn your kitchen into a futuristic voice-controlled paradise. You probably think that having an always-on microphone in your home is fine, and furthermore, tech companies only record and store snippets of your most intimate conversations. No big deal, you tell yourself.

Actually, it is a big deal. The newfound privacy conundrum presented by installing a device that can literally listen to everything you’re saying represents a chilling new development in the age of internet-connected things. By buying a smart speaker, you’re effectively paying money to let a huge tech company surveil you. And I don’t mean to sound overly cynical about this, either. Amazon, Google, Apple, and others say that their devices aren’t spying on unsuspecting families. The only problem is that these gadgets are both hackable and prone to bugs.

(8) DARK INSIDE, Find out more about the new Netflix Dark series, including spoilers, in Camestros Felapton’s Dark Debrief”.

I’ve finished watching the German Netflix show Dark and it was indeed Dark. I also bought and ate a Twix today without thinking. Spoilers below as this post is for me to take stock and make notes of the twisty turns – particularly if there is a second season as the ending implies.

A fold and then don’t continue unless you like spoilers or have watched it all already.

To make life easier, characters get a year after their name so you know who is when. If I’ve got names wrong please correct me!

(9) TODAY’S STAR WARS CLICKBAIT. According to CheatSheet, “‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ New Trailer May Have Answered This 1 Lingering Question”.

Fans will recall that in the main trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Luke Skywalker says, “I’ve seen this raw strength only once before. It didn’t scare me enough then. It does now.” This comes after a scene in which Rey cracks the ground while training on Ahch-To, so it communicates the idea that Luke is actually scared of Rey because she is so powerful and does not want to train her.

But when Luke makes reference to seeing raw strength “once before,” who is he talking about, exactly? In the trailer itself, he doesn’t specify, and this is something fans have been in disagreement about.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 5, 1980 Flash Gordon was released

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born December 5, 1890 – Fritz Lang
  • Born December 5, 1901 – Walter Elias Disney

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SIR PAT. Brent Lang of Variety, in “Patrick Stewart on ‘Logan,’ Harvey Weinstein and Returning to ‘Star Trek’”, learned that Sir Pat Stew was very proud of his work on Logan but “I cannot think of another chance” to play Jean-Luc Picard.

How did you prepare to play an aged Charles Xavier in “Logan”?

I lost 20 pounds. I’ve always been blessed by being able to lose weight easily, and I spread this out over the span of a few months so that it was easier to take. When I lose weight, it tends to be most noticeable in the face, and that’s what I wanted. I wanted to look sick and undernourished and stressed and frail and vulnerable. Hugh had to carry me in the movie, and I assured him that I would do my damnedest to make sure I was carry-able.

Is this your last “X-Men” movie?

Oh, yes. Hugh had been on record that this would be his last time before “Logan” even started shooting. I hadn’t given it a thought until I saw the film for the first time with an audience at the Berlin Film Festival. It was Hugh and James Mangold and myself, and when it got to the last 10 minutes of the movie, it was emotional and intense, and I could feel myself getting choked up. Then I looked over at Hugh and he was wiping his eyes, and I thought if Wolverine can weep at a movie, Charles Xavier can do the same thing. Then Hugh reached over and grabbed my hand and we held hands for the rest of the movie.

(14) DYSTOPIC CHOW. An author and a chef imagine how we’ll eat if bees and fish vanish in “A Dinner at the End of Our World” at Atlas Obscura.

…The results were unfamiliar. Moss-green spirulina ice cubes kept diners’ drinks cool. Spirulina is super-nutritious microalgae that grows quickly, perfect for a food-scarce world. A soup of mussels and seaweed came with a lump of shrimp paste and encouragement to stir it in. This was intended to be a hopeful dish, symbolizing shrimp farms in small ponds that might be a vibrant future food source…

(15) PUPPY POWER. Milo Yiannopoulos is turning John C. Wright into the Hieronymous Bosch of the op-ed page at his new site Dangerous, in a biweekly feature titled Wright On What’s Wrong. The first 2,000-word opus, “This Christmas, Give Thanks or Get Stuffed”, asks —

Last week, did you notice Thanksgiving is dying?

I challenge you to find a line of thought which leads from that beginning to this sentence later in the essay: “His anus is turned inward.”

(16) EDIFICE COMPLEX. The BBC visits “The awe-inspiring buildings created as temples of tech”:

Each year, more than 100,000 visitors trek through and around a cluster of solemn, hauntingly impressive late-18th Century buildings on the hem of England’s Peak District National Park. This is Cromford Mill, Derbyshire, founded in 1771 by the entrepreneurial inventor Richard Arkwright. Here, long before Henry Ford was born, mass production began.

In these buildings – their floors free of partitions and with windows on all sides – water-mills powered looms that spun reams of cotton, 24 hours a day, the chattering machinery attended by children as young as seven, working 12-hour shifts. Cotton ceased spinning here in the 1840s as the great mills in and around Manchester took on the challenge of making and shipping cotton to the world. The massively ambitious Houldsworth Mill in Reddish, designed by Abraham Stott, was one of the mightiest temples yet devoted to industrial technology when it opened in 1865.

(17) SLOW VERNE. Galactic Journey’s Lorelei Marcus says your time machine can skip this first run movie: “[December 4, 1962] Like Five Weeks in a Theater (Five Weeks in Balloon)”

Everything before the balloon’s take off (the first 20 minutes or so) was funny, clever, and fast paced. The first scene, in which the professor and his inventor friend take reluctant investors on a demonstration flight, and then the next bit in which the professor prepares for the expedition and collects funds and crew, was quite fun to watch!

But once he’d picked up the American reporter, and the balloon took to the skies, the movie ground to a sudden halt. Unfortunately it never seemed to pick back up again either. The entire movie was: the balloon flies around, lands someplace; the crew gets out and gets into trouble, they run back to the balloon and fly away. There were no real conflicts, because they could always just retreat to the balloon and escape danger. Moreover, many of these scenes went on for ‘way too long. There was never any real tension through the whole movie, and without tight pacing of events, the movie felt like it was really dragging on for five weeks!

(18) DID IT HIMSELF. Move over, MIT: “Bored teen in Kentucky builds his own rollercoaster”. (Video.)

Logan Moore, 16, surprised family and neighbours when he quickly built a wooden structure in his backyard.

Chip Hitchcock comments, “I’m forgetting whether you ran the story about the MIT dorm that built a rollercoaster as part of freshman welcoming. Theirs was just a straight shot, even simpler than the one this guy built — but there are pictures of people riding the MIT coaster.”

(19) PLONK YOUR MAGIC TWANGER. App calls on citizen scientists for Australia’s frog count.

Croaks and chirps. Even whistles and barks.

These are some of the sounds that Australian frogs make, and local biologists are hoping members of the public will help record them on a new app called FrogID.

It is part of a conservation effort to better track 240 frog species around Australia.

Scientists also believe the crowd-sourced mapping could lead to the detection of new species.

Australians are encouraged to record and upload the sounds of frogs they hear anywhere, from their suburban backyard to the outback.

(20)TODAY’S 10,000. Google pledges 10,000 staff to tackle extremist content.

Google will dedicate more than 10,000 staff to rooting out violent extremist content on YouTube in 2018, the video sharing website’s chief has said.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Susan Wojcicki said some users were exploiting YouTube to “mislead, manipulate, harass or even harm”.

She said the website, owned by Google, had used “computer-learning” technology that could find extremist videos.

More than 150,000 of these videos have been removed since June, she said.

(21) WOLVERINE DRAMA PODCAST COMING. Marvel New Media and top podcast listening service Stitcher today announced “Wolverine: The Long Night” , the first-ever Marvel scripted podcast, launching in spring 2018.

The 10-episode series will be available exclusively on Stitcher Premium until fall 2018, when it will see a wide release across all podcast platforms….

The show’s cast includes notable actors Richard Armitage (“The Hobbit”), Scott Adsit (“30 Rock”), Bob Balaban (“Moonrise Kingdom”) and Brian Stokes Mitchell (“Mr. Robot”).

The “Wolverine: The Long Night” story is a captivating hybrid of mystery and the larger-scale fantasy of the Marvel Universe. It follows agents Sally Pierce (Celia Keenan-Bolger) and Tad Marshall (Ato Essandoh) as they arrive in the fictional town of Burns, Alaska, to investigate a series of murders and quickly discover the town lives in fear of a serial killer. The agents team up with deputy Bobby Reid (Andrew Keenan-Bolger) to investigate their main suspect, Logan (Richard Armitage). Their search leads them on a fox hunt through the mysterious and corrupt town….

Also cast in the series are actors Zoe Chao, Chaske Spencer, Jordan Bridges, David Call, Michael J. Burg and Lannon Killia. Chris Gethard, host of the popular “Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People” podcast, also will make a cameo appearance.

(22) RENAISSANCE FARE. Zero emissions will soon be the new standard: “Electric black cabs hit London’s roads”

The cab costs £55,599 up from £45,000 for the newest petrol equivalent.

Chris Gubbey, boss of manufacturer the London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) insists the cab will “play a major role in helping to improve air quality”.

The launch comes weeks ahead of rules requiring new cabs in the capital to be capable of emitting zero emissions.

More than 9,000 such taxis, roughly half the current black cab fleet, are expected on London’s roads by 2021.

Chip Hitchcock adds, “Did you know that the late Peter Weston’s firm (where the Hugos are made) makes the hand bars that make getting into and out of these cabs easier?”

(23) LETTER MAN. BBC meets the designer of “The typeface that helps dyslexics read”.

Dyslexie is a font that aims to overcome some of the problems that people with dyslexia can have when reading. Due to the way their brains process visual information, they will often subconsciously switch, rotate and mirror letters, making it harder to recognise the characters.

It is thought that their brains start treating two-dimensional letters as three-dimensional objects that can be freely manipulated.

When this happens, the letter “b” can look like a “d”… or a “p” or a “q”. It is easy to see why this can quickly become confusing.

“Traditionally in typeface design, there are ‘rules’ that say it is best to make the letters as uniform as possible,” says Boer, now 36. “If you make the arch of an “h” the same as an “n”, it produces a typeface that is clean and quiet for ordinary readers. For me, these letters become three dimensional so you can turn them around and they begin to look alike. What I wanted to do was to slap these 3D letters flat.”

(24) JURASSIC APPETIZER. Here’s the teaser for the full trailer coming on Thursday –

(25) MORE PLAUDITS FOR MARLOWE. Francis Hamit takes another prize — “Christopher Marlowe Screenplay Wins Grand Jury Award At Sherman Oaks Film Festival”.

Francis Hamit’s “based on a true story” screenplay for the forthcoming feature film CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE has won the prestigious Grand Jury Award at the Second Annual Sherman Oaks Film Festival held in November.  This is the fourth major award for this unproduced screenplay.  Previous wins were at the GO Independent International Film Festival in Washington DC, The New Renaissance Film Festival in London, England and the 2016 Hollywood Book Festival.

The well-researched script about the Elizabethan-ere poet, playwright and secret agent for the Crown is a classic tragedy about a brilliant man undone by his own fatal flaws in the form of a spy thriller.

 

Festival director Jeff Howard and Francis Hamit.

(26) TRAVELER FROM AN ANTIC LAND.  Another testimony to TSA screening!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock (who really has something in today’s Scroll), Hampus Eckerman, Cat Eldridge, Brian Z., Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Francis Hamit, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 12/3/17 There Are Certain Scrolls Of New York, Major, That I Wouldn’t Advise You To Pixel

(1) NEXT SMOFCON. Santa Rosa will host Smofcon 36 in 2018. The con will be held November 30-December 2. Bruce Farr will chair, and Patty Wells will organize programming. Their hotel will be The Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa.

(2) ORIGIN STORY. The International Costumers Guild revisits “The Futuristicostume” worn by Forry Ackerman at the first Worldcon in 1939.

We started our research by going back to the beginning, back to the first convention costumers Forrest J Ackerman and Myrtle Douglas.

Everyone is familiar with their photos. Most know the how and the why of their costumes. But how were they made? What color were they? We now have some answers and some theories along with new, never seen photos.

We now know his “futuristicostume” still partially exists. Most of the cape probably has not survived, but the pants and shirt are in the hands of a private collector. The shirt appears to be pale gold. As you can tell even in the black and white photos on line, the pants are most likely WWI military surplus. The most interesting story is about the cape. We found 2 references describing it as green. New photos from Ackerman’s personal collection recently came to light, so we snapped them up for the Archives. We understand that the cape he is wearing in them is a recreation, but it would appear to verify our references. However, in the book “House of Ackerman: A Photographic Tour of the Legendary Ackermansion”, by Al Astrella, James Greene and John Landis, there’s a color photo of what’s left of the cape, where it appears to be an antique gold. We are 90% certain we know the reason why. The clue was found in analyzing Myrtle’s costume…

(3) DARK. Camestros Felapton is watching: “Review: Dark – Netflix”.

It is no spoiler to say this is a time-travel/time-slip mystery. From the beginning elements such as clocks are underlined, we get repeated quotes from Einstein, snippets of lectures on Black Holes, and an old guy warning that ‘it is happening again’. On top of that, we get an opening title sequence that (very effectively) uses reflections to create a disturbing view of the normal and a teacher lecturing his class on the use of symmetry and foreshadowing in the work of Goethe. I wonder if the producers entirely trusted their audience to follow where the show wanted to go.

The pay off comes at the end of episode three when the connections between 2019 and 1986 characters are made overt. What was an initially a confusing set of characters becomes clearer as the set of families involved and the relationships between them become clearer. Betrayals and loss and teenage romance form a web and events between the two eras become more entwined.

(4) CUBESATS. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination presents its latest Into the Impossible podcast — Episode 12: Speculative CubeSats.

How can CubeSats—the small, standardized satellites paving the way for the democratization of space—change our sense of the possible? We dive into two projects: the Planetary Society’s Lightsail 2, with Director of Science and Technology Bruce Betts, and with MacArthur Genius grant-awardee Trevor Paglen, we discuss Orbital Reflector, the first satellite to be launched purely as an artistic gesture.

(5) SHUGGOTH. At Doctor Strangemind, Kim Huett added a James Blish cat story — “Tales Too Good To Forget #1”.

…Luckily for us the young James Blish published quite a few fanzines and thus inadvertently provided for anybody fortunate enough to read these evidence that he was far more than a cold and forbidding intellect.

Well okay, to be perfectly honest a lot of his early fanzine writings are indeed as earnest and po-faced as William Atheling, Jr. might lead you believe the real Blish was. But while some of this material might come across as every bit as pompous as the pronunciations of a high art maven (if you don’t believe me then go look for an issue of Renascence, but don’t say I didn’t warn you) in between the bouts of earnestness is another Blish, a wittier, lighter Blish who knew how to not take himself too seriously. The best place to look for this James Blish is in the material which he published for the Vanguard Amateur Press Association. It was here, in Tumbrils #4, that he wrote one of my favourite cat stories. Read this and you will never think of James Blish as po-faced ever again…

(6) DELIVERED IN HALF AN HOUR OR IT’S FREE. The “Astronauts show how to make pizza in space”.

Astronauts at the International Space Station created a video of themselves making pizza in zero gravity.

Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli tweeted that he “casually” told ISS chief Kirk Shireman that he missed pizza and Shireman managed to get pizza ingredients into space.

 

(7) A BOOK YOU CAN’T BUY ON AMAZON. Lurkertype went shopping for a copy of Camestros Felapton’s There Will Be Walrus on Amazon, and found the Big River was able to sell everything but —

I just searched Amazon for TWBW and got no result (since it’s only on Smashwords), but was suggested a plush stuffed walrus, walrus artworks, a tacky walrus shirt, several doodads for “Rock Band: Beatles”, and a Barry White mask.

(8) I FEEL WOOZY. Andrew Porter cautions before clicking this link – “Memories and possibilities are even more hideous than realities”.

Warning: this may cause you to tear out your eyeballs. Extreme psychedelic stuff might cause seizures in people with epilepsy….

(9) JAMES GUNN AUTOBIOGRAPHY. At Locus Online, “Russell Letson reviews Star-Begotten: A Life Lived in Science Fiction by James Gunn”.

I hope I might be excused for injecting personal notes into a review of James Gunn’s autobiography, Star-Begotten: A Life Lived in Science Fiction. As I read it, I couldn’t help noticing how many times and in how many ways my life in SF was affected by Gunn’s work as writer, editor, and academic activist. One of my earliest book purchases, around 1957, was the Ace paperback (Double Size! 35 cents!) of Star Bridge, the space opera he co-wrote with Jack Williamson. (I still have a double-autographed copy of a later Ace printing, the original having long since succumbed to pulp rot.) Before that, I had listened to the 1956 X Minus One radio adaptation of his short story ‘‘The Cave of Night’’. (It’s still available online.) Years later, the third volume of The Road to Science Fiction was one of the reliable anthologies for my SF course, and a few years after that I wrote a dozen entries for The New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction that he edited. By that time, Gunn had been president of both the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the Science Fiction Research Association, started the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, and worked for years as a promoter of the study and practice of science fiction.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian sends along today’s horrible pun from Brevity.
  • And an interstellar mission doesn’t quite make it in Herman.

(11) CLARKE CENTENNIAL. Clarke Award Director Tom Hunter reminds all that “Saturday 16th December will mark Arthur C. Clarke’s centenary anniversary, and we’ve been prepping a few special moments to help celebrate the occasion across the month.”

They include:

SILVER SCREEN SCIENCE FICTION AT THE ROYAL OBSERVATORY, GREENWICH

2010: The Year We Make Contact
Saturday 16th December 2017 (Sir Arthur’s birthday)

The Royal Observatory Greenwich will be hosting a special planetarium screening of 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984) starring Roy Scheider, John Lithgow and Helen Mirren + a cameo from Sir Arthur himself.

Before the film, we’ll hear from Director of the Clarke Awards, Tom Hunter, and ROG Astronomer Brendan Owens about the influence of Arthur C Clarke on both science fiction and science fact. This event includes a free beer per person on arrival courtesy of Meantime Brewing Company.

There will also be a Kickstarter-funded stunt anthology, 2001: An Odyssey in Words, where every story is precisely two thousand and one words long.

On the fiction front, we started by putting out a call to our past winning and shortlisted authors, and have received almost thirty fantastic submissions back from writers including Chris Beckett, Gwyneth Jones, Jeff Noon, Rachel Pollack, Jane Rogers and Adrian Tchaikovsky, picking six names not at all at random because six is the same number as we have on our shortlist every year, and because all of these authors happen to be past winners.

…We’ll also be featuring some choice bits of non-fiction in the collection, including an essay on Clarke’s legacy by our own Chair of Judges, Dr Andrew M. Butler, and a remembrance of the judging experience itself from one of our more well known past judges, Neil Gaiman.

(12) BEAR FACTS. Well, phooey. “DNA Evidence Shows Yeti Was Local Himalayan Bears All Along” says Gizmodo.

The yeti, or abominable snowman, is a sort of wild, ape-like hominid that’s the subject of long-standing Himalayan mythology. Scientists have questioned prior research suggesting that purported yeti hair samples came from a strange polar bear hybrid or a new species, though. The analysis “did not rule out the possibility that the samples belonged to brown bear,” according to the paper published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Lindqvist and her team analyzed DNA from 24 different bear or purported yeti samples from the wild and museums, including feces, hair, skin, and bone. They were definitely all bears—and the yeti samples seemed to match up well with exiting Himalayan brown bears. “

(13) YOU CAN’T GET OUT OF THE GAME. My Pappy always told me, never gamble, stick to thermodynamics: “Unesco adds Sir Isaac Newton’s papers to world register”.

More personal items in the collection include a notebook written during his time as an undergraduate, in which he lists how much he has spent on items such as wine, the shoestrings that cost him one shilling and 10 pence, and his four shillings and sixpence stockings.

He also appears to have lost 15 shillings at a card game, according to his own accounts.

(14) NOWHERE PEOPLE. “Where is the remotest spot in the United States?”. “A pair of scientists from Florida, and their eight-year-old daughter, are visiting the remotest spot in every US state.”

They settled on “the furthest distance from a road or town”. But then, they say, “it got trickier”.

What is a road? Anything paved, unpaved, public, or private, they decided. For example – beaches that allowed cars counted as roads.

They also decided the remote spot must be “high and developable”. It can’t be in the middle of a lake, and it can’t be a flood plain.

(15) JUDGMENT CALL. Bleeding Cool actually did what I decided not to do — made an entire post of Amal El-Mohtar’s tweets about her ordeal getting through TSA airport security the other day: “What Happened to Canadian Sci-Fi Writer Amal El-Mohtar’s Phone at US Customs?”

(16) ARE THEY SURE? The Los Angeles Times recently published this errata —

(17) LIGHTSABER EXERCISES. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Training Featurette” is a look at how hard the cast of The Last Jedi trained for the film.

(18) OUT IN FORCE. Daisy Ridley and the cast of The Last Jedi appeared on Jimmy Kimmel LIVE!

That same night there was a “Star Wars’ Chewbacca Christmas Tree Unveiled on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live'”.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/5/17 I’m The Pixel Of Scrolls. What Were You The Pixel Of Again?

(1) RANTS AND RAVES. Three days ago S.T. Joshi ranted about an alleged Lovecraft hater in “The Multifarious Illiteracies of Brian Keene”.

For the past two or three weeks I have been in misery. In short, I have been reading the novels of Brian Keene. Were I not driven by my sacred duty as a literary critic to assess the work of this grotesquely prolific blowhard for my treatise, 21st-Century Horror, I would have been relieved of this excruciating agony; but the job is done, as is my chapter on Keene, which can be found here.

…The only horror in Keene’s work is that there is so much of it. Since 2000, Keene has published at least forty-three novels, twelve short story collections, and sundry other material—an impressive achievement if his books were of any substance or even bare competence, but quite otherwise if, as appears to be the case, the books in question are nothing but crude and slapdash hackwork. A fair number of his books have been published by Leisure Books, a firm that habitually churns out pablum of all sorts for the great unwashed. It seems to be a match made in hell….

Today Brian Keene answered with “The Ballad of S.T. Joshi, or, Saruman and Wormtongue Meet the Great Unwashed”.

…With that being said, the probable origins of Lovecraft’s work are, in my opinion, repugnant. Lovecraft was racist and xenophobic…. These beliefs fueled his fiction, and the creation of his mythos. So much of Lovecraft’s work is driven by fear and disgust of “the other” or of genetic mutation. And in turn, so much of that work shaped and molded this field.

Despite their repugnance (or perhaps because of it) I think those origins are worth discussing. Joshi does not. He threatened to boycott a recent convention because the programming included a panel discussing the racist themes prevalent in Lovecraft’s work (and then reportedly defied his own personal boycott by signing books in the dealer’s room of that same convention). Because I wondered aloud on my podcast why he’s against discussion of such things, it further inured me as a “Lovecraft Hater”. Joshi also railed against the World Fantasy Awards discontinuing their bust of Lovecraft. When I stated on my podcast, “If I was a person of color, and I won that award — an award from my peers recognizing my work — I wouldn’t want a man who thought I was sub-human glowering down at me from my brag shelf”, this further fueled Joshi and Brock’s insistence that I am, in fact, a Lovecraft Hater.

It’s also important to note that Lovecraft’s racism is not a new topic, brought up by some supposed younger, newer generation of political Progressives or SJWs. The great Robert Bloch himself discussed Lovecraft’s racism in his seminal “Heritage of Horror” essay. Joshi doesn’t seem to have a problem with that. Based on his actions, he seemingly only has a problem with people discussing it if they are women (Ellen Datlow), LGQBT (S.j. Bagley), persons of color (Daniel José Older and Nnedi Okorafor), or apolitical “white trash” Appalachians (myself). I find that interesting…

So, again, for the record, I am not a “Lovecraft Hater”. I respect the man’s work. I don’t, however, respect the man.

…Which brings us to last Friday, and the reason why so many of you are asking me, “Who is S.T. Joshi?”.

Why did Joshi turn his attention toward me? I don’t know. Maybe it was our coverage of his antics on my podcast (where he is a recurring source of amusement). Perhaps he was offended that I sandwiched him between “Lovecraft Haters” Ellen Datlow and S.j. Bagley in the inaugural chapter of History of Horror Fiction. Or maybe he was driven half-mad by Jason Brock’s incessant whining.

Regardless, I woke up at 5am Friday morning. Publisher and author Ross Lockhart had sent me the link to Joshi’s tirade overnight. I clicked the link and read Joshi’s Introduction, where he states that I am “A grotesquely prolific blowhard” and that my work left him in “excruciating agony.” This pleased me. I thought it was funny enough to craft a cover blurb out of, so I did. Then some readers asked for it on a t-shirt, so I made this. And that was pretty much it….

(2) AMBIFORCESTROUS. Continuing a thought from yesterday – this comes from Mark Hamill himself.

(3) THOR SCORE. Daniel Dern submitted his non-spoiler review of Thor: Ragnarok for today’s Scroll:

(“Non-spoiler” as in “assuming you’ve seen at least one of the trailers already, but IMHO no how-it-ends spoilers in any case)

My short-short summary: Way loads of fun! Go and enjoy.

  • Among the best snappy multi-character dialog, and lots of it.
  • Basically sticks to one plot from start to finish (unlike, say, Guardians of the Galaxy II).
  • Nice to NOT see Manhattan/NYC trashed/destroyed/etc for a change. Similarly, no S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarriers harmed (or even sighted) in this movie.
  • Lots of bright colors, great costumes/garb/accessories.
  • a good balance of talking, fighting/battling, and both-at-once.
  • It’s contemporary fantasy and sci-fi. Thor pilots spaceships, etc.
  • prior knowledge needed of Marvel, any of the previous movies, etc. Yeah, knowing some can’t hurt. E.g., Loki and Thor briefly mentioning the time L turned T into a frog was real — one of Walt Simonson’s great arcs (a bunch of issues) in the Thor comic series.
  • In terms of “Marvel movie big picture,” this is sequentially following the events of Avengers/Age of Ultron.
  • Best Stan Lee cameo to date, IMHO.
  • Mentions Avengers by name at times, etc., but only Hulk actually in the movie. Most of the action is off-Earth, so no need to explain why the other A’s aren’t putting in their oar, so to speak.
  • Lots of Jeff Goldblum! Lots!

Offhand I don’t have any complaints or criticisms.

(4) REVIVAL MEETING, And everything considered, this seems a good time to ponder “The Norse gods’ unlikely comeback” as Mark Peters does in the Boston Globe.

Part of why the Norse myths continue to compel so many readers, writers, and artists is their sheer entertainment value, featuring high adventure, low comedy, apocalyptic nightmares, and ample drinking. Karl E. H. Seigfried, adjunct professor and pagan chaplain at Illinois Institute of Technology and author of the Norse Mythology Blog, said by e-mail that the Norse myths resonate on three levels: dramatically, emotionally, and spiritually. Of the three, the spiritual element is often overlooked.

Underneath the troll-smiting mayhem, the Norse myths have an uplifting core, insists Seigfried, who is also a priest of Thor’s Oak Kindred in Chicago. “In contrast to the gloomy Nordic worldview often portrayed in popular culture,” he said, “the wandering god [Odin] never stops searching for knowledge and never ceases to rage against the dying of the light. The old gods may die at Ragnarök, but the myth is life-affirming. We will not live forever, but our children will survive us, and their children will survive them.”

(5) HUBBARD. Alec Nevala-Lee, “author of Astounding, a forthcoming book on the history of science fiction, digs into the writing career of L. Ron Hubbard, gaining new insights into the life of the controversial founder of dianetics and the origins and nature of Scientology itself” in “Xenu’s Paradox: The Fiction of L. Ron Hubbard and the Making of Scientology” at Longreads.

And it gets even stranger. When we turn to the stories themselves, we find that most of them have nothing in common with the tale of Xenu. In the pages of Astounding, Hubbard tended to write comic fantasies or adventures staged on a very modest scale, with situations lifted straight from the nautical or military fiction that he was publishing elsewhere. Aliens and galactic empires rarely played any significant role. When he employed these conventions, it was as a target for parody or as a kind of painted backdrop for the action. Yet when the time came to give Scientology a founding myth, he turned to space opera, referring to it explicitly in those terms, and the result didn’t look or sound much like anything he had ever written before.

(6) ONE TOKE OVER THE LINE. Fran Wilde has a tip for convention attendees, idiots, and assholes:

Other reactions:

(7) PROBLEM WITH COMPLAINT-DRIVEN CON POLICIES. A New Mexico event promoter says complaints led him to change a policy — “Comic Con ditches free passes for military, first responders”. How well do you think that worked?

An offer for local military and first responders to enjoy the Albuquerque and Santa Fe Comic Cons for free is about to end.

The promoter, Jim Burleson, said he was getting threats for giving free admission to only military, police and firemen.

Burleson took to Facebook this week with an announcement that’s angered many, saying: “This will be the last year we are offering free admission to police, military and firefighters.”

The decision stems from people — other than military and first responders — who complained about not getting a discount over the years, which, he says, led to threats.

“We actually got threatened at our Santa Fe Comic Con. Somebody threatened to call their dad who was a lawyer to prove that we were discriminating,” he said.

Now, there’s even more backlash from people who said he shouldn’t have given into the criticism, with some claiming they won’t be attending comic con anymore.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy found a scientific breakthrough in Monty.
  • John King Tarpinian passes on the Star Wars nutritional advice he found in Brevity.

(9) LEAF BY TOLKIEN. Glen Dixon of the Washington Post Magazine writes about the death of the Baltimore City Paper which just folded, in “Baltimore City Paper is closing after 40 years. Will it be missed?” The following scene is inside the City Paper’s offices….

The wisdom of the crowd converged when Brandon Soderberg puzzled over the mysterious provenance of Gray Haven, the latest strain of marijuana to cross his palate. Soderberg is both the paper’s editor and one of its pot critics. He knows his weed, but he hadn’t been able to uncover the first thing about this particular variety. Perhaps the name held a clue? He read off some loopy texts from a helpful stoner friend, a Tolkien fan who said there is a place called Grey Havens in Middle-earth. The messages were pipe dreams billowing with head-spinning arcana. “I’ve read ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ ” said art director Athena Towery, dryly. “I don’t think that’s in there.” The room erupted with laughter, then settled on another Tolkien work — “The Silmarillion” — as the source. Photo editor J.M. “Joe” Giordano added that the bud shares its name with a neighborhood in Dundalk, Md.

(10) SPRING AHEAD, FALL OOPS. Joe Haldeman shared this on Facebook – pretty funny, even if the joke is about the wrong time change:

Another busy night at all the British henge sites as staff work all night to move the stones forward by an hour.

(11) FEDERATION POLITICAL SCIENCE. I don’t remember if I’ve run this before but it sure is fun. And like some Tumblr posts, it needs to be read from the bottom up; the pivot is a Klingon asking the Vulcans why they let humans run the Federation; the answer includes because the last thing they did is ” getting published in about six hundred scientific journals across two hundred different disciplines because of how many established theories their ridiculous little expedition has just called into question. also, they did turn that sun into a torus, and no one actually knows how”

(12) CREDENTIAL RENEWED. Kim Huett advises his article “Temple of the Sphinx”, with some thoughts on the William F. Temple story, “The Smile Of the Sphinx,” is now online.

In a fit of possibly misplaced enthusiasm I have created a website in order to post my Bill Temple article online for all the world to see. Those of you already familiar with this article might like to note that it has been rewritten here and there in order to fix a few errors and to add a little more depth to the story. In regards to the latter I would like to in particular thank Rob Hansen for all his hard work on THEN as that history made my job so much easier. The website in question can be found here at the URL below. Feel free to pass the URL on if you want as I think this is a story well worth sharing. This is especially true since it allows us to increase our count of times the word “cat” has appeared on this blog.

For all this Gillings did publish one story that I find absolutely fascinating, though perhaps not for the usual reasons. The story in question is a novelette by William F. Temple, his third published story. The Smile of the Sphinx appeared in Tales of Wonder #4 (Autumn 1938). In the introduction Gillings wrote:

‘…in the light of his logical reasoning, his fanciful notion loses its air of incredibility, and you will find yourself seriously considering whether it might not easily be fact…’

The story was well regarded at the time of publication. For example noted science fiction fan of the day (and later editor of New Worlds), Ted Carnell was so taken by The Smile of the Sphinx that in Novae Terrae #28 (December 1938) he was moved to claim:

‘For just as Bill Temple’s yarn in TOW will long be remembered as the cat story…’

Now at first glance all this makes very little sense as The Smile of the Sphinx is a rather absurd tale about an intelligent race of cats from the Moon who secretly rule the Earth.

(13) CHOCOLATE EMERGENCY. Adweek shares the laughs — “Snickers Got a Whole TV Channel to Act Weird When It Was Hungry in Great Media Stunt”.

The network is called Dave, and it normally features a millennial-focused grab bag of fun-loving programs. But one day recently, at exactly 3:28 p.m. (which Snickers says is “the hungriest time of day”), Dave suddenly and inexplicably turned into Rupert—a network showing boring and nonsensical shows including chess championships, vintage film noir and an art appraisal program.

Frankly, it seemed like Dave had become PBS.

 

[Thanks to JJ, DMS, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]