Pixel Scroll 5/22/16 Pixelpotamus vs. Scrolloceros

(1) PRECISION. In “Save the Allegory!” on Slate, Laura Miller calls on writers to actually define “allegory” correctly.  She quotes from C. S. Lewis’ The Allegory of Love at length and makes lots of superhero references.

What people usually mean when they call something an allegory today is that the fictional work in question can function as a metaphor for some real-world situation or event. This is a common arts journalist’s device: finding a political parallel to whatever you happen to be reviewing is a handy way to make it appear worth writing about in the first place. Calling that parallel an allegory serves to make the comparison more forceful. Fusion says that Batman v Superman is a “none-too-subtle allegory for the fight between Republican presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.” (It is not.) The Hollywood Reporter calls Zootopia an “accidental anti-Trump allegory”—this despite the fact that there is no literary form less accidental than allegory. The meaning of the word has drifted so far that even works that aren’t especially metaphorical get labeled as allegory: A film about artistic repression in Iran is a “clunky allegory” for … artistic repression in Iran.

Allegory or metaphor: The distinction might seem obscure and academic to many readers. Shouldn’t allegory be grateful to get any attention at all? Isn’t it just an archaic literary mode that nobody uses anymore? Yes and no. About the only people creating true allegories today are political cartoonists. But a culture never entirely discards its roots, and allegory, which first appeared in the waning years of the Roman Empire, is one of the foundations of Western literature. Maybe if we understood it better, we’d realize how much we owe to it.

(2) NEXT AT SFWA. While detailing her writing and travel plans for the summer, Cat Rambo also previews SFWA’s upcoming activities in “Catching My Breath and What’s Coming Up”. In her second year as the organization’s president, she will be putting some needed infrastructure in place.

In SFWA areas, I’m focusing on a new committee that I’ll be working with, the Membership Retention Committee, whose job will be to look at the new member experience for SFWA members as well as how to keep the organization useful for members. (If you’re interested in volunteering with that, feel free to drop me a line.) Other efforts include a) working with SFWA fundraising, b) a small musical endeavor that I just prodded someone about and which involves Tom Lehrer (yes, that Tom Lehrer), and c) helping out where I can with some of M.C.A. Hogarth’s amazing efforts, such as this mysterious thing here lurking under a tarp that I am not at liberty to discuss. *mouths the words “SFWA University” then is dragged away by the SFWA honey badgers while shouting something about a guidebook*

Three other important SFWA things:

  1. I’ll be watching the results of our decision to admit game writers with keen interest. I can tell you that the initial set is criteria is being voted on right now and I expect to see it announced soon.
  2. An effort is in the works that I think will prove a lovely tribute to longtime SFWA volunteer Bud Webster and which will, in the longtime SFWA tradition, provide a benefit for professional writers at every level of their careers.
  3. And we’ll (finally) be announcing some of the partnerships we’ve been making — you saw reps from Amazon, Audible, BookBub, Draft2Digital, Kickstarter, Kobo and Patreon at the Nebulas and those relationships are going to extend beyond the weekend and give our members special resources and relationships at all of those companies — and others, including one that I am super-stoked to have facilitated.

(3) DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH. Neil deGrasse Tyson gives his view about how long you could survive on each planet in our solar system. It’s a 2015 video.

(4) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 22, 1859 — Scottish writer Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes.

(5) POSERS FOR TINGLE. Neigh, a thousand times neigh!

(6) EVERMORE. The Baltimore Sun quotes lots of people involved with the convention in “Balticon grew to 50 as sci-fi, fantasy grew more mainstream”. Several are Filers.

Even 50 Balticons later, Ray Ridenour remembers his introduction to the annual gathering of the Baltimore region’s science-fiction and fantasy aficionados.

Ridenour, then a student at the University of Maryland, College Park, recalls taking the elevator to the top floor of the city’s since-demolished Emerson Hotel. This was the first Balticon put together by the then-4-year-old Baltimore Science Fiction Society, and he had little idea what to expect.

“As soon as I stepped out of the elevator, I heard something very noisy and stepped back in,” he recalls. “Two guys roared by in a wheelchair; one of them was singing loudly, the other was pushing loudly. They careened down the hotel aisle and then zoomed in another direction and disappeared.”

Ridenour asked someone walking by if they had any idea what was going on. “‘Oh, yeah,'” came the reply. “‘That was the president of the club.'”

Ridenour, now 68, a graphic artist and designer living in Hampden and a veteran of every Balticon since, knew he was in the right place. “So I said, ‘Well, these guys look like they know how to party.'”

…Baltimore natives Miller, 65, and Lee, 63, authors of a series of books set in the Liaden universe, were guests of honor at Balticon 37 in 2003. Veterans of Balticons dating to the mid-’70s — they met at Balticon 10 in 1976, when Lee won a short-story contest Miller had helped start — they have been married since 1980.

Balticon’s strength, Miller says, lies in its deep fan base. At a time when many fan gatherings have become massive affairs staged by professional organizations whose business is organizing conventions, with an emphasis on movie- and TV-star guests, Balticon is still organized and run by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society and skewed toward the written word.

“Balticon hasn’t lost touch with the fact that it’s a bunch of fans putting this together, for their own interests and the interests of their friends,” Miller says.

(7) DUNGEON N-COUNTER. Jo Lindsay Walton tweeted this sample of what goes on in the Sputnik Award’s Dungeons of Democracy.

(8) ARE GO. Michael Flett describes the 2015 revival in “Thunderbirds 1965” at GeekChocolate.

…Adhering strictly to the ethic of the late sixties, wires are visible, the motion and expressions of the puppets are limited but still capable of expressing great character, and while Tracy Island is extended by the use of archive footage of tropical islands there can no justifiable objection to this use of stock footage nor in the famous launch sequences or any repeated shots of flybys, as this was all part and parcel of the original productions.

What is undeniable is the loving recreations of puppets, props, sets and machines, from Lady Penelope’s wonderfully shiny pink Rolls Royce FAB1 to the Thunderbirds vehicles themselves, the characters themselves graced by the creations of costume designer Liz Comstock-Smith who has crafted an exquisite new wardrobe for Lady Penelope, much to the chagrin of her chauffeur Aloysius Parker who in addition to his other duties must act as porter.

“When one is visiting, one tries to look one’s best,” his employer drily responds as she arrives at Tracy Island in opening episode Introducing Thunderbirds, less of an audio adventure now granted a visual dimension than, as the name would suggest, a showcase of International Rescue’s secret base and the amazing vehicles used to perform their daring missions.

Adapted from the soundtrack of F.A.B., The Abominable Snowman offers more in the way of spectacle with big explosions from the opening moments as a fire rages at Meddings Uranium, named of course in honour of the late special effects designer Derek Meddings who worked on many Anderson shows and later progressed to several James Bond films….

(9) STOP FIGHTING THE LAST WAR. Jim Henley, in “Hugo McHugoface Has Sailed”, offers his own frame for the Hugo reform discussions.

…Various options – including some kind of jury component and restricting voting rights (e.g. to only attending members) – have raised the objection that “They change the fundamental character of the award.” That class of objections fails to recognize the core truth: the character of the Hugo Awards has already changed. Again, the character of the Hugo Awards has already changed.

The Hugo Awards have become an internet poll in the age of Boaty McBoatface, freeping and chan culture. Nobody set out to make them this, and ex ante it was reasonable to imagine that the supporting membership fee (currently $50) was enough of a gating function to keep LULZers and trolls from targeting the process for abuse. But experience shows that there are enough motivated bad actors willing to spend that much to tie up the bulk of the ballot with whatever works their whims inspire them to place there, motivated by any combination of venial and mortal sins.

There is no question of preserving the character of the Hugo Awards. That ship has sailed, and it is not named for David Attenborough. The question is how can the award process be restructured so that future nominees and award winners will be of a character consistent with the Hugo tradition for the ’70 years prior to the mid-’10s.

I suppose the other question is how long it will take Hugo fandom and WSFS members to admit this.

(10) VERBAL AUTOPSY. Toby Litt tells Guardian readers “What makes bad writing bad”.

…Bad writers continue to write badly because they have many reasons – in their view very good reasons – for writing in the way they do. Writers are bad because they cleave to the causes of writing badly.

Bad writing is almost always a love poem addressed by the self to the self. The person who will admire it first and last and most is the writer herself.

When Updike began writing Rabbit, Run it was either going to be a great technical feat or a humiliating misjudgment

While bad writers may read a great many diverse works of fiction, they are unable or unwilling to perceive the things these works do which their own writing fails to do. So the most dangerous kind of writers for bad writers to read are what I call excuse writers – writers of the sort who seem to grant permission to others to borrow or imitate their failings.

I’ll give you some examples: Jack Kerouac, John Updike, David Foster Wallace, Virginia Woolf, Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou. Bad writers bulwark themselves against a confrontation with their own badness by reference to other writers with whom they feel they share certain defence-worthy characteristics….

(11) DOWN UNDER FAN FUND. Julian Warner, Justin Ackroyd and Lucy Huntzinger officially announced that the winner of the 2016 race is Australian fan Clare McDonald-Sims. She was the only candidate. The administrators say voting numbers to follow. McDonald-Sims will attend MidAmeriCon II.

(12) IT’S STILL NEWS TO SOMEONE. Fanac.org now has James V. Taurasi’s classic fan newzine Fantasy Times online, published from 1941-1955.

Also, congratulations to Jack Weaver, Fanac.org’s Webmaster of 20 years, and the site’s software developer, who received a special award at FanHistoricon in Virginia last month.

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(13) TANK FOR THE MEMORIES. NPR covered yesterday’s transfer from the harbor to the museum – “A 66,000 Pound Space Shuttle Fuel Tank Is Parading Through The Streets Of LA”.

fuel tank

The last remaining space shuttle external propellant tank is moved across the 405 freeway in Los Angeles on Saturday. The ET-94 will be displayed with the retired space shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center.

A massive space shuttle fuel tank is winding its way through the streets of Los Angeles Saturday, on a 16-mile trek heading to the California Science Center.

It’s set to be displayed with the space shuttle Endeavor. The tank, which was never used in a mission, is the “last flight-qualified space shuttle external tank in existence,” according to the science center…..

As The Associated Press reports, the giant tank started moving at midnight from Marina del Rey, where it “arrived by barge Wednesday.” It’s crawling along at about 5 mph, the wire service reports, and is expected to take 13 to 18 hours to reach the science center….

The tank was donated by NASA, and Science Center President Jeff Rudolph tells Danielle that he’s thrilled to acquire the tank.

“As soon as we got Endeavor, we said we got to see if there’s any way we can get that one remaining external tank,” he says. Danielle adds that the center is hoping to eventually add booster rockets to the display.

According to the center, that means it will be the “be the only place in the world that people will be able to see a complete shuttle stack — orbiter, external tank, and solid rocket booster — with all real flight hardware in launch configuration.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., Brian Z., and Jim Henley for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Thunderbirds Are Go Official Trailer

Stream all episodes of Thunderbirds Are Go with Prime, beginning April 22, 2016 on Amazon Video.

When disaster strikes, International Rescue answers the call! From their hidden island base, the five Tracy Brothers pilot their cutting-edge Thunderbird vehicles to every corner of the globe and beyond – all for one purpose: to help others in need. Even the devious schemes of mysterious international criminal ‘The Hood’ can’t stop them from battling the dangers of the year 2060.

 

Venus, If You Will

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By James H. Burns: Sylvia Anderson has to be one of the first women I ever had a crush on, even if I didn’t recognize it as such.  And the fact that she was in wooden form makes it all the more unusual!

But Sylvia provided the voice for Doctor Venus, the beautiful blonde astronaut (space adventurer), on the early 1960s’ Fireball XL5, the series she co-produced with her husband, Gerry Anderson.  She’d enact many other gals throughout the 1960s, in their other Supermarionation marionette series; most famously, of course, Lady Penelope in Thunderbirds.

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If the Andersons were never quite able to make a successful transition to live-action, with UFO and Space:1999, it’s become clearer over the last several years how phenomenal an achievement their so-called “kids” series were.

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They had a rather bad marital breakup during the production of Space:1999, which led to a rather tragic development.

Beginning over thirty years ago, reportedly, if you wanted Gerry’s cooperation with any kind of fan project, Sylvia’s contributions to the series could not be mentioned in more than passing. Allegedly, he even insisted she be edited out of a “Making of”/behind-the-scenes documentary on Thunderbirds

There were other successes for Sylvia, as a writer, and as an executive with HBO in Great Britain.

EDITORIAL USE ONLY / NO MERCHANDISING nFor merchandising, please contact James Feltham, james.feltham@itv.comnMandatory Credit: Photo by ITV/REX/Shutterstock (811524hi)n'Fireball XL 5' - Sylvia Anderson with Venus.nGTV ARCHIVEnn

Finally, some years later, Sylvia was able to reclaim some of her fame, and the credit due her. For far too long, Sylvia’s status as a pioneering television producer had remained nearly unacknowledged. She had, of course, also been one of our very first space-women. (Who knows how man future scientists the couple helped inspire!)

Supercar, Stingray, Captain Scarlet and all the rest remain a cherished part of so many futures passed…

Here’s what I wrote, at the end of December, 2012, when Gerry Anderson died.

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One of my favorite memories of the space age, now–

And I may be framing this wrong–

One of my favorite memories of being a kid–

Was rushing home, walking home, from First Grade, to catch Captain Scarlet at 3:30, on WPIX, Channel 11, in suburban New York…

But after all, I had spent my childhood with the creations of Gerry AND Sylvia Anderson, and their so superbly talented collaborators, and puppeteers.

I was born after “Supermarionation” had made its debut, both in Great Britain, and America.

And, when I first saw the TV-news sub-headline, those ridiculous things that run at the bottom of the screen, that I’m pretty sure all of the Tracey boys (from Thunderbirds, of course) would have thought silly, that Anderson had passed:

I immediately reflected on a memory that often plays somewhere in my mind, one of my first solid memories, complete:

Sitting at the edge of my parents’ bed, on a Sunday or Saturday afternoon, with my folks watching along, some space behind, leaning against the headboard, still holding hands, as we enjoyed an episode of Fireball XL5. (It would run, in repeats, on its second go-round, locally following Rin-Tin-Tin.)

There was something magical, to me, about that old ITC logo, that magically emblazoned signage, that also evolved during the 1960s.

I learned to learn, when I saw it, that some enchantment would ensue.

Because the Andersons’ shows, followed me through my early years..

And helped emblazon them!

A year or two later, I’d catch Stingray, on Channel 11. Somehow I knew this was from the same folks who made the space show I had liked. (Hard to remember now, puppetry of all sorts was kind of everywhere in New York in the 1960s, on local kids shows, Captain Kangaroo, broadcasts of the George Pal Puppetoons…)

The mute gal disturbed me, a strange image for the Andersons and company to foster on children, but the imagination–and the great effects (still terrific!), kept me glued.

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And then there was Thunderbirds, early in the morning on WNEW in New York, shown in the half hour format, a lovely way to launch the day, just before heading off to school.

It startles me to realize that I saw all of these shows in black and white, and some episodes, I still haven’t seen as they were originally filmed. Because in my mind’s eye, these programs were always vibrant, brilliant in the aspect of a youngster’s wonder.

Remember, I wasn’t even seven when I first journeyed to the moon with Captain Scarlet, and Captain Blue.

Friends of mine from Britain are always amazed when they learn I grew up with the Andersons’ marionette shows, that everything from Supercar to before Joe 90 had a regular showcase in Manhattan, and other areas of the United States.

But think, now, what it was like, to have the space age unfolding, while these shows were first occurring!

There was some part of me, I’m pretty sure, that thought these series, and others, were actually preparing me for the future that we could have met, had our leaders had a bit more foresight, and faith in tomorrow.

And there we have it.

Just an inkling of the theme I was trying so hard to avoid, but which it seems is inevitable when thinking of Gerry Anderson:

So many elements of loss, of things that might have been, with what the 1960s partially promised, with what he could have been as a producer, what so many fun things were entirely possible.

It took me a long while to even remember my ancient involvement with covering ITC’s efforts, some years later. (To my surprise, I may well have been the first person to write a history of the Supermarionation shows, here in America, for Fantastic Films magazine, in the late 1970s.)

That was a result of one of my first loves, these shows that still can have so many remarkable moments.

Maybe some part of me was tuned in to what was going on during those last days of December (as Anderson was apparently ailing), although it is far more logical to attribute this to coincidence:

But, just before Christmas, I found myself surfing the net, looking at images of some British Supermarionation toys that I had somehow never seen before.

At times, I think, I am having other people’s childhoods, as I scan remembrances of another nation’s past.

But there was some kind of celluloid ebullience to many of those 1960s programs that simply transcends boundaries, and perhaps time.

Had we gone back to the moon, and built our cities in the stars, these ALWAYS would have been our memories.

Which is why with all the Anderson-associated controversies that are nipping at my brain —

I keep remembering how on a midweek in Autumn, I once bounded along the ranges of Mars, sitting safely besides such wonderful agents of Spectrum…

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[An earlier version of this article appeared at WWW.TVPARTY.COM]

Sylvia Anderson (1927-2016)

Sylvia Anderson and Lady Penelope

Sylvia Anderson and Lady Penelope.

British television and film producer, writer and voice actress Sylvia Anderson passed away March 16 after a short illness. She was known for co-creating numerous television series with Gerry Anderson, her husband between 1960 and 1981. (He died in 2012.)

Many of these series, such as Thunderbirds, featured marionettes as actors. The BBC obituary explains:

They developed a production technique using electronic marionette puppets, called Supermarionation, in which the voices were recorded first, and when the puppets were filmed, the electric signal from the taped dialogue was hooked up to sensors in the puppets’ heads.

That made the puppets’ lips move perfectly in time with the soundtrack.

In 1963, the couple came up with the idea for Thunderbirds, which told the story of the Tracy family who form a secret organisation dedicated to saving human life, set in the future.

As well as co-creating and writing the series, Anderson worked on character development and costume design.

The Thunderbirds character Lady Penelope, a glamorous agent, was modelled on Anderson’s own appearance, and she also voiced the character.

She returned to voice Lady Penelope in a 1994 episode of the sitcom Absolutely Fabulous. And when a new Thunderbirds Are Go series was produced in 2015, she was cast as the voice of Lady Penelope’s elderly Great Aunt Sylvia.

Sylvia leaves a daughter, Dee Anderson, and a son, Gerry Anderson, Jr.

Pixel Scroll 2/14/16 Imagine All The Pixels, Living In A World That’s Scrolled

(1) BELIEVE YOUR EYES. “Apparently TARDIS-es are manufactured in NYC’s Brooklyn Navy Yard,” said an incredulous Andrew Porter after seeing this photo in NY Curbed.

Photo by Max Touhey for Curbed

Photo by Max Touhey for Curbed

Capsys, the building manufacturer responsible for modular projects like Carmel Place and the Nehemiah Spring Creek development in East New York, recently announced that it would vacate its factory in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and shutter operations entirely.

(2) JPL GALLERY. The Pasadena Star-News has photo coverage of last week’s NASA event at Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

JPL is hosted a “State of NASA” Social in conjunction with NASA’s federal budget rollout on Tuesday. The tour includes a visit to the Spacecraft Assembly Facility’s clean room, where the heat shield for Mars 2020 is, as well as the testing of some hardware used on the Juno mission, which arrives at Jupiter on the Fourth of July. (Photo by Walt Mancini/Pasadena Star-News)

(3) WHO ROMANCE? “The Doctor will see you now: Jenna Coleman and Matt Smith put on a cosy display as they reunite at pre-BAFTA party” in Daily Mail.

They played on-screen partners in crime for one series

But after Jenna Coleman and Matt Smith both quit Doctor Who to pursue other projects, their friendship was put on the back burner as they were tied up in their various career commitments.

Therefore it was little wonder the former co-stars were so thrilled to be reunited as they attended a pre-BAFTA party in London on Friday evening.

Jenna, 29, and Matt, 33, put on a sweet display as they cosied up to each other while attending Harvey Weinstein’s dinner which was held in partnership with Burberry and Grey Goose at Little House in Mayfair.

The ex Clara Oswald actress gently rested her head on the former Doctor’s chest as they posed inside the venue which was filled with some of the film industry’s biggest talents.

The former BBC One stars couldn’t contain their happiness to be back in each other’s company once again as lapped up the pre-award-ceremony celebration.

(4) READING WHAT YOUR TEA LEAVES. John King Tarpinian found this message inside the cap on his bottle of ice tea —Atwood Cap

 

(5) SCHINDLER OBIT. SF Site News reports Southern California costumer Robin Schindler died January 24.

Schindler led two of the earliest anime tours to Japan. She was an active costumer, presenting her work at many Worldcon masquerades and worked on the early Costume Cons.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born February 14, 1920 — Dave Kyle
  • Born February 14, 1970 – Simon Pegg

(7) DEADPOOL’S B.O. Deadpool made some money in its opening weekend reports Deadline.

Fox’s Deadpool is bigger than anyone thought possible. Yes, it has scored the top opening for a February release with $135M over FSS and $150M-$153M over FSSM, beating Fifty Shades of Grey‘s first weekend figures last year.  But, Deadpool also flogged Matrix Reloaded‘s $91.8M opening record to become the highest R-rated debut of all-time, not to mention it’s the biggest opening Fox executives have ever seen, surpassing Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (FSS $108.4M).

(8) BRITISH BASEBALL. I just learned there is minor league baseball in Britain, and one of the teams is called the Bolton Robots of Doom. They play in the British Baseball Federation’s (BBF) AA North division.

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(9) ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, MY DEAR WATSON. President Obama was quizzed on TV by an elementary school student. The next generation of conspiracy theorists is on the way.

Obama was questioned during Thursday night’s taping of The Ellen DeGeneres Show by 6-year-old “presidential expert” Macey Hensley, and she asked the president about the legendary “Book of Secrets.”

“That’s a secret,” the president quipped.

Hensley theorized the “secrets” in the book could include an answer to whether “aliens are real.”

“We haven’t actually made direct contact with aliens yet,” Obama said. “When we do, I’ll let you know.”

The president did not clarify whether indirect contact had been made with aliens through some type of intermediary.

(10) SPIRITUAL WISDOM. Amanda Slaybaugh, in “They’re Already Balloting for the Freakin’ Hugo Awards!”, doesn’t want to read “SEVEN MONTHS OF BITCHING AND MEWLING” and offers her advice:

My advice is this: Don’t be this guy. Remember him, staring into the mystical power and majesty of the ark of the covenant…but then having the whole face melt-y thing happen? This is what happens when you engage in this Hugo nonsense. The Hugos are neither mystical, nor magical, but their bullshit will melt your face clean off.

melting Nazi

Do this instead: Be Indy with his fave alcoholic, adventurous gal pal and look away! Withstand the mighty bullshit storm of bizarre political arguments surrounding a rocket-shaped literary award.  You respect the market power of SF/F, but you choose the wise course and LOOK AWAY!

(11) THUNDERBIRDS. ScienceFiction.com has good news: “Amazon Orders ‘Thunderbirds Are Go’ Starring Rosamund Pike For The U.S.”

‘Thunderbirds Are Go’ for the U.S. thanks to Amazon.  The streaming service has ordered four 13-episode seasons of the series, which combine CGI animation with live action models.  The first two seasons (26 episodes) have already aired on ITV in the UK, where the first series from the 1960s originated.  The third and fourth seasons are expected to air on ITV later this year and will be available to stream on Prime Video after the episodes become available in the U.S.

‘Thunderbirds Are Go’ is an update of ‘Thunderbirds’ a TV series that launched in the UK in 1965, from the minds of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson.  This show combined marionettes and vehicular models in a completely unique form of entertainment.  The series followed the adventures of the Tracy family, with most of the action revolving around the five brothers Scott, John, Virgil, Gordon and Alan, who each piloted their own high tech vehicle.

(12) ABOUT EDITORS. Brad R. Torgersen, in “Editors: the good, the bad, and the ugly” at Mad Genius Club, uses Nick Coles’ well-publicized grievances as the point of departure for a wide-spectrum look at his own experiences with editors.

In my experience, a good editor is not trying to evaluate your story on ideological grounds, nor is a good editor trying to get you to write the story their way. A good editor spots how you yourself are already trying to tell the story, and (s)he will simply make suggestions about how to do that job even more effectively than you’re already doing it. That’s the difference between, “You’re doing it wrong,” and, “You’re doing it right, but here are a few suggestions that should help you do it even better.” Most of the editors I’ve worked with (so far) have edited in this manner. And while some of them have barely touched my manuscripts, others have been so heavily involved in revision, they’re practically co-authors at the end of it. But again, their focus has always been: this story is hitting singles and doubles, let’s change a few things, and get this story hitting triples, or even a home run.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 11/28 Sympathy For The Devil’s Arithmetic

(1) Connor Johnston opens a different doorway into the commonplace activity of reviewing Doctor Who episodes by “Ranking the Writing Debuts of the Capaldi Era” at Doctor Who TV.

Doctor Who is home to some of the greatest and most confident writers in the history of television, who have each been responsible for some of the most riveting storylines of the last 52 years,  and every great writer must start somewhere. So far in Capaldi’s era, five ambitious personalities have made their first contribution to the show, expanding the already respected list of accomplished Who alumni significantly. With Sarah Dollard’s “Face the Raven” having aired last weekend, she has become the final new addition for the show’s ninth series, as such making this the perfect time to reflect on the newer talent we’ve seen grace our imaginations in the last two years.

(2) Passengers are go! “Airbus proposes new drop-in airplane ‘cabin modules’ to speed up boarding” at ars technical UK.

Today, Airbus has been granted a patent (US 9,193,460) on a method that essentially turns an airplane into an articulated truck. The plane, instead of being a single, contiguous hull, would have a huge hole in the middle where the passengers and luggage would normally be. Instead of boarding the plane directly, passengers and luggage would be loaded into a separate “cabin module.” Then, when the module is ready to go, it’s simply dropped into the airplane. If you ever watched Thunderbirds as a kid, it’s a lot like Thunderbird 2.

The post comes with diagrams.

(3) Sam Weller’s “Where the Hills Are Fog and the Rivers Are Mist” in The Paris Review.

Ray Bradbury’s The October Country turns sixty.

“The Dubliners of American Gothic”—that’s how Stephen King referred to Ray Bradbury’s first book, the little-known 1947 short-story collection, Dark Carnival. There’s good reason few readers, even those well versed in Bradbury’s work, are unfamiliar with Dark Carnival: Arkham House, a small press out of Sauk City, Wisconsin, published the book in a modest run of 3,112 copies; the book went out of print just a few years later. Besides a pricey limited-edition reprint in 2001, Dark Carnival exists as a literary apparition.

And yet many people have read some of Dark Carnival without knowing it

(4) Ryan Britt has a daring demand in “The Ghost of Hayden Christensen: Why Anakin MUST Appear in Episode VII” at Tor.com.

The nice thing about Anakin is that he gets to redeem himself in Return of the Jedi—which, if you’re a kid experiencing the Star Wars movies in the Lucas-order, is a pretty neat arc. Also for contemporary kids, Anakin is the focus of more hours of Star Wars than really any other character, thanks to The Clone Wars. So for better or worse, the prequel-era Anakin defines Star Wars for a big chunk of the viewing public.

If all the actors from the classic trilogy are reprising their roles, the giant space elephant in the room is how old everyone has gotten. Let’s get real, the focus of these new films will doubtlessly be on new characters, but it would be nice to have some existing Star Wars characters in there too, particularly ones who don’t look super old. Luckily, you don’t have to do any Tron: Legacy de-aging CG action on Hayden. He looks good!

(5) N K Jeminsin made the New York Times “100 Notable Books of 2015”. Interestingly, it’s in Fiction. The list does not put sf/fantasy in a separate section.

THE FIFTH SEASON. The Broken Earth: Book One. By N.K. Jemisin. (Orbit, paper, $15.99.) In Jemisin’s fantasy novel, ­civilization faces destruction and the earth itself is a monstrous enemy.

(6) Michael Damien Thomas will work on accessibility at SFWA’s big annual event —

(7) With Carrie Fisher returning in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this 2011 comedy video has a new lease on life —

Kaley Cuoco addresses an important issue affecting cosplay girls across the globe: Slave Leia fatigue. With so many choices available to women who cosplay, there’s no reason everyone needs to be Slave Leia.

 

(8) “Seed bombing to save the bees” at Interesting Engineering.

Seed bombs began as a fun and friendly tactic for greening abandoned lots in urban spaces, but are still a developing idea to be done in large scale. It involves throwing small seed ‘bombs’ from planes onto deserted areas that have suffered deforestation, to gradually begin to recover the ecosystem. This method not only allows the growth of more trees and plants, but helps combat the extinction of bees, indispensable beings for the reproduction of life on Earth….

Each seed capsule is made from biodegradable plastic and functions as a small greenhouse where the seeds grow at first. When they reach the ground, the capsule disintegrates without polluting the environment until it disappears completely, allowing the plant growth to take its natural course.

seed bombs

(9) At Examined Worlds, a philosophical Ethan Mills claims “I’m Thankful For My Regrets”.

Yesterday we celebrated our Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States.  One popular tradition is to enumerate what you’re thankful for.  I’m thankful for lots of things.  Of course, I’m thankful for my family and friends and my cats.  I’m thankful that I have a fulfilling career and no major health issues.  I’m thankful that I have neither the greed nor the need to go “Black Friday” shopping today.  I’m thankful that the new Star Wars movie is coming out soon!

Also, I’m thankful for my regrets.  Like most people, I have plenty.  I regret that I haven’t done more international travel and that I haven’t done more charitable giving and volunteering.  I regret never figuring out this whole physical fitness thing.  I regret that I saw Star Wars: Episode I seven times in the theater.  I regret voting for Ralph Nader in 2000.  I regret that I didn’t spend more time with my mom.

I don’t think regrets have to be the soul-crushing thing they’re made out to be; you don’t have to exterminate them entirely to have a healthy life. I also don’t think you need to go in the direction of some Nietzscheans and existentialists to say that you have to take ownership of regrets and affirm them, because they’ve made you who you are.  There is, as Buddhists would say, a middle way between these extremes.

(10) There’s an app for the Battleship Iowa?

The Battleship IOWA experience is at your fingertips – you’re all aboard for adventure! You will never look at the Navy the same way. The Battleship IOWA Interactive Tour will let you experience, first hand, what it was like to live and serve on this historic ship. You’ll be part of the adventure!

You’ll see and hear the fascinating stories behind the ship, its crew, and the part it played in shaping our world and our country. It is virtually impossible to get a feel for the service and spirit of this historic shp by simply reading a sign or placard. The Battleship IOWA Interactive Tour puts you in control of your experience. Dive deep into the content of the ship and explore the areas that intrigue you most. You’ll find crewmember stories, fun facts, ship service records, videos of her in action all in the palm of your hand. Enjoy content that isn’t available anywhere else in the museum.

 

Mike Glyer and Sierra visit the USS Iowa in 2013.

Mike Glyer and Sierra visit the USS Iowa in 2013.

(11) Tom Knighton’s “Review of Jessica Jones Season 1”:

…The show stars Kristen Ritter as Jones, a private investigator who got super powers after an auto accident that killed her family.  She’s not the typical hero.  An encounter prior to the show with a mind controller named Kilgrave (played by David Tennant) leaves her with a healthy dose of PTSD and a penchant for whiskey.

Early on, she meets a bar owner who she’s been following for a reason explained later in the series.  The bar owner is a large black man named Luke Cage.

Yeah, baby.

Ritter is solid as Jones, nailing the smart mouth and feigned apathy the script called for.  Her natural thinness might not normally fit a super strong hero, but personally I think it fits the character nicely.  Not only does it make it more impressive when she lifts a car’s back wheels without straining, but it fits the alcoholic aspect of the character pretty well….

(12) Den of Geek’s spoiler-filled review of Jessica Jones focuses on the question, “Is Kilgrave Marvel’s Creepiest Villain?”

The casting of David Tennant makes Kilgrave’s grim demands seem ever more shocking, and this must be deliberate from the showrunners. At points, when Kilgrave’s enthusiasm levels rise a little, he really does resemble a twisted version of the Tenth Doctor. His charisma – combined with his creepiness and callousness – makes for unsettling viewing.

(13) Black Gate’s John ONeill knows why it continually costs more to be a fan who’s passionate about “Collecting Philip K. Dick”.

I have a lot of experience selling vintage paperbacks at conventions and other places, and nobody — but nobody — has skyrocketed in value like Philip K. Dick. The only authors who even come close are George R.R. Martin, James Tiptree, Jr, Robert E. Howard, and maybe Samuel R. Delany.

A big part of the reason, of course, is that virtually all of Dick’s novels were originally published in paperback, which means that — nearly unique among highly collectible authors — the coveted first editions of his novels are all paperbacks.

(14) Not all of CheatSheet’s “10 Sci-Fi Cult Classics That Everyone Should See” are as surprising as Snowpiercer (at #4) – who knew it had been around long enough to be a classic? Some might even agree with its strong preference for remakes — John Carpenter’s version of The Thing, David Cronenberg’s The Fly (#10) and Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (#5).

  1. The Thing

Audiences in 1982 were more interested in cuddly aliens like Steven Spielberg’s ET than they were in monstrous, shape-shifting ones, which explains the critical and commercial failure of John Carpenter’s The Thing. Thankfully, viewers have rediscovered the film, which stands as one of the greatest horror films and one of the greatest science fiction films. An Antarctic outpost of men struggles to identify and destroy an alien that can assume the form and personality of any living thing it consumes. The men, led by a never-better Kurt Russell, act competently in facing the threat, making it all the more terrifying when they can’t stop it. There’s mounds of existential tension and paranoid distrust to go around in the icy and isolated setting. Carpenter knows how to play off the tension brilliantly, using some of the most tactile and creatively terrifying practical effects in cinema history, courtesy of Rob Bottin.

(15) How Attack of the Clones Should Have Ended!

(16) After reading about Ridley Scott’s plans for more Prometheus movies I look forward to a future video series telling How It Should Have Begun.

Ridley Scott has confirmed that ‘Alien: Covenant’ will be the first of three films that will then link up to the story from the original 1979 ‘Alien’.

The second movie in his ‘Prometheus’ series is in its pre-production stage in Sydney, Australia, at the moment, where Scott confirmed the plans in a press conference.

He said that the newly-named ‘Covenant’ and the next two films will answer the ‘very basic questions posed in Alien: why the alien, who might have made it and where did it come from?’.

Covenant will tell the story of the crew of a colony ship which discovers what it believes to be an ‘uncharted paradise’ world, but is in fact a ‘dark and dangerous’ place, inhabited solely by David, Michael Fassbender’s android character from the first ‘Prometheus’ movie.

 [Thanks to Michael J. Walsh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 7/23

Six stories, a French rant and a video adorn today’s Scroll.

(1) “Cap’n, it’s a Class M planet.”

“Any lifeform readings?”

Described in media reports as an “earthlike planet” is the Kepler space mission’s first discovery of a world smaller than Neptune in the middle of its star’s habitable zone.

Also called the Goldilocks zone, the habitable zone is the region around a star where a planet’s surface is not too hot and not too cold for liquid water—and thus life as we know it—to exist.

(2) Atlas Obscura has posted its “Obsessively Detailed Map of American Literature’s Most Epic Road Trips”. I’ll bet there are some fan fund reports crying out for the same treatment.

The above map is the result of a painstaking and admittedly quixotic effort to catalog the country as it has been described in the American road-tripping literature. It includes every place-name reference in 12 books about cross-country travel, from Mark Twain’s Roughing It (1872) to Cheryl Strayed’s Wild (2012), and maps the authors’ routes on top of one another. You can track an individual writer’s descriptions of the landscape as they traveled across it, or you can zoom in to see how different authors have written about the same place at different times.

(3) Thunderbirds fans are very enthusiastic about the plan to combine old-fashioned “Supermarionation” with audio lifted from three original 21-minute mini-albums released in the 1960s (each was a 7″ single, but played at 33-1/3 rpm). The Kickstarter appeal to fund production, with a goal of $115,789, has already gathered $206,325 in pledges from over 2,000 contributors. The original goal would have paid for one – the current total should pay for all three.

[Director] Stephen La Rivière says: “We have shot new sequences with the puppets using the old-fashioned techniques. Whilst many of the methods used seem a little archaic and time-consuming by today’s standards, we thought that it would be very special to do a one-off project bringing Thunderbirds back to life 1960s style. Sadly, many of the original voice cast have passed away since 1965. However, thanks to the original audio footage we’ve rediscovered, we have new, authentic stories that have never been adapted for screen.”

 

(4) Being a critic is a higher calling for Jonathan McCalmont than most sf bloggers who spend a lot of energy churning other people’s advertising in return for pageviews. (Pay no attention to the man behind the file…) McCalmont inquires “What Price, Your Critical Agency?” on Ruthless Culture.

These days, few cultural ecosystems operate independently of commercial interests. The ability to artificially engineer an interest bubble means that commercial interests will always have some control over the agenda of an enthusiast press. Reviewers will request DVD screeners and ARCs of books they have been encouraged to look forward to and editors will always be happy to slipstream a wave of hype by providing content that satisfies the readership’s artificially-engineered interest in a particular subject. Money and effort devoted to creating buzz translates into traffic and so anyone who is interested in getting more traffic will always go out of their way to chase the hype.

While traffic is a significant carrot to offer in return for collaborating with commercial interests, review copies are another great way of controlling the agenda. At an institutional level, it is difficult to run a reviews department without review copies you can pass on to your reviewers and so the output of a reviews department will always be dependent upon the nature of the screeners and ARCs provided. At an individual level, a commitment to operate any kind of reviews platform means an open-ended commitment to media consumption and while you may very well be willing to pay for the media you choose to consume, the volume of reviews required to build an audience realistically means deep pockets, a relationship with publicists, or a willingness to obtain review materials for free by either borrowing or stealing.

One of my favourite recent discoveries has been S.C. Flynn’s Scy-Fy, a blog that features no fewer than 100 different interviews with book bloggers, magazine editors, podcasters and something he somewhat alarmingly refers to as ‘booktubers’. One thing that struck me about these interviews is that despite many of them warning about the dangers of writing only about new books and how setting your own critical agenda is the best way to stay productive and stave off burnout, most of the interviewees operate platforms that lavish their attention on new releases. In other words, they know that allowing commercial forces to influence their critical output is dangerous and yet they continue to let it happen.

(5) But at the very tip of the cultural pyramid is the blogosphere’s most highly evolved parasite, with an enviable track record of breaking stories before the studios’ own PR staffs ever hear about them. Alex Pappademas on Grantland tells how El Mayimbe creates those leaks.

El Mayimbe’s real name is Umberto Gonzalez, born 41 years ago in Queens, New York, of Dominican and Colombian descent, and as a self-proclaimed “fanboy journalist” and “ace scooper,” he lives for moments like these. If a studio’s measuring an actor for an iconic leotard or cowl or enchanted helm or loincloth, if a director signs up to reboot a trilogy based on an action figure, Gonzalez wants to be the first to know, and the first to trumpet that information on the Internet, via a fistful of social-media accounts and a new website called Heroic Hollywood, which went live in June. In an era when the movie business sometimes appears to be rebooting itself as a machine that cranks out nothing but superhero movies, Gonzalez is far from the only reporter whose beat includes stories like these, but no one follows it as closely or as aggressively. Gonzalez broke that Brandon Routh would play Superman, that Heath Ledger would play the Joker. He knew that Bradley Cooper would be supplying the voice of Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy, he says, before Cooper’s own publicist did.

(7) You don’t need to know French to catch the drift of this Telerama article about the Puppies, titled “Hugo Awards : le plus grand prix de SF menacé par des groupes d’extrême droite.”

Fervent défenseur des armes à feu

Cette année, le débat est autre. Un groupe de fans extrêmement conservateurs, les sad puppies (« chiots tristes »), dirigés par un fervent défenseur des armes à feu, Larry Correia, s’était déjà fait attaquer pour ses choix. En 2014, il avait mis de l’eau dans son vin, proposant aussi sur ses listes des auteurs progressistes. Trop, au goût de certains de ses membres, qui ont formé un groupe dissident, les rabid puppies (« chiots enragés »), l’ont débordé sur sa droite et ont réussi, en faisant voter en masse leurs soutiens, à faire inclure dans toutes les listes de nominés la plupart de leurs candidats. Démarche parfaitement en accord avec les règles du prix. Mais les livres ainsi proposés deviennent les fers de lance d’une percée idéologique forte. Et le prix est aujourd’hui au bord de l’implosion.

[Thanks to Steve Green and John King Tarpinian for some of these links.]

Preflighting Thunderbirds

New Thunderbirds Are Go imagery was released yesterday featuring Brains, Lady Penelope, her dog, her car, and Parker.

An entire Thunderbirds Are Go center was unveiled on YouTube this month.

Material available there includes a video tour of the miniature Tracy Island sets produced by the WETA Workshop, model makers for Lord Of The Rings.

There’s also a teaser trailer, and several short videos of the various Thunderbirds:

ITV has also confirmed that Sylvia Anderson, the voice of Lady Penelope in the original series, has been cast to voice the character of Lady Penelope’s elderly Great Aunt Sylvia in an episode.

Original Cast Member Signs for Thunderbirds

Lady Penelope and Parker from Thunderbirds.

Lady Penelope and Parker from Thunderbirds.

David Graham will be the only original cast member returning in the new production of Thunderbirds Are Go!

He’ll be the voice of Parker, chauffeur of Lady Penelope’s pink Rolls Royce. Rosamund Pike will be Lady Penelope.

ITV will air 26 episodes in 2015. The show will use a mix of CGI animation and live-action miniature sets. ITV first aired the original series in 1965.

Graham, besides collaborating on several other Gerry Anderson series, was one of the first voices of the Daleks in Doctor Who. In the “1984” TV advertisement made to introduce the Apple Macintosh, he played the role of Big Brother.

A curious coincidence is that 2013 happens to be the character Parker’s year of birth.