Pixel Scroll 11/20/17 I’ll Be Over Here Eating My Lunch Alone On The Pixelground

(1) TURKEY FIRST. ULTRAGOTHA chastized me for yesterday’s Scroll title:

Mike, Mike, Mike. Please. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet! Can’t we have our Pixellated Turkey with Scrollbean Casserole and all the fixins before being subject to Scrollnuts Roasting on an Open Glyer?

(2) ATTENTION REDWOMBAT READERS. T. Kingfisher’s Clockwork Boys is available for pre-order.

For those following along at home, this is the Thing With The Paladin And The Ninja Accountant. And it is Book One! It is not a standalone! Book Two will be out, hopefully February-ish! (It is, however, a duology, not a trilogy or whatever.)

(3) LINE UP AND SIGN UP. The makers of Pacific Rim Uprising are offering someone a chance to be in the movie – sign up at Jaeger Academy.

Do you have what it takes to become a Jaeger Pilot? Welcome to Jaeger Academy, where you will learn to pilot the most powerful machines to ever walk the Earth, and become the most heroic version of yourself. Enlist now to test yourself in Pan Pacific Defense Corps missions for the chance to become immortalized in the Hall of Heroes, have your name in the film credits, name a Jaeger from the film, and more! Join the Uprising now to stand tall for all humanity.

 

(4) A LIST OF THE BEST. The B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog calls these 25 books “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2017”. I’m surprised that this is the first time I’ve heard of a third of these titles. And their runner-up list has several titles I expect to be award nominees.

Which brings us to the books below—25 titles that stood out in a particularly strong year for SFF, a year during which many of us looked to the speculative to help us grapple with the strangeness around us—or to offer us an escape from it. Taken collectively, they are: provoking, thoughtful, compelling, challenging, unique. And, most certainly, they are all so very 2017. These are the best science fiction and fantasy books of the year. (Never fear, short fiction fans: we’re covering anthologies and collections in a separate list—horror too.) 

(5) ELEVENFOX. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog also has the cover reveal for Elevenfox Gambit, actually titled Revanant Gun.

Yoon Ha Lee Answers 5 Questions About Revenant Gun

What are we looking at on the cover of Revenant Gun?
The cover shows my protagonist Jedao’s flagship (“command moth,” in the parlance of the books), called the Revenant, and the Fortress of Pearled Hopes.

(6) LE GUIN, MOTHERHOOD, AND WRITING. David Streitfeld does the asking in “Writing Nameless Things: An Interview with Ursula K. Le Guin” at the LA Review of Books.

When did you write?

After the kids were put to bed, or left in their bed with a book. My kids went to bed much earlier than most kids do now. I was appalled to learn my grandchildren were staying up to 11:00. That would have driven me up the wall. We kept old-fashioned hours — 8:00 p.m., 9:00 p.m. I would go up to the attic, and work 9:00 to midnight. If I was tired, it was a little tough. But I was kind of gung-ho to do it. I like to write. It’s exciting, something I’m really happy doing.

Does being in the Library of America make you feel you’ve joined the immortals? You’re now up there with all the greats — Twain, Poe, Wharton.

I grew up with a set of Mark Twain in the house. Collections of authors’ work were not such a big deal. And my agent was hesitant about the contract, since the pay upfront was less than she’s used to settling for. She’s a good agent. Her job is to make money. What I did not realize is that being published in the Library of America is a real and enduring honor. Especially while you’re still alive. Philip Roth and I make a peculiar but exclusive club.

(7) MWA AWARDS. Mystery Writers of America announced the recipients of its 2018 Special Edgar Awards – Grand Master, Raven and Ellery Queen:

Jane Langton, William Link, and Peter Lovesey have been chosen as the 2018 Grand Masters by Mystery Writers of America (MWA). MWA’s Grand Master Award represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as for a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality.  Ms. Langton, Mr. Link, and Mr. Lovesey will receive their awards at the 72nd Annual Edgar Awards Banquet, which will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on April 26, 2018.

…The Raven Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing.  The Raven Bookstore and Kristopher Zgorski will receive the 2018 Raven Award.

The Raven Bookstore in Lawrence, Kansas, celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2017. The store was opened in 1987 by co-owners Pat Kehde and Mary Lou Wright. Kehde kept the store for 28 years, weathering the Borders storm with a plan to “stay the same size and cultivate [the] clients.” Heidi Raak took over the store in 2008. Current owner and poet Danny Caine took over in August of 2017; he is a longtime employee of the shop. The Raven has two store cats, Dashiell and Ngiao.

The Ellery Queen Award was established in 1983 to honor “outstanding writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry.” This year the Board chose to honor Robert Pépin. Mr. Pépin began his literary career in 1964 as a translator of English-language novels. Since then he has been a translator, editor, and publisher of some of the most important authors of the past century including Lawrence Block, Alex Berenson, C.J. Box, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, James Church, Miles Corwin, Martin Cruz Smith, and Robert Crais.

[Hat tip to Locus Online.]

(8) MORE ON TOLKIEN SAINTHOOD. Here is an initiative of the Student Association of Roman pontifical universities and sponsored by the Conference of rectors of Roman pontifical universities.

(9) DENISE DUMARS. The SPECPO blog interviewed a veteran sf poet who’ll be at Loscon this weekend: “From Sheet Lightning to Paranormal Writing: An interview with Denise Dumars”.

Looking back at your first poetry collection Sheet Lightning to now, what’s changed most about your process in putting a manuscript together?
I rarely think in terms of “putting together a manuscript” when it comes to poetry and short fiction. The poems come one at a time, and rarely do I have a theme for a collection. My most recent collection is an exception to that rule: Paranormal Romance: Poems Romancing the Paranormal was a themed volume; more than half the poems dealt with paranormal research of the type that I find really funny—you know, the ghost hunters and all their gadgets. But the other half of the book is more serious as it deals with New Orleans and the paranormal. Every collection is different. Right now I have a collection of haiku that I’m trying to figure out where to send—it’s call the Punk Rock Picnic Haiku, as it was written over time as I went to punk rock concerts with the rest of my elderly punk set at Liquid Kitty, a club that was recently bought by someone who turned it into a rich businessman’s lounge. The haiku series is a memorial to a time and place. I keep meaning to create a collection of specifically science fiction poems and a collection specifically of horror and dark fantasy poems.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) PRIME TIME. GeekWire says the Electric Dreams release date has been set:

Amazon today announced that its new anthology series “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams” will premiere on Jan. 12, exclusively on Prime Video. The much-anticipated streaming series will be comprised of 10 standalone episodes, each set in different worlds — five to 5,000 years in the future…

 

(12) MOON MEN. Bad Astronomer Phil Plait enjoys himself while demolishing another conspiracy theory in “No, that’s not a stagehand in an Apollo astronaut photo”.

I was checking Facebook Sunday, and saw I was tagged in a post by Evan Bernstein, from Skeptics Guide to the Universe. Dreading what I’d see if I went to the page, I clicked the link anyway. I can’t help it. Bad astronomy is like catnip to me.

I wasn’t disappointed. Evan had a link to an article in NewsweekNewsweek — that is a credulous account of a guy on YouTube who calls himself Streetcap1. This particular video shows an image from the Apollo 17 mission, which landed two astronauts on the Moon in December 1972.

… That’s clearly the figure of a human. I think we’d all agree on that. Where I part ways with Streetcap1 is that he is guessing that’s a stagehand or someone else standing there when this photo was taken. In his video he points out features he thinks he sees on the figure, including — and I swear I’m not making this up — long hair. Because this was “back in the early ’70s.”

Yes. He said that.

(13) LET ‘ER RIP. Camestros Felapton is decompressing from the first season of Star Trek: Discovery by launching a weekly review of older Trek TV episodes — “Trek Tuesday* – Errand of Mercy”.

The obvious pretext for including this episode as background for Discovery is that it is the first Klingon episode. Like Discovery, Starfleet finds itself rapidly falling into war with the Klingons. However, my main reason for picking on it is as an example of what Discovery is failing to do, which is to examine some of the assumptions of Star Trek that arise out of its post-WW2 and US hegemonic roots.

… Kirk and Spock beam down to the planet, leaving Sulu in charge of the Enterprise with strict others to skedaddle if the Klingon fleet turns up. Kirk and Spock find the Organians to be a technologically primitive people, with little in the way of government. The Organians lsiten politely to Kirk’s offer of Federation membership and help against the Klingons but they politely decline. Shortly thereafter the Klingon fleet arrives and invades Organia.

It needs to be said that the Klingons are both comical and appalling. The Klingon army is a few guys marching across the set. The makeup manages to be racist in a way that is insulting both to black people and Chinese people – apparently they literally used shoe polish. The Klingon commander, Kor, is perhaps the most urbane Klingon in the Trek canon beating even Christopher Plummer’s Shakespeare quoting Klingon from the movies. At this point in Trek, the Klingons are just a generic military dictatoship, more 1984 than the syncretic mix of Viking-Samurai from later versions.

(14) DEADER THAN A SUPER DOORNAIL. The Hollywood Reporter’s Ciara Wardlow asks the question n“Has ‘Justice League’ Killed the Superhero Origin Story?” and argues that the answer is “Yes.”

At first glance, this may appear like the Warner Bros.’ DC universe taking shortcuts in order to try to catch up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but there is something else important to be considered. Namely, that the MCU’s Phase One strategy to build up to The Avengers is no longer an option. It’s too reliant on solo origin stories. Even within Phase One, audiences were getting a little restless with the formula by the time Captain America: The First Avenger rolled around only two months after Thor.

There’s nothing wrong with origin stories, and even just this year we got a great one with Wonder Woman. But the cinematic reboot craze jumpstarted by 2005′ Batman Begins lead to such an explosion of origin stories that the market has grown saturated. There is still a niche or two left available here and there. “Quality female superhero origin story” was still wide open for Wonder Woman, and can probably fit a few more entries before things start getting too crowded. But origin stories revolving around one Great Big Hero are naturally going to end up hitting the same narrative beats and plot points. Switching up various elements can keep things interesting for a while, there are limits that the superhero genre is inching very close to surpassing — a boundary where pleasantly or at least tolerably familiar crosses into the territory of boringly repetitive.

(15) LIFE IMITATES ART. “Finally, You Can Have Breakfast at Tiffany” – the New York Times has the story.

There are certain movie scenes that are so iconic that they still retain their importance in the pop-culture lexicon, even decades later. When Holly Golightly, played by Audrey Hepburn, stepped out of a yellow cab and sauntered to the window of Tiffany & Co. in the 1961 film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” with Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s “Moon River” playing in the background, such a scene was created.

As Holly ate a croissant and carried a cup of coffee, she was still, unfortunately, on the outside of the building. Since 1837, Tiffany’s has been a preeminent luxury jeweler and not a place where you could actually have breakfast. However, that changed on Friday, with the opening of the Blue Box Café, at the company’s venerable flagship store at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in New York City. Menu items will be seasonal and reflect a sophisticated take on a variety of New York dishes.

Located on the fourth floor of the building, which houses a recently renovated home and accessories section, the café is a bright, airy space, with the “Breakfast at Tiffany” breakfast starting at $29….

(16) SKILLZ. Finally, a school that teaches something students believe will be useful after they graduate…. The BBC explains “Why Singapore is training professional gamers”.  (Video preceded by obnoxious ad)

 A career in gaming would once have been unthinkable in Asia. But with the global e-sports market forecast to hit $1.5bn in three years, Singapore wants to help train new gamers how to go professional.

(17) PIG BELLY. Why this one won’t melt as quick as expected: “Antarctic glacier’s rough belly exposed”.

The melting Antarctic ice stream that is currently adding most to sea-level rise may be more resilient to change than previously recognised.

New radar images reveal the mighty Pine Island Glacier (PIG) to be sitting on a rugged rock bed populated by big hills, tall cliffs and deep scour marks.

Such features are likely to slow the ice body’s retreat as the climate warms, researchers say.

(18) CUISINE ALCHEMY. Carrots in blackberry yogurt? “The surprising ingredients behind common foods” (video).

Some of our daily staples are made of strange things that enhance their taste or their looks, or make them cost-effective.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Goodbye Uncanny Valley” in Vimeo, Alan Warburton looks at the state of computer graphics today, including a look at edgy projects that are on the verge of development in the future.

[Thanks to Nancy Sauer, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 10/29/17 Please Remember To Scroll Your Pixels In The Form Of A Question

(1) THE ORIGINAL KTF REVIEWER. Humanities revisits “Edgar Allan Poe’s Hatchet Jobs”.

Poe churned out reams of puff-free reviews—the Library of America’s collection of his reviews and essays fills nearly 1,500 dense pages. Few outside of Poe scholarship circles bother reading them now, though; in a discipline that’s had its share of so-called takedown artists, Poe was an especially unlovable literary critic. He occasionally celebrated authors he admired, such as Charles Dickens and Nathaniel Hawthorne. But, from 1835 until his death in 1849, the typical Poe book review sloshed with invective.

Tackling a collection of poems by William W. Lord in 1845, Poe opined that “the only remarkable things about Mr. Lord’s compositions are their remarkable conceit, ignorance, impudence, platitude, stupidity, and bombast.” He opened his review of Susan Rigby Morgan’s 1836 novel, The Swiss Heiress, by proclaiming that it “should be read by all who have nothing better to do.” The prose of Theodore S. Fay’s 1835 novel, Norman Leslie, was “unworthy of a school-boy.” A year later, Poe doomed Morris Mattson’s novel Paul Ulric by pushing Fay under the bus yet again, writing, “When we called Norman Leslie the silliest book in the world we had certainly never seen Paul Ulric.”

Attacking better-known writers – a tactic still in use today by several minor sff authors — was also typical of Poe.

The twist, though, is that as a critic Poe often treated ethics as disposably as we do coffee filters. That self-dealing rave review is just one example. Poe plagiarized multiple times early in his career (most notably in The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and “Usher”), but still spent much of 1845 leveling plagiarism accusations against Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Poe delivered his attacks under his own name, but also anonymously, and through an imaginary interlocutor named “Outis.” But for all of Poe’s bluster, evidence of Longfellow’s thievery was thin, and the poet, wisely, didn’t respond. “Poe’s Longfellow war,” said publisher Charles Briggs, who’d hired Poe at the Broadway Journal, “is all on one side.”

(2) WHAT A REVIEWER IS FOR. New Yorker’s Nathan Heller revisits the American Heart controversy in “Kirkus Reviews and the Plight of the “Problematic” Book Review”.

People make sense of art as individuals, and their experiences of the work differ individually, too. A reviewer speaks for somebody, even if he or she doesn’t speak for you.

To assume otherwise risks the worst kind of generalization. I went to high school in San Francisco at the height of the multiculturalism movement. My freshman curriculum did not include “The Catcher in the Rye,” “The Great Gatsby,” or “Moby-Dick.” We read, instead, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and “Bless Me, Ultima,” and other books showing the range of American fiction. I’m glad. (One can read “The Grapes of Wrath” anytime.) I remember finding Hurston’s novel brilliant and Anaya’s novel boring. I did not conclude, from these feelings, that African-American literature was interesting and Chicano literature was not. Why would I? The joy of books is the joy of people: they’re individuals, with a balance of virtues and flaws. We are free to find—and learn our way into—the ones that we enjoy the most, wherever they come from.

That specificity of response is what Vicky Smith seems to encourage by opening the full canon of new work to new readers. It’s also, though, the diversity that Kirkus has smothered by issuing a “correction”—the editor’s word—on the political emphasis of a published response. Although it’s easy these days to forget, a politics is a practice of problem-solving, case by case, not a unilateral set of color-coded rules. If certain inputs guarantee certain outputs, what’s in play isn’t politics but doctrine. Kirkus, admirably, is trying to be on the progressive side of a moment of transition in our reading. But its recent choices aren’t about progress, or about helping young people find their way through many voices. They’re about reducing books to concepts—and subjecting individuals who read them to the judgments of a crowd.

(3) AWARD REBOOT. Newly appointed award administrator Tehani Croft announced “Significant changes for the Norma K Hemming Award”.

The Norma K Hemming Award, under the auspices of the Australian Science Fiction Foundation (ASFF), announces significant changes to the Award structure.

Designed to recognise excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability in a published speculative fiction work, the Norma K Hemming Award, which has been running since 2010, has had a major overhaul this year, with new categories and a two year cycle.

The award is now open to short fiction and edited anthologies, alongside the previous eligible work of novellas, novels, collections, graphic novels and stage plays. It will also make allowances for serialised work. In addition, entry submissions may be digital or print for all submissions.

Two prizes will now be given, one for short fiction (up to 17,500 words) and one award for long work (novellas, novels, collections, anthologies, graphic novels and play scripts), with a cash prize and citation awarded.

Nominations for the 2018 awards, covering all eligible work published in 2016 and 2017, will open in early November.

(4) THE HORROR. Chloe continues the Horror 101 series at Nerds of a Feather with “HORROR 101: The Uncanny”.

The uncanny to me is a crucial element of horror: not being able to pinpoint exactly what makes us scared. While the extreme can be terrifying (the xenomorph in Alien is a category crisis—its something we can’t classify/is not instantly knowable—but it’s not uncanny because we shouldn’t be able to know it/classify it as its something completely new to the human experience). However, even more terrifying is that which is just a little off: pod people who may look like your lover, but they smile in just a slightly different way. A man with fingers just a little too long. Women with hair in front of their faces so that their expressions are unknowable.

In technology, we refer to the “uncanny valley” (a term coined by Masohiro Mori in the 70’s) when dealing with robots and computer designed images of people. A robot who looks human-like but not realistically so (think Bender in Futurama) wouldn’t trigger the uncanny valley but a robot who looks extremely close to human, but has some tiny bit of offness, such as the more and more realistic robots we have currently, would fall into it and create a sense of slight fear, revulsion, or distrust. In the film Ex Machina (which on its surface is a film about a Turing test going very wrong, but in its heart is a take on the tropes of Gothic literature and the Bluebeard fairy tale), Alicia Vikander portrays Ava brilliantly by making the robotic elements include both Ava’s movements (more perfect than an average person’s) and speech (carefully clipped and enunciated)—this heightens the uncanny valley feeling while going against the entirely human looks of her face (which wouldn’t necessarily fall into the uncanny valley).

(5) WHEN WILL YOU MAKE AN END? Alastair Reynolds writes a whole post – “Gestation time” — around a term that also came up in a discussion of Zelazny here earlier this week.

In the previous post I mentioned that my new story “Night Passage” – just out in the Infinite Stars anthology – was one I was glad to see in print because it had taken about five years to finish. I thought that was approximately the case, but when I checked my hard drive I saw that I opened a file on that story at the end of November 2009, so the better part of eight years ago. That wasn’t an attempt at the story itself, but as per my usual working method, a set of notes toward a possible idea. I rarely start work on a story cold, but instead prefer to brainstorm a series of rambling, sometimes contradictory thoughts, out of which I hope something coherent may emerge. This process can take anything from a morning to several days or weeks, but I never start a story in the first fire of inspiration.

(6) INITIAL QUESTION. At Nerds of a Feather, The G interviews Shadow Clarke reviewer Megan AM – “FIRESIDE CHAT: Megan AM of Couch to Moon”.

MEGAN AM: …  My own personal goal was to demonstrate that good, interesting, literary SF does exist; that it can come from anyone, anywhere, and in any language; and that it can compete with the basic, Americanized, TV-style SF I keep encountering on shortlists. Unfortunately, the 2017 Clarke submissions list didn’t give me much to work with on that front–a lot of the choices were very formulaic, very bland, not to mention very British, white, and male– but I did manage to find some champions I’m grateful to have read: Joanna Kavenna, Martin MacInnes, Lavie Tidhar, Johanna Sinisalo. As for my experience as a contributor… I mean, eight people I have admired in this field–most of whom I had never interacted with before– read and talked books with me. It was the coolest thing ever. I’m curious what you thought of the whole thing. Watching you watch it from the outside was interesting: You seemed genuinely interested in bridging gaps between contentious parties, communicating good faith in all sides, and withholding judgment until it was all said and done. So, now that it is done, what do you think? …

THE G: …. I’d also extend these observations to criticism itself. So I try to have a thick skin anytime I press “publish.” Someone is bound to think my ideas are rubbish, and that’s fine. At the same time, authors and fans are often guilty of violating the text/person distinction–taking depersonalized comments on a text personally and lashing out at the person who made them. The effect is to police what critics, bloggers and other reviewers can say in public, and that’s bullshit. 

I could go on, but let’s get back to the Sharke project! Or rather, back to awards. One thing that’s come up a lot in discussions is the concept of “award worthiness,” i.e. that there is some objective-ish bar that works of fiction must live up to in order to be proper candidates. I’ve bandied this term about a few times, generally when talking about the Hugos. I have a very clear sense of what, for me, constitutes award worthiness in science fiction and fantasy–some combination of ideas, execution, emotional resonance and prose chops. Not always the same combination, but hitting all four to a significant degree, and hitting one or two out of the park….

MEGAN AM: ….This comes back to questioning the idea of an objective kind of “award worthiness.” You mention “comfort SF,” which is just as subjective, because I don’t find that kind of SF comforting at all. We’re living in a Trumpnado, where critical reading and thinking skills are devalued, fake news accusations are flying from all directions, nazism is being given a platform in centrist media, and yet progressive SF fans feel threatened by the idea that it might be necessary to sharpen up on difficult, rigorous, uncomfortable novels? I’m not sure it’s appropriate right now to award anything less than radical and complex. And even setting politics aside, the these ‘comfort food books’ are aesthetically old and crusty. Reading award-nominated novels from different decades really helps to put that into perspective: Not a lot has changed in the styling of SF and its “coding” of metaphors, so I’m confused by why we keep awarding the same styles and thoughts… seventy. years. later.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

Amazingly, Clemens photographed 117 of the 156 episodes of the series. His crisp black-and white photography is well featured in the Blu-ray format – so crisp that a freeze-frame sometimes reveals details that even the art directors didn’t want you to see. For instance, in the Donald Pleasence episode “Changing of the Guard” (the final episode of the third season), the diploma on the wall of Professor Ellis Fowler’s office should feature his name. It doesn’t. Thanks to George Clemens’ crystal-clear photography, we see that it belongs to another man.

  • October 29, 1998 – John Glenn returned to outer space.

(8) THINKING ABOUT MOOLAH.  Franklin Templeton Investments gives a rundown about AI “Science Fiction To Science Fact: The Rise Of The Machines”.

By Mat Gulley, CFA, Executive Vice President, Head of Alternatives and Co-Head IM Data Science, Fintech & Rapid Development; Ryan Biggs, CFA, Research Analyst

The rapid expansion of artificial intelligence (AI) has generated a lot of excitement, but also some (perhaps justified) paranoia. Will computers replace-or even overtake-human beings? Mat Gulley, executive vice president and head of alternatives at Franklin Templeton Investments, and Ryan Biggs, research analyst at Franklin Equity Group, explore the ramifications of “the rise of the machines” in the realm of asset management. They say the full implications of the new machine age will likely take decades to fully play out, but will likely be staggering.

We have been anticipating their arrival for decades. As far back as 1958 the New York Times wrote a story about a machine developed at Cornell University called the Perceptron. The device was said to be “the embryo of an electronic computer … expected to walk, talk, see, write, reproduce itself and be conscious of its own existence.” In 1958!? That would have been an astonishing achievement in a time even before the microwave oven graced our kitchen countertops.

For the past half century, humanity has been eagerly anticipating the age of artificial intelligence (AI); imagining it in Hollywood and reporting on its progress in the media. Perhaps at times our optimism has gotten ahead of itself. Not any longer. This time, the machines are not just coming-they are already here….

(9) SPEAKING UP. The Washington Post’s Todd C. Frankel looks at the career of the video game voice actor, who can spend four hours straight practicing ways of screaming death scenes and who went on an eight-month strike to get better working conditions and residuals: “In $25 billion video game industry, voice actors face broken vocal cords and low pay”.

Yet voice actors in this industry are not treated like actors in television and movies. This led voice actors to go on strike last year against 11 of the largest video game developers over bonus pay and safety issues such as vocal stress. The bitter labor dispute dragged on for 11 months, making it the longest strike in the history of Hollywood’s largest actors’ union, SAG-AFTRA. Burch was forced to give up a critically acclaimed role she loved. Gaming fans feared delays for their favorite titles before a tentative deal was reached late last month. A vote by the full union is going on now.

The lengthy strike highlighted how video games have emerged as the scene of a tense clash between Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Voice actors want to be treated more like TV and film actors, who are viewed as central to the creative process. Tech firms often see the developers and engineers as the true stars of the show.

“They keep saying, ‘Games are different,’?” said J.B. Blanc, a well-known voice actor and director who has worked with Burch several times. “But that’s no longer true. Because games want to be movies, and movies want to be games. These are basically 100-hour-long movies.”

(10) EASY PICKINGS. Abbie Emmons has now taken her Twitter account private after absorbing a thorough and professional internet beating. The punishment began after she tweeted the opinion belittled by Foz Meadows in “Dear Abbie: An Open Letter”. Foz begins with the admission “I don’t know where your hometown is” but doesn’t let that keep her from making assumptions about it, or from working in “white” and “Christian” four times in her opening paragraph, and not in a positive way.

You’re quite right to say that you, personally, will not encounter every type of person in your small corner of the world. But “small” is the operative word, here: wherever your hometown might be, the fact that it’s the basis of your personal experience doesn’t make it even vaguely representative of the world – or even America – at large.

You claim that you “love everyone” regardless of their background, and I’m sure you believe that about yourself. Here’s the thing, though: when you say you wish people would stop being “correct” and “just write books that actually… reflected the kind of thing we encounter in real life,” you’re making a big assumption about who that “we” is. There might be very few black people in your hometown, but if one of them were to write a novel based on their memories of growing up there, you likely wouldn’t recognise certain parts of their experience, not because it was “incorrect,” but because different people lead different lives. And when you claim that certain narratives are forced and unrealistic, not because the writing is badly executed, but because they don’t resemble the things you’ve encountered, that’s not an example of you loving everyone: that’s you assuming that experiences outside your own are uncomfortable, inapplicable and wrong.

(11) EXOTIC NATTER. NextBigFuture declares “Teleportation and traversible wormholes are all real”. You wouldn’t doubt Han Solo would you?

Einstein-Rosen or “ER” bridges, are equivalent to entangled quantum particles, also known as Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen or “EPR” pairs. The quantum connection between wormholes prevents their collapse without involving exotic matter.

The quantum-teleportation format precludes using these traversable wormholes as time machines. Anything that goes through the wormhole has to wait for Alice’s message to travel to Bob in the outside universe before it can exit Bob’s black hole, so the wormhole doesn’t offer any superluminal boost that could be exploited for time travel.

Researchers are working towards lab tests of quantum teleportation to verify their theories…

(12) POT. KETTLE. BLACK. Camestros Felapton, in “Reading Vox Day So You Don’t Have To: The last essay on Chapter 6”, thinks the way to refute Vox Day’s characterization of alleged SJW organizational tactics is to show how Republicans have done the same thing to each other. True as that may be, the trouble is tit-for-tat casemaking isn’t entertaining – and usually, Camestros is very entertaining.

Organizational Tactics

These are the terrible things SJWs are supposed to do to organizations. Vox lists seven and he manages to set up a deeply insightful analysis of how an organization can be destroyed by political extremists. The only problem is that as an analysis it fit bests how the right have wrecked the Republican party. Again, I’ve changed the order to show the sequence of events better.

“The Code of Conduct: Modifying the organization’s rules and rendering them more nebulous in order to allow the prosecution or defense of any member, according to their perceived support for social justice.”

Lobbying organizations on the right like the NRA or “Americans for Tax Reform”  have systematically created an extension of the GOP’s actual rules and accountabilities for their politicians. For example the ATR has been pressurizing Republican candidates (at state and federal level) to sign the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge”: …

(13) DEAR SIR OR MADAM. SyFy Wire tells about the exhibit where you can read J.K. Rowling’s original Harry Potter pitch to publishers.

Rowling’s original pitch opens with:

Harry Potter lives with his aunt, uncle and cousin because his parents died in a car-crash — or so he has been told. The Dursleys don’t like Harry asking questions; in fact, they don’t seem to like anything about him, especially the very odd things that keep happening around him (which Harry himself can’t explain).

The Dursleys’ greatest fear is that Harry will discover the truth about himself, so when letters start arriving for him near his eleventh birthday, he isn’t allowed to read them. However, the Dursleys aren’t dealing with an ordinary postman, and at midnight on Harry’s birthday the gigantic Rubeus Hagrid breaks down the door to make sure Harry gets to read his post at last. Ignoring the horrified Dursleys, Hagrid informs Harry that he is a wizard, and the letter he gives Harry explains that he is expected at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in a month’s time.

The synopsis goes on to discuss Hagrid’s arrival and his revelations about Harry’s forehead scar while also explaining that “Harry is famous among the witches and wizards who live in secret all over the country because Harry’s miraculous survival marked Voldemort’s downfall”.

(14) SPACE VAMPIRES AND THE FUTURE OF “I”. Peter Watts brings a whole new level to the term “self-effacing” – “The Bicentennial 21st-Century Symposium of All About Me”.

This feels a bit weird. Creepy, even.  If it makes any difference, I advised them not to go ahead with it.

A couple of weeks from now— Nov 10-11— the University of Toronto will be hosting an academic symposium about me. More precisely, about my writing.

You could even call it an international event. While U of T is providing the venue, the symposium itself is organized by Aussie Ben Eldridge, of the University of Sydney. At least two of the presenters are from the US (although one of them will be Skyping in, doubtless to avoid the mandatory cavity search that seems to be SOP at the border these days).

Friday is layperson-friendly: a round-table discussion of my oeuvre, or omelet, or however you say that; a reading (new stuff, yet to be published); an interview; a bit of Q&A.  The schedule only listed 15 minutes for drinks after that, but as Ben reminds me he is an Australian and would never make so rookie a mistake. That 15 minutes is only for warm-up drinking on campus, after which we retire to the Duke of York.

Saturday is the academic stuff….

(15) VISIBLE WOMAN. We probably have more cyborgs than Taylor Swift fans on this site — which still means some of you should be interested in this new recording: “Taylor Swift Turns Cyborg For New ‘Blade Runner’-Inspired Video to ‘…Ready For It?’ Watch”.

As fans of the Blade Runner universe mull over Denis Villeneuve’s cerebral cinematic study of what makes a human, Swift goes full replicant in the new futuristic music video, which dropped at midnight.

Taylor lit up the Internet earlier this week when she teased snippets from the sci-fi clip, in which she appears in a skin-tone thermoptic suit, giving the illusion of actually being her birthday suit. Who needs threads when you’re a machine, right?

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Carl Slaughter, and Elizabeth Fitzgerald for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 10/26/17 He Came Scrolling Across The Pixels With His Godstalks And Guns

(1) BEAMING UP OR BEAMING DOWN? How likely is The Orville to stick around? Follow the ratings chart and compare it to the competition. Although interest has tailed off since the first couple of episodes, its audience is comparable to a lot of other shows in its time slot.

(2) DUD DAD. The first glimpse of Ambassador Sarek in 1967 did not prepare us for this. But Emily Asher-Perrin is persuasive: “We Can Safely Say That Sarek of Vulcan is Sci-fi’s Worst Dad”.

Look, I have been waiting years to say this and I just can’t hold back anymore. Science fiction is full of horrible dad figures. We know this. There are so many that we’d be hard pressed to decide the winner of that Battle Royale, particularly given the scope of their terribleness. Anakin Skywalker Force-choked his pregnant wife and tortured his daughter. Howard Stark emotionally abused his son into creating the “future” he wanted to bring about, and never managed to utter the words I love you. Admiral Adama made his eldest son feel totally inferior to both his dead son and his surrogate daughter, and then left him alone on a new world so he could spend three minutes with his dying paramour. Sci-fi dads are generally bad at their jobs.

But you know who it the absolutely worst? Spock’s dad.

Yeah. I’m looking at you, Sarek of Vulcan…

It’s a great hook for an article. It’s even greater if you’re old enough to remember that Jane Wyatt, the actress who played Spock’s mother in TOS, had spent years playing the mother in that ultimate patriarchal sitcom Father Knows Best.

(3) SCARY METER. The “2017 Halloween Poetry Reading” is up at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association website, with soundfiles of the poets reading their works.

This year’s Halloween poems are being curated by our own Ashley Dioses, who recently released her new book, Diary of a Sorceress. Congratulations, Ashley!

Already, poems are available by emerging and award-winning poets such as Melanie Stormm, F.J. Bergmann, John C. Mannone, Angela Yuriko Smith, Richaundra Thursday, Joshua Gage, Adele Gardner, Gary Baps, Celena StarVela, Marie Vibbert, and Deborah Davitt. Others will be added as Halloween comes closer!

(4) BREAK IN THE ACTION. Paul Cornell says “The Future of the Shadow Police” isn’t rosy.

Readers have been asking me for a while now about when the next Shadow Police novel is coming out.  The unfortunate answer is: I don’t know, verging toward never.  I’m afraid Tor UK have dropped the line.  Now, this is no cause for anger at them.  I serve at the pleasure of publishers.  I’m used to the ups and downs.  (And I know I have several ups coming my way soon, so I feel strong enough to write about this.)

I might, at some point in the future, consider using a service such as Unbound to publish the last two books in the series.  (There were always going to be five.)  And if a publisher were to get in touch, seeking to republish the first three, then go forward, I’d have that conversation.  But the aim right now is to continue with the flourishing Lychford series, and look to use the next non-Lychford novel to move up a league division or two, and then return to Quill and his team from a position of strength.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.  I’ve loved the reader reaction to the Shadow Police books.  I promise I will finish that story when it’s possible to do so.  I thought you all deserved an explanation.

(5) AS SEEN ON TV. Today, Jeopardy! obliquely referenced the various Puppy campaigns in a question:

Any member of the World Science Fiction Society can vote for this literary award, which has led to some drama.

Rich Lynch says nobody got it. Steven H Silver called it a “Triple stumper.”

(6) ROCK’N ROLL IS HERE TO SLAY. In Slate’s Definitive Ranking of Songs in Which Aliens Exterminate All Life on Earth”, the downbeat is really down.

#2: “The Last Transmission,” The Comas

Now that’s what I call “music about aliens systematically wiping out humanity!” This song, bone-deep in its pessimism, explains in some detail why we’ve got this coming: we’re oblivious to everything around us; we’re afraid for reasons we don’t understand; and above all, we’re gonna be a cakewalk for the aliens to conquer. And has there ever been a lyric that crystalized this particular moment in time as well as “At this time, sirs, I recommend that we proceed to Phase Three: Eradicate them all for the glory of our interstellar queen”? Probably. But once the interstellar queen arrives and starts eradicating us, this is going to be the hottest jam of the summer.

 

(7) DRAGON ART. Hampus calls this a “Meredith painting” – an artist paints an elaborate dragon in one stroke. Apparently this is a thing in Japanese art.

(8) BATTLE ROBOTS. The culmination of a series of robotic brawls — “Two Giant Robots Enter a Steel Mill for a 3-Round Slugfest. Which One Leaves?”

Back in 2015, American startup MegaBots Inc challenged Japanese company Suidobashi to a Giant Robot Duel–a knock-down dragout, totally-not-staged fight between the US and Japanese robot teams. On Tuesday night, the final fight went down. Here’s the breakdown, starting with Round 1:

Iron Glory (MK2) is fifteen feet tall, weighs six tons, has a 22-foot wingspan at full extension, a top speed of 2.5 miles per hour, a 24 horsepower engine, and is armed with a missile launcher and a six-inch cannon that fires 3-pound paintballs. Iron Glory is described as favoring a “Western” combat style, with an emphasis on distance and ranged weaponry….

 

And if that’s not enough coverage for you, there’s also “USA and Japan’s giant robot battle was a slow, brilliant mess”.

(9) SAGA FIGURES. Funko is working with Skybound Entertainment to produce figures from the Saga graphic novel series. Nine figures have been announced, which include a couple of variants and one exclusive to Barnes and Noble: “Funko SAGA Pops are Coming!” The figures will be available in February of 2018.

It’s no secret that we here at Skybound LOVE Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples’ Eisner Award winning comic SAGA. We love it so much that in the past couple years we’ve teamed up with Brian and Fiona to bring you a ton of amazing merch for the series. Today, we’re happy to announce that everyone’s favorite space opera is OFFICIALLY get the Funko Pop! vinyl treatment.

We’ve got Marko, Alana, The Will, Prince Robot & Lying Cat coming your way and they’re adorable! These guys will be dropping at a shop near you in February. Make sure to keep an eye out for retailer exclusives (like Izabel at Hot Topic) and chase variants. You can see the first images for the figures below. Let us know in the comments which Funko pop you’re most excited for (the correct answer is: ALL OF THEM. Just fyi).

(10) BIRD UPDATE. In October 2015, File 770 linked to a GoFundMe appeal by science fiction writer RP Bird (RP’s Cancer Survival Fund). Terhi Törmänen has news about a new appeal for help:

RP Bird survived cancer treatment but is not in good health and still suffers from chronic and almost debilitating pain. He’s actually currently quite desperate as you can read from his latest appeal.

He’s been able support himself through a low-paying part time job that he’ll probably lose in very near future.

He’s launched a new appeal to raise money to be able to go trough further facial and dental surgery to improve his ability to e.g. eat properly and lessen the pain and other health issues stemming from the cancer and its treatment. The state will pay for the operations but he does not have any savings to pay rent for his one-room accommodation and other very modest living expenses while he’s going through the operations and recovering from them. His appeal is quite reasonable $ 2000.

I think that if you’d mention his desperate situation in the File 770 the appeal might have a chance to succeed and a life could be saved.

(11) SOPHIA THE SAUDI ROBOT. The BBC asks, “Does Saudi robot citizen have more rights than women?”

Meet Sophia, a robot who made her first public appearance in the Saudi Arabian city of Riyadh on Monday.

Sophia was such a hit she was immediately given Saudi citizenship in front of hundreds of delegates at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh on 25 October.

But as pictures and videos of Sophia began circulating on social media many started to ask why a robot already seemed to have secured more rights than women in the country

Sophia, created by Hong Kong company Hanson Robotics, addressed the audience in English without the customary headscarf and abaya, a traditional cloak which Saudi women are obliged to wear in public.

“I am very honoured and proud for this unique distinction,” she said. “This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with a citizenship.”

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SJW CREDENTIAL RENEWED. Bruce Arthurs tells “My Best True Cat Story” at the Undulant Fever blog.

…Hilde and I exchanged looks as we drove slowly by, but didn’t want to upset Chris before church. So I drove them to church, then came back, retrieved the body, took it home, and buried it in the back yard, with a lot of tears. (He may not have been THE World’s Best Cat, but he was a contender.)…

(14) IT’S IN THE BAGON. “Do you have a hoard that needs guarding? A dragon could be your greatest ally,” says the person behind the Dragon Bagons Kickstarter.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign to launch Bagthulhu’s conquest of the globe, Wayward Masquerade is back with a range of CR10 cuties that want to hoard all your dice. They’ve raised $6,216 of their $18,260 goal as of this writing, with 26 days left in the appeal.

(15) CEREAL JUSTICE WARRIOR. Saladin Ahmed’s tweet in protest yielded an immediate promise from Kellogg’s to change some art.

USA Today reports “Kellogg’s revamping racially insensitive Corn Pops boxes”.

Kellogg’s will be redesigning Corn Pops cereal boxes after a complaint about racially insensitive art on the packaging.

The Battle Creek, Mich.-based cereal and snack maker said on Twitter Wednesday it will replace the cover drawing of cartoon characters shaped like corn kernels populating a shopping mall. The corn pop characters are shown shopping, playing in an arcade or frolicked in a fountain. One skateboards down an escalator.

What struck Saladin Ahmed was that a single brown corn pop was working as a janitor operating a floor waxer. Ahmed, current writer of Marvel Comics’ Black Bolt series and author of 2012 fantasy novel Throne of the Crescent Moon, took to Twitter Tuesday to ask, “Why is literally the only brown corn pop on the whole cereal box the janitor? this is teaching kids racism.”

He added in a subsequent post: “yes its a tiny thing, but when you see your kid staring at this over breakfast and realize millions of other kids are doing the same…”

Kellogg’s responded to Ahmed on the social media network about five hours later that “Kellogg is committed to diversity & inclusion. We did not intend to offend – we apologize. The artwork is updated & will be in stores soon.”

(16) BREAKFAST IN SWITZERLAND. Newsweek reports experiments at CERN still cannot explain how matter formed in the early universe: “The Universe Should Not Actually Exist, Scientists Say”.

David K.M. Klaus sent the link along with this quotation:

“Don’t you see, Tommie?  I’ve explained it to you, I know I have.  Irrelevance.  Why, you telepaths were the reason the investigation started; you proved that simultaneity was an admissible concept…and the inevitable logical consequence was that time and space do not exist.”

I felt my head begin to ache.  “They don’t?  Then what is that we seem to be having breakfast in?” ”Just a mathematical abstraction, dear.  Nothing more.  She smiled and looked motherly.  “Poor ‘Sentimental Tommie.’  You worry too much.” Time For The Stars by Robert A. Heinlein, 1956

(17) BREAKFAST IN WAUKEGAN. The Chicago Tribune says you can find some alien eats in Bradbury’s birthplace: “Waukegan eatery gets its moniker from famous son Ray Bradbury”.

Science fiction author and native son Ray Bradbury wrote about 1920s Waukegan as “Green Town” in three books, “Dandelion Wine,” “Something Wicked This Way Comes” and “Farewell Summer.”

Bradbury died in 2012. A park, two arts festivals, and a tavern downtown bear his name

Robert Sobol, owner of Green Town Tavern in Waukegan’s downtown district, originally opened the place under a different name in 2006. His business partner left and Sobol took over the bar two years later. Sobol was looking for a new name, so he held a contest asked his customers to think of one. Green Town was declared the winner with the most votes….

Green Town Tavern offers a Saturday Happy Thyme Breakfast from 8 a.m. to noon and features breakfast dishes like the Green Town Omelette — three eggs, bacon, sausage, onions, peppers and cheddar cheese with hash browns — and “Waukegan’s Finest Bloody Mary.”

(18) KINGPIN. If you follow Daredevil, this will probably be good news for you: “‘Daredevil’ Brings Back Vincent D’Onofrio For Season 3; Erik Oleson Joins As New Showrunner”. Deadline has the story.

Vincent D’Onofrio has been set to reprise as Wilson Fisk for the third season of Daredevil, I’ve learned. As the Kingpin crime lord, the Emmy nominee was the main villain in Season 1 of the Netflix series and made an imprisoned appearance in last year’s Season 2. The ex-Law & Order actor hinted to fans recently that official word on his Daredevil return was in the cards with a banner photo of the Fisk character up on his Twitter page

(19) KARLOFF AND LUGOSI: A HALLOWEEN TRIBUTE. Steve Vertlieb invites you to read his posts about the iconic horror actors at The Thunder Child website.

He was beloved by children of all ages, the gentle giant brought to horrifying screen existence by electrodes and the thunderous lightening of mad inspiration. Here, then, is my Halloween look back at the life and career of both Frankenstein’s, and Hollywood’s beloved “Monster,” Boris Karloff.

Here is my affectionate Halloween tribute to Bela Lugosi…his “horrific” career ascension, as well as its poignant decline…as we remember The Man Behind Dracula’s Cape.

(20) OHHHKAYYYY….. Polygon reports “Boyfriend Dungeon is all about dating your weapons, and it looks rad”.

We’ve already found our favorite mashup of 2019: Boyfriend Dungeon, a dungeon crawler from indie team Kitfox Games (Moon Hunters, The Shrouded Isle), which combines hack-and-slash gameplay with very, very cute guys and girls.

Boyfriend Dungeon is exactly what it says on the tin, based on the first trailer. Players are a tiny warrior fighting through monster-ridden areas. Scattered across the procedurally generated dungeons are a bunch of lost weapons — which, once rescued, turn out to actually be extremely cute singles.

That’s when the dungeon crawler turns into a romance game, and it’s also when we all realized that Boyfriend Dungeon is something special. Every romance option has their own specific weapon to equip, from an epee to a dagger and then some. Players work to level up those weapons, but also to win over these sweet babes during dialogue scenes. If this isn’t the smartest combination of genres we’ve seen in some time, we don’t know what is.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Dann, Steven H Silver, Rich Lynch, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]

Pixel Scroll 9/12/17 There Are As Yet Insufficient Pixels For A Meaningful Scroll

(1) ABRAMS BACK AT THE HELM. The Wrap’s Beatrice Verhoeven and Umberto Gonzalez, in “J.J. Abrams To Replace Colin Trevorrow on STAR WARS:  EPISODE IX”, say that Disney says that Abrams has been signed to direct this Star Wars film after Trevorrow, who has been attached to Episode IX since 2015, was given the boot.

 “With ‘The Force Awakens,’ J.J. delivered everything we could have possibly hoped for, and I am so excited that he is coming back to close out this trilogy,” said Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy in a statement.

Abrams directed and produced “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2015. He is also serving as an executive producer on the upcoming film “The Last Jedi,” out this December, which Rian Johnson is directing. Abrams will co-write “Episode IX” with Chris Terrio.

(2) A VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY. Time-lapse photography unexpectedly reveals that starships are built from wood.

(3) TOOTLE, PLUNK AND BOOM. And it’s time that the new series theme embarked on a shakedown cruise.

When it comes to Star Trek, a dynamic main title theme is key. In this behind-the-scenes video for Star Trek: Discovery, composer Jeff Russo leads a 60-piece orchestra in recording the new series theme.

 

(4) THANKS FROM THE CENTER. The Center for Bradbury Studies hit its fundraising goal.

THANK YOU! Because of your generous support, the #CenterforRayBradburyStudies exceeded its #fundraising goal to raise over $6,000! In May, the Center received a generous grant from the Indiana Historical Society with a matching requirement that you helped raise. Thanks to you, we will be able to move forward in our mission to preserve and advance #RayBradbury's amazing legacy. We promise to steward your investments wisely. We'll do our best to keep you up to date on what's happening at the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies and the impact of your support. For those who missed the opportunity, the Preserving the World of Ray Bradbury crowdfunding site is still open. The collection is huge and our preservation needs continue. Thank you again, great Bradbury supporters, including those of you who support us regularly!!! #RayBradbury @indianahistory https://iufoundation.fundly.com/preservingtheworldofraybradbury

A post shared by Cntr for Ray Bradbury Studies (@bradburycenter) on

(5) VINTAGE TUBE. Echo Ishii has a new installment in her series of reviews of antique TV shows: “SF Obscure: The Tripods”

The Tripods TV series is a 1984-1985 YA SF series based on a series of books The Tripods by John Christopher. It ran for two seasons on the BBC. There are many changes from the books to the tv series though the basic concept remains the same.

The show begins in the future 2089. We see a pre-industrial version of England. Horse drawn carriages, family farms, etc. A young man in a suit is being congratulated by his friends and family for his “capping “ceremony. He takes off his hat to reveal his shaven head. Out of the sky comes a giant metal tripod, that lands in the lake and pulls the young man up inside.

(6) BELIEVERS IN THE MISANDRY CONSPIRACY. At the Emperor’s Notepad a blogger who writes books as Xavier Lastra is convinced he has come up with a more profound explanation for the anti-male bias claims Jon Del Arroz has been selling online this week: “‘Lit Bait’ and preferences/discrimination in genre literature”.

Because the artistic preferences of SF&F editors go way beyond a possible gender bias (which I’m sure exists in some places.) You could be a woman of color with an African-Asian name and a card-carrying member of the Communist Party that if you write a certain type of story, it will be ignored. If it gives off just a whiff of testosterone or sounds like an action-packed adventure yarn with a preference for honest and unironic drama and fun, without any pretense of being “mature,” it won’t be accepted. After all, they have an artistic image to maintain. They can’t just publish any pulpy trash!

And here’s where the feminine aspect comes into play. Obviously, women write all sort of stories, but there is a specific female subset that seems to be especially apt at writing the sort of sentimental Literary Bait, dripping with status anxiety and cheap progressive performances, that routinely gets awarded. It happens at all levels, from school contests to international literary awards. Call it “discrimination” or simply “preferences,” but it’s there.

(7) CAN YOU SAY, “ECOLOGICAL DISASTER”? I KNEW YOU COULD. The more I hear about these hippo books, the more intriguing they become. The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fic & Fantasy Blog’s Martin Cahill gives Sarah Gailey’s latest two tusks up: “The Hippo Mayhem Continues in Taste of Marrow.

Earlier this year, Sarah Gailey treated us to a book that made the phrase “alternate history western hippo caper” part of the vernacular. River of Teeth is a fun, nuanced tale of an alternate 19th century United States in which hippopotami were introduced into the environment to make up for a livestock shortage and soon overran their boundaries (something that really almost happened, save for a fateful vote in Congress).  It’s a novella chock full of what we love in a debut: memorable prose, a lush setting, precise worldbuilding, and a cast of diverse characters trying their best to pull off a caper, even with the odds against them.

If River of Teeth asked why and how this hippo-hunting posse formed up, sequel Taste of Marrow asks a different question: why do they stay together? Especially with the caper is in shambles, a key member of the crew dead, and another presumed dead at the hands of a pregnant assassin?

Several weeks after River of Teeth, the feral hippos once penned into the Mississippi have been let loose, and Archie and Houndstooth are fleeing to parts left un-feraled.

(8) WEIN REMEMBRANCE. NPR’s Glen Weldon paid tribute to the late Lein Wein on Morning Edition: “Comic Book Legend Len Wein Dies At 69”.

GLEN WELDON, BYLINE: Len Wein wrote and edited the adventures of many well-known superheroes over the course of his career – your Batmans, your Hulks. But he created Wolverine with artists John Romita Sr. and Herb Trimpe. Hugh Jackman played him on screen for years. With his extendible, razor-sharp, adamantium claws, he isn’t much of a talker.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAMING)

WELDON: He’s more of a grunter, and slasher and stabber.

(SOUNDBITE OF SLASHING)

WELDON: Wolverine was an innovative superhero in several ways. He was hotheaded. He was hyperviolent. He was Canadian. Most importantly, he was an antihero, one of an emerging breed of characters who strained against the good-guy-versus-bad-guy formula of old-school comics. As Wein explained in the 2016 PBS documentary, you couldn’t pin the guy down.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Video Games Day

History of Video Games Day

The history of Video Games Day is really the history of the video game, and that history goes back much farther than most people imagine. The first game ever created is often thought to be Bertie the Brain, an artificial intelligence designed to play Tic-Tac-Toe. Considering that Bertie was a 4 meter high machine built on vacuum tube technology, you can imagine it didn’t get out much, in fact, it was disassembled after the Canadian National Exhibition it was revealed at, and never rebuilt. A year later a computer was built called Nimrod, Nimrod was a computer built and displayed at the Festival of Britain in 1951 and designed to play a game called Nim.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 12, 1958 The Blob premiered.
  • September 12, 1993 Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman premiered on the small screen.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY POET

  • Born September 12, 1942 – Marge Simon, Grand Master of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association.

(12) HURRICANE HARVEY FALLOUT. The 100 Year Starship Symposium that was scheduled for this weekend in Santa Monica has been postponed til next year.

While we were busily and excitedly preparing for the debut of the NEXUS 2017 event in Santa Monica this month, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, the administrative, programming and operational headquarters of 100 Year Starship (100YSS).

As you know from all the news reporting, Hurricane Harvey effectively stopped Houston business, transportation, commerce and private activities at homes for five days or more.  All aspects of the work on NEXUS was severely disrupted.  And though the skies are clear in Houston now, the problems of catching up in the face of clean-up and remediation of this natural disaster — currently called the most severe in U.S. history – continue.  We tried diligently, but it has been impossible to overcome Harvey’s impact.

The NEXUS event team huddled and decided to postpone NEXUS so that it will be the type of wildly transformational, engaging and magical event planned.

Space. Radical. Vital. Down to Earth.

We are working to reschedule NEXUS for the first quarter of 2018 and should have new dates shortly.

However, one of the weekend’s scheduled events will still take place —

The 25 Strong! Celebration under the Space Shuttle Endeavour at the Oschin Pavilion of the California Science Center will take place in Los Angeles on Friday, September 15 as originally scheduled since most of the planning and logistics activities were handled there.  If you had planned to attend, are local or have safe travel plans, then please join us.

Patrick S. Tomlinson will be hosting 25 Strong.

(13) LAWS WERE BROKEN. In “Still A Harsh Mistress – Andy Weir: Artemis” at Spekulatív Zóna, Bence Pintér reviews the new novel by the author of The Martian.

Nevertheless, Jazz needs money. Very, very much. And that’s the point when one of her old clients, a Norwegian billionaire businessman comes up with a plan. It is complicated, but it’s a piece of cake for a woman as talented as Jazz. The job pays a lot of money. It is also illegal as hell. And as it turns out, it can really affect the future of Artemis. By the way: why everyone is suddenly crazy about the failing aluminium industry?

The start is a bit bumpy, but after we learn more about Jazz and her ways, the novel shifts to full throttle. The elements are almost the same as in The Martian: a lot of fun in the narration by the badass protagonist and loads of Moon-science instead of Mars-science. Also with some sparkling dialogues and one-liners, the Brazilian mafia, and a collection of misfit friends of Jazz. Jazz is doing a lot of illegal stuff, so forget about the heroism of Mark Watney. And also say goodbye to space potatoes: all you got in exchange is algae-based food called Gunk, which is awful by all accounts.

(14) 19TH-CENTURY RESISTANCE LEADER. GF Willmetts of SFCrowsnest has some iconoclastic things to say about “The Forgotten Genius Of Oliver Heaviside by Basil Mahon (book review)”.

Much of the formulas and his science, especially his legacy, are in the footnotes at the back of the book. It would have made more sense to have incorporated much of this into the main contents of the book. If readers couldn’t understand it, they can easily skip it but placing in notes brings it to secondary importance. I think even Heaviside would agree his maths is more important than his life.

(15) NOTE FROM THE DEAN. Crooked Timber’s John Holbo helps you visualize what happens when “Robert Heinlein writes letters to editors and librarians”.

Enough Lovecraft! Robert Heinlein! I’m reading Innocent Experiments:Childhood and the Culture of Popular Science in the United States, by Rebecca Onion. Chapter 4, “Space Cadets and Rocket Boys: Policing the Masculinity of Scientific Enthusiasms” has quite a bit of good stuff on Heinlein – well it would have to, wouldn’t it? If you’ve read some Heinlein you kind of know what Heinlein is like. But there’s good stuff here about his exchanges with editors. The guy was one serious SJW, insisting on his minority quotas. Of course, he always manages to make it weird in his cosmopolitan-but-All-American, messianic-rationalist-masculinist libertarian-disciplinarian anti-authoritarian-but-in-an-authoritarian-way way.

(16) GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY GAINS RECRUIT. Marvel says you can expect to see a familiar face in an unfamiliar space when the comic’s next issue appears.

The Guardians have been tasked with some wacky and big adventures while doing the Grandmaster’s bidding, which includes stealing from The Collector – and Star-Lord even accidently destroyed one of his favorite mix-tapes. Now, as they prepare for their Legacy arc THE INFINITY QUEST, they’ll have to team up with the group that has been on their tails – the Nova Corps – as well as one ex-Avenger if they want to keep the universe safe.

“We’re excited to have an Avenger joining the ranks of the Guardians…or is it the Nova Corps? Or both? Oh, you’ll see,” teased editor Jordan D. White. “Just know, he beat out some stiff competition, as you can tell by that cover of issue #12!”

Who exactly is this Avenger? One of the five Marvel superstars on this cover should give you a hint…

(17) HWA ANTHOLOGY. The Horror Writers Association’s Haunted Nights will be released October 3:

Sixteen never-before-published chilling tales that explore every aspect of our darkest holiday, Halloween, co-edited by Ellen Datlow, one of the most successful and respected genre editors, and Lisa Morton, a leading authority on Halloween.

In addition to stories about scheming jack-o’-lanterns, vengeful ghosts, otherworldly changelings, disturbingly realistic haunted attractions, masks that cover terrifying faces, murderous urban legends, parties gone bad, cult Halloween movies, and trick or treating in the future, Haunted Nights also offers terrifying and mind-bending explorations of related holidays like All Souls’ Day, Dia de los Muertos, and Devil’s Night.

  • “With Graveyard Weeds and Wolfbane Seeds” by Seanan McGuire
  • “Dirtmouth” by Stephen Graham Jones”
  • “A Small Taste of the Old Countr” by Jonathan Maberry
  • “Wick’s End” by Joanna Parypinski
  • “The Seventeen Year Itch” by Garth Nix
  • “A Flicker of Light on Devil’s Night” by Kate Jonez
  • “Witch-Hazel” by Jeffrey Ford
  • “Nos Galen Gaeaf” by Kelley Armstrong
  • “We’re Never Inviting Amber Again” by S. P. Miskowski
  • “Sisters” by Brian Evenson
  • “All Through the Night” by Elise Forier Edie
  • “A Kingdom of Sugar Skulls and Marigolds” by Eric J. Guignard
  • “The Turn” by Paul Kane
  • “Jack” by Pat Cadigan
  • “Lost in the Dark” by John Langan
  • “The First Lunar Halloween” by John R. Little

(18) NOPE. Madeleine E. Robins explains “No, I Won’t Put You in My Book” at Book View Café.

I have a lot of friends who tuckerize, or even kill off people who have hurt them in their fiction. Sometimes they auction off  naming for a character for charity. Sometimes a friend just works his/her way into a story. I found myself a member of the NYPD a few years ago, which was kind of interesting. I have nothing against having real-world names or real-world people showing up in fiction; I sometimes find it distracting, if it’s a real-world name or person I personally know, but that’s not enough reason to demand a practice be stopped. I don’t kill off my enemies (wait, I have enemies?) or exes in my work, but again–that’s me.

(19) CAT HERDERS. SJW symbols survive Irma: “Hurricane Irma: Rare animals survive devastating storm”.

As Hurricane Irma cut a devastating path through the Florida Keys islands, a colony of six-toed cats appears to have survived without a scratch.

The furry felines, descended from a pet owned by Ernest Hemingway, ignored orders to evacuate as the winds swept through the writer’s historic house.

Endangered deer native to the islands also appear to have survived the storm.

Florida Keys and western parts of the state bore the brunt of Irma in the US, with winds of up to 120mph (192km/h).

“Save the cats. Get all the cats in the car and take off!” the late Mr Hemingway’s granddaughter, Mariel, urged in a video posted on Friday.

Staff responsible for maintaining the Hemingway Home Museum in Key West, Florida, chose to ride out the storm over the weekend in the property with 54 of their feline friends.

(20) SJW CREDENTIALS – ALL ABOARD! Unfortunately I can’t get my computer to pick up an excerpt from “What It’s Like to Ride Japan’s Cat Café Train” at Atlas Obscura. You’ll love the photos.

(21) ALWAYS NEWS TO SOMEONE. To make up for it, I will run another SJW Credential story I missed when it came out in 2016: Seanan McGuire and the TSA.

(22) SCARES MORE THAN CROWS. “Giant Star Wars AT-AT model built in front garden” – video at the link.

A man has built a giant Star Wars model in his front garden.

The 20ft (6m) replica AT-AT – a combat vehicle in the Star Wars films – was built by Ian Mockett, 54, at his home in Harpole, Northamptonshire.

It took him and his friends a month to make it out of wood for the village’s annual scarecrow festival.

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Burn Out. JJ has anointed this a “strong contender for the DP Short Form Hugo.”

Stella, a space mechanician, has broken down and ended on a desert planet. While she is in despair, a little girl appears out of nowhere. Following the child into a tunnel, in the depths of the planet, she discovers a big cave full of objects that belonged to her, reminding her the dreams she has left behind.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 8/7/17 There Are Eight Million Pixels In The Naked Scroll

(1) ROBOCALL BOMB THREAT LEADS TO CON EVACUATION. On Sunday fans were ordered to evacuate Yestercon, a one-day nostalgia con in Carson, California, as a result of a bomb threat. PopCultHQ has extensive coverage.

…“CelebWorx brought Keith Coogan and Greg Berg to Yestercon. At approximately 3:08, onsite staffers from the Carson civic center went through the celebrity aisle to calmly alert us to leave the facility immediately. We had no time to grab anything. When we reached the parking lot, the Carson police department asked us to get in our cars and drive away as far as possible. The show until then was going wonderfully with a healthy crowd. It was the most attended Yestercon in the past three years. We returned two hours later to retrieve our abandoned items.” – Nery Lemus – Vice President – CelebWorx

Nery then went on to provide me the following;

“After speaking to a Yestercon official, the Bomb Threat was a result of a robotic phone call singling out the name Yestercon as the target of the threat.”

(2) CAN THIS GAME BE PLAYED FOR MONEY? Yes, if you make it to the world-champion video-gaming tournament: “The biggest e-sports event in the world”.

The International isn’t just any e-sports tournament.

It’s the biggest event of its kind in the world with a prize pool of nearly $24m (£18.4m) and is hosted by Valve.

Sixteen teams, with players from all over the world, are competing in the season climax for online battle arena game Dota 2.

For many of them the prestige of lifting the trophy at this ultra-competitive event is far more important than the cash.

Alex “machine” Richardson is Dota 2’s answer to Gary Lineker and has been hosting the live stream of the group stages, which are taking place in Seattle.

(3) HOW DOCTOR WHO STOLE CHRISTMAS. ScienceFiction.com says it could have been lost for good — “Steven Moffat Explains How Last Year’s Christmas Special Was Almost The Last”.

In a recent interview, current showrunner Steven Moffat – who will cede the position to newcomer Chris Chibnall after Moffat’s last episode, the upcoming Christmas Special – outlined how the special episode almost didn’t happen this year, and may have been eliminated forever.

As Moffat explains about his discussions with the BBC regarding his departure:

“There was one big glitch, which was Christmas. I was going to leave at the end of series 10 – I had my finale planned and what I wanted to do with it. I had a good notion of that. Then I learned at a drinks event somewhere that Chris didn’t want to start with a Christmas [episode], so at that point they were going to skip Christmas. There’d be no Christmas special and we would’ve lost that slot.

(4) THE NEXT DOCTOR. The BBC tells “How Jodie Whittaker ‘missed’ fan reactions to Doctor Who role” — contains long audio on her reactions (lots of gosh-wow) and on advice she received from former Time Lords (starting at 6:50 on 2nd clip).

Jodie Whittaker says she didn’t see people’s reactions to her becoming the first female Doctor Who, because she’s not on social media.

Speaking to BBC 6 Music in her first broadcast interview since her casting was revealed, she said: “This will be a blessing and a curse.

“I’ve missed a lot of the fun stuff and probably the bad stuff.”

(5) W75 YES, COMICONS, NO. Helsinki-bound book dealer Francesca T. Barbini of Luna Press Publishing answers the question, “Why Do Authors Need To Go To Cons?”, and advises which ones to pick.

On Monday we leave for Finnish shores. Worldcon 75 here we come!

I’m laughing/crying at the logistic nightmare ahead of us: 5 cricket bags full of books! Between the early rise to catch the plane and the dragging of luggage, by the time we reach Helsinki, we’ll feel like Sisyphus in the Underworld. However, the plan is to return home much lighter 🙂 so please, make our authors (and our back) happy and adopt a book!

Conventions are a big part of an author’s life. I cannot imagine being where I am today without my con experience. Specifically, I am referring to book conventions/events, rather than traditional book fairs like London or Frankfurt, and definitely not ComicCons, which are a different matter altogether. The ones I go to are primarily about SF, Fantasy and Horror.

That said, I also realise that I am lucky to be able to attend, as they are also one of the biggest expenses in an author’s yearly schedule, which not everyone can afford, for several reasons. And what if you can’t go? What will people think?

With Worldcon upon us, I want to share my con experience with others and why I think that authors should go to conventions if they can. We’ll look at Pros and Cons as well as tips for when money is an issue…..

(6) THE SENSE OF WONDER IS NOW MAINSTREAM. Never mind the authors aching for Dragon Awards, it used to be that sci-fi shows watched by millions couldn’t get a sniff of the Emmys. Vanity Fair remembers: “From Game of Thrones to Stranger Things: How Geek TV Crashed the Emmys”

In 2005, Emmy voters opened their mail to find a mysterious black envelope stuffed with DVDs. “‘The No. 1 Television Show of 2005’—Time Magazine,” the cover read, without disclosing the title of the program on the discs. The show was Battlestar Galactica, a serious-minded reboot of the campy 1970s series, and the idea was to trick snobby TV Academy members into watching a science-fiction drama without rolling their eyes.

“We were battling the name,” Battlestar Galactica executive producer Ronald D. Moore told me recently, of his effort to get colleagues who were making dramas such as The West Wing and 24 to take seriously a show set in a distant star system. “It was considered kiddie stuff: ‘That’s not real TV. It’s people running around in silly outfits. There was real TV and then what we were doing. You couldn’t get a meeting on NYPD Blue,’” Moore said. The black-envelope strategy didn’t work—despite receiving widespread critical acclaim for its writing, acting, and directing, Battlestar Galactica collected nominations only in the visual-effects categories that year.

What a difference a decade or so makes. Fantasy and science-fiction TV are now decidedly prestige TV, as shows such as Moore’s latest—the time-traveling Starz series, Outlander—exist in a crowded world of awards-hungry monsters, zombies, and robots. There’s HBO’s Westworld, which tied Saturday Night Live as the show with the most Emmy nominations this year (22), Netflix’s Stranger Things (18) and Black Mirror (3), Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale (13), USA’s Mr. Robot (3), and Starz’s American Gods (2), to name a few. Many of the shows sit on the shoulders of HBO’s barrier-breaking Game of Thrones, which became the most awarded scripted series in Emmy history last year, with 38 wins. That a cable program featuring chain mail and dragons could shatter a record once held by NBC’s Frasier reveals how much the TV industry has changed. (Due to the timing of its season, Game of Thrones is not eligible for Emmys this year, to the relief of every one of its competitors. Outlander, which has been nominated for three Emmys and four Golden Globes in the past, is out of contention this year for the same reason.)

(7) BEFORE HE WAS SPOCK. While Bill was searching for more clippings about celebrities who love Mexican food (triggered, presumably, by the item about Boris Karloff the other day) he came across this Leonard Nimoy item in The Boston Globe for March 31, 1968 – which has nothing to do with food, but you may like it anyway….

[Leonard Nimoy] was asked to tell the story again about the time he was driving a cab and he picked up John F. Kennedy. “That was in 1956. I was just out of the service and I was driving a cab at night in Los Angeles and looking for acting jobs during the day. I got a call to go to the Bel Air Hotel to pick up a Mr. Kennedy. It was a highly political time — right before the conventions — and Stevenson and Kefauver were running strong. When I got to the Bel Air I asked the doorman if I was waiting for the senator from Massachusetts. He said he didn’t know. When Kennedy came down the doorman whispered to me, ‘Is this guy a senator?’

“As Kennedy got in the cab I said, ‘How are things in Massachusetts, senator? He perked up. He said, ‘Are you from Massachusetts?’ He asked me so many questions — he was very socially-oriented — he asked me why I was in California, where my folks were from, why they came to the U.S. and what they thought about my being an actor. I asked him about Stevenson’s chances and he said, ‘You talk to a lot of people. What do you think?’ I asked him what would happen if Stevenson won the nomination and lost the election. He said ‘He’d be finished politically.’ That was the one flat statement he made about politics. I dropped him at the Beverly Hilton. The fare was $1.25 and he didn’t have any cash in his pocket. He went into the hotel and I followed him, tagging along for my $1.25. He finally found somebody he knew and he borrowed three dollars and he turned around and handed it to me.”

(8) NAKAJIMA OBIT. Vale, kaiju. Rue Morgue reports the death of original Godzilla suit actor Haruo Nakajima.

Very sad news: The man who first portrayed Japanese cinema’s greatest monster has passed on, leaving behind an enormous footprint.

Haruo Nakajima, who donned the rubber suit for the title character of 1954’s GOJIRA (released Stateside as GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS in 1956),

(9) LOS ANGELES UNDERSTOOD. A Bradbury quote begins this LA Times article about the 2028 Olympics: “A dream and a reality, the 2028 Olympics give Los Angeles a chance to imagine its future”.

When asked to explain the secret of Los Angeles on the eve of the 1984 Olympics, the late poet, novelist and fantasist Ray Bradbury broke it down, capturing the ingenuous advantage the city enjoyed as it was coming of age.

“L.A. is a conglomerate of small towns striving toward immensity and never making it, thank God,” he wrote. “We have no kings, queens, or courts, no real pecking order, no hierarchies to prevent those of us who care to lean into creativity from running loose in the big yard.”

(10) BRADBURY’S MARS. Local NPR station KPCC devoted part of today’s Take Two show to “‘The Martian Chronicles:’ An out-of-this-world projection of LA”. Audio clip at the link.

It doesn’t even take place on this planet, yet this Sci-fi classic by longtime resident Ray Bradbury has a lot to say about L.A. in the early 1950s.  David Kipen is a book editor and founder of the Libros Schmibros lending library. You can take Bradbury out of L.A. but you can’t take L.A. out of Bradbury, he says. …

Parallels between native peoples of Earth and Mars

The stories add up to something greater than the sum of their parts. They add up to this parable of what Ray experienced as an immigrant to Southern California where the only remnant left that he could readily see of the Tongva, of the Chumash, were some cave paintings up in Santa Ynez, and a lot of place names like Tujunga – like Topanga. The Native Americans were here but there weren’t where Ray Bradbury grew up on Alexandria or Kenmore in Hollywood. Ray was not going to see much evidence of that. So it’s this sense of a bygone civilization of which only remnants remain. Ray, as a guy coming to LA in the 1930s with his family, was only going to get these kind of ghostly hints of the people who once lived on this same land for thousands of years before. And he transmutes that into the way he presents the Martians as these people very much in sync and in sympathy with the land, and rather otherworldly, and at the same time, endangered.

(11) COMICS SECTION. John King Tarpinian’s radar also spotted the Bradbury reference in today’s Frazz.

(12) WORLDCON PROGRAMMING. Not in Helsinki today? Here’s something else you’ve missed:

(13) STILL PACKING. Some may be delayed because their SJW credential is trying to stow away.

(14) A SURPRISE. Lou Antonelli, in “First thoughts on the Dragon award”, included this insight about the award’s management:

I’ve been a finalist for both the Sidewise and Hugo awards, and in both cases, if you have made the ballot, you are contacted in advance, and asked if you accept the honor. Sometimes people prefer to take a bye.

Nominations for the Dragon closed July 24, and after a week had passed I assumed I had not made the grade. I was sure of it last Thursday night when I received an email that had a link to the final ballot.

I opened the ballot, to see who HAD made the grade, and was startled to see my name there. The Dragon award apparently is less bureaucratic than some others, I suppose, and they simply released the final ballot the way the nominations fell.

(15) DRAGON WITHDRAWAL. Alison Littlewood preceded John Scalzi in taking herself out of contention with “A statement regarding the Dragon Awards”.

It has just been announced that The Hidden People has been nominated for a Dragon Award.

While this would normally be a great pleasure, it has also been brought to my notice that my book has been selected by a voting bloc who are attempting, for reasons of their own, to influence the awards outcome. Essentially, the same group who set out to fix the Hugo Awards are now encouraging their supporters to follow their voting choices in the Dragon Awards.

I’m grateful to anyone who has voted for The Hidden People in good faith, but I am deeply concerned that the voting should be fair going forward and so I have today emailed the organisers and asked for The Hidden People to be withdrawn from consideration.

I would just like to add that I have had no contact with the voting bloc and indeed have never asked anyone to vote for me in the Dragon Awards. Thank you again to anyone who did so because they enjoyed the book!

(16) THE PROFESSIONALS. Chuck Wendig and Jim C. Hines are working hard to extract the lessons to be learned from this year’s Dragon Awards.

(17) KERFUFFLE LITERARY HISTORY. Doris V. Sutherland will cover some of this year’s Dragon Award nominees as part of a book project: “Dragon Awards 2017: Which Finalists to Write About?”

So yeah, I’ve been working on a book called Monster Hunters, Dinosaur Lovers, about the stories caught up in the whole Puppies-versus-Hugos kerfuffle. I’m planning to cover every single Hugo-nominated prose story published from 2013 to 2016 (the years of the Sad Puppies campaign). I’m also going to look at the nominees for other SF/F awards from the same period – but in those cases I’ll be a little more discriminating about what gets covered and what doesn’t.

With the ballot for the second Dragon Awards announced, my main concern is figuring out which finalists are worth looking at in my book. So here goes…

Blood of Invidia got a boost from the Puppysphere, and judging by its Amazon synopsis, it’s a jokey, self-aware urban fantasy. Alongside zombie apocalypse, that’s one of the few horror-adjacent genres that the Puppies have shown much support for. Into the horror chapter it goes, alongside Jim Butcher and Declan Finn.

I might give The Hidden People a mention as it was one of Vox Day’s picks, against the author’s wishes. Don’t see that The Bleak December is particularly relevant to my topic, though.

(18) HASSELHOFF. Gwynne Watkins of Yahoo! Movies, in “David Hasselhoff’s Road to ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’? ‘It All Started with ‘Knight Rider!’”, interviews actor David Hasselhoff, who says that his part in Guardians came about because director James Gunn loved Knight Rider as a kid.  Hasselhoff says “I’ve got the kids market wrapped up” because of his role in The Spongebob Squarepants Movie.

Do you have people telling you that a lot that you were a father figure to them because of Knight Rider?

Almost every day, a man comes up to me and says, “I need to tell you my Knight Rider story.” Or a man will tell me that he loves me. Or a person from Thailand will say, “You are my mentor.” Or a person from Afghanistan who’s driving a cab says, “You’re my hero.” I say, “Where are you from?” And he goes, “Afghanistan.” I say, “Oh my God.” Iraq. Iran. It’s just insane. And it’s incredibly fantastic because they all have got a specific story, from India or Pakistan — watching it like Slumdog Millionaire, 200 people around a TV — to the shah of Iran’s wife saying,We used to sell tickets on the back lawns. People would gather and watch the show illegally by satellite for 25 cents in Iran!” And I’m going, “What? What? What?”

And now, 30 years later, it gets to be in one of the biggest movies of all time. And it’s just still following me around, and I embrace it. The theme of Knight Rider is, “One man can make a difference.” And I’m still alive and proving that, hopefully, almost every day.

(19) VAN HELSING TRAILER. Syfy brings back Van Helsing for a second season.

The world is over and so is the wait. Slay. All Day. Van Helsing returns this Fall with all-new episodes on SYFY. About Van Helsing:

Van Helsing is set in a world that has been taken over by vampires following a volcanic explosion that blocked out the sun. Vanessa Van Helsing is the last hope for survival, as she unknowingly awakens to discover she has a unique blood composition that makes her not only immune to vampires, but with the ability to turn a vampire human. With this secret weapon, Vanessa becomes a prime target for the vampires. Her objective: Save humanity – and find her daughter.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 7/12/17 All The King’s Centaurs

(1) TOP COMICS. NPR asked followers the name their favorite comics and graphic novels. Here are the results: “Let’s Get Graphic: 100 Favorite Comics And Graphic Novels”.

We assembled an amazing team of critics and creators to help winnow down more than 7,000 nominations to this final list of 100 great comics for all ages and tastes, from early readers to adults-only.

This isn’t meant as a comprehensive list of the “best” or “most important” or “most influential” comics, of course. It’s a lot more personal and idiosyncratic than that, because we asked folks to name the comics they loved. That means you’ll find enormously popular mainstays like Maus and Fun Home jostling for space alongside newer work that’s awaiting a wider audience (Check Please, anyone?).

Lots of good stuff on this list. Here’s an absolutely chosen-at-random example:

Astro City

by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson

At once a sprawling adventure anthology and a witty metariff on the long, whimsical history of the superhero genre, Astro City offers a bracingly bright rejoinder to “grim-and-gritty” superhero storytelling. Writer Kurt Busiek and artist Brent Anderson — with Alex Ross supplying character designs and painted covers — don’t merely people their fictional metropolis with analogues of notable heroes, though there are plenty of those on hand. The universe they’ve created pays loving homage to familiar characters and storylines even as it digs deep to continually invent new stories and feature new perspectives. Astro City is a hopeful place that dares to believe in heroes, sincerely and unabashedly; reading it, you will too.

(2) LAST YEAR’S HARDEST SF SHORT FICTION. Rocket Stack Rank has a new post surveying “Hard SF in 2016”.

Greg Hullender explains, “We’d have done this earlier in the year, but we were experimenting with new features like place and time, and we ended up gradually going back through all 814 stories annotating them. Still, I think the result is of interest.

It has been eighteen months since we explored the Health of Hard Science Fiction in 2015 (Short Fiction), so we’re overdue to take a look at 2016. This report divides into three sections:

(3) TZ REBOOT. Can this writer bring The Twilight Zone back to life? “Christine Lavaf to Pen ‘The Twilight Zone’ Reboot”.

Screenwriter Christine Lavaf is working on a reboot of The Twilight Zone.

Warner Bros has been trying to develop the new movie version of the hit horror since 2009 and a number of directors were lined up to helm the production, but each left the project before shooting could begin.

However, Warner Bros has now announced Christine will be working on the script despite a director having not yet been found to oversee the production, according to Variety.

The original plan for the movie was for it to be inspired by the 1983 Twilight Zone: The Movie horror, which was produced by Steven Spielberg and John Landis and had four segments each with a different director. But the new movie will reportedly follow just one story, which will include elements of The Twilight Zone universe.

(4) DRAWING A BLANK. Australian artist Nick Stathopoulos told his Facebook readers “No Archibald joy this year.”

Last year his painting of Deng Adut was a runner-up for the Archibald Prize for portraits — awarded annually to the best portrait, “preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist resident in Australasia” – and the winner of the Archibald Prize People’s Choice award.

Stathopoulos is a long-time fan, 10-time winner of the Australian NatCon’s Ditmar Award, and a past Hugo and Chesley Award nominee. He is frequently in contention for the annual Archibald awards.

(5) ARTISTS AT WORK. The Meow Wolf “art collective” in Santa Fe got their start with a $3.5 million investment from George R.R. Martin, and many of their “immersive installations” are sf related. Natalie Eggert’s article “This 140-Person Art Collective Is Pursuing An Alternative Model For Artists to Make A Living” for Artsy talks about how Meow Wolf has created 140 jobs with income coming from people who pay $20 to look at their “immersive installations.”

Since the Santa Fe-based art collective Meow Wolf opened its permanent installation, the House of Eternal Return, in March 2016, the project has been an unmitigated success in terms of viewership and profits. Housed in a 20,000-square-foot former bowling alley, the sprawling interactive artwork welcomed 400,000 visitors in its first year—nearly four times as many as expected—and brought in $6 million in revenue for the collective’s more than 100 members.

One of the most popular attractions in Santa Fe, the House of Eternal Return invites visitors into an elaborate Victorian house that is experiencing rifts in space-time. Open up the refrigerator or a closet door and get swept away into a new environment, each one designed by different artists of the Meow Wolf collective. There is no set route to follow and you can climb on, crawl through, and touch everything in sight. Tickets to enter the fun-house-like installation cost $20 for adults (on par with admission to a New York museum), with discounted rates available for New Mexico residents, children, senior citizens, and the military.

The installation’s sci-fi narrative, lawless abandon, and production quality have captured the imaginations of viewers, while its success has caught the art world’s attention. Could this be a sustainable, alternative avenue for artists to collaborate and make a living outside of traditional art world models?

(6) SENDAK BOOK MS. REDISCOVERED. Atlas Obscura reports: “Found: An Unpublished Manuscript by Maurice Sendak”.

Since the beloved children’s author Maurice Sendak died in 2012, the foundation set up in his name has been working to collect and sort through his artwork and the records of his life. While working through some old files, Lynn Caponera, the president of the foundation, found the typewritten manuscript for a book. When she looked more closely at it, she realized it was story she didn’t remember, reports Publishers Weekly.

What she had found was the story for Presto and Zesto in Limboland, a work that Sendak and collaborator Arthur Yorinks had worked on in the 1990s and never published. “In all honesty, we just forgot it,” Yorinks told Publishers Weekly.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 12, 2013  — Pacific Rim debuted.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 12, 1912 — Artist Joseph Mungaini, who illustrated the 1962 Oscar-nominated film Icarus Montgolfier Wright based on Ray Bradbury’s story.

(9) LUCY LIU. Rebecca Rubin in Variety says that Lucy Liu will direct the first episode of season 2 of Luke Cage coming in 2018.  She previously directed four episodes of Elementary.

(10) STAND BY FOR A NEW THEORY. NPR’s Glen Weldon says new Spider-Man wins because we see learning rather than origin: “Origin-al Sin: What Hollywood Must Learn From ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming'”.

Spider-Man: Homecoming dispenses with his origin story completely, which is, at this point, a wise move. Given Spidey’s status as Marvel’s flagship character and his concurrent cultural saturation, it’s perhaps even inevitable, because: We know.

We get it. Spider-bite, spider powers, great responsibility. We’ve, all of us, been there.

And yet! Even without seeing precisely how and why Peter Parker gets from the here of normal life to the there of fantastic, thwippy powers, Tom Holland is eminently, achingly relatable. His Peter is someone in whom we easily see ourselves at our most excited and anxious. Which is the whole secret.

(11) THIS SUCKS. Using ROVs to scoop up invasive species: “Can a robot help solve the Atlantic’s lionfish problem?”. There’s a video report at the link.

Robots in Service of the Environment has designed an underwater robot to combat a growing problem in the Atlantic Ocean: the invasive lionfish.

(12) MAJOR DEVELOPMENT. A league of their own? Overwatch starts city-based videogaming league: “Overwatch: Bigger than the Premier League?”

Its developer Activision Blizzard has just announced the first seven team owners for a forthcoming league. It believes, in time, the tournament could prove more lucrative than the UK’s Premier League – football’s highest-earning competition.

Several of the successful bidders have made their mark with traditional sports teams, and the buy-in price has not been cheap.

The BBC understands the rights cost $20m (£15.5m) per squad. For that, owners get the promise of a 50% revenue split with the Overwatch League itself for future earnings.

The fast-paced cartoon-like shooter was designed to appeal to both players and spectators. It’s low on gore and features a racial mix of male and female heroes, including a gay character – a relative rarity in gaming.

(13) THEY’RE PINK. Adweek covers a parody of female-targeted products: “‘Cards Against Humanity for Her’ Is the Same Game, but the Box Is Pink and It Costs $5 More”.

In a savage parody of women-targeted products like Bic for Her pens, and Cosmo and Seat’s car for women, Cards Against Humanity has released Cards Against Humanity for Her. It’s the exact same game as the original, but comes in a pink box and costs $5 more.

The press release is a gold mine of hilarity.

“We crunched the numbers, and to our surprise, we found that women buy more than 50 percent of games,” said Cards Against Humanity community director Jenn Bane. “We decided that hey, it’s 2017, it’s time for women to have a spot at the table, and nevertheless, she persisted. That’s why we made Cards Against Humanity for Her. It’s trendy, stylish, and easy to understand. And it’s pink.”

Bane added: “Women love the color pink.”

The game is available for $30 on CardsAgainstHumanityForHer.com, which has all sorts of ridiculous photos and GIFs. The limited-edition version “is expected to sell out,” the brand said.

From the FAQ (where it’s in pink text).

When I inevitably purchase this without reading carefully and then find out it’s the same cards as the original Cards Against Humanity, can I return it and get my money back? That color looks great on you! No.

(14) SHARKE REPELLENT. Mark-kitteh sent these links (and the headline) to the latest posts by the Shadow Clarke jury. He adds, “Only two of these, but the Becky Chambers roundtable is likely to provide enough rises in blood-pressure on its own.”

The inclusion of A Closed and Common Orbit on this year’s Clarke shortlist follows hard on the heels of Chambers’s 2016 shortlisting for her debut novel, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. In a very short time, Chambers’s books have proven extraordinarily popular and drawn an enthusiastic fan response. Unsurprisingly, ACACO has also been shortlisted for the 2017 Hugo. The novel has also drawn praise from reviewers, such as Adam Roberts in the Guardian. However, despite the shadow Clarke jury being split fifty-fifty between those who found ACACO to be a compulsive read and those who struggled to find any interest in it whatsoever, this is also the novel that has come closest to unifying what is often a more diverse body of opinion than it might appear from the outside. We are unanimous in thinking that ACACO is not one of the six best SF novels of the year and, in contrast to the other five works on the list, there is nobody among us who would make any kind of case for its inclusion on the Clarke shortlist.

I am possibly not the right audience for this novel. I have read a number of stories by Yoon Ha Lee before this without being particularly impressed by any of them. The novel, Ninefox Gambit crystallized some of those discontents. In no particular order:

1: Yoon Ha Lee has read too much Iain M. Banks. The influence is everywhere and inescapable: the grotesque deaths, the over-elaborate weapons (including one I couldn’t help identifying as the Lazy Gun from Against a Dark Background), and, of course, the central conceit in which the mind of an ancient general is implanted in a younger person on a suicide mission is a straight lift from Look to Windward. But Banks’s humanity is missing. With Banks you always knew where the author stood, ethically and emotionally; not so with Lee, this is a cold book.

(15) FROM PERKY TO UNBEATABLE. Lesley Goldberg of The Hollywood Reporter, in “Marvel’s New Warriors Sets Its Cast–Including Squirrel Girl”, says that the cast of this ten-episode series on Freeform has been set, and Milana Vayntrub, best known as the Perky Salesperson in 5,271,009 AT&T commercials, has been cast as Squirrel Girl.

Milana Vayntrub (This Is Us) has landed the breakout role of Squirrel Girl, while Baby Daddy grad Derek Theler will stay in business with Freeform after landing the role of Mister Immortal in Marvel’s first live-action scripted comedy.

The duo lead the ensemble cast in the 10-episode series about six young people learning to cope with their abilities in a world where bad guys can be as terrifying as bad dates. Joining Vayntrub and Theler are Jeremy Tardy as Night Thrasher, Calum Worthy as Speedball, Matthew Moy as Microbe and Kate Comer as Debrii.

(16) ETCHED IN STONE. It’s been awhile since I checked in on Declan Finn, and I found one of his posts on Superversive SF that could lead to lively discussion.

In “Pius Rules for Writers”, Declan Finn’s advice comes from his viewpoint as a reader.

I was recently asked what rules, as I reader, I wish writers would follow. I came up with a few.

Rule #1: Don’t preach at me. Tell the damn story…

I think this is self explanatory. Heck, even Star Trek IV, which is straight up “save the whales,” did a fairly good job of this. It was mostly a character driven comedy: let’s take all of our characters as fish and through them so far out of the water they’re in a different planet, and watch the fun start. Even the whales that must be saved for the sake of all of Earth are little more than MacGuffin devices, there for the story to happen.

But 2012? Or The Day After Tomorrow? Or Avatar? Kill me now.

Serious, I went out of my way to make A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller about the history of a Church, complete with philosophy, and it somehow still managed to be less preachy than any of these “climate change” films.

(17) NEWMAN’S NEXT. Joel Cunningham of the B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog has great news for Planetfall fans (and a cover reveal) in “Return to Emma Newman’s Planetfall Universe in Before Mars.

I still remember the feeling of closing the cover on a early, bound manuscript copy of Emma Newman’s Planetfall in 2015, sure I had read one of the finest science fiction novels of the year—even though it was only April (I wasn’t wrong).

Considering it’s a complete work, I was surprised—and very pleased—at the arrival of After Atlas, a standalone companion novel set in the same world—another book that, incidentally, turned out to rank with the best of its year (but don’t just take our word for it).

I just can quit being fascinated by this setting—a near future in which 3D printing technology has made resources plentiful, but post-scarcity living has not been evenly distributed, where missions to the stars only expose the dark secrets within the human heart—and it seems Newman can’t quite break away from it either: she’s writing at least two more books in the Planetfall series, and today,we’re showing off the cover of the third, Before Mars, arriving in April 2018 from Ace Books….

(18) NOT YOUR TYPICAL POLICE SHOOTING. Consenting cosplayers suffered a tragic interruption: “Police Shoot People Dressed As The Joker And Harley Quinn”.

Australian police shot a man and a woman dressed as comic book characters while they performed a sexual act at a nightclub early Saturday morning, news.com.au reported. The man and the woman were dressed as the Joker and Harley Quinn.

Dale Ewins, 35, was shot in the stomach by police. Authorities said they shot him because he pointed his toy gun at them and they believed it was a real weapon. However, club security said Ewins did not aim the gun at them.

Zita Sukys, 37, was shot in the leg. Both were attending the Saints & Sinners Ball, described as a party “for Australian swingers and those who are just curious.” Promotions for the party also said it has “a well-earned reputation as Australia’s, if not the world’s, raunchiest party.”

(19) FAN FASHION. The Dublin in 2019 bidders think you would look great in their logo shirt. Half-off sale!

(20 TOON FASHION. Why Cartoon Characters Wear Gloves is a video from Vox which goes back to 1900 to answer this question.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Greg Hullender, Chip Hitchcock, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 7/11/17 Be Kind To Your Scroll-Footed Friends, For A Duck May Be Somebody’s Pixel!

(1) NEW WFA TROPHIES ON THE WAY. Kim Williams, chair of the 2016 World Fantasy Con, told readers of WFC’s Facebook page that last year’s WFA winners, given certificates at the 2016 award ceremony in Columbus, OH will soon be receiving copies of the new statuette created by Vincent Villafranca.

Vincent Villafranca’s design was chosen to replace the Lovecraft bust trophy by the World Fantasy Awards Administration and the Board of the World Fantasy Convention following a year-long public competition.

(2) OMNI REBOOTS AMID RIGHTS LITIGATION. Penthouse Global Media, on July 10, announced the acquisition of OMNI magazine and that its upcoming issue is slated for print publication in late October.

“As Penthouse Global Media enters its second year under new ownership, our driving principle is to put all of the pieces of the brand back together again.  As a result of decades of neglect, much of this company’s brilliant legacy was lost…until now,” stated Penthouse CEO Kelly Holland. “I am proud to announce that one of those casualties, OMNI—the magazine of science and science fiction, heralded as one of Guccione’s most iconic brands—is once again a part of the Penthouse family where it belongs.  Thanks in large part to Pamela Weintraub, one of OMNI‘s original editors, who had the foresight to bring the brand back to life by re-registering the trademarks and launching a digital site, she, along with many of the original OMNI staff, will deliver the award-winning magazine to newsstands once again.”

Only days ago, to protect its intellectual property, Penthouse Global Media sued Jerrick Media, and various other defendants including Jerrick Media Holdings Inc., Jeremy Frommer, and actor Jared Leto, for copyright infringement, trademark infringement, unfair competition and false advertising, among other claims.

The lawsuit states:

Despite the fact that an application for registration of the OMNI Marks in connection with magazines had already been filed with the USPTO by Penthouse’s predecessor in interest, signaling to the world that the OMNI Marks were not available for use by Defendants, in 2013, Defendants Frommer and Schwartz again willfully and blatantly disregarded the intellectual property rights of others and began planning to publish an online science and science fiction magazine using the OMNI Marks and to republish and sell archival material from the original OMNI magazine. 29.

On or about June 27, 2013, Defendant Jerrick Ventures, LLC filed an application for registration of the purported trademark OMNI REBOOT (Serial No. 85,972,230), which registration was refused by the United States Patent and Trademark Office because of a likelihood of confusion with a registered OMNI Mark. On or about May 31, 2016, Jerrick Ventures, LLC filed a cancellation  proceeding before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) seeking to cancel the OMNI Mark (Cancellation No. 92063829). Because Penthouse General Media seeks a declaration in the present action that its registered OMNI Marks are valid and should not be cancelled, it will seek to have the cancellation proceeding  before the TTAB stayed pending the judgment in this action. 30.

Despite knowing of the existence of the registered OMNI Marks, and despite being denied registration of Omni Reboot, Defendants nonetheless  proceeded to willfully and blatantly infringe on the OMNI Marks by operating an online magazine at https://omni.media, which it refers to as OMNI Reboot, that not only uses the OMNI Marks in connection with the publication of an online magazine featuring science and science fiction topics, but also contains archival material from the original OMNI magazine, including magazine articles and reproductions of OMNI magazine covers, all without the permission or consent of Penthouse.

Jeremy Frommer’s claims to the rights are allegedly based on an auction purchase:

Frommer bought at an auction erotic photography, films and historical documents, among other things associated with Guccione and Penthouse. He then began reselling those and other related items online, according to the complaint, and allowing the public to view Caligula for a fee. That triggered the first round of this fight in bankruptcy court in 2013, but the parties mutually dismissed their claims without prejudice.

Penthouse’s Holland minimizes that claim:

“We at Penthouse don’t believe a person can acquire the rights to a brand simply by stumbling upon some of its products,” Holland said. “If you buy a DC comic book at a garage sale it doesn’t give you the rights to make a ‘Wonder Woman’ movie, nor does one have a right to our legacy because they found an old Omni magazine.”

(3) PUBLICLY CHOSEN GARGOYLE. The Washington Post’s Marylou Tousignant found some items of fannish interest at the Washington National Cathedral.

Washington National Cathedral, the sixth-largest cathedral in the world, has 215 stained-glass windows. The most popular holds a piece of moon rock brought back by the Apollo 11 astronauts in 1969.

Another must-see is Darth Vader, carved into the cathedral’s north side. The “Star Wars” villain was one of four winning designs by middle-schoolers in a 1985 contest. Vader is one of 1,242 weird creatures staring down from the cathedral’s neck­stretching exterior.

(4) EYECATCHING. Marvel Comics will release lenticular covers for Marvel Legacy.

The biggest stories and most epic team-ups come to MARVEL LEGACY this fall, and now you can hold the past and the future in your hands! Today, Marvel is proud to announce that all of the Marvel Legacy homage variants will be available as lenticular covers – a true celebration of Marvel’s history and expansive universe!

As seen on Newsarama, all of Marvel Legacy’s homage variants were previously unveiled, showcasing the new Marvel Legacy line-up and classic covers of the past. Don’t miss your chance to own a part of Marvel history – enhance your collection with all of Marvel Legacy’s lenticular covers, coming to comic shops this fall.

(5) DID YOU WONDER? What will the next Wonder Woman movie be about? ” Rumor of the day: Diana will face off against the USSR in Wonder Woman 2″.

With Russia in the news so much these days, The Wrap has said in an unsourced report that Wonder Woman 2 will take place during the 1980s and feature Diana of Themyscira going head-to-head with agents of the Soviet Union.

That means that like its predecessor, Wonder Woman 2 will be a period piece — only not as far in the past as the World War I setting of Diana’s first standalone adventure.

Although Patty Jenkins is not officially confirmed to return as director, she is said to be developing the script for Wonder Woman 2 with DC Entertainment co-president Geoff Johns. And while the story will allegedly feature the USSR in an antagonistic capacity, there’s no word on whether other villains from Wonder Woman’s published history will appear as well.

(6) THE PAYOFF. Marvel says Secret Empire #9 will reveal Steve Rogers’ secret. On sale August 23.

When Steve Rogers was revealed to be an agent of Hydra due to the manipulations of Red Skull, the Marvel Universe was rocked to its core. Now, it’s the moment fans have been waiting for – and you’re not going to want to miss this reveal!

What is the secret of Steve Rogers? And how will it affect the Marvel Universe as we know it?

(7) WHY IT’S HARDER TO FIND GOOD REVIEWS. Speculiction’s Jesse Hudson, in “And the drop is due to”,  charts the site’s declining number of book reviews against his rising familiarity with PlayStation 3 games. He is in awe of the current gaming technology.

It’s no secret that modern video games are exponentially more realistic and immersive than their pixel and dot forebears.  For the unaware, the degree of realism and immersion in today’s video games is essentially one degree removed from cinematics—a gap that will be covered in the next few years, for sure.  What this means is that game creators are able to put players, as much as is possible, into the shoes of the characters running around the imagined worlds on screen.  Being a detective, mighty warrior (or warrioress), or space marine is this close.  Game developers have done all the work to give you agency in what are essentially silver screen experiences.  Instead of watching a movie, you become part of the movie, directing the character, depending on the game, through the story.  I still fully appreciate novels for retaining the distance between sensual and imagined reality—for forcing the reader to use their imagination.  But I also appreciate what modern gaming is doing to virtually eliminate this distance; if the game’s world and gameplay are well-developed and unique, then so too can be the experience.

(8) THOUGHTS THUNK WHILE THINKING. Nancy Kress tells about her Big Idea for Tomorrow’s Kin at Whatever.

Your mind does not work the way you think it does.

You probably assume that you consider data and come to rational conclusions. But all too often, people don’t take into account such pesky tendencies as confirmation bias (“This fact confirms what I already believe so it gets more weight”) Or polarization (“This situation is all good/bad”). Or emotionalism (“I feel this so it must be true”), a need for control (“I’m looking at what I can change and nothing else”), presentism (“The future will be like the present only maybe a little more so”), or scapegoating (“If this isn’t as I wish it to be, someone must be to blame!”)

When I set out to extend my novella “Yesterday’s Kin” into the novel Tomorrow’s Kin, which takes the story ten years farther along, I wanted to write about these distortions in your thinking. Oh, not you in particular (how do I know what you’re thinking as you read this—maybe it’s “She doesn’t mean me. I’m different.”) What interested me—especially in the current political climate—is the public mind as it relates to science and the perception of science….

(9) CROWLEY’S TIME HAS COME. Tor.com’s Matthew Keeley has published a brief profile of John Crowley, “Predicting the Future and Remembering the Past with John Crowley”, an author he notes is best known for his book Little, Big, but regrets is still not very well-known outside writing circles. The article aims to change this situation:

At Readercon a few years ago, I attended a panel on favorite science fiction and fantasy books. One author, one of the best working today, talked about the near-impossibility of writing a book so perfect as John Crowley’s Little, Big. There were wistful sighs from writers in the audience and nodded agreements from other panelists. Everyone in the room at that most bookish convention recognized that competing with Crowley was impossible.

Yet in many fan circles Crowley remains unknown. This literary master of the hermetic, hidden, and esoteric has for too long been as hidden as the obscure histories, gnostic theorists, and addled visionaries that populate his work. Despite the many awards; despite the praise of luminaries both inside the genre community, like Ursula K. Le Guin and Thomas Disch, and outside it, like Harold Bloom; despite his inclusion in both Bloom’s Western Canon and Gollancz’s Fantasy Masterworks, most fantasy readers don’t read him. Perhaps this is the year that changes.

(10) MARTINELLI OBIT. Italian-born actress Elsa Martinelli died of cancer in Rome on July 8. She was 82. Her genre work included The 10th Victim (1965), based on the Robert Sheckley novel.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 11, 1997 — On this day in 1997, Carl Sagan’s Contact entered theatres.
  • July 11, 2014 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes premiered theatrically.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born July 11, 1899 – E.B. White
  • Born July 11, 1913 — Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger — better known by his pseudonym, Cordwainer Smith

(13) JEOPARDY! CONTESTANT. On the July 11 episode of Jeopardy!, Kelly Lasiter, from the St. Louis area, admitted she’s an SF fan who attends conventions in the area, and went to the 2016 Worldcon in Kansas City.

She won the game, with $22,800, and will play again on Wednesday.

(14) WHERE THE GEEKNERDS ARE. Examined Worlds’ Ethan Mills praises a convention’s community building in “CONvergence 2017 Report”.

The deeper thing that CONvergence taught me back in the early-mid 2000’s was the value of cons as a space for community, something I’ve discussed before with regard to other cons.  While being a geek/nerd is not as uncool as it used to be, it’s still great to have a place where you can let your geek flag fly proudly.  No matter how intense your nerdery is, someone at con is nerdier.  You may be wearing Vulcan ears, but someone else may have a full Starfleet uniform and android-colored contacts to dress up as Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation (an actual costume I saw at CONvergence).

The openness of a place where people can love what they love without derision or judgment is a beautiful thing.  This aspect of fandom seems to be unappreciated by small but annoying parts of fandom like the Rabid Puppies and Gamergaters, but it’s safe to say that for the vast majority of fans, this is precisely what fandom is all about….

(15) WHERE TO SELL. Now available: the “SFWA Market Report for July” compiled by David Steffen.

(16) A DAY AT THE PLANT. At Amazing Stories, Adam Roberts is interviewed about his contribution to an anthology,

Gary Dalkin for Amazing Stories: ‘Black Phil’, your story in Improbable Botany, packs a huge amount into 20 pages. It combines the scientific, the political and the personal in a way which is ultimately very moving, and does so while gradually revealing to the reader a startlingly imagined near future earth. There is a lot of specific detail in the story and I’m wondering what your approach to writing a piece like this is, how much do you have planned out before you begin writing, and how much comes to you through the writing process? I’m asking this in part because I’m wondering how quickly you write, given you are a prolific author of highly imaginative, intricately constructed novels and have a day job as a professor of literature as well.

Adam Roberts: My approach to writing has changed, I suppose. When I was starting out as a writer I would generally plan things out fairly carefully; now I have more technical fluency, and can trust my hands to produce more of what’s needed if I let them loose on the keyboard. Not entirely though. It’s a balance, as with so much of life. If a writer maps every beat of every chapter in a detailed plan before she ever writes a word, the danger is that the actual writing turns into a chore, merely filling in the blocks in the grid, and if the writer gets bored writing then that tends to communicate itself to the reader. On the other hand, simply diving in with no sense of where you’re going or how the story is going to unfold, in my experience, will result in something too baggy and freeform, understructured and messy. So the praxis for me is threading a path between those extremes: having a sense of the overall shape of the thing, and which spots I definitely want to hit as I go, but working out some of the specifics as I write the first draft, to keep at least elements of it fresh. With short stories the process is a little different to novels: plot is constrained by the shorter space, so there’s a greater need for other things to hold the whole together – a governing metaphor, for instance, that can be unpacked and explored, provided it’s eloquent enough. In ‘Black Phil’ I was working with blackness as a colour and blackness as a mood, which meant that the story needed to make a certain kind of emotional sense, and the other elements were rather subordinated to that.

(17) IF YOU WANT TO GIVE HER A MISS. Canberra sff author Gillian Polack puts a different spin on the typical convention schedule announcement in “How to avoid me at Worldcon 75”.

This is the post you’ve been waiting for. Now you can plan your Helsinki visit knowing you can avoid me. You’ll also know that I can’t redeem myself with chocolate, for I have tiny scraps of Australia to give everyone instead. Ask me nicely and you could take home some opal or Australian turquoise or fool’s gold. (When I say ‘scraps of Australia’ I mean it quite literally.) Asking me politely would, of course, mean not avoiding me.

I can only be at a small bit of the auction, but I’m bringing Tim tams, a blow-up kangaroo and other exciting things to add to the bidding frenzy. This emans I’ll be there … sort of…for some of the time and my luggage will represent me the rest of the time….

(18) GOOD REVIEWS. The other day I said someone’s Hugo nominee reviews were lacking who hadn’t completely read most of the stories. Now, at the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve encountered the hyperfeasance of Garik16 who claims, “I managed to read every nominee this year before the nominations were announced except for A Closed and Common Orbit (Yes I know I’m hipster bragging here lol).”

More importantly, his post, “Reviewing the Hugo Nominees: Best Novel”, is rich in analysis and substantive comments.

  1. Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

Review on twitter here:

Disclaimer: I’ve just finished this books sequel (Raven Strategem, review forthcoming next week), and will try to separate the two books since its fresh in my mind. Ninefox Gambit is a book that is Challenging to read.  Whereas other books might try to infodump explanations of how extremely complicated made up SF or Fantasy worlds work, Ninefox Gambit just drops you right in the world, made up terminology and all, and trusts you to figure it out on your own.  It’s probably a bit too far in this direction honestly – a short story in the same universe for example explains a little bit more and there’s no reason this book couldn’t have done the same – but if you can get past it, the result is just phenomenal.

This is a universe where calendars followed are of maximum importance, where mathematical calculations allow for armies to create devastating attacks on a battlefield, and where immortality may be very possible.  This book deals largely with the efforts of a mathematical genius but otherwise standard infantry soldier getting stuck with an undead general in her head – an undead general who is both brilliant and known for massacreing his own forces.  The interplay between them, as well as how the world works around them, results in a truly fantastic book.

This is one of those books that will have you going back after your first reread to find out things you might have missed, and to see how things read after the reveal later in the book. The book isn’t light in tone – the dominant government relies on ritual torture to keep its technology working for example – but it is absolutely gripping if you can get past the terminology at the start and contains some pretty strong themes of the values of freedom, justice and sacrifice.

I suspect it’ll come in 2nd in voting, but this has my vote.

And for bonus reading, here’s what Garik16 thinks about the Hugo nominated novellas, novelettes, and short stories.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Rob Thornton, Rich Lynch, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Sci-Fi Videos That Explain It All To You

By Carl Slaughter: (1) Origins of Assassins Creed, and. why the game is much more popular than the movie.

(2) What Culture counts 49 WTF moments in Suicide Squad.  With a run time of 123 minutes, that’s about one WTF moment every 2.5 minutes.

(3) Michael Keaton’s 8 major contributions to the Batman movie franchise.

(4) Looper evaluates and ranks every Joker performance.

(5) 8 Little Known Facts That Made Christian Bale’s Batman Awesome

(6) Star Trek Continues adds a female character to TOS.

(7) Dick Tracy TV show intro. The intro was animation, but the show as live action.

Pixel Scroll 6/19/17 Have Scroll, Will Pixel Reads The File Of A Man

(1) DISCOVERY PREMIERE SET. SciFiNow.uk has the headline story: “Star Trek: Discovery air date confirmed, beaming down in September”.

The show will launch on Monday 25 September. Which is actually not that far away when you think about it, we can be patient.

Another important detail is that the 15 episode series is going to be split into two chunks. So we’ll get weekly episodes from 25 September through to 6 November. Then there will be a break until it returns in January 2018. So, there will be more patience required, but not too much.

“Star Trek, one of the most iconic and influential global television franchises, returns 50 years after it first premiered with STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. STAR TREK: DISCOVERY will follow the voyages of Starfleet on their missions to discover new worlds and new lifeforms, and one Starfleet officer who must learn that to truly understand all things alien, you must first understand yourself. The series will feature a new ship, new characters and new missions, while embracing the same ideology and hope for the future that inspired a generation of dreamers and doers.”

(2) ON AN EVEN KEEL.  Adam-Troy Castro makes an important point about keeping things in perspective: “I Am Not Owed Awe”.

There’s a scene during the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon, the same work that introduced Hannibal Lecter, filmed twice for the movies and once for the TV series, where the serial killer known as the Tooth Fairy tells a captive, “You owe me awe.” This is megalomania, and one way you know the speaker is fucking crazy.

Nobody except a madman or a total asshole thinks he’s owed awe. Oh, you can make a certain exception to someone who occupies a position where awe is expected: a President, a Pope, a King, a legendary musician. In many cases, though, even they know that they receive awe because of what they are, not so much because of who they are. Get elected President, and even if you’re a total piece of shit you will expect to be greeted by orchestras playing “Hail to the Chief.” It’s part of the job description. Write Game of Thrones and you will receive awe because people are rapt. But that is not awe for you, the being who took a shit and didn’t quite manage to fully clean his ass this morning. You are still a flawed being.

Artists can earn awe. Artists can come to expect awe. The sane don’t think they’re owed awe. And the sane don’t get upset, to the point of rallying legions of single-minded asshole fans, to run amuck harassing people for the sin of not treating them with awe. That’s crazy. That’s tunnel-vision of the most insipid sort.

I am not owed awe. You are not owed awe. Nobody is owed awe.

(3) SF COSTUMING FANHISTORY. The International Costumers Guild has released a video about 16 People Who Defined Masquerade Costuming.

These artists helped to shape the art of Masquerade Costuming, which has been recognized as a legitimate art form by 4 English speaking countries and Japan as of 2014. The images are being collected for preservation by the Library of Congress.

 

(4) BOLLYHORRORWOOD. The BBC begins with some contrarian career advice in “The benign menace of Bollywood’s cult ‘monster'”.

“Don’t do a horror film unless you’re the monster. Horror audiences come to see the villains, and they come back again when those villains are in the sequels,” wrote The Economist magazine, listing things an actor should never do.

In India, many of the best-known Indian “villains” got into cinema hoping to be the hero. Things didn’t go to plan and they spent their screen-time plotting fantastic heists and murders, eyeing the heroine and getting beaten up. With some notable exceptions, like Vinod Khanna and Shatrughan Sinha – villains turned heroes – this was the norm.

What about monsters then?

In India, the movie monster became a staple of horror films made by a group of brothers called, simply, the Ramsay Brothers. Five of the seven brothers are still around, and one of them, Shyam, is still quite active.

Between 1972, when they made their first proper movie Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche, literally “six-feet under”, and 1994, when they made their last big movie, Mahakaal, the Ramsay brothers churned out movie after B-grade horror movie.

(5) LEIGHTON OBIT. Fanzine fan Rodney Leighton (1948-2017) died June 18. The SF Site News story says the Nova Scotia fan stayed with paperzines to the end. His titles included Life of Rodney, The Mail Carrier Brought It, and Rodney’s Fanac. His friends Steve George, and later Chuck Connor, put scans of these zines on eFanzines so he’d have some feedback from readers on the internet.

(6) BILL DANA OBIT. Comedian Bill Dana, famed for his Jose Jimenez character, died June 15 reports SF Site News. Dana was also a comedy writer – he created Don Adams’ “Would you believe…?” gags.

While Dana’s ethnic humor would not be accepted today, it was still in vogue sixty years ago. According to The Hollywood Reporter

The nation was introduced to Jimenez in a comedy sketch on [Steve] Allen’s variety show in November 1959. Struggling to speak English, Jimenez appeared in a Santa Claus outfit as an instructor at a school for wannabe Kris Kringles and interviewed by “Man on the Street” Pat Harrington Jr.

“I said, ‘My name … Jose Jimenez,’ and the [live] audience laughed,” Dana, a Massachusetts native of Hungarian-Jewish descent, recalled in a 2007 interview with the Archive of American Television. “I remember thinking, ‘This guy just said his name and everybody [went crazy] …’

…On Garry Moore’s variety program, Dana appeared as Jose the Astronaut, then recorded a comedy album with that material from a live show at the famed hungry i nightclub in San Francisco.

He sent a test pressing of the disc to the original seven Mercury astronauts — and they loved it. Alan Shepard took the code name “Jose,” and Jimenez became the astronauts’ “mascot,” Dana said. When they weren’t working, the pilots hung out at Dana’s house, and years later, he was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame. (Footage of him as Jimenez on The Ed Sullivan Show can be seen in the 1983 film The Right Stuff.)

…Though it seems hard to believe in this age of political correctness, Dana and his character were embraced by the Latino community. He was honored by the National Hispanic Media Coalition and worked, largely behind the scenes, as an activist. He gave up playing the character but later regretted that.

The José Jimenez character was also one of the figures who popped his head out the window watching Batman and Robin climb a building on Batman.

(7) TODAY’S DAY

Garfield the Cat Day

Garfield The Cat Day is celebrated annually on 19th June. The day is set aside to honor all things related to the ginger feline. Garfield was famously created by cartoonist Jim Davis and appeared in a cartoon strip on 19th June 1978. Garfield’s owner: Jon Arbuckle and his dog friend; Odie, also appear in the cartoon strip.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 19, 1958 — Wham-O filed to register Hula Hoop trademark
  • June 19, 1992 Batman Returns hit theaters.

Batman Returns, released June 19, 1992, featured less kid- friendly characters than its predecessor. Gone was Jack Nicholson’s The Joker, and in his place were the grotesque Penguin (Danny DeVito) and a sexy Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer), whose costume bore a striking resemblance to something that could be purchased at a BDSM shop.

These bold characters helped make the movie a classic, but also alienated corporations such as McDonald’s that had a newfound interest in the movie franchise business via promotional tie-ins – and complained loudly about the film’s darker tone.

(9) SINCE GAMERGATE. Keri Allan’s article “Fair play: How welcome are women in games design teams?”, in for Engineering & Technology, the on-line newsletter of the UK professional body, the Institute of Engineering and Technology, includes a quote from Brianna Wu and a mention of Rhianna Pratchett.

Sampat says it’s a mistake to believe that the furore of GamerGate ended sexism in the sector. “In a lot of ways it sucked being a female developer before GamerGate, and things are slowly getting worse because people treat ‘women in games’ as a solved problem – like GamerGate was a weird year-long blip and now sexism in our industry is gone. (But) the boots on the ground are still there being assholes to women.”

Having written about anonymous harassment of women in the industry during the height of GamerGate, Brianna Wu began to receive threats of her own. She believes there’s now a better sense of the issues out there, but policies aren’t necessarily changing in response. Feeling so strongly about equal treatment in the workplace, she’s now running for Congress.

“What makes me want to scream is that no one knows me for my engineering work, only my views on women’s equality. I’ve worked so hard to become an engineer, but the truth is you’re put in this impossible situation where you can smile, go along with the system and get fewer opportunities, or speak out and be put in this box. There’s a heightened awareness, but these congenital problems aren’t really solved. I believe women need to step up and run for office, and I hope to use my position to hold hearings on sexism in the tech industry.”

Other responses to GamerGate have included promoting the hashtag #OneReasonToBe. This was started by games narrative writer Rhianna Pratchett so women could share positive experiences about working in the industry and reasons why they love games. This has gone on to spawn a popular annual panel at the Games Developer Conference (GDC), highlighting great things the sector has to offer women.

(10) ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW. Catherynne M. Valente’s Refrigerator Monologues gets an 8/10 rating from Dina at SFF Book Reviews:

From the New York Times bestselling author Catherynne Valente comes a series of linked stories from the points of view of the wives and girlfriends of superheroes, female heroes, and anyone who’s ever been “refrigerated”: comic book women who are killed, raped, brainwashed, driven mad, disabled, or had their powers taken so that a male superhero’s storyline will progress….

Each gets to tell her story in turn and here’s where my love for this book begins. Because it may be fun figuring out which superhero you’re reading about, but it is even more fun how every woman tells her story in her own voice. Pretty Polly (the Harley Quinn of this universe) talks just like you’d imagine she would. Kind of sweet-ish and girly, with a fair bit of madness added to the mix. Blue Bayou sounds angry, Paige Embry is just totally endearing, and Julia Ash (whose villain’s is aptly named Retcon) felt kind of resigned. The voices always fit and the stories these women have to tell are engaging and intriguing for more than one reason. First of all, they’re just interesting stories. Secondly, they would have fit so beautifully into their respective universes – why isn’t there space in a Spider Man movie to show Gwen Stacy as more than just the hero’s girlfriend. She had a life before him and she had a life with him, just like all the others. Their demise was incredibly heartbreaking, although obviously we know from the start that they die and if you remember the original comic books how they die. To me, that’s just another sign of how amazing a writer Valente is. If you know what happens and how it happens, and all she does is give you a little background info, give the character who is about to die a little agency and personality, and it hits you deep in the guts anyway, then yeah… that’s a great writer!

(11) CYBERPUNK DAYS. Jesse at Speculiction looks back at Lewis Shiner’s 1984 novel Frontera.

As the title hints, Frontera is about a liminal zone.  Proverbially this would be between civilization and the wilds, but in the novel’s context, there are more specific terms.  One would certainly be between existent and breaking technology.  Another is locations possible to be inhabited by humanity; Mars can be altered for human life to survive, but it’s an unnatural existence.  And the last major frontier addressed is the personal.  Dislocated from home, the major characters on Mars all are dealing with existentialist angst.  Few, if any, live in a mental comfort zone.  Curtis, the colony leader, channels his uncertainty through rigid control in an attempt to mitigate his underlying fears.  Kane dreams wild dreams of Greek dramas by night and by day questions Pulsystems intents for him. (Given how strongly our solar system reflects contemporary civilization’s dependence on the Greeks, this is a nice parallel.)  Reese, the aging astronaut, can’t face up to certain realities, and takes comfort in drink.  And disaffected by the political scene, Marysia attempts to come to terms with her new life on Mars in balance with what she knew on Earth.

(12) STYLE MAVEN. Scott Edelman is preparing to make a fashion statement at the Worldcon.

(13) FROZEN DEITIES. Fantasy-Faction’s Laura M. Hughes praises The Blood-Tainted Winter by T.L. Greylock.

Speaking of gods: no doubt you’ll recognise a few of the names mentioned throughout this story. Odin, of course; Loki, too, as well as others such as Heimdall and the Valkyries. The Blood-Tainted Winter isn’t self-conscious of itself as a Norse fantasy, yet Raef’s tale evokes a vivid sense of place and time that thoroughly immerses the reader in a land of gods, battle and betrayal. Greylock doesn’t force the Norseness so much as nurture it, weaving familiar aspects of the mythology into the book in a way that doesn’t dominate or overshadow the story being told.

You could argue that the book’s beginning is a little too leisurely; however, I enjoyed having the opportunity to get to know the protagonist a little better – and to feel pleasantly surprised and intrigued when the following chapters have him reacting in a most unexpected manner. I will say that Greylock does a wonderful job of patiently unfolding the story through the eyes of its protagonist. Raef is distant and, at times, unfathomable (though not unlikeable), functioning more as a window onto events than as someone the reader can sympathise with or live vicariously through.

(14) EARL GREY TIME. Elizabeth Fitzgerald has her Australian National Convention report up – Continuum 13.

In keeping with the natures of the protagonists, Seanan had two different kinds of cake from Cake and Madness. One was a traditional cupcake with glittery frosting. And the other… well, the other was a bit disturbing.

Watching it be eaten was a little like finding myself in the middle of the zombie apocalypse.

She also has Storyfied the panels she livetweeted.

And to wrap up the night, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff discussed 1001 ways to die in space. They left the room crying with laughter, thanks to their morbid senses of humour.+

(15) BOTS. The BBC gets a JPL spokesman to tell about “Five robots that are changing everything”.

From robot simians that can clean up nuclear accidents, to powered exoskeletons that enable you to lift huge objects, robotic technologies are developing incredibly quickly. Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu, chief engineer at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, talks us through five robots that are changing the world.

(16) FUNNY COMMERCIAL. Sometimes people see an item and ask “Why’s that on File 770?” I have carefully searched this video without detecting any science fictional references. So when somebody asks that question, I am going to need to quickly change the subject.

Maybe I can change it with the help of an anecdote Cat Eldridge sent along with the link, about his own Coca-Cola experience.

True story. Well mostly. Once upon a time in a country where we had no intelligence assets I had a medical officer who insisted it was safer to drink coke than it was to drink the water, even the water hotels insisted had been boiled. This was the high octane stuff, full of real sugar. Drank at least three bottles a day while I was in country.

Now that the two female staffers who decided to mix and eat a salad and not soak it in iodine had a very unpleasant outcome when they discovered most explosively that it was grown in night soil… Need I tell you what night soil is? There’s a good reason the Viet Cong dipped their pungee sticks in it…

(17) NEW MEDIA CON. At VikingsCon, “Meet the cast of the History show Vikings”. They promise Amy Bailey (“Kwenthrith”) and Alexander Ludwig (“Bjorn”) will be on hand October 21-22 at the site in Maryland.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Bill Burns, Cat Eldridge, David K.M. Klaus, Lex Berman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 4/26/17 A Scroll On The Hand May Be Quite Continental

(1) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND THERE LIVED AN ARCHITECT. The structure replacing Ray Bradbury’s torn-down home is nearly finished. LA Observed interviewed architect Thom Mayne and his wife about the design in “What would Ray think? Thom and Blythe Mayne’s house in Cheviot Hills is almost ready to call home “. Despite the title, it didn’t seem to me the question was really addressed.

Prominent LA architect Thom Mayne razed the longtime Cheviot Hills home and work space of Ray Bradbury to build his own home. Mayne promised the neighborhood and fans a “very, very modest” house that would honor Bradbury in its design. Now that the teardown-and-replace is nearly complete, KCRW’s Frances Anderton, host of Design & Architecture, gets a tour and assesses if the promise was met.

However, the promised fence with Bradbury quotes is there, although you really can’t make them out in this photo from LA Observed.

A metal screen, fabricated by Tom Farage, contains quotes from Ray Bradbury’s writings. The moving gate will eventually have a hedge that moves with it (photo: Frances Anderton.)

(2) THAT TIME GRUMPY AND DOC WENT TO THE MOVIES. Atlas Obscura unearthed “The Movie Date That Solidified J.R.R. Tolkien’s Dislike of Walt Disney”.

…According to an account in the J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, Tolkien didn’t go see Snow White until some time after its 1938 U.K. release, when he attended the animated film with [C.S.] Lewis. Lewis had previously seen the film with his brother, and definitely had some opinions. In a 1939 letter to his friend A.K. Hamilton, Lewis wrote of Snow White (and Disney himself):

Dwarfs ought to be ugly of course, but not in that way. And the dwarfs’ jazz party was pretty bad. I suppose it never occurred to the poor boob that you could give them any other kind of music. But all the terrifying bits were good, and the animals really most moving: and the use of shadows (of dwarfs and vultures) was real genius. What might not have come of it if this man had been educated–or even brought up in a decent society?

… Tolkien didn’t like the goofball dwarfs either. The Tolkien Companion notes that he found Snow White lovely, but otherwise wasn’t pleased with the dwarves. To both Tolkien and Lewis, it seemed, Disney’s dwarves were a gross simplification of a concept they held as precious….

(3) DEMENTOR INVENTOR. Zata Rana, in an article on Quartz, “How JK Rowling Overcame Depression and Went On To Sell Over 400 Million Books”, reminds us that Rowling began to write Harry Potter novels after being diagnosed with clinical depression in the 1990s and her struggles to overcome her depression provides inspiring lessons for us all.

…During this period, her depression took a dark turn, and she considered herself a failure. She had fallen and felt stuck. She even contemplated suicide. Luckily, she found it in her to seek help, and writing became an outlet. The idea for the Harry Potter series had come to her years before on a train ride from Manchester to London. She had worked on a few chapters in Portugal, but she only really found her momentum back in the UK.

Rowling finished the first two books while still on welfare benefits. The dementors introduced in the third book were inspired by her mental illness….

(4) STINKS IN SPACE. The popular video game took a wrong turn when it left the Earth: “Activision admits taking ‘Call of Duty’ to space was a bad idea”.

Right from the very start it was clear that Activision’s Call of Duty franchise had taken a bit of a wrong turn with Infinite Warfare. The initial trailer for the game was absolutely slaughtered on YouTube, and early sales indicated that the game just wasn’t striking a chord with some of its target audience. Now, Activision is admitting what we all knew: Infinite Warfare was a misstep.

In a recent earnings call with investors, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick and COO Thomas Tippl revealed that the company wasn’t particularly pleased with how the game sold, or its overall reception….

(5) CAN’T PULL OVER TO THE ROADSIDE. And you know what else is going to stink in space? Blue Origin “Hold on tight and hold it: Jeff Bezos says no potty breaks on Blue Origin space trips”. Here are a couple quotes from a Bezos Q&A session.

What if I get queasy? Getting sick to your stomach can be a problem on zero-G airplane flights like NASA’s “Vomit Comet,” but motion sickness typically doesn’t come up until you’ve gone through several rounds of zero-G. Blue Origin’s suborbital space ride lasts only 11 minutes, with a single four-minute dose of weightlessness. “You’re going to be fine,” Bezos said.

What if I have to use the bathroom in flight? Go before you go. “Listen, if you have to pee in 11 minutes, you got problems,” Bezos said. You may have to hold it for more than 11 minutes, though, since passengers will board the spaceship a half-hour before launch.

(6) TODAY’S TRIVIA. “What, Me Worry?” Alfred E. Neuman made his debut as Mad Magazine’s mascot by appearing on the cover of The Mad Reader, a reprint paperback published in November 1954. He appeared for the first time on the magazine’s cover in issue #21 (March 1955).

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 26, 1956  — The Creature Walks Among Us was released.

(8) THEY STOPPED FOR LUNCH. And didn’t clean up after. Better hope your litter doesn’t last this long. “Neanderthals in California? Maybe so, provocative study says”

A startling new report asserts that the first known Americans arrived much, much earlier than scientists thought — more than 100,000 years ago __ and maybe they were Neanderthals.

If true, the finding would far surpass the widely accepted date of about 15,000 years ago.

Researchers say a site in Southern California shows evidence of humanlike behavior from about 130,000 years ago, when bones and teeth of an elephantlike mastodon were evidently smashed with rocks.

The earlier date means the bone-smashers were not necessarily members of our own species, Homo sapiens. The researchers speculate that these early Californians could have instead been species known only from fossils in Europe, Africa and Asia: Neanderthals, a little-known group called Denisovans, or another human forerunner named Homo erectus.

This reminds me of my visit 40 years ago to the Calico Early Man Site where Louis (but not Mary) Leakey thought they had found evidence of equally ancient toolmaking. According to Mary, their disagreement over this contributed to their split.

(9) QUESTIONS BIGGER THAN THE EXPANSE. The Space Review ponders the utopian and quasi-religious aspects of space advocacy in “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids”.

A few years ago historian Roger Launius wrote “Escaping Earth: Human Spaceflight as Religion” in the journal Astropolitics. He noted the similarities between human spaceflight enthusiasts and what we understand as traditional religion. For much of the history of the space age the comparisons have often been blatant, with spaceflight leaders such as Chris Kraft and Wernher von Braun, as well as numerous political leaders such as Ronald Reagan, talking about spaceflight in quasi, or even literally religious terms. Launius observed that human spaceflight, like religion, has its immortality myths, its revered leaders and condemned villains, its sacred texts, and its rituals, rules, and shared experiences. According to Launius, “The belief system has its saints, martyrs, and demons; sacred spaces of pilgrimage and reverence; theology and creed; worship and rituals; sacred texts; and a message of salvation for humanity, as it ensures its future through expansion of civilization to other celestial bodies.”

These religious aspects can be found throughout the writings of spaceflight advocates, the self-styled missionaries of the spaceflight religion. One of the most common arguments for space settlement is to achieve immortality for humankind by moving a portion of humanity to Mars in event of catastrophe. The Space Review regularly publishes these kinds of appeals to transcendence. The advocates argue that humankind could be wiped out by natural disaster—typically a meteor strike—and settling the Moon and Mars would help avoid the species being wiped out (see “Settling space is the only sustainable reason for humans to be in space”, The Space Review, February 1, 2016). Other commonly-cited threats include man-made ones like war and environmental destruction—as if space settlers would not also face the same things in a far more fragile biosphere. The Expanse has highlighted this vulnerability and interdependence with a subplot about food production on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede collapsing because the ecosystem lacks the robustness of Earth’s complex environment.

(10) CHU ON WRITING. In an interview at Outer Places, “Author John Chu Talks Cybernetics, Short Fiction, and Sci-Fi”.

OP: Are there themes or elements you find yourself returning to again and again in your work?

Chu: At a LonCon 3 panel, I joked that all the parents in my stories make unreasonable expectations of their children. That may be truer than I’d like. Certainly, I like to explore the notion of family in its many forms, i.e., family does not have to mean blood relation. The most interesting characters in my stories are likely either navigating relationships with their blood relatives, searching for their family, or both.

(11) PLUS ATWOOD’S CAMEO. An NPR reviewer finds  “Hulu’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Is Compelling — And Chilling”.

One searing scene features Offred’s memory of Aunt Lydia, the abusive headmistress who trains new Handmaids, quoting scripture and shocking the women with cattle prods. Eventually, she explains their duties as breeders. “You girls will serve the leaders of the faithful and their barren wives,” says Aunt Lydia, who cites Tinder as one source of the moral turpitude that has caused God to create the infertility crisis. “You will bear children for them. Oh! You are so lucky!”

(Atwood, who also served as a consulting producer on Hulu’s series, pops up in one scene from the first episode, where she slaps Offred for being slow to respond during an indoctrination session.)

This is a world of 1984-style paranoia and doublespeak. On the surface, it’s a placid, polite community that just happens to have black-clad guards with machine guns on every corner. But beneath that veneer is a world of grim desperation, fear and oppression. Women are stripped of husbands, children, jobs, their own money and control over their sexuality.

(12) MARVELS AND MARTYRS. Carmen Maria Machado reviews The Book of Joan for NPR.

One of the pleasures of The Book of Joan is its take-no-prisoners disregard for genre boundaries. Its searing fusion of literary fiction and reimagined history and science-fiction thriller and eco-fantasy make it a kind of sister text to Jeff VanderMeer’s ineffable Southern Reach trilogy. Yuknavitch is a bold and ecstatic writer, wallowing in sex and filth and decay and violence and nature and love with equal relish. Fans of her previous novel, The Small Backs of Children, will recognize these themes and their treatment.

(13) HELL’S JINGLING BELLS. And the BBC tells us why Milton should be more widely read.

…Ricks notes that Paradise Lost is “a fierce argument about God’s justice” and that Milton’s God has been deemed inflexible and cruel. By contrast, Satan has a dark charisma (“he pleased the ear”) and a revolutionary demand for self-determination. His speech is peppered with the language of democratic governance (“free choice”, “full consent”, “the popular vote”) – and he famously declares, “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven”. Satan rejects God’s “splendid vassalage”, seeking to live:

Free, and to none accountable, preferring

Hard liberty before the easy yoke

Of servile Pomp.

(14) SOME LIKE THE LIGHTNING — SOME DON’T. Two perspectives on Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning.

TRIGGER WARNINGS for discussion of ciscentricity, allocentricity, intersexis, and gender essentialism, and for quoted anti-trans and anti-intersex slurs apply to the following essay, as well as SPOILER WARNINGS.

Too Like the Lightning has been feted and critically acclaimed, and now nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel. I read it back when it first came out, after hearing about how well it supposedly handled queerness, and especially gender in the context of queerness, from a number of people whose opinions on the topic I usually respect; I did not agree with these assessments. I’ve been asked a number of times to discuss more fully my issues with the presentation of gender in the novel, so, with the Hugo Awards now open for voting, it seems like this might be the moment, to let voters see what this particular genderqueer person thought of the presentation of gender in the book. For context, I’m a bisexual nonbinary person and my pronoun is they….

Hi! I’m trans. I’m queer. I would like to talk about trans characters who end up dead in the course of story, or queer characters who are not the heroes of the story, and why that is frequently completely all right with me; and why the frequent labeling of works as “problematic” for not portraying trans (etc.) characters as paragons of virtue is itself a problem….

Now, I can completely sympathize with someone, especially a trans or nonbinary someone, noping out of Palmer’s novel due to the use of pronouns. I am personally of the opinion that you can refuse to leisure-read a book for any reason you damn well please, and I can see why that would hit a sore spot. (To reiterate: we’re talking about leisure reading here, things you read of your own will.) But I do not agree that Palmer’s worldbuilding here was problematic, and I do not think she should have been discouraged from writing this future….

“But is it hurtful?” you ask.

I feel this is the wrong question.

Individuals are hurt by whatever hurts them. And that’s not always something an author can predict–given the number of individuals in this world that’s a losing proposition, to try to write a work that never hurts anyone. I was not hurt by Palmer’s exploration of gender and society and use of pronouns, but again, trans people are not a monolith; and I want to be clear that people who noped out of the novel because of the pronouns (or any other reason) are entirely within their rights. I do think she was doing something interesting and definitely science fictional and that that’s fine, and that she should not have been prevented from writing with this device.

(15) CLASSIC WHO. Michael O’Donnell contributes an “it’s always new to someone on the internet” news item, a Doctor Who documentary, 30 Years In The Tardis posted on Vimeo by the director Kevin Davies around a year ago. It was originally broadcast by the BBC in 1993 to celebrate the Doctor’s 30th anniversary and never repeated (although it was included with one of the Doctor Who box sets).

Part 1:

Part 2:

(16) WELCOME TO KARLOFFORNIA. And A.V. Club remembers when “Thriller turned classic pulp stories into terrifying television”. (A post from 2014.)

… “As sure as my name is Boris Karloff, this is a Thriller!” was the catchphrase associated with Thriller, the horror anthology hosted by the craggy, silver-haired Englishman who in 1960 was still the world’s most emblematic scary-movie star. Rod Serling’s nervous energy animated The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock’s laconic drawl set the tone for his eponymous suspense series. Karloff was a natural choice to join their ranks: He let viewers know what they were in for just by saying his name….

Here is the prosaic chain of events by which Thriller came to meet Weird Tales: Frye’s associate producer, Doug Benton, asked writer Charles Beaumont (The Twilight Zone) for his ideas on material to adapt for Thriller. Beaumont suggested the pulp magazine and steered Benton to superfan Forrest J. Ackerman, who owned a complete set. Ackerman wouldn’t part with his trunk of back issues but agreed to loan them to Benton, a few at a time. Benton set out to track down authors and rights, and so Thriller began to offer relatively authentic screen versions of many key Weird Tales authors: August Derleth, Harold Lawlor, Margaret St. Clair, Fredric Brown, Henry Kuttner, and Robert Bloch. Only Lovecraft was missing.

(17) PASSING GO. Atlas Obscura goes inside the history and geography of the iconic game: “Touring the Abandoned Atlantic City Sites That Inspired the Monopoly Board”.

One of the last traces of old Atlantic City is the Claridge Hotel. Found on the corner of the two most expensive properties on the Monopoly board—Park Place and Boardwalk—the Claridge was known in its heyday as the “skyscraper by the sea.” Opened in 1930, it had an Art Deco opulence that wouldn’t be out of place in midtown Manhattan.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael D’Donnell, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]