Pixel Scroll 6/4/16 Later on We’ll Scrollspire, as We Dream by the Fire

(1) SUPERHERO CONSUMER REPORT. The Verge warns “Thanos’ almighty Infinity Gauntlet defeated by above-average oven heat”.

The most powerful weapon in the universe has a weakness: it cannot withstand the necessary heat to remove a cast iron pizza pan once warmed to 400-plus degrees. Reports of the weapon’s fragility have been making the rounds by way of Loot Crate, which shipped an Infinity Gauntlet oven mitt to subscribers in its May product bundle. Following many failed attempts to hold hot objects and presumably eradicate Marvel superheroes, the device has been dubbed defective.


(2) RUNAWAY MIND MELD. When SF Signal closed, a couple of people were still at work on installments of its popular “Mind Meld” feature. James Aquilone has now posted the one he was curating, that asks participants the question:

Q: What are your favorite visions of the future in the SF genre?

Answers come from Sean Williams, Stewart Baker, Stephen Merlino, Matt Dovey, John Lasser and Christoph Weber, all published in the latest Writers of the Future anthology.

(3) FEELING BETTER? While the SF Signal blog is shuttered, somebody (John DeNardo?) is still issuing regular news tweets from the SF Signal Twitter account.

(4) CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN. Tom Smith’s protest filk “Just A Kid From Brooklyn” – a $1 download.

…You’ve heard about his shield, to keep him safe from harm,
And how he used it like it was an extension of his arm,
You’ve heard about his buddies, and how some paid the cost,
The woman that he loved, the childhood friend he lost.

But most of all, you’ve heard about the man behind the mask,
How fighting for our freedom was his most important task,
Sometimes it was a rescue, sometimes it was a fight,
But sometimes it was just his words and knowing he was right

And now you tell me… he’s a Nazi
You want to prove the best of us can end up like the rest of us
You’ve undone his whole purpose, and then shoved him off a ledge,
And tell us it’s so bold of you, how it’s oh so cutting edge….

(5) THE I-FILES. Gillian Anderson has a new gig says Variety, having been cast in Starz’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

Anderson will play Media, the mouthpiece for the New Gods, functioning as their public face and sales representative, by taking the form of various iconic celebrities. She lives off the attention and worship that people give to screens — to their laptops, their TVs, to their iPhones in their hands while they watch their TVs. Ever the perky spokesperson, and always in control, she spins stories in whatever direction best suits her.

(6) PEACE BLIND YOUR WEAPONS. Police have warned those attending Armageddon 2016 in Wellington this weekend to cover their fake weapons to avoid public panic. The New Zealand Herald has the story.

Many of those attending the expo, which has been dubbed the Wellington Geek Event, arrive dressed in costumes which may include accessories such as fake weapons. While they were fake, they looked real, police warned this evening.

“Those attending the festival are asked that they be careful when they are walking to and from the events around Wellington and that they carry these ‘weapons’ with care so as not to scare members of the public.”…

Police had already today been called to Porirua after a man travelling to the expo was seen carrying a fake weapon.

(7) RALPH OBIT. SF Site News reports Patrick Ralph passed away.

Illinois fan Patrick “PJ” Ralph died on June 2 following a battle with cancer. Ralph was an active and was currently developing a game for market with some friends. He was part of the “Bermuda Triangle” hoax Worldcon bid for the 1988 Worldcon, which took second in a field of four.

(8) G.O.A.T. John Scalzi, who at age 8 knew Muhammad Ali was “The Greatest of All Time”, at age 47 has a far deeper appreciation why it was true.

But — and this is the second thing — you cannot love or honor Ali properly without acknowledging that blackness and Islam are at the core of his greatness. It seems to me, and I think the events of his life bear this out, that the greatness of Ali — who he was — was did not come out to you, was not there for you, and in a fundamental way did not care what you thought of it. It was there, and you could come to it or not, and if you did, you had to take it on its on terms. On Ali’s terms. And Ali’s terms were: He was a black man, in America and in the world. He was a Muslim man, in America and in the world. He was who he was. He did not have to transcend those things about himself. You, however, might have to overcome your understanding of what you thought of both blackness and Islam to appreciate him. People did or did not; Ali went on regardless.

(9) WHEN JIM BURNS MET ALI. Jim Burns posted this memory of meeting the champ in person:

AliSupermanI’ll always be grateful that I got to meet Muhammad Ali when he was still in the full height of all his many powers. The occasion was an odd one–a 1978 press party at the Warner Communications building on Fifth Avenue, heralding Superman Vs Muhammad Ali, a special edition “deluxe” comic book volume that DC Comics produced (in which aliens compel the two titans to tussle, “to save the Earth”).

(10) CARTOON SECTION. Today’s Close To Home by John McPherson concerns a hellish to-do list.

(11) MIKKI KENDALL. Tasha Turner pointed to Mikki Kendall’s “WisCon 40 Highs, Lows & What The Actual F*ck?”. Now I think I can see what was behind that committee tweet I wondered about.

That brings me to the “WTAF?” part of this post. We’re going to start with the Con Suite. Because I made the actual beef for it, and because it is an exceptionally glaring example of an overarching problem. Time & time again I saw people come in, take umbrage that a place staffed by volunteers serving free food had imperfect service. Not dangerous service, not unhealthy (AFAIK no one got food poisoning which I did from a place where I actually paid for the food), just imperfect. Because a delivery didn’t show up on time the menus had to be shifted around. Because two of the aging fridges went out food was in shorter supply than expected. Because there weren’t enough volunteers actually willing to show up & work when scheduled some things took longer than expected. You know..normal things that can go wrong at any event.

Now, there are a lot of theories about the entitled attitudes on display from some con attendees. Some of it was definitely about race & gender (funnily enough all the Black women serving in the con suite that I know have similar stories about rudeness despite being there on different days, I didn’t get a chance to check in with other POC, but I have some guesses based off stories relayed to me), some of it was about bizarre expectations and a total lack of home training (possibly related to reason #1) but at base none of it was okay. Here is where I remind you that Julia, the con suite chair pays for a flight & hotel from Boston to Madison to spend an entire weekend volunteering. To feed hundreds of strangers three meals and unlimited snacks every day. Here is where I remind you that con suite staff are all volunteers. Here is where I ask you why a con that prides itself on being at a union hotel can’t remember to treat volunteers like people.

(12) THE PERPETUAL CAMPAIGN. The BBC’s roundup of electoral futurism starts with the spectre of a holographic Trump campaigning in 20 places at once.

Then it moves on to a candidate with a strongly science-fictional view of the future.

Forty-foot coffin

“Why not?” offers Zoltan Istvan, an US independent presidential candidate who identifies as a futurist and transhumanist.

“Many other jobs are being replaced by robots. Why not our leaders?

“We’re about 10-15 years from having a machine that’s as smart as anyone in this room. It might make sense at some point to have a machine lead us.”

I met Istvan this week at the Augmented World Expo in Santa Clara, a gathering of companies working on augmented, virtual and mixed reality technology.

He certainly stood out. First, he’s built like an action figure. Second, he wants to live forever (that’s the transhumanist part). His presidential campaign is built around calls to fund further science that will – the movement hopes – one day make immortality a reality.

He, of course, is not going to become the next president. But that’s not the point. His campaign is designed to bring attention to his call for the US to put more money into research. This publicity drive is enhanced by his campaign bus – a 40-foot long coffin on wheels.

(13) CLICKBAIT. Tickld’s “30 Things You Probably Missed in Star Wars: The Force Awakens” are on 30 different pages, so a lot depends on how irresistible you find this kind of lure.

(14) BILLBOARD PROTESTED. Yahoo! reports “Rose McGowan is speaking out against a billboard of Jennifer Lawrence in ‘X-Men’ for an important reason”.

The purpose of a movie billboard is not just to give viewers an idea of what the movie’s about, but also excite them enough to go see it. That’s why some people are concerned about what’s going down on a current billboard in Los Angeles for X-Men: Apocalypse featuring Jennifer Lawrence‘s character, Mystique, and Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse. I know what you’re thinking: how could anything involving Oscar Isaac and Jennifer Lawrence be bad? However, actress Rose McGowan, and a handful of others, have pointed out that it sends a pretty weird message, and we can’t help but agree. The billboard shows Apocalypse with his hand around Mystique’s throat, strangling her.


(15) TABLET HARDWARE. “Hello From Londinium: Oldest Handwritten Documents In British History Discovered” on NPR.

Archaeologists in London have unearthed the oldest handwritten documents in Britain — a collection of notes, bills and contracts dating back nearly 2,000 years.

The discovery, a collection of more than 400 Roman waxed writing tablets, was announced Wednesday by the Museum of London Archaeology. The tablets were unearthed in London’s financial district during excavation work for a new building.

The Guardian has more on the tablets’ discovery:

“The tablets were found under a 1950s office block in the still smelly, wet mud of the lost river Walbrook, as the site was being cleared for a huge new European headquarters for Bloomberg.

” ‘They give us a glimpse into a carpet-bagging community in the new wild west frontier of the Roman empire,’ said Roger Tomlin, the expert on early Roman writing who spent a year poring over the faint scratches on slivers of fir wood recycled from old barrels.

The Bloomberg tablets, as the museum is calling them, date back to as early as A.D. 43.

(16) THE LATE PLAYWRIGHT. Francis Hamit, in “Film Producer Reveals Truth About Christopher Marlowe’s Death”.

After years of intensive research Francis Hamit is satisfied that he knows exactly how and why the Elizabethan poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe died on May 30th, 1593.

“It was a hit,” Hamit said, “A political assassination for reasons of state, ordered by Queen Elizabeth herself. Marlowe professed atheism, which would have been no big deal if he had not been the most famous and popular playwright of the Elizabethan stage. His fame meant that the deed had to be done secretly. Marlowe was also one of her spies and worked for the Secret Service under Sir Francis Walsingham and Sir Robert Cecil. The other men in the room with Marlowe at the time of his death were all friends of his and long-time agents for the Crown.”

“Marlowe infiltrated the Jesuit Seminary at Rhiems as a spy in 1585, and probably did other missions. He was part of Sir Walter Raleigh’s group of freethinkers, the so-called ‘School of the Night,’ and gave a lecture about atheism. His former chambermate and lover Thomas Kyd was arrested for having atheistic literature and revealed under torture that the documents were Marlowe’s. Additional accusations from informers got Marlowe arrested by the Privy Council and he was under investigation and restrictions when he died.”

For the last six years, Hamit has been developing these details into a screenplay, now being produced by famed film producer Gary Kurtz in the UK. The film will be directed by American film director Michael John Donahue, DGA. The underlying material is Hamit’s 1988 stageplay “MARLOWE: An Elizabethan Tragedy”.

“Actually the whole thing was Mike Donahue’s idea,” Hamit said. “He read the original stage play and suggested we make the film. We decided to make it in the UK because of the locations, the very deep bench of acting talent, and the generous tax incentives.” To that end, Hamit and his partner formed The Kit Marlowe Film Co. PLC with offices in London as well as Los Angeles and negotiated a North American film and video distribution deal with Lightyear Entertainment in 2015.

Hamit has done several drafts of the screenplay and just added a scene where Queen Elizabeth orders Marlowe’s death. “She did it for the best of reasons from her point of view,” Hamit said. “Her authority as Queen was based upon the Divine Right to Rule. Saying there was no God was a direct challenge to that authority. Marlowe had to go, and as quietly as possible. She pardoned the man who murdered him a month later.”

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]


Piratical Tom Smith

Piratical Tom Smith

It’s September 19 — Talk Like A Pirate Day!

File 770 is covering this date on the fannish calendar because I discovered Sasquan GoH Tom Smith dedicated a song to the hosts of the Original International Talk Like A Pirate Day Web site, a perfect the place to download all your piratical verbiage resources….

Smith’s “Talk Like A Pirate Day” lyrics begin —

Most days are like all of the others,
Go to work, come back home, watch TV,
But, brother, if I had me druthers,
I’d chuck it and head out to sea,

For I dream of the skull and the crossbones,
I dream of the great day to come,
When I dump the mundane for the Old Spanish Main
And trade me computer for rum! ARRR!

T’ me,
Yo, Ho, Yo, Ho,
It’s “Talk Like A Pirate” Day!
When laptops are benches God gave us fer wenches,
And a sail ain’t a low price ta pay!
When timbers are shivered and lillies are livered
And every last buckle is swashed,
We’ll abandon our cars for a shipfull of ARRRs
And pound back the grog till we’re sloshed! Yo ho….

Click to listen to a performance by Tom and a couple of friends — “Talk Like A Pirate Day” [MP3] (recorded live at PenguiCon 2004, with special guests Steve Jackson and Luke Ski).

Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Puppies of War 4/19

Black Gate’s withdrawal from the Hugos may have been too late to change the ballot, but was just in time to provide fresh evidence of the social cost of this controversy.

George R.R. Martin says he still doesn’t agree with their advice to vote No Award.

Otherwise, appropriate to a Sunday, there was preaching to the choir all over the internet.

Alexandra Erin from a collected series of tweets on Storify

 “Why do book recommendations make Sad Puppies sad” – April 10

If I say “I want to read more feminist SF” or “I want to read more books with queer protagonists”, I didn’t *forget* about quality. Or fun.

Any more than I would have forgotten those things if I said “I want to read more military SF.”

The selective failure to understand this very simple point is what fuels the perpetual outrage machine that keeps the Sad Puppies sad.



David Gerrold on Facebook – April 19

2) The narrative about the sad-rabids has crystallized. As more than one analyst has pointed out, the sad-rabid position is based on a misreading of history and a misunderstanding of fandom — a failure to understand the context into which they are speaking. While the slate-mongering is technically legal, it violates the spirit of fairness. As a result, they have made themselves a focus of fannish anger. Never a good thing. A growing majority of fans are seeing this situation as the efforts of a small group of extremists to take over something that has previously belonged to all fans, ie. an attempted coup.

The short-term result here is anger. That will pass. Not soon enough, but it will. The long-term result will be that anyone too closely identified with the sad-rabids, anyone who benefited from this slate-mongering, anyone who did not publicly withdraw, will be indelibly tainted. Fans have long memories. Some grudges in fandom date back to the universe that existed before the big bang. Harlan, for instance, is still working on grudges from the twelfth century…B.C.

Those who have been tainted will find that they have put unnecessary obstacles in their own paths. There are editors who will not want the stink that certain authors will be tracking with them. There are conventions that will not invite them to be on panels. There are awards they can never be considered for, lest others wonder if there was a political agenda at work. There are websites and fanzines and podcasts that will choose not to interview them — conversely, there will be others that will interview them for their perspective on the situation, stirring the shit one more time and spreading it just a little more.


Paul Weimer on Blog, Jvstin Style

“2 Corinthians 6:14 and othering: Sad Puppies, Rabid Puppies and SJWs” – April 19

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14 (KJV)

This Story on Hullabaloo got me thinking about the conflict in SFF Fandom lately regarding the Hugos and all sides.

There is a hell of a lot of “othering” going on, and yes, its not limited to one side, or even predominantly one side. There is also the perception of othering on BOTH sides that probably exceeds the actual amount going on.

Larry, Brad and Sad Puppies see themselves as being treated as pariahs and outsiders by the Worldcon crowd. Part of that perception, whether its ex post facto, perception only, or really there just amplifies itself on the Internet. Similarly, the other side (which I am going to call SJW, just because its easier) sees many right wing authors and people as being beyond the pale, unworthy or impossible to engage with, and sparks fly on that side.


Kevin Standlee

“2015 Business Meeting Updates” – April 19

The meeting is not secret. The only restriction on non-members attending is capacity. We will be officially recording the meeting, and we will upload those recordings to YouTube as soon as bandwidth allows. That doesn’t mean instantaneously. It will probably take several hours at least to pull the recordings out of the camera, convert them to the correct format, and upload them, even on a decently high-speed connection. There is currently no plan to live-stream the meeting, although this could change, as the new camera Lisa just bought does appear to have outputs that might be able to feed to something that could send the feed out live.

My reading of the WSFS Constitution is that the Business Meeting, besides being the only required event at a Worldcon (Site Selection isn’t an “event” in my formulation, and the Hugo Ceremony isn’t required) outside of stuff about MPC meetings and other minor trivia, is also the only event at a Worldcon where we’re not allowed to refuse entry to any qualified member who wants to attend. Even the Hugo Awards Ceremony can turn people away if the room overflows, but the Business Meeting cannot do so because it would violate the members’ rights under our rules. This of course has never been an issue before and it’s rare that more than about 2% of the qualified members want to attend. This year is looking so weird right now that we cannot as yet make an estimate of actual attendance with much confidence. Thus the currently booked room (300B) is subject to change, possibly on short notice due to changed circumstances. No change is intended maliciously, and any change on short notice at the convention will be publicized to the best of the convention’s ability to do so.


Kevin Standlee

“NPR Reports on Puppygate”  – April 18

…Incidentally, after declining from the initial huge spike on Finalist Announcement Day, it appears that traffic to TheHugoAwards.org is still running at more than quadruple the pre-announcement levels. April 2015 will be the busiest month in the history of the web site, exceeding the traffic from last August. I am so glad that we changed site hosts last month. Our previous host was warning us that we were already approaching traffic levels well above what they were prepared to handle, which was why we moved. If we hadn’t done so, I expect that our old host would have started blocking calls to the site entirely.


PZ Myers on Freethought Blogs

“The things you learn about the sf community”  – April 19

I have to hand it to those goons who made up a slate of ‘conservative’ science fiction and slammed it into the Hugo nominations: I’d had this vague assumption that science fiction fans would be generally progressive and tolerant and even enthusiastic about different ideas. The Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies have enlightened and disillusioned me.


Indiana on Indi in the Wired

“How right wing bigots are ruining science fiction” – April 19

Unfortunately, Day’s logically absurd and transparently self-serving tactic actually worked. You see, it’s never taken many votes to skew the Hugos. It would have just taken the subtlest nudge for Day to get his own stable of writers well-represented… but “subtle” is probably lost on people like that.

And while there have certainly been campaigns for specific works in the past, and lists of suggested works of course, never before has there been a situation where one group has set up a slate designed to clog up the nominations with their own shit, and block out other nominees. That’s really where the problem lies: though they technically broke no rules, they twisted the process to hurt other writers, rather than to merely promote works they liked. The “Sad Puppies” slate was not designed to put their favourite works on the nomination list (where they could then compete fairly with other works), it was specifically designed to keep the works of those they were ideologically opposed to off the list.


All Things Considered on National Public Radio

“Hugo Awards Highlight Scarcity of Women Minorities in Science Fiction” – April 19, 2015

NPR’s Arun Rath talks to author Monica Byrne about how controversy surrounding this year’s Hugo Awards highlights a lack of women and minority speculative fiction authors.


George R.R. Martin on Not A Blog

“Black Gate Withdraws” – April 19

BLACK GATE is advocating the nuclear option: vote NO AWARD in all categories. I understand his reasoning, but once more, I disagree. I will vote NO AWARD only in those categories where I find nothing in the category worthy of a Hugo. If I think a book or story or editor IS worthy of a Hugo, I’m going to vote to award one.

The Hugos can withstand a few NO AWARDs, in categories where all the nominees are crap. They can NOT withstand an entire evening without a single rocket being presented, where one envelope after another is ripped open and NO AWARD is announced, again and again and again.

And as flawed and damaged as this ballot is, there ARE things on it deserving of our field’s ultimate accolade. Starting with BEST NOVEL, the Big One, where I know there is at least one Hugo-calibre book, and suspect there may be as many as three, or even four. Or BEST FAN WRITER, where Laura Mixon’s report on Requires Hate cries out for recognition. There are some terrific movies in Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. We missed PREDESTINATION, which deserved a nod, but we did get INTERSTELLAR, which I rank up there with 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. There are editors on the ballot deserving of recognition (no, not him, obviously), there’s an artist (maybe more than one, but one for sure), there’s a bunch of fine fan artists…


Tom Smith on Patreon

“New Song: ‘Sad Puppies (Aren’t Much Fun)'”


All their plots, all their hooks,

But no one nominated their books,

Sad puppies never won.


Jo Lindsay Walton on All That Is Solid Melts into Aargh

“Happy Puppies” – April 8

[Another helpful suggestion for changing the system used to  Hugo nominees…]

Or. Embrace war. Create a system that celebrates and encourages tactics, which does not try to suppress or mask our political differences but magnifies and elaborates them. Perhaps instead of a ballot you have a “deck” or “team” in which you choose your books, stories, films etc. and can also assign them various powers, tools, weapons, factional alliances, behaviours. Instead of simply counting, the whole battle or adventure or whatever plays out on a ginormous screen at the awards ceremony, accompanied by some pretty serious atmosphere. Update: a very simple bare bones example …

Each nominator gets four slots in each category. They’re not ranked, exactly, but they are classed. It might be:

BEST NOVEL Hedgehog: 25 HP, +5 damage vs. witch Dalek: 25 HP, +5 damage vs. hedgehog Witch: 25 HP, +5 damage vs. dalek Mithril Mech: 30 HP, begins in herald slot

… so for best novel, my ballot might look like this:

Hedgehog: Jeff VanderMeer, Southern Reach Dalek: Cixin Liu, The Three Body Problem Witch: Adam Roberts, Bete MM: Ann Leckie, Ancillary Sword

With each round of voting, each party is randomly paired with another. If the heralds are the same (i.e. in round one, if my ballot encounters another Ancillary Sword mithril mech) then both ballots survive intact and unchanged into the next round. Otherwise, a champion is randomly selected from the non-herald party members of each ballot.


(1) if the champions happen to be the same (e.g. my Southern Reach bumps into another Southern Reach) then the champions move into the heralds slots, but no damage is inflicted, and both ballots survive otherwise unaltered into the next round.

(2) otherwise, both nominations take damage according to their class. For example, say my Southern Reach hedgehog gets paired against a John Scalzi Lock In dalek. My nomination loses fifteen Hit Points, and the Lock In nomination loses ten (my quills aren’t much use against the dalek’s armour plating and selfie-stick).

Nominations that have fallen to zero Hit Points are eliminated, and a new round begins.

The cycle continues until all except five novels have been eliminated, comprising the short list.

Each nominator also receives an automated personalised chronicle of their ballot’s encounters and deeds. Nominators may also opt to make their ballot non-anonymous, so that their names come up in the battle reports of other nominators with whom they have friendly or warlike encounters. (“I literally met Hoyt in the fourth round! Her Correia Witch kicked my Leckie Dalek’s ass.”)



Spokane Worldcon Announcement

Sasquan, the 2015 Worldcon, will be held in Spokane, Washington from August 19-23.

Guests of Honor will be Brad Foster, David Gerrold, Vonda McIntyre, Tom Smith, and Leslie Turek.

Sally Woherle and Bobbie DuFault will co-chair the convention.

Sasquan’s website is here. The con’s Facebook page is here.

[Via Kevin Standlee.]