Pixel Scroll 7/16/17 Doctor Whoa!

(1) SHE’S THE DOCTOR. The casting of Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor Who hit all the mainstream news outlets.

However, the reaction of some Daily Mail readers left a lot to be desired. But as they say, when you have lemons make lemonade. That’s what comedian Aaron C. M. Gillies did:

And just before the Whittaker announcement, this meme was getting a lot of play on Twitter.

(2) OH NOES! Matthew Foster has also been taking soundings and shared what he found with his Facebook readers.

Fun with sexism. So I just had to go looking to see what the dim set had to say about Doctor Who, and it is amusing. Most that I peaked in on want to keep their sexism on the down low, so while they always object to the Doctor being female, it is never due to her being female. No, no. That’s not the problem… exactly… So there’s lot’s of:

  • I don’t like the Doctor being a woman, but because that’s pandering. Yeah.
  • I don’t like the Doctor being a woman, but because it isn’t for a good story reason… You know, the way choosing a male for have been for a good story reason.

Plus 9 more…

(3) RIVER SONG. Radio Times reports actress Alex Kingston was given the news while onstage at a con in North Carolina: “Alex Kingston’s reaction to a female Doctor Who was SO River Song”.

“Jodie Whittaker? Oh my goodness!” the actress told the crowd, after making joke kissing noises. “God, I’m always the damn cradlesnatcher!

“Oh, that’s lovely. She’s a really great actress. She’s fantastic. Oh my God that’s so exciting! Ohhhh! How fabulous.

“Well, we’ve all discovered that together,” she concluded. “That’s marvellous.”

(4) THE FIRST WOMAN DOCTOR. Some argue there’s already been a woman Doctor Who. (Besides Doctor Donna, that is.) It happened in 1997.

Lily Savage (Paul O’Grady) is The Doctor in a comedy sketch from The Lily Savage Show back in 1997. Features Gayle Tuesday (Brenda Gilhooly) as her companion and a classic impression of Liz McDonald from Coronation Street.

 

(5) SCAMMERS LIVE IN VAIN. My latest strategy for finding news is to hang around Camestros Felapton’s blog. He had a bunch of good links in this post: “Is the Kindle store broken?”

And far from living in vain, the scammers are running away with the store, according to David Gaughran: “Scammers Break The Kindle Store”.

On Friday, a book jumped to the #1 spot on Amazon, out of nowhere; it quickly became obvious that the author had used a clickfarm to gatecrash the charts.

The Kindle Store is officially broken.

This is not the first time this has happened and Amazon’s continued inaction is increasingly baffling. Last Sunday, a clickfarmed title also hit #1 in the Kindle Store. And Amazon took no action.

Over the last six weeks, one particularly brazen author has put four separate titles in the Top 10, and Amazon did nothing whatsoever. There are many such examples….

How Clickfarms Work

As I explained in my post last month, unscrupulous authors and publishers are now adopting scammer tactics, and it’s pretty obvious this guy used a clickfarm to artificially borrow his book. Those fake borrows are equivalent to a sale for ranking purposes. A few thousand of them at the same time can be enough to put you at the top of the charts.

For those who don’t know what a clickfarm is, read this or this, but the basics are as follows. Clickfarms can do a number of things for those with flexible morals. Depending on what the author is trying to achieve, they can download free books, or borrow KU books, and/or page through borrowed books to generate reads – which will then be paid out of the communal KU pot. These services are easy to find, they are all over Google and Fiverr. They are especially popular in shady internet marketing circles and places like Warrior Forum.

We aren’t taking about the darknet here. These services are open to the public and incredibly easy to find. I’m not going to link to them directly, but here’s an example of the kind of services they offer:

  • 100 guaranteed KU borrows for $59
  • 200 KU borrows with a guaranteed Top 100 ranking for $109
  • 1000 KU borrows with a guaranteed Top 5 ranking in any category for $209

They also provide paid reviews, ghostwriting services, the works. Fake authors, fake books, fake borrows, all parlayed into real chart position stolen from genuine authors and significant funds paid out of the communal KU pot.

(6) STAR WARS LAND. You can learn preliminary details about Disney’s forthcoming attraction, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge from The Verge.

There will be two main attractions: one that lets guests captain the Millennium Falcon on a secret mission, while the other places thrill-seekers in the middle of a “climatic battle” between the First Order and the Resistance. The images released show rugged terrain, lush forests reminiscent of scenes on Endor in Return of the Jedi, and metal cantina structures. According to Bloomberg, the new Star Wars lands will cost about $1 billion each….

Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, revealed the official name of the Star Wars-inspired lands that are currently under construction at the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts, and shared details on the immersive experiences guests will be able to enjoy when the lands open in 2019!

 

(7) MARTIN LANDAU OBIT. He won an Oscar playing Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood, but Martin Landau, who passed away today at the age of 89, was first seen by fans in Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone (both the Sixties original and again in the Eighties relaunch). Having turned down an offer to play Spock in the original Star Trek series, the pinnacle of Landau’s science fictional success came while playing Commander John Koenig in Space:1999.

He worked constantly over the decades, and appeared in many genre productions — The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (one episode, 1966), Mission: Impossible (76 episodes as “Rollin Hand”, 1966-69), Get Smart (one episode, 1969), The Fall of the House of Usher, Meteor (both 1979), The Return (1980), The Being (1983), The Return of the Six-Million-Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman (1987), Spider-Man (voice, 1995-96), The X-Files (1998), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Frankenweenie (voice, 2012).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 16, 1952 Zombies of the Stratosphere flickered briefly through theatres.
  • July 16, 1955 — The TV serial Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe blasted into the popular consciousness.
  • July 16, 1958 — Audiences gasp for the first time at The Fly.
  • July 16, 1959The Alligator People was released.
  • July 16, 1969 Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy, Florida, to become the first manned space mission to land on the moon.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 16, 1928 – Robert Sheckley

(10) AND THEY’RE OFF. With Game of Thrones Season 7 starting, the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog gets its kicks by imagining how each character will die. First up —

Daenerys Targaryen

After finally saying goodbye to noted hellhole Meereen, Dany will be cut down in a tragic boating accident, lest her plot line advance. The tragedy will be of Titanic proportions, with Dany and Missandei struggling to share space on a door before both drowning. Varys will float by moments later and note there was plenty of room on the flotsam for both women. 

(11) TOP TEN. And The Daily Beast it getting its clicks by publishing the list of “‘Game of Thrones’ Author George R.R. Martin’s Top 10 Fantasy Films”.

  1. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

The frightening thing about Holy Grail is that it may very well be the best version of the Matter of Britain ever put on film. King Arthur has not been well served by the movies, I fear. Yes, yes, there’s John Boorman’s Excalibur, a flawed film with with some great parts. Beyond that and Holy Grail, what do we have? Knights of the Round Table (some gorgeous spectacle, but a ham-handed script–the Timpo toy knights issued as tie-ins to the film were better than the movie), Prince Valiant (I liked the Singing Sword, and those pigskins full of boiling oil, but it’s hard to get past Robert Wagner’s wig), First Knight (gag), King Arthur (yes, let’s just let all the Saxons through Hadrian’s Wall and fight them on the other side, what a clever tactic)…. I do have a certain fondness for the film version of Camelot, but only because I never got to see the stage play. But back to Holy Grail. Back to Brave Sir Robin. The Black Knight. The Knights Who Say Ni. The Frenchman on the ramparts. The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. Castle Anthrax. Coconuts. (They still sell coconuts at Castle Doune in Scotland, where much of Holy Grail was filmed). What more do I need to say? Let’s go to Camelot! Yes, it is a silly place, but that’s what I love about it.

(12) WAIT UP. io9’s Germain Lussier’s post “This Mysterious New Droid Is Rolling Around the Star Wars Section at D23 Expo” has photos, though apparently they weren’t easy to get.

Disney loves a good surprise, and fans at the D23 Expo in Anaheim got plenty of those over the weekend. One of the more subtle ones featured a brand new droid, rolling around the display for the new theme park additions called Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge.

The droid definitely resembles other Star Wars droids you know, kind of a R5 droid’s body with 2-1B arms. But, according to Walt Disney Imagineers in the area, it does not yet have an official Star Wars distinction. In fact, the may not even be part of Galaxy’s Edge when it opens in 2019. It’s just kind of an experiment at how droids and humans who are just mulling around can interact. And let me tell you, it’s not necessarily a smooth relationship.

The Imagineers call this guy “Jake” and he would not stand still for a photo. You’d set up to snap one, and he’d just start going the other way. Here’s what it’s like.

(13) CONTAINS SOME NUDITY. In fact, that’s what it mostly contains. Chip Hitchcock is convinced fans could break the record at Worldcon 75 if they put it on the program — “Finland naked swimmers bid for biggest skinny dip record”.

Hundreds of naked swimmers have taken to the water in Finland in a bid to break the world record for the biggest naked swim.

Some 789 people at a music festival in eastern Finland went skinny dipping on Saturday, organisers said, beating the previous record set in Australia by just three, reports said.

Organisers were waiting for Guinness World Records to confirm the record.

It is the third Finnish attempt at the record, Yle news website said.

(14) KING’S SECRET IDENTITY. Mental Floss remembers: “Known Alias: How Stephen King Was Outed as Richard Bachman”.

King’s cover endured for a surprisingly long period. But the 1985 release of Thinner would usher in fresh suspicion about Bachman. Unlike the other four novels, Thinner was contemporary King, a hardcover written with the knowledge it was a “Bachman book” and perhaps more self-conscious about its attempt at misdirection. And unlike early-period Bachman, which often featured nihilistic but grounded scenarios—a walking marathon that ends in death, or a game show where prisoners can earn their freedom—Thinner took on more of a horror trope, with a robust lawyer cursed to lose weight by a vengeful gypsy until he’s practically nothing but skin and bone.

When Stephen Brown obtained an advance copy at Olsson’s, he had an innate belief he was reading a King novel. To confirm his suspicions, he visited the Library of Congress to examine the copyrights for each Bachman title. All but one were registered to Kirby McCauley, King’s agent. The remaining title, Rage, was registered to King himself. It was the smoking gun.

(15) IN THE ARCHIVES. The Verge tells you where to find Galaxy —“One of the greatest science fiction magazines is now available for free online”.

If you like classic science fiction, one of the genre’s best magazines can now be found online for free. Archive.org is now home to a collection of Galaxy Science Fiction, which published some of the genre’s best works, such as an early version of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man.

The collection contains 355 separate issues, ranging from 1950 through 1976. Open Culture notes that it’s not quite the entire run of the magazine, but it’s got plenty of material to keep fans occupied for years. It includes stories from science fiction legends such as Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Clifford Simak, and Theodore Sturgeon. There are also some underappreciated authors who deserve re-discovery, such as Kris Neville, Alan E. Nourse, or John Christopher. (Sadly, like most publications of this era, female SF authors were underrepresented.)

(16) LAST-MINUTE VOTING. Spacefaring Kitten got in under the wire with a second set of Hugo recommendations.

(17) NAME ABOVE THE TITLE. Stan Lee is rebranding his Los Angeles convention. The Hollywood Reporter has the story: “Stan Lee Reintroduces His L.A. Convention: New Name, Even Greater Ambitions”.

Stan Lee is putting Los Angeles on the map in a new way.

The legendary comic book creator is not only getting a citywide day named in his honor (Oct. 28), he is also rebranding his popular pop culture convention Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo and giving it a new name: Stan Lee’s Los Angeles Comic Con.

Comic book fans area rejoiced when Lee launched his convention in 2011, and for Lee, the name change makes sense when major cities from New York to San Diego have flagship conventions bearing their cities’ names.

“I felt that a lot of people didn’t know what Comikaze really meant or what it was. And I didn’t think we should hide under a bushel,” Lee tells Heat Vision of the con, which runs Oct. 28-30. “Los Angeles is, to me, the center of the world’s entertainment. It has to have a Comic Con.”

(18) FUNNY AND DIE. Reason TV is getting in on the new season, too, with Game of Thrones: Libertarian Edition.

As HBO’s blockbuster series Game of Thrones returns for its seventh season, Reason offers its own freedom-filled parody. A libertarian paradise north of the wall? What’s happened to Westeros’ social security trust fund? Should it take low-income Dothraki four years to get a hair-braiding license? Watch!

 

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

The Dark Tower – International Trailer #2

The Dark Tower, in theaters August 4.

There are other worlds than these. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, the ambitious and expansive story from one of the world’s most celebrated authors, makes its launch to the big screen. The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle as only Roland can defend the Tower from the Man in Black.

 

Pixel Scroll 7/4/17 The Land Of The Pixel, And The Home Of The Scroll

(1) HAIL TO THE CHIEF. This would not be a typical way of celebrating Independence Day anywhere but fandom. ScienceFiction.com compiled a list of the “Top 10 Supervillains Who Have Taken Over America”. At number nine —

  1. Doctor Doom

Doom conquered the United States in 2099, made himself President and did what you’d expect Doom to do in that position. It’s worth noting that he also became a God of his own universe in 2015’s ‘Secret Wars’, so this President thing isn’t that impressive.

(2) LOWERING THE BOOM. It’s not only the blowing up part that’s dangerous for humans. The wastes are, too. The Verge explains “How Hollywood and the Army are shaping the future of fireworks”.

Another ingredient in fireworks, called perchlorate, helps the fuel combust and makes the colors shine more brightly. But it’s also thought to be toxic, which is why the Environmental Protection Agency regulates how much of the stuff can seep into drinking water.

As with air pollution, it’s not completely clear the extent to which fireworks displays contaminate water systems with perchlorate. But a 2007 study conducted by EPA scientists found that perchlorate levels in Oklahoma surface waters increased by between 24 to over 1,000 times baseline levels after an Independence Day display — and it took from 20 to 80 days to go back down.

Scientists with the US Army’s Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC) are trying find a cheap, effective replacement for perchlorate. For the military, which uses pyrotechnics to mimic actual battlefield conditions in training simulations, perchlorate contamination of groundwater can shut down training operations. “When soldiers get deployed to real combat theaters, they are less prepared,” says Jared Moretti, a scientist with ARDEC who specializes in pyrotechnics.

(3) A CHANCE TO HELP. In the aftermath of Dwain Kaiser’s death, a GoFundMe has been launched to assist his widow.

We are raising money to help his wife, JoAnn Kaiser, who is in her 80s and lives well below the poverty level. Dwain and JoAnn owned one of the last used bookstores in Pomona, not because they made a enough money to live on, but because they loved educating our community. More importantly, they loved BOOKS. JoAnn is unable to cover the overwhelming expenses she will incur during this time of great loss: funeral, a memorial service, moving, and paying store bills. We reach out to all of you for support. Any assistance you can provide will impact JoAnn’s ability to grieve the loss of her best friend and husband without the burden of wondering how she is going to survive financially. All proceeds will go toward Dwain’s funeral, a memorial service, and moving expenses.

The goal is $10,000, and at this writing they are halfway there.

(4) LORD OF THE RINGS SETTLEMENT. Yahoo! Movies, in “Warner Bros., Tolkien Estate Settle Massive ‘Lord of the Rings’ Lawsuit”, reports the parties have reached agreement.

Warner Bros. and the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien have resolved a rights dispute over “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings,” the two parties said in a court filing.

The Tolkien estate and its book publisher HarperCollins had filed an $80 million lawsuit against Warner Bros., its New Line subsidiary and Rings/Hobbit rightsholder Saul Zaentz Co. for copyright infringement and breach of contract, in 2012, as reported here in  “What  Has It Got In Its Jackpotses?”

The gist of the suit is that their agreement allows the studio to create only “tangible” merchandise based on the books, not digital products like the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Online Slot Game.

…The suit also complained the defendants had asserted rights to exploit the books through anything from ringtones and downloadable games to hotels, restaurants and travel agencies.

(5) DC AT SEA. Batman features in the new livery some Italian ferryboats — “Batman jumps on board the new Tirrenia ships”.

Tirrenia, partnering with Gruppo Onorato Armatori and Warner Bros. Consumer Products, has started a great restyling of their ferry ships.

The classical white and blue livery will progressively be substituted by the DC Superheroe par excellende: Batman!

Sharden, docked today 7th April of 2017 at pier 18 of the Port of Civitavecchia, is one of the first Tirrenia ships to wear the new colours: both sides of the ships are different from one another: at one side are Batman and Robin, at the other Batman with his fierce enemy, the Joker.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The Department of Veterans Affairs has approved the hammer of Thor (the Norse god of thunder and lightning) as a religious symbol for veteran gravestones. Two soldiers have headstones bearing the hammer.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 4, 1865 — Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published.
  • July 4, 1939 — Julius Schwartz ditched the last day of the first World Science Fiction Convention and went with Mort Weisinger and Otto Binder to see a ballgame at Yankee Stadium. He still got to see fan history being made. Baseball fan history.

A very special thing happened that afternoon: Lou Gehrig announced his retirement from the game of baseball. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It’s something I will never forget.

Gehrig’s famous lines echoed throughout the park:

For the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

(8) THE FIRST COUNCIL. Noting with pleasure that the President has reestablished the National Space Council, Jerry Pournelle remembers the final achievement of the original Council of which he was part.

When the Bush I administration took office, most of the Reagan people were replaced by Bush supporters. As a Reagan man – I chaired the Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy that in 1980 wrote the Space and Space Defense policy papers for the incoming Reagan administration – my White House access and contacts effectively came to a halt. There were no more Reagan men in the White House.

However, there was the newly created National Space Council, headed by the Vice President, Dan Quayle. Mr. Quayle was not a space cadet, and hadn’t been well known in the pro-space community. Until the day he was asked to be then Vice President George H. W. Bush’s running mate, he was referred to as “the distinguished junior Senator from Indiana”, and generally well regarded; the day after he joined the ticket he became a buffoon not to be taken seriously by the very same news media. However, he took the post of Chairman of the National Space Council seriously, and when the Citizen’s Advisory Council proposed an X project, the SSX, he met with General Dan Graham, rocket genius Max Hunter, and council chairman Jerry Pournelle.

We presented our proposal for the SSX, a 600,000 gross liftoff weight (GLOW) single stage to orbit (SSTO) X Project; as Max Hunter said, we hoped it would make orbit; it would sure scare it to death. It would also be savable; and it could be flown sub-orbital. Of course it was fully recoverable. The preliminary design description was done mostly in my office, with visiting members of the Council working on it.

Mr. Quayle listened to us, and the asked advice from his technical people. He was told that recoverable single stage to orbit was impossible and had been proved to be so in a RAND study. Mr. Quayle then asked RAND to review that study, which they did, and Lo! It turned out not to be impossible after all. It was a possible X Project. Mr. Quayle tried to get it funded; apparently he took us quite seriously. He was unable to get full funding, but he did get Air Force funding for a scale model. Douglas won the competition for that X project, and it was built, on time and within budget, and delivered to White Sands test range for flight testing. It became known as the DC-X (Douglas Aircraft gave all their aircraft, such as the SC-3, that kind of designation).

One big controversy about vertical rocket landings was that it could not be controlled at low altitude and the speeds involved. Another was that it would re-enter nose down, and wouldn’t be able to turn tail down. DC-X flew 10 successful missions, landing and being refueled and flown again; there are plenty of reports on that. On one of those missions it went from nose up the nose down, then back to nose up in which orientation it made a perfect landing.

Alas after the 10th flight the Air Force turned the ship over to NASA. On the eleventh mission, it successfully landed, but a NASA technician had failed to connect the hydraulic line to one of the landing feet, and it fell over. It could have survived that, but due to over vigorous (and needless testing) the NASA test people cracked the hydrogen fuel tank, then welded it and sent it to fly. Falling over cracked that tank and DC-X literally burned on the ground a hydrogen leaked out.

Mr. Clinton won the 1992 election, and in 1993 abolished the National Space Council. President George W. Bush did not revive it, nor did President Obama.

(9) BREAKING OUT. The Verge interviews “Fantasy author Myke Cole on grounding a medieval world with demons in it”.

…For his next act, Cole is changing things up a bit. His upcoming series, The Sacred Throne, exchanges the modern-day world that he’s been using as a setting for a more traditional fantasy realm. The Sacred Throne series is very much a modern-day fantasy thematically, but more on the “grimdark” side of the genre in the vein of authors like Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, or George R.R. Martin than the more optimistic worlds of Tolkien or Lewis….

Why the change from the more urban fantasy setting from your Shadow Ops series to something closer to traditional swords and sorcery?

This book is super important me. So the Shadow Ops series, when it sold and when it got praised, it was always the authentic military voice. I think I might have been the only currently serving military member writing. At the time I was still on duty to the Coast Guard when that book came out. There’s a lot of retired military guys writing, but I don’t know anyone who is actually active and writing, which is what I was doing. So I kept getting praise for my “authentic military voice.” I was just kind of like, “Okay, I’m glad that people like this, and I’m definitely happy if it sells books,” but the truth is that you start to think “Well, is this a gimmick?” Do people like my writing because I’m a good writer, or do people like my writing because it’s authentic and it’s a military voice? And of course that set me up for kind of growing insecurity, and so it became very important to me to prove to myself that I was a writer with a capital W. That I can do other things.

(10) PRETENDERS TO THE THRONE.  They make number one sound far ahead of the other four — “Five Writers Who Could Be the Next Stephen King”.

  1. Andrew Pyper

The number one writer who could challenge the King for positioning is Andrew Pyper. Pyper’s most recent novel titled “The Damned” is rapidly becoming a massive success. The 2013 novel has already become a best seller. This is number six and by far the most pleasing to his following. The Writer from Toronto has written the horror story and makes no apologies. The book follows “The Demonologist” which established quite a fan base for the writer who is beginning to delve more deeply into horror genre, but without the commercial nonsense that many come to expect. He’s not prone to cliche and you’ll have to read it to find out how he makes use of throwing curves so you won’t really know what’s coming up.

(11) BANGARANGING ON. The Washington Post’s Ada Tseng interviews Dante Basco, who played Rufio in Hook (an orange-mohawked guy who was killed by Captain Hook in the film), and has now made a short-film about Rufio, Bangarang, which is available online — “Remember Rufio in ‘Hook’? The actor is trying to keep his cult character’s legacy alive.”.

Basco has a cameo in the film, but is too old to play the young Rufio. A new generation of kids now knows him better for his voice-over work as Prince Zuko in the Nickelodeon cartoon “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” But he still gets recognized by “Hook” fans every single day.

“I’ve been Rufio longer than I’ve not been Rufio, for sure,” he says. “To this day, it’s a blessing and a curse. Some people have such strong memories of me as a young actor, that it’s hard to see me as anything else. But everyone comes to Hollywood hoping to get a role people are going to remember them for, and I get girls saying I was their first crush, or Asian guys saying Rufio was the first time they saw an Asian kid on-screen that wasn’t nerdy or stereotypical, so I was lucky the character that resonated was cool.”

 

(12) TZ. John King Tarpinian told me he’d be at home today watching the Twilight Zone Marathon. And Steve Vertlieb made a timely recommendation that I read his 2009 post “The Twilight Zone: An Element of Time”:

“The Twilight Zone: An Element Of Time” is my published 2009 celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the original, classic Rod Serling television series. With original teleplays by Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, and the visionary pen of host Rod Serling, along with accompanying scores by Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith, and Fred Steiner, among others, this tender recollection of the iconic sci-fi/fantasy anthology series may bring to mind your own special memories of the program. Be swept away into another dimension with this sweet remembrance, adrift upon rippling currents of time and space, only to be found in…”The Twilight Zone.”

Here’s the beginning:

For a writer searching for his voice in the midst of corporate conservatism during the late 1950s, the creative horizon seemed elusive at best. Television, although still a youthful medium, had begun to stumble and fall, succumbing to the pressures of financial backing and sponsorship in order to survive its early growing pains. Navigating a successful career through a cloak of fear and indecision became problematic for a young writer struggling to remain relevant.

Rod Serling had penned several landmark teleplays for The Columbia Broadcasting System, including Patterns, and Requiem For A Heavyweight, but the perils of network censorship were beginning to take a toll on the idealistic author. As his artistic voice and moral integrity became increasingly challenged by network cowardice, Serling found his search for lost horizons alarmingly elusive.

(13) HALF CAST. Stewart Clarke in “Second ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Film Starts Shooting as New Plot Details Emerge” on Variety, says that the second Fantastic Beasts film will be set in Paris in the 1920s and will have Jude Law as a young Albus Dumbledore.

The studio offered new details of the upcoming film, which will see Eddie Redmayne return as magical beasts lover Newt Scamander to take on Gellert Grindelwald, the dark wizard played by Johnny Depp, who was unmasked at the end of the first movie.

Jude Law will star as future Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore in the film, a younger version of the character originally played by the late Richard Harris and Michael Gambon in the Harry Potter films. The sequel moves the main action to 1920s Paris, shortly after Scamander’s capture of Grindelwald at the end of the first installment.

Warner Bros. revealed that “Grindelwald has made a dramatic escape and has been gathering more followers to his cause – elevating wizards above all non-magical beings. The only one who might be able to stop him is the wizard he once called his dearest friend, Albus Dumbledore. But Dumbledore will need help from the wizard who had thwarted Grindelwald once before, his former student Newt Scamander.”

(14) MORE THAN JUST DECORATIVE. JJ sends this along with a safety warning, “Totally not a suggestion for Hugo winners with annoying neighbors. Purely hypothetically.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Steve Vertlieb, Mark-kitteh, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, the e.e. cummings of filers. clack.]

Pixel Scroll 6/28/17 Hot Patootie, Bless My Soul, I Really Love That Pixel Scroll

(1) MINIONS GETTING PAID. The Seattle law firm Rekhi & Wolk, P.S. sends word they have settled the class action they were litigating against Emerald City Comicon (See Scroll for 5/18/16, item #13).

Former volunteer Jerry Brooks alleged Emerald City Comicon violated Washington State law by failing to pay people classified as volunteers – which they called “minions” — the minimum wages they were owed under Washington laws for performing services at the 2014 and/or 2015 Emerald City Comicons in Seattle.

The defendant denied the claim, reported Seattlish, emphasizing that “…The volunteers not only willingly enter into an agreement stating that they’ll work for free, but the culture of the convention fosters a competitiveness for the volunteer positions.”

According to the FAQ about the class action settlement, Emerald City Comicon will pay $493,227.84 to resolve all claims, some of which will go to attorneys, the plaintiff, and the settlement administrator, with the remaining approximately $348,397.33 to be distributed to Class Members who submit Claim Forms by July 31. (Click on the FAQ for additional information.)

Remembering this was at bottom a complaint about unpaid wages, it’s only fair that payroll taxes will be levied on the distributions:

One-half (50%) of each award to a Class Member will be treated as wages and subject to normal payroll tax withholdings and payments. The other one-half (50%) of each award to a Class Member will be treated as non-wages on which there will be no tax withholding.

(2) BARNUM. The Verge introduces the new trailer: “Watch the first trailer for Hugh Jackman’s movie musical The Greatest Showman”

The first trailer for 20th Century Fox’s P.T. Barnum biopic and original musical The Greatest Showman is here. Hugh Jackman plays Barnum, a charming, down-on-his-luck guy in a top hat, hanging out in Connecticut in the early 1800s. From what we can see, he’s going to be smooching Michelle Williams, teaming up with Zac Efron, and eventually inventing the circus as we know it. “Every one of us is special, and nobody is like anyone else. That’s the point of my show,” he tells a child. Sure! I’m buying it.

 

(3) YOUNG KING. Once upon a time Stephen King came to hang out at sf conventions. Someone with a camera was present when he spoke at the 1983 DeepSouthCon. Next best thing to a time machine.

Raw photojournalist footage of a panel discussion from a SF/Horror convention held in Knoxville in 1983. Participants include Stephen King, Peter Straub, Karl Edward Wagner, Charles Grant, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Whitley Streiber, Dennis Etchison, and others.

 

(4) BROSNAN ZINES SOUGHT. Twenty-two years after his death, John Brosnan has inspired a devoted Australian fan to want to read all his stuff, even his Sixties fanzines. “John Brosnan’s 1960s pre-internet fanzines sought by new fan at National Library”.

The work of an almost forgotten Australian writer has been unearthed and made available to a new audience following the chance discovery of a 1960s fanzine in a comic collection at the National Library of Australia (NLA).

Perth-born John Brosnan (1947-2005) specialised in science-fiction….

His sci-fi fanzine Big Scab was a joint winner of the 1974 UK Nova Award.

NLA cataloguer Alison Carriage became fascinated with Brosnan’s work after stumbling across an issue of his 1960s fanzine Why Bother? in the library’s John Ryan comic collection.

She was struck by the “wonderfully entertaining” way he wrote and the insight the fanzine provided into the pre-internet era.

Brosnan’s accounts of everyday life include getting mugged, looking for a job and being bitten by a tick.

“I kind of compare it to Seinfeld — the episodes were about nothing, but they were nothings you could relate to and therefore you found them really funny,” Ms Carriage said.

“His work’s still relatable and still really important.”

(5) AMAZONIAN LOVE. Hope Nicholson and Karen K. Burrows tell SciFiNow readers “Let’s be Straight: Wonder Woman is into Women”.

Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Mystique, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy are names that even non-comic book fans can identify, thanks to their films.

Aside from being leading ladies of comics (Catwoman, the oldest at 77 years old, our pal Harley Quinn a millennial baby at just 24 years old), each of these characters have another thing in common: they’re bisexual in the pages of (some) of their comics, but not yet identified as such in their movie counterparts.

Despite increased representation in the source comics, more recognizable queer characters rarely cross that barrier to film. Representation matters in every form – but blockbuster films have a greater reach than comics. Confirming in worldwide media that characters who have been part of the popular consciousness for decades can also be queer would be a true step forward!

Let’s take a closer look at the queer history of these characters and think about what might have been – and what still could!

(6) THE FILMING LAMP IS LIT. An update on item #15 from the May 16 Scroll: George R.R. Martin announced progress on the TV adaptation of another of his stories:

The SyFy Channel has just greenlit the pilot for a proposed NIGHTFLYERS series, based on my 1980 Hugo-losing novella, one of my SF/ horror hybrids.

(7) SUPPORT DIVERSE GRANTS. The Speculative Literature Foundation is raising money at Generosity.com to fund their Diverse Worlds & Diverse Writers Grants.

The Speculative Literature Foundation’s Diverse Worlds and Diverse Writers Grants were launched in 2013 after an initial fundraiser covered the grants for three years. Help us keep both grants going for five more years!

The $500 Diverse Writers grant is intended to support new and emerging writers from underrepresented and underprivileged groups, such as writers of color, women, queer writers, disabled writers, working-class writers, etc. — those whose marginalized identities may present additional obstacles in the writing / publishing process.

The $500 Diverse Worlds grant is intended for work that best presents a diverse world, regardless of the writer’s background.

So far they have raised $695 towards the $5,000 goal.

(8) BOND OBIT. Paddington Bear creator Michael Bond died June 27 at the age of 91.

Bond published his first book, A Bear Called Paddington, in 1958.

The character, a marmalade-loving bear from “deepest, darkest Peru” who comes to live in London, went on to inspire a series of books, an animated TV series and a successful 2014 film.

Born in Newbury in 1926, Bond began his career at the BBC and later worked on Blue Peter as a cameraman.

He served with the RAF and the army during World War II and began writing in 1945 while stationed in Cairo.

More than 35 million Paddington books have been sold worldwide. The most recent, Paddington’s Finest Hour, was published in April.

(9) THE FUNDAMENTAL THINGS REMAIN AS TIME GOES BY. The Filer who sent the link said they were surprised that Steven Johnson’s article for the New York Times, “Greetings, E.T. (Please Don’t Murder Us)”, doesn’t mention The Three-Body Problem.

In Nov. 16, 1974, a few hundred astronomers, government officials and other dignitaries gathered in the tropical forests of Puerto Rico’s northwest interior, a four-hour drive from San Juan. The occasion was a rechristening of the Arecibo Observatory, at the time the largest radio telescope in the world. The mammoth structure — an immense concrete-and-aluminum saucer as wide as the Eiffel Tower is tall, planted implausibly inside a limestone sinkhole in the middle of a mountainous jungle — had been upgraded to ensure its ability to survive the volatile hurricane season and to increase its precision tenfold.

To celebrate the reopening, the astronomers who maintained the observatory decided to take the most sensitive device yet constructed for listening to the cosmos and transform it, briefly, into a machine for talking back. After a series of speeches, the assembled crowd sat in silence at the edge of the telescope while the public-address system blasted nearly three minutes of two-tone noise through the muggy afternoon heat. To the listeners, the pattern was indecipherable, but somehow the experience of hearing those two notes oscillating in the air moved many in the crowd to tears.

That 168 seconds of noise, now known as the Arecibo message, was the brainchild of the astronomer Frank Drake, then the director of the organization that oversaw the Arecibo facility. The broadcast marked the first time a human being had intentionally transmitted a message targeting another solar system. The engineers had translated the missive into sound, so that the assembled group would have something to experience during the transmission. But its true medium was the silent, invisible pulse of radio waves, traveling at the speed of light.

It seemed to most of the onlookers to be a hopeful act, if a largely symbolic one: a message in a bottle tossed into the sea of deep space. But within days, the Royal Astronomer of England, Martin Ryle, released a thunderous condemnation of Drake’s stunt. By alerting the cosmos of our existence, Ryle wrote, we were risking catastrophe. Arguing that ‘‘any creatures out there [might be] malevolent or hungry,’’ Ryle demanded that the International Astronomical Union denounce Drake’s message and explicitly forbid any further communications. It was irresponsible, Ryle fumed, to tinker with interstellar outreach when such gestures, however noble their intentions, might lead to the destruction of all life on earth….

But in the 40 years since Drake transmitted the message, just over a dozen intentional messages have been sent to the stars, most of them stunts of one fashion or another, including one broadcast of the Beatles’ ‘‘Across the Universe’’ to commemorate the 40th anniversary of that song’s recording. (We can only hope the aliens, if they exist, receive that message before they find the Hitler footage.)…

Now this taciturn phase may be coming to an end, if a growing multidisciplinary group of scientists and amateur space enthusiasts have their way. A newly formed group known as METI (Messaging Extra Terrestrial Intelligence), led by the former SETI scientist Douglas Vakoch, is planning an ongoing series of messages to begin in 2018. And Milner’s Breakthrough Listen endeavor has also promised to support a ‘‘Breakthrough Message’’ companion project, including an open competition to design the messages that we will transmit to the stars. But as messaging schemes proliferate, they have been met with resistance. The intellectual descendants of Martin Ryle include luminaries like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, and they caution that an assumption of interstellar friendship is the wrong way to approach the question of extraterrestrial life. They argue that an advanced alien civilization might well respond to our interstellar greetings with the same graciousness that Cortés showed the Aztecs, making silence the more prudent option.

If you believe that these broadcasts have a plausible chance of making contact with an alien intelligence, the choice to send them must rank as one of the most important decisions we will ever make as a species. Are we going to be galactic introverts, huddled behind the door and merely listening for signs of life outside? Or are we going to be extroverts, conversation-starters? And if it’s the latter, what should we say?

(10) CARNEGIE MEDAL. Colson Whitehead accepted the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in Chicago on June 24. The award was announced in January.

The Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction were established in 2012 to recognize the best fiction and nonfiction books for adult readers published in the U.S. the previous year. The winners (one for fiction, one for nonfiction) are announced at an event at the ALA Midwinter Meeting; winning authors receive a $5,000 cash award, and two finalists in each category receive $1,500.

Michael Chabon’s non-sf novel Moonglow was one of the fiction runner-ups.

(11) UNACQUIRED TASTES. Joe Sherry tackles the Hugo-nominated novels at Nerds of a Feather. Too Like the Lightning landed below No Award on his ballot, Death’s End just above. Jemisin’s novel ranks first.

Too Like the Lightning: I tried, folks.  I tried. Except for Death’s End, this was the finalist I was more concerned about reading. Something about the futuristic utopia written with stylistic flourishes harkening back to the 1800’s (despite being set in the 2400’s) just didn’t work for me. I know I gave up on the book too soon, but three chapters / 40 pages seemed to be enough to know that I didn’t care enough to even to the central mystery / conceit / story of Too Like the Lightning. Reading other reviews suggest that there is richness to be found, if only I take the time to push through. Perhaps I will try again in the future (after all, my reading of This-Census Taker changed on a second go-round), especially if this happens to win the Hugo Award. Though, given how other awards have shaken out so far this year, this seems somewhat unlikely. I do subscribe to the idea that sometimes we come to a book at the wrong time to appreciate or enjoy the work and coming to it again at a different time results in a different and stronger appreciation. Hopefully that’ll happen here, otherwise this is just a miss for me.

(12) MÍEVILLE. Camestros Felapton is also posting about his award reading: “Review: This Census Taker – Hugo2017 Novella”

China Miéville’s novella This Census Taker is not a roman à clef although it does feature keys but it has the aesthetics of an unsolvable puzzle. The story points at things as if they are clues but those elements (the deep hole into which things are thrown, the father’s affectless violence, the boy/narrator’s inconsistent recollections) don’t ever come together as a finished puzzle. The novella is like a painting of an unfinished jigsaw puzzle – the edges artfully done but with the looming chasm of the centre incomplete.

(13) DOG YEARS. Felapton has worked up a new diagram tracing how the Puppy movements are playing out, “Rise of the Scrappy Doos”.

In terms of existing movements they are closest to the Superversive movement and the Pulp Revolutions movement. Those two movements* can be seen as offshoots of the Rabid Puppies but this can be misleading. The Rabids had a core of straight Alt-Right griefers willing to do exactly what Vox Day told them to do for the lulz. Superversive began independently of the Rabids but has attached itself to Castalia for promotion and is focused on literary works (although of a right leaning nature). Pulp Revolution arose from the Castalia House blog and hence is more closely connected to Rabid Puppies but again is not the same as the griefing group.

[eta – paragraph went astray] Whereas the Rabids collectively were not particularly interested in the field of SFF, the Scrappy-Doos have more in common with the Sad Puppies in so far as they tend to be actively involved in writing, publishing and books. In this sense they are more like other groupings in fandom. However, where significant voices in Sad Puppies (Correia, Torgersen, Hoyt, Freer) had had some success in trad-publishing (mainly centred around Baen Books), the Scrappy Doos are involved with small publishing groups or self-published.

(14) SPUD ON WHEELS. Marek Baczynski told his YouTube followers:

I made a self driving potato. And then named him “Pontus” and adopted him as a pet. This went well. By popular demand, I wrote a detailed list of parts, you can find it in this reddit comment: https://www.reddit.com/r/shittyrobots…

One commenter summed up the experience:

I’m not quite sure of what I just saw but it was highly emotional to me and I loved it.

 

(15) TAPPING OUT. The step after psychometric ID? “This man had the chip from his travel card implanted under his skin”.

This Australian can now tap in and out at train stations with a travel card chip implanted in his left hand.

Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow (yes, that’s his legal name) says he had it put under his skin by a professional piercer….

“If someone stole my wallet I could still get home,” he told ABC News.

It’s not the best super power in the world, but it’s better than nothing.

(16) CELEBRATE THE 42ND ANNIVERSARY OF JAWS. “We’re gonna need a bigger beer can,” says Andrew Porter. So popular they’re now on backorder — “Honor the Man Jaws Poster”.

Jaws fans have seen this poster in liquor stores and begged the clerks to buy them… They’ve sent emails and called our contact line in search of this awesome poster too. Maybe you’ve even bargained with us at promotions to no avail… Well, here at Narragansett Beer, we’re all about making dreams come true which is why we’ve printed large 27″x40″ limited edition wall posters just for you!

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Dawn Sabados, Lis Carey, elusis, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to  File 770 contributing editor of the day Charon D.]

Pixel Scroll 6/24/17 The Love of Pixels Is The Root Of All Scrolls

(1) SIXTY MINUTES. Here’s video of what happened during “Seanan McGuire’s Continuum 13 Guest of Honour Hour.”

On Sunday 11th June, 2017, Seanan McGuire hosted a Guest of Honour hour in which she answered questions at Continuum 13. Unfortunately, not every person waited for a microphone to ask their question. Seanan’s answers are still amazing and you can get the context from the answer. Continuum 13 was the 56th Australian National Science Fiction Convention.

 

(2) MORE CONTINUUM 13 GOODNESS. There was a special cake at the launch party for Seanan McGuire’s Down Among the Sticks and Bones, but since the Wayward Children series it’s part of is not a zombie series, the cake imagery was probably a callout to her Newsflesh series.

(3) OVERHEARD ON THE INTERNET. More McGuire advice.

(4) WORKSHOP HUMOR. Walter Jon Williams posted a photo of the Taos Toolbox participants and speakers posed “Beneath the Sign of the Bear”.

I realized too late that I should have got a photo of us all lying dead at George [R.R. Martin]’s feet, and titled it “The Red Workshop.”

He also quoted Nancy Kress’ notes from the critiques, specifically the funny parts. Here are a few examples:

* “She got off too easy for eating the child.”

* “This could be cool, if I knew what was going on.”

* “If she had proper self-control, she wouldn’t be blue.” (Color, not mood)

* “We’ve got prehistoric parasites living in people’s brains, and volunteers are going ‘Yes!’?”

* How does dodging bullets qualify you as a good bride?”

* “I admired the multi-purposing of the rabbits.”‘

* “If editors are trolls, are publishers dragons?”

(5) EXPANSE AUTHORS AMA. Here’s the link to Reddit’s Ask Me Anything with Expanse writers Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.

“Can you name a story element that NEEDED to change for TV in order for the show to work?”

Miller had to become much more active in the show. Losing the internal monologue of prose always means finding ways to make the same points in a way that a camera can see them.

“An unforeseen change?”

I hadn’t realized how important it was going to be to pull Drummer forward, or how much that was going to pay off.

“A change that met the most resistance from yourselves or the TV writers?”

There’s a moment in the book when Muss explains to Miller that he’s a joke to the other cops. It’s a gut-punch in the books, and we all fought to find a place for it in the show, but it just didn’t fir anywhere.

“A change that you wish had been made in the books if you had the chance to go back?”

Nope. The books are the books and the show is the show. There are some places in the book where I’d make things a little clearer than I think we left them. Why Ashford acts the way he does, what exactly the timeline of Julie Mao was. It’s all in the books, but sometimes I think I’ve made things clear that are still a little smokey.

(6) REVIVAL. If they weren’t about to bring it back, I might never have heard of it: “‘The League of Gentlemen’ is officially returning”.

Cult TV show ‘The League of Gentlemen’ is set to officially return after writer Reece Shearsmith announced that he was working on a script for the warped sitcom’s revival.

The show, which follows the lives of residents in the bizarre village of Royston Vasey, originally aired on BBC 2 between 1999 and 2002, before a full-length film was released in 2005.

Now, the show’s revival has been confirmed, after talk emerged of an anniversary special earlier this year.

(7) TAXONOMY TIME. In “Municipal Fantasy”, Danny Sichel advocates for a subgenre distinct from urban fantasy,

There’s urban, and there’s fantasy… and there’s the space between them. An enforced separation between the modern world – the urban environment – and the magic.*  They’ve developed separately over the years (which is typically shown as leading to a certain degree of stagnation in the magic). The magic is hidden from the science and technology, and so it does not advance while they do.

But what if this weren’t so?

If we undo those justifications… if we assume their opposite… we get fantasy where magic has openly come back into the modern world, or been revealed to the general public to have been here all along. Or, alternately, magic has openly been around long enough that an equivalent to our modern technological society has developed. And, perhaps most importantly, that magic is an issue of public policy.

I propose that this subgenre be called: “MUNICIPAL FANTASY”.

“What’s the difference between ‘municipal’ and ‘urban’?”, you might be wondering. “Don’t they mean essentially the same thing?” And in a way, they do, but synonyms are never exact. They both refer to cities… but ‘urban’ is a general feeling, an environment, a mood. ‘Municipal’, conversely, implies more of a system, with regulations and public services. ‘Urban wildlife’ is raccoons eating your garbage and ‘urban legends’ are just stories you heard about a friend of a friend of a friend, but “municipal wildlife” feels like the raccoons are only eating the garbage because it’s their job, and “municipal legends” feels the story won’t be told outside city limits.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 24, 1983 Twilight Zone – The Movie premiered theatrically.
  • June 24, 1987 Spaceballs opened in theatres.
  • June 24, 1997 — U.S. Air Force officials release a 231-page report dismissing long-standing claims of an alien spacecraft crash in Roswell, New Mexico, almost exactly 50 years earlier.

(9) I SEE BY YOUR OUTFIT. The four-minute mile. The twelve-minute spacewalk. Records are made to be broken — “600 students dress as Harry Potter to celebrate 20th anniversary of ‘The Sorcerer’s Stone'”

A group of more than 600 students gathered in one place and dressed as Harry Potter to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first book in the series.

England book publishers Bloomsbury Books shared a photo of the hundreds of students as they set the Guinness World Record for most people dressed as Harry Potter in one gathering in celebration of the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

 

(10) COLD FACTS. Space.com’s article “Pew Pew Pew! Why Scientists Are Fired Up About Futuristic Space Lasers” is most excited about the peaceful use of lasers in satellites to monitor vast areas of the Earth.

Another NASA mission using lasers to peer at Earth is named Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2). Scheduled to launch in 2018, ICESat-2 will use an array of six lasers — three paired beams — to track ice-sheet thickness and changes across Greenland and Antarctica, so that scientists can better estimate the risks posed by melting ice due to climate change, panel member Brooke Medley, a research associate with Earth Sciences Remote Sensing at the Goddard Space Flight Center, told the Future Con audience. ICESat-2 is continuing the work started by an earlier mission, ICESat-1, which was the first satellite to deploy lasers from space to measure surface elevation in the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, according to NASA. The amount of ice cover in those two regions is enormous: Greenland’s area is about three times the size of Texas, while Antarctica is roughly twice the size of the contiguous United States — far too big to accurately measure elevation changes from the ground or by airplane, Medley said. ICESat-2 will conduct multiple passes overhead at an altitude of 299 miles (481 kilometers), and its lasers will gather data that will enable researchers to calculate ice volume and track changes over time.

(11) SHORT SUBJECTS. Doris V. Sutherland offers insights and intriguing comments in “2017 Hugo Reviews: Short Stories” at Women Write About Comics. Here’s an excerpt from the review of Amal El-Mohtar’s award-nominated story.

“Seasons of Glass and Iron” shows both a knowledgeable and playful attitude towards fairy tale conventions. In the world of the story, magic operates on a numeric basis, a reference to fairy tales’ fondness for certain numbers, the three little pigs, the seven dwarfs, and so forth. While Amira is granted a constant stream of golden apples that materialise from nowhere, she is allowed only one at a time: she must eat her present apple before the next one will appear. But once Tabitha arrives, and Amira begins sharing the apples with her, this changes: Tabitha is allowed seven apples at a time.

“I think it’s the magic on me,” she says. “I’m bound in sevens—you’re bound in ones.” On a more symbolic level, the story opens with Tabitha musing about the significance of shoes in fairy tales, from Cinderella’s glass slippers to the red-hot iron shoes worn by Snow White’s stepmother. To Tabitha, shoes represent marriage, although they are not her first choice of symbol. “I dreamt of marriage as a golden thread between hearts—a ribbon binding one to the other, warm as a day in summer,” she says. “I did not dream a chain of iron shoes.”

The story is not as revolutionary as it seems to think it is. After all, revisionist fairy tales form a longstanding tradition in feminist circles, one that has been practiced by authors from Andrea Dworkin to Angela Carter. “Seasons of Glass and Iron” adds a queer-positive angle, but in an era with entire anthologies devoted to LGBT SF/F, this is not particularly groundbreaking. When Tabitha and Amira get together at the end, it seems as inevitable as Sleeping Beauty being awoken with a kiss or Cinderella finding her Prince. But then, perhaps that is a sign that the revisionism has worked.

(12) BURRITO-ING FOR DOLLARS. Dan Sandler suggested charity might benefit from an audio collaboration between John Scalzi and Wil Wheaton:

(13) REALLY A WONDER. The Hollywood Reporter has been watching the box office: “‘Wonder Woman’ Set to Become Top-Grossing Live-Action Film Directed by a Woman”.

Patty Jenkins’ movie will achieve the milestone shortly after topping the $600 million mark on Wednesday.

Director Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman continues to make history in its box-office run.

Sometime Thursday or Friday, the Warner Bros. and DC superhero tentpole will eclipse the $609.8 million earned worldwide by Phyllida Lloyd’s Mamma Mia! (2008) to become the top-grossing live-action film of all time from a female director, not accounting for inflation.

Wonder Woman also has a strong shot of passing up Kung Fu Panda 2‘s $665.7 million to become the top-grossing film of all time from a female filmmaker with solo directing duties. Jennifer Yuh Nelson helmed the 2011 animated sequel.

Starring Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman passed the $600 million mark at the worldwide box office on Wednesday, finishing the day with a cume of $601.6 million, including $289.2 million domestically and $312.4 million internationally.

(14) CULTURAL CONCUSSION. As ScreenRant sees it — “Wonder Woman: 15 Movie Moments That CRUSH Sexism”.

There’s no denying it: the arrival of Wonder Woman has dealt a massive blow to Hollywood sexism, after years of male superheroes dominating the spotlight in any and all blockbuster franchises. Judging by Wonder Woman‘s opening weekend sales, the idea that ‘women don’t sell’ in superhero shared universes may be permanently vanquished (for DC’s universe, at least). But given how well Diana takes on sexism in the movie itself, it only seems fair that the real-world result should be as big a victory for the feminist ideals of equality, punching the patriarchy squarely in the nose (in front of and behind the camera).

Their list begins:

15. The Amazons Crush The Bechdel Test

…But when Queen Hippolyta and Antiope discuss the Amazons’ duty, the conversation between Diana’s two mother figures is most certainly about her, and not the absent God of War looming somewhere on the planet. For Hippolyta, her mother, all motivation is based in keeping Diana safe, even selfishly turning her back on the Amazons’ duty for her own blood. For Antiope, she wishes to train Diana not because it is required to kill Ares, but because it is Diana’s destiny, and in service to the realization of her potential.

And the first time viewers realize they’re watching two accomplished actresses over the age of 50 discussing their daughter’s future in a superhero blockbuster… well, it becomes clear how rare such a scene really is.

(15) MORE WW BACKGROUND. Well before the movie came Tom Hanley’s Wonder Woman Unbound:  The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine (2014).

This close look at Wonder Woman’s history portrays a complicated heroine who is more than just a female Superman with a golden lasso and bullet-deflecting bracelets. The original Wonder Woman was ahead of her time, advocating female superiority and the benefits of matriarchy in the 1940s. At the same time, her creator filled the comics with titillating bondage imagery, and Wonder Woman was tied up as often as she saved the world. In the 1950s, Wonder Woman begrudgingly continued her superheroic mission, wishing she could settle down with her boyfriend instead, all while continually hinting at hidden lesbian leanings. While other female characters stepped forward as women’s lib took off in the late 1960s, Wonder Woman fell backwards, losing her superpowers and flitting from man to man. Ms. magazine and Lynda Carter restored Wonder Woman’s feminist strength in the 1970s, turning her into a powerful symbol as her checkered past was quickly forgotten. Exploring this lost history adds new dimensions to the world’s most beloved female character, and Wonder Woman Unbound delves into her comic book and its spin-offs as well as the myriad motivations of her creators to showcase the peculiar journey that led to Wonder Woman’s iconic status.

(16) HORROR’S KING. The Guardian asks and answers: “Misery loves company: why Stephen King remains Hollywood’s favorite author”

As a source of adaptation fodder, King is a studio executive’s godsend, because his work is trend-proof. Scan the long, long list of King adaptations and the standout quality will be the steadfastness of it all; ebb and flow as the cultural tides may, King’s work has never lost its luster or lucre. And its eclecticism is the key to King’s perennial popularity; his style never falls out of fashion because King has never defined it to mean one thing in particular.

(17) LITRPG. The English version of Survival Quest, the first in Russian LitRPG Vasily Mahanenko’s The Way of the Shaman, was met with 236 mostly 4 and 5 star Amazon reviews, says Carl Slaughter.  The latest in the series, The Karmadont Chess Set, came out in April 2017.

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Todd, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day clack.]

Pixel Scroll 6/18/17 ‘Twas Pixel And The Filey Scrolls Did Fifth And Godstalk ‘Neath The Wabes

(1) FILIAL PROS. “For Father’s Day, 9 famous writer dads and their awesome authorial offspring” – the LA Times feature includes a segment on Stephen King, and sons Joe Hill and Owen King.

Bookwürms.

A post shared by Joe Hill (@joe_hill) on

(2) BAD MARVEL DADS. Hidden Remote considers “Who is the worst dad in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?”

Before we break down who the worst dad is, let’s give an honorable mention and round of applause to the very few awesome fathers and father-figures in the MCU!

  • Uncle Ben — He didn’t only step up and raise Peter to be good and kind, but he also taught us all that “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

And the winner (loser?) as worst dad? It’s a tie!

Guys, this one is a toss up. Ego and Thanos are both so terrible, we’re not sure which is the most wicked. But, personally, I believe Ego is the worst of the worst.

(3) WISCON REPORT. Claire Light at Literary Hub tells what it was like “At the World’s Preeminent Feminist Speculative Fiction Convention”.  

The way this 5-day, 1000-attendee, multigenerational festival plays out is not quite what you might expect from a bunch of futurist nerds. Public bathrooms (separated genders—to be determined by the user—and all-gender bathrooms alike) have bottles of Dr. Bronner’s at each sink, for the chemically sensitive. The convention reserves a quiet place for those with a tendency to become overwhelmed by sensory input, as well as “safer spaces” dedicated to trans/genderqueer people, people of color, and people with disabilities. WisCon’s accessibility policies are a model of thoughtfulness.

…Other events founded at WisCon and becoming convention staples include the Floomp, an annual queer dance party, which started out seven years ago as “The Gender Floomp” to bring a new generation of queer and genderqueer issues to the forefront in a fun and celebratory way. As WisCon has come to increasingly demarginalize queerness, the Floomp has been folded into the traditional social programming of the convention and is now its primary and most popular party.

There’s also the POC dinner, once a table for 11 at a restaurant, and now an annual organizational headache for short story writer and Angry Black Woman blogger Tempest K. Bradford, who has to find a room to fit nearly 10% of the convention’s attendees every year. And last year, a group of Asian attendees got shabu shabu together; as they’ve already repeated the dinner once, it’s already well on its way to becoming a new tradition.

(4) CARRYING A TUNE. Charlie Jane Anders speaks from firsthand experience about “The Wild Magic of Karaoke” at Tor.com.

And yes, if you can’t sing at all, that just means more wild spoken-word stylings. Take a page from the master of songcraft, William Shatner, whose singing ability remains somewhat theoretical but who has recorded the definitive renditions of countless songs at this point.

The point is, karaoke is magic. It’s taking songs that we all know, and turning them into something ephemeral and wonderful and frequently a bit bizarre. Karaoke is a chance for everybody to expose his or her own inner avant-garde pop diva, and let the musical insanity burst out for everyone to see.

When I was teaching Clarion West back in 2014, I had some amazing times with my students, and I like to think we bonded a lot in general—but I really didn’t get to know them, and discover the full range of their personalities, until we went to this weird nautical-themed karaoke bar where half the decorations were mermaids and the other half were signs explaining that the bartender didn’t need to put up with your s—-t. Some of science fiction’s most promising new writers busted out with renditions of Lady Gaga, Madonna, and The Cars that stay with me to this day.

(5) WHAT ATWOOD THINKS. While authors always have opinions about adaptations of their work, they’re not always willing to talk about them publicly – here’s a rare instance: “‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: Margaret Atwood on the 5 Biggest Differences Between the Book and the TV Series”.

Her Name Is June

In the novel, the heroine is given the name “Offred” by her captors at the Red Center, where fertile women are retrained to be Handmaids: breeders who are assigned to the ruling families in the hopes of bringing new babies into this fertility-challenged world. That name translates as “Of Fred,” the identity of the man whose home she lives in, and who rapes her on appointed nights every month. We are pointedly never told Offred’s pre-Gilead name. For the show, Miller made the conscious choice to give Offred a distinct identity for the flashbacks to the era before America fell and picked the name June, confirming a long-held fan theory.

Atwood says: “The readers have already decided that’s her name, and who am I to disagree with them? It wasn’t in my mind, but there wasn’t any other name in my mind either. It fits because in the first chapter, the women exchange names and all those names show up again later on except June. So by default that would have to be her name! That’s a pretty good deduction and I’ll go with that. This is June, and she really does have an identity; it’s forbidden, but it’s there. I’ve told fans before, if it works for you, go for it.”

(6) IX GALLERY. “IX Gallery Opens Its Virtual Doors”. Gallery’s inaugural online art show just went live on Thursday. This first show is exhibiting about 120 pieces of art from some of the most recognizable SF&F artists working today. It appears that they have already sold 3 pieces of artwork since Thursday afternoon.

The IX Gallery Inaugural Show runs June 15-August 14.

IX Gallery, a division of IX Arts, is the first online-only gallery dedicated exclusively to contemporary imaginative realism. As a natural extension of IX’s reach and solidly established inspiration value, this year-round effort is designed to provide gallery curation and structure in an online-only environment that allows for the widest possible access while reducing the burden on artists for participating.

It is structured like a normal gallery – rotating shows that are a combination of group and solo efforts, rather than a constant online inventory or catalog, and we do not “rep” any of the artists in the show. Everything is handled on a show-by-show basis to allow the artists maximum flexibility in their participation.”

Click for a list of coming Exhibitions. These artists are listed as part of the inaugural show.

Linda Adair, Samuel Araya, Julie Bell, Shaun Berke, Brom, Armand Cabrera, Jeremy Caniglia, Dan Chudzinski, Kinuko Y. Craft, Felipe Echevarria, Bob Eggleton, Craig Elliott, Jody Fallon, Scott Fischer, Teresa N. Fischer, Marc Fishman, Annie Stegg Gerard, Justin Gerard, Donato Giancola, Lars Grant-West, Rebecca Guay, John Harris, Michael C. Hayes, James Herrmann, Richard Hescox, Stephen Hickman, Greg & Tim Hildebrandt, Greg Hildebrandt, Luke Hillestad, Patrick Jones, Rich Klink, J. Anthony Kosar, Jota Leal, Vanessa Lemen, Don Maitz, Gina Matarazzo, Matt Mrowka, Aaron Nagel, Tran Nguyen, Ryan Pancoast, Lucio Parrillo, Colin & Kristine Poole, Colin Poole, Mark Poole, Rob Rey, Tooba Rezaei, Forest Rogers, Laurence Schwinger, Dave Seeley, Hajime Sorayama, Matthew Stewart, Bryan Mark Taylor, Vince Villafranca, Chet Zar, and Dariusz Zawadzki.

(7) ON EXHIBIT IN LONDON. “‘Anime Architecture’: windows on dystopia” is En Liang Khong’s review in Financial Times of Anime Architecture: Backgrounds of Japan , an exhibit at the House of Illustration in London that has lots of illustrations for cyberpunk anime movies, including Ghost in the Shell, Patlabor: The Movie, and other examples of “real-kei”, “where futurity is set in counterpoint with realism.”

Anime Architecture at London’s House of Illustration traces the production design behind these cyberpunk anime — “noir” films reimagined for the future — in which specialist artists pioneered a visual language that drew on the booming Asian megacities of the early 1990s in order to broadcast a vision of future dystopias.

But the future is fleeting, constantly outdated by our own shifting socio-political fears and dreams. Wandering through the rooms of Anime Architecture is a reminder of how quickly visions of the future can become old, spooky and elegiac. And there is poignancy to these images: the artists represented here come from the last generation of Japanese animators who still believed in drawing by hand.

(8) COHEN OBIT. Morton Norton Cohen (1921-2017), an American author and scholar, hdied June 12. He was a Professor Emeritus of the City University of New York. He is best known for extensive studies of children’s author Lewis Carroll including the 1995 biography Lewis Carroll: A Biography.

(9) MEADOWS OBIT. Author Patrick Meadows (1934-2017) died April 22. A graduate of Florida State University with a Degree in English, he had lived in Majorca since 1969. His first published story, “Countercommandment” appeared in Analog in 1965. His other four published stories appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction later in the Sixties, and three of them have been digitized and made available on his website. [Via Gordon Van Gelder.]

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 18, 1983 — Sally Ride became the first American woman in space.

(11) SHY. Wil Wheaton – a star on the outside, is still a shy guy on the inside.

(12) HOL-RY COW! Screenwriter James Gunn told his Facebook followers that “‘Scooby-Doo’ wasn’t supposed to be a kids’ movie”.

Gunn added the film would have looked completely different if he had it his way.

“And yes, the rumors are true — the first cut was rated R by the MPAA, and the female stars’ cleavage was CGI’d away so as not to offend,” he wrote. “But, you know, such is life. I had a lot of fun making this movie, regardless of all that. And I was able to eat, buy a car, and a house because of it.”

(13) READY, AIM. The Traveler from Galactic Journey tweets an ad from 1962.

(14) VISITING THEIR FUTURE. By the way, here is a photo of Professor Elliott and The Traveler from their visit to Wondercon.

(15) BEAUTIFUL MACHINES. “If memory serves me correctly (and it alas doesn’t always),” says Cat Eldridge, “Gibson typed Neuromancer on a typewriter.” Snopes suggests the old technology still has appeal — “Call it a Comeback: Old-School Typewriters Attract New Fans”.

Typewriter enthusiasts gather at an Albuquerque restaurant to experiment with vintage Smith Coronas. Fans in Boston kneel in a city square and type stories about their lives during a pro-immigration demonstration. A documentary on typewriters featuring Tom Hanks and musician John Mayer is set for release this summer.

In the age of smartphones, social media and cyber hacking fears, vintage typewriters that once gathered dust in attics and basements are attracting a new generation of fans across the U.S.

From public “type-ins” at bars to street poets selling personalized, typewritten poems on the spot, typewriters have emerged as popular items with aficionados hunting for them in thrift stores, online auction sites and antique shops. Some buy antique Underwoods to add to a growing collection. Others search for a midcentury Royal Quiet De Luxe — like a model author Ernest Hemingway used — to work on that simmering novel.

(16) ATARI RISES AGAIN. But Rhett Jones at Gizmodo says “Atari’s New Console Sounds Like a Bad Idea”.

“We’re back in the hardware business,” Atari’s CEO Fred Chesnais told VentureBeat in an interview at E3 2017. Beyond that, Chesnais offered no other information aside from saying it will be based on “PC technology” and that it will be revealed at a later date. The teaser video claims that the “Ataribox” is a “brand new Atari product years in the making.”

This is the online ad that triggered Jones’ article.

The ad reminds John King Tarpinian “In the first Bladrunner movie there was an ATARI Fuji logo-shaped building in the city.”

(17) A TOUCH OF HARRY IN THE NIGHT. For those of you near Pasadena, here’s something for you to do September 9 — “Eat See Hear Outdoor Movie: Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone”. Food trucks. Dogs welcome.

“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”

This is the tale of Harry Potter, an ordinary 11-year-old boy who learns that he is actually a wizard and has been invited to attend the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry is snatched away from his mundane existence by Hagrid, the grounds keeper for Hogwarts, and quickly thrown into a world completely foreign to both him and the viewer. Famous for an incident that happened at his birth, Harry makes friends easily at his new school. He soon finds, however, that the wizarding world is far more dangerous for him than he would have imagined.

(18) BESTSELLING TOY PREDICTED. The generations have run from Chatty Cathy to Prattling Peter: “Sphero’s Adorable Spider-Man Toy Will Make You Forget BB-8”.

Rumored in late March, the app-enabled superhero was officially unveiled this morning with a video that reveals what’s essentially a chatty Amazon Echo (“Alexa!”) with Peter Parker’s attitude and sense of humor.

Featuring emotive LCD eyes, not unlike the mask in Spider-Man: Homecoming, this adorable little wall-crawler (it’s about 9 inches tall) has its own Spider-Sense, enabling it to detect and react to movement. He can tell jokes, relate stories, wake you up and even patrol for “intruders.” More intriguing, perhaps, is that Spider-Man can talk kids through more than 100 storylines, and allow them to make their own plot-altering decisions in a Choose Your Own Adventure fashion. Don’t worry about running out of stories, though, as Sphero plans to add more through the device’s web connection.

(19) MINDGAMERS TRAILER. Here’s your grim future. Or is it present?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Sean R. Kirk, Andrew Porter, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jabberin’ Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 5/19/17 And He Beheld White Scrolls And Beyond Them A Far Green Pixel Under A Swift Sunrise

(1) BUSINESS MEETING. Worldcon 75 has posted the Business Meeting Agenda [PDF file] on the WSFS Business Meeting page. It’s 18 pages — and it may not be done growing yet.

(2) DELANY. The New Republic devotes an article to “Samuel R. Delany’s Life of Contradictions”.

The first volume, In Search of Silence, begins in 1957, when the author was just fifteen, a student at the academically exclusive (and very white) Bronx High School of Science. It ends in 1969, when he was already a successful novelist, about to leave for San Francisco to spend arduous years crafting the novel Dhalgren, his masterpiece. Traversing Delany’s youth, we see a precocious mind grappling with his own talent. Remarkably absent are extended reflections on the difficult circumstances of his outer life: At the time, Delany was navigating through the racism and homophobia of his era, and struggling with poverty, an early marriage, and his own disability. In light of this, the diaries’ portrayal of his serenely intellectual inner life is startling.

(3) COMING TO GRIPS. “On convention hugging” by Sigrid Ellis is a rational model for solving a social dilemma.

It’s SF/F convention season again, and once more we are all presented with the conundrum —

Do I hug this person hello and goodbye, or not?

Social hugging! It’s a thing! Yet, it is MOST DEFINITELY NOT A THING for a lot of people.

Here is how I, personally, navigate these situations. While this may not work perfectly for you, feel free to modify it for your own use….

(3) EMERGING INDIGENOUS VOICES. Silvia Moreno-Garcia says:

We are in touch with the Indigenous Studies Association (ILSA) and it seems this [award] will become a reality. Therefore you can find an IndieGoGo to funnel money via: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/emerging-indigenous-voices#/. My name doesn’t appear on that page, it says Robin Parker, but I am in touch with Robin so don’t worry.

Through today, $70,485 has been pledged. Moreno-Garcia’s latest update has further information:

The Indigenous organization in question will reveal details about how the money will be handled once some logistics are determined, but they are a trustworthy group so don’t be afraid, the money will reach a good place.

There are many other place you could support: Indian and Cowboy, Red Rising Magazine. There’s the Centre for Indigenous Theatre, Native Earth Performing Arts, and last but not least Full Circle, which supports the development of Indigenous playwrights.

There are other ways to support Indigenous creators. Read, share and discuss their books. This should not be a one-time occurrence, guilt should not be the vector that guides your actions, virtue-signaling should not be your driver.

(4) APPERTAINMENT AT THE NEBULA CONFERENCE. They couldn’t slip a blatant typo like this past the pros:

(5) KAREN DAVIDSON OBIT. Karen Lynn Davidson, wife of Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson, passed away today after a long battle with cancer. Steve said on Facebook, “Goodbye baby doll. I hope you got where you wanted to go.”

He also wanted everyone to know how much credit Karen deserved for the existence of Amazing Stories.

It is very important for me to be sure that everyone knows the following:

Behind the scenes, Karen made Amazing Stories happen.

Before we were married, Karen became well acquainted with my love for science fiction. She was not as interested (preferring Stephen King), but she happily indulged my passion…including all of my books.

When I discovered that the Amazing Stories trademarks had lapsed, Karen was the one who double checked me and confirmed that unbelievable fact.

When it came time to register new trademarks for the name, Karen was the one who agreed to spend some of our (very limited) cash reserves to fund the project.

When our investors dried up, Karen agreed to go back to work and allow me to try to bootstrap the magazine.

Whenever I was unsure what direction to take, Karen always provided valuable insight.

Whatever you may think of Amazing Stories, please know that without Karen, none of it would have happened.

This makes me wonder how many other non-fan supporters are owed a big debt by fandom and the genre for that support.

I’m taking the time now to thank Karen for this very special thing she did for me. If you know someone like her, it might be a good idea for you to do the same.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 19, 1928 — First Jumping Frog Jubilee in Calaveras County, California.
  • May 19, 2011 — HP Lovecraft’s The Whisperer in Darkness opens in Los Angeles.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

(8) NATAL YEAR FLIX. Thrillist invites you to check out “The Biggest Movie From the Year You Were Born”. It’s no surprise that I was considered old enough to see the “biggest” picture long before the “Best Picture” winner.

If you were born in 1953…

The BIGGEST movie was The Robe , which grossed $17.5 million in the United States.

The Best Picture winner was From Here to Eternity, which also won Oscars for Best Director (Fred Zinnemann), Best Supporting Actress (Donna Reed), Best Writing, Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra), Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Film Editing, Best Sound

But the best movie was Tokyo Story. A delicate, heart-crushing view into the lives of two grandparents reaching out to their narcissistic children for support and finding none — marked by director Ozu Yasujiro’s pristine attention to detail and framing.

(9) A HUNK OF BURNING LOVE. Add this to the list of things I’ve never heard about before: “China claims breakthrough in mining ‘flammable ice'”.

The catchy phrase describes a frozen mixture of water and gas.

“It looks like ice crystals but if you zoom in to a molecular level, you see that the methane molecules are caged in by the water molecules,” Associate Professor Praveen Linga from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the National University of Singapore told the BBC.

Officially known as methane clathrates or hydrates, they are formed at very low temperatures and under high pressure. They can be found in sediments under the ocean floor as well as underneath permafrost on land.

Despite the low temperature, these hydrates are flammable. If you hold a lighter to them, the gas encapsulated in the ice will catch fire. Hence, they are also known as “fire ice” or “flammable ice”.

Chip Hitchcock suggests, “Filers may remember a sudden release of hydrated methane starting off a John Barnes(?) novel.”

(10) ICE HOUSE. Meanwhile, in the land of the midnight blog, Jon Del Arroz trolls the Worldcon.

(11) MEMORY VERSE. Carl Slaughter thought I should know this:

“I do not aim with my hand,
I aim with my eyes.

 

I do not shoot with my hand,
I shoot with my mind.

 

I do not kill with my gun,
I kill with my heart.” – The Gunslinger

 

The Dark Tower
Stephen King

(12) TRAGIC TROPE. Steven Harper Piziks tells “Why I Won’t See Alien: Covenant” — and he hopes everyone else will give it a miss, too. BEWARE SPOILERS.

I will not see this movie. I will not rent the DVD. I will not support this movie. And here’s why.

SPOILERS (you are warned)

According to various on-line sources, the sins of the same-sex relationship portrayal are the standard ones we’ve come to expect. First, although there were several initial shots to the contrary, there is little or no indication of a marriage–or any kind of relationship–between the two men throughout the film. They don’t touch. They don’t exchange endearments. There was apparently a brief moment of hugging between them in a preview, but that scene has been cut from the film, and that preview has been removed from the Internet. In other words, gay people are still invisible. No LGBT characters are actually in the spotlight. No LGBT protagonists. Just a couple of background guys who may or may not be in a relationship.

But the worst sin comes early in the second act. Hallett, one of the (so far probably) gay men, becomes infected with the alien infection, and a baby alien bursts out of his face. (Not his chest, like in the other movies, but out of his freakin’ face. He’s probably gay, so we have to up the nastiness.) While the ship’s captain leans in to murmur quiet apologies, Lope, the other probably gay guy, whispers, “I love you” and then is forced to walk away.

One more time, we have the gay tragedy….

(13) CRACKED CORNERSTONE. Critics gave the movie that launched the franchise a cool reception (for different reasons) — “‘Alien’: Why Critics in 1979 Hated It”. (I liked it a lot, myself.)

“Don’t race to [Alien] expecting the wit of Star Wars or the metaphysical pretentions of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” wrote Vincent Canby of The New York Times. A better comparison, he wrote, would be Howard Hawks‘ 1951 monster movie The Thing from Another World, all suspense and jump scares. Canby wasn’t the only critic to associate Alien with the kinds of horror flicks that played at 1950s drive-ins. Variety compared the film to It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958), and The Guardian’s Derek Malcolm to The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). To these critics, Scott’s film was a throwback to a less sophisticated era of filmmaking. That’s why The Chicago Sun-Times’ Roger Ebert dismissed Alien as “basically just an intergalactic haunted-house thriller,” while Chicago Reader‘s Dave Kehr described the film’s conceit as “a rubber monster running amok in a spaceship.”

(14) PRIZE-WINNING ADS. Adweek reports “Graham, the Human Redesigned to Survive Car Crashes, Wins Best of Show at New York Festivals”. “Field Trip to Mars” and “Gravity Cat” also received awards.

Clemenger BBDO Melbourne has won Best of Show at New York Festivals for “Meet Graham,” the PSA campaign for Australia’s Transport Accident Commission (TAC) that involved the model creation of a human designed to withstand car-crash forces.

Automobiles have evolved much faster than humans. Graham was created by artist Patricia Piccinini, with help from a trauma surgeon and an accident research engineer, after she was commissioned to study the effects of road trauma on the human body. As the only “human” developed to withstand trauma on our roads, Graham is meant to make people stop and think about their own vulnerability, Clemenger says.

Two other campaigns received two Grand Prize Awards each: Lockheed Martin’s “The Field Trip to Mars” by McCann New York, in Activation & Engagement and Outdoor/Out of Home Marketing; and Sony Interactive Entertainment/Gravity Daze 2’s “Gravity Cat” by Hakuhodo Tokyo, in Branded Entertainment and Film–Cinema/Online/TV.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Mark-kitteh, Cat Eldridge. Steve Davidson, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. A little bit short today because I’m fighting a terrible cold. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 4/16/17 Illudium Q-36 Explosive File Moderator

(1) SOUL SURVIVOR. Peter Jones testifies: “Westboro Wannabees Picket Norwescon”

So, I’m in my hotel room at Norwescon. I don’t have a dealer table, and my panel appearances are kinda limited, so I’m making the best of it by getting a much done on Black Powder Goddess as I can. I’m deep into revisionland when all of a sudden a load, distorted voice from a megaphone starts shouting at me to repent my sins.

Now, understand something; I am on the tenth floor of the hotel. So this megaphone is putting out some serious decibels, if not clarity. I step out onto my balcony, and see that there are people with massive signs bouncing them up and down in front of the con hotel as megaphone-preacher predicts a future of eternal fire for me.

I admit, my first thoughts were of irritation. After all, I’m just trying to get some work done, here. Now I’ve got to listen to this moron shouting at me while I try to fix this little bit of dialogue, or that paragraph structure.

But other people begin to emerge onto their own balconies as well, and now we’re looking at each other. Occasionally, someone shouts something rude back at the preacher. One dude starts up a chant of “Live in sin” over and over again. There are catcalls, people fly the horns, etc. But even that starts to die down in the face of what appears to be a never-ending barrage of scripture.

And I’m thinking to myself; what the hell good can they possibly imagine this is doing?

I mean, is anyone going to say “Whelp, I was going to hit up a room party, drink like Bacchus, and compare various forms of magic and demons to one another, but now that someone I don’t know has yelled Bible verses at me through a megaphone I think I’m going to church instead?” No. That is a phrase said by nobody, ever.

Video of the protestors here.

(2) TRICORDER DESIGN WINS X-PRIZE. The Harris brothers — mentioned here a couple of weeks ago — beat nine other finalists, including some heavily-funded competition. IFL Science has the story — “Star Trek’s Tricorder Now Officially Exists Thanks To A Global Competition”.

Star Trek’s all-purpose medical device, the Tricorder, has also inspired a fair few people to recreate its near-magical ability to instantly diagnose a patient. As it happens, the non-profit X-Prize Foundation were so keen to get one invented that they started a global competition to see if any mavericks would succeed.

Rather remarkably, one team has emerged victorious in their endeavor. A family-led team from Pennsylvania, appropriately named Final Frontier Medical Devices, have bagged themselves a sum of $2.5 million, with a second-place prize of $1 million going to the Taiwan-based Dynamical Biomarkers Group.

The objective of the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition was to create a lightweight, non-invasive, handheld device that can identify 13 health conditions (12 diseases, and the very absence of disease) in 90 minutes to 24 hours with no additional help or counsel from medical professionals. Five vital health metrics, like heartbeat and respiratory function, were also required to be constantly monitored.

Beginning in 2012, 10 teams originally made the cut from an original starting point of 312 groups from 38 countries. Two finalists were announced last December, and six total were honored at the prize-giving ceremony in Los Angeles.

The team behind the winning design was headed by brothers Dr Basil Harris, an emergency physician, and George Harris, a network engineer. They came up with “DxtER,” a device infused with artificial intelligence, entire funded by themselves and two other siblings of theirs.

Concluding that one device alone was not sufficient to accurately and quickly diagnose various medical conditions in a patient, the team realized that they needed to link it up to a wealth of medical data….

(3) MORE POTTERCABULARY ON COURSE FOR THE DICTIONARY. Priya Joshi, in an International Business Times piece called “’Quidditch’ and ‘Potterhead’ could make their way into the Oxford English Dictionary”, says that the OED is considering these terms as well as “wrock,” which is short for “wizard rock.”  However, “muggle” was added to the OED years ago.

“Potterhead”, which is a term used to describe a Harry Potter super-fan, is in the running, as is “Wrock” [short for Wizard Rock] a genre of music favoured by the pupils of Hogwarts. “Bellatrix” the name of one of Rowling’s characters, may also make it into the OED.

While it is rare for made-up words to find their way into the Oxford dictionary, they have to be in circulation for 10 years to be considered for this authoritative record of the English language.

(4) TODAY’S 3000. In the opinion of The Verge’s Megan Farokhmanesh, “Mystery Science Theater 3000 perfectly dunks on Stranger Things.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 is back, and the first thing on its hit list is Stranger Things. Netflix has released a short MST3K crossover teaser that features the cast of the revival version of the show taking a break from their movie-centric entertainment to riff on the opening of Netflix’s breakout science-fiction thriller. Although the actual show is focused on questionable movies rather than viral-hit TV, the clip is still a brilliant bit of marketing.

 

(5) CROSSED SIGNALS. But wait, another writer for The Verge, Noel Murray, says the first episode is a sendup of the movie Reptilicus. Which The Verge also likes.

But Netflix’s revival version grasps something that most of the copycats miss: Mystery Science Theater was never just about sneering. The new Jonah Ray version of the series recaptures the original version’s handmade, “Hey kids, let’s put on a show” charm. The sets and effects look fussed-over and intricately detailed, but also inexpensive enough that any diligent, gifted community-theater tech could’ve pulled them off. During the first break in Reptilicus, Ray and the ’bots launch into a Hamilton-esque rap (penned by nerdcore songwriting duo Paul Sabourin and Storm DiCostanzo) about giant monsters around the world. In that song, Ray, Yount, and Vaughn hit every tricky, rapid-fire aural cue, but also knock over props and sing like spirited amateurs. The presentation throughout the first new episode is smart and energetic, but not always slick.

The main thing the Netflix MST3K gets right is the original’s giddy media deconstruction. During Reptilicus, there are jokes about the movie’s slow pace (“Feel free to begin the scene any time, guys”), and about the stock characters and casual sexism (“Brigadier General Military Industrial Complex, this is Miss Doctor Woman”). Ray and the ’bots have some fun with the poor quality of the source material itself (“Either this print is in really bad shape, or it’s raining tar”), and the movie’s distinctly Danish setting (“Protect the parfumerie!”).

(6) THAT OTHER TURING TEST. Emilio Lizardo never met the renowned codebreaker, but somehow Turing got interested in this saurian puzzler — “Color-shifting lizard’s skin morphs just as Alan Turing predicted”.

At least, when you take John von Neumann’s math into account…

There’s a particular type of lizard that changes the color of its spots as it ages — and researchers have just discovered the mathematical rules that govern this peculiar metamorphosis.

Meet the ocellated lizard, a 30-to-35 inch reptile that lives Europe. These lizards are born with unimpressive brown and white polka dots. But as they grow, they develop this beautiful, labyrinthine green and black pattern across their bodies. We don’t know exactly why this happens, but now, we know a little more about how. The lizard scales might be changing according to a particular mathematical model, reports a study published this week in Nature. The weird thing is, this model is somewhat different from the one that scientists have long believed to determine how animals get dots and stripes.

In fact, one overarching theory of how biological patterns form comes from an unlikely place: codebreaker Alan Turing. About 65 years ago, he proposed that stripes, spots, and even appendages like fingers may emerge from a series of chemical interactions between two hypothetical substances: an activator and an inhibitor. As both substances spread across a canvas like an animal’s skin at different paces, they compete with one another to give rise to patterns….

(7) TAYLOR OBIT. Robert Taylor, a pioneer of modern computing and the internet, died April 13 at the age of 85.

In the 1960s, Taylor was a researcher at the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, or ARPA, where his frustration with what he saw as inefficient communication led him to envision an interconnected computer network.

At ARPA, Taylor had three separate computer terminals in his office to communicate with his colleagues across Berkeley, MIT, UCLA and Stanford. Each terminal connected to a different computer in a different part of the country, he told Raz.

“To get in touch with someone in Santa Monica through the computer, I’d sit in front of one terminal, but to do the same thing with someone in Massachusetts, I would have to get up and move over to another terminal,” Taylor said. “You don’t have to look at this very long to realize this is silly. This is stupid. So I decided, OK, I want to build a network that connects all of these.”

That shared network, ARPANET, evolved into what would become the internet. To build it, Taylor assembled a group of smart people, like Bill Duvall at Stanford, Len Kleinrock at UCLA and the 21-year-old programmer Charley Kline.

(8) EFFECTS.Ghost in the Shell Reel” on Vimeo is a demonstration of work by Ash Thorp about work he did for the 2017 movie.

(9) COUNTING EXERCISE. Lettie Prell and a white-hot adding machine tell about “Women Writers Winning Hugo Awards: A History”.

In sum, this analysis documents the large increase in Hugos going to women writers, from zero to a sweep of all four major fiction categories in 2016. I could have selected another award, or gathered other data, and documented the same upward trajectory, because what we’re really documenting here is the achievement of the broader women’s movement, which has been just one of the groups who’ve been working for a more inclusive culture. As for me, I’ve come to expect diverse voices, and I hunger for them as another dimension of the mind-expanding fare I’ve craved since high school.

(10) RATING YOUR UBER DRIVER. Buzzfeed fears that the Uber driver rating system gets people unjustly canned.

In a San Francisco Lyft car, there’s a chart taped to the back of the front passenger seat: “The Rating System Explained.” It details — in exaggerated terms — what Lyft’s one- to five-star rating scale really means to drivers.

Beginning at five stars — “got me where I needed to go” — the explanations quickly descend into parodic paranoia. Four stars: “This driver sucks, fire him slowly … Too many of these and I may end up homeless.” Three stars: “This driver sucks so bad I never want to see him again.” Two stars: “maybe the car had something dangerously wrong with it or he was doing 120 in a 40 mile zone.”

One star? “Threats or acts of violence possibly made, perhaps a callous disregard for his own safety.”

Though tongue-in-cheek, this rating system explainer touches on an essential truth of the gig economy: When companies like Lyft, Uber, and Postmates penalize workers who have low ratings, anything less than five stars feels like a rebuke….

(11) I GET AROUND. No beach for these boys, but plenty of sand — “’Star Wars’ Exclusive Sneak Peek: Hasbro’s Deluxe Luke Skywalker-Landspeeder Set”.

Luke Skywalker is all set to head down to Tosche Station for a rendezvous with Biggs, Windy, Deak, and Fixer in this exclusive first look at the latest addition to Hasbro’s premium Black Series line. The young moisture farmer can cruise the dunes of the twin-sunned planet, from Anchorhead to Mos Eisley, in his X-34 landspeeder.

(12) POSITIVE DEVELOPMENT. Blastr brings the good word — “Story by legendary sci-fi author Robert Silverberg being made into film”.

One of sci-fi’s greatest living legends is finally getting some love from Hollywood.

According to Deadline, John Ridley is set to write and direct a film for Miramax called Needle in a Timestack, based on a short story by Robert Silverberg. The story focuses on a man who sets out to save his marriage after it is destroyed by a rival using time travel to alter the course of history.

The involvement of Ridley, whose credits include writing and directing the Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave, as well as creating the acclaimed TV series American Crime and a new Showtime project called Guerrilla (he’s also still attached to write a mystery Marvel TV project), means it’s more likely to move forward than get stuck in development hell.

(13) SLEEPWALKING TO THE BANK. According to Looper’s Time Karan, “Upcoming Stephen King novel Sleeping Beauties already being developed for TV”.

It’s a scary great time to be Stephen King.

According to Empire, his upcoming novel Sleeping Beauties–which he wrote with his son Owen King–is already being developed into a TV series. The book is slated to arrive in September from Scribner. The TV series will be produced by The OA’s Michael Sugar and Ashley Zalta.

The novel is reportedly set in the relatively near future at a women’s prison in an Appalachian town. Here’s the official synopsis: “Something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep, they go to another place. The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied? Or is she a demon who must be slain?”

(14) HUGH JACKMAN SINGS THE MUSIC MAN. David K.M. Klaus supplies the introduction to this 2012 Tonight Show clip:

He still had it memorized from when he was 14, doing eight voices in rapid succession, the opening scene on a train.  It’s a hoot! It shows that you can’t just walk in from somewhere and do superhero films — this is part of why he could master a role like Wolverine, through training as an actor and dancer. The opposite illustration of this would be Shaquille O’Neil playing Steel, from the Superman comics, and being an awkward disaster.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 4/1/17 The Ones That Mike Rates As A 5 Get Used Twice

(1) APRIL FOOL. First in our cavalcade of April Fools stunts is George R.R. Martin’s announcement “WILD CARDS Comes to Broadway!!”

Perhaps most critically, Lin-Manuel and I are still looking for our Jetboy… or should be it be Jetgirl? No, we haven’t made that change yet, but it is under serious consideration… along with the notion of replacing the JB-1 with a jetpack… but why don’t we let you folks decide? Let us know: which Jet-person would you prefer to see on stage?

(2) APRIL NON-FOOL. Did Mary Robinette Kowal plan to confess she is Chuck Tingle today? She says she ran out of time to execute her planned joke, despite having cleared it with Tingle —

I even wrote to him to ask if it were okay for me to pretend to be him. (Because otherwise, I would be taking credit for someone else’s work, which is something only devilmen would do.) He said, “hello TRUE BUCKAROO name of mary, you make books real you make books kiss the sky! this is a good way for all who like to read and i am happy that you write with love. this funny prank (HAHAHAHAHA) is a WAY of love and that is okay”

So there you go. Groundwork laid. Time non-existent. I guess you could say that my plans were pounded in the butt by my own scheduling conflicts.

(3) APRIL PRIMARY FOOL. The Daily Buzz ran a story today about George Takei’s plan to establish residency and run against a pro-Trump congressman.

(4) WHATEVER THE OPPOSITE OF COMIC RELIEF IS. Lou Antonelli is yukking it up today, too, in “Strange Bedfellows”.

I am proud to announce that, as a result of a long period of reconciliation as well as a practical need on the part of a distinguished author, I am collaborating with David Gerrold on a Star Trek tie-in original novel, “The Tribbles of Texas”…

(5) A VOX ON ALL YOUR HOUSES. Meantime, the editor of Cirsova marked the day by declaring “I Disavow Everyone”.

Alt-Furry, the Pulp Revolution, Vox Day, the Sad Puppies, the Rabid Puppies, our readers and subscribers, all them. I disavow everyone.

2018 will feature both a special Elves issue and an Engineers Troubleshooting Spaceship Circuitry issue, so get writing!

Details forthcoming in a File770 exclusive.

(6) ROBOSCREED. Harking back to Camestros Felapton’s cover generator (linked by Whatever as its April Fools celebration), and someone’s suggestion there needs to be a complementary text generator, Steve Wright said in comments he suddenly remembered one already exists

Actually, now I think on, there’s always this thing of Langford’s which actually will write something approximating SF (or whatever else you plug into it)…

Amazingly, A.I.Q. can still be persuaded to work on my Win10 laptop, albeit with many, many security popups.

A sample of its output is included in his comment. He closed by saying —

Camestros? Have Timothy’s people call Langford’s people. I’m thinking at least six Dragon Awards for this one….

(7) THE PROCRAPSING EMPIRE. Meanwhile, E. Reagan Wright, another Scalzi detractor, has been trying to jump onto the gravy train with his 6,400-word lump The Prolapsing Empire: An On-Schedule Story. It’s on Amazon, but oops, I forgot to include a link.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born April 1, 1883 – Lon Chaney, Sr., “Man of a Thousand Faces”
  • Born April 1, 1978 — Fred & George Weasley, characters in the Harry Potter series.

(9) SHOULD BE AN APRIL FOOL BUT ISN’T. A publisher with far more inflated ideas about the value of its editions is Routledge, which is offering J.R.R. Tolkien edited by Stuart Lee for $1,485, which works out to be about a buck a page.

J.R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973) is widely regarded as one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. His popularity began with the publication in 1937 of The Hobbit, and was cemented by the appearance of The Lord of the Rings in the early 1950s. However, engagement with his work was until relatively recently sidelined by literary and other scholars. Consequently, many foundational analyses of his fiction, and his work as a medievalist, are dispersed in hard-to-find monographs and obscure journals (often produced by dedicated amateurs). In contrast, over the last decade or so, academic interest in Tolkien has risen dramatically. Indeed, interpretative and critical commentary is now being generated on a bewildering scale, in part aided by the continuing posthumous publication of his work (most recently, his Beowulf translation which appeared in 2014). The dizzying quantity—and variable quality—of this later criticism makes it difficult to discriminate the useful from the tendentious, superficial, and otiose.

(10) FOOD FOR THOUGHT. John King Tarpinian asks, “Can you even imagine how long the CarFax report is on the Batmobile?”

(11) COSMOLOGY AND THEOLOGY. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination in Episode 5 of its Into the Impossible podcast looks at “The Limits of Understanding.”

On this episode, we’re touching up against the outer limits of cosmology, and through that bringing up questions of limits on the imagination, the role of theology, and the end (and ends) of the universe. First, we’ll hear Paul Steinhardt on developing the inflationary model of the universe—and then casting that model aside in favor of the radically different cyclic model that replaces the Big Bang with a neverending series of Big Bounces. Then David Brin, science fiction author and futurist, shares his perspective on understanding religion, enabling discussion, and how nice it would be if we were all reborn in computronium as the universe collapses in on itself.

(12) A NEW COMPANION. Now the Good Doctor has a companion, Who, you ask? Aaron Pound tells all about it in his review of An Asimov Companion: Characters, Places, and Terms in the Robot/Empire/Foundation Metaseries by Donald E. Palumbo at Dreaming of Other Worlds.

Full review: An Asimov Companion: Characters, Places, and Terms in the Robot/Empire/Foundation Metaseries is, for the most part, a reference work. The bulk of its length is taken up with what amounts to an encyclopedia covering essentially every notable character, location, object, and event found in Isaac Asimov’s extended metaseries (and pretty much every non-notable character, location,, object, and event as well). Every entry gives a brief description of the subject, offering at least a sentence or two outlining who or what the entry is, and an explanation of how the subject fits into the larger body of Asimov’s work. These entries are informative, but like Asimov’s actual writing, have a tendency to be a little dry.

(13) BRING IN THE PANEL. Stephen King treated Guardian readers to a an interview of six fictional Trump voters to help understand how he became President: “Stephen King on Donald Trump: ‘How do such men rise? First as a joke’”.

…Trump’s negatives didn’t drag him down; on the contrary, they helped get him elected.

I decided to convene six Trump voters to discover how and why all this happened. Because I selected them from the scores of make-believe people always bouncing around in my head (sometimes their chatter is enough to drive me bugshit), I felt perfectly OK feeding them powerful truth serum before officially convening the round table. And because they are fictional – my creatures – they all agreed to this. They gulped the serum down in Snapple iced tea, and half an hour later we began.

(14) BATGIRL ORIGINS. Graeme McMillan, in a Hollywood Reporter article called “Where Should Joss Whedon’s ‘Batgirl’ Find Inspiration?”, looks at all the version of Batgirl that DC has used, beginning with the original appearance of Barbara Gordon in Detective Comics 359 (which the comics did after the TV show announced plans to add Batgirl) to her role as a hacker in the 1980s to today’s version as “Batgirl From Burnside,” as a graduate student living in Gotham City;s hipster suburb.

Barbara Gordon took on the role in 1967’s Detective Comics No. 359, in a story called “The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl!” The cover for the issue made a big deal of her debut; she ran toward the reader in the center of the page while excited cover lines read “Meet the new Batgirl! Is she heroine or villainess? What is her startling secret identity?” The reason for this push wasn’t just an attempt to introduce a comic book character — plans were already afoot to introduce this second Batgirl into the popular Adam West TV show in its third season. She was played by Yvonne Craig.

The new Batgirl was a hit, graduating into her own stories in the back of Detective Comics as well as appearances across the DC line, including Superman, Justice League of America and World’s Finest Comics. She’d form temporary teams with both Robin — “the Dynamite Duo!” — and Supergirl and enjoy a loyal fan following throughout her crime-fighting career until it was cut short in the mid-80s by the combination of the Joker and writer Alan Moore.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, rcade, Johan P., Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peter J.]