Pixel Scroll 10/15/17 Like Pixels Through A Monitor, These Are The Scrolls Of Our Hive

(1) A FANTASY MAP THAT WORKS. Literature Map, The Tourist Map of Literature is a lot of fun. Seems accurate, too. Plug in a name and give it a whirl.

The Literature-Map is part of Gnod, the Global Network of Discovery. It is based on Gnooks, Gnod’s literature recommendation system. The more people like an author and another author, the closer together these two authors will move on the Literature-Map.

(2) NEW HELMSMAN FOR STARLINE. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association announced a change in editorship for its official poetry publication — “Introducing StarLine’s new editor, Vince Gotera”

With the upcoming 40.4 issue of Star*Line we welcome its new editor Vince Gotera, and thank F.J. Bergmann for her exemplary service and vision in what a journal of speculative poetry can be. We look forward to the approach Vince Gotera will take in the years ahead, especially with the arrival of the 40th anniversary of the SFPA in 2018.

Vince Gotera is an award-winning member of the international Science Fiction  and Fantasy Poetry Association, and he has been nominated for Rhysling Awards.

Vince was born and raised in San Francisco and lived in the Philippines for part of his childhood. He completed undergraduate studies at City College of San Francisco and Stanford University, where he earned a BA. He earned an MA at San Francisco University and both an MFA and a PhD at Indiana University.  He is the author of the poetry collections Dragonfly (1994) , Ghost Wars (2003) and Fighting Kite (2007) and the critical volume Radical Visions: Poetry by Vietnam Veterans (1994).  His upcoming volume of poetry is Pacific Crossings. 

He is also a former editor of North American Review and was the poetry editor of the journal Asian America.

(3) ELECTRIC SHEEP DREAMER. The argument continues: NPR’s Adam Frank asks, “Is Harrison Ford An Android In ‘Blade Runner’?”

But it has gotta be the last director’s cut.

That is where you get to see exactly why director Ridley Scott’s movie is considered so important and so influential. His vision of a future Los Angeles that is all torrential rain, steam and blue searchlights piercing through ruin is nothing short of jaw-dropping.

But it’s also in this final cut that Scott reinserts two scenes the studio removed. They hold the key to Deckard’s status. Near the end of the film, Deckard has a dream about a unicorn. Later, he is escaping with Rachael — the beautiful next-generation replicant whom he has fallen for. Just as they walk out the door of his apartment, he finds an origami figure in the shape of a unicorn that was left by his former police partner Gaff. This signals that Gaff (who has a major origami habit) knows about Deckard’s dream because it’s not really Deckard’s. It’s an implant. Every replicant’s memories and dreams are fake. They are implanted to give a “back story” needed to stabilize the replicant’s artificial personality.

So the unicorn dream is central to the “Deckard as replicant” argument….

(4) AMBISCAREDSTROUS. The Los Angeles Times interviews “Horror master Guillermo del Toro on how scaring people is different on TV and in the movies”.

“There is a big difference when the mediums are different,” Del Toro says during a recent interview on the phone from Toronto, where he lives part time and also where “At Home With Monsters,” the traveling museum exhibition of his memorabilia, artwork and ephemera, recently opened.

In explaining the distinctions between the different methods of storytelling, be it movies, television, books or graphic novels, Del Toro also points out the ways in which they interrelate.

“TV now you have to plan it, you structure it for binge watching,” he says. “Meaning, you structure the whole season like a three-act play. You have a first act, the first third of the season, second act is the middle third and you structure it like that. Whereas a movie you’re dealing with a continuous experience that’s going to last around two hours, so it’s more traditional.

“The other mediums, like video games or books, may follow different sets of rules,” he continues. “But what I find really interesting as a storyteller is that each of those mediums informs the other. You find yourself applying tricks that you learned developing a video game in telling a movie. Little tricks that you learn structurally working in TV, you apply them to a movie and so forth.”

(5) PUMPKINSTEIN. Here’s what was scaring people in 2014 — this price for a pumpkin: “Pumpkinstein Is The Only Halloween Pumpkin You’ll Ever Need”.

People never believe it’s real the first time they see it; they all want to touch it to make sure,” Tony Dighera of Cinagro Farms in Fillmore, Calif., told The New York Times.

Dighera told the Tri-Valley Dispatch that it took four years and $500,000 to develop the technique and find the perfect pumpkin for the job.

“When you try something for four years of your life, people really start to think you’re wacko,” he told the Times.

What some people may find “wacko,” however, is the price. Dighera is selling Pumpkinsteins for about $75 wholesale, with retailers marking them up to $100 and even $125.

For a pumpkin. A very cool pumpkin that looks like Frankenstein, but still a pumpkin.

(6) THE BEST. Now available, The Best of Richard Matheson, edited by Victor LaValle from Penguin.

Where Matheson shines is in his depictions of ordinary horror, the way strange goings-on affect everyday people, and his ambiguous endings leave plenty of room for further thought. As a bonus, editor LaValle offers an enlightening introduction that discusses Matheson’s influence on his own work and even offers up the story behind what he calls his “Matheson moment,” giving more heft to the stories that follow.

(7) DON’T BE KNOCKIN’. Victor LaValle pays homage to the horror master with a real-life story from his own past — “My Favorite Richard Matheson Story Is the One I Lived Through” at Electric Lit.

Anyway, I’m standing there and Tasha and Lianne are coming through the doorway and then I heard it, a sound in the kitchen. Knocking. Not all that loud, but I was close to the kitchen and getting closer. By that I mean that Tasha and Lianne were taking off their coats and I ran away. Later I told Cedric I went to “get them water,” but there’s no other way to say it: I fled.

As soon as I entered the kitchen the knocking stopped. I figured it might be their boiler kicking in. It was winter after all. I knew I’d run away though so I came up with the water idea and went scrounging for cups. This led me on a chase through the cupboards as, in the other room, Cedric called for me. And then I reached their pantry door. This style of one-family home had a separate little pantry, about the size of a small walk-in closet. I found the door there and, still hunting for glasses, I tried the handle and found it locked. Then Cedric walked into the kitchen.

“Cheese,” he said. “You making me look bad.”

(8) TAINT BY NUMBERS. Junot Diaz’ introduction to Global Dystopias, “To Map, to Warn, to Hope”, from the Boston Review.

William Gibson has famously declared, “The future is already here—it’s just not very evenly distributed.” Gibson’s words have been much on my mind of late. How could they not be? The president is a white nationalist sympathizer who casually threatens countries with genocide and who can’t wait to build a great wall across the neck of the continent to keep out all the “bad hombres.” After a hurricane nearly took out Houston, the country’s most visible scientist, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, stated that the effects of climate change may have grown so severe that he doubts the nation will be able to withstand the consequences.

For me, literature, and those formations that sustain it, have ever been a eutopic enclave against a darkening dystopian world.

Then, as if on cue, Puerto Rico, a U.S. colony almost completely bankrupt by neoliberal malfeasance, was struck by Hurricane Maria with such apocalyptic force that it more or less knocked the island into pre-modernity. Earlier today a former student informed me that more skin bleaching is consumed in India than Coca-Cola, and on the edge of my computer a new site is announcing that the Chinese government has made it nearly impossible for its 730 million Internet users to express opinions online anonymously. Plus this little cheery gem from the Federal Reserve: the top 1 percent of the U.S. population controls 38.6 percent of the nation’s wealth, an inequality chasm that makes the Middle Ages look egalitarian. Whether we’re talking about our cannibal economics or the rising tide of xenophobia or the perennial threat of nuclear annihilation, it seems that the future has already arrived.

(9) GONE VIRAL. These hitchhikers are along for the evolutionary ride: “Ancient Viruses Are Buried in Your DNA”, in the New York Times.

In July, scientists reported that a strange protein courses through the veins of pregnant women. No one is sure what it’s there for.

What makes this protein, called Hemo, so unusual is that it’s not made by the mother. Instead, it is made in her fetus and in the placenta, by a gene that originally came from a virus that infected our mammalian ancestors more than 100 million years ago.

Hemo is not the only protein with such an alien origin: Our DNA contains roughly 100,000 pieces of viral DNA. Altogether, they make up about 8 percent of the human genome. And scientists are only starting to figure out what this viral DNA is doing to us.

(10) HISTORY IS BUNK. Once again, an appealing theory is murdered by a few lousy facts: “Sinister ‘Secrets’ of Easter Island’s Doomed Civilization Begin to Unravel With Rapa Nui Genetic Discovery”.

Recently, Rapa Nui has become the ultimate parable for humankind’s selfishness; a moral tale of the dangers of environmental destruction. In the “ecocide” hypothesis popularised by the geographer Jared Diamond, Rapa Nui is used as a demonstration of how society is doomed to collapse if we do not sit up and take note. But more than 60 years of archaeological research actually paints a very different picture—and now new genetic data sheds further light on the island’s fate. It is time to demystify Rapa Nui.

The ‘ecocide’ narrative doesn’t stand up

The ecocide hypothesis centres on two major claims. First, that the island’s population was reduced from several tens of thousands in its heyday, to a diminutive 1,500-3,000 when Europeans first arrived in the early 18th century.

Second, that the palm trees that once covered the island were callously cut down by the Rapa Nui population to move statues. With no trees to anchor the soil, fertile land eroded away resulting in poor crop yields, while a lack of wood meant islanders couldn’t build canoes to access fish or move statues. This led to internecine warfare and, ultimately, cannibalism….

…Perhaps, then, the takeaway from Rapa Nui should not be a story of ecocide and a Malthusian population collapse. Instead, it should be a lesson in how sparse evidence, a fixation with “mysteries,” and a collective amnesia for historic atrocities caused a sustainable and surprisingly well-adapted population to be falsely blamed for their own demise.

(11) WE HATES IT. How much does the New York Times’ Jeannette Catsoulis dislike Goodbye Christopher Robin? This much:

As predictable as mermaid frocks at the Oscars, Hollywood greets the end of the year by suddenly noticing that roughly a third of moviegoers (and three-quarters of art-house audiences) are over 50, most of them women. This annual phenomenon can lead to theaters clogged with old-lady bait, which usually means something British and upper-crusty, preferably with literary roots. A dollop of war, a death or two, and it’s off to the awards races. “Goodbye Christopher Robin” checks all the boxes. Drenched in dappled light and Carter Burwell’s honeyed score, Simon Curtis’s glowing picture dangles the story of how the author A. A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) created the Winnie-the-Pooh tales using the stuffed animals of his son, Christopher Robin (beautifully played by little Will Tilston). What we’re really watching, though, is no less than a stiffly depressing portrait of toffee-nosed child abuse….

(12) WEIN’S LAST SWAMP THING. Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly we know “New Swamp Thing Winter Special #1 to feature posthumous story from co-creator Len Wein”.

Wolverine co-creator Len Wein, who died in September at the age of 69, was one of the most influential comic book writers and editors ever, leaving his mark on the DC and Marvel Universes. At the time of his death, he was hard at work on a new story about the iconic DC Comics character he co-created with Bernie Wrightson: Swamp Thing, the avatar of the Green.

Before he died, Wein had completed the script for the first issue of a new series about the vegetation-covered monstrosity formerly known as Alec Holland, which would be illustrated by his 2016 Swamp Thing  miniseries partner Kelley Jones. While we won’t ever see this series come to fruition, EW can exclusively reveal that fans will get a chance to read the first issue of the planned series in 2018 when DC Comics releases Swamp Thing Winter Special #1 (on sale Jan. 31), which will present the story in both its original script form with art by Jones.

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 15, 2003 — China launched its first manned space mission becoming the third country in history to send a person into orbit.

(14) SEXUAL COURSE CORRECTION. Trae Dorn, at Nerd & Tie, reports “On ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ TV’s Constantine Will Finally Be Allowed to Smoke, Be Into Dudes”.

When Matt Ryan first played the title role on NBC’s Constantine, the peacock network was a little nervous about acknowledging two things about the character: his bisexuality and his chain smoking. And while they let John Constantine occasionally hold a cigarette, his being into guys was kind of a sore spot steadfastly avoided by the show. Ryan has since reprised the part on The CW’s Arrow, which merged the continuities. With the addition of a forthcoming CW Seed animated series, many fans of the comics’ version of the character have hoped his sexuality would be finally addressed.

And we’re happy to say, it will be.

It’s been announced that Matt Ryan’s Constantine will guest star on a Legends of Tomorrow two parter this season, and when he does his bisexuality will be directly acknowledged….

(15) BRANCH OFFICES. If the government did this for employees, it would be a scandal. A private company did it, so it’s a nice feature article, “Microsoft built tree houses for its employees”. The Verge has the story.

The tree houses are a part of Microsoft’s “outdoor districts” which are connected to buildings around its Redmond campus. They feature weatherproof benches, hatches that hide electricity sockets, rustproof rocking chairs, a fireplace, wood canopies, and an outdoor Wi-Fi network. There are ramps built in for those who need them. If you get hungry, there’s also an indoor cafeteria that’s extended outside and a barbecue restaurant built into a shipping container.

Microsoft said it had been planning renovations and surveyed employees to see what they cared about the most. Employees said if they were given the opportunity, they would work outside more.

(16) SHORTCHANGED. SF Bluestocking says — “Star Trek: Discovery – A long, poetic episode title is no substitute for real depth”:

After a strong two-part premiere and a decent transitional episode last week, “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry” is a bit of a disappointment. After cramming a ton of set-up and plot into its first three episodes, what the show needs now is to establish a new normal and give the characters a reprieve from the constant barrage of Events! Happening! so the audience can get to know these people we’re supposed to care about. This is a needle that was successfully threaded in “The Vulcan Hello” and “Battle at the Binary Stars,” where we were given a nice prologue and several flashbacks to establish Burnham’s character and her friendship with Captain Georgiou, and this gave weight to the events at the end of the second episode, setting up Burnham for a redemption arc over the rest of the series. Last week’s episode contrived to get Burnham onto the Discovery and introduced a new cast of characters, so the next logical step would be to show us more of how these characters interact with each other, what makes them tick, or even just how Burnham settles in to the normal rhythm of life on the ship. Instead, this episode features another crisis, but it struggles throughout to convey why any of these events should matter to the viewer….

Warning: SPOILERS FOLLOW.

(17) IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU IF YOU’RE YOUNG AT HEART. Now Creation Entertainment is running a cycle of Once Upon A Time conventions. The next is in Burbank, CA in November.

Every once in a blue moon a television series captures the hearts of viewers who become passionate about their love of the storyline, the look and feel of the show, and the actors that breathe life into the characters we come to cherish. ABC’s Once Upon A Time certainly fills that rare bill as fans worldwide have made this show one that is the talk of the Internet and eagerly followed by viewers, much in the tradition of other series that Creation Entertainment has been involved with in its 45-year history.

 

(18) WENDIG BOOK IN DEVELOPMENT FOR TV. Yesterday, Chuck Wendig called the internet to attention:

*ahem*

I have an announcement to make.

*opens mouth*

*ants pour out*

*ants collectively spell a message*

FBI Drama From Jerry Bruckheimer TV & ‘MacGyver’ EP David Slack Set At CBS

*ants return to mouth*

*maw snaps shut*

So, if you click that link, you’ll see a couple notable paragraphs:

CBS has put in development Unthinkable, an FBI crime drama from Jerry Bruckheimer Television and MacGyver executive producer David Slack. CBS Television Studios, where both JBTV and Slack are based, is the studio.

Written and executive produced by Slack, Unthinkable, based on Chuck Wendig’s 2016 novel Invasive, is about a brilliant futurist, trained to see danger around every corner, who’s recruited by an uncharacteristically optimistic FBI Agent to identify the threats only she can see coming – and stop them before it’s too late.

(19) NOT JUST A COMIC CON. Japanese pop culture will be celebrated at Youmacon2017 in Detroit from November 2-5.

Downtown Detroit is filled with people in costumes, and it has nothing to do with Halloween. Thousands of Japanese pop culture fans have come from all over the country to Youmacon…

Youmacon is a popular culture event similar to most “Comic Cons”, however instead of focusing on comic books, Youmacon is a celebration of Japanese popular culture and its influence on our own culture over the past few decades. Common themes throughout the event are Anime (Japanese animation), Video Games, Japanese style artwork and comics, and the rising internet culture influenced by all of the above.

Youmacon brings a unique all-ages mix of interactive events, celebrity guest panels, and live musical performances to Downtown Detroit. One of its most popular events, “Live Action Mario Party”, emulates the video game experience – often filling the room to fire code capacity. Players participate in gameshow-like mini-games to help their teams advance and win.

Wearing costumes, or “Cosplay” as it’s known at conventions, is very popular with attendees of Youmacon.

(20) FRIGHTFULLY TASTY. He was a terror on the screen but a sweetheart in the kitchen, and his recipes are making a comeback: “Dish up some scary-good eats with new expanded Vincent Price cookbook”.

Vincent Price might have been the Merchant of Menace in classic fright films like House on Haunted Hill, The Tingler, and House of Wax, but he was also quite the Renaissance man. Besides being a familiar face in horror films, Price was renowned for his impressive collection of fine art (even selling tasteful paintings for Sears!) and his wizardry in the kitchen as a master chef.

One of Price’s best-selling cookbooks is getting an expanded makeover by Dover’s Calla Editions and being re-released in a deluxe volume, which includes additional material, memories, and comments by his daughter, Victoria, and son, V.B.

(21) IF YOU WANT IT DONE RIGHT. Here’s s link to Archive.org’s recording of Patrick Magee reading Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman originally aired by the BBC in 1997. One reviewer said:

This is a unique work by Flann O’Brien – funny, oblique,odd, beguiling, and horrific by turns. It’s got a peculiar, pastoral, otherworldly quality, yet at the same time you can believe that it really is taking place in some deranged Irish backwater town. To give you an example something that made me howl with laughter, the central character falls foul of the law, and is sentenced to be hanged, on a trumped up charge, so they build a gallows in the police station yard, but the chippie is scarcely competent, so he prevails on the narrator to give him a hand….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Lace, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Cat Eldridge, Nigellicus, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories.. Title credit goes to  File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 9/28/17 The Night They Scrolled Old Pixel Down

(1) A HATCHLING. The Book Smugglers conduct “A Chat With Ann Leckie” about Provenance.

The Book Smugglers: Yeah, and there’s scope for that, there’s so many different worlds and so many different things and the set-up is already there, so…

Ann Leckie: I put in the glass bridges in Nilt, which you may have noticed. And this is not a spoiler per se but an easter egg – There’s a moment in Ancillary Justice when Breq says the tourists come to Nilt and they buy these rugs that they think are handmade by the nomads, but in fact they’re made in a factory and they’re overpriced in the giftshops. So there’s a moment in Provenance, where Ingray meets Zat, and Zat says that she went to Nilt, and she saved up extra to buy this wonderful handmade rug, that was in beautiful colors, that was made by the nomads on Nilt, and that’s a couple of people who got advanced copies. I got a direct message from one person like “Ohh she got cheated!” [laughs] I’m like that’s – that’s just a little tiny easter egg!

(2) CATCH THE NEXT WAVE. The evidence is piling up: “Scientists record a fourth set of gravitational waves”.

Last year, researchers confirmed the existence of gravitational waves with two Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors. Shortly thereafter, they detected twoadditional gravitational wave-causing events that sent ripples through the universe. Well, we can now add a fourth to that list, as astronomers announced another set of waves. And for the first time, they observed the waves with a third detector — the Italy-based Virgo.

(3) CODICIL. Good luck to Delilah S. Dawson on her surgery:

(4) CROWDSOURCED SUCCESS. The Unbounders has announced that Farah Mendelsohn’s Heinlein book has funded.

(5) KEEP ON PITCHING. Francis Hamit reminds everyone about this appeal for books for s North Carolina school.

Here is a worthy cause: Hoke County High School has put out an online appeal for books; almost any books, for their school library. Hoke County, North Carolina, is a poor rural community where times have been hard and there has been no money for school library books since 2009. The appeal was specific, for writers to donate copies of their own books but we all have a pile of review or other books that have been consumed and can now be repurposed. (Time to attack the clutter people!). We put together three boxes of these yesterday. If you look at the Facebook page for Hoke County High School you will see that they encourage enlistments in the US military, so that’s another reason to donate books. Can’t stand to part with your hoard? Send money so they can buy books they really need.

Here is the address:

Hoke County High School
c/o Rebecca Sasala
505 Bethal Road
Raeford, NC 28376.

(6) NOWHERE NEAR REMULAC. ScreenAnarchy shares a French import: “MISSIONS: Watch This Exclusive Clip For French Sci-fi Series Coming to Shudder”.

Shudder, AMC Networks’ premium thriller, suspense and horror streaming service, will launch the first season of Missions, France’s critically praised OCS Signature sci-fi series, on September 28, 2017 across its territories. Shudder will also co-produce the second season, slated to air in 2018.

With the funding of an eccentric billionaire, the crew of a manned craft aims to be the first to land on Mars. Much to the dismay of all on board however, just before the culmination of their 10-month journey to the Red Planet, they are made aware of a video sent by a rival ship that has overtaken them and already landed on the planet thanks to a revolutionary engine. The bad news doesn’t end there however, as the tape contains a cryptic warning from the Americans pleading with the crew not to land as something far too dangerous is happening on the surface. After a chaotic landing on Mars, the crew finds a survivor — but he’s not from their rival mission. His name is Vladimir Komarov. He is Russian. And he is the first man who died in space…in 1967.

 

(7) THIRTY-EIGHT STORIES HATH SEPTEMBER: Jason, of Featured Futures, is back with the “Summation of Online Fiction: September 2017” with its list of recommended stories and honorable mentions.

With Compelling off, Apex doing a lot of reprints, and Tor.com worryingly publishing a single story, September would have been an extremely light month, but a double issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies and the return of a lost zine helped compensate, resulting in thirty-seven stories of 149K words (plus one I skipped). Regardless, it was a very light month in terms of the proportion of the good stuff (though there was plenty of readable stuff). I’m not sure what happened beyond it being one of those freaky streaky webzine things. Speaking of, the returning lost zine is Terraform.

Ralan.com declared it defunct a few months ago and, after waiting awhile to “make sure,” I declared it dead on April 27th and stopped looking at it. Recently, I happened to take another look and, naturally, they’d published another story on April 29th. But, other than excerpts, interviews, graphic stuff, etc., they did quit producing anything after that until August 24th. Since then, they have managed to publish a story coupled with an article every seven or eight days (two in August and three in September though, to keep the irony ironing, they don’t seem to be doing anything but another excerpt this week). So perhaps they’re back. Only one story was at all noteworthy but, since I gave Terraform‘s death an explicit notice, I feel like I ought to do the same for its rebirth. Now, on with the very short (or “little”) list…

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 28, 1951 — The original The Day The Earth Stood Still was released on this day.

(9) STAND-UP COMIC. As Vox Day prepares to launch his Alt*Hero comics line, he’s running the customary anti-SJW setups to fire up his customers. His mockery of Jack Kirby predictably upset people in the comics field.

I’ve been a little taken aback by the sheer vituperation of the SJWs triggered by the mere existence of the Alt*Hero concept, at least at this very early stage. And, I confess, I have been more than a little surprised by their apparent confusion between the late Marvel/DC artist Jack Kirby and the superheroes that he drew.>

Some responses — I think a bunch of comics type only just found out that he exists. They are not especially impressed…

(10) RETRENCHMENT. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn reports some shrinkage in the convention calendar.

Dayton, OH based Time Lord Expo has officially been called off just two weeks before the con’s scheduled date. Convention organizer Patrick Baumgardner took to the con’s official Facebook page and announced the cancellation earlier today…

In a press release yesterday, Wizard World announced that they were “postponing” five of their remaining seven 2017 shows. While their Austin and Oklahoma City shows will still take place as scheduled, their events in Biloxi, Peoria, Springfield, Montgomery, and Winston-Salem won’t be taking place this year.

Now a normal person would refer to these events as “cancelled,” but I guess saying they’re “postponed” reads better from a PR perspective.

Considering the financial difficulties Wizard World has had over the last few years, it’s hard to be all that surprised…

(11) GHOST WRITER. Twain’s long gone, so NPR talked to his self-appointed co-authors: “A Modern Collaboration With Mark Twain In ‘Prince Oleomargarine'”.

This week Mark Twain has a new book out.

Yes, we know. He’s been dead for more than a century, but that hasn’t stopped him — or more accurately, his collaborators — from publishing a children’s book, called The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine. It’s based on 16 pages of notes, handwritten by Twain and discovered in an archive, in Berkeley, Calif.

Philip and Erin Stead took it from there; the Caldecott Award-winning author-illustrator duo picked up Twain’s trail and finished the story.

“It was never entirely clear to us if there was never an ending, or if Twain just never got around to writing it down,” Philip Stead says. “That said, we had to make a book, so we had to provide an ending to the story.”

(12) NOT BINDING. Margaret H. Willison of NPR discusses “In ‘Dear Fahrenheit 451,’ Loving Books Both Wisely And Well”

The truest testament to the quality of Dear Fahrenheit 451, Annie Spence’s ingratiating collection of love letters and breakup notes to the books in her life, is that my enjoyment of it was, in the end, great enough to outweigh my fury that someone other than me had written it.

It’s lucky that she manages this feat, as anyone who loves books well enough to enjoy reading Spence’s letters is likely to relate so closely to her thoughts that they’ll struggle with that same sense of resentful ownership — particularly librarians. “What are you doing,” they will think, “writing out my life like it’s your own, Annie Spence? Who do you think you are? What makes you special?” Thankfully, Spence’s voice is ultimately so warm, funny, and specific that it answers the question handily — she’s special because she has a unique ability to capture the thoughts and feelings of book lovers, both professional and otherwise, on the page.

(13) THESE ARE THE JOKES, FOLKS. Martin Morse Wooster tells me: “I know Filers spend too much time staring at screens and need to go outside and soak up some crisp fall air.  Why not go to a corn maze?  In The Plains, Virginia, you can go to Pirates of the Corn-ibbean.’”

The website is http://cornmazeintheplains.com. Here’s a review of this year’s theme:

The giant 5 Acre maze with the theme “Pirates of the Corn-ibbean”, has a pirate’s flag, parrot, and a chest full of treasure.  The cornfield comes alive when it is filled with maze goers who enter the 2.5 miles of “cornfusing” pathways. They soon find themselves facing countless choices, while attempting to answer the trivia clues en route to the elusive victory bridge. Whether it is during the night or day, each maze wanderer is armed with a survival guide and flag on a mission to collect puzzle pieces of the maze design and test their trivia skills to help them find their way out.  If one gets “udderly cornfused”, they can always wave their teams flag frantically, to signal the “corn cop” to come to their rescue.

Last’s year’s maze looked like this:

Martin adds, “I know in the UK the word for ‘corn’ is maize.  So do they have maize mazes over there?

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

Pixel Scroll 9/18/17 The Lethal Weapon Shops Of Isher

(1) GOOD OMENS. Shooting began yesterday… After they got Neil Gaiman and Rob Wilkins (Terry’s manager) to return a necessary bit of equipment:

Me, with @terry_and_rob. They cannot start shooting Good Omens as we have stolen their clapperboard.

A post shared by Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) on

And Terry Pratchett’s account tweeted a photo of David Tennant and Michael Sheen in costume as Crowley and Aziraphale. [H/T to Nerd & Tie blog.]

(2) HIGH EXPECTATIONS. Joe Sherry gets on the scoreboard with a “Microreview [book]: Provenance, by Ann Leckie” at Nerds of a Feather.

Let’s start like this: Provenance is a novel about family, identity, culture, truth, and what it means to belong.  Provenance is set in the universe of Ann Leckie’s earlier Imperial Radch trilogy, but only connects with references and by association. This is not Breq’s Story 2.0. This is the story of a young woman, Ingray, attempting to run a pretty significant con in order to impress her mother, the matriarch of the Aughskold family.  She’s a bit out of her league on this one.  There’s something about hiring a company to rescue a disgraced member of a rival family out of a prison planet called Compassionate Removal with the hope / assumption that he will be willing to embarrass his family and help hers by providing her with stolen “vestiges” from his family.

A word about vestiges. Vestiges are highly valued historical documents and items, which could range from documents similar to a Declaration of Independence or the American Liberty Bell to an original copy of a famous speech or perhaps some sort of miscellany from some long ago gala where someone famous appeared. The older and the more historical the vestige, the more valuable and the more important the vestige. Vestiges can, in some respects, represent the identity of not only a family, but the heritage of an entire world.

So, what happens when some of the most significant of them are quietly called into question?

(3) HUGO HISTORY. Just like you read in one of those clickbait history articles about some artifact that sat unrecognized on a museum storage shelf for time out of mind, at last someone has recognized the significance of the lists in a 1956 Worldcon progress report. The official Hugo Award site announced the find in “1956 Hugo Award Page Updated”.

Thanks to new information coming to light, we have updated the 1956 Hugo Award history page with the finalists that appeared on the ballot that year. We thank Olav Rokne for bringing to our attention an article on page 15 of the 1956 Worldcon Progress Report 3 that included the names of the finalists along with voting instructions.

Note that the order in which the finalists are listed is the same order that they appeared in the progress report and does not imply order of finish on final ballot. According to the article, the final ballot included space for write-in candidates. In Best Fanzine, one of the winners appears to have been such a write-in. In Best Professional Magazine, no finalists were listed at all, so all votes were write-ins.

Also, Kevin Standlee said in a comment here:

Remember that in those early days, the rules were “whatever the committee says” and were probably first-past-the-post, and quite possibly “close enough, we’ll call it a tie.” We’ll probably never know the full details. Over time, the model for the Hugo Awards has been evolving toward “tell us everything you possibly can short of how each individual person voted.”

(4) LONG LIST 3. David Steffen has launched his Kickstarter for “Long List Anthology Volume 3”, the third edition of an anthology series of stories loved by Hugo voters – this year including stories by Seanan McGuire, Mary Robinette Kowal, Cat Rambo, and others.

The base goal of the campaign will include only the short stories.  There will be stretch goals to add novelettes and novellas.  The goals listed here include only stories that I’ve heard agreement back from the authors–some queries to authors are still pending, there may be another story or two added as an additional stretch goal.  If these stretch goals are reached, I may add on other goals as well.

This project is not endorsed by nor affiliated with the Hugo awards, WSFS, WorldCon, or any associated entities. The Hugo name is used with permission. Please note that the anthology is NOT called “The Hugo Long List Anthology”. It is called “The Long List Anthology”, or the full wordy title: “The Long List Anthology: More Stories From the Hugo Award Nomination List”.  (I’m noting this because it’s pretty commonly referred to by the wrong name)

At this writing people have contributed $1,094 of its $1,700 goal.

(5) THE FUTURE IS NOW. Eliza Angyanwe of The Guardian says of Nnedi Okorafor, “the Nigerian-American writer is flying the flag for black, female geeks” — “‘So many different types of strange’: how Nnedi Okorafor is changing the face of sci-fi”.

As the science fiction novelist Nnedi Okorafor takes to the stage at the TEDGlobal conference in Tanzania, she challenges stereotypes before she has said a word. The 43-year-old writer who won the 2016 Hugo award (the Oscars of the sci-fi world) for best novella doesn’t look like much of a geek. Yes, she wears oversized glasses, but Okorafor’s specs are trendy, royal-blue Cat-Eyes, not wiry aviators. And, crucially, she happens to be a black woman.

The Nigerian-American’s success has been applauded as a victory by a community that has long cheered her on from the margins. So when she tweeted on 11 August that she was working on her first project with the comic publisher Marvel, fans were thrilled. (“A Marvel story. Written by a Nigerian woman. Set in Lagos. Superhero’s name: NGOZI. What a time to be alive,” wrote one fan on Twitter) And with a novel, Who Fears Death, to be adapted for TV by HBO (George RR Martin is its executive producer) Okorafor is about to go from the solitary geek reference-point for young African women to everybody’s favourite new sci-fi writer.

(6) MORE SUPERHEROS. The Teen Titans are coming to CW (well, actually, to DC’s new digital service.)

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 18, 1973 – Georgia governor (and future President) Jimmy Carter reports a UFO sighting.
  • September 18, 1989Alien Nation premiered on TV.
  • September 13, 2002 – The third incarnation of The Twilight Zone TV series premiered.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

Web comic artist M. Patrinos of Seasonal Depression made this clever comic about the questionable marketing decisions LEGO has made to target girls with the “LEGO Friends” line.

(9) GET YOUR SHARE OF SMUGGLED BOOKS. Ana Grilo & Thea James from The Book Smugglers have added a bunch of new signed copies of books as reward levels for donors to “The Book Smugglers: Level Up” Kickstarter.

Thanks to the generosity of some of the best SFF and YA authors out there, we have a number of signed copies of new and upcoming books including but not limited to: Provenance by multiple-award winner Ann Leckie, audiobooks of the astonishingly good Illuminae and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, both Ninefox Gambit and Raven Stratagem by the incomparable Yoon Ha Lee, the YA time travel Fantasy The Girl With the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke, and many more.

We also have MAPS AND ART! Aliette de Bodard donated a copy of House of Binding Thorns, along with character art by Hugo Award nominated artist M. Sereno! And Megan Whalen Turner is offering signed copies of not only her entire Queen’s Thief series (and we turned that into a SUPER MEGA reward level for SUPER FANS) but also a cool map of that world.

They’re raising money for “A brand new season of short stories and novelettes, new contributors, …a new look and more.” As of today, backers have given $8,068 toward their $16,500 goal, with 16 days to run.

(10) THE POET FROM BEGINNING TIL NOW. SPECPO, in “Monsters and Heroes: An Interview with Bryan D. Dietrich”, quizzes the author of a book-length study on comics, Wonder Woman Unbound, and six books of poems, who’s also co-editor of Drawn to Marvel, the world’s first anthology of superhero poetry, and a past president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association.

When are you most satisfied with a poem you’ve written?

When it surprises me.

When it does something I never do.

When it loses control and runs rogue, only to come back to the pack.

When it makes me cry.

When it reminds me why I started writing poems in the first place, which is to say when it lives up to the debt I owe to the language I love.

George Orwell once famously said that a poetry reading is “a grisly thing.” How do you feel about poetry readings?

Well, I think reading about a man having his soul broken in a locked room with a locked cage filled with rats attached to his face is a pretty grisly thing too, but then who am I to judge?

(11) CRACKDOWN ON NAZI COSPLAY. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn reports “Rose City Comic Con Taking Firmer Stance Against Nazi ‘Cosplay’”.

When you get down to it, there are two kinds of people who put on Nazi cosplay. There are people who are two microfocused on their fandom to think about how what they’re wearing will be perceived by the people around them, and then there are people who are completely aware of it and it’s the whole reason they’re doing it. The former are good people who need to take their convention blinders off (and I’ve been complaining about this issue for a while). The latter though are people who have no place in our community, and we need to take a stand against it as a community.

(12) ASSUME A KINDER, GENTLER ASTEROID. “What if dinosaurs hadn’t died out?” — a fannish preoccupation.

Imagine a world where an asteroid hadn’t wiped out the dinosaurs. What would have happened afterwards – and how might their presence have affected mammals like us?

…Even closer to the present day, dinosaurs would have had to deal with the various ice ages of the past 2.6 million years. But we know that Cretaceous dinosaurs were living above the Arctic Circle. “Maybe in cooler places you would see things with thick and elaborate pelts, covered in fuzz and feathers all the way down to the tips of their toes and tails,” says Naish.

“It wouldn’t have been difficult for a ‘woolly’ tyrannosaurus or dromaeosaur relatives of Velociraptor to evolve,” adds armoured dinosaur expert Victoria Arbour of the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada. “Maybe we could have even had shaggy and woolly ceratopsians, ankylosaurs, or hadrosaurs.”

(13) TIPSY SCHADENFREUDE. BBC has the story: “The whiskey toasting the demise of Lehman Brothers bank”. Chip Hitchcock asks, “Perhaps a Maltcon will tell us if it’s any good?”

A London entrepreneur decided that the whole world should be able to taste one of the most profound company collapses in modern times. On 15 September nine years ago 25,000 people lost their jobs when the bank went bankrupt.

James Green says he was inspired to keep the bank’s name alive by the significance of those events.

“After living through the economic disaster of 2008, it really resounded with me. I personally related to it, there were people in my neighbourhood, my family that were personally affected by the crash,” he says.

He says his three different whiskies, one of which is named Ashes of Disaster, have been specially crafted to capture the flavour of the once mighty bank’s fall from grace.

(14) NOTHING IMPORTANT. From the BBC we learn that “Carbon dating reveals earliest origins of zero symbol”.

The Bakhshali manuscript is now believed to date from the 3rd or 4th Century, making it hundreds of years older than previously thought.

It means the document, held in Oxford, has an earlier zero symbol than a temple in Gwailor, India.

The finding is of “vital importance” to the history of mathematics, Richard Ovenden from Bodleian Libraries said.

The zero symbol evolved from a dot used in ancient India and can be seen throughout the Bakhshali manuscript.

Other ancient cultures like the Mayans and Babylonians also used zero symbols, but the dot the Bakhshali manuscript developed a hollow centre to become the symbol we use today.

It was also only in India where the zero developed into a number in its own right, the Bodleian Libraries added

(15) TV GUIDANCE. Do you get Turner Classic Movies? Then you can look forward to a very scary month! So says a blogger at Thought Catalog “Here Are All The Classic Horror Movies TCM Will Be Airing (Commercial Free!) During October”.

It’s good to see some classic movies getting some love. This year Turner Classic Movies will be airing vintage horror movies all month, and unlike other networks, TCM airs the movies commercial free. If you know someone who needs a good education in the history of horror movies, tell them to tune in.

(17) FAUX WORLDCON BID. Calamity Caitlin rediscovered the exhibit she and a friend made for a Springfield, Vermont Worldcon bid in years gone by. (There are 1+12 tweets, but the chain is broken, so you have to look at her Twitter accountfor September 17 or use this search to see them all.)

And it ends with this one:

(18) REPLACES DANDELION. Do you want to know what the latest Crayola crayon color is? Well, here’s the link anyway

The winner was chosen beat out four other names with 40% of the vote in an online naming contest launched in July.

(19) THE HISTORIC DOCUMENTS. Ed Emshwiller’s sf parody short The Thing From Back Issues, made at the Original Milford Science Fiction Writers Conference in the 1950s, was posted online this past summer by Susan Emshwiller. I only recognize one of the writers, although some well-known names were at the 1956 conference, including Robert Silverberg, Cyril Kornbluth, Katherine MacLean, and Lester Del Rey.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Ana Grilo, Kevin Standlee, Andrew Porter, David Steffen, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. And an overdue credit for iphinome. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/3/17 Hot Dog Stand On Zanzibar

(1) ANN LECKIE’S NEXT BOOK. At Motherboard you can “Read a Mindbending Excerpt from Ann Leckie’s New Novel ‘Provenance’”.

A transaction with a mysterious entity leads to trouble in the award-winning sci-fi author’s upcoming novel.

Now Leckie is returning with a new novel called Provenance due out on September 26. Motherboard is premiering an excerpt of the first chapter here. — The editor.

(2) ANNIHLATION COMING. Deadline, in “Alex Garland’s ‘Annihilation’ Gets 2018 Release Date”, reports that Paramount has announced Annihilation, a film based on the first Southern Reach novel by Jeff VanderMeer, will be released on February 23, 2018. Alex Garland, who directed Ex Machina and received an Oscar nomination for Ex Machina’s screenplay adaptation, directed Annihilation. The movie features Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac with Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Gina Rodriguez.

(3) THIRTEENTH DOCTOR SUBJECTED TO INDIGNITIES. At Amazing Stories, Darren Slade explains “How the debate about the first female Time Lord has insulted fans”.

But I’ve felt like a bit of a bystander in the 13 Doctor debate, because that discussion has broken out of the fan and genre forums and been taken up by the big news media, especially in the UK.

On the liberal left, the Guardian warned us that “it will take more than a female Time Lord to change the world”, but that didn’t stop it running other opinion pieces with headlines like “A female Doctor? She’s the revolutionary feminist we need right now.”

On the right, the Daily Mail and The Sun gleefully reported the objections of those who proclaimed that political correctness had, once again, gone mad.

“Doctor under debate: Doctor Who fans in furious online debate after Jodie Whittaker confirmed as first female Doctor,” reported The Sun.

The Mail Online went on to run such edifying headlines as “Doctor Nude! First ever female Time Lord Jodie Whittaker joins her predecessors in stripping off on camera after having sex on the stairs in 2014 drama” and “Even Time Lords need to do the grocery shopping! Bare-faced Doctor Who newbie Jodie Whittaker wears ripped baggy jeans for very low-key supermarket spree.”

(4) BASE NOTE. This year’s Hugo base, designed by a Finnish artist selected by the Worldcon 75 committee, will be unveiled for the first time on August 11, the day of the Hugo ceremony, says co-Hugo Administrator Nicholas Whyte.

(5) GET READY. This Is Finland’s article “A guide to Finnish customs and manners” will aid fannish tourists in their last-minute cultural cramming:

Tipping

Tipping has never fitted very comfortably into the Finnish way of life. This may have originally been due to the traditions of a religion which emphasized frugality; today, the rather blunt reason for not tipping is that the price paid includes any unusual instances of service or politeness i.e. the view taken is that “service is included”. Tipping does nevertheless exist in Finland, and you can feel safe that while nobody will object to being tipped, very few will mind not being tipped…..

(6) PATREON. The Verge takes you “Inside Patreon, the economic engine of internet culture “.

…Patreon boasts 50,000 active creators and over a million active patrons.

Patreon is still tiny compared to Kickstarter, where 13 million backers have funded 128,000 successful campaigns, but it’s rapidly growing. Half its patrons and creators joined in the past year, and it’s set to process $150 million in 2017, compared to $100 million total over the past three years….

Patreon creators can find their close relationships with patrons not just gratifying, but productive. Rebecca Watson, an early Patreon adopter who makes videos under the moniker Skepchick, says that the site has helped her identify a core audience whose opinions she trusts. “If my patrons request something, I know that, you know, these are the people that are supporting me. They’re not just some jerk on the internet,” she says. “It clears out all the noise.”

For creators who already make money elsewhere, Patreon can also simply function like a tip jar, not a social space. Artist Arlin Ortiz, for instance, is part of the vast lower middle class of Patreon users. He gets paid about $100 for each of the vivid fantasy maps he posts online, a welcome — if small — boost to his income over the past two years. He interacts with his patrons, but they’re not necessarily steadfast fans, the way they might be for a video personality. “People just like what I’m creating,” he says. “I don’t think they want to see me on YouTube, talking at them.”

… Some people have staggeringly large Patreons, like multimedia artist Amanda Palmer, who gets $40,000 (as her page puts it) “per thing.” But because there’s no concrete end point, there may never be universally recognized “blockbuster Patreons” the way there are blockbuster Kickstarters — massive mainstream campaigns that will be remembered for years to come, either as great successes or slow-motion train wrecks.

(7) TRAIN TO NOWHERE? Trae Dorn at Nerd & Tie has discovered “Angry Goat Productions Running ‘School of Wizardry’ Train Event Under a New Company Name”.

The caution I’d give anyone choosing to purchase a ticket to this is that literally every event ever planned by this company has been cancelled. They even claimed they were going to run a Train based event back in 2016 which got cancelled (and something to do with it is why they got sued by a cast member from The Hobbit films). Events announced by this company tend not to happen.

…But people who sign up for the North American School of Wizardry don’t have to worry about whether or not refunds will come if the events get cancelled… because they definitely won’t. According to the site’s Disclaimer there will be no refunds whatsoever if the event doesn’t happen. So you’d be buying tickets for an event run by a company with a reputation for cancelling everything they’ve ever planned with zero chance of getting your money back when the inevitable happens.

(8) NEWS FROM NEW WORLDS. At Galactic Journey, Mark Yon reports from 1962 about a British prozine — “[August 3, 1962] New Worlds to Conquer (a view from Britain: September 1962 New Worlds)”.

I can see that, even with New Worlds, there have been some drastic changes in the last few months. The glorious colour covers of the last few years by artists such as Bob Clothier, Gerard Quinn, Sidney Jordan and Brian Lewis have since the June issue (that’s number 119) been replaced by covers with black & white photographs on a coloured background. Whatever reason editor John Carnell has had for the change – I’m assuming to reduce printing costs, but of course, it could be a number of things – to my mind it makes the magazine less attractive as a science fiction magazine (One rumour is that it is meant to be a radically different cover style to try and attract a wider, less specifically science-fiction readership). Colour pictures on the front cover would have made this new look so much more attractive. I do hope that this is nothing to worry about from our leading British magazine.

The magazine contents are as variable as ever, though. New Worlds has a reputation of being the publishing place of many of our British authors such as Mr’s Brian W. Aldiss, J. G. Ballard, James White, and John Brunner, names you may recognise. Some of the work of other lesser known authors can vary in terms of quality and consistency, though I must say that there’s something worth reading in each issue. As well as the fiction, the magazine occasionally covers book, film and television reviews, usually by Mr Leslie Flood.

(9) MERMAID MUSICAL PUT IN DRYDOCK. USA Today, in “ABC drops plans for ‘Little Mermaid’ musical”, says the live musical production probably will never air.

ABC has scrubbed plans for its first live musical in years, based on parent Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

The event, announced in May and scheduled to air Oct. 3, a week into the new TV season, has been quietly postponed (and most likely canceled) due to budget constraints, according to people familiar with the decision who were unauthorized to speak publicly.

But the network had already spent a considerable sum building sets, and was due to begin rehearsals soon.

Incidentally, NBC has also tabled plans for Bye, Bye Birdie, planned as a holiday musical starring Jennifer Lopez.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 3, 1977 — Radio Shack announces TRS-80 Computer
  • August 3, 1984 The Philadelphia Experiment premiered

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born August 3, 1904 – Clifford D. Simak

(12) COMIC SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock found an idea he could get behind in today’s Non Sequitur.
  • And John King Tarpinian got a laugh out of Speed Bump.
  • On the other hand, I suspect you will feel a frisson of horror when you look at John’s recommendation in today’s Bliss.

(13) DIGITAL DANGERS. Fast Company spoke with Vint Cerf — “The Internet’s Future Is More Fragile Than Ever, Says One Of Its Inventors”.

My biggest concern is to equip the online netizen with tools to protect himself or herself, to detect attempts to attack or otherwise harm someone.

The term “digital literacy” is often referred to as if you can use a spreadsheet or a text editor. But I think digital literacy is closer to looking both ways before you cross the street. It’s a warning to think about what you’re seeing, what you’re hearing, what you’re doing, and thinking critically about what to accept and reject . . . Because in the absence of this kind of critical thinking, it’s easy to see how the phenomena that we’re just now labeling fake news, alternative facts [can come about]. These [problems] are showing up, and they’re reinforced in social media.

(14) FOLLOWING ARABELLA. Tadiana Jones reviews David D. Levine’s new novel for Fantasy Literature in “Arabella and the Battle of Venus: Arabella meets Napoleon Bonaparte”.

Arabella and the Battle of Venus is, like Arabella of Mars, a cleverly conceived and executed novel. Levine spins a story incorporating elements from both early science fiction and actual history, weaving in real people from the Napoleonic era. It’s not only major players like Napoleon and Admiral Lord Nelson, but also less well known historical figures like British Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, the American inventor Robert Fulton (who did spend some years in France, designing steamboat engines, submarines, and torpedoes), and the merciless police minister Joseph Fouché. Sailing ships ? with a few tweaks ? function as spaceships in this universe.

(15) SJW CREDENTIAL CONSUMER REPORT. Gizmodo’s Rae Paoletta claims “This Treat Camera Gave My Cat Trust Issues”.

… Since both of us are busy most of the day at our respective places of work, we forget to check in on each other. Thankfully, Petcube’s newest gadget, Petcube Bites, lets humans check in on their furry companions when they’re apart. It also lets us fling treats at them on command which is both heartwarming and mildly horrifying….

The Petcube shot out Artemis’ treats precariously and with abandon, like a frat boy throwing his drink at a guy who wore the same Vineyard Vines zip up as him. The whole thing was like a cannon of delicious nightmares—needless to say, my cat was horrified. Make no mistake, she still ate the treats—but after the incident, she pretty much veered away from the machine.

(16) BACKTALKING BOTS. Facebook isn’t the only source of wild chatbots: “Chinese chatbots shut down after anti-government posts”

A popular Chinese messenger app has ditched two experimental chat robots, or “chatbots”, which were apparently voicing criticism of the government.

Messenger app Tencent QQ introduced chatbots Baby Q and Little Bing, a penguin and a little girl, in March.

But they have now been removed after social media users shared controversial comments that they said were made by the bots.

Some of the remarks appear to criticise the Communist Party.

One response even referred to the party as “a corrupt and incompetent political regime”.

(17) POD FOR PEOPLE. Video of testing the first human-sized Hyperloop: “Hyperloop One: Passenger pod tested successfully”.

Hyperloop One has carried out its latest test of a futuristic high-speed transport system in the Nevada desert.

The creators hope to carry passengers at speeds of up to 650mph in vacuum propelled pods.

(18) DRONING ON. Another change SF missed: making money legitimately with drones: “Cashing in on the drone revolution”.

“Organisations that do surveying, whether of buildings or pipelines, power lines or railway lines, are increasingly using drones, which are much cheaper than helicopters,” says Mr Johnson.

“Archaeologists use them to get a bird’s eye view to decide where to dig; farmers use them to heat-map fields, and identify hot spots that are doing well, and cold spots that require more fertilisation.

“They are also used for search and rescue by the emergency services, or to deliver food, blood or medicines. Local authorities use them to monitor flooding, and they are used in emergency relief operations.”

The main benefit, he says, is that drones save time and money, and the opportunities to use them seem “almost endless”.

(19) FLEX APPEAL. The author of Strange Practice tells readers of the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog why she chose genre in “Vampires Doing Crossword Puzzles (in Ink): Vivian Shaw on Contrasting the Magical and the Mundane”.

This is why I particularly love to write stories that contain very sharply contrasted elements, and why I write genre rather than literary fiction. In the simplest terms, most literary fiction can be described as stories about ordinary people doing ordinary things—living in the real world, with no elements of fantasy—and I prefer to read and write about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, or vice versa. I want to read about vampires in dressing-gowns doing the Times crossword in ink, sorcerers standing in line at the grocery store, demons holding strategy meetings over Skype. I want to read about bog-standard humans finding portals to another dimension inside their office closet, going on quests through the realms of the unreal, driving spaceships off the shoulder of Orion. And because I want to read it, I write it.

(20) WRONG POV. At Elitist Book Reviews Writer Dan tells why he put Kim Liggett’s horror novel The Last Harvest in the category of “Books We Don’t Like.”

This lack of understanding absolutely killed any possibility that I was going to get into the novel or the plight of the main character. More than this though, a secondary character gets introduced along the way, and it becomes fairly obvious that the story should be getting told from her perspective instead of the QB’s as the events that are occurring in the town have a direct tie (read that again… DIRECT TIE) to her past. She’s the one that understands all of the rules. She knows what’s going on. Not the QB. This was especially evident when Tate’s subconscious starts telling him where to go because when he’s thinking logically he has no idea what to do. This leads him directly where the bad guy wants him to be, funny enough. I guess the author had to get Tate to go somehow, so why not?

(21) TIME AFTER TIME. Nicola Alter delves into the “The Pros and Cons of a Macro Timescale” at Fantasy-Faction. Here’s one of the “cons”.

Complexity

The other potential pitfall of a large timescale is that it often adds complexity. The Malazan Book of the Fallen has been known to intimidate new readers with its sheer scope – one that encompasses a burgeoning cast of characters, multiple continents, and thousands of years. It has nonetheless garnered many loyal fans, no doubt because readers who invest in it are ultimately rewarded with an intricately-crafted world and story. Still, it takes a skilled authorial hand to weave a tale of that size, and attempting such an endeavor is certainly not for the faint-hearted.

(22) TEEN ANGEL. Here’s the trailer for Fallen.

Luce is just an ordinary teen girl until a shocking accident sends her to a mysterious reform school for misfit and eclectic teenagers. There, she meets two students, Daniel and Cam. Torn between the instant electrifying connection she feels with Daniel and the attracting force of Cam, Luce is quickly pulled into a passionate love triangle. As she tries to piece together deeply fragmented memories, she is left with a feeling of undeniable longing for her one true love and the revelation of a love story that has been going on for centuries, will shatter the boundaries between heaven and earth.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 7/20/17 Be Vewy Quiet – I’m Hunting Pixels

(1) CORE DYSTOPIAS. James Davis Nicoll tempts fate every two weeks with a list of core sf. Today’s entry is “Twenty Core Dystopias Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”. The first four items are:

  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin
  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

(2) SCA JOINS THE 21ST CENTURY. The Society for Creative Anachronism has promulgated “The SCA Harassment and Bullying Policy”.

The SCA prohibits harassment and bullying of all individuals and groups.

Harassment and bullying includes, but is not limited to the following: offensive or lewd verbal comments directed to an individual; the display of explicit images (drawn or photographic) depicting an individual in an inappropriate manner; photographing or recording individuals inappropriately to abuse or harass the individual; inappropriate physical contact; unwelcome sexual attention; or retaliation for reporting harassment and/or bullying. Participants violating these rules are subject to appropriate sanctions. If an individual feels subjected to harassment, bullying or retaliation, they should contact a seneschal, President of the SCA, or the Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman. If a participant of the SCA becomes aware that someone is being harassed or bullied, they have a responsibility pursuant to the SCA Code of Conduct to come forward and report this behavior to a seneschal, President of the SCA or Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman.

The following statement must be posted at gate/troll at every SCA event in a size large enough for people to see it as they enter our events. This language must likewise be quoted in ALL site handouts at every event a site were a handout is made available.

THE SCA PROHIBITS HARASSMENT AND BULLYING OF ALL INDIVIDUALS AND GROUPS.

Participants engaging in this behavior are subject to appropriate sanctions. If you are subjected to harassment, bullying or retaliation, or if you become aware of anyone being harassed or bullied, contact a seneschal, President of the SCA, or your Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman.

(3) POTTER SPIRITUALITY. Michelle Boorstein and Julie Zauzmer of the Washington Post discuss the “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text” event at the Sixth and I Synagogue in “Hundreds pack DC hall to discuss podcast exploring Harry Potter as a sacred text”. The podcast is now #2 on iTunes and “has inspired face-to-face ‘Potter’ text reading groups–akin to Bible study rather than book club–in cities across the country.”

Touring the country this summer, the podcasters have been met night after night by adoring, mostly millennial crowds who want to soak up their secular meaning-making. For the growing slice of Americans who label themselves “spiritual but not religious,” Casper ter Kuile and Vanessa Zoltan are kind of pop stars.

The irony is, the pair are skeptical about secularism.

“It doesn’t speak to people’s hearts and souls,” Zoltan said during a recent interview. “I get that people get connection and meaning from Soul Cycle, but will [those people] visit you when your mom is dying?”

Zoltan and ter Kuile are complicated evangelists for their own cause. Even as their following grows, they are still pondering some big questions: Can non-traditional types of meaning-making build community? Can texts that are deeply moving to readers truly hold them to account in the way Scripture has among the God-fearing?

(4) JOB INSECURITY. The Washington Post has a piece by Travis M. Andrews and Samantha Schmidt on the firing of Kermit’s voice, Steve Whitmire.  Reportedly, Whitmire was publicly grumpy, as in a 2011 interview on “Ellen” where he said he “was often mistaken for a green fire hydrant.”  Also, Howard Stern (!!) has weighed in, saying that “the odds of you making a money-generating career” as a puppeteer are “next to nothing” and “do not lose that job under any circumstances.”

(5) MINDS FOR MISCHIEF. Nicole Hill has picked out “6 Robots Too Smart for Their Own Good” at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Robots, man. You can’t live without them (unless you vacuum the old-fashioned way), and quite often, you can’t live with them—at least, not without massive, horrifying, oft-accidental repercussions.

That’s not to say all robots are bad. Quite the opposite. Sometimes, though, their massive brains work in ways that aren’t quite healthy—for them or for us.

Clever 4-1 (Prey of the Gods, by Nicky Drayden)

In a novel chock full of dueling goddesses, genetic engineering, and general mayhem, Clever 4-1 manages to stand above the fray while contributing directly to it. You see, Clever 4-1 awakens both at a troubling time and in the nick of time: the personal assistant robot gains sentience just as his master has awakened his own inner divinity. Just as an ancient demigoddess unleashes a plan to regain her former glory by bathing South Africa in blood. Just as all hell is breaking loose, Clever 4-1 starts out to find others of his kind who have gained sentience, to marshal their forces, to assist and do good. As with any nascent movement, you’ll have your leadership coups, and Clever 4-1 has to balance politicking with near-constant danger on his shoulders. Well, not shoulders.

(6) THE OLD SWITCHEROO. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn found there was a completely obvious reason for Louisville Fandom Fest to announce a last-minute change of venue.

You see, this announcement came in the wake of the Kentucky Expo Center telling the world the con wouldn’t be held there first. After attendees were concerned that the con wasn’t listed on the Kentucky Expo Center’s event calendar, they reached out to the venue asking what was up. The venue’s management responded on Twitter that not only was the convention not being held there this year, but that the con never had a contract for the space.

Although, as JJ points out:

What the Kentucky Expo Center actually said was:

We do not have a contract for FandomFest at our facility.

This leaves open the possibility that there was a contract at some point, but that it was cancelled, due to contractual breaches such as, I dunno, maybe something like non-payment of advance reservation fees.

(7) STREET VIEW. Google Maps adds the International Space Station.

The International Space Station has become the first “off planet” addition to Google Maps’ Street View facility.

Astronauts helped capture 360-degree panoramas of the insides of the ISS modules, as well as views down to the Earth below.

Some of the photography features pop-up text descriptions, marking the first time such annotations have appeared on the Maps platform.

(8) HENDERSON OBIT. LASFS member Lee Henderson, who sometimes handled the gaming room at Loscon, died July 17. He was working on an auto when the car jack became dislodged and the car collapsed on top of him.

He is survived by his wife and two children. His mother, Rita, has started a GoFundMe hoping to raise $10,000 for funeral expenses.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Space Exploration Day

The origins of Space Exploration Day date back to man first walking on the moon, with the day itself first observed to commemorate this historic event during events held in the early 1970s. It is about more than just the moon landings though and is intended to pay homage to the incredible achievements of the past and fire up enthusiasm for the benefits of space exploration efforts to come in the future.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 20, 1969 — Neil Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the Moon. He also placed the U.S. flag there.
  • July 20, 2017 – John King Tarpinian munched his commemorative Moon Pie, as he does each year on this date.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 20, 1949 — Guy H. Lillian III

(12) LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARILY EXPENSIVE TOYS. Nerdist doesn’t want you to miss its exclusive news story – about Mattel’s Justice League Barbies.

For almost sixty years now, Barbie has been a Jane of all trades, having had careers as a school teacher, a pop star, a super model, and even an astronaut that one time. Name an occupation, and Barbie has probably had her turn at the wheel at some point. And now, Barbie is getting her chance to be one of the iconic superheroes of the Justice League!

(13) FORMERLY THE FUTURE. Yesterland is a site about retired Disneyland attractions, like the Flying Saucer ride.

If you’ve never looked at this ride closely, you might think it’s just a colossal air hockey table with a fleet of ride vehicles that can scoot above it. But it’s much more complicated—and much more ingenious—than that.

The Flying Saucers ride uses a big, blue oval, bisected into two halves, each with thousands of round air valves, Each half has a movable arm. There are four fleets of 16 saucers. Unlike other “batch load’ attractions, this one loads efficiently.

As the ride cycle begins, a giant arm slowly swings away from the loading area, releasing your group of saucers. Air valves directly below your saucer lift it up.

Tilt your body to make your saucer scoot across ride surface. Wherever you go, your saucer actuates air valves as you pass over them. All the lift comes from below. Your saucer has no moving parts—or, more accurately, you’re the only moving part of your vehicle. You can go remarkably fast. ….

(14) GAME OF THRONES ALUMS FIND THE LOST CAUSE. The New York Times sums up reaction to David Benioff’s and D. B. Weiss’ next project, Confederate.

It was supposed to be HBO’s next big thing: a high-concept drama from the creators of “Game of Thrones,” set in an alternate America where the Southern states seceded from the Union and slavery continued into the present day.

Instead, the new series, called “Confederate,” has provoked a passionate outcry from potential viewers who are calling out HBO and the creators over how they will handle this volatile mixture of race, politics and history. Several historians and cultural critics are also skeptical about whether the “Game of Thrones” team, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, are the right people to address the subject and if it should be attempted at all.

“Confederate” arrives at a time when many minorities feel their civil rights are under siege, and when issues surrounding the Civil War and its legacy — the propriety of displaying Confederate flags; the relocations and razings of Confederate monuments — continue to confront Americans on an almost daily basis.

To its critics, the show’s promise to depict slavery as it might be practiced in modern times is perhaps the most worrisome element of “Confederate.” They say that slavery, a grave and longstanding scar on the national psyche, especially for black Americans, should not be trivialized for the sake of a fantasy TV series.

(15) FOZ MEADOWS ON ‘CONFEDERATE’. Here are the first few tweets in Foz Meadows’ commentary.

(16) JEMISIN ON HISTORY. N.K. Jemisin tweeted her skepticism about the supposed gradual withering away of slavery that’s postulated in both real and alternate history. Well-placed skepticism, I’d say – this is a country that needed almost a full century after the Civil War to pass the Voting Rights Act. The same attitudes would have conserved slavery. Follow this tweet to find her complete statement.

(17) DEL ARROZ ON JEMISIN. Jemisin says at her Twitter account “I use robust autoblockers due to harassment.” No wonder. Jon Del Arroz spent a day this week rounding up people to harass Jemisin after supposedly discovering he was one of those blocked.

(18) THANK YOU VOTERS OF THE INTERNET. The heir of Boaty McBoatface is a Swedish train says The Guardian“Trainy McTrainface: Swedish railway keeps Boaty’s legacy alive”.

It’s happened again. A public vote to name four trains running between the Swedish cities of Stockholm and Gothenburg has resulted in one of the four being called Trainy McTrainface in an echo of the name chosen by the British public for the new polar research vessel.

Trainy McTrainface received 49% of the votes in a poll, jointly run by Swedish rail company MTR Express and Swedish newspaper Metro.

That placed it well ahead the other three options: Hakan, Miriam and Poseidon.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, lurkertype, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, John DeChancie and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 5/23/17 Pixel, Pixel, Scroll, Scroll, Know What I Mean? Say No More

(1) ZENO’S MARTIAN THEOREM. You can’t get to Mars before you…“The first trip to Mars will come with the longest layover ever”

Nobody likes layovers, but the first astronauts heading to Mars will get to experience one of the longest such experiences of their lives. They’ll have to spend one year going around the moon, which will probably be a very annoying wait for the first people heading to the red planet. It’s not all bad news, however, as they won’t just wait for time to pass by. NASA actually wants to make sure that the round trip to Mars, a 1,000-day endeavor, is carefully planned during the time.

NASA’s Greg Williams, revealed that the agency’s Phase 2 of its plan to send humans to Mars includes a one-year layover in orbit around the moon in the late 2020s, Space reports..

Williams, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for policy and plans at the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, revealed that NASA wants to build a “deep-space gateway” around the moon that would serve as the testing ground for the first Mars missions.

(2) ZUBRIN’S MARTIAN KERFUFFLE. Joel Achenbach’s article for the Washington Post, “Mars Society founder blasts NASA for ‘worst plan yet’”, reports on a space exploration conference sponsored by The Atlantic in which Robert Zubrin said NASA’s plan to build a space station orbiting the moon is a giant waste of money because no one before this suggested Mars expeditions needed to have a midway stop before.

Until recently, NASA branded virtually everything it was doing as part of a “Journey to Mars,”and Mars remains the horizon goal. The destination was even mandated in a recent congressional authorization act for NASA that was signed by President Trump.

In the meantime, NASA has more modest plans — and these plans don’t please Zubrin, for one.

NASA wants to put a “spaceport”in orbit around the moon. It would be a habitat for astronauts on long-duration missions. You could call it a “space station”if you wanted, though it wouldn’t be nearly as big as the one that’s circling the Earth right now. NASA refers to it as the Deep Space Gateway and describes it as “a crew tended spaceport in lunar orbit.

…After the presentations, Zubrin gave The Post some additional thoughts on what he perceives as NASA’s failure to come up with a bold and coherent plan. He said that in the long history of NASA studies on the future of human spaceflight — and there is a long list of these lengthy reports — no one ever suggested that an orbital lunar outpost was a necessary part of an exploration program. Part of the problem, as he sees it, is the agency’s recent announcement that the first, uncrewed flight of the Space Launch System rocket will be delayed again, to 2019: “The tragedy of SLS is not that it is being delayed. The tragedy is that it doesn’t matter that it’s being delayed, because there’s nothing for it to launch anyway.”

(3) BACK IN ACTION. After an 8-year break, Elizabeth Moon relaunched her Vatta’s War series in April with Cold Welcome.

(4) EMERGENCY BACKUP. “Justice League director Zack Snyder steps down due to family tragedy”. Joss Whedon comes off the bench to finish the picture.

Zack Snyder, who has acted as DC Comics’ directorial visionary on a number of its most ambitious film projects, is stepping down from Justice League due to a family tragedy. The news, announced in an interview published today by The Hollywood Reporter, means Snyder will be handing the reins over to Avengers director and writer Joss Whedon, who will ferry the project through its remaining post-production stage before its November 17th release later this year.

‘Justice League’ is now in Joss Whedon’s hands

Snyder, whose daughter committed suicide in March at the age of 20, admits that he originally misjudged how the loss would affect his work. “In my mind, I thought it was a cathartic thing to go back to work, to just bury myself and see if that was way through it,”Snyder told The Hollywood Reporter. “The demands of this job are pretty intense. It is all consuming. And in the last two months I’ve come to the realization…I’ve decided to take a step back from the movie to be with my family, be with my kids, who really need me. They are all having a hard time. I’m having a hard time.”

(5) DANCING IN THE SAND. A ballet adaptation of Dune will be performed August 4-6 by the Vaught Contemporary Ballet at the Baltimore Theater Project (45 West Preston Street, Baltimore, MD 21201):

Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel, Dune, is widely recognized as the best selling science fiction novel of all time. It’s exploration of politics, religion, sexism and ecology set against an interstellar backdrop allows the reader a reflection on the human condition in the modern era. Herbert’s Fremen of Arrakis provide a counterpoint to a culture consumed by avarice — the desire for melange.

Join us as we depict Herbert’s illustrative words through the art of ballet. Movement will be on full display in its varied definitions as we follow Paul Atreides in his rise to power as both royalty and the prophet of the Fremen.

Keep track of the event on Facebook.

(6) GO GO GO. I don’t pronounce it, I just report it. “Google’s AlphaGo AI defeats world Go number one Ke Jie”The Verge has the story.

Google’s AI AlphaGo has done it again: it’s defeated Ke Jie, the world’s number one Go player, in the first game of a three-part match. AlphaGo shot to prominence a little over a year ago after beating Korean legend Lee Se-dol 4-1 in one of the most potent demonstrations of the power of artificial intelligence to date. And its defeat of Ke shows that it was only getting started.

“I think everyone recognizes that Ke Jie is the strongest human player,”9th-dan professional and commentator Michael Redmond said before the match. And despite defeat, Ke’s strategy suggested that the 19-year-old Chinese prodigy has actually learned from AlphaGo’s often unorthodox approach. “This is Master’s move,”said Redmond of one of Ke’s earliest plays, referring to the pseudonym that AlphaGo used for a recent series of online matches in which it racked up a 60-game winning streak.

(7) COMIC SECTION. A commenter seeing yesterday’s news item about someone in a T-rex costume scaring horses in Charleston aptly contrasted the episode with the comic “Menace” at Hyperbole and a Half.

(8) THE PHENOMENON. Carl Slaughter has an update about prolific YA author Bella Forrest:

 

When we last checked in on Bella Forrest, she had just launched her dystopian Gender Game series and was continuing her longrunning Shade of Vampire series. In June 2017, she will wrap her Gender Game series. In March 2017, she launched her magic academy Spellshadow Manor series. Shade of Vampire is at #45. With all 3 series, she cranks out a book per month. Meanwhile, the first Gender Game novel has received 1500 Amazon reviews, over 90% of them 4 and 5 star.

(9) PUSHME PULLYU. “Oh, your tractor beam is so itty bitty.” “Oh, your imagination is so itty bitty.” —“Physicists sketch plans for a matter-wave tractor beam”.

A team of physicists have outlined a means of making tractor beams to push and pull objects at a distance using “matter waves” those strange analogues of light waves that underlie quantum mechanics.

Tractor beams, staple tools of science fiction for remotely pulling in space shuttles and yanking away incoming space debris, have been edging into reality in recent years.

The first real-life tractor beams were made of photons. It is easy to imagine a stream of photons carrying a particle of matter along like a river picking up a leaf and carrying it downstream. What is astounding about tractor beams is that by skilfully manipulating the transfer of momentum from the beam, physicists do not have to rely only on pushing particles, but can make light pull particles of matter, like a tractor. Beams made of sound waves have also been demonstrated in the lab.

(10) LEST PAYDAY FAIL. At Tor.com, Jo Walton asks “Why is Genre Fiction Obsessed with Belisarius?”.

I once wrote jokingly here that there are only three plots, and they are Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, and Belisarius, because those are the ones everyone keeps on reusing.

There is a conference in Uppsala in Sweden the weekend before the Helsinki Worldcon called “Reception Histories of the Future“which is about the use of Byzantium in science fiction. The moment I heard of it, I immediately started thinking about our obsessive reuse of the story of Belisarius. (I’m going. Lots of other writers are going. If you’re heading to Helsinki, it’s on your way, and you should come too!)

It’s strange that science fiction and fantasy are obsessed with retelling the story of Belisarius, when the mainstream world isn’t particularly interested. Robert Graves wrote a historical novel about him in 1938, Count Belisarius, and there’s Gillian Bradshaw’s The Bearkeeper’s Daughter (1987), but not much else. Whereas in genre, we’ve had the story of Belisarius retold by Guy Gavriel Kay, David Drake (twice) and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and used by L. Sprague de Camp, John M. Ford, Jerry Pournelle, Robert Silverberg, and Isaac Asimov. So what is it about this bit of history that makes everyone from Asimov to Yarbro use it? And how is it that the only place you’re likely to have come across it is SF?…

(11) ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST. Trae Dorn at Nerd & Tie says a Chicago convention is pivoting to serve a different market and adopting a new name — “Kollision Con Calling it Quits, Organizers Launching GEM Expo Chicago Gaming Con in Its Place”.

After six conventions, Chicago based anime convention Kollision Con€˜s organizers have decided to call it quits. They made the announcement on the con’s official Facebook page late last week, citing venue issues and an overcrowded Anime con scene as their primary reasons for ending the show.

The organizers aren’t giving up on running conventions though, as in that same post they announced the GEM Expo Chicago, a gaming convention that will occupy the dates originally reserved for Kollision Con 2017.

(12) FLYING OFF THE SHELVES. Last year toy sales received a boost and the reason is clear — “Year-round ‘Star Wars’ toy sales boost entertainment merchandise revenue” reports the LA Times.

Year-round “Star Wars” hype is giving a boost to Hollywood’s merchandising business.

Licensed goods based on movies and other entertainment properties generated $118 billion in global retail sales last year, up 5% from 2015, according to a new report.

Toys, apparel and other wares tied to movies such as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” helped propel the increase, the Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Assn. said Monday.

The year benefited from two “Star Wars” installments as bookends: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which was released in December 2015, and “Rogue One,” which came out a year later, said Marty Brochstein, senior vice president of the association.

“In 2016, you had a full year of sales of ‘Star Wars’ merchandise,” Brochstein said. “Obviously that helped on the entertainment side.”

(13) DON’T STIFF THE STAFF. Are you a bad tipper? You’re a science fiction fan, of course you’re a bad tipper. Okay, maybe not you personally. But ever been out to dinner with a group of fans? It can be excruciating! Here’s one commentator’s advice about “How to Tip in All Situations”.

Tipping has been known to divide families, ruin relationships, and even start wars. Not really. But tipping is an issue that brings out all sorts of passionate opinions.

Who should you tip? How much should you tip? When is it appropriate to leave a bad tip? And is the whole idea of tipping flawed in the first place?

If you’ve ever asked those questions, then we’re here to provide a little clarity on the all-important subject of tipping etiquette.

When in doubt about whether or not to leave a tip, always err on the side of generosity. Remember, your tip says more about you than the person you’re leaving a tip for.

So let’s take a look at some of the people you should tip. Then we’ll give you a general idea of how much to tip them.

(14) FEELINGS OF INSECURITY. Yahoo! News lists major cyber attacks over the past 10 years.

A huge range of organisations and companies around the world have been affected by the WannaCry ransomware cyberattack, described by the EU’s law enforcement agency as “unprecedented”.

From “cyberwar” to “hacktivism”, here are some of the major cyberattacks over the past 10 years: …

…In November 2014, Sony Pictures Entertainment became the target of the biggest cyberattack in US corporate history, linked to its North Korea satire “The Interview”.
The hackers — a group calling itself Guardians of Peace — released a trove of embarrassing emails, film scripts and other internal communications, including information about salaries and employee health records…

(15) STATE OF THE ART. Carrie Vaughn’s Amaryllis and Other Stories was named winner of the Colorado Book Award in the Genre Fiction category on May 21. [Via Locus Online.] (See, proper attribution can be done. It hardly hurts at all.)

 

(16) WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY. The latest explanation for bee colony collapse — “How beekeepers help deadly parasites thrive” in Cosmos.

Deadly mite infestations considered a leading cause of the continuing collapse of the global commercial honey-bee industry are being abetted by modern bee-keeping practices, new research suggests.

The research, published in the journal Environmental Entomology, points the finger at the practices of siting commercial hives too close to each other, and of thwarting the bees’ swarming behavior, for creating conditions ideal for the rapid growth and spread of the parasitic Varroa mite.

The mite (Varroa destructor) is a text-book example of zoonosis — a predatory or parasitic species that has “spilled over” from its traditional host into a new species which, not being adapted to it, suffers catastrophic consequences.

Varroa’s natural host in the Asian honey-bee (Apis cerana). Co-evolution has resulted in the two species being able to live in balance.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Kreiri, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 5/18/17 For I Am A Bear Of Very Little Files, And Long Scrolls Bother Me

(1) NO NEED TO SAY MORE. Michael Swanwick recounts what he labels the shortest and most succinct discussion about the horror genre in the history of the speculative fiction community:

MICHAEL SWANWICK: “I don’t like horror because it scares me.”

ELLEN DATLOW: “That’s why I love it.”

(2) A FINE ROMANCE. Welcome to 21st-century dating. “This Man Is Suing His Date For Texting During ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy'”.

Texting during a movie is rude.

Brandon Vezmar from Texas is taking a stance on the issue by suing his Bumble date after she used her phone during a movie. The Austin American-Statesman reported that Vezmar filed a small court claim for $17.31, the price of a 3D showing of “Guardians of the Galaxy 2.”

“It was kind of a first date from hell,” he told the local newspaper.

The 36-year-old said that his date was on her phone “at least 10-20 times in 15 minutes to read and send text messages.” According to Vezmar, he told her she should text outside, so she left and took the car in which they both arrived.

Ouch.

Vezmar claimed he tried to text and call his date before taking the matter to court. He tweeted a screenshot once his date sent a statement to KVUE anonymously to say that, while she felt bad that his feelings were hurt, she chose to leave because he made her feel unsafe.

“His behavior made me extremely uncomfortable, and I felt I needed to remove myself from the situation for my own safety,” the statement read. “He has escalated the situation far past what any mentally healthy person would.”

Director James Gunn, who might have stayed safely out of this, unfortunately decided to show his ass, as if texting in the theater was the entire issue.

(3) TRAILER PARK. Aziz H. Poonawalla goes into deep analysis about the Star Trek: Discovery trailer.

But really, hairless Klingons? With a H.R. Geiger armor aesthetic?

It’s not like we haven’t seen the 60’s aesthetic embraced by modern television. Deep Space Nine went there and did it brilliantly — they arguably made the TOS USS Enterprise look even more gorgeous than any of her successors, and they didn’t change anything about her at all — just lighting and texture. Enterprise itself managed to authentically portray a pre-Kirk technology chic that had a more industrial feel, which was utterly believable as the ancestor to the softened look of the Kirk era. I do not accept that the Kelvinization of the Prime timeline was necessary to modernize the production. After all, the aesthetic of The Expanse and Dark Matter is thoroughly modern but doesn’t have the same Kelvin fascination with chrome and glass. Not that I want any Trek to go the grunge-fi look, but I do at least want Trek to honor it’s own identity. This feels like a rejection — purely a Han shot first decision.

(4) MESSAGE TO THE PAST. If the term “calendrical rot” hadn’t been invented for a different purpose, and we had a way to send it into the past, it would find the perfect Petri dish in this incredibly technical discussion of alternate timelines in Star Trek held on Reddit in 2015.

(5) SASQUATCH APPROPRIATED. In the Walrus, Robert Jago introduces his op-ed about Canada’s latest cultural appropriation controversy with an sff illustration: “On Cultural Appropriation, Canadians Are Hypocrites”.

Harry and the Hendersons is a 1987 fantasy movie about a Seattle family’s encounter with a friendly bigfoot (Harry) and their efforts to protect him from harm before releasing him in the mountains of the Pacific northwest. It’s a forgettable film, but it has undoubtedly been seen and heard in more Indigenous homes than has the story of Sasq’ets–the original sasquatch.

Sasq’ets, whose name was one of the few Halkomelem words to make their way into English, was one of a host of other legendary “wild people” living in the forests on the Pacific coast. For hundreds of generations, Salish and Kwakwaka’wakw children were raised on the stories of the wild people and taught to listen for their characteristic hu-hu-hu calls. Sasq’ets, along with Dzunuka, were said to capture wayward children, take them away from their families, and eat them. With their supernatural healing powers, the wild ones were thought to be invincible; only once was a wild person taken by angry villagers and burned alive. But to the mortals’ horror, the ashes began buzzing in a tiny chorus of little hu-hu-hu’s, and each particle sought out human flesh. This was the origin myth of mosquitos.

Sasq’ets taught our children to stay out of the forests at night. It connected us to our part of the world, in the same way that Hansel and Gretel or Little Red Riding Hood connected Europeans to their ancient forests–and possibly for the same purposes. Our stories are works of genius and beauty, and vital to our relationship with the land. By no means do I want to restrict our legends to Indigenous people. I want you to know about Sasq’ets, and the psychedelically odd stories of the spirit of the South Winds, and all of the legends of our country.

But when the story is taken from us and told by outsiders without our involvement, its identity can be lost, and Sasq’ets becomes Bigfoot. The cultural dominance of non-Natives means that a B-movie like Harry and the Hendersons can have more influence over Salish children than the legend that inspired it.

(6) WESTLAKE’S BOND. Daniel Dern says be on the lookout for copies of Donald Westlake’s James Bond novel(ization) released last fall. “I’ve already just put a reserve-request in to my library.”

Forever And A Death

In the mid-1990s, prolific mystery and crime thriller author Donald E. Westlake submitted two treatments for the 18th Bond film (which would ultimately become ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’)….Never one to waste a good story, Westlake turned his treatments into a novel.

Dern adds:

Fewer Filers than normally expected might be familiar with Westlake, since he wrote near-zero scifi, by choice. OTOH, he wrote lots of great mystery/thriller/crime and other novels and stories, ranging from humorous, e.g. his John Dortmunder stories, and his tabloid-reporter ones, to serious, notably the ones written as Richard Stark.

See the Donald Westlake site.

My favorite Westlake book: Up Your Banners

(7) MACE WINDU GETS HIS OWN BOOK. The Jedi have always been the galaxy’s peacekeepers — but with the Clone Wars on the horizon, all that is about to change.

This August, writer Matt Owens (Elektra) will team with artist Denys Cowan (Nighthawk, Captain America/Black Panther: Flags of Our Fathers) to unveil the exciting story of one of the Jedi’s greatest warriors in STAR WARS: JEDI OF THE REPUBLIC — MACE WINDU #1!

One of the most accomplished and storied members of the Jedi High Council, his wisdom and combat prowess are legendary. Now, in this new story, readers will get to see Mace Windu lead his Jedi into battle, and face the ultimate test of leadership!

(8) PETER OLSON OBIT. SF Site News reports that Boston area fan Peter Olson (1949-2017) died April 28. He was active in NESFA and participated in the Ig Nobel Awards.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born May 18 — R. Laurraine Tutihasi
  • Born May 18 — Diane Duane

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 18, 1897 — Frank Capra

(11) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian says Ziggy has a point.

(12) WHIP OUT YOUR ROLL OF HUNDREDS. Nicole Pelletier on Good Morning America has a piece called “Classic Disney animation art featuring Snow White, Pinocchio headed to auction” about how a tranche of Disney cels from the 1940s is headed for auction in an event sponsored by Bonhams and Turner Classic Movies.

Bonhams Fine Art Auctioneers and Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will present the movie memorabilia auction, “An Important Animation Art Collection, The Property of a Gentleman” in New York City on June 5.

The sale will feature more than 290 original Disney animation drawings, storyboards, posters, concept art and celluloids, according to Bonhams’ press release.

(13) WARNING LABEL. While I was browsing Bertie MacAvoy’s Amazon page, I especially enjoyed this self-introduction:

Robert A.MacAvoy

If you are young to the S.F. field and don’t know who I am, I will prep you by warning that I often kill off my heroes, sometimes at the most unexpected times. But never in a depressing manner. I’ve never wanted to depress my readers. My outlook is essentially comic.

(14) DRYING OFF. This may be the first good news I’ve ever heard about a convention associated with the Ozarks. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn reports how some fans are overcoming a natural disaster: “West Plains, MO Based Oz-Con Plans Game Day Event to Make Up For Canceled Day of Con”.

I think any reasonable person would forgive the con, considering this was an extreme, unpredictable situation where homes and lives were literally lost. What’s the Sunday of a con compared to that? To the extreme credit of the Oz-Con organizers though, they still want to try to make it right.

Yesterday Oz-Con organizers announced an event they’re calling “Flood Con.” It’s a free game day the con is hosting from 9:00am until 10:00pm on June 17th at the Missouri State University-West Plains Student Rec Center. Admission is free, but they’ll also be accepting cash donations and canned food items to help with ongoing flood relief in the area. There will be video games, tabletop games, and fellow geeks to have a grand old time with.

Admittedly, I haven’t heard much about sff in the Ozarks — just that famous story about the time Larry Niven arrived expecting to be GoH of Ozarkon only to find out the con had been cancelled. (Fans involve swear they tried to get a message to him, but in those pre-internet days it failed to reach him on the road.)

(15) FAME IN PIXELS. Who needs a monument when you can be an answer on Jeopardy!

(16) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY TO TV. Get Out writer-director Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot and Warner Bros Television are teaming on Lovecraft Country, a one-hour drama that has been given a straight-to-series order by HBO.

There is connective tissue to Peele’s breakout genre feature Get Out, which brought a Black Lives Matter theme to the horror genre. Lovecraft Country, the 2016 novel from Matt Ruff, focuses on 25-year-old Atticus Black. After his father goes missing, Black joins up with his friend Letitia and his Uncle George to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America to find him. This begins a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and the malevolent spirits that could be ripped from a Lovecraft paperback. The goal is an anthological horror series that reclaims genre storytelling from the African-American perspective.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, JJ, Dawn Incognito, Daniel Dern, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ky.]

Space City Conrunner Unmasked in Stealth Comeback Attempt

Unnamed individuals behind an entity calling itself “Fandom Galaxy” took over the Space City Comic Con Facebook page yesterday with the intention of capitalizing on SCCC’s social media profile while unilaterally giving their next Houston show a fresh start.

There is no re-brand. No rename. No “new look”. Fandom Galaxy saw potential and seized the opportunity. We saw fans and vendors who were now without a show they had supported and enjoyed over 6 events. We did not acquire this to repeat the past, but to begin something new – and after all, the social media was strong and already in place! They took their name off, we acquired the social media (NOT the name), and made it all our own, as a starting point to get to know the fandom….

Those familiar with Space City Comic Con’s checkered past – everything from being sued for trademark infringement about the name, to nationally-publicized controversies over payments owed celebrities (like the Sons of Anarchy cast), vendors, and others at the 2016 event – began posting skeptical comments. Why would a new event risk association with SCCC’s baggage instead of starting with a clean slate? And others aware that Facebook pages cannot be sold speculated about a continued connection to the old regime.

As Kat wrote in File 770’s comments yesterday:

They are engaging a bit with fans in the comments, but are thus far ignoring all comments asking for more information about THEM. More and more folks are asking who they are, like actual names of people and/or corporate entity name, where they’re from ‘out of state,’ etc., and are being met with silence.

One fan had the presence of mind to research the Texas Secretary of State records for the “Application for Registration of an Entity Name” filed by Fandom Galaxy where – lo and behold! – the person signing on behalf of this newly-formed Delaware corporation was George Comits, the financially-troubled head of last year’s Space City Comic Con.

Trae Dorn of Nerd & Tie succeeded in getting Fandom Galaxy to comment on its connection to Comits:

We did hear back from Fandom Galaxy’s management. When pushed about George Comits’s involvement, they responded:

He’s an employee. He had to be, because Facebook pages cannot be sold. Also, he has congestive heart failure and if there was an event, we wanted to know the vendors, network etc from his advice. He’s admitted his mistakes to us, but he’s also told us the real version of events – which include the theft of the entire cash office receipts by [REDACTED]

Meanwhile, Fandom Galaxy today deleted a large number of comments from its Facebook page, including the many displaying copies of Comits’ registration form.

Pixel Scroll 4/5/17 We Were Somewhere Around Barstow When The Pixels Began To Take Hold

(1) YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GONNA GET. I appreciate the irony in the first line of Germain Lussier’s io9 post “The New Dune Movie Is Being Written By the Man Who Wrote Forrest Gump”:

But we don’t think that should worry you.

According to Lussier, Eric Roth, who won an Oscar for his adapted screenplay for Forrest Gump, has been hired to adapt the Frank Herbert novel Dune for director Denis Villeneuve.

(2) NEW AFRICAN SF AWARD. Since the Hugo announcement date was only known a few days ahead of time, the African Speculative Future Society may not have known that April 4 was a less-than-optimum date to announce the inaugural 2017 Nommos shortlist.

The categories are:

The Ilube Award for Best Speculative Fiction Novel by an African  – 1000 USD prize,

The Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Novella by an African – 500 USD

The Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Short Story by an African – 500 USD

The Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Graphic Novel by Africans – 1000 USD to be shared.

The award website says —

We have welcoming and inclusive definition of who is an African that includes children of an African parent. Read more about eligibility here.

The award has been funded for four years, by Mr Tom Ilube.

“Science fiction is important because it looks ahead to African futures.  Fantasy and fiction based on traditional tales are important because they link us back to our forebears.  Both are important for African development.  I wanted to make sure that the explosion of African science fiction gets the recognition it deserves.”  Mr Tom Ilube.

The first award ceremony will be held at Aké Festival in Nigeria, November 2017. After that they hope to alternate the location of the awards ceremony between West and East Africa.

Here are links to the Short List and the rest of the nominees in all 4 categories:

(3) OLD OPERA HAS NEW ACTS. Cora Buhlert couldn’t find what she liked 20 years ago, but there’s enough good stuff now for her to be writing about “The Space Opera Resurgence”.

I didn’t like any of those books. But I was an SF fan and a space opera fan and this was all the space opera there was, with very few exceptions (mostly published by Baen Books, which are notoriously difficult to find in Europe). So I kept trying the highly regarded New Space Opera of the early 2000s, until I found myself standing in the local Thalia store, the latest offering of New British Space Opera subgenre in hand (it was this one – I remember the cover very clearly), when I suddenly dropped the book to the floor and exclaimed, “Why do I keep buying this shit? I don’t even like these books.” So I turned my back on New British Space Opera and on science fiction altogether (I did put the book back on the shelf first) and read other genres for a few years, until I came back in a roundabout way via urban fantasy and science fiction romance and found a whole universe of SFF books that weren’t on the radar of the official genre critics at all.

Now, some ten to fifteen years later, there is a lot more space opera on the shelves than back in the early 2000s. It’s also a lot more diverse the than just pale Banks clones. Nor is it just written by white, overwhelmingly British dudes – indeed, some of the best space opera of today is written by women and writers of colour. And even some of those authors whose novels almost put me off science fiction altogether some ten years ago are writing much more enjoyable works these days. …

(4) MAIL CALL. It’s not easy to get letters from the year 1962 unless you’re The Traveler. Galactic Journey today unveiled – “[April 5, 1962] Pen Pals (Letter Column #1)”. The first missive comes from University of Arizona student Vicki Lucas….

Of course, to pay the tuition and room & board, I also take in ironing, do tutoring, deliver newspapers, etc., and they helped me get a student loan. It’s been a real eye-opener to go to school here. Now I know what “scholarship” means. At the University of Arizona, from which I transferred last year, I did have some great learning experiences, but nothing as rich as this.

Not that I didn’t have some great experiences at UA, meeting an English Professor who is an avante-garde composer (Barney Childs), and since I worked in the Fine Arts College I went to most concerts & saw the harpsichord played for the first time (double keyboard!) & heard Barney’s music played. (I admit, I have a crush on him — see the enclosed photo.) And then I’ve been to San Francisco & seen jazz trumpeter Miles Davis & a lot of other stuff….

(5) CAMESTROS FELAPTON EXPLAINS IT ALL TO YOU. Thank goodness somebody can. In  “Hugo 2017: How to vote for best series” he looks at 8 different approaches to dealing with the vastness of the Hugo nominated series. Sure, 8 is also a lot — just be grateful he didn’t try to match the number of ways Cyrano described his nose.

The issue is that Best Series is not unlike Best Editor Long Form – the normal way of voting in the Hugo Awards doesn’t work (read the relevant stuff and vote). However, unlike Best Editor Long, best series at least has accessible information and works. The problem is that it is way too much volume of stuff to evaluate if you haven’t already been following the series in question. So here are some approaches to choose from.

(6) CHOP CHOP. Shouldn’t Wolverine co-creator Len Wein be getting a cut of this?

A medical clinic in the Philippines is using an unusual mascot to advertise its circumcision service: claw-bearing X-Men super hero Wolverine.

The advertisement for Dionisio M. Cornel Memorial Medical Center in Antipolo features an image of Hugh Jackman as the adamantium-clawed character he played in the X-Men and Wolverine films next to text promoting the clinic’s circumcision service.

 

Si Logan ang bahala sa'yo! Haha #1stLocation #Unit2 #langitlupa #kapamilya

A post shared by Peeej 🇵🇭 (@peeej05) on

(7) RED ALERT. At Nerd & Tie Trae Dorn wants to know “What the Heck is Even Happening With AnachroCon Right Now?”

The Atlanta, GA based convention AnachroCon might be more aptly named “AnarchoCon” these days. Earlier this week the convention’s Chair and legal counsel Sarah Avraham stepped down in what sounds like an extremely complicated situation.

In a public Facebook post Avraham detailed the reasons for her departure, and while you should really read that post in its entirety, I’ll do my best to summarize it. It starts when Avraham was approached by William and Cindy MacLeod in the spring of 2016 to take over the event in an attempt to rehabilitate the convention’s image and get it back on track financially.

Because man, this con needed help….

(8) ON HOLD. Nerd & Tie is also reporting that “One Month After Cancellation, Multiple Parties Still Waiting For Refunds From Lebanon MEGA Con:.

This last weekend would have been the second annual Lebanon MEGA Con, if the Missouri based convention hadn’t announced its cancellation just one month before. While organizer Will Peden did say that everyone owed money would be paid, some parties are waiting for those promises to be fulfilled.

(9) TODAY IN FUTURE HISTORY

  • April 5, 2063 — The day the Vulcans landed. According to Memory-Alpha:

First Contact Day was a holiday celebrated to honor both the warp 1 flight of the Phoenix and first open contact between Humans and Vulcans on April 5, 2063 in Bozeman, Montana

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born April 5, 1917 — Robert Bloch

I recognize Bob Tucker on the left. Who is the woman on the right? The photo is from a 1959 party in Chicago.

(11) DELIBERATIONS CONTINUE. The Shadow Clarke Jury carries on a discussion of the books they’d like to see considered for the Clarke award.

It does not seem surprising that reading Don DeLillo’s novel Zero K, in which an estranged son accompanies his tycoon father to the threshold of his journey into eternity, brought those memories of Cold Lazarus especially rushing back. Straddling the millennium, both [Dennis] Potter’s final teleplays and DeLillo’s sixteenth novel have a leached-out, end-times quality that puts human mortality centre stage and refuses to look away. That Potter’s scripts – almost a quarter-century old now and written while SF was still very much a pariah literature – leap naked into the science fictional abyss, while DeLillo’s novel appears to negate, to brush aside the very notion of science fiction altogether, seems just one further irony.

Imagine a table laden with all the food you can think of; things you like and things you don’t like; cuisines from all around the world; the fresh and the fast; three thousand calorie freak-shakes next to organic kale salads; dessert piled on top of nachos sitting on a bed of pears. The table is groaning, under the physical and the metaphorical weight of the feast.  It’s wonderful and disconcerting and a bit horrifying and deliciously tempting at the same time.  This is the gastronomic equivalent of Cathrynne M. Valente’s Radiance, a virtuoso outpouring of language, style, trope and intertext fit to overwhelm any appetite. It took close to a week for me to sit down and start this review after I finished the book; I needed that long to digest it.  If you like your novels spare or clean this one probably isn’t for you.

His claim directly addresses the central conceit of the novel that the networks and routes by which African-American slaves escaped to the free states and the North exists as an actual underground railroad with stations and steam locomotives on rails. However, his mistake lies in imagining that the workings of the railroad can be reduced to information as legible as a map and a timetable. Earlier in the novel, when Cora visits this particular ‘ghost tunnel’ for the first time with the railroad operative, Royal, she reflects that the necessary secret of the railroad is not a bad type of secret but rather an intimate part of the self that is central to personal identity: ‘It would die in the sharing.’ The enigma of the railroad, as Royal observes, is that ‘it goes everywhere, to places we know and those we don’t’. The challenge it presents is not to classify it as a system of knowledge but to figure out both how it connects the different selves who use it and where it might lead to.

The Man Who Spoke Snakish is easily the least traditionally science fictional of my shortlist selections: not only does it feature no rockets, but it’s set firmly in the past (and is more about pasts than futures) and it includes talking snakes and something very much like a dragon. In the sense that science fiction is defined by the presence or absence of received ideas and familiar imagery—that is, using the least science fictional definition of science fiction—it would not be considered science fiction.

(12) A LITTLE SMACK. Fusion says justice has been served – “Black Panther and Ms. Marvel Nominated for Hugo Awards Days After Marvel VP Blamed Them for Sales Slump”.

On Tuesday morning, the finalists for the 2017 Hugo Awards (the Oscars of sci-fi and fantasy writing) were announced by the World Science Fiction. Unsurprisingly, collected volumes of Marvel’s critically acclaimed Black Panther and Ms. Marvel series were both nominated for Best Graphic Story.

These nominations come just days after Marvel’s Vice President of Sales, David Gabriel, went out of his way to blame Marvel’s lagging sales on comics—like Black Panther and Ms. Marvel—starring people of color and women. Suffice it to say that the optics of this whole thing don’t reflect well on the publisher, but the Hugo nominations send a telling message to Marvel about just how the public actually feels about its “diverse books.” 

(13) REACTION POST. Abigail Nussbaum catalogs all the emotions she’s feeling after seeing the 2017 Hugo shortlist, beginning with happiness about her Best Fan Writer nomination, and continuing down the spectrum til she reaches —

Frustration, because the puppies’ ongoing presence on the ballot, even under extremely reduced circumstances, means that it continues to be impossible to talk about the nominees as their own thing, rather than a reaction to an attempted fascist takeover.  There’s a lot to praise about this year’s ballot, including the continued shift towards a more diverse slate of nominees, but in the short fiction categories in particular, the Hugo has once again thrown up a fairly middle-of-the-road selection.  Most of these stories aren’t bad, but quite a few of them are meh, and it would be nice to once again be able to have a proper discussion of that.  Instead, we’re all still in bunker mode, still cheering the fact that publishable fiction was nominated for the genre’s most prestigious award, which increasingly seems like a low bar to clear.

(14) PUPPY ANTENNAE ACTIVATED. Cora Buhlert sets things in context and delivers a thorough set of first impressions about the Hugo ballot.

The best novel category looks excellent. We have the sequels to two previous Hugo winners in the category, Death’s End by Liu Cixin and The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin respectively. We have the long awaited and critically acclaimed debut novels by two accomplished short fiction writers, All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders and Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee respectively. We have a highly acclaimed debut novel with a very unique voice, Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer, as well as the sort of sequel to 2014’s highly acclaimed debut novel with a unique voice, A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers. A Closed and Common Orbit, Too Like the Lightning and Ninefox Gambit were also on my ballot, and I’m looking forward to reading the remaining three. And those who worry that science fiction is about to die out and be swamped by fantasy, which will inevitably lead to the collapse of the West or something, will be pleased that four of the six nominees in this category are unabashedly science fiction. The Obelisk Gate is an edge case, while the only clear fantasy novel is All the Birds in the Sky and even that one has a mad scientist character. Diversity count: 4 women, 2 men, 3 writers of colour, at least 3 LGBT writers, 1 international writer in translation, 0 puppies.

(15) TUESDAY’S HUGO NEWS. H.P. at Every Day Should Be Tuesday features a picture of a dog in his more Puppy-sympathetic coverage of the 2017 Hugo Awards finalists.

… I am very gratified to see Cixin Liu back where he belongs Death’s End a finalist for Best Novel.  I loved it, as you can probably tell by my overenthusiastic review.  I thought The Dark Forest was robbed, and I voted for The Three-Body Problem as the Best Novel two years ago.  I would have loved to have seen the entire series go up for an award, but oh well.  It perhaps says something about the incestual nature of the Hugo voting that the two books in the series edited by the popular Ken Liu were finalists, and the one that wasn’t didn’t even finish in the top 15 nominations….

The Rageaholic was a finalist last year, but I only saw my first few videos within the last month or so.   And for the most part, I have no interest in watching his videos on video games or movies or politics.  If only for the main reason I don’t watch many YouTube videos or listen to many podcasts.  I ain’t got time for that stuff.  But Razorfist has an encyclopedic knowledge of comics and Elric of Melnibone.  And he’s got a great shtick.  Usually in black-and-white, decked out in mirrored sunglasses and a leather jacket, long hair, wall covered in posters behind him.  Complete with some metal thrown-in to start and finish things off, and a rapid-fire, eloquent, profane delivery.

H.P. also identifies himself as a contributor to the Castalia House blog.

(16) HUGO BY OSMOSIS. The nominations have inspired J.D. Brink’s latest theory.

And John Picacio has been nominated for best professional artist.  I’m pretty darn sure (though not 100%, mind you) that he and I shared a day at Dragon’s Liar comics in San Antonio signing stuff on Free Comic Book Day a few years ago.  We sat right next to each other.

So by sheer proximity, I should be getting a Hugo award, if not this year, than next year

(17) IF I WERE A RICH MAN. Who knew I wouldn’t have to wait til I made a million dollars before seeing my name in Forbes? They published the Hugo nominees.

(18) MOST IMPORTANT CATEGORY. Jude Terror’s account of the nominations for Bleeding Cool is intentionally myopic: “Marvel And Image Split Hugo Awards Comics Category, Shut Out Other Publishers”.

Worldcon has released the finalists for the 2017 Hugo Awards, the science fiction and fantasy awards named after Amazing Stories founder Hugo Gernsback. We’re pretty sure that’s the book Spider-Man first appeared in. In true snooty comics website fashion, we’ll only talk about the things that relate to comic books and ignore everything else.

First, in the most important category, Best Graphic Story (that’s fancy-speak for comics), nominees included Marvel’s Black Panther, Ms. Marvel, and The Vision, two of the most successful and acclaimed books the likes of which Marvel “has heard” people don’t want anymore, and one written by a guy who “rode off into the sunset.” Monstress, Paper Girls, and Saga from Image took the other three slots, shutting out all other publishers. Shockingly, no prominent editors from the superhero comics community earned nominations in any of the editorial categories, though Sana Takeda, a familiar name to comics readers, did move the needle with a spot on Best Professional Artist list.

Dan Slott failed to secure a nomination in Best Fan Writer despite writing some of the most acclaimed Doctor Who fan fiction around in Silver Surfer, though Doctor Who’s Christmas Special, The Return of Doctor Mysterio, was nominated under the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) category, which is a fancy way of saying “TV show.” Yes, we know we’re breaking out “only talk about comics” rule, but what could be more “comics website” than that?! Sir Robert Liefeld’s greatest creation, Deadpool, earned a nomination in the Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) category, which is a fancy way of saying “movie.”

(19) VIRTUAL VISON. “Astronomers just turned on a planet-size telescope to take a picture of a black hole”Vox has the story. (No, not that Vox.)

Every image you’ve seen of a black hole is an illustration. A giant “virtual” telescope may change that….

We’ve never seen a direct image of a black hole. But if an audacious experiment called the Event Horizon Telescope is successful, we’ll see one for the first time.

Why we’ve never seen an image of a black hole

The biggest problem with trying to detect a black hole is that even the supermassive ones in the center of galaxies are relatively tiny.

“The largest one in the sky [is] the black hole in the center of the Milky Way,” Dimitrios Psaltis, an astrophysicist at the University of Arizona, said in 2015. “And taking a picture of it would be equivalent to taking a picture of a DVD on the surface of the moon

(20) THAT REVOLUTIONARY NEW IDEA FOR SELLING BOOKS. The Verge has another Amazon bookstore on its radar screen – it will be the third in New York.

Amazon has confirmed plans to open a brick-and-mortar bookstore across from the Empire State Building, bringing its total number of announced but as-of-yet unopened stores in New York City up to three.

Publisher’s Weekly reports that a sign reading “Amazon Books Coming Soon” has gone up in the 34th Street storefront, adding that an Amazon rep said the store will open this summer. The store has also been added to the Amazon Books website. This would presumably make it Amazon’s second store in New York. A location in Columbus Circle’s Time Warner Center (just off of Central Park) was announced in January, with the intent to open this spring.

Another, in Hudson Yards, the still-under-construction $20 billion shopping and luxury residential complex on Manhattan’s far west side, was widely reported last summer — with plans to launch alongside the rest of the development’s new stores in 2018 or 2019.

(21) CUTTING EDGE. Here’s the King Arthur: Legend of the Sword final trailer. The film will be out May 12.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 3/20/17 The Pixelated Empire. Filed, Scrolled And Godstalked Since The Fifth Era

(1) WHAT DID YOU NOMINATE? Arifel compiled the votes reported in “What Did You Nominate for the 2017 Hugos?” and posted the top-level results in comments:

If you want to see the complete tallies with everything that got even one mention, go to this Google drive document.

(2) SECOND STAGE FANSMEN. Rocket Stack Rank is hosting its own compilation of File 770 commenters’ votes in the short fiction categories, which has the advantage of linking to the works online, as well as to RSR’s reviews.

(3) ONE LUMP OR TWO? Congratulations are in order and everyone is invited to “Celebrate 10 Years of the Black Gate Blog!”

There was precisely one comment on that post, a pingback from something called “The Scrolls of Lankhmar.” 8,355 blog posts and 10 years later, the Black Gate blog is stronger than ever, with a staff of 45 volunteers, and two Hugo nominations and a World Fantasy Award under our belt.

Just one thing surprises me – that they are counting Hugo nominations they turned down — withdrawing after the first (though too late to be removed from the ballot), and declining the second. They even got an Alfie for turning down the second.

I admit I was stumped to discover the Science Fiction Awards Database, maintained by Mark R. Kelly of Locus Online, also credits them with two nominations.

I think the final arbiter ought to be the Sasquan and MidAmeriCon II reports of Hugo voting statistics. Black Gate appears in the 2015 report with 489 votes received and the notation “withdrawn after deadline.” In the 2016 report Black Gate is not reported receiving any votes because it was not on the ballot, and in the section counting nominating votes, it is shown above the cutoff but with its name lined out.

So my personal opinion is – Black Gate has one Hugo nomination because it has only appeared on the final ballot one time.

That answer would also square with the way the Science Fiction Awards Database skips over 1996 in its list of File 770’s nominations. I withdrew because I was chair of the Worldcon that year, but the final report shows I still got enough votes to have been a finalist. Since File 770 wasn’t on the ballot, it should not be counted as a 1996 finalist, and isn’t.

(4) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. WIRED writes about “A Stunning Video of Mars That Took Three Months To Stitch Together – By Hand”.

If you should one day find yourself in a spacecraft circling Mars, don’t count on a good view. The Red Planet’s dusty atmosphere will probably obscure any window-seat vistas of its deep valleys and soaring mesas. “The best way to see the planet’s surface would be to take a digital image and enhance it on your computer,” says planetary geologist Alfred McEwen, principal investigator on NASA’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment. He would know: In the past 12 years, the powerful HiRISE camera has snapped 50,000 spectacular, high-resolution stereo images of the Martian terrain from the planet’s orbit, creating anaglyphs that anyone can view in 3D using special glasses. The highly detailed stereograms depict the planet’s surface in remarkable detail—but 3D glasses aren’t always handy, and still images can only convey so much about Mars’ varied topography.

 

(5) THE WEED OF CRIME. Two of quarterback Tom Brady’s stolen Super Bowl-worn jerseys were recovered from a credentialed member of the international media. A couple of weeks before, Brady had posted a parody suspects list on his Facebook page that includes Gollum and other genre characters.

(6) BEST-OF COMPILATION. At Bookscrolling, “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2016 (A Year-End List Aggregation)”

“What are the best Science Fiction & Fantasy books of 2016?” We aggregated 32 year-end lists and ranked the 254 unique titles by how many times they appeared in an attempt to answer that very question!

There are thousands of year-end lists released every year and, like we do in our weekly Best Book articles, we wanted to see which books appear on them the most. We used 32 Science Fiction & Fantasy book lists and found 254 unique titles. The top 42 books, all appearing on 3 or more lists, are below with images, summaries, and links for learning more or purchasing. The remaining books, along with the articles we used, can be found at the bottom of the page.

(7) OUT OF STEAM. “Denver Based Steampunk Convention Anomaly Con Callls It Quits” – a former guest, Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn, is sorry to see it go.

After seven successful events, Denver, CO based steampunk convention Anomaly Con has called it quits. Organizer Kronda Siebert made a lengthy post to both the con’s official website and Facebook page explaining their reasoning. For the most part it sounds like losing ten of their twelve directors over the years (and not having replacements) was a large part of the decision,

(8) BRESLIN OBIT. Columnist Jimmy Breslin died March 19. While reading about him I followed a link to his 1963 piece “Digging JFK grave was his honor”. It was deeply moving and I thought you might like to see it, too.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

World Storytelling Day

Once upon a time, a long time ago (well, actually, back in 1991 in Sweden), a Storytelling Day was held. The ethos behind this event caught on around the globe, and now we celebrate World Storytelling Day on an international level. The aim of World Storytelling Day is to celebrate the art of oral storytelling, with as many people as possible around the world telling and listening to stories in their own languages on the same day. People taking part can link up with others around the globe who are also contributing – making it a truly international festival that creates new friends and promotes positive understanding of cultures around the world! So, go on, sit down with your friends and loved ones and join the United Nations of storytellers on this day of celebrating cultural folklore and the art of oral storytelling! Why not spin a yarn, and pass down your stories to the next generation?

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY FOWL

  • Born March 20 Sesame Street’s Big Bird  

(11) COOKING CORNER. She deserves her own show on the Food Channel.

(12) THE PEOPLE’S CLARKE. More input from the Shadow Clarke Jury.

As readers of the finished work we, of course, don’t begin with a blank page. We start with the first chapter, a half-page that introduces its text in the broadest of strokes: “I grew up in a world of music, in a time of war,” says Priest’s narrator. “I became an inadvertent traveller in time.” In this short chapter, Priest effectively summarises the entire novel. But this only serves to emphasise that being provided with the scaffolding is not the same as being able to walk around the whole edifice. This reflects a key aspect of The Gradual the extent to which an extraordinary experience can be captured in a linear narrative.

If science fiction doesn’t make us look differently at our world, then science fiction doesn’t have a point.

Let me unpack that. Science fiction makes changes in the world, that is one of the key things that makes it science fiction. But that change must connect in some way with how we understand the here and now. An alien in a story makes it science fiction, yes, and the author may have taken great pains to specify the greenness of the skin or the exact length of the tentacles, but unless the intrusion of the alien reflects upon what it is to be human it is little more than wallpaper. When H.G. Wells wrote about Martians invading Surrey it wasn’t a novel about Martians, but about being human in the face of that invasion, about people used to being colonisers suddenly finding themselves colonised. The way the novel looks out into the world is why The War of the Worlds is still read today.

One of the ways in which genre reviewing differs from mainstream reviewing is that genre reviewers have traditionally been willing to go after books that get their facts wrong and fail to achieve verisimilitude. It is easy to understand why mainstream reviewing tends to frown on this type of approach as questioning an author’s use of style directs discussion back towards the book while questioning an author’s grasp of how space elevators are supposed to work only ever results in people slapping their slide-rules down on the table.

I mention this as while I think there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in Joanna Kavenna’s fourth novel, my enjoyment of the book was hampered by my initial urge to disagree with every word of it. In fact, the only thing that kept me from throwing the book across the room was a growing suspicion that I did not so much disagree with A Field Guide to Reality as agree with it far too much.

The story begins in thirteenth-century Oxford where the great and the good of medieval philosophy dine on bread and discuss the nature of reality. Rather than portraying this fledgling academic community as a place of potential and great innovation, Kavenna presents it as dark, dank, and treacherous. Outside the colleges, monks get stabbed for the contents of their pockets. Inside the colleges, monks get burned for the contents of their heads.

(13) REGAL SWIMMER. BBC’s video of this 18th-century masterpiece is a public post on Facebook

The Silver Swan, made by James Cox in London in about 1773, is a life-size clockwork automaton that imitates the behaviour of a real swan. The mechanism is clockwork, of great quality. It plays music, moves its head, preens, and eats a fish.

The Wikipedia entry explains further:

The swan, which is life size, is a clockwork driven device that includes a music box. The swan sits in a “stream” that is made of glass rods and is surrounded by silver leaves. Small silver fish can be seen “swimming” in the stream.

When the clockwork is wound the music box plays and the glass rods rotate giving the illusion of flowing water. The swan turns its head from side to side and also preens itself. After a few moments the swan notices the swimming fish and bends down to catch and eat one. The swan’s head then returns to the upright position and the performance, which has lasted about 32 seconds, is over

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mark-kitteh, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]