Pixel Scroll 12/23 Baby it scrolls outside

(1) YULE LOVE IT. Camestros Felapton sends holiday greetings to the Filers in his video “The Christmas Tree.”

(2) SCHWARTZ YES. “Mel Brooks’ ‘Spaceballs’ sequel is a go – ‘The Schwartz Awakens’ posters spoof ‘The Force Awakens’” at Inquisitr.

The Spaceballs movie was notorious at spoofing the Star Wars franchise, and is at it again. With The Force Awakens having been released, it would make sense to spoof it. According to The Nerdist and to long time comedic genius Mel Brooks, it’s going to become a reality.

And there are posters:

(3) SCHWARTZ NO. Some doubt the Schwartz will really be with us, however — “Spaceballs 2 Hoping For 2016 Shoot” at Yahoo! News.

But there are also a few solid reasons why it’s still far from certain though. Mainly that ‘Spaceballs’ only grossed $38.1 million from its $22.7 million budget back in 1987, while as both John Candy and Joan Rivers have sadly died since its release and Moranis has retired, it would be a big ask to replicate the camaraderie of the original.

(4) GEOMETRIC LOGIC. John Scalzi has reasons — “How I Am Able to Forgive the Absolutely Appalling Science in the Most Recent (and Indeed Every) Star Wars Film” at Whatever.

As explained by me to my wife as we drove home last night from The Force Awakens:

Me: See, the reason the bad science in Star Wars films doesn’t really bother me is because the movies tell you right up front that they’re based on legends, right?…

(5) STICKS THE LANDING. “Elon Musk’s SpaceX Completes Historic Rocket Landing” at the Wall Street Journal. The story is behind a paywall. (Via Jerry Pournelle.)

Space Exploration Technology Corp. executed an impressive return to flight Monday by flawlessly launching an upgraded variant of its Falcon 9 rocket and then maneuvering a big part back to earth for a pinpoint, precedent-setting landing.

SpaceX, as the closely held Southern California company is known, achieved the dual goals in the wake of a high-profile launch explosion six months ago, which put all Falcon 9 flights on hold and prompted a broad reassessment of the booster’s design and inspection procedures.

After a trouble-free countdown and liftoff of the roughly 230-foot-tall booster from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, SpaceX delivered 11 commercial satellites into low-earth orbit, completing Orbcomm Inc. ’s planned constellation.

But the most daunting—and closely watched—portion of the mission occurred more than eight minutes after blastoff, once the spent first stage plummeted toward earth, used its thrusters to steadily slow and then touched down vertically—surrounded by a huge plume of exhaust—on a landing area in the same iconic space complex.

The gentle landing, after several failed attempts to return an identical section of the booster to a barge, marked the first time any large rocket has managed a controlled recovery after delivering a payload into orbit.

(6) GINGERBREAD FAN. “Star Wars, Doctor Who and Star Trek gingerbread to geek up your holidays” from CNET.

One of my favorite geeky gingerbread creations has to be the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars. It’s considered the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy, but when you re-create it with gingerbread it quickly becomes the tastiest ship that can make the Kessel Run to my stomach in less than 12 parsecs.


gingerbread TARDIS

(7) TEA WRECKS. Ann Leckie is trying out Yak Butter Tea.

But. When I discovered that I could buy actual Instant Yak Butter Tea, I knew I’d have to get some and try it. I mean, I don’t have the same tea-research needs that I used to, before I finished the Ancillary Trilogy, but I’m generally attracted to foods and drinks I’ve never tried before.

(8) Today In History

  • December 23, 1823 — A Visit From St. Nicholas, attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, first published.

(9) THE COUNTESS. Stephen Wolfram tries “Untangling the Tale of Ada Lovelace” at Backchannel.

Ada Lovelace was born 200 years ago this month. To some she is a great hero in the history of computing; to others an overestimated minor figure. I’ve been curious for a long time what the real story is. And in preparation for her bicentennial, I decided to try to solve what for me has always been the “mystery of Ada.”

It was much harder than I expected. Historians disagree. The personalities in the story are hard to read. The technology is difficult to understand. The whole story is entwined with the customs of 19th-century British high society. And there’s a surprising amount of misinformation and misinterpretation out there.

But after quite a bit of research?—?including going to see many original documents?—?I feel like I’ve finally gotten to know Ada Lovelace, and gotten a grasp on her story. In some ways it’s an ennobling and inspiring story; in some ways it’s frustrating and tragic.

(10) LIST OF BEST COULD BE BETTER. The Guardian has published “Best books of 2015 – part one”. Not very much sf&f in the opening stanza. Two notable mentions — Patrick Ness plugs The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North, and Sara Taylor lists The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.

(11) NORTH SMUGGLES. Meanwhile, at The Book Smugglers, Claire North contributes “A Comic-Store Romance”.

You all know the place. The walls are lined with posters. Originals from 1980s B-movies, tentacled monsters from the deep. Signed pictures of space-wandering heroines and time-travelling adventurers. Shelves of action figures, some DVDs – the odd blockbuster, but more manga, obscure tales of zombie spacemen and daft vampire romps.

Then there’s the books, classic, revered titles, then the comics.

And then, there’s the people….

  • A man, black leather jacket, crucifix, star of David and Wiccan pentagram slung round his neck; owns all the works of Alan Moore, including unwrapped editions kept sacred, and the more crinkled editions which as a child he read, naughty, under the blankets of the bed, eyes wide and mind reeling as the world was changed forever….

(12) ON THE BALL. “Relive all the costumed shenanigans of 2015 with the 8 best mascot moments of the year” at Major League Basball’s Cut 4. Martin Morse Wooster says, “I sent you the post from Major League Baseball because of the Phillie Phanatic dancing with the Star Wars cast.” The other sf/f selections involve a dancing dino, and astronauts slipping on a banana peel.

(13) SET YOUR DVR. The Defiant Ones (1958) will air on Turner Classic Movies this Tuesday the  29th at 12:00 midnight Eastern, Lon Chaney as Big Sam, starring with Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier, his last role for director Stanley Kramer.

(14) MILD SPOILER ALERT. “Neil DeGrasse Tyson Fact-Checked The New ‘Star Wars’ Movie – And fans were quick to accuse him of ruining the fun” reports Huffington Post.

(15) NO IDEA IF IT NEEDS A SPOILER ALERT. I’m not reading reviews yet because I still haven’t seen the movie, so I can’t tell you whether Abigail Nussbaum’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens”  needs a warning label.

(16) HELP IS ON THE WAY. Tasmin Silver asks “What Is Your Quick Sand and How Do You Get Out?” at Magical Words.

WE ALL GET STUCK…even the authors you look up to. So don’t ever think less of yourself for hitting the ball into the sand trap. You’ll find your way out and the next story you do, you’ll be a better writer because of it. Whatever you do, don’t quit. Sure, you might have to put it aside for awhile to clear your head…but do go back, trust me, it makes a big difference in your confidence as a writer to go back.

(17) FORTY-NINER. The 49th California International Antiquarian Book Fair takes place February 12-14, 2016 in Pasadena, CA.

Come to the California International Antiquarian Book Fair and take part in an incredible opportunity to browse and buy books from over 200 booksellers from around the world.

“Even if you are not a collector, if you have ever read a book, it’s a place to go to find out what you haven’t read, or just what you haven’t seen or didn’t know exists.” – Tony Bill, Actor, Director, Producer, Book Collector

(18) GEEKY TRUTHS. Eric Christensen reviews Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths by Ryan Britt at Fantasy Faction.

I know that if I say Luke Skywalker Can’t Read has something for every species of sci-fi and fantasy nerd, that this implies a sort of lowest-common-denominator writing. But that is not the case here. I mean that he covers so many topics that a glance at the table of contents is enough to hook just about any reader. For example, Britt writes about why we shouldn’t get upset about rapid-fire reboots of superheroes, why Tolkien was just as big a revisionist as George Lucas (although maybe better at it), why the Back to the Future movies are built on fake nostalgia and paradoxes (why is Biff Tannen’s family tree missing every other generation?), or why Sherlock Holmes lives at the heart of pop culture. And of course there is the eponymous essay that argues that everyone in the Star Wars world is functionally illiterate (which does put lines about “hokey religions and ancient weapons” in a very new light).

(19) MATHEMATICAL PROOF. These are all YA but not all sf/f – “Top Ten of 2015: Book Boyfriends” at Dark Faerie Tales. Anyway, a Top 10 has two fifths, so it must belong in the Scroll.

  1. John from The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

I was instantly drawn to John’s goodness and kind heart. He is an amazing healer but he is totally humble about it.  Then to top it, he is tall, dark, and handsome! What’s not to love???

(20) DOUBLE DOWN ON FIVE. Pornokitsch has its own way of scoring two fifths — “Five for 2015: 5 Great Games of the Year”.

Destiny: The Taken King

This odd hybrid of first-person sci-fi shooter and ‘massively multiplayer online’ game had a bumpy first year. People expected greatness from developer Bungie – the people behind the beloved Halo series of games – but Destiny’s initial release was met with a chorus of ‘meh’.  It wasn’t a bad game, but it was hampered by a damp squib of a main storyline and a shallowness of content. The latter was an especially big problem: Destiny was designed as a game to be lived in, a game to return to time and time again. If there wasn’t enough to do, enough material to keep people occupied, then it could hardly be considered a success on its own terms. Two small expansions helped patch things up, but it wasn’t until this year’s grand new phase of content, released effectively as its own game, that Destiny finally hit its stride.

(21) WIKI WAG. Mark Lawrence asks “Is Grimdark a thing?” but how can he say no when he is one of its leading exponents?

I was impressed to discover that there’s a definition (of sorts) of Grimdark on Wikipedia … and I’m on it!

Cited on the page with me as examples (presumably prime) of Grimdark authors are Joe Abercrombie and Richard K Morgan, neither of whom I’ve read, and George RR Martin, who I have read.

The key ingredients of Grimdark appear to be:

Nihilism, Violence, Darkness, Dystopian, Moral ambiguity / Lack of moral certainty

Now, I can’t claim an overview – I haven’t even read two thirds of my fellow examples! But if I constitute one of the four pillars of the alleged sub-genre (even as the least and last) then it might be instructive to see how these key ingredients apply to my work….

[Thanks to Will R., Amy Sterling Casil, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Iphinome.]

149 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/23 Baby it scrolls outside

  1. I don’t know if Ladyhawk should count. It was actually pretty well made, other than the soundtrack.

    ETA: ninjaed by everyone

    Spaceballs doesn’t hold together well as a movie, but does have s handful of good gags. The Alien/Michigan Frog sequence still cracks me up.

  2. I liked Beastmaster, silly as it was. Wasn’t it based on an Andre Norton book? And the ferrets stole every scene they were in.

    Ladyhawke fails on so many levels. And yet I can understand the affection. I don’t like it, but I have no quarrel with those who do.

  3. Ed on December 24, 2015 at 8:48 am said:
    I’d say The Sword and The Sorcerer is one of the best of the 80s fantasy films.

    Was that the one with the amazing rocket launched sword?

  4. Scalzi’s take on the science of Star Wars is oddly similar to my take on the continuity of the Legend of Zelda.

  5. Harlan Ellison pitched an absolute fit about Ladyhawke in some of the columns later assembled into Ellison’s Watching — not about the film itself, but about the studio’s continued insistence that it was “based on an obscure 13th century legend” when it was, in fact, based on a story written by a scriptwriter with no direct historical antecedents.

  6. @Peace – oh lord. I saw Men in Tights which didn’t really change my opinion that much. Probably when my husband insisted I watch Blazing Saddles a few years ago.

    I still think he’s…mmmm…erratic in output?

    As for bad 80’s movies–Red Sonja? Willow? Anybody?

  7. @Joe H.

    Good grief. Were they really trying to sell it as based on some real 13th century story?

    It was painfully, obviously, blatantly modern to its core.

    And howevermuch people like fantasizing about lost legendary times, the 13th century is nowhere near obscure or unknown. Just about every written down 13th century story is thoroughly catalogued somewhere.

  8. @RedWombat:

    Very erratic. I think he’s only made two, maybe three great movies and a small handful of good to very good ones. And then there’s the really painful stuff.

    It would be regrettably easy to miss the good ones. “Blazing Saddles” is probably Brooks’ masterpiece. “Young Frankenstein” is brilliant. “History of the World, part 1” isn’t bad, despite a few cringeworthy moments. “Silent Movie” is cute. “High Anxiety” likewise. I liked “To Be Or Not To Be”, although I believe it was a remake.

    Beyond those … Don’t. Just don’t.

  9. Clash of the Titans? Yes it’s Harryhausen, but…

    Willow was actually kind of charming. Red Sonia… I was a boy going through puberty when when I saw it, so pretty much the platonic ideal of its target audience. It bored me then, so I doubt I’d like it now.

    How about Mazes and Monsters? Not quite fantasy, but but a fantasy about fantasy.

  10. “Mazes and Monsters”? That piece of sensationalistic drek?

    That movie didn’t even know enough to be wrong, as they say.

  11. Beastmaster was directed by Don Coscarelli, who also wrote and directed the Phantasm movies, and more recently the bonkers Bubba HoTep.
    Apparently JJ Abrams is a huge fan of the original Phantasm and he is overseeing a 4k restoration.
    The Phasma character in The Force Awakens is a nod to that movie.

  12. I’d say Clash of the Titans isn’t the best movie with Harryhausen’s work (I’d probably vote for Golden Voyage of Sinbad, followed closely by Jason & the Argonauts), but it’s the movie with Harryhausen’s best work.

  13. Peace Is My Middle Name on December 24, 2015 at 9:26 am said:
    “Mazes and Monsters”? That piece of sensationalistic drek?

    That movie didn’t even know enough to be wrong, as they say.

    Speaking of such things, have you guys seen Dark Dungeons, the utterly tongue in cheek and yet somehow officially licensed adaptation of the Jack Chick tract?

  14. You can probably get a good guess at my age knowing I loved Krull to death and had a vhs dub of Beastmaster that I must have watched over 100 times. The comparison made earlier with the Krull cast and The Dark Crystal is apt.

    Another not so great fantasy – Dragon Slayer. I recall reading the book based on the movie before seeing the movie.

    There’s also Tor, Sorceress, Deathstalker, uh… I used to know these better. And weird, I double checked my movie titles and can’t find Tor (admittedly tough to search for, given the publisher). Anyone else remember that one?

    Also, I to this day hate-love Mazes and Monsters. I have a copy of the book. Along with Michelle Remembers. Looking for a copy of Say You Love Satan. As a D&D playing metalhead in the 80s, the Satanic Panic holds a special place in my heart.

  15. @Kathodus — maybe actually Ator? I never saw it, but vaguely remember the title.

    And I actually thought Dragonslayer held up reasonably well the last time I watched it. It was surprisingly grim for a Disney flick. (With bonus points for including Ian “Emperor Palpatine” McDiarmid as a Very Impressive Clergyman who turns out to be less than flame retardant.)

  16. Let’s not forget Marc Singer, that acting titan from Beastmaster who went on to star in the original V series.
    If I have to be honest, I did have a bit if a teenage mancrush for Singer, but who wouldn’t be impressed with a man who could lead a rebellion against alien invaders and talk to ferrets.

  17. Talking of terrible fantasy movies, has anyone seen the trailer for God’s Of Egypt?
    That looks terrible.

  18. Joe H. asked:

    Has there been an actual good Star Wars parody film?

    Yes– Hardware Wars! Although personally I think that director did even better work with Closet Cases of the Third Kind.

  19. @ed
    I can wish it will be so bad its good, but I am going to go out on a line that its going to be so bad its cringeworthy.

  20. Regarding Mel Brooks: Yes, I agree he’s uneven. The first of his movies I ever saw was Silent Movie. It was my favorite movie for a while when I was a kid, and I still think it’s brilliant.

    His other movies have never gotten more than an “eh, pretty good” from me. I finally realized after a few that the thing that turns me off most about them is that while there are good lines from time to time, there’s a lot of wasted dialogue. Which explains why Silent Movie is so good– the limitations of the form required the dialogue to be ruthlessly cut to the essentials.

  21. Re #10 (List of Best Could be better), Ars Technica has a good year-end round-up of science fiction recommendations. They are one of the rare sites having comments that are worth reading.


    On the subject of 80’s sci-fi movies, Joe Dante’s “Explorers” is funny and underrated, with a great cast including an impossibly young Ethan Hawk.

  22. I agree that Spaceballs is not nearly as good a movie as Young Frankenstein or Blazing Saddles. However, the scene at the end with the chestburster alien that pops out of John Hurt and starts singing and dancing will never not be funny.

    I have a soft spot for Beastmaster not because of the movie itself (although the ferrets were very cute) but because I’ve seen Marc Singer in action at media conventions dealing with fans of the movie who are often very small children, and he was great with them. A five year old asking a question at a con is very much like a 5 year old telling a joke, which is to say the question would have a beginning, middle, and end, but often not in that order and often involving a fair amount of circumlocution. Singer would sit on the end of the stage so he’d be on eye level with the kids and patiently wait until they’d talked themselves out and then answer the question seriously.

  23. Ed on December 24, 2015 at 9:50 am said:
    Talking of terrible fantasy movies, has anyone seen the trailer for God’s Of Egypt?
    That looks terrible.

    I have and I agree. I saw it just coming off “The Flash” and at first I thought “Huh, they’re making a Hawkman movie?” The youngsters in my family roared with laughter at the cheesy CGI and the terrible dialogue. Also, one of them called it “Super Caucasian Egypt.”

  24. Happy Christmas & Season’s Greetings to Filers! Hope it’s a good one for you!

    [ It’s already breakfast time on Christmas morning in my time zone. ]

  25. SPACEBALLS – will always have a place in my nostalgia field. Something about being about 12 years old and watching the “surrounded by assholes” scene reduce my father to uncontrollable, teary-eyed laughter. I don’t think I’d ever seen my dad that helplessly amused before. It was amazing.

    My brother, five years younger than me, would play the VHS tape over and over and over, and try to recite the lines by heart, and he would get them wrong. And I knew it was wrong, because I had the whole movie by heart after all that repetition. It was super annoying, like being a skilled musician and listening to someone singing or whistling off-key. But remembering how delighted he was with the movie always makes me smile. (Even if his delight probably mostly came from not getting in trouble for all those naughty words.)

    BONE CLOCKS – has a copyright of 2014, but it’s on a Best of 2015 list? Interesting! Does that means it’s eligible for nomination? Not 100% certain I want to, but I want to know my options.

    I finished reading it a few weeks ago and enjoyed it immensely. It didn’t just make me cry at the end–it kind of got into my emotional filters so that I cried easily for the rest of the night at happy or sad things of little consequence. That was a weird effect.

    I was disappointed, though, reading NPR reviews of it where the reviewer seemed to miss the point of some of it, or couldn’t seem to praise it without the typical back-handed blow against genre fiction. “I know the plot summary makes it sound like that awful SF stuff, but it’s actually good!

  26. Bad 80s movies?The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik Yak. Also wonder why I didn’t nominate Galaxina för the SF bracket.

  27. Re: Dark Dungeons — saw it with my RPG group a few months ago. It was a hoot. But then, I started gaming back in the late 1970s-early 1980s, so that whole “worships the Devil” thing was big.

  28. Well, celebrations has started today here in sweden, so a Jolly Yuletide to you all!

    Hampus, has the Yule Goat been engulfed in flames yet?

  29. Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little — The Bone Clocks had a hardcover release in 2014, and a paperback release in 2015. It should no longer be eligible for Hugo awards. I don’t think the Guardian article worried much about these details. Among the listed books, although not illustrated, was Vanity Fair.

  30. Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little on December 24, 2015 at 10:30 am said:

    BONE CLOCKS – has a copyright of 2014, but it’s on a Best of 2015 list? Interesting! Does that means it’s eligible for nomination? Not 100% certain I want to, but I want to know my options.

    I fairly sure it isn’t eligible as I think it was out in the US in 2014 also.
    Mitchell’s Slade House, which is set in the same world (haven’t read it yet – in the TBR pile) would be eligible.

    On the literary/genre divide, I’m currently reading Salman Rushdie’s Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty Eight Nights – which is a very Rushdie take on people discovering they have superpowers.*

    And on the eligible even though it was out in 2014, Joanne Harris’s The Gospel of Loki is eligible I believe, because its US publication was in 2015.

    *ETA: as mentioned by others above also 🙂

  31. Emma: Yes, lots of tasty treats in that article. But:

    A fantasy with the added conflict of selling precognitive information of a special talent to save a mother and her family drives this story.

    Baen really are doing themselves no favours, are they.

  32. Re Spaceballs – I hated it when it came out for the laughing-at-Sci-Fi-nerds aspects people have already brought up. I watched it again recently and (to my shame?) enjoyed it much more. And the Alien parody scene is the best scene in the movie by parsecs.

    Blazing Saddles may be my all-time favorite movie.

    I probably shouldn’t mention this, but it’ll probably show up on the next Pixel Scroll, so… part 4/5 of the “John Scalzi made a metaphor once that can be twisted to make false claims about him” series is up at Castalia. A summary: It’s mostly about twisting Delaney, and attempting to smear various SFF figures who’ve said nice things about him. Utterly disgusting, completely disingenuous, but also laughably stupid. Gallo would have been more correct to describe VD and his ilk as Illinois Nazis (to bring it back around to my favorite movies).

    I suspect sometimes that VD thinks he is the leader of Tucker’s Kolbolds, when he’s really just another ROUS.

  33. Emma said:

    (Nisi Shawl’s Everfair needs to be in my hands RIGHT NOW)

    Oh, she finally finished that steampunk novel set in the Belgian Congo! I’ve been wanting to read that ever since she mentioned it on a panel in, IIRC, 2011.

  34. Petréa Mitchell on December 24, 2015 at 12:26 pm said:

    Emma said:

    (Nisi Shawl’s Everfair needs to be in my hands RIGHT NOW)

    Oh, she finally finished that steampunk novel set in the Belgian Congo! I’ve been wanting to read that ever since she mentioned it on a panel in, IIRC, 2011.

    Noooooooo! It’s not coming out until next September!

  35. Ew. Amazon’s recommended book for those looking at it is a coloring book of jungle plants.

    Because of course it is.

  36. Has there been an actual good Star Wars parody film?

    “But — but Basketball is a peaceful planet!”

  37. I am rather fond of “George Lucas in Love”, which has the advantage, like “Hardware Wars”, of being very short– about the length of a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

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