Pixel Scroll 5/22/19 Post Scroll Propter Scroll

(1) HUGO VOTER PACKET ADDITION. The editors of Uncanny Magazine tweeted –

(2) WINDS (OF WINTER) BENEATH MY WINGS. George R.R. Martin gave a classy response to Air New Zealand’s offer to “help” him finish his next book by flying him to their country — “Thanks, New Zealand”.

…Of course, I was especially moved by your offer to bring me to New Zealand “on us.”  How wonderfully generous.   As it happens, I do have enough money to make it to New Zealand on my own… but there are many American writers, fans, and artists who do not.   If you’d care to fly, say, twenty or thirty or fifty of them to Wellington in place of me, I have no doubt they would instantly accept, and fall in love with Middle Earth.. er, New Zealand… just as I have. 

Of course, GRRM already has plays to go there – he gave a nice shout-out to CoNZealand.

In the summer of 2020, Wellington is hosting the World Science Fiction Convention, the oldest and most important con in the SF/ fantasy calendar, and they’ve asked me to serve as Toastmaster for the Hugo Awards. Writers, fans, and artists from all over the world will be headed down to check out all of your wonders. I hope lots of you Kiwis will join us.

And while he didn’t promise to have the next book done before then, he expressed hope that he will —

As for finishing my book… I fear that New Zealand would distract me entirely too much.   Best leave me here in Westeros for the nonce.   But I tell you this — if I don’t have THE WINDS OF WINTER in hand when I arrive in New Zealand for worldcon, you have here my formal written permission to imprison me in a small cabin on White Island, overlooking that lake of sulfuric acid, until I’m done.   Just so long as the acrid fumes do not screw up my old DOS word processor, I’ll be fine.

(3) FIFTY YEARS ALREADY? “Disneyland Summons a Spirited 50th for the Haunted Mansion” reports NBC Los Angeles. I was in high school when the attraction was about to open, and was one of the winners of the contest held by KFI radio personality Jay Lawrence to pick a group of people who’d be among the first to go through the ride. You entered by writing a very short (100 word?) bit about your family ghost. I made up something about a relative who was a failed baseball player, and decided to end it all by walking into the ocean – because, don’t you know, there are 20,000 leagues under the sea…

(4) HARASSMENT ALLEGATIONS. “AnimeNEXT Staff Launch Investigation Into Sexual Misconduct Allegations Against Former Con Chair”Anime News Network has the story.

Allegations of sexual misconduct against a former member of the board of Atlantic City’s AnimeNEXT convention has led to an ongoing internal investigation. Former con staff member “Anne May” posted her story on Facebook on March 12 where she alleged the board member was “handsy,” made inappropriate comments, and invited her back to his room in 2015. Anime News Network learned via former convention staff members that the allegations were levied against long-time AnimeNEXT staffer Eric Torgersen.

…Staff members that were present at the vote stated that the allegations relayed to them by the President of the Board Robert Rustay were misrepresented as less serious.

“What we were told is that one staff member reported that Eric was chatting with them and asked if they drank and then invited them to his room for drinks. The request made them uncomfortable so they reported it to another member of Corporate HR Carlo Darclin. In actuality it was a number of staff members who were approached in a similar fashion,” former staff member “B” told ANN.

“From my understanding, the decision had been made by the President [Rustay] and Chairman of the Board, who also happened to be Eric’s best friend, to move on from the matter,” they said.

Torgersen would remain on the board of directors and a vote held at the meeting would make him convention chair for AnimeNEXT. Torgersen continued as convention chair for two years following the vote. Darcelin chose to retire from the convention following the 2015 vote.

Former staff member “A” cited Torgersen’s friendships with fellow board members Gregg Turek, Lindsey Schneider, and Andrew Green for his continued involvement with the con despite the allegations.

“The entire board would validate his behavior or simply look the other way because they enjoyed their position of power and didn’t want to ruin it,” “A” said.

(5) SAY CHEESE. The Huntsville, AL Museum of Art has opened their new exhibit: “A New Moon Rises: Views from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera” featuring large-scale, high-resolution photographs of the lunar surface captured over the last decade by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC).

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of man’s first step on the Moon, see Earth’s only permanent natural satellite like never before. A New Moon Rises is a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian and features amazing, large-scale, high-resolution photographs of the lunar surface taken over the last decade. Captured by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC), the images are stunning: from historic Apollo landing sites to towering mountains rising out of the darkness of the lunar poles.

The Moon is not the same place as when astronauts last stepped foot on it. New impact craters are being formed. Volcanic activity, once thought long extinct, may have happened in the recent past. The crust has recently fractured from slow interior cooling and shrinking of the Moon and it may still be shrinking today. The LROC has taken over a million images of the surface and revealed details never before seen. These images are providing answers to long-held questions, and raising new questions about the Moon’s ancient and recent past, as well as its future.

The LROC’s mission was originally conceived to support future human missions to the Moon. After its first 15 months of operation, it began a mission of pure scientific exploration.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

May 22, 2008 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls set a record for shark leapage.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 22, 1859 Arthur Conan Doyle. I read the Holmes stories a long time ago. My favorite is The Hound of the Baskervilles as it allows him to develop a story at length. Favorite video Holmes? Jeremy Brett.  Looking at ISFDB, I’m see there were more Professor Challenger novels than I realized. And the Brigadier Gerard stories sound suspiciously comical… (Died 1930.)
  • Born May 22, 1901 Ed Earl Repp. His stories appeared in several of the early pulp magazines including Air Wonder Stories, Amazing Stories and Science Wonder Stories. Some were collected in The Radium Pool (just three stories), The Stellar Missiles (another three stories) and Science-Fantasy Quintette (five this time with two by L. Ron Hubbard). He also had one SF novel written in 1941, Rescue from Venus. He turned to writing scripts for Westerns and never wrote any fiction thereafter. (Died 1979.)
  • Born May 22, 1939 Paul Winfield. He’s best remembered as Capt. Terrell in The Wrath of Khan, but he was also in theNext Gen episode “Darmok” as the signature character.  He showed up in Damnation Alley as a character named Keegan and in The Terminator as Lt. Ed Traxler. Oh, and let’s not forget that he was Lucien Celine In The Serpent and the Rainbow which surely is genre. (Died 2004.)
  • Born May 22, 1960 Andrea Thompson, 59. I’ll not mention her memorable scene on Arliss as it’s not genre.  Her noted genre work was as the telepath Talia Winters on Babylon 5. Her first genre role was in Nightmare Weekend which I’ll say was definitely a schlock film. Next up was playing a monster in the short-lived Monsters anthology series. She had an one-off on Quantum Leap before landing the Talia Winters gig. Then came Captain Simian & The Space Monkeys. Really. Truly. Her last genre role to date appears to be in the Heroes: Destiny web series.
  • Born May 22, 1964 Kat Richardson, 55. Her Greywalker series is one of those affairs that I’m pleased to say that I’ve read every novel that was been published. I’ve not read Blood Orbit, the first in her new series, yet. Has anyone here done so?
  • Born May 22, 1968 Karen Lord, 51. She’s a Barbadian writer. Her debut novel, Redemption in Indigo, retells the story “Ansige Karamba the Glutton” from Senegalese folklore; The Best of All Possible Worlds and The Galaxy Game are genre novels as is her edited New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean.
  • Born May 22, 1979 Maggie Q, 40. She portrayed Tori Wu in the film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s novel Divergent, a role she reprised in its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant. She played a female agent in a comedic version of the Jackie Chan fronted Around the World in 80 Days. And she’s in the forthcoming film remake of Fantasy Island. No, I’m not kidding.

(8) GROWING AWARENESS. “13 Reasons Horror Should Put On A Happy Face” is Ace Antonio Hall’s contribution to HWA’s series “Horror & Urban Fantasy Literature’s Effect on Health Awareness” —

…In conclusion, one of my biggest takeaways from researching horror writing for Mental Health Awareness Month was some of the things we shouldn’t do. For example, unless your character is politically incorrect, don’t describe suicide as an “epidemic”, “skyrocketing” or other exaggerated terms. Use words such as “higher rates” or “rising”. Don’t describe suicide as “Without warning” or “inexplicable”. Do convey that the character exhibited warning signs. Don’t refer to suicide as “unsuccessful” or “failed attempt”, or report it as though it was a crime. Do say, “died by suicide” “killed him/herself”, and instead of presenting the act like a crime, write about suicide in your story as a public health issue. Hopefully, as horror authors, we can continue to scare the jeebies out of our readers but at the same time, create a story which accurately exhibits archetypes of mentally ill characters, whether they are mad scientists, psychopathic serial killers or characters with dissociative identity disorders that assume their mother’s personality.

(9) TBR. Andrew Liptak lists “13 new science fiction and fantasy books to check out in late May” at The Verge.

May 15th

Alternis by Maurice Broaddus, Andrea Phillips, Jacqueline Koyanagi, and E.C. Myers

The latest serial from digital publisher Serial Box dropped last week, and it features a great team of writers: Maurice Broaddus, Andrea Phillips, Jacqueline Koyanagi, and E.C. Myers, with Firefly star Summer Glau handling the audiobook narration. In this story, a video game developer learns that the game she’s working on is part of a top-secret government project where countries around the world are competing for real resources.

You can read the first installment for free.

(10) FOLLOW THAT LODESTAR. Bonnie McDaniel has completed her Lodestar YA Award Reviews. Here is her summary. Here are the links to her individual reviews of the finalists:

(11) HUGO NOVELETTES. Standback provides an enthusiastic rundown of the Hugo Best Novelette category: “The Hugo 2019 Best Novelettes are The Best”.

Almost all of these stories are free to read online; and they’re quick and sharp and unusual. If you want the fun and beauty of the Hugos in a nutshell, the Best Novelette category is a damn good place to find it.

(12) HUGO RECOMMENDATIONS WIKI. Standback also announced: “I’m picking up the Hugo Nominee Wiki that Didi Chanoch has been running the last few years — just a simple site for collecting (and keeping track of…) recommendations and notable nominees in the various categories” — Hugo Award Nominees 2020 Wiki

This wiki is a handy place to collect recommendations for 2019 works which are eligible for a Hugo Award in 2020!

If you’re looking for recommendations from last year, the 2019 wiki is right here.

(13) MORE NOVELETTE LOVE. Peter Enyeart’s “2019 Hugo Picks: Novelettes” are also filled with praise.

This is a strong set, perhaps my favorite set of nominees ever. I enjoyed reading all of them, and I’m sad I have to rank any of them lower than #1.

(14) ONE BORN EVERY MINUTE? BBC asks “Would you pay $1m for a laptop full of malware?” (I’m afraid I own one of these already!)

A laptop deliberately infected with six notorious strains of malware, including WannaCry and ILoveYou, is being auctioned in the US as an art project.

At time of writing, the highest bid for the device was $1.1m (£800,000).

…The project is a collaboration between the artist Guo O Dong and a New York cyber-security company called Deep Instinct.

“We came to understand this project as a kind of bestiary, a catalogue of historical threats,” Guo told Vice.

“It’s more exciting to see the beasts in a live environment.”

(15) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. “Female-voice AI reinforces bias, says UN report” – BBC has the story.

AI-powered voice assistants with female voices are perpetuating harmful gender biases, according to a UN study.

These female helpers are portrayed as “obliging and eager to please”, reinforcing the idea that women are “subservient”, it finds.

Particularly worrying, it says, is how they often give “deflecting, lacklustre or apologetic responses” to insults.

The report calls for technology firms to stop making voice assistants female by default.

The study from Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is entitled, I’d blush if I could, which is borrowed from a response from Siri to being called a sexually provocative term.

“Companies like Apple and Amazon, staffed by overwhelmingly male engineering teams, have built AI systems that cause their feminised digital assistants to greet verbal abuse with catch-me-if-you-can flirtation,” the report says.

(16) SUPERBUGS MR. RICO! NPR tells how “Scientists Modify Viruses With CRISPR To Create New Weapon Against Superbugs”.

…”What CRISPR is able to do is something that we’ve not been able to do before. And that is, very selectively modify genes in the viruses to target the bacteria,” Priebe says.

Later this year, Dr. Michael Priebe and his colleagues plan to start infusing cocktails containing billions of bacteriophages genetically modified with CRISPR into patients at six centers around the United States.

“If we’re successful, this revolutionizes the treatment of infections,” he adds. “This can be the game changer that takes us out of this arms race with the resistant bacteria and allows us to use a totally different mechanism to fight the pathogenic bacteria that are infecting us.”

The approach, developed by Locus Biosciences of Morrisville, N.C., involves viruses known as bacteriophages (called phages for short). Phages are the natural enemies of bacteria. They can infect and destroy bacteria by reproducing in large numbers inside them until the microbes literally explode.

(17) WHY A SKYWALKER HAS TRUE GRIT. It may have something to do with the location shooting — “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, The Ultimate Preview” at Vanity Fair.

There’s a desert valley in southern Jordan called Wadi Rum, or sometimes “the Valley of the Moon.” There are stone inscriptions in Wadi Rum that are more than 2,000 years old. Lawrence of Arabia passed through there during the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire. More recently, J. J. Abrams went there to film parts of the latest Star Wars movie, The Rise of Skywalker, because it’s largely uninhabited and starkly beautiful and looks plausibly alien, and one of the things that has always made the Star Wars movies feel so real—as if they had a real life of their own that continues on out beyond the edges of the screen—is the way they’re shot on location, with as few digital effects as possible. George Lucas shot the Tatooine scenes from A New Hope in southern Tunisia. For Skywalker, it’s Wadi Rum.

They don’t do it that way because it’s easy. Abrams and his crew had to build miles of road into the desert. They basically had to set up a small town out there, populated by the cast and extras and crew—the creature-effects department alone had 70 people. The Jordanian military got involved. The Jordanian royal family got involved. There was sand. There were sandstorms, when all you could do was take cover and huddle in your tent and—if you’re John Boyega, who plays the ex-Stormtrooper Finn—listen to reggae.

(18) RESCUED FROM THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR. Yahoo! Entertainment reveals “Carrie Fisher and Daughter Billie Lourd Will Appear in Scenes Together in New Star Wars Film”.

Fans of Carrie Fisher will be able to see the star live on in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker — with her daughter Billie Lourd right beside her.

Director J.J. Abrams told Vanity Fair he used old footage of Fisher for the upcoming Episode IX and had cut Lourd, 26, out of those scenes with her late mother thinking it would be too painful for the young actress to see.

Instead, Lourd asked him to keep their scenes intact….

[Thanks to Standback, Martin Morse Wooster, Mark Hepworth, Marc Criley, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Errolwi, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Liptak, Andrew Porter, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Nemma Wollenfang Receives SLF’s 2018 Working Class Grant

Nemma Wollenfang

The Speculative Literature Foundation has awarded its 2018 Working Class Writers Grant to Nemma Wollenfang.

The $1,000 Working Class Grant is intended to assist working class, blue-collar, poor, and homeless writers who have been historically underrepresented in speculative fiction due to the financial barriers that have made it much harder for them to access the writing world. SLF created the annual grant in 2013.

The SLF announcement says that science fiction, fantasy, and horror are the genres Wollenfang “generally writes when she puts pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard), but she is ‘absolutely thrilled’ that the excerpt within her application for the 2018 Working Class Writers Grant, I, Phoenix, caught the jurors’ interest this year.”

A perennial applicant for the Working Class Writers Grant, Wollenfang was named Honorable Mention for the grant twice: once in 2015, and then again in 2016.  

Her unpublished steampunk novel, Clockwork Evangeline, won the Retreat West First Chapter Competition in 2016, and was also ranked as a finalist and Judges’ Favorite for the Insights Novel Award in 2016, 2017, and 2018.

It should be no surprise then that Wollenfang finally made the impact she wanted upon the jurors for the grant this year. Working Class Writers Grant juror Rebecca Gibson said of Wollenfang’s winning entry and excerpt from I, Phoenix: “This story is thoroughly fascinating, making me want to know more—the world and character building are tight, the premise is sound, and the attached synopsis shows that the story will be spectacular when fully fleshed out.”

Receiving Honorable Mentions for the 2018 Working Class Writers Grant are Julie Borden, Dominik Parisien, and Alanna Faelan “for their entertaining and thought-provoking submissions, which made the selection of the winner a difficult but enjoyable process for our jurors.”

[Based on a press release.]

Wandering Through the Public Domain #13

A regular exploration of public domain genre works available through Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and Librivox.

By Colleen McMahon: Serendipity strikes again…I started this edition thinking that I didn’t have any feature topic that I wanted to write about, so I would instead just do a roundup of a bunch of authors whose birthdays I missed in April.

First up was Stanley G. Weinbaum (1902-1935), who, it turns out, is an author who made an enormous impact on the science fiction field in a tragically short life. Reading about Weinbaum was so interesting that he immediately took over and became the feature topic!

Stanley Weinbaum was born in 1902 and died of lung cancer just 33 years later, publishing only a handful of short stories (and one pseudonymous romance novel) in his lifetime. But his few stories formed an important basis for the full development of the science fiction genre.

His very first science fiction tale, “A Martian Odyssey”, appeared in Wonder Stories in 1934, and set a new standard for stories that to this point had existed on the far (and often nonsensical) fringe of adventure fiction. The story tells of the encounter between astronauts exploring Mars and an intelligent alien. They gradually learn to communicate with “Tweel” who then accompanies the explorers and helps explain several other Martian life forms they discover.

While “A Martian Odyssey” includes some typical-for-the-time encounters with dangerous aliens, complete with chases and hairsbreadth escapes, the real excitement of the plot revolves around the trial-and-error process of the humans and Martian figuring out how to communicate and understand the information Tweel is providing about the other species on Mars.

Isaac Asimov saw “A Martian Odyssey” as a turning point for science fiction, one that changed the parameters of the field for the writers who came after. He called it

a perfect Campbellian science fiction story, before John W. Campbell. Indeed, Tweel may be the first creature in science fiction to fulfil Campbell’s dictum, ‘write me a creature who thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man’. (from Asimov on Science Fiction, via Wikipedia).

In 2017, Alan Brown wrote about Stanley Weinbaum:

Weinbaum’s stories immediately stood out as different. His characters felt real and acted realistically. There was romance, but the women did not exist only as objects to be captured and/or rescued. The science was rooted in the latest developments, and thoughtfully applied. And most of all, the aliens were not simply bug-eyed monsters existing to invade the planet or threaten humanity. They felt real in the same way the human characters did—and yet seemed anything but human in the way they thought and acted.

In Weinbaum’s hands, a genre that was known for immaturity had grown up, but in a way that didn’t sacrifice any of the humor, fun, and adventure. You could read the stories for the sense of thrilling adventure alone, but those who wanted more found that as well.

Weinbaum published thirteen stories in Wonder Stories and Astounding between July 1934 and December 1935, and several more appeared posthumously over the next few years. His impact on the genre was recognized by writers and fans alike, as “A Martian Odyssey” was overwhelmingly voted into the first Science Fiction Hall of Fame collection. He was recognized with the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award in 2008.

Project Gutenberg has seven works by Weinbaum, six short stories and a posthumously-published novel:

All of these works are available on Librivox:

A few more authors who had birthdays back in April:

Robert Bloch (1917-1994) has one novel on Project Gutenberg, This Crowded Earth (1958), which has also been recorded for Librivox.

Henry Kuttner (1915-1958) is represented by three stories at Project Gutenberg:

All have been recorded at Librivox, along with an additional novel, The Creature From Beyond Infinity.

Howard Browne (1908-1999) has six stories on Project Gutenberg (though at least two are really novel-length, but were serialized in pulp magazines):

Recent Librivox releases:

  • Short Science Fiction Collection 065 by Various

    Includes stories by Gordon R. Dickson, Frederic Brown, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Lester Del Rey, Ben Bova and more!

  • Tarzan and the Golden Lion by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950)

    Tarzan’s amazing ability to establish kinship with some of the most dangerous animals in the jungle serves him well in this exciting story of his adventures with the Golden Lion, Jad-bal-ja, when the great and lordly animal becomes his ally and protector. Tarzan learns from the High Priestess, La, of a country north of Opar which is held in dread by the Oparians. It is peopled by a strange race of gorilla-men with the intelligence of humans and the strength of gorillas. From time to time they attack Opar, carrying off prisoners for use as slaves in the jewel-studded Temple where they worship a great black-maned lion. Accompanied by the faithful Jad-bal-ja, Tarzan invades the dread country in an attempt to win freedom for the hundreds of people held in slavery there…

  • The Year When Stardust Fell by Raymond Fisher Jones (1915-1994)

    The story of The Year When Stardust Fell is not a story of the distant future or of the remote past. It is not a story of a never-never land where fantastic happenings take place daily. It is a story of my town and yours, of people like you and me and the mayor in townhall, his sheriff on the corner, and the professor in the university—a story that happens no later than tomorrow. It is the portrayal of the unending conflict between ignorance and superstition on one hand, and knowledge and cultural enlightenment on the other as they come into conflict with each other during an unprecedented disaster brought on by the forces of nature.

  • The Cartels Jungle by Irving E. Cox Jr. (1915-2001)

    In most ideally conceived Utopias the world as it exists is depicted as a mushrooming horror of maladjustment, cruelty and crime. In this startlingly original short novel that basic premise is granted, but only to pave the way for an approach to Utopia over a highway of the mind so daringly unusual we predict you’ll forget completely that you’re embarking on a fictional excursion into the future by one of the most gifted writers in the field. And that forgetfulness will be accompanied by the startling realization that Irving E. Cox has a great deal more than a storyteller’s magic to impart.

Pixel Scroll 5/21/19 The Pixelyon Fifth Project Was The Last Best Hope For Scrolls. It Filed

(1) STICK A FORK IN IT. The second official trailer for Toy Story 4 dropped today. Features Keanu Reeves, who adds Canadian content to the movie as stuntman Duke Caboom. The film comes to U.S. theaters on June 21.

Woody has always been confident about his place in the world and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. But when Bonnie adds a reluctant new toy called “Forky” to her room, a road trip adventure alongside old and new friends will show Woody how big the world can be for a toy.

(2) ARF SAYS SANDY. The Dick Tracy strip seems to be starting an arc involving Annie and Daddy Warbucks. Daniel Dern says, “I’ve been following sundry daily strips via GoComics but it appears to have started a week ago here.”

(3) SFWA’S AGENT. Michael Capobianco penned “An Appreciation of Eleanor Wood” for the SFWA Blog.

SFWA thanks Eleanor Wood and Spectrum Literary Agency for more than twenty years of service to the organization….

I still vividly remember how much Eleanor helped when SFWA’s auditor found a serious discrepancy in how Pocket Books was paying royalties for Star Trek books exported to the UK and Australia – they weren’t paying anything, contrary to the language in their boilerplate contract. SFWA complained to Pocket but was met with repeated demurrals; it was only when Eleanor took over that they capitulated, not only paying a fair compensation to all the authors affected, but getting the contract changed to more fairly pay authors in the future….

(4) THE SPIDER SYNDROME. Maurice Broaddus delivers today’s “The Big Idea” at Whatever.

The Usual Suspects is a bit of a departure for me. It’s a middle school detective novel (think “Elmore Leonard for kids” or, as it was pitched, “Encyclopedia Brown meets The Wire”), because I work a lot with children who want to read what I write and, frankly, most of my stuff isn’t “age inappropriate.” In fact, I originally wrote the book to both entertain my oldest son and chronicle some of my children’s antics (it’s the only thing of mine he’s read and he still refers to himself as my original editor). The premise of the story is The Big Idea: when something goes wrong in the school, they round up The Usual Suspects….

(5) AI AT BARBICAN. This is from a review by Simon Ings behind the Financial Times paywall of the “AI:  More Than Human” exhibit now showing at London’s Barbican Centre through August 26.

AI is part of the Barbican’s ‘Life Rewired’ season of films, workshops, concerts, and talks.  What is emerging from the project is less that we must learn how machines think and create, and more that we must stop carelessly running down our own abilities.  Human values and practices persist well beyond the moment we learn to automate them.  Music has been produced algorithmically since Bach’s, and Mozart wrote generative algorithms to power street organs.  Chess computers do nothing but encourage the playing of chess.

The first tented spaces in the Barbican’s gallery do a good job of exploring and to some degree disarming our anxieties about being taken over by thinking machines.  We are shown how the west, under the shadow of Rabbi Loew’s 16th century Golem, adopted a strictly instrumentalist view of human intelligence.  The US science fiction writer Isaac Asimov can be heard channeling the Abrahamic tradition when he insists that ‘A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.’

(6) INSIDE THE SUIT. Patch O’Furr continues a deep dive into furry fandom with “How furries resist a commercialized fandom (Part 2)”.

Furry fandom often has DIY ethics (intentional or not). That can mean nonprofit volunteer-led events, and directly supporting each other’s art instead of just consuming corporate products. A Daily Beast reporter asked about it and I shared lots of info that didn’t all make the news — so here’s a followup in 3 parts.

Fandom is big business in the mainstream – but furries have their own place apart. Why does this fandom grow independently? Let’s look at unique expression at the heart of it. Of course furries do a lot more things than this story can look at, but one aspect brings insight about decentralized structure.

Some subcultures rise and fall with media they consume. But the influences seen in Part 1 didn’t make one property in common for every furry. They didn’t rise with a movie like Zootopia. Instead, this fandom is fans of each other….

(7) GHOST OF COLAS PAST. This is hilarious. Food & Wine reports “‘New Coke’ Is Coming Back This Summer, Thanks to ‘Stranger Things'” – a product I definitely feel no nostalgia for, at all.

Season three of the spooky Netflix series takes place in 1985, the year of the soft drink brand’s most infamous product launch.

What Crystal Pepsi was to the 1990s, New Coke was to the ’80s. With the cola wars in full swing, the competition to out-do one another meant multi-million dollar, celebrity-filled ad campaigns and some less-than-successful product innovations. In 1985, the Coca-Cola Company made an ill-fated attempt to improve its core product by changing the formula up….

Starting at 5 p.m ET on Thursday, May 23, 12-ounce cans of New Coke will be available as a gift with purchase at CokeStore.com/1985, which will also feature limited-edition, numbered Stranger Things-themed glass bottles of Coca-Cola and Coke Zero Sugar.

(8) CELEBRITY CREDENTIALS. Ten cats from SFF movies made Business Insider’s list — “RANKED: 15 of the best movie cats of all time”.

15. Jonesy in “Alien” (1979) and “Aliens” (1986) is a survivor.

In the space thriller “Alien,” Jonesy the orange tabby cat is a source of comfort for protagonist Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) as her spaceship and crewmates are viciously attacked by an elusive alien creature called a Xenomorph.

Toward the end of the film, Jonesy and Ripley remain as the lone survivors on the spaceship, which means Jonesy is one tough cat.

Jonesy also made a reappearance in the sequel “Aliens” after he and Ripley traveled in hypersleep for 57 years, officially making him the oldest fictional cat on this list.

(9) ALIEN SPOTTED. A UFO will beam up this rare creature any moment now.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

Another big day in genre movie history.

  • May 21, 1971 Escape from the Planet of the Apes premiered in theaters
  • May 21, 1980 Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back hit theaters.
  • May 21, 1981 Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior debuted in theaters.
  • May 21, 2009 Terminator Salvation opened theatrically.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 21, 1889 Arthur Hohl. He’s Mr. Montgomery, the man who helps Richard Arlen and Leila Hyams to make their final escape in Island of Lost Souls, the 1932 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau which is considered the first such filming. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 21, 1903 Manly Wade Wellman. I remember reading the John the Balladeer collectionKarl E. Wagner did and then seeking out the rest of those stories. Amazing stuff! Read the Complete John Thunstone a few years back — strongly recommended. What else by him should I read? (Died 1986.)
  • Born May 21, 1917 Raymond Burr. Speaking of lawyers, we have the Birthday of the man who played Perry Mason.  It looks the 1949 film Black Magic with him playing Dumas, Jr. was his first genre performance. Bride of the Gorilla was his next with Lou Chaney Jr. co-starring and Curt Siodmak directing. He goes on to be Grand Vizier Boreg al Buzzar in The Magic Carpet before being Vargo in Tarzan and the She-Devil. And finally he’s in a Godzilla film, Godzilla, King of the Monsters! To be precise, as Steve Martin. And unfortunately he played the same role in Godzilla 1985 which earned him a Golden Raspberry Award. (Died 1993.)
  • Born May 21, 1945 Richard Hatch. He’s best known for his role as Captain Apollo in Battlestar Galactica. He is also widely known for his role as Tom Zarek in the second Battlestar Galactica series. He also wrote a series of tie-in novels co-authored with Christopher Golden, Stan Timmons, Alan Rodgers and Brad Linaweaver. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 21, 1974 Fairuza Balk, 43. She made her film debut as Dorothy Gale in Return to Oz. She later Aissa in The Island of Dr. Moreau, and Mildred Hubble in The Worst Witch.

(12) KNITTING UP THE STEEL WOOL. Cora Buhlert does an exhaustive review of GoT’s conclusion: “And the Iron Throne Goes to…”. The executive summary is —

…So in short, Game of Thrones got a better ending than at least I expected. It’s maybe not the ending most fans wanted or expected, but it is an ending and a surprisingly satisfying one.

(13) GAME OF GROANS. Daniel Dern asks, “Given GoT’s dragon-strafing episode, combined with family tree revelations, is/was Jon Snow referring to Daenerys as ‘Aunt Misbehaving’?”

(14) CONFESSIONS OF A DRAGON RIDER. Sarah Larson, in “Daenerys Tells All!” in The New Yorker, has an extensive interview with Emilia Clarke, including how whoever had the Starbucks cup on the set wasn’t a member of the cast (they don’t drink Starbucks) and telling children named Daenarys, “Work it, girls!”

“I see this vision, this angel, this incredible woman float towards me,” Clarke recalled the other day. “I can’t quite control myself. And Beyoncé says to me, ‘Oh, my goodness, it’s so wonderful to meet you. I think you’re brilliant.’ I just couldn’t handle it! I was on the verge of tears. I could see myself reflected in her eyes. I could see her go, ‘Oh, no. I misjudged this. This girl is crazy and I’m not going to have a real conversation with another celebrity. I’m having a conversation with a crazed fan who’s looking at me like a rabbit in the headlights.’ Which is exactly what I was. I said, ‘I’ve seen you live in concert and I think you’re amazing and wonderful! Wonderful!’ And all I wanted to scream was ‘Please, please still like me even though my character turns into a mass-killing dictator! Please still think that I’m representing women in a really fabulous way.’ ”

(15) FROM GRRM HIMSELF. George R.R. Martin shared a few of his feelings about “An Ending” at Not A Blog. Here are a couple of the less spoilery lines —

..Book or show, which will be the “real” ending?   It’s a silly question.   How many children did Scarlett O’Hara have?

How about this?  I’ll write it.   You read it.  Then everyone can make up their own mind, and argue about it on the internet.

(16) GOOD TO THE LAST BOOK. Bustle knows the way to work this dilemma for some clicks: “The New ‘Game Of Thrones’ Book May Not Be Finished, But These 15 Fantasy Series Definitely Are”.

If you’re a fan frustrated by the incompletion of one of the fantasy series listed above, or you’re waiting on the return of a different series entirely, this list will help you choose your next reading project. All of the fantasy series on the list below have been completed, which means you won’t have to wait to read the next book — unless you want to.

(17) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. You would be hard pressed to find a household that doesn’t have a microwave. But do you know how the beloved appliance came to be? In 1945, a Raytheon engineer was walking around a radar test room with a chocolate bar in his pocket. The bar began to melt when he got too close to a magnetron tube. His curiosity was peaked and he began experimenting with other things like kernels of corn and eggs. Soon after, Raytheon employees began sampling “microwaved” food and thus began the evolution of what we now know as the microwave. (Source: Business Insider)

Jon King Tarpinian includes a postscript: “A family friend worked at Raytheon, in Chatsworth/Canoga Park.  Her family had one before they were offered commercially.  Everybody raved about a grey steak.”

(18) BEYOND BAKING SODA. More than a science-fair project: “To Safely Study Volcanoes, Scientists Bring The Blast To Them” (includes video.)

Volcanoes have been crucial to life on earth. Oozing lava helped form the earth’s land masses. Gasses from volcanoes helped create our atmosphere. But despite the growing field of volcanology, there’s still a lot we don’t understand about volcanic eruptions.

That’s partly because volcanoes aren’t easy to study. Getting the right equipment into remote locations under unpredictable circumstances can be difficult. More importantly, studying active volcanos can be dangerous.

Which is why a group of 40 scientists and engineers from all over the world came together to simulate volcanic eruptions. We tagged along with them as they conducted their experiments at the University at Buffalo’s Geohazards Field Station, a former ballistics test site for military weapons in upstate New York.

The scientists simulated volcanic eruptions by detonating underground explosives. They wanted to study what happened during rapid fire eruptions in a safe and controlled environment. Although big eruptions are often what make the news, small rapid-fire volcanic eruptions are far more common.

(19) SPAM FROM THE CAN. BBC introduces us to “The pun-loving computer programs that write adverts”.

Machines are now writing advertising copy as well as basic news reports, but are their efforts any good and can they be taught to be more inventive?

“Have a suite stay” read an ad for a hotel offering all-suite rooms. A neat – if obvious – pun you might think.

But what made this ad noteworthy was that it was created by an automated copywriting programme developed by Dentsu Aegis Network, the marketing giant.

The firm launched its natural language generation algorithm last year to increase output after changes were made to Google’s advertising system, explains Audrey Kuah, the firm’s managing director.

The programme creates 20 to 25 full ads a second in English and is “trained” by feeding it thousands of the kind of ads it is meant to produce, she says.

(20) ARCHIE MCPHEE. What does this have to do with sff? If you know, leave your answer in comments.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Perspective on Vimeo, Fernando Livschitz dreams of really odd forms of transportation.

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

Crime Fiction Awards Season

Crime fiction awards season is in full swing. Even J.K. Rowling’s pseudonymous work took one home. So did James Sallis, once a New Wave sff author with two stories in Again, Dangerous Visions, who long ago moved on from writing sff.

CRIMEFEST. The winners of seven separate prizes were announced at CrimeFest in Bristol, UK held May 7-10.

Audible Sounds of Crime Award (for the best unabridged crime audiobook)

  • Lethal White, by “Robert Galbraith,” aka J.K. Rowling; read by Robert Glenister (Hachette Audio)

eDunnit Award (“for the best crime fiction e-book first published in both hardcopy and in electronic format”)

  • Sunburn, by Laura Lippman (Faber and Faber)

Last Laugh Award (for the best humorous crime novel)

  • A Shot in the Dark, by Lynne Truss (Bloomsbury)

H.R.F. Keating Award (for the best biographical or critical book related to crime fiction)

  • Difficult Lives–Hitching Rides, by James Sallis (No Exit Press)

Best Crime Novel for Children (aged 8-12)

  • Kat Wolfe Investigates, by Lauren St. John (Macmillan Children’s Books)

Best Crime Novel for Young Adults (aged 12-16)

  • Run, Riot, by Nikesh Shukla (Hodder Children’s Books)

Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year

  • The Katharina Code, by Jørn Lier Horst, translated by Anne Bruce (Michael Joseph; Norway)

LINDISFARNE. The winner of the inaugural Lindisfarne Prize for Debut Crime Fiction has been announced

  • The Roll Bearer’s Daughter by Cressida Downing

ELLERY QUEEN. Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine posted the winners of their 2018 Readers Awards:

  • “Duty, Honor, Hammett” by Stacy Woodson
  • “50” by Josh Pachter
  • “Sofee” by David Dean

STRAND. The Strand Magazine has announced the nominees for its 2019 Strand Critics Awards.

Best Mystery Novel

  • Lullaby Road by James Anderson (Crown)
  • Transcription by Kate Atkinson (Little, Brown and Company)
  • November Road by Lou Berney (William Morrow)
  • Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown and Company)
  • The Witch Elm by Tana French (Viking)
  • Sun Burn by Laura Lippman (HarperCollins)

Best Debut Novel

  • Dodging and Burning by John Copenhaver (Pegasus)
  • Star of the North by D.B. John  (Crown)
  • The Other Side of Everything by Lauren Doyle Owens (Touchstone)
  • The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (Sourcebooks Landmark)
  • Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward (Park Row Books)

Lifetime Achievement Awards

  • Heather Graham
  • Donna Leon

Publisher of the Year

  • Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert for the story.]

2019 Derringer Awards

The Short Mystery Fiction Society announced the 2019 Derringer Awards on May 1.

For Best Flash Story (ranges up to 1,000 words)

  • “The Bicycle Thief” by James Blakey, The Norwegian American, Sept. 21, 2018

For Best Short Story (ranges from 1,001 to 4,000 words)

  • “Dying in Dokesville” by Alan Orloff, Malice Domestic 13: Mystery Most Geographical, Wildside Press, April 2018

For Best Long Story (ranges from 4,001 to 8,000 words)

  • “With My Eyes” by Leslie Budewitz, Suspense Magazine, January/February 2018

For Best Novelette (ranges from 8,001 to 20,000 words)

  • “The Cambodian Curse” by Gigi Pandian, Henery Press, October 2018

Also revealed was the organization’s lifetime achievement award:

The Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer for Lifetime Achievement

  • Doug Allyn

 [Thanks to Cora Buhlert for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 5/20/19 My name Is Elmer J. Fudd, Millionaire. I Own A Pixel And A Scroll

(1) I SEE BY YOUR OUTFIT. You know what they say about the love of money. Patch O’Furr’s “How furries resist a commercialized fandom (Part 1)” begins a three-part series at Dogpatch Press.

Fandom roots were growing independently. Influential fans of these times included Fred Patten, who helped import anime to America, founding a fandom for it, mingling it with science fiction fans and their conventions. Anime was a breath of fresh air with robots, monsters, science fiction and serious adult stories. Patten was also a bridge for funny animal artists with self-published APA’s and zines. In the early 80’s, Steve Gallaci put furries in military science fiction illustration that energized these artists.

At conventions, there was a certain social split among artists and fans. Serious-minded artists wanted to launch respectable careers, while orbiting ones hoped to ride along. But others looked to themselves as sources for fandom for its own sake — and respectability to outsiders wasn’t the main point. While other fandoms took different paths, this one branched off towards a subculture.

At 1980’s sci-fi conventions like Baycon in the San Francisco Bay area, the split was felt with separate room parties (separated by elitism or even cliquish mocking at “skunkfvckers”). It eventually spun off into the first furry con, ConFurence 0 in 1989, a test put together by fans in Southern California. (Mark Merlino, cofounder of Confurence, told me about the fan split in a long email exchange in 2017.) Others spun off from Chicago (Duckon), Philadelphia (Philcon) and elsewhere when furry fans wanted cons of their own….

Tomorrow, Part 2 will look more at how fandom grows with free expression, its own cottage industry and independent media, while making a certain fandom identity. Then Part 3 will look at how fandom can work like counterculture (or even punk) and how commercialism creeps in and complicates it.

(2) X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS. The late Len Wein gets a lot of love in the video that launches this series – “The History of the X-Men Part 1.”

Starting today through the end of May, Marvel will release the four-episode series online to celebrate the X-Men series that changed the Marvel Universe forever: Giant-Size X-Men, 1991’s X-Men #1, Age of Apocalypse, and New X-Men. Sponsored by this summer’s blockbuster HOUSE OF X and POWERS OF X series, these new retrospectives will take both longtime and new X-Men fans back to some of the greatest moments in the Marvel Universe, setting the scene for the most important story in the history of mutantkind.

Each of these shorts will feature voices from Marvel’s past and present – including legendary creators like Adam Kubert, Chris Claremont, Larry Hama, Jonathan Hickman, Al Ewing and more – as they look back and share their thoughts (and inside looks) into the most influential moments that redefined and reignited the X-Men, leading to bold new directions that drew in generations of fans around the world.

X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Series Release Schedule:  5/20 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 1: Giant-Size X-Men (1975);   5/22 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 2: X-Men #1 (1991);  5/24 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 2: Age of Apocalypse (1995);  5/28 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 2: New X-Men (2001)

(3) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. Ingvar (of Trigger Snowflake fame) livetweeted his tour of the Sweden Solar System, starting near the Sun and ending right by Mars, “Using just feet and public transport, it takes about three hours to go from the Sun to Mars.” The thread starts here.

(4) PINNACLE OF SFF. The winners of the 2019 Colorado Book Awards were announced on May 18. (Via Locus Online.)

  • Juvenile Literature
    Del Toro Moon by Darby Karchut (Owl Hollow Press)
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy
    While Gods Sleep by L. D. Colter (Tam Lin Publishing)

(5) HIGHER AND HIGHER. Did you know that Godzilla suffers from inflation? Bloody Disgusting has a lovely diagram: “Artist’s Epic Godzilla Size Chart Highlights How Much the King of the Monsters Has Grown Over the Years”.

…Artist Noger Chen put together this epic size chart in advance of King of the Monsters, putting every single live-action Godzilla (from 1954-2019) side by side, in order of height.

Godzilla measured just 50m tall when he first debuted on the scene, and here in 2019, he’s grown to a staggering 119.8m – the largest Godzilla, in front of Shin Godzilla, ever on screen!

(6) DOWN THE RIVER. Casting choices are named for a new sff movie in “Cannes: Anne Heche, Thomas Jane Join Sci-Fi Film ‘Salvage'” at The Hollywood Reporter.

Salvage will tell the story of two couples fighting to survive on a houseboat as it moves down river in a post-apocalyptic America: Everyone is out for their own survival, nothing is as it was and brutality is the new normal. Each of the characters discover sides of themselves they never knew existed, some valiant and some violent.

The film also boasts an original score composed by Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains.

(7) CROWDSOURCED STAFFING. [Item by Dann]. Grimdark Magazine is losing their cover artist. They are asking fans who are subscribed to their Patreon to help them select their next cover artist.

Help us shortlist a new GdM cover artist

Right-o grimdark horde! I need your input to decide upon a shortlist for a new cover artist to replace our outgoing legend Jason Deem.

When I put out the word for a new artist we got a very tall pile of entries–fifty or sixty or so. I had to cut most of them either for their art not being aligned with what I want on our covers, or their rates being a bit too far out of budget, and got the list down to four. I’d love to get your opinion on them.

The artists are:

(8) DC SAYS STOP WONDERING. After the comic debuted a lawyer letter arrived —“DC Sends Cease And Desist Demand Over Wonder Woman AOC Cover”Bleeding Cool has the story.

This week, Devil’s Due published the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez & The Freedom Force: New Party, Who Dis? comic book. A number of comic book retailers ran exclusive retailer covers, including this one for NY Collector Cave by Carla Cohen which Bleeding Cool posted a couple of weeks ago. In which AOC bears a stunning resemblance to Wonder Woman. Too stunning it seems for DC Comics whose legal team, after reading the article on Bleeding Cool (Warner Bros IP traffic spiked in the days after we posted that article), sent a cease-and-desist notice to DEvil’s Due and the NY Collector Cave demanded that the comic in question not be distributed, but recalled and returned or destroyed.

(9) PUSHING THE NARRATIVE. Is Grumpy Cat dead, or already reincarnated as Craig Martelle? Camestros Felapton has a few quotes from the 20BooksTo50K leader that raise the possibility: “Wrapping up the LMBPN Kerfuffle and the Nebulas”. Martelle told his FB group —

…Six indies nominated for Nebula awards last night and zero indie winners. What matters most is which stories resonate best with the readers and which ones will lead to new stories bringing more readers on board. Who is going to be the most professional of the authors? Out of our six finalists? Only one is not a full-time author and that is by choice.

I am not talking down about any winners or any other authors – being a full-time writer comes with great risk….

Camestros follows up with some earthy opinions of his own.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 20, 1911 Gardner Francis Fox. Writer for DC comics who created The Flash, Adam Strange and The Atom, plus the Justice Society of America. His first SF novel was Escape Across the Cosmos though he wrote a tie-ie novel, Jules Verne’s Five Weeks in a Balloon, previously. (Died 1986.)
  • Born May 20, 1928 Shirley Rousseau Murphy, 91. Author of the Joe Grey series of mysteries. It’s a cat who solves mysteries. Surely that’s genre. Excellent series. She also did some genre, none of which I’ve encountered, the Children of Ynell series and the Dragonbard trilogy.
  • Born May 20, 1946 Cher, 73. In The Witches of Eastwick which is her main genre credit. She did appear as Romana on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in “The Hot Number Affair” and she voiced herself in the “The Secret of Shark Island” of The New Scooby-Doo Movies which despite the name was actually a series, but that’s it. 
  • Born May 20, 1960 John Billingsley, 59. Phlox on Enterprise, a series I really liked despite the fact it seems to have many detractors. His first genre role was in A Man from Earth as Mr. Rothman, a film in which the scriptwriter riffed off the immortality themes from the “Requiem for Methuselah” episode he did for Trek. He’d later reprise that role in The Man from Earth: Holocene. He’s had one-off appearances on The X-Files, Stargate SG-1, Duck Dodgers, Twin Peaks, Lucifer and The Orville. He had a recurring role on Stitchers as Mitchell Blair. 
  • Born May 20, 1961 Owen Teale, 58. Best known role is Alliser Thorne on the just concluded Game of Thrones. He also was Will Scarlet in the superb Robin Hood where the lead role was performed by Patrick Bergin, he played the theologian Pelagius in 2004 King Arthur, was Vatrenus in yet another riff on Arthurian myth called The Last Legion, was Maldak in the “Vengeance on Varos” episode in the Era of the Sixth Doctor, and was Evan Sherman in the “Countrycide” episode of Torchwood. He’s currently playing Peter Knox in A Discovery of Witches based on the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, named after the first book in the trilogy.
  • Born May 20, 1992 Jack Gleeson, 27. Joffrey Baratheon on the just concluded Game of Thrones. Earlier genre roles are all nameless but are Reign of Fire, Batman Begins and Shrooms, the latter being an Irish horror film. 

(11) IN THE LID. Alasdair Stuart says The Full Lid for May 17 includes a visit to the UK’s phenomenally good National Video Game Museum, a review of Vylar Kaftan’s excellent new novella and a look at Directive, a short run podcast with endless tricks up its sleeve. The Hugo Spotlight this week is Foz Meadows. Here’s an excerpt about the museum —

…Some of them are demos or in beta testing like Lightmatter, which I spent a lot of time with. You’re visiting a science facility built into a mountain when the science becomes Science. Guided out by the grumpy Cave Johnson-alike whose project it is, you have to manipulate your surroundings to stay in the light. Because every shadow will kill you. It’s got that Portal ‘feral science’ feel to it mixed with a great, monochrome graphic palette that throws stark light and shadow everywhere. Once this is done, I’m going to pick it up.

So that’s a game I would never have known existed. That’s still being built. And you can play for free in a museum….

(12) AZAD SFF REVIEWED. NPR’s Caitlyn Paxson says “Language Has Magic In ‘The Candle And The Flame'”.

A fantastical silk road city comes to life in Nafiza Azad’s richly detailed debut novel, The Candle and the Flame.

Fatima works as a messenger in the melting pot of Noor, a bustling desert city where humans and djinn live side by side. Once Noor was only a human city, but an attack by a chaotic tribe of djinn called the Shayateen wiped out the entire population — all except for Fatima and her adoptive sister and grandmother. After the massacre, a new maharajah took charge of Noor and turned to the Ifrit, powerful djinn who strive to keep order in the world, to help drive out the Shayateen and keep the city safe, for its new human and Ifrit inhabitants alike.

(13) AVOID BLOGGER BURNOUT. Fine advice from The Little Red Reviewer: “Dear Book Bloggers, I’m worried about you”

Dear book bloggers of the world:  I’m worried about you. Please be kinder to yourselves.

Book blogging is not and was never meant to be something you are required to do every day or three times a week or on any arbitrarily defined schedule.

Book blogging is not and should not be about keeping up with other bloggers. There isn’t some prize for reading the most books, or downloading the most eARCs from Netgalley or getting the most ARCs in the mail.

Book blogging should not be something that comes before selfcare, or before your family, or before the big things in your life. Some days watching TV should come before book blogging, because we all do #selfcare differently….

(14) BEFORE LIGO. NPR looks at a “Billion-Dollar Gamble: How A ‘Singular Hero’ Helped Start A New Field In Physics”.

Imagine spending 40 years and more than a billion dollars on a gamble.

That’s what one U.S. government science agency did. It’s now paying off big time, with new discoveries about black holes and exotic neutron stars coming almost every week.

And while three physicists shared the Nobel Prize for the work that made this possible, one of them says the real hero is a former National Science Foundation staffer named Rich Isaacson, who saw a chance to cultivate some stunning research and grabbed it.

“The thing that Rich Isaacson did was such a miracle,” says Rainer Weiss, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the 2017 Nobel laureates. “I think he’s the hero. He’s a singular hero. We just don’t have a good way of recognizing people like that. Rich was in a singular place fighting a singular war that nobody else could have fought.”

Without him, Weiss says, “we would’ve been killed dead on virtually every topic.” He and his fellow laureate Kip Thorne recently donated money to create a brand-new American Physical Society award in Isaacson’s honor.

(15) WESTEROS’ FOURTH ESTATE. Esquire’s Gabrielle Bruney suspects a bunch of writers are going to have to get real jobs now that the show’s ended: “Game of Thrones Created a Vast Media Ecosystem. We Talked to the People at Its Center.”

…”I think that when the show first started, it was the book reader base that really got it going,” said David “Razor” Harris, editor of Thrones news, recap, and discussion website Winter is Coming.

“This is a show that both debuted and ran in an era where live-tweeting, after episode breakdowns, and podcasts are the norm,” said Myles McNutt, a media studies expert and assistant professor at Old Dominion University, who reviews the show for The AV Club. Twitter was barely five years old when the program debuted; Instagram would make its appearance six months after Thrones did. Earlier generations of web-savvy fans had been consigned to wikis and message boards, corners of the internet the uninitiated found easy to overlook. But instead, Thrones content was “popping up in your YouTube related videos, on the the Apple front page of top podcasts,” said McNutt.

“It sort of feels like it’s part of your feeds and your daily existence online,” he continued. “I do think there’s ubiquity to it that has encouraged people to jump onboard that might not have otherwise.”

(16) SIREN SONG. Air New Zealand encourages George R.R. Martin to finish the books — after flying to the country on one of their planes.

(17) NOT THIS FUTURE? BBC’s Jane Wakefield analyzes “The Google city that has angered Toronto”. Key quote vs. genre: “The smart city model is all about hype. They believe that if we have enough data we can solve all our problems, and we need to be skeptical about those claims.”

It was meant to be a vision of how we will all live in future – a smart city built from the internet up – offering citizens the chance to experience the very latest technology.

That would include autonomous cars, innovative ways to collect rubbish and shared spaces for communities to come together in new ways.

Sidewalk Labs, a sister company to Google, had acquired disused land in Toronto, Canada for this bold urban experiment, which it hoped would become a model for other cities around the world.

The fact that it would be collecting a lot of data from sensors placed all around the harbourside development unsettled some.

Now many are asking whether a private firm should take charge of urban improvement at all….

(18) NOT SO FAST! Indications that another much-touted idea doesn’t work to spec — “Warning over using augmented reality in precision tasks”.

People who use augmented reality headsets to complete complex tasks fare worse than those with no high-tech help, a small study suggests.

In addition, those fitted with headsets over-estimate how well they perform.

The discovery might limit the usefulness of augmented reality, which has been finding a role in medical and engineering jobs.

The problem arose because of the way that human eyes focused, researchers said.

(19) FACING THE FUTURE. “Hershey’s Tries to Woo the Youths With Emojis”MyRecipes tells how.

…Are the emojis just an attempt to sell more chocolate to youths? Probably. But they’re also designed to do the one thing that advertisers and brand managers speaking at industry conferences love most: starting a conversation. The press release states that the selected emojis were chosen because they “feature meanings that would help to spark a conversation.” The idea that chocolate could get people talking was based on market research which concluded that 87% of kids would want to share chocolate that features emojis with others.

(20) WESTWORLD SADDLES UP AGAIN. The third season trailer has dropped — Westworld III – HBO 2020.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Patch O’Furr, Andrew Porter, Dann, Alasdair Stuart, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]

The White Snake: A Review

By Martin Morse Wooster: Theaters in Washington have their specialties, but Washington’s Constellation Theatre Company is at its best when it does productions of plays by Mary Zimmerman based on fables.  I’ve seen all sorts of productions from Constellation, including one of The Skin of Our Teeth I previously reviewed here and a production of Sarah Ruhl’s Melancholy Play which was the worst six hours I spent in the theatre in 2018 (well, it felt like six hours—the play was 100 minutes long).[1]

But the best work I’ve seen from Constellation is when they perform works by Mary Zimmerman.  Zimmerman teaches at Northwestern and won a MacArthur Fellowship.  She’s written about 20 plays and has at least one Metropolitan Opera commission.  She also did an adaptation of Disney’s Jungle Book for the theatre that I’d really like to see.  I don’t know if all of Zimmerman’s plays are fantasy, but the two I’ve seen are.

The White Snake was originally premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2012 and has had productions in Chicago, New York, and Baltimore before coming to Washington.  The program told me that the story is considered one of China’s “Four Great Folktales” and that the version familiar to us was written by Fang Menglong in 1624, based on stories that were probably composed around 300. Looking at “Legend of the White Snake” in Wikipedia, I learned that the story has been turned into about a dozen Chinese movies and TV shows and was once the subject of a novella by E. Hoffman Price.

The story begins with the White Snake, a mythical creature (I don’t know if she is a god in Chinese mythology) who has obtained enlightenment after 1,500 years of studying the Tao.  But she wants to experience the human world, so with her sidekick the Green Snake, they assume human form, with the Green Snake becoming “Greenie,” the White Snake’s sidekick.  The White Snake falls in love, and we see her and her boyfriend and future husband enjoying the dragon races before marrying and settling down to raise a family.

But the Abbot, who has a lot of mystical power, wants to complicate things.  The abbot isn’t a villain—he just thinks having humanoid snakes running around his town is a bad idea.  So he persuades the White Snake’s husband to come to the monastery in a subterfuge.  The White Snake and the abbot then have a cosmic battle that will determine whether she will live in our world or have to go back to hers.

At one point Zimmerman pulls back the curtain and gives us a sense of how this drama would have been performed in China.  The Green Snake is ready to help her friend, and makes her hand into a fist.  But a pedant comes out with a scroll and explains that the green snake’s fist is a special fist, one with the pinky finger and forefinger slightly raised.  This makes the fist a particularly powerful one, with hands in a position that is normally restricted to men.  So my guess is that if I saw The White Snake in China, I’d see the same story but much more stylized.

The leads—Eunice Bae as the White Snake, Momo Nakamura as the Green Snake, and Ryan Sellers as the Abbot—were all good, and Alison Arkell Stockman competently directed the production.

 But what made the production memorable is the music.  Constellation long ago made a deal with Tom Teasley, a really talented percussionist, to provide the scores for some of their productions.  Teasley is a one-man band who is very good at what he does.  For this production, he worked with Chao Tian, who plays the Chinese dulcimer; the two of them together perform as Dong Xi or “East West.”  Teasley told me that their score was not improvised at the beginning and end of the show because of light cues but much of what I heard was improvisation.  While The White Snake was good, Teasley and Tian’s score made the show memorable.

I hope more of Mary Zimmernan’s work makes its way to Washington.  She is someone whose plays fantasy lovers would enjoy.


[1] Note to “BigelowT”:  you guessed correctly!

Pixel Scroll 5/19/19 Pixelvision: Dare to Scroll

(1) FINE DESIGN. The Nebula Award is truly a thing of beauty! (As was the winner’s dress.)

(2) SPOILER OF THRONES. Daniel Dern says, “I guarantee that, alas, this WON’T Be the closing scene in the Game of Thrones finale.”

WE SEE JON SNOW IN BED.

NEXT TO HIM, WE SEE THE BACK OF A WOMAN WITH LONG WHITE HAIR WITH LOTS OF FANCY BRAIDED HAIR ON THE BACK OF HER HEAD.

JON REACHES OVER AND TAPS HER ON THE SHOULDER. “Daeny, wake um. You won’t believe the dream I just had.”

SHE ROLLS OVER.

Vg’f Fhmnaar Cyrfurggr.

(And a tip of the hat to this classic.)

(3) BANNED BOOKS. Die Kasseler Liste/The Kassel List is a huge database of banned books which grew out of an art project exhibited at the documenta 14

Die Kasseler Liste is a growing database that presently comprises 125,000 data sets. It documents the global scale of censorship. Book bans persist across the world, on all continents, with varying reach and intensity, depending on political and social contexts.

Die Kasseler Liste covers vast territories and a large time frame. The earliest entries are taken from the „Index Librorum Prohibitorum,” which the catholic church first published in 1559 and which is represented in the database in its final version from 1948. It is but one example for censorship originating not only from government institutions. Civil and religious institutions similarly have their own history of systematically infringing on the right to freedom of expression. The Catholic lay organization Opus Dei, also featured in Die Kasseler Liste, is another case in point, where rigid and coercive reading directions provide the members with a tiered index. On the other hand, school districts and school libraries in the United States of America also have a record of systematically banning books from their collections.

(3) BREAKING THE STEREOTYPE. Cora Buhlert recently took on the Retro Hugo novelette finalists and concluded that “The Golden Age Was More Diverse Than You Think”.

…But even taking the known problems with the Retro Hugos into consideration, the breadth and variety of stories on the 1944 Retro Hugo ballot is astounding (pun fully intended), as is the fact that quite a few of them don’t really fit into the prevailing image image of what Golden Age science fiction was like. And this doesn’t just apply to left-field finalists such as Das Glasperlenspiel by Hermann Hesse in the novel category or Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and The Magic Bed-Knob by Mary Norton in the novella category, neither of whom I would have expected to make the Hugo ballot in 1944, if only because US science fiction fans wouldn’t have been familiar with them. No, there also is a lot of variety in the stories which originated in US science fiction magazines.

So let’s take a look at the novelette category at the 1944 Retro Hugos….

(4) HISTORY OF TOXICITY. In “‘The Phantom Menace’ at 20: How the first episode of the ‘Star Wars’ saga created toxic fandom” on Yahoo! Entertainment, Ethan Alter interviews Simon Pegg as part of an article about how the reaction to Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in 1999 was the first sign of “toxic fandom.”

…The message of The Phantom Menace is that even the most stable of societies can topple with the smallest push — in this case a minor trade dispute that sets the stage for the rise of a previously obscure senator with imperial ambitions. As he did with A New Hope, Lucas cloaked that larger lesson in a PG-rated adventure that’s made with children in mind … but not the children who saw Star Wars in theaters in the ’70s. And so — unhappy with a Star Wars movie that wasn’t the Star Wars they remembered — a sizable segment of the fanbase made their displeasure known, embracing an image of themselves as the keepers of the flame, which meant that their opinion of Star Wars was the only correct opinion of Star Wars.

They found an outlet on the still-young medium the internet, where like-minded critics could congregate and launch their arguments or personal attacks anonymously out on the franchise’s creator and other fans as the prequel series continued…

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY.

One of these movies did not feature Jar Jar Binks. I hope it isn’t too toxic of me to point that out.

  • May 19, 1966 The Navy Vs. The Night Monsters premiered in theaters.
  • May 19, 1999Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace was released theatrically.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 19, 1944 Peter Mayhew. Chewbacca from the beginning to The Force Awakens, before his retirement from the role. The same year he first did Chewy, he had an uncredited role as the Minotaur in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. He also shows in the Dark Towers series as The Tall Knight. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 19, 1946 Andre the Giant. Fezzik in The Princess Bride, one of all-time favourite films. Also an uncredited role as Dagoth In Conan the Destroyer. He’s actually did a number of genre roles such as The Greatest American Hero and The Six Million Dollar Man. (Died 1993.)
  • Born May 19, 1948 Grace Jones, 71. First genre appearance was as Stryx in Rumstryx, an Italian TV series. Her next was Zulu in Conan the Destroyer followed by being May Day in A View to Kill and Katrina in Vamp. She was Masako Yokohama in Cyber Bandits which also starred Adam Ant. Her last genre role to date was Christoph/Christine in Wolf Girl
  • Born May 19, 1948 Paul Steven Williams. Editor, Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon and the PKDS Newsletter. Writer, The Only Apparently Real: The World of Philip K. Dick of Philip K. Dick and Theodore Sturgeon, Storyteller. (Died 2013.)
  • Born May 19, 1966 Polly Walker, 53. She’s performed on Caprica as Clarice Willow and on Warehouse 13  in the recurring role of Charlotte Dupres, as well as performing the voice work for Sarkoja in John Carter. And she was in Clash of the Titans as Cassiopeia.
  • Born May 19, 1966 Jodi Picoult, 53. Her Wonder Women work is exemplary (collected in Wonder Women, Volume 3 and Wonder Woman: Love and Murder).

(7) TO THE MOON. Oliver Morton connects sff with the ambitious efforts to reach the Moon in “Lunacy: how science fiction is powering the new moon rush” at the Guardian.

…The robot vanguard has already set forth. Later this year India will attempt to become the fourth nation to land a probe on the moon; an Israeli attempt to get there failed in April, but its backers plan to try again. China has landed two robot rovers on the moon’s surface in the past five years. One visited the near side, the familiar pockmarked face seen from Earth; the other went to the overflown-but-never-before-visited far side. The Chinese space agency has talked of sending humans in their wake, perhaps in the early 2030s.

They may be beaten to it. Last year Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese fashion entrepreneur and art collector, signed a contract with SpaceX, the rocket firm founded by Elon Musk, for a flight around the moon. He intends to take a crew of as-yet-unspecified artists with him…

(8) TOUGH TOWN. Today’s celebrity accident:

(9) REMEMBER ME TO HAROLD SQUARED. Andrew Liptak tells readers of The Verge that “A Memory Called Empire is a brilliant blend of cyberpunk, space opera, and political thriller”.

…That setup is the start to a stunning story that impressively blends together Martine’s fantastic and immersive world, a combination political thriller, cyberpunk yarn, and epic space opera that together make up a gripping read. Mahit’s situation is the perfect introduction to an unfamiliar world, as Martine moves her through the gilded halls of the Teixcalaanli capitol, meeting the politicians she’s been sent to interact with, the fantastical technologies installed in the city, and the poetry that represents the pinnacle of high culture for the empire.

(10) WOMEN IN SFF. Library of America publicizes editor Lisa Yaszek’s collection “The Future Is Female! 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women, from Pulp Pioneers to Ursula K. Le Guin”.

Bending and stretching its conventions to imagine new, more feminist futures and new ways of experiencing gender, visionary women writers have been from the beginning an essential if often overlooked force in American science fiction. Two hundred years after Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, SF-expert Lisa Yaszek presents the best of this female tradition, from the pioneers of the Pulp Era to the radical innovators of the 1960s New Wave, in a landmark anthology that upends the common notion that SF was conceived by and for men….

Visit the companion website for more on these stories and writers, including author biographies, appreciations by contemporary writers, original pulp covers and illustrations, adaptations into other media, press coverage, and more.

(11) WHEN IN CRETE. Israeli author Yakov Merkin is not impressed. I recognize his name as someone JDA interviewed for his YouTube show.

(12) CRUMB CONTROVERSY, In “Cancel Culture Comes for Counterculture Comics” in Reason, Brian Doherty looks at pioneering underground comics artist R. Crumb and the vigorous debate about whether he should still be read or is so irretreivably racist and sexist that he should be “cancelled.”

…The brief against Crumb is both specific to his famous idiosyncrasies and generally familiar to our modern culture of outrage archeology. His art has trafficked in crude racial and anti-Semitic stereotypes, expressed an open sense of misogyny, and included depictions of incest and rape. Crumb’s comics are “seriously problematic because of the pain and harm caused by perpetuating images of racial stereotypes and sexual violence,” the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (MICE) explained last year when removing Crumb’s name from one of its exhibit rooms.

Such talk alarms Gary Groth, co-founder of Fantagraphics, the premiere American publisher of quality adult comics, including a 17-volume series of The Complete Crumb Comics. “The spontaneity and vehemence” of the backlash, Groth says, “surprised me—and I guess what also disheartened me was, I’m pretty sure the vast majority of people booing Crumb are not familiar with his work.…This visceral dislike of him has no basis in understanding who Crumb is, his place in comics history, his contribution to the form.”

(13) END OF A THEORY. Yahoo! Entertainment carried many articles about The Big Bang Theory series ending, several linked in the opening paragraphs of “Sarah Michelle Gellar’s ‘Big Bang’ Finale Cameo: Here’s How It Came Together”.

In the end, Big Bang Theory‘s unluckiest lovebird lost his girlfriend but gained a Buffy the Vampire Slayer, staking claim to one of the series finale’s biggest moments in the process.

As previously, lightly teased, Sarah Michelle Gellar made a surprise cameo in Thursday’s swan song (read full recap here) as Raj’s date to Sheldon and Amy’s Nobel Prize ceremony….

(14) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. Walter Lantz, Woody Woodpecker’s creator, did the opening sequence animation along with the animation of Bella Lugosi’s Dracula turning into a bat for Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein. 

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cora Buhlert, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Liptak, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]