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.]

Pixel Scroll 3/30/17 Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Scroll

(1) WAX TREK. The Orange County Register’s Keith Sharon should get a Pulitzer Prize for the first line of his article “$80,000 later, why this trio gave up their ‘Star Trek’ wax figures, Enterprise replica”:

Mr. Spock’s head cooled in a wooden crate for 10 years before someone noticed something was wrong.

Equally good is the rest of the article — about the fate of the wax Star Trek crew since the defunct Movieland Wax Museum sold its exhibits in 2006.

Steve and Lori had 24 hours to decide whether they wanted to pay about $40,000 for Kirk, Spock, Sulu, Uhura, Dr. McCoy, Chekov and Scott. Or they could buy just one, or just a few.

They went to Don Jose’s restaurant and had margaritas over dinner. They knew other people wanted to buy the individuals in the crew. One guy wanted to put Spock in a bar. Another guy wanted to put Captain Kirk in his house. So they decided to buy them all, to keep the crew together. They made it their mission to save the crew of the Enterprise.

“Let’s protect them,” Steve told Lori.

“We took them home and put them in our dining room,” Lori said.

That’s when it got weird. Steve couldn’t stand the life-like eyes looking at him all the time.

“We put paper bags over their heads,” Steve said.

 

Steve Greenthal puts on the head of his Captain Kirk wax figure at the Fullerton Airport before donating them to the Hollywood Sci-Fi Museum on Saturday, March 25, 2017. The figures were purchased when the Movieland Wax Museum went out of business. (Photo by Nick Agro, Orange County Register/SCNG)

(2) NOT ENOUGH HAMMER. Ursula K. Le Guin reviews Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology for The Guardian and finds it very well-written but wanting in some ways:

Gaiman plays down the extreme strangeness of some of the material and defuses its bleakness by a degree of self-satire. There is a good deal of humour in the stories, the kind most children like – seeing a braggart take a pratfall, watching the cunning little fellow outwit the big dumb bully. Gaiman handles this splendidly. Yet I wonder if he tries too hard to tame something intractably feral, to domesticate a troll.

… What finally left me feeling dissatisfied is, paradoxically, the pleasant, ingratiating way in which he tells it. These gods are not only mortal, they’re a bit banal. They talk a great deal, in a conversational tone that descends sometimes to smart-ass repartee. This chattiness will be familiar to an audience accustomed to animated film and graphic narrative, which have grown heavy with dialogue, and in which disrespect is generally treated as a virtue. But it trivialises, and I felt sometimes that this vigorous, robust, good-natured version of the mythos gives us everything but the very essence of it, the heart.

(3) FROM BUFFY TO BATGIRL. Joss Whedon is in talks to do a Batgirl movie says The Hollywood Reporter.

Whedon is in negotiations to write, direct and produce a Batgirl stand-alone movie for Warner Bros., adding another heroine to the studio’s DC cinematic universe.

Warner Bros. Pictures president Toby Emmerich will oversee the project, along with Jon Berg and Geoff Johns….

Batgirl will be the second female superhero stand-alone in Warner Bros. DCU (Wonder Woman will hit theaters on June 2). Whedon has long been credited as a pioneering voice for female-focused genre fare, having created the hit TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer two decades ago.

(4) DIETZ ESTATE SALE. Over 300 sf/f collectible books and other items from Frank Dietz’ are for sale on eBay. Dietz passed away in 2013.

He was chairman of the first 14 Lunacons, and was Fan Guest of Honor at the 2007 Lunacon. His activities as “Station Luna,” an effort to record the proceedings of many World SF Conventions, continued for many years. He recorded events at the 1951 Worldcon in New Orleans.

(5) WOTF IN TOWN. Ron Collins reports on Day 2 of the annual Writers of the Future Workshop.

“It’s a little overwhelming,” Andrew Peery told me during a break after the opening session. He meant it in a good way. Peery, from North Carolina, is the 4th quarter first prize winner. The group had just walked through the Author Services Hall of Writers and been given a presentation of past judges throughout the contest’s history. People here have asked me how things have changed in the 18 years since my last visit. One thing that’s different is that the list of judges has gotten a little longer and a little more prominent. It’s very cool to think about.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the purpose of the workshop.

“Our goal in this workshop is to help you train yourself to be a professional writer,” Dave Farland said in his opening remarks. He and Tim [Powers] then covered several topics, focusing on things like how to develop writerly habits, how stories are structured, and how to create and use suspense. And that was just before lunch. Along the way the two of them did a little brotherly bickering about the speed with this things should be done. “If you’re here, we already know you’re good,” Dave said. “But now we want to help you think about producing that good work more quickly.” Tim, followed that up with: “My first drafts take forever and are never any good.” Then he explained why that was just fine by him. I’ve seen that before, but, yeah, it holds up on second viewing! It’s always great to see how creativity is different for two such high-caliber artists.

Other authors have written about Day 1 and Day 3.

(6) EGYPT IN SF. Tim Powers was recently interviewed by Rachel Connor and described his preparation.

Rachel: I was first introduced to your work when I read The Anubis Gates, a historical fiction with time-travel, Victorian corruption and ancient Egyptian folklore. Can you tell us a little about your approach to historical fiction? What is it about a certain period of time that intrigues you?

Tim: A novel for me generally starts with something I stumble across in recreational non-fiction reading. I’ll notice some peculiarity — like Edison working on a phone to talk to dead people with, or Albert Einstein going to a séance — and I’ll start to wonder if a story might not be built around what I’m reading.

If I come across another oddity or two — like Edison’s last breath being preserved in a test tube in a museum in Michigan, or Einstein turning out to have had a secret daughter who disappears from history in 1902 — I’ll decide that this isn’t recreational reading after all, but research for a book.

For The Anubis Gates, it was a note in one of Lord Byron’s letters. He said that several people had recognized him in London at a particular date in 1810, when at that time he was in fact in Turkey, very sick with a fever.

I wondered how he might have a doppelganger, and started reading all about Byron, and his doctor in Turkey, and London at the time, looking for clues

(7) EVERY JOT AND TITTLE. Tom Easton and Michael Burstein’s collaborative short story Sofer Pete” has been published in Nature

The visitors were crowded against one wall of bookcases, facing a large table on which was stretched a long piece of parchment. An inkwell filled with black ink sat off to the side. A hand holding a traditional goose-quill pen moved over the parchment, leaving rows of Hebrew characters behind it more quickly than a human hand ever could.

Because the hand did not belong to a human. The gleaming metal hand belonged to a humanoid robot seated on the other side of the table. Its name was Pete.

(8) THANKS DAD! Most people know Joe Hill’s father is Stephen King. Here’s what happened when young Joe turned to him for advice….

(9) “EVERY WINDOW’S A SEAT”. How much will people pay to be in space for a few minutes? “Jeff Bezos just revealed a mock-up of the spacecraft his rocket company will use to take tourists into space”.

Each launch will rocket a handful of wealthy tourists more than 62 miles (100 kilometers) above Earth on a roughly 11-minute trip.

Near the top of a high arc, the rocket will detach from the space capsule, which will fall toward the ground, granting passengers about four minutes of weightlessness and letting them take in an incredible view of the fringes of our planet’s outer atmosphere.

(10) GHOSTESS WITH THE MOSTEST. The BBC says the animated Ghost in the Shell was good, but the live-action is better.

The Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell isn’t just one of the most acclaimed science-fiction cartoons ever made, it’s one of the most acclaimed science-fiction films, full stop. Conceptually and visually breathtaking, Mamoru Oshii’s cyberpunk detective flick bridged the gap between analogue blockbusters and digital ones, between Blade Runner and The Terminator, with their cyborgs and androids, and The Matrix and Avatar, with their body-swaps and virtual realities. The makers of The Matrix, in particular, were happy to acknowledge that they were following in Oshii’s future-noir footsteps.

The question is, then, is it worth bothering with a belated live-action version? Considering that the cartoon is now a cult classic, and that several other films have taken its innovations and run with them, can a mega-budget Hollywood remake have anything of its own to offer? The answer to both questions is a definite yes.

(11) RELAUNCH. First reuse of a SpaceX recoverable boosterNPR reports:

SpaceX launched a communications satellite from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida using a rocket stage that has already been to space and back. SpaceX is betting that this kind of recycling will lower its costs and revolutionize space flight.

(12) NOT FIVE? At the B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog, Corinna Lawson shares the four rules that tell her “How to Know When It’s Okay to Read a Series out of Order”.

  1. When the character arcs are resolved by book’s end

In Sins of Empire, there are three leads, and all set out on emotional journeys that are fully resolved by book’s end.

Meanwhile, ASoIaF readers are still waiting to see what happens via-à-vis Jamie Lannister’s redemption arc, whether the Khaleesi will ever seize her birthright, if Tyrion’s suffering will amount to anything, or if Jon Snow will ever stop flailing about and realize who and what he is.

In Bujold’s The Warrior’s Apprentice, a young man who dreams of being a soldier finds more than he bargained for, and, at the end, his journey has a resolution, despite a fair dozen books that follow.

But Bishop’s Others, series, well, readers have been waiting for four books to see what happens with Simon and Meg, and though their patience is rewarded, it took four other books to get there.

(13) REVIEW HAIKU. Aaron Pound begins with a 17-syllable plot summary, then goes on to tell why he loved Kelly Sue DeConnick’s graphic story Pretty Deadly, Vol. 1: The Shrike.

Full review: I must confess that I obtained this book almost solely because it was written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, and at this point I am pretty much willing to at least take a look at anything she writes. Pretty Deadly not only met the high expectations I have for work from DeConnick, it exceeded them. This is, quite bluntly, mythic storytelling that manages to be both epic in scale and simultaneously intensely personal. Told via a combination of tight and brilliant writing from DeConnick and stunningly beautiful and evocative artwork from Emma Rios, this story presents a violent and visceral enigma shrouded in mystery wrapped up in magic, gunfights, and swordplay.

(14) THREE SHALL BE THE NUMBER THOU SHALT COUNT. This is a public service announcement from N.K. Jemisin.

(15) KORSHAK COLLECTION. An exhibit from “The Korshak Collection: Illustrations of Imaginative Literature” will be on display April 10-May 16 at the Albin O Kuhn Library and Gallery on the University of Maryland Baltimore County campus. The collection, now owned by Stephen Korshak, was started by his father Erle Korshak, past Worldcon chair and founder of the imprint Shasta Publishers, and has its own impressive website.

Truly a vision of the fantastic, this exhibition is an amazing exploration of both illustrative art and the evolution of the visual landscape of science fiction and fantasy literature. Featuring work by both American and European artists and spanning more than a century, these vivid illustrations bring to life adventures, beings, and worlds conjured in novels such as Don Quixote, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Tarzan, and pulp magazines including Amazing Stories, Weird Tales, Fantastic Adventures, and Wonder Stories. Accomplishing far more than simply guiding readers in their explorations of new and sometimes bizarre realms, the range and impact of these illustrations is far-reaching.

The exhibition will also include books, pulp magazines, and other items drawn from UMBC’s Rosenfeld Collection, revealing how the illustrations in the Korshak Collection were meant to appear when encountered as artifacts of material culture.

(16) BEYOND ORWELL. The 2084 Kickstarter has funded. The collection —

features 11 stories from leading science fiction writers who were all asked the same question – what will our world look like 67 years from now? The anthology features new and exclusive stories from:

Jeff Noon, Christopher Priest, James Smythe, Lavie Tidhar, Aliya Whiteley, David Hutchinson, Cassandra Khaw, Desirina Boskovich, Anne Charnock, Ian Hocking, and Oliver Langmead.

(17) BOOKS WERE SOLD. This is John Scalzi’s executive summary of The Collapsing Empire’s first week:

So, in sum: Top selling science fiction hardcover in the US, second-best-selling audio book in the US, my highest debut on the USA Today bestseller list, and a TV deal.

That’s a pretty good week, y’all.

Fuller details at the post.

(18) JURY CALL. The Shadow Clarke Jury continues to review its Clarke Award picks.

I put this novel on my shadow shortlist after reading the opening chapters on Amazon, because I was fascinated by the premise: the seemingly inexplicable overnight irruption of masses of full-grown trees into our familiar world. I said, when I explained my choices, that I was intrigued because it reminded me somewhat of John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids, in which the world is transformed, first by meteors, which cause mass blindness, and then by the apparently coordinated escape of the triffids, seizing the opportunities afforded by this new blindness. I was curious to see how much The Trees might be in conversation with Triffids more than half a century on.

De Abaitua wrote one of the most complex and difficult novels from 2015, If Then, and I still find myself wondering about it at random times. I was so taken by that strange novel about an algorithmic society in decay—a novel that feels so uneven on the surface, yet so complete in substance—I couldn’t articulate my thoughts well enough to write a decent review. Since then, The Destructives has been on my “most anticipateds” list. Placed on a Clarke award shortlist only once before, for The Red Men in 2008, de Abaitua was unaccountably left off the list for If Then in 2016. The Destructives is the latest piece in this abstract thematic series and, given its scope, it seems primed to make up for last year’s Clarke snub.

Any work of fiction is a formal exercise in the controlled release and withholding of information. What is withheld and for how long is a key element in how we read the work and even how we classify it. To give an obvious example, in a detective story in the classical mode it is essential that the identity of the killer is withheld until the last page, the structure of the novel is therefore dictated by the need to steadily release information that leads towards this conclusion without actually pre-empting it. How successful the novel is depends upon the skill with which this information is managed. If too much is given away so that readers can guess whodunnit too early, the work is adjudged a failure; similarly, if too little is revealed so that the denouement comes out of the blue, it is seen as a cheat and again the work fails.

In a recent article for the Guardian, ‘How to build a feminist utopia’, Naomi Alderman briefly sets out some pragmatic measures for helping pave the way to a world in which genitals, hormones and gender identification don’t matter because ‘everyone gets to be both vulnerable and tough, aggressive and nurturing, effortlessly confident and inclusively consensus-building, compassionate and dominant’. Among suggestions such as trying to establish equal parenting as the norm and teaching boys to be able to express their emotions, she also proposes teaching every girl self-defence at school from the age of five to sixteen. In effect, this is what happens in The Power when it becomes apparent that a generation of teenage girls across the world have developed the capacity to emit electric shocks. The only difference is that this doesn’t just allow the girls to defend themselves against male violence but instead enables them to become the aggressors.

(19) STATUARY GRIPE. Copied to Twitter, a grumpy letter to the editor from a “Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells” type about a proposed Terry Pratchett statue.

(20) TV IS COMING. HBO’s latest series promo, Game of Thrones Season 7: Long Walk.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, rcade, Rob Thornton, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, David K.M.Klaus, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 3/18/17 Your Mother Was A Scroller And Your Father Smelt Of Pixelberries

(1) CLARIFICATION. In my report about Sunil Patel the other day I conflated two separate social media comments that were each about two different newly-published Patel stories that came out very recently.

Just before Twitter started circulating angry anti-Diabolical Plots tweets (because of the story published there), there had been a complaint about Patel’s story “The Tragedy of the Dead Is They Cannot Cry” in Mike Resnick’s Galaxy’s Edge, view-able from the front page.

Whether or not Galaxy’s Edge can accurately be called “sad-puppy-adjacent,” it makes more sense that somebody might apply the label there than to David Steffen, who published the Long List anthologies as a very deliberate middle finger to the Puppies.

(2) MORE THAN HEY YOU. Steven Brust on “Fantasy Writing and Titles of Nobility”.

For Americans there is an element of the romantic and the exotic about titles of nobility, about Baron Soandso, or Count Thisandsuch, that I suspect is missing, or at any rate different, for who were raised in places where a feudal aristocracy was part of history..  In reality, the feudal landlords were vicious bloodsuckers—when not for personal reasons, than simply because of the nature of the property relations that ultimately defined everyone’s life.  What I am not about to do is suggest is that American fantasy writers ignore the exotic and romantic elements—your readers have them in their heads, and unless you see your job is primarily pedagogical (which I do not), what is in the reader’s head is key: it is easier to play with the reader’s head if you work with what you know is rattling around in there.

(3) RACISM TAKES EXTRA WORK. Justina Ireland offers one more reason why “Writing is Hard: Racism in a Fantasy Landscape”. The excerpt covers the first of her four points.

I touched on the idea of dismantling racism within a fantasy setting on twitter earlier this week.  Authors, especially white authors, like to tackle ideas of racism within fantasy settings by creating fake races for the point of view characters to be racist against.  This seems like a good idea in theory, but it is actually harder than just writing fantasy cultures that have a correlation to real world cultures and deconstructing real world racism within a fantasy setting.

Here’s why:

  1. You have to teach a reader about the power structures in your fantasy world. And then deconstruct them.  Part of writing fantasy is about teaching a reader how to read your book.  This involves setting up scenes that illustrate the possible outcomes that can exist in your fantasy world.  Can your characters use magic? Great, now you have to show the reader the price of that magic, or the societal ramifications of that magic.  But you also will have to do that for the racism against the made up races within your book.  So creating a made up race creates more work to be done on the page.

(4) A BETTER TANGLED WEB. Aidan Doyle begins his explanation of the Twine program in “Writer’s Guide to Twine” at the SFWA Blog.

Twine was created by Chris Klimas in 2009 and is “an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories.” Simply put, it’s a program that makes it easier for writers to make their own “Choose Your Own Adventure” style fiction. There are a number of tools for writing interactive fiction, but Twine is one of the simplest and most popular.

Interactive Fiction (IF) comes in many forms, including text-based parser games such as Zork where the player types in commands (Go north. Eat chocolate. Talk to green wizard). If you want to make this style of game, then Inform is probably your best option. Ken Liu’s Clockwork Soldier is an example of a traditional story which has IF-like commands embedded within it.

In contrast, stories written in Twine generally present the reader with choices in the form of hypertext links. Although there are many systems available for writing IF, Twine in particular has been celebrated for its ease of use. Twine is more focused on stories as opposed to games and produces HTML files, allowing anyone with a modern browser to read your story.

(5) BERRY OBIT. Rock’n roll legend Chuck Berry passed away today.

(6) THE FORCE IN ARIZONA. Phoenix public radio station KJZZ had a six-minute piece about Jedi-ism’s rise. (Listen at the link.)

The Star Wars universe has been a vital part of popular culture for more than 40 years, and that passion was renewed by the box-office smash “The Force Awakens.”

And thousands of people have decided that they want the force to be with them, even when they’re not watching one of the films.

They have decided to practice Jedi-ism. And here with me to explain its tenets and more is Jodie Vann, an instructor in ASU’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.

(7) MONOPOLY BROKEN. Or improved. It alll depends on how you feel about the change.

The boot has been booted, the wheelbarrow has been wheeled out, and the thimble got the thumbs down in the latest version of the board game Monopoly. In their place will be a Tyrannosaurus rex, a penguin and a rubber ducky.

More than 4.3 million voters from 146 countries weighed in on which tokens they wanted to see in future versions of the property-acquisition game, which is based on the real-life streets of Atlantic City. Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based Hasbro announced the winners Friday morning.

(8) QUANTUM OF STROLLERS. Bruce Arthurs came across some of these “quantum physics for babies” books by Chris Ferrie listed on Goodreads Giveaways and thought they might be quirky enough for a Pixel Scroll mention: Books.

Quantum Physics for Babies is a colorfully simple introduction to the principle which gives quantum physics its name. Baby will find out that energy is “quantized” and the weird world of atoms never comes to a stand still. It is never too early to become a quantum physicist!

The author, Chris Ferrie, is an actual quantum theorist who self-published the original Quantum Physics For Babies; surprise, it took off well enough Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (childrens books division of Sourcebooks) will be coming out with an entire series starting in May.

Ferrie’s recently-started blog is fun too. Here’s an excerpt from “Milking a new theory of physics”:

For the first time, physicists have found a new fundamental state of cow, challenging the current standard model. Coined the cubic cow, the ground-breaking new discovery is already re-writing the rules of physics.

A team of physicists at Stanford and Harvard University have nothing to do with this but you are probably already impressed by the name drop. Dr. Chris Ferrie, who is currently between jobs, together with a team of his own children stumbled upon the discovery, which was recently published in Nature Communications*.

The spherical theory of cow had stood unchallenged for over 50 years—and even longer if a Russian physicist is reading this. The spherical cow theory led to many discoveries also based on O(3) symmetries. However, spherical cows have not proven practically useful from a technological perspective. “Spherical cows are prone to natural environmental errors, whereas our discovery digitizes the symmetry of cow,” Ferrie said.

(9) MORE MARS BUZZ. Buzz Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the Moon, has launched a virtual reality movie detailing his plan to get humans to Mars. The BBC has the video — Buzz Aldrin takes you to Mars in VR.

The film – Cycling Pathways to Mars – lasts just under 10 minutes and features the astronaut as a hologram narrating the experience.

Mr Aldrin’s plan involves using the moons of Earth and Mars essentially as pitstops for people travelling to and from the Red Planet – a trip that will take about six months each way.

(10) FOR THE ROUND FILE. Chip Hitchcock says, “If you thought the jet-boarder wasn’t extreme enough, somebody pushing circular runways. He says it’s to prevent crosswind landings — but airports that could afford such a mishegoss can certainly afford enough runways to avoid this hazard, and as a former lightplane pilot (who had to learn about heavy ops to get an instrument rating) I see so many things wrong with this idea.”

(11) IN A COMMA. The BBC notices the Oxford-comma case, and provides several other examples of expensive errors in comma use.

(12) FROM BBC TO BB-8. “Droids Interrupt Darth Vader Interview” is a parody of the “Children Interrupt BBC Interview” viral video.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Bruce Arthurs, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Gregory N. Hullender, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 1/8/17 There Is No Joy In Pixelville – Mighty Casey Has Scrolled Out

(1) MOORCOCK REMEMBERS CLARKE, In New Statesman Michael Moorcock writes a wide-ranging memoir of Arthur C. Clarke which the publication rather myopically captions “’Close to tears, he left at the intermission’: how Stanley Kubrick upset Arthur C Clarke” – although, of course, that is one of Moorcock’s anecdotes.

Based primarily on his short story “The Sentinel”, together with other published fact and fiction, the film was very much a joint effort, although Arthur was overly modest about his contribution. For his part, Kubrick seemed unable to come up with an ending that suited him. When I visited the set, the film was already about two years behind schedule and well over budget. I saw several alternative finale scenes constructed that were later abandoned. In one version, the monolith turned out to be some kind of alien spaceship. I also knew something that I don’t think Arthur ever did: Kubrick was at some point dissatisfied with the collaboration, approaching other writers (including J G Ballard and myself) to work on the film. He knew neither Ballard nor me personally. We refused for several reasons. I felt it would be disloyal to accept.

I guessed the problem was a difference in personality….

Without consulting or confronting his co-creator, Kubrick cut a huge amount of Arthur’s voice-over explanation during the final edit. This decision probably contributed significantly to the film’s success but Arthur was unprepared for it. When he addressed MGM executives at a dinner in his honour before the premiere, he spoke warmly of Kubrick, declaring that there had been no serious disagreements between them in all the years they had worked together, but he had yet to see the final cut.

My own guess at the time was that Kubrick wasn’t at ease with any proposed resolution but had nothing better to offer in place of his co-writer’s “Star Child” ending. We know now that the long final sequence, offered without explanation, was probably what helped turn the film into the success it became, but the rather unresponsive expressions on the faces of the MGM executives whom Arthur had addressed in his speech showed that they were by no means convinced they had a winner….

As it turned out, Arthur did not get to see the completed film until the US private premiere. He was shocked by the transformation. Almost every element of explanation had been removed. Reams of voice-over narration had been cut. Far from being a pseudo-documentary, the film was now elusive, ambiguous and thoroughly unclear.

Close to tears, he left at the intermission, having watched an 11-minute sequence in which an astronaut did nothing but jog around the centrifuge in a scene intended to show the boredom of space travel. This scene was considerably cut in the version put out on general release

(2) CONGRATULATIONS! Pat Cadigan marks her ”Two-year Chemo-versary”.

Last year at this time, I was so…moved by the fact that I was going to live that it was a few weeks before I could think straight enough to get any work done. I think I was more affected by the news that I was going to live than I was by the news that I had terminal cancer. Even now––I mean, I’m getting things done but every so often I still have a sudden moment of clarity, of being surprised by joy.

(3) AWARD PICKERS. Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton has named the members of HWA’s 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award Committee:

Ramsey Campbell

Erinn Kemper

Monica Kuebler

John Little (chair)

Joseph Nassise

The Committee will immediately begin discussions to determine 2016’s recipient(s).

(4) OLDER VISITS THE BAY AREA. Daniel Jose Older will do a reading and signing at the main San Francisco Public Library on January 24.

Author, Daniel Jose Older, will read from his second book, entitled Shadowshaper, about a young Afro-Latina girl named Sierra who discovers her family’s history of supernatural powers and her ability to interact with the spirit world.

(5) FINAL RESTING PLACE. I might not do it. You might not do it. All that matters is – WWCD? “Carrie Fisher’s ashes carried in Prozac-shaped urn”.

Carrie Fisher has been laid to rest alongside her mother Debbie Reynolds at a private service where her ashes were carried in an urn in the form of an outsize Prozac pill.

The US actress, best known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars films, was frequently open about her experience of mental health issues.

“I felt it was where she would want to be,” her brother Todd Fisher said.

Following the joint funeral service at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, Todd Fisher said the giant pill in the shape of the anti-depressant drug was chosen as the urn for his sister’s ashes because it was one of Carrie’s “favourite possessions”.

(6) IN TIMES TO COME. Entertainment Weekly writer Rachel DeSantis says these are the most anticipated movies of 2017:

Star Wars: Episode VIII, Blade Runner 2049, and Alien: Covenant topped Rotten Tomatoes’ survey of the most anticipated movies of the year.

Star Wars fans got an extra dose of the galaxy far, far away in 2016’s most anticipated movie, Rogue One, which has brought in more than $800 million at the worldwide box office following its Dec. 16 release. Episode VIII will serve as the follow-up to 2015’s smash hit Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That film will pick up where The Force Awakens left off and features Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Gwendoline Christie, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis, and the late Carrie Fisher, who completed filming before she died last month.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 8, 1958 — Teenage Monster, aka Meteor Monster, opens in theaters.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • January 8, 1935 – Elvis Presley
  • January 8, 1942 – Stephen Hawking. A thought for the day: “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change. ” — Stephen Hawking

(9) HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU’VE MADE IT? W.E.B. Griffin gave a tagline to characters in his series The Corps: “The true test of another man’s intelligence is how much he agrees with you.”  When I read Brad R. Torgersen’s “What is ‘legitimate’ in the 21st century publishing environment?” I thought his answers were very intelligent…. Everyone would like Scalzi-size or even Milo-size book contracts, but that’s not a requirement of success.

My suggestion is to wholly ignore outside factors, and consider your specific situation alone. How much income — directly from prose writing — would it take to pay a single bill? How about several bills? The monthly rent, lease, or mortgage? Pay off the car loan? Wipe out college debt? Pay for a home remodel? Buy a new home entirely? These are scalable, individual goals which are within your individual grasp to quantify, and they don’t place you in competition with your peers. You are never keeping up with the Joneses, to use an old phrase. Your success is not determined by matching or “beating” anyone else in the business. It’s wholly dependent on how much progress you can make, and in what form, according to financial circumstances which are uniquely your own.

For example, I live in fly-over country. The cost of living, for my specific area of Utah, is rather modest. Especially compared to where I used to live in Seattle, Washington. It won’t take millions of dollars to pay off my home, or my auto loan, or to add a second floor onto my rambler, or to accomplish any other dozen things which I’d like to accomplish with my writing income. Better yet, these things can be accomplished without having to look at either Larry Correia to my northeast, or Brandon Sanderson to the south. I don’t have to “catch up” to feel like I am winning at the game of life. I am alone, on my own chess board, and I define my own conditions for victory. They can be reasonable. More importantly, they can be reachable. And I know for a fact that Larry, or Brandon, or any four dozen other successful Utah authors — we’ve got a lot of them out here — will understand completely. Because they’re all doing the same thing, too.

And so can you.

Once more, for emphasis: production, followed by readership, followed by income….

(10) SUCCESS BY ANYONE’S MEASURE. Adam Poots has a load of money he can to make the next edition of his game: “Board game raises over $10 million, becomes one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns ever”.

The crowdfunding campaign for Kingdom Death: Monster 1.5 launched strong on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. It set Kickstarter records by raising its first million in only 19 minutes , faster than any project ever before on the popular crowdfunding platform.

Currently, with more than $10 million raised and a bit over a day left in the campaign, the game is thefifth most funded project ever to run on Kickstarter. The other top ten highest earning products include Pebble smartwatches, the “coolest cooler,” a deluxe travel jacket and a tiny desk toy called a Fidget Cube.

New York City-based game designer and founder of Kingdom Death Adam Poots is, unsurprisingly, excited. …

Just don’t plan on playing it very soon. “Poots expects to be able to deliver all elements of the game by December 2020.”

(11) TRIBUTE ANTHOLOGY. If, on the other hand, you don’t need to get paid for your writing…. Zoetic Press is seeking fiction and nonfiction submissions for an anthology memorializing dead cultural icons.

We invite writers to eulogize the fallen icons who have profoundly shaped your relationship to yourself and your place in the world. We are more interested pieces which memorialize public figures who have recently passed, but all in memoriams submitted will be given equal attention.

We regret that we cannot consider In Memoriam pieces for Dearly Beloved which are not about public figures. We cannot consider pieces about family members, pets, friends, or figures that are not public for Dearly Beloved– this anthology is a memorial for the artists and public personalities that shape each of us differently.

(12) WE’RE A LITTLE LATE. From October, Alison Flood of The Guardian reports: “Stephen King pens children’s picture book about train that comes alive”.

Charlie the Choo-Choo, written under the pseudonym Beryl Evans, steams out out of the pages of King’s Dark Tower fantasy series and into bookshops – with a warning for Thomas fans

“As he looked down at the cover, Jake found that he did not trust the smile on Charlie the Choo-Choo’s face. You look happy, but I think that’s just the mask you wear, he thought. I don’t think you’re happy at all. And I don’t think Charlie’s your real name, either.”

Now, King has written a real-life version of Charlie the Choo-Choo: out on 22 November from Simon & Schuster, under the pseudonym Beryl Evans, and illustrated by Ned Dameron.

(13) THE COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian notes that online comic Brevity has a very amusing Star Trek reference today.

Meanwhile, Martin Morse Wooster points out that the latest installment of Pearls Before Swine might be seen as complementary to John Scalzi’s 10-point advice post linked in yesterdays Scroll.

(14) ANIMAL CINEMATOGRAPHY. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna looks at how Illumination Entertainment’s fomula of talking animals and many, many jokes has proven highly profitable, leading to the green-lighting of Despicable Me 3, The Secret Life of Pets 2, and Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch.

Before 2016, Illumination had scored a modest hit with 2011’s “Hop” and, a year later, did well with “Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax.” But the studio had a single go-to franchise: 2010’s “Despicable Me” grossed $543 million globally — just about equal to Illumination’s total reported production budget to date — and spawned the monster hits “Despicable Me 2? in 2013 ($970.8 million worldwide) and 2015’s “Minions” ($1.159 billion). Add in the sales of all cute yellow Minion merchandising, and Illumination had one property it could bank on. (“Despicable Me 3? is set to land this June.)

But “Despicable Me” writers Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul then brought their deft skills with spinning family-friendly adventures to “The Secret Life of Pets,” which grossed more than $875 million worldwide last year — making it the highest-grossing non-Disney film in 2016 (no small feat).

(15) GRANDMASTER INTERVIEWS PAST MASTER. A rare interview with Rod Serling (The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery) at the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, conducted by James Gunn in 1970.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

Pixel Scroll 9/16/16 Amok Pixel

(1) HE’S FROM THE FUTURE. Dennis Mathis tells how he learned to understand “the reader” in “The Future Began on a Tuesday” at the SFWA Blog.

The future was twenty-five years old and not getting any younger when I was accepted to the Iowa Writers Workshop, the legendary (even then) graduate program for writers. Kurt Vonnegut, who had taught there, said, “Picture Harvard Law School if only one out of ten graduates actually becomes a lawyer.” Dedicated to the principle that the last thing you’d want happening in a classroom is teaching, the Workshop strove to be the opposite of academic, and more or less succeeded. Zipping their lips about how writing should be done, the staff was restricted to role-modeling the lifestyle of a writer: mostly competitive drinking, womanizing, wrestling, and snorting at weaklings; the Viking concept of higher education. Despite being a weakling myself, I did the best writing of my life.

And then in my second year, a last-minute substitute on the Workshop staff. A guy named Frank Conroy, author of only one book, and it wasn’t even fiction — who writes a memoir in their twenties? — who’d taught creative writing only once before, at (get this) M.I.T.

He specified we were to read the worksheets (someone’s delicate work-in-progress cast into the lion’s den) pen-in-hand, poised to mark any point in the text where we felt a “bump,” no matter how vague. In class, we went through the worksheets sentence-by-sentence, hashing-out whether some reader’s bump was an idiosyncratic misreading or an actual problem. They always turned out to be problems. If a reader misreads, Conroy taught us, it’s always the writer’s fault…..

(2) CHINA’S SPACE PROGRAM. Motherboard has the story: ”China’s Newly Launched Space Station Will Receive Its First Crew Next Month” .

China successfully launched its second space station, Tiangong-2, into orbit on Thursday at 10:04 AM EDT, from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert. It will soon be an orbiting home to two taikonauts (the Chinese term for astronauts).

The mission is regarded as a key stepping stone towards the nation’s larger spaceflight ambitions, which include sending taikonauts to the Moon and eventually to Mars….

This second generation spacecraft, whose name translates to “Heavenly Palace” in Mandarin, will conduct some initial tests before boosting itself even higher to an altitude of 393 kilometers, roughly on par with the International Space Station (ISS).

If all goes according to plan, the tubular orbital laboratory will receive its first taikonauts in late October on a spacecraft called Shenzhou-11. Though the names of the two crew members have not been released, they are both men, and they are expected to spend 30 days aboard Tiangong-2, according to Xinhua News. If successful, it will be the longest manned Chinese space mission to date.

In terms of specs, the new station is almost identical to its precursor, Tiangong-1, which operated in space from September 2011 until March 2016, and is on track to deorbit and immolate in the atmosphere next year.

(3) COMIC ART EXPLORED. Superheroes have taken over the Huntsville Museum of Art in the Rocket City of Huntsville, Alabama.

“My Hero: Contemporary Art & Superhero Action” is the name of the show running through December 11.

For decades popular culture has been fascinated by superheroes — their superhuman capabilities, their desire for truth and justice, and their ability to save the day. Their storylines have captivated many, and their images have become contemporary idols throughout the world. My Hero presents a rich array of work by over 50 international artists, including painting, illustration, photography, sculpture, mixed media and video, that celebrates and re-envisions the lives of iconic superheroes.

(4) ROOTS OF THE GENRE. Atlas Obscura writes about Margaret Cavendish. “One of the Earliest Science Fiction Books Was Written in the 1600s by a Duchess”.

No one could get into philosophical argument with Lady Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and walk away unchanged. Born in 1623, Cavendish was an outspoken aristocrat who traveled in circles of scientific thinkers, and broke ground on proto-feminism, natural philosophy (the 17th century term for science), and social politics.

In her lifetime, she published 20 books. But amid her poetry and essays, she also published one of the earliest examples of science fiction. In 1666. She named it The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World.

In the story, a woman is kidnapped by a lovesick merchant sailor, and forced to join him at sea. After a windstorm sends the ship north and kills the men, the woman walks through a portal at the North Pole into a new world: one with stars so bright, midnight could be mistaken for midday. A parallel universe where creatures are sentient, and worm-men, ape-men, fish-men, bird-men and lice-men populate the planet. They speak one language, they worship one god, and they have no wars. She becomes their Empress, and with her otherworldly subjects, she explores natural wonders and questions their observations using science.

(5) MEMBERSHIP IN THE GUARDIAN. The Guardian is going through a financial squeeze.

According to the Huffington Post:

The Guardian is scaling back its U.S. operation through a staff reduction of 30 percent, according to a source with knowledge of the plans.

The Guardian, a 195-year-old British newspaper and global news site, has struggled financially as print revenue and circulation collapsed throughout the industry. Earlier this year, The Guardian announced plans to cut costs by 20 percent over three years, and nearly 270 employees in the U.K. operation took buyouts in June.

Now the U.S. operation, which was launched in 2011, is grappling with what Guardian Media Group CEO David Pemsel described Thursday in a staff meeting as a “course correction.” Guardian US chief Eamonn Store informed staff the company was facing a $4.4 million budget shortfall, thereby necessitating major cuts.

(6) PRIDE OF STARFLEET. Nalo Hopkinson went to her first sf convention in 1978 outfitted as Lt. Uhura.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 16, 1966  — Fahrenheit 451 premiered in theaters.

(8) THE BEST WAY TO ATTEND THE WORLDCON. Mike Headley reports on his first Worldcon – “Hugo Awards – a (Belated) Retrospective”. Many things underscored his feeling of being an outside until —

Things changed when I volunteered; I ended up hauling ice and stocking drinks for the hospitality suite. I was only there for a couple hours, but I got to glimpse this community at its best. I saw MIMO crew helping set up plates of vegetables, people who brought their whole family to volunteer. People who talked about how this was there 10th, 20th, or more convention. They weren’t writers, or publishers, they were just sincere fans. On top of that the con staff were so grateful I helped out in a pinch, and there sincerity stunned me. It made me feel like I had made a difference, however small, and I like that I got to give back, even a tiny bit.

That’s when I saw this wasn’t a community of writers talking about writerly things. This was a community of fans, of people pitching in to make sure that this worked. They helped each other, and they did it to make the best experience they could for everyone.

The second major turning point was during the Hugo ceremony itself. At one point they did a retrospective of all the members who had died in the previous year. And as I watched this somber stream of names scrolling up, I noticed that yes there were several creators, screen-writers, and editors. There was also plenty of people listed as just “fan” or “volunteer.” The fact that the organization took time to recognize these people, some of whom were just and only fans, showed just how deeply some people cared about this community.

(9) TWEETER’S DIGEST. It’s a commonplace that not everything people want to say will fit in a 140-character tweet. And yet here’s someone who has summarized every Stephen King novel in 140 characters or less.

(10) NOT ONLY A MESSAGE. Those who are allergic to political messages in sf may break out in hives by the time they’ve made it through “The G’s List of Mind-Bending/Expanding SF/F Novels” at Nerds of a Feather.

In my case I don’t have a political message to convey *with* my list, but rather have chosen a list of books that either have political messages or which made me think about the world in different terms. Even that was too big, so I decided to further limit myself to books that are either science fiction or transgress the boundaries between science fiction, fantasy, horror and mimetic fiction. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means–I probably could have done one with 50 entries or more. But 21 is a snazzy number, isn’t it? 1. Aldiss, Brian. Non-Stop [Faber and Faber, 1958]

Curiosity was discouraged in the Greene tribe. Its members lived out their lives in cramped Quarters, hacking away at the encroaching ponics. As to where they were – that was forgotten. Roy Complain decides to find out. With the renegade priest Marapper, he moves into unmapped territory, where they make a series of discoveries, which turn their universe upside-down… (GoodReads) The best #GenerationStarship novel I’ve ever read. Thought-provoking, with an ending that still manages to unsettle many years later. Also make rats utterly terrifying. (G)

(11) NERDCON APPROACHES. NerdCon: Stories will soon return, and several leading sf/f writers will be in the mix — Mary Robinette Kowal, Mikki Kendall, Wesley Chu, Patrick Rothfuss, Paolo Bacigaulpi, and Saladin Ahmed. (And who knows, maybe more if I’d kept scrolling…..)

(12) ORSINIA. The Paris Review has posted an excerpt from the introduction to Ursula K Le Guin’s Library of America editions — Ursula K. Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia (Library of America, 2016).

LOA jacket template

Much as I loved my studies, their purpose was to make me able to earn a living as a teacher, so I could go on writing. And I worked hard at writing short stories. But here my European orientation was a problem. I wasn’t drawn to the topics and aims of contemporary American realism. I didn’t admire Ernest Hemingway, James Jones, Norman Mailer, or Edna Ferber. I did admire John Steinbeck, but knew I couldn’t write that way. In The New Yorker, I loved Thurber, but skipped over John O’Hara to read the Englishwoman Sylvia Townsend Warner. Most of the people I really wished I could write like were foreign, or dead, or both. Most of what I read drew me to write about Europe; but I knew it was foolhardy to write fiction set in Europe if I’d never been there.

At last it occurred to me that I might get away with it by writing about a part of Europe where nobody had been but me. I remember when this idea came: in our small co-op dorm at Radcliffe, Everett House, in the dining room, where you could study and typewrite late without disturbing sleepers. I was twenty years old, working at one of the dining tables about midnight, when I got the first glimpse of my other country. An unimportant country of middle Europe. One of those Hitler had trashed and Stalin was now trashing. (The Soviet takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1947–48 had been the first event to rouse the political spirit in me.) A land not too far from Czechoslovakia, or Poland, but let’s not worry about borders. Not one of the partly Islamized nations—more Western-oriented … Like Rumania, maybe, with a Slavic-influenced but Latin-descended language? Aha!

I begin to feel I’m coming close. I begin to hear the names. Orsenya—in Latin and English, Orsinia. I see the river, the Molsen, running through an open, sunny countryside to the old capital, Krasnoy (krasniy, Slavic, “beautiful”). Krasnoy on its three hills: the Palace, the University, the Cathedral. The Cathedral of Saint Theodora, an egregiously unsaintly saint, my mother’s name … I begin to find my way about, to feel myself at home, here in Orsenya, matrya miya, my motherland. I can live here, and find out who else lives here and what they do, and tell stories about it.

And so I did.

(13) THIS JUST IN 17 YEARS AGO. J. K. Rowling sounds a little exasperated here.

(14) DINNER BELL. Scott Edelman has released Episode 18 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast where you are invited to  “Dig into a lobster roll with F. Brett Cox”.

fbrettcoxeatingthefantastic-768x768

Now it’s time to say farewell to Readercon with a visit to The Lobster Stop in Quincy, Massachusetts for (what else?) lobster rolls … and F. Brett Cox.

Brett co-edited (with former Eating the Fantastic guest Andy Duncan) Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic (which featured a story about Randy Newman by yours truly!), and has had fiction, poetry, essays, and reviews appear in Eclipse Online, War Stories, Century, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Postscripts, and many other venues. He’s also hard at work on a book-length study of Roger Zelazny for the University of Illinois Press.

(15) MEMORABLE TV THEMES. Catherynne Valente asks:

I don’t know what she’d pick as the best theme for a dramatic series – for me it’s the theme from Hawaii 5-0. I’m also a fan of the Mission: Impossible theme, and have a real soft spot for the full rendition of The Virginian theme.

[Thanks to Steven H Silver, Marc Criley, Stuckinhistory, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 9/13/16 I Know Why The Crottled Greep Pings

Art by Camestros Felapton.

Art by Camestros Felapton.

(1) TALKING ABOUT “DESTROY” OR “DIG” COLLECTIONS? Neil Clarke, editor of Clarkesworld, raises the question of whether special collections for underrepresented communities is a good idea.

(2) THE ELDER CLODS. The Huffington Post continues to cover the full horror of this year’s presidential election: “Stephen King Compares Donald Trump To Cthulhu; Cthulhu Issues Angry Denial”.

(3) NEXT FROM LIU CIXIN. Death’s End, the last book in Liu Cixin’s trilogy which started with The Three-Body Problem, will be released September 20. A preview can be read here on the Tor/Forge Blog.

And the author’s next translated novel is announced in a tweet from Ken Liu.

(4) AUTHOR LIFE. What is Joe Hill doing today?

So we’re doing #authorlife today. Okay. I’ll play. I’ll try to write 1500 words on a new novella (the last in a book of four), working longhand in an oversize National Brand account book. If it goes badly, I’ll accept 1000 words and hope for better tomorrow. When I’m done (1 PM? 2?) I’ll have a salad and read forty pages of A MAN LIES DREAMING, the current book (starring Adolf Hitler, PI, no, really). The afternoon is for office chores and email. If I can I’ll write a snail mail letter to a friend. Because I like doing that. At some point I’ll also listen to a chapter of the current audio book (PRINCE CASPIAN). Over the course of the day I’ll have four cups of tea. Three black, no cream, no sugar. The last is green and has honey and lemon. It all sounds very exciting, doesn’t it? Living life on the edge, that’s me. I’d like to be more physical but haven’t been on any kind of regular exercise schedule since before THE FIREMAN book tour. Hummmm. I also started playing piano this year for the first time since I was 13, and come evening I like to practice for a half hour. But I won’t today cos one of my fingers is f’d up. Maybe I’ll have an episode of THE AMERICANS. Then it’ll be 10PM and I’ll go to bed, like an old person. Shit. I think I’m an old person.

(5) I’VE HEARD THIS SONG BEFORE. Cora Buhlert’s “The Three Fractions of Speculative Fiction” jumps off from a Nathaniel Givens article recently linked in the Scroll, analyzing the sources of complaints about Hugo Award winners, then goes back to 2013 when Sad Puppies had barely begun for an eye-opening comparison of Hugo complaints then being made by fan critics and iconoclasts totally unrelated to the Puppies. Extra points to Buhlert for remembering what those other voices were saying.

Nonetheless, I did remember that there was a controversy involving the 2013 Hugos at the time, a controversy I chronicled in several posts here, here and here.

Interestingly, most “The Hugos are broken” complaints that year came not from the puppy side (though Larry Correia waded into the fray, being his usual charming self) but from overwhelmingly British critics, who complained about the alleged lack of sophistication of the nominees. For examples, check out these posts by Justin Landon, Aidan Moher, Adam Callaway and Jonathan McCalmont.

The critics who wrote those posts are not puppies. Quite the contrary, they are probably the polar opposite. Where the puppies complain that the Hugos aren’t populist enough and reward obscure literary works, these critics complain that the Hugos are too populist and not sophisticated enough. However, if you read through those posts (and particularly Justin Landon’s remains a marvel of condescension) you’ll notice that their criticisms of the Hugos eerily mirror those made by the sad and rabid puppies a few years later: The Hugos are broken, they are dominated by a small and incestous clique of aging babyboomers who have been attending WorldCon for decades and/or an equally incestous clique of livejournal posters voting for their friends, those cliques are hostile to outsiders and disregard everybody who doesn’t attend cons as “not a real fan”, only works that appeal to that clique of insiders are nominated and the books/authors the critics like are never nominated. So the Hugos should be burned to the ground or reformed to represent all of fandom or maybe a new award should be established to better represent what’s best in SFF. And as if the puppy parallels weren’t striking enough, many of those posts also contain some bonus condescension towards women writers and writers of colour. Oh yes, and they all agree that Redshirts is an unworthy nominee. Ditto for Lois McMaster Bujold and Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire. Opinions are divided on Saladin Ahmed.

So what is going on here? Why do two seemingly diametrically opposed groups make so very similar points? …

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 13, 1977 – Jay Anson’s The Amityville Horror is published.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born September 13, 1916 — Roald Dahl
  • Born September 13, 1939 — Richard Kiel

(8) NOT ALL CATS ARE SJW CREDENTIALS. L. Jagi Lamplighter, in “The Bifrost Between Calico and Gingham”, explains the difference between Sad Puppies and those who are satisfied with the Hugos, using “Cat Pictures Please” as an illustration [BEWARE SPOILERS].

I have been asked what the Puppies—Sad and Rabid alike—are objecting to? If they are not racist or homophobes—ie, if it is not the author’s identity that they object to—why do they think that so many of the stories that have been winning the Hugo and the Nebula are receiving their awards for the wrong reasons?

I think I can explain. I will use, for my example, the short story that won the Hugo in 2016: “Cat Pictures Please.” ….

So, to Left-Leaning readers, “Cat Pictures Please” is a witty story with a common, but perhaps new-to-them, SF premise, which also reinforces their idea of truth about the world and comes to a delightfully-satisfying conclusion.

The mixture of the simple SF premise, the wit, and the satisfying political leaning make it a very delightful story indeed.

To anyone who is Right-Leaning, “Cat Pictures Please” is a witty story with a common, and perhaps not-so-new-to-them, SF premise, which is full of concepts and moral choices that grate on them the wrong way, and the end is, while a bit amusing, rather unpleasant.

The first group says, “This is a great story!

The second group says, “Look, I’ll be fair and overlook all the pokes in the eye, but as I am regarding the story through my blurry, now-painful eyes, I want to see some really fantastic science fiction. Something that wows me so much that I am going to think it is worth putting next to “Nightfall” or “Harrison Bergeron.” And I just don’t see it.

 “Your stuff is not new. If you take today’s problems and put them in space, that’s not science fiction. You need the new, the controversial, to be SF. 

“Where is the stuff that’s going to shake my world and make me think, the way the Hugo winners of years gone by, such as “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, did?

(9) HOW HUGO VOTING CHANGES MAY WORK. Cheryl Morgan wrote an analytical post after watching the MACII Business Meeting videos – “WSFS Has Spoken – What Does It Mean?” —  which I just got a chance to read today. I found Cheryl’s speculation about the impact of the changes to the Hugo voting rules very interesting, indeed. Here’s just one brief excerpt:

So I have no objection to the detection of “natural slates”. Politically, however, I suspect it will be a minefield. If, next year, when EPH is used on the actual voting, people who are not on the Puppy slates get eliminated by it, I think that there will be an outcry. Fandom at large is expecting EPH to get rid of all of the Puppies, and no one else. It will not do either. People are not going to be happy.

Another potential issue here is the effect that EPH will have on Helsinki in particular. Finnish fans will presumably want to vote for Finnish works. Because there are a lot fewer Finnish writers than non-Finnish ones, there will be much less diversity in their nominations. I suspect that EPH will see the Finnish votes as a slate and kick some of the nominees off. That too will make some people unhappy, including me.

(10) JEOPARDY! Another science fiction question on Jeopardy! This one was worth $800 in Numerical Literature. Steven H Silver sent a long a screencap, and confirmed “They got it right.”

jeopardy-que

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven Silver, Rose Embolism, Mark-kitteh, and Steve Davidson for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]