Pixel Scroll 11/28/19 I Cannot Tell A Lie, Officer Opie, I Put That Envelope At The Bottom of The Death Star Trash Compactor

(1) TOP 30. Yesterday Ellen Datlow did a cover reveal for Edited By:

(2) OWL AIR BNB. Real Simple is excited — “You Can Stay in Harry Potter’s Childhood Home on Airbnb—and We’re Heading for the Floo Network Right Now”.

Other than the Hogwarts acceptance letter we’ve been stubbornly awaiting for the past 20-something years, this is the best possible news a grown-up Harry Potter fan could hope for. The cottage where Harry Potter was born is now available to rent on Airbnb.

De Vere House appeared in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as the home where Lily and James Potter raised baby Harry, until (obvious spoiler alert) Lord Voldemort killed Harry’s parents and left him with the badass scar (which Prince William also has). After the attack, he was forced to live in a closet under the stairs at the Dursleys’ house.

The village of Lavenham in Suffolk, in which De Vere House is located, also appeared in the movie as the fictional town of Godric’s Hollow.

(3) FORTRESS UNHIDDEN. The Guardian reports that the inevitable adaptation will be performed November 28: “Japanese theatre to stage kabuki version of Star Wars”.

The classical Japanese theatre, which combines highly stylised movement and unusual vocalisation, will swap samurai swords for lightsabers and replace feudal warriors with the forces of light and darkness.

Star Wars Kabuki-Rennosuke and the Three Light Sabers, which are being staged in Tokyo, will combine plots from each of the franchise’s latest trilogy, substituting plots drawn from the days of feudal clan rivalry with drama from a galaxy far, far away.

Ichikawa Ebizo XI, Japan’s pre-eminent kabuki actor, will take to the stage as Kylo Ren, the conflicted son of Han Solo and Princess Leia, in front of 50 winners of an online lottery.

A livestream will be accessible on YouTube:

(4) LIVE, FROM 1964! Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus will be all over the Southern California map in December.

  • Loscon, Los Angeles, Dec. 1, 1:00 PM

Crest of a New Wave“, discussing 1964 in science fact and fiction

Talking about “What Science Fiction got wrong…and right!

The First Moon Race“, talking about the troubles and ultimate triumph of Project Ranger.

Once more, talking about the Women Pioneers of Space Science at another great dark sky site.

(5) DRAFT OF EMPIRE. “See an original Star Wars script and more at ‘Fahrenheit 451’ author’s IUPUI center” — the IndyStar tells the unexpected reason why Ray Bradbury had a copy.

The second movie in the original trilogy is the one Bradbury almost co-wrote. 

In the early 1940s, the writer studied with Leigh Brackett, a pioneer for women and the melodramatic space opera in science fiction. That gave way to a collaboration with “Lorelei of the Red Mist,” a novella about a powerful, siren-like woman who controls the strong, barbarian body that a convict has recently been transplanted in.

Brackett went on to become a screenwriter and was a co-writer with Larry Kasdan on the “Empire” script. But she was in failing health, so the producer asked Bradbury whether he was familiar enough with her work to finish it if she couldn’t.

“Ray Bradbury said, ‘Yes, I do. But I want her to have credit,’ ” center director Jon Eller said.

As it turned out, Brackett completed her draft before she died in 1978, so Bradbury never had to work on it.

But the script — a fourth revision that doesn’t even contain Darth Vader’s big reveal to Luke because that detail was so secretive — remains part of Bradbury’s collection

(6) IN THE MOMENT. Barbara Ashford tells five ways to “Make Your Big Moments Sing!” on the Odyssey Writing Workshop blog.

3) Use your own experiences to help you create emotional resonance on the page.

This is another acting technique that can help you get closer to a character. If you’re writing a scene of grief, go back to a moment where you lost someone or when you first learned of this person’s passing. Write down as many specific details as you can recall.

* Your physiological responses (e.g., shaking, goose bumps, pulse racing, face/skin flushing);

* Your physical responses (e.g., recoiling, fleeing, turning your face away);

* Your emotional reactions (which could be conveyed via action, dialogue or inner monologue);

* The small details that intruded on the moment, like the laughter of children playing a game or the scent of your mother’s gardenia bush outside her bedroom window. Choose details that will show readers what the POV character is feeling. Does the laughter make the character angry because it reminds her of her loss? Or comfort her because she realizes life goes on?

(7) DEVELOPMENT HEAVEN AND HELL. Tor.com’s own Stubby the Rocket has compiled a vast list of “(Almost) Every Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV or Movie Adaptation in the Works Right Now”. For example —

Adapted from: The Eternals by Jack Kirby / Eternals by Neil Gaiman (writer) and John Romita (artist)
Originally published:
1976, Marvel Comics / 2006, Marvel Comics
Optioned for: Film (Marvel Studios)
What it’s about: The Eternals are a race of humans created through experimentation by the alien Celestials, intended to be defenders of Earth against the unstable Deviants (also experiments). Plot details for the film are unclear, but there is some suggestion it may follow the Gaiman miniseries.
Status: Chloe Zhao (The Rider) will direct a cast including Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, Lia McHugh, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry, Don Lee, Barry Keoghan, Gemma Chan and Kit Harington.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 28, 1987 — Next Generation’s “Haven” aired in which Deanna Troi’s mother Lwaxana Troi was performed by Majel Barrett. She would go on to have a role in every Trek series produced up to her death. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 28, 1911 Carmen D’Antonio. In the Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe Thirties reel, she was Ming’s Dancing Girl, she’ll show up in the soon to be released Arabian Nights as a harem girl. And her last genre performance was in The Twilight Zone. (Died 1986.)
  • Born November 28, 1946 Joe Dante, 73. Warning, this is a personal list of Dante’s works that I’ve really, really enjoyed starting off with The Howling then adding in Innnerspace, both of the Gremlins films though I think only the first is a masterpiece, Small Soldiers and The Hole. For television work, the only one I can say I recall and was impressed by was his Legends of Tomorrow “Night of the Hawk” episode.  That’s his work as Director. As Producer, I see he’s responsible for The Phantom proving everyone has a horrible day. 
  • Born November 28, 1952 S. Epatha Merkerson, 67. Both of her major SF roles involve Robos. The first was in Terminator 2: Judgment Day as Tarissa Dyson; a year later, she had a recurring role as Capt. Margaret Claghorn in Mann & Machine. And she had a recurring role as Reba on Pee-wee’s Playhouse which I can’t remember if the consensus here was that it was genre or genre adjacent.
  • Born November 28, 1962 Mark Hodder, 57. Best known for his Burton & Swinburne Alternate Victorian steampunk novels starting off with The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack that deservedly garnered a Philip K. Dick Award. He also wrote A Red Sun Also Rises which recreates sort of Victorian London on a far distant alien world. Emphasis on sort of. And then there’s Consulting Detective Macalister Fogg which appears to be his riff off of Sherlock Holmes only decidedly weirder.
  • Born November 28, 1981 Louise Bourgoin, 38. Her main SFF film is as the title character in The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, directed by Luc Besson. Anybody know if it got released in a subtitled English version? She also played Audrey in Black Heaven (L’Autre monde), and she’s the voice heard in the Angélique’s Day for Night animation short.
  • Born November 28, 1984 Mary Elizabeth Winstead, 35. She was in the 2011 version of The Thing. She was in Sky High which is a lot of fun followed by a series of horror films such as the cheerful holiday charmer Black Christmas that earned her a rep as a Scream Queen. And she’s Huntress (Helena Bertinelli) in the forthcoming Birds of Prey film.
  • Born November 28, 1987 Karen Gillan, 32. Amy Pond, companion to the Eleventh Doctor. Nebula in the Guardians of The Galaxy and in later MCU films, Ruby Roundhouse in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Two episodes of Who she was in did win Hugos, “The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang” and “The Doctor’s Wife”. 
  • Born November 28, 1988 Scarlett Pomers, 31. The young Naomi Wildman on Voyager, a role she played an amazing seventeen times. Retired from acting, one of her last roles was in A Ring of Endless Light which at least genre adjacent as it’s written by Madeleine L’Engle. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

Grant Snider (Incidental Comics) did this for a magazine with stories and comics for kids.

(11) THAT’S COZY, NOT CRAZY. Sarah A. Hoyt continues her Mad Genius Club series about writing cozy mysteries with “Meet Interesting Strangers”. Tons of advice here about the need for colorful supporting characters.

REMEMBER — this is important — eccentricities in fiction must be larger than in real life to be perceived as such.  In real life Stephanie Plum and half the cozy heroines, including my own Dyce Dare would be locked up in the madhouse. (So would half the characters in sitcoms) BUT on paper there is a tendency to see things as less extreme than in real life. So exaggerate all the interesting bits, or your character will come across as very very boring.

(12) VAST MACHINERY. “How a cake company pioneered the first office computer” – a BBC video takes you back.

In the early 1950s the British catering firm J Lyons & Co, pioneered the world’s first automated office system.

It was called LEO – Lyons Electronic Office – and was used in stock-taking, food ordering and payrolls for the company.

Soon it was being hired out to UK government ministries and other British businesses.

Mary Coombs worked on the first LEO computer and was the first woman to become a commercial computer programmer.

(13) IS YOUR FAVORITE THERE? Entertainment Weekly brings you “The droids of the Star Wars universe, ranked”. The one I went looking for isn’t ranked – could be those Roomba-style things that dodge underfoot don’t have enough IQ to qualify as droids.

In honor of the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which will introduce a tiny wheeled green droid named D-O, EW has put together an extremely serious and extremely scientific ranking of the best droids in the galaxy. From tiny cameos to starring roles, these are the finest and most memorable droids depicted on the big screen. (A note: We’re limiting this list to the Star Wars films, so our apologies to Chopper from Star Wars Rebels and IG-11 from The Mandalorian.)

(14) WATCH YOUR WALLET. Over the summer, SYFY Wire ranked “The 12 biggest genre box office bombs of all time”.

The movies are ranked by their estimated loss (per BoxOfficeMojo). Where that is given as a range, SYFY Wire has generously used the lower end of the range as the ranking criterion.

Aaaaaand the winner among losers is Mortal Engines, with an estimated loss of $175 million.

(15) SECURITY BREACH. Whose side is Poe on, really? “Star Wars: How did John Boyega’s script end up on eBay?”

It’s one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year, shrouded in secrecy. Yet that didn’t stop the script for the new Star Wars sequel ending up on eBay.

And it was all because Britain’s John Boyega left it under his bed.

Speaking on US TV, Boyega said his Rise of Skywalker script had been found by a cleaner and that it was subsequently offered for sale online “for £65”.

“So the person didn’t know the true value,” he continued, admitting the situation had been “scary”.

“Even Mickey Mouse called me up [saying] ‘what did you do?'” the actor joked – a reference to the Walt Disney Company which now owns the Star Wars franchise.

(16) TIKTOK ACCOUNT RESTORED. BBC reports “TikTok apologises and reinstates banned US teen”.

Chinese-owned social network TikTok has apologised to a US teenager who was blocked from the service after she posted a viral clip criticising China’s treatment of the Uighur Muslims.

The firm said it had now lifted the ban, maintaining it was due to 17-year-old Feroza Aziz’s prior conduct on the app – and unrelated to Chinese politics.

Additionally, the firm said “human moderation error” was to blame for the video being taken down on Thursday for almost an hour.

TIkTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, has insisted it does not apply Chinese moderation principles to its product outside of mainland China.

Ms Aziz posted on Twitter that she did not accept the firm’s explanation.

“Do I believe they took it away because of a unrelated satirical video that was deleted on a previous deleted account of mine? Right after I finished posting a three-part video about the Uighurs? No.”

(17) DOG YEARS. “Siberia: 18,000-year-old frozen ‘dog’ stumps scientists” – BBC has the story.

Researchers are trying to determine whether an 18,000-year-old puppy found in Siberia is a dog or a wolf.

The canine – which was two months old when it died – has been remarkably preserved in the permafrost of the Russian region, with its fur, nose and teeth all intact.

DNA sequencing has been unable to determine the species.

Scientists say that could mean the specimen represents an evolutionary link between wolves and modern dogs.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Let’s revisit this 2015 video of a Sasquan GoH showing his musical range.

NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren plays Amazing Grace on the bagpipes from the International Space Station.

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

119 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/28/19 I Cannot Tell A Lie, Officer Opie, I Put That Envelope At The Bottom of The Death Star Trash Compactor

  1. (8) The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec has been released with English subtitles (in the UK, at least). Fun, but riddled with plot holes and strongly hinting at a sequel.
    (11) In space no-one can hear you scream (certainly not above the sound of the bagpipes)

  2. 9) The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec also got a US DVD release.

    Mary Elizabeth Winstead was also in 10 Cloverfield Lane, and in the third season of Fargo — was that the one that was kind of genre-adjacent?

  3. (2) For a second, I thought it was saying you could pay to stay in the famous closet under the stairs, and I was thinking that’s taking your fandom just a step too far!

    (18) Isn’t there some sort of international treaty that forbids weapons in space? 😀

  4. 13) I was very impressed that Seanan McGuire has THREE deals on that list; also, IIRC, Scalzi has two — possibly three, I forget.

    Also, TWENTY-SIX of the deals were for books originally published by Tor (in one incarnation or another — Tor, Tor.com, and so on).

    In current reading, I just finished In An Absent Dream, speaking of McGuire. Although I was very impressed by Middlegame, we are back to doesn’t-quite-do-it-for-me on this one. McGuire can obviously write effective prose, and it’s a gracefully told story. There’s just… something… about the way she looks at things that I don’t quite get. I can’t describe it. Too preachy, too moralistic, too… something. I dunno. Oh, and this one is guaranteed to make puppy types crazy — lots of “socialism is wonderful” and “Big Brother will take care of you” and “we all must contribute to the whole” in here. 😉

    In audio this is read by Cynthia Hopkins, who did a good job.

  5. Oh, also in current reading —

    I finished Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen. I liked the ideas, but the prose was bad — lots of passive constructions, lots of awkward descriptions — so I had trouble getting engrossed in the story. Yet another time travel story — I just can’t escape them this year! The final crisis resolution/plot twist at the end was cute, and I didn’t see it coming, which was nice.

    Narrated by Cary Hite, who did a fine job except for having a lousy British accent for a couple of the characters.

  6. @18: Apparently astronauts’ personal baggage allowances have more room than they used to. There are a couple of debatable notes, but it’s overall an impressive performance considering that his stationmates probably didn’t let him practice very often….

    In other news: I remember an old short-short, possibly by Zelazny, in which the punchline was that the dreadful tie-your-mind-up-forever problem computers (that had outlasted humans?) were warning each other not to touch turned out to be chess — but computers overtook chess grandmasters years ago. Now it looks like another “insuperable” problem has been overtaken (not just won): Go master quits because AI ‘cannot be defeated’

  7. re: movie bombs: I actually watched MORTAL ENGINES a few days ago. All the way thru, even!

    Verdict: A great but over-long demo reel for CGI. Predictable storyline, with no believable character growth or development to speak of. (Two characters were in love at the movie’s end? When did THAT happen? WHY did that happen? When did they have TIME, between all of the running and jumping and things blowing up real good?)

  8. Mortal Engines is a perfectly serviceable Aeroplane film. It made two hours disappear quite effectively. Eye candy is useful when you don’t feel much like thinking about the plot.

    Finished reading ‘Kompromat’, in which Boris Johnson’s father changes the names of all of the world’s leaders and tells the wonderful tale of Brexit and Trump as an alleged alternate history. Sadly, not even funny. Spoiler – DT & BP are kind of the heroes.
    I found ‘Alliance Rising’ much more to my taste.

  9. Joe H.
    Season 3 (if memory serves me right) had a (not-)Hugo winning author as the only genre-adjacent factor, {corollary to that character being a science fiction author yonks ago, ofc}.
    I enjoyed watching all three seasons of Fargo a bit more than the 2 seasons (some vague genre-adjacency, iirc) cumulative- 1 to 1 , in retrospect, without rewatching, id rank s1 Fargo better than TD S1 but at the time I was probably taken in by the hype n unfamiliarity w/Fargo the movie, n reverse the ranking then. (Hvnt watched S3 TD.)

    9) Adele Blanc-sec was an enjoyable movie, it came out in the cinema w/English subtitles iirc in Singapore when I was working there, or at least screened during French film festival once. Memory playing tricks on me, maybe, bah!

  10. @Mix Mat — Thanks! Yeah, the (not-)Hugo winning author was the element I was thinking of; I just wasn’t certain if it was in S3 or S2.

  11. 5) That’s a nice story but it didn’t happen quite like that. When Leigh Brackett died, just a few weeks after handing in her first draft of “The Empire Strikes Back” screenplay, Ray called me at Lucasfilm. I’d known him since I was 13 and we were friends. He reminded me of his love for Leigh Brackett and his appreciation of all she had done for him. He volunteered to take up the script and do any rewrites George wanted which Ray wanted to go uncredited so that Leigh’s name could stay on the script.

    (Quite a few other SF authors called me about the same time. Most were not quite so altruistic. They thought if George and Gary had hired a science fiction writer before, maybe they could toss their hat into the ring for the job.)

    I passed on Ray’s message to George but George already had Larry in mind.

  12. 12) at about the age of 11 I found myself in a sauna with the man who built LEO. It was kind of disconcerting as he’d had one of his legs blown off in WW2 and being young and not used to such things, once noticed it was almost impossible not to stare at it.

  13. (1) Wow. Very very neat.
    There are awfully few editors who’d have an actual market for an “edited by” anthology,
    and that “awfully few” might be “just Ellen Datlow”.

  14. Jamoche says “Lwaxana Troi as preformed by Majel Barrett” That should be “performed”

    Good catch, though I might argue that ‘preformed is also correct given that Lwaxana might really reflect the personality of Majel!

  15. It’s hard to decide if Chine in 2023 is a good or a bad idea. I wouldn’t go.( My hearing and my eyesight are failing.)

    But does China have more positive points than baggage?

  16. @Andrew: that’s definitely it — I remember specifically the talking-around including discussion of “six fatal operators”. I suppose Clarke can’t be faulted for not seeing how quickly computers would become so powerful; the authors of that era who imagined powerful computers (e.g., Asimov’s “The Ultimate Question” or Brown’s “Answer”) thought of them in the distant future. (At least they thought such computers were possible, as opposed to Heinlein (cf Starman Jones) thinking toggling in from stacks of manuals would still be needed.) Now we’ve flipped to Vinge talking about a singularity that I expect will be blocked by the expiration of Moore’s observation.

  17. @Chip: It occurred to me to look up the specs for Star Trek’s Data, because I was curious about whether his stated processing power has been similarly outstripped by IRL computers. According to Memory Alpha, Data’s positronic brain has a storage capacity of about 100,000 terabytes and can complete sixty trillion operations per second. I’m not at all a computer expert, but AFAIK that’s far beyond what any real computer has been able to manage. So at least one sci-fi entity has computing power that hasn’t been out done by non-fi sci yet.

    @Contrarius: Oh, and this one is guaranteed to make puppy types crazy — lots of “socialism is wonderful” and “Big Brother will take care of you” and “we all must contribute to the whole” in here.
    I’m not so sure the message is meant to be that clear. The character who says there’s something sinister about a world that forces a child to make a permanent, life-altering choice when they’re below the age of consent has a point. I don’t think the Goblin Market is supposed to be as benevolent as it first appears. Beyond that, their system of different prices for different people based on what they can afford to pay only works because the inhabitants seem to be completely devoid of prejudice. Allowing a vendor to charge different prices to different people would go real bad real fast in any more realistic setting, so I don’t think it’s intended as a statement of “if only the real world were more like this.”

  18. *Officer Obie.

    Robert Whitaker Sirignano: positive points. Having said that, when Chinese fandom meets traditional worldcon fandom mediated by Robert’s Rules of Order, I want a front row seat.

  19. @Nina & Contrarius–I thought it was very clear that the same application of the rules that can produce very happy results in the Goblin Market can also produce very dire results. It’s a place that can work well for people who are all three of smart, careful, and basically decent, but it’s really not especially benign.

  20. Lis Carey says I thought it was very clear that the same application of the rules that can produce very happy results in the Goblin Market can also produce very dire results. It’s a place that can work well for people who are all three of smart, careful, and basically decent, but it’s really not especially benign.

    The highlight of Hellboy II: The Golden Army for me was the superlative depiction of the Goblin Market. I think I’ll rewatch that piece again.

  21. @Lis & Nina – I agree. I got the impression the Goblin Market in her novella works out okay only as it relates to people who were ‘in the know’ but that it relies on being able to take advantage of newbies and the unwary or desperate. And it has no real path to advancement either, because an education system requires society to invest in people with no guarantee of return. So, not really benign at all although it can look that way at first.

  22. Clarke imagined lots of computers more powerful than that – HAL was 10 years before Quarantine, and the Central Computer in Diaspar is 10 or 20 years earlier again and vastly more powerful.

    Pixel Scroller, qu'est-ce que c'est?

  23. Niall McAuley says Clarke imagined lots of computers more powerful than that – HAL was 10 years before Quarantine, and the Central Computer in Diaspar is 10 or 20 years earlier again and vastly more powerful.

    Out of sheer feline curiosity, just how do you measure how powerful HAL is?

  24. Robert Whitaker Sirignano: It’s hard to decide if Chine in 2023 is a good or a bad idea… does China have more positive points than baggage?

    To me a Chinese Worldcon is an absolute no-go for two reasons:
    1) There is no possible guarantee that the Chinese government wouldn’t interfere with the programme schedule (for example, forbidding items on LGBTQ issues).
    2) There is no possible guarantee that the Chinese government wouldn’t arbitrarily decide to cancel the convention for some reason (one of the many possible reasons being as punishment for some infraction by the U.S. or another country).

    There are a lot of things which make the U.S. a less-than-ideal choice for a Worldcon right now, but neither of those 2 reasons would ever happen in the U.S., and either of them happening in China is entirely feasible.

  25. JJ: China would have to field a potential ConCom before they could float a legitimate bid. Any such potential ConCom would almost certainly have to be government-approved. Which makes 1 a near certainty (it wouldn’t even have to be explicit–the ConCom simply wouldn’t do that), but would seem to make 2 unlikely, since it really would be China’s Worldcon. Canceling your own Worldcon to punish some other country makes about as much sense as canceling your own Olympics to punish some other country.

  26. Mary Elizabeth Winstead was also in the definitely genre Braindead. I wish that had been renewed.

  27. @Nina et al —

    Beyond that, their system of different prices for different people based on what they can afford to pay only works because the inhabitants seem to be completely devoid of prejudice.

    No, the point is made in the story that it is NOT the people themselves who are in control of “fair” trade, because the people can’t be trusted to do so consistently (the point is made about what deals an abusive husband might force on his wife, and so on). So it is actually “the market”, as an embodied force rather than our concept of a “free market”, that is the final arbiter of fairness. That’s why I mentioned Big Brother — the Goblin Market itself is Big Brother here.

  28. Related to the various comments about computers and the rate of change in their power, there is a program you can run on a Raspberry Pi called simh, which simulates many of the mainframe and minicomputer OSes of the heyday of same. You can run simh on a $35 Raspberry Pi 4 the size of a credit card and it will execute RSX11/M (Dec OS) 12 times faster than a PDP11/70 back in the day.

  29. Xtifr: would seem to make 2 unlikely, since it really would be China’s Worldcon. Canceling your own Worldcon to punish some other country makes about as much sense as canceling your own Olympics to punish some other country.

    True, but the fact that the Chinese government would be able to cancel the con if they decided to do so, for any reason, is seriously a problem in my view. And as you say, if the government is calling the shots on the programming, then there’s no recourse for Worldcon members to object to, or override, those decisions — which is also seriously a problem in my view.

    Whatever the U.S. government’s problems right now — and they are legion — there’s at least no possibility that they would exercise control over the programming content, or that they would cancel the Worldcon.

  30. Technically, I think pretty much any ConCom could cancel if they really wanted to. I don’t think you can actually force someone to run a convention against their will. Yes, it would be a spectacular, complicated mess if a winning bid suddenly said, “nope, we quit”. And yes, that mess would be a little easier for them to deal with if they had the full resources of a national government behind them to make things right. But it still seems incredibly improbable to me.

    Of the many, many things I would worry about if there were a Chinese bid, “they might cancel it” is near the bottom of the list. “A zombie plague might break out” is less of a concern–but not a whole lot less. And, like the zombies, it’s something I could worry about with any bid, were I so inclined. 🙂

  31. Xtifr: The Chinese government arbitrarily cancelling a Chengdu Worldcon seems a bit more likely than the US, or Tennessee, government arbitrarily cancelling a Memphis Worldcon. China deciding at, or near, the last minute to change the visa rules in ways that stopped a lot of people from specific foreign countries from attending does seem plausible–e.g. requiring personal interviews at a Chinese embassy or consulate before issuing even a short-term tourist visa, too bad if you planned to travel three weeks from now and the nearest consulate is hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

    How likely that is, I don’t know.

    The US might of course do the equivalent to visitors from China, or even Europe, but it seems less likely. Ditto for France.

    [I have no real preference here, having realized some time ago that I don’t seem to be interested in going to another Worldcon even if the geography is relatively convenient for me. This is basically idle speculation.]

  32. Cat, the computers in Clarke’s Quarantine are scared stiff of the utterly uncomputable problem of chess. HAL, on the other hand, defeats Frank Poole handily at chess:

    “I’m sorry Frank, I think you missed it: queen to bishop three, bishop takes queen, knight takes bishop, mate.”

    P I X! but no hard feelings
    What do you know? File you away
    Were being taken for a scoll, again

  33. @ Vicki Rosenzweig

    deciding at, or near, the last minute to change the visa rules in ways that stopped a lot of people from specific foreign countries from attending does seem plausible

    Heck, all it takes is “not getting around to” processing the visa applications in targeted areas. Sort of like what happened to prospective attendees to Dublin from certain regions in Africa.

    (Which is to say, we already see effects that are functionally indistinguishable from government malice.)

  34. Niall McAuley says Cat, the computers in Clarke’s Quarantine are scared stiff of the utterly uncomputable problem of chess. HAL, on the other hand, defeats Frank Poole handily at chess:

    “I’m sorry Frank, I think you missed it: queen to bishop three, bishop takes queen, knight takes bishop, mate.”

    Nah, that proves nothing. Frank could a very poor chess player, or HAL a very good chess player. It doesn’t tell how intelligent HAL 9000 was. Chess playing as a proxy for measuring intelligence levels is suspect at best.

  35. @Standback: that’s an interesting review, but I’m not sure why you think the story should be amenable to hardSF-style analysis; not only does that run counter to the story itself (which is a story of love between two people rather than a love of people for hardware), but time travel is so disconnected from reality as to let the authors say it works as it needs to for this story. As to the sides: I described them as Snakes and Spiders in my log, but that was unthinking; they’re more like the Rangers and Wardens in Anderson’s The Corridors of Time (with the note that Anderson was more merciful than he usually was by then to tree-huggers, i.e. the sides are equally unpleasant and inflexible). I remember only one point when I had to step back and see who was speaking; I vaguely recall enough bits of comment about each message’s method of transmission to know where it had come from. I wasn’t blown away by this as several Filers were, but ISTM that you are arguing with the type of story this is rather than with its quality.

  36. FISM is the every-three-years championships of close-up and stage magic. In 2009, it was held in Beijing, reusing facilities that were previously used for the Olympics. 2000+ magicians from all over the world attended. Problems included:
    * Renovations not yet completed, and promised facilities not being available
    * Various websites inaccessible, including youtube, facebook, typepad, twitter; expensive hotel internet access
    * Intrusive site security (scanners, bag searches) for attendees
    * Language barriers creating problems between Western show directors and local technical staff (lighting cues being missed, etc), and promised translators for shows and lectures not present.
    * By far the biggest complaint I found in reports was pirated IP in the dealers rooms, including situations where inventors and performers confronted Chinese dealers who were selling rip-offs of their inventions and videos. In addition, performers had been promised that the audiences would not be allowed to video their acts, and this rule was completely ignored.

    There are numerous gay magicians and magic fans, but LGBT issues aren’t near as big of a deal in magic as they are in SF/F, and I don’t remember and couldn’t find any complaints relating to LGBT-ness in the after-convention reports. Nor do I remember any problems mentioned about visas from particular countries.

    One report mentioned a political issue worth repeating, and I’ll just quote it here:

    FISM in China was always going to generate political feelings, but when Mago Larry had three flags from Asian countries randomly chosen for a mental effect in the Close Up Comp and his prediction was revealed to be three countries he’d like to visit and one was Taiwan, a Chinese registrant leapt to the stage at the end of the act, physically dragged the bewildered contestant back on stage and demanded he apologise to everyone because “Taiwan is not a country”. Now the poor guy, like most magicians, was not aware of Chinese/Taiwanese relations and was totally humiliated. Other Chinese in the audience applauded while everyone else in the room sat stunned. The registrant, regardless of his political views, should have been reprimanded for invading the stage but he wasn’t. The magician was not making a political statement about Taiwan, but the Chinese registrant was. Taiwan was not allowed to have their flag flown with all of the other FISM countries (though FISM recognises them as a country, China does not) and China printed badges for the Taiwanese registrants saying they came from ‘Chinese Taipei’ instead of ‘Taiwan’. Many Taiwanese used black markers to cross out Chinese Taipei and wrote in Taiwan instead.

    Positives were hospitality, food, and tourist-type things in general. Costs were low compared to European venues, where FISM is typically held. People consistently said they enjoyed being in China.

    For me, the Chinese record on human rights and their utter disregard for IP would be deal breakers.

  37. It sounds like many of the problems at past events have been related to poor planning and communication. Rather than taking stabs in the dark, it would be a simple process to ask the Chengdu bid these questions point blank: are they able to / intending to include some LGBT themed content in their programming? what would their policy be if a member of the convention did something considered anti-government activism? what will be the policies for participating in the dealers’ room? I imagine the responses might be something like: 1) we are able and willing to host some LGBT related panel discussions, and Chengdu also has a vibrant LGBT community; 2) no political activism will be allowed at the convention; 3) there will be such and such rules and restrictions on the dealers room. A reasonable solution might be found for these problems.

    Personally, another question I’d put to them point blank is what about people in the SF community who have expressed their support for the Hong Kong protesters in other (non-Chengdu) venues? Will their past behavior in other venues or online impact their ability to attend this worldcon? There is already precedent for denying entry to a Worldcon due to past behavior. I wonder if they might want to reserve the right to exclude a Chinese national who is a well known political activist (for example). Please note I’m not giving my opinion on the Hong Kong situation – I’m just expecting that or a similar issue to come up.

  38. @Brian Z — the Chinese organization sponsoring FISM had agreed in advance to take a hard line against IP piracy, but when the actual event took place, did not follow up by enforcing the rules they had agreed would be in place.

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