Pixel Scroll 3/24/17 No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You To Scroll

(1) ALIEN HECK. Yahoo! Movies has the latest Alien: Covenant poster: “’Alien: Covenant’: Third Poster Welcomes Moviegoers to Extraterrestrial Hell”.

After decades away from the franchise that he began back in 1979, director Ridley Scott has become unbelievably gung-ho about the Alien series, promising that he’s got perhaps another half-dozen sequels already planned out for the near future. Before he can get to those, however, he’ll first deliver the follow-up to 2012’s Prometheus, Alien: Covenant, which by the looks of its recent trailer, is going to be a no-holds-barred descent into extraterrestrial madness. And now, its third theatrical poster (see it below) makes plain that its action won’t just be otherworldly; it’ll be downright hellish.

(2) BRAGGING ON BATMAN. Is this claim big enough for you? Why “Batman: The Animated Series 1992-1995” is far better than any other incarnation before or since.

(3) EVIDENCE OF GENIUS. Up for auction the next six days — “Remarkable Letter Signed by Albert Einstein, Along With His Initialed Drawings”. Minimum bid is $15,000.

Albert Einstein letter signed with his hand drawings, elegantly explaining his electrostatic theory of special relativity to a physics teacher struggling to reconcile it with experiments he was conducting. In addition to the letter, which is new to the market, Einstein generously replies to a series of questions the teacher asks him on a questionnaire, providing additional drawings and calculations, initialed ”A.E.” at the conclusion. Dated 4 September 1953 on Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study letterhead, Einstein writes to Arthur L. Converse, the teacher from Malcolm, Iowa, in part, ”There is no difficulty to explain your present experiment on the basis of the usual electrostatic theory. One has only to assume that there is a difference of potential between the body of the earth and higher layers of the atmosphere, the earth being negative relatively to those higher layers…[Einstein then draws Earth and the atmosphere, referring to it for clarification] The electric potential p rises linearly with the distance h from the surface of the earth…For all your experiments the following question is relevant: How big is the electric charge produced on a conductor which is situated in a certain height h, this body being connected with the earth…” Also included is Einstein’s original mailing envelope from ”Room 115” of the Institute for Advanced Study, postmarked 7 September 1953 from Princeton. Folds and very light toning to letter, otherwise near fine. Questionnaire has folds, light toning and staple mark, otherwise near fine with bold handwriting by Einstein. With an LOA from the nephew of Arthur Converse and new to the market.

(4) PROFESSIONAL FAKE REVIEW. As announced in comments, Theakers Quarterly have posted their fake review of There Will Be Walrus. They’re doing these as a fundraiser for Comic Relief on Red Nose Day. This is the first of four paragraphs in the review:

Military science fiction is a part of the genre that does not always get the attention it deserves, but thank goodness Cattimothy House is on the case, producing an anthology of stories and essays that ranks with the very best sf being produced in the world. Overrated social justice writerers such as John Scalesy and Jim B. Hinds might knock this kind of stuff and despise the fans who love it, but us real fans know the real deal when we see it, and here we do!

(5) NEW TAFF REPORT. Jacqueline Monahan published her TAFF trip report and earned a $500 bounty for the fund from the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests. More details when I find out how fans can get a copy.

(6) SALLY RIDE. At UC San Diego, where Ride served as a professor, a new graduate fellowship — the Sally Ride Fellowship for Women in Physics – has been established in her name to inspire future generations of boundary-breaking physicists who will contribute to the public good.

The pioneering astronaut Sally Ride was a beloved professor at UC San Diego for years. Brian Keating, professor of physics and Associate Director of the Clarke Center, and his wife, Sarah, recently provided the lead gift to fund the Sally Ride Graduate Fellowship for the Advancement of Women in Physics. “We thought this would be a great way to honor Sally Ride’s accomplishments and at the same time, motivate young scientists,” said Brian. “We hope that UC San Diego students will be inspired by her contributions to science and society.”

(7) STATISTICAL ACCURACY. Lately Cecily Kane has tweeted more than once about File 770 not linking to the Fireside Report

File 770 has linked to the Fireside Report. Before that it was discussed last September in comments. The thing I have never done is written an article about it, as I recently did with the FIYAH Magazine Black SFF Writer Survey.

This latest tweet came after I quoted Lela E. Buis in yesterday’s Scroll. That wasn’t the most popular thing I’ve ever posted and the comments section is open — it’s a shame to think we’ve been stuck reading Vox Day’s ridiculous attacks when we might be hearing something useful from Cecily Kane.

(8) SCRIMSHAW. We Hunted The Mammoth understands what’s happening — “Vox Day publishes book with near-identical cover to John Scalzi’s latest, declares victory”.

Beale’s master plan here, evidently, is to convince enough of his supporters to buy Kindle copies of the ersatz book out of spite so that it outranks Scalzi’s book in Kindle sales, a somewhat meaningless metric given that Beale’s books is priced at $4.99, compared to Scalzi’s $12.99, and that Scalzi is also selling actual paper copies of his book, while Beale’s is only available as an ebook. (Beale’s book has been taken down from Amazon several times already in the brief time it’s been out, apparently because, you know, it looks almost identical to Scalzi’s book, but at the moment it’s up on the site.)….

Beale, for all of his many defects, does seem to understand the art of the publicity stunt.

(9) THE LINE STARTS HERE. Can it be true that Kelly Freas and Pablo Picasso agreed about how nude women look? Go ahead, look at this Freas abstract now up for bid and tell me I’m wrong.

(10) DOUBLE UP. Rich Horton takes a lighthearted look back at “A Forgotten Ace Double: Flower of Doradil, by John Rackham/A Promising Planet, by Jeremy Strike”.

The covers are by probably the two leading SF illustrators of that time: Jack Gaughan (in a more psychedelic than usual mode for him), and Kelly Freas. So, I spent a fair amount of time on the background of these writers. Could it be that the novels themselves are not so interesting? Well — yes, it could.

Rackham, as I have said before, was a pretty reliably producer of competent middle-range SF adventure. And that describes Flower of Doradil fairly well. Claire Harper is an agent of Earth’s Special Service, come to the planet Safari to investigate some mysterious activity on the proscribed continent Adil. Safari is mostly devoted to hunting, but Adil is occupied by the humanoid (completely human, it actually seems) natives. But some plants with tremendous medical properties are being smuggled out, and the agents sent to investigate have disappeared.

(11) POETRY OF PHYSICS. In advance of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination’s upcoming event, “Entanglements: Rae Armantrout and the Poetry of Physics”, they have produced a bonus episode of their podcast: a conversation between poet Armantrout and Clarke Center cosmologist Brian Keating.

The event takes place April 13 at UC San Diego. Armantrout, Keating, the writer Brandon Som, and the critic Amelia Glaser will discuss how Rae’s poems mix the personal with the scientific and speculative, the process of interdisciplinary creativity, and what her poetic engagement with physics can teach those working in the physical sciences.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born March 24, 1874 – Harry Houdini
  • Born March 24, 1901 – Disney animator Ub Iwerks.

(13) TEN MYTHS. Carl Slaughter, recommending “10 Sci-Fi Movie Myths That Drive Scientists Crazy” from CBR, says “Instead of discussing science movie by movie, this debunk video is organized by topics.  I would add lasers, but more about laser myths another time.”

Outer space is vast and holds a multitude of mysteries that have yet to be solved. But for some reason, the mysteries we have solved are still be represented incorrectly by Hollywood today. We understand these movies are all fiction, but with our growing knowledge of the universe it’s hard to ignore the glaring mistakes made in movies that make them less realistic. Here are 10 space facts movies ALWAYS get wrong.

The video covers: gravity, no helmet, black holes, sound, explosions, speed, time, distance, dogfights, and Mars.

(14) THEY DELIVER. According to the maker of “Futurama:  Authentic Science, Sophisticated Comedy, Cultural Commentary,” their video takes “A look at the show that brought humor and emotion into the sterile world of science and arithmetic.”

(15) FINNISH WEIRD. Europa SF reports that the latest issue of Finnish Weird is available.

This is a fanzine from Finland that features stories on speculative fiction, this time from Magdalena Hai, J.S. Meresmaa and Viivi Hyvönen.

The text includes an English translation. The issue is available as a free download here.

(16) FIVE STAR TREK CAPTAINS AND ONE DOCTOR WHO CAPTAIN. Another Carl Slaughter pick: “There are so many delightful memories and insightful comments during this discussion with 5 Star Trek captains, I can’t even begin to list them.  Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway, and Archer were all on stage in London in 2012.  To top it off, the discussion is hosted by yet another captain, Captain Jack Harkness of Doctor Who/Torchwood fame.”

(17) BOMB OR NO BOMB? Digital Antiquarian tries to answer the question “What’s the Matter with Covert Action?”, game designer Sid Meier’s biggest disappointment – mostly to Sid himself.

But there are also other, less scandalous cases of notable failure to which some of us continually return for reasons other than schadenfreude. One such case is that of Covert Action, Sid Meier and Bruce Shelley’s 1990 game of espionage. Covert Action, while not a great or even a terribly good game, wasn’t an awful game either. And, while it wasn’t a big hit, nor was it a major commercial disaster. By all rights it should have passed into history unremarked, like thousands of similarly middling titles before and after it. The fact that it has remained a staple of discussion among game designers for some twenty years now in the context of how not to make a game is due largely to Sid Meier himself, a very un-middling designer who has never quite been able to get Covert Action, one his few disappointing games, out of his craw. Indeed, he dwells on it to such an extent that the game and its real or perceived problems still tends to rear its head every time he delivers a lecture on the art of game design. The question of just what’s the matter with Covert Action — the question of why it’s not more fun — continues to be asked and answered over and over, in the form of Meier’s own design lectures, extrapolations on Meier’s thesis by others, and even the occasional contrarian apology telling us that, no, actually, nothing‘s wrong with Covert Action.

(18) UNEARTHLY VISIONS. In Jaroslav Kalfar’s A Spaceman of Bohemia, “A Czech Astronaut’s Earthly Troubles Come Along for the Ride”: a New York Times review by Hari Kunzru.

The reason the Czech Republic is launching a manned spacecraft is the arrival of a strange comet that has “swept our solar system with a sandstorm of intergalactic cosmic dust.” A cloud, named Chopra by its Indian discoverers, now floats between Earth and Venus, turning the night sky purple. Unmanned probes sent out to take samples have returned mysteriously empty. Likewise a German chimpanzee has returned to Earth with no information save the evidence that survival is possible. The Americans, the Russians and the Chinese show no sign of wishing to risk their citizens, so the Czechs have stepped up, with a rocket named for the Protestant reformer and national hero Jan Hus. At many points in the novel, Kalfar sketches key moments in Czech history, and the very premise of a Czech space mission is clearly a satire on the nationalist pretensions of a small post-Communist nation. Financed by local corporations whose branding is placed on his equipment, Jakub is the epitome of the scrappy underdog, grasping for fame by doing something too crazy or dangerous for the major players.

(19) NO GORILLA. The Verge interviews visual-effects supervisor Jeff White about “How Industrial Light & Magic built a better Kong for Skull Island”.

When you have a featured character like this, how do you determine what techniques you’ll use to realize him? Particularly when it comes to performance — do you go through different approaches as to whether to use pure motion-capture, or pure animation?

We definitely did. We were very fortunate to work with [actor] Terry Notary, who I’d worked with before on Warcraft. He did a lot of body performance work. We had a couple days in mo-cap where Jordan could iterate very quickly with Terry to work through different scenes, then also try different gaits. And try things like, “Give us 10 chest pounds.” So he’d try different cadences. Is it three, is it alternating hands, is it hands together? Just trying to give us a nice library of things to pull from.

Then I would say the same is true of the face. We had a day of capture with Toby Kebbell (A Monster Calls, Warcraft), where he works through some of the scenes — particularly the less action-heavy scenes, where you really have a lot of time to look at Kong’s eyes, and the movement of the face. There are some shots where that facial capture is used directly, but through the production process and the reworking of the scenes, a lot of what Kong needed to do changed so much that the capture was used a lot more as inspiration and moments to pull from. And then ultimately a lot of the animation was key-framed. I think that was actually important to do, especially when trying to sell that Kong was 100 feet tall. Because even weighted down and moving slower, anyone that’s six feet tall is going to be able to change direction and move much faster than Kong would ever be able to.

It’s not even just a matter of saying, “Let’s take that and slow it down by 25 percent.” Once the arm gets moving, it can actually be pretty fast. But then when he needs to change direction, you need to have that appropriate, physically accurate process of getting this massive arm to move a different direction. With the animation in particular, it was a real challenge between making sure Kong felt slow enough where he was huge, but at the same time not letting the shots drag on so long that it no longer became an action movie.

(20) AN ALTERNATE INTERPRETATION. Carl Slaughter explains:

“Chain of Command” is usually included in lists of Star Trek’s best episodes.  This is the one with “There are 4 lights !”  The antagonist in this two-parter is Captain Jellico, who clashes with the Enterprise’s crew and even deliberately endangers Picard’s life. This video essay depicts Jellico as the protagonist who made all the right decisions for all the right reasons.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, rcade, Michael J. Walsh, Iphinome, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 3/23/17 I Fifth The Pixel Electric

(1) SACRIFICIAL FIRST. Camestros Felapton, who has been “Reading ‘Corrosion’so you don’t have to”, files this after-action report:

So with the tune of ‘Don’t You Want Me Baby’, running in my head I descend into ‘Corrosion: The Corroding Empire Part by Johan Kalsi and/or Harry Seldon Edited by Vox Day’.

Servo is a robot working in a cocktail bar, when we meet him. Again, if only this book was a pastiche of new-romantic pop lyrics but it isn’t – I mean how would it have been to have included a cocktail bar in the story?

Instead, we get a bunch of connected not-exactly awful stories set in a technological society run by ‘algorithms’. The style is one I shall now christen ‘Puppy Clunk’. If you read some of the less appalling slated works in 2015, you’ll recognise the style. It’s not illiterate or wholly unreadable but it just sort of goes ‘clunk’ in every sentence.

(2) FLAME ON. Entertainment Weekly’s James Hibbard assures everyone that the “’Game of Thrones’ dragaons are ‘the size of 747s’ in season 7”. Is there a word in Dothraki for “bodacious”?

The dragons are bigger this season. Okay, we say that every year. But this time, they are a lot bigger.

For Game of Thrones season 7, which has Daenerys’ trio of beasts headed to Westeros as part of the dragon queen’s invading fleet, the creatures are more fearsome than ever before.

“The dragons this year are the size of 747s,” director Matt Shakman tells EW. “Drogon is the biggest of the bunch – his flame is 30-feet in diameter!”

Shakman is one of four directors helming next season (the others are GoT vets Alan Taylor, Jeremy Podeswa, and Mark Mylod). He was probably being at least somewhat approximate when comparing the dragons to the venerable Boeing airliner. But for reference, a 747 is about 230 feet long with a 210 feet wingspan. So, really big.

(3) BLIND DATE. I’ve used up my quota of free articles in the Washington Post this month, however, Daniel Dern recommends this article about The Expanse. If you are still on the free side of the paywall, treat yourself to “The best show about international relations on television right now is on – wait for it – Syfy”.

(4) OCTAVIA BUTLER. Fortunately this Boston Globe article hasn’t gone behind the paywall just yet — “Science fiction, black music meet in Toshi Reagon’s opera-in-progress”.

In the parable of the sower in the Gospels, Jesus tells his followers about different outcomes from scattering seeds. Some are cast to the side and eaten by birds, some are planted in rocky soil or among thorns and fail to grow, but the seeds sown on “good ground” will take root and provide a bounty.

Science-fiction author Octavia E. Butler called back to that allegory about the word of God with her 1993 book “Parable of the Sower,” about a young woman in an apocalyptic future America who wanders a drought-stricken landscape, planting the seeds of a new religion fueled by empathy.

Now Butler’s book is adapted into an opera that synthesizes a wide range of musical styles culled from its creators’ deep reservoir of knowledge about black music in America.

(5) TODAY’S DAYS

You get your choice:

Commemorates March 23rd, 1989, when a large asteroid missed the Earth by a mere 500,000 miles – a very near miss indeed! What would you do if an asteroid was about to hit the Earth – how would you spend your last hours, and would you even want to know?

(6) FISHER MEMORIAL. The public memorial service for mother and daughter will take place March 25.

Fans will be able to pay their respects to Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher during a public memorial Saturday at Forest Lawn Memorial Park-Hollywood Hills, where the late stars were buried together in January.

The joint service — described as a “celebration of life” — will begin at 1 p.m., Todd Fisher said in an announcement about the tribute for his mother and sister on his website.

“We will be celebrating their lives with friends, family members, and the people who loved them, you,” he wrote in the announcement.

The memorial will take place inside the cemetery’s Hall of Liberty, which, according to the Forest Lawn website, seats more than 1,000.

(7) GRAVE CONCERNS. Patrick Stewart is among the people campaigning to preserve a piece of Brooklyn history — “Patrick Stewart: Revolutionary War heroes are buried under empty Gowanus lot!”

Starship Enterprise captain and Park Slope resident Sir Patrick Stewart is throwing his weight behind a controversial theory that the bodies of hundreds of Revolutionary War heroes are buried beneath an vacant lot in Gowanus — and he wants a memorial placed there so that history never forgets the name “Maryland 400.”

Stewart claimed in a recent Gentleman’s Quarterly interview that the empty Ninth Street site is the final resting place of the famed band of soldiers — who died saving General Washington’s rebel army from annihilation during the Battle of Brooklyn — and said he has personally petitioned Mayor DeBlasio to install a monument to them there, to which Hizzoner replied, “I’m on it.”

(8) NEAGLE OBIT. Long-time New Orleans-area fan Robert Neagle (1955-2017) passed away March 22 from a massive heart attack. He was active in many local and regional fan groups, and a veteran conrunner. I first met him at Nolacon II 1988), where he was wearing his Porno Patrol t-shirt. Neagle was the Captain of the Porno Patrol and I remember asking for an explanation of what they did, and vaguely remember an explanation involving the French Quarter. I remember much more clearly being grateful that he and his friends were volunteering at the con which needed all the help it could get.

Neagle was chairman of Crescent City Con throughout its 20-year history, ending in 2005. He was one of the founders of the Companions of Doctor Who, chaired DeepSouthCon 37 (1999), and worked on Vulcon, CoastCon and NOSFF, the New Orleans Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival. He was a member of Area 504 and the Amalgamation of Non-Aligned Lifeforms Starfleet.

He was the first Fan GoH of the (relatively new) Gulf Coast convention CONtraflow. He was honored for his contributions to Southern fandom with the Rebel Award in 2001.

Neagle is being cremated and there are no services planned at this time.

(9) COMIC SECTION. Pearls Before Swine has a real groaner today.

(10) STIFLED DISCOURSE. Lela E. Buis, in “Intimidating People Into Silence”, comments on a political trend to threaten and bully people:

In the last blog, I reported on a group (wisely anonymous) who advanced an article challenging Cecily Kane’s 2016 Fireside article that used a statistical analysis to show anti-black bias among SFF editors. Although the anonymous authors agreed there was a bias against black authors, they disagreed on the cause. After threats, they withdrew the article. Fireside then posted the article on their site.

So, what was the problem here? Why were these authors threatened? Was it because they challenged Kane’s specific conclusions about editorial bias? Or was it because they challenged possible gains that might have been made because of Kane’s article? Is this a political issue? Are the anonymous authors misguided statisticians? Or are they really racists trying to undermine black progress?

The interesting thing is that this isn’t an isolated case of attacking and bullying people, not just for their social/political views, but also for research that might contradict the opposition’s conclusions. It’s actually a fairly common theme in US society right now….

(11) KSR H2O NYC. From Scientific American “Q&A: Kim Stanley Robinson Explains How He Flooded Manhattan”

His new book, New York 2140, explores the interplay of climate change and global finance on a warmer, wetter future world

What would you say this book is really about? It’s about climate change and sea level rise, but it’s also about the way that our economic system doesn’t allow us to afford a decent future. As one of the characters says early in the book, “We’ve got good tech, we’ve got a nice planet, but we’re fucking it up by way of stupid laws.”

Finance, globalization—this current moment of capitalism—has a stranglehold on the world by way of all our treaties and laws, but it adds up to a multigenerational Ponzi scheme, an agreement on the part of everybody to screw the future generations for the sake of present profits. By the logic of our current system we have to mess up the Earth, and that is crazy. My new novel explores this problem and how we might get out of it.

(12) WHO OF WHOVILLE. At the end of Daily Beast’s post about coverage of yesterday’s terror incident, “Londoners Reject British ‘Traitors’ Peddling Terror Dystopia on Fox News”, comes a genre reference —

James Moran, a screenwriter who worked on shows including Doctor Who and Torchwood, said the unique nature of London could never be altered.

“The only things that shut down London: (a) leaves, (b) 3 flakes of snow, (c) when you try to get on trains without letting people off first,” he wrote “Now let’s carry on being Londoners. Rude, always in a hurry, and completely ignoring each other, LIKE GOD INTENDED.”

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Stephen Burridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, Raymond Boudreau, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Amazon Keeps Freeze on Sales of Castalia’s “Corrosion”

Castalia House’s goon book The Corroding Empire keeps trying to come back from the dead, like a Universal Pictures monster. Amazon took the book down on its release day, March 20, because its title, author and cover were deemed misleading – each of those attributes having been made intentionally similar to John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire.

Castalia House publisher Vox Day promptly announced that the book would be back on Amazon with a new cover, title (Corrosion) and author name (Harry Seldon).

Instead, Vox Day got Amazon to restore The Corroding Empire page under the original pseudonym, but it’s not clear whether sales ever resumed and they are currently disabled (see screencap).

Day has been updating his “Back With A Vengeance” post at Vox Popoli after each go-round with Amazon.

Mr. Amazon SJW just blocked it again. Unsigned, of course. SJWs always double down.

We’re writing to let you know that readers have reported a problem in your book. The error significantly impacts the readability of your book. We have temporarily removed it from sale so that more readers don’t experience the same problem in your book

Error Category: Wrong_Content; Comments: The content of your book is a different edition than what the detail page indicates. Because this could be a serious issue for many customers, we have had to temporarily block your book from sale. Please correct the image so that we can make it available for sale again.

UPDATE: Another phone call and we’re back up again.

UPDATE: And blocked again, albeit this time UNDER REVIEW, not memory-holed.

UPDATE: Finally got to speak to a supervisor. She’s not only escalated the matter to legal, but has assured me that the book will be unblocked, stay unblocked, and that the matter will be fully investigated. It’s not just the three blocks, the culprit(s) also put the book on the Excluded list for Amazon Associates, which prevents others from being paid when someone buys the book.

Vox Day has also raised the spectre of “tortious interference”:

UPDATE: Since some people seem to want to go on the warpath, let me be perfectly clear here: Amazon is not to blame. I even suspect that it is entirely possible that Tor Books is not to blame either, based on a) when the book was pulled and b) the fact that the book has shown as Live for nearly 24 hours but still does not have a page on any Amazon site. The most likely scenario, in my opinion, is a rogue low-level SJW employee, possibly two, in a specific department.

I have already spoken to the manager of one department and they have begun to investigate why Corrosion is Live but not available. They’ve done everything we asked and we have no problem with the way we have been treated.

While he has been arguing for scenarios involving misbehaving Amazon employees or interference by someone at Tor Books, it may be that customers using Amazon’s feedback system are having an impact – they may not have confined themselves to complaining about the one-star reviews left on Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire on its first day in release.

Former Amazon employee Greg Hullender also offered some insights in a comment on Camestros Felapton’s blog:

Having worked at Amazon and dealt with “bad merchants” I can tell you that Amazon keeps a list of “problem children.” After his previous two stunts (the Rape book and the Goodreads hack), I suspect Castalia House is on such a list. That would mean that it would require far fewer customer complaints to get a human involved that would normally be the case.

In this particular case, it almost looks as though VD had hoped to bamboozle a few Scalzi readers into buying his book by mistake. Given the way purchasing on Amazon works, I can’t see how that would happen in real life, but the appearance is bad. The company is extremely allergic to anything that looks like an attempt (however maladroit) to defraud its customers. (In other words, if it looks like you’re trying to rip people off, the fact that you’re using a method that could never work won’t cut any ice.) That could also explain the speed of Amazon’s reaction. (I’ll add that I personally think VD only wanted attention–I doubt he thought this would look like fraud.)….

However, a source disputes my description of Vox Day in yesterday’s Scroll as being “on thin ice” with Amazon. At this time the rest of Castalia House’s books are available for sale.

Update: Two hours after this post was published, Amazon had the book available for sale. I was able to order the sample sent to my Kindle. However, the page still displays the “item under review” box. // Further update: Now the review box is gone, too.

Pixel Scroll 3/21/17 Pixels Are Not Looking Good For Mr. Scroll

(1) PICK YOUR OWN TALKING CATASTROPHE. After the SFWA Blog posted about Twine, the interactive game program, Camestros Felapton decided, “Because I had an important project at work to complete, I naturally ended up downloading Twine and playing with that instead of using my commute to work to get ahead with my deadlines. Here is a tourist guide to Timothy [the Talking Cat]’s home town.”

(2) CHOW TIME. “Binge on pork buns with Rosemary Clare Smith” in Episode 32 of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast.

We discussed why she can’t seem to stop writing about dinosaurs, how her years as a lawyer helped her become a better writer, what caused an angry audience member to confront her after one of her readings, whether she’d be willing to risk Ray Bradbury’s butterfly effect by traveling back in time, if there are editorial differences between Analog editors Stanley Schmidt and Trevor Quachri, and much more.

 

Rosemary Claire Smith

(3) FELLOWSHIP. Sorry I wasn’t able to give advance warning on this – it airs Tuesday night — “D.C. Legends of Tomorrow features cameo by… J.R.R. Tolkien?”

On the upcoming episode of DC Legends of Tomorrow,  airing this Tuesday, March 21 at 9:00 p.m. EST on The CW channel, the team goes back to France during WWI and enlists the help of, yes,  J.R.R. Tolkien. The episode is titled “Fellowship of the Spear.”

From IMDB: “The Legends land in France during World War I and enlist the aid of J.R.R. Tolkien to retrieve the last pieces of the Spear of Destiny from the Legion of Doom.”

(4) INVENTED LANGUAGE. Atlas Obscura tells about the “Boontling Language of Booneville [California]”.

Anderson Valley, the logging region of California where Boontling got its start, was so isolated in those early years that the new language thrived, growing to 1,600 words. It never spread beyond the region. Part of the reason for this was a reluctance on the part of Boonville residents to share their language with visitors. What’s more, while the dialect is based on English, Scottish Gaelic, Irish, Spanish, and Pomoan (a Native Californian language), many of the Boontling words were inspired by Boonville residents, and are therefore more personal for people in the area.

For instance, the word zeese, for coffee, came from Zachariah Clifton, or “Z.C.,” who brewed a particularly strong cup of joe. A pay phone is called Buckey Walter; buckey means nickel, and Walter was the first guy in the valley to have a phone. The name of the language is a combination of the Boontling word Boont, for Boonville, and ling, short for lingo.

One summer is the Sixties my father took my brother and me to a dude ranch. Booneville was the nearest town so we were in there a couple times. We didn’t know anything about Boontling, unfortunately, or we probably could have got a demonstration.

(5) GAIL SIMONE. The comics writer Gail Simone was invited on the JoCo 2017 geek cruise where she was asked to write the worst first page to a SF/F novel and deliver it to the crowd. Her part starts at 8:20.

(6) ELECTRONIC PRIVACY FOR TRAVELERS. For those heading to Helsinki for the Worldcon, or leaving the U.S. for anywhere, Cory Doctorow recommends reading the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s comprehensive guide to protecting your electronic data: “Digital Privacy at the U.S. Border: Protecting the Data On Your Devices and In The Cloud”. (There’s also a print-and-fold version).

The U.S. government reported a five-fold increase in the number of electronic media searches at the border in a single year, from 4,764 in 2015 to 23,877 in 2016.1 Every one of those searches was a potential privacy violation. Our lives are minutely documented on the phones and laptops we carry, and in the cloud. Our devices carry records of private conversations, family photos, medical documents, banking information, information about what websites we visit, and much more. Moreover, people in many professions, such as lawyers and journalists, have a heightened need to keep their electronic information confidential. How can travelers keep their digital data safe?

(7) WHERE ISN’T HE? Over the weekend a “’Where’s Waldo?’ fun run” brought in money for a good cause.

Thousands of runners donned iconic red and white-striped costumes in London for a “Where’s Waldo?” themed fun run.

The event Sunday in south London saw thousands of men, women, and children dress as the titular character from the children’s book series for a fun run that raised money for the National Literacy Trust.

(8) SQUARE PEG TIME. Declan Finn got a nip on the nose for trying to start Sad Puppies 5 himself but another website welcomed his “Superversive Dragon Award Suggestions” with open paws. Despite the welcome, he found it wasn’t easy to find the right category for all his friends’ books.

Obviously, certain of the books from the list fit no genre category. One of my novels from the list, Set to Kill, is a murder mystery that takes place in Atlanta, at a place called WyvernCon, in the middle of a political war about Tearful or Hydrophobic Puppies versus Puppy Punters from traditional Big Publishing. Obviously, this book has no similarities to real events. Heh.

However, while it is on the 2016 list, there is no murder mystery genre for the Dragons. Nor are there Westerns, so Brings the Lightning is out.  And while Chasing Freedom and The Big Sheep are both fun books with dystopic elements, they both came out too early last year in order to be eligible — and Chasing Freedom was already nominated for last year’s Dragons.  It’s the same for site favorite Ben Zyycky’s novel Beyond the Mist , which came out in January 2016.

(9) PLAGIARISM SUIT. Variety reports “Disney Accused of Stealing ‘Zootopia’ from ‘Total Recall’ Screenwriter”.

A veteran screenwriter filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday accusing Disney of stealing his idea for the hit animated film “Zootopia.”

Gary Goldman alleges that Disney took character designs, themes, lines of dialogue, and even the name “Zootopia” from a project that he first developed in 2000. He alleges that he twice pitched the project to Disney executives, in 2000 and 2009, and was rejected. The lawsuit accuses Disney of a long history of stealing ideas from others, and contends that “Zootopia” is only the most recent example of an embedded corporate practice.

“Although The Walt Disney Company rigorously enforces its copyrights, it has developed a culture that not only accepts the unauthorized copying of others’ original material, but encourages it,” Goldman alleges. “Instead of lawfully acquiring Goldman’s work, Defendants said they were not interested in producing it and sent him on his way. Thereafter, consistent with their culture of unauthorized copying, Defendants copied Goldman’s work.”

(10) COLLAPSING DAY. At long last it’s the release day for John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire. He noted on Twitter that the trolls had promptly gone to work adding negative reviews to the book’s Amazon page.

Already on thin ice with Amazon, Vox Day interrupted his unwelcoming comments about the book in general to emphasize his policy about fake reviews.

UPDATE: My position on fake reviews is what it has always been: never write fake reviews, for good or for ill. If you have not read a book or played a game, then you should not even consider reviewing it. As a former nationally syndicated professional game reviewer, I do not approve of fake reviews no matter who the author or developer is. Unlike most published authors, I have always abided by Amazon guidelines and never review books or games on Amazon. The only place I write reviews are a) on this blog, and b) on Recommend.

He also made a point in a comment:

How do you explain downvotes on that review if that is not what you wanted when you linked it?

They have nothing to do with me or what I want. If I wanted downvotes, there would be at least 535 downvotes there within an hour. Since there are not, it should be clear that I have not issued any such order or expressed any such desire.

Amazon has been removing the fake one-star reviews throughout the day as they pop up (and people complain). Although it’s gone now, too, an even rarer snarky five-star review stuck around for several hours.

(11) THE OTHER SIDE OF THE AISLE. Not all the grumpy people are on the right. On Whatever in Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire Is Here” post, he mentioned that Wil Wheaton voiced the audiobook and got back in comments —

“So you had your book narrated by a white man… Of course!”

(12) SUPERPREDICTABLE. Brian Niemeier marked the day by teeing off against Scalzi’s publisher, in “Tor Gets Desperate”, for having the Castalia House goon book The Corroding Empire taken down yesterday,.

This is what used to be called “parody” before the Left turned into control freaks with zero sense of humor. The only way you’d mistake one of those books for the other is if you couldn’t read. In which case, you’re probably not buying books in the first place.

(13) COVER CHARGE. Camestos Felapton worked over a different part of Niemeier’s post:

However, Brian is deeply impressed by Castalia House re-releasing their book with a new cover:

“While I was writing this post, Vox Day unveiled the new cover for CH’s censored book.

Let that sink in: they got a new cover done in less than a day.

The updated book should be back in the Kindle store tonight. This is why the small, fast mammals are taking down the dinosaurs.”

A generic spaceship against a background cover in LESS THAN A DAY! Gadzooks! Hmmm. I think I can do that in under an hour to Castalia House standards…

(14) MAGI STANDARD TIME. Hodinkee observes, “Balthazar, MB&F’s Latest Robot-Themed Clock, Has a Split Personality”.

Meet Balthazar. He’s a slightly terrifying robot-shaped clock that has a smiling face on one side and a grimacing skull on the other….

MB&F is calling Balthazar the big brother to Melchior, the robot clock it first launched at Baselworld 2015. The clocks have the same basic structure, each with discs for the time and the escapement in the dome on the robot’s head (unlike the smaller cousin clock, Sherman, which uses a more traditional display). If you know your New Testament, you’ll know that Melchior and Balthazar were two of the three magi to visit Jesus in the manger on the night of his birth – will we be seeing a Caspar clock sometime soon too? Personally, I’m hoping yes….

Balthazar is available with four different colors of armor – black, silver, blue, and green – each limited to 50 pieces. All colors will retail for 52,000 CHF (approximately $52,875 at time of publishing). For more, visit MB&F online.

 

(15) ASS-GRINDING HALT. Scarepop.com says “Stop the presses! Rob Lowe and his sons are making a paranormal series”.

Prolific actor, eighties teen heartthrob, Emmy-award winner and general national treasure Rob Lowe will star with his two sons, Matthew and John Owen, in an upcoming supernatural-themed A&E docuseries entitled The Lowe Files, in which the trio will travel around the country investigating unsolved legends and “eerie, age-old stories.”

As Rob Lowe himself (star of The Outsiders, St. Elmo’s Fire, and NBC’s The West Wing) tells us (via an A&E press release):

Since I was a kid I’ve loved unexplained legends, strange phenomena and the scary, supernatural stories told around campfires.

Okay. You can restart the presses now.

(16) COMIC R.I.P.S The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna has an appreciation of Bernie Wrightson as one of the greatest comic book artists to come from Baltimore…

Bernie Wrightson, who co-created the Swamp Thing, was one of his generation’s greatest masters of horror illustration and comics.

(17) QUITE A CATCH. It’s clickbait, but “Bookstore Earns Instagram Fame With Clever Snaps” only runs three pages and it’s amusing.

A bookstore in France is becoming a popular member of the Instagram community for all the right reasons. Not only does its account showcase products and events the store is offering, but also the creativity of its employees.

Librairie Mollat was the first independent bookstore to open in France in 1896. It is home to over 300,000 titles and has an inventory that spans every genre you can imagine. And while being one of the oldest bookstores in the country is a remarkable feat (especially when you consider the primarily digital world we now live in), it’s the clever Instagram posts that are getting this business noticed.

 

[Thanks to Camestros Felapton, JJ, rcade, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Scott Edelman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matt Y.]

Amazon Yanks Castalia House’s “The Corroding Empire”

The Corroding Empire, Castalia House’s parody of John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire with a look-alike cover, has been taken off sale by Amazon.

Day told Vox Popoli readers in “Amazon Pulls Corroding Empire”

Fascinating. We just received an email from Amazon informing us that the title, cover, and author of THE CORRODING EMPIRE were “misleading”.

The Scalzi book, available for pre-order since May 2016, will have its official release on March 21.

Pre-orders for the Castalia House book have been taken on Amazon since about March 6, and its publication date is today, March 20. Although sales are shut down, people have reported they got their pre-ordered copies on schedule.

When he announced the Castalia House book, Vox Day made clear their version was more than a parody, that his goal was to show up Tor’s book, in a continuation of his one-sided feud with author and former SFWA President Scalzi.

Nevertheless, from concept to cover, from title to text, THE CORRODING EMPIRE  is a very clear and public demonstration that the Castalia House team can do what they do, and do it better, even as an in-house joke in our copious spare time.

After all, what would be more amusing than for THE CORRODING EMPIRE to outsell and outrank The Collapsing Empire? This isn’t a lame Bored of the Rings-style parody, it is, quite to the contrary, a legitimate Foundation-style novel that effectively demonstrates how hapless Tor’s latest imitative mediocrity is by comparison.

And he soon posted claims that the Castalia House parody was running ahead of the real book, in “A tale of two preorders”.

The Corroding Empire #15 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Space Opera

The Collapsing Empire #151 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Space Opera

Vox Day has posted an image of the book’s replacement cover and is working to get Amazon to resume sales.

In any event, we will have CORROSION by Harry Seldon, complete with a new cover, back up soon. It’s not like we aren’t in the habit of anticipating enemy action, after all.

Pixel Scroll 3/5/17 I Could Not Scroll Thee (Dear) So Much, Scroll’d I Not Pixels More

(1) WEIN SCHEDULED FOR SURGERY. Wolverine co-creator Len Wein has made a public appeal for your good thoughts when he’s in surgery on Tuesday:

Hey, Gang–

I am about to impose on our online friendship for what I pray will be the final time. Then I can go back to posting endless videos of cute Golden Retriever puppies, of which there can never be too many.

Okay, so here’s the deal: About six weeks ago, I took a header while leaving my foot doctor’s office and bounced my head off the floor, which I may have talked about here. At first, they thought the damage was minimal, but further testing revealed I had fractured/broken my upper neck in several places, which need repair immediately or I run the risk of becoming a planter with a head on it. I’m going into the hospital tomorrow morning (March 6) for prep, with major all-day surgery scheduled for Tuesday (March 7) at 11AM PST.

So here’s where you come in. At that time on Tuesday morning, I’d really appreciate it if you just think good healing thoughts about me. I asked the same of you two years ago when I had my quintuple bypass heart surgery, and I believe to this day that’s a major reason I survived it.

So, if you think you can, please do. On the other hand, if you think I drink runny eggs through a straw, I’d rather you not think of me at all. After that, the rest is up to my talented surgeons and whatever Higher Powers That Be.

Thanks for listening, and I hope to see you on the other side.

(2) SPACEMAN SPIFF’S FRIEND. On The Verge, Andrew Liptak introduces readers to Brian Kesinger’s Tea Girls, which includes a series of  Calvin and Hobbes-style Star Wars cartoons.

(3) GANYMEDE BORNE ALOFT BY DEVELOPERS. “Tolkien’s favourite watering hole in line for a makeover: St Giles pub The Eagle and Child in major redevelopment bid”. The Oxford Mail has the story.

HISTORIC Oxford pub The Eagle and Child is in line for a major revamp.

Pub company Young’s and St John’s College plans to redevelop the Grade-II listed watering hole in St Giles.

Known as ‘The Bird and Baby’, it was the favourite meeting place of the 1930’s Inklings’ writers group, which included Lord of the Rings and Hobbit author JRR Tolkien and Narnia creator CS Lewis.

The makeover will span numbers 49-51, including Greens café next door and space above, which is vacant.

Under proposals submitted to Oxford City Council, the Eagle and Child will be expanded and upgraded, with distinctive eating and drinking zones created.

The two upper floors will be converted into seven hotel rooms, with en-suite bathrooms.

Leaseholder Young’s is working with St John’s College, which owns the building and both say they expect the redevelopment to be completed by 2018.

Young’s chief executive Patrick Dardis said: “The Eagle & Child is an iconic pub with huge potential and we are very excited to be working with St John’s on its redevelopment.

(4) THE HOME STRETCH. Radio Times says these three stars have a shot at becoming the next Doctor Who.

Former Death in Paradise star Kris Marshall may be the clear favourite to be the next Doctor – but he still has competition from two women according to one firm of bookies.

William Hill says money is still being taken on Tilda Swinton and Olivia Colman suggesting that the battle for the keys to the Tardis could now be a three-horse race.

(5) SUGGESTED READING. The SFWA Blog has posted the “2016 Andre Norton Award Jury Recommended Reading List” of young adult and middle grade fiction recommended by jurors Ellen Klages, Leah Bobet, Eugene Myers, Jei D. Marcade, and Fran Wilde. I have indicated 2016 award finalist with as asterisk (*).

2016 Andre Norton Award Jury Recommended Reading List

(in alphabetical order by author)

  • Kelly Barnhill – The Girl Who Drank the Moon (Algonquin) (*)
  • Frances Hardinge – The Lie Tree (Macmillan) (*)
  • A. J. Hartley – Steeplejack(Tor Teen)
  • Heidi Helig – The Girl From Everywhere (Greenwillow)
  • David D. Levine – Arabella of Mars (Tor) (*)
  • Katharine McGee – The Thousandth Floor (Harper Collins)
  • Philip Reeve – Railhead (Switch Press) (*)
  • Lindsay Ribar – Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies (Kathy Dawson Books) (*)
  • Patrick Samphire –  Secrets of the Dragon’s Tomb (Henry Holt)
  • Delia Sherman – The Evil Wizard Smallbone (Candlewick) (*)
  • April Genevieve Tucholke – Wink, Poppy, Midnight (Dial Books)
  • Diane Zahler – Baker’s Magic (Capstone Young Readers)

(6) NEWSWEEK TOLKIEN TRIBUTE. “The Road Goes On – The Making of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Silmarillion’” is an article from Newsweek’s Special Edition: J.R.R. Tolkien—The Mind of a Genius.

The story of Bilbo Baggins and his quest to the Lonely Mountain was originally conceived with no connection with his vast and epic mythology. The Lord of the Rings, which began as a simple sequel to the immensely successful The Hobbit, also lacked concrete ties to The Silmarillion (at least in the book’s early stages). But the grip of Tolkien’s earliest tales on the rest of his oeuvre proved inescapable, and the author found himself adding references to his myths within The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, especially because several characters from the latter work, such as Galadriel, hailed from the time period described in The Silmarillion. Tolkien added these characters into his larger legendarium, and in doing so couldn’t resist the temptation to delve deeper into the myths he created and their implication for his world.

“He became more and more interested in what you might call the metaphysical aspects of his secondary invention,” Christopher Tolkien said. “Above all with the nature of the Elves.” The result was that Tolkien died with what he regarded as his most important work, the urtext of a universe loved by millions, in a state of frozen transformation.

Fortunately, Christopher Tolkien was intimately familiar with his father’s vision for Middle-earth’s mythology and proved capable of sorting through the reams of notes and journals the professor left, containing everything from the genealogy of Elf kings to poems to the details of life in Aman. Working with Guy Gavriel Kay (who later went on to become an accomplished fantasy writer in his own right), the younger Tolkien crafted the final version of The Silmarillion for publication in 1977. For the first time, fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings learned of the titanic clashes between good and evil and feats of heroism only hinted at in their favorite fiction.

(7) TOLKIEN, THE PSYCHIC PAPER EDITION. And for those of you with no intention of ever reading the book, eBay is offering the perfect collector’s first edition of The Silmarillion – a publisher’s pre-sale dummy copy – for a mere $945.  It has everything but that bothersome text.

TOLKIEN, J.R.R. The Silmarillion. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1977. First Edition. Publisher saleman’s dummy copy used in advance of the book’s publication. This sample book prints the half-title, title pages, copyright page and the first 32 pages of the text followed by a couple of hundred blank pages to fill out the book. With a long blank folded sheet at the rear as a mockup for the map that would be in the finished book. Bound in blue cloth with the stamping and decoration the same as that of eventually used in the finished book. Fine copy in a fine proof state dust jacket.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 5, 1943 Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is released.

(9) THE FROZEN CHOSEN. As I reported earlier today, Vox Day released the Rabid Puppies 2017 slate. The slate comes with a brand-new logo.

Matt Y accepted the challenge of interpreting the new art.

Techgrrl1972

And could someone decode that logo?

I’ll try:

What you have is a title using a Heavy Metal font, giving it the look of a Def Leppard concert T-shirt. There’s a lot of ice, obviously a clear signal refuting climate change. There’s the castle from Frozen ironically in that they’ll never let it go. There are three puppies. The one on the left is sporting a ladies fur lined parka which might be seasonal however would seem odd to be wearing fur over fur. Not just in a PETA way but just in general. That puppy appears to be playing fetch with Mjolnir and is on it’s way to return it. The husky in the middle has it’s head cocked in stupefied confusion in a mirror image of how most people look when someone tries to explain Rabid Puppies to them. The one on the right didn’t get the melee weapons memo and is trying not to show the others how much that hurt it’s feelings.

The three of them will defend Elsa against the Duke’s evil plans, while desperately seeking a participation trophy once again.

(10) MAGICAL THINKING. Camestros Felapton, in “Tired Puppies 2017”, deconstructs Brad Torgersen’s latest column for Mad Genius Club.

In the comments, Brad even manages to have his cake and eat it by complaining about more ‘literary’ SF *not* having traditional SF covers (his specific example is All the Birds in the Sky) because that is a bad thing too for some reason. Yes, yes, you’d think that he would WANT non-nuggety SF to have non-nuggety covers but that would be applying far too much logical consistency to what is a fundamental objection to wrongbooks having wrongfun in the bookshop.

I think the best, most recent example of this, is All The Birds In The Sky. It’s packaged deliberately as a lit book. It desperately wants to escape the SF/F shelves and go live on the mainstream shelves where the “important” books live. (chuckle) I blame Irene Gallo, who is very much responsible for this trend at TOR. She wants the field as a whole to stop looking like it did during the high period. Because making all that amazing money with space art that actually looks like space art, and swords’n’sorcery art that actually looks like swords’n’sorcery art, was just so gauche.

Note how there is no ground for compromise here. If publisher market SF to a less-SF audience then for Brad this is bad, if they market the same SF to a SF audience then to Brad this is also bad. Would Brad *seriously* be happy if ALl the Birds in the SKy had a cover featuring space rockets (in the book), people descending from ropes from helicopters (in the book) and magical people casting spells (in the book)? Goodness no! That would be the other evil of somehow tricking the honest-SF-reader into reading a book with cooties.

We are back to the unspoken logic of much of what has consumed the right for decades. It is unspoken and avoided, an incomplete argument leads people to a conclusion that they would reject if spoken. By not following the logic they can retain a belief that they are moderate and reasonable. However, their argument always leads to the same spot. Brad would just rather these wrong books DID NOT EXIST. He doesn’t want to ban them or burn them or imprison their authors (although how else can his wish come true?) he just wants them to magically not be there.

(11) THUMBS DOWN. BBC calls live Beauty and the Beast overlong and pointless.

There are two obvious differences between the two versions, however. The first difference is that the current film is live-action, so there are lots of rococo sets and intricate digital creations to look at. And yet, despite the zillions of dollars that must have been spent on the Hogwarts-ish production design, the sad fact is that neither of the showstopping numbers, the title song and Be Our Guest, is as magical or imaginative as it was in a cartoon which came out over a quarter of a century ago.

Few of the actors live up to their predecessors, either. Buried as he is under layers of computer-generated imagery, Dan Stevens manages to make the Beast his own by finding the pathos in his aristocratic awkwardness. Ewan McGregor puts some oomph and ooh-la-la into Lumiere the candelabra. As for the rest of the cast, Emma Watson is prim and petulant as Belle; Emma Thompson’s Mrs Potts is no match for Angela Lansbury’s, who was as warm and soothing as the tea she brewed; and Kevin Kline is painfully mannered as Belle’s wittering father. In many cases, what it comes down to is that the voices in the cartoon were provided by musical and opera veterans who could really sing, whereas the same characters in the live-action film are played by movie stars who really can’t.

(12) DON’T BUILD THIS IN YOUR BASEMENT. The UK military misplaced what?

A north Wales town has a cold war thriller on its hands after nuclear submarine plans were found in a charity shop suitcase.

Staff at a Barnardo’s store in Porthmadog, Gwynedd, were amazed to discover the document showing details of the former £200m HMS Trafalgar.

“Someone said that if the phone rang and it was someone with a Russian accent, I should put it down,” joked manager, Stella Parker.

The plans will be auctioned off.

Charity store staff say the suitcase was donated anonymously and filled with books.

But hidden in the lining of the luggage was the impressive 6ft (1.8m) drawings of the former Royal Navy vessel.

Chip Hitchcock suggests, “Dave Langford is probably snickering at anyone who foolishly thought The Leaky Establishment was fiction….”

(13) VIRTUAL EXHIBITS. Twilight Zone Museum is celebrating 15 years online by hawking video from two TZ conventions held at the beginning of the century. (Remember when the 21st Century was the future?)

For those who missed our two Los Angeles-based TZ Conventions, you’re in luck! We have the 3 panel discussions done in 2002 available on DVD. The actor panel featured actors Cliff Robertson, Jean Carson, Jonathan Harris, Arlene Martel, Wright King, William Windom, Suzanne Lloyd, Kevin McCarthy, James Best, Anne Francis, and Suzanne Lloyd. The writer panel featured George Clayton Johnson, Earl Hamner, John Tomerlin (“Number 12 Looks Just Like You”), and Marc Zicree. The directors panel featured James Sheldon and Eliot Silverstein plus actors Susan Gordon and Ben Cooper (who appeared in their episodes). George Clayton Johnson’s historic keynote address at the VIP Dinner Celebration, which can be viewed for free right here on this page, is also available on DVD. The 2004 panels: Actor panel with George Takei, H.M. Wynant, Shelley Berman, Gail Kobe, Bill Mumy, and Lloyd Bochner. Director/Producer panel with Ted Post and Del Reisman (both of these panels were hosted by Tony Albarella). Writer panel hosted by Andrew Ramage, with Gloria Pall (TZ actor and writer of her own TZ scrapbook plus 14 other books), Sandra Grabman (author of “The Albert Salmi Story”), Chris Beaumont (son of Charles Beaumont, TZ writer extraordinaire), Roger Anker (biographer of Beaumont), and George Clayton Johnson. There was a fourth panel of folks involved with “The New Twilight Zone” (from the 80s), led by Alan Brennert and including Harlan Ellison, Rockne O’Bannon, and others. The charge is $60 for all four of the 2002 panels and the charge for all five of the 2004 panels is also $60. Shipping cost is $6 within USA; if you buy both sets, it’s still $6 total for shipping. Outside USA shipping – please inquire for cost, as we will have to look it up online. These are high quality Region 1 DVDs. Payment methods accepted are Paypal, cash, or USPS money order ONLY! If paying by Paypal, there is a surcharge of $6 if purchasing both sets, or $3 if purchasing only one set, due to Paypal’s processing fees. Note: it costs you nothing to send money by Paypal, but there is a fee for us to receive your money and a 2-3 day waiting period before it hits our bank account. Please email oceanave@usa.net to place your order or if you have further questions!

(14) DEADPOOL 2. A teaser for the next Deadpool movie is making the rounds.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/3/2017 File Thee More Stately Pixels, O My Scroll…

(1) OKORAFOR. “A Conversation with Nnedi Okorafor” at Weird Fiction Review.

WFR: Binti’s hair, or her tentacle-like okuoko almost becomes a character in its own right. It’s striking that this kind of physical transformation is both by choice but also not by choice; it reflects the physical difference with which Binti already marks herself through her otjize. There are so many layers of cultural and biological meaning wrapped up in Binti’s hair alone. Can you talk a little about this part of the story?

NO: The theme of choice and the power of culture pops up in my stories often. Before Binti, the biggest example of this is in Who Fears Death when Onyesonwu must face the decision of whether or not to go through a ceremony that required cutting off her clitoris. To many readers, the fact that she even has to think about whether or not to do this is shocking. It’s not shocking to me at all, coming from the culture that I come from where the individual is often secondary to the community. I may have been born and raised in the United States, but there are significant parts of me that are VERY Igbo (Nigerian) and I am often in conflict with these parts. This is the plight of many Nigerian Americans. And this is the root of my deep understanding about and experience of African cultures.

The same goes for Binti. Binti is a Himba girl of the future and though many things about her ethnic group change, some things stay the same. Some of those things include a strict adherence to community and culture, and the practice of applying otjize. Culture is very deep, it can’t just be shed just as you can’t shed what is part of your DNA. But culture is also alive and can incorporate things, it blend, shifts…and there are always consequences to change.

(2) EVERY TRUE FAN. At More Words, Deeper Hole, James Davis Nicoll lists “Twenty Core SF Books Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”. Their Billy shelves, presumably.

(3) SOMETIMES THEY DO GET WOOLLY. The BBC shares “DNA clues to why woolly mammoth died out”.

Dr Rebekah Rogers of the University of California, Berkeley, who led the research, said the mammoths’ genomes “were falling apart right before they went extinct”.

This, she said, was the first case of “genomic meltdown” in a single species.

“You had this last refuge of mammoths after everything has gone extinct on the mainland,” she added.

“The mathematical theories that have been developed said that they should accumulate bad mutations because natural selection should become very inefficient.”

The researchers analysed genetic mutations found in the ancient DNA of a mammoth from 4,000 years ago. They used the DNA of a mammoth that lived about 45,000 years ago, when populations were much larger, as a comparison.

(4) KNIGHT CHECKS KING. Brooke Seipel on TheHill.com in “Actor Patrick Stewart Applying for U.S. Citizenship to Help Fight Trump” says that SirPatStew tweeted that he is applying to become an American so he can fight the Trump Administration. She also quotes from his appearance on The View.

(5) SEPARATING PAST FROM PRESENT. “The Past, Present And Future Of Sci Fi With N. K. Jemisin”, an interview with the author on WBEZ.

Johnsen: Recently, friends have asked me for recommendations of things to read or watch. They’re like, “I’ll check out anything, except sci fi.” And that drives me crazy. Because to me, that’s like saying, “Oh, I like anything except imagination.” Can you help me make the sell to the haters? Because that’s ridiculous.

Jemisin: It is ridiculous. It’s because science fiction is terrible at marketing, I think. Science fiction has, for years, allowed a fairly vocal subset of its readership to declare that the only true science fiction is stuff that was written 50 or 60 years ago, that the pulps of the ’40s is what the genre is all about. The plain fact of the matter is that it’s an art form like any other. It has evolved. It has grown. It has expanded in ways that I think it hasn’t done the best job of revealing to the mainstream.

So I would test anybody who says they don’t read science fiction or fantasy. I’d say, “OK, what was the last science fiction or fantasy that you read? Where is this coming from? Did you just watch an episode of old school Star Trek and call it a day, or are you doing this with some real information here?”

And then, there’s multiple places that I would direct them. I would take them to the Nebula list and have them look at a few years’ worth of Nebula nominees and novels. I would show them some current science fiction on television, quite a bit of which is getting critical acclaim. I’m very excited that Stranger Things season two is coming. I just watched the first season of Westworld. I had some questions and thoughts, but it’s an example of something that you can shoot to people to say, “Hey, we’ve moved on a little from Star Trek.”

(6) THIRTY BUT NOT #30#. Scott Edelman is amazed – “Hard to believe I’ve made it this far!” – to have reached Episode 30 in his series of podcasts Eating the Fantastic. This time Scott joins Richard Bowes to eat Italian in Greenwich Village.

The venue was suggested by this episode’s guest, who happens to be a long-time resident of Greenwich Village—science fiction and fantasy writer Richard Bowes, who’s a two-time winner of the World Fantasy Award, and who has also won the International Horror Guild Award as well as the Lambda Award. That photo of him below is not from Café Reggio, however, but rather from the nearby New York Frost Factory, where we went in search of something sweet after the recording.

We discussed his early career as a designer of board games for clients like National Lampoon, why “going to conventions sober is beyond me,” the political transformation of Li’l Abner creator Al Capp, why everyone during the old folk scene days loathed Bob Dylan, what attracts him about writing mosaic novels, and more.

(7) HUGHES OBIT. Hugh Zachary (1928-2016), who wrote as Zach Hughes, died September 5, 2016.The news is just now circulating in fandom, having been learned by William G. Contento.

He wrote over two dozen sf novels as Zach Hughes, and the America 2040 series as Evan Innes. He also wrote westerns, romance, and erotica. As he put it, “I’ve written in every field except bestseller.” If he never made the New York Times list, the books he wrote under a house name for “The White Indian” series of westerns did in fact sell millions of copies over the years.

Zachary gave a very entertaining interview to a UNCW oral historian in 1998 which is still online:

Hayes: So even during the radio/TV days, writing still was kind of a driving force?

Hugh Zachary: That’s what I wanted to be, yes. And I have 375 rejections before I ever sold one single thing; I was persistent if nothing else.

Hayes: Well, talk about some of those rejections. What was the, what were you writing early on then that you were trying to get in?

Hayes: That is hard.

Hugh Zachary: Some of those were poems and at that time there was a much bigger market for poetry if you could call it that. The first thing I ever sold was a poem to a magazine called, “Drift Word” and they sent me a check for $10 and they went out of business before it was published (laughs).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 3, 1915 — The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the predecessor of NASA, was founded.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • March 3, 1920 – James Doohan

(10) TODAY’S DAY

I have it on good authority from Jack Lint that this is “I cannae change the laws of physics!” Day celebrated on March 3 in honor of James Doohan’s birthday

(11) THE FANBOY DEFENSE. “3D guns accused manufacturer was a ‘science fiction fanboy’, court hears”. The ABC in Australia has the story.

A man accused of manufacturing 3D printed guns is a fan of science fiction who let his hobby get “out of hand”, a Sydney court has heard.

Sicen Sun, 27, an account manager for an advertising agency, was arrested yesterday when detectives searched his Waverley unit in Sydney’s east, following a tip-off.

Officers found four imitation pistols, including 3D-manufactured semi-automatic Glock pistols and a 3D-manufactured Sig pistol, two air pistols, computer equipment and two 3D printers.

Sun was arrested and charged with various offences relating to the manufacture of firearms using a 3D printer.

At a bail hearing at Waverley Local Court this morning Sun’s solicitor, Jason Keane, said his client was a science fiction fan who got carried away with his hobby and wanted to imitate the weapons from police shows such as NCIS and video games like Call of Duty.

(12) RUMBLINGS. While hawking t-shirts, Vox Day indicated that this year’s Rabid Puppies action is about to begin.

And here’s a hint: if you like the awesome Rabid Puppies 2016 shirt, you should probably pick one up soon, as the Rabid Puppies 2017 logo is almost ready to make its debut.

(13) BRADBURY’S PIVOTAL YEAR. Now available for pre-order, The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury: A Critical Edition, Volume 3, 1944-1945 edited by Jonathan Eller.

The original versions of an American master’s best-known tales

Though it highlights just one year of writing, this third volume of The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury represents a crucial moment at the midpoint of his first full decade as a professional writer. The original versions of the 1940s stories recovered for The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury, presented in the order in which they were written and first sent off to find life in the magazine market, suggest that Bradbury’s masks didn’t always appeal to his editors. The Volume 3 stories were all written between March 1944 and March 1945, and the surviving letters of this period reveal the private conflict raging between Bradbury’s efforts to define a distinct style and creative vision at home in Los Angeles and the tyranny of genre requirements imposed by the distant pulp publishing world in New York.

Most of the twenty-two stories composed during this pivotal year in his development reflect the impact of these creative pressures. This period also produced important markers in his maturing creativity with “The Miracles of Jamie,” “Invisible Boy,” and “Ylla,” which were among the first wave of Bradbury tales to reach the mainstream markets.

The early versions of Bradbury’s stories recovered for Volume 3, some emerging from his surviving typescripts and several that restore lost text preserved only in the rare Canadian serial versions, provide an unprecedented snapshot of his writing and his inspirations. Underlying this year of creativity was the expanding world of readings in modern and contemporary literature that would prove to be a crucial factor in his development as a master storyteller.

(14) PILOT PROGRAM. A genius idea, but one that will only succeed once they have an AI to fly the drones — “Rise Of The Robot Bees: Tiny Drones Turned Into Artificial Pollinators”.

With the live-model tests deemed a success, Miyako turned his attention to drones. He settled on a bee-sized, four-propeller drone, commercially available for around $100 each. He and his colleagues found that the gel alone was not enough to hold the pollen, so they added horse hair to mimic the fuzzy exterior of bees and provide an electric charge to keep the grains attached. Using fluorescent microscopy, the team observed pollen glowing in test tubes – offering strong proof that fertilization was successful.

Although artificial pollination is already possible, it’s a tedious, time-consuming process. When done by hand, using a brush to apply the pollen, a person can pollinate five to 10 trees a day, depending on the size of the trees. Tackling thousands of trees takes major manpower and a hefty budget.

But even if cost were no object, an army of pollinating robot bees would face myriad obstacles.

“There are 1 million acres of almond trees in California,” says Marla Spivak, a MacArthur Fellow and entomologist at the University of Minnesota. “Every flower needs to be pollinated to set the nut. Two million colonies of bees are trucked in to pollinate the almonds, and each colony has between ten and twenty thousand foragers. How many robots would be needed?”

(15) SANITY CLAWS. Chris Klimek reviews Logan for NPR: “’Logan’ Is The Best At What it Does – And What It Does Is Gritty”.

Long live Logan, James Mangold’s sad, stirring requiem for the X-Men franchise’s most beloved character. The only problem with calling it the boldest and most affecting superhero flick in many years is that it’s barely a superhero movie at all.

It doesn’t talk like a superhero: too many F-bombs, including its very first word. And it doesn’t walk like a superhero: No computer-generated cities are razed in its finale, no unseen thousands sacrificed. Though with its gnarly R-rated medley of stabbings, slicings, skewerings, and impalings in what has been, Deadpool excepted, a PG-13 franchise, Logan sure feels bloodier than most of its ilk. And feels is the right verb: The deaths have weight. For once. To misquote the 40-year-old tagline of the very first big-budget comic book movie, you will believe a man can cry …

… at a movie about a 200-year-old rage monster with a silly haircut and retractable knives implanted in his knuckles.

Because Logan is unlike any capes-and-tights movie we’ve seen. It does for the creaky X series what Creed did for the Rocky cycle, restoring the integrity and emotion of the earliest installments while introducing talented new blood.

(16) PRESENTING THE BILLS. The new Duck Tales trailer.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Scott Edelman, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 2/20/17 The Catcher In The Quadrotriticale

I’m winding up President’s Day Weekend by assigning a Scroll entry to each of our First Executives.

(1) GEORGE WASHINGTON. He’s the foundation, the one we’ve all heard of. Just like that breakthrough Chinese science fiction writer Liu Cixin, who has a story coming to the big screen – just not the one we were told to expect.

“Another Story by Chinese Sci-Fi Writer Liu Cixin to Hit Screens” reports China Film Insider.

Chinese sci-fi novelist Liu Cixin is set to have another of his stories hit the big screen even as his more famous novel The Three Body Problem continues to languish in development limbo.

Local media outlet Sina Entertainment reports that filming on an adaptation of the Hugo and Nebula-winning novelist’s short story The Wandering Earth will begin in March and is expected to hit screens either in summer 2018 or at the beginning of 2019.

In the short story, scientists build massive engines to propel the planet toward another star after they discover the sun is about to grow into a red giant.

…[Director Frank] Gwo told Sina Entertainment he’s already been working on the film for half a year and said the main roles had already been cast, but he declined to name names. The director hinted at the project in a new year’s day Weibo post featuring artwork for the film.

Liu’s other, more famous book, The Three Body Problem, was meant to hit screens in 2016 but has been hit by multiple delays and still has no definite release date. Liu, often referred to as China’s answer to Arthur C. Clarke, has sought to temper expectations about the film.

(2) JOHN ADAMS. Before he was President, Adams served as ambassador to England, the country that now blesses us with the BBC.

And the BBC likes Logan — and even admits that some SF is very good:

For genre purists, it can be disconcerting to see comic book movies classified as sci-fi. And though the X-Men franchise, being about genetic mutation, has maybe more of a claim to that designation than, say, Thor, the outsize arcs and simplistic good vs evil binaries of the superhero film do not often lend themselves to the thoughtful curiosity that is a hallmark of the best science fiction. It would be overstating it to say that Logan reaches sci-fi heights – there’s a standard-issue British Evil Scientist (played with pale-eyed zeal by Richard E Grant), a henchman with a Terminator arm (Boyd Holbrook, good value in a relatively small role) and an albino mutant (Stephen Merchant in a rare and surprisingly decent dramatic performance) whose photosensitivity is so extreme he’ll burst into flames in sunlight like Nosferatu. So, you know, this is not Tarkovsky’s Solaris.

(3) THOMAS JEFFERSON. An inventor like Jefferson didn’t wait for somebody else to solve the problem. Which is the spirit shown by computing pioneer Grace Hopper, as illustrated by “Grace Hopper’s compiler: Computing’s hidden hero”.

But what Grace called a “compiler” did involve a trade-off.

It made programming quicker, but the resulting programmes ran more slowly.

That is why Remington Rand were not interested.

Every customer had their own, bespoke requirements for their shiny new computing machine.

It made sense, the company thought, for its experts to program them as efficiently as they could.

Open source

Grace was not discouraged: she simply wrote the first compiler in her spare time.

And others loved how it helped them to think more clearly.

Kurt Beyer’s book, Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age, relates many tales of impressed users.

One of them was an engineer called Carl Hammer, who used the compiler to attack an equation his colleagues had struggled with for months.

Mr Hammer wrote 20 lines of code, and solved it in a day.

Like-minded programmers all over the US started sending Grace new chunks of code, and she added them to the library for the next release.

In effect, she was single-handedly pioneering open-source software.

(4) JAMES MADISON. Madison’s wife, Dolly, saved the Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington when the British burned the city of Washington in 1812. Here’s a news item about a lesser artwork.

Last night’s episode of “The Simpsons” began with the traditional scene of the Simpsons rushing to the couch in the living room to take in some TV.  But the familiar painting of a sailboat, that’s been in the living room for decades, is gone.  Where is it?

Homer decides to investigate and leaves the set, giving him an opportunity to storm through other sets (including “South Park.”)  He finds the sailboat painting in the office of some geek, who gives it back after explaining that the painting was the most exciting addition to his collection “since I won a bid for a Ziploc of Jonathan Frakes’s beard trimmings.”

(5) JAMES MONROE.  Fair point.

(6) JOHN QUINCY ADAMS. The first descendant of a President to be elected to the office. So although they are not related, this seems the right place for a multiple Chus question.

(7) ANDREW JACKSON. He didn’t get much of a childhood – as a kid he was slashed by a British cavalryman in return for a defiant remark. No comic books for him, either.

In the February 19 Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Margaret Atwood about the second volume of her graphic novel series Angel Catbird.  Atwood explains that she doesn’t want readers to think she’s just a ‘nice literary old lady” sitting in her rocking chair, but someone who has always loved comics and who’s loved cats ever since she wasn’t allowed to have one as a child.

She is experiencing, she says, one of her “unlived lives.”

Atwood laughs at how this apparent career pivot might be perceived. She imagines that some fans would have her fulfill the stereotype of a “nice literary old lady,” resting in her rocking chair, “dignified and iconic.” But the “Angel Catbird” series, illustrated by Johnnie Christmas, realizes the creative vision of an author who has little patience for resting on her laurels.

From her earliest years in the 1940s and ’50s, as her family traveled between Quebec and other Canadian points, Atwood not only passionately read newspaper and magazine comics, from “Batman” to “Blondie” to “Rip Kirby”; she also drew them herself.

“That’s what we did in Canada,” she says. “We were living in the woods.” Her older brother’s plotted-out drawings “were more about warfare,” she says, while her characters — including rabbit superheroes — “were playing around.”

(8) MARTIN VAN BUREN. Old Kinderhook was governor of New York. Even then, theater was a big deal. From Variety, “Magic Show Produced by Neil Patrick Harris and Directed by Frank Oz to Open Off Broadway”:

“In & Of Itself,” the Frank Oz-directed magic show that played L.A.’s Geffen Playhouse last year, will get an Off Broadway run this spring from a varied team of producers that includes Neil Patrick Harris.

The hybrid show, which fuses magic with storytelling, is created by Derek DelGaudio, the magician whose “Nothing to Hide” (seen in New York in 2013) was directed by Harris. Joining Harris and his Prediction Productions on the project are Werner Entertainment led by Tom Werner, the prolific TV producer (“Roseanne,” “The Cosby Show,” “Survivor’s Remorse”) who is also the chairman of the Boston Red Sox, as well as Gary Goddard Entertainment (Broadway’s “The Encounter”).

Oz, who’s directed movies including “In & Out” and “Little Shop of Horrors” and voiced characters from “Sesame Street” and “Star Wars,” stages “In & Of Itself” with an interdisciplinary creative team that encompasses conceptual artist Glenn Kaino, on board as artistic producer; composer Mark Mothersbaugh, the frontman of the band DEVO; and A.Bandit, DelGaudio and Kaino’s “performance-art collective” credited as production designer.

(9) WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON. Another general whose war record vaulted him into the Presidency, he died only a month into his term of office.

“San Diego native Greg Bear uses science fiction to explore military culture, war”

Q: What got you started on the “War Dogs” trilogy?

A: Since I was a Navy brat, I got to hang around with a lot of people who were Marines, Navy officers, pilots. A lot of them were in my family or extended family. I was fascinated by the whole culture, the attitudes, that kind of stuff. Plus I’m a big fan of history. I’ve read a lot about World War II. I taught a class about World War II from the Japanese theater perspective in the 1980s.

I started writing this while looking back at a lot of classic military science fiction like “Starship Troopers” and “The Forever War,” all these different approaches to wars in space. I’d already written the “Halo” trilogy, but that was set 100,000 years ago. What I wanted to do this time was take a look at how things had changed and what happened to the whole idea of the military with the no-draft, all-volunteer forces. I wanted to do a serious examination of the modern-day military and the military attitude that goes back centuries.

(10) JOHN TYLER. The first Vice President to succeed to the Presidency. And here’s a news item about the character who succeeded Peter Pan – “’Hook’ Prequel Film ‘Bangarang’ Reaches Kickstarter Goal”.

A Hook prequel film centering around Lost Boy Rufio will become a reality thanks to Kickstarter.

The campaign. started by Dante Basco who portrayed Rufio in Steven Spielberg‘s original 1991 film, has reached over $40,000 on Kickstarter from its original $30,000 goal.

… The story has been reverse engineered from what was set-up in Hook. We answer all the questions you’ve ever wondered — How and why is Rufio the leader of the Lost Boys? Where does ‘bangarang’ come from? And of course, how he gets the mohawk.”

(11) JAMES POLK. The President whose acquisitive policies were lauded as “Manifest Destiny.”

Is it your destiny to grab all the Nebula nominees you can read for free?

Every year I have trouble finding a hyperlinked list of all the free Hugo and Nebula reading, so this time I’m going to take the initiative and make one myself right away instead of waiting….

Nothing in the novel or novella categories is free yet.

(12) ZACHARY TAYLOR. Judging by James Michener’s portrait of him in the novel Texas, “Old Rough & Ready” as he was known was not famed for having natural, let alone artificial, intelligence.

WIRED reports:“The AI Threat Isn’t Skynet, It’s the End of the Middle Class”.

In February 1975, a group of geneticists gathered in a tiny town on the central coast of California to decide if their work would bring about the end of the world. These researchers were just beginning to explore the science of genetic engineering, manipulating DNA to create organisms that didn’t exist in nature, and they were unsure how these techniques would affect the health of the planet and its people. So, they descended on a coastal retreat called Asilomar, a name that became synonymous with the guidelines they laid down at this meeting—a strict ethical framework meant to ensure that biotechnology didn’t unleash the apocalypse.

Forty-two years on, another group of scientists gathered at Asilomar to consider a similar problem. But this time, the threat wasn’t biological. It was digital. In January, the world’s top artificial intelligence researchers walked down the same beachside paths as they discussed their rapidly accelerating field and the role it will play in the fate of humanity. It was a private conference—the enormity of the subject deserves some privacy—but in recent days, organizers released several videos from the conference talks, and some participants have been willing to discuss their experience, shedding some light on the way AI researchers view the threat of their own field.

The rise of driverless cars and trucks is just a start. It’s not just blue-collar jobs that AI endangers.

Yes, they discussed the possibility of a superintelligence that could somehow escape human control, and at the end of the month, the conference organizers unveiled a set of guidelines, signed by attendees and other AI luminaries, that aim to prevent this possible dystopia. But the researchers at Asilomar were also concerned with more immediate matters: the effect of AI on the economy.

(13) MILLARD FILLMORE. In American history. Millard Fillmore was credited for “the opening of Japan” by sending Commodore Perry there with an exhibition of trade goods and inventions. So we’ll just drop this news item here.

“McDonald’s release new ‘Yakki’ burger based on a popular Japanese meal” reports Rocket 24.

To make sure nobody misses the new burger announcement, McDonald’s has also unveiled a promotional event designed to stimulate all five senses, with the announcement of Yakki The Movie, which is being billed as “the world’s first-ever 4-D Hamburger Movie“. Screening on 21 February, the day before the burger’s official release, the five-minute movie can be viewed at Toho Cinemas at Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills…

 

(14) FRANKLIN PIERCE. An item matched up with one of the most forgotten Presidents. Because nobody expects snark like this to be paid any attention, right?

(15) JAMES BUCHANAN. Every Sunday he went out and picked up a 10-gallon jug of whiskey from a distillery. I’m guessing his NASA would have looked a bit different than today’s –

Prohibition in space? The BBC chronicles why astronauts are banned from getting drunk in space. I dunno, it’s not as if there’s anything to run into up there.

While Nasa has long had strict rules on alcohol in space, the Russians appear to have been more relaxed in the past. Cosmonauts on board its Mir space station were allowed small amounts of cognac and vodka. There were apparently grumblings when they found out the ISS would be dry.

The odd tipple, however, does still find its way onto the ISS. In 2015, Japanese brewer Suntory — which has its own Global Innovation Center — shipped some of its award-winning whisky to the space station. It was part of an experiment aimed to monitor “development of mellowness in alcoholic beverages through the use of a microgravity environment”. In other words, the way booze ages in microgravity could be different, causing it to taste better, faster. And that’s something every distillery on Earth would want to learn more about.

(16) ABRAHAM LINCOLN. This President was a storyteller known for his endless fount of humorous anecdotes.

In the YouTube video “Pixar in a Box: Introduction to Storytelling,” produced for the Khan Academy, Monsters Inc.director Pete Docter discusses the Pixar approach to storytelling.

(17) ANDREW JOHNSON. Helping keep eastern Tennessee in the Union during the Civil War led Andrew Johnson to become Lincoln’s second-term running mate. He wasn’t pliant and the postwar Congress tried to oust him from office.

Inverse recommends “The 7 Sexiest Science Fiction Novels About Dystopias”:

George Orwell’s 1984 has ascended bestseller lists again. If its place on your high school syllabus makes it a turn off, this is a list of sexy dystopian novels…

  1. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is her most famous dystopia, and it, too, has garnered comparisons to the current American political climate. If you’ve missed it, it’s a must read, and it’s soon coming to television. However, if that’s the only Atwood title you know, you should also try The Heart Goes Last. It’s completely bonkers and off-the-wall. In between its commentary on income inequality and corporate corruption, it packs in sex robots, a torrid affair, ritualistic murder, a hint of bestiality, sex with inanimate objects, and Elvis impersonators. No one can walk away from this book with the notion that dystopia is just something you read in school and frown about.

(18) ULYSSES S. GRANT. This president’s book was published and made everyone involved a lot of money, beginning with the publisher, Samuel Clemens.

In contrast, Milo Yiannopoulos’ book, for which he was given a quarter-million dollar advance, has been canceled by the publisher.

Milo Yiannopoulos’ book Dangerous was canceled abruptly Monday after Republican conservatives released clips of videos-with-audio in which he seemed to condone sex between men and boys.

In a terse statement released Monday afternoon, the right-wing provocateur’s publisher said: “After careful consideration, Simon & Schuster and its Threshold Editions imprint have canceled publication of Dangerous by Milo Yiannopoulos.”

Minutes later, Yiannopoulos posted this on Facebook: “They canceled my book.”

Vox Day is defending Milo and he proposes that Castalia House publish Dangerous.

According to The Guardian, “It is the third book that Yiannopoulos has announced that has not eventuated, after he flagged forthcoming titles on the Gamergate controversy and Silicon Valley that never appeared.”

(19) RUTHERFORD B. HAYES. Roll your own here. I’ve no idea….

CinemaBlend’s “Guardians 2 Poster Features A Hilarious Baby Groot” leads us to —

(20) JAMES GARFIELD. This President might have survived an assassin’s bullet if his doctor hadn’t been secretive and incompetent.

CheatSheet refutes “5 Lies You’ve Been Told About Star Trek”.

  1. Star Trek fans are nerds

What do you think of when you picture a Star Trek fan? Most likely it a nerd in their parents’ basement who spends their free time dressing up as their favorite character and throwing the Vulcan salute at anyone who passes by. The concept of a “Trekkie” — a Star Trek fan that shies away from normalcy and social interaction — has long been part of our pop culture, but the stereotypes that have been perpetuated are both inaccurate and unfair.

Sure, fandom can be nerdy; but these days, it’s a lot more socially acceptable to embrace geekiness of all kinds. And Star Trek, like any other big entertainment franchise, has an impressively diverse fan base. NASA scientists, billionaire Richard Branson, and celebrities like Mila Kunis all count themselves as Trekkies. In other words, there’s no wrong way to be a Star Trek fan — and absolutely nothing wrong with being one, either.

(21) CHESTER A. ARTHUR. He is the answer to a trivia question – and so is this:

The phrase “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” was first uttered on screen by Bert Lahr in the 1944 comedy “Meet the People.” Lahr is also the main influence for the voice of the cartoon lion Snagglepuss.

(22) GROVER CLEVELAND. This is from Matthew G. Kirschenbaum’s Track Changes.

It is said that when Rob Reiner’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novella Stand By Me (1986) was in theaters, some audiences howled in visceral anguish when, at the very end of the film, the adult Gordie, now a writer, switches off the computer he is using to type without any visible evidence of having hit Save.

(23) BENJAMIN HARRISON. The grandson of William Henry Harrison. You could look it up, in a library.

Atlas Obscura recalls “Library Hand: the Fastidiously Neat penmanship Style Made for Card Catalogs”.

 “The trouble in handwriting,” said Mr. James Whitney, of the Boston Public Library, “is that there is apt to be too much flourishing.”

Professor Louis Pollens of Dartmouth College agreed: “We want a handwriting that approaches as near to type as possible, that will do away with individual characteristics.”

A Mr. C. Alex Nelson, of the Astor Library in New York, then mentioned that “T.A. Edison, the inventor” had lately been experimenting with penmanship styles in order to find the most speedy and legible type of handwriting for telegraph operators. Edison, Nelson recalled, had ultimately selected “a slight back-hand, with regular round letters apart from each other, and not shaded.” With this style, Edison was able to write at a respectable 45 words per minute.

Hearing this, Dewey set out a catalog-minded mission for the group: “We ought to find out what is the most legible handwriting.”

This was the beginning of “library hand,” a penmanship style developed over the ensuing year or so for the purpose of keeping catalogs standardized and legible.

(24) GROVER CLEVELAND. The only President to serve non-consecutive terms of office, but never a superhero.

The actress who played Wonder Woman on TV is now Supergirl’s President. “Supergirl: Lynda Carter Returns in Kevin Smith’s Second Episode”.

Carter previously appeared on Supergirl as President Olivia Marsdin on ‘Welcome To Earth’. Carter’s appearance in the episode was a huge fan-pleaser, and even included a reference to Carter’s most famous role on a superhero TV show: as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince on the iconic ’70s Wonder Woman series. In the episode, Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) complimented the President on her private plane… to which she replied that Supergirl should see her other jet – a reference to Wonder Woman’s invisible plane!

We’re thrilled to see Carter return to the series as President Marsdin, especially with Smith behind the wheel on this episode. We don’t know yet exactly what this episode will be about, but it is set to air in late March, and will presumably be involving both the President and a little of Mon-El’s (Chris Wood) backstory or involvement (based on the inclusion of Daxamite tech in the second image). We may even discover whether Marsdin’s reference to the jet was just an easter egg for comic book fans, or if she might actually be Wonder Woman in this universe!

(25) WILLIAM McKINLEY. David Klaus call this infographic the Okudagram table of elements. “ The table of elements in the Star Trek universe is a little…different from ours.”

(26) THEODORE ROOSEVELT. I prefer the Teddy bear.

“WTF? They’ve renamed the Tasmanian Devil as Theodore Tasmanian”

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros. ill-tempered but much-loved Tasmanian Devil is being renamed as Theodore Tasmanian.

And he’s an Accountant!

In the upcoming Looney Tunes series Wabbit, airing on Boomerang from next month, the character will be working in an accounting department, repressing his true wild and crazy self.

(27) WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT. He was the first President to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to begin the baseball season.

The Washington Nationals have announced their promotions schedule, and will hold Star Wars Day on May 27. The first 25,000 fans will receive a “Chewbacca koozie,” which is a hairy thing for holding a soft drink. Martin Morse Wooster says he will gladly miss that opportunity in order to attend Balticon, which is the same weekend.

(28) WOODROW WILSON. He was the first President to travel to Europe while in office.

And Randy Byers is asking for votes for a candidate for another trans-Atlantic trip.

I’m one of Sarah Gulde‘s TAFF nominators, and because the voting deadline is coming right up, we are taking the unusual step of posting the PDF of the new issue of CHUNGA (#25) before we’ve mailed out the paper copies. If you haven’t made up your mind about who to vote for yet, please download the PDF of the new issue, read Sarah’s delightful article about the Nerd Camps she’s organizing in Portland and then read my endorsement in Tanglewood. Then download the ballot using the link on this page and vote! Instructions for how to vote online can be found on the ballot. Please pay close attention to the eligibility requirements, because not everybody can vote for TAFF. Good luck, Sarah!

Get your digital copy of Chunga at eFanzines.

(29) WARREN G. HARDING. Scoffers claimed this handsome President was elected by women just recently given the vote. He must have been a good-looking dinosaur. And that gives us a smooth (ha!) segue to….

JJ says “This guy saying ‘never mind Raquel’ and squeeing over the dinosaurs instead is hilarious.” Ryan Harvey, One Million Years B.C. on Blu-Ray—Because You Love Dinosaurs Too” at Black Gate.

I once read a customer review on Amazon for the One Million Years B.C. DVD that remarked at the end, “If you’re buying this, you’re buying it for Raquel.” I wonder if the reviewer nodded off during stretches of the film and somehow failed to notice that there are dinosaurs all over it? Dinosaurs created by special effects legend Ray Harryhausen!

I’m not casting aspersions on the appeal of Raquel Welch; she has a enough screen presence to fill in a rock quarry and was a massive part of the movie’s marketing and initial global success. She adds a tremendous amount to the film and helps hold up the human action between stop-motion sequences. Yes, she is stunningly gorgeous on screen to the point that she almost seems unreal. But Raquel Welch has never been as popular as dinosaurs. Sorry, there’s no contest.

Let’s be honest: if One Million Years B.C. had no stop-motion Ray Harryhausen dinosaurs, it would be remembered today for the famous Raquel Welch image and that’s it. People wouldn’t still be watching the film or buying new releases of it more than fifty years later. The film itself would be a side-note, something discussed in terms of Welch’s career and popular 1960s sex symbols, but not anything viewers today would sit down to enjoy in full. Harryhausen’s effects make One Million Years B.C. a perennial.

(30) CALVIN COOLIDGE. The original pinball games would have been familiar to Calvin. But nothing like this. From CBS Sunday Morning.

Anyone who’s ever played pinball knows it takes skill, and a little luck. Now the blast from the past is catching on with a new generation. Ben Tracy delivers his hands-on report.

 

(31) HERBERT HOOVER. Pluto was discovered during his Presidency. Surely that ought to count for something?

A BBC video investigates — How earth-like are “earth-like” exoplanets? “The Earth-like planets we have found may not be like Earth”.

There are more planets in our galaxy than there are stars, says science writer and astrophysicist Adam Becker. He explains what these “exoplanets” are like to BBC Earth’s Melissa Hogenboom and Michael Marshall, with help from the animators at Pomona Pictures.

Chip Hitchcock warns, “Dippy animation to an interview, but the speaker is clear and concise.”

(32) FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT. He inherited a country in bad economic shape, too.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has published a thought experiment — “Mapping ‘The Hunger Games’: Using location quotients to find the Districts of Panem,”. Even if the process doesn’t result in a map of literal, contiguous regions, the process is enlightening.

“…Panem, the country that rose up out of the ashes of a place that was once called North America.” –The Hunger Games (Scholastic Press)

In The Hunger Games, author Suzanne Collins never reveals the exact locations of the Districts of Panem. What if you could map them by using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)?

Fans of the popular The Hunger Games trilogy know that the stories are set in Panem, a futuristic area previously called North America, with a capital located somewhere in what was known as the Rockies. Panem is divided into districts, each of which has a primary industry. BLS employment data can help you solve the puzzle of where in North America those districts would be.

Keep reading to learn how to use BLS data to identify 12 districts of Panem. Because BLS data cover the United States, this article uses clues from U.S. locations rather than from North America as a whole.

District 1: Luxury goods

District 2: Rock quarrying

District 3: Electronic goods manufacturing

District 4: Fishing

District 5: Power generation

District 6: Transportation manufacturing

District 7: Lumber

District 8: Textiles

District 9: Grain

District 10: Livestock

District 11: Crops

District 12: Coal mining

(33) HARRY S.  TRUMAN. He dropped The Bomb.

“A Million People Live in Thee Underground Nuclear Bunkers” at National Geographic.

In the late ’60s and ‘70s, anticipating the devastation of a Cold War-nuclear fallout, Chairman Mao directed Chinese cities to construct apartments with bomb shelters capable of withstanding the blast of a nuclear bomb. In Beijing alone, roughly 10,000 bunkers were promptly constructed.

But when China opened its door to the broader world in the early ’80s, Beijing’s defense department seized the opportunity to lease the shelters to private landlords, eager to profit from converting the erstwhile fallout hideaways into tiny residential units.

(34) DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER. Eisenhower’s memoir was titled Waging Peace.

Cat Rambo talks about communication under the influence of one of the masters: “Another Word: Peacetalk, Hate Speech” for Clarkesworld.

Here’s something that makes me sad—at a time when there’s so much contention and arguing about fandom, one of the most helpful books is out of print and unavailable electronically. One of the smartest, savviest voices I know was stilled a few years back. Suzette Haden Elgin, who understood how language works, wrote multiple SF works, but also a series on communication that has changed a number of lives, including my own: The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense and the other verbal self-defense books that followed it.

But one of her last books, Peacetalk 101 was a simple little story, with twelve maxims about how to communicate with other people….

Elgin’s book is a slim little thing, a series of incidents in the daily existence of a man named George who’s given up on life. He meets a homeless man. (I am aware that the trope of the magic disadvantaged is problematic. I will simply acknowledge it in passing and otherwise cut Elgin a little slack.) Over the course of a number of days, George learns how to communicate effectively in a way that changes his life and restores his hope. The maxims are simple, and I’m actually going to provide them out of order, because one speaks to the heart of this essay. It’s this:

Choose your communication goals. What do you want out of your part in the great conversation? I want to offer people interested in better communication a set of tools that I’ve found handy and to make people think before typing every once in a while—not so they silence or self-censor, but so they know what their communication goals are and have a reasonable chance of achieving them. Do you want to give information? Persuade the reader? Change their behavior? Help them? That will affect what you say and how you say it.

This is why the tone argument is—at least to my mind—both right and wrong. The truth of an argument is unconnected to the tone in which it’s delivered, and yeah, there are people in the world who will perceive something as hostile no matter what that tone is, but another fact of the matter is that tone affects reception and that’s part of the equation that you have to consider. I will defend to the death the right of someone to sing their truth however they want, to express things and experiences that may otherwise not get sung, but if you want that song to be an act of communication, to be composed of more than one voice, you must consider the key in which the other voices are singing and perhaps bring yours down an octave….

(35) JOHN F. KENNEDY. Soon after this date in history, the author of Profiles in Courage began a friendship with the astronaut and his wife.

  • February 20, 1962 — Astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. He made 3 trips around the earth in his Mercury-Atlas spacecraft, Friendship 7, in just under 5 hours.

(36) LYNDON JOHNSON. As Vice-President, he was closely identified with the space program.

The real stories behind the “hidden figures” of the movie, and of others at that time in the BBC Magazine.

In 1943, two years after the US joined World War Two, Miriam Daniel Mann was 36 years old. She had three children, aged six, seven and eight – but she also had a Chemistry degree.

Job opportunities for married women were limited then, especially for those with children, and even more so for African-American women.

But as men went off to war, there was a skill shortage in vital industries. The president signed an executive order allowing black people to be employed in the defence sector for the first time, and Nasa’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), started looking for black women to work on mathematical calculations.

Through her husband, a college professor, Mann heard about the recruiters visiting black college campuses. She registered to take an exam, passed it, and became one of the first black women to work as a “human computer” at the NACA aeronautics research facility at Langley in Virginia.

(37) RICHARD NIXON. This President ran afoul of Judge Sirica in the Watergate case.

The Australian Horror Writers Association has announced the judges for its Australian Shadows Awards.

The awards celebrate the finest in horror and dark fiction published by an Australian or New Zealander for the calendar year of 2016. Works are judged on the overall effect – the skill, delivery, and lasting resonance – of a story. Previous winners have included Greg McLean, Aaron Sterns, Lee Battersby, Terry Dowling, Paul Haines, Brett McBean, Kirstyn McDermott, Bob Franklin, Kaaron Warren, Will Elliott, Deborah Biancotti, and Amanda Spedding.

Entries are open across seven categories including short fiction, long fiction (novellas), novels, collected works and edited works, The Rocky Wood Award for Non-fiction and Criticism – named after former HWA president and AHWA member Rocky Wood – and graphic novels/comics (for works written by an Australian or New Zealand writer).

2016 Judges

This year’s awards will be adjudicated by a panel of judges comprising of:

The Paul Haines Award For Long Fiction: William Cook, Brett McBean, Lee Pletzers

Edited Works: Dmetri Kakmi, Piper Medjia, Craig Hughes

Collected Works: Lee Murray, Michael Pryor, Tracie McBride

Short Fiction: David Hoenig, William Cook, Lucy A. Snyder, Silvia Brown

Comics/Graphic Novels: Gareth Macready, Lee Pletzers, Steve Herczeg

The Rocky Wood Award for Non-Fiction and Criticism: Piper Mejia, Maree Kimberley, David Kernot

Novels: Chris Pulo, Lee Pletzers, Steven Casey, Robert N Stevenson

(38) GERALD FORD. Chip Hitchcock notes, “Apparently nobody in charge of programming thought about the effect of 24/7 Pokestops on the neighbors. ISTM that a curfew would have been easy to code….

“Pokemon Go away: Troublesome Sydney Pokestop shut down”

One of Australia’s best places to catch Pokemon has been deleted in the latest update to the augmented reality game.

Three Pokestops, the game’s real-world locations, attracted hundreds of players to a park in inner Sydney.

Nearby apartment residents endured traffic jams, piles of rubbish and noise until the early hours.

The creators of the game are working to remove some real-world locations that do not wish to be included in the mobile game.

(39) JIMMY CARTER. Has an American President ever written a work of fiction? You guessed it. Carter wrote The Hornet’s Nest (2004) set in the Revolutionary War.

Jasper Fforde is auctioning a Tuckerization in his upcoming novel on eBay.

Hello. Jasper Fforde here. I’m just putting the finishing touches to my latest novel, ‘Early Riser’, a thriller set in a world where humans have always hibernated, and the book centres around a Novice Winter Consul named John Worthing, who finds himself stranded in a lonely outpost known as Sector Twelve. The Winter is not a kind master, and before long he is embroiled in Nightwalkers, Villains, the mythical WinterVolk, sleepshy somniacs, other deputies each one more insane than the next, pharmaceutical companies and a viral dream. It’ll be out in either later 2017, or early 2018.

So why is this on eBay? Well, I have a character who could do with a name and likeness, and I thought I would offer the part up for sale in order to raise some money for two causes: Firstly, the friends of my kid’s primary school, which needs to make up the shortfall of the education authority’s current ‘leaning towards frugality’. Second, our local branch of the Sanctuary for Refugees, whose work can be found at http://hbtsr.org.uk/

So what do you get for your cash? The character is a personal assistant to Dr Hektor, the head of HiberTec, a pharmaceutical company that markets Morphenox, a key plot line in the book. You’re not a bad person, just doing their job – and very much a corporate person. You have one appearance.

(40) RONALD REAGAN. Would this President, the grandson of immigrants from County Tipperary, have enjoyed this variation on a theme? “McDonald’s Thinks it’s Time for a Sci-Fi Milkshake Straw!”

We all know McDonald’s classic St. Patrick’s Day beverage, in five flavors this year. Turns out, it has more in store for us then an expanded line of Shamrock Shakes! McDonald’s has hired aerospace and robotic engineers to redesign the regular straw to deliver the fifty-fifty ratio of flavors of its new Chocolate Shamrock Shake…

(41) GEORGE BUSH. Jerry Pournelle was among the sf writers predicting our “weapons’ of mass culture would democratize the Middle East. But of course, it could go the other way, too. “Jeddah: Scifi fans flock to first ever Comic Con expo” reports Al-Jazeera.

It is not every day that young Saudis wander down the street dressed as the Hulk or Doctor Doom.

But for three days over the weekend, some 20,000 Saudis decked out in costumes and face paint queued to get into the kingdom’s first-ever Comic Con, where robots, video games and giant anime figures filled a tent in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

The global comics expo was held under the auspices of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority, which has hosted a series of festivals, comedy shows and concerts this year.

Saudi Arabia is trying to boost its entertainment sector as part of an economic and social reform drive aimed at creating jobs and weaning the country off its dependence on oil….

The CNN report says the idea met with resistance.

Setting up the event took over a year, and a balance was struck to keep the spirit of the Comic Con while adhering to the country’s religious regulations.

Indecent symbols or logos that went against Islamic teachings were prohibited and attendees were not allowed to cross-dress.

Even then, there was uproar online against what was considered a Western phenomenon in the traditional Islamic kingdom.

A hashtag calling Comic Con a “devil worshipping” festival became popular on Twitter and some called for boycotting it.

(42) BILL CLINTON. “’A Wrinkle in Time’ Soars in Amazon Sales After Chelsea Clinton’s DNC Speech”.

When Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, took the stage at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Thursday night, she delivered a moving speech that painted her mother as big-hearted, patient and scholarly, driving home the fact that reading played a big role in the former first daughter’s upbringing.

“My earliest memory is my mom picking me up after I’d fallen down, giving me a big hug, and reading me Goodnight Moon,” Clinton said.

Later in her speech, she relayed another literary anecdote about talking to her mother incessantly for a week straight “about a book that had captured my imagination, A Wrinkle in Time.”

(43) GEORGE W. BUSH.

(44) BARACK OBAMA. Disney will adapt another of its animated hits — “James Earl Jones and Donald Glover to star in live-action ‘Lion King’ movie”.

The original classic about an animal kingdom in Africa starred Jones as Mufasa and Matthew Broderick as his son Simba. Jones will reprise his character in the re-make, while Glover will take over the Simba role.

(45) DONALD TRUMP. Can you imagine him buying a cheap pen? Never.

Choose your clan:  “Luxury company Montegrappa releases line of Game of Thrones-inspired pens”.

Montegrappa’s pens come in several varieties, including ones inspired by several of the Great Houses of Westeros: Stark, Baratheon, Lannister and Targaryen. The barrels and caps of each pen are made with colorful lacquered surfaces while the trim is made from palladium or yellow and rose 18k gold-plate. The cap ring has Game of Thrones engraved on it. The nibs of the fountain pens are stainless steel and are decorated with a sword. Each fountain pen is both cartridge and converter-fed and is available in several writing grades: Extra Fine, Fine, Medium and Broad.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Rambo, David K.M. Klaus, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Darren Garrison, Peer Sylvester, Camestros Felapton, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day (F7CEOTD for short) Daniel Dern.]

Jon Del Arroz Off BayCon 2017 Program, Claims Decision Is Politically Motivated

Jon Del Arroz

San Francisco-area writer Jon Del Arroz has spent the past few Memorial Day Weekends speaking at BayCon, but he wasn’t asked back in 2017. He says it’s because he’s a Trump supporter. Del Arroz’ version has been discussed or reblogged today by Vox Day, Nick Cole, Declan Finn, Superversive, Brian Niemeier, and Marina Fontaine, who characterize him as a martyr of science fiction’s culture wars.

The BayCon committee, however, says he had just been rotated off programming for this year. They had already pre-invited him to return in 2018.

Del Arroz, in “Bringing Home The Baycon (Or What I Learned From Being Blackballed)”, accused BayCon of trying to destroy his career, of bigotry — and of simple bad manners.

A couple of weeks ago,  I found out that I had been blackballed from speaking at my own home convention, a place I’ve loved and cherished for almost a decade. This was a wanton act of discrimination, and perhaps more importantly, a show of utter disinterest in promoting prominent local science fiction authors. With a supposed emphasis on diversity, this act done to a Hispanic author casts an even darker shadow. It’s about as disturbing as it gets to see folk that you considered friends for years treat you with that level of disregard, while in the same stripe ignoring attendees who deliver me death threats.

Most shockingly, the event organizers (of whom I know very well and very personally) in question did not respond personally, but delivered a form letter to explain the ostracization. It’s disingenuous and displays a dismissal and dehumanization of which I could hardly conceive….

The reason I was disinvited was because it is well known that I support the President of the United States, duly elected and all, and that I’m happy about the way the country is being run. You know, like most normal people are. That’s the only thing that’s changed between then and now. It’s the same dangerous rhetoric out there that many of these folk who run the convention post on such a consistent basis that has turned Facebook from a “fun catching up with friends” website to a hellhole of fear, anger and hate (which as Master Yoda taught us, leads to suffering!). It’s impossible to communicate anymore, and as such, there is a small but vocal power structure of people in the convention scene and publishing that can’t tolerate the concept of seeing my pretty face. I am a minority that’s been discriminated against, not because of my race, but because of my ideas. In Science Fiction, ideas are everything, and it’s frightening to think about those being shut down as a consequence. These people want my career to fail, and they believe they can accomplish that by silencing me and giving me the cold shoulder.

BayCon chair Chris Castro answers that politics never entered into the decision, it was the result of an overall change in policy designed to freshen the program, Castro wrote on Facebook:

This was shared before, but I want to make sure everyone has had a chance to read how our process for implementing programming this year has changed.

http://baycon.org/bcwp/programming-2/

There never has, nor ever will be any decisions made to invite or not invite guests based on their political beliefs or personal philosophies. Every decision we make in regards to who participates in our con as a guest always takes into consideration our theme and focus for the year. Each decision is made professionally, communicated professionally, and always comes down to a group decision by executive and programming staff.

BayCon always seeks to make each convention weekend a fun, engaging and safe place for fans to connect with each other, geek out, and enjoy themselves without harassment. Our decisions are always made with this goal in mind.

The linked text includes this explanation —

“But I’m always on the program!” Going forward there is no such thing as a guest who is guaranteed to be on the program every year. The overwhelming feedback we’ve gotten has been that our attendees have their favorites, but they want new voices and new ideas mixed in with the classic program items and long-time guests. In order to make room for those new voices we will be asking some of our long-standing guests to step back and take a year off now and then. Not receiving an invitation one year does not mean you are off the list, just that this year was a better fit for other participants. At the discretion of the board, the chair and the programming staff, some guests who have been accustomed to an annual invite will be finding themselves with a year off. We encourage those people to come to BayCon as attendees both to enjoy the convention and to support their fellow panelists until they are asked back themselves. “Not this year” is absolutely not code for, “never again!”

Susie Rodriguez, of BayCon’s programming staff, answered File 770’s question about Jon Del Arroz specifically.

Jon has absolutely been a valued member of our program and our community in the past. This year he was not issued an invitation. When he contacted me to ask if he’d been accidentally overlooked, I sent him the following:

“Dear Jon,

Thank you for your interest in BayCon 2017. We have made some changes to the programming which are discussed in detail here: http://baycon.org/bcwp/programming-2/

At this time we are not issuing you an invitation for this year’s convention. You are definitely on our guest list for 2018 and we hope very much to see you there.

Sincerely,

BayCon Programming”

It is not a form letter. It is a personalized letter that was created for him and only him. As you can see, it even included a pre-invitation to participate next year, a thing that is not part of our standard rejection letter.

We are sorry he feels the need to conduct himself in this manner and that he has decided that being off the program for a single year constitutes a blackball. We are choosing to respect his decision not to participate in BayCon in the future and letting it go at that. Other guests have been rotated out in the past and while there are sometimes hurt feelings, this reaction has been unique.

I will reiterate Chris’s words above. Political beliefs and personal philosophies are not a litmus for choosing guests. Who a guest voted for is simply not an issue.

There’s only so many places to use people on convention panels. BayCon’s effort to make room on program for new voices by cycling off some of the regulars addresses a similar problem our local LosCon has also faced. I am reminded that when a friend of mine was left off LosCon program after decades of participation he took it very personally and made the rounds complaining to everyone he knew, exerting all the emotional pressure he could to regain something he felt entitled to have. (It worked, in his case.)

But no, this can’t just be a case of hurt feelings. It must be the tragic fate befalling someone who is a lonely dot of red in California’s sea of blue.

Pixel Scroll 2/1/17 We Had Scrolls, We Had Fun, We Had Pixels In The Sun

(1) TRUE GRIT. The director of Arrival has signed on make another adaptation of Dune.

Denis Villeneuve, best known for his directorial work on Arrival, Sicario and the upcoming Blade Runner sequel, is set to tackle the adaptation of Frank Herbert’s celebrated sci-fi epic, Dune.

Villeneuve was first rumored to be in the running for the role in December, but it wasn’t until yesterday the confirmation was announced. Brian Herbert, son of Frank Herbert and a celebrated science-fiction author in his own right, made the announcement on Twitter.

(2) PETER WESTON EULOGY. This month, Ansible has an extra issue — #355-1/2 — with Tom Shippey’s funeral tribute to Peter Weston. Shippey illustrates Peter’s personality with anecdotes about his business.

What powered that success was not government assistance but reason number two, Peter’s complete lack of pretence. The success of Weston Body Hardware was not based on cunning marketing or managerial tricks, it was based on Peter’s 150-page catalogue of door locks, and unlike many managers Peter knew everything about his product. He took every picture in his catalogue himself, and in each one you could tell left-hand from right-hand.

He usually had a screwdriver in his pocket as well, for removing interesting locks from derelict vehicles, and he could tell a Hillman Minx lock from a Ford Capri blindfolded. I recall one occasion in Texas, 1988, when his attention was caught by a beautifully-refurbished sports car in a car-park. He stepped smartly over to it, looked down, shook his head and remarked (to himself, not the yuppie owner who was standing proudly by), ‘How very disappointing! An Austin-Healey 3000, and all they’ve found to put on the boot is a left-over lock from a Singer Vogue!’ It sounded absolutely apocalyptic.

(3) STICKY FINGERS. Bleeding Cool has the rundown on “The New York Comic Con Organiser Barred From Attending New York Comic Con” after he looted another dealer’s display.

Frank Patz, organiser of the neighbouring comic con, Eternalcon in Long Island, New York, attending NYCC as part of Michael Carbonaro‘s Vintage Movie Posters booth, was arrested by NYPD Special Forces on charges of grand larceny and possession of stolen goods….

It is common practice at shows for the trash at the end of the shows to be raided by some vendors to find things that other vendors have left behind. However Eaglemoss representatives told me they were still in the process of breaking down their space, and the items in question were still inside the booth, and not considered trash.

Most of the items were returned after the arrest, and the charges are pending dismissal if Patz keeps a clean record for the next six months.

…However NYCC and the Javitz Center do not seem to hold with the “innocent until proven guilty” thesis. And so while Frank Patz will have no marks on his official police record as a result of this, he and all the individuals named, have been barred from entering the Javits Center, and show organisers Reed POP have barred them for life from attending any of their events, including the New York Comic Con, C2E2, ECCC and more.

(4) NEW PRESCRIPTION. Alasdair Stuart contends “It’s Time for Doctor Who to Change Television History for the Better” at Tor.com.

A Doctor who isn’t a white man is not a destination, it’s the start of a conversation. If the character worked—and it would—that would be an unmistakable turning point in how POC and female characters are portrayed on screen. It would also empower a generation of writers and actors, crew and producers to make their own work, with their own voices—work that, in the wake of a successful Doctor Who run with a woman or a POC in the lead role, would almost certainly find itself in a far more open and welcoming production environment.

That conversation is long and complicated and years overdue. It’s one that has to include bringing more and more women and POC into the fold as scriptwriters and showrunners and directors. It’s also one that needs to be years long in order for the changes it would catalyse to take effect. Most of all, it’s simply one that needs to happen, and there is no better time than now, and no better place to start than with Doctor Who.

(5) YOUR INVITATION TO A CONSPIRACY. John Scalzi shows us the way to make lemonade after he discovers an author has fallen for Vox Day’s insinuations about his bestseller status. (I argued in 2014 that Vox’s gambit was dubious because it equally undermined Larry Correia, then his ally).

I was pointed this morning to a blog post by an author not previously of my acquaintance who was making a bit of noise about the UK cover of The Collapsing Empire; the June 2016 cover reveal of the UK cover featured the strapline “The New York Times Bestselling Series”…

A little further digging revealed that this author almost certainly got this idea from one of my usual suspects (i.e., the same poor wee racist lad whose adorable mancrush on me has gone unabated for a dozen years now), who trumpeted the strapline as evidence that Tor is planning to fake a position for me and TCE on the New York Times bestseller list. As apparently they have done with all my work, because as you know I don’t actually sell books; Tor and Tor UK and Audible and a couple dozen publishers across the planet give me lots of money strictly because I am the world’s best virtue signaller, and therefore worth propping up with byzantine schemes to fake my standing on bestseller lists, because who doesn’t like virtue.

…(P.S.: If you would actually like to see me get on the New York Times bestseller list with The Collapsing Empire — or in the UK, the Times bestseller list (that’s the Times in the UK, that is, these newspapers with the same names are confusing) — then be part of the vast conspiracy of people who pre-order the book, either from your local bookseller, or via your favorite online retailer. Sadly, my publishers don’t actually prop me up. I really do have to sell books for a living. Again: Sooooooooo unfair!)

(6) BALANCING THE BOOKS. Tolkien once was a customer of a shop now closed and auctioning off its business archives: “These boots were made for Tolkien: Ledgers from iconic Oxford shoe shop Duckers go under the hammer”.

Famous names feature in the ledgers of shoemakers Ducker & Son which are about to be offered for sale by Oxford auction house Mallams, writes Richard Lofthouse…

They range from little-known Oxford academics and wealthy undergraduates with a taste in bespoke footwear to local luminaries such Tolkien, Brideshead Revisited author Evelyn Waugh and publisher Sir Basil Blackwell (who insisted his shoes were always rubber-soled).

First World War flying ace Baron von Richthofen, European aristocratic families and several maharajahs also shopped at Duckers. More recent patrons have included Olympic rower Matthew Pinsent, comedian Rowan Atkinson, former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson and Formula One boss Eddie Jordan.

Tolkien’s first order at the start of Michaelmas term 1913 is for a pair of black rugby boots for 14s 6d, a pair of porpoise laces for 8d, and a pair of ordinary laces for 2d. He was then an undergraduate at Exeter College, just up the street from Duckers’. The year had been a landmark one for Tolkien: he had changed his course from the Classics to English literature and, on the turn of his 21st birthday, had proposed to his childhood sweetheart Edith Bratt. Standing (above) in his pale jersey in the middle of the beefy athletes of Exeter College’s Rugby and Boat Clubs in 1914, Tolkien looks rather small; but he said that what he lacked in weight, he made up by extra ferocity.

A later page shows two orders by Tolkien in the 1950s, when he was Merton Professor of English Language and Literature and shoe prices had risen considerably: he bought three pairs for around £6 apiece. Fortunately his professorial income was supplemented by royalties from The Hobbit and, by the time of the last order, The Lord of the Rings, published in 1954–5.

(7) SNAKES, IT HAD TO BE SNAKES! I am told February 1 is Serpent Day. Not sure why that precedes Groundhog Day, but there you have it.

Serpents deserve a day dedicated to them; its presence is somehow necessary, what with all of the fables and stories abound with snake-inspired situations and wise or evil serpents, that have filled our culture for as long as any of our ancestors could remember.

(8) WHO FATIGUE. Are you tired of watching Doctor Who? I’m not, but if you are, CheatSheet offers four reasons that might explain why. (More likely, you’re tired of clickbait articles like this that drag you through multiple ad-saturated screens to see the complete post.)

  1. The Doctor got meaner

Fans familiar with the progression of the Doctor are familiar with the defining personality traits of each modern doctor. Christopher Eccelston was a stripped-down version of a previously flamboyant character, beginning a walk down a decidedly grimmer path for the Doctor’s personality. David Tennant after him was kind yet stern, with sharp features to match. He always carried with him a certain guilt over the burden of being the last of the Time Lords, leading into the reactively younger and more carefree Matt Smith iteration.

Finally, we were left with Peter Capaldi, the more mature and notably older version of the Doctor. It was more than a little jarring to go from the warm, goofy demeanor of Smith to the crotchety and sometimes mean-spirited Capaldi version. This in turn made it hard to adjust for fans, leading many to jump ship mere episodes in to the latest season.

(9) TAKING FLIGHT. Nerds of a Feather rounds out its Hugo recommendations with two more posts:

Best Graphic Story, Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form, Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form

Editor – Short Form, Editor – Long Form, Professional Artist, Fan Artist, Fan Writer.

(10) FURTHER THOUGHTS. Rich Horton ranges widely in his “Hugo Nomination Thoughts: Long Fiction (and some notes on Dramatic Presentation)”. And he compliments one of JJ’s posts, too.

Best Series

Considering this brand new category reminds me of one novel that I have just read, Impersonations, by Walter Jon Williams, a new pendant to his Praxis (or Dread Empire’s Fall) series. It’s a fun story, and I’m glad I read it, but I don’t think it’s Hugo-worthy by itself. I am strongly considering nominating the entire series for a Hugo, however.

And, indeed, that hints at one of my misgivings about the Hugo for Best Series. The most recent entry in a series may not be particularly representative of the series as a whole, nor as good as the rest of the series. The same comment, obviously, applies to Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series, represented in 2016 by the rather pedestrian Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen. I would say personally that both Bujold’s Vorkosigan series and Williams’ Praxis book are worthy, over all, of a Best Series Hugo, but that the best time to award them that Hugo has passed. (Which, to be sure, is primarily a function of this being a brand new award.)

At any rate, I was wondering what the possible candidates for Best Series, eligible in 2016, might be, and I was delighted to find that JJ, over at File 770, had done the heavy lifting, producing this page with a good long list of potential eligible series: http://file770.com/?p=30940.

(11) TRUE LOVE. With Valentine’s Day on the calendar this month, Seattle’s MoPOP Museum has sent those on its email list a set of Fictional Flames: A Lovesick List of #MoPOPCULTURE Power Couples.

In honor of cupid’s return, here are our picks for the fictional couples who remind us why we love to fall in love.

Uhura + Spock : Star Trek – This futuristic couple showed the world how to love long and prosper.

Clark Kent + Lois Lane: Superman – The most unique story of journalistic love. Ever.

Hermione + Ron: Harry Potter – These longtime friends fell hard with no love potion required.

Buttercup + Westley: The Princess Bride – True love has never been more adventurous.

Elizabeth + Mr. Darcy: Pride and Prejudice – This enduring duo have been charming readers and viewers since 1813!

Kermit + Miss Piggy: The Muppets –  The most sensational, inspirational, celebrational muppet couple.

Gomez + Morticia: The Addams Family – “Till death do us part” takes on a whole new meaning.

Mitch + CamModern Family – These loving family men are the perfect suburban couple.

Rick + Ilsa: Casablanca – This bittersweet, war-torn romance will have you reaching for the tissues.

Willow + Tara: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – The couple that slays together stays together.

Han + Leia: Star Wars – She loves him. He knows. (He loves her too.)

(12) TRIBBLES AT THE UNIVERSITY. “The Trouble With Tribbles” episode of Star Trek will be screened at UCLA in the Billy Wilder Theater on February 5 as part of the “Family Flicks Film Series.” Details about price and schedule are at the link,

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of a classic television episode from a landmark series! Watch as Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) deal with an infestation of cute, fuzzy tribbles aboard the Enterprise. Soothing to the crew and annoying to the Klingons, the furry nuisances nonetheless hold the key to a mystery on board. Trekkie suits and transporters optional!

(13) BRAND ‘EM. Rawle Nyanzi, in “Fear of a Pulp Planet”, calls it a “Pulp Revolution” —

Bloggers Jeffro Johnson — whose Appendix N book I spotlighted here — and Jon Mollison, both of whom I’m acquainted with online, have made much of the “Pulp Revolution,” a nascent literary movement intended to turn modern sci-fi and fantasy away from a perceived focus on deconstruction and embrace its heritage as a literature of the heroic and wondrous. It also seeks to bring the works of long ignored pulp authors back into the limelight.

I find “Pulp Revolution” a more appealing label than Sad Puppies, if anyone wants to know. (Like that’s going to happen….)

(14) RINGS. I still haven’t forgotten the first film in the series. This is the third.

First you watch it. Then you die. Rings hits theatres Friday!

A new chapter in the beloved RING horror franchise. A young woman becomes worried about her boyfriend when he explores a dark subculture surrounding a mysterious videotape said to kill the watcher seven days after he has viewed it. She sacrifices herself to save her boyfriend and in doing so makes a horrifying discovery: there is a “movie within the movie” that no one has ever seen before…

The film is being promoted by a pranks like this —

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Dave Langford for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]