Pixel Scroll 3/13/18 “Use The Porgs, Luke!”

(1) DON’T PAY TO PLAY. Jason Sanford has a twitter thread about another dodgy publisher – start here:

(2) TERMS AND CONDITIONS. Amanda S. Green has a very sensible take about the disappearing Amazon review kerfuffle: “On Reviews” at Mad Genius Club.

But, before you start all this take a step back and then take a deep breath and ask yourself if you or the reader who left the review might have fallen afoul of the rules. I know how easy it is to tell your other writer friends that you’ll review their work if they review yours. You might not even do it in so many words. The problem is, in this day and age of technology, Amazon’s computers will start seeing patterns and will pull reviews that fit those patterns. Is it fair? Waggles hands. It is, however, in the rules and we agree to those rules when we open our Amazon accounts and when we then open our KDP accounts. This is why you need to be sure you read those ToS agreements before completing your account setup.

Reviews are the best advertising we have for our books. They are a way of telling potential readers we’ve put something out that is worth not only their time but their money as well. Amazon recognizes that. It also recognizes the fact the system is easily gamed and that is what these rules are designed to prevent. The rules aren’t perfect but they are the best we have right now. None of us want to return to the days of rampant sock puppet reviews — or at least we shouldn’t. After all, most readers will look askance at a book by an indie author with hundreds of reviews and not a one under 4-star. You need those lower level reviews to give legitimacy to your work.

So, if you are one of those authors who found reviews suddenly missing, contact Amazon and ask what happened. Review the ToS about reviews and move forward. Yes, it’s hard losing reviews but you’ll do yourself more good writing your next book than spending hours on the internet whinging about how evil Amazon is.

(3) DEMISE OF STEAMPUNK WORLD’S FAIR. Airship Ambassador reports “Steampunk World’s Fair – Cancelled”.  The former management was deposed after sexual abuse allegations, but the group trying to pull off  rescue has decided the task is impossible

After several weeks of discussions, and publicized business changes, following posts in late January revealing sexual abuse allegations,

Sexual abuse allegations crawling out of steampunk community (TW)

Time to Name Drop and Protect Newbies

the Silver Phoenix Society announced On February 20,2018, it was taking over the production of Steampunk World’s Fair.

…However, it was announced tonight, March 13, 2018, on the Steampunk World’s Fair Facebook page that Silver Phoenix Society’s involvement in the event was ending, effectively cancelling the May 2018 festival.

Screencaps of relevant Facebook posts and links to background articles can be found at Airship Ambassador.

(4) THOR FX. A BBC video about “The visual effects behind Thor 3” relates the fun of having to be able to redo everything at the last minute, and the skinny on mixes of CGI and live action — sometimes keeping just the face so the body could interact with (e.g.) lightning.

Al Moloney talks to Alexis Wajsbrot, the visual effects supervisor for Thor: Ragnarok. He explains how characters like the Hulk and Korg were brought to life.

(5) HAWKING OBIT. Dr. Stephen Hawking died March 14. The New York Times reports: “Stephen Hawking, Who Examined the Universe and Explained Black Holes, Dies at 76”.

…“Not since Albert Einstein has a scientist so captured the public imagination and endeared himself to tens of millions of people around the world,” Michio Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York, said in an interview.

Dr. Hawking did that largely through his book “A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes,” published in 1988. It has sold more than 10 million copies and inspired a documentary film by Errol Morris. The 2014 film about his life, “The Theory of Everything,” was nominated for several Academy Awards and Eddie Redmayne, who played Dr. Hawking, won the best-actor Oscar.

Scientifically, Dr. Hawking will be best remembered for a discovery so strange that it might be expressed in the form of a Zen koan: When is a black hole not black? When it explodes.

What is equally amazing is that he had a career at all. As a graduate student in 1963, he learned he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neuromuscular wasting disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was given only a few years to live.

The disease reduced his bodily control to the flexing of a finger and voluntary eye movements but left his mental faculties untouched.

(6) DOWN TO THE WIRE. With the Hugo nominating deadline upon us, Doctor Science shares a longlist: “Brainstorming my Hugo nominations: Best Novel and Best Series”.

Hugo nominations have to be in by Friday, so I’m going to put up my longlist and hope the process of writing helps me make up my mind. I’m resurrecting my goodreads account to better keep track of what I’ve read (and what I started but did not finish, and why).

I thought I had already written and posted reviews of most of these, but apparently I wrote many only in my head….

(7) ISHER AND TRANTOR. Meanwhile, Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club tackles “Retro Hugos 1943 — Short Stories” and tries to put the contenders in the context of the time.

If there had never been another story published in the Foundation universe, The Encyclopedists would

have stood on its own – it encapsulates essentially all of the big ideas of the series: the mathematics of history, the decline and fall of an empire, and the ennobling positivist view of the ability of humanity to alter its destiny. While later stories built on this foundational story, everything that makes the Foundation series great was right there in this initial blueprint.

In this story, Asimov offers us the series’ most unforgettable – and quotable – protagonist Salvor Hardin, the mayor of Trantor. In the context of when this story was published, just five months after Pearl Harbor, his famous quote “violence is the last refuge of the incompetent,” might be seen as an surprising anti-war exhortation.

(8) WHEN NO MAN PURSUETH. Just to make sure there’d be some drama, before he went to FOGcon, Jon Del Arroz ran this twitter poll:

Broadcasting what, you might ask? You weren’t the only one. Jon gives his version in: “Someone Tried To Get Me Kicked Out Of A Sci-Fi Convention… And You’ll Never Believe What Happened Next!” [Internet Archive]

…The man proceeded to grill me, rattling off questions in a challenging manner. “What are you doing here? Why? Are you intending on broadcasting here? Are you going to be bothering anyone?” They came in rapid succession, challenging…. I finally told him “this tone is getting pretty hostile,” as I wasn’t sure what he was getting at at all.

This is where things changed. His eyes widened a little and he said, “Oh!” The man dropped to his knees and smiled. “I’m 6’8? I guess that can be a little intimidating. Is this better?” His tone changed to something a little more humorous. Almost expertly, this man diffused the situation and the tension that had been escalating evaporated.

We started talking at length, and I learned this man was from the convention security, and that someone had complained about my presence there…

JDA was allowed to stay, and even buy a membership the next day after being vetted by the chair:

I showed up the next morning, migrated down stairs and asked to buy a ticket for the day. …I was just about to wrap up paying, when convention chairman Steven Schwartz asked me to step aside and chat with him.

It was frightening again. What was going to happen? Was this the “you need to vacate the premises” I was afraid of?

Just like the security fellow from the night before, Schwartz asked a couple of questions, his tone was pleasant, he had genuine concern — not only for the safety of others, but what blew me away was he was concerned for my safety as well. He asked some questions based on the absurd rumors propagated by Worldcon that I was some boogeyman, I let him know I never intended anything of the sort at any con nor even implied it — for FOGCon or Worldcon, and Schwartz took me as a man of my word (which I am), and told me if anyone tried to attack or harm me, he would defend me as surely as anyone else.


(10) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Bug Gaits for Animators” on Vimeo, Stephen Cunnane provides tips animators need to make sure bugs crawl properly.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/23/18 In The Unlikely Event Of A Pixel Landing, Scrolls May Be Used For Flotation Devices

(1) EL-MOHTAR LAUNCHES. This week Amal El-Mohtar took up her duties as sff reviewer for the New York Times “Otherworldly” column: “The Latest in Science Fiction and Fantasy”.

…Del and Sofia Samatar are siblings, and MONSTER PORTRAITS (Rose Metal, paper, $14.95) is a dialogue between Del’s art and Sofia’s words that is equal parts exploration, investigation and meditation about monsters and monstrosity. From the title I expected something like a bestiary, where the text would build fictions out of the art to pen (as it were) the creatures into a mythology — but this book is nothing so simple or straightforward; it is, if anything, an anti-bestiary, organized around the systems that produce bestiaries. Most of the portraits describe an author’s encounters with the creatures depicted, encounters that spark real-world musings on race and diaspora, framing the often contradictory ways in which we represent, consume or reject monstrosity. It’s a book of discomfort, of itching beneath the skin — which dovetails beautifully with the fact that Del Samatar works as a tattoo artist, and that many of the images in this book are easily imagined inked onto bodies….

(2) ARE THEY NEEDED? Rafia Zakaria speaks “In Praise of Negative Reviews” at The Baffler.

“Startlingly smart,” “remarkable,” “endlessly interesting,” “delicious.” Such are the adulatory adjectives scattered through the pages of the book review section in one of America’s leading newspapers. The praise is poignant, particularly if one happens to be the author, hoping for the kind of testimonial that will drive sales. Waiting for the critic’s verdict used to be a moment of high anxiety, but there’s not so much to worry about anymore. The general tone and tenor of the contemporary book review is an advertisement-style frippery. And, if a rave isn’t in order, the reviewer will give a stylized summary of sorts, bookended with non-conclusions as to the book’s content. Absent in either is any critical engagement, let alone any excavation of the book’s umbilical connection to the world in which it is born. Only the longest-serving critics, if they are lucky enough to be ensconced in the handful of newspapers that still have them, paw at the possibility of a negative review. And even they, embarking on that journey of a polemical book review, temper their taunts and defang their dissection. In essence they bow to the premise that every book is a gem, and every reviewer a professional gift-wrapper who appears during the holidays.

It is a pitiable present, this one that celebrates the enfeebling of literary criticism, but we were warned of it.

(3) FRIED GREEN TOMATOES. Scott Edelman invites Eating the Fantastic listeners to “Gobble fried green tomatoes with Thomas F. Monteleone”.

I don’t know which meal you’re getting ready for wherever you happen to be, but here at Eating the Fantastic world headquarters, it’s time for lunch at the Mountain Branch Grille & Pub with Thomas F. Monteleone, a five-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award, who’s published more than 100 stories since his first one appeared in Amazing back in 1972.

My first fictional encounter with him, though, wasn’t until 1975, when his first novel, Seeds of Change, became the debut title for the famed (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) Laser Books science fiction line, and in this episode you’ll get to hear all about the serendipity which made that sale happen.

He’s accomplished so much since those early sales that last year, the Horror Writers Association honored him with its Lifetime Achievement Award. He’s also a highly opinionated guy, as is proven by his ongoing no-holds-barred column The Mothers And Fathers Italian Association, a collection of which won the 2003 Bram Stoker Award for Non-Fiction …and is also proven by this episode.

We discussed the tricks he teaches to transform writers at his famed Borderlands Bootcamp, the 200+ rejections he received before he finally made his first fiction sale, how Theodore Sturgeon helped him realize it was possible for him to become a writer, why he ended up as a horror icon after his big start in science fiction, which horror writers you want on your team when you’re choosing sides for softball, the reason his live readings have become legendary, how Peter Straub reacted when Tom put him on his list of most overrated writers, how a challenge from Damon Knight changed his life, and much more.

(4) ADAPTATION AND ANNIHLATION. At Lit Hub, Jeff VanderMeer and Christina Sibul talk about “What’s It Really Like to Have Your Book Made Into a Movie”.

JV:  . . . But with regard to the monster [in Annihilation], I think what I was after in the books was to destabilize the usual reveal. The reason it’s gradual is to kind of acclimate you so when you actually finally see it you notice more than just the horror and surprise of it but the beauty and the strangeness of it as well. And I think Garland [the director of the Annihilation adaptation] gets there a different way. He’s still thinking about the same things, and in many ways, it’s a very loose translation of the book. But you can see many points where he is translating, where he is reacting to something in the book, and so I do think that in the third act of the movie where you do see the crawler—and you don’t see it before that—he somehow manages visually to get the horror and beauty of it by being very precise.

The thing I found fascinating is on the set visit they had what I would call a three-act structure of the visual imagination. Like, literally on the walls all around this building they had just pasted photographs and pictures, some of which they found and some of which they created as, like, what is the tone and texture of this part. And for the third act, several of the images they had that were inspiration for the monster were the same things that I’d come up with during my research, but we had not communicated about this. They had just come to it through parallel evolution. So, I think that the depiction of the crawler is very accurate in some ways. And very horrific and beautiful at the same time. There’s another monster too in there because there’s the moaning creature in the books, and the moaning creature he translated into this strange bear that also combines aspects of the boar that’s in the book. So, there’s another translation of the monster where someone may see it and say, “That’s not from the book,” but in actual fact it kind of is, you know


  • John King Tarpinian and I are old enough to get the visual references in Heathcliff. Maybe you are, too.
  • And this Dracula joke in Speedbump is pretty dumb, but I laughed.

(6) THE GOODBYE BATGIRL. Yesterday I read somewhere “Joss Whedon Drops Out of Batgirl”. Adam-Troy Castro won’t miss him: “Joss Whedon Quit the BATGIRL Movie For All The Right Reasons”.

Joss Whedon has stepped down from scripting duties on a proposed BATGIRL movie, saying he just couldn’t come up with a story.

I suspect he had some other reasons, some of which speak well of him and some of which don’t, but that’s a boring subject. (So is whether there should be a Batgirl movie, period. Let’s just say that my personal enthusiasm at this point, is limited. We have more than enough movies in this genre, thank you.)

But let us talk of his stated reason for having so much trouble with the character: paraphrased, he couldn’t think of a reason why this girl’s head would be so messed up she would start doing this thing.

And instantly you know that he doesn’t get the character at all and that stepping away was a good thing.

You see, the premise that a person’s head must be “messed up” in some way to become a hero in this genre is based on only a very few examples.

(7) DEATH OF THE MIGHTY THOR. Jane Foster’s time as The Mighty Thor may be coming to an end. And in this case I don’t think that’s a spoiler.

For more than three years, Jason Aaron has been building Jane Foster’s story to its epic conclusion – and it all comes together in Mighty Thor #705! This March, don’t miss the final chapter of Thor’s journey, written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Russell Dauterman, as Mangog’s rampage threatens to bring about the end of Asgard as we know it – and the Goddess of Thunder herself.


(8) COMICS BUYER. Daniel P. Dern sends a link to io9’s “Ordering Physical Comics Books Is About to Get Slightly Easier”, which says Diamond’s new Pullbox will simplify (pre)ordering your hardcopy comics from your comic store.

It’s not completely digital—you still have to go and physically collect your orders from your local store, after all, so if you’re looking to avoid the potentially intimidating act of heading into a comics store, Pullbox isn’t the solution.

Dern comments: “I’d like to think that not all comic stores are intimidating, e.g., certainly not <shoutout>The Outer Limits, in Waltham MA</shoutout> (where I’ve been a customer since it opened back in 1983). A larger concern, I’d guess, would be the decreasing # of comic shops, as in, (not) having one near (enough). Yeah, you can mail-order, but not the same experience.

“I’m happy that it sounds like this new service isn’t trying to disintermediate the stores, but rather work with and within them.”

(9) CREATIVE TEAM BEHIND BLACK PANTHER. Calgary comic book scholar Michael Hoskin offers a roundup of all the comic book creators who had a hand in the Black Panther movie. He makes a compelling case that Christopher Priest (the first full-time black writer at Marvel comics) should be getting more credit for what was seen on screen: “Black Panther (2018) creator credits”.

(10) EXPANSE. Syfy dropped The Expanse Season 3 teaser trailer.

(11) GONE FISHING. The industry has a surprising amount of coverage: “New Maps Reveal Global Fishing’s ‘Vast Scope Of Exploitation Of The Ocean'”.

The maps show the most intense fishing activity along the coasts of heavily populated areas like Europe and China. But fishing also covers much of the high seas. According to the researchers, commercial fishing operations covered at least 55 percent of the world’s oceans. That area, it calculates, is four times larger than the area devoted to agriculture on land.

The researchers also were able to distinguish between fishing vessels from different countries. According to the study, five countries — China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea — accounted for 85 percent of all high-seas fishing.

The BBC also has a summary.

(12) TOUGH TO KILL Jurassic Dead is coming to theaters. Run away!

PLOT: A cracked scientist aligns with the Axis of Evil to bring down the US of A with EMP blasts, toxic zombification gas and an unleashing of the ultimate undead killing monstrosity — the Z-REX. When a hot-wired militia squad and a crew of college hipsters are thrown together to do something about it, chaotic Predator-Thunder action runs amok.


(13) THE REAL FUTURE OF AI. On the Nextnature blog, Menno Gutfeld and Koort van Mensvoort interview Bruce Sterling about how bodies will become mechancially augmented in the future and when artificial intelligence will become sentient: “Interview: Bruce Sterling on the Convergence of Humans and Machines”.

 Lots of people are actually talking about and also investing a lot of money in this idea of convergence of the machine and humans. What are your thoughts on this?

That convergence will not happen, because the ambition is basically metaphysical. It will recede over the horizon like a heat mirage.  We are never going to get there. It works like this: first, far-fetched metaphysical propositions. Then an academic computer scientist will try and build one in the lab. Some aspect of that can actually be commercialized, distributed and sold.

This is the history of artificial intelligence. We do not have Artificial Intelligence today, but we do have other stuff like computer vision systems, robotic abilities to move around, gripper systems. We have bits and pieces of the grand idea,  but those pieces are big industries. They do not fit together to form one super thing. Siri can talk, but she cannot grip things. There are machines that grip and manipulate, but they do not talk. You end up with this unbundling of the metaphysical ideas and their replacement by actual products and services. Those products exist in the marketplace like most other artifacts that we have: like potato chips, bags, shoes, Hollywood products, games.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The (End) of History Illusion)–Miu Miu Women’s Tales” on Vimeo, Celia Rowlson-Hall describes the fabulous future after atomic attack, where you can live in a bunker wearing swell clothes from the 1950s and eat all the canned carrots you want!

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

Pixel Scroll 2/13/18 Contents Of The Pixels May Have Scrolled During Flight

Editor’s note: A lean Scroll because I’m on the road overseeing my mother’s care and the motel wi-fi is deadly slow!

(1) DUANE AND MORWOOD APPEAL. Diane Duane and Peter Morwood have run into a financial shortfall, and are in danger of losing their house. Diane tweets about it, and points to an ebook sale:

Their ebookstore is https://ebooksdirect.co/

Duane details the background on her blog: “A Difficult Appeal” and concludes —

…What’s most infuriating (and mortifying) about all this is that if what’s happening now was instead happening in six or eight weeks, it’d be less of an issue, as Peter’s entire (newly revised) backlist will be coming online in paperback format at Amazon. But it’s happening now, and the truth is that without assistance, we won’t make it to the spring—not and keep our home. So, swallowing our corporate pride, it’s time to turn to the larger community and ask for help.

(2) FUNDRAISER FOR A BIG HEART FAN. Big Heart winner Samanda Jeude needs financial help – Marcia Kelly Illingworth explains —

Due to the recent passing of Don Dea Cook, and Samanda Jeude now in residence in a Canton nursing home, there will be a number of sales and auctions of their vast collection of books, art, and collectibles, with all proceeds going to the continuing care of Samanda.

For those younger fans who may not have known Don and Sam, they were very active in the Science Fiction community for many years.  Don/Dea was the Chair of the Atlanta in 1995 Worldcon Committee.  Samanda was the Founder of Electrical Eggs, which started the move toward access to conventions for people with different physical challenges. She spent the biggest part of her adult life working to help others. Now it’s our time to help her.

Sam has asked my husband Tim Illingworth and myself to coordinate the disposition of their collection. Our plan is to hold auctions at as many conventions as possible, as well as online auctions and fixed price sales. We are awaiting word from this year’s DeepSouthCon, ConCave in Kentucky later this month, where we hope to be able to hold the first auction.  After all, Samanda is a past winner of the Rebel Award.

We welcome any suggestions for venues, and volunteers for assistance.  With careful oversight and management, we should be able to take care of Samanda’s needs. If you have any further questions, please contact me via Messenger or email. This post is public, so please feel free to share it far and wide.  Thank you.

If you, or anyone else, have any questions, or suggestions for venues or methods, please feel free to email me. My email address is no secret.


(3) TOLKIEN EXHIBITION. The “Maker of Middle-Earth” exhibit will be on view at the Weston Library, Oxford from June 1-October 28, 2018.

Journey into Tolkien’s worlds in this once-in-a-generation exhibition…

Wizards, elves, hobbits and creatures: the life and worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien are revealed in this unique exhibition at the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford. Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth explores Tolkien’s legacy, from his genius as an artist, poet, linguist, and author to his academic career and private life….

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth explores Tolkien’s amazing legacy from his genius as an artist, poet, linguist, and author to his academic career and private life. The exhibition takes you on a journey through Tolkien’s famous works, The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings, displaying an array of draft manuscripts, striking illustrations and maps drawn for his publications. Discover Tolkien’s early abstract paintings from The Book of Ishness, the touching tales he wrote for his children, rare objects that belonged to Tolkien, exclusive fan mail; and private letters.

This once-in-a-generation exhibition runs from 1 June to 28 October 2018 at the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford.

(4) MILÀN OBIT. Victor Milán died February 13 of myeloma complicated by pneumonia announced Patricia Rogers on Facebook.

Mark Lawrence summarized his career on Reddit’s r/Fantasy section:

In 1986 he won the Prometheus Award for his novel Cybernetic Samurai. More recently he wrote the Dinosaur Lords books.

He was a regular contributor to the George Martin’s Wild Cards series and Tor.com will have one of his Wild Cards short stories on their site tomorrow morning.

(5) RAPP OBIT. Tom Rapp (1947-2018). Joel Zakem writes —

I was saddened to learn that one of my favorite musicians, singer and songwriter Tom Rapp from the band Pearls Before Swine, passed away on February 11. While I can only recall two songs that have SFF connections, I believe both are based on favorites of yours.

First, from their second album, “Balaclava” (!968) this adoption of some of Tolkien’s most famous lines (extra credit for knowing the meaning of the album title):


And this Bradbury-based number from 1970’s “The Use Of Ashes”.


(6) I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING. Rose Eveleth, in the podcast Flash Forward, has an episode called “You’ve Got  Brainmail” where she interviews author Ramez Naam, sf scholar Roger Luckhurst, and the etiquette columnist of the Boston Globe about such questions as the history of telepathy, whether brain to brain interfaces are possible, and what happens when your first wedding invitation is sent telepathically.

(7) MORE 1976 WORLDCON VIDEO. The FANAC Fan History Project has posted another video from the Video Archeology project, “Fifty Amazing, Astounding, Wonderful Years, a talk by James Gunn.”

MidAmeriCon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Kansas City in 1976. It was also the 50th anniversary of the first science fiction magazine. In this video, Professor Gunn talks about the impact of the magazines on science fiction and the creation of fandom. There’s also an entertaining description of the responses of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne to each other, a brief account of how to create a science fiction writer, and a sense of what the field was like in the early days, all delivered with charming wit. This essay later appeared in Gunn’s “Inside Science Fiction”, published by Scarecrow Press. (1992). The material is brought to you by the FANAC Fan History Project, with video from the Video Archeology project.


(8) RESEARCH ALREADY DONE. I didn’t think this was news. In fact, I’m sure crusading journalist (and frequent blockee) Jon Del Arroz has written about it quite often, in the process convincing people it’s the right choice.

(9) NOT MAXWELL’S SILVER HAMMER. Marvel’s Thor will tee up a new hammer in the next Avengers movie:

Thor Ragnarok had Chris Hemsworth lose his trusty hammer, Mjolnir, but the God of Thunder will get a NEW one in Avengers Infinity War and we have our first look! Jessica has the reveal (WITH SPOILERS) on today’s Nerdist News!


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

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #20

The Pre- Last Jedi Fall Movie & TV Roundup

By Chris M. Barkley:

Replicants are like any other machine. They’re either a benefit or a hazard. If they’re a benefit, it’s not my problem.” Rick Deckard, Blade Runner

Blade Runner (1982, ****) with Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, Joanna Cassidy. Screenplay by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, Based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick, Directed by Ridley Scott. Bechdel Test: Failed.

I have seen Blade Runner only twice, once during its initial theatrical run and The Final Cut, a 2007 DVD release that director/producer Ridley Scott personally oversaw. It has to be said that for a 35-year-old film, it holds up incredibly well.

Nestled down in 27th place on the 1982 list of box office films, making almost $34 million on a $27 million dollar budget, Blade Runner was considered a financial failure at the time. It might have fallen into obscurity, had it not been hailed as a cinematic masterpiece by film critics, movie fans and the sf community at large.

Visually, Blade Runner has never been more dazzling. Scott, following up Alien, teamed with Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich, and David Dryer and production design by Lawrence G. Paull created a rather environmentally dark, nightmarish backdrop which the director once called “Hong Kong on a very bad day.”

The removal of Deckard’s voice over narration and the addition of an ambiguous ending vastly improve the Final Cut over the previous six versions that were made before 2007.

It was the consensus opinion at the time that Rutger Hauer practically stole the film acting-wise with his portrayal of Roy Batty. And as far as I’m concerned his performance still rather iconic, but the real surprise is Harrison Ford, who wisely underplays and grounds Rick Deckard in reality, which actually helps contrast his character with Batty’s. Each is desperate in their own way, Batty to extend his and fellow replicant’s lives and Deckard, who simply wants to survive in the endlessly grimy, nightmarish dystopia.

As Deckard hunts the fugitive replicants, the theme of identity and humanity is weaved throughout the narrative; are humans like Deckard (whom I firmly believe is human) becoming less so? Or are replicants, programmed to be as human as possible, are more so than their masters? These are the questions that will mark Blade Runner as an enduring classic for years to come.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017, ***1/2) with Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoekes, Screenplay by Hampton Francher and Michael Green, Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Bechdel Test: Fail.

As one of 2017’s most intriguing and anticipated films, Blade Runner 2049 had an almost impossible pedigree to live up to; the 1982 sf classic film Blade Runner. And for the most part, director Denis Villeneuve, producer Ridley Scott, screen writers Hampton Francher and Michael Green and cast, succeeded.

Ryan Gosling plays a Nexus-8 blade runner named K, charged with running down and ‘retiring’ renegade replicants still roaming free on Earth. When K finds a long-buried body on a routine mission, the discovery comes to the notice of Niander Wallace, a reclusive billionaire who now owns the Tyrell Corporations assets. As K’s superior Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) orders him to quietly investigate of the homicide, Wallace dispatches his murderous replicant aide-de-camp, Luv (Sylvia Hoekes) to recover the remains and monitor K’s every move…

Director Denis Villeneuve, cinematographer Roger Deakins and producer Ridley Scott spared no expense to recreate and expand upon the environs of Blade Runner; from the even darker, damper city streets of Los Angeles, the lonely hydroponic farms of the countryside to the desolate landscape of the dead city of Las Vegas, Blade Runner 2049 is filled with a series of stunning images that enhances the story.

The questions regarding the humanity of replicants go even deeper here, as KD9-3.7 (later renamed Joe) seems to be content running down replicants equal to or lesser than him. We see that he is given a certain latitude in his activities off duty, which includes a salary, a place to live and a virtual girlfriend, Joi (Ana de Armas), who, we are led to believe is there solely to mollify himself. The trade-off is that K is rigorously tested with a modified “Voigt-Kampff” test on a regular basis, which measures the safety parameters of his programming. K’s treatments during the tests are compelling, brutal and chilling.

But Blade Runner 2049 has a flaw that prevents me from declaring it as an equal to its progenitor and that’s its portrayal of women. The images of women, as objects of searches, whims and desires of the male protagonists dominate the core of the film and not in a good way. As an example, it fails the Bechdel when two women in authority have a conversation, but it’s only about a male protagonist. It’s also rather sad not to see any LGBTQ representation in the year 2049, because we know they are not going to vanish, even in a eco-dystopia presented here.

While Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoekes do excellent work, the real revelation here is Harrison Ford, who gives an Oscar caliber performance as an older, more grizzled and haunted Rick Deckard.

The underlying mystery (which I will not spoil here) sets up a seemingly insolvable conflict between humans and replicants, and remains an open question by the end of the film. Will there be more? Only time will tell. The ambiguous ending presented actually works. But, if there is more of a story to tell, I’m sure we won’t have to wait another thirty-five years.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, (2017, ***1/2) with Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, Bella Heathcote, Oliver Platt and Connie Britton. Written and Directed by Angela Robinson. Bechdel Test: Pass!!!!!

I think if the Merchant-Ivory production company were to make a film about the three creators of Wonder Woman, it would look EXACTLY like this.

This film is a recounting of the intertwined lives of William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) and their mutual muse/lover Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote) and the creation of an American icon.

Given the era in which they engaged in what was considered then as being unconventional and scandalous, writer-director Angela Robinson dials back to more titillating aspects of their relationship and, in a tasteful and restrained manner, focused more on the practical (and problematic) aspects of how they lived and loved together. The most fascinating aspects of the film, to those paying VERY close attention, is spotting the few vital elements in the troika’s lives that slowly coalesce into the eventual creation of Wonder Woman.

Angela Robinson’s screenplay was based on her own research and is in many ways, historically inaccurate in some instances to serve the dramatic purposes of the film. But if you want a truer version of their story, pick up a copy of Jill Lepore’s 2014 book The Secret History of Wonder Woman (Vintage, 2015.)

If a film like Hidden Figures can be nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, I can only hope that those same nominators can extend the same courtesy to Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, because it will certainly have a place on honor on my ballot.

Stranger Things 2 (2017, nine episodes, ***1/2) with Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalie Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Cara Buono, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Joe Keery, Dacre Montgomery, Matthew Modine, Sean Astin and Paul Reiser. Created by Matt and Ross Duffer. Bechdel Test: Passed.

When we last left our favorite dimension-busting heroes, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) has been rescued from the “Upside Down” by his mother Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Sheriff Hopper (David Harbour), Will’s best friends, Mike, Dustin and Lucas (Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin) were saved from an “other side” were-beast by supergirl Eleven (Mille Bobby Brown), various teenage, angst driven subplots (except for poor Barb) were resolved and the world was saved.

And if you believe THAT, I’ve got a slightly used Correllian freighter I wanna sell you.

Season two picks up more than a year later, at Halloween. While the majority of the town of Hawkins, Indiana prepares for trick or treat:

Will is still suffering PTSD (and more) from his time from the “Upside Down”.

Sheriff Hopper is harboring Eleven in a remote location in an attempt to shield her from the outside world, with mixed results.

Eleven discovers a secret Hopper has been keeping from her which leads to other devastating revelations.

Some new kids, a mysterious step brother and sister (Dacre Montgomery and Sadie Sink) hit town and are responsible for some rampant speculation.

Is Joyce’s nerdy new boyfriend Bob, who works at the local radio Shack, too good to be true?

The “Department of Energy’s” new head of management looks eerily like that corporate weasel in 1986’s Aliens, which, strangely enough, still two years away from being released in this timeline.

Barb’s parents hire a conspiracy theorist (Murray Bauman) to find out what happened to her.

Dustin acquires a “pet”.

And there is a bigger and badder menace lurking on the other side of the “Upside Down” that is actually BIGGER and BADDER!

The problem with any sort of sequel is whether or not it can equal or surpass its progenitor. It’s very clear the creators of Stranger Things, writer-directing twin brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, know their genre tropes, the cultural history of the 1980’s (when they were kids themselves), their characters and what sort of story they want to tell.

The cast not only interact well together (as their Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series can attest), you can sense that they are having a great time doing it.

Some critics and viewers have expressed dismay or anger in particular about Episode Seven, “The Lost Sister”, which, I will say not to present too much of a spoiler, is Eleven centric. As a viewer and a fan, I felt that this particular part of the story was ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for Eleven to find out and experience for herself, in order for the character to continue her journey towards understanding herself. It also happens to be, in my opinion, the best single episode of Stranger Things (so far).

Netflix has greenlit Season Three for next year and the Duffer Brothers have stated that they have a fourth and final season on the drawing boards. The whole world will be waiting and watching for what comes next. I’m betting it will be even more amazing than we can possibly imagine.

Thor: Ragnarok, (2017, ****) with Chris Hemsworth, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Idris Elba, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Jeff Goldblum and Anthony Hopkins. Screenplay by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost based on The Mighty Thor created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Larry Lieber. Directed by Taika Waititi.

Among all of the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is generally agreed that the Mighty Thor is easily one of the most pompous and boring member of the Avengers.

Oh, there is no doubt the first film and The Dark World were very competent, workman like adventures that ably fill in Thor’s backstory, establishes Asgardian history and advances the MCU storyline forward. But let’s face it; Chris Hemsworth is great looking while kicking everyone’s ass and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki practically steals every scene he’s in.

So it was (for a while at least) a real head-scratcher when the first trailers and promotional ads came out, viewers were inclined to laugh out loud at the antics from the cast. But title of the film, the old Norse term “Ragnarok” roughly meaning doomsday, suggests some dire events are in store for Thor and company.

And indeed things are quite dire as the film opens; Odin is missing from Asgard thanks to Loki’s treachery and Thor strong arms him into a search, which in turn leads to an amusing cameo by Doctor Strange (as played by a slightly bemused Benedict Cumberbatch) and touching, but entirely too brief reunion with Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Then Hela, the goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett) shows up and all hell breaks loose. Then there’s the matter of the Hulk popping up unexpectedly, wanting to beat our hero’s face in as hard as possible.

Had Ragnarok been handled with a straight and narrow narrative, it would have been another ordinary action film bridging the lead up to the inevitable showdown with Thanos. So, Marvel think tank called an audible on the line of scrimmage and subversion became the order of the day.

Yes, Ragnarok is devastatingly funny but also leavens the humor with tragedy and a tinge of regret. The cast eagerly takes up the challenge and delivers performances swing between being dramatic and self-deprecating that dance up to the line of parody but never crosses it.

Besides the screenwriters, New Zealand director Taika Waititi is mainly responsible for injecting the rather wry and scathing sense of humor this movie needed.

The result is that Ragnarok can be ranked among the best of the sixteen MCU films. See it!

Justice League, (2017, ***1/2) with Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J. K. Simmons, Ciarán Hinds and Henry Cavill. Screenplay by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, Story by Chris Terrio and Zack Snyder, based on Justice League of America created by Gardner Fox. Directed by Zack Snyder (with Joss Whedon). Bechdel Test: Passed.

I have no doubt that a lot have you have heard that the Justice League movie sucks. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 43% rating. NPR’s Bob Mondello said “nice try”. Rolling Stone said it was loud, noisy fun. The Hollywood Reporter said it was “ugly and boring” while Uproxx opined that what this movie really needed was Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins.

And, in the interests of full disclosure, I’ve been a reader and a fan of the Justice League of America ever since my cousin Michael first placed a copy of August 1966 issue (number 46, if you’re scoring at home) in my hands on a hot summer afternoon.

Well, surprise, I didn’t like Justice League, either.


Sure, it had a basic plot that bears more than a few similarities with the first Avengers movie; the Earth is being menaced by an alien invasion. But the strength of the film (as it was in The Avengers) is the story of how a group of heroes who are basically loners, come together.

Set just after the tragic death of Superman, the world not only mourns, but seems to be coming apart at the seams. Between random acts of terrorism and encounters with alien para-demons, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) seek out to recruit some super-powered help; a lightning fast speedster (Ezra Miller), a cyborg enhanced with alien technology (Ray Fisher) and the King of Atlantis (Jason Momoa).

The screenplay, by director Zach Snyder, Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon doesn’t make it easy for them to come together as a team, but when they do, it is a thing of cinematic beauty. The direction, split between Snyder and Avengers alum Whedon, hits all the right notes at precisely the right time.

Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck anchor the film with their performances, but they give enough space to the newcomers, and they shine. Making Ezra Miller’s Flash a nerdy motor mouth (as he’s portrayed in numerous animated renditions) was a safe, but smart move. Ray Fisher’s Cyborg is a bit of an enigma, but his character seeming leaves plenty of room to explore in future adventures. But the real revelation in Justice League is Jason Momoa’s Aquaman, giving a forceful, swaggering, in your face, breakout role that will permanently put to rest all those countless putdowns comedians have heaped on the character for decades.

In the days since the opening, I have read many critical reviews of Justice League that have lambasted the story structure, the “lame” villain, the preponderance of CGI effects, the Amazon warriors costumes, Henry Cavill’s troublesome upper lip (oops, SPOILER!) and a host of other nit-picking details. What a majority of them consistently fail to realize or acknowledge is that DC movies are not Marvel movies and vice-versa. I have been admiring Justice League and other DC films for what they are, not what other people think they should be.

By the way, it might be a GOOD IDEA to stick around to the VERY end of the credits, just as you would for the other guy’s films because you might miss an item or two that may interest you. Just Sayin’…

Pixel Scroll 11/15/17 Or All the Scrolls With Pixels

(1) TURNOVER AT TOLKIEN ESTATE. Christopher Tolkien, 92, resigned as a director of the Tolkien Estate Limited on August 31, 2017 according to records at Companies House in the UK.

Christopher Tolkien

Despite this having occurred over two months ago, the information seems to have become public only recently, and there is rampant speculation what the timing of resignation implies, given Amazon’s announcement this week of a new Lord of the Rings sourced TV production, and Christopher Tolkien’s negative statements about the Peter Jackson adaptations.

While I searched, unsuccessfully, to find who broke the story, via Michael Martinez’ blog I discovered Tolkien Brasil has a long and informative piece about the transition in the Estate’s leadership (in Portuguese – a Google Translate English rendering is at this link, offered with the usual caveats about accuracy.)

The Tolkien Society’s post on the topic clarified that Christopher Tolkien remains his late father’s literary executor.

(2) INDIGENOUS AND BLACK SF. Canada’s CBC Radio program The Current hosted a discussion of indigenous and black sf on November 14. A podcast of the segment is available.

Nov 14 | How Indigenous and black artists are using science fiction to imagine a better future As soon as you can dream about the future, you have hope as well instead of despair.”

Download Nov 14 | How Indigenous and black artists are using science fiction to imagine a better future [mp3 file: runs 00:28:13]

(3) BRETT RATNER OUT. Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot said she would not sign for the sequel if he was still involved: “Gal Gadot confirms Brett Ratner won’t be involved with Wonder Woman 2”The Verge has the story.

Two weeks after a Los Angeles Times report detailed multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment against director and producer Brett Ratner, the filmmaker seems to have been officially cut from the DC cinematic universe. This morning on Good Morning America, Gal Gadot reiterated earlier reports that Ratner’s financing company RatPac-Dune Entertainment, which helped fund 2017’s Wonder Woman, would not be involved with the upcoming sequel.

The confirmation comes a few days after a Page Six report claimed that Gadot threatened to drop out of the sequel if Ratner or his company was involved in any way. On Good Morning America, she says she didn’t come close to leaving. “The truth is, there’s so many people involved in making this movie — it’s not just me — and they all echoed the same sentiments,” she said.

(4) VANDERMEER. Variety reports: “Netflix Nabs ‘Hummingbird Salamander’ From ‘Annihilation’ Author Jeff VanderMeer”.

Netflix is nearing a deal for rights to “Hummingbird Salamander” and plans to tap Sugar23 to produce the picture, Variety has learned.

The book is the latest from Jeff VanderMeer, the best-selling author of the “Southern Reach” trilogy and one of the foremost sci-fi writers working today.  The film will be produced by Michael Sugar and Ashley Zalta at Sugar 23.

… VanderMeer will also executive produce the project.

However, VanderMeer himself sounded uncertain in his Facebook comments about the Variety article

Hmmm. I wonder if this is true. It’d be kind of a dream team to be with Netflix with the Oscar-winning producer of Spotlight producing. It’d be even more incredible if the rumor that it’s a mega deal and I’ll be an executive producer and creative consultant on the film were true…

As you can imagine, for someone who sometimes writes about mushroom people, it’s surreal that every novel I’ve written or am under contract to write since Annihilation may have been optioned for the movies. If these rumors are true.

(5) WIZARD WORLD ON LIFE SUPPORT.  Although the company has 17 conventions planned for 2018, their money is running out: “WIZARD WORLD Warns Of ‘Substantial Doubt’ Of It Continuing Into 2019”.

Wizard World. Inc.’s Q3 2017 quarterly report has been released, with a notice that due to recent operations loss there is “substantial doubt” that the company can continue operating as it is now past November 2018.

“The Company had a loss from operations of $4,454,857 and $1,182,246 for the nine months ended September 30, 2017 and the year ended December 31, 2016, respectively. As of September 30, 2017, we had cash and working capital deficit (excluding the derivative liability) of $1,176,034 and $1,514,182, respectively,” the company stated. “We have evaluated the significance of these conditions in relation to our ability to meet our obligations and have concluded that, due to these conditions, there is substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern through November 2018.”

(6) GOODREADS CHOICE. Matt Mitrovich analyzes an award contender in “Book Review: All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai” at Amazing Stories.

I was informed that All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastain was nominated for the Goodreads Choice 2017 Best Science Fiction and Best Debut Author awards. Since I had a copy sitting in my to read pile since July, I figured now was as good a time as any to finally read it and see what all the fuss is about.

All Our Wrong Todays begins in an alternate timeline where a Lionel Goettreider invents his “Goettreider Engine” on July 11, 1965. This invention produces free energy and sparks the creation to the techo-utopia that 1950s sci-fi authors dreamed about. By 2016, all of those crazy predictions that never came true actually exist, like flying cars, jetpacks and space colonization. Anyone living in this post-scarcity world should be happy…but not Tom Barren.

(7) MONEY IS THE ROOT OF THIS EVIL. Dean E.S. Richard has seen the complaints and has issued “A (cranky) Casual Gamer’s Manifesto (Updated)” at Nerds of a Feather.

The new one has a campaign, and it looks pretty awesome, but we’re here for ground level troops dukeing it out on the best battlefields in the Star Wars galaxy.

At least, I thought that’s why were all here. Apparently, I was wrong. It’s all about getting the most powerful heroes and being able to wreck shop. If you pay attention to video games even a little bit (like, say, as little as i do), you’ve heard about this. It takes roughly 40 hours of gameplay (three years in Real Dean Time [RDT]) to unlock Luke or Vader. This I am fine with. Again, Battlefront is supposed to be about the troops, not the Jedi and Sith and whatnot.

The real problem comes in where the game has a micro transaction system wherein you can just buy credits outright, with your real monies, and thus unlock said heroes. All told, it costs about $800 to unlock all the heroes.

Eight. Hundred. Dollars.

In a sixty dollar game.

I have read comments such as: “that’s like making me work a second job that pays less than minimum wage!” which, no. It’s a game. No one is making you pay for heroes, players just want shortcuts. It’s the same mentality that ruined the Old Republic MMORPG – players were so concerned with getting to level whatever as soon as possible, they never, you know, played the game. For me, and others like me, tagging along with our dinky lightsabers and level 12 or what have you, it got boring in a hurry – which is too bad, because the game itself was a delight.

(8) PANEL TITLE. Jim C. Hines’ “Catching Up: That WindyCon Panel” excerpts the posts tracked here at File 770 and concludes with his own analysis:

Nobody was calling for WindyCon to be burnt at the stake. They were calling out a panel description which, intentional or not, came off as hurtful, insulting, and dismissive.

I’m glad it wasn’t intentional. I would have been much more pissed if this had been a deliberate thing. But we’ve got to stop thinking “I didn’t mean to hurt you” is some kind of magic eraser. “I told you I didn’t intentionally run over your goat. How dare you continue to be upset!”

While I understand the convention was this weekend and everyone was hellabusy, I wish WindyCon had posted their apology sooner. I wish Barkley hadn’t attacked people who were upset about the panel title/description.

I also feel like my tagging Barkley into the conversation on Twitter was one factor in this becoming a larger blow-up than it needed to be, and for that I apologize.

(9) PLANET STORIES. The Guardian says a “Potentially habitable world found just 11 light years away”. So if our TV news signals travel there at the speed of light, they still think it’s the middle of the Bush administration and that Trump is the executive producer of the Miss USA pageant?

A potentially habitable world, termed Ross 128 b, has been discovered just 11 light years away. It is roughly Earth-sized and orbits its parent star once every 9.9 days.

Astronomers calculate that its surface temperature could lie somewhere between –60° and 20°, making it temperate and possibly capable of supporting oceans, and life.

The world was found by a team of European and South American astronomers led by Xavier Bonfils (Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble, France) who were using the European Southern Observatory’s world-leading planet-hunting instrument, HARPS. They reported the discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics.

HARPS identifies planets by the way their gravity forces their parent stars to wobble. It shows that Ross 128 b is more massive than the Earth, with at least 1.35 times our planet’s bulk. So the planet would have a stronger pull of gravity at its surface.

(10) GALAXY QUEST. Writer/producer Paul Scheer doesn’t want his efforts to revive the fan favorite to be overlooked: “‘Galaxy Quest’: Paul Scheer Plans to Blend Original and New Casts For Amazon Series”.

Amazon first announced it was developing the 1999 film as an episodic series in 2015, but things escalated last August when Scheer came on board to work on the show. In a new interview with SlashFilm, he revealed that he’s not only turned in his first script for the series, but has some big ideas on how to honor the original film while also updating the premise for the modern age of television.

“It’s going to be so long before people get to see it, I don’t want people to get too burnt out on me telling you what it’s about before it gets to that point,” he said. “But for me, it was really important to do service to a ‘Galaxy Quest’ story that gives you everything that you want and indoctrinates people who have never seen ‘Galaxy Quest’ into what the fun of that world is […] and also to continue the story of our original characters and have consequences from the first film.”

…As Scheer told SlashFilm, it’s still very early days for “Galaxy Quest: The Series” (officially, according to the final moments of the film, “The Journey Continues”). But this fall, Amazon has been on the hunt for “its own ‘Game of Thrones,’” a need which was theoretically addressed by acquiring the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” universe. What if the platform’s actual breakthrough genre hit ends up being a very different adaptation?

(11) THE MARTIAN BOTANICALS. Would you like that with ranch? “Dubai Airshow: Why the UAE plans to grow lettuce on Mars”.

One thing you can’t accuse the United Arab Emirates of lacking is vision.

First they unveiled plans to launch a Mars probe. Then it was an ambition to colonise the Red Planet.

Now the UAE has a new aim – to grow palm trees and lettuce there.

The space sector is a huge feature of the Dubai Airshow, with exhibitions, conferences, and speakers that include former Nasa Apollo 15 astronaut, Al Worden.

But even before a UAE Mars probe leaves the ground in 2020 from Japan – UAE is working in partnership with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries – the Gulf state has now announced its space agriculture intentions.

“There are similarities between Mars and the desert,” says Rashid Al Zaadi, senior strategic planner at the UAE Space Agency. “The landscape of the UAE, the soil, are similar.”

(12) A LONG WAY FROM HECTO. Awhile ago the Scroll linked to a story about printing a prosthesis, with plastic; these guys are printing with cells: “The firm that can 3D print human body parts”.

Erik Gatenholm grins widely as he presses the start button on a 3D printer, instructing it to print a life-size human nose.

It sparks a frenzied 30-minute burst of energy from the printer, as its thin metal needle buzzes around a Petri dish, distributing light blue ink in a carefully programmed order.

The process looks something like a hi-tech sewing machine weaving an emblem onto a garment.

But soon the pattern begins to rise and swell, and a nose, constructed using a bio-ink containing real human cells, grows upwards from the glass, glowing brightly under an ultraviolet light.

This is 3D bioprinting, and it’s almost too obvious to point out that its potential reads like something from a science fiction novel.

(13) SHRINKING BOOK EXPO. Publishers Lunch says the floor plans for the next Book Expo betray that it is continuing to get smaller.

Book Expo has opened for registration for the 2018 show. The refreshed website lists Wednesday, May 30 as limited to the remainders pavilion, “premium B2B exhibitors,” and the rights center, with two days of regular floor exhibits on May 31 and June 1.

More dramatic for now is the revised floor map* for the shrinking trade show. Though still early, the map shows the smaller southern hall of Javits closed to exhibits, reserved for autographing, shipping and Book Con lines. Even that reduced “show floor” has what looks to be less floor exhibit space: Meeting rooms, lounges, and a stage move to occupying a big chunk of the back two-fifths of the hall.

(14) THAT’S CAT! Congratulations to Richard Paolinelli, winner of “The First Annual Timothy The Talking Cat Award for Excellence in the field of Excellence”. Award spokesbeing Camestros Felapton explains:

The book genuinely was a finalist for the Dragon Awards, so kudos to Richard. The claim for a Nebula nomination seems a bit thin but that’s what all the grumpy stuff was about. However, it doesn’t seem to be actually “award winning” as in the usual sense of “award winning” meaning “winning an award”. Now, plenty of really good books never win awards and what matters deep down is whether readers like your book but sometimes…well sometimes the world of SF can be tough and a bit validation can help a soul along.

So let’s make the claim TRUE. Tim and I got together and thought long and hard about this and we came up with a solution.

(15) THAT’S DOG! Suzy Byrne, in “Carrie Fisher’s beloved bulldog Gary is ‘doing great,’ says ‘Auntie Joely’ Fisher” on Yahoo! Lifestyle, says that Carrie Fisher’s goofy bulldog, Gary Fisher, has found a home with Corby McCown, the personal assistant to  Carrie Fisher’s sister Joely.

The dog has become even more popular since Carrie died. He recently surpassed 150,000 Instagram followers with help from posts including a touching tribute to Carrie on what would have been her 61st birthday last month. He followed up his San Diego Comic-Con appearance with another one at L.A. Comic Con a couple weeks ago. Last weekend, he was at Kansas City Comic Con. (A portion of the money the dog gets for appearances goes to charity.)

Yup, we’d say that Gary is doing great, too.

The dog has a Twitter account at Realgaryfisher.

(16) GROTESQUE JOKE. Not all of the Christmas season advertising has been heartwarming: “Greggs sorry after replacing baby Jesus with sausage roll in advent calendar promotion”.

Greggs has been forced to apologise for replacing the baby Jesus with a sausage roll in the launch of its advent calendar.

The bakers released a promotional image for its festive calendar that showed a sausage roll in a manger surrounded by the Three Wise Men.

But it was met with serious backlash online as offended fans accused the budget chain of religious insensitivity and vowed to boycott it.

Twitter users said that replacing Jesus, who was Jewish, with a pork product was “inappropriate”…

(17) ON JJ’S WISHLIST. JJ says, “Despite having a full collection of manual and power tools, I find myself itching to buy this.” ThinkGeek is offering the “Marvel Thor Hammer Tool Set”.

You must be worthy in order to wield Thor’s hammer, but Marvel never mentioned any restrictions on Thor’s screwdriver or his pliers. Wield them all with our Marvel Thor Hammer Tool Set! This 44-piece tool set, a ThinkGeek creation and exclusive, comes in a molded case that looks like Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. Inside it has all your basic tool needs, including a hammer (duh), a tape measure, a level, a screwdriver, a wrench, a ratcheting wrench, and a utility knife you can conveniently use to open your next box from ThinkGeek. It’s perfect for someone worthy of their first place or a great extra set of everything to have around in case of emergencies (like having to replace your lock set because Loki got a copy of the key AGAIN). We predict it’s a gift your recipient will return to repeatedly and get a chuckle out of every time.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/7/17 Scrolly McPixelface

(1) GOODREADS CHOICE WRITE-INS. Because Mount TBR can never be high enough, Mark Hepworth did his best to figure out the write-in nominees in the Goodreads Choice Awards 2017 in the Fantasy, SF and Horror categories. These are the popular additions to Goodreads’ own handpicked finalists:


  • City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett
  • Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
  • Age of Swords by Michael J Sullivan
  • The Land: Raiders by Aleron Kong
  • Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs


  • The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland
  • The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein
  • Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer
  • The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley
  • Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty


  • A God in the Shed by J-F Dubeau
  • Strange Weather by Joe Hill
  • What the Hell Did I Just Read by David Wong
  • The Grip of It by Jac Jemc
  • Bone White by Ronald Malfi

(2) HUNG BY THE CHIMNEY WITH CARE. Popsugar has been out shopping: “Hold the Door — These 21 Game of Thrones Gifts Are So Cool, We Want Them For Ourselves”.

Hodor Door Stop

As you know, this Hodor Door Stop ($8) will be quite dependable.

(3) BREW TO BEAM UP. Meanwhile, ThinkGeek is hustling “Star Trek Transporter Pad LED Coasters”. (Note: Will not actually materialize / dematerialize your drinks.)

Until a future comes in which condensation no longer exists, coasters will be a useful device. This is a set of 4 coasters that look and sound like ST:TOS transporter pads. Yes, we said “sound.” When you place a drink on one or remove it, the coaster lights-up and plays either a materialization or a dematerialization sound. If it’s all a little too overwhelming, you can set it just to light up. But that’s basically only half the fun.


(4) WHALESONG. SPECPO, the official blog of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association, introduces a poet: “Words, Whales and Wonder: An Interview with Jenna Le”.

What inspired you to write A History of The Cetacean American Diaspora? What was the most challenging of the poems for you to include in this collection?

At least for me, a collection of poetry comes into existence in a very different way from how I’m told a novel comes into existence: each poem has its own inspiration, its own reason for being. Some of the book’s many inspirations included: the American Museum of Natural History’s 2014 exhibit “Whales: Giants of the Deep”; Rudy Boschwitz’s flavored milk stand at the Minnesota State Fair; my Taylor & Ng “La Baleine” coffee mug; the Waterboys album An Appointment With Mr. Yeats, especially the song “Sweet Dancer,” which inspired me to research the life of Yeats’s mistress Margot Ruddock; my 7th-grade English teacher Mr. Sandeen, who taught me to love the passage in The Song of Hiawatha wherein Wenonah is impregnated by the wind god; some documentary about the Fall of Saigon that was available to watch for free on Hulu, whose name I can’t remember; an advertisement I saw for Le Lam’s documentary Cong Binh: The Lost Fighters of Vietnam; my parents’ oral narratives about their own flight from Vietnam and immigration experiences; embryology class in my second year of med school; various mythology compendia and PBS nature documentaries.

(5) HOORAY. Phil Nichols chronicles the friendship of “The Two Rays”, Bradbury and Harryhausen, at Bradburymedia.

In 1993, Bradbury paid perhaps the highest tribute of all, by incorporating a fictionalised Harryhausen as a major character in his Hollywood novel A Graveyard for Lunatics. Special effects wizard “Roy Holdstrom” is a very thinly disguised Harryhausen, and accompanies the narrator in attempting to solve a murder mystery in 1950s Hollywood. Here is how the narrator first sees Holdstrom’s workshop, which we can imagine is similar to what Bradbury saw back in 1938 when first invited into Harryhausen’s garage:

Stage 13 was, then, a toy shop, a magic chest, a sorceror’s trunk, a trick manufactory, and an aerial hangar of dreams at the centre of which Roy stood each day, waving his long piano fingers at mythic beasts to stir them, whispering, in their ten-billion year slumbers.

(6) THE FORMER MRS. SISKO. CinemaBlend asked “How The Orville’s Penny Johnson Jerald Feels About Competing With Star Trek: Discovery”.

Penny Johnson Jerald has built up a hell of a resume as a veteran TV actor, with shows such as 24, The Larry Sanders Show, and even Castle all playing important parts in her body of work. But for Star Trek fans, she’s most notably known for playing Kasidy Yates Sisko on Deep Space Nine. This is a fact that wasn’t lost on anyone from the Trek fandom who also watches The Orville on Fox, which of course means that Jerald would most definitely have an opinion on her Fox show running around the same time as Star Trek: Discovery is unfurling on CBS All Access.

…While some may try to pit the two shows against each other, Penny Johnson Jerald isn’t interested in playing that game at all. As The Orville’s Dr. Claire Finn, she gets to play a role different from the law-breaking romantic interest to Avery Brooks’ law-abiding space station overseer.

(7) HAWK YOUR WARES. The SFWA Market Report for November compiled by David Steffen includes such information as —


Guilds and Glaives

Razor’s Edge

Second Round: A Return to the Urbar

Sword and Sonnet

(8) LAUGHING ALL THE WAY. Alex Acks raves about Thor: Ragnarok:

I saw it twice this weekend. I’ll be seeing it more times before it leaves the theater. And after several days to collect my thoughts so I can write something more coherent than a high-pitched squeal of delight, I’ve calmed down to the level of OH MY GOD COLORS AND FUNNY AND LOKI AND VALKYRIE AND SO MANY JOKES PLEASE TAIKA WAITITI TAKE MY SOUL IT’S YOURS.

If you’re not familiar with Taika Waititi’s work, it’s time to get right with the world. A great place to start is with What We Do in the Shadows, which is a mockumentary about vampires living in New Zealand–and bonus swearwolves. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is also freaking amazing and easy to find. I first encountered his work in Flight of the Conchords, and was hooked. His sense of humor (heavy on the irony and diminution) and aesthetic sensibility are both right up my alley, so I’d already just about lost my mind when I found out he would be directing Thor: Ragnarok. Finally, I thought, if someone was going to get Loki right as a character, it would be him.

Well, I was right. And so much more. SO MUCH MORE.

…The big thing that doesn’t really show up in the summary is how fucking hilarious this movie is. It just doesn’t stop the entire time, even in the action sequences. And the humor cleverly disguises–and also sharpens–some incredibly fucked up things that the film examines. And between jokes, there are quiet character moments that have more impact because they occur in the ten seconds you aren’t laughing–or you are laughing and then you realize just how important this is to that character and it’s like a punch to the sternum. I’d also recommend this piece about the Maori spin on Waititi’s brand of humor as seen in the movie, though it could be considered spoilery depending on how sensitive you are about that stuff.

(9) GORDON OBIT. Astronaut Richard Gordon died November 6.

Richard Gordon

Former Apollo 12 astronaut Richard Gordon, one of a dozen men who flew around the moon but didn’t land there, has died, NASA said. He was 88.

Richard “Dick” F. Gordon Jr. was a test pilot chosen in NASA’s third group of astronauts in 1963. He flew on Gemini 11 in 1966, walking in space twice. During Apollo 12 in November 1969, Gordon circled the moon in the command module Yankee Clipper while Alan Bean and Charles Conrad landed and walked on the lunar surface.

Gordon died Monday at his home in California, according to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

“Dick will be fondly remembered as one of our nation’s boldest flyers, a man who added to our own nation’s capabilities by challenging his own. He will be missed,” acting NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement Tuesday.

Born in Seattle, a Navy captain and a chemist, Gordon was such a steely professional that after a difficult first spacewalk, he fell asleep during a break in his second spacewalk. He downplayed Apollo 12 being hit by lightning during launch.

In a 1997 NASA oral history, Gordon said people would often ask if he felt alone while his two partners walked on the moon. “I said, ‘Hell no, if you knew those guys, you’d be happy to be alone’.”

(10) MOLLO OBIT. Oscar-winning costume designer John Mollo died October 25.

John Mollo, a largely self-taught historian whose expertise on military uniforms led George Lucas to choose him to design costumes for “Star Wars,” winning Mr. Mollo the first of two Academy Awards, died on Oct. 25 in Froxfield, Wiltshire, England. He was 86. His death, in a care facility, was confirmed by his wife, Louise Mollo, who said he had had vascular dementia. Mr. Mollo had a long career in the movies, creating costumes for Richard Attenborough’s epic “Gandhi” (1982), which brought him his second Oscar; the Revolutionary War drama “Revolution” (1985), with Al Pacino; “Cry Freedom” (1987), with Denzel Washington as the South African freedom fighter Steve Biko; “Chaplin” (1992), with Robert Downey Jr. in the title role; and “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980), the second installment in the first “Star Wars” trilogy.

… Mr. Mollo’s costumes, intricate but appearing lived-in, were based on Mr. Lucas’s instructions and on his own sketches and those of a concept artist, Ralph McQuarrie, who drew some of the earliest renderings of many of the characters. The results included the weather-beaten martial arts outfit of Luke Skywalker, played by Mark Hamill; the monkish robes of Obi-Wan Kenobi, played by Alec Guinness; the dusty cowboy look of Han Solo, played by Harrison Ford; and the pure white dress draped over Princess Leia, played by Carrie Fisher. For the dark side, Mr. Mollo encased the imperial storm troopers in hard white carapaces and masks and hid Darth Vader, played by David Prowse and voiced by James Earl Jones, in a swooping black cloak and a helmet that brought to mind that of a samurai. The imperial outfits were designed to embody a fascist, dehumanizing order.


(12) PHOTON LEAP. On Camestros Felapton’s blog, Dr Timothy the Talking Cat and Professor of Thought-Expansion Straw Puppy M.D. continue to spin their epic yarn — “McEdifice Returns: Chapters are just another way the man tries to control us”.

Journal Entry. Field Officer Qzrrzxxzq Day 39 since the dimensional distortion event.

As far as I can ascertain our current location is an urban centre called ‘Manchester’. I can confirm now that we are moving in time as well as space. Possibly we have shifted to another reality as this one appears to have been drained of much of its colour. Sky, buildings, people all appear more grey than normal. The translator device seems to be broken as the local language is unintelligible but the device insists that it is still ‘English’.

Earlier in the day we successfully infiltrated the sub-culture festival apparently named “Woodstock”. Levels of casual nudity and psychotropic substances were higher than the cultural norms we had observed elsewhere. Our mission was simple – find the cultists who had possession of McEdifice, regain the asset and then use ScanScan’s powers to evac.

“If you are going to San Francisco, be sure to wear flowers in your hair.” sang a young man at us both. A coded message? Helpful advice? Or just frankly insulting given that I’m bald? I side stepped and made my way through the crowds of long haired youths.

(13) HOW ARE YA FIXED FOR BLADES? Deadline reports “Millennium To Produce Female-Strong ‘Red Sonja’ With Cinelou”.

Millennium Media will finance and produce a new version of Red Sonja and is looking to it as a new franchise for the company. The project will be produced by Millennium’s Avi Lerner and Joe Gatta alongside Cinelou’s Mark Canton and Courtney Solomon. They are fast-tracking this project and next will hire a writer.

Red Sonja is based on a comic book heroine from the 1970s. She has appeared in hundreds of comic books over the decades, which Dynamite Entertainment continues publishing today.

“We have been waiting for the right time for this remake,” said Lerner, “and with the success of Wonder Woman, the audience has spoken. They want female heroes.”

(14) THAT IDEA IS QUACKERS. Michael Isikoff, in “Kill The Damn Duck!  Ex-DNC Head Brazile Describes Clash Over Trolling Donald Trump In Donald Duck Costumes” on Yahoo! News, says former Democratic National Committee head Donna Brazile told representatives of the Hillary Clinton campaign that showing up at Donald Trump rallies with someone in a Donald Duck outfit with a sign saying, “Don’t Duck Your Taxes” could backfire because Donald Duck was Disney’s “intellectual property” and “they could sue us.”

She called Marc Elias, the senior lawyer for the Clinton campaign, and told him “that I had heard from ABC and Disney about the duck and he had to kill it.”

“The duck is the intellectual property of Disney,” Brazile told Elias, on her account. “They could sue us, OK? Do you want that story out there? Hillary’s about to go to California to raise money, and she’s going to see Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, who is holding this fundraiser, and this is coming from him. What do you want to do? Have him cancel the fundraiser? I know you all want that money. So get rid of the f—ing duck!”

(15) LGBT SEARCH. Autostraddle leads fans to “8 Queer Speculative Short Story Collections”. Part of the “Ask Your Friendly Neighborhood Lesbrarian” post series, this list includes —

Fist of the Spider Woman: Tales of Fear and Queer Desire edited by Amber Dawn

Starting with the two questions “What do queer women fear the most?” and “What do queer women desire the most?,” Amber Dawn created this amazing collection of stories to both turn you on and scare you, sometimes simultaneously. The stories range from ones that are genuinely terrifying and not so erotic to ones that would be at home in an erotica anthology. For example, Aurelia T. Evans’s “In Circles,” which features an intersex main character, will make you never think of that silly sleepover game Bloody Mary the same way again. Dawn’s “Here Lies the Last Lesbian Rental in East Vancouver” is part ghost story, part anti-gentrification treatise, and part mean mommy and little girl kinky erotica. “Homeland” by Kristyn Dunnion peels back the horrors possible in the average night at your local lesbian bar….

(16) HEAD’S UP. A fashionable hairstyle is a genre inspiration — “The Sci-Fi Bob Is the Out-of-This-World Hair Trend for Fall”.

Calling all you Trekkies and sci-fi fans, fall 2017 has a new hair trend that is designed with you in mind. The sci-fi bob is a simple, short blunt cut that features sharp angles and is usually paired with a baby bang. This futuristic femme style, inspired by movies like The Fifth Element and Star Trek, is here to heat up limp cold-weather ‘dos, just in time for the holiday season.


(17) THE POINT. Clive Barker tells The Guardian “How we made Hellraiser”.

Clive Barker, director

I worked as a hustler in the 1970s, because I had no money. I met a lot of people you’ll know and some you won’t: publishers, captains of industry. The way they acted – and the way I did, to be honest – was a source of inspiration later. Sex is a great leveller. It made me want to tell a story about good and evil in which sexuality was the connective tissue. Most English and American horror movies were not sexual, or coquettishly so – a bunch of teenagers having sex and then getting killed. Hellraiser, the story of a man driven to seek the ultimate sensual experience , has a much more twisted sense of sexuality.

By the mid-80s I’d had two cinematic abominations made from my stories. It felt as if God was telling me I should direct. How much worse could I be? I said to Christopher Figg, who became my producer: “What’s the least I could spend and expect someone to hire a first-time director?” And he said: “Under a million dollars. You just need a house, some monsters, and pretty much unknown actors.” My novella The Hellbound Heart, which mostly took place in one house, fitted those parameters. Roger Corman’s company New World – who agreed to fund a film for $900,000 – said very plainly it would go straight to video.

(18) ON STAGE. Lythgoe Family Panto’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – A CHRISTMAS ROSE will play December 13-17 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

An updated version of the classic tale, in the style of a traditional British family Panto, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST A CHRISTMAS ROSE features family-friendly magic, with a comedic twist, dancing (with “So You Think You Can Dance” alumni), contemporary music and more…

Tickets are available online at Ticketmaster.com/PantoPasadena or by calling 626-449-7360.

(19) AREN’T YOU BLIND? Another wild ride on Twitter begins here.

(20) RETWEET. Or whatever the right term is for what I’m doing on a blog —

(21) UNSOLVED. io9 has heard “Creator Donald Bellisario Has Written a Quantum Leap Film Script”.

That news comes courtesy of this weekend’s LA Comic Con event, where Quantum Leap’s creator, Donald Bellisario, reunited with Scott Bakula during a panel discussion that inevitably turned to reboots.

“I just finished writing a Quantum Leap feature,” Bellisario announced. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with it, but I did write it.”

Quantum Leap ended infamously, with one of the most tragic (and unintentionally funny, or maybe that’s just me) end title cards in history, announcing that Bakula’s Sam Beckett never made the leap home. After five seasons of interdimensional problem solving, Sam Beckett was never going to get to solve his own.

(22) TECH DEMO. SyFy Wire explains the joke — “Stargate alum David Hewlett parodies 1980s sci-fi series Automan in hilarious short”.

We love a good fake trailer. After all, it creates its own broad vision while at the same time distilling it to hilarious specificity. The most recent one to cross our paths, Hewlogram, below, one-ups the fake trailer genre in two ways: 1) It stars David Hewlett, who played Rodney McKay, our favorite snarky scientist on Stargate: Atlantis, and 2) It doubles as a demonstration of some fairly nifty technology.

The special effects software and filmmaking company Red Giant produced Hewlogram and could have created a standard commercial to promote the release of its Red Giant Universe 2.2 tools for filmmakers and visual effects producers. Instead, it gave us a wacky short for a 1980s television show you’ve never seen but recognize in your geeky fiber, a buddy cop show spliced together with Tron and folded into 21st century reality—a self-aware Automan.


[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, JJ, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chris S.]

Pixel Scroll 11/6/17 All Of The True Pixels I Am About To Tell You Are Shameless Scrolls

(1) MORE MAPS. Ursula K. Le Guin shares the Hainish Endpapers from new editions of her books:

  • Gethen Map by UKL Colorization by Donna G. Brown

  • List of Known Hainish Worlds by Donna G. Brown, LoA.

(2) IT’S BEGINNINNG TO LOOK A LOT LIKE ADVENT. Hingston and Olsen have included stories by several sff authors in the 2017 “Short Story Advent Calendar”.

For the third straight year, the Short Story Advent Calendar is here to be the spice in your eggnog, the rum in your fruitcake—another collection of 24 brilliant stories to be opened, one by one, on the mornings leading up to Christmas.

These stories once again come from some of the best and brightest writers across North America, and beyond. Plus, this year featuring more all-new material than ever before!

Contributors to the 2017 calendar include:

  • Kelly Link (Get in TroubleMagic for Beginners)
  • Jim Gavin (Middle Men, AMC’s forthcoming Lodge 49)
  • Carmen Maria Machado (Her Body and Other Parties)
  • Ken Liu (The Paper MenagerieThe Grace of Kings)
  • Maggie Shipstead (Astonish MeSeating Arrangements)
  • and [REDACTED x 19]!

As always, each booklet is sealed, so you won’t know what story you’re getting until the morning you open it.

(3) WSFS PAPERS. Kevin Standlee announced more documentation from the 2017 Worldcon Business Meeting has been posted:

The 2018 WSFS Constitution (including all of the amendments ratified in Helsinki), Standing Rules for the 2018 WSFS Business Meeting, and Business Passed On to the 2018 WSFS Business Meeting are now online at the “WSFS Rules page”.

The Resolutions & Rulings of Continuing Effect are being reviewed by the WSFS Nitpicking & Flyspecking Committee, and I expect them to be online at the same page within a week or so.

Thanks again to Linda Deneroff for pulling this all together and putting up with me futzing around with the documents.

(4) I CHING, YOU CHING. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler has just gotten his hands on PKD’s brand new novel! “[November 6, 1962] The road not taken… (Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle)”.

Philip K. Dick has returned to us after a long hiatus with a novel, The Man in the High Castle.  It is an ambitious book, longer than most science fiction novels.  Castle‘s setting is an alternate history, one in which the Axis powers managed to defeat the Allies…somehow (it is never explained).  Dick explores this universe through five disparate viewpoint protagonists, whose paths intertwine in complex, often surprising ways…

Surprisingly, The Traveler scoffs at the alternate history premise.

There are significant problems with Castle, however.  For one, it suffers from lazy worldbuilding.  The book is an opportunity for Dick to draw a wide cast of characters and depict their complex web of interactions.  But the underpinnings of the world they inhabit are implausible.  First and foremost, it would have been impossible, logistically, for the United States to have fallen to the Axis Powers.  For that matter, I have doubts that the Soviet Union was ever in existential danger.  Certainly the Reich never came close to making The Bomb – their racial theory-tinged science wouldn’t have allowed it.  It is sobering when you realize that the Allies managed to fight two world wars and develop the most expensive and powerful weapon ever known all at the same time.  An Axis victory in World War 2 resulting in the conquest of the United States is simply a nonstarter.

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites everyone to “Sink your teeth into samosa with Karin Tidbeck” in episode 51 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Karin Tidbeck

This time around, you get to listen in on my lunch at Mero-Himal Nepalese Restaurant with Karin Tidbeck during the penultimate day of the con. Tidbeck writes fiction in both Swedish and English, and debuted in 2010 with the Swedish short story collection Vem är Arvid Pekon? Her English debut, the 2012 collection Jagannath, was awarded the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts William L. Crawford Fantasy Award in 2013 and was shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award. Her novel debut, Amatka, was recently released in English.

We discussed the serious nature of Live Action Role-Playing games in Nordic countries, the way pretending to be a 150-year-old vampire changed her life, how discovering Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics made her forget time and space, the most important lesson she learned from the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writing Workshop, how she uses improvisational exercises to teach beginning writers, why Amatka grew from a poetry collection into a novel, what made her say, “I’m not here to answer questions, I’m here to ask them,” and more.

(6) CAN YOU EXPLAIN THAT AGAIN? Scholars contend: “Science Fiction Makes You Stupid” in a post at The Patron Saint of Superheroes.

That is a scientifically grounded claim.

Cognitive psychologist Dan Johnson and I make a version of it in our paper “The Genre Effect: A Science Fiction (vs. Realism) Manipulation Decreases Inference Effort, Reading Comprehension, and Perceptions of Literary Merit,” forthcoming from Scientific Study of Literature.

Dan and I are both professors at Washington and Lee University, and our collaboration grew out of my annoyance at another study, “Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind,” published in Science in 2013. Boiled down, the authors claimed reading literary fiction makes you smart. And, who knows, maybe it does, but if so, their study gets no closer to understanding why–or even what anyone means by the term “literary fiction” as opposed to, say, “science fiction.”

Our study defines those terms, creates two texts that differ accordingly, and then studies how readers respond to them. The results surprised us. Readers read science fiction badly. If you’d like all the details why, head over to Scientific Study of Literature.

Arinn Dembo says about the article:

This is an interesting study. It strongly suggests that years of internalized stereotyping might influence the way you read and are *able* to read, in and out of the pulp genres you might favor. I said years ago, in my first published review, “If you don’t read outside the genre… soon you won’t be able to.”

But it might just be that if you listen too long to what arrogant, dismissive people think of your genre, you’ll stop being able to read it intelligently.

(7) VERSE WARRIORS. E. Catherine Tobler (Shimmer editor), Rachael K. Jones (recently nominated for World Fantasy Award for short fiction) and Aidan Doyle have launched a Kickstarter appeal to fund  “Sword and Sonnet” an anthology of genre stories about battle poets.

“Sword and Sonnet” will be an anthology featuring genre stories about women and non-binary battle poets. Lyrical, shimmery sonnet-slingers. Grizzled, gritty poetpunks. Word nerds battling eldritch evil. Haiku-wielding heroines.

We have a wonderful group of writers who have agreed to write stories for us: Alex Acks, C. S. E. Cooney, Malon Edwards, Spencer Ellsworth, Samantha Henderson, S. L. Huang, Cassandra Khaw, Margo Lanagan, Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali, Tony Pi, A. Merc Rustad and A. C. Wise. We’ll also be holding an open submission period.

The cover art is by Vlada Monakhova. The project is live on Kickstarter throughout November. At this writing they have raised $1,982 of their $7,654 goal.

(8) IN PASSING. Here’s a photo of the late Ben Solon, a Chicago fan whose death was reported the other day.

L to R: John D. Berry, Ray Fisher and Ben Solon at a party at late Sixties Worldcon. Photo copyright © Andrew Porter


  • Darrah Chavey found the reason for the season in Cul de Sac.
  • John King Tarpinian noted The Argyle Sweater getting its laughs at the pharmacy.

(10) TEMPLE TALK. Kim Huett writes to say he has updated his William F. Temple article with corrected information supplied by Rob Hansen in a comment.

Meantime, Bill Burns says he was “Surprised to see that when you posted Kim’s piece on Bill Temple the other day you didn’t also mention Rob Hansen’s excellent new compilation of Bill’s fan writing, Temple at the Bar – free in promotion of TAFF!”

It’s one of the free ebooks at Dave Langford’s TAFF site.

(11) MOO SIXTY-NINE. NASA’s New Horizons team is looking for help naming their next target — “Help us Nickname a Distant World”.

On January 1, 2019, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will fly past a small, distant, and cold world at the outer frontier of our solar system. The spacecraft is about to set the record for visiting the most remote world ever explored by humankind.

For now, our destination goes by the unexciting name “(486958) 2014 MU69“, or “MU69” for short. We would like to use a more memorable nickname when we talk about our target body.

At this site, we are asking you—the public—to suggest your ideas for the nickname to assign to MU69, and to vote for your favorites. The New Horizons team and NASA will review your best ideas and announce our selection soon—in early January, 2018.

… From here you can:

  • Read about the nicknames we are already considering.
  • Vote for your favorite names on the ballot (so far).
  • Nominate names that you think we should add to the ballot.
  • Check out the top-ranked names on the vote tally.

Would you believe — right now, Mjölnir is leading the poll.

(12) TRAD PIZZA. In “Papa John’s condemns new customers: White supremacists” the alt-right rationale that a business is “failing” – because it didn’t grow as fast as predicted (mind you, it still grew) – sounds like the same criticism recently levied against a sff writer who said his productivity was down.

Papa John’s pizza has a new customer, the alt-right.

In the days following a rant by Papa John’s CEO and Louisville resident John Schnatter where he blamed the NFL and anthem protests for low sales, a white-supremacist publication claimed it as their official pizza.

In a blog post at the Daily Stormer, a photo of pizza with pepperonis arranged in a swastika has a caption that reads “Papa John: Official pizza of the alt-right?”

“This might be the first time ever in modern history that a major institution is going to be completely destroyed explicitly because of public outrage over their anti-White agenda,” Daily Stormer writer Adrian Sol said.

Peter Collins, the senior director of public relations at Papa John’s, said the company was taken off-guard by the endorsement.

“We condemn racism in all forms and any and all hate groups that support it,” Collins told Courier Journal. “We do not want these individuals or groups to buy our pizza.”

Papa John’s released third-quarter sales figures last week that show diminished rates of growth at established North American locations: 1.5 percent this year as opposed to a projected 2- to 4-percent increase. In 2016, North American sales increased 5.5 percent during the same period.

(13) TWO-LEGGED SYLLOGISM OF THE DAY. In a piece mainly devoted to slandering David Gerrold, Dr. Mauser informs the sff community “The Science Fiction is Settled”, indulging in the fallacious logic that if any member of a group wrote sff in the early days of the genre, by that date the field was wide open to writers from that group.

And then, tragedy strikes. Because to Gerrold, Change has an Arrow on it, with a single destination, and it’s pointing to the left. He launches into a paean about Immigrants and diversity and the global village because Diversity is Strength! And then:

So, yes, it is inevitable that science fiction authors will explore that diversity — expanded roles for women, new definitions of gender and sexuality, the contributions of People of Color and other non-white ethnicities. We’ve discovered the overlooked skills of the aged and the disabled, the unusual and extraordinary ratiocinations of people who are neuro-atypical. The next generation of authors are exploring vast new landscapes of possibility — places to explore and discover ways of being human previously unconsidered.

It’s not that SF CAN explore those things, but that SF SHOULD explore those things he seems to think. Forget exploring the stars or asking “What if we’re not alone in the universe?” Nah, we’re alone, so let’s spend all our speculative energies on exploring our own bad selves. He grudgingly admits that while we have probes going past Pluto, “some of our most ambitious authors are turning their attention to a different frontier —exploring the workings of the human soul.” I suppose our navels give us much more instantaneous gratification than the stars. But really, that kind of narcissism is only interesting to the narcissist.

And at this point, we can see where the train leaves the tracks, because he switches from talking about science fiction, to the science fiction community, while trying to carry the same points. He talks about the changes in the SF Community from all these new folks of diverse backgrounds showing up. The only problem with this theory is that they have always been here. There’s a case of DoubleThink going on here when the same folks who like to claim Mary Shelley as one of the first female authors of Science Fiction, and then set it out there as if women are something new, and even more patronizing when they act as if their side’s genuflecting to Feminism is somehow responsible for their appearance. No, this is not a change. Try reading some C.L. Moore and realize that not only have women been in SF all along, they have been awesome.

Likewise with minority writers. The publishing world is, or at least was, the ultimate meritocracy. Since most of the business was conducted by mail, a publisher had no clue about the racial background of an author. Bias was eliminated through the medium of the Manila envelope. It takes very little research to find out that Black authors have been writing science fiction since the turn of the century. No, not this century, the previous one. Likewise for Gay authors, an obvious example being from the previous list, Samuel R. Delany. He was first published in 1962. That’s FIFTY FIVE years ago. This “change” Gerrold is touting really is nothing new.

Do you think there’s much chance that David Gerrold will be stunned to learn a gay author wrote sf in the Sixties?

(14) TURNOVER AT CASTALIA HOUSE BLOG. Jeffro Johnson is leaving the Castalia House blog. Contributor Morgan Holmes will take charge. Culture warrior Johnson said in his farewell post —

I remember when Sad Puppies first came to my attention. Upon reading the most vilified author of the whole crop– Vox Day, of course– I saw a nominated story that’s worst fault could only be that it was explicitly Christian. Looking up the publishing house it was produced at, I found a manifesto stating their goal to restore fantasy and science fiction to more what it was like when it was written by Tolkien and Howard. (And yeah, I had no idea how the person that wrote that could possibly think that a pulp writer like Robert E. Howard could be anywhere on par with J. R. R. Tolkien. And even more ironically, I couldn’t imagine how a “Campbellian Revolution” they claimed to want could be anything other than good.)

…So much is happening in the wider scene today that I can barely keep up with even a portion of it. Along with that, I find that areas of my life outside of gaming and fiction have increasingly laid greater and greater claims to my time. And while I wish I could do all the things that I can think of that could really capitalize on everything that’s developed here… I’m afraid I instead have to admit that I’ve run with all of this about as far as I can.

It’s a tough thing to do, but I think it’s the right thing for me at this time. So I’m handing over editorship of Castalia House blog to Morgan Holmes, who has been writing about classic fantasy and science fiction here almost as long as I have. (Good luck, man!)

(15) ONE THING PEOPLE SEEM TO AGREE ABOUT. On National Review Online, Heather Wilhelm, in “The Surprising Joy of Stranger Things”. praises the show for being “a good, non-angry, non-political TV show.”

The show features “a prelapsarian world of walkie-talkies, landlines, and suburban kids left free to roam wherever they want on their bicycles,” wrote Emily Nussbaum in The New Yorker last year. Or, as Ross Duffer told Rolling Stone: “We were the last generation to have the experience of going out with our friends to the woods or the train tracks and the only way our parents could connect with us was to say, ‘It’s time for dinner.’” That world is largely gone, and with it, many childhood adventures. The image of a freewheeling kid on a bicycle, so integral to iconic films such as E.T. — Matt and Ross Duffer make no secret of drawing inspiration from classic ’80s blockbusters — is also integral to Stranger Things. Tooling around town or in the local woods on a bike is almost diametrically opposed to most widely approved childhood activities today, which tend to involve hyper-organized and ludicrously time-consuming team sports that seem purposely designed to torture kids and parents alike. Tooling around town or in the local woods on a bike is almost diametrically opposed to most widely approved childhood activities today. But given free rein on their bikes in and around the town of Hawkins, the kids of Stranger Things can meet up, explore, barrel through the forest, investigate baffling occurrences, and evade a posse of bad guys from a sinister government agency gone awry. That would be the Hawkins National Laboratory, a hulking structure nestled deep in the midwestern woods, packed to the gills with mysteries. According to the Duffer brothers, it was inspired mostly by “bizarre experiments we had read about taking place in the Cold War.”

(16) HERDING CATS. Camestros Felapton expanded his survey of animals in sff blogs (“Blogstrology”) to include one more —

Rocket Stack Rank www.rocketstackrank.com is interesting because the animals mentioned would be more determined by their incidence in short fiction. Overall low frequencies and RSR has no presence on the otter or goose dimensions. Wolf-Rabbit-Cat blog – “Cat” strongly assisted by reviews of the works of Cat Rambo.

Goat has a presence but is just shy of the top 3.

(17) GLASGOWROK. Apparently he’s a riot pronouncing the word “bairn” — “Jeff Goldblum Answers Scottish Themed Questions About the End of the World Posed by Wee Claire”.

While promoting his new film Thor: Ragnarok, the wonderfully affable Jeff Goldblum sat down with Wee Claire of the BBC Scotland show The Social to answer a few Scottish-themed questions about the end of the world.


(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Time Travel in Fiction Rundown” on YouTube is a look at how lots of movies and Ender’s Game and Harry Potter and the Prisomer of Azkaban handle the time travel theme.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Bill Burns, Kim Huett, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Scott Edelman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offhand I don’t have any complaints or criticisms.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other reactions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frankly, it seemed like Dave had become PBS.


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

Pixel Scroll 11/4/17 Do You Come From The Land Scroll’d Under, Where Pixels Glow And Files Sunder?

(1) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Luke has a different-colored lightsaber! ScreenRant obsesses: “Star Wars 8: Is Luke’s Green Lightsaber Evidence of His Fall to the Dark Side?”

The fact that several posters and some merchandise have featured Luke holding his old blue-bladed lightsaber – the one Rey brings him at the end of The Force Awakens – instead, adds to the mystery. It’s possible he simply lost the lightsaber during the 35 years since The Force Awakens, but that’s a weird thing to hand wave away. The more likely explanation is that we haven’t seen it because it’s a spoiler.

(2) JUST FOLLOW THE BOUNCING HERO. Io9 directs Quantum Leap fans to this indispensible tool

Journalist Josh Jones created an interactive map for Special Request magazine that traces every leap Sam Beckett took during Quantum Leap’s series run, with every episode title and description available for those who want to match the leap with the location.

Using Google Maps, Jones marks a total 93 leaps across five seasons, with the second season having the most leaps out of all of them (22, one more than every following season). Most of them took place in the United States, though there were a few in Europe, along with one in Egypt and another in Japan. But it looks like Sam never managed to leap to Central America, South America, or Australia. What, were there no koalas who needed help?

The link is: Google Map of all the Quantum Leaps.

(3) FUTURE WEALTH. David Brin dispenses idiosyncratic wisdom in a Marketshadows interview.

Ilene: Lately, it seems like there are a lot of winners who are also cheaters… are we going backwards?

David: Amid 6,000 years of feudal despotisms, a few brief moments of illumination happened when citizens rose up to rule themselves. Periclean Athenian democracy was spectacularly agile and creative, but only lasted about one human lifespan, before it was crushed by neighboring oligarchies. The Florentine Republic was shorter lived. But we’ve managed about 250 years of an amazing experiment.

So don’t be myopic. Other generations of Americans faced crises and attempts by would-be feudal lords to smash our diamond back into the old pattern. Generally, these phases of the American Civil War (we’re in phase eight) have ended surprisingly well, as we extend freedom and rights and dignity to ever more kinds of people. But at the time, each crisis seemed impossible to overcome.

We need confidence. Alas, that is why many voices in power and media try to spread gloom.

(4) NO PRIZE. Andrew Porter was watching Jeopardy! when contestants hilariously failed to recognize clues to a classic sf novel.

This 1870 novel has a ship whose name is from the Greek for “Sailor” and a captain whose name is Latin for “No One.”

Wrong answers: “What is Watership Down” and “What is the Ballad of Cap’n Crunch?”

Real answer: “What is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

He also passed a second “scintillating wrong Jeopardy! answer” –

On TV in the 1960s we learned that its mission was “to seek out new life and new civilizations.”

Contestant: “What is Apollo?”

(5) ANIMAL CROSSING. Is Vox Day doing what he otter? That and other animal-based questions can be answered using Camestros Felapton’s chart in “Today in Pointless Statistics”

Yesterday, I was speculating about how the far-right may have a fear of rabbits. I’ve no means of ascertaining that but I did wonder if rabbits got mentioned more than you would expect.

Disproportionate Lagomorphic Referencing in Ideologically Extreme Propaganda

By C.Felapton, M.Robot 2017


It has been postulated that the alt-right talks about rabbits a lot. Our research unit examined this hypothesis empirically using highly advanced data-mining techniques.

Using a sample of common animal words, the frequency of use of those words was established and then compared with word frequency in an established corpus of English words. It was established that at least one member of the alt-right talks about rabbits disproportionately….

Camestros was so tickled by the experiment that he repeated the search on two other “control” blogs, discovering that “cat” was the animal most often mentioned on both — however, the word appears on File 770 (in posts and comments) ten times more often than on Monster Hunter Nation. Meow, baby!

(6) HOLD ONTO YOUR WALLETS. The Verge issues a warning — “Amazon wants to turn Lord of the Rings into the next Game of Thrones”. Maybe call it, The Eye in the High Castle?

Amazon Studios has been looking for a way to duplicate HBO’s success with Game of Thrones, and the company may have found a solution: adapting J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings into a TV series. Variety reports that the company is currently in talks with Warner Bros. Television and the late author’s estate, and while discussions are said to be in “very early stages,” it is clearly a high priority, with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos himself involved in the negotiations.

Amazon isn’t the only looking into the rights, according to Deadline, which reports that the Tolkien Estate is looking to sell the television rights to the iconic fantasy series to the tune of $200-250 million, and has approached Netflix and HBO as well. There appears to be some strings attached: the rights might not encompass all of the characters in the story. HBO has reportedly passed on the project.


  • November 4, 1922 — Pharoah Tutankhamen’s tomb is discovered.


  • Born November 4, 1917 – Paul I. Evans

(9) STORIES WORTH NOTICING. At Locus Online, Rich Horton reviews short fiction from Asimov’s, F&SF, Uncanny, Clarkesworld, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, People of Color Take Over Special Issue, and Tor.com.

In Tor.com‘s July set of stories I thought “The Mar­tian Obelisk” by Linda Nagata the best. It’s set in a future in which a series of disasters caused by human nature, environmental collapse, and technological missteps have led to a realization that humanity is doomed. One old architect, in a gesture of, perhaps, memorialization of the species, has taken over the remaining machines of an abortive Mars colony to create a huge obelisk that might end up the last surviving great human structure after we are gone. But her project is threatened when a vehicle from one of the other Martian colonies (all of which failed) approaches. Is the vehicle’s AI haywire? Has it been hijacked by someone else on Earth? The real answer is more inspiring – and if perhaps just a bit pat, the conclusion is profoundly moving.

(10) RADICAL NEW FORMAT. James Corden brings you “Thor: Ragnarok 4D w/ the ‘Thor’ cast”.

…Chris Hemsworth, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson, Mark Ruffalo, and Jeff Goldblum, reprising their movie roles for a live, surprised audience who thought they were actually seeing the new Marvel movie. “Will they be mad that I’m interrupting the film?” Corden says. “Possibly. You know, wherever there is change, people will call it disruption. So I guess, you know, what I’m saying is, ‘Who gives a [bleep]?’”


(11) MORE THOR. Every media adaptation of Thor (before James Corden got hold of him) is referenced in this video: (Hat tip to io9.)

(12) HATCHING OUT. Cheryl Morgan, in “Aotearoa Futurism”, tells where you can learn about some of the subtle Maori-oriented references planted by the director in Thor: Ragnarok.

I’m not going to give you spoilers here, but if you have already seen the film I recommend this article by Maori SF fan, Dan Taipua. The director of the film, Taika Waititi, is also Maori, and he has left a whole bunch of Easter eggs in there for his people, and for their indigenous Australian friends.

Dan got in touch with me on Twitter and pointed me at two Radio New Zealand podcasts in which he and colleagues apply the ideas of Afrofuturism in a specifically Maori/Polynesian context. You can find them here and here.

I’m delighted to see this sort of thing happening in the South Pacific, and I’m hoping to learn a lot more about Aotearoa Futurism if/when Worldcon comes to New Zealand in 2020.

(13) HOLLYWOOD REVIVAL. I started following the fate of this legendary Hollywood joint because Ray Bradbury used to lunch there with people like with the likes of Sam Peckinpah and John Huston. Therefore I’m sure he’d have been happy to know — “Formosa Cafe Will Come Back Shinier Than Ever”.

A $150,000 grant has been awarded to 1933 Group, a hospitality company with a number of bars around Los Angeles, to rehabilitate West Hollywood’s iconic Formosa Cafe.

The restaurant, which closed at the end of 2016, was opened in 1925 by a retired boxer who apparently loved trains: The lunch counter was built in a retired Pacific Electric Red Car trolley. It was built next to some of L.A.’s earliest movie studio lots, and immediately attracted a movie star clientele. And some mobsters, too. The Formosa lost some of its luster in its later years but was still beloved by nostalgics (and played itself in the 1997 film L.A. Confidential).

(14) GRAPHIC EPIC. Washington City Paper’s Matt Cohen profiles African-American author Adam Griffiths, whose 600-page graphic novel Washington White looks at “institutionalized racism” by telling the story of the decline and fall of a great Washington newspaper: “Adam Griffiths Wrote a 600-Page Graphic Novel About His Grandmother’s Civil Rights Lawsuit”.

Listening to Adam Griffiths talk about his new graphic novel, Washington White, is a dizzying experience. It’s a science fiction spy thriller that takes place in D.C.—and also a parallel universe within an engineered disease that only the government knows about. In this mysterious world, the president of the United States authorizes the testing of mind-control drugs, a transgender drummer fights to rejoin her punk band, and a greedy developer tries to gentrify the parallel universe-within-a-disease with a sea of condos. At the center of it all is the novel’s titular newspaper, Washington White—a tabloid whose black owner tries to tell the public about all the crazy shit going on in the District because his dad is the one behind it….

(15) IN HOC SIGNO HECTO. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler encounters a “[November 3, 1962] A Plague of Purple (December 1962 Galaxy)”.

… It has become de riguer at my former favorite magazine, that of Fantasy and Science Fiction, to print “funny” literary stories.  Tediously amusing, dully droll, laden with parenthetical (uselessly so) clauses — and hyphenated articulations, sometimes “quoted” for extra sardonicism.  And did I mention the extra verbiage?  These magazines pay three cents per word, you know….

Dr. Morris Goldpepper Returns, by Avram Davidson

Having poured myself a stiff drink in reward for having made it through the opening novella, my moment of self-congratulation was shattered as I espied the byline of the next piece.  Davidson is the poster child for excellence gone to the prolix weeds.  Sure enough, this piece, ostensibly about earthworms and aliens, is possibly his worst offender yet.  One star.

(16) THE BUBBLY. “Ferdinand the Bull Gets His Own Soda, Sort of”: Food & Wine has the story.

An adaptation of Munro Leaf’s children’s book The Story of Ferdinand, this newest film from a 20th Century Fox studio follows a bull with a big heart (voiced by John Cena) who gets captured and must fight to find his way home. To help gear up for the film’s approaching release, zero calorie beverage company Zevia is offering young moviegoers the chance to sip one of four flavors in their exclusive tie-in line of non-caffeinated sodas. That includes ginger root beer, grape, cream soda and black cherry—all of which feature a natural sweetener.

… Only 1,250,000 cans will be released and are available, beginning yesterday, in 20,000 U.S. grocery stores. You can get a six-pack of these special edition Zevia sodas for $5.99 at retailers like Target, Whole Foods, and Sprouts Farmers Market from now until the film’s mid-December release. As a sweet bonus, you’ll get a Fandango coupon for $5 off a Ferdinand movie ticket when you buy the soda.

(17) ZERO OUT OF TEN DENTISTS RECOMMEND. After drinking all that soda, remember to brush your teeth. What’s that you say, Count, it wasn’t soda you were drinking?

(18) SHIRT OFF HIS BACK. Looking for Christmas gift suggestions?

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

Pixel Scroll 11/3/17 Third Pixel To The Right And Scroll On ‘Til Morning

(1) DISCLAIMERS. Daniel Dern noticed this disclaimer on latest 30-second Justice League trailer (at the very end): “Sequences of Sci-Fi Action and Violence”

“Accurate. Intriguingly specific,” he says. “Makes me wonder what other disclaimers might be.” And he suggests —


“Cussing, pouting, and attitude. Do not attempt these magic experiments without proper protective gear and spells.”


“Warning: If you’ve read the rest of the books, you know things keep getting worse.”


“Warning: It’s not Bob who’s your uncle.”

(2) KINGS OF THE PUBLISHING WORLD. The family that sells together rings cash register bells together…. “Stephen and Owen King and Joe Hill are all on the New York Times bestseller list right now”.

In what’s a first for the Kings, three out of five members of the family are all on the New York Times bestseller list as of this week.

Stephen King and his youngest son, Owen, collaborated on the highly entertaining horror yarn “Sleeping Beauties,” about a mysterious mystical occurrence that puts all the women of the world to sleep — and if they wake up, well, watch out. That book came out on Sept. 26 and immediately shot to the top of the hardcover fiction list; it still remains at number four, five weeks in.

Meanwhile, Joe Hill, the eldest of the King kids, last week released “Strange Weather,” a collection of four novellas about the supernatural and horrific. It debuted this week at number nine on the hardcover fiction charts.

(3) GRIPE SESSION. ComicsBeat’s Heidi MacDonald covers the complaints about the Central Canada Comic Con held in Winnipeg: “When a con goes badly: Area man claims C4 Winnipeg was ‘The Worst Convention I Have Ever Attended’”. According to webcomics creator Michael McAdam —

Blanket statement that remained true for the entire weekend: No volunteer anywhere could answer any questions. They were confused, lost, disjointed, or had incorrect information. In fact, a Facebook friend of mine tried to attend on Saturday- and was given so many incorrect directions to registration that he gave up and left without entering the con! Think about that: a paying attendee, who wants to come in and spend his money, can’t even get directed to the proper entrance due to absolute incompetence and ignorance. How many people do you think gave up? How much in terms of potential earnings was lost due to stupidity?

Followed by lots more like that.

(4) THIS JUST IN. Meanwhile, back at World Wombat HQ….

(5) BINTI MEETS TED. Tor.com tells how “Nnedi Okorafor’s TED Talk Explains Afrofuturism vs. Science Fiction Using the Octopus Analogy”, including this quote from Okorafor:

This idea of leaving but bringing and then becoming more is at one of the hearts of Afrofuturism, or you can simply call it a different type of science fiction. I can best explain the difference between classic science fiction and Afrofuturism if I used the octopus analogy. Like humans, octopuses are some of the most intelligent creatures on earth. However, octopus intelligence evolved from a different evolutionary line, separate from that of human beings, so the foundation is different. The same can be said about the foundations of various forms of science fiction.

(6) ORIGINAL CUT DISCOVERED. Bradbury scholar Phil Nichols made a discovery:

In the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies today I discovered the original release version of SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, previously considered lost. The film previewed badly in 1982, and the Disney studios panicked and decided to rework the film. The lost version has never been released, and is believed never to have been screened since that preview.

(7) PARK PLACE. There was a summer groundswell of public support to name a Tacoma park after Dune author Frank Herbert. Metro Parks Tacoma Public Information Officer Michael Thompson answered Andrew Porter’s request for an update with this statement:

Still under consideration, still no decision. Our planning department is dealing with several construction projects, so the decision probably will be pushed back to later in the year instead of “fall.”

Herbert was born in Tacoma in 1920 and lived there as an adult. The idea to name a newly developed park for him was first suggested in 2013.

(8) RUSSELL OBIT. Pioneering television director Paddy Russell (1928-2017) has died at the age of 89. Doctor Who News paid tribute:

Patricia Russell, known to all as Paddy, had a long and distinguished career as one of the first female Directors in British television….

In the 1950’s Television was crying out for theatre staff to work in the new medium and Russell was recruited as a production assistant, working with the famed director Rudolph Cartier. Acting as the director’s eyes and ears on the studio floor, Russell worked on some of the most innovative and pioneering dramas of the day including the Quatermass science-fiction serials as well as the 1954 adaptation of George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four starring Peter Cushing.  …Her first encounter with Doctor Who came in 1966 when she became the first female Director to work on the show. She helmed the First Doctor story The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve.

…It was eight years later that Russell returned to the show working on the six-part Jon Pertwee story Invasion of the Dinosaurs. It was a story fraught with technical difficulties in the attempt to bring dinosaurs to London using the primitive methods available in the early 1970’s. While not always successful it was a story Russell was very proud of.

…Two more stories followed, both staring the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker. In 1975 she directed the fan favourite Pyramids of Mars, followed in 1977 by the Horror of Fang Rock. She had a prickly relationship with the lead actor whom she found increasingly difficult to work with….


International Speculative Poetry Day

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association persuaded the State of Minnesota to declare November 3 to be International Speculative Poetry Day.

International Speculative Poetry Day seeks to highlight the vibrant legacy and extraordinary achievement of speculative poets. It seeks to introduce communities to the delights and benefits of reading and writing speculative poetry as well as make speculative poetry an important and innovative part of our cultural life.  Speculative poetry has produced some of the nation’s leading creative artists and influential books, performances, and exhibitions, inspiring other artists, educators, and community builders around the world.


  • November 3, 1957 – Laika becomes the first dog in space.

And the bards of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association have put up a page of verse honoring the pioneer, “Remembering Laika”.

This year, November 3rd coincides with the 60th anniversary of Laika’s historic mission into outer space. (That’s 420 in space dog years!) She advanced Earth’s knowledge and paved the way for space exploration and much of our modern world today.  Several of our SFPA members recently shared poems inspired by Laika and our canine companions to mark the day. A special thanks to them and Dr. Suzie GeeForce for illustrating the occasion! You can also find additional poems by our members in our list-serv.

  • November 3, 1976 — The original Carrie debuted


  • Born November 3, 1954 Godzilla. (I think this means it’s the day the film was released.)

(12) WAVES. Lela E. Buis questions whether some TV participants are “Asking for contradictory things?”

I’m probably going to get into serious trouble with this post, as it touches on third wave feminism. Various people have urged me to address the topic before and I’ve just not gotten to it. Up front, let me say I’m a second wave feminist, and I have opinions that sometimes diverge sharply from the current platform.

Here’s the issue: A while back I watched a panel discussion on the Weinstein scandal, and I was struck with some contradictions. This show was Friday, Oct. 13, Third Rail with Ozy asks: Is sexual harassment inevitable in the workplace? Along with Colorado College Professor Tomi-Ann Roberts, the panel included three younger women.

Roberts related her personal experience with Weinstein as a 20-year-old and her subsequent decision that she wasn’t cut out for work in Hollywood. The panel then went on to define sexual harassment in the workplace to include compliments on appearance and beauty. Hm. Okay, second wave question here: Roberts looks professional. She’s got on a boxy jacket and restrained hair and makeup, but the other women look like they’ve spent hours on their appearance, plus a big chunk of change. They have on form-fitting clothing, heavy make-up and trendy hair styling. Why?

If we assume appearance is expression and therefore a type of speech, what are they saying?…

And she continues from there with her analysis.

(13) ANOTHER ATWOOD IN DEVELOPMENT. This one is based on a historical novel: “Margaret Atwood’s ‘Alias Grace’ adapted as Netflix series”.

Another Margaret Atwood novel is getting the Hollywood treatment, this time on Netflix.

In “Alias Grace,” a six-episode Netflix miniseries starring Sarah Gadon, an Irish immigrant working as a maid in Canada in the 1840s is accused of murdering her boss and his mistress. Her case is covered with breathless scrutiny, making the young woman infamous.

Based on Atwood’s historical novel, Gadon plays Grace, who recounts her life story to a young psychiatrist trying to help jog her memory.

(14) IT IS TO BLUSH. Slate’s Sam Adams declares “Stranger Things’ “Punk” Episode Is Unbelievably Awful”

The second season of Stranger Things—or, if we must, Stranger Things 2—effectively recaptures the meme-spawning magic of its first. But for a season that mostly follows the template of “What if that thing you liked, but more?” the new episodes make a pronounced departure in splitting Millie Bobbie Brown’s Eleven off from her group of demogorgon-fighting pals, most of whom think she’s disappeared or dead. As the series’ breakout character, played by its strongest young actor, Eleven is a natural candidate to carry her own largely self-contained storyline, but the strain of building a new world for her to inhabit taxes the Duffer brothers’ self-mimicking skills to the limit, and finally exhausts them altogether in its seventh episode, “The Lost Sister.” The result is an unmitigated embarrassment…

(15) BRINGS THE HAMMER. NPR’s Chris Klimek says “‘Thor: Ragnarok’ Is Hela Good”:

Ragnarok, an incontrovertibly bitchin’ word that refers in Norse myth to the final, winner-take-all smackdown between good and evil, is an awfully heavy subtitle for a movie as affably insubstantial as The Mighty Thor’s mighty third.

Catching us up on what your friendly neighborhood Thunder-God (and your friendly neighborhood Incredible Hulk) were doing while they were absent from last year’s Captain America: Civil War, the movie earns the backhanded compliment of being the best Thor picture by an Asgardian mile, and the more sincere one of being not in the least a chore to sit through. It’s funnier and prettier than most of the other Marvel movies, having figured out that adopting the visual palette of Frank Frazetta’s glossy swords n’ monsters n’ muscles fantasy paintings — rather than trying to cross that uncanny valley into photorealism — is a good way to make the wall-to-wall CGI less fatiguing. Half the frames in this film would look right at home airbrushed on the side of a 1978 Ford Econoline “shaggin’ wagon” van, which would almost certainly be blasting Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” a vintage headbanger that the Thor 3 soundtrack Ragna-rocks twice. (I am getting choked up thinking about all the 10-year-olds who will see this thing and shortly thereafter download their very first Led Zep.)

(16) GOURD EMERGENCY. Or, why they call it “felonious abandonment of zucchini”: German man believes 11-pounder is unexploded bomb, calls police: “German police find ‘WW2 bomb’ was big courgette”.

The 5kg (11-pound) courgette had probably been thrown over a hedge into the 81 year old’s garden, police said.

Luckily no evacuation was required in Bretten, a town near Karlsruhe in south-west Germany.

The last part is by no means a joke — On 3 September 65,000 people were evacuated from their homes in Frankfurt, so that a 1.4-tonne British bomb could be defused. It was the biggest evacuation in post-war German history for an unexploded bomb alert.

(17) THIRSTING FOR ACTION. SyFy Wire looks forward to seeing “Beer-loving giant ants terrorize teens in trailer for It Came from the Desert

New levels, man — new levels. In the never-ending quest to escalate campiness to heights that beggar irony, here comes a movie. A movie, based on a Commodore Amiga video game from the late 1980s, about giant ants; ants that live in the desert; ants who enjoy beer straight from the keg and can only be vanquished — at great personal cost — by a mostly-expendable cast of libidinous teens.

You know how these things make us feel.

If you gamed in the ‘80s, you may remember It Came from the Desert, an Amiga title that drew heavy inspiration from Them! and other B-horror flicks from the 1950s. As the game’s protagonist, Dr. Greg Bradley traversed the Nevada desert landscape, staging desperate battles against radioactively-mutated ants in a variety of interesting locations.

Now Cinemaware, the game’s original developer, is teaming with Finnish VFX effects studio Roger! Pictures to revive the goofy premise in a live-action format. The trailer for the eponymous movie seems to lie somewhere between a proof of concept and an enticing synopsis of what we’re (admittedly) hoping will end up as a finished product.


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