Pixel Scroll 1/7/17 And Someday, If I Can, I’m Gonna Be A Pixel Scroller Just Like My Old Man

(1) STABBY TIME. Reddit’s r/Fantasy group is voting on the winners of The 2016 Best of r/Fantasy Stabby Awards through January 11. You’re invited.

For 2016, we need you to vote!

The eligible candidates below were set by the 2016 r/Fantasy Nomination Thread and populated by r/Fantasy members. The list was locked in place this past Wednesday at 10PM Pacific.

To vote, please click the upvote arrow next to your choice or choices for ‘best of’ in each category. Yes, you can upvote more than one.

(2) STICKS THE LANDING. The New York Times’ Neil Genzlinger reviews Emerald City in “Toto, You’re Not a Basket-Size Terrier Anymore”

Dorothy, the Wizard and the rest of the Oz gang get the “Grimm” treatment as well as the grim treatment in “Emerald City,” a series beginning Friday on NBC, one that’s addictive if you allow it to be. That may, however, require some effort on your part.

emerald-city-nbc

You may not be conscious of just how deeply imprinted the film version of “The Wizard of Oz” is on your psyche until you watch a bit of this show, which initially seems so very wrong in every possible way. Where is the singing? Where are the psychedelic colors? So here’s what you do: At the first commercial break, pause and marvel all over again at what a spectacular achievement in artistry and cross-generational endurance the 1939 Judy Garland film is, and then let it go.

“Emerald City” has its Dorothy, engagingly played by Adria Arjona, but it draws on the full canon of L. Frank Baum’s “Oz” books (a series that continued after his death in 1919). It is partial to the dark and unsettling aspects of those tales, which it teases out and enhances with flourishes of its own. When this Dorothy lands in Oz, she’s armed, and that dog alongside her is no basket-size terrier.

The result is decidedly not a fairy tale for young children. This version of Oz has bloodshed, charred bodies, a very disturbing multiple suicide and much more. Friday’s premiere consists of two episodes, which is good, because two hours is about how long it takes you to acclimate to the tone and intent. In the third episode, a doozy, the show’s grip on you really tightens.

(3) NOT SINBAD AND NOT SHAZAAM. Kenneth R. Johnson emailed his theory about the misremembered genie movie debated in comments on yesterday’s Scroll:

I think I may have the answer to what the mysterious genie movie is that various people are mis-remembering as “Shazaam.”  I distinctly remember watching a movie on TV back in the 1990s in which the genie was played by a tall black guy with dreadlocks;  he also had some kind of British accent.  After extensive googling I’ve identified it as “Bernard and the Genie,” a TV movie from 1991.  The genie was played by British actor/comedian Lenny Henry.  He may have been doing a Jamaican accent to make the genie appear pseudo-Rastafarian.  The movie also has Alan Cumming and Rowan Atkinson in it.  It’s very strange.

(4) BUG JACQUES BARRON. French citizens are now automatic organ donors under the law.

All French citizens are now automatic organ donors, unless they officially opt out of the program.

A new law that went into effect on Jan. 1 makes everyone an organ and tissue donor. People can opt out of the program, but they must enroll in something called the National Rejection Register in order to do so.

A low number of organ donations prompted the new rule, according to news reports.

France’s biomedicine agency said in a statement on its website that “in the name of national solidarity, the principle of presumed consent was chosen,” The World Post reported.

(5) REMEMBER THE ALICORN. Rick Riordan putting his foot down —

(6) FATE OF THE FRANCHISE. What would you do? HuffPo says “’Star Wars’ Team Grappling With How Leia Will Live On After Carrie Fisher’s Death”.

In the wake of Carrie Fisher’s death, the team responsible for future “Star Wars” projects is reportedly reconsidering the place of her character, Leia Organa, in the franchise’s ever-expanding universe, according to The Hollywood Reporter. …

Fisher, who first played the iconic princess in 1977, brought Leia back to the big screen as a general in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2015. The actress has apparently already filmed her scenes for the second installment in the latest trilogy, but was rumored to have an even larger role in the following film….

The team is reportedly concerned with two key scenes featuring Fisher that would bring her character and the film’s plot full circle: a much belated reunion between Leia and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and a faceoff with her son Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who killed his father and her lover, Han Solo, in “The Force Awakens.”

Shooting for “Star Wars: Episode IX” isn’t scheduled to begin until early 2018, so until then, those at the helm are pursuing a variety of options on how to proceed. Resurrecting Fisher with CGI effects is apparently one alternative in play, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Technological advances have allowed for actors like the late Peter Cushing to return to the screen in the latest “Star Wars” offering, “Rogue One,” so Fisher could continue to have a similar presence, however limited, in future films.

The braintrust is also reportedly discussing writing the character out all together and reshooting certain scenes to lay the groundwork for her eventual exit from the franchise.

(7) BRINGING ATWOOD TO TV. The Daily Mail brings the showbiz news: “Not quite Stars Hollow! Gilmore Girls’ Alexis Bledel set to star in dystopian Handmaid’s Tale as subversive lesbian”. She’s best known for her role as Rory Gilmore in the idyllic Gilmore Girls.

But it seems Alexis Bledel’s next role will be significantly darker, as it was announced she’ll be joining Hulu’s dystopian Handmaid’s Tale, according to TV Line.

The 35-year-old actress will play the role of Ofglen in the 10 episode series, which is based on Margaret Atwood’s best-selling novel.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 7, 1977:  Michael Winner’s The Sentinel premieres in New York City.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born January 7, 1903 — Alan Napier (Alfred Pennyworth) is born in Birmingham, England.
  • Born January 7, 1928 – William Peter Blatty (The Exorcist).

(10) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. On January 18 the hosts of the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series, Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, present Holly Black and Fran Wilde. The event begins at 7 p.m. in the KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, NY — just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

Holly Black is a writer of bestselling contemporary dark fantasy. Some of her titles include The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), The Modern Faerie Tale series, the Curse Workers series, Doll Bones, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, the Magisterium series (with Cassandra Clare) and The Darkest Part of the Forest. She has been a a finalist for an Eisner Award, and the recipient of the Andre Norton Award, the Mythopoeic Award and a Newbery Honor.

Fran Wilde writes science fiction and fantasy. Her debut novel, Updraft, won the Andre Norton Award and the Compton Crook award, and was a Nebula nominee. Cloudbound, the second book in the Bone Universe series, came out in September 2016, and Horizon will appear in fall 2017. Her novella, “The Jewel and Her Lapidary,” was published by Tor.com publishing in May 2016. Fran’s short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Uncanny Magazine, Tor.com, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

(11) BE YOUR OWN TIME LORD. Cat Rambo tells Risingshadow readers the importance to writers of “Daily rituals”.

The thing I have learned more than anything else is that a writer must defend their time. That everyone assumes that you’re ready to take a break, come down to the coffee shop and kill a couple of hours. A friend complained to my husband that he felt as though I was timing our encounters, and I was. At the hour mark, I needed to get back to work, because otherwise I’d sit there nattering for far too long. Because you must defend that time not just from others, but from yourself and your own human tendencies toward procrastination and farting around on the Internet, while still being mindful that you do deserve a break every once in a while. You become your own manager, and that is a more difficult task than it might seem.

(12) SURVIVAL TACTICS. John Scalzi’s “10-point plan for getting creative work done in the age of Trump” is easier to understand than Christopher Priest’s.

Scalzi’s plan, published in the Los Angeles Times, was introduced to Whatever readers in these terms:

First, and in case you missed me talking about it on Twitter yesterday, I have a piece up at the LA Times site (a version of it is also in the Sunday newspaper) about getting creative work done in the Trump years — some advice about how to keep focus when it’s likely to be a challenging time for the creative class. Note that this advice generally probably also works for people working in professions generally considered “non-creative” as well, but I’m working with what I know here. Also, of course, if you’re neutral or positive on the idea of the incoming Trump administration, then this particular piece is probably unnecessary for you. Carry on, then.

One of Scalzi’s ten points is —

  1. Reconnect (judiciously). When you go back to the news of the world, and to social media, it’s perfectly all right to ask yourself: Is this making me happy? Is it giving me useful information? Is it inspiring me to engage in the world or does it make me want to run from it?

If it’s not helping you, let it go. Unfollow that Facebook friend passing along fake news, and block those fake news sites outright. Mute that person on Twitter who is apparently always angry. Evaluate the news sources you read and keep the ones that offer news accurately and truthfully (spin is spin, even if it’s spin you like). Design your media intake to be useful, truthful and less stressful.

As for Christopher Priest, he posted on New Year’s Eve that he’ll be moving 500 miles from Devon, England (he didn’t identify where). He spends nearly the entire post pouring out his fear and loathing of Donald Trump, yet never managing to establish any connection between the move and Trump’s election. Did he just want to insure an audience for his farewell address?

(13) LIVING IN STAR TREK TIMES. The Washington Post’s Hayley Tsukayama, in “The Big Takeaway From This Year’s CES”, concludes:

There has been no killer gadget at this year’s International CES technology show. Instead, something more subtle has emerged as the keystone of the tech world.

I’m talking about the smart, central voice assistant. Yes, even that may sound a bit old hat for those who’ve been paying attention….

Virtual assistants can now understand what you say and even interpret the many ways you may say it. Shawn DuBravac, an economist for the Consumer Technology Association, said that machines now have the same word error rate — that is, the batting average of understanding what we’ve actually said — as humans. That’s up from a 23 percent error rate in 2013, meaning that the tech is getting better, and quickly.

That fact has made the dreams of a STAR TREK-like computer come even closer to reality.  The hope is that these assistants will move even beyond our sci-fi dreams and learn our habits and needs well enough to anticipate them.

David K.M. Klaus comments, “I think it’s clear that nobody connected with the program at the time thought it likely that voice-controlled devices would come into mass use in just a half-century — yet the program itself has accelerated technology design in its own direction. I started writing letters to local newspapers pointing out the inspiration when they published articles about new technology thirty years ago.  (Asimov, Bradbury, Heinlein, et al. predated that, of course, but Star Trek in particular has been responsible for how it looks.)  Glad to see that mundane reporters have finally caught up with me.”

(14) WATCH YOUR INTAKE. Cat Rambo shares a second bit of writerly advice at GeekMom in “Artificial inspiration”.

This phenomenon underscores the fact that authors need to pay attention to what they’re putting into their mental buckets, particularly whenever they’re working on a project. The old computer adage, “Garbage in, garbage out,” comes into play. Or turn it around and aim it in another direction: put marvelous things in, get marvelous things out.

In some ways, I think of it like learning a language. We all speak storytelling, we’ve heard it spoken around and to us in fairytales, myths, fables, and a kerjilliion other texts, down to the format of many ads. And just as, when you’re around a number of people all speaking with the same accent, that accent begins to creep into your own speech. So if you’re only hearing one kind of storytelling, all that you speak in that language of storytelling will have that accent–or flavor, or texture, or however you choose to conceptualize it.

Want to create something wonderful? Then you must read wonderful things and not just read them but study them. Take the sentences apart as carefully as a pathologist dissecting an organ and figure out how they work–and then apply that knowledge so you know you’ve got the tool down and have added it to your writerly toolkit.

(15) I’LL BE BACK. At the BBC, Frank Swain tells “Why we may be living in the future of The Running Man”.

The vision of 2017 depicted in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 30-year-old dystopian action movie captures how our world is changing today.

In a world beset by a collapsing economy, the US media conspires with the government to keep the population in check with a combination of heavy-handed policing and a steady stream of vapid reality TV shows. Meanwhile, one of the most powerful men in the world is the host of a reality TV show.

Sound familiar? That was 2017 conjured by campy action thriller The Running Man when it was released 30 years ago.

Sci-fi commonly reveals hidden truths about society. So, it makes you wonder: what else could this dystopian vision say about the world we live in today? If we look at where we are in 2017, what can The Running Man tell us about our changing politics, media and technology?

Chip Hitchcock urges, “Note the photo of Erland van Lidth de Jeude partway through; when he was in the MIT Musical Theatre Guild we used to say that he might be the first Olympic victor to sing his own national anthem. The movies typecast him as a hulk, losing the singing voice that he used in roles ranging from Roderick Murgatroyd to Richard Henry Lee.”

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Andrew Porter, Cat Rambo, Chip Hitchcock, David K.M.Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 1/10/16 The Nine Billion Rules of God’s Robotics

(1) RAY BRADBURY WOULD BE SO PROUD. That’s what John King Tarpinian thinks. Look who won at the Golden Globes tonight.

  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy
    Rachel Bloom, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”

Here’s video of her acceptance speech.

(2) OTHER GOLDEN GLOBES OF GENRE INTEREST.

FILM

  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture ?? Musical or Comedy
    Matt Damon, “The Martian”
  • Best Motion Picture — Animated
    “Inside Out”
  • Best Motion Picture -? Musical or Comedy
    “The Martian”

TELEVISION

  • Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
    “Wolf Hall”
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture made for Television
    Christian Slater, “Mr. Robot”
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
    Lady Gaga, “American Horror Story: Hotel”
  • Best Television Series ?? Drama
    “Mr. Robot”

(3) SCIENCE-ING THE SHIT OUT OF ENDOR. ScienceFiction.com has the scoop of the century – Star Wars’ science is defective! The proof? “Physicist Theorizes There Should Have Been An Ewok Extinction Upon Death Star Destruction”.

What if all the Ewoks were killed at the end of ‘Return of the Jedi’? You don’t have to think about it. Really, you don’t. But someone thought about it—Dave Minton, a physicist at Purdue University.

Now before you start thinking Minton hates all things cute, he performed some interesting research into what the reality would be like if the second Death Star really did explode near Endor.

(4) DIDN’T KNOW THERE WAS A STAT FOR THIS. Harrison Ford has passed Samuel L. Jackson to become the top-grossing actor in domestic box office history, powered to the top by the growing bank for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Ford’s 41 films have grossed $4.699 billion at the domestic box office, led by The Force Awakens, which accounts for $764.4 million of that figure as of Box Office Mojo’s last update.

Jackson’s films, in comparison, have grossed a mere $4.626 billion, led by Marvel’s The Avengers and its $623.4 million domestic haul.

(5) PAPER TARDIS. This animation is something I’m going to share with my daughter. One of her Christmas gifts was a hand-made facsimile of River Song’s journal. (Via io9)

(6) ROWLING YANKED HIS CHAIN. Hello Giggles says that Stephen Fry met J.K. Rowling long before becoming the narrator of the UK Harry Potter audiobooks, and claims his bland disinterest during that first encounter motivated her to refuse a favor he asked later while trying to record a challenging phrase. True story? Who knows. But it has an edge to it.

(7) SCOOBY CHOO-CHOO, WHERE ARE YOU? The BBC explores “Why Britain has secret ghost trains”. Hobbyists spend a lot of time tracking these down so they can ride them. And as usual where ghosts are concerned, the explanation is less than supernatural.

“Ghost trains are there just for a legal placeholder to prevent the line from being closed,” says Bruce Williamson, national spokesperson for the advocacy group RailFuture. Or as Colin Divall, professor of railway studies at the University of York, puts it: “It’s a useless, limited service that’s borderline, and the reason that it’s been kept is there would be a stink if anyone tried to close it.”

Why ghosts exist

That is the crux of why the ghost trains still exist. A more official term is “parliamentary trains”, a name that stems from past years when an Act of Parliament was needed to shut down a line. Many train operators kept running empty trains to avoid the costs and political fallout – and while this law has since changed, the same pressures remain.

(8) SCRIMM OBIT. Actor Angus Scrimm, best known for playing the “Tall Man” in the Phantasm horror franchise, died January 9 at the age of 89. He also was in I Sell the Dead (2008), the TV show Alias, and the audio play series Tales From Beyond the Pale. Scrimm also appeared in a production of Ray Bradbury’s play Let’s All Kill Constance.

For several decades Scrimm writer album liner notes for Capitol Records, winning a Grammy in 1974 (credited as Rory Guy, as were his early film roles) for his notes on Korngold: The Classic Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

(9) FITZSIMMONS OBIT. SF Site News reports kT FitzSimmons (1956-2016) who ran program for the 1991 Worldcon, Chicon V, died January 10 after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was a veteran conrunner who worked on Windycon and Capricon in Chicago, and served as a board member of Capricon’s parent organization Phandemonium.

(10) YESTERDAY IN HISTORY

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 10, 1927 Metropolis makes its world premiere in Germany.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CHARACTER

  • Born January 10, 1732 — Saara Mar. According to Taral Wayne, she was born in 1732 on a planet 400 light years from Earth, in the direction of the Pleiades cluster. She “discovered” Earth in 1970, on the 5th of April, 6 days before the lift-off of Apollo 13, and 8 days before the miraculous rescue of the crew that changed history.

Saara Mar

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 10, 1904 — Ray Bolger, the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.

(14) SHORT AND SWEET. Fynbospress teaches sound techniques for blurb writing at Mad Genius Club.

At the heart of every story, there is this: A person, who wants something, but a force opposes him. This is important, because of these stakes. Either they get it, or they don’t.

Take the first and second sentence of that paragraph. (Not the third; you don’t give away how it comes out in the blurb.) Who is your person? What do they want? What opposes them? What are the stakes?

Simplify. If you have two or three main characters, pick the one whose wants or needs drive the story the most. Unless you’re writing epic fantasy, where the browser will be disappointed if you don’t introduce at least three sides, stick to one protagonist, and one opposing force. Generally, that’s the first opposition they meet in the story, not the one they meet in chapter 3, and definitely not the one revealed in the twist in chapter 20.

Your description should not, as a rule of thumb, reveal any information past chapter 3.

(15) ONE IN A MILLION. Mark Lawrence in “Luck, Deus Ex Machina, Plot Armour” tells why it’s okay to build a story around the statistically unlikely survivor.

We don’t see the article about the lottery winner in the newspaper and cry, “Jesus fuck! What are the odds that the reporter chose the winner to write about.”

…Swap now from reality to fiction. The author still has a choice about who they write about. They can still pick the person who survives, at least long enough to do some interesting things. But they also get to choose how that person survives

(16) SPEAK TO THE GEEK. Declan Finn devoted today’s installment of his internet radio show The Catholic Geek to Sad Puppies 4 (he’s in favor), with time left over to diagnose why George R.R. Martin hasn’t finished his book, and to argue Shakespeare really wrote for the rabble not the nobility.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 11/23 Mister Scrollman, Bring Me A Screed

(1) Syfy offers a free viewing of the first episode of The Expanse  — Episode 1: Dulcinea. (Also available on the Syfy Now App, Hulu, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes, Playstation, Xbox, and Facebook.)

(2) Variety says additional episodes have been ordered for Rachel Bloom’s series and CW’s iZombie.

Freshman comedy “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” has landed five more episodes, bringing its first season total to 18, while “iZombie” has received an additional six-episode order, giving the second season a total of 19.

Audience for the Bloom series is growing slowly.

While the positively-reviewed “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” hasn’t gained much ratings traction, it has posted its best numbers to date in recent weeks. Paired with sophomore critical breakout “Jane the Virgin,” the six episodes averaged a 0.34 rating in 18-49 and about 1 million total viewers in Nielsen’s “live plus-3” estimates.

(3) Misty Massey tells about a live slushpile reading in “Getting What You Ask For” at Magical Words.

Many, many times I hear writers complain how much they hate getting form rejections from editors, because such things do nothing to help them understand why the editor didn’t want to buy their story. Editors don’t understand, they cry, that writers can’t fix stories if they aren’t told what went wrong in the first place. Some writers say editors are lazy, others think they’re cruel. For whatever reason, it’s always the editor’s fault.

A couple of years ago, David Coe approached Faith Hunter and me to present a panel called Live Action Slush. (For those who don’t know, the writers submit the first pages of their novels anonymously. A designated reader reads each page aloud, and the three of us listen as if we were slush editors, raising our hands when we reach a place that would cause us to stop reading and move on to the next submission.  Once all three hands are up, the reading stops and we discuss what made us stop reading.) David had done such a panel at another con, to great acclaim, and wanted to bring it to ConCarolinas. We had two sessions, both standing room only. As far as we could tell, anyway. We were asked to present it at Congregate later that same summer, and since then we’ve offered it in various incarnations at any cons we attended.

Most of the time, the writers seemed happy to hear our suggestions, although once in a while we would run into a writer who just couldn’t handle the idea that their story wasn’t already perfect.  You see, the point of Live Action Slush is to give the writers exactly what they’ve been complaining they never receive – a specific, clear reason for the turndown. Sometimes the problem is that nothing is happening by the time we reach the end of the first page. Sometimes the writer spends the entire first page describing the characters without giving the reader the slightest idea what the book’s about. Characters might be hideous stereotypes, or flat and wooden.  There are tons of reasons, most of which are easily repaired once the writer knows what has happened. But there are some writers who really aren’t ready to hear what needs fixing. They’ve come to the workshop fully expecting that the panelists will declare their first page to be utter brilliance. Those are the writers who storm out of the room, instead of staying to listen to the critique of other writers under the same scrutiny. They go into the hallway and tell their friends how mean we were, how we don’t really know anything. Most important, they don’t make any changes.

(4) In an Absolute Write forum, Alessandra Kelley gives the context for a wisecrack James Frenkel made on a Windycon panel and asks “Is what I witnessed abusive behavior?”

There are a number of important questions that urgently need discussing if we are to have any sort of careful, agreeable, professional and accepting environment for our conventions.

Many people make thoughtless remarks or cruel witticisms or little jokes. Should people be more mindful of them?

Is it right to treat a category of people as inherently funny or insulting?

How much tolerance should there be for little jokes? At what point does laughing them away become aiding and abetting the marginalization of a segment of the community?

Should a person with a known history of abusive behavior be held to a higher standard than others? What about a person in a position of authority?

Should we not speak up when we see such behavior?

(5) Lucy Huntzinger reports that the Down Under Fan Fund will be receiving a $2,000 donation from Sasquan, the 2015 Worldcon. The DUFF co-administrator said, “Thank you for supporting face to face encounters between international fandoms!”

(6) Today In History

The first of a four-part pilot episode of the series aired on the BBC on this day in 1963. Titled “An Unearthly Child”, the story introduced the Doctor, the Tardis, and many other things that would become hallmarks of the program.

(7) Today’s Birthday Boys

  • Born November 23, 1887 — Boris Karloff, birthname William Henry Pratt, in Camberwell, London, England.
  • Born November 23, 1914 – Wilson “Bob” Tucker

(8) Early suggestions coming in for the 2016 Worldcon program…

(9) The Kickstarter for The Dark North – Volume 1, a premium coffee table art book with new stories from Scandinavia’s best illustrators and concept artists, is just fully financed, but it’s still possible to contribute.

Artist: Lukas Thelin

Artist: Lukas Thelin

(10) “Being a Better Writer: Names”  by Max Florschutz at Unusual Things has four good ideas for dealing with a fundamental sf writing challenge.

So, naming things. This is, as you might guess, a requested topic. And to be honest, I think it’s one worth talking about.

See, naming things can actually be pretty tricky. When creating a world from scratch, or even just a redesigned/repurposed version of our own world, often one of the first things a lot of young writers do is assign their characters, places, and things very interesting names. It’s kind of a trope by this point, but if I had to guess my prediction would be that to the new writer, the goal is to excitedly show you how fantastical their world is. So they don’t have people with names like Joe or Samantha. They have people with names like Krul’Qa’pin or something like that.  And they live in the city of Byulnqualalaltipo! Aren’t those fantastic?

Well, in sense, sure. They’re also completely unpronounceable, for a start. And that is just the start.

See, there are a host of problems with names like this. The first being that they’re difficult for the reader to read, pronounce, and parse. They’re these very out there, fantastical names that are hard to make sense of, and the more of them a writer puts into his story, the harder it will be not only for the reader to keep interest, but to keep everything straight. Especially if the writer has gone and made a number of the names similar through conventions such as “I’ll stick apostrophe’s here and here and that’ll make a name.” And while it certainly might create names that look impressive, the truth is that a lot of “name creation techniques” that novice writers go for tend to create a whole host of problems like what we just discussed.

Okay, so this is writing that, if not bad, is certainly not good, clearly. But in order to avoid this trap, it’s worth understanding why it’s a trap in the first place. Why are writers doing this? What makes creating a multi-syllable name that defies typical English attractive?

(11) A dress worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, (which did not win the brackets, darn it) sold at auction for $1.56 million today.

The blue and white gingham dress, one of 10 thought to have been made for Garland in her role as Dorothy in the movie, was among the top items in the Bonham’s and Turner Classic Movies Hollywood memorabilia auction….

A year ago, the Cowardly Lion costume worn by actor Bert Lahr in the movie sold for almost $3.1 million at a Bonham’s auction.

(12) National Geographic reveals “An 80-Year-Old Prank Revealed, Hiding in the Periodic Table!”

You wouldn’t know it, because it’s hiding down there at the bottom of the periodic table of elements, but it’s a prank—something a five-year-old might do—and the guy who did it was one of the greatest chemists in America. It’s pure silliness, staring right at you, right where I’ve drawn my circle, at element 94.

(13) At Motherboard, “For the First Time Ever, Astronomers Have Observed the Birth of a Planet”:

The new research, published this week in Nature, provides hard evidence of a developing gas giant orbiting a young Sunlike star called LkCa 15, located 450 light years away in the constellation Taurus. What’s more, it appears as if at least two other giant bébés are also forming around the star, though only one was directly detected.

“No one has successfully and unambiguously detected a forming planet before,” said astronomer Kate Follette, a co-author on the study, in a statement. “There have always been alternate explanations, but in this case we’ve taken a direct picture, and it’s hard to dispute that.”

(14) Click at your own risk! From ScienceFiction.com “Thanks To A Leaked Children’s Book We Have Some HUGE ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Spoilers!”

(15) “Steven Moffat Reveals the Nightmare Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special We Could Have Had” on io9.

But while those meetings went on, more and more actors publicly denied that they would be a part of the special, prompting growing discontent from Doctor Who fans—who didn’t realize that behind-the-scenes problems with the script, and a ticking clock, meant that Moffat very nearly had to scrape together a story with whatever actors he could find. Case in point? In one form or another, there was a story outline for “The Day of the Doctor” that featured no Doctors at all… only Jenna Coleman as Clara.

(16) A project known as “Justice League Dark” is inching closer to a greenlight. Joblo lists the front-running candidates to direct:

Things are heating up for DARK UNIVERSE, as casting rumors have been swirling around the past week and now we have word on who the studio is eyeing to direct the supernatural superhero tale. We’re told that BIG BAD WOLVES directing duo Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, as well as EVIL DEAD remake director Fede Alvarez are the top contenders to take the gig right now. Both sets of filmmakers have a strong grasp of the dark and macabre genre and would easily fill the shoes of Guillermo Del Toro, who left the film after turning in his screenplay and toiling with the studio over casting and scheduling. However, Del Toro’s script is said to be excellent and one of the main reasons that the studio is pushing to get JLD underway with a shooting start in early 2016.

Yahoo! says Dark Universe is expected to put the spotlight on some of the lesser-known heroes and villains of the DC Comics universe whose adventures typically involve magic or supernatural elements of some sort.

Among the characters rumored to have a role in the film are occult detective John Constantine, who was featured in a short-lived television series of his own recently, and Swamp Thing, a multimedia sensation who was the subject of two live-action movies, a live-action television series, and an animated series to go along with his long-running comic book series and other projects. The film will also reportedly feature the villain Anton Arcane, the antihero demon Etrigan, and the sorceress Zatanna, as well as Madame Xanadu and the body-swapping spirit Deadman.

(17) Ice Age 5 short: Scrat In Space!

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, Will R., JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]

Today In History

Studio musicians recording the score of  The Wizard of Oz.

Studio musicians recording the score of The Wizard of Oz.

July 18, 1939: The song “Over the Rainbow” is restored for a sneak preview of The Wizard of Oz in Westwood, CA. Producers had cut it from the version shown to a Pomona audience the month before because they felt it slowed things down.

The Harold Arlen tune was put back in by demand of Arthur Freed, who went on to run MGM’s signature musical unit. (From Edward Jablonski’s Harold Arlen: Rhythm, Rainbows, and Blues.)

“Over the Rainbow” ranks first in the American Film Institute’s tribute 100 Years…100 Songs (2004).

To give the producers their due, another cut they made improved the movie, dropping a song called “The Jitterbug” and a scene in the original script featuring a series of musical contests:

A spoiled, selfish princess in Oz had outlawed all forms of music except classical and operetta and went up against Dorothy in a singing contest in which her swing style enchanted listeners and won the grand prize.

The Shirt Off Hollywood’s Back

New PictureThe most iconic costumes of Hollywood’s Golden Age and from the rest of the world of cinema are currently on display in Los Angeles as part of The Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences exhibition Hollywood Costume. The ticketed exhibit opened October 2 and runs through March 12 in the Wilshire May Company Building, the future location of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.

The exhibition of more than 150 costumes includes many from genre pictures (designer’s name in parentheses) — like Darth Vader’s armor from The Empire Strikes Back (John Mollo, 1980), Indiana Jones’ leather jacket and fedora from Raiders of the Lost Ark (Deborah Nadoolman, 1981), plus items from The Hunger Games (Judianna Makovsky, 2012), Mary Poppins (Tony Walton, 1964), Raiders of the Lost Ark (Deborah Nadoolman, 1981), Man of Steel (James Acheson and Michael Wilkinson, 2013), The Addams Family (Ruth Myers, 1991), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Jany Temime, 2009), The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Tish Monaghan, 2009), Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (April Ferry, 2003) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Eiko Ishioka, 1992).

The story of costume design from early Charlie Chaplin (The Tramp, 1912) to the present day is told through montages, animation, film clips, and projections, and a musical score by British composer Julian Scott. Among the other classics represented are Morocco, Titanic, Malcolm X, and L.A. Confidential.

One part explores key director/designer pairings, among them Alfred Hitchcock and Edith Head, who worked together on 11 films including The Birds (1963), and Tim Burton and Colleen Atwood, whose collaborations include Edward Scissorhands (1990) to Dark Shadows (2012).

Another shows how costume design is considered in animation, such as Joanna Johnston’s design for Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), and films integrating motion-capture like Avatar (Mayes C. Rubio, Deborah L. Scott, 2009).

In addition, Hollywood Costume showcases the Academy’s pair of the most famous shoes in the world – the original ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz (Adrian, 1939) shown with Dorothy’s blue and white gingham pinafore dress.

The most famous shoes in the world were made in 1938 for a Kansas farm girl named Dorothy. It is not known how many pairs were created, but it is believed that four pairs used in the film still exist today. The surviving pairs were made in sizes 5C, 5.5 and 6B to accommodate actress Judy Garland, her stand-in and stunt double. The slippers began as white silk pumps made by the Innes Shoe Company in Los Angeles and they were later dyed red at MGM Studios before being covered with fabric that had been hand-sewn with approximately 2,300 sequins. Each red leather bow, designed especially by Adrian, sparkles with red glass stones and bugle beads. The Academy’s nearly pristine pair, known as the “Witch’s Shoes,” are widely believed to be the slippers Garland wore in close ups and insert shots, most famously when Dorothy clicks her heels three times to return to Kansas. For Adrian, designing the iconic costumes for The Wizard of Oz was “The greatest fun I have ever had.”

The exhibition is open every day except Wednesday. Admission: $20 Adults; $15 Seniors (62+); $10 for students with ID and children under 13

Westercon 66 Picks Guests

Nicola Griffith and Kelley Eskridge.

Westercon 66, coming to Sacramento in 2013, has named its GoHs.

Author Guests of Honor are Nicola Griffith, multi-award-winning novelist and editor of several anthologies, and Kelley Eskridge, author of a New York Times Notable novel and prize-winning short fiction, who chairs the Clarion West Writers Workshop board.

Artist Guest of Honor Eric Shanower and Small Press Special Guest David Maxine are Wizard of Oz devotees whose shared fanac developed into a comfortable professional life. Eric Shanower has created Oz-based comic books, written Oz novels and Marvel graphic novelizations of Baum’s Oz books. David Maxine runs Hungry Tiger Press, which specializes in Oz-related publications.

Fan Guests of Honor are “The Three Who Rule,” Warren Frey, Steven Schapansky, Chris Burgess, from the Doctor Who-themed podcast Radio Free Skaro, voted the most popular Doctor Who podcast by members of Gallifrey Base.

Westercon 66 co-chair Andrew Trembly says:

We think this slate will both satisfy Westercon traditionalists on many grounds, and at the same time make them think about writing, art and fanac they may not have really noticed in the past. We also think these guests will draw the attention of fans who have wondered why they should spend their hard-earned dollars to come to another convention, or who didn’t even know about Westercon in the first place.

Back to the Future Auction

Profiles in History will run the “Icons of Hollywood” auction December 15-17, featuring items from Back to the Future and a pair of ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz.

A DeLorean auto from Back to the Future III will be on the block:

One of seven DeLoreans used on-screen in the Back to the Future trilogy, this particular car was used in the 1955 drive-in movie scene when Michael J. Fox drives it into the past and lands in 1885 to find Doc. It was built completely for off road use. Of the seven DeLoreans, only three have survived since filming, and this is one of those three – the only one in private hands.

And of course we have to keep track of the ruby slipper market:

There are four pairs of screen used Ruby Slippers known to have survived the seventy years since the making of The Wizard of Oz. One pair is the center piece of the Icons of American Culture exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and is one of the most asked about artifacts at the museum. So viewed are these slippers that the carpet in front of them has had to be replaced numerous times due to the crush of shoes that have brought visitors from all over the world to see their glimmer. Another pair was unfortunately stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and will likely never be recovered. The third pair is in private hands and will not be reaching the market any time soon.

The final fourth pair up for auction are marked on the inside lining, “#7 Judy Garland” and the leather soles are painted red on the bottom. The lack of felt, in addition to light, circular scuffs evident on the soles indicate their use in the extra-close-up or “insert” shots when Judy Garland taps her heels together at the film’s climax. Their condition is near mint and it is also believed that this “beauty” pair was placed on the protruding feet of the Wicked Witch of the East after she was squashed by Dorothy’s house since they exhibit slightly higher heels and the bottoms of the shoes were exposed to the camera.

[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]

Grand Theft Slipper

The theft of a pair of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, having occurred in 2005, is less a news story than an invitation to explore the subset of the film’s fans who venerated these artifacts.

“Who Stole the Ruby Slippers?” in the March 2009 issue of Minnesota Monthly focuses on the ruby slippers owned by Michael Shaw – one of four pairs known to remain from the filming of The Wizard of Oz. They were burglarized from a display case in the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota and have remained missing since August 28, 2005.

The author, after surveying the fascinating personalities of several Oz collectors, concludes:

Yet in their new status as stolen property, the slippers feel more real than they have in years. They are mere objects again, to be lost or found, and perhaps this is for the best…

[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]

Munchkin R.I.P.

Mickey Carroll, one of more than 100 adults and children recruited to play Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz, died May 7 in Missouri at the age of 89. He had heart problems and received a pacemaker in February.

As Munchkinland’s “Town Crier,” Carroll was among those who advised Dorothy Gale, played by Judy Garland, to “Follow the yellow brick road” to the Emerald City. He also marched as a “Munchkin Soldier” and was the candy-striped “Fiddler” who escorted Dorothy down the road.