Pixel Scroll 11/10/19 Let’s Build Robots With Genuine Pixel Personalities, They Said

(1) FORWARD MOMENTUM. Odyssey Writing Workshop’s Jeanne Cavelos works on “Uncovering the Mysteries of Flow in the Opening of Stephen King’s 11/22/63 in a new post:

…As the director of the Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust, I’m constantly critiquing fiction in our online classes or in-person workshops, and I’ve come to realize how important flow is to a story. A story may have an exciting plot, compelling characters, a fascinating world, and a clear style, but without flow, we’ll be struggling to reach the end.

What is flow? The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that, when applied to composition or speech, to flow is “To glide along smoothly, like a river.” So a story with flow is one that carries the reader ahead smoothly and effortlessly. That describes the sensation we may feel when reading a story with flow, but what techniques can we use to write stories with flow?

This article was inspired by two interesting blog posts by V. Moody analyzing the opening of Stephen King’s novel 11/22/63, and the openings of Stephen King novels in general.

(2) ON THE COVER. Steven H Silver’s latest feature for Black Gate pays tribute to a superb sff artist: “The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Joan Hanke-Woods”. And Richard Chwedyk contributes a section about her life nearly all of which was new to me. 

…She loved SF. She loved fandom. But there were a lot of folks in fandom who could make her regret her passion. This isn’t to say there weren’t good people around, trying to help her whenever they could. Kelly-Freas once told her, “It’s a CRIME you’re not working as a pro!” But for most of her professional years she worked as a legal secretary or administrative assistant in various law offices.

(3) SOUL. Disney Pixar just dropped a teaser trailer for Soul, to be released next June.

“Soul” introduces Joe Gardner, a middle-school band teacher whose true passion is playing jazz. “I think Joe is having that crisis that all artists have,” says Powers. “He’s increasingly feeling like his lifelong dream of being a jazz musician is not going to pan out and he’s asking himself ‘Why am I here? What am I meant to be doing?’ Joe personifies those questions.” In the film, just when Joe thinks his dream might be in reach, a single unexpected step sends him to a fantastical place where he’s is forced to think again about what it truly means to have soul. That’s where he meets and ultimately teams up with 22, a soul who doesn’t think life on Earth is all it’s cracked up to be. Jamie Foxx lends his voice to Joe, while Tina Fey voices 22. “The comedy comes naturally,” says Murray. “But the subtle emotion that reveals the truth to the characters is really something special.”

(4) WORTHY OF THEIR HIRE. Ann VanderMeer exhorts people to “Pay the writer” (and other creatives). Thread starts here.

(5) CONQUER THAT BLANK PAGE. Servicescape has published “660 Science Fiction Writing Prompts That Will Get You Writing at Warp Speed” in a wide variety of subgenres, from Nanopunk and Time Travel to Utopia and Slipstream. Their  new writing guide “aims to help Sci-Fi writers find creative inspiration, get past writer’s block, and discover new story ideas and starters.”

(6) SCIENCE MEETS POETRY. Brain Picking’s Maria Popova introduces  “In Transit: Neil Gaiman Reads His Touching Tribute to the Lonely Genius Arthur Eddington, Who Confirmed Einstein’s Relativity”.

“You have got a boy mixed of most kindly elements, as perhaps Shakespeare might say. His rapidly and clearly working mind has not in the least spoiled his character,” a school principal wrote at the end of the nineteenth century to the mother of a lanky quiet teenager who would grow up to be the great English astronomer Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington (December 28, 1882–November 22, 1944) and who would catapult Albert Einstein into celebrity by confirming his relativity theory in his historic eclipse expedition of May 29, 1919….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 10, 1919 — National Book Week was first observed in the United States.
  • November 10, 1966 Star Trek’s “The Corbomite Manuever” first aired. It was written by Jerry Sohl who also wrote who wrote for The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Outer Limits.  It starred Clint Howard as Balok, Walker Edmiston as the voice of Balok and Ted Cassidy (Lurch) as the voice of the Balok puppet. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 10, 1889 Claude Rains. Though you’ll likely remember him for another film, he did a lot of genre acting  with his first feature role was being  that of Dr. Jack Griffin, better known as The Invisible Man.  He also was in The Wolf Man, Phantom of the Opera, ScroogeThe Adventures of Robin Hood,The Lost World, and Battle of the Worlds. (Died 1967.)
  • Born November 10, 1924 Russell Johnson. Best known in what is surely genre for being Professor Roy Hinkley in Gilligan’s Island. His genre career started off with four Fifties films, It Came from Outer Space, This Island Earth, Attack of the Crab Monsters and The Space Children. He would later appear in both the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. On ALF, he would appear as Professor Roy Hinkley in “Somewhere Over the Rerun”. (Died 2014.)
  • Born November 10, 1932 Roy Scheider. First genre role was as Dr. Heywood R. Floyd in 2010, the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey. His other major genre performance was as Captain Nathan Bridger in the SeaQuest DSV series. He also has roles in The Curse of the Living Corpse (his first acting role, a very low budget horror film), one of The Punisher films, Dracula III: Legacy and Naked Lunch which may or may not be genre.  The Jaws films are obviously genre as well. (Died 2008.)
  • Born November 10, 1943 Milt Stevens. Today is indeed his Birthday. On the day that he announced Milt’s unexpected passing, OGH did a wonderful post and y’all did splendid commentary about him, so I’ll just send you over there. (Died 2017.)
  • Born November 10, 1946 Jack Ketchum. Winner of four Bram Stoker Awards, he was made a World Horror Convention Grand Master Award for outstanding contribution to the horror genre. Oh, and he wrote the screenplays for a number of his novels, all of which he quite naturally performed in. (Died 2018.)
  • Born November 10, 1948 Steven Utley. Best known for his short stories of which he had two series, the first being his Silurian tales (collected in two volumes,  The 400-Million-Year Itch and Invisible Kingdoms),  and his time travel stories have been collected in Where or When. The Silurian tales Are available on iBooks and Kindle, Where or When isn’t either place. (Died 2013.)
  • Born November 10, 1955 Roland Emmerich, 64. Usually I don’t touch upon SJW affairs here but he’s very strong campaigner for the LGBT community, and is openly gay so bravo for him! Now back to his genre credits.  The Noah’s Ark Principle was in ‘84 by him written and directed by Roland Emmerich as his thesis after seeing Star Wars at the Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film München. Moon 44 followed which likely most of you haven’t seen but now we get to his Hollywood films, to wit Universal Soldier, The High Crusade (yes the Poul Anderson novel), Stargate, Independence Day.. no, I’m going to stop there. Suffice it to say he’s created a lot of genre film. And oh he directed Stonewall, the 2015 look at historic event. 
  • Born November 10, 1955 Clare Higgins, 64. Her genre film appearances include Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II and The Golden Compass. She was Miss Cackle on the Worst Witch series, and had a memorable role on Doctor Who as Ohila, the High Priestess of the Sisterhood of Karn, that started off with the War Doctor and the Eighth Doctor going through the Twelfth Doctor. 
  • Born November 10, 1960 Neil Gaiman, 59. Summarizing him is nigh unto impossible so I won’t beyond saying that his works include Neverwhere, Anansi Boys, the Sandman series, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book. As for film, I think the finest script he did is his “Day of The Dead” one for Babylon 5, not  his Doctor Who scripts. The animated Coraline is I think the most faithful work of one of his novels, the Neverwhere series needs to be remade with decent CGI and the less said about Stardust the better. My first encounter with him was reading the BBC trade paper edition of Neverwhere followed by pretty much everything else he did until the last decade or so when I admit I stopped reading him, but I still remember those early novels with great fondness. I even read the Good Omens film script that he and Pratchett wrote.
  • Born November 10, 1963 Hugh Bonneville, 56. He’s here because he was Captain Avery in two Eleventh Doctor stories, “The Curse of the Black Spot” and “A Good Man Goes to War”. Which is not to say that he hasn’t done other genre work as he has as he’s got appearances on Da Vinci’s DemonsBonekickers, Bugs and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. 
  • Born November 10, 1971 Holly Black, 48. Best known for her Spiderwick Chronicles, which were created with fellow writer & illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi, and for the Modern Faerie Tales YA trilogy. Her first novel was Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale. (It’s very good.) There have been two sequels set in the same universe. The first, Valiant, won the first Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Doll Bones which is really, really creepy was awarded a Newbery Honor and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. Suffice it to say if you like horror, you’ll love her. 

(9) TIPPING — FOR SCIENCE! “Boston Dynamics boss learned by unbalancing toddler” — note also cooperative robot behavior 1:00 into video.

The boss of robotics company Boston Dynamics has confessed he once nudged his one-year-old daughter over to work out how people balance.

A YouTube video of Marc Raibert’s humanoid robot Atlas remaining upright while being poked with hockey sticks has 34 million views.

He no longer knocked his robots over just to show people they could get themselves back up again, he said.

But when he had done so, it was because he had felt like a “proud parent”.

“In fact, I have video of pushing on my daughter when she was one year old, knocking her over, getting some grief,” he told BBC News, at Web Summit in Lisbon.

“She was teetering and tottering and learning to balance and I just wanted to see what would happen. But we’re still good pals.”

(10) THAT STAR WARS ICE CREAM. Martin Morse Wooster writes, “I had the Star Wars Breyers ice cream.  Silly me.  It combines generic vanilla, generic chocolate and some sort of crumble in the chocolate.  It’s not very good.”

(11) YOU ARE FALSE DATA. BBC reports “Apple’s ‘sexist’ credit card investigated by US regulator”.

A US financial regulator has opened an investigation into claims Apple’s credit card offered different credit limits for men and women.

It follows complaints – including from Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak – that algorithms used to set limits might be inherently biased against women.

New York’s Department of Financial Services (DFS) has contacted Goldman Sachs, which runs the Apple Card.

Any discrimination, intentional or not, “violates New York law”, the DFS said.

The Bloomberg news agency reported on Saturday that tech entrepreneur David Heinemeier Hansson had complained that the Apple Card gave him 20 times the credit limit that his wife got.

In a tweet, Mr Hansson said the disparity was despite his wife having a better credit score.

Later, Mr Wozniak, who founded Apple with Steve Jobs, tweeted that the same thing happened to him and his wife despite their having no separate bank accounts or separate assets.

(12) A SNITCH IN TIME…FOR CHRISTMAS. Own Harry Potter’s Golden Snitch Drone for $39.95.

Ideal for Seekers in training, this is the golden snitch drone based on the classic Quidditch ball from the Harry Potter series. Just like its film counterpart, it can hover in place and flies away if you try to catch it via built-in proximity sensors that detect motion from a hand or foot. The heliball can also be controlled using an included remote that lets you set the speed and altitude. Copter charges via included USB cable; remote uses one button cell battery (included). Ages 8 and up.

(13) UP YOU LIGHTEN. There’s also a Yoda Table Lamp to chase away the dark side….

This is the lamp that illuminates a room with Jedi Master wisdom. Its cold-cast bronze base captures a meticulously detailed sculpture of Yoda—emblematic of his pose displayed in The Empire Strikes Back as he imparted his knowledge of the Force to an impatient and ambitious Luke Skywalker. A textured cloth lampshade enhanced with golden lining displays the classic quote “Do, or do not there is no try” bisected by the Jedi Order logo. Ideal for padawans and Jedi Knights alike, the lamp saves one from the dark side with an included energy efficient bulb.

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

34 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/10/19 Let’s Build Robots With Genuine Pixel Personalities, They Said

  1. (5)
    I’ve saved a number of posts from Tumblr with writing prompts of various kinds – some posts have 50 to 100 prompts!.

  2. I’ve found that “finding a hook to hang writing on” is easy (I actually prefer that to “prompt”, as I think the agency in the word “prompt” is somewhat on the wrong side). The process of starting something based on that hook/prompt is also relatively easy. But getting from “started” to “done” is the hard bit.

    Especially when you want to treat what you write with a careful blend of comedy and reverence.

  3. Hugh Bonneville came to my attention in an Alternate History radio comedy called Married, in which his curmudgeonly character woke up one morning to discover that he was no longer in the world he knew, but instead one in which he was married with children, Tony Blair was leader of the Conservative Party and the UK’s new kind was gay.

    ETA: Fifth!

  4. 8) Some of my favorite Gaiman works are the original Books of Magic graphic novel (featuring the proto-Potter character Tim Hunter and an introduction by Zelazny) and his collected Miracleman stories, which were set in an actual utopia.

  5. (8) Didn’t realize that Gaiman wrote “Day of the Dead” – cool.

    (11) I’ve been following this on Twitter – glad a formal investigation has begun.

  6. @8: For many of us who saw Rocky Horror (stage or screen), the invisible man is an Rains easier role to remember than Louis.

    @8bis: Are Emmerich’s other genre films better than the mess he made of The High Crusade? I walked out of the Conadian showing after a few minutes of low comedy aimed at males with a mental age under 10.

    also also @8: I’m partial to The Graveyard Book, not only because it shares inspiration with Poulenc’s “Gloria” (both came from seeing people playing soccer in graveyards). I’d say Neverwhere was more faithful to Gaiman’s vision (the book came afterward) than Coraline, which inserted a male co-character ~”because otherwise boys wouldn’t want to see the movie” — I get the reason but it guts the point of a girl acting on her own.

    @12: well, it doesn’t seem as uselessly expensive as the sterling-silver time turner that was on sale a decade or so ago….

    @Patrick Morris Miller: gold star to you! I saw it when it came out, and found the latecomers’ comments in IMDB fascinating. I don’t remember why it came up, but I was telling somebody yesterday about a Boskone 40 years ago at which it followed “What’s Opera, Doc?”; at the appropriate point much of the audience starting chanting “Kill the beachball, kill the BEACHball, ki-ill the BEEEACHball!”

  7. #2: I’ve like to thank Jo Van Ekeren for providing me with a listing of the 1980 FAAN nominees in various categories, which I’ve used to update this and previous entries in the series.

  8. Chip says I’m partial to The Graveyard Book, not only because it shares inspiration with Poulenc’s “Gloria” (both came from seeing people playing soccer in graveyards). I’d say Neverwhere was more faithful to Gaiman’s vision (the book came afterward) than Coraline, which inserted a male co-character ~”because otherwise boys wouldn’t want to see the movie” — I get the reason but it guts the point of a girl acting on her own.

    Actually the initial BBC trade paper edition came out on the 16th of September during the first run of the series from the 12th of September to the 17th of October of that year. It’s pretty faithful to series.

  9. @ Cat Eldgridge: The main difference I am aware of between Neverwhere the book and Neverwhere the TV series is that the market they go to takes place in the basement of Harrod’s in the book, whereas it takes place on, um, a ship of some sort, I think, in the TV series.

  10. 8) I started rereading Sandman recently (for the first time in many, many years) and thought it held up remarkably well.

    My all-time favorite Gaiman, though, is his short story “Chivalry”.

  11. Meredith Moments of an associational nature: The Ringed Castle and Checkmate (books 5 & 6 of Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles) are currently $1.99.

  12. @Ingvar — IIRC, the original script had the market in Harrod’s, and when they approached Harrod’s and asked about filming, Harrod’s said, “No, please go away now,” so they shifted it to the HMS Belfast; and when Neil was doing the novel he decided to keep it in Harrod’s because it’s not like they could stop him.

    I also seem to recall some issue with the Great Beast of London — they wanted a boar but couldn’t find anything suitably menacing, so went with a bull? but don’t recall if that was a difference from the book or not.

  13. @Ingvar
    As far as I recall, the market in the Neverwhere TV series takes place aboard the Belfast, a battleship turned museum that is moored on the Thames.

    ETA: Ninja’ed by Joe H.

    8) Roland Emmerich produced The High Crusade, but he did not direct it. Instead, The High Crusade was directed by Klaus Knoesel and Holger Neuhäuser, two film students straight from university. As for why The High Crusade is a comedy rather than a faithful adaptation of the Poul Anderson novel, a year before in 1993 Les Visiteurs (The Visitors) came out, a time travel comedy in which two medieval knights (Jean Reno and Christian Clavier) time travel into the late 20th century and hijinks ensue. Les Visiteurs was a huge hit in France and all of Europe and so European producers were looking for the next Les Visiteurs and hit upon The High Crusade. I don’t much mind the unfaithful adaptation, probably because I don’t much care for Anderson’s medieval and viking novels – I prefer Dominic Flandry.

    I have actually seen Moon 44 and think it’s one of Emmerich’s better movies, though for some reason it is completely forgotten. Emmerich’s 1986 SFF movie Joey, which is a darker Spielberg style film about a kid with telekinetic abilities and a creepy ventriloquist’s dummy, is even more forgotten than Moon 44.

  14. Joe G. asks if the Great Beast was a boar or a bull. This is how it’s described in the novel which would suggest a boar.

    The beast was truly enormous, gross, vast, evil, a thing of foulness and great toughness. Unstoppable and possessed of extreme strength the Beast was fast, despite its size, and armoured from the broken blades stuck in its skin. Belligerent to the last, its foul tempered nature was its undoing as it focussed on finishing off Hunter and disregarded Richard. It was a legendary fighter with its razored tusks and thunderbolt hooves.

  15. Yeah, the tusks make it sound distinctly boar-like; and in the TV series it’s very definitely a big, shaggy bull of some sort (as per the end of this clip):

  16. Joe H. says Yeah, the tusks make it sound distinctly boar-like; and in the TV series it’s very definitely a big, shaggy bull of some sort (as per the end of this clip):

    It’s actually a cow. Insurance liability prohibited anything with actual horns or tusks being used. Somewhere there’s an interview where Gaiman where he vented quite strongly about how stupid the cow looked as TheGreat Beast. He explain that’s why the light levels are so low in that scene.

    Jim Henson once option Neverwhere for a film but it never went even into script development, a pity.

  17. Cat Eldridge on November 11, 2019 at 12:25 pm said:

    Joe H. says Yeah, the tusks make it sound distinctly boar-like; and in the TV series it’s very definitely a big, shaggy bull of some sort (as per the end of this clip):

    It’s actually a cow.

    I remember Terry Pratchett’s disappointment about expecting some apocalyptic beast and getting ( as he put it) Morag The Friendly Cow.

  18. @Cat — Thanks! Yes, I’ve also seen footage of Gaiman complaining about how the Beast turned out, but the whole “no horns or tusks” thing I didn’t previously know.

    Yes, I do like the series (and it was my first introduction to Peter Capaldi), but it’s a shame Henson never picked it up. Someday I should also try to listen to the BBC radio production.

  19. David Langford notes I remember Terry Pratchett’s disappointment about expecting some apocalyptic beast and getting ( as he put it) Morag The Friendly Cow.

    That must e been around the time they Were writing the Good Omens script that Hill House released as a bonus to their edition of American Gods which they couldn’t call Good Omens as they didn’t have an option at that time to do a script.

  20. The “Beast” looks a lot like a Highland cow (brown, shaggy, and normally has longish horns).

  21. It’s pretty disappointing to see “openly gay and an LGBT rights supporter” get summarized as “SJW affairs.”

  22. Joe H. says Yes, I do like the series (and it was my first introduction to Peter Capaldi), but it’s a shame Henson never picked it up. Someday I should also try to listen to the BBC radio production.

    That full cast version is awesome but I also recommend the version where Gaiman reads it as he’s quite stellar as a reader. I’d also recommend him doing Stardust.

  23. Cat Eldridge on November 11, 2019 at 12:25 pm said:

    Jim Henson once option Neverwhere for a film but it never went even into script development, a pity.

    Jim Henson died in 1990 (I wept for days). Neverwhere, so far as I know, was published in 1996.

    I think you might mean Henson Associates.

  24. Peace Is My Middle Name says

    Jim Henson died in 1990 (I wept for days). Neverwhere, so far as I know, was published in 1996.

    I think you might mean Henson Associates.

    Chronological reality post-dying and coming back isn’t one of my strong suits. Hence my belief that November first this year was actually Halloween. That was a hard one to reset. That’s why I sometimes goof in Birthdays.

    BTW Book Riot in February of this year reported that “It was announced on Tuesday that Neil Gaiman, author of Neverwhere and American Gods (among others), is attached to a revival of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller.”

  25. @Chip Hitchcock: last week I hopped off the highway in Benson, Arizona just to take a picture of a street sign on Dark Star Road.

  26. @me: s/ill the /ill da /g

    @Cat Eldridge: I went by Gaiman’s description, IIRC from his blog some time ago; possibly he finished the book after seeing what was happening on film and the book got rushed out to take advantage? (I hear movies go 6-12 months between wrapping shooting and actual release, but I don’t know how long BBC TV took for this show.)

    @various: apparently there is a difference between the UK and US editions; the only market I find in the Avon hardcover (dated July 1997) is on the HMS Belfast. I’m not sure why it was ~corrected — was the show ever aired in the US, rather than just passed around by tape and DVD? — but I vaguely remember Gaiman mentioning making English-to-American translations (e.g., pavement->sidewalk) so he may have decided to patch this just-in-case. I’m surprised the BBC went to the trouble of using a ship instead of reusing some grotty old set and calling it Harrod’s basement, given the other ways in which they cheaped out (e.g., the Beast that has been discussed).

    @Will Frank: I think you’re misreading; “SJW affairs” has a wide range, and is detailed in the specific birthday.

    @Patrick Morris Miller: you lucky dog — I haven’t been that far south in AZ since several years before the movie came out.

  27. (2) Joan Hanke-Woods was one of the artists in the Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck: she drew the Justice Major Arcana card. She had a very fine touch with pen and ink.

  28. @Chip Hitchcock, et al. — OK, having just checked my copies of the book and having rewatched some bits from the miniseries and the interview that was included on the DVD, I was misremembering a bit. There are actually two Night Market scenes — in the book, in chapter five they go to the first Market in Harrod’s, and in chapter fourteen they go to the second market on the HMS Belfast.

    In the miniseries, the second market (in the fifth episode, I believe) still takes place on the Belfast. For the first market in the miniseries (in the second episode), I think it might be taking place in Battersea Power Station? At least, that’s the establishing shot after they’ve crossed Knightsbridge.

    FWIW, again based on the bits of the interview, it sounds like they actually did a surprising amount of location shooting.

    I really do need to watch the miniseries and/or read the book again — it’s been years.

  29. I can’t recall when I last watched the miniseries, but it must’ve been before roughly 2005, when I last had a working VHS player.

  30. (I hear movies go 6-12 months between wrapping shooting and actual release, but I don’t know how long BBC TV took for this show.)

    Standard for a 6x30min drama series at that time would have been a week in editing not long after studio recordings finished. Any location recordings and as many special effects as possible would have been done before the studio part. There may have been sound work done after editing was finished, but that wouldn’t have taken much more than another week. I’d be surprised if there was more than a month between end of recording and episode 1 going on air.

    One caveat that may disprove the above: It wasn’t a pure BBC production, a lot of external companies were involved with the production and they often used more relaxed scheduling.

    Also: 1 week editing == 5 12 hour (less mealbreaks) days.

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