Pixel Scroll 4/15/18 Up Forty Or Better On Your Right Scroll, Corp’r’l, Or The Pixels’ll Degauss Your Files!

(1) NUMBERS RAMPED UP: WHY? Jason Sanford contends “Questionable sales surround Writers of the Future anthologies”. He analyzes Writers of the Future anthology sales over the years as reported by Bookscan.

Note: This market analysis is available free to the public. If you like my original reporting on genre issues, consider backing my Patreon.

There are numerous warnings being raised in the SF/F genre about connections between the Writers of the Future contest and Scientology. While these connections have been explored before, new concerns are being raised — such as by former WotF winner Keffy Kehrli and others like Vajra Chandrasekera — that the contest gives “legitimacy” with regards to Scientology and its abusive practices. For more, see this post from The Underground Bunker.

These concerns should absolutely be listened to. The science fiction genre spawned Scientology and for far too long the SF/F genre has maintained a “look the other way” attitude to Scientology and its many documented abuses. The genre must now take the lead in ending this relationship and support.

And Jason Kimble comments:

(2) LAWYER DAGGET, SHE DRAWS HIM LIKE A GUN. “Stan Lee Sues Former Business Manager For Fraud, Elder Abuse — Including One Scheme To Sell His Blood”Deadline has the story:

Comic book industry legend Stan Lee is suing a former business manager for fraud and elder abuse in a suit that alleges such egregious claims of abuse as extracting and selling vials of the Marvel Comics icon’s blood as “collectibles” in Las Vegas.

Lee, whom many consider the godfather of the modern-day superhero, was grieving the death of his wife of 70 years, Joan B. Lee, in late 2017 when he became the target of “unscrupulous businessmen, sycophants and opportunists” who sought to take advantage of his despondency.

A suit filed today in Los Angeles Superior Court alleges Jerardo Olivarez is once such opportunist. A former business associate of Lee’s daughter, the suit claims Olivarez took control of Lee’s professional and financial affairs — and began enriching himself through various schemes and bogus enterprises….

…In one particularly ghoulish money-making scheme, Olivarez instructed a nurse to extract many containers of blood from Lee, which Hands of Respect later sold in Las Vegas for thousands of dollars, the suit contends.

“There are shops in Las Vegas selling Stan Lee’s blood,” said a family friend, Keya Morgan. “They’re stamping his blood inside the Black Panther comic books and they sell them for $500 each.”

(3) GENRE CATS. The New York Public Library is “Feline Good with Our Favorite Literary Cats”. Here’s an excerpt of their roundup:

Fantastical Felines

Catwings, in which Ursula LeGuin writes about the adventures of cats who were born with wings. I have no idea why this isn’t an animated series with plush dolls and t-shirts and fan cons with cosplay cat ears and wings. —Judd Karlman, Pelham Bay

What’s better than a cat who’s a celestial being with purple eyes and sassy attitude? My favorite cat is Faithful in In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce and then reappears again as Pounce in the Beka Cooper series Terrier, also by Pierce. —Chantalle Uzan, Francis Martin

The Aeronaut’s Windlass, Jim Butcher’s second foray into high fantasy, features a race of hyper-intelligent felines who serve the lords of the Spires. Or are they the lords? —Joshua Soule, Spuyten Duyvil

Ursula K. LeGuin’s No Time to Spare: Thinking about What Matters is a collection of the prolific author’s essays on a variety of topics like ageing, writing, our socio-political landscape, and culture. Any cat lover, though, will probably find themselves most delighted by the vivid, playful, and soulful stories of her cat Pard that are sprinkled throughout. —Beth Dukes, Enrichment Zones

My Cat Yugoslavia. Dating can be hard, especially when your boyfriend is a sexy, bigoted, and capricious cat who doesn’t get along with your free-range snake. In Pajtim Statovci’s novel he weaves in this fanciful story line while addressing immigration, Balkin weddings, and isolation. —Richard Dowe, Aguilar…

(4) HORROR GENTRIFIED? The Washington Post’s April Wolfe notes, in “With ‘A Quiet Place’ and ‘Get Out,’ horror is having a mainstream moment. Will that alienate fans?”, some films are now called “elevated horror,” but that people should realize that a lot of very good films (including “horror-adjacent” The Shape of Water, happen to be horror films, and that horror has given a lot of important actors and directors their start.

Adding “elevated” to a movie’s description seems an attempt to distance the film from its lineage, signaling to contemporary filmgoers that a horror film isn’t a “slasher,” the type of blood-and-gore fare that proliferated from the 1980s through the aughts. But even that subgenre offered more than cheap thrills: It offered roles to then-unknown actors such as Tom Hanks, Jennifer Aniston, Leonardo DiCaprio and Charlize Theron, because horror films will make money at the box office whether or not there’s a star attached. It’s one of the few places actors can get their start.

Slashers also trained the next generation of coveted effects artists. For instance, Jim Doyle, who broke ground with chill-inducing effects on “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Prom Night II: Hello Mary Lou,” pioneered what would become the industry-standard fog machine, which earned him a “technical achievement” Academy Award — where horror is most often honored.

(5) REPLAYING THE CLASSICS. Mike Allen says he believes in “Honoring National Poetry Month the lazy way” – by which he means it’s time for him to remind readers about his verse and media collection:

Operating under the theory that it’s become old enough to be new again, I present thirteen poems from my 2008 collection The Journey to Kailash, with illustrations, detailed explanatory notes and even audio of me reciting each poem (you’ll have to activate Flash plug-ins to listen to those). And below the links to the main show I’ve included a bonus, my concrete poem “Phase Shift” from which this blog gets its name. Originally published in Tales of the Unanticipated in 1997, “Phase Shift” appears in my collection Hungry Constellations, but this stunning visualization by artist Bob Freeman appears nowhere else but here.

Poems from The Journey to Kailash:

I. “Defacing the Moon” (note about)
II. “Requited” (note about)
III. “A Curtain of Stars” (note about)
IV. “Bacchanal” (note about)
V. “Midnight Rendezvous, Boston” (note about)
VI. “Manifest Density” (note about)
VII. “Petals” (note about)
VIII. “Giving Back to the Muse” (note about)
IX. “Disaster at the BrainBank™ ATM” (note about)
X. “No One” (note about)
XI. “Sisyphus Walks” (note about)
XII. “The Strip Search” (note about)
XIII. “The Thirteenth Hell” (note about)

(6) CONCATENATION POSTED. The summer season edition of sff news aggregator Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation is out today.

[The new issue] has sections on film, books and publishing, TV, as well as the season’s forthcoming books listing of new titles (also fantasy and non-fiction) from the major imprints in the British Isles, many of which will soon be available elsewhere.  And then there will be the news page’s science as well as science and SF interface section.  Additionally, there isanother in our series by scientists are also SF authors as to their science heroes born in the 20th century (so by-passing Darwin, Einstein etc). We also have a review of this year’s British Eastercon, plus our annual 12-month top box-office SF/F film chart, and annual whimsey from Gaia.  All this and some standalone SF/F/H and science & non-fiction book reviews.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

Cath sends three clippings from the internet of comics:

I’m one of today’s 10,000 – I had no idea that the concept had a name, or had originated from the LessWrong community. I approve of Bob’s response, not to mention XKCD’s variation (reference in the mouseover).

(7) LEFT HIGH AND DRY. SNL’s Shape of Water parody:

After retiring from acting, The Shape of Water’s Fish Man (Kyle Mooney) watches his friend (John Mulaney) succeed in his place.

 

(8) FUTURE HITS. The best is yet to come. Or is already here if you’re from the future.

(9) FAKE TROPE EXPOSED! They have a point. (The thread starts here.)

(10) GROUNDBREAKER. KPFA brings you “Bookwaves – February 15, 2018: Trina Robbins”:

Trina Robbins, in conversation with Richard Wolinsky.

A legend in comic book circles, an artist at a time when hardly any women drew comics, Trina Robbins discusses her latest book, a memoir, “Last Girl Standing,” which deals with her life as an artist, author, and clothing designer. She was the first woman to edit a comic book created by women, “It Ain’t Me Babe,” the first woman to draw “Wonder Woman,” and the single most influential historian chronicling the women who created comics and cartoons.

In this interview, she also talks about her other recent books including a history of women drawing comics during World War II, a graphic novel version of a short story collection originally written by her father in Yiddish, and a graphic novel based on a work by British author Sax Rohmer. Trina Robbins was clothing designer for Los Angeles rock and roll bands in the 1960s and for the Warhol factory in New York. She also was a regular contributor to “Wimmens Comix,” a series of comic books created by women from the 1970s through 1990s.

An extended version of this interview can be found as a Radio Wolinsky podcast

(11) LE GUIN QUOTES. Conext and great quotes together in “Subjectifying the Universe: Ursula K. Le Guin on Science and Poetry as Complementary Modes of Comprehending and Tending to the Natural World” at Brain Pickings.

…Marine biologist Rachel Carson, who catalyzed the modern environmental movement and pioneered a new aesthetic of poetic writing about science, once asserted that “there is in us a deeply seated response to the natural universe, which is part of our humanity.” More than half a century after Carson, Le Guin considers how poetry and science both humble us to that elemental aspect of our humanity and train us to be better stewards of the natural world to which we belong:

To use the world well, to be able to stop wasting it and our time in it, we need to relearn our being in it.

Skill in living, awareness of belonging to the world, delight in being part of the world, always tends to involve knowing our kinship as animals with animals. Darwin first gave that knowledge a scientific basis. And now, both poets and scientists are extending the rational aspect of our sense of relationship to creatures without nervous systems and to non-living beings — our fellowship as creatures with other creatures, things with other things.

(12) PROSPECT. The Ars Technica profile makes me want to see this film: “Sci-fi stunner Prospect values small stories in a galaxy far, far away”.

Make no mistake, South by Southwest conference film darling Prospect takes place within a giant, intergalactic reality. Even lower- to middle-class adventurers like our heroes, Cee (Sophie Thatcher) and Damon (Jay Duplass), have a spacecraft and mostly functional equipment. And when this just-getting-by father and daughter duo takes an unexpected crash/detour that happens to land on a resource-rich planet littered with aurelacs (a valuable stone found inside some slimy pod that must be handled with care or “kaboom!”), Cee recognizes this as an opportunity.

“$10,000?” she retorts after dad ballparks the first gem recovered. “That’s enough to cover the loan… and the pod lease?”

Their ship has been built with Kubrick-like attention for analog detail, with cheap-ish CRT displays punctuated by handwritten notes. The planet they’re now on feels dream-like, a lush swampy Dagobah with a near-constant twinkle in the atmosphere. Nothing could happen from here and Prospect would still be worth watching for an hour-and-change of ambience and aesthetic alone. But as its initial 10 minutes show, this gorgeous-looking sci-fi flick has big subjects to match its style: intergalactic travel regulations, tiers of consumer goods, interplanetary trade standards.

…”We maybe were a bit naive in the conception of this, putting the entire film on the shoulders of a teenage girl,” Chris Caldwell, Prospect co-writer/director, tells Ars. “But she killed it, and in many cases she saved our ass.”

“In another movie, you might get 12 takes, but we’re in helmets that are hard to breathe in—you get four takes,” adds Zeek Earl, co-writer/director and cinematographer. “She nailed it.”

Movie’s Facebook page: Prospect.

Also, the teaser trailer:

(13) IN THE RUNNING FOR NUMBER ONE. Andrew Liptak guarantees “Space Opera is the funniest science fiction novel I’ve read since Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” at The Verge.

Many authors attempt comedy in science fiction, but few pull it off. Alongside very funny works like John Scalzi’s Redshirts and Terry Pratchett’s entire Discworld series, the pinnacle of hilarious science fiction is Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, about the misadventures of Arthur Dent as he travels across the universe. But Catherynne M. Valente’s new novel Space Opera might give it a run for its money, because it’s one of the funniest books that I’ve ever read.

Space Opera’s title is a pun. Valente said recently that the story came out of a dare on Twitter after a conversation about Eurovision, and the novel lovingly skewers long-standing science fiction tropes, driving home humor with every single sentence. In Space Opera, humanity is living blissfully unaware of alien life, until extraterrestrials appear and invite them into an advanced intergalactic civilization. But there’s a catch: humans have to prove their sentience in a talent show called the Megagalactic Grand Prix, instituted after a galaxy-wide conflict known as The Sentience Wars. If Earth comes in dead last, humanity will be wiped out, and the biosphere reseeded so the planet can try again later.

(14) THE MARCH TO ECBATAN. Rich Horton concludes yet another Hugo finalist is good-not-great: “Hugo Ballot Review: Provenance, by Ann Leckie”.

…This new novel is set in the same universe, at roughly the same time, but outside the Radch. It is engaging and fun but frankly seems just a little thin next to the Ancillary series. There’s no crime in that – I think it’s a good thing when an author reaches the point where her readers are glad to read each of her books, and are satisfied by them – but also admit that they are not each equally as good (or progressively better). Solid and enjoyable work is nothing to sneeze at. That said, if I’m saying that, it probably means I don’t consider Provenance one of the best five or six SF novels of the year – and that’s true. But it doesn’t disgrace the award by its nomination either – and, indeed, it fits with all the nominees I’ve read so far, in being enjoyable and entertaining but not exceptional…

(15) COVERING THE MARKETPLACE. Pulp specialty website Pulps1st sells disks with galleries of old pulp covers, and other merchandise featuring cover images.

…No other company produces anything like the Pulp Image Library with thousands of pulp cover images on one disk!  No other company produces the different Pulp Image Cover T-Shirts, Mugs, Mousepads, iPad covers, or Postal Stamps.

(16) THE COOLNESS. Wish you could do this? Thread starts here:

(17) WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN. Jerry Beck introduces “Brad Bird’s Lost 1980 Pencil Test for ‘The Spirit’”.

Producer Steven Paul Leiva has posted a rare artifact to You Tube – a 1980 pencil test “trailer” for a proposed animated feature based on Will Eisner’s classic comic strip hero, The Spirit.

In 1980, Leiva became involved with Brad Bird and Gary Kurtz (producer of the first two Star Wars movies) in trying to get into production an animated feature based on The Spirit”. In a 2008 piece in the L.A. Times (read it here) Leiva spoke of a pencil test “trailer” for the proposed film, made by Bird along with several classmates from Cal Arts, most of whom were working at Disney at the time.

 

(18) HISTORY UNBOUND. Via The Verge, this news about Mercury 13:

Mercury 13

Netflix has a new documentary coming up looking at the 13 female pilots who went through spaceflight tests around the same time the first men were planning to go up to space. While the 13 pilots never made it to space, their stories speak to the difficult and overlooked work women contributed to the US space program. It comes out April 20th.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Danny Sichel, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Allen, Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Mark Hepworth, and Michael Toman. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chip Hitchcock.]

Pixel Scroll 4/8/18 Do Not Go Pixel Out Of That Good Hive, Buzz, Buzz, Against The Flying Of The Five

(1) WALK / DON’T WALK. This not-quite-infinite series of variations on Le Guin’s famous story: “Once upon a time there was a city called Omelas, where everyone lived good and happy and fulfilling lives” is a hoot!

“…the best predictions of our scientists suggest that there will be a slight average decrease in various hard-to-measure kinds of happiness, which nevertheless in total adds up to more suffering than this child experiences.”
And Outis said to the elder, “I will have no part in this evil thing.” And he took the child and bathed him and cared for his wounds. And the average happiness increased in some ways and decreased in others, and the net effect might have been negative, but the best results on the matter had p > 0.05, so the scientists of Omelas could not rule out the null hypothesis.

(2) SUE ‘EM, DANNO. Dorothy Grant gives the rundown on a scam to inflate payments from Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program in “Book stuffing, KU reads, and Amazon’s Doing Something” at Mad Genius Club.

While I would hope that everyone who reads this is interested in being a real author making up real stories that are your own, writing them down, and publishing them, we are all aware that there are scammers out there, and people who care more about the money, than acting ethically or the readers. We also know that Amazon has a habit of taking a wide swath of potential wrongdoers, then filtering out and restoring the innocent.

Yep, they’re doing it again.

  1. David Gaughran gave us the first heads-up on twitter that Amazon has filed suit against an author for book-stuffing.

Forbes article here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamrowe1/2018/04/07/amazon-has-filed-suit-to-stop-the-six-figure-book-stuffing-kindle-scam/#2af7a11b7344

Book stuffing is when authors take all their works and stuff them into the back of every other book to artificially inflate their page count. Some authors even stuff in newsletters: the goal is to inflate the page count as much as possible, and thus the payout on KU page reads.

(3) ATOMIC PILES OF LAUGHS. Scott Tobias profiles “artificial intelligence-assisted comedy” in “Can algorithms be funny? Veterans of Clickhole and the New Yorker team up to find out” at the Washington Post. What they do is put giant amounts of text into a computer and produce “interactive text collages.”  For example, they put all the Harry Potter novels into a computer and came up with a pastiche that said, “Ron’s ron shirt was just as bad as Ron itself.”  A lot of the weird pastiches they produce are sf.

Onstage at the Hideout, a small Chicago music club, two performers read passages from Civil War love letters. “Oh darling wife of the war,” one begins, “I shall always be a husband to you and the children and all the folks in our neighborhood.” He goes on to complain that “the boys from the army have taken my breakfast.” The news is worse back home. “Our horses are sadly on fire,” his wife laments. But they’re ever reunited, she promises, “I would kiss you as many times as there are stitches in the children.”

Rest assured, every word from these letters is authentic. It’s just that the words have been scrambled up by a computer algorithm and pieced back together, one by one, by writers with an ear for the absurd.

(4) WESTERCON BID NEWS. Seattle (SeaTac, using the same hotel as Norwescon) has formally filed what Kevin Standlee says is likely to be the only bid for the 2020 Westercon.

(5) REINCARNANIMATION. MovieWeb has learned that “Lucasfilm Has Digital Clones of Every Star Wars Actor”.

The digitally recreated Grand Moff Tarkin and Young Princess Leia in Rogue One were unsettling and creepy for some Star Wars fans. But that technology is almost two years old and only improving at an expedient rate. The next time an actor gets digitally inserted into a Star Wars movie, it’s gong to be a lot harder to tell the difference. And before long, the line will be completely burred. Soon, Lucasfilm and Disney could have the potential to create a whole Star Wars movie featuring an authentic young Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, which practical effects built around them. And this will be entirely possible, even for Carrie Fisher, as Lucasfilm has confirmed they have digital clones of all Star Wars actors both young and old.

Incredible, right? As of now, these digital clones are being used sparingly and are often mixed with live-action footage of the actor to create scenes that would be impossible to shoot or are deemed far to expensive to do practically. We’ve seen this with Tarkin and Leia in Rogue One, and we’ve also seen it in The Last Jedi, even if you didn’t know that’s what you were looking at.

(6) MCCANN OBIT. Chuck McCann died April 8 reports Mark Evanier. Much of his career revolved around children’s television, however, the Wikipedia recalls that he was in vogue as a TV/movie actor back in the Seventies —

In the 1970s, McCann’s life and career shifted west, and he relocated to Los Angeles. He made frequent guest appearances on network television shows including Little House on the Prairie, Bonanza, Columbo, The Rockford Files and The Bob Newhart Show. He appeared in the 1973 made-for-TV movie The Girl Most Likely to… and was a regular on Norman Lear’s All That Glitters.

In addition, he co-starred with Bob Denver in CBS’s Saturday-morning sitcom Far Out Space Nuts, which he co-created. The 1970s also brought him fame in a long-running series of commercials for Right Guard antiperspirant: he was the enthusiastic neighbor with the catch phrase “Hi, guy!” who appeared on the other side of a shared medicine cabinet, opposite actor Bill Fiore.

McCann impersonated Oliver Hardy in commercials for various products (teaming with Jim MacGeorge as Stan Laurel),

John King Tarpinian sent along a photo of McCann meeting Ray Bradbury.

Ray Bradbury and Chuck McCann

If you want to see his act, watch “Chuck McCann & Dick Van Dyke as Laurel & Hardy & The Honeymooners.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born April 8, 1974 – Nnedi Okorafor

(8) CANDLES ON THE CAKE. Steven H Silver celebrates Okorafor’s natal day at Black Gate in “Birthday Reviews: Nnedi Okorafor’s ‘Bakasi Man’”.

Nnedi Okorafor was born on April 8, 1974.

Okorafor won her first Carl Brandon Award for the novel The Shadow Speaker and she won the Carl Brandon Award and the World Fantasy Award for her novel Who Fears Death, which was also nominated for the Nebula Award. She won the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award for her novella Binti in 2016. Her fiction has also been nominated for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, the British Science Fiction Association Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the Andre Norton Award. Okorafor has collaborated with Alan Dean Foster and Wanuri Kahiu on short diction. She co-edited the anthology Without a Map with Mary Anne Mohanraj.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Daniel Dern is right – Curtis knows how to throw a party.

(10) POISONING PIXELS IN THE SCROLL. Nature celebrates an April birthday boy: “Tom Lehrer at 90: a life of scientific satire”.

Much of Lehrer’s oeuvre — some 50 songs (or 37, by his own ruthless reckoning) composed over nearly three decades — played with tensions at the nexus of science and society. His biggest hit, That Was The Year That Was, covered a gamut of them. This 1965 album gathered together songs Lehrer had written for That Was The Week That Was, the US satirical television show spawned by the BBC original. ‘Who’s Next?’ exposes the dangers of nuclear proliferation. ‘Pollution’ highlights environmental crises building at the time, such as undrinkable water and unbreathable air.

The rousing ballad ‘Wernher von Braun’ undermines the former Nazi — who designed the V-2 ballistic missile in the Second World War and later became a key engineer in the US Apollo space programme. In Lehrer’s view, it was acceptable for NASA to hire von Braun, but making him into an American hero was grotesque. “‘Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?’/‘That’s not my department,’ says Wernher von Braun” — lines that still resonate in today’s big-tech ethical jungle.

(11) FINDING THE RETRO NOMINEES. Nicholas Whyte, with an assist from Carla, presents “How to get the 1943 Retro Hugo finalists” —

(12) CAST OF FAVORITES. And for your collecting pleasure, here is where you can get a copy of the Fifth Annual Science Fiction Film Awards (1978).

The 5th Annual (first televised) Science Fiction Film Awards. Hosted by Karen Black & William Shatner (who performs an absolutely jaw dropping rendition of Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s “Rocket Man”) Starring Buzz Aldrin, Richard Benjamin, Ray Bradbury, Mark Hamill, Charlton Heston, Wolfman Jack, Quincy Jones, Piper Laurie, Christopher Lee, Paula Prentiss, Ralph the Robot, Lord Darth Vader, and many more. Included are the original broadcast TV commercials from 1978!

(13) GOOD IS NOT BAD. Rich Horton is working his way through the Hugo nominees. Here are his comments on Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty.

…But even before the award nominations, Six Wakes was getting some good notice, and I bought it and read it after the Nebula nod. And, you know what – I liked it. It’s a good fun fast-moving read. I’m glad I read it.

But – well – you saw that coming, right? There had to be a but. The thing is, there are lots of enjoyable novels published any year, and I’m glad when I encounter those. But I can enjoy a novel and not think it worthy of an award. And, really, that’s the case with Six Wakes. It’s fun, it’s pretty darn pure hard SF (with the understanding that “hard SF” absolutely does NOT mean “SF that gets all the science right”), it’s exciting. But, it also has some annoying logic holes, and it doesn’t really engage with the central (and very worthwhile) moral issues it raises as rigorously as I wish it had, and the prose is just OK….

(14) ARISTOTLE. Nitsuh Abebe explores the question “Why Have We Soured on the ‘Devil’s Advocate’?” at the New York Times Magazine.

…That name dates back to the 17th century, when the Roman Catholic Church created an office popularly known as the advocatus diaboli — a person tasked with making the case against the canonization of new saints, scrutinizing every report of their miracles and virtue. How could a claim be trusted, the thinking went, if it hadn’t been rigorously tested? Plenty of educators will still tell you that devil’s advocacy isn’t just useful as a practical matter but also as an intellectual exercise: Imagining other perspectives and plumbing their workings is essential to critical thinking.

But on today’s internet, the devil’s advocate is less admired than ever, and it’s often the advocate’s own fault. The problem isn’t just debate-club tedium. Last year, on Slate, the writer Maya Rupert neatly outlined just how toxic devil’s advocates could be on a topic like race. She noted that they often seemed to be adopting the stance of a disinterested logician in order to air beliefs they knew were socially unacceptable to hold in earnest; the phrase “just to play devil’s advocate,” she wrote, had come to occupy the same role in her life as “not to sound racist, but. … ” A black person continually asked to consider — just hypothetically, just for a moment — whether she was possibly inferior to other humans would have to be masochistically broad-minded to entertain this challenge more than a few times before dismissing it, and the sort of people who presented it, forever.

A little more than a decade ago, around the same time online sentiment began to turn against the devil’s advocate, it also seized on a close cousin: the “concern troll.” If the devil’s advocate playacts disagreement with you for the sake of strengthening your argument, the concern troll is his mirror image, a person who pretends to agree with you in order to undermine you. The concern troll airs disingenuous worries, sows doubt, saps energy, has reservations, worries that things are going too far. At first, the term described purposeful double agents — people like the congressional staffer suspected, back in 2006, of posing as a Democrat to leave comments on liberal blogs suggesting everyone abandon the candidate vying for a Republican incumbent’s seat. But the term has evolved in such a way that, at this point, a person can very easily qualify as a concern troll without even knowing it.

A tidy summary on the “Geek Feminism” Wiki site explains why this is the case: Even earnest concern-airing can be pernicious, turning every discussion into a battle over basic premises. …

(15) UNEVENLY DISTRIBUTED. The BBC reports “The Swedes rebelling against a cashless society” where the elderly are especially likely to be left out.

However, while Sweden’s rush to embrace digital payments has received plenty of global hype, and is frequently flagged as an example of the Nordic nation’s innovation, there are growing concerns about the pace of change.

Some worry about the challenges it poses for vulnerable groups, especially the elderly.

“As long as there is the right to use cash in Sweden, we think people should have the option to use it and be able to put money in the bank,” says Ola Nilsson, a spokesperson for the Swedish National Pensioners’ Organisation, which is lobbying the government on behalf of its 350,000 members.

“We’re not against the cashless society, we just want to stop it from going too fast.”

(16) THE LIGHTS IN THE SKY ARE… What we can see from the ground is only part of what happens: “Hunting mystery giant lightning from space”.

The electrifying effects of storms are frequently observed from the space station.

Yet when lightning strikes downward, something very different is happening above the cloud tops.

Known as Transient Luminous Events (TLEs), these unusual features were first spotted by accident in 1989.

Minnesota professor John R Winckler was testing a television camera in advance of an upcoming rocket launch, when he realised that two frames showed bright columns of light above a distant storm cloud.

(17) SOLVING FOR 2001. The BBC Culture post “Why 2001 remains a mystery” actually dwells less on mystery, and more on interesting parallels with Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove.

It’s been 50 years since the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and we’re still trying to make sense of it. Stanley Kubrick’s science-fiction masterpiece is regularly voted as one of the greatest films ever made: BBC Culture’s own critics’ poll of the best US cinema ranked it at number four. But 2001 is one of the most puzzling films ever made, too. What, for instance, is a shiny rectangular monolith doing in prehistoric Africa? Why does an astronaut hurtle through a psychedelic lightshow to another universe, before turning into a cosmic foetus? And considering that the opening section is set millions of years in the past, and the two central sections are set 18 months apart, how much of it actually takes place in 2001?

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Chadwick Boseman hosted Saturday Night Live last night, and appeared in a Black Jeopardy! sketch:

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

Pixel Scroll 3/26/18 You Know How To Pixel, Don’t You Steve? You Just Put Your Files Together And Scroll

(1) BANKS WITH AND WITHOUT THE M. Abigail Nussbaum’s latest column for Lawyers, Guns & Money is “A Political History of the Future: Iain M. Banks”.

In this installment of A Political History of the Future, our series about how science fiction constructs the politics and economics of its future worlds, we discuss the late, great SF author Iain M. Banks, and specifically his Culture series.

Iain M. Banks died in 2013, and his last work of science fiction was published in 2012. In the context of this series, one might even argue that the last book Banks published that is relevant to our interests was Look to Windward (2000), or maybe The Algebraist (2004). There are, however, two reasons to go back to Banks in 2018. The first is that last summer, the University of Illinois Press’s Modern Masters of Science Fiction series (edited by Gary K. Wolfe), which produces short studies about important mid- and late-20th century science fiction authors, published what is to my knowledge the first complete critical study of Banks’s life and work. Iain M. Banks, by the Hugo-nominated British critic Paul Kincaid (by next week we will know whether he’s been nominated a second time for this volume), is both a biography of Banks’s life and his writing career, and an analysis of the themes running through his work. It is essential reading for any Banks fan.

(2) THIS SPACE NOT INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK. Farah Mendlesohn’s book about Heinlein now has a title.

One of the comments I’ve frequently made, is that in some ways I have been channelling the great man himself. Verbosity, intemperance, etc etc. But nowhere has this been truer than my inability to come up with a title. Heinlein had a terrible ear for titles. Most of his stories were titled by magazine editors, and most of his adult novels were titled by Virginia. His original title for Number of the Beast, for example, was The Panki-Barsoom Number of the Beast, or even just Panki-Barsoom.

So I did what Heinlein did and outsourced the problem, in this case to many friends on facebook.

And the title is…..

The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein.

With a release date in March 2019.

(3) A WAY. In “Mountain and Forest” Nick Stember analyzes “the Tao of Ursula K. Le Guin.”

For science fiction fans, the fact that The Left-Hand of Darkness owes a debt of inspiration to Taoism is nothing new, of course. As early as 1974 Douglas Barbour was pointing out parallels in Le Guin’s earlier books in the Hainish cycle, and Le Guin herself said as much in  interviews. Perhaps more surprising is the fact that Le Guin’s last novel in the Hainish cycle, The Telling, was directly inspired by the Cultural Revolution:

I learned that Taoist religion, an ancient popular religion of vast complexity and a major element of Chinese culture, had been suppressed, wiped out, by Mao Tse-tung…In one generation, one psychopathic tyrant destroyed a tradition two thousand years old…And I knew nothing about it. The enormity of the event, and the enormity of my ignorance, left me stunned.

(4) SUSPICION. The authorities spent the day grilling two writers:

(5) DON’T BOTHER ME BOY. And yet they let this one go Scot-free! Richard Paolinelli, borrowing a page from Lou Antonelli’s book – the one printed on a thousand-sheet roll – tried to embroil Camestros Felapton with the Aussie cops:

(6) PRO TIP. This is the way professional writers handle feedback, says Cole McCade in “The Author’s Guide to Author/Reviewer Interactions”. Strangely enough, calling the cops isn’t on his list.

B-but…I read a bad review of my book!

Then stop reading your goddamn reviews.

…all right. Okay. I know you won’t. I still read my reviews sometimes, I just don’t talk about it. And I generally try to stay on the positive ones; they’re a good pick-me-up. Even those, though, I don’t talk about.

That’s the thing. You can read reviews all you want, but you can’t engage with them save for in very specific circumstances. Don’t like a review on GoodReads. Don’t flag it for removal unless it actually meets the guidelines, such as posting derogatory things about you as a person/author rather than reviewing the book. Don’t comment on the review. Don’t send your fans to comment on the review defending you. (I actually have a policy in my street team that anyone caught attacking negative reviewers gets booted from the group.) Don’t seek out tweets about your book and reply to them (particularly if you or the book aren’t mentioned by name; if you’re stalking reviewers on social media for the idlest sideways mention of your book, that’s fucking creepy and intrusive). If you happen to have friendly conversations with a reviewer, do not bring up their review or try to chat about it.

You know why?

Because reviews are not for you.

They’re for other readers.

(7) EXPLOITATION. At the SFWA Blog, John Walters is irate about “The Egregious Practice of Charging Reading Fees” – although his examples are from outside the sff field —

The sad state of affairs in the field of literary magazines is that a high percentage now charge reading fees. The amounts range from two dollars to five dollars or more, but the average is three dollars. They justify it in all sorts of ways. Some, to avoid the stigma of charging reading fees, call it a handling fee or a software fee. Evidently they haven’t heard that many email services are free. Some, even as they ask it of writers, say outright: This is not a reading fee. Yeah, right. As if calling it by another name makes it all better. Several sites explain that if you were to send the manuscripts by mail you would have to spend at least that much in postage, so send that postage money to them instead. Most modern magazines and anthologies are getting away from postal submissions anyway, both as a money saver and to protect the environment, so that argument doesn’t make any sense.

(8) BSFATUBE. The British Science Fiction Association’s publication Vector has branched out to producing YouTube videos. Here’s the first one:

Glasgow-based DJ Sophie Reilly, aka ‘Sofay’, talks about her love of science fiction and the connections that exist between some of her favourite records and novels such as Ursula Le Guin’s ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ and Stanislaw Lem’s ‘Solaris’…

 

(9) CARRINGTON OBIT. Actress Debbie Lee Carrington has died at the age of 58:

She began her acting career in 1981, appearing in the Chevy Chase-starring comedy, Under the Rainbow. Later, Carrington landed a role in Return of the Jedi, famously playing the Ewok who consoles another Ewok that was blown up by a landmine. She ended up starring in The Ewok Adventure and Ewoks: Battle for Endor as Weechee, Wicket’s older brother. Carrington was also an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities in Hollywood and also had a degree in child psychology, which earned her much respect in the industry along with her giant body of work. Mike Quinn, who worked with Debbie Lee Carrington on Return of the Jedi, had this to say.

“So sad to hear of the passing of a fellow Return Of The Jedi performer Debbie Lee Carrington. She was an advocate for actors with disabilities and had a degree in child psychology. She had done so much, not only as an Ewok but was inside the costume for Howard The Duck, appeared in Total Recall, Grace & Frankie, Dexter, Captain Eo, the list goes on… Way too young. She was a real powerhouse! My condolences to all her family and friends at this time.”

(10) CAMERON OBIT. SF artist Martin G. “Bucky” Cameron died unexpectedly on March 26.

For over 35 years he worked as a professional artist. He was the first 3D artist at the Lucasfilm games division. Other game companies he worked for included NAMCO, Broderbund, and Spectrum Holobyte. He also did art for magazines including Analog and Penthouse, and for myriad companies.

His recent project was creating a shared Steampunk world with Robert E. Vardeman. The first issue came out in February.

MT Davis adds, “Martin was usually known as ‘Bucky’ at the Cons he attended and was part of the Sacramento/Bay Area Fan nexus that went into the computer Gaming industry as it rose in the late 80’s early 90’s. Very congenial and always cordial accepting of almost all.”

(11) TODAY’S YESTERDAY’S DAY

It’s Tolkien Reading Day!

Tolkien Reading Day is held on the 25th of March each year.

It has been organised by the Tolkien Society since 2003 to encourage fans to celebrate and promote the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien by reading favourite passages. We particularly encourage schools, museums and libraries to host their own Tolkien Reading Day events.

Why 25 March?

The 25th of March is the date of the downfall of the Lord of the Rings (Sauron) and the fall of Barad-dûr. It’s as simple as that!

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 26, 1985 Outer Limits was reincarnated for TV.
  • March 26, 1989 Quantum Leap made its TV premiere.
  • March 26, 2010 Hot Tub Time Machine appeared in theaters.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 26, 1931 – Leonard Nimoy

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY VACCINE

On March 26, 65 years ago, Dr. Jonas Salk announced he had successfully tested a vaccine against polio. Look back at Dr. Salk’s achievement.

Alan Baumler comments, “If you are wondering ‘Who is the model for the heroic scientist who saves the world?’ as seen in thousands of SF stories, it is probably him.”

From the Wikipedia:

Author Jon Cohen noted, “Jonas Salk made scientists and journalists alike go goofy. As one of the only living scientists whose face was known the world over, Salk, in the public’s eye, had a superstar aura. Airplane pilots would announce that he was on board and passengers would burst into applause. Hotels routinely would upgrade him into their penthouse suites. A meal at a restaurant inevitably meant an interruption from an admirer, and scientists approached him with drop-jawed wonder as though some of the stardust might rub off.”

For the most part, however, Salk was “appalled at the demands on the public figure he has become and resentful of what he considers to be the invasion of his privacy”, wrote The New York Times, a few months after his vaccine announcement.

(15) CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN. Not much about superhero movies has to make logical sense, but there’s an odd reason why this development does. Inverse reports that “‘Captain Marvel’ Will Bring Back Two ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Villains” who audiences have already seen killed off.

Captain Marvel may be the 22nd movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but thanks to its Nineties setting, it’s chronologically the second film in the series, following Captain America’s World War II setting. That means that MCU characters who died in recent movies would still be alive during Captain Marvel’s time, and Marvel revealed on Monday that three somewhat unexpected deceased characters will be appearing in the upcoming film.

In a posting announcing the start of principal photography on Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson as the titular hero, Marvel announced that Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, and Clark Gregg would all make appearances in the upcoming film. Hounsou and Pace played Guardians of the Galaxy villains Korath the Pursuer and Ronan the Accuser, respectively, while Gregg played the beloved Agent Coulson in the MCU’s Phase One (and continues to play the character on the TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

(16) OH BRAVE NEW WORD. Tor.com’s Emily Asher-Perrin investigates “What We Mean When We Call Something ‘Shakespearean’”.

It does seem a term that falls into two categories: (a) a term used to denote high quality, or (b) a term used to denote a certain type of story. Sometimes it is used to indicate both of these things at the same time. But we see it everywhere, and often reapplied past the point of meaning. When Marvel Studios released the first Thor film in 2011, it was heralded as Shakespearean. When Black Panther was released earlier this year, it was labeled the same. Why? In Thor, the characters are mythological figures who speak in slightly anachronistic dialects, and family drama is the three-dollar phrase of the hour. Black Panther also contains some elements of family drama, but it is primarily a story about royalty and history and heritage.

So what about any of this is Shakespearean?

(17) APOSTLE TO THE CURMUDGEONS. What do Ambrose Bierce and the fashion magazine Cosmo have in common? Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett says you might be surprised: “Ambrose Bierce Buries Jules Verne”.

In Cosmopolitan Magazine, Vol. XL No. 2, December 1905 [Bierce] reacted to what he considered to be a hagiographic response to the death of Jules Verne:

The death of Jules Verne several months ago is a continuing affliction, a sharper one than the illiterate can know, for they are spared many a fatiguing appreciation of his talent, suggested by the sad event. With few exceptions, these “appreciations,” as it is now the fashion of anthropolaters to call their devotional work, are devoid of knowledge, moderation and discrimination. They are all alike, too, in ascribing to their subject the highest powers of imagination and the profoundest scientific attainments. In respect of both these matters he was singularly deficient, but had in a notable degree that which enables one to make the most of such gifts and acquirements as one happens to have: a patient, painstaking diligence—what a man of genius has contemptuously, and not altogether fairly, called “mean industry.” Such as it was, Verne’s imagination obeyed him very well, performing the tasks set for it and never getting ahead of him—apres vous, monsieur. A most polite and considerate imagination, We are told with considerable iteration about his power of prophecy: in the “Nautilus,” for example, he foreshadows submarine navigation. Submarine navigation had for ages been a dream of inventors and writers; I dare say the Egyptians were familiar with it…

(18) STOKERS. The Horror Writers Association has posted video of the 2018 Bram Stoker Awards ceremony held at StokerCon in Providence, RI on March 3.

(19) ROBO PUNCHING. NPR’s Glen Weldon, in “‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ serves up another helping of mech and cheese”, holds a mock press conference:

REPORTER #1: … and then we clucked our tongues, the way we do, and sat there a while basking in our keenly developed aesthetic sense. Then we got to wondering who in the world would ever actually see it.

CRITIC: I mean … you shouldn’t.

REPORTER #1: So you agree. (Cluck.)

CRITIC: Do I agree that you shouldn’t see it? I very much do. I mean, listen to yourself. You expressly do not count yourself among the cohort of giant-robots-fight-giant-monsters potential filmgoers, safe to say. So clearly you shouldn’t see it. I mean … I would have thought that was obvious. Unless … I’m sorry, is someone forcing you to go see it? Are there armed gangs of street toughs employed by Universal Studios going house-to-house and frog-marching the hapless citizenry into Pacific Rim Uprising showings across this nation?

REPORTER #1: No. Look, I’m just sayi-

CRITIC: Yes, you are just saying, not asking, and I’m here to answer questions about the film Pacific Rim Uprising. This is not a forum for your smug condemnation of the fact that a given piece of popular culture is popular. This is a press conference, not Facebook. Security, kindly remove this person. Next question. Yes, you there….

Chip Hitchcock calls it, “Much kinder than the Boston Globe’s response: ‘If only they hadn’t made a movie that plays like a lost “Transformers” entry.’”

(20) RESISTANCE IS RUTILE. Got to love this. On Quora Nyk Dohne answers the question “Would a Borg Cube be any match for a Star Destroyer if the two ever met in battle?”

Here is what clearly will happen: The Borg beam over some scouts to investigate. Because the Death Star is so huge, let’s say it is only a few dozen scout Borg. Stormtroopers try to repulse them, and 2 Borg are killed before they adapt and become quite invulnerable. The Death Star predictably uses the superlaser to destroy the Borg Cube, which doesn’t have a chance to adapt because it is all over in one shot. Only a few components of the cube survive re-entry as they scatter and fall on the nearby forest moon; all the Borg humanoids are dead. All? Not quite: There are still a few dozen (-2) Borg on the Death Star. Those few dozen quickly begin Assimilating the Death Star and it’s crew. Because the Death Star is so huge, it takes a LONG time, but the Imperials are not known for the innovative tactics required to stop the onslaught. The battle lasts for months, but it is unstoppable. The Borg grows exponentially, despite reinforcements….

And Nyk goes on from there.

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, MT Davis, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Alan Baumler, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 3/17/18 Several Species Of Small Furry Filers Gathered Together In A Scroll And Grooving With A Pixel

(1) DISNEY EXTRACTS HAND FROM COOKIE JAR. Design Taxi reports “Disney Redesigns ‘Star Wars’ Posters After Getting Called Out For Plagiarism”.

Disney has unveiled a new set of posters for the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story after its previous artworks were called out by a French artist for plagiarism.

In this redesigned collection, Disney has amended the graphics whilst sticking to a similar color scheme.

Each character remains paired with a unique color. For instance, ‘Han’ is matched with an orange-red aesthetic, ‘Lando’ gets a blue hue, while ‘Q’ira’ receives a pink-purple scheme.

 

(2) SCRYING THE CRYSTAL CLARKE. Ian Mond takes his shot at predicting the Clarke Award shortlist in “Brief Thoughts on the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2018 Submissions List” at The Hysterical Hamster.

Mark Hepworth did the same in a comment here on File 770.

(3) MANO-A-MANO. Steven Barnes, while speculating about which characters will get killed off in the next Avengers movie, added an interesting cultural critique of the martial arts in Black Panther.

this is petty, and a trivial objection, but another missed opportunity was the battle between T’Challa and Killmonger during the ceremony. It relates to a complaint I had about Civil War (which I loved). This is from a life-long martial artist’s perspective, so I’m only partially serious. The problem is this: BP fought like everyone else in Civil War, and his technique looked very Asian. Korean in the kicks. Not what the Prince of Wakanda would use, because African arts are as lethal. But in BP, both T’Challa and Killmonger fought pretty much the same. I find it difficult to believe that Killmonger, never having been in Wakanda, would fight with techniques that look as if he had been trained by the same people who trained T’Challa. They could have had a fascinating clash of styles. But that is really nit-picking.

(4) PANTHER POLITICAL ANALYSIS. At Blog of the APA: In “Black Issues in Philosophy: A Conversation on The Black Panther”, Greg Doukas and Lewis Gordon discuss the politics and ethics of leading characters in the movie.

GREG DOUKAS: I am thoroughly perplexed by the reaction exhibited in some of my friends and colleagues, whose ideas I otherwise ordinarily agree with. The proposition they raise, and which I’ve been troubled by, is this: Over the duration of the film, our hero T’Challa [the Black Panther] makes a transformation from a nativist into a character representing a liberal politics of amelioration and liberalism more generally, while his nemesis Killmonger emerges as a distinctly Fanonian character in his own politics by presenting a radical critique of colonialism and racism. 

LEWIS GORDON: This is far from the case. First, Killmonger is not Fanonian. He is a tyrant. Fanon believed in radical democracy.  Wakanda is clearly a republic and possibly a constitutional monarchy in which each member of the society contributes as counsel and skilled citizen. It’s clearly a city-state or what in ancient Greek is called a polis, in which politeia (the thriving of citizens through activities cultivated by such a social space) is expected to occur. Killmonger is more like the case studies of colonial disorders in the later part of Fanon’s The Damned of the Earth. He is a tyrant because his relationship to everyone was asymmetrical, driven by resentment and hate, and his regard for life was nil. Think of how he killed his loyal girlfriend Linda and how he ultimately aimed to destroy or destabilize Wakanda—a functioning African state—with the now faddish Afropessimistic declaration of “burning it all down.”  His ego was such that he wanted to bar, through destruction of the special vibranium affected plant, the possibility of future Black Panthers emerging. Bear in mind also that T’Challa was not against fighting/violence. His point is that it should be used only when necessary, and he was doing so always on behalf of justice and a people in whose respect rested his legitimacy.  Killmonger didn’t care about respect from the people.  He also didn’t have respect for them. His “legitimacy” was like, say, Donald Trump’s: achieved purely from the strict adherence to the imperfect rules, though unlike Trump he actually defeated his opponent in fair combat. The people revolted against him not because he won the ritualistic battle but because his tyrannical rule defied the virtues the battle was to manifest. They fought against him in fidelity to the spirit of the rules.

(5) IMPRESSIVE. Rich Lynch actually came up with video of the Octavia Butler clue from Friday’s episode of game show Jeopardy! Click here: Jeopardy! Butler clue

(6) WHO AGAINST GUNS. Comics Beat updates readers: “Who Against Guns raises $16,000”.

We’ve been reporting on the fan-led effort known as Who Against Guns for several weeks now. Today, just over two weeks after the start of the campaign which launched February 26, organizers have announced that they’ve raised $16,000 for these gun violence prevention charities:  Community Justice Reform CoalitionMarch For Our Lives, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Moms Demand Action.

(7) TOLKIEN’S DOG STORY. Middle-Earth Reflections takes up J.R.R. Tolkien’s Roverandom.

Originally Roverandom was conceived in 1925 when the Tolkiens — Ronald and Edith with their sons John, Michael and Christopher — went on a family holiday to Filey, Yorkshire. They rented a cottage with the view of the sea and the beach to spend a big part of September there. At that time the Tolkiens’ second boy Michael, who was about five years old, had a small, black-and-white toy dog. The boy  was extremely fond of it to the extent that he never parted with it. It was an unfortunate loss of that beloved toy during a walk on the beach one day and unavailing search for it that led Tolkien to make up a story about the dog’s adventures to explain its disappearance to the saddened boy.

In 1936, when The Hobbit was accepted for publication by Allen & Unwin, Tolkien was asked for more children’s stories, so he sent in Roverandom together with  Mr Bliss and Farmer Giles of Ham. However, Roverandom was not published then: in 1937 The Hobbit came out, proved a tremendous success and the publishers demanded more Hobbit stories from the author. It was only in 1998 that Rover’s tale finally saw the light of day.

Just like some other stories written by Tolkien, Roverandom began as something told to the amusement (or, in this case, consolation was the initial motive) of his own family. But as the story began to grow, it inevitably drew in more aspects of Tolkien’s background and interests. From a simple children’s story it established connections with Tolkien’s own Legendarium, Norse mythology, Arthurian legends, folklore, history and real events which took place at the time when the story was being created and written down.

(8) SPOILER WARNING. In Zhaoyun’s “Microreview [TV series]: The Frankenstein Chronicles” for Nerds of a Feather, the spoiler isn’t what you think.

It’s one of the longest-running gags in show business: cast Sean Bean in your TV series and there is an extremely high chance his character will perish by the end of season one. If in a movie, he’ll probably die heroically, indeed motivationally, spurring the surviving heroes on to greater successes; in TV series, his specter looms over the remainder of the show, meaning everything that happens from then on occurs in the shadow of his sacrifice (since he is usually innocent of any wrongdoing but is executed/killed anyway). So when I finally watched The Frankenstein Chronicles, I knew to expect a gruesome end for Bean’s “John Marlott” at the end of season one. I don’t even feel the need to issue a spoiler alert so far, because Sean Bean’s near-inevitable death early in projects is a truth universally acknowledged.

(9) TENTH ANNIVERSARY. Kasma editor Alex Korovessis offers 10 Years of SF as a free download:

10 Years of SF! is an anthology featuring some of the best stories I have had the privilege to publish over the past 10 years, since Kasma’s inception in 2009. It is available freely by clicking the appropriate button below.

(10) THE MORE THINGS CHANGE. A fan lamented:

In the few months I have been an active member of fandom, I have found knit into its fabric a conglomeration of ego, hate, progressiveness, overbearing acts, belligerence, perversities, totalitarianism, crack-pot ideas and every good and bad thing that goes to make up the outside world.

Today on Facebook? No, these are the words of Clarence “Sully” Roberds, an Illinois fan writing in November of 1939. Think about that the next time you read a complaint that fandom isn’t what it used to be.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian passes along Drabble’s stfnal St. Paddy’s joke.
  • And Bizarro’s tribute to the Sasquatch.

(12) 2019 HUGO RECOMMENDATIONS. Coffee break’s over – back to work!

Click to see Renay’s 2019 Hugo Sheet (at Google Docs).

(13) OFTEN IMITATED. Inverse celebrated the release of Forbidden Planet on March 15 in “62 Years Ago Today, the Template for All Sci-Fi Movies Was Born”.

Nearly every science fiction story you know and love today owes it all to one movie that came out in 1956, a film that set the standard for how sci-fi stories work for the modern audience. Franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek might have defined sci-fi for generations, but Fred McLeod Wilcox’s Forbidden Planet basically created sci-fi as we know it.

There’s even an opening scrawl with yellow text more than 20 years before the first Star Wars movie.

(14) BALLS. “Ikea Is Developing The Meatball Of The Future” – no, it’s not made from ground-up Billy bookcases.

Ikea is the largest furniture retailer in the world. But did you know that it’s also likely the largest meatball retailer in the world? Across its 340 stores worldwide, Ikea feeds people 2 million meatballs each day. Which is why Ikea’s high-concept Space10 lab is experimenting with a meatball of the future–one that uses zero actual meat. They call it the Neatball.

…The Space10 team is careful to clarify that none of these items are coming to market, but it’s interesting to see Ikea’s thought process on the future of food all the same. After all, Ikea has already given us a veggie version of its famous meatballs that people seem to like. And Space10 released meatball concepts not long ago that have since gone from art project to fully cooked concept here–because that’s what Space10 does: It prototypes the future for Ikea.

(15) AMAZON VS. CONSERVATIVES. Vox Day finds that Amazon’s alleged massacre of conservative authors’ book reviews is highly exaggerated [Internet Archive].

Of course, the mere fact that there is a closed alliance of authors with personal relationships who pay very close attention to reviews may explain at least a reasonable percentage of these deletions, given the terms of service. I checked out my reviews and it looks like ten or fewer reviews were deleted across all my various book listings. Not only that, but several of the reviews were one-star fake reviews, so two of my average ratings actually increased. This made me suspect that the deleted reviews were likely in open violation of Amazon’s terms of service, which Amanda Green’s investigation appears to have generally confirmed.

He also says in a comment:

Don’t get Clintonian. It’s not tricky at all. Are they family? Are they close friends? Did they work on your book?

If so, then don’t review their books.

That being said, I think Amazon would be well advised to limit reviews to Verified Purchases in addition to whatever conflict-of-interest limitations they see fitting.

Let’s face it, the world doesn’t need any more reviews on the lines of “I am so-and-so’s mother and I can’t believe he wrote a whole book! It’s really good!”

(16) COMICS RANT. The comics artist Colleen Doran went on an epic Twitter rant about “diversity hires.”

It implies things about race, it implies things about sex, it implies things about sexuality. And because I can’t read your mind, I don’t really know what “diversity hire” means to you. But I know what it means to me. So tread that ground with care.

Start the thread here —

(17) THE FORCE IS WITH THEM. Pacific Standard profiles “The Jedi Faithful”.

Disambiguating real-world practices from the traditions that the Star Wars franchise established is not so much a passing curiosity as one of the central reasons the group of Jedi has assembled here for the weekend. Belief in the Force here on Earth is ultimately simple enough, a matter of faith that requires no greater suspension of disbelief than praying to any other life-force or deity. However, the practical extension of that belief, as demonstrated in the Star Wars canon—namely, that one can use the Force to exert mental influence on the external world—poses a larger problem: The cosmos, absent green screens, doesn’t so easily succumb to the will.

And so, for those following the Gospel of Lucas, life can often seem a battle of approximations. Lightsabers here on Earth aren’t in fact shafts of light, but an alloy of plastic and LEDs. Jedi on Earth have downgraded telekinesis for noetic sciences and a belief that collective thought can influence external change. And, as their possession of DVD box sets, plastic lightsabers, and Star Wars kitsch indicates, they, unlike their fictional counterparts, haven’t quite subscribed to an ascetic’s denial of worldly attachments

(18) MAGIC SCHOOLS. L. Jagi Lamplighter says Superversive SF’s Fantastic Schools and Where to Find Them blog is “just a fun thing a couple of us are doing–covering magic schools and schooling in general. We are open to posts from anyone who writes about Magic Schools. It’s just a labor of love kind of thing. Nothing big. (Or anyone who has an opinion on either magic schools or schools in general.)”

She penned their most recent post: “Which Magic School Is For You: Roke”.

How many of you ever wished you could attend Roke? I bet many readers don’t even know what Roke is.

Once upon a time, in the long-ago dream time of the 1970s and 80s, there were three fantasy series everyone read: Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, C. S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles, and Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea Trilogy. Everyone who read fantasy had read all three, and they were considered equally great.

I remember the day, some years ago now, when I realized that while Narnia and Lord of the Rings had made the grade, Earthsea had been basically forgotten. Many modern fantasy fans had never heard of the books. They didn’t even know that LeGuin had invented one of their favorite concepts: the magic school.

But Ursula Leguin’s magic school in Wizard of Earth Sea was the first time a fantasy writer thought “Gee, we see so many wizards in stories. Who trains them? Where do they go to school?”

And what she gave us was Roke.

(19) MUPPETS. Gwynne Watkins, in the Yahoo Entertainment story “Miss Piggy’s ‘a mess inside’: Frank Oz and puppeteer pals reveal Muppet secrets”, interviews several associates of Jim Henson who are promoting Frank Oz’s HBO documentary Muppet Guys Talking.

If I were thinking about, from a viewer’s perspective, which Muppet changed the most over time, I would say Miss Piggy

Oz: Yeah, probably so. But Piggy is a different situation. I’ve said this before: Her beginnings were in the women’s liberation movement, just by accident. And I don’t consciously change things, but the characters don’t interact with the world — I interact with my world. And I don’t interact in such a way where I say, “Oh, I’ve got to put that in my character.” I think because of the zeitgeist, it just kind of happens without me knowing it. But Piggy’s a little different. Piggy is such a mess inside, that I think as the years go on, she gets more and more emotional baggage. And that’s mainly why she changes. She keeps being rejected by the frog. She keeps trying and cannot do the things that she wants to, like tell jokes or dance. So I think she has this emotional baggage that hurts her more and more and more, and as a result she covers more and more and more. That’s what I think. 

[Thanks to JJ, Mark Hepworth, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, rcade, Cat Eldridge, David Doering, Carl Slaughter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ken Richards.]

Pixel Scroll 3/8/18 Stay Tuned For Pixels As They Break

(1) ELVES FOREVER. Olga Polomoshnova explores Elves’ immortality in “Who wants to live forever?” at Middle-Earth Reflections.

By their nature the Elves are bound to Arda, with their bodies being made of  “the stuff of Earth”. They live as long as the world endures….

What Men crave for and desire with all their hearts is, in fact, a burden. More accurately, this serial longevity becomes a burden with time. The Elves age very slowly, but during the course of their long lives they know death of wounds or grief, though not, like Men, of old age, and they fear death, too. Elvish ageing shows in their ever-growing weariness of the world. One of the best descriptions of this state was provided by the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins, who experienced such longevity due to his possession of the One Ring. He compared his unnaturally long life with being “all thin, sort of stretched, […] like butter that has been scraped over too much bread” (Fellowship of the Ring, p. 42). So probably that is exactly how the Elves could feel many thousand years into their lives.

(2) HAMILL’S WALK OF FAME STAR DEDICATED. Star Wars icon Mark Hamill is now a star in the Hollywood firmament: “Mark Hamill Gets ‘Overwhelming’ Support From Harrison Ford & George Lucas at Walk of Fame Ceremony”.

On Thursday, some of the actor’s closest friends and colleagues came out to honor him as he was immortalized in Hollywood with the recognition befitting a cultural icon like himself.

Hamill got some sweet support from his former Star Wars co-star Harrison Ford, Star Wars creator George Lucas, recent Last Jedi co-star Kelly Marie Tran, as well as a pair of Storm Troopers and the iconic droid R2-D2. His wife of nearly 40 years, Marilou York, was also to celebrate the honor.

(3) CROWDFUNDING WILL REVIVE AMAZING. Steve Davidson has launched a Kickstarter to hasten “The Return of Amazing Stories Magazine!”

Amazing Stories is an institution. It is an icon of the field. Over the years it has represented both the best and the worst that this genre has to offer. It has inspired the careers of authors, artists, editors, academics, scientists and engineers. Its presence proved that there was a viable market for this kind of literature, a fact not lost on other publishers who quickly followed suit. By 1930 there were four magazines in the field, eventually many more. And the fans? They bought every single one of them.

Amazing Stories deserves to be an ongoing part of our community. It may be a bit worn around the edges, the spine may be cracked a little and it may shed bits of pulp here and there, but those are love scars. Amazing Stories is not just our progenitor, it is the embodiment of the heart and soul of the genre.

We love it. We love what it’s done for us, what it represents, what it created. How can we not, when we love Science Fiction?

We know you share that love. Please show that love. It’s time for Amazing Stories to live again.

On the first day Steve’s appeal brought in $5,079 of its $30,000 goal.

Here’s how the money will be used. (Experimenter Publishing is Steve’s company.)

Experimenter plans to publish its first new issue for a Fall 2018 release and will be distributing the magazine at Worldcon 76 in San Jose CA. Professional, SFWA qualifying rates of 6 cents per word will be paid and Experimenter intends to become a fully SFWA qualifying market within its first year of operation. Several stories by well known authors have already been contracted, as has cover art by a highly respected artist.

Following five years of growth and development as an online multi-author blog serving the interests of science fiction, fantasy and horror fans, the publication of well-regarded articles produced by over 175 contributors, read by over 40,000 registered members, and following the publication of three special editions, a comic book and a growing selection of anthologies, classic novels and facsimile reprints, Experimenter believes the time is right to launch the quarterly magazine.

(4) ABOUT THE BARKLEY PROPOSAL. What were signers of Chris Barkley’s YA Award name proposal told? One of them, Shawna McCarthy, wrote in a comment on Facebook:

I was a signatory and do not feel misrepresented to other than not knowing the name of the award had already been decided. It’s possible the sponsor thought I was more up on the state of WC business committee work than I was.

(5) COMIC-CON’S QUASI-MUSEUM. Kinsee Morlan, in “Don’t Call Comic-Con’s Balboa Park Digs A museum–At Least Not Yet” for Voice of San Diego, says that Comic-Con International is upholding its nonprofit status by building a museum in San Diego’s Balboa Park (which will replace the San Diego Hall of Champions) and is hiring British museum designer Adam Smith to create it.

Smith said specifics are still hazy, but a few things are starting to become clear. For starters, he’s not ready to dub the new space a museum just yet. He’s toying with calling it a center or something else that better communicates its mission of showcasing contemporary exhibits that focus on what’s happening now or in the future — think virtual reality demos or participatory immersive television experiences (yeah, that’s a thing).

Smith also obliterated the traditional curator-led exhibition model. Instead of experts organizing most of the shows, he said, super fans will be likely be generating exhibitions and events. That’s a move taken from Comic-Con’s convention playbook, where fan-generated panels have always been a big part of the offerings.

David Glanzer, Comic-Con’s director of communications who’s been with the nonprofit for decades, fielded some of my questions, too.

Civic leaders are perpetually terrified that Comic-Con will pack up its bag and head to Los Angeles or another city if San Diego doesn’t expand its Convention Center soon. Glanzer said folks should not assume that won’t happen now that Comic-Con’s new center is opening in Balboa Park. He said they’re two separate projects and the convention could still relocate in the future if its space problems start impacting the quality of the convention.

(6) LOVED THE BOOK, HATED THE FILM. LitHub list of “20 Literary Adaptations Disavowed by Their Original Authors” has plenty of sff:

  • Earthsea (2004) – Based on: Ursula K. Le Guin, Earthsea cycle (1968-2001)

Le Guin hated the Sci-Fi Channel’s adaptation of her books, and she had quite a lot to say on the subject, but the biggest problem was that the miniseries completely whitewashed the original text. Early on, she was consulted (somewhat) but when she raised objections, they told her that shooting had already begun. “I had been cut out of the process,” she wrote at Slate.

Also:

  • Mary Poppins (1964) – Based on: P. L. Travers’s Mary Poppins (1934)
  • Hellraiser: Revelations (2011) – Based on: Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart (1986)
  • A Wrinkle in Time (2003) – Based on: Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (1962)
  • Charlotte’s Web (1973) – Based on: E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web (1952)
  • Solaris (1972, 2002) – Based on: Stanis?aw Lem’s Solaris (1961)
  • The Last Man on Earth (1964) – Based on: Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (1954)
  • A Clockwork Orange (1971) – Based on: Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange (1962)
  • The Shining (1980) – Based on: Stephen King’s The Shining (1977)
  • The NeverEnding Story (1984) – Based on: Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story (1979)
  • Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) – Based on: Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964)

(7) LOPATA OBIT. Steve Lopata’s daughter announced that he passed away March 5, peacefully, at the hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas. Sammi Owens said:

…I deeply regret to inform you that his heart was failing and Worldcon 75 Helsinki was his last trip. He had heart surgery and despite valiant efforts he succumbed to his heart disease on March 5, 2018…. My mom Frances and I want the scifi community and all his friends to know how much he dearly loved you all. His all time favorite activities were working Ops for Worldcons and having an audience for his tales- umm, I mean true stories…. Peace be with you all and thank you for your friendship to our beloved man.

Patrick Maher was one of many fans who worked Ops with Steve with good words about him:

I didn’t know Steve very long, only since he walked into Shamrokon in 2014 and offered to help out. We didn’t know who he was but, as he said he had just come from Loncon III, we asked James Bacon who he was. James described him as Steve ‘Awesome Ops Guy’ Lopata. He sat in Ops all weekend and offered sage advice. When I took over Ops for Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, he was the first person I went to for advice.

Lopata also did volunteer work with big cats, as he explained in an article for Mimosa in 2001.

One of the first questions I am asked when I tell people about working with lions and tigers is, “How did you get involved?” There are two answers. First the short, “I like kitties;” and the longer one, “I was at a convention and saw this guy walking a tiger on a leash. I asked if I could pet the tiger and about half an hour later, I was a volunteer at the breeding park.”

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock calls this too bad not to share: Arlo and Janis.
  • And here’s an International Women’s Day item from Bizarro.

(9) INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY. Headstuff’s Aoife Martin celebrated the day by analyzing “Author Pseudonyms” used by women. A couple of instances came from sff —

Closer to modern times we have the case of Alice Bradley Sheldon who wrote science fiction under the pen name of James Tiptree Jr. In an interview she said that she chose a male name because it “seemed like good camouflage. I had the feeling that a man would slip by less observed. I’ve had too many experiences in my life of being the first woman in some damn occupation.” It’s interesting that Sheldon should have felt the need to do this but she was a successful science fiction writer – so much so that she won several awards including a Hugo for her 1974 novella, The Girl Who Was Plugged In and several Nebula awards. Her secret wasn’t discovered until 1976 when she was 61. Throughout her career she was referred to as an unusually macho male and as an unusually feminist writer (for a male). Indeed, fellow writer Robert Silverberg once argued that Tiptree could not possibly be a woman while Harlan Ellison, when introducing Tiptree’s story for his anthology Again, Dangerous Visions wrote that “[Kate] Wilhelm is the woman to beat this year, but Tiptree is the man.” Suitably, the James Tiptree Jr. Award is given annually in her honour to works of science fiction and fantasy that expand or explore one’s understanding of gender.

(10) A NEW KIND OF BARBIE. The Huffington Post reports Mattel is honoring a few living legends this International Women’s Day: “Frida Kahlo And Other Historic Women Are Being Made Into Barbies”. Genre-related figures include Katherine Johnson and Patty Jenkins.

Kids around the world will soon be able to own a Barbie doll bearing the likeness of Frida Kahlo, Amelia Earhart or Katherine Johnson.

All three women made herstory in different industries: Earhart was the first female aviator to fly across the Atlantic Ocean; Mexican artist Kahlo was known for her unique painting style and feminist activism; and Johnson, who was highlighted in the 2016 film “Hidden Figures,” broke boundaries for black women in mathematics and calculated dozens of trajectories for NASA, including the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the moon.

The dolls, which are part of Mattel’s new series called “Inspiring Women,” will be
mass produced and sold in stores….

(11) ANOTHER STAR WARS SERIES. A well-known name in superhero movies will be responsible for a Star Wars series to appear on Disney’s new streaming platform: “Jon Favreau hired for ‘Star Wars’ series: Why fans have mixed feelings”.

The director whose film launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe is coming to a galaxy far, far away. Jon Favreau, the filmmaker behind Iron Man, Elf, and Disney’s live-action Jungle Book and Lion King, will write and executive-produce a live-action Star Wars series for Disney’s new streaming platform. Lucasfilm announced today that Favreau, who is also an actor with roles in the Clone Wars animated series and the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story,  will helm the new show. While Favreau has a strong fanbase (going all the way back to his 1996 debut film Swingers), many on social media are wondering why Lucasfilm has hired yet another white man to steer the diverse Star Wars universe — and announced it on International Women’s Day, no less.

(12) STORYBUNDLE. Cat Rambo curated The Feminist Futures Bundle, which will be available for the next three weeks.

In time for Women’s History Month, here’s a celebration of some of the best science fiction being written by women today. This bundle gathers a wide range of outlooks and possibilities, including an anthology that gives you a smorgasbord of other authors you may enjoy.

I used to work in the tech industry, and there I saw how diversity could enhance a team and expand its skillset. Women understand that marketing to women is something other than coming up with a lady-version of a potato chip designed not to crunch or a pink pen sized for our dainty hands. Diversity means more perspectives, and this applies to science fiction as well. I am more pleased with this bundle than any I’ve curated so far.

In her feminist literary theory classic How to Suppress Women’s Writing, science fiction author Joanna Russ talked about the forces working against the works of women (and minority) writers. A counter to that is making a point of reading and celebrating such work, and for me this bundle is part of that personal effort, introducing you to some of my favorites. – Cat Rambo

The initial titles in the Feminist Futures Bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:

  • Happy Snak by Nicole Kimberling
  • Alanya to Alanya by L. Timmel Duchamp
  • Code of Conduct by Kristine Smith
  • The Birthday Problem by Caren Gussoff

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular titles, plus SIX more!

  • Starfarers Quartet Omnibus – Books 1-4 by Vonda N. McIntyre
  • The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein
  • Spots the Space Marine by M.C.A. Hogarth
  • The Terrorists of Irustan by Louise Marley
  • Queen & Commander by Janine A. Southard
  • To Shape the Dark by Athena Andreadis

(13) FAIL HYDRA. Cory Doctorow updated BoingBoing readers about a publisher accused of questionable practices: “Random House responds to SFWA on its Hydra ebook imprint”

Allison R. Dobson, Digital Publishing Director of Random House, has written an open letter to the Science Fiction Writers of America responding to the warning it published about Hydra, a new imprint with a no-advance, author-pays-expenses contract that SFWA (and I) characterize as being totally unacceptable. Dobson’s letter doesn’t do much to change my view on that:

(14) BEARING WITNESS. Lavie Tidhar has tweeted a noir Pooh adventure. Jump on the thread here:

(15) ANDROIDS AT 50. Here’s a clipping from Nature: “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Ananyo Bhattacharya toasts Philip K. Dick’s prescient science-fiction classic as it turns 50.” [PDF file.]

When science-fiction writer Peter Watts first opened Philip K. Dick’s 1968 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a word caught his eye. It was “friendlily”. How had Dick got that past an editor? As Watts told me: “I knew at that point that Dick had to be some kind of sick genius.”

(16) CURRENT EVENTS. This sounds like a job for Doctor Who: “A Political Dispute Puts A Wrinkle In Time, Slowing Millions Of European Clocks”.

For the past few weeks, something strange has been happening in Europe. Instead of time marching relentlessly forward, it has been slowing down imperceptibly, yet with cumulatively noticeable results, so that millions of clocks the Continent-over are now running behind.

The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity released a statement Tuesday saying that since mid-January, Europe’s standard electrical frequency of 50 hertz has fallen ever so slightly to 49.996 hertz.

For electric clocks that rely on the frequency of the power system — typically radio, oven and heating-panel clocks — the cumulative effect was “close to six minutes,” according to the agency.

(17) TAINT FUNNY MCGEE. The BBC says “Amazon promises fix for creepy Alexa laugh”.

Amazon’s Alexa has been letting out an unprompted, creepy cackle – startling users of the best-selling voice assistant.

The laugh, described by some as “witch like” was reported to sometimes happen without the device being “woken” up.

Others reported the laugh occurring when they asked Alexa to perform a different task, such as playing music.

“We’re aware of this and working to fix it,” Amazon said.

(18) CUBE ROUTER. Meanwhile, at MIT, they’re wasting their time saving time: “Rubik’s robot solves puzzle in 0.38 seconds”.

Ben Katz, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, collaborated with Jared Di Carlo to create the robot.

“We noticed that all of the fast Rubik’s Cube solvers were using stepper motors and thought that we could do better if we used better motors,” said Mr Di Carlo in a blog post.

Mr Katz said in his blog the 0.38 seconds included “image capture and computation time, as well as actually moving the cube”.

Their contraption used two PlayStation Eye cameras from the old PS3 console to identify the configuration of the cube.

However, mistakes often resulted in a cube being destroyed.

(19) DARK MATTER. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination released a video of a recent guest presentation: “Sir Roger Penrose: New Cosmological View of Dark Matter, which Strangely and Slowly Decays”.

Sir Roger Penrose joined the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination on January 19, 2018, to give a talk on his latest research and provide an insight into the thinking of a modern day theoretical physicist. Is the Universe destined to collapse, ending in a big crunch or to expand indefinitely until it homogenizes in a heat death? Roger explains a third alternative, the cosmological conformal cyclic cosmology (CCC) scheme—where the Universe evolves through eons, each ending in the decay of mass and beginning again with new Big Bang. The equations governing the crossover from each aeon to the next demand the creation of a dominant new scalar material, postulated to be dark matter. In order that this material does not build up from aeon to aeon, it is taken to decay away completely over the history of each aeon. The dark matter particles (erebons) may be expected to behave almost as classical particles, though with bosonic properties; they would probably be of about a Planck mass, and interacting only gravitationally. Their decay would produce gravitational signals, and be responsible for the approximately scale invariant temperature fluctuations in the CMB of the succeeding aeon. In our own aeon, erebon decay might well show up in signals discernable by gravitational wave detectors.

 

(20) HANDY HINTS. And in case you ever have this problem: “Here’s How You Could Survive Being Sucked Into a Black Hole”. The article is honestly kind of useless, but I love the clickbait title.

OK, so maybe you aren’t going to get sucked into a black hole tomorrow. Or ever. Maybe even trying to imagine being in such a situation feels like writing yourself into a Doctor Who episode. But, for mathematicians, physicists, and other scientists attempting to understand cosmic strangeness in practical terms, these thought experiments are actually very useful. And they may be more practical in and of themselves than we’d realized.

At least, that’s what a team of researchers led by Peter Hintz at the University of California, Berkeley found through their study of black holes, recently published in the journal Physical Review Letters

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

Pixel Scroll 3/2/18 Green Eggs And Lembas

(1) ADDING AN OSCAR. Animation World Network asks, “Do Digital Characters Deserve Academy Awards?”

Producing photorealistic digital humans, animals and other types of creatures has been a one of the holy grails for computer scientists and digital artists since the nascent days of the CGI technology revolution. More recently, in the last 10-15 years, many filmmakers have made significant strides toward achieving the goal — some more convincingly than others — of bringing believable photoreal human and lifelike digital characters to the screen.

From the first full-length photorealistic animated film, Hironobu Sakaguchi’s Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) to Peter Jackson’s ground-breaking Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003), Robert Zemeckis’ innovative but not hugely popular Polar Express (2004) and Beowulf (2007), David Fincher’s mesmerizing The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), various wildly popular Marvel movies starting with Iron Man (2008), and of course, seminal films like James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) and Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), filmmakers have continually raised the bar, and stakes, with a series of increasingly complex digital characters that don’t just wow audiences with their stunning visuals, but capture people’s hearts with their believably emotional performances. The growing list of such digital performances is a testament to the unending audience appetite for visually engaging storytelling produced by a new generation of talented filmmakers more and more adept at embracing and making use of sophisticated production technology.

… According to Edlund, when you consider digital characters such as Caesar, you must also consider the team responsible for animating the performance. “Well, [the Academy is] studying this whole issue,” he says. “I know Andy Serkis thinks that he was the first one to use motion-capture and all that, and he’s a talented guy. But the thing is, Andy Serkis’s performances are also tweaked by animators, and so rather than giving Andy Serkis the entire award…if he were to be nominated and voted in, you’d have to split the award with the animators. So, it’s a very difficult thing. There’s always a serendipity about performance. There are things not on the page of the script that happen within the performance of the actor. When you animate, everything is intellectual, everything is being created. So, this is the valley that animators have to cross.”

(2) ALL FAME IS FLEETING. It’s time again for Young People Read Old SFF. James Davis Nicoll has turned them loose on Hall of Fame short story “It’s A Good Life” by Jerome Bixby.

Jerome Bixby was one of those reliable, unremarkable mid-listers the field used to support in decades past. In general, his work was a decent way to pass a half hour but not often memorable. “It’s a Good Life” is the exception, selected for the Hall of Fame, adapted to TV and the silver screen and referenced in a number of other works. Of course, the story’s heyday was in the distance past, in a now half-forgotten era of slide-rules and black & white television. How will it read to my Young Readers?

(3) #WHOAGAINSTGUNS. Doctor Who fandom is becoming a nexus of support in efforts against gun violence. A podcast, with some Who celebrities as participants, will be used as a fundraiser reports Comics Beat — “Doctor Who writers, artists, fans launch podcast to benefit gun violence prevention”

This groundswell of action also includes fan communities. One such organization is .Gallifrey Stands, a coalition who announced their Who Against Guns campaign on Monday. According to organizers, the campaign is “an initiative to encourage Doctor Who fans to take action against gun violence.”

To that end, the group has organized a massive charity podcasting effort: 40 Doctor Who fans, which include professional Doctor Who writers and artists, will record an exclusive commentary to the 1969 Classic Who story “The War Games.” The 11-episode podcast will only be released to listeners who make a donation of $10 or more to an organization committed to ending gun violence. Supporters then forward their receipt to the group, and the commentary will be made available for download on March 12th.

Who Against Guns suggests that fans direct donations towards several groups working to prevent gun violence: the aforementioned March For Our Lives, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Moms Demand Action. In recognition of Doctor Who’s international fan base, organizers have said they will honor donations made to charities that work to prevent gun violence outside of the US, and have provided a few suggestions on their website.

One of Who’s biggest names is involved — “Steven Moffat joins Who Against Guns”.

Doctor Who showrunner and writer Steven Moffat is joining the effort to raise money for gun violence prevention charities–but only if fans donate a total of $7000 by March 12. If they do, Moffat will provide a special commentary on episode 10 of “The War Games.”

…He joins a growing roster of professional Doctor Who scribes that have signed on to Who Against Guns, lending their thoughts to a commentary which includes Paul Cornell (“Human Nature”, “Family of Blood”) Jamie Mathieson (“Oxygen”, “Flatline”), Andrew Smith (“Full Circle”), and Peter Harness (“The Zygon Invasion”, “Kill The Moon”).

Comic professionals have also lent their efforts to the campaign. Titan Comic artists  Rachael Stott (Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor), and Simon Fraser (Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor) are among those commentating, as are a number of Doctor Who podcasters.

(4) ARCHIVE RESCUED. Comichron’s John Jackson Miller reports “History saved: Comics Buyer’s Guide bound and file copies, distributor publication library preserved”. Miller and Maggie Thompson have saved the Krause era (1983-2013) of Comics Buyer’s Guide from destruction.

Krause Publications, which for years published both Comics Buyer’s Guide and Comics Retailer,  is closing its Iola, Wis., office in March, moving the remaining personnel to a larger city. But as my fellow former employee Maggie Thompson learned last week, the file copies of most of the magazines were to be discarded, as well as a significant portion of the library materials.

For Comics Buyer’s Guide — read my history of the magazine here — this took in a huge number of issues. More than 5,000 copies, between two and ten each of every issue from #482 in 1983 to #1699 in 2013. This amounted to 105 cases weighing more than two tons — all destined for destruction.

The company donated the materials to Maggie and me to place, but the caveat was that we only had 72 hours to find homes for them all — and while Maggie sent the CBG bound copies to Columbia University, the file copies were still a very large problem.

(5) WATCH THE WATCH. The Verge says Pratchett’s famous series is coming to television: “BBC Studios is adapting Terry Pratchett’s iconic Discworld books for a six-part TV series”.

Discworld is a massive series written by Pratchett — who died in 2015 — which spans 41 books, dozens of characters, and a variety of smaller, thematic sub-series within the larger work. This show will reportedly be a six-episode series, with a current working title The Watch. That implies that it’ll be based off one of the most popular subsets of the overall series, featuring the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, which grows from a ramshackle group of a couple officers trying to get by to a full-fledged city police force over the course of the series.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BREWER

  • Born March 2, 1904  — Theodor Seuss Geisel

Narragansett Beer has reason to celebrate.

Today we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss with a little bit of history you might not have known… So pull up a chair and prepare for the story of how Dr. Seuss made his way into our wonderfully weird world of beer.

Who Knew? Dr. Seuss Could Brew?

Whether it’s the childhood memories of his books or you’re watching the new films today, Dr. Seuss’s tales are “too good to miss.” Theodor Seuss Geisel was born on March 2, 1904 in Springfield, MA. Remember those famous illustrations he made for Narragansett Beer back in the day? The most famous being the tray shown above. Antique collectors date these works around the 1940?s. He did other illustrations that appeared in print ads and coasters like this one.

One of the most interesting facts was that both his father, Theodor Robert Geisel, and grandfather Geisel were brewers. In fact, his German immigrant grandfather owned the Kalmbach and Geisel Brewery, or “Come Back and Guzzle” as the locals called it, in Springfield. In 1894 it was renamed the Highland Brewery and five years later it became part of the Springfield Breweries.

(7) LE GUIN OVERVIEW. John Crowley, in “The Whole Household of Man”, reviews the Library of America edition of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Hainish Novels and Stories for Harper’s Magazine.

In the science fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin, who died last month at the age of eighty-eight, planets circle suns other than ours, yet have landscapes and skies and seas not so unlike ours and natives who are mostly not very different from us. A single, tremendous idea made her imagined realms effectively strange, even while binding them all together as realms of the human. This is what she conceived: Some hundreds of thousands of terrestrial years ago, an advanced society on an Earth-like planet called Hain discovered the principle of near-light-speed travel, and with this advance they began to explore their galaxy. They sought planets where, whatever the differences from their home, beings like themselves could live and thrive, and there they planted colonies. Over the course of cosmic time, nine planets (among them our Earth, called Terra) were populated by Hainish people. Some of the populations are different in body and all different to some degree in culture; they come to have histories reaching back to time out of mind, and ways of doing and understanding things that are also ancient—but they are our own relations, brought and adapted to their worlds by our common ancestor. For every way we differ there is a way in which we are alike.

Le Guin’s parents were both famed ethnographers—her father, Alfred Kroeber, documented the life of Ishi, called “the last wild Indian in California”; her mother, Theodora, wrote Ishi in Two Worlds, a popular telling of his story. Le Guin became in her fiction not one ethnographer or historian but many. She deploys a force of investigators throughout the Hainish-populated parts of the galaxy to rediscover colonies founded millennia before, who observe and collect and draw conclusions that sometimes turn out to be inconsistent with one another—just as human ethnography and ethnographers do.

(8) NATIONAL BIRD. NPR’s All Things Considered says “If You Want To Find The Millennium Falcon, Just Head To The National Cathedral”.

For the last six months, a red-tailed hawk has made its home in the ramparts of the Washington National Cathedral. And now, it officially has a name: Millennium Falcon.

(9) MONSTROUS GOOD STORY. Edmonton Hugo’s Book Club argues that Emil Ferris’ recent graphic novel My Favourite Thing Is Monsters should be strongly considered for nomination for this year’s Best Graphic Story Hugo. They compare the art to that of luminaries like Robert Crumb and Maurice Sendak, and suggest that this artwork elevates is above other contenders for comic book awards this year: “Best Graphic Story 2017 – My Favourite Thing Is Monsters”.

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is the first graphic novel from Chicago-born illustrator and toy designer Emil Ferris. It may be the most significant and worthwhile graphic presentation to be published in the past decade.

Told in the form of a diary written by a 10-year-old girl in late-‘60s Chicago, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is a love-letter to classic horror movies, to science fiction fandom, and to Forrest J. Ackerman’s Famous Monsters Of Filmland.

Ferris weaves a variety of narratives through the work, as the young protagonist Karen Reyes investigates the murder of her mysterious neighbor Anka Silverberg. Reyes’ isolation and alienation are expressed through her transformation (possibly only in her imagination) into a werewolf-style monster.

(10) SAFETY FIRST. Superseding flat-packs? “AutoSaw: Robot carpenter makes custom furniture”.

Robotics have long been used to manufacture mass-produced, flat-pack furniture but MIT’s work could pave the way for robots to create custom furniture for specific purposes and spaces.

The robots will cut the wood correctly, adding the holes needed to assemble it, and carry the component parts around the room.

Compared to existing machines used by carpenters, AutoSaw is considerably cheaper and more mobile. As well as Roomba, the project uses two robots from German firm Kuka – though the particular model utilised by MIT’s team has since been discontinued.

(11) MORE THAN A LITTLE. There was so much penguin poo it was visible from space, says the BBC. Oh, and so were the birds: “Penguin super-colony spotted from space”.

Scientists have stumbled across a huge group of previously unknown Adélie penguins on the most northerly point of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Numbering more than 1.5 million birds, they were first noticed when great patches of their poo, or guano, showed up in pictures taken from space.

The animals are crammed on to a rocky archipelago called the Danger Islands.

(12) JUNK AVOIDANCE. Inspired by Gravity: “The teenage scientist tracking a sea of space junk”. [Video.]

When Amber Yang watched the film Gravity – which features a cataclysmic collision which destroys the International Space Station – it gave her an idea.

She knew that hundreds and thousands of miles above Earth, pieces of wreckage were whizzing around our planet – some of them big enough to cause billions of dollars worth of damage to precious satellites and spacecraft.

So Yang, bored by her schoolwork, decided to try and find a way of tracking it, and ensuring cosmic debris doesn’t become a danger to the next generation of humans venturing into space.

(13) BEST OF BRITISH SF. Here is the table of contents for “Best of British Science Fiction 2017” edited by Donna Scott. Twenty-two stories, from established names and rising stars.

Introduction – Donna Scott
Blinders – Tyler Keevil
In the Night of the Comet (2017) – Adam Roberts
The Walls of Tithonium Chasma – Tim Major
3.8 Missions – Katie Gray
Over You – Jaine Fenn
The Ghosts of Europa Will Keep You Trapped in a Prison You Make for Yourself – Matt Dovey
Uniquo – Aliya Whiteley
Looking for Laika – Laura Mauro
A Good Citizen – Anne Charnock
Mercury Teardrops – Jeff Noon
The Nightingales in Plàtres – Natalia Theodoridou
The Road to the Sea – Lavie Tidhar
When I Close My Eyes – Chris Barnham
Targets – Eric Brown
London Calling – Philip A. Suggars
The Last Word – Ken MacLeod
After the Atrocity – Ian Creasey
Voicemail – Karen McCreedy
Green Boughs Will Cover Thee – Sarah Byrne
Airless – N.J. Ramsden
Product Recall – Robert Bagnall
The Endling Market – E. J. Swift
About the Authors

(14) SPACE MUSIC. Broken Bells’s “The Ghost Inside” is a music video that has spaceships and other sf imagery in it.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/28/18 Crying “Pixels And Scrolls Alive, Alive, Oh!”

(1) AIRTIME TRAVEL. Got to love this. Galactic Journey, the blog that walks day-by-day through sff history from 55 years ago, has founded its own online radio station — KGJ, Radio Galactic Journey, “playing all the current hits: pop, rock, soul, folk, jazz, country — it’s the tops, pops…” Dave Brubeck was performing a hot jazz number when I checked in.

(2) THE TELLING. From The Hollywood Reporter: “Ursula K. Le Guin’s Sci-Fi Novel ‘The Telling’ Getting Big-Screen Adaptation”.

Producers had been working with the late author on the project before she passed away in January.

The Telling, the acclaimed sci-fi novel from influential American author Ursula K. Le Guin — who died in January — is being adapted for the big screen.

Bayview Films, a division of Bayview Labs, announced the project Wednesday, with Rekha Sharma (Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek: Discovery) set to star. The film will be written and directed by Leena Pendharkar (20 Weeks, Raspberry Magic).

The Telling follows Sutty Dass (Sharma), who travels from war-torn earth to the planet Aka, which has suppressed its rich culture in the march to technological advancement….

(3) YOU’RE THE TOP. The Guardian’s Gareth L. Powell has fun justifying his picks for the “Top 10 spaceships in fiction”. Aldiss, Leckie, and Banks are on the list.

  1. From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne
    In the aftermath of the US civil war, members of the Baltimore Gun Club construct a cannon capable of launching three men to the moon. Published in 1865, this novel was one of the first to take a serious stab at describing a space vessel and its means of propulsion (earlier attempts involving balloons and geese notwithstanding). Although Verne got a few of his calculations wrong (the length of the cannon’s barrel would have to have been much longer), most of what he describes seems remarkably prescient when you consider it was written a century before the first real moon landings.

(4) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Kelly Robson and Chandler Klang Smith on Wednesday, March 21, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar.

Kelly Robson

Kelly Robson is the author of Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach. Last year, she was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Her novella Waters of Versailles won the 2016 Aurora Award and was a finalist for both the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. She has also been a finalist for the Theodore Sturgeon Award and the Sunburst Award. Her fiction appears at Tor.com, Uncanny, Asimov’s, and Clarkesworld, and she is is a regular contributor to Clarkesworld’s Another Word column. Kelly lives in Toronto with her wife, SF writer A.M. Dellamonica.

Chandler Klang Smith

Chandler Klang Smith is the author, most recently, of The Sky Is Yours, which was published by Hogarth/Crown in January 2018. A graduate of the creative writing MFA program at Columbia University, she is currently serving as a juror for the Shirley Jackson Awards for the second year in a row. She teaches and tutors in New York City.

(5) CASE STUDY. The Robotech® RPG Tactics™ Kickstarter-funded game and miniatures expected out in 2013 won’t be coming late or at all. Kevin Siembieda, President of Palladium Books® wrote a long explanation and apology. Some of the rewards will still be made available to backers willing to pay the cost of shipping.

When the Robotech® RPG Tactics (RRT) Kickstarter funded in May 2013, we cheered, hugged and actually danced down the halls at the Palladium office. Not just because of the amount of money raised thanks to your pledges, but because it meant the realization of our dreams for Robotech®. For Palladium Books, it signified bringing Robotech fans – ourselves among them – something new and exciting to the beloved Robotech® universe.

So it is with sadness and tremendous heartbreak that I announce that, despite our best efforts, we are unable to produce the Robotech® RPG Tactics Wave Two rewards. Moreover, after proudly carrying the legacy of Robotech® in the role-playing games medium for 30 years, our license has expired and is not being renewed.

….The Kickstarter money was gone with Wave One, but Palladium never gave up on Robotech® RPG Tactics. We explored every available option in order to secure more funding or bring in business partners and investors. We solicited multiple quotes and explored different manufacturing options and new production technologies for these potential partners. As you know, there was a period when we felt very confident Wave Two would see production and release. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we came up short. But we were so committed, even that did not stop us. We reached out to others. Even Harmony Gold and Palladium’s licensing agent tried to help us put deals together with third parties. We made a Herculean effort and did everything we could, right through this past Christmas and into the New Year, but without success.

The cost to produce Wave Two, estimated at $300,000-$400,000 for tooling and manufacturing, plus $65,000 to import to the USA, plus $120,000-$160,000 to ship rewards to the backers, was more than any potential investor was willing to risk.

Whenever anyone pledges support to a Kickstarter project, you never know if it will be successful or not. It is a gamble. This is true of any business venture. We are sincerely sorry this one fell short. We gave it our all, but that’s the rub about life and business, sometimes your all is not good enough. Sometimes you miss the mark despite your best efforts, good intentions, and the money you pour into it. I’m sorry that was the case with RRT.

[H/t Ansible Links.]

(6) SUPERFICIAL SCIENCE TALES. Nicholas Whyte could not resist the temptation to try and quantify “Who are the leading Hispanic writers of science fiction?” Would you like to guess who came in last?

Anyway, here are the results, ranked (as is my usual habit) by the geometrical average of the number of owners of the top book by that author on both systems. In most cases the same book was top on both systems for each author. In a few cases lower down the table, different books topped the author’s list on Goodreads and LibraryThing, so I took the one with the highest geometrical average of the number of owners.

In one case, an author’s top book on Goodreads scores decently enough in the bottom quarter of the Goodreads table; but not a single LibraryThing user appears to have acquired any of his books. So he is listed at the very end….

(7) GENERAL ROMANTICS. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett looks back at “A.E. Van Vogt – In the Beginning” – it wasn’t what he expected.

Not every origin story needs to be revealed.

Recently I responded to an article about pseudonyms written many years ago by Anthony Boucher. In it I mentioned that A.E. Van Vogt as an example of an author didn’t care to be associated with a certain genre. I made this claim because I had a memory of reading a piece by him in which he admitted to writing for true adventure style pulps but giving no details.

Since then an old friend of mine, Denny Lien, who knows more about such matters than I ever will, pointed me to a page on the van Vogt website that actually reprints one of these stories and gives some background on how it was rediscovered. So it turns out I was wrong about him writing for the true adventure pulps. What he actually wrote apparently were true confession type stories which is about as far from his later science fiction in theme and style as you could get….

(8) A REVIEWER’S GUIDE TO ESCAPE: Jason wraps up another month at Featured Futures with a shiny new “Summation: February 2018”:

Demonstrating my usual quick wit, some time after posting the last “Summation of Online Fiction” which happily proclaimed my new coverage of print zines, I realized the title no longer applied. I could change it to “Summation of Short Fiction” but shorter’s better and I hopefully won’t ever have to change the one-word title again.

With that fixed, it’s the “February” subtitle that’s the problem this time. I’ve ironically read more March stories than February in February (47 vs. 38/171Kwds, not to mention the four late-January stories that were covered in the first “Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up” of
February). I’ll hang on to the March stories until that “Summation,” so this post covers everything from January 27-February 25. This was a below-average month in the quantity of noted stories but they’re of especially high quality.

(9) FABRAY OBIT. Nanette Fabray (1920-2018): US actress, died February 22, aged 97. Genre appearances included Alice Through the Looking Glass (1966), The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. (one episode, 1967), The Man in the Santa Claus Suit (1979), The Munsters Today (one episode, 1989).

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born February 28, 1948 – Bernadette Peters.  She’s had other genre roles, but John King Tarpinian sent the item because of her appearance in the 1980’s TV adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Saved, or merely fate delayed? John King Tarpinian says that’s the question in Close to Home.
  • And The Flying McCoys have fun with a bumper sticker trope.

(12) ORANGE MIKE. Wisconsin fan “Orange Mike” Lowrey has started a GoFundMe to help defray the costs of his attending a march in Memphis in tribute to the late Martin Luther King: “Union Marcher to Honor Dr. ML King”.

When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered in 1968, he was there in support of my Union, AFSCME, supporting the workers of AFSCME Local 1733 in their famous “I AM A MAN” demonstrations. This year, AFSCME members from all over the nation will gather in Memphis to honor his sacrifice and his example. I’m a native West Tennessean. , now president of a mostly-black AFSCME local union (Wisconsin State Employees Local 91); I am particularly eager to pay this tribute. The problem is that lost days’ wages, travel to and from Memphis (I live in Milwaukee), and housing, will cost me a lot of money I can ill afford. Make no mistake: I WILL GO anyway; but if folks can ease the fiscal pain, I would appreciate it.

The march is in April; I’ve got to make arrangements much sooner than that. And if you see coverage of the march, and the proud banner of Wisconsin State Employees Local 91, AFSCME, shows on the screen, you can have the warm feeling of knowing you helped.

He has raised $20 of his $940 goal so far.

(13) HORROR IN THE DEEP. Dread Central has video — “Someone Put a Statue of Jason Voorhees in a Minnesota Lake For Divers to Stumble Across”.

Remember the end of Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives where Megan and Tommy manage to trap Jason in the bottom of Crystal Lake? Well, it seems that some random person has recreated this scene by planting a Jason statue, complete with mask and machete, 120 feet deep in a Minnesotan lake that is supposedly very popular with divers! Having been down in the water, the statue has developed a worn, algae-covered appearance that almost makes it seem all the more lifelike. My only complaint is that it looks very rigid, like it’s clearly a mannequin or some sort of statue. But that’s such a small gripe when you stop and realize that someone put a freakin’ Jason Voorhees statue in the bottom of a lake!

(14) YELLING WARNINGS AT THE SCREEN. At Nerds of a Feather, Chloe N. Clark gives us a microreview of a film called The Ritual.

Adam Nevill’s novel The Ritual is one of the few recent horror books to genuinely scare me as I read it, so when I saw that Netflix had done a film of it I was both excited and nervous. By nervous, I mean incredibly cowardly and watching the trailer through my fingers. However, I summoned up the courage (and by courage, I mean making someone watch it with me) to see it once it premiered on Netflix. Did it live up to my expectations (and by expectations, I mean did it leave me sleeping with the light on)? Both yes and no.

The plot of The Ritual sees four friends on a hiking trip in northern Sweden (it’s the King’s Trail in Sarek National Park—FYI, it looks gorgeous and even the movie’s creepy happenings couldn’t keep me from thinking about how much I’d like to hike there). The hike was supposed to be a bit of a friend’s trip, but is now a memorial trip for the fifth friend—who died in a liquor store robbery. Once on the hike, things begin to go awry, starting with one of the four twisting his knee. They decide to take a shortcut (Or the World’s Biggest No-No if you are in a horror movie) through the forest and soon strange and creepy things begin to happen. These includes symbols carved into trees, an elk gutted and hung up, and the world’s most DON’T STAY IN THERE cabin since the one in The Evil Dead. Of course, things only go downhill from there.

(15) ZELAZNY’S ROAD. Tadiana Jones looks back at a 1979 Zelazny book in “Roadmarks: The Road must roll” at Fantasy Literature.

In what frankly struck me as a rather gimmicky move by Roger Zelazny, the chapters of Roadmarks are all titled either One or Two; the first chapter is called “Two” and they alternate from there. The One chapters are linear and relate Red’s ongoing adventures. The Twos, about his would-be assassins and other characters that Red meets up with on the Road, are nonlinear and almost completely random. Zelazny told the story that he put all of the Two chapters on pieces of paper, shuffled them up and simply inserted them into his draft of the book in that order, although he admitted that his publisher eventually convinced him to put at least a few of these chapters in an order that made a little more sense.

Like the other two experimental novels I’ve read by Zelazny in recent months, A Night in the Lonesome October and Doorways in the Sand, Roadmarks is essentially one big mental puzzle, where Zelazny is hiding the ball from the reader on exactly what’s going on until you get quite deep into the novel. To get any real enjoyment out of these quirky and rather humorous novels, you just have to be on board with that approach and roll with it. For Roadmarks I had an entire page of notes that I took on each chapter of the book, just to try to keep all of the players and moving parts straight in my mind. It was definitely a challenging mental exercise!

(16) PLANETARY SOCIETY. Robert Picardo is on set with Bill Nye recording a video series about A.I., but he still has time for The Planetary Post

(17) LET THERE BE LIGHT. These signals are believed to date to about 180 millions years after the Big Bang: Cnet reports, “Stars billions of years old drop big clue to early universe”.

Astronomers have picked up a radio signal from the moment the lights went on in the universe billions of years ago, and they’ve discovered some surprises embedded in it. No, not aliens, but potential evidence of something just as mysterious and elusive.

Using a sensitive antenna only about the size of a table in the Australian desert, scientists managed to isolate the very faint signal of primordial hydrogen, part of the cosmic afterglow from the Big Bang.  But the ancient signal from this basic building block of the universe also carries the imprint of some of the first light from the very first stars ever.

(18) PERSISTENCE. Scientists consider an inhospitable desert: “Atacama’s lessons about life on Mars”.

Even in the driest places on Earth there is life eking out an existence, it seems.

Scientists have examined the soils in those parts of the Atacama desert that may not see any rains for decades.

Still, the team led from the Technical University of Berlin, Germany, found evidence of microbes that have adapted to the extreme conditions.

These hardy organisms are of interest because they may serve as a template for how life could survive on Mars.

[Thanks to Steve Green, Paul Weimer, Cat Eldridge, Greg Hullender, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, jayn, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Matthew Kressel, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 2/22/18 Scroll Up For The Pixelly Tour!

(1) IT COULD BE A REAL PLACE. Nadia Maddy hopes people will look beyond their headspace for the answer to “Where Is Your Wakanda?”

Where is your Wakanda? Wakanda is real but have you found it? Is it really in East Africa or is it in Central Africa? Perhaps its in Nigeria? What do you think?

 

(2) LE GUIN WINS A PEN AWARD. PEN America held its 2018 Literary Awards ceremony on February 20 at New York University reports Publishers Weekly “Long Soldier, Zhang, Le Guin Win At 2018 PEN Literary Awards”.

[Ursula K.] Le Guin won the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay for No Time to Spare. The author’s son, Theo [accepted the] award on behalf of the late Ursula K. Le Guin.

(3) A SINGAPORE FIRST – AND SECOND. The Straits Times interviews “Two Singaporeans on Nebula awards shortlist”, J.Y. Yang and Vina Jie-Min Prasad.

Yang, a science communications officer, recalls: “When I was growing up, I would print out a list of the works that had won the Hugo and Nebula and try to make my way through them. I would never have imagined that one day I would be a finalist. I’m so proud to be one of the Singaporeans on the list, it’s just fantastic.”

Prasad, 27, a full-time writer, started submitting to science-fiction magazines only last year, but has already been shortlisted twice. “I’m overwhelmed and really honoured,” she says.

She is up for Best Novelette for A Series Of Steaks, about two women in Nanjing who forge quality beef – inspired by the real-life counterfeit food industry – and Best Short Story for Fandom For Robots, in which a sentient robot discovers Japanese anime and starts writing fan fiction.

(4) AT YOUR SERVICE. For anyone who wants paper Hugo and Retro-Hugo ballots, there’s now a way to print them.

Worldcon 76 has published PDFs of the paper nominating ballots for the 2018 Hugo Awards/Award for Best Young Adult Book/John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and for the 1943 Retrospective Hugo Awards.

(5) NOMMO NOMINATIONS OPEN. Members of the African Speculative Fiction Society (ASFS) have until March 31 to nominate works for the 2018 Nommo Awards. The awards will be presented at the Ake Arts and Book Festival in November 2018.

(6) BUZZWORDKILL. In The Atlantic, Bruce Sterling commands people to “Stop Saying ‘Smart Cities'” – “Digital stardust won’t magically make future cities more affordable or resilient.”

The term “smart city” is interesting yet not important, because nobody defines it. “Smart” is a snazzy political label used by a modern alliance of leftist urbanites and tech industrialists. To deem yourself “smart” is to make the NIMBYites and market-force people look stupid.

Smart-city devotees all over this world will agree that London is particularly smart. Why? London is a huge, ungainly beast whose cartwheeling urban life is in cranky, irrational disarray. London is a god-awful urban mess, but London does have some of the best international smart-city conferences.

London also has a large urban-management bureaucracy who emit the proper smart-city buzzwords and have even invented some themselves.  The language of Smart City is always Global Business English, no matter what town you’re in.

(7) IN TRAINING. Lightspeed Magazine interviews Carmen Maria Machado about her learning experiences.

I know that you also went to the Clarion science fiction writers workshop. I wonder if you could contrast Iowa and Clarion a little bit?

Clarion is not an MFA program. Clarion is a six-week, insane, exhausting boot camp. It’s a totally different process. The MFA program is more moderate, in the sense that it’s happening over the course of several years. I don’t know really how to compare them. The workshop style is really different. Genre places tend to use the system where everybody goes around in a circle and says their piece and then is silent.

The Milford system?

Oh yeah, the Milford. Which, actually, I do not like that workshop system, but that is the way it’s done at Clarion. It was done that way when I went to Sycamore Hill. That’s just the sort of tradition. Whereas, in my MFA program, it was more of a style of people talking and responding to each other in real time, which I prefer. It’s hard to compare Clarion and Iowa. They’re just inherently really different in terms of what you’re getting out of them. What I got out of Iowa was two years of funded time to work on my own shit, which was amazing and really wonderful. What I got out of Clarion was this really bombastic, high-intensity, octane-fueled, genre extravaganza where I barely slept. I was writing a lot of stuff, some of which was really terrible, and some of which was pretty good, and workshopping non-stop and barely sleeping. They’re really different programs.

(8) IF YOU CAN SAY SOMETHING NICE. Marshall Ryan Maresca helps sff readers pay attention to some people who are doing it the right way in “On My Mind: Building Community”.

So, this past weekend I was at Boskone, and it was a wonderful time, as I was reminded what an amazing community we have in SF/Fantasy Literature.  There are some amazing people in this business, who are filled with wisdom and warmth and kindness.   I had the great fortune of sharing the signing table with Mary Robinette Kowal, who all of these attributes in abundance.  We, as a community, are blessed to have her in it.

Sadly, this past week, I’ve also been reminded that we have a way to go, and there are some people who thrive in being terrible, and making things unpleasant for those around them.  And that behavior, sadly, gets them notoriety.  They get talked about, which serves their ends.  I won’t give them the time of day.

Because the people who are wonderful, who do great work and are good people– they’re the ones who deserve notoriety.  They’re the ones who should get notice and have their names mentioned over and over.  So here is a large list of great people who deserve your attention…..

Names follow.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian says Brevity found a way to make a joke at the expense of two actors who’ve played Captain Kirk.

(10) STORY AMPLIFIED. Yesterday’s Scroll linked to the latest release in Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination’s Future Tense Fiction series, “Mother of Invention” by Nnedi Okorafor. Joey Eschrich notes that it was published along with a response essay by Internet of Things expert Stacey Higginbotham, focusing on the smart home technology in the story.

(11) SHORT FICTION DISCOVERIES. The prolific Charles Payseur has launched a column at Book Smugglers X Marks The Story. The first installment leads readers to such treasures as —

“A Snow, A Flood, A Fire” by Jamie Berrout (published in Strange Horizons, 01/2018 )

What It Is: Coming in a special issue of Strange Horizons featuring transgender and nonbinary authors, “A Snow, A Flood, A Fire” stars Lupita, a trans woman stuck in an awful job as a security guard at a museum, hoping that she can work her way out of mistakes she made when she was younger and her world was imploding. The changing nature of employment, learning algorithms, employer greed and entitlement, and the dream of economic mobility all collide in a plot that kept the reading experience for me fast and tight and devastating. (And for fans of this story, I also recommend checking out “Dream Job” in January’s Terraform SF, which also explores themes of employment and the traps of late capitalism).

Why I Love It: Perhaps it’s a sign of the times, but stories exploring the future of employment and capitalism seem to be on the rise. For me, it’s a constant reminder of the realities of growing up and entering the workforce in a time where so many things that previous generations take for granted are in shambles or completely gone. Retirement contributions, healthcare, vacation, sick leave, debt forgiveness—the present isn’t exactly a cheery place for many hoping to live and maybe reach for that dream of comfort, security, and autonomy. …

[Via Earl Grey Editing Services.]

(12) BIGGER, BETTER, FASTER, MORE! At Featured Futures, Jason has posted an “Expanded Collated Contents of the Year’s Bests (2017 Stories, Links)” which begins its additional coverage with Ellen Datlow’s freshly announced The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Ten.

By request, this is an expanded edition of Collated Contents of the Big Year’s Bests (2017 Stories, with Links!). That post collates and links to the stories selected by Clarke, Dozois, Horton, and Strahan. This will add Afsharirad, Best American SF&F, Datlow, and Guran.

(13) SIGNAGE. Culver City, CA’s Ripped Bodice Bookstore gives fair warning:

(14) PASSING THE BUCKING BRONCO. Something else we know that ain’t so: “Why The Last ‘Wild’ Horses Really Aren’t”.

A Mongolian horse that has long been hailed as the last truly wild horse species in existence isn’t really all that wild.

It turns out that Przewalski’s horses are actually feral descendants of the first horses that humans are known to have domesticated, around 5,500 years ago.

What’s more, the modern horses that people ride today cannot be traced to those early steeds. That means humans must have tamed wild horses once again later on, somewhere else, but no one knows where or when.

(15) CAVE DWELLERS. If the pics remind you of a kindergarten project, remember your kids didn’t have to be the first people to ever have the idea: “Neanderthals were capable of making art”.

Contrary to the traditional view of them as brutes, it turns out that Neanderthals were artists.

A study in Science journal suggests they made cave drawings in Spain that pre-date the arrival of modern humans in Europe by 20,000 years.

They also appear to have used painted sea shells as jewellery.

Art was previously thought to be a behaviour unique to our species (Homo sapiens) and far beyond our evolutionary cousins.

The cave paintings include stencilled impressions of Neanderthal hands, geometric patterns and red circles.

(16) YOU CAN SEE WHERE THIS STORY IS LEADING. The people who built Stonehenge didn’t get to enjoy it for long: “Ancient Britons ‘replaced’ by newcomers”.

Prof Reich told BBC News: “Archaeologists ever since the Second World War have been very sceptical about proposals of large-scale movements of people in prehistory. But what the genetics are showing – with the clearest example now in Britain at Beaker times – is that these large-scale migrations occurred, even after the spread of agriculture.”

The genetic data, from hundreds of ancient British genomes, reveals that the Beakers were a distinct population from the Neolithic British. After their arrival on the island, Beaker genes appear to swamp those of the native farmers.

Prof Reich added: “The previous inhabitants had just put up the big stones at Stonehenge, which became a national place of pilgrimage as reflected by goods brought from the far corners of Britain.”

He added: “The sophisticated ancient peoples who built that monument and ones like it could not have known that within a short period of time their descendants would be gone and their lands overrun.”

(17) DON’T MISS THIS NON-GENRE LINK. The Hollywood Reporter interviewed the surviving cast and writers for “‘MAS*H’ Oral History: Untold Stories From One of TV’s Most Important Shows”.

(18) NO ARMY CAN STOP AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME. Adam-Troy Castro offered this subtle suggestion on Facebook:

Let’s run an International Science Fiction Asshole Convention.

People who want to go to conventions or to award ceremonies in order to be disruptive assholes — all while filling thousands of pages of blog posts with their fiendish snickering about the trouble they intend and how much it will bother everyone else — will finally have their annual event, where they can hand out awards to honor The Year’s Biggest Asshole, The Year’s Biggest Dickweed, the Year’s Most Appalling Runner-Up, as well as the Award for Best Newcomer (which at the Hugos are named after a luminary with J, W, and C as initials, and can be done here as well, albeit in different order).

Steve Davidson has volunteered to do the con’s Souvenir Book. In fact, he’s not even going to wait for the convention to be founded —

I’m soliciting articles for this, lol. Someone want to write a history of the (what was it, the ISFC?) from its founding to the present?

Anyone want to do short profiles of award winners from the past?

(19) JUST WAITING TO BE FOUND.  Annalee Newitz tells about the “8,000-year-old heads on spikes found in a remote Swedish lake” at Ars Technica. Warning – the article is full of grisly medical commentary.

In east-central Sweden, workers demolishing a railway that crossed the Motala Ström River discovered something bizarre. For roughly 7,500 years, a shallow, swampy lake in the area had hidden a pile of stones that contained the skeletal remains of at least 10 people and weapons made of stone and antler. They also found the bones of bears, deer, boar, and a badger. Two of the human skulls were mounted on pointed stakes.

Thousands of years ago, this semi-submerged burial ground must have been an imposing sight for the small settlements located nearby. A pile of rocks rose above the water, covered in weapons, wooden structures, and the grisly remains of fearsome animals—as well as the skulls of some carefully chosen people. Now dubbed “Kanaljorden,” the archaeological site has finally begun to yield some secrets about the people who created it. In a recent article for Antiquity, Stockholm University archaeologist Sara Gummesson and her colleagues explain what the evidence reveals about how this ritual site was used.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/18/18 The Turn Of A Friendly Pixel

By JJ:

(1) THE DOCTOR IS | IN | . Gallifrey One, the Doctor Who convention, is taking place in Los Angeles this weekend, and fans are posting some great photos:

(2) THE LEFT MENU OF DARKNESS. The Paris Review, which has previously interviewed Ursula K. Le Guin, has recently published an article by Valerie Stivers in which the author created a series of recipes based on food from Le Guin’s The Left Hand Of Darkness. Dishes include Hot Beer For Two, Batter-Fried “Sube-Egg” Porridge with Winter Vegetables, and others:

Overall, I found Winter’s low-food-chain ingredients easy to work with; they fit in well with our modern sustainability-oriented cooking, an approach Le Guin, a passionate environmentalist, would have welcomed. The sticking point was the drinks. The characters in The Left Hand of Darkness consume hot beer, which, Ai explains, may sound gross but “on a world where a common table implement is a little device with which you crack the ice that has formed on your drink between drafts, hot beer is a thing you come to appreciate.” Some research revealed that even on Earth, hot beer was common prior to refrigeration and often contained nutritious items like eggs or half-curdled cream. I tried several recipes that were uniformly undrinkable until coming up with an adaptation of something I read about in a Wall Street Journal story calling hot beer a trend. As improbable as it sounds, the results were wonderful, and I can only urge you all to try it. Remember, sometimes it’s nice to be speculative – in beers as well as in love and in fiction.

(3) IN MEMORIAM. In “Two Seattle Memorials to Ursula K. Le Guin”, Cat Rambo provides specifics for those who wish to attend:

Folio Forum: A Tribute to Ursula Le Guin
Tuesday, February 20, 2018, 7:00 PM
The Seattle Athenaeum, 314 Marion Street, Downtown Seattle
$10 at the door; $8 for Folio Members, SFWA Members, and Town Hall Members
Complimentary wine reception to follow
Noted local authors and fans honor the great writer, plus a recording of Le Guin, reading her famous story

 

Celebration of the Life and Work of Ursula K. Le Guin
Sunday, February 25, 7:00 PM
Blue Moon Tavern, 712 NE 45th St, Seattle, Washington 98105
$free (please support our venue by buying food and drink!)
Please join us for a reading to commemorate the words and worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin (1929–2018).

(4) ABUSER MANUAL. Lurkertype points to a graphic sequence where “Someone kinda like The Little Mermaid ‘splains how to fight sealioning”.

(5) ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERS TO THE ELDER GODS. In “Octlantis is a Just-Discovered Underwater City Engineered by Octopuses”, Ephrat Livni describes a revelation in octopod behavior:

Gloomy octopuses – also known as common Sydney octopuses, or octopus tetricus – have long had a reputation for being loners. Marine biologists once thought they inhabited the subtropical waters off eastern Australia and northern New Zealand in solitude, meeting only to mate, once a year. But now there’s proof these cephalopods sometimes hang out in small cities.

In Jervis Bay, off Eastern Australia, researchers recently spotted 15 gloomy octopuses congregating, communicating, dwelling together, and even evicting each other from dens at a site the scientists named “Octlantis.”

The discovery was a surprise, Scheel told Quartz. “These behaviors are the product of natural selection, and may be remarkably similar to vertebrate complex social behavior. This suggests that when the right conditions occur, evolution may produce very similar outcomes in diverse groups of organisms.”

(6) CAN’T LET IT GO. In “Why (some of the) Right Hates Elsa”, Camestros Felapton unpacks some of the criticisms of the Disney animated movie Frozen from conservative blogs, and tries to determine why, more than 4 years after its release, the film still seems to generate so much antipathy in some quarters:

The issue is not hard to diagnose. Frozen is mainly conventional Disney – in some ways even less than that. The plot is slight compared to other classic Disney films (e.g. the Lion King) and the songs (bar one) are unmemorable. Yet it does a few things and those things are interesting…

The story rejects romantic love as its central message and instead centres on the familial love of two sisters.

This being Disney, there really is zero implications about Elsa’s sexuality EXCEPT that at no point does she act out of desire for a romantic relationship with anybody of any gender. And with that we get to part of the multiple issues the right continue to have with the film.

(7) IF I COULD TURN BACK TIME. A new Kickstarter promotes the 6th Extinction Card Deck, a playable poker deck showcasing 54 extinct animals and birds from the ice age to the 1980’s, as illustrated by 34 different artists. One of the artworks featured is by Oor Wombat; her designated lifeform has not yet been revealed, but perhaps we can pry it out of her with a suitable bribe.

The Kickstarter has thus far achieved $843 in pledges toward a goal of $3,600, with 25 days left to go.

(8) GO MAKE ME A SAMMICH. Forget digging to China, here’s the new global craze: Earth Sandwich. (click on the photo on the left, then click on the right arrows to scroll through the gallery)

(9) CHALLENGE ACCEPTED, REDUX. The January 22 Pixel Scroll (Item #13) reported the viral campaign of New York native Frederick Joseph to set up screenings of Black Panther for children across the U.S. through the #BlackPantherChallenge. The website for the challenge is now live; donors can click on any of the icons on the map to see existing GoFundMe challenges and choose one to which to contribute. (unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a “list” view, so in areas with numerous challenges, zooming in on the map is required to differentiate between them)

(10) HOT COUTURE. On the Daily Dot, Gavia Baker-Whitelaw interviews Gersha Phillips, who designed the costumes for Star Trek: Discovery:

In the end, Discovery wound up with a more sleek and high-tech look. The new uniforms follow the classic idea of color-coded Starfleet departments (gold, silver and bronze accents for Command, Science, and Operations), but also take inspiration from contemporary athleisure brands.

Speaking to Gersha Phillips, we delved into Discovery’s fashion influences from Alien to Balenciaga. She’s a fount of knowledge about the canon background for costuming details like Klingon armor (Klingons have different internal organs!), and cosplayers have her to thank for the Mirror Universe’s beautiful gold capes.

(11) #BOWIEURCAT. Somehow, I don’t think that this is quite what the Thin White Duke had in mind.

(12) BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born February 18, 1919Jack Palance, Actor (Batman, Solar Crisis)
  • Born February 18, 1948Sinéad Cusack, Actor (The Ballad of Tam Lin, V for Vendetta)
  • Born February 18, 1984Genelle Williams, Actor (Warehouse 13, Bitten)

(13) MORE GALLIFREY ONE PHOTOS.

(14) FIRE THE CANON. Grant Snider, at Incidental Comics, asks “Who Controls the Cannon of Literature?”

(15) MAPPING THE WORLDS. Sarah Gailey contributes to what has now become a series of posts on cartography in SFFnal worlds with “Hippos, Worldbuilding, and Amateur Map-Making”:

About a year ago, I attended a panel on worldbuilding in young adult literature. All of the authors on the panel were young, brilliant, dynamic women. They wore flower crowns and they talked about mapmaking and spreadsheets. They were impressive as all get-out. I have never felt more intensely envious in my life.

I was jealous of their flower crowns, of course. I was also jealous of the easy way they talked about going in-depth on planning color schemes for each chapter they wrote, and the Pinterest boards they referenced for their character aesthetics. I was jealous of the way their worldbuilding all seemed to start from the ground up, because that seemed to me to be a whole other level of professional-writer-ness. My worldbuilding has always leached out from my character development – I write how a character moves, and their movement defines the world they live in. The women on this panel were talking about writing thousands of words about the world their characters inhabited, all before they put a single line of dialogue on a page. They were clearly worldbuilding masters. I was in awe.

It only took seven words for my awe to become fear.

(16) THE TOR BOYCOTT IS STILL TOTALLY WORKING. The Tucson Festival of Books will take place from March 10-11, and you can do your part for the Tor Boycott by checking out their author sessions. Tor/Forge and Tor.com Publishing authors Candice Fox, Nancy Kress, K Arsenault Rivera, Myke Cole, Annalee Newitz, Kristen Simmons, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., and Patty Garcia will be participating. A schedule can be found at the link.

(17) DEMAND EXCEEDS SUPPLY.

(18) BIRTHING PAINS. Jill Lepore, in a very long and very interesting essay at The New Yorker about childbirth, grief, and the de-feminization of Shelley’s best-known work, says in “The Strange and Twisted Life of “Frankenstein”: (content warning for miscarriage and infant death)

Because Shelley was readily taken as a vessel for other people’s ideas, her novel has accreted wildly irreconcilable readings…

“This nameless mode of naming the unnameable is rather good,” Shelley remarked about the creature’s theatrical billing. She herself had no name of her own. Like the creature pieced together from cadavers collected by Victor Frankenstein, her name was an assemblage of parts: the name of her mother, the feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, stitched to that of her father, the philosopher William Godwin, grafted onto that of her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, as if Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley were the sum of her relations, bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh, if not the milk of her mother’s milk, since her mother had died eleven days after giving birth to her, mainly too sick to give suck – Awoke and found no mother.

(19) RULE 34 MEETS THE SHAPE OF WATER. (warning: this item is utterly Not Safe For Work) Doug Jones, who plays the fishman in Guillermo del Toro’s fantastical movie, admits of the glow-in-the-dark erotic accessory currently being marketed:

With a light chuckle, I can tell you it’s not exactly what I’d hoped for. After pouring my heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears into this romantic, beautiful, magical role, the last thing I want to be remembered for is a silicone appendage that comes in two sizes.

(20) NOT EXACTLY WHAT I MEANT BY “SPIDEY-SENSE”.

 (21) UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE. The exhibit “A Conversation Larger Than the Universe: Science Fiction and the Literature of the Fantastic from the Collection of Henry Wessells” will run from January 25 to March 10, 2018 at The Grolier Club. Publishers Weekly describes the exhibition:

This erudite and altogether fascinating collection of essays from Wessells (Another Green World) explores the development of science fiction from its roots, focusing on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which the author considers “the point at which science fiction emerges from the gothic.” He then takes the reader on a personal journey through his favorite books, pointing out historic firsts such as Sara Coleridge’s Phantasmion (1837), the first fantasy novel published in English. He surveys the publishing history of some of the pillars of the genre, including Philip K. Dick, James Blish, Thomas M. Disch, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Robert Sheckley, as well as highlighting the work of authors whose names are less well known by the general public, such as Avram Davidson and R.A. Lafferty.

(22) MAKE THE ROBOT HAPPY. An SF & Fantasy Humble Bundle from Angry Robot is currently available, including books from Anna Kashina, Carrie Patel, Christopher Hinz, Dan Abnett, Danielle L. Jensen, Foz Meadows, Ishbelle Bee, Jay Posey, Justin Gustainis, Kaaron Warren, Keith Yatsuhashi, Megan O’Keefe, Peter Mclean, Peter Tieryas, Rod Duncan, and Wesley Chu. 10 days are left to grab the bundle, which benefits humanitarian charity Worldbuilders (be sure to click on “Choose where your money goes” before going through the checkout process).

(23) GIVE MY REGARDS TO KING TUT. Io9 says, “You Can Now Watch the Original Stargate Movie for Free”:

Back in 1994, few could have predicted what Stargate would become. The original film was a hit, but what happened after is damn near unprecedented. Not a theatrical sequel, no, but several popular television series and a rabid fandom that far overshadowed the people who saw the original movie in theatres.

But it did start with that original movie, directed by Roland Emmerich, starring Kurt Russell and James Spader. And though it’s been available in multiple formats since its initial release, this week MGM put the full film on YouTube for free.

 

[Thanks to Camestros Felapton, Cora Buhlert, Greg Machlin, Hampus Eckerman, James Davis Nicoll, jayn, Juliette Wade, lauowolf, lurkertype, Mark-kitteh, Paul Weimer, Rob Thornton, and Robin A. Reid for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 Contributing Editor of the Day JJ.]

Pixel Scroll 2/17/18 Scrolls of Mystery and Imagination

By JJ:

(1) THE RIGHT STUFF, WITH A NEW WRINKLE.

Most of you may remember that at just 9 years old I raised funds via GoFundMe to attend my first Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama and that one day I will be an astronaut, scientist and an engineer. Since then outlets like GoFundMe not only help my STEM dreams come true but others as well. Just this year through GoFundMe I raised over $20,000 to send over a 1000 girls to see the movie Hidden Figures because it was important to me that girls know that with drive, determination, and hard work you be anything, a scientist, a mathematician, an engineer, an astronaut or maybe the President of the United States even when the odds are against you!

I am 14 now and using my voice to not only bring girls of color to STEM/STEAM but all kids all over the U.S. and abroad.

I’m so excited about the upcoming movie A Wrinkle in Time, which is scheduled to come out spring 2018.

My goal is to send a 1000 girls to see this movie.

Why? I have a lot of reasons but the main ones are:

  1. It shows young, black girls deserving a chance to be a part of the scifi cultural canon.
  2. It has a female protagonist in a science fiction film. A brown girl front and center who looks like me in the role of Meg, a girl traveling to different planets and encountering beings and situations that I’d never seen a girl of color in.
  3. Most impressive and importantly, it’s a fantasy film that is not about some white boys fighting evil, but about a black girl overcoming it.

Thanks to donors, including a $10,000 gift from JJ Abrams and his wife Katie McGrath, the goal has been exceeded. Richardson says that any funds raised above what is needed for the movie event will go to projects, events, and scholarships to bring diversity and gender equality to the STEM field.

(2) ELIMINATING CONFUSION. The opening weekend of Marvel’s Black Panther film has unsurprisingly been marked by attacks and trolling. No sooner had the screenings started, says Lauren Rearick at Teen Vogue, than posts began appearing on social media claiming that white people who attended showings of the movie were being attacked by black people.

The social media posts in question have used images from previous acts of violence that have absolutely nothing to do with the film. Among the photos being used include a woman who was attacked at a bar in Sweden last month, and Colbie Holderness, ex-wife of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter who recently opened up about alleged domestic abuse.

People on social media are fighting back against the false claims by sharing links to Teen Vogue and other articles documenting the fake photos.

Trolls have also been targeting theatres showing the film, determined to set them straight about the fictional nature of the film:

Variety reported that Black Panther’s box office take after Thursday and Friday reached almost $76 million, marking the eighth-highest opening day ever, and third largest for Marvel, according to comScore.

(3) GIVE THE SHOGGOTH A TIME HUG. Dr. Janelle Shane, whose work with neural networks turned loose on generating Harry Potter fiction, Dungeons & Dragons game scripts, and Christmas Carols has previously featured on File 770, last week set her twisted brainchild to composing Candy Heart messages, using messages taken from real candy as input. The neural network not only uses words it is fed, but it creates what it thinks are similar words to use in its results as well. Some of the stranger romantic messages it generated:

ALL HOVER

OOG LOVE
TIME HUG
SWOOL MAT
BEAR WIG
TWEET UP BAT
LOVE 2000 HOGSYEA
YOU ARE BOA
SWEAT PEAR

Dr. Shane adds:

There was yet another category of message, a category you might be able to predict given the prevalence of four-letter words in the original dataset. The neural network thought of some nice new four-letter words to use. Unfortunately, some of those words already had other meanings. Let’s just say that the overall effect was surprisingly suggestive. Fill out the form here and I’ll send them to you.

(4) ORIGIN STORY. Oor Wombat has revealed the possible inspiration for her Hugo Whalefall speech:

(5) DELIBERATELY SCUTTLED. Barnes and Noble appears to be scaling back operations, as a prelude to a complete shutdown. But the ship didn’t sink on its own, says blogger audreyii_fic in “The entirely unnecessary demise of Barnes & Noble”:

On Monday morning, every single Barnes & Noble location – that’s 781 stores – told their full-time employees to pack up and leave. The eliminated positions were as follows: the head cashiers (those are the people responsible for handling the money), the receiving managers (the people responsible for bringing in product and making sure it goes where it should), the digital leads (the people responsible for solving Nook problems), the newsstand leads (the people responsible for distributing the magazines), and the bargain leads (the people responsible for keeping up the massive discount sections)…

We’re not talking post-holiday culling of seasonal workers. This was the Red Wedding. Every person laid off was a full-time employee. These were people for whom Barnes & Noble was a career. Most of them had given 5, 10, 20 years to the company. In most cases it was their sole source of income.

There was no warning.

But it gets worse…

The Barnes & Noble executives do not intend to rebuild.

How do I know this? Because every decision from the upper levels is being made solely to increase cash on hand.

(6) HOPES DASHED. Benjamin C. Kinney, whose essays on neuroscience have been featured on File 770 in the past, relates a tale of woe in “The Story that Never Was”:

I hit a writer milestone yesterday, though a sad one it is. You see, about a month ago, I had another short story accepted at a professional SFF magazine! I was just waiting on the contract to make it official, and then tell you all about my delightful Fairy Gentrification story. The eldritch diner with the portal between worlds was torn down for condos years ago – but there’s one last fairy chevalier stranded in this world, seeking out the owners’ son.

But, alas, it is not to be. Because the magazine has died, with my story in its casket.

The publication in question, PerVisions, has been defending a trademark suit against their original name, Persistent Visions, by an animation production company of the same name, and according to Publisher Christophe Pettus in a story on Locus Online:

The core reason for us having to stop accepting work is that our budget for acquisitions was largely consumed by a long and unpleasant dispute over the name of the publication. Although the other party was not in the publishing industry and we had no intention of causing any confusion with their services, ultimately, it became clear that no compromise except changing the name of the journal was possible.

Sadly, working through that legal issue was very expensive, and consumed our available capital. I would not ask to publish material that I could not pay a decent rate for, and keeping authors in suspense while the future of the journal is decided is not fair to them.

The website will remain live, so that stories they previously published will be preserved.

(7) BELIEVE IT OR NOT. Deadline reports that the 80s TV series The Greatest American Hero is getting a reboot:

With New Girl coming to an end, series’ co-star Hannah Simone has been tapped for the title role in ABC’s single-camera comedy pilot The Greatest American Hero, from the Fresh Off the Boat duo of Rachna Fruchbom and Nahnatchka Khan. In the reimagining with a gender switch of Steven J. Cannell’s 1981 cult classic, the unlikely (super)hero at the center, played by William Katt in the original, is being reconceived as an Indian-American woman.

 

(8) STANDLEE STILL, STAY SILENT. Kevin Standlee has announced that he will not be adding any Hugo recommendations to the Bay Area Science Fiction Association’s list this year:

I’m not making any Hugo Award recommendations this year. As one of the members of this year’s Hugo Awards Administration Subcommittee, I don’t want my own personal preferences being seen as trying to influence anything. But BASFA continues with its practice of meeting to discuss works/people they think are Award-worthy… if you go to BASFA’s web site, you should see a link to this year’s recommendations. Or you can just download the 2018 BASFA Hugo recommendations PDF directly.

(9) NO ROOM AT THE INN. GenCon attendees with accessibility needs report that this year’s hotel room reservation system is unable to allocate ADA accessible rooms online, and that fans have to wait up to 2 weeks to hear if they have an ADA room. Meanwhile, the hotel room blocks continue to be sold online to other members, and hotels which run out of regular rooms are apparently assigning their ADA rooms to online registrants instead of holding them back for accessibility applicants.

Maria Turner: IMPORTANT PSA:

Housing will no longer be allowed to be traded to avoid cancellation fees.

AND people requesting ADA rooms may not get confirmation they actually got an ADA room for TWO WEEKS!!! This is totally unacceptable. Totally. I am awaiting a response from Gen Con on this matter.

Todd Bunt: I am sad today. My friend a disabled veteran cannot get a room this year since there were no ADA room reserved. He has a hard time walking but the only room he can get is 10 miles away. Last years he got an ADA room in one of the hotels attached to the convention center. (t made it easy for him to go to the room to rest during the day. He was looking forward to going to GenCon this year but that was taken from him. Maybe next year they can hold some ADA rooms for those that need the help.

Daniel Lagos: Has anyone who needed an ADA room at any hotel in the Gencon block, who called and got the answering machine for the call center, actually gotten a call back yet?

I had an 8:44pm time for getting a room, and I left my information in my message. So far, I haven’t gotten a call yet. (more comments follow)

Doug Triplett: Arrrgh. I tried to call the ada line and they shut it off. Said it wasn’t working this weekend. Anyone else had an issue with that today. And in the portal the closest hotel is at least 10 miles away. This sucks!

Miriam Breslauer: NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!

Gencon set my housing request time to 10:28 pm. Because I need an ADA room I had to call them. There was no one there, because it was outside business hours! WTF! I am beyond pissed. Hopefully, they just call me back tomorrow and there are magically still some rooms left.

Not cool Gencon. Not cool at all.

Maria Turner: Does anyone know where one submits an ADA complaint re the hotel reservation process icw a major convention?…

What is wrong with the process is the way the search criteria is processed.

1) ADA requirement is not a component of the housing acquisition query screen

2) Hotels with all available rooms are returned as available

3) it is not until a person goes to a hotel returned from the initial query that one requests an ADA room with no idea if there is even one available at that hotel or not

4) No one will confirm for me if hotels are selling ADA rooms to non-ADA attendees as current law provides if there is demand that exceeds their supply of non-ADA rooms

5) ADA attendees wait up to two weeks to receive confirmation that their reservation for the room and/or hotel they requested is accepted

6) non-ADA attendees receive confirmation immediately their reservation was accepted.

7) ADA attendees may be moved to other hotels

I’ve been back and forth with Mike Boozer regarding the process, and he’s unresponsive citing supply and demand when that’s not the issue.

All the people I know who have obtained ADA rooms have had to do so out of block. I’m not paying $770/night at the JW, so we’ll likely be commuting if we don’t get a room via Authors/Artists housing block this weekend.

ADA Room checkbox needs to sit on that initial screen, the available hotels list returned should be only hotels with ADA room availability.

Thus far, there do not appear to be any posts on Gencon’s Facebook page which address the situation.

(10) ECLECTIC LADY. Janelle Monáe, who starred in the Hugo-nominated Hidden Figures as well as releasing Afrofuturist music albums The ArchAndroid, Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), and The Electric Lady (which was nominated for a Tiptree Award in 2014) has announced a new SFFnal album Dirty Computer:

Janelle Monáe has confirmed early details of her follow up to 2013 album The Electric Lady. Titled Dirty Computer, the album currently has no release date but a trailer starring Monáe alongside actress Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok and the upcoming Annihilation) can be seen below.

(11) BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born February 17, 1912 – Andre Norton, Author (Beastmaster, Witch World)
  • Born February 17, 1925 – Hal Holbrook, Actor (Capricorn One, Creepshow)
  • Born February 17, 1954 – Rene Russo, Actor (The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, Thor)
  • Born February 17, 1981 – Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Actor (Inception, Looper)
  • Born February 17, 1991 – Bonnie Wright, Actor (Harry Potter)

(12) WALKAWAY GONE WALKABOUT. Cory Doctorow, author of 2017’s Walkaway, will be doing a Down Under book tour for the novel starting next week, with stops in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide in Australia, and Wellington in New Zealand. Perhaps he’ll wave to Camestros as he passes through Aberdeen.

(13) MOUNT TSUNDOKU, IN 12 PARTS. Grant Snider’s Incidental Comics features a story which may sound familiar to many Filers: My Bookshelf

(14) A NOVEL WAY TO DEAL WITH MARKETING SPAM.

(15) RE-VISITING A… ER, CLASSIC? According to SyFy, a feature film version of the TV series “V” is in the works:

Desilu Studios has announced it’s going to bring V The Movie, based on the classic 1983 miniseries, to theaters in a big-budget film version that will be written and directed by Kenneth Johnson, creator of the original show.

The two-part miniseries aired on NBC in 1983 and chronicled an invasion of Earth by vicious reptilian aliens who disguised themselves as friendly humanoids, triggering a human resistance movement. A metaphor for revolution against a fascist government, V was hugely popular with audiences, spawning a 1984 sequel, V: The Final Battle, a short-lived 1985 show called V: The Series, and a 2009 reboot that lasted for two seasons on ABC.

Casting, production details, and a release date for V The Movie are all yet to be determined.

(16) MORE YOUNG PEOPLE READ OLD SFF. This time out, James Davis Nicoll has them reading Tanith Lee’s horror story “The Gorgon”, and the reactions cross the whole spectrum, from “intriguing and mysterious” to “annoying and racist”, with some bonus commentary on imprudent alcohol consumption.

(17) THE NO AWARD AWARD. In the February 2, 2018, issue of the Times Literary Supplement, J.C. says:

In early December, we stumbled on a blog at the Paris Review Daily site, written by Ursula K. Le Guin, on the subject of one of our most coveted awards, the Jean-Paul Sartre Prize for Prize Refusal. It is open to any writer who has refused a literary prize.

“I first learned about the Sartre Prize from NB”, Ms Le Guin wrote, “the last page of London’s Times Literary Supplement, signed by J.C. The fame of the award, named for the writer who refused the Nobel in 1964, is or anyhow should be growing fast.” Ms Le Guin flattered us further by quoting from a past NB: “So great is the status of the Jean-Paul Sartre Prize for Prize Refusal that writers all over Europe and America are turning down awards in the hope of being nominated for a Sartre”. As we noted at the time, and Ms Le Guin repeated it, “The Sartre Prize itself has never been refused”…

Ursula Le Guin died on January 22, aged eighty-eight. She left us with an idea, however: “I do hope you will recommend me to the Basement Labyrinth so that I can refuse to be even nominated, thus earning the Pre-Refusal of Awards Award, which has yet to be named”. It has a name now: The Ursula K. Le Guin Prize, for writers who refuse shortlisting, longlisting and any other form of nomination for literary prizes. The essay, “A Much Needed Literary Award”, is included in her final book, No Time To Spare: Thinking About What Matters, published in December last year.

(18) MARKET REPORT. David Steffen has compiled the “SFWA Market Report for February” for the SFWA Blog, listing those publications which are opening or closing for submissions.

(19) STROSS SHOUTS AT CLOUDS. Not every SF work needs to conform to strict worldbuilding standards, writes Cora Buhlert “In Defence of Wallpaper Science Fiction”:

A few days ago, Paul Weimer pointed me on Twitter to this post by Charles Stross in which Stross laments the current state of the science fiction genre, because a lot of SF writers these days focus more on plot, action, characters and their relationships than on worldbuilding, particularly on economics, which is the aspect of worldbuilding that is closest to Stross’ heart.

Whenever Stross posts a variation of this “other people are doing science fiction wrong” rant, it inevitably gets my hackles up…

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a kernel of truth in Stross’ post. Because all too often, things show up in science fiction, just because “that’s the way things are”, whether in genre or life, regardless if this makes sense in this particular setting. The prevalence of Galactic Empires vaguely modeled on the Roman or British Empire in science fiction is a result of tropes being imported from other genre works unexamined, as is the fact that every future military ever is either modelled on the US Marine Corps of the 20th/21st centuries or the British Royal Navy of the 18th and 19th centuries and that every starship is modelled on a modern aircraft carrier…

So if all that Stross’ post did was implore science fiction writers to interrogate their worldbuilding choices and ask themselves “Why did I choose this?” and “Does this even make sense for the world that I built and if not, how can I make it fit?”, I would probably have heartily applauded. However, that’s not all he does.

(20) THE PUNCH LINE. So an SFF writer, a zombie, and a cat walk into a bar…

(21) THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS.  A Kickstarter has gone live for Tiny Wastelands, a post-apocalyptic RPG, and it’s already blown way past its goal in the first few days, racking up $22,906 in pledges against its original goal of $6,000.

Tiny Wastelands is post-apocalyptic roleplaying in a minimalist package! Using the rules in this book, you’ll be able to play survivors of lost and destroyed civilizations, mutants rampaging the wastelands and so, so much more.

Stretch goals include additional micro-settings for the game written by various authors, including this one already achieved:

$14,000: Paul Weimer takes us to High Plains Drift!

“The High Plains of the Dakotas are wide, flat, and deadly. Between the mutant prairie dogs, what lurks in the minuteman silos, and the farmers turned bandits who have adapted farm tractors to war vehicles, survival on the plains is nasty, brutish and short.

What makes it unique? Farm Tractor war vehicles, mutant wildlife and endless horizons in a hardscrabble world.”

(22) WHICH CAME FIRST? Hampus Eckerman believes that Filers will enjoy this SFF film short from 2016:

[Thanks to Camestros Felapton, Cora Buhlert, Hampus Eckerman, lauowolf, PJ Evans, RedWombat, Standback for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 Contributing Editor of the Day JJ.]