Pixel Scroll 12/25/17 When All Of A Sudden There Arose Such a Pixel

(1) STAR EXPLAINER. The New York Times profiles sf fan favorite Brother Guy Consolmagno in “Searching for the (Star) Light at the Vatican Observatory”.

Some 2,000 years ago, a celestial phenomenon is believed to have lit up the sky. Guiding the wise men of New Testament lore to the birthplace of Jesus, the star of Bethlehem has since become a planetarium and Christmas carol favorite.

What that star might have been — a comet, supernova, or the conjunction of planets, let alone whether it ever existed — is one of the recurring questions that Brother Guy Consolmagno is called on to answer even though, he noted dryly, “it has nothing to do with our work as scientists at the Vatican Observatory.”

“Too often people get distracted by the Star and forget to look at the Child! And yet I also have to admit I feel a certain joy in the story, and a joy that this story has been so popular for so many people over the centuries,” said Brother Consolmagno, since 2015, the director of La Specola Vaticana (which translates as Vatican Observatory). “Of course, we have no idea what Matthew was writing about. It doesn’t matter!”

The observatory is the only Vatican institution that does scientific research, and Brother Consolmagno, a former physics professor and later-in-life Jesuit, is the public face of an institution whose work “is to show the world that the church supports science.”

(2) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. And here’s what you can look forward to if you keep watching the skies – “Astronomy Calendar For 2018”

(3) TRACKING SANTA. It wasn’t an unlisted number after this happened: “NORAD’s Santa Tracker Began With A Typo And A Good Sport”.

This Christmas Eve people all over the world will log on to the official Santa Tracker to follow his progress through U.S. military radar. This all started in 1955, with a misprint in a Colorado Springs newspaper and a call to Col. Harry Shoup’s secret hotline at the Continental Air Defense Command, now known as NORAD.

Shoup’s children, Terri Van Keuren, 65, Rick Shoup, 59, and Pam Farrell, 70, recently visited StoryCorps to talk about how the tradition began.

Terri remembers her dad had two phones on his desk, including a red one. “Only a four-star general at the Pentagon and my dad had the number,” she says.

“This was the ’50s, this was the Cold War, and he would have been the first one to know if there was an attack on the United States,” Rick says.

The red phone rang one day in December 1955, and Shoup answered it, Pam says. “And then there was a small voice that just asked, ‘Is this Santa Claus?’ ”

His children remember Shoup as straight-laced and disciplined, and he was annoyed and upset by the call and thought it was a joke — but then, Terri says, the little voice started crying.

“And Dad realized that it wasn’t a joke,” her sister says. “So he talked to him, ho-ho-ho’d and asked if he had been a good boy and, ‘May I talk to your mother?’ And the mother got on and said, ‘You haven’t seen the paper yet? There’s a phone number to call Santa. It’s in the Sears ad.’ Dad looked it up, and there it was, his red phone number. And they had children calling one after another, so he put a couple of airmen on the phones to act like Santa Claus.”

(4) DIAGNOSIS GRINCH. The Washington Post’s Susan Svrluga, in “The Grinch needs a good cardiologist, and other holiday stories explained by scientists”, interviews area scientists who answer scientific questions posed by fictional works, such as why Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’s nose glows.  (It could be because Santa’s sleigh crash-landed into the Red Sea and Rudolph got doused in glowing coral.)  Among the scientists interviewed was Johns Hopkins medical school cardiologist Dr. David Kass, who argues the reason why the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes in a day after he pigs out on Whoville food is that the Grinch is a snake and snake’s hearts expand after big meals.

(5) THE PERMANENT CAMPAIGN. Charles Stross, jockeying to keep his series eligible for a future year where he thinks there will be more UK voters to back him, asks —

Please do not nominate the Laundry Files for the best series Hugo award in 2018.

(Explanation below the cut.)

The rules for the best series Hugo award stipulate:

Previous losing finalists in the Best Series category shall beeligible only upon the publication of at least two (2) additional installments consisting in total of at least 240,000 words after they qualified for their last appearance on the final ballot and by the close of the previous calendar year.

This means that if series X is shortlisted in 2018 and loses, it won’t be eligible again until two more installments amounting to 240,000 words have been published in a subsequent year.

There is a significantly better chance of either series winning the award at a British—or Irish—worldcon, such as the one in Dublin in 2019, simply because the worldcon attendees will include more of my UK readers. However, a nomination in 2018 would probably lose (there are plenty of very good series works by American authors: consider Max Gladstone or Seanan McGuire, for example) and thereby disqualify me from eligibility in 2019.

(6) NOT TOO LATE. If you didn’t already get the gift you wanted this holiday season, maybe you can fill the void with the “Star Wars R2-D2 Coffee Press”. Or not – I keep visualizing giving R2 a sinus headache every time…

(7) OBITUARY.  Heather Menzies-Urich (1949-2017), best known for portraying Louisa von Trapp in the 1965 film The Sound of Music, died December 24 at the age of 68. Her main genre credit was starring as Jessica 6 in the TV series Logan’s Run (1977-78). She had an uncredited role in The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969); other genre appearances include Sssssss (1973), The Six Million Dollar Man (one episode, 1977), Piranha (1978), Captain America (1979), Endangered Species (1982).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 25, 1980 Altered States first premiered in theatres.
  • December 25, 1999 Galaxy Quest opened.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • December 25, 1924 – Rod Serling

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) NAUGHTY. The Guardian’s research shows Home Alone atop the pyramid — “Data sketch: the most pirated Christmas movies”. It’s A Wonderful Life is listed, too – I thought it was in public domain now?

(12) CHIANG OP-ED REBUTTED. Tech Crunch’s Jon Evans mounts a defense: “Ted Chiang is a genius, but he’s wrong about Silicon Valley”.

Ted Chiang isn’t just one of the greatest science-fiction writers alive — he’s one of the greatest writers alive full stop. Which is why I was so saddened and disappointed by his recent excoriation of Silicon Valley in BuzzFeed. As the tech industry grows ever more powerful, we need brilliant minds critiquing and dissecting its many flaws. Instead we got a trenchant takedown of a Valley that only exists in the minds of especially shallow journalists.

To be clear, his larger point is dead on: that being that the worry about an AI which maximizes for the wrong thing, most famously one which is told to make paperclips and responds by turning the entire planet into paperclips, is a worry which applies perfectly and exactly to capitalism itself.

…But the thing Chiang doesn’t get is: Silicon Valley is actually not a home of paperclip capitalism. That’s Wall Street. That’s Confessions of an Economic Hit Man-style neoliberal globalization. That’s not the tech industry. The Valley is a flawed and sometimes terrible place, true, but it’s a nuanced sometimes flawed and terrible place.

(13) WATER IS COMING. I don’t know if it would melt the Wall, but it wouldn’t do any good to the rest of the world — “This is what global warming would do to the ‘Game of Thrones’ planet”.

The warring inhabitants of Westeros — one of the four known continents in the Game of Thrones world — dread the planet’s long, unforgiving winters. But a global warming event there, stoked by an influx of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, would likely be even more dire.

Earlier this week, University of Bristol climate scientist Dan Lunt published a study that modeled the doubling of carbon dioxide on the Game of Thrones fantasy world. His results show that if these levels doubled over the course of a century, the average temperature on the planet would warm by over 2 degrees Celsius, or about 3.5 Fahrenheit. This climatic shift would make some areas nearly uninhabitable and unleash devastating natural disasters.

(14) A TOM LEHRER HOLIDAY. Mr. Sci-Fi renders the Science Fiction Christmas Song (recorded in 2014.)

Sci-Fi Ubergeek Marc Zicree sings Tom Lehrer’s Christmas song as great science fiction Christmas images from 1950s Galaxy Magazine and other sources flash by. Marc just recorded this song for Coast to Coast AM’s Christmas Album, with proceeds going to charity.

 

(15) THE DARTH VADER YULE LOG. A seasonal tradition (since 2015).

Gather the younglings for a centuries old family tradition the Darth Vader Yule Log. Sith Lords will be roasting on an open fire, as you sit back an enjoy some holiday classics.

 

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, JJ, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, and Steve Green for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 12/18/17 Scrolls For Industry! Scrolls For The Undead!

(1) CADIGAN NEWS. Congratulations to Pat Cadigan who told her Facebook followers today:

I am now allowed to say that I am writing both the novelisation for the forthcoming movie Alita: Battle Angel as well as the prequel novel, Iron City.

And this is why I’m in Deadline Hell.

That is all.

(2) STAR PEACE CORPS. In  “Star Wars Without the Empire”, Camestros Felapton conducts an awesome thought experiment inspired by Paul Weimer’s tweet.

In post-war Germany, a version of Casablanca was produced, re-edited and with a new script for the dubbing, that had no Nazis in it. As you can imagine, given the role Nazis play in the plot, they had to do a lot of work.

I was wondering if you could do the same to Star Wars Episode 4 – remove the Empire…

Star Not Wars Because They Aren’t Having a War With Anybody: A New Hope

A spaceship has broken down. Princess Leia finds a robot on the ship and gives it something. The robot (R2D2) finds an escape pod with its friend (C3PO). They leave the ship. We don’t see the ship again. It probably had engine trouble or something. Maybe the robots have gone off to get some fuel from a service station.

The robots land in a desert. After an argument, they split up. Later they each get caught by tiny people.

Meanwhile, young Luke Skywalker is unhappy being a farmer and living with his uncle. He’d rather be…doing something else I suppose.

(3) MARK YOUR CALENDAR. The Vintage Paperback Show returns to Glendale, CA on March 18.

(4) ROBOT ON PATROL. Tech Crunch reports “Security robots are being used to ward off San Francisco’s homeless population”:

Is it worse if a robot instead of a human is used to deter the homeless from setting up camp outside places of business?

One such bot cop recently took over the outside of the San Francisco SPCA, an animal advocacy and pet adoption clinic in the city’s Mission district, to deter homeless people from hanging out there — causing some people to get very upset.

The article quotes this tweet from Brianna Wu:

The SPCA deployed a robot from security startup Knightscope to deter crime and vandalism on their campus.

And, according to both the S.F. SPCA and Knightscope, crime dropped after deploying the bot.

However, the K9 unit was patrolling several areas around the shop, including the sidewalk where humans walk, drawing the ire of pedestrians and advocacy group Walk SF, which previously introduced a bill to ban food delivery robots throughout the city.

“We’re seeing more types of robots on sidewalks and want to see the city getting ahead of this,” said Cathy DeLuca, Walk SF policy and program director, who also mentioned S.F. district 7 supervisor Norman Yee would be introducing legislation around sidewalk use permits for robots in the beginning of 2018.

Last week the city ordered the S.F. SPCA to stop using these security robots altogether or face a fine of $1,000 per day for operating in a public right of way without a permit.

The S.F. SPCA says it has since removed the robot and is working through a permitting process. It has already seen “two acts of vandalism” since the robot’s removal.

(5) THE DIAGNOSIS. Ted Chiang says “The Real Danger To Civilization Isn’t AI. It’s Runaway Capitalism” in an article for Buzzfeed.

Speaking to Maureen Dowd for a Vanity Fair article published in April, Musk gave an example of an artificial intelligence that’s given the task of picking strawberries. It seems harmless enough, but as the AI redesigns itself to be more effective, it might decide that the best way to maximize its output would be to destroy civilization and convert the entire surface of the Earth into strawberry fields. Thus, in its pursuit of a seemingly innocuous goal, an AI could bring about the extinction of humanity purely as an unintended side effect.

This scenario sounds absurd to most people, yet there are a surprising number of technologists who think it illustrates a real danger. Why? Perhaps it’s because they’re already accustomed to entities that operate this way: Silicon Valley tech companies.

(6) CHEERS AND BOOS. Fanac.org has posted a 36-minute video of Robert A. Heinlein’s guest of honor speech at the 1976 Worldcon.

MidAmeriCon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Kansas City in 1976, with Robert A. Heinlein as Guest of Honor. With a warm introduction by Bob Tucker, this sometimes uncomfortable speech touches on Heinlein’s belief in the inevitability of atomic war and his belief that mankind will go to the stars. There are comments on Russia and China, the role of men, and more than a few very bad jokes. You will hear applause and you can hear disapproving boos. If you are one of “Heinlein’s Children”, or simply a reader of classic SF, this video is a rare opportunity to hear that legendary figure.

(More background about the booing is here.)

(7) UNCANNY DINOSAUR ISSUE. The submission window opens in March – read the pitch and complete details here: “Uncanny Magazine Dinosaur Special Issue Guidelines”.

As you may know if you followed the Uncanny Magazine Year 4 Kickstarter, Uncanny Magazine Issue 23 will be a Special Shared-Universe Dinosaur Issue! The planned solicited contributors are:

Do you want to join them? One of the stretch goals was adding two extra unsolicited stories to the issue! We will be open to submissions from March 1- March 15, 2018.

(8) CAPITOL TBR. Former congressman Steve Israel profiles members of Congress in the Washington Post about their favorite books of the year and found Rep. Ted Lieu of California enjoying the Nebula Awards anthology and Rep.Adam Schiff of California reading Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series — “A former congressman asked his old colleagues for book suggestions. Here’s their list.”

(9) TROLLING FOR CLICKS. At NBC News, Noah Berlatsky asks “Is Star Wars’ ‘The Last Jedi’ science fiction? It’s time to settle this age-old argument”. Will anybody take my bet that the argument will not be settled by his op-ed? Or maybe it will, by a kind of cinematic force majeure.

To figure out whether Star Wars is science fiction, you first need to figure out how to define the term — which is harder than you might think. Genres are notoriously difficult to pin down, which is why they spark so many arguments. Some country fans protested loudly when Beyoncé appeared at the Country Music Awards because she (supposedly) was not a country artist. Some critics similarly argued that Bob Dylan’s lyrics are not literature, though the Nobel committee disagreed.

Genre is a marker of quality and belonging, of seriousness and community. Science fiction in particular is often seen as more important or serious than fantasy, so it’s no wonder that there’s been some struggle over how to place the films. George Lucas himself declared that “Star Wars isn’t a science-fiction film, it’s a fantasy film and a space opera” in 2015. Others have also waded in over the years; Annalee Newitz included Star Wars in a list of 10 science-fiction works that are really fantasy at io9, while author Brian Clegg says Star Wars is only “low-grade science-fiction” — it’s not quite real science-fiction, so it’s not high quality.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 18, 1957 The Monolith Monsters premiered.
  • December 18, 1968 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang opens in New York City.
  • December 18, 1985 — Terry Gilliam’s Brazil! was released.
  • December 18, 1996 — Wes Craven’s Scream hits theaters, and a Halloween mask was born.
  • December 18, 2009 – Director James Cameron’s Avatar premiered.
  • December 18, 2013Forbidden Planet (1956) is selected by the Library of Congress for inclusion in the National Film Registry.

(11) TODAY’S  BIRTHDAYS

  • Born December 18, 1939 – Michael Moorcock
  • Born December 18, 1941 – Jack Haldeman
  • Born December 18, 1946  — Steven Spielberg
  • Born December 18 — Steve Davidson

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy overheard Dilbert talking about a zombie apocalypse.

(13) I HAVE A LITTLE LIST. SyFy Wire’s Swapna Krishna names these as “The 10 best sci-fi and fantasy books of 2017”. People get upset if I say I haven’t heard of all the books on a “best” list, so let me say I have heard of many of these.

(14) THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS 2014. Everyone has their own way of celebrating the holidays. John King Tarpinian’s traditions include rewatching Thug Notes’ analysis of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

(15) THE BIG BUCKS. Speaking of stacks of cheddar — “Star Wars: The Last Jedi takes $450m on opening weekend”.

The movie dwarfed its nearest rival – the computer-animated comedy Ferdinand, which took $13m (£10m).

The total for The Last Jedi includes $220m (£165m) from box offices in the US and Canada, placing the film second in the all-time list for North America.

It trails behind the 2015 release Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which opened with a record-breaking $248m (£185m).

(16) BREATHLESS TAKE. Chuck Wendig launches his review with a long stretch of onomatopoeia: “The Last Jedi: A Mirror, Slowly Cracking”. And how often do you get a chance to use that word?

This will be less a review of The Last Jedi (Episode VIII) than it will be… my thoughts? An analysis? Me opening my head like a flip-top Pac-Men and seeing what globs of brain-goo I can grab and hastily smack into the screen?

Spoilers follow the noises, Wendig warns.

(17) WHAT’S BREWING IN SHORT FICTION. Nerds of a Feather’s Charles Payseur serves “THE MONTHLY ROUND – A Taster’s Guide to Speculative Short Fiction, 11/2017”.

So please, take seat. The flavors on tap this month are perfect for those looking to unwind by the fire, to shed a tear for those who have not made it this far, and to reaffirm a commitment to pushing forward, into a future that is not mired by the same harms and dangers as the past. Each pint today comes with a special side of memories and a tendril of shadow creeping just out of view. The only remedy is to drink deep, and share the moment with those you care about, and look for ways to escape the familiar cycles of hate, loss, and fear—together….

Tasting Flight – November 2017

“An Unexpected Boon” by S.B. Divya (Apex)

Notes: Pouring a dark brown rimmed with gold, the first sip is deep, subtle and smoky like dreams burning, only to reveal newer, sweeter tones underneath, a future still bright despite loss and danger.

Pairs with: Honey Bock

Review: Kalyani is a young (probably autistic) girl who experiences the world quite differently from the rest of her family. It’s something that Aruni, her older brother, finds quite difficult to handle, especially when his parents have left him in charge while they are away. For Kalyani, though, it’s the rest of the world that doesn’t make as much sense, that overflows with threats and dangers…

(18) ON STAGE. It’s live! “The Twilight Zone returns to spook theatergoers”.

In 1959, a groundbreaking TV series began in the USA. The Twilight Zone came to be regarded as a classic of science fiction for the small screen. Now the Almeida Theatre in London is taking eight episodes to make a Twilight Zone for the stage.

(19) YA. A dystopia? Why, that’s just another day in a teenaged life: “Why Teens Find The End Of The World So Appealing”.

“The hallmark of moving from childhood to adulthood is that you start to recognize that things aren’t black and white,” says Ostenson “and there’s a whole bunch of ethical grey area out there.”

Which makes dystopian fiction perfect for the developing adolescent brain, says Laurence Steinberg, a psychologist at Temple University.

“Their brains are very responsive to emotionally arousing stimuli,” he explains. During this time, there are so many new emotions and they are much stronger than those kids experienced when they were younger.

“When teenagers feel sad, what they often do it put themselves in situations where they feel even sadder,” Steinberg says. They listen to sad music — think emo! — they watch melodramatic TV shows. So dystopian novels fit right in, they have all that sadness plus big, emotional ideas: justice, fairness, loyalty and mortality.

This time in a kid’s life is often defined by acting out, but, Steinberg says, that’s a misguided interpretation of what’s happening. “It isn’t so much rebellion, but it is questioning.”

(20) BAD AIR. I remember breathing this stuff at the 2015 Worldcon: “California fires: Sentinel satellite tracks wildfire smoke plume”.

Europe’s new Sentinel-5P satellite has captured a dramatic image of the smoke billowing away from the devastating California wildfires.

It is a powerful demonstration of 5P’s ability to sense the atmosphere.

The plume is seen to sweep westwards out over the Pacific Ocean near Los Angeles and then turn north towards the State of Oregon.

(21) JDA. Jon Del Arroz shares his vision of the controversies he’s engaged in this year with BayCon, Scalzi, Cat Rambo, Chuck Wendig, and some guy who scrolls pixels in “It’s Better To Be My Friend #JDAYourFriend”.

…Where they all screwed up, is that I’m a competent writer who works hard. I’m a competent businessman who markets hard. I don’t take my ball and go home and I’m not deterred from speaking the truth by some threats or someone’s bully pulpit.

And now I’ve got a platform. It’s one a lot of people read on a daily basis. It’s only going to grow bigger in 2018. I’m a well-respected journalist, I’m a multiple-award nominated author with an avid readership. I’m winning. Readers and audiences like winners. Yet not one of these people has come forward and said “you know what, Jon, I shouldn’t have attacked you, let’s be friends.”

(22) TO SMELL THE TRUTH. Hugo-winning editor Gordon Van Gelder had a famous father, Dr. Richard Van Gelder, who tried to stump the panelists on the episode of game show To Tell The Truth aired March 13, 1961. The chairman of the Department of Mammals at the American Museum of Natural History, Van Gelder pere was specially touted as an expert on skunks. The real Van Gelder and two impostors appear at 17:00, and the truth is told right after the 23:00 mark.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/29/17 So What’s It Gonna Be, Kid? Calendrical Rot Or Diachronic Shear?

(1) TWEETS OF GENIUS. The winner of the internet today begins here –

(2) NEXT CHIANG ADAPTATION. A Ted Chiang story will be the basis for this new AMC show: “AMC is developing a sci-fi show from the writers behind Arrival”.

During the Television Critics Association press tour, AMC announced a slate of eight new shows that it’s putting into development, according to Deadline, which includes a project based on a story by Ted Chiang, whose novella Story of Your Life was the basis for Denis Villeneuve’s movie Arrival.

Liking What You See is being developed by Arrival’s screenwriter, Eric Heisserer, with Chiang as a consultant. It’ll be based on Liking What You See: A Documentary, which Chiang published in his collection, Stories of Your Life and Others in 2002. The story is set in the near future where members of a community called Saybrook undergo a procedure called calliagnosia, which prevents them from perceiving beauty. The story plays out like a documentary, and its characters discuss the pros and cons of this procedure in a media-saturated world.

(3) ALTSPACEVR CROAKS. A social media pioneer ran out of money, as they do – The Verge has the story: “The most famous VR social network is abruptly shutting down”.

AltspaceVR, the virtual reality social network that has hosted everything from stand-up comedy to presidential debate-watching parties, is shutting down next week. The community announced “with heavy hearts” last night that AltspaceVR would be closing August 3rd at 10pm ET, after “unforeseen financial difficulty.”

Spokesperson Gerard Gottheil provided more detail in an email to The Verge and other outlets. “We had a supportive group of investors that last gave us money in 2015. It looked like we had a deal for our next round of funding, and it fell through,” he said. “Some combination of this deal falling through and the general slowness of VR market growth made most of our investors reluctant to fund us further. We’ve been out fundraising but have run out of time and money.”

Currently, AltSpaceVR has around 35,000 active monthly users, who spend an average of around 35 minutes a day on the free platform.

(4) FUTURE FORESEEN. UploadVR says “Here’s A Look Back at How Sci-Fi Literature Predicted the Rise of Modern Virtual Reality”. Sure, but did sci-fi predict it would go broke?

With the introduction of top-end devices such as the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive as well as the simple ones such as Google Cardboard, Virtual Reality is the next digital frontier. While it’s a world that can now be practically realized, it’s not a new idea: Science Fiction has long been imagining virtual worlds within imagined ones.

From the early 1950s, authors had begun to experiment with stories involving simulated worlds. Ray Bradbury’s 1951 story The Veldt dealt with a pair of children and a virtual nursery, while Fredric Pohl’s 1955 short story The Tunnel Under the World told the story of a man who relived the same day over and over, only to discover that he was trapped in a cruel marketing simulation…..

(5) FAMOUS SF SERIES CONTINUES. C.J. Cherryh  announced in a public Facebook post that she and Jane Fancher are currently completing a new Alliance-Union book (titled Alliance Rising). It is set early in the universe’s timeline. At the moment, the book is being edited by Fancher and Cherryh has finished her edit.

It takes two people of similar style (check) and egos both strong enough and pliable enough (check) to see something you thought brilliant as fluid and changeable. In a profession as solitary as writing can be, it’s downright fun to sit down for a brainstorming session on the shared story. We’re already thinking about ‘next…’

(6) PRESTO. Camestros Felapton’s latest hilarious invention is the “Genre Shifter”.

Turns a single paragraph into different genres via the miracle of science!

(7) MORE MEMORIES OF JORDIN KARE. Bill Higgins of Fermilab recalls the science panels he did with Jordin Kare in their personas Fizz and Fuse.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 29, 1988 – George A. Romero’s Monkey Shines opens.
  • July 29, 1970 — The 1965-produced Invasion of the Astro-Monster finally found its way to a theatrical release in the United States.
  • July 29, 2002 Signs premieres in theaters.
  • July 29, 2011 — Director Jon Favreau spawned Cowboys & Aliens on this day in 2011.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 29, 1972 – Wil Wheaton

(10) COMIC SECTION R.I.P. The July 24 Financial Times has an article on D C Thomson, the Scottish publisher of “The Beano,” Briitain’s oldest comic (founded 1938), as they try to invent apps and short animations for tablets to keep kids interested an avoid the fate of another DC Thomson comic, “The Dandy” which died in 2012 after its circulation fell from 2 million in the 1950s to 7,500.  (“The Dandy” was supposed to move online, but hasn’t.)

(11) TIME TRAVEL. If you weren’t present in 1962 when Galactic Journey held its second tele-conference, thank goodness you have the means to go back in time whenever you want to watch Gideon Marcus and company present their predictions for the 1962 Hugo Science Fiction Awards.

(12) CONFEDERATE. The Hollywood Reporter’s Lesley Goldberg, in “HBO’s Casey Bloys Defends Slave Drama From ‘Game of Thrones’ Creators: ‘It’s a Risk Worth Taking'”, says that Bloys spoke at the Television Critics Association press tour and said Confederate was “weapons-grade material” but “If you can get it right, there is real opportunity to advance the racial discussion in America.”

If you can draw a line between what we’re seeing in the country today with voter suppression, mass incarceration, lack of access to public education and healthcare and draw the line to our past and shared history, that’s an important line to draw and a conversation worth having. [The producers] acknowledge this has a high degree of difficulty. It’s a risk worth taking.

(13) LATE SHOW. JJ admires these reviews by James Reid and wishes they’d been posted earlier so they could have been included in our roundup here. “I thought that the Campbell was the best eval (possibly the only one) for that category I’ve seen.”

Black Panther, Volume 1: A Nation Under Our Feet, writen by Ta-Nehisi Coates, illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze

Wakanda is beset by internal strife, and it’s king is overwhelmed.

How does a good king rule when they’ve failed their kingdom, and how do they fight a rebellion that philosophically might be right?  Wakanda has been devastated by war, their elite warriors have become vigilantes and rebels, and a woman flames fear in the populous and drives them to rebellion using mystical powers.  What is most interesting in this book is the sympathy that Coates shows those rising up, rather than assume that because Black Panther tries to be a good ruler he should rule, it looks at the consequences of his actions, and the role of kings.  As a book, Black Panther lacks in neither action nor thought, but unfortunately, as merely the first volume in a longer arc never has a chance to answer the questions it poses.  This is a series that demands further reading, but as a volume is all set up.

As art, the landscapes and cities are evocative, creating a technocratic eden in the jungle.  In contrast the characters are highly stylised and angular, better in motion than standing still.

A good introduction to what promises to be a well thought out look at leadership and governance combined with superhero action.

(14) COVER STORY. Shorpy is back with another old newsstand photo from around November 1938. For this one you don’t even need to squint to see the science fictional goodies. Bill says he sees these stories:

The Astounding has stories by Hubbard and Simak, and a letter from Asimov. The Amazing Stories has “I Robot” by Eando Binder. The Weird Tales has a Kull poem by REH, and stories by August Derleth, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Bloch and Henry Kuttner. The Startling Stories has a novel (“The Black Flame”) by Stanley Weinbaum. The Argosy has a reprinted installment of “The Ship of Ishtar” by Merritt. The issue of Adventure Comics contains stories and art by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Siegel and Shuster, and Sheldon Moldoff.

Although I think for some of these identifications, Bill must be using x-ray vision.

(15) I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM. We all scream… No, this isn’t a horror story, it’s a lyric: “Scoop! This Woman Tastes Ice Cream For A Living”.

Fast Company: How did you land that job, really?

Molly Hammel: It was a competitive process with dozens of applicants, but I’m not sure exactly how many people applied for this job.

One thing that really helped me stand out during the interview process was that I was on the dairy judging team in college. To participate in the team, I went through extensive training on how to judge dairy products (ice cream included). I came in second overall in the Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest in 2014 so that definitely helped as well. During my interviews, I also mentioned that I made up silly songs and walked around the office singing to get panelists to attend panels at my last internship. A couple of associates mentioned my songs to me after I was hired, so I think that helped me stand out.

(16) TIPPING THE SCALES. Only one can win! “Finalists to gather for Miss Mermaid United Kingdom pageant”.

The top mermaids in Great Britain will gather this weekend to determine who will earn the title of Miss Mermaid U.K.

Women from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were invited to compete in regional pageants and the finalists will gather at Billing Aquadrome in Northampton on Saturday.

The winner will be adorned with a special crown and receive the opportunity to compete in the Miss Mermaid International final in Egypt in November.

Participants in the pageant are required to be females between 18 and 32-years-old who live in the U.K. and have strong swimming skills.

(17) SHAKE IT FAR, FAR AWAY. Eclectic Method has created Star Wars video you can dance to, using only sounds from the 8 Star Wars Movies, no added sugars or samples.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Bill, Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Rob Thornton, and Cat Rambo for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

Pixel Scroll 1/6/17 It Scrolls! It Pixels! It Makes Julienne Files!

(1) GALAKTIKA UP TO ITS OLD TRICKS. Bence Pintér of Mandiner.sci-fi checked with the authors of translated short stories in the latest issue of Galaktika, the Hungarian prozine caught publishing overseas authors without payment. Pinter discovered —

They [Galaktika] went on with publishing short stories without the authors’ permission, in this case the victims were Indra Das and Colin P. Davies. Davies knew nothing about this translation; but they asked Das for permission, but never got back to him with contract or the royalty. He did not know his story was published. Here is my article in Hungarian.

(2) CINEMA DENIERS. New Statesman’s Amelia Tait, in “The Movie That Doesn’t Exist and the Redditors Who Think It Does”, reports there is an intense discussion on Reddit about people who say that they saw a movie called Shazaam in the mid-1990s with Sinbad as a genie, even though there is no evidence that this movie was ever made and Sinbad himself tweeted that “only people who were kids in the mid-90s” claim to have seen it.  Tait says these redditors are probably mis-remembering Kazaam, a movie with Shaquille O’Neal as a genie from the mid-1990s.

“I remember thinking Shaq’s Kazaam was a rip-off or a revamp of a failed first run, like how the 1991 film Buffy the Vampire Slayer bombed but the late Nineties TV reboot was a sensation,” says Meredith, who is one of many who claim to remember both Shazaam and Kazaam. Don remembers ordering two copies of the former and only one of the latter for the store, while Carl says: “I am one of several people who specifically never saw Kazaam because it looked ridiculous to rip off Shazaam just a few years after it had been released.” When Carl first realised there was no evidence of the Sinbad movie existing, he texted his sister to ask if she remembered the film.

“Her response [was] ‘Of course.’ I told her, ‘Try and look it up, it doesn’t exist’. She tried and texted back with only: ‘What was it called?’ – there was never a question of if it existed, only not remembering the title.”

(3) ALL HE’S CRACKED UP TO BE. Another work of art from “Hugo Nominated Author” Chuck Tingle.

(4) THE NEXT STEP. “Where do you get your ideas,” is an oft-mocked interview question, but how one writer develops his ideas is captured in Joshua Rothman’s profile “Ted Chiang’s soulful Science Fiction” in The New Yorker.

Chiang’s stories conjure a celestial feeling of atemporality. “Hell Is the Absence of God” is set in a version of the present in which Old Testament religion is tangible, rather than imaginary: Hell is visible through cracks in the ground, angels appear amid lightning storms, and the souls of the good are plainly visible as they ascend to Heaven. Neil, the protagonist, had a wife who was killed during an angelic visitation—a curtain of flame surrounding the angel Nathanael shattered a café window, showering her with glass. (Other, luckier bystanders were cured of cancer or inspired by God’s love.) Attending a support group for people who have lost loved ones in similar circumstances, he finds that, although they are all angry at God, some still yearn to love him so that they can join their dead spouses and children in Heaven. To write this retelling of the Book of Job, in which one might predict an angel’s movements using a kind of meteorology, Chiang immersed himself in the literature of angels and the problem of innocent suffering; he read C. S. Lewis and the evangelical author Joni Eareckson Tada. Since the story was published, in 2001, readers have argued about the meaning of Chiang’s vision of a world without faith, in which the certain and proven existence of God is troubling, rather than reassuring.

(5) BIG RAY GUN. The UK Ministry of Defence has awarded a ?30M contract to produce a prototype laser weapon.

The aim is to see whether “directed energy” technology could benefit the armed forces, and is to culminate in a demonstration of the system in 2019.

The contract was picked up by a consortium of European defence firms.

The prototype will be assessed on how it picks up and tracks targets at different distances and in varied weather conditions over land and water.

(6) CHOW DOWN. Episode 26 of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast brings Edelman together with James Morrow at an Uzbek restaurant.

James Morrow

James Morrow

We discussed his first novel (written when he was only seven years old!), why he feels more connected to the fiction of Arthur C. Clarke than that of Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov, his many paths not taken, including that of filmmaker, the ethical conundrum which occurred after Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. autographed a book “for Jim Morrow, who writes just like me,” how Charles Darwin “confiscated our passports,” and much more.

Edelman has launched an Eating the Fantastic Patreon.

In order to make Eating the Fantastic even better, I’d like to pick up the pace, post episodes more often than biweekly, make day trips to capture writers whom I never get a chance to see on the con circuit, and maybe even upgrade to more advanced recording equipment.

(7) AUTOGRAPH THE PETITION. Brad Johnson of Covina, CA has started a Change.org petition calling for California lawmakers to repeal the troublesome new standards for dealers in autographed items.

Nearly everyone in California is impacted by AB 1570, California’s new autograph bill, because it affects everyone with a signed item in their possession, whether it’s a painting passed down through generations, an autographed baseball, or a treasured book obtained at an author’s book signing. Under the new law, when a California consumer sells an autographed item worth $5 or more, the consumer’s name and address must be included on a Certificate of Authenticity. This requirement applies to anyone reselling the item as authentic, be it a bookseller, auction house, comic book dealer, antiques dealer, autograph dealer, art dealer, an estate sales company, or even a charity.

AB 1570 is fatally flawed and must be repealed with immediate effect. It is rife with unintended consequences that harm both consumers and small businesses. It has been condemned by newspaper editorial boards and the American Civil Liberties Union.

“This bill never should have passed. The Legislature must fix or repeal it immediately when it resumes business.” – Los Angeles Times Editorial Board

(8) THERE IS A SILVER BULLET FOR THIS PROBLEM. Kate Beckinsale, star of Underworld: Blood Wars, joins Stephen Colbert to deliver an important werewolf-related public service announcement.

(9) A STRANGE DEVICE. Seattle’s Museum of Popular Culture hosts “The Art of Rube Goldberg” beginning February 11.

stamp_usps_rube_goldberg

From self-opening umbrellas to automated back scratchers, if you can dream it, Rube Goldberg invented it.

For more than 70 years, cartoonist Rube Goldberg drew unique worlds filled with inventive technology and political commentary. Equal parts clever satirist and zany designer, the Pulitzer Prizing-winning artist is best known for his invention drawings—complex chain-reaction machines designed to perform simple tasks.

From iconic board games like Mouse Trap to thrilling music videos such as OK Go’s “This Too Shall Pass,” Goldberg has influenced some of the most indelible moments in pop culture. His name is so synonymous with his creations that it was added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as an adjective that describes the act of complicating a simple task. The tireless creator is thought to have drawn 50,000 cartoons over his long career.

Today, Goldberg’s ideas live on through the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. This annual international competition challenges teams of students to compete in building the most elaborate Rube Goldberg Machine.

The Art of Rube Goldberg is the first comprehensive retrospective of Goldberg’s 72-year career since 1970. With more than 90 objects on display ranging from original drawings and animations to 3D puzzles, these incredible artifacts are paired with MoPOP’s signature interactive style to bring Goldberg’s imagination to life.

(10) EIGHTIES VERTLIEB. Matt Suzaka at Chuck Norris Ate My Baby rediscovered an old video of Steve Vertlieb being interviewed on Philadelphia TV:

While wandering the crowded halls of YouTube recently, I came across this enjoyable Halloween special that aired sometime in the early 1980s (maybe ‘81 or ‘82). The show in question, People Are Talking, was hosted by Richard Bey, and this particular episode features a genuinely interesting interview with film journalist and historian Steve Vertlieb.

One thing that I enjoy about this special, specifically the interview with Vertlieb, is the fact that horror films aren’t being chastised, something of which was very common for this type of show during the time period. Instead, this interview and the special as a whole is more of a celebration of what makes horror enjoyable for people of all ages. There is some discussion about how horror evolves to reflect modern society as well as how horror films can be a positive escape for some people.

 

(11) SPECIAL SNOWFLAKES. Anthony Herrera Designs has many patterns for science fictional paper snowflakes. The link takes you to the 2016 Star Wars set, and on the same page are links to Guardians of the Galaxy, Frozen, and Harry Potter designs.

New characters! New vehicles! 50% more beards! It’s time for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. These characters look just awesome and they make great snowflakes too. Here is the Star Wars snowflake collection for 2016. Featuring Rogue One characters and a few additional ones I just needed to throw in there. Download, cut and decorate with these snowflakes and most of all REBEL! This is an rebellion isn’t it? Unless your office coworkers will be annoyed. In that case be cool. Don’t be that guy.  As always I recommend using scissors, a sharp x-acto knife and patience. Have fun!

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(11) THE SHAPE OF SHADES TO COME. Several File 770 readers have said they will be chasing the eclipse next summer. Here’s the latest information on where it can be viewed — “NASA Moon Data Provides More Accurate 2017 Eclipse Path”.

On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, millions in the U.S. will have their eyes to the sky as they witness a total solar eclipse. The moon’s shadow will race across the United States, from Oregon to South Carolina. The path of this shadow, also known as the path of totality, is where observers will see the moon completely cover the sun. And thanks to elevation data of the moon from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, coupled with detailed NASA topography data of Earth, we have the most accurate maps of the path of totality for any eclipse to date.

 

(12) MOON PICTURE. Annalee Newitz at Ars Technica says Hidden Figures is the perfect space race movie. Does the review live up to the wordplay of the headline? You decide!

Hidden Figures is the perfect title for this film, based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s exhaustively researched book of the same name. It deals with an aspect of spaceflight that is generally ignored, namely all the calculations that allow us to shoot objects into orbit and bring them back again. But it’s also about the people who are typically offscreen in sweeping tales of the white men who ran the space race. What Hidden Figures reveals, for the first time in Hollywood history, is that John Glenn would never have made it to space without the brilliant mathematical insights of a black woman named Katherine Johnson (played with what can only be called regal geekiness by Taraji Henson from Empire and Person of Interest).

Johnson was part of a group of “colored computers” at Langley Research Center in Atlanta, black women mathematicians who were segregated into their own number-crunching group. They worked on NASA’s Project Mercury and Apollo 11, and Johnson was just one of several women in the group whose careers made history.

Though Johnson is the main character, we also follow the stories of her friends as Langley pushes its engineers to catch up to the Soviets in the space race. Mary Jackson (a terrific Janelle Monae) wants to become an engineer, and eventually gets a special court order so she can attend classes at an all-white school. Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) becomes the first African-American woman to lead a department at the space agency, by teaching herself FORTRAN and learning to program Langley’s new IBM mainframe. One of my favorite scenes is when Vaughan debugs the computer for a bunch of white guys who have no idea what’s going on. As they splutter in confusion, she pats the giant, humming mainframe and says, “Good girl.”

(13) OCTAVIA BUTLER’S KINDRED NOW GRAPHIC NOVEL. Via Tor.com’s Leah Schnelbach we learn:

If you’re in New York City on January 13th and 14th, illustrator and Visual Studies professor John Jennings will be debuting the graphic novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred at the 2017 Black Comic Fest at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture! Jennings collaborated with writer Damian Duffy on the project, and you can read a preview here.

(14) SHINING GEEKS. Also at Tor.com is Schnelbach’s post “Adam Savage Tours a Weta Workshop Sculptor’s Mini Labyrinth Maze!”

Is there anything more joyful than watching someone explain their passion to an appreciative audience? In the video below, Johnny Fraser-Allen walks Adam Savage through his gorgeously detailed model of the Labyrinth from, er, Labyrinth. Fraser-Allen began work at Weta Workshop straight out of high school, after being inspired to go into film by repeated viewing of Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. Now he’s been commissioned by River Horse Games to create figures and illustrations for their Labyrinth tabletop game, and he gleefully shares his work with fellow maze-enthusiast Adam Savage, whose model of The Shining‘s iconic hedge maze is currently touring the country with the Stanley Kubrick Exhibition.

See her post for the Youtube video about the Labyrinth maze.

Meantime, here’s another video about Savage’s own Overlook Hotel Maze. The video is cued to when it’s all complete for about an 8-minute run, but people who want all the details on how it was designed and built can watch from the very beginning (24:21 total).

(15) PROFESSIONAL ADVICE. Alex Acks tweets

(16) AWESOMENESS. Patrick Wynne, renowned mythopoeic artist, was thrilled with a gift he received from Carl F. Hostetter, one of his colleagues in the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship. It’s amazing what happens when your friends really know you.

I think I might just have gotten my favorite Procasmas present EVER—a huge fleece throw with the infamous friendship portrait of Amy Farrah Fowler and Penny from “The Big Bang Theory”! Thank you, Carl F. Hostetter, it’s wonderful!

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(17) INTERPLANETARY LOVE. The Space Between Us trailer #3 is out.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Mark-kitteh, Soon Lee, Michael J. Walsh, Steve Vertlieb, Andrew Porter. and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Dawn Incognito.]

Pixel Scroll 1/4/17 Four Scrolls And Seven Pixels Ago

(1) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. SF Crowsnest reviewer Eamonn Murphy isn’t a big fan of Uncanny Magazine. His review of issue #13, which is still online, passes such judgements as —

The non-fiction in ‘Uncanny Magazine’ usually consists of essays complaining about the lack of one-legged Mexican lesbian heroes in films because of the white Anglo-Saxon phallocentric conspiracy that controls the media or about how difficult it is to be a ‘Star Wars’ fan if you have a big nose.

At this hour, however, Murphy’s more recent review of Uncanny Magazine #14 is a 404-sized hole in the internet. It was yanked in response to the outraged reaction provoked by Murphy’s sarcastic comments about the transgender and gay characters in Sam J. Miller’s story “Bodies Stacked Like Firewood.”

Murphy’s review is still available as screenshots in Sarah Gailey’s Twitter feed.

Uncanny Magazine’s editors declared: “A review website published a hateful, heavily transphobic review of Uncanny Magazine 14. They will no longer be receiving review copies.” and “We normally don’t comment on reviews, but we will when there is hate speech in the review directed at the content & the creators.”

Jim C. Hines answered with what I’d call a fisk of Murphy’s review (although Hines doesn’t).

Not only does Mr. Murphy start frothing at the mouth when a story includes a queer or trans character or talks about tolerance, he keeps frothing even when he thinks the story isn’t about those things. We’re talking about a man set to permanent froth, a cross between malfunctioning espresso machine and a dog who ate too much toothpaste and shat all over your carpet.

(2) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. The Nature Conservancy’s Photo of the Month for January pictures the Milky Way over Mount Rainier, positioned so it looks like Rainier is erupting stars. The photographer explains:

This shot was a year in the making. That’s the Milky Way galaxy appearing as if it’s erupting out of the Mount Rainier volcano, with the headlamps of climbers on their way to the summit.

…Once I acquired a good camera from a friend I began tracking the phases of the moon and waiting for that once-a-month new moon when the skies would be darkest. I tracked satellite images of where light pollution was located, tracked weather patterns, and waited for a clear enough sky to perfectly align with the new moon.

I also scouted locations for the exact time and placement in the sky of the core of the Milky Way relative to where I would be hiking. I experienced a lot of trial and error, but finally the ideal location, weather and moon phase all lined up perfectly for a galactic eruption.

(3) FLAME ON. Launched this month — Fiyah Magazine of black speculative fiction.

P. Djeli Clark tells the history behind the magazine and the significance of its title in “The FIYAH This Time”.

Excerpts from the stories in the first issue are available online.

  • Long Time Lurker, First Time Bomber // Malon Edwards
  • Police Magic // Brent Lambert
  • Revival // Wendi Dunlap
  • The Shade Caller // DaVaun Sanders
  • Sisi Je Kuisha (We Have Ended) // V.H. Galloway
  • Chesirah // L.D. Lewis

fiyah_rebirthcover_300

(4) SFWA ELECTIONS. Cat Rambo answered my questions about when the process officially begins:

The official call for candidates goes out January 15, administered by our able Elections Commissioner, Fran Wilde and that’s when we open up the section of our discussion boards where people can post their platforms and answer the inevitably lively “Ask the Candidates” thread. This year the election will be for President, Secretary, and a couple of Director positions.

File770 readers who are SFWA members who’ve never been on the board might want to think about running for Director at Large. The team is super, the organization is moving towards doing some cool stuff, and it’s a great way to pay things forward.

(5) IN BOOKS TO COME. Making sure your TBR stack remains as high as Everest, the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog has posted “96 Books Sci-Fi & Fantasy Editors Can’t Wait for You to Read in 2017”. Lots of new authors – but at least one of them is far from unknown:

Talon of God, by Wesley Snipes and Ray Norman (July 25) It’s one thing to hear that Wesley Snipes (yes, that Wesley Snipes!) has written a novel. It’s another thing to find out that it’s one of the best new urban fantasies you’ve read in a long time. Beyond its star appeal and great angels versus demons mythos, the thing that Wesley and Ray Norman do that really drew me in was give us some powerful black heroes at a time when the call for diversity has never been higher—or more necessary.

(6) SHORT FICTION ROUNDUP. The Tangent Online 2016 Recommended Reading List” contains 379 stories — 296 short stories, 65 novelettes, and 18 novellas.

Jason Sanford created a scoreboard showing how many stories various SFF publishers placed on the list.

Sanford personally landed four on the list “including three stars for my Beneath Ceaseless Skies novelette ‘Blood Grains Speak Through Memories.’ This made my day!”

(7) AVAILABLE EVERYWHERE BUT CALIFORNIA. From the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America discussion board:

By now virtually everyone in ABAA knows about how Easton Press is no longer shipping autographed books to California. To see this for yourself, just go to the Easton Press website and click on a specific autographed item for sale.

You will see this message:

Sorry, this product cannot ship to California.

No explanation for this is given on the website. Scott Brown reports that Easton Press won’t confirm it has anything to do with the new California law. But what else could it be?

So many well-known authors are represented by Easton Press that this could be the break we have needed to get legislators to understand what is at stake because of their new law:

No one in California can buy an autographed book from Easton Press any more!  

Easton Press is currently offering 127 signed items.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 4, 1785 — German folklore and fairy tale collector Jacob Grimm.

(10) LE GUIN FELLOWSHIP. Theodora Goss announced she is one of two recipients of a Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship. The fellowship will pay for her to travel to Le Guin’s archives at the University of Oregon so she can research the Le Guin book she’s writing for University of Illinois Press.

I contacted the University of Oregon to ask who is the second recipient and have not had a reply.

(11) DOCUMENTING FANAC. Joe Siclari shared with readers of his Fanac.org newsletter —

We’re starting to get some notice.  Cory Doctorow picked up on our posting of the mid-80s fannish mystery “FAANS” to the FANAC Youtube channel, and wrote about it for BoingBoing.net.  The MAC Video Archeology Project contributed some choice pieces of 1976 video, including a truly entertaining interview with Alfred Bester. The interview has had more than 700 views and FAANs is up over 400.

 

FANAC.ORG website: Our Newszine History Project is still going strong. Since our last update, we have added 200 new issues. We still have 100s more to do and could certainly use some help with  missing issues. We’re not ignoring the rest of the fan publishing world though – we’re adding some choice fanzine titles, like Greg Benford and Ted White’s 1950s VOID and Dave Kyle’s 1930s Fantasy World (credited with being one of the first comics fanzines).

(12) TENSION APPREHENSION. James Gleick’s review of Arrival and Ted Chiang’s new story collection for the New York Review of Books is behind a paywall. It begins —

What tense is this?

I remember a conversation we’ll have when you’re in your junior year of high school. It’ll be Sunday morning, and I’ll be scrambling some eggs….

I remember once when we’ll be driving to the mall to buy some new clothes for you. You’ll be thirteen.

The narrator is Louise Banks in “Story of Your Life,” a 1998 novella by Ted Chiang. She is addressing her daughter, Hannah, who, we soon learn, has died at a young age. Louise is addressing Hannah in memory, evidently. But something peculiar is happening in this story. Time is not operating as expected. As the Queen said to Alice, “It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.”

(13) SMALL BUT LOUD. Astronomers have pinpointed the location of an enigmatic celestial object that spits out brief, but powerful, blasts of radio waves. Nature says the mysterious cosmic radio blasts have been traced to a surprising source.

The latest work, published on 4 January in Nature, is the sharpest look yet at the home of a fast radio burst known as FRB 121102. Located in the constellation Auriga, the intermittent signal was first detected on 2 November 2012. Since then, it has flared up several times, making it the only fast radio burst known to repeat.

A team led by Shami Chatterjee, an astronomer at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, began with the 305-metre-wide Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. Its sensitivity allowed the scientists to detect multiple bursts from FRB 121102. The team then used two sets of radio telescopes — the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array in New Mexico, and the European VLBI Network across Europe — to narrow down the location of FRB 121102 even further.

The bursts originate from a dwarf galaxy that emits faint radiation in both radio and visual wavelengths. Follow-up observations with the Gemini North telescope, on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, showed that it is less than one-tenth the size and has less than one-thousandth the mass of the Milky Way.

”The host galaxy is puny,” says team member Shriharsh Tendulkar, an astronomer at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. “That’s weird.” With fewer stars than many galaxies, dwarf galaxies would seem to have less of a chance of hosting whatever creates fast radio bursts. That would include neutron stars, one of the leading candidates for the source of fast radio bursts.

But much more work is needed to pin down the physical mechanism of what causes these mysterious bursts, says Chatterjee. For now, FRB 121102 is just one example.

That need could be filled later this year when a new radio telescope comes online in British Columbia, Canada, dedicated to hunting fast radio bursts.

(14) FORD PERFECT. Movie Pilot introduces a clever fan-made Star Wars video

What would you do for your best friend? The 13-minute video follows Solo, yet again being confronted for one of his smuggling antics — but at least this time he’s got a very precise mission in mind. Chewbacca has been captured, and he needs a valuable item to make the trade.

JJ calls it, “A spot-on imitation of Ford’s mannerisms by this actor, and just a fun little film.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Dawn Incognito, JJ, Mark-kitteh, and Bruce D. Arthurs for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson, who may justly complain that I trimmed half his joke.]

Pixel Scroll 10/25/16 Bears Discover File 770

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(1) ARRIVAL PREMIERE BENEFIT FOR CLARION. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination will host the San Diego premiere of the film Arrival, starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker. After the film, there will be a conversation and Q&A with Ted Chiang, whose novella “Story of Your Life” provided the basis of the screenplay.

All proceeds from the screening benefit the Clarion Foundation, which supports the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop at UC San Diego. Click on the link to buy tickets.

Arrival is the the story of what happens when mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe. An elite team, led by expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams), is brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers-and to find them, she will take a chance that could threaten her life, and, quite possibly, humanity.

Ted Chiang is a graduate and, later, instructor in the renowned Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, organized at UCSD by the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination. Known for his exacting craftsmanship in writing profound and psychologically rich science fiction, Chiang this year alone has the honor of having a story (“The Great Silence”) in both the Best American Short Stories 2016 and Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016, after it was originally written for a collaboration with the visual artists Allora & Calzadilla.

(2) NEW CLARKE CENTER PODCAST. Into the Impossible: A Clarke Center Podcast launches November 1.

clarke-podcast-logoInto the Impossible is a podcast of stories, ideas, and speculations from the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination. Early episodes will take listeners through exciting, ranging conversations with and between scientists, artists, writers, and thinkers of different stripes, on the nature of imagination and how, through speculative culture, we create our future. The first episode includes Freeman Dyson (physicist and writer), David Kaiser (physicist, MIT), Rae Armantrout (Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, UCSD professor emeritus), and Brian Keating (astrophysicist, UCSD).

Later episodes will feature actors like Herbert Siguenza (Culture Clash), futurists like Bruce Sterling (writer, design theorist, WIRED columnist), and science fiction authors like Vernor Vinge (novelist, mathematician, computer scientist), as well as looks into Clarke Center activities like Dr. Allyson Muotri’s lab growing Neanderthal brain neurons and the new Speculative Design major. We will also premiere an audio performance created in collaboration between artist Marina Abramovic and science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson, created in workshop here at the Clarke Center with Adam Tinkle and local and student volunteers.

(3) LEARNING AND RELEARNING. Cat Rambo’s speech is now online — “Into the Abyss: Surrey International Writers Conference, Morning Keynote for October 23, 2016”.

I try to write, every day, 2000 words, because that’s what Stephen King does and I think he’s a pretty good role model. Note that I say try, because I don’t always hit it. But you must write. Every day you write is a victory.

Figure out your personal writing process and what works for you. And then do it, lots. I realized that my most productive time is the mornings. So if my mother calls in the mornings, she knows I will answer “Is this an emergency?” and if she says no, I will hang up. (I did warn her before implementing this policy.) Find the times and places you are productive and defend them from the world. You will have gotten a lot of writing advice here and the thing about writing advice is this. All of it is both right and wrong, because people’s process differs and moreover, it can and will differ over the course of time. Find what works for you and do it.

Be kind to yourself. We are delicate, complex machines both physically and mentally. Writers are so good at beating themselves up, at feeling guilty, at imagining terrible futures. You are the person with the most to gain from being kind to yourself; do it. Don’t punish yourself for not hitting a writing goal; reward yourself when you do.

(4) ZOMBIE PROM REVIEW. Martin Morse Wooster personally eyeballed the production and returned with a verdict:

I saw Zombie Prom on Friday, and I think Nelson Pressley’s review was unfair.  Unexpected Stage Company, which did the production, is a minor-league company.  I doubt any member of the cast was over 25 and no one was a member of Equity.  That being said, everyone hit their marks and remembered their lines and most of the cast had pretty good voices.  I thought the production was pleasant.

The title of the musical is misleading, because there’s only one zombie in the cast. (I guess they couldn’t call it One Zombie at a Prom.) It’s the 1950s, and we’re at Enrico Fermi High.  Jonny Warner gets jilted by his girlfriend and leaps into a vat of nuclear waste, which turns him into a zombie.  Will anyone accept him–including his former girlfriend?

I have never heard of Dean P. Rowe, who did the music, and John Dempsey, author of the book and lyrics, but they have talent and my guess is in five years we will hear a lot from them.  There are some mildly deep references to ’50s pop culture, including what I thought was a reference to The Milton Berle Show.  The two best performers were Dallas Milholland, who for some reason decided to play semi-villainous Principal Delilah Strict in a pseudo-British accent, and Will Hawkins, who played Jonny Warner with a great deal of gusto.

Their website is Unexpected Stage Company.

(5) LONG LISTENER ANTHOLOGY. David Steffen says there will be an audiobook of the Long List Anthology Volume 2 after all, using a modified table of contents.

I have been talking with Skyboat Media and we have decided to go ahead with the audiobook, with some alterations to the table of contents from the original stretch goal to get it to just the right length for the resources available.  So there will be an audiobook again this year, this time with 6 stories.

The table of contents is:

  • Our Lady of the Open Road by Sarah Pinsker
  • Today I Am Paul by Martin L. Shoemaker
  • Madeleine by Amal El-Mohtar
  • Pocosin by Ursula Vernon
  • Damage by David D. Levine
  • Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds by Rose Lemberg

The title will also be different to reflect the different table of contents from the book/ebook:

OUR LADY OF THE OPEN ROAD & OTHER STORIES FROM THE LONG LIST ANTHOLOGY, volume 2

(6) TEPPER OBIT. The SFWA Blog posted an obituary for Sheri S. Tepper.

Cat Rambo says, “If I had to name one series by her I adore more than any other of the many excellent choices, it’s the Marianne series, and I highly recommend them to the File 770 readers.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born October 25, 1892 — Leo G. Carroll in 1892  (played Topper, and Alexander Waverly in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.)
  • Born October 25, 1924 — Billy Barty. His sf/f resume includes the animated The Lord of the Rings (1978, rotoscope footage) Snow White (1987), Masters of the Universe (1987) and Lobster Man from Mars (1989).

(8) CHAT WITH THREE-BODY AUTHOR. An excellent interview at SF Crowsnest: “Cixin Liu: interviewed by Gareth D Jones”.

GDJ: My favourite character in the books is Da Shi, especially in the second volume, ‘The Dark Forest’. Do you have a favourite character out of the ones you wrote about?

CL: In terms of Da Shi, he’s one of the most liked characters amongst Europeans and American readers. I think it’s because he’s like a caricature of a Chinese person of Beijing police, real well-connected, good with people. But this kind of people are actually really common in China, so we all know someone like that. But for non-Chinese readers, he immediately captures the attention. In terms of favourite character, I don’t think I have a favourite character really because they’re just there to propel the story forward. So it’s where the story is taking them that affects them, so I don’t have a favourite.

(9) ET, PHONE US. “Either the stars are strange, or there are 234 aliens trying to contact us” says Phys.org news. Obviously, these guys haven’t read the Three-Body Trilogy.

What we’re talking about here is a new study from E.F. Borra and E. Trottier, two astronomers at Laval University in Canada. Their study, titled “Discovery of peculiar periodic spectral modulations in a small fraction of solar type stars” was just published at arXiv.org. ArXiv.org is a pre-print website, so the paper itself hasn’t been peer reviewed yet. But it is generating interest.

The two astronomers used data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and analyzed the spectra of 2.5 million stars. Of all those stars, they found 234 stars that are producing a puzzling signal. That’s only a tiny percentage. And, they say, these signals “have exactly the shape of an ETI signal” that was predicted in a previous study by Borra.

Prediction is a key part of the scientific method. If you develop a theory, your theory looks better and better the more you can use it to correctly predict some future events based on it. Look how many times Einstein’s predictions based on Relativity have been proven correct.

The 234 stars in Borra and Trottier’s study aren’t random. They’re “overwhelmingly in the F2 to K1 spectral range” according to the abstract. That’s significant because this is a small range centred around the spectrum of our own Sun. And our own Sun is the only one we know of that has an intelligent species living near it. If ours does, maybe others do too?

(10) THE HULK V. THE THING. CinemaBlend reports Stan Lee’s definitive answer to America’s most asked question. (And no, it’s not “Does your chewing gum lose its flavor in the bedpost overnight?”)

It’s a question that has dogged comic book fans for decades: who would win in a fight between The Hulk and The Thing? Of course, there’s only one man who has the definitive answer to this quandary: Marvel icon Stan Lee himself. So when it was finally posed to the comic book legend, the world waited with bated breath to hear the answer, which, as it turns out, is The Hulk.

Stan Lee made this admission during his chat with The Tomorrow Show. But there were a few caveats to Stan Lee’s answer, who predicted that The Thing/Ben Grimm would definitely give The Hulk/Bruce Banner a run for his money, as he’s a little smarter than his counterpart. But that didn’t stop Stan Lee from picking The Hulk as the winner, as he explained:

“Oh, The Hulk would win. The Thing is faster and smarter, so he would probably find a way to turn it into a draw or save himself. He’d trap or trick the Hulk. But, in a fair fight, there’s no way the Hulk [would lose]. He’d win.”

(11) FIFTH OF INDIANA. ScreenRant says a fifth Indiana Jones movie will be out in 2019, starring Harrison Ford and directed by Steven Spielberg. But what about George Lucas? “Indiana Jones 5: George Lucas Is Not Involved With Story”.

In an interview with Collider, the screenwriter mentioned that Lucas does not have a hand in crafting the Indiana Jones 5 story, saying, “I haven’t had any contact with him.” Spielberg’s earlier claims that Lucas would be an executive producer could still be true, but it’s difficult to envision a scenario in which Lucas is attached to an Indiana Jones film and isn’t helping design the narrative. It would appear that Lucas would rather enjoy his retirement than jump into the Hollywood machine again, which isn’t all that surprising considering his comments about Disney in the lead-up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. For many fans, this is a bittersweet revelation; like Star Wars, Lucas is an integral part of the Indiana Jones property, but he was responsible for some of the more unfavorable elements in Crystal Skull, such as his insistence aliens be in the film. Some viewers would prefer Lucas stay away.

(12) SFWA MARKET REPORT. SFWA President Cat Rambo says, “The latest market report went out a little late this month and I wanted to make sure people were aware of it. Dave Steffen is doing a terrific job assembling it.” Find it here: http://www.sfwa.org/2016/10/sfwa-market-report-october/.

(13) OPENINGS IN RAMBO/SWIRSKY CLASS. There are still slots open in “Re-Telling and Re-Taleing: Old Stories Into New”, the Cat Rambo/Rachel Swirsky live online class happening Saturday, October 29.

Authors constantly draw on the stories that have preceded them, particularly folklore, mythology, and fables. What are the best methods for approaching such material and what are the possible pitfall? How does one achieve originality when working with such familiar stories? Lecture, in-class exercise, and discussion will build your proficiency when working with such stories. Co-taught with Nebula-award winning writer Rachel Swirsky.

(14) ARCHEOTELEVISION. Echo Ishii has a new post about another antique sff TV show – “SF Obscure: Children of the Stones”.

Children of the Stones is a 1977 television drama for children produced by ITV network. I know of this show mainly because of the late Gareth Thomas. So, I decided to watch it because I had heard good things about it.

Astrophysicist Adam Brake and his son Matthew go to a village called Millbury which has a megalithic circle of stones in the middle of it. (It’s filmed on the prehistoric monument of Avebury) Things get strange as soon as they arrive. First of all, the housekeeper and neighbors all seem abnormally happy. Matthew has strange feelings of evil and is immediately hostile towards the new neighbor. His father chides him, but Matthew can’t help but feel something is wrong. We later learn that Matthew has some psychic abilities and this is why he reacts the way he does….

(15) DISSECTING THE FALL TV PREMIERES. Asking the Wrong Questions’ Abigail Nussbaum continues “Thoughts on the New TV Season, 2016 Edition, Part 2”.

Westworld – Easily the most-anticipated new series of the fall, the consensus that has already formed around HBO’s latest foray into genre is that it represents the channel’s attempts to grapple with its own reputation for prurient violence, particularly violence against women (see Emily Nussbaum in The New Yorker, and Aaron Bady in The Los Angeles Review of Books).  You can see how that consensus has formed–Westworld builds on the 1973 movie to imagine a lush and impeccably-detailed theme park in which customers pay lavishly to indulge their every fantasy, which almost inevitably seem to involve murder, mayhem, and of course rape.  The metaphor for how HBO’s pretensions to highbrow entertainment ultimately rest on the sumptuously-filmed and -costumed violence of Game of Thrones, True Detective, and The Night Of pretty much writes itself.  For myself, I’d like to believe that there’s more to Westworld than this glib reading, first because I simply do not believe that anyone at HBO possesses this level of self-awareness–this is, after all, the channel whose executives were genuinely taken aback, in the year 2016, by the idea that their shows had become synonymous with violence against women–and second because it’s by far the least interesting avenue of story the show could take.

(16) WOMEN INVISIBLE AGAIN. Juliet McKenna takes to task “Andrew Marr’s Paperback Heroes – a masculine view of epic fantasy entrenching bias”.

Two things happened on Monday 24th October. News of Sheri S Tepper’s death spread – and a lot of people on social media wondered why isn’t her brilliant, innovative and challenging science fiction and fantasy writing better known?

Then the BBC broadcast the second episode of Andrew Marr’s series on popular fiction, looking at epic fantasy.

The programme featured discussion of the work of seven, perhaps eight, major writers – six men and one, perhaps two women if you include the very passing reference to J K Rowling .

Four male writers were interviewed and one woman. Please note that the woman was interviewed solely in the context of fantasy written for children.

If you total up all the writers included, adding in cover shots or single-sentence name checks, eleven men get a look-in, compared to six women. Of those women, three got no more than a name check and one got no more than a screenshot of a single book.

It was an interesting programme, if simplistic in its view, to my mind. There’s a lot of fantasy written nowadays that goes beyond the old Hero’s Journey template. There’s a great deal to the genre today that isn’t the male-dominated grimdarkery which this programme implied is currently the be-all and end-all of the genre….

(17) MASQUERADE VIDEOS. The International Costumers Guild has posted the final version of the “MidAmeriCon 1 masquerade Look Back”.

This episode features highlights from the MidAmeriCon 1 masquerade held in Kansas City, MO. Having discovered another version of this masquerade after the initial upload, we’ve replaced it with this one because the color is more vivid. There is also one additional costume entry that has been added to the video. Note: This video, while not the sharpest in detail, could still be considered slightly NSFW.

 

They have also just released a quick memorial to author and costumer Adrienne Martine-Barnes.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Rambo, Nora and Bruce Mai, JJ, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/15/16 Go Hang A Pixel, I’m A Lasagna Scroll.

(1) SPACE REMAINS THE FINAL FRONTIER. Howard Tayler is right – pass along the dream.

(2) A CENTURY OF CARL SLAUGHTER. Adding together all the interviews, book features, series features, author profiles, essays, and news items he’s written for File 770, today I published Carl’s 99th and 100th submissions. I’m grateful he’s been so generous with his talent here.

(3) AGENT SECRETS. Liana Brooks tells aspiring writers when is “The Best Time To Query”.

These are just the tidbits that everyone in the industry takes for granted and assumes everyone knows.

1 – Literary agents close for several months of the year so always check their websites to see if they are open to queries right now.

2 – Summer is con season and, on Fridays, the agents and editors leave work early. If your deadline falls on a Friday, make sure the manuscript gets in early.

3 – Between Thanksgiving (American) and Groundhog’s Day, publishing is slow and full of NO. Everyone wants to clear their desk for the new year and empty their inboxes so agents (and editors) are quicker to say no this time of year.

That means February is one of the best times to query. Everyone is back from their holidays. Everyone is over their “no booze” New Year’s Resolution. Everyone is excited about the coming spring and in the mood to say YES!

(4) ATWOOD DISAPPROVES DYLAN WIN. Margaret Atwood, in England to receive the PEN Pinter Prize, had this exchange with her Guardian interviewer:

On Thursday, just as I am saying goodbye to Margaret Atwood at the end of our interview, I get a text message. “Oh,” I say. “Bob Dylan’s won the Nobel prize.” She is about to have her photograph taken, and is arranging a rakish grey felt hat atop her steely curls. She looks at me, opens her mouth very slightly, and widens her eyes. They are the faintly unrealistic blue of a Patagonian glacier.

“For what?” she says, aspirating the word “what” with devastating effect.

If Atwood herself occasionally checks her phone for missed calls from Stockholm on such mornings, she does not admit to it; in any case, fellow Canadian Alice Munro’s victory in 2013, commemorated with a generous tribute by Atwood in this paper, will have queered that particular pitch for some years to come.

(5) BUT HOW DID THIS NOT PREVENT DYLAN FROM WINNING THE NOBEL PRIZE? Though it may be the reason it took so long.

(6) BOB WEINBERG MEMORIAL. Steven H Silver sent this report about the celebration of the late Robert Weinberg, who passed away September 25.

A memorial party was held for Bob Weinberg today at the Orland Park (IL) Civic Center from 12:00-4:30. There were about 70 people attending. Doug Ellis and others spoke about their relationship with Bob. Attached is a picture showing Phyllis and Alex Eisenstein, Tina Jens, Randy Broecker, and Richard Chwedyk. Images of Bob and his art collection were shown on a screen and some of Bob’s jigsaw puzzles were available for people to work on or take home.

bob-weinbergs-memorial-c

(7) AVOIDING ANTISOCIAL MEDIA. Kevin Hearne is taking a break from Twitter and Facebook, however, he still recommends Instagram and imzy.

I am currently hiding from the icky people of the world. Many of them are on Twitter, so I’ve taken a Twitter break until after the election. Quite a few are also on Facebook so I’ve stopped hanging around there too: It’s like people are just waiting for you to show up so they can poot in your face. I’ve noticed that if I spend any time on either platform my mood turns sour like milk from four months ago, and I’d rather not let that negativity poison my days.

I am, however, still posting happy pictures on Instagram, if you’d like to follow me there: I’m @kevin_hearne. And I’m on imzy as well. If you’d like to follow me there & become part of that community, click on this link, ask for an invitation, and I’ll approve it quick as I can.

Both Instagram and imzy, I have found, are poot-free.

(8) ADD THESE TO MOUNT TBR. Open Culture has a list of five for us: “A Clockwork Orange Author Anthony Burgess Lists His Five Favorite Dystopian Novels: Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Island & More”.

Before John Stuart Mill coined the word “dystopia” in 1868, pessimistic post-Enlightenment thinker Jeremy Bentham created an earlier, perhaps even scarier, word, “cacotopia,” the “imagined seat of the worst government.” This was the term favored by Anthony Burgess, author of one of the most unsettling dystopian novels of the last century, A Clockwork Orange. Depicting a chaotic future England filled with extreme criminal violence and an unnerving government solution, the novel can be read as either, writes Ted Gioia, “a look into the morality of an individual, or as an inquiry into the morality of the State.” It seems to me that this dual focus marks a central feature of much successful dystopian fiction: despite its thoroughly grim and pessimistic nature, the best representatives of the genre present us with human characters who have some agency, however limited, and who can choose to revolt from the oppressive conditions (and usually fail in the attempt) or to fully acquiesce and remain complicit.

(9) STEAMING ALONG. Gail Carriger includes lots of photos with “Con Report ~ Fun at Gaslight Gathering in San Diego”.

I really wish this con were closer to me, I would go every year if I could. It was like meeting old friends for the first time (shout out to Madame Askew and The Grand Arbiter). Tea Dueling is my new favorite sport of all time and everyone should do it everywhere forever.

(10) RINGS. From NPR: “Spin To Survive: How ‘Saturn On Steroids’ Keeps From Self-Destructing”. The accompanying astronomical art is by Ron Miller.

In 2007, data showed that a young star about 400 light years away from our solar system was blinking. It was being covered, uncovered and covered again in what astronomers call a “series of complex eclipses.”

The eclipses told astronomers that something was orbiting the young star, and that the something was very large….

…In 2012, [Eric Mamajek] and colleagues published a paper announcing what they thought was causing what he calls “the weird eclipse.”

It was an enormous ring system swirling around a planet.

“This planet is much larger than Jupiter or Saturn, and its ring system is roughly 200 times larger than Saturn’s rings are today,” Mamajek said at the time….

(11) FRANCE IN 2023. The fans behind the Worldcon in France bid are holding an awareness meeting at Utopiales on October 29.

(12) THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE. Terry Bisson’s classic “Bears Discover Fire” is available as a free read at Lightspeed Magazine.

“What’s this I hear about bears discovering fire?” she said on Tuesday. “It’s true,” I told her as I combed her long white hair with the shell comb Wallace had brought her from Florida. Monday there had been a story in the Louisville Courier-Journal, and Tuesday one on NBC or CBS Nightly News. People were seeing bears all over the state, and in Virginia as well. They had quit hibernating, and were apparently planning to spend the winter in the medians of the interstates. There have always been bears in the mountains of Virginia, but not here in western Kentucky, not for almost a hundred years. The last one was killed when Mother was a girl. The theory in the Courier-Journal was that they were following 1-65 down from the forests of Michigan and Canada, but one old man from Allen County (interviewed on nationwide TV) said that there had always been a few bears left back in the hills, and they had come out to join the others now that they had discovered fire.

“They don’t hibernate anymore,” I said. “They make a fire and keep it going all winter.”

“I declare,” Mother said. “What’ll they think of next!”

The nurse came to take her tobacco away, which is the signal for bedtime.

(13) PRE-ARRIVAL RAVES. Comedian Patton Oswalt (who is also a geek supreme) did a tweet storm that raved about the upcoming movie Arrival, based on Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life.”

Arrival comes to theaters on November 11.

(14) STOP THE PRESSES. While I was finishing the Scroll (or so I thought) Tom Becker posted this instant classic Dylanesque filk lyrics.

Scroll along the pixel tower
Filers kept the view
While all the SMOFs came and went
Techno-peasants, too
Outside, in the distance
An angry troll did growl
Two puppies were approaching
The wind began to howl

[Thanks to Rob Thornton. John King Tarpinian, Petréa Mitchell, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Josh Jasper. Hate to disillusion anyone, but I don’t know what this one means myself…]

Pixel Scroll 7/29/16 I Have Promises To Keep, And Pixels To Scroll Before I Sleep

(1) IRON MAN. Gregg Van Eekhout was injured at “San Diego Cracked-it-Con 2016”. Before he was taken away on a cart he signed his fan’s books! Click the link for the whole story. The bottom line —

So, it’s going to be six weeks in a hard cast, and that’s my Comic-Con story. And I’d like to reiterate that I continued to autograph copies of my books even with a fractured fibula. That’s pretty metal, I feel.

(2) PROSECUTION FOR ONLINE THREATS. Ken White at Popehat reports on “A Rare Federal Indictment For Online Threats Against Game Industry”.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California has sought and obtained an indictment against a young man named Stephen Cebula for sending online threats to Blizzard Entertainment, the freakishly successful powerhouse behind the Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo games as well as many others. The case is notable because it’s so rare: there’s so much threatening behavior online, and so little of it is addressed by the criminal justice system.

Stephen Cebula seems overtly disturbed. The search warrant for his home and subsequent criminal complaint tell a tale of him engaging in bigoted trash talk with other players on the Blizzard game “Heroes of the Storm,” ranging from racial epithets to comments like “I will kill your family bitch” and fantasies about raping a child at Disneyland. Blizzard suspended Cebula’s ability to communicate with other players. Cebula — perhaps tutored in law and political theory on Reddit, or by Milo Yiannopoulos — saw this as an outrageous violation of his freedom. He used his Facebook account “tedbundyismygod1” to send two threatening messages to Blizzard:

Careful blizzard … I live in California and your headquarters is here in California …. You keep silencing me in Heroes of the STorm and I may or may not pay you a visit with an AK47 amongst some other “fun” tools.

You keep silencing people in heroes of the storm and someone who may live in California might be inclined to “cause a disturbance” at your headquarters in California with an AK47 and a few other “opportunistic tools” …. It would be a shame to piss off the wrong person. Do you not agree blizzard?

(3) SITE SELECTION, COMPARE AND CONTRAST. Petréa Mitchell delivered vital data in a comment:

In crucial last-minute Worldcon voting news AND Pokemon Go news, New Orleans in 2018 has published a map of Pokestops and gyms near its proposed facility. (San Jose in 2018 has mentioned Pokestops nearby but only vaguely.)

(4) THE ENDLESS DELIGHT OF POKÉMON GO. The Week reported —

“A Georgia woman became trapped in a graveyard while playing Pokemon Go.  ‘The gate is f—ing closed,’ the indignant woman told a 911 dispatcher.  ‘This is not cool.'”

(5) THE NEXT SFWA CHAT HOUR. Coming Monday, August 1 at 3 p.m. Eastern time. — SFWA Chat Hour Episode #5: Selling Your Book at Conventions.

Join Cat Rambo as she hosts a lively discussion on how to sell your books at conventions, featuring Quincy J. Allen, Jennifer Brozek, David John Butler, and Michael Underwood.

RSVP the event to get a reminder when it’s about to start. Afterwards, it’ll go up on YouTube as usual.

(6) BANDERSNATCH. Musician Andrew Petersen discusses an influence on his decision to create The Rabbit Room“The Inklings, Diana Glyer, and the Art of Community”.

It’s easy for Americans like me, who are almost maddeningly intrigued by the romance of that famous fellowship, to idealize the Inklings—to imagine that the meetings were all chummy chortles and pipe smoke, pints of beer and chin-stroking, heady conversation and magical recitals of what are now classic works of literature. The Inklings were human, after all, and they lived in the same tired old world that we occupy, bearing the same weaknesses and wounds in varying degrees. The meetings were probably more sporadic and less inspired than we like to think. The story is a good one: Christians getting together in the name of friendship and good books. It piques an almost mythic longing in many of us. Who wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall in one of those rooms? For that matter, who wouldn’t want to be a member of that inner ring?

Glyer’s thesis, contrary to some academic works that claim too much has been made of the Inklings’ influence on each other, is that the very nature of friendship, of nearness, of interaction, guarantees influence on their work. Like it or not, the famously grumpy and immovable Tolkien simply had to have been affected by his relationship with Lewis, and his work must have been affected, too. It was Glyer’s book where I first grasped the idea that The Lord of the Rings probably wouldn’t exist if not for C. S. Lewis. Yes, it was Tolkien’s God-given genius that wrote the masterpiece, but it was C. S. Lewis’s encouragement that nudged Tolkien along and convinced him that the public would care to read it. Friendship matters. Encouragement, resonance, accountability, and criticism were crucial ingredients that went into the feast of Middle-Earth.

One of the central tenets of the Rabbit Room is that art nourishes community, and community nourishes art. And to me the profound thing about that idea is that the friendships—the heart-shaping relationships, the Christ-centered community—will outlast the works themselves. Glyer’s book makes a strong case for the influence of the Inklings on one another, imperfect though it was. If you want to write good books, good songs, good poems, you need some talent, yes. You also need to work hard, practice a lot, cultivate self-discipline, and study the greats. But you also need good friends. You need fellowship. You need community…..

(7) HUTCHMOOT. And The Rabbit Room is planning a conference in October. Diana Pavlac Glyer will be the keynote speaker.

On October 6 – 9, the Rabbit Room will convene Hutchmoot 2016 at Church of the Redeemer in Nashville, Tennessee. You’re invited to come and enjoy a weekend of live music, delicious food and conversation, and a series of discussions centered on art, faith, and the telling of great stories across a range of mediums.

Speakers, sessions, and special events will be announced as they are confirmed.

(8) VERTIGO. Flashbacks to the right of them, flashbacks to the left of them, volleyed and thundered.

https://twitter.com/damiengwalter/status/759051917993672704

(9) FILE WORTHY PUN.

(10) ON JEOPARDY! Steven H Silver says this was a Jeopardy entry —

Women Authors for $800.

?

?

“Nobody rang in,” said Silver.

(11) SUMMERTIME. “A summer book list like no other: Michael Dirda picks 11 hidden gems”, at the Washington Post.

One of the pleasures of summer holidays is choosing just the right books to pack along on the annual visit to the beach. I stress that word “books” because only the foolhardy would take an electronic device anywhere near sand, water, intense heat and — as one learns by experience — children predestined to spill their soda where it will do the most damage. Much better to pick one of the following recent titles in paperback or hardcover.

The Big Book of Science Fiction , edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (Vintage). How big is big? In this case, we’re talking nearly 1,200 double-columned pages, dozens of representative short classics of science fiction, and newly translated work from around the world. There are surprises, too: Did you know that W.E.B. Du Bois wrote sf? That’s just one indication that the VanderMeers hope to establish a more culturally diverse science fiction canon. Still, there are many old favorites here, some of mine being William Tenn’s “The Liberation of Earth,” J.G. Ballard’s “The Voices of Time,” Cordwainer Smith’s “The Game of Rat and Dragon” and Joanna Russ’s “When It Changed.”

(12) ARRIVAL. The Wikipedia tells us:

Arrival is an upcoming American science fiction drama film starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. The film is based on the short story “Story of Your Life” by author Ted Chiang. The film is scheduled for released on November 11, 2016 by Paramount Pictures.

Deadline Hollywood reported in June:

Paramount Pictures has set a November 11 wide release for Arrival, the Denis Villeneuve-directed sci-fi movie starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. This was the film that took the 2014 Cannes market by storm when the studio won a wild rights auction to the pic for a fest-record $20 million, earning it North American and China distribution rights.

(13) CLOUDY DAYS. Bob, Gordon, and Luis have been laid off from Sesame Street.

The changes keep on coming for Sesame Street. Last year, the controversial news broke that the show was packing its bags and moving on up to HBO from PBS—and now, most of the children’s show’s longtime (non-puppet) cast has been let go.

At Florida Supercon, original cast member Bob McGrath, known simply as “Bob” to his young audience, said that he and comrades for several decades Emilio Delgado (“Luis” on the show) and Roscoe Orman (“Gordon”) have had their last hurrah on Sesame Street.

“As of this season, I completed my 45th season this year,” McGrath said. “And the show has done a major turnaround, going from an hour to a half hour. HBO has been involved also. And so they let all of the original cast members go, with the exception of Alan Muraoka—who is still on the show, he is probably 20 years younger than the rest of us—and Chris Knowings, who is also young.”

(14) CLICKBAIT RATINGS. Entertainment Weekly rated all 13 Star Trek movies, offering its opinion of the good, the bad, and the why.

The same day, Rotten Tomatoes published “Every Star Trek Movie, Ranked From Worst To Best”. The Rotten Tomatoes list looked like this:

  1. STAR TREK (reboot)
  2. FIRST CONTACT
  3. THE WRATH OF KHAN
  4. INTO DARKNESS
  5. THE VOYAGE HOME
  6. BEYOND
  7. THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY
  8. THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK
  9. INSURRECTION
  10. GENERATIONS
  11. STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE
  12. NEMESIS
  13. THE FINAL FRONTIER

(15) ST:WTF! Adam Whitehead decided there was also clickbait potential in criticizing EW’s “gratuitous list”. And my linking only helps prove him right.

The point of Gratuitous Lists is that the things on it are not listed in order of excellence, but are just on there so people can talk about the shows/games in question rather than argue about the order, which is often arbitrary. But sometimes arguing about the order is just too much fun. After Entertainment Weekly issued a list of Star Trek movies ranked by quality that is simply objectively wrong (how high up is Nemesis?), here’s my riposte…

(16) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 29, 1958 — The U.S. Congress passes legislation establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
  • July 29, 2002 — M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs.  Shyamalan cited The Birds, Night of the Living Dead and Invasion of the Body Snatchers as the influences for this film.

(17) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 29, 1972 – Wil Wheaton

(18) BELATED BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born July 28, 1866 — Beatrix Potter, British author/illustrator of the Peter Rabbit stories.

(19) FIRST TREK CON. Stu Hellinger announced he’ll be part of a fan panel at Star Trek Mission New York over the September 2-4 weekend.

On September 2 – 4, at the Javits Center here in NYC, ReedPOP is running a 50th Anniversary Star Trek Convention called Star Trek: Mission New York.

One of the program items is titled: “The First Convention and How it Helped Resurrect Star Trek”.

The panel description: The first Star Trek Convention, in New York City, began as a crazy idea with a shoestring budget that created ripples all the way to the Klingon Empire and helped put the Enterprise back in space. A panel discussion with members of the original organizing committee.

The participants on this panel are Linda Deneroff, Devra Langsam, Elyse Rosenstein, Joyce Yasner and myself as the moderator.

We have not been informed, as yet, what date and time the panel will be, but I will post the information as soon as I know.

Join us to reminisce or to learn more about what we did that helped create the ongoing phenomena that is Star Trek.

(20) JEFF STURGEON. Fascinating work at “Welcome to the Art of Jeff Sturgeon”

After his long time friend and art collaborator artist Jeff Fennel  ( www.Jefffennel.com ) convinced him to try painting on aluminum Jeff left the game business behind and went to painting full time with aluminum his new canvas. Through the new millennium Jeff’s work became nationally known with increased appearances as a exhibitor,guest,panelist and guest of honor at conventions around the country and as a illustrator and cover artist. Jeff’s work is much sought after by art collectors whether one of his classic SF/ astronomical pieces or his beautiful renderings of the american west. Jeff’s newest project is Jeff Sturgeon’s last Cities of Earth as his much anticipated shared world project comes to fruition with an anthology with the top writers in the field, an art book of Jeff’s city paintings and concept art., other platforms are in negotiation to try and bring this amazing world Jeff has created to life. Jeff lives in great pacific NW with wife and artist Leslie Kreher and sons Duncan and Corwin.

(21) WALL OBIT. SF Site News has learned Canadian fan Alison Wall died on March 5. More information at the link.

(22) WILSON OBIT. SF Site News reports Toronto fan Ian Wilson, a past Ad Astra chair, died July 28.

(23) STRACZYNSKI TRIBUTE TO DOYLE. Babylon 5 Creator J. Michael Straczynski On the Death of Jerry Doyle” in Epic Times.

When it came to politics, Jerry Doyle and I disagreed on, well, pretty much everything. Politically, Jerry was just to the right of Attila the Hun. There is a line in Babylon 5 where his character, Michael Garibaldi, suggests that the way to deal with crime is to go from electric chairs to electric bleachers. That line is quintessential Jerry Doyle. I say this with confidence because I overheard him saying it at lunch then stole it for the show.

Despite our differences, when Jerry ran for congress as a Republican not long after Babylon 5 ended, I donated to his campaign. Not because I agreed with him, but because I respected him; because there was one area in which we agreed: the vital intersection between the arts of acting and storytelling. In that respect, Jerry was a consummate professional. Regardless of whatever was going on in his life, whether it was marital issues, a broken arm, forced couch-surfing with Bruce and Andreas or other problems, he never once pulled a prima donna on us; he showed up every day on time, knew his lines, and insisted that the guest cast live up to the standards of the main cast, to the point of roughing up one guest star who showed up not knowing his lines. Trust me when I say that after Jerry got done with him, every day he showed up, he knew his lines. And then some.

He was funny, and dangerous, and loyal, and a prankster, and a pain in the ass; he was gentle and cynical and hardened and insightful and sometimes as dense as a picket fence…and his passing is a profound loss to everyone who knew him, especially those of us who fought beside him in the trenches of Babylon 5. It is another loss in a string of losses that I cannot understand. Of the main cast, we have lost Richard Biggs, Michael O’Hare, Andreas Katsulas, Jeff Conaway, and now Jerry Doyle, and I’m goddamned tired of it.

So dear sweet universe, if you are paying attention in the vastness of interstellar space, take a moment from plotting the trajectory of comets and designing new DNA in farflung cosmos, and spare a thought for those who you have plucked so untimely from our ranks…and knock it off for a while.

Because this isn’t fair.

And Jerry Doyle would be the first person to tell you that. Right before he put a fist in your face. Which is what I imagine he’s doing right now, on the other side of the veil.

(24) PROFESSIONALISM. Amanda S. Green reminds readers “It is a business. . .” at Mad Genius Club. It’s a good point in its own right, and a lesson that can be expanded to apply to fan activities as well.

So treat it as one. Yesterday, as I was looking at FB, I came across a post from someone I respect a great deal. He also has one of the most unverifiable jobs there is in publishing. No, not reading the slush pile, although that is part of his job. He has taken it upon himself to do what so many publishers don’t do. He responds to those who send something in, letting them know whether or not their work has met the minimum threshold to be passed up the line for further consideration. Believe me, that is definitely more than a number of publishers do. Too many simply never get back to you unless they are interested.

What caught my eye with his post was how unprofessional someone had been in response to his email letting them know their story had not been passed up the line. Now, I know how it stings when you get a rejection. It’s like someone telling you your baby is ugly. But it happens and we have to accept it with grace and move on. Yes, we can kick and scream and curse in public but you do not send a note back telling the editor how wrong they were. Nor do you tell them that the title has been published during the time the editor was considering it, especially if the editor has gotten back to you in less than half the time they say it normally takes.

And that is where this particular author screwed up. Not only did they send back an unprofessional note to the editor, insuring he will remember the author and not in a good way, but he went ahead and self-published the book without removing it first from consideration by the publishing house. That is two very big strikes and, in this case, the author doesn’t get a third strike before he’s out….

(25) WAGON TRAIN IN SPACE. BBC Radio 4’s “Caravans in Space” investigates space habitats and visits the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop in Chattanooga. Stephen Baxter makes a brief comment in the program.

Is the Earth too perfect? The Moon too grey? Mars too dusty? Then how about setting up a human colony in the depths of space?

Richard Hollingham travels to the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop in Chattanooga, Tennessee to meet scientists, engineers, doctors and anthropologists planning human colonies in space and spaceships that will take humanity to the stars.

These are not dreamers – although they all have an ambitious dream – but well qualified experts. Several work at Nasa, others have day jobs at universities and research institutes.

Richard hears of proposals to build giant space stations and worldships – vessels packed with the best of humanity. These caravans in space might be lifeboats to escape an approaching asteroid or perhaps the first step to colonising the galaxy.

The programme features conference chair and Technical Adviser to Nasa’s Advanced Concepts Office, Les Johnson. He is keen that any discussions about our interstellar future are rooted in reality, not Star Trek.

We also hear from John Lewis, Director of the Space Engineering Centre at the University of Arizona, who advocates mining asteroids and suggests the first space colonies would be like lawless frontier towns.

Other contributors include architect Rachel Armstrong, who is engineering soils for living, breathing organic spaceships and anthropologist Cameron Smith.

As the programme is recorded on location in Chattanooga, it would be remiss of us not to make some reference to trains. Fortunately, our spacefaring future is being discussed in a railroad-themed hotel and on the local tourist train passengers are surprisingly open to living life permanently away from Earth.

(26) STATE FAIR FOOD. When I saw that bacon-wrapped churros were among the semifinalists in the State Fair of Texas annual fried food contest, I hastened to bring this to John Scalzi’s attention. It wouldn’t have surprised me to be the five hundredth person to send him the news, but he said I was actually number seven.

If you read the entire list of semifinalists, you’ll understand why I’m tempted to run a set of brackets and let people pick which sounds most deadly.

Next to “Lollipop Fried Bacon Wrapped Quail Breast on a Stick,” a bacon-wrapped churro sounds like health food….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Rambo, JJ, Dawn Incognito, Michael O’Donnell, David K.M. Klaus, Carl Slaughter, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 7/2/16 The Ancillary Swords of Lankhmar

(1) THIS IS THE END MY FRIEND. Melinda Snodgrass advises writers about “Sticking the Landing” at SFFWorld.

All of these various skills work in concert, but I think if a writer fails to deliver a satisfying ending — the ending that has been promised by the story then the entire project is likely to fail.  It doesn’t matter how good the ride or delightful the journey.  If the final scene is disappointing and leaves the reader/viewer/player feeling cheated they probably aren’t going to be recommending that book or film or game to their friends and family.

There are various ways to state this — “keeping your promise”, “sticking the landing”, “providing a sense of closure”.  Often people who dismiss this requirement do so by sniffing “that the readers/viewers/players just want a happy ending.”  That may be true, and it’s probably a topic for a different essay, but let me say that I think there is case to be made for the happy ending.  Too often critics seem to equate darkness with importance.

So how do you make an ending satisfying?  First, you have to lay in the ultimate solution and the tools to bring about that solution in the beginning of the book or film or game.  You can’t suddenly ring in a new player, or a new fact, a new magic power or super power for the protagonist to use at the end and expect to keep your fans.  They will rightly feel cheated, that you hid the football from them and didn’t play fair.  Worse is the conclusion that you didn’t really know what you were doing and just grabbed for some kind of resolution.  Often those kind of ending don’t seem organic and true to the world that was created, the rules of that world, and the problem as presented…

(2) BUY-IN. Sherwood Smith responds to the question “Reading: What makes YOU believe?” at Book View Café.

A lot of these readers are lured by what I call the seduction of competence: characters who have agency, especially with panache. Anyone who has dreamed of stepping forward and having the right idea, which everyone responds to, and leading the way to righting an egregious wrong instead of cowering back waiting for someone else to act (or, worse, stepping forward just to be shouted down scornfully, or totally ignored) probably looks for characters who either start out as heroes, or attain heroism through hard work.

So those are the easy ones: readers willingly invest in characters they can fall in love with, or identify with, or admire. And then there are the characters who fascinate for whatever reason, like the many who couldn’t get enough of Hannibal Lector. Some are drawn to characters who are monstrous, or ridiculous.

(3) VERSATILITY. Coach Paul Cornell visited Convergence today.

(4) THE INK NO LONGER STINKS. Technology has turned the corner, in the latest installment of M.D. Jackson’s series: “Why Was Early Comic Book Art so Crude (Part 4)”.

But there were two other factors that changed the nature of comic books. One was technological and the other was economical.

The technology of printing was changing with the adoption of flexography. Flexography is a high speed print process that uses fast-drying inks and can print on many types of absorbent and non-absorbent materials. The flexopress is cheaper because the inks are water based, which meant they dried quicker and were easier to clean up. The flexographic presses also are lighter and take up less room.

For years comics were printed on low-grade, absorbent papers that were not meant to last. Early comics were rare because the paper degraded so quickly. The distribution system also was designed to put comic books in as many places as they could find kids to buy them. Remember the spinner racks of comics in your local drug store? Comic books, then retailing for about 25 – 30 cents per title, were available everywhere, but they were not made to last.

In the 1980’s the comic book companies began printing certain titles on a better quality of paper, Baxter paper. It was smoother and whiter and the inks and colors looked much better than your regular comic book fare….

(5) CONVERGENT EVOLUTION. Jennifer Frazer, in “The Artful Amoeba” blog on Scientific American, rounds up the photographic evidence for “Butterflies in the Time of Dinosaurs, With Nary a Flower in Sight”.

Jurassic butterflies disappeared a full 45 million years before the first caterpillar decided to grow up and become a beautiful butterfly. Again

…Apparently, way back when Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, a group of insects called lacewings produced butterflies. Not the butterflies we see flitting around today from the Order Lepidoptera, but floating, flapping, nectar-sucking flibbertigibbits nonetheless, with wings adorned with eyespots, veins, and scales….

(6) THOSE DAYS OF YESTERYEAR. At Getty Images you can view footage of the Sinclair oil dinosaur exhibit from the 1933 World’s Fair.

PAN along Brontosaurus dinosaur over to a Triceratops confronting a Tyrannosaurus Rex and down to a duck-billed Hadrosaurid; all dinosaurs were part of the Sinclair Oil exhibit.

(7) FOR SOME VALUES OF HISTORY. Vox Day interrupted his Castalia House status report to endorse the assault on Judith Merril’s memory

Meanwhile, Barry Malzburg makes it clear that some women have always been bent on destroying science fiction.

— because, after all, the measure of a man’s intelligence is how closely he agrees with you, regardless of whether you’ve ever heard of Barry Malzberg before.

(8) QUITE RIGHT.

(9) GAME DEMO. Based on the work of Jeff VanderMeer.

(10) DEEP DIVE INTO BUSIEK/ROSS.

Osvaldo Oyala’s “Marvels and the Limited Imagination of Nostalgia”.

I had not read Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross’s Marvels in quite some time, probably 15 years or more, and despite having a memory of quite liking it when I first read it in the 90s sometime, my suspicion was that it would not hold up to that memory. And, while I was right, it also was not so hagiographic that I could just dismiss it. On the surface it certainly seems that way—unapologetically nostalgic about Marvel’s Golden and Silver Age—but it is actually constructed with competing visions that grant it a bit—a little bit—more complexity, even if ultimately it fails as anything except a sharp reaction to the moment in mainstream comics from which it emerged.

After Phil Sheldon lets a young mutant girl his daughters were sheltering run off into the anti-mutant riotous streets (a reference to a story in 1953’s Weird Science #20) it is difficult to take any of his moral claims seriously (from Marvels #2).

Marvels is a look back at the emergence of Marvel Comics’ heroes through the eyes of “Everyman” photojournalist, Phil Sheldon, from the first appearance of characters like the Original Human Torch and Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner in 1940, through the death of Gwen Stacey in the early 70s. Sheldon, as a kind of stand-in for the Marvel reader, displays complex and shifting attitudes towards the superheroes he calls “Marvels.” In each of the four issues we see his different perspectives on Marvel’s super-characters. From a deep fear of their raw power and capricious behavior that shifts to an appreciative awe of their demi-god stature as forces of nature in the first issue to a threatening cynicism that leads him to retire from his livelihood snapping pictures of their conflicts, adventures and social appearances in the last issue, when Gwen Stacey’s death becomes just another minor detail buried in a seeming endless cycle of superhero fisticuffs and collateral damage. In between, he participates in paranoid anti-mutant riots before abandoning his bigotry upon realizing mutants can be “our own children” (which made me roll my eyes so hard they still hurt), and later grows angry at the flaring bouts of negative public sentiment against heroes like the Fantastic Four, the Avengers and Spider-Man, fuming at the lack of gratitude displayed for their having saved the city or the world over and over again. And in case we might forget Sheldon’s special insight into the world of superheroes, in the first issue he loses an eye, calling to the One-Eyed Man or Blind Seer trope. At every stage when everyone else seems to return to hating or being suspicious of the superhero figure, Sheldon sees through public fear and pettiness (despite sometimes feeling it himself) to an understanding of the world he occupies that evokes something akin to the awe of Moses before the burning bush. As he says in the first issue after the rubble from the epic confrontation between the original Human Torch and the Sub-mariner takes his eye (a re-telling of the events of Marvel Mystery Comics #8 and 9), “It isn’t going to be them that adapts to us. The world is different now.” In other words, he can see with his Odin-eye what the general public cannot or will not, everyday people exist in the superhuman world, not the other way around. As Geoff Klock posits in his seminal book of comic book literary criticism, How to Read Superhero Comic Books and Why, unlike the transformative comic book texts like Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns that ask, “What would it be like if superheroes lived in our world? Marvels…ask[s], what would it feel like if we could live in theirs?” (77). And the answer is, kinda fucking scary.

This narrative vision constructed by Busiek, however, manifests in the near-photorealistic painting of Alex Ross which provides a Rockwellian patina of troubling idealism that passes for “realism.” ….

(11) LEWIS DRAMATIZED. The Most Reluctant Convert, a stage show about C.S. Lewis, will be in town July 10-23 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre in Irvine, CA.

Max McLean brings to life one of the most engaging personalities of our age and takes audiences on Lewis’ fascinating theatrical journey from atheism to Christianity. Adapted exclusively from Lewis’ writings, McLean inhabits Lewis from the death of his mother, his estranged relationship with his father and the experiences that led him from vigorous debunker to the most vibrant and influential Christian intellectual of the 20th Century. Experience a joyous evening of Lewis’ entertaining wit and fascinating insight. Cherish every minute of the extraordinary journey of C.S. Lewis as The Most Reluctant Convert.

Lewis’ experience is synopsized in a Director’s Note.

In 1950, C.S. Lewis received a letter from a young American writer expressing his struggle to believe Christianity because he thought it “too good to be true.” Lewis responded, “My own position at the threshold of Christianity was exactly the opposite of yours. You wish it were true; I strongly hoped it was not…Do you think people like Stalin, Hitler, Haldane, Stapledon (a corking good writer, by the way) would be pleased on waking up one morning to find that they were not their own masters…that there was nothing even in the deepest recesses of their thoughts about which they could say to Him, ‘Keep out! Private. This is my business’? Do you? Rats!… Their first reaction would be (as mine was) rage and terror.”

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

(13) GENTLEFEN, BE SORTED. Want to be enrolled in the North American wizards’ school? Potterverse will run you through the process.

“Ilvermony House: Thunderbird”

Named by Chadwick Boot after his favourite magical beast, the Thunderbird, a beast that can create storms as it flies. Thunderbird house is sometimes considered to represent the soul of a witch or wizard. It is also said that Thunderbird favours adventurers.

(14) LINEAGE UNLOCKED. A recent episode of Game of Thrones inspired Adam Whitehead to draw conclusions about Jon Snow — “When Theories Are Confirmed: Twenty Years of Speculation”.

BEWARE SPOILERS. OR AT LEAST SPECULATIVE ATTEMPTS AT SPOILERS.

However, its status as the biggest mystery in fantasy had already long been supplanted. In 1996 George R.R. Martin published the first novel in A Song of Ice and Fire, A Game of Thrones. A minor subplot revolves around the status of Eddard Stark’s bastard son, Jon Snow, born out of wedlock to Eddard and…well, someone. His wife, Catelyn, believes it was a Dornish noblewoman, Ashara Dayne of Starfall. Eddard himself has told King Robert Baratheon – incredibly reluctantly – that it was a serving girl named Wylla. In A Storm of Swords the young lord of Starfall, Edric Dayne, also confirms (to Arya Stark) that it was Wylla, who was his wetnurse.

(15) NONE DARE CALL IT SLASH. NPR found there is plenty of fan fiction online about the 2016 candidates, Bernie, Donald, and others now out of the running.

In another story, written in the style of a Western, Jeb Bush fights to protect a Florida school from a Sharknado.

“You think ‘it can happen anywhere,’ never realizing that it can happen anywhere.

A SHOT —

The shard of glass in Jeb’s hand shatters by the scrape of a bullet. Jeb drops the ground, rolls through the booze-soaked ground. He jumps up to a squat and whips out the old pistol and holds it to the bullet hole in the doorway. The engraved barrel shimmers: Gov. Jeb Bush.

Florida hasn’t been safe since the Sharknados started coming. When I was in my 40s, the kids used to tease about the swamp sharks. Gave me the heebie-jeebies over a plague of mutant sea creatures that roamed the Everglades.”

In the 2016 presidential cycle, where everything seems unpredictable, fiction allows voters to determine exactly what happens next – whether it’s set in the present day or some kind of alternate universe where sharks rain down in a natural disaster.

(16) WHEN TWO FANTASISTS MET. Walt Disney and Roald Dahl hung out together in 1942 – who knew?

More than a decade before Walt Disney welcomed guests into his land of fantasy and two decades before author Roald Dahl penned his excursion into The BFG’s cave and Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, these two creative legends crossed paths in 1942 when The Walt Disney Studios optioned Dahl’s first book, The Gremlins, for an animated feature. With Disney’s The BFG coming to theaters on July 1, D23 takes a look at the connection between these two creative visionaries.

The Gremlins was fashioned from stories told by English airmen who attributed equipment failures and other mishaps to mischievous little saboteurs. From these tales, Dahl—then a Flight Lieutenant for the Royal Air Force—created a story and specific characters for his book.

(17) LACKING CHARACTERS. In an “Uninvent This” feature for The New Yorker, Ted Chiang contemplated “If Chinese Were Phonetic”.

So let’s imagine a world in which Chinese characters were never invented in the first place. Given such a void, the alphabet might have spread east from India in a way that it couldn’t in our history, but, to keep this from being an Indo-Eurocentric thought experiment, let’s suppose that the ancient Chinese invented their own phonetic system of writing, something like the modern Bopomofo, some thirty-two hundred years ago. What might the consequences be? Increased literacy is the most obvious one, and easier adoption of modern technologies is another. But allow me to speculate about one other possible effect.

One of the virtues claimed for Chinese characters is that they make it easy to read works written thousands of years ago. The ease of reading classical Chinese has been significantly overstated, but, to the extent that ancient texts remain understandable, I suspect it’s due to the fact that Chinese characters aren’t phonetic. Pronunciation changes over the centuries, and when you write with an alphabet spellings eventually adapt to follow suit. (Consider the differences between “Beowulf,” “The Canterbury Tales,” and “Hamlet.”) Classical Chinese remains readable precisely because the characters are immune to the vagaries of sound. So if ancient Chinese manuscripts had been written with phonetic symbols, they’d become harder to decipher over time.

Chinese culture is notorious for the value it places on tradition. It would be reductive to claim that this is entirely a result of the readability of classical Chinese, but I think it’s reasonable to propose that there is some influence. Imagine a world in which written English had changed so little that works of “Beowulf” ’s era remained continuously readable for the past twelve hundred years. I could easily believe that, in such a world, contemporary English culture would retain more Anglo-Saxon values than it does now. So it seems plausible that in this counterfactual history I’m positing, a world in which the intelligibility of Chinese texts erodes under the currents of phonological change, Chinese culture might not be so rooted in the past. Perhaps China would have evolved more throughout the millennia and exhibited less resistance to new ideas. Perhaps it would have been better equipped to deal with modernity in ways completely unrelated to an improved ability to use telegraphy or computers.

(18) STRONG LURE. At BookRiot, Derek Attig feels there’s no need to bait the hook when what you’re offering is as irresistible as “100 Must-Read Books about Libraries & Bookstores”.

I’m not even sure why I’m writing an introduction to this list. It’s a hundred books about libraries and bookstores! That should sell itself.

But sure. Fine. I’ll make the pitch.

Books are a crucial part of our lives (especially yours, since here you are being a great big nerd on Book Riot), but I think we don’t always pay enough attention to the institutions that get those books into our grubby, greedy little hands. Sure, we’ll bicker about Amazon sometimes or squee over a bookmobile, but how much time do we take to really explore and think about what libraries and bookstores really mean?

Not enough!

(19) SORRY ABOUT THAT. Godzilla and fellow monsters apologized at a Japanese press conference for acts of destruction. Why, yes, it’s another scheme to sell toys – how did you guess?

The world of gachapon vending machine capsule toys just got even weirder with a new lineup of figurines from top Japanese toy producer Bandai. Called the “Godzilla Toho Monsters Press Conference”, the series depicts Godzilla, along with three other kaiju monsters from the acclaimed movie production and distribution company Toho, all appearing at fictional press conferences, complete with microphone stand and name plaque. These types of formal apologies are commonly seen on television news reports around Japan, in cases where high-profile politicians and celebrities formally atone for scandals and wrongdoings, expressing remorse to the public with deep, heartfelt bows. Only this time, it’s a group of well-known movie monsters making amends for their actions.

Godzilla apologizes

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

Pixel Scroll 4/12/16 My Pixels Were Fair And Had Scrolls In Their Hair

(1) MAN INTO SPACE. Wake up The Traveler – the thing sf fans have dreamed about just happened! “[April 12, 1961] Stargrazing (The Flight of Vostok)” at Galactic Journey.

The jangling of the telephone broke my slumber far too early.  Groggily, I paced to the handset, half concerned, half furious.  I picked it up, but before I could say a word, I heard a frantic voice.

“Turn on your radio right now!”

I blinked.  “Wha..” I managed.

“Really!” the voice urged.  I still didn’t even know who was calling.

Nevertheless, I went to the little maroon Zenith on my dresser and turned the knob.  The ‘phone was forgotten in my grip as I waited for the tubes to warm up.  10 seconds later, I heard the news.

It happened.  A man had been shot into orbit.  And it wasn’t one of ours.

(2) MAKING IT BETA. R. S. Belcher thanks “The League of Extraordinary Beta Readers” at Magical Words.

Stephen King says in On Writing, to write with the door closed and edit with the door open. I agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment. Your beta readers get first dibs when you open that door, they are your test audience. I have worked with different beta readers on different projects and over time, you find the folks that are going to help you the most with getting the very best out of your writing. A few tips I’d offer that have worked for me.

1) Punctuality: If it takes your beta reader as long to read and get your MS back to you as it took you to write it, they may not be the person you need. By the same token, if you get it back the same day you sent it off to them to read, chances are they skimmed it, so take their advice with a grain of salt.

2) Consistency: If three of your beta-readers all pick up on the same thing, LOOK AT IT and consider their advice. I’ve found that that trait is a flag for readers who I can count on to be giving me good, consistent feedback on trouble spots in the book.

3) Objectivity: If all a friend, family member, or loved one can give you as feedback is how awesome every word is, that is great for the poor writer’s ego but not much help to the professional writer. By the same token, if all you get is negative feedback, you may need to take that advice with a grain of salt too.  Some beta readers are glass-half-full people and others are more glass-half-empty.

(3) STARTING LINES. Rachel Swirsky studies the first lines of her own stories, then others’.

“First lines Part I: Half a Dozen of My Recent Stories”.

I decided it might be interesting to look at some of the first lines of my stories. I’m grabbing a half-dozen first lines from some of my recent publications. I’m only looking at stories that are online, so if people want to see how the first line relates to the rest of the story, they can.

Tomorrow, I’ll look at a half-dozen from some of my favorite stories.If this proves interesting (to me or readers), I may do more another time.

Love Is Never Still” in Uncanny Magazine

“Through every moment of carving, I want her as one wants a woman.”

I’m happy with this–which is useful because I essentially just finished it (six months ago). The story begins as a retelling of the myth of Galatea, a statue who is wished to life when her sculptor falls in love. For people who are versed in Greek mythology, this should evoke Galatea as a possibility — carving, want, woman.

“First Lines Part II: from Some of My Favorite Stories”

The Evolution of Trickster Stories among the Dogs of North Park after the Change” by Kij Johson

“North Park is a backwater tucked into a loop of the Kaw River: pale dirt and baked grass, aging playground equipment, silver-leafed cottonwoods, underbrush, mosquitoes and gnats blackening the air at dusk.”

Obviously, this sentence is scene setting. Kij makes it beautiful with her specific details: “pale dirt,” “baked grass,” “aging playground equipment,” “silver-leafed cotton-woods,” “mosquitoes,” “gnats.” Almost all of the details evoke slow decay–“backwater,” “baked grass,” “aging.” Insects don’t gather in the air so much as dirty it–“blackening” the dusk. The evoked colors are washed out–pale, baked, silver–we can possibly also include the old metal and rust of the playground equipment. The silver-leafed cottonwoods are the exception here–the color is on the grey/black spectrum, yes, but the tree still sounds beautiful. This is decay, but not hopeless decay.

The sentence also establishes the academic tone. This is the kind of sentence assembled by someone speaking authoritatively about a subject, not describing their sensory impressions of the world. The phrasing is formal and complex, and the use of the colon an even more significant marker.

(4) BEYOND LIMITS. John Carlton’s “Generation Ships”, an interesting critique of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora, focuses on the requirements for such a space mission. How many other stimulating observations might Carlton have made if he had read the book?

Kim Stanley Robinson wrote a book recently apparently to show that interstellar travel is impossible….

It’s not possible to travel between the stars and even if we could, the missions would all fail.  Of course he also believes that utopia is possible as some sort of Socialist paradise.  Now that’s a fantasy….

As an engineer, I think that Mr. Robinson is clearly wrong. Or at least, he doesn’t understand the basic rules for setting mission parameters and designing to meet those parameters. Mr. Robison’s vessel failed because he wanted it to fail. But to extend that to saying that ALL such proposals would fail is more than a little egotistical. And wrong, really wrong.

Now I haven’t as yet read the book. Reading Greg Benford’s review left me going WTF, WTF, WTF, are you kidding? If you are going to write a book on pioneering could you at least set it up so that the pioneers are at least a little realistic. A ship without a captain or seemingly a crew? No community structure? What was it, a commune in space? Of course something like that is going to fail. That’s what happens to fragile structure and the commune is the most fragile of all. Just look at all the failed examples in the 19th Century. So that’s fail #1….

(5) GALAKTIKA MAGAZINE. SFWA President Cat Rambo has been following A.G. Carpenter’s reports about the Hungarian magazine that published numerous stories in translation without paying the original authors. Rambo wrote a post at her blog about receiving “Answers to Some Galaktika Magazine Questions”.

In the process of talking to people, I dropped Istvan Burger [editor in chief of Galaktika] a mail because I had these questions:

  1. Would all writers be paid, preferably without their having to contact Galaktika?
  2. Would all translators be paid? (my understanding was that the same lack of payment has happened with them.)
  3. For any online stories, would authors be able to request that the story be taken down?
  4. Would a process be put in place to ensure this never happens again?

Here’s the reply:

Dear Cat, I’m writing on behalf of Istvan Burger, editor in chief of Galaktika.

We’d like to ask authors to contact us directly to agree on compensation methods. You can give my email address to the members. mund.katalin@gmail.com

The short stories were published in a monthly magazine, which was sold for two months, so these prints are not available any more. So Authors don’t need to withdraw their works. As we wrote in our statement, there is no problem with novels, as all the rights of novels were paid by us in time.

Also let me emphasise again that all the translators were paid all the time!

You can quote my reply. Thank you for your help!

Best regards, Katalin Mund, Manager of Galaktika Magazine

(6) CARPENTER OPINES ON LATEST GALAKTIKA RESPONSE. Anna Grace Carpenter, who has been developing this story, commented on Burger’s answers to Rambo in “Galaktika Magazine: Legacy”.

Mr. Burger and Mr. Nemeth have offered vague explanations that are, quite frankly, not satisfactory given the number of years this theft has occurred. But whether it was ignorance or laziness or just the inclination that if they could get away with it, they would, something has to change drastically going forward.

I would really like to think that the offer to provide compensation for the authors whose work has been stolen indicates the problem has been resolved. Although requiring the individual authors be aware they’ve been stolen from and making them responsible for seeking payment does not seem a good faith step.

And there is the question that Cat Rambo raised regarding whether authors could or would be able to request their work withdrawn from Galaktika. She referenced a potential online edition (which is seems there is not one), but the response from Katalin Mund was as follows.

The short stories were published in a monthly magazine, which was sold for two months, so these prints are not available any more. So Authors don’t need to withdraw their works.

As I mentioned earlier, a comment from a Hungarian reader promptly revealed the misrepresentation of that statement.

They state it, but this is a flat-out lie. Nearly ALL back issues are available for ordering on the publisher’s webshop, http://galaktikabolt.hu/. I checked, and every issue from the year 2015 is available now. (The original article on mandiner.hu was about the magazine’s 2015 issues.) They’re not digital copies, the physical, paper-based issues are still sold.

At the very best, Mund and Galaktika are misrepresenting the situation regarding further sales of the pirated work. And this is key – they are selling that work.

(7) HEINLEIN SOCIETY SCHOLARSHIPS. The Heinlein Society is taking applications for three $1,000 scholarships for undergraduate students at accredited 4-year colleges and universities.

The “Virginia Heinlein Memorial Scholarship” is dedicated to a female candidate majoring in engineering, math, or physical sciences (e.g. physics, chemistry). The other two scholarships may be awarded to either a male or female, and add “Science Fiction as literature” as an eligible field of study.

Applicants will need to submit a 500-1,000 word essay on one of several available topics.

Those interested should fill out the Scholarship Application 2016 [PDF file] and print or email. The deadline to apply is May 15. Winners will be announced on July 7.

(8) KEN LIU. At B&N Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog, Ken Liu describes “5 Chinese Mythological Creatures That Need to Appear in More SF/F”. You know it’s a winner, because five!

Pixiu

Usually depicted as a sort of winged lion—but with the wings folded to the sides of the body—the pixiu is said to be one of the nine children of the loong. Like the loong, it has antlers on its head (the male pixiu has two antlers and the female just one).

As one of the most auspicious Chinese mythological creatures, statues of the pixiu once stood at ancient city and palace gates as guardians. These days, the pixiu is more often seen in the form of small jade pendants dangling from rear-view mirrors or worn as jewelry for good luck. In this evolution lies a rather interesting tale.

In the oldest Chinese sources, the pixiu is depicted as a ferocious beast. The legendary Yellow Emperor recruited the fiercest animals into a special unit of his army in the war against the Yan Emperor, and the pixiu made the cut along with bears and tigers and similar apex predators (another interpretation of this passage is that the beasts were the totems of the tribes who followed the Yellow Emperor). In classical texts, the pixiu is thus often used as a metaphor for a powerful army.

But folklore also speaks of the pixiu violating the decorum of the heavenly court by pooping on the floor. To punish the creature, the Jade Emperor sealed the pixiu’s anus so that it could only eat but never defecate. The pixiu is supposed to go around devouring evil spirits and demons and convert their essence into gold and treasure, which it must hold in its belly forever. This explains the pixiu’s reputation as a bringer of wealth.

I like to think of the pixiu as a precursor for the modern military-industrial complex.

(9) MAGAZINE TO SUSPEND PUBLISHING. Interfictions Online is going on hiatus after the November 2016 issue. The editors have posted this letter:

Dear Friends of Interfictions,

With your support, we have run a marvelous magazine for three years.

At this point, Interfictions needs to take a break to allow the Interstitial Arts Foundation to figure out how to best support us. Our archives will remain available and free, but as of December 2016, the magazine will be on indefinite hiatus.

We will be ending this round of the magazine with a fantastic fall issue in November 2016. We’re going to solicit material for it, so there won’t be an open submissions period. We promise it will thrill and inspire you!

Thank you for participating in this project as artists, writers, readers, and listeners.

Sincerely, The Editors

(10) AFTER YOU SELL THE SERIES. Women in Animation’s Professional Development program will present a panel on Tuesday, April 26 – “They Said Yes! Now What?”

A follow-up to last year’s highly successful panel, “Who Says Yes? And Why?”. This panel will cover what someone who has created or developed an animated series does once they get a positive response, the legal and business issues of the actual deal, and what you can expect after the studio or network says yes, including the development process from this point forward (What? You thought you were done developing it  when you sold it?) and just how much you can expect to be involved with or in charge of the series.

Free for WiA members. $15 for non-members. Panelists include Jennifer Dodge (SVP, Development, Nickelodeon Preschool), Cort Lane (SVP, Animation & Family Entertainment, Marvel Televsion), Annette van Duren (agent), Donna Ebbs (producer, former exec at The Hub and Disney), and Craig Miller (writer-producer)

(11) STORY OF YOUR LIFE. A Paramount movie based on Ted Chiang’s short story “Story of Your Life” is expected to open in the fall of 2016. Amy Adams will play the linguist Dr. Louise Banks, Jeremy Renner will play the theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly, and Forest Whitaker plays a military figure (Colonel Weber). An extended segment of the film was screened at CinemaCon, a trade show for theater owners.

io9 has the news:

A linguist and a theoretical physicist are the stars of the latest movie from the director of Sicario and the upcoming Blade Runner 2. The movie is Story Of Your Life, based on the short story by Ted Chiang, and this Amy Adams/Jeremy Renner movie looks awesome.

Paramount Pictures screened an extended look at the film as part of CinemaCon, a trade show in which movie studios show their upcoming films to theater owners. Paramount showcased Ninja Turtles 2, Ben Hur, Jack Reacher 2 and plenty of other upcoming releases (not including Star Trek Beyond, for some reason.) But the highlight was Story Of Your Life, which has no release date yet but is expected to open this fall.

(12) VOLCANIC ENDINGS. Leah Schnelbach, writing at length about “Preparing Myself for Death with Joe Versus the Volcano” at Tor.com, implicitly argues that this Tom Hanks movie is worth the fine-toothed-comb study she gives it.

At the dawn of the ’90s, a film was released that was so quirky, so weird, and so darkly philosophical that people who turned up expecting a typical romantic comedy were left confused and dismayed. That film was Joe Versus the Volcano, and it is a near-masterpiece of cinema.

There are a number of ways one could approach Joe Versus the Volcano. You could look at it in terms of writer and director John Patrick Shanley’s career, or Tom Hanks’. You could analyze the film’s recurring duck and lightning imagery. You could look at it as a self-help text, or apply Campbell’s Hero Arc to it. I’m going to try to look at it a little differently. JVtV is actually an examination of morality, death, and more particularly the preparation for death that most people in the West do their best to avoid. The film celebrates and then subverts movie clichés to create a pointed commentary on what people value, and what they choose to ignore. Plus it’s also really funny!

The plot of JVtV is simple: sad sack learns he has a terminal illness. Sad sack is wasting away, broke and depressed on Staten Island, when an eccentric billionaire offers him a chance to jump into a volcano. Caught between a lonely demise in an Outer Borough and a noble (if lava-y) death, sad sack chooses the volcano. (Wouldn’t you?) Along the way he encounters three women: his coworker DeDe, and the billionaire’s two daughters, Angelica and Patricia. All three are played by Meg Ryan. The closer he gets to the volcano the more wackiness ensues, and the film culminates on the island of Waponi-Wu, where the Big Wu bubbles with lava and destiny. Will he jump? Will he chicken out? Will love conquer all? The trailer outlines the entire plot of the film, so that the only surprise awaiting theatergoers was…well, the film’s soul, which is nowhere to be seen here…

(13) HOW MANY STICKY QUARTERS IS THAT? A Frank R. Paul cover from the collection of Dr. Stuart David Schiff is currently up for auction. The owner of “Where Eternity Ends”, a pulp magazine cover from the June 1939 issue of Science Fiction, is looking for an opening bid of $6,000.

Here’s how the piece looked when published. The original art can be seen at the auction link.

(14) YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST. The Hugo results are in!

(15) VIRGIN AMERICA HUMOR. Jeb Kinnison writes, “Friend Steve Freitag works as a gate agent at Virgin and often comes up with fun comments on the status sign. Since they’re being bought by Alaska and probably won’t be free to have such fun soon, he put up a selection of the best…”

Here’s a sample – click to see the full gallery.

For Back to the Future Day

(16) THE ART OF THE DICE. David Malki (Wondermark) posted a new batch of Roll-a-Sketch artwork.

I just got back from the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, and here are a few favorites of the many Roll-a-Sketch drawings I made for folks there!

Roll-a-Sketch, as longtime readers know, is something I do at conventions and other appearances: folks can roll some dice to select random words from a list, and then I have the task of combining those words into a creature! …

LEGO + HIPSTER + CTHULHU + EGG:

 [Thanks to Jeb Kinnison, John King Tarpinian, Rob Thornton, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]