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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Organizational Tactics

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

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

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

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

Rowling’s original pitch opens with:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday is the academic stuff….

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

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

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

 

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

Pixel Scroll 10/27/17 Dark Scroll Crashes, Pouring Pixels Into Ashes

(1) ASSUAGING YOUR TBR GUILT. Fantasy-Faction’s Nicola Alter playfully advises about “Coping with Reading Guilt in 7 Easy Steps”.

Signs you might suffer from Reading Guilt of one form or another can include:

1. The pile of unread books on your shelf, be it virtual or real, makes you feel anxious every time you look at it.
2. You occasionally dust off that book your friend loaned you and pretend you are about to read it, knowing in your heart you are just preparing it to collect more nightstand dust.
3. The sight of a bookstore evokes complex feelings of longing and guilt.
4. The book-devouring speed of a well-read friend makes you irrationally envious.
5. The question, “have you read…” elicits an instinctual dread, because whatever it is, you’ve usually never read it.
6. When someone recommends a book to you, you smile and make enthusiastic noises to cover the sinking feeling in your stomach, because it’s just another to add to the endless list and you’ll probably never get around to reading it anyway.
7. You are so behind on that reading goal you set that it just serves to depress rather than motivate you.
8. You have a vague but pervasive feeling that you haven’t read enough of the “important” books.
9. The hunt for bookmarks depresses you, because you realise they are all wedged in half-finished books and you can’t bring yourself to remove them.
10. You participate in online “How many of these books have you read?” quizzes, even though you know the results will not cheer you up.

Fortunately, Reading Guilt is a very treatable disorder, and if you are exhibiting these symptoms, you are not alone. Here are seven easy steps to help you cope with Reading Guilt, and prevent it from getting in the way of your bookly enjoyment….

(2) A CHEESY EVENT. The Harry Potter Festival that promised to “bring the magic” to Jefferson, WI last weekend has been roundly criticized as a dud: “Angry fans say organizers of Harry Potter Festival in Jefferson were unprepared”.

Some Harry Potter fans are cursing their decision to attend last weekend’s Harry Potter Festival USA in Jefferson, Wisconsin.

Fans says organizers promised an immersive experience but were instead unprepared for the crowds. City officials provided an estimate that around 35,000 attended the event on Saturday.

Here are some of the main criticisms circulating on the festival’s Facebook page: 1) Visitors say hidden costs were added on top of the price of admission 2) the effort put into decorations were at the level of a high school homecoming and 3) poor transportation planning caused long lines for shuttles.

…For hours people waited to get to certain attractions that have also been highly criticized online.

One person commented on the festival’s Facebook page “‘Hagrid’ ate breakfast without his wig and played on his phone the whole time and did not get up once for pictures. Very disappointing, especially for $20 per person!”

Another person wrote “Went to the ‘prison’ – where nothing was happening?! Empty tennis court? So extremely disappointed.”

Others say they wouldn’t make the drive to the again and regret doing it the first time.

“We traveled an hour and a half,” Maria Remillard of Elk Grove Village, Illinois said.

“And once we got there we were basically stuck there. The bus lines were hours long. I ended up walking back to the fairgrounds to pick up our car so I could go back and pick up my parents, my sister, and my daughter,” Remillard said.

“‘The Owlry’ was a small VFW hall with one stuffed animal and one girl signing letters for an extra fee,” Remillard said.

(3) SUBURBAN BLIGHT.  Adweek highlights another scary ad: “Xfinity Adds Its Own Creepy 5-Minute Film to 2017’s Fright Fest of Longer Halloween Ads”.  See the video at the link.

The Comcast cable brand just unveiled its own five-minute horror short, titled “The Neighborhood,” developed by Goodby Silverstein & Partners and written and directed by Dante Ariola of production company MJZ.

The tale concerns a spooky old mask, made out of a burlap sack, that seems to be making the rounds in one suburban neighborhood on Halloween. But those gifted with it quickly come to regret their mysterious new present.

(4) PULP ART BOOK. IDW Publishing has released “The Art of the Pulps: An Illustrated History” co-edited by Doug Ellis, Ed Hulse, and Robert Weinberg. Doug Ellis gives the background:

“The Art of the Pulps”, co-edited by myself, Ed Hulse and Robert Weinberg, came out earlier this week, on October 24 from IDW. For me, it was a long wait, but I think the final book was well worth it. Bob and I actually started preliminary work on the book back in January 2016, so it’s been nearly a two year project for me. Bob unfortunately passed away in late September 2016, just as we were about to start working on it in earnest, but fortunately Ed Hulse was willing to step in and help see the book through to its completion. I think Bob would have been very pleased with how it came out.

The book focuses on the colorful cover art of the pulps, along with a sampling of some black and white interior pulp art, containing roughly 460 images. But in addition to the images, there’s well over 50,000 words of text, written by some of the top experts in the pulp field. Besides contributions from the co-editors, we were fortunate enough to enlist the writing talents of (in alphabetical order): Mike Ashley (science fiction), Will Murray (hero), Michelle Nolan (sports), Laurie Powers (love), Tom Roberts (air and war), David Saunders (the great pulp artists), F. Paul Wilson (foreword) and John Wooley (detective). We think you’ll agree, if you read the book, that each did a bang-up job!

(5) DOWN THESE MEAN STREETS. Stevens Point author Patrick Rothfuss’ new show on Travel Channel, Myth or Monster, debuts with three showings this weekend on Travel Channel. Myth or Monster will first air 9 p.m. on Friday.

Rothfuss “dives into the past and consults with present-day eyewitnesses to expose the truth behind stories long believed to be sheer fantasy.”

The first episode is titled “Mothman:

Armed with new evidence of a modern-day sighting, acclaimed fantasy author Patrick Rothfuss investigates the local legend of an 8-foot-tall man-bird hybrid that has haunted a small West Virginia town for over 50 years.

(6) THE DICKENS YOU SAY. Alonso Duralde of The Wrap was disappointed: “‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’ Review: Scrooge’s Origin Story Ends Up a Bit of a Humbug”

The history of Christmas is a fascinating one, from the biblical account of Jesus’ birth, to the church’s moving of his birthdate so as to capitalize on the popularity of pagan holidays like Saturnalia and Yule, to the Puritans banning it as a feast of licentiousness, to the abundant, familial celebration we know today. Standiford touches upon all of this, and on how the immense popularity of “A Christmas Carol” changed the culture around the holiday, but screenwriter Susan Coyne (“Anne of Green Gables”) and director Bharat Nalluri (“Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day”) gloss right over it in a way that will leave most viewers befuddled by the film’s title.

While Dickens (played here by Dan Stevens) was a well-established writer by 1843, the author was in something of a slump before he decided to take a crack at writing a Christmas story. “Barnaby Rudge” and “Martin Chuzzlewit” were slow sellers, and his essays about his trip to America hadn’t flown off the shelves either; meanwhile, he and his family were grandly restoring a new house, and his constantly-in-debt father John (Jonathan Pryce) was one of many people in Dickens’ orbit with hands perpetually out.

(7) KING TUT. Someone apparently tutted at John Scalzi about his weekly photos of incoming ARCs and review copies.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born October 27, 1948 – Bernie Wrightson
  • Born October 27, 1953 – Robert Picardo, who played the holographic doctor in ST-Voyager and is on the board of directors of the Planetary Society.

(9) LOOK OUT BELOW. Newsweek brings out Michael Rampino  to answer the question: “Did Dark Matter Kill the Dinosaurs? How Mass Extinctions Are Linked With Universe’s Mystery Ingredient”.

… Over the last three decades, some scientists have found a good correlation of mass extinctions with impacts and massive volcanism. Curiously they have also turned up evidence that these events occur in a cycle of about 26 to 30 million years. This attracted the interest of astrophysicists, and several astronomical theories were proposed in which cosmic cycles affected Earth and life on the planet.

My own hypothesis linked the Earthly events to the motion of the solar system as it moves through the galaxy.  Now, it seems that these geologic cycles may be a result of the interactions of our planet with mysterious dark matter.

How does dark matter affect our planet? Most dark matter can be found as huge haloes surrounding the disc-shaped spiral galaxies, like our own Milky Way. But in 2015 physicist Lisa Randall at Harvard, proposed that significant dark matter is concentrated along the central mid-plane of the galactic disk.

During the cyclic movement of the sun and planets through the galaxy, we pass through the mid-place about once every 30 million years. At these times, the dark matter concentrated there tugs on the myriad Oort cloud comments found at the edge of the solar system. This gravitational perturbation causes some of the loosely bound comets to fall into the zone of the inner planets, where some would collide with Earth, producing a roughly 30 million year cycle of impacts and associated mass extinctions. As a result, dark matter may have killed the dinosaurs.

(10) TREMONTAINE. At Fantasy Literature, Marion Deeds reviews the book version of Tremontaine Season One by Ellen Kushner, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Malinda Lo, Joel Derfner, Patty Bryant, Racheline Maltese and Paul Witcover — “Tremontaine Season One: Magic can’t always be re-created”.

The most interesting secondary character is Micah, a young county girl in the city, who is a math genius. Disguised as a boy, Micah is taken up by the university students because she has a gift for winning card games, and because she is a genius. Micah is a problematic character for some of the writers. She is neuro-atypical. In some of these novellas, Micah convinces me that she is somewhere on the autism spectrum. In the hands of others she reads more like an innocent, much younger girl (eleven or twelve). This wobbliness broke my suspension of disbelief. Beyond the problem of Micah’s characterization, tone in general is a problem, changing from episode to episode, and sometimes clashing with the previous chapter, as it does most noticeably in Episode Seven, “The Swan Ball.”

(11) THEY LOST HIM AT HELLO. Superversive SF’s Declan Finn says he was so offended by Star Trek: Discovery that he had already turned it off before they reached the part that was designed to offend him: “The STD That Will Never Go Viral”.

I gave up at the 40 minute mark. So, all of this is this is, of course, before I got to the stuff that was designed to offend me. I’m told there are gay, bisexual and other sexes all over the place, that the Klingons were supposed to be Trump supporters, that they use cussing but can’t say “God” on the show.  Heck, I didn’t even get far enough into the episode to see “Michael” assault her captain, take over the ship in a mutiny specifically so she could commit an act of war on the Klingons… which happened.

But they never got a chance to appeal to my politics. They never got a chance to offend me. They never got a chance to make me angry. Because they never got me to care. Because this isn’t Star Trek. This is just a bad parody.

This is one STD that will never go viral.

(12) THE NOT RIGHT. Prager University produced a video, “What is the Alt-Right?” which briefly mentions Vox Day.

What is the alt-right? What is its worldview? How big is it? Michael Knowles, bestselling author and host of The Michael Knowles Show, took a deep dive into alt-right culture. Here’s what he learned.

When a reader of Vox Popoli brought it to Day’s attention he teed off on the site’s namesake.

I would have been shocked if Dennis Prager had anything positive to say about me. He’s a mediocre thinker and a mediocre writer whose columns on WND were lightweight, little trafficked, and almost entirely forgettable.

(13) ARISTOTLE! Speaking of Aristotle….Camestros Felapton has now reached Chapter 6 in his dissection of Vox Day’s SJWs Always Double Down: Anticipating the Thought Police.

“It is one of more than a dozen such tactics that I have observed SJWs utilizing over the past few year, and what is fascinating is how many of these tactics were first observed more than 2,400 years ago by one of Man’s greatest thinkers, Aristotle.”

Having said that, we don’t get an illustration of social media bait and report re-imagined for ancient Athens (which might have been interesting). I’d imagine the advice would be simple from Aristotle – if somebody is trying to bait you then don’t let them wind you up. There is an excellent example from Jesus in the New Testament dodging a “bait and report” when he is quizzed about paying taxes. Mind you I don’t think Vox reads the New Testament much, particularly not a section where his God implies that you should pay your taxes.

Anyway, put my side trip to Jesus aside, Vox is back with our friend Aristotle. This time rather than Aristotle’s Rhetoric, Vox wants us to look at The Organon and in particular the section called On Sophistical Refutations. “Sophistical” here referring to sophists – the quasi-professional arguers of stuff and/or Plato’s contemporary philosophers not in tune with the Socratic wing of thinking.

Aristotle lists 13 fallacies and Vox goes through them all to some extent. I’m going to look at them from a different direction…

(14) LET THERE BE LIGHTS. Tesla in real-world success: “Turns Power Back On At Children’s Hospital In Puerto Rico”.

Tesla has used its solar panels and batteries to restore reliable electricity at San Juan’s Hospital del Niño (Children’s Hospital), in what company founder Elon Musk calls “the first of many solar+battery Tesla projects going live in Puerto Rico.”

The project came about after Puerto Rico was hit by two devastating and powerful hurricanes in September, and Musk reached out about Tesla helping.

Musk’s company announced its success in getting the hospital’s power working again less than three weeks after Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello tweeted on Oct. 6, “Great initial conversation with @elonmusk tonight. Teams are now talking; exploring opportunities.”

Tesla’s image of the project’s solar array, in a parking lot next to the hospital, has been liked more than 84,000 times since it was posted to Instagram Tuesday.

(15) SOFTCOVER SCARES. Rise of a genre? “These ‘Paperbacks From Hell’ Reflect The Real-Life Angst Of The 1970s”. NPR did an interview with Grady Hendrix who argues that “horror” was not a mainstream term before _Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, et al.

On the appeal of horror paperbacks in the ’70s and ’80s

In the early ’70s, I think part of the appeal of these books is [that] they were written fast and without a lot of pretensions, and so in doing that, these authors were kind of capturing the time in which they were writing. And so you had in the early ’70s, late ’60s, all this fascination with the occult. Astrology was big, Time magazine had two covers that were like, “The New Age occult craze in America” and also there was a fear of our children — “What is this rock music and this LSD and this ‘Summer of Love’? Surely there must be a dark side there.”

And so these books really reflected a lot of where we were at the times and answered a lot of questions, and the answer to most of the questions was, “Yes, be very, very afraid of everything.” Jellyfish, mattresses, curtains, dogs, moths, caterpillars, children, dolls, clowns, puppets. But at least they were answers.

(16) NO RENDEZVOUS WITH THIS RAMA. Passing through: “Scientists Spot First Alien Space Rock In Our Solar System”.

It’s long been assumed that an interstellar object like this one should be out there, because giant planets in forming solar systems are thought to toss out bits of space crud that haven’t yet glommed into anything. But this is the first time scientists have actually found one.

The mysterious object is small — less than a quarter mile in diameter — and seems to have come from the general direction of the constellation Lyra, moving through interstellar space at 15.8 miles per second, or 56,880 miles per hour.

“The orbit is very convincing. It is going so fast that it clearly came from outside the solar system,” says Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “It’s whipping around the Sun, it has already gone around the Sun, and it has actually gone past the Earth on its way out.”

(17) INSECURITY. The internet doesn’t know you’re a dog – or an AI: “AI Model Fundamentally Cracks CAPTCHAs, Scientists Say”.

A new model, described in research published today in Science, fundamentally breaks the CAPTCHA’s defenses by parsing the text more effectively than previous models with less training, George says.

He says that previous models trying to get machines to learn like humans have largely relied on a prevailing AI technique called deep learning.

“Deep learning is a technique where you have layers of neurons and you train those neurons to respond in a way that you decide,” he says. For example, you could train a machine to recognize the letters A and B by showing it hundreds of thousands of example images of each. Even then, it would have difficulty recognizing an A overlapping with a B unless it had been explicitly trained with that image.

(18) RUNAWAYS. Marvel’s Runaways will be on Hulu starting November 21.

(19) YOU HAD ONE JOB. Alien Invasion S.U.M. 1 official trailer.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/24/17 Harry Pixel And The Undeserved Scroll

(1) MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE RADCH. Ann Leckie gave away “Provenance Vestiges” on her book tour. See some of them at the link.

For the trilogy, I was giving out pins, which was great fun, but in all honestly were somewhat difficult to travel with. One pin may not weigh much. Several hundred are another matter entirely. And the mass of them tended to make airport security jumpy.

I wanted to do something fun this time, too, but maybe also something that wouldn’t set off every metal detector on my cross-continent trek, and might be more easily mailable once I got home. And the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like what I wanted was some kind of cool vestige! So I contacted Nikki Thayer. Nikki did me my GigaNotoSaurus banner, and it was Nikki who I turned to when I wanted some Emanations. So this time I went to Nikki and asked her to please make me some cool art to go on the back of some postcards.

If you came to one of my signings, you’ll have gotten (or been able to get) a vestige of the occasion with the first image here, but there are two others! And Nikki says y’all can use these for stuff–make things with them if you want! Do please try to credit Nikki if you can, though.

(2) ROLL ‘EM. The Tolkien biopic has started filming in northern England says Den of Geek.

Nicholas Hoult is taking on the title role in the movie, with the cast also featuring Lily Collins and Colm Meaney (Meaney was announced as joining the cast a week or two back). The latter two have been shooting scenes in Cheshire, under the eye of director Dome Karukoski.

(3) WRITE LIKE THE WIND. Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green is incensed:

Last night, I started my usual prowling through the internet, looking for a topic for today’s post. Nothing resonated with me until I came across a discussion about indie authors. Even though the discussion remained civil, the disdain and condemnation was obvious. I’ll admit, I had a knee-jerk reaction where I wanted to go wading into the discussion to give the indie side of the argument. I didn’t because it would have gained nothing. The people taking part in the discussion are so entrenched in their beliefs, they wouldn’t have listened, no matter how convincing my arguments might have been.

You see, like so many who have been traditionally published, this group simply can’t fathom the speed with which a number of indie authors write. More than that, they can’t accept you can write, edit and publish a book in a month or two. They can’t wrap their minds around the fact that the year or more between books most authors experienced by traditionally publishing was an artificial delay in the production line. But, because this is the system they are used to, it is the only one they feel is valid.

Yes, that is a bit of an oversimplification. They understand that authors write at different paces. It is the rest of it that blows their minds. They have a hard time realizing it doesn’t take months to get edits back and have them finalized. They forget that indies don’t have to wait for publication slots to come open for release dates. Even so, when they start saying they fear for our industry, they point to the speed with which indie writers are putting out their product and assume the product must be inferior because it didn’t go through the same process their work did.

Roger Zelazny once wrote a novel in a weekend. I doubt you could tell which of his works it is.

(4) IN HER PRIME. As previously reported, Kit Reed died September 24 of an inoperable brain tumor. Andrew Porter furnished his photo of the author taken at the 1995 Readercon.

Kit Reed 1995 Readercon – Photo copyright © Andrew Porter

(5) PHILOSOPHICALLY SPEAKING. Ethan Mills delves into “The Contingencies of Histories: Ultima by Stephen Baxter” at Examined Worlds.

Aside from some deeper elements of the plot that really only come together at the end (which I will leave spoiler-free), some of the most interesting philosophical content surrounds the contingency of history.  Could human history of the last few thousand years have gone really differently than it did?  How do contingent events of climate and disease shape history?  Do science, technology, and ethics proceed in a linear fashion from one stage to the next, as a lot of science fiction supposes?  (See especially Star Trek, where the historical trajectory of Western Europe sets the standard for all civilizations in the galaxy in the form of Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planetary Development).  Could you imagine societies with spaceflight, but without sophisticated computers, even opting for low tech interstellar travel?  Or a society that eliminates hunger but not slavery?  A society that colonizes this and other solar systems but with a deeply traditional view of its past and acceptance of social hierarchies including empires and royalty?

(6) WHO’S COMING. Gallifrey One didn’t get Pearl Mackie after all but they have new guests to announce.

Greetings, Gallifrey One attendees! Our October update is now on our website and includes a lot of updates… first and foremost, we are absolutely thrilled to announce that Gallifrey One 2018 will be the very first *ever* convention appearance of Doctor Who’s amazing music composer, Murray Gold, who will be joining us for a special live performance on Saturday afternoon. We’ll have details about that soon. We’re also pleased to welcome Doctor Who’s current costume designer Hayley Nebauer, and a number of other program guests including Jane Espenson, Blair Shedd and Naren Shankar.

With the good news comes the bad: we can confirm that Pearl Mackie will indeed not be attending in February, due to her recent commitment to the new play The Birthday Party in the West End. As we mentioned on our last update in September, we tried to work out an alternative allowing her to come to L.A. for our weekend, but with the play’s schedule and Ms. Mackie’s burgeoning career, it simply wasn’t meant to be. Rest assured we’re already working on additional guests for February so stay tuned!

(7) LONGUEUIEL OBIT. Persephone Longueuiel was a victim of a house fire in April. Jay Allan Sanford has written a tribute in the San Diego Reader,  “Behind the fire at Mission Hills’ ultimate Halloween house: Letters from Persephone”.

Tall and dark, with long jet-black hair and inclined toward gypsy-gothy clothes, she was a part-time photographer and aspiring author who spent 30 years working on a never-published book about homosexuals in early Hollywood forced to hide their sexuality. She lost her virginity at a San Diego Comic-Con to a famous horror author for whom she spent the rest of her life pining. She once managed the Comic Kingdom store in Hillcrest, and she owned a horror memorabilia collection valued many times the $20,000 fire officials say the contents of the “hoarder” house were worth. She bought one each of all the Stephen King signed hardcovers and other contemporary authors such as Clive Barker, but she also had rarities like a second edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and original editions of HP Lovecraft books such as The Outsider and Others. She had original TV scripts for shows such as The Addams Family, crates of Universal monster toys dating back to the 1940s, and movie posters for lovable turds such as Son of Blob and Attack of the Crab Monsters.

Her pen pals over the years included authors Robert “Psycho” Bloch, Clive Barker (Hellraiser), and comic creators Neil Gaiman (Sandman) and Alan Moore (Watchmen). Persephone and Elizabeth got holiday cards from Ray Bradbury, Robert Crumb, and Isaac Asimov. One of those celebrated figures is the man who claimed her virginity at Comic-Con.

(8) WEITZ OBIT. Skylab rescuer: “Astronaut Paul Weitz Dies At 85; Veteran Of Skylab And Shuttle Missions”.

On his first space flight, he served as pilot on Skylab-2 (SL-2), along with Apollo 12 veteran Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr., and Joseph Kerwin, also a rookie on SL-2. The mission to fix Skylab, which had suffered significant damage during the space station’s launch, is still considered one of the most difficult and dangerous in the annals of spaceflight.

…”We had to get the temperatures under control if we were going to salvage Skylab at all,” he told NASA in an oral history recorded in 2000.

Years later, Weitz returned to space when he commanded the critical first mission of Challenger, NASA’s second flight-worthy Space Shuttle orbiter, lifting off on April 4, 1983. The successful flight lasted five days.

Photos and more details on BBC.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The Disney chipmunks Chip and Dale are named after Thomas Chippendale, the furniture maker.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) GRAPHIC EXAMPLES. PJ Media’s Megan Fox finds “Prominent Conservative Artists Blacklisted Because of Involvement with Alt*Hero Comics Series”. (Although it sounds like Chuck Dixon already hadn’t been that busy for awhile.)

Timothy Lim, a talented freelance professional illustrator and cover artist, has been fired from Mount Olympus comics because he took a job to create the cover for subversive right-wing comic series Alt?Hero. After Alt?Hero creator Vox Day announced Lim’s contribution publicly, Lim received this message from his current employer.

Lim had begun work for Patriotika, Mount Olympus’s answer to SJW comics, because he had heard it would be pro-American and the SJWs who have taken over DC Comics and Marvel would hate it. “I found out about Patriotika from friends who had positive things to say about it,” Lim said. “I contacted the owner to volunteer my services for his next issue, free of charge, just to support a good cause. He decided to hire me for cover work on another title in the same universe, Valkyrie Saviors.”

But the goodwill took a bad turn when it became public that Lim was working with Vox Day. “When he saw the work that I had done for Alt?Hero, he was not enthused. Three days later he messaged me to tell me he would not print the Valkyrie Saviors cover or the Patriotika one which I was going to finalize the following week,” said Lim.

… Chuck Dixon, the Batman writer most known for co-creating the popular villain Bane and the man Bleeding Cool called “the most prolific comic book writer of all time,” has also been attacked for signing on with Alt?Hero. PJ Media spoke to Dixon about it.

… Dixon’s conservative politics have never been a secret. He wrote the graphic novel “Clinton Cash” during the last election, which hammered the Clintons for their dubious money grabbing schemes. Dixon says the blacklisting began in the early 2000s. “I’ve experienced a steep drop in assignments since 2000. Primarily from the two largest comics publishers [Marvel and DC Comics]….

…Dixon explained why he decided to work with Vox Day. “My decision to join with Vox on this project is because he offered me an interesting opportunity; a return to the kind of escapist superhero fantasy I used to be allowed to create at DC Comics and Marvel Comics. I’ve long lamented that the major comics publishers have walked away from their core audience over the past two decades,” he explained. “They  ran from them by creating ham-handed preach-athons that scold the readers rather than entertain them. And just within the last year, the diversity movement in comics has ratcheted up to chase away even the last of the die-hard fans who were holding on to the hope that one day superhero comics would return to their core appeal as wish-fulfillment fantasies.”

Dixon believes that the answer to SJW culture is to carve out a counter-culture in the realm of entertainment….

(12) THEY’LL BE BACK. It shouldn’t come as a surprise: “CBS has renewed Star Trek: Discovery for a second season” reports Andrew Liptak at The Verge,

The USS Discovery will continue to explore the galaxy. CBS announced this morning that it has renewed the latest iteration of the Star Trek franchise for a second season.

CBS noted that the show has been successful at bringing in new subscribers to its streaming service All Access, and has earned acclaim from fans and critics. Following the season’s premiere, CBS announced that sign-ups for the service had reached their highest level to date. CBS did not announce an episode count for season 2, nor when it would begin airing.

Star Trek: Discovery is set roughly a decade before the events of The Original Series. The show follows Michael Burnham, a disgraced Starfleet officer who serves aboard the USS Discovery following the outbreak of war between the Federation and Klingon Empire. Presently, CBS has aired six of the first season’s 15 episodes, and it has split the season into two “chapters.” The first nine episodes are set to premiere on a weekly basis through November, while the second half will premiere in January 2018.

(13) NOT A MEAL. Soylent isn’t people, and now it’s also not for people, at least Canadians: “Soylent Banned in Canada for Not Actually Being a Meal” according to Gizmodo.

In a major blow to Canadians who love bland on-the-go meal replacement goop, The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has blocked all shipments of Soylent into the country.

Soylent first began shipping to Canada in July 2015, announcing the move with a video of people reading fanatical complaints from Canucks requesting Soylent, with “O Canada” playing in the background. It seems Canada’s food regulatory agency is not as enthusiastic about having the quasi-nutritious substance shipped into the Great White North.

According to a statement from Rob Rhinehart, the CEO of Rosa Foods and the former software engineer who created Soylent, CIFA told the company in early October that their “products do not meet a select few of the CFIA requirements for a ‘meal replacement.’”

(14) ARCHEOLOGICAL GIFTS. NPR has the official word: “U.K. Offers Famed Arctic Shipwrecks As ‘Exceptional Gift’ To Canada”.  The Franklin expedition has spawned genre spinoffs ranging from an Alpha Flight take (right after the first corpses were discovered, 30+ years ago) to a Dan Simmons novel.

In an act befitting “our long shared history and the closeness of our current bilateral relationship,” the U.K. has announced it will give Canada the recovered shipwrecks of John Franklin, a British explorer who sought to chart an unnavigated section of the Northwest Passage in the Arctic in the 1840s — and died in the attempt, along with all of his crew.

“This exceptional arrangement will recognise the historical significance of the Franklin expedition to the people of Canada, and will ensure that these wrecks and artefacts are conserved for future generations,” British Defense Minister Michael Fallon said in a statement published Tuesday.

For more than a century and a half, the resting place of the two vessels remained a mystery — until a team of archaeologists finally found and identified the HMS Erebus in 2014. Just two years later, researchers acted on a tip from an Inuit man to find the HMS Terror, the flagship of Franklin’s 1845 expedition, sitting “perfectly preserved” nearby in the waters near King William Island.

(15) A BANG TOO BIG FOR CAMBRIDGE. Not-so-brief History: “Stephen Hawking’s Ph.D. Thesis Crashes Cambridge Site After It’s Posted Online”.

Interest in “Properties of Expanding Universes” is at an all-time high: Stephen Hawking’s doctoral thesis of that name crashed Cambridge University’s open-access repository on the first day the document was posted online.

The Cambridge Library made several PDF files of the thesis available for download from its website, from what it called a high-resolution “72 Mb” file to a digitized version that is less than half that file size. A “reduced” version was offered that was even smaller — but intense interest overwhelmed the servers.

By late Monday local time, the well-known theoretical physicist’s thesis had been viewed more than 60,000 times, says Stuart Roberts, deputy head of research communications at Cambridge. He added, “Other popular theses might have 100 views per month.”

(16) AGE OF DISCOVERY. “Astrolabe: Shipwreck find ‘earliest navigation tool'” — not exactly the Antikythera, but historic tech in its own right.

An artefact excavated from a shipwreck off the coast of Oman has been found to be the oldest known example of a type of navigational tool.

Marine archaeologists say the object is an astrolabe, an instrument once used by mariners to measure the altitude of the Sun during their voyages.

It is believed to date from between 1495 and 1500.

The item was recovered from a Portuguese explorer which sank during a storm in the Indian Ocean in 1503.

The boat was called the Esmeralda and was part of a fleet led by Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, the first person to sail directly from Europe to India.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/21/17 Stars in My Pocket Like Scrolls of Pixels.

(1) HEART SURGERY. Vulture grilled Kirkus’s editor-in-chief Claiborne Smith about changes made to a review in the face of a swarm of critics: Kirkus Editor-in-Chief Explains Why They Altered That American Heart Review.

Kirkus was well-aware from the start that American Heart was something of a lightning rod, which Smith says was not a concern. “As you know, we’re no stranger to controversy,” he says, referring to the recent outrage surrounding Kirkus’s starred review for The Black Witch. And the response to this controversy, according to Smith, stemmed from a long-standing policy of listening when readers have something to say: “We do investigate [criticisms] and consider all of those claims.”

Yet while investigating criticisms may be business as usual, Smith admits this is the first time during his tenure that a review has been pulled and altered in this way. And while the Muslim woman who wrote the original review was involved in the editing process — “the decision to retract the star was made in full collaboration with the reviewer,” he says — altering the review does not appear to have been her idea in the first place. According to Smith, Kirkus concluded internally that edits would be made before reaching out to the reviewer.

“We wanted her to consider if changing what we thought was sort of reductive word choice, and adding deeper context, is something she thought might be appropriate,” he says, though he emphasizes it was ultimately her call: “I did not dictate that to her. She made that decision on her own.” (The word choice in question likely refers to text in the original review that referred to Sadaf as “a disillusioned immigrant,” which some commenters took exception to.)

Kirkus’s critics are skeptical of that claim; among the more cynical takes on the controversy is that Kirkus used the reviewer’s identity as a shield, only to then suppress her voice when it didn’t toe the line. Smith bristles at that: “It’s like no one believes that this reviewer has a mind and can change her opinion. Is that so difficult to believe?”

The answer isn’t necessarily clear. Would Kirkus’s reviewer have changed her mind independently, even if the review hadn’t been pulled for evaluation? Or did she feel pressured to alter what had proven to be a deeply unpopular opinion when asked if she wanted to, even without explicit instructions to do so? What is clear, though, is that the choice to un-star American Heart reflects something noteworthy about Kirkus’s framework for critique — one in which a book’s value is determined not just by the quality of its storytelling, but also by its politics. The sentence added to the review indicates that writing the book from Sarah Mary’s point of view remains an admirable choice from a craft perspective (“an effective world-building device”), but wrong from a moral one (“it is problematic that Sadaf is seen only through the white protagonist’s filter”). And while Smith says the call-out of said problematic element is not meant to dissuade readers from reading the book — “If readers don’t care that this novel is only told about a Muslim character, from the perspective of a white teenager, that’s fine” — he acknowledges that Kirkus does care, and does judge books at least in part on whether they adhere to certain progressive ideals. When I ask if the book’s star was revoked explicitly and exclusively because it features a Muslim character seen from the perspective of a white teenager, Smith pauses for only a second: “Yes.”

(2) INDIA 2049. “Call for Submissions: India 2049 – Utopias and Dystopias”. Mithila Review is doing this issue as a fundraiser, and is basically paying only an honorarium. Submissions for India 2049 are open until April 30, 2018.

“The developing countries such as those in the South Asia and Africa are not sufficiently depicted in typical SF stories.”— Cixin Liu, Mithila Review

Mithila Review is seeking submissions for India 2049: Utopias and Dystopias, an anthology of short stories and comics devoted to the exploration of Indian futures, utopias and dystopias, set in India, South Asia or beyond.

Editors: Salik Shah & Ajapa Sharma

Word Limit: 4000-12,000 words

Comics: Up to 24 pages

Deadline: April 30st, 2018

Eligibility: Stories should be set in India, South Asia, or told from Indian or South Asian perspective. We want excellent, characters-driven and thoughtful stories from emerging and established voices around the world. Your citizenship or nationality, or lack of it, isn’t a bar to submission. Please free to re/define India or South Asia to make it relevant to the future/s you’re creating. If you are new to Mithila Review, please go through our existing issues to get a taste and understanding of the kind of stories that define Mithila Review.

(3) THE SCI-FI PIPELINE. From IndieWire, “The New Golden Age of Studio Science-Fiction is Upon Us”

The New Golden Age of Studio Science-Fiction is Upon Us

We’ll be seeing a lot of major studios releasing auteur-driven science-fiction over the next couple years. Here are some of the titles you need to know about:

“Downsizing,” Alexander Payne

Alexander Payne is well regarded as a humanist and a sharp observer of middle-aged existential crises, which makes the thought of him directing a science-fiction movie all the more intriguing…. “

“Annihilation,” Alex Garland

…Studios were clearly paying attention to “Ex Machina’s” success, as Paramount quickly landed Garland to direct the big budget adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s novel “Annihilation.” …

Ready Player One,” Steven Spielberg

You’d have to go back to “War of the Worlds” in 2006 to find the last pure Steven Spielberg science-fiction blockbuster….

“Gemini,” Ang Lee

Ang Lee’s unpredictable career has taken him from gay romances to historical dramas, war films, literary adaptations, and period pieces, but with “Gemini” he’s finally set to bring his boundless visual scope to the science-fiction genre….

“Ad Astra,” James Gray

James Gray has been upping the stakes of his narratives and working with larger budgets with each new film, so it was only a matter of time before the director would join forces with a studio to make something truly epic. “Ad Astra” sounds like that kind of mainstream breakthrough after the indie success of “The Lost City of Z.” Brad Pitt plays an astronaut who sets out on a mission through the solar system to find his father (Tommy Lee Jones), who disappeared 20 years earlier on a one-way mission to Neptune….

“Alita: Battle Angel,” Robert Rodriguez

Robert Rodriguez has only ever made big-budget action films for family audiences (see the “Spy Kids” franchise and “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl”), which is part of the reason the upcoming “Alita: Battle Angel” could mark a whole new chapter in the director’s career. The idea for a film adaptation of Yukito Kishiro’s acclaimed manga series was first brought to James Cameron by Guillermo del Toro, but the director’s work on “Avatar” kept the project from being properly developed….

“The Predator,” Shane Black

Normally a studio reboot of “The Predator” franchise wouldn’t inspire much anticipation (and fans clearly weren’t too interested in the 2010 installment directed by Nimród Antal), but 20th Century Fox has made the exciting decision of putting none other than Shane Black in the director’s chair….

“Avatar” Sequels, James Cameron

The second “Avatar” movie will arrive over a decade after the original became the highest grossing movie of all time (adjusted for inflation). It’s been so long since “Avatar” conquered the box office that no one is really begging for a sequel anymore, and yet you’d have to be crazy not to be at least a little excited for another opportunity for James Cameron to play on the biggest canvas imaginable….

(4) HAWAIIAN SHIRT FRIGHT. High Seas Trading Company is willing to sell you the shirt off its back in time for Halloween: Classic Horror Monsters.

(5) ZINE TRANSCRIBERS SOUGHT. Slate Magazine, in “Retyping the Future’s Past”, tells about the University of Iowa Libraries project to crowdsource transcription of some of its holdings, like the Rusty Hevelin fanzine collection. I didn’t get involved myself because as it was put to me, the zines were not out of copyright so the transcriptions would not be made publicly available, only to scholars working through the library. My fellow fanzines fans would not immediately benefit from my work.

However, the face value the offer is certainly true – you get to read the ones you work on.

If you’d like to participate, you need to do little more than set up a free account with DIY History, select an issue from the hundreds available, and dive in. It’s hard to guess what you might find within, but the possibilities are promising. As some of us still do today, the science fiction fans of decades past imagined different worlds, sometimes better ones. Retyping their words is a welcome reminder that we have yet to write our own future.

(6) YESTERDAY’S DAY

International Sloth Day

We missed this.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born October 21, 1929 – Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Born October 21, 1956 – Carrie Fisher

(8) TAKING ONE FOR THE TEAM. Camestros Felapton has got himself a copy of Vox Day’s new book SJWs Always Double Down and penned a review titled “Reading Vox Day So You Don’t Have To…Again: Part 1”. Though not even Camestros takes that title literally – by the time he reaches Chapter 4 he’s writing:

Skim, skim, Google, skim, Twitter again (the social media platform so terrible that Vox came crawling back to it after his tantrum at Gab), some band I haven’t heard of. The chapter was supposed to be about ‘convergence’ but it was just another list of complaints.

(That being the case, it’s lucky for Camestros that this book seems to have only one Chapter 5.)

Did I mention that this chapter is called “The Convergence Sequence”. I guess I had assumed that previous chapter would be about that. Anyway this chapter is about how convergence happens (hint: women are all conspiring against Vox to get him). The previous chapter was “Convergence” so maybe chapter 4 was the first Chapter 5*

The convergence sequence, Vox claims, is this: 1. Infiltration. This is when women, oops sorry, “SJWs” join things and do work. Now you might think that would be both a good thing and inevitable that helpful, nice people predisposed to being helpful and nice would do things. This is bad though because then they’ll expect the think they joined to also be helpful and nice.

“SJWs are particularly drawn to HR in the corporate world and community management in the open source world, because these organizational roles tend to combine the two things that SJWs seek most, power over others and an absence of personal responsibility. They can also be found in volunteer roles; SJWs tend to have a lot of time on their hands and volunteering for the jobs that no one else wants to do is one of their favorite ways to make themselves appear indispensable to those who are in charge of the organization…. But if you want to identify the initial SJW in an organization, look for a longtime volunteer, usually female, who is quiet, selfless, well-regarded by everyone, and heavily relied upon by the leadership.”

See, I wasn’t being sarcastic earlier or even exaggerating. Note the key elements he sees as symptoms of being a “SJW” – not a tendency to quote Gramsci or use the term “intersectionality” or a hard to suppress desire to punch Nazis. Nope the key symptoms of Vox’s fear are:

  1. Being a woman (or ‘female’ as Vox says in what I presume is a Ferengi impression)
  2. Quiet
  3. Selfless
  4. Well-regarded by everyone
  5. Relied upon by leadership

I wonder if Vox ever reads the New Testament and if he does, does he shout “obvious SJW!” every so often.

(9) E.T.IQUETTE. John C. Wright tries to reconcile his preferences with contemporary practices in “A Courteous Note about Courtesy in Names”.

People with modern hence fake standards meeting someone loyal to older hence real standards are in the same position as that younger brother.

You have no idea what a cruel practical joke has been played on you by the modern inversion of the forms of courtesy, nor how much sincerity, fellowship, and elegance has been deliberately removed from the world.

But I am not a king nor a pope, so there is no reason why someone who knows me only through my public words and works should be required to address me by my Christian name.

It would be rather presumptuous of me to assume that I can impose the burdens of intimate friendship on you.

You have done me no wrong. Please do not fret over so minor a matter.

To which I should add a general word: I am prone to wrath, as it is one of my besetting sins, and would do well to avoid a sharp tongue. I find that, for myself, speaking formally to people who give a last name, and calling him by his last name, makes it easier to resist the temptation to be shrewish and rude.

A man or woman whose Internet handle is some presumptuous yet joking phrase or nickname is much harder to take seriously, and much harder for someone like me to treat seriously. I was able to keep my temper with Dr. Andreassen for years, or nearly so, despite his studied provocations, merely because I addressed him formally.

Someone with a dippy handle like “Gharlane of Backdoor” or “4ssclown Pharting” or “Visions-from-Trippy-High” inadvertently will create in me the impression the I am addressing a pimply and nasal sophomore in teeth braces with a dull sense of humor who is most likely on mood medication.

(10) DUBBING. Myke Cole supplies a caption for the iconic image from Blade Runner 2049:

(11) ALT SIGHT. Uprising Review’s unironic reference in their latest podcast to guest Jon Del Arroz as “the #1 Hispanic voice in science fiction” is more easily understood if you know that it recently devoted bandwidth to topics like “Help Fund A Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Charlottesville,” Dawn Witzke’s Dragon Con report, and a link roundup featuring JDA’s harassment of a Filer.

(12) I’M MELTING, MELTING. NPR explains why these are: “‘Impossible To Save’: Scientists Are Watching China’s Glaciers Disappear”.

Li calls out to scientists hiking nearly 1,000 feet above. In their bright parkas, they look like neon-colored ants. They call back, their voices bouncing off an ice and stone amphitheater that cradles the eastern glacier.

Scientists are the only people allowed here. The government has banned tourism on the glacier and shut down factories in the town below, laying off 7,000 workers to try to lessen the impact of pollution.

But local sources of pollution account for just 30 percent of the damage to glaciers, says Li. The other 70 percent is caused by global carbon emissions that have warmed the entire planet.

The central goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change — which the Trump administration has promised to pull the U.S. out of, but to which China is still a party — is to limit the rise in global average temperature to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Tianshan is one of those rare places where the impact of climate change policy can be measured and seen.

“If every country sticks to the emissions reductions in the Paris Agreement, these two glaciers will be around for another hundred years,” says Li. “If not, then temperatures will continue to rise, and the glacier we’re walking on? It’ll be gone in 50 years.”

(13) HIS FAMILIARS. The Washington Post’s Savannah Stephens has an interview with Philip Pullman about La Belle Sauvage, including why he wanted to write prequels to “His Dark Materials” and what is his personal daemon — “Philip Pullman on what drew him back to the world of His Dark Materials”.

Q: Who were you most excited to revisit besides Lyra?

A: Hannah Relf is someone who appears near the beginning and near the end of “His Dark Materials.” She’s a woman whom I like very much and someone I respect a great deal. I was glad to give her a part that’s important in “La Belle Sauvage.” She lends Malcolm books, and she’s interested in his life, his thoughts, his education. Her character pays tribute to an old lady who had a big house in the village that I used to live in when I was a boy. She took an interest in me, and she let me borrow books from her library. She had books on every wall — bookcases all through her house. She very generously allowed me to come and borrow a couple of books every week. She didn’t tell me, “Oh no, you can’t have that, dear. That’s not for you.” She said, “Take anything you like. Read anything you like. We’ll talk about it when you bring it back.” I thought that was so nice, so I gave that part to Hannah Relf.

(14) A GOOD PLACE TO CRASH. They don’t want anybody underneath when these come down: “The place spacecraft go to die”.

The equivalent point in the ocean – the place furthest away from land – lies in the South Pacific some 2,700km (1,680 miles) south of the Pitcairn Islands – somewhere in the no-man’s land, or rather no-man’s-sea, between Australia, New Zealand and South America.

This oceanic pole of inaccessibility is not only of interest to explorers, satellite operators are interested in it as well. That’s because most of the satellites placed in orbit around the Earth will eventually come down, but where?

Smaller satellites will burn up but pieces of the larger ones will survive to reach the Earth’s surface. To avoid crashing on a populated area they are brought down near the point of oceanic inaccessibility.

Scattered over an area of approximately 1,500 sq km (580 sq miles) on the ocean floor of this region is a graveyard of satellites. At last count there were more than 260 of them, mostly Russian.

The wreckage of the Mir space station lies there. It was launched in 1986 and was visited by many teams of cosmonauts and international visitors.

With a mass of 120 tonnes it was never going to burn up in the atmosphere, so it was ditched in the region in 2001 and was seen by some fishermen as a fragmenting mass of glowing debris racing across the sky.

(15) HAMMERING. According to the BBC: “Thor out of five: Marvel’s latest has critics raving”.

Thor is a case in point. Whether toplining his own films or chipping in as part of the Avengers ensemble, this relic from Norse mythology has always seemed out of step with the rest of the extended franchise.

By recognising and embracing his core ridiculousness, though, Thor: Ragnarok may have finally found a way to integrate the character and his world into the wider MCU landscape.

Despite taking its title from a Norse word for apocalypse, the latest Marvel film is a joyously irreverent hoot in which superhero heroics are almost an afterthought.

The scenes in which Chris Hemsworth’s Thor banters and bickers with the now-talking Hulk are a delight, as are any in which Jeff Goldblum appears as the ostensibly villainous but actually rather affable Grandmaster.

(16) LIGHTNING STRIKING AGAIN AND. It’s a jungle out there.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/19/17 Don’t Know Much About Psycho-History, Don’t Know What A Slide Rule Is

(1) THESE ARE THEY. More core from James Davis Nicoll: “Twenty Core Alternate Histories Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”. Here are three – are they on your shelves?

  • Lion’s Blood by Steven Barnes
  • On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard
  • Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

(2) THE WU CANDIDACY. Her Glamour interview is now online — “Brianna Wu Faced Down the Alt-Right and Now She’s Running for Congress”

Now the 40-year-old video game developer is launching herself into a different kind of firestorm: She’s running for Congress in Massachusetts’ Eighth District on a platform crafted, in part, from her experience facing off against white-supremacist groups, which, she notes, have been against not only women gamers but also public policies that benefit anyone not white, heterosexual, and male. Her goal is economic and political parity for women, LGBTQ Americans, people of color, and the working poor. “All these forces are tied together,” Wu told ­Glamour from her headquarters in Walpole, Massachusetts. “The system is not working for any of them.”

The idea that the system is broken has motivated thousands of women to launch political campaigns; eleven thousand have told She Should Run, a nonpartisan group that offers resources to women interested in seeking office, that they are actively planning to run for office. Founder and CEO Erin Loos Cutraro says this new crop of political talent is “sick of not having their voices and perspectives represented” and recognizes “the impact they can make at all levels of government.”

(3) TOP 40. Nicholas Whyte told Facebook readers:

According to scientific calculation, I am #37 in the list of the top 40 EU digital influencers as calculated by EurActiv, and revealed at a ceremony today.

It’s for what he writes about the EU and Brussels, rather than what the rest of us know him for — his work as the 2017 Hugo Administrator. Whyte’s only wish is that they’d gotten his photo right.

The full list of digital influencers is posted here. If you want to know how the list was compiled, the formula is here.

(4) ROMANTIC POTENTIAL. M.C.A. Hogarth’s Kickstarter for Thief of Songs, “Lush and lyrical high fantasy romances set in a world with four human sexes!”, hit 400% of its funding target in the first 24 hours.

I have loved romance novels all my life, and love has always threaded itself, like incense, into every fantasy and science fiction story I’ve written. But for the longest time I didn’t allow myself to consider writing a romance novel of my own. Until I did.

The result was Thief of Songs, a novel that ended up on the Tiptree Award’s Long list. Set in a secondary fantasy world with four human sexes (male, female, hermaphrodite, and neuter), it’s the story of an imperial composer and the music en inadvertently stole while touring the highlands conquered hundreds of years ago by ens birth country. Dancer’s kingdom is unfairly privileged: all the magic in the world runs into the bowl of its lowest point and collects there, and using that magic its armies annexed the entire continent. So you can imagine the issues that arise when one of those conquered sons comes to the capital… and finds himself in love, irrevocably and inexorably, with a foreigner, a hermaphrodite… and God help him, a musician of such genius he couldn’t help but adore en.

Those issues were not solvable in a single book. Last year I took them forward into a new book, Cantor for Pearls, where Amet–our highland man–continues to struggle with his ambivalence while navigating the wholly unfamiliar relationship to him possible between man and neuter. This is an unabashed asexual romance, with sea serpents. (This book also made the Tiptree Long List!)

With the funding in hand, Hogarth will soon go to press.

My goal is to have both these books ready this week! So that when the Kickstarter ends on November 1st, I’ll be shipping within a few days. I’ve also already set up the e-book download pages. One less thing to do when the project wraps up! I like turning things around quickly… you all are trusting me with your hard-earned money, and I like to honor that trust. 🙂

(5) BUTLER. Gabrielle Bellot delivers a triumphal retrospective profile in “Octavia Butler: The Brutalities of the Past Are All Around This” at Literary Hub.

As a preteen, Octavia Butler decided she’d had enough of second-rate science fiction. “Geez,” she said after watching Devil Girl from Mars, a 1954 B-movie. “I can write a better story than that.” Anybody could, really, she mused. “Somebody got paid for writing that awful story,” she concluded in high dudgeon. A year later, she was submitting stories to magazines.

They were “terrible pieces of fiction,” she admitted jocularly in a 1998 talk at MIT, but she had embarked on her journey to write something epochal, a story that could forever reshape a genre’s landscape. A dream architect, she wished to be, whose fabulous and frightening creations would remain after we woke up. One of those transformative stories appeared in her 1979 novel, Kindred, which strikingly reimagined the neo-slave narrative genre by making a 20th-century black woman (and, once, her white husband) slip back into 19th-century Maryland through unceremonious, frightening time-travel. (Though time travel is often associated with science fiction, thanks largely to H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, Butler instead describes Kindred as fantasy because its temporal traversing is never explained scientifically.) Kindred, a novel explicitly designed to make its readers uncomfortable, has a special, if controversial, resonance for America today: how we teach and talk about texts that contain depictions of bigotry and violence.

Butler was accustomed to the weight of others’ bigotries; she grew up with insecurities about her body, some of which stayed with her into adulthood. Her body was large—she was six feet tall by the time she was a teen—and her voice was deeper than that of the girls around her, its gentle rumbling tone and pitch varying from androgynous to masculine, and students teased her mercilessly. Some of them called her a boy, others a lesbian. Butler did not identify as gay, as she told Larry McCaffery and Jim McMenamin in 1998, but she ruminated about her sexuality and sense of gender, at times musing that she might indeed be what others called her and even going twice to a “Gay and Lesbian Services Center” to “talk about such things… at which point I realized, Nope, this ain’t it… I’m a hermit.” Already socially awkward and lonely, the schoolyard taunts and jeers pushed her into a cavernous isolation. An outsider, she retreated inward, carving out a deep inner space, a lamplit palace of the self.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The “Plan 9” in the title of Plan 9 from Outer Space refers to an alien scheme to create chaos by resurrecting the Earth’s dead as shambling ghouls.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 19, 1952Fahrenheit 451 was first published.  Trivial trivia:  The paperback is the true first, as it came out a week before the hardback.

(8) HISTORIC FIGURES. The Women of NASA LEGO set goes on sale November 1. The collectible was produced after winning fan approval through the LEGO Ideas website.

Four trailblazing figures from NASA’s history are set to launch as new LEGO minifigures on Nov. 1. NASA astronauts Sally Ride and Mae Jemison, astronomer Nancy Grace Roman and computer scientist Margaret Hamilton are celebrated for their contributions to space exploration and astronomy in the new LEGO Ideas set, “Women of NASA.” Based on a fan-proposed and supported design, the set includes representations of the four female space pioneers, as well as three LEGO builds that recreate the spacecraft and settings where the women made their mark on space history. “Great for role playing space exploration missions,” LEGO said in a press release announcing the set on Wednesday (Oct. 18). “Explore the professions of some of the groundbreaking women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with the LEGO Ideas Women of NASA set,” The 231-piece building toy is recommended for ages 10 and older. It will retail for $24.99.

(9) THE ENVIRONMENT. No, this isn’t The Onion.

(10) PULPHOUSE IS COMING. The Pulphouse Kickstarter has fully funded, and then some, bringing in $35,215.

(11) COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS. BBC film critic Mark Kermode discusses why it’s box office disappointed, and he doesn’t care.

(12) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND. A place to live underground on the moon? “Huge cave found on moon, could house astronauts: Japan scientists”. (Does this sound familiar, and are you also wondering if the orbiter’s first name is “Adam”?)

Data taken from Japan’s SELENE lunar orbiter has confirmed the existence of the 31-mile-long and 328-foot-wide wide cavern that is believed to be lava tube created by volcanic activity about 3.5 billion years ago.

The major finding was published this week in U.S. science magazine Geophysical Research Letters.

“We’ve known about these locations that were thought to be lava tubes … but their existence has not been confirmed until now,” Junichi Haruyama, a researcher at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, told AFP on Thursday.

The underground tunnel, located under an area called the Marius Hills, would help protect astronauts from huge swings in temperature and damaging radiation that they would be exposed to on the moon’s surface, he added.

“We haven’t actually seen the inside of the cave itself so there are high hopes that exploring it will offer more details,” Haruyama said.

(13) CITIES. Camestros Felapton brings us his “Review: City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett”.

City of Miracles is a shining example of a brilliant use of the trilogy format to tell fantastical stories. The third book in a series that follows City of Stairs and City of Blades, Bennett again shifts point-of-view character, this time to Sigurd – the almost impossibly bad-ass fighting machine side-kick of spy/politician Shara Komayd (whose career is traced through all three books but who was the specific focus of the first).

Each of the novels has leaped forward several years in the post-fantastical history of the Saypuri Republic and the formerly magical and imperialistic Continent. In doing so Bennett gets to show a world that is undergoing its own version of industrialization and 19th-century European-colonial hegemony without using a cookie-cutter. The political divides are rich enough to feel real and complex and the bad is given at least equal prominence with the bad.

(14) REPEATED HAUNTINGS. The second annual “Ghost Stories at Keele Hall” will be held Monday, November 6, 7:30-9:30 p.m. in the atmospheric surroundings of the Senior Common Room, Keele University.

Join us for the second Ghost Stories at Keele Hall. This will feature unsettling readings from Robert Shearman (writer for Dr. Who, and author of Remember Why You Fear Me, the World Fantasy Award-winning Tiny Deaths, and the Shirley Jackson Award-, the British Fantasy Award-, and the Edge Hill Short Story Reader’s Prize-winning Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical), V.H. Leslie (author of World Fantasy Award-, and the British Fantasy Award-nominated Skein and Bone, and Bodies of Water), and D.P. Watt (author of Almost Insentient, Almost Divine, and The Phantasmagorical Imperative: and Other Fabrications). There will then be a panel discussion and audience Q&A. Free admission. For further details contact the Box Office.

(15) WHERE POKEMON DON’T GO. The Washington Post’s Peter Hermann reports that Curtis Combs, of Somerset, Kentucky, was arrested after he jumped over the White House fence in a Pikachu outfit because he wanted to post a video on YouTube and become famous.

But the man, identified as Curtis Combs, of Somerset, Ky., told arresting officers that the Secret Service closed in too quickly, interrupting his recording of a “pre-jump” ritual.

With police nearing, Combs told police he decided to try getting over the fence anyway, and he made it into a restricted area where he was caught and handcuffed….

The court document does not indicate a reason for the Pokémon costume. Combs reportedly told police that he had researched others who had attempted or successfully gotten onto White House grounds and knew the type of criminal sentences they received. He said he knew he would be arrested. A man in 2014 was caught on the White House lawn dressed in a Pikachu hat and carrying a Pokémon doll.

(16) ALT COMICS.  As might be expected, PJ Media planted a big smooch on Vox Day and his crowdfunded AltHero comics project in “Vox Day’s AltHero Comic Book Challenges SJW Marvel, DC Comics”, uncritically passing on every claim he’s ever made about himself.

“I was astonished, actually. I knew that people were angry about the way social justice warriors have destroyed traditional superheroes, but I didn’t realize just how eager they were for an alternative,” he said. “Of course, the way the SJWs on Twitter completely freaked out over Rebel and the existence of the project didn’t exactly hurt.”

Rebel has become the stand-out hero of the upcoming series and she seems to resonate the most with fans. She is beautifully drawn in the classic superhero style but seems to always be losing part of her costume.

… “The idea that there can be politics-free comics when everything from going to the ladies room to playing video games has been politicized is utterly absurd,” he quipped. “It would be like ignoring the existence of Nazis during World War II or of Soviets during the Cold War,” he argued. “The problem with Marvel and DC is not so much that they have injected politics into comics, but that they ruthlessly sacrifice the stories and even the traditional superheroes on the altar of their social justice agenda.”

Day is one of the godfathers of the much-maligned Alt-Right. But those who try to call him a white nationalist or supremacist fail miserably because he is only part white, claiming Native American and Mexican heritage and speaking out vocally against any form of racial supremacism.

(17) VALUES REVEALED. Earlier this month, LGBTQ Nation’s Jeff Taylor lit into the new comics line in “‘Alt-Right’ comic book meant to ‘trigger’ progressives is as awful as you’d expect”.

Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day, said in a Periscope video that he “intended to challenge and eventually replace the SJW (short for “social justice warrior) converged comics of DC and Marvel.”

“They believe that comics is their turf, and SJWs have been moving forward, advancing for decades,” he added. “They have been methodically eradicating traditional values, they have been methodically eradicating Western civilization.”

He has said that “they know they are the true villains and the enemy in the cultural war.”

At time of writing, Beale’s fundraiser has raised over $66,000 dollars.

What, exactly, are these sacred values being erased from comic books that must be saved? Advertising smoking, pushing the concept of undocumented immigrants as dangerous criminals worthy of vigilante justice, and the promotion of the traitorous Confederate flag.

(18) TRAILER PARK. Marvel’s Punisher, official trailer #2:

[Thanks to IanP, James Bacon, John King Tarpinian, David K.M.Klaus, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/11/17 A Scrolling, OverCommenting, Tin-Pixeled Fifth-tator With Delusions Of Godstalkhood

(1) WHAT DID HE SAY? Scott Edelman hopes you will eavesdrop on his breakfast with the award-winning Chen Qiufan in Episode 49 of Eating the Fantastic.

Chen Qiufan

Chen Qiufan has published more thirty stories in venues such as Science Fiction World, Esquire, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Interzone, and F&SF. His 2013 debut novel, The Waste Tide, was praised by Liu Cixin as “the pinnacle of near-future SF writing.” He’s the most widely translated young writer of science fiction in China. He has won Taiwan’s Dragon Fantasy Award, China’s Galaxy and Nebula Awards, and a Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Award with Ken Liu.

We discussed why his favorite character from all of science fiction is Mr. Spock, what kept him going during the seven years between the sales of his first and second stories, the reasons H. G. Wells is a genius, why he believes science fiction is the greatest realism, the differences in reading protocols between Chinese and non-Chinese readers, why he hopes his own upcoming science fiction movie will defy his prediction there’ll be many bad SF movies to come in Chinese cinema, and more.

(2) SPACE AGING. Every TV viewer has heard about the problems of overweight – it turns out being weightless isn’t good for your health, either. The Brisbane Times has the story: “Astronaut Scott Kelly on the devastating effects of a year in space”.

I make it to my bedroom without incident and close the door behind me. Every part of my body hurts. All my joints and all of my muscles are protesting the crushing pressure of gravity. I’m also nauseated, though I haven’t thrown up. I strip off my clothes and get into bed, relishing the feeling of sheets, the light pressure of the blanket over me, the fluff of the pillow under my head.

All these are things I’ve missed dearly for the past year. I can hear the happy chatter of my family behind the door, voices I haven’t heard for a long time without the distortion of phones bouncing signals off satellites. I drift off to sleep to the comforting sound of their talking and laughing.

A crack of light wakes me: Is it morning? No, it’s just Amiko coming to bed. I’ve only been asleep for a couple of hours but I feel delirious. It’s a struggle to come to consciousness enough to move, to tell her how awful I feel. I’m seriously nauseated now, feverish, and my pain has gotten worse. This isn’t like how I felt after my last mission. This is much, much worse.

Kelly’s article ends with a comment about prospects for an interplanetary mission.

…I also know that if we want to go to Mars, it will be very, very difficult, it will cost a great deal of money and it may likely cost human lives. But I know now that if we decide to do it, we can.

(3) INDIES ADMITTED. SFWA President Cat Rambo, in “SFWA and Independent Writers, Part Three: Launches and Lurches”, continues her four-part series about the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s decision to admit independently published writers.

Some statistics for the number-minded:

  • We admitted twelve new members in that first wave, and there’s been a steady influx since. At the same time, existing members that had independent published experience felt more empowered to step forward and share their knowledge.
  • According to the recent membership survey, 14.10% of the current membership identifies as indie, with another 37.57% considering themselves hybrid.
  • Only a small percentage (less than 5%) derives more than 50% of their income from crowdfunding.

All My Expectations of Indie SFWA Members Confirmed As I and others had argued repeatedly, the change did not result in an influx of unqualified, affluent hobbyists trying to buy their way into SFWA, and we could, finally, put that particular straw man to rest and play taps while other straw folk were being assembled in the background.

As you can see by the numbers, it wasn’t a massive surge, but a solid number. For some people it was part of a lifelong dream. For others, it was a cautious exploration of just what SFWA had to offer them. More than anything else, these were pragmatic, working writers. In a thread on the discussion boards, people began to share their sales number in a revelatory and instructive way that emphasized what a smart move for SFWA this had been. I still insist one of the smartest moves that happened during my time with the board.

The balance of the post discusses specific ways that indie members benefit from SFWA membership. It ends with hints about a forthcoming awards-oriented project….

Next time, in Part Four (the final one) — what does the future hold in store? Includes talking about data from the recent SFWA member survey as well as revelation of at least one cool project designed to help people reading novels for all yearly awards, including the Nebulas, Hugos, Dragon, World Fantasy, among others. *cue mysterious music and exit*

(4) LIBRARIES ENJOY COPYRIGHT EXCEPTION. The Internet Archive reports “Books from 1923 to 1941 Now Liberated!”

The Internet Archive is now leveraging a little known, and perhaps never used, provision of US copyright law, Section 108h, which allows libraries to scan and make available materials published 1923 to 1941 if they are not being actively sold….

If the Founding Fathers had their way, almost all works from the 20th century would be public domain by now (14-year copyright term, renewable once if you took extra actions).

Some corporations saw adding works to the public domain to be a problem, and when Sonny Bono got elected to the House of Representatives, representing part of Los Angeles, he helped push through a law extending copyright’s duration another 20 years to keep things locked-up back to 1923.  This has been called the Mickey Mouse Protection Act due to one of the motivators behind the law, but it was also a result of Europe extending copyright terms an additional twenty years first. If not for this law, works from 1923 and beyond would have been in the public domain decades ago….

But there is an exemption from this extension of copyright, but only for libraries and only for works that are not actively for sale — we can scan them and make them available. Professor Townsend Gard had two legal interns work with the Internet Archive last summer to find how we can automate finding appropriate scanned books that could be liberated, and hand-vetted the first books for the collection. Professor Townsend Gard has just released an in-depth paper giving libraries guidance as to how to implement Section 108(h) based on her work with the Archive and other libraries. Together, we have called them “Last Twenty” Collections, as libraries and archives can copy and distribute to the general public qualified works in the last twenty years of their copyright….

(5) FROM PAGE TO SCREEN. Paste Magazine listed “The 25 Best Comic Book TV Shows of All Time (Live-Action)” – how do their picks line up with yours?

The trend shows no signs of slowing—we count at least 20 shows from DC and Marvel alone, including such ambitious projects as a Damon Lindelof-helmed Watchmen on HBO, the long-awaited Y: The Last Man series on FX, The Punisher spinoff on Netflix and Hulu’s Runaways, whose pilot screening hooked me enough to at least keep watching. This list may look a lot different in a few years.

Number six is the Adam West/Burt Ward Batman series of the Sixties.

(6) LACE OBIT. The SFWA Blog reports the organization’s former secretary (2002-2003) ElizaBeth A. Gilligan (Lace) died October 9 after a battle with cancer.

Gilligan published her first short story, Evolution,” in 1990 and began writing as a columnist for Midnight Zoo in 1991.

Subsequent short stories appeared in Witch FantasticSword and SorceressBlack Gate, and other anthologies.  Her story “Iron Joan” made the Nebula preliminary ballot in 2002.  Gilligan’s Silken Magic trilogy was published by DAW Books, with the first volume, Magic’s Silken Snare, appearing in 2003 and the second volume The Silken Shroud showing up the next year.

The final volume, Sovereign Silk, was delayed until earlier this year due to chronic illness.  She edited the anthology Alterna-Teas in 2016….

SFWA President Cat Rambo said, “I had the pleasure with working with Beth as a volunteer the past couple of years and got a chance to interact with her in person at the Spokane Worldcon. This year has had a lot of losses; this one hits particularly hard.”

Locus Online says she is survived by her husband Douglas (married 1982), their two children, and two grandchildren.

Tom Whitmore, one of the fans who forwarded the story, added “She was a remarkably nice person, and a really good panelist at the cons I saw her at.”

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 11, 1984 — Space Shuttle astronaut, Kathy Sullivan, became the first American woman to walk in space.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

John King Tarpinian selected this one for Filers who are not fans of Twilight The Argyle Sweater.

(9) ICONOCLASTIC INFUNDIBULUM. It’s said: “You can pick your friends. You can pick your nose. But you can’t pick your friends’ noses.” John Scalzi disagrees —

(10) A COMING ATTRACTION. Disney theme parks will be offering a pioneer VR adventure, Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire – ILMxLAB and The VOID – Immersive Entertainment Experience

A galaxy far, far away needs your help. In teams of four, be transported with family and friends in a brand new hyper-reality experience from Lucasfilm, ILMxLAB and The VOID. Under the orders of the budding rebellion, your team will travel to the molten planet of Mustafar. Your mission is to recover Imperial intelligence vital to the rebellion’s survival. Alongside the pragmatic droid K-2S0, your team must navigate through an enemy facility walking into danger at every turn. Disguised as stormtroopers, grab your blaster, solve puzzles, and fight giant lava monsters in an effort to fulfill your team’s orders. Pushing the boundaries of location-based virtual reality, The VOID and ILMxLAB bring the Star Wars universe to life through a multi-sensory, untethered story. See Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire only on location at Disney Springs in Orlando, FL, and Downtown Disney in Anaheim, CA – coming this winter.

 

(11) OPEN AND CLOSED. David Steffen’s SFWA Market Report for October tells the changing status of many sff magazines and publishing projects.

(12) WHAT’S THE MATTER? New Scientist says “Half the universe’s missing matter has just been finally found”.

The missing links between galaxies have finally been found. This is the first detection of the roughly half of the normal matter in our universe – protons, neutrons and electrons – unaccounted for by previous observations of stars, galaxies and other bright objects in space.

You have probably heard about the hunt for dark matter, a mysterious substance thought to permeate the universe, the effects of which we can see through its gravitational pull. But our models of the universe also say there should be about twice as much ordinary matter out there, compared with what we have observed so far.

Two separate teams found the missing matter – made of particles called baryons rather than dark matter – linking galaxies together through filaments of hot, diffuse gas.

(13) MONEY ROLLS IN FOR ALTHERO. “AltHero raises $100k to fight social justice in comics,” says the subject line of an emailed press release, which sounds about right.

Vox Day’s crowdsourced appeal on the Freestartr platform to fund his new comics line has raised $102,156.00 from 1,133 backers, more than 4 times its original $25,000 goal. The appeal runs for another 18 days.

After reaching its initial funding goal in only four hours, a new right-wing comic series, Alt*Hero, exceeded the rare $100,000 mark in just 12 days, with more than 1,000 backers signing on to help the alternative comic wage cultural war on the social justice-converged comic duopoly of Marvel and DC Comics. It is being written by prolific Marvel and DC Comics veteran writer Chuck Dixon and six-time Hugo Award Finalist Vox Day.

The press release makes a point of quoting derogatory remarks about the appeal to motivate donations from culture warriors on the right.

…The reaction to the announcement of Alt*Hero was decidedly mixed. While support has been strong on the right side of the ideological spectrum, left-wing comics fans denounced the new comic on Twitter and other social media platforms. “As awful as you’d expect,” reported LGBTQ Nation. “Vox Day is literally to the right of Genghis Khan, with two feet planted firmly in the Reichstag… the type of punk-ass feeb whose jaw Batman was born to break,” declared Jason Yungbluth, a cartoonist for MAD Magazine.

(14) MEANWHILE, BACK IN SJW LAND. No money in it, but some good laughs for those of you who enjoy stories of mistaken SJW credential identity.

(15) MILEHICON. The 49th annual MileHiCon takes place at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center from October 27-29. More than 100 science fiction/fantasy/horror authors, artists and other speakers will participate. MileHiCon’s guests of honor include authors Eric Flint, Jane Lindskold, and artist Carrie Ann Baade. Local author Jason Heller will preside as toastmaster.

  • The largest SF/fantasy art show and auction in Colorado
  • Round-the-clock gaming
  • Vendors room full of science fiction, fantasy and horror-related items
  • CosPlay (costume) contest
  • Critter Crunch (robotic sumo wrestling)
  • Mass author autograph session with over 60 authors participating (no extra fees)
  • Literacy Auction with hundreds of donated items. All proceeds donated to a Denver based charity literacy program.
  • During the weekend over 200 different programs will be offered on subjects ranging from Writing * Publishing * Artist demonstrations * Hands-on Workshops * Science presentations * Autograph sessions * Kids’ programming * Costuming * Gaming * and much more!

A three-day membership will be $48 at the door. Full weekend memberships can also be purchased in advance at https://milehicon49.planningpod.com/.

(16) TAG TEAM ROBOTS. Pacific Rim Uprising trailer. In theaters March 23.

(17) MOUNT TBR CALLING. Broaden your horizons: “The great writers forgotten by history” at the BBC is a discussion of The Book of Forgotten Authors, by sometime-genre author Christopher Fowler.

What do Agatha Christie’s favourite mystery novelist, the winner of the 1973 Booker Prize, and a writer who reputedly bashed out 100 million words, creating an archetypal schoolboy antihero along the way, have in common?

The answer will cause even the most successful author’s ego to wilt a little. Despite enjoying ample sales and plentiful esteem in their lifetimes, the names of this formerly starry trio – Elizabeth Daly, JG Farrell, and Billy-Bunter-creator Charles Hamilton (pen name Frank Richards) – are today largely unknown, their works under-read or out of print altogether. Now, they’re among the figures filling a thought-provoking new guide, The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler.

(18) BEFORE ALAN TURING. The BBC celebrated Ada Lovelace Day (October 10) with a look at “The female code-breakers who were left out of history books”.

According to some of the researchers and writers who have revealed these stories, along with setting the record straight, there is an opportunity to encourage the technically gifted women of today.

Fagone points to the controversial discussions of whether women can equal men in certain fields, such as mathematics or computer programming.

“There are all these debates – is there a biological difference?” he says.

“We don’t need to have that debate because we have the history – when you go to the history, women have been there, they’ve been doing this work all along.”

(19) TEST YOUR BUDS. Identify the flavor and you have a chance to win big money.

OREO has launched a brand new cookie with an exciting twist that will put its fans taste buds to the ultimate test.

Cookie lovers across the U.S. who correctly guess the flavor of the new Mystery OREO Cookies can enter for a chance to win $50,000.

John King Tarpinian’s guess is, “Broccoli!”

(20) ELECTRIC DREAMS TRAILER. Amazon Video is bringing out a 10-episode series, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams.

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, Dave Doering, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Alan Baumler, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Rambo, Tom Whitmore, Joel Zakem, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 9/29/17 Like The Best And Worst Of Typos That Lose Control

(1) TASTING SESSION. James Davis Nicoll feeds his test subjects “Ugly Chickens” by Howard Waldrop at Young People Read Old SFF.

With so many works to choose from, which of Waldrop’s stories to pick? “The Ugly Chickens” seemed like a safe bet; the setting is comfortably mundane and it won both the Nebula and World Fantasy Award, as well as garnering nominations for the Hugo, the Locus and the Balrog. I’ve been wrong before; what did the Young People actually think?

Some say yay. Not Mikayla:

I’m not generally a fan of this style of story anyway, but it didn’t matter because I was pretty much done by the third paragraph.

(2) HOME COOKING. Aaron Pound has launched the “The Ad Astra Cooking Project” at Dreaming About Other Worlds.

I recently acquired Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook, a collection of recipes from members of the Science Fiction Writers of America edited by Cat Rambo and Fran Wilde. As with all things, I intend to review it, but reviewing a cookbook poses a challenge that most other books do not: There is really no way to accurately review the book based upon reading it. Cookbooks are interactive – you can only appreciate them if you cook the recipes and eat them. So that is exactly what I am going to do….

The book was created to raise funds for the SFWA Legal Fund to support writers in need. The overall theme of the recipes in the book is supposed to be “party”, working on the theory that writers know how to throw a party. A lot of the recipes were solicited for this work, but some were originally collected by Astrid and Greg Bear for a cookbook that was never published. The introductory material includes Connie Willis passing on some excellent cooking advice from Charles Brown, and Carrie Vaughn explaining how to create a cocktail laboratory, including a couple of recipes for some classic cocktails to try. Larry Niven contributes a chapter on how to serve hundreds of cups of Irish Coffee to eager convention-attendees, an essay that is clearly informed by lots of experience….

First out of the oven is — “Ajvar by K.V. Johansen”.

The first recipe in Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook is one that K.V. Johansen discovered when some of her books were translated into Macedonian and she began traveling to the Republic of Macedonia, presumably to promote her work. Ajvar is an eggplant and bell pepper concoction flavored with garlic, cider vinegar or lemon juice, and hot sauce that can be served as a spread on naan or bread….

(3) CHANGING COLORS OF THE SEASON. It’s time for Petréa Mitchell’s “Fall 2017 SF Anime Preview” at Amazing Stories. Here’s one example of what you have to look forward to –

ClassicaLoid 2

The premise: More surreal comedy about characters patterned on famous composers using musical powers to bend reality. And Antonín Dvo?ák will be a pygmy hippopotamus.

Derivative factor: Sequel

The buzz: The first ClassicaLoid was a surprise hit in Japan, but there’s less enthusiasm about it in English-speaking fandom.

Premiere: October 7

(4) ALL FALL. Meanwhile, back on American TV — “Your Guide To (The Many, Many) Sci-Fi And Fantasy TV Premieres And Returns In October” from Creators.

The Fall season launched in September with over a dozen returns and premieres, but things really kick into gear in October. At current count there are 23 (!) shows returning to the schedule or starting their freshman seasons this month, and that means you have quite a lot of #scifi and #fantasy shows to pick from. Below is a rundown of the October entries and you can see the full Fall schedule here.

 

(5) CLASSIC SF BOUND FOR TV. Deadline has a blast of genre news: “Amazon Developing ‘Ringworld’, ‘Lazarus’ & ‘Snow Crash’ In Genre Series Push”.

Amazon has set up three high-profile drama series for development: Ringworld, based on Larry Niven’s classic science fiction book; Lazarus, based on the comic book by Greg Rucka (Jessica Jones); and Snow Crash, based on Neal Stephenson’s cult novel.

The streaming platform has been ramping up its slate with new projects as part of a programming strategy overhaul in search of big, buzzy shows. A major emphasis has been put on fast-tracking big-scope genre drama series in the mold of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, with Sharon Tal, brought in earlier this year as Head Of Event Series, tasked with spearheading efforts. The deals for Ringworld, Lazarus and Snow Crash are part of that push….

More discussion at the link.

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman beckons his audience to “Ruminate over reindeer with Johanna Sinisalo in Episode 48 of Eating the Fantastic.

Johanna Sinisalo

Joining me this episode was Johanna Sinisalo, who was one of this year’s Worldcon Guests of Honor. Her first novel, Ennen päivänlaskua ei voi (Not Before Sundown) won the Finlandia Prize for Literature in 2000 and the James Tiptree Jr. Memorial award in 2004. Her novel Enkelten vert (Blood of Angels) won the English PEN Award. She was a Nebula Award nominee in 2009 for “Baby Doll.” Her novel Auringon ydin (The Core of the Sun) recently won the 2017 Prometheus Award for Best Novel. She has won the Atorox award for the best Finnish-language SF short story seven times.

We discussed what she learned in advertising that helped her be a better writer, how Moomins helped set her on the path to becoming a creator, why she held off attempting a novel until she had dozens of short stories published, the reason the Donald Duck comics of Carl Barks were some of her greatest inspirations, the circuitous way being an actor eventually led to her writing the science fiction film Iron Sky, and more.

(7) KINGS GO FORTH. Daniel Dern says, “This NPR segment gives a good sense of what the King father/son event I went to was like – some of the readings and the schmoozing, including many of the same points and anecdotes I heard them do in person. (hardly surprisingly).” — “Stephen And Owen King On The Horror Of A World Without Women In ‘Sleeping Beauties’, Author interview by Mary Louise Kelly”, initially on NPR’s Morning Edition.

(8) CAVEAT EMPTOR. These are supposed to be Top 10 Facts You Didn’t Know About Star Trek Discovery. If it turns out you knew them, I don’t know where you go for a refund.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

Chip Hitchcock and John King Tarpinian send this warning about a peril for Filers, in yesterday’s Bizarro.

(10) SAFETY FIRST. John Scalzi’s question elicits a thread of entertaining answers….

(11) HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, WESLEY. Teresa Jusino is giving orders at The Mary Sue: “Star Trek: TNG at 30: Here’s Why Wesley Crusher Was Awesome, So You Just Shut Up.”.

Basically, the moral of so many episodes of TNG was basically Hey adults! Maybe if you’d listen to Wesley instead of telling him to shut up all the time, you might learn something! In “The Naked Now,” the entire Enterprise crew is infected with a Polywater intoxication that makes everyone all primal and horny and totally into their own deepest desires. So, naturally, what’s the oft-ignored Wesley’s deepest desire? (Besides Ashley Judd?) That’s right, he makes himself the Acting Captain of the ship thanks to a doohickey that he made for fun that can replicate Captain Picard’s voice.

And yet, even while under the influence, he’s such a genius that he’s able to figure out how to quickly turn the ship’s tractor beam into a repulsor beam when the adult Chief of Engineering tells him it would be too hard. He uses the repulsor beam to propel the disabled Enterprise away from another ship, narrowly avoiding the fragments of an exploding star that would’ve hit them. This is the kind of thing Wesley Crusher was capable of on a bad day….

(12) THE MONEY KEEPS ROLLING IN. Vox Day’s crowdfunded Alt*Hero raised $37,000 of its $25,000 goal in about a day. Three donations account for $10,000 of the receipts, however, the site reports 426 backers so far.

A new alternative comic series intended to challenge and eventually replace the SJW-converged comics of DC and Marvel.

(13) AVENGERS GO BOOM. But he may not be able to keep pace with Marvel’s effort to replace itself —

It’s the end of an Avengers Era as we know it! And in the team’s final days, a change has come to the Marvel Universe in the form of a story that’s filled with so much action and so much drama, Marvel had no choice but to make it a weekly epic!

Beginning this January, Marvel will unleash the epic AVENGERS: NO SURRENDER with AVENGERS #675, a weekly saga that unites the casts and creative teams of three titles into an epic tale of heroic action, jaw-dropping cliffhangers, and drastic adventures! The AVENGERS, UNCANNY AVENGERS and U.S. AVENGERS come together in a powerhouse of an event that will be unleashed in a story as spectacular and epic as the Marvel Universe itself.

Featuring one of Marvel’s biggest collaborations to date, each issue will be co-written by superstar writers Mark Waid, Al Ewing and Jim Zub with art by Pepe Larraz for the first month, Kim Jacinto for the second month, and Paco Medina for the third month.

(14) REMINDS ME OF HEINLEIN. More dreams: “Elon Musk says rockets will fly people from city to city in minutes”.

Mr Musk made the promise at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Adelaide, Australia.

A promotional video says the London-New York journey would take 29 minutes.

Mr Musk told the audience he aimed to start sending people to Mars in 2024. His SpaceX company would begin building the necessary ships to support the mission next year.

He says he is refocusing SpaceX to work on just one type of vehicle – known as the BFR – which could do all of the firm’s current work and interplanetary travel.

(15) SURF’S UP. The BBC reports a journal article: “Tsunami drives species ‘army’ across Pacific to US coast”.

Scientists have detected hundreds of Japanese marine species on US coasts, swept across the Pacific by the deadly 2011 tsunami.

Mussels, starfish and dozens of other creatures great and small travelled across the waters, often on pieces of plastic debris.

Researchers were surprised that so many survived the long crossing, with new species still washing up in 2017.

The study is published in the journal Science.

(16) GENE FIXING. Beyond CRISPR: “DNA surgery on embryos removes disease”.

Precise “chemical surgery” has been performed on human embryos to remove disease in a world first, Chinese researchers have told the BBC.

The team at Sun Yat-sen University used a technique called base editing to correct a single error out of the three billion “letters” of our genetic code.

They altered lab-made embryos to remove the disease beta-thalassemia. The embryos were not implanted.

The team says the approach may one day treat a range of inherited diseases.

(17) DANGER UXB. Neat video: “WW2 bombs blown up at sea in Japan”.
US-made shells have been destroyed in a controlled underwater explosion in Japan.

(18) KILLING GROUND. Real-life source of some “Call of Duty” scenery: “The deadly germ warfare island abandoned by the Soviets”.

That expert was Dave Butler, who ended up going with them. “There was a lot that could have gone wrong,” he says. As a precaution, Butler put the entire team on antibiotics, starting the week before. As a matter of necessity, they wore gas masks with hi-tech air filters, thick rubber boots and full white forensic-style suits, from the moment they arrived.

They weren’t being paranoid. Aerial photographs taken by the CIA in 1962 revealed that while other islands had piers and fish-packing huts, this one had a rifle range, barracks and parade ground. But that wasn’t even the half of it. There were also research buildings, animal pens and an open-air testing site. The island had been turned into a military base of the most dangerous kind: it was a bioweapons testing facility.

(19) THANKS, DONORS. David Steffen’s Long List Anthology is getting longer — “3 Novellas Added! All 3 Print Copies Reward!”

9 days left to go in the campaign, and we’ve reached another stretch goal to add 3 novellas which adds another 58,000 words to the book!  All 3 excellent science fiction stories by S.B. Divya, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Gu Shi with translation by Ken Liu and S. Qiouyi Lu.

I’ve also added a reward level that includes a print and ebook copy of each of the 3 volumes of the anthology for $80–if you’ve already pledged but you’d like print copies of all 3 you can choose to upgrade.

There are still a couple of stretch goals left.  The next one’s just a short hop of $58 from where we are now to add “We Have a Cultural Difference, Can I Taste You” by Rebecca Ann Jordan.  And another $300 beyond that to add one more novella “Hammers on Bone” by Cassandra Khaw.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the address:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This week Mark Twain has a new book out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last’s year’s maze looked like this:

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

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

Pixel Scroll 9/7/17 As I Was Scrolling Down The Stair, I Met A Pixel Who Wasn’t There

(1) REDRUM. James Davis Nicoll continues to chart the core: “Twenty Core Cyberpunk Works Every True SF Fan Should Have on Their Shelves”. He says the image at the post is of Uwaterloo’s famous Red Room. Here are three of his cyberpunk picks:

  • Synners by Pat Cadigan
  • The Fortunate Fall by Raphael Carter
  • When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger

(2) BATTENING DOWN TATOOINE. Is this anything like a silver lining? “Due to the hurricane, Disney World has removed some construction walls — which means we can see Star Wars Land”. Photos at the link.

First and foremost, there is a Category 5 hurricane, Hurricane Irma, hurtling towards Florida at a rapid pace and we hope everyone in the Sunshine State is staying as safe as possible, evacuating if that’s been ordered, and has plenty of water.

While Irma’s path across Florida is still unclear (it’s not expected to make landfall till the weekend), Disney World has already started making preparing for torrential rain and high winds. Things that can be bolted down have been bolted down, and things that are apt to blow away in the gusts of wind — like say, a fence and a tarp — have been removed. This means that many of the construction walls around Star Wars Land have come down. And this means, we can see the outskirts of Star Wars Land, and yes please.

(3) STAY FROSTY. The Society of Illustrators in New York is displaying a selection of work from Greg Manchess’ Above the Timberline from September 5 through October 28 in the Third Floor Hall of Fame Gallery.

The Society is pleased to present a selection of work from Greg Manchess’ latest stunning masterpiece Above the Timberline. This lavishly painted novel tells the story of the son of a famed explorer searching for his stranded father, and a lost city buried under the snows of a future frozen Earth.

When it started to snow, it didn’t stop for 1,500 years. The Pole Shift that ancient climatologists talked about finally came, the topography was ripped apart and the weather of the world was changed—forever. Now the Earth is covered in snow, and to unknown depths in some places. In this world, Wes Singleton leaves the academy in search of his father, the famed explorer Galen Singleton, who was searching for a lost city until Galen’s expedition was cut short after being sabotaged. But Wes believes his father is still alive somewhere above the timberline. Fully illustrated with over 120 pieces of full-page artwork throughout, Above the Timberline is a stunning and cinematic combination of art and novel.

Opening Reception on Thursday, September 28th, 6:30 pm. Open to the public. Cash bar. $10 suggested donation will benefit arts programming and exhibitions.

(4) ASKING FOR DONATIONS. Australian writer Lezli Robyn needs help paying for a procedure that will keep her eyesight from deteriorating further. Her employer has set up a GoFundMe. George R.R. Martin is one of many encouraging people to give.

Many of you know Lesley Robyn Glover (and I would like to introduce you to her if you don’t). She writes sf/fantasy as Lezli Robyn and works as my Assistant Publisher for Arc Manor…. What many of you who already know her may not realize is that due to a rare eye disorder, which is progressively getting worse, she is now considered legally blind without correction. When Lezli was 23 she was diagnosed with an unusual condition, Keratoconus, which is characterised by a progressive conical protusion of the cornea that results in her eyesight being distorted, to the point where she sees multiple images on top of each other and are no longer clear….

Since I pay Lezli Robyn I know what she earns–and it is not enough to be able to easily afford to pay for the treatment without which her eyeseight will continue to get worse.  I am also aware of financial and medical difficulties her parents are undergoing and it is almost impossible for them to fund the treatment. Currently a minimum of $2500 for each eye is required just for the basic procedure (not including specialist tests. medications, etc.) in Australia and it’s not covered by Lezli’s Australian medicare (see Optometry Australia’s article about it here ). The cost in the US, of course, can be significantly greater (up to $4000 per eye!) so it may actually be cheaper for her to fly to Australia to get the procudure rather than have it done in the US.

So I am asking our friends to join me in raising money for Lezli to be able to get this procedure done as soon as possible–before her eyesight gets worse. Keratoconus does eventually slow down in its progression but there is no specific timeframe, and in Lezli’s case the progession has consistantly continued unabated.

(5) NEXT YEAR’S HUGOS. The Hugo Award Book Club has updated their list of award-worthy 2017 works: “What’s worth considering for the ballot in 2018?”  For example:

Short Story

A Passing Sickness — Paolo Bacigalupi

Sanctuary — Allen Steele

Paradox — Naomi Kritzer

The Secret Life Of Bots — Suzanne Palmer

(6) RUN AWAY. Dominic Patten at Deadline joins the growing number of critics who’ve turned thumbs down: “‘The Orville’ Review: Seth MacFarlane’s Fox Sci-Fi Drama Is Lost In Space”.

Honestly, if your need for sci-fi is gnawing at you, hold your powder a couple more weeks and wait for Star Trek: Discovery, which premieres September 24. Even with the highly skilled likes of Norm Macdonald, Transparent’s Jeffery Tambor, Holland Taylor, 24 vet Penny Johnson Jerald and Victor Garber making appearances alongside the Family Guy guy and the Friday Night Lights alum, The Orville’s aspirations to find a new path to the final frontier in this age of Peak TV goes nowhere frat-boy fast.

In fact, with its urination gags and heavy-handedness on such topics as gender identity and racism, the only purpose of the lost-in-space The Orville seems to be to as a way for Fox to continue its lucrative relationship with MacFarlane and keep him happy.

(7) NOT ALL WIGHT MEN. Actor Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jamie Lannister in Game of Thrones, in this interview discusses the possibility of main characters becoming Wights.

(8) MARS: ONE SCOOP OR TWO? The Planetary Society has notified members:

On August 28th, NASA’s Associate Administrator of Science announced that the space agency intends to accelerate planning for a sample return mission to Mars to launch no earlier than 2026. A new Mars telecommunications orbiter would take a backseat to an increased focus on building a fetch rover and a “Mars ascent vehicle” to launch samples into orbit.

Never before has NASA had approval from the budget masters at the White House to pursue such a mission. So, take it from me: this is a very positive step. There are a lot of details yet to be announced, and we will now look forward to the 2019 budget proposal currently being drafted by NASA and the White House to see how serious these plans are.

We have been working hard to help the Mars program, and thousands of Planetary Society members helped by sending messages to Congress and the White House. Congress has already signaled its support by proposing over $60 million in new funding for Mars next year in support of a future mission. Now, NASA has said it intends to bring Mars home to Earth. Thank you to all who took action. There are exciting times ahead.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Buy A Book Day

The History of Buy a Book Day: Buy a Book Day was created in 2012 to educate people to the importance of books to our culture and civilisation as a whole. It is inarguable that books have been one of the greatest contributors to the advancement of the human race, by moving the hearts of many over the ages, stimulating their imaginations and helping them see the world in an entirely different light. Books have also served the simple but vital purpose of passing knowledge down from generation to generation. The creators of Buy a Book Day want nothing more than for people take a moment to truly appreciate books and their numerous roles in the human experience.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 7, 1958Queen of Outer Space premiered.
  • September 7, 1974 – The (animated) Partridge Family 2200 A.D. first aired on TV
  • September 7, 1984 — The Brother from Another Planet first screened in theatres.

(11) QUICK CALL. Almost makes the tricorder look like steampunk technology: “‘Pen’ identifies cancer in 10 seconds”.

How it works

The pen is touched on to a suspected cancer and releases a tiny droplet of water.

Chemicals inside the living cells move into the droplet, which is then sucked back up the pen for analysis.

The pen is plugged into a mass spectrometer – a piece of kit that can measure the mass of thousands of chemicals every second.

It produces a chemical fingerprint that tells doctors whether they are looking at healthy tissue or cancer.

(12) TALE OF THE SHARKE. Jonathan McCalmont’s “Lessons of Sharke” comments on his purposes in serving on the Shadow Clarke jury.

I was happy to get involved in the Shadow Clarke project because I wanted to a) help challenge the presumed supremacy of genre publishing by broadening the discourse to include science fiction novels from outside that cultural sphere and b) show that it was possible for regular readers to engage with the literature of science fiction in public using not only the full range of their emotions but also their own ideas about what constitutes good writing and good science fiction.

Regardless of whether you want to provoke change in existing social structures or create new social spaces embodying different principles, you need to be able to show what you’re about… if only to prove that alternatives to the status quo can exist. The Shadow Clarke project was by no means a flawless undertaking but I think it was successful not only in broadening the scope of genre discourse but also in demonstrating that ordinary readers can contribute more than simply hitting retweet and dutifully nominating their faves.

I expected both hostility and opposition because the Shadow Clarke project embodies a very different set of ideas about how we ought to engage with science fiction on the internet. Some might argue that those ideas and methods have always been present in genre culture but times change and cases must always be made anew. Looking back over the months I spent as a Sharke, I am proud of the writing we produced as a group; I think we championed books that would otherwise have been completely overlooked in genre circles and I think we provided dozens of articles that interrogate science fiction from a variety of nuanced and personal positions.

(13) BALLAD OF THE MTA. And our fate is still unlearned….

(14) THEY BITE. Camestros Felapton tells why “The Alt-Right View of ‘Free Speech’ isn’t Even Simplistic”, and illustrates his point with an example of how the Alt-Right turned on Vox Day.

The slow coalescence of various species of online misogyny and trolling into the modern crypto-fascist ‘Alt-Right’ has been entangled with a more general appeal for ‘free speech’ in odd circumstances. These kinds of appeals were often directed at internet comments sections and forums as arguments against community guidelines or in defence of those arguing for active discrimination or even violence against various groups. As appeals went, their purpose was primarily aimed at trying to fool liberals and conservatives into not taking action against people who were actively trying to disrupt online communities, harass vulnerable people or shout down opposing views – indeed actions that themselves were inimical to free speech.

(15) A SPARKLING BEVERAGE? From the Brooklyn Eagle comes this item: “No Bad Blood Over Unicorn Coffee”.

A multicolored beverage named after a mythical horse doesn’t sound like something that could cause controversy, but after a couple cafes went head to head in the legal realm, a settlement cleared the air. The End, a cafe in Williamsburg argued that Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino was a rip off of its Unicorn Latte. After the two companies went up against each other in court, Brooklyn Federal Judge Arthur Spatt authorized a “mutually agreeable settlement,” according to The End’s lawyer. A Starbucks representative also said the terms, which are confidential, were mutual and the global chain no longer serves the colorful drink at its stores. (via the Daily News)

(16) BOOK RESEARCH. Sarah Gailey went right to the source and asked the (river) horse:

(17) SAY CHEESE. StarShip Sofa’s Jeremy Szal posted a suite of “Worldcon 75 Photos”. Lots of good ones. Here’s the last one in the set:

View post on imgur.com

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day C.A. Collins.]

Pixel Scroll 9/3/17 The Alpha Ralpha Boulevard Of Broken Dreams

(1) WESTEROS IN FERMENT. John King Tarpinian found these vintage wines languishing on the shelf at Pier One Imports.

(2) THE BEST WINE YET. You’ll find the rest of Ted Gioia’s essay on Dandelion Wine at Conceptual Fiction.

These efforts reached their culmination in Bradbury’s ambitions for a big “Waukegan novel,” which he sent to his publisher at the end of 1956.   Years later, the writer’s wife Maggie would mention that Dandelion Wine was Bradbury’s favorite among his books—although the author himself was more coy.  “They are all my children.  You can’t pick favorites when it comes to children.”   But if you have any doubts about how closely Bradbury identifies with this work you need merely look at is protagonist Douglas Spaulding, whose very name makes clear that he is the author’s alter ego:  Bradbury’s middle name is Douglas, and his great-grandmother’s maiden name was Spaulding.   Here in Green Town, Illinois—the stand-in for Waukegan—we follow in this boy’s path during the summer of 1928.

(3) HOPS TO IT. Woodbridge, Virginia’s Heroic Ale Works has all of their beers branded as superhero characters.  They brewed Escape Velocity Ale for the Escape Velocity convention sponsored by the Museum fo Science Fiction, which was held in Washington between September 1-3. See all the beer labels at the link.

You’ve tasted the beers, now get to know the stories behind the characters in the brand new, original ‘Heroic Aleworks Presents’ comics created by the owners of Heroic Aleworks, featuring artwork by talented artists from around the world.

(4) DEL TORO. Deadline, in “Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘The Shape Of Water’ Shines Bright In Lido Embrace – Venice”, says the director’s new SFF movie received an enthusiastic response at an Italian festival:

Guillermo del Toro gave the Venice Film Festival press corps a giant hug this morning, while also tugging — hard — at heartstrings. The press is hugging back. The filmmaker’s lyrical period fairy tale The Shape Of Water was met with sustained applause (and a fair amount of tears) as the lights rose in the Sala Darsena earlier today. Reviews that have followed are glowing, and this afternoon’s press conference was slightly delayed when reporters wouldn’t stop hooting and hollering as the filmmaker and his cast took their spots on the dais.

(5) THE SHARKE BITES. Megan AM summarized her experience as a Shadow Clarke juror in “SFatigued”. A good friend sent me the link, asking for my help in identifying who she’s talking about here. Thanks, pal!

In my mind, it was the American commentary that became the strangest and most unexpected turn of events. Suddenly, people from different corners of the USian SF blogosphere–people who admitted they never cared about or even paid attention to the Clarke Award before–suddenly had a lot to say and feel about open criticism aimed at what is becoming a corporatized award process– it appearing to be an industry award, rather than the critical award it was originally intended to be– all things they knew nothing about and took no time to comprehend. These people had a lot to say, not because they cared about the Clarke, but because… they could sense that some Sharke criticism might be aimed at their faves. And rightly so.

These people had a lot to say because they are not stupid. They are intelligent people who know exactly why something that should have nothing to do with them might feel a little bit threatening: They know their faves are not actually amazing, that they are actually inherently problematic, superficial, simplistic, dumbed down, and NOT award worthy. They know it because it is just that apparent. (And hardly worth the word count the Sharke jury spent on those books). They did not want to face it. Because they need it to feel safe. (And I get that. I really do. This is, after all, an important social sphere for many people.)

But the USian defensiveness was palpable. The stale, conservative watering hole for Hollywood Tonight-style SF news updates chronicled the Sharke process while its commenters huffed and puffed and said, “not gonna even waste my breaf on it” (but still did). Massively successful workshop authors who don’t seem to read much more than other massively successful workshop authors unloaded words about how readers like me will never appreciate the art of their simplicity (and then back-patted each other for how comforting and original they all are). (Comforting AND original! In the same sentence!) The young, white, feminist LGBTQ contingent–MY PEOPLE, goddammit–missed the big picture, as usual, because they benefit from the back-scratching, because they’re afraid to demand more of publishers and writers (because they’re afraid to demand more of themselves).

(6) SF IN POLAND. Marcin Klak, the Fandom Rover, in his Polcon report, tells who won the Janusz A. Zajdel Award:

Janusz A. Zajdel Award

The ceremony of this most prestigious Polish SF award was very simple this year. It did not include any artistic performances and was in fact just an announcement of the winners. Still, as each year, it was a very important part of the con. The results are as follows:

Best Novel

Krzysztof Piskorski — Czterdziesci i cztery (Forty and four)

Best Short Story

Lukasz Orbitowski and Michal Cetnarowski — Wywiad z Boruta (Interview with Boruta devil)

(7) FUR AND FEATHERS OVERRATED? The Guardian reports an Interesting study on the use of anthropomorphic animals in children’s books — “Children’s books with humans have greater moral impact than animals, study finds”.

Forget the morals that millennia of children have learned from the Hare and the Tortoise and the Fox and the Crow: Aesop would have had a greater effect with his fables if he’d put the stories into the mouths of human characters, at least according to new research from the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).

In the Canadian study, researchers read one of three stories to almost 100 children between four and six years old: Mary Packard’s Little Raccoon Learns to Share, in which anthropomorphic animals learn that sharing makes you feel good; a version of the story in which the animal illustrations were replaced with human characters; or a control book about seeds.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Pet Rock Day

Launched in the 1970s by advertising executive Gary Dahl, the pet rock was an antithesis to those living pets in need of regular care. It did, however, come with a mean “attack” mode. For a mere $3.95 people could adopt their very own rock, supplied on a bed of hay in an well-ventilated box. Like all things, pet rocks are more expensive these days, but you could always catch a wild one for free – just remember that undomesticated rocks may be more difficult to handle.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 3, 1976 — Viking 2 lander touched down on Mars at Utopia Planitia.

(10) COMICS SECTION. John King Tarpinian found today’s Close To Home is a moving experience.

(11) DRAGON CON ART SHOW. The Daily Dragon tells us the winners of the “2017 Dragon Con Art Show Awards”.

(12) WONDER OF THE WORLD. The Daily Dragon also covered “Life, Lust, and Laughs with John Barrowman”.

From his sparkling, shining star–filled entrance to his final innuendo, John Barrowman had the 7PM capacity crowd in the Hilton Grand Ballroom alternately in stitches and in awe. No one was safe from his star power.  His costume designers from Elhoffer Design were the first to feel his special brand of love, being unwittingly pulled on stage to celebrate his Wonder Woman outfit, complete with sparkling cape, tiara, and booty shorts. Their designs for Barrowman never cease to shock and amaze.

(13) DRAGON AWARDS CLIPPINGS. Here are miscellaneous reports and reactions to today’s Dragon Awards announcement.

More than 8,000 fans cast ballots for Dragon Award winners among 88 properties in 15 categories covering the full range of fiction, comics, television, movies, video gaming and tabletop gaming.  Winners were announced on Sept. 3 at Dragon Con, which runs September 1 to September 4, 2017 in Atlanta.

In all seriousness, congrats to Cory Doctorow on his win for “Walkaway”. The sequel to “A Place Outside The Wild” — “A Place Called Hope” — should be out in six weeks or so, and then I’ll be starting work on the follow-up to “Fade”, “Night’s Black Agents.”

Congratulations to the administrators of the Dragon Awards. In just two short years, you have ascended to the pinnacle and I feel you’ve only just got started. There may not be one of those incredible Dragon Awards sitting on my mantle (yet) but I am honored and humbled by the fact that I am, and will always be, a Dragon Award Finalist.

If I was the Dragon Award organisers I’d be happy with the results. Mainly safe choices that avoided rewarding poor behaviour.

First, I’d like to congratulate all of the nominees for the Dragon Awards. I had friends, both from cyberspace and meatspace, on the ballot. I’m sorry they didn’t win.

And now, I have a confession to make.

I didn’t vote this year. I didn’t vote for the Gemmells either.  Before anyone starts screaming about hypocrisy and double standards, I had a very good reason for not voting.

I didn’t read any of the nominees.

I’m not going to vote on a ballot when I haven’t read at least some of the titles under consideration.

  • John Scalzi had this to say:

  • Annalee Flower Horne condemned the proceedings out of hand, as did Lady Business’ Renay, and D. Franklin.

  • Here are assorted other tweets:

(14) KAYLON IN COSTUME. At ScreenRant, “Mark Jackson Says The Orville Is For ‘Disgruntled Star Trek Fans’”.

Seth McFarlane’s new TV show The Orville is about to hit TV screens with a stellar cast including Scott Grimes, Victor Garber, Adrianne Palicki and British actor Mark Jackson. …

So how did you film your scenes? Did you pull an Andy Serkis in a motion capture suit?

No it was me in that suit, and Seth specifically wanted that. When he was doing the Ted films, he was there giving the lines and he wanted that for this show too. I have never done anything like that before, it brings its own challenges, but to get it right you have to be in the suit and match what they’re doing. What was nice about the show is that it has a retro feel, which kind of harks back to the original Star Trek with the colors and innocence. I think Isaac is classic but not like C-3PO, even though at first I thought maybe he could be like that. He’s very fluid, he’s an efficient machine rather than being rigid.

How is Seth to work with? Is it anything like you have experienced before?

He has a real respect for acting and the craft of acting, he’s a man of many talent who is very supportive. It’s very funny when you meet such a comedic genius because you think they’re going to be really funny all the time, and then you feel like you have to be funny too, and it escalates into this shit show of funniness, but he’s not like that. He’s very bright, which can be quite intimidating, and knows exactly what he wants for the show, so is good at articulating that. We actually had a wrap party a few days ago at Seth’s house up in Beverly Hills, which is obviously fantastic, but the man knows how to throw parties. He turned his entire garden, I think he’s renovating at the moment so he could, into a spaceship bar, it was extraordinary. All of the waiting staff were done up like aliens in full prosethetics and there was a full ice sculpture of a spaceship as you walked in. That was very Hollywood, I feel.

(15) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. She’s back — “Record-breaking U.S. astronaut and crew back on Earth”.

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson and two crewmates made a parachute touchdown in Kazakhstan on Saturday, capping a career-total 665 days in orbit, a U.S. record.

Whitson, 57, ended an extended stay of more than nine months aboard the International Space Station, a $100 billion research laboratory that flies about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.

”I feel great,” the biochemist said during an inflight interview on Monday. “I love working up here. It’s one of the most gratifying jobs I’ve ever had.”

During her third mission aboard the station, Whitson spent much of her time on experiments, including studies of cancerous lung tissue and bone cells. She also completed four spacewalks, adding to her six previous outings, to set a record for the most time spent spacewalking by a woman.

(16) NO WONDER. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is a biopic about the creator of the comic and his marital relationship. In theaters October 13.

Details the unconventional life of Dr. William Marston, the Harvard psychologist and inventor who helped invent the modern lie detector test and created Wonder Woman in 1941. Marston was in a polyamorous relationship with his wife Elizabeth, a psychologist and inventor in her own right, and Olive Byrne, a former student who became an academic. This relationship was key to the creation of Wonder Woman, as Elizabeth and Olive’s feminist ideals were ingrained in the character from her creation. Marston died of skin cancer in 1947, but Elizabeth and Olive remained a couple and raised their and Marston’s children together. The film is said to focus on how Marston dealt with the controversy surrounding Wonder Woman’s creation.

 

(17) GET OUT OF JAIL FLEE. Infinity Chamber will be released September 15.

A man trapped in an automated prison must outsmart a computer in order to escape and try and find his way back to the outside world that may already be wiped out

 

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