Pixel Scroll 1/3/18 Scroll Out Wild Pixels, To The Sci Fi

(1) P STEW’S COWBOY CLASSICS. Where was I when this came out in 2016? Patrick Stewart did a fundraiser album of cowboy songs for International Rescue Committee (IRC). The album itself is sold out now, but they will still sell you a five-tune sampler at P Stew Sings.

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Here’s P Stew singing the theme from Rawhide.

(2) SWATTING. In The Verge, writer Katherine Cross has a follow-on to yesterday’s SWATting story — “In 2018, let’s stop pretending abusive fans are ‘passionate’”.

First, we have to take stock of what led us to this moment, including technology and gaming industries too willing to indulge the “passion” of their most ardent fans — even when that “passion” is nothing more than frothing rage and unchecked entitlement. We also have to reckon with why swatting is so potentially deadly: militarized American police forces trained to shoot first and ask questions later.

Just a few months ago, we witnessed another case of fandom gone horribly awry, which — in its own absurd way — prefigured the same entitlement and callousness on display in the instigators of the Wichita shooting. The incident is infamous now precisely for its penny-ante stupidity: fans of Rick and Morty running wild at McDonald’s restaurants that ran out of szechuan sauce packets for a promotional tie-in with the show. Several McDonald’s employees were screamed at by fans who did not receive their sauce, and treated the people behind the counter as uniformed vending machines obligated to dispense the edible fandom kitsch they desired. “Some [fans] became physical,” reported Eater, and in one Los Angeles location, police were summoned to the scene.

The restaurant giant responded to the debacle by plucking a page from the PR handbook of the gaming industry, which routinely reacts to even the most vile attacks by rhapsodizing about the enthusiasm of their fans. Take Beamdog CEO Trent Oster, who responded to a furious transphobic backlash against Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear by saying: “The last few days have showed us how passionately many of our fans care for our games.” McDonald’s, similarly, issued one ingratiating tweet after another, calling the unruly Rick and Morty fans “the best fans in the multiverse,” and saying that the company was “humbled by the amazing curiosity, passion, and energy” of the enraged sauce-seekers.

The gaming industry routinely reacts to even the most vile attacks by rhapsodizing about the enthusiasm of their fans

There’s nothing quite so emblematic of commodified fan culture as corporate representatives euphemistically describing this sort of toxicity as “passion.” This C-suite impulse — to never draw a line in the sand and to let the ugliest and loudest voices dictate what fandom should look like — inevitably privileges the bottom line over the more vulnerable people who are harmed by the colliding forces of technology and toxic fandom.

(3) BEREN AND WIFE. Olga Polomoshnova traces their real-life romance: “In the name of love: on Ronald and Edith” at Middle-Earth Reflections.

The story about one of the greatest loves in Middle-earth sprang from the greatest love of Tolkien’s life. Ronald and Edith’s tombstone in Wolvercote Cemetery in Oxford bears the names of Beren and Lúthien right under their real names, revealing to those familiar with the legend that the love of Ronald and Edith was not an ordinary one. Just like the story of the mortal Man Beren and the Elven maiden Lúthien, the story of Edith and Ronald was full of sacrifice and difficulties, but was deeply rooted in great love and affection which they managed to carry throughout their whole lives.

(4) RSR EXPANDS SPECTRUM. Rocket Stack Rank announced an increase to its “Magazine Coverage By Reviewers”.

We’re adding Jason McGregor and Charles Payseur to RSR’s Recommended By list and changing our criteria for “prolific reviewer” to make up for low coverage of Apex, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Strange Horizons magazines, as shown in red in the table below.

(5) GALAXY’S EDGE TO HAVE CHINESE OWNERSHIP. SF Site News reports “Galaxy’s Edge Sale”:

Publisher Shahid Mahmud announced in the Phoenix Pick January Newsletter that they will be offering Galaxy’s Edge for free on-line. The note stated that the expansion of free material was due to a cash infusion from various sources and also noted the “imminent sale” of the magazine to a Chinese publisher.

Click to see the Galaxy’s Edge website.

(6) CUMMINS OBIT. British actress Peggy Cummins (1925-2017) passed away December 29, 11 days after her 92nd birthday. Appeared in the 1953 comic fantasy Meet Mr. Lucifer, played the murdered professor’s daughter in the classic MR James adaptation Night of the Demon (1957, aka Curse of the Demon), and contributed to Speak of the Devil: The Making of Night of the Demon (2007). She’d recently made several public appearances and her films regularly feature on the UK cable channel Talking Pictures TV.

(7) COPYWRONG. This story is all over the mainstream news, but we often touch on copyright here so it seemed a good idea to include The Hollywood Reporter story for future reference: “Spotify Hit With $1.6 Billion Copyright Lawsuit Over Tom Petty, Weezer, Neil Young Songs”.

“Spotify brazenly disregards United States Copyright law and has committed willful, ongoing copyright infringement,” states the complaint. “Wixen notified Spotify that it had neither obtained a direct or compulsory mechanical license for the use of the Works. For these reasons and the foregoing, Wixen is entitled to the maximum statutory relief.”

The complaint (read here) suggests that as much as 21 percent of the 30 million songs on Spotify are unlicensed.

Spotify hasn’t responded to a request for comment. The company may continue to challenge Wixen’s authority or it could attempt the provocative argument that it has been putting forward in the Gaudio lawsuit — that “streaming” implicates neither reproduction nor distribution rights under copyright law.

All this occurs as lawmakers turn their attention to reforming music licensing.

In late December, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) introduced the Music Modernization Act, which among other things, would end the “notice of intent” process that’s currently spelled out by Section 115. Instead, a database would publicly identify songs and potentially alleviate the way that digital services struggle to identify and locate co-authors of each of the tens of millions of copyrighted musical works. Under the proposal, digital services would fund a Mechanical Licensing Collective that would be granted blanket mechanical licenses. And rates would more closely hew to market value, with songwriters and publishers being granted audit rights.

(8) SHAPE OF SFWA TO COME. Cat Rambo announces her “Promises for the 2018 SFWA Presidency”. They end —

  1. I will work at paying attention to all the disparate groups that make up SFWA and serve their needs, particularly both our newer groups, like game writers and indie writers and groups that have in the past been underrepresented or underserved in/by the organization.
  2. I will continue to piss off a few people with what they think is my irreverent or otherwise inappropriate sense of humor/outlook/set of principles.
  3. And finally, as always, when I screw up, I’ll admit it and say what I’m doing in the future in order to do better.

(9) 451 REVIEW. Literary Hub, in “Savage and Shockingly Prophetic”, quotes what August Derleth said about Fahrenheit 451 in the Chicago Tribune, October 25, 1953.

Fahrenheit 451 was conceived out of Hitler’s burning of the books, and is all the more timely now because of the fortunately ill-fated American venture on a similar path….

(10) WORD FROM A TALKING CAT. Another author you won’t be seeing in San Jose.

(11) THE BRAVE LITTLE WHATSIT. The BBC reports: “Psychedelic toasters fool image recognition tech”.

A team of Google researchers has created psychedelic stickers that can fool image recognition software into seeing objects that are not there.

Using a toaster as an example, the team produced colourful computer-generated patterns by sampling hundreds of photographs of the appliance.

When the patterns were put next to another item, such as a banana, many neural networks saw a toaster instead.

The team said the method could be used to “attack” image recognition systems.

(12) UK BOX OFFICE. Emma Watson did it — “Beauty and the Beast pips Star Wars to be the UK’s top film of 2017”. Admittedly, Star Wars isn’t done, but this includes its first three weekends, which is usually most of a typical film’s legs.

The foe to defeat the all-action space sequel in the year-end box office rankings was Emma Watson, with her hit Beauty and the Beast.

Beauty and the Beast earned £4.1m more than The Last Jedi in 2017.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steve Green, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Cat Rambo, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, and David K.M. Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

74 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/3/18 Scroll Out Wild Pixels, To The Sci Fi

  1. I’m away from home overnight visiting my mother in the skilled nursing center. They’re managing her pain and trying to rehab her to her former level of mobility. We don’t know how it will turn out. Your thoughts, encouragement, prayers, and all have been a great support.

    Which is to say I have a lot of material to catch up on at the times I’m at a computer, and will do more tomorrow.

  2. Continued best wishes, Mike.

    On January 31, The Last Jedi passed Beauty & the Beast in North America to finish the year at #1. As both films are Disney, the studio knew it was going to end up happy.

  3. (4) “We have sold Chinese language rights for Galaxy’s Edge to a Chinese publisher for publication within China. The English version remains under the same ownership and editorial staff.”

  4. (11) So, if a malicious person’s using these patterns, the image-recognition systems are… toast?

  5. @Rev. Bob: and the expression “you’re toast” will take on new meaning. Generations from now, children watching films will turn to their parents and say “I don’t get it. That guy said to the other guy “I’m getting out of here, but you’re toast”, but I didn’t see psychedelic toaster images anywhere!”

  6. You have many, many friends out here in internet-land wishing the best for you and your family, Mike.

  7. 11) the brain can be very odd on how it recognises images. Because of two serious traumatic head injuries, one thirty years who and one just some months ago, I’ve got a problem with word recognition, i.e. ‘No Parking’ to me can be ‘Snow Parking’ when I look at it.

    So tricking an image recognition system this way doesn’t at all. It’ll be interesting to see if they can use to retrain people like me to more accurately interpret what we see.

  8. (4) After I posted the initial statement about the sale, Shahid sent out a clarification that the magazine isn’t actually being sold to a Chinese publisher, but they sold the rights to publish the magazine in China.

  9. We’re adding Jason McGregor and Charles Payseur to RSR’s Recommended By list and changing our criteria for “prolific reviewer”

    This seems as good an excuses as any to share my 2017 stats. Take-away quotation:

    I review books at a rate about 45 times that of the median reviewer in the Strange Horizons’ count, books by WNB authors at a rate 90 times that of the median reviewer in the Strange Horizons’ count and books by POC at a rate 160 times that of the median reviewer in the Strange Horizons’ count.

    The median reviewer is surprisingly unproductive.

  10. Mike — best wishes to both your mother and you. Remember that the 5-2-1 rule also applies outside conventions.

    @1: Bits of that “Rawhide” clip are deeply weird — to my ear, it sounds like classical training occasionally breaking through — but at least he can sing (unlike Shatner Kirking his way through “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”).

    @Rev Bob (et al): This is why I don’t have coffee near my computer. This is also why I send in items; there’s usually something wonderful that I’ve missed but someone else will point out.

  11. James Davis Nicoll on January 4, 2018 at 6:55 am said:

    The median reviewer is surprisingly unproductive.

    Now I’m envisioning somewhere out there a reviewer of highway medians.

  12. @ Darren Garrison:

    And I am wondering how the “reviews by reviewer” curve looks, and if it follows one of the classic distributions (my initial suspicion is Poisson, but that’s because a lot of the things I look at are vaguely Poisson, Gaussian is so pedestrian).

  13. I was looking over my reading for 2017 which led to these questions:
    What’s going on with Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch? I thought it had been completed by the end of 2016?
    What’s up with Seth Dickinson? There is no news of a second book, in addition his website hasn’t been updated for a year.
    There was also no new Rusell’s Attic book from SL Huang in 2017 and her website hasn’t been updated in a year. Her older books are being reissued by Tor, does this mean no new books till all the reissues are done?

  14. @James Davis Nicoll

    I’m jealous. I manage about 40-50 books a year. A few are graphic novels, which can help the count a bit.

    I wish I had the time and ability to read almost a book a day.


  15. @James Davis Nicoll
    Now that is hard-core! I review more items than you do, but I’m only reading short fiction and I don’t write nearly as much about each item. I’m very impressed.

  16. Best wishes for you Mike and your mom.
    Even if we love File 770, family always comes first.

  17. bookworm1398, THE MONSTER BARU CORMORANT is scheduled for publication in October 2018; https://www.amazon.com/Monster-Baru-Cormorant-Masquerade/dp/0765380749/ (Almost typoed that as THE OYSTER BARU CORMORANT, which would certainly have taken the series in… interesting… new directions.)

    Following Seth Dickinson’s Twitter account seems to give better updates on what he’s doing, amongst of course all the non-writing tweets. (Twitter is very seductive in that way. I only wrote a small handful of posts for my own regular blog last year, but lots of tweets.)


    In other news, besides my wife Hilde being home from a stay in hospital, my current reading is DAUGHTER OF MYSTERY by our own Filer Heather Rose Jones. I am enjoying the hell out of it, and admiring how well HRJ balances swordplay, romance, societal politics and manners, and a bit of magic. Kinda like if Dumas and Austen had been collaborators.

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