Pixel Scroll 2/13/20 Doctor Pixelstein’s Scrollster – or The Filing Prometheus

(1) PSYCHICHISTORY. I can’t read minds, but I can read blogs. Camestros Felapton took up the literary question of “How to be psychic”.

Are psychic powers a trojan horse from the world of magic that have snuck into science fiction? Psychic powers are almost indistinguishable from wish fulfilment in aggregate and only take on a resemblance of speculation about reality when codified into subtypes with Graeco-Latin names with sciency connotations.

But psychic powers aren’t going to vanish from science fiction any time soon. Doctor Who has psychic paper and telepathic circuits in their TARDIS, Star Trek has empaths and telepathic Vulcans, and Star Wars has a conflict between psychic factions as its core mythology. Firefly and Babylon 5 had psychics. Dune, Stranger in a Strange Land, Le Guin’s Ekumen universe, Asimov’s Foundation series, multiple Philip K Dick works, each contain various beings with mental powers. Science Fiction has a permission note for amazing mental abilities had has used that licence freely….

(2) MAG*C HAPPENS. At Disneyland, “’Magic Happens’ Parade – Debuts February 28”.

Starting February 28, Disneyland Park will welcome Magic Happens, the park’s first new daytime parade in nearly a decade—and one that reminds us wings aren’t needed to fly, shooting stars were created for wishes and magic doesn’t end at midnight!

With a wave of his wand, Mickey Mouse leads a cavalcade of fabulous floats, whimsically costumed performers and popular Disney pals like Anna, Elsa and Olaf around the park and into your hearts—all while moving to a high-energy musical score that puts a contemporary spin on classic Disney hits. In addition, a brand-new song co-composed by singer-songwriter Todrick Hall helps bring some of your favorite Disney tales to life like never before.

(3) ENOUGH ALREADY. Cat Rambo is bidding Facebook farewell:

I’m tired of logging onto here and seeing nothing but propaganda and talking points freshly harvested from the meme farms. I feel that the company has helped shred the American political system, that it divides us more than it connects, that it profits off our private data while selling us out to foreign powers, and that it is a major component of a system that continues to facilitate active class warfare being waged by the current kleptocracy on the poor and middle-class in our country.

If you are being asked to hate certain people or groups, whether liberal or conservative — ask yourself for a moment, who benefits from you hating them? What’s getting slipped past you while the rhetorical smoke and mirrors are dazzling you? I can tell you: it’s your country and all the things that we own in common that’s getting dismantled so rich people can shove more money in their already bulging pockets….

(4) APPEAL CONTINUES. The ”Help Mike Resnick’s widow pay off medical bills” GoFundMe asked people to share the link again, which File 770 is glad to do.

Update on 2/13/2020: Carol and Laura Resnick would dearly love to thank everyone who has donated to Mike’s fundraiser. As you can imagine, this has been an incredibly hard month for them both and all the kind words and support they have received has been so valued and treasured. Unfortunately, with Mike’s passing, the bills did not stop coming in. Carol has literally been swamped with bills, and there is no longer any regular income coming into the house to cover the mortgage, utilities or daily necessities (she has some very tough decisions ahead). We understand many of you have donated before, so even if you could just re-share the fundraiser link again, we would be so very thankful. Carol has been so incredibly touched by all the kindness shown to her and she knows Mike would be so proud of the SF&F field he loved so much for helping to support his family in their time of need. As every book dedication said “To Carol, as always.” She was his world.

(5) ALL FLOCKED UP. In Leonard Maltin’s opinion, “‘Birds’ Preys On Civilized Moviemaking”.

What price girl-power? Does the positive energy of a female-centric comic book movie—made by women—compensate for the nihilistic, super-violent nature of its content? Is this really a step forward for women, behind the camera and in the audience? That’s the conundrum presented by Birds of Prey (full title Birds of Prey And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)….now re-titled Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey.

(6) THEY COME OUT AT NIGHT. In “Worldbuilding: Crime and Fantasy Books Have More in Common Than You Might Think at CrimeReads, Kelly Braffet makes a case.

… Take, for example, this passage from the second chapter of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. Sam Spade is on his way to a crime scene, and he stops at an overpass nearby to check out a few looky-loos interested in the murderous goings-on…

There’s nothing in this paragraph that relates to the murder he’s about to investigate or the case he’s working; the fleeing car doesn’t have any important characters in it, and the looky-loo never shows up again. This is pure worldbuilding. Spade’s world is one of cars and ads and fumes and concrete and people so bored and aimless that they’re willing to contort themselves to catch a glimpse of a dead body….

(7) GREEN TEASER. David Lowery’s upcoming movie The Green Knight stars Dev Patel alongside Alicia Vikander and Joel Edgerton. The fantasy is based on Arthurian legend and will hit screens in Summer 2020. The story is based on the poem of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Native English speakers unconsciously organize adjectives in a particular order that is rarely deviated from, even in informal speech. The order is: opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin, material, purpose. For example, it’s more common to hear “silly old fool,” rather than “old silly fool.” One notable exception, however, is the Big Bad Wolf. Source: The Guardian

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 13, 1954 Tom Corbett, Space Cadet first aired “The Space Projectile”. Frankie Thomas played the lead role in the series which was one of the rare series which aired on all four networks of the time. Joseph Greene of Grosset & Dunlap publishing house developed the series off of Heinlein’s late Forties Space Cadet novel but also based of his own prior work. Both a newspaper strip and radio show were intended but never went forward. You can watch this episode here.
  • February 13, 2000 — The last original Peanuts comic strip ran in newspapers

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 13, 1908 Patrick Barr. He appeared in Doctor Who as Hobson in the Second Doctor story, “The Moonbase”, in the Seventies Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) “You Can Always Find a Fall Guy” episode, and appeared once in The Avengers as Stonehouse in the “Take me to Your Leader” episode. His last genre role was as the British Ambassador in Octopussy. (Died 1985.)
  • Born February 13, 1932 Susan Oliver. She shows up in the original Trek pilot, “The Cage” as Vina, the Orion slave girl. She had a number of one-offs in genre television including Wild Wild West, Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Tarzan, The Invaders, Night Gallery and Freddy’s Nightmares. (Died 1990.)
  • Born February 13, 1933 Patrick Godfrey, 87. His very first acting was as Tor in a First Doctor story, “The Savages. He’d be in a Third Doctor story, “Mind of Evil”, as Major Cotsworth. His last two acting roles have both been genre — one being the voice of a Wolf Elder in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle; the other Butler in His Dark Materials.
  • Born February 13, 1938 Oliver Reed. He first shows up in a genre film uncredited in The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, with his first credited role being Leon in The Curse of the Werewolf. He was King in The Damned, an SF despite its title, and Z.P.G. saw him cast as Russ McNeil. Next up was him as Athos in the very charming Three Musketeers, a role he reprised in Four Musketeers and Return of the Musketeers. And can we skip past him as Sarm in Gor please? Does Royal Flash count as genre? Kage Baker loved that rogue. Kage also loved The Adventures of Baron Munchausen in which he played Vulcan. Orpheus & Eurydice has him as Narrator, his final film role. (Died 1999.)
  • Born February 13, 1943 Leo Frankowski. Probably best known for his Conrad Stargard series featuring the Polish time travelling engineer Conrad Schwartz, but I’m more fond of his stand-alone novels Fata Morgana and Copernick’s Rebellion. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 13, 1954 Mary GrandPré, 66. She’s best known for her cover and chapter illustrations of the Potter books in the Scholastic editions. She’s the author and illustrator of A Dragon’s Guide series which is definitely genre of aimed at children. 
  • Born February 13, 1959 Maureen F. McHugh, 61. Her first novel, China Mountain Zhang, was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Award, and won the Otherwise Award, impressive indeed. Her other novels are Half the Day Is NightMission Child and Nekropolis. She has an impressive collective of short stories. Both her novel and short story collections are readily available at the usual digital sources. 
  • Born February 13, 1960 Matt Salinger, 60. Captain America in the 1990 Yugoslavian film of that name which was directed by Albert Pyun as written by Stephen Tolkin and Lawrence J. Block. It’s got a 16% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes which matches what critics thought of it. As near as I can tell this is only genre role. You can watch the film here.

(11) A FILER’S PICKS. Ziv Witie’s (aka Standback) annual F&SF appreciation/recommendation thread is up. Thread starts here.

(12) NEW WAVICLE. At Eight Miles Higher, Andrew Darlington’s “New Wave SF: Graham Charnock’s ‘First And Last Words'” is a profile of the massive pro career of someone I think of as a legendary UK fan. Which he is, of course.

…Beyond stories in ‘New Writings In SF’, Damon Knight’s ‘Orbit’ and the ‘Other Edens’ anthologies, the ‘New Worlds’ connection continues, into its later reincarnation as a thick paperback series edited by David Garnett. The teasing conundrum “On The Shores Of A Fractal Sea” (in ‘New Worlds no.3’) draws on Graham’s close encounters with Rock music, via his contributions to Michael Moorcock’s Deep Fix. The fictional deceased Rock-star narrator persists in a virtual Lagoona where ‘the beach goes on forever’, and where he works on his concept-cycle triple-album. Maybe being dead means he’s unaware that Hawkwind’s seventh studio album is also called ‘Quark, Strangeness And Charm’ (Charisma, June 1977)! He talks to shape-changing French, to whom his reality exists as ‘a fragment of cloned tissue… awash with oxy-infused saline.’…

(13) READ WITHOUT CEASING. In “5 things I learned from binge-reading a 50-book crime series in 5 months”, Sophia Rosenbaum says she read 50 novels by “J.D. Robb” (a pseudonym of Nora Roberts) in five months and talks about what she learned from reading so many books in a series in so short a time. This is a series that the Internet Science Fiction Database classifies as “futuristic mystery.”

J.D. Robb is the pen name for the prolific romance writer Nora Roberts, who started writing the series in 1995 and releases at least two new titles a year.

In the very first book, “Naked in Death,” we are introduced to a slew of what become recurring characters: Eve’s former partner and trainer, who becomes a father figure; the esteemed police commander; the maternal staff psychiatrist; Eve’s criminal-turned-singer bestie; and most importantly, Roarke.

(14) MADAM I’M. In an article in The Believer that begins “Palindrome, Palindrome” and then has an obscenity, Colin Dickey reprints Dan Hoey’s 543-word expansion of the palindrome “a man, a plan, a canal—Panama.”  Hoey was a Washington DC-area fan who died in 2011. 

Sometime in the mid-1940s, Leigh Mercer rescued from the trash several thousand index cards that his employer, Rawlplug, had thrown out. Mercer may not have yet had a plan, but he had an idea. He’d grown up in a family that cherished word games and had lived through the birth of the modern crossword puzzle craze, but he’d noticed that no one had seriously set their minds to the problem of palindromes. Though Mercer wasn’t interested in crosswords, he’d acquired a used copy of a book for crossworders that contained lists of words—no definitions—grouped alphabetically and according to length. Using this book and his new stash of recovered index cards, he began copying out possible palindrome centers—any word or snippet of a phrase that might be reversible. In 1946, he came up with one construction: “Plan a canal p.” It was, he himself later admitted, “not very hopeful looking,” but all great plans have to start somewhere.

It took him two years to find Panama.

…This kind of nonsense quickly spins out of control. Using a computer that trawled the dictionary, Dan Hoey created this monstrosity in 1984….

It technically works, but it relies on gibberish (“a bater,” “an em,” and “a say”), and it is long enough that all sense is lost and the palindrome topples into meaninglessness. The program used here was rudimentary enough that even Hoey knew his effort could be easily bested, and sure enough, Peter Norvig assembled a 21,012-word variation to commemorate the palindromic date of 6-10-2016, and it is absolutely as unbearable and unreadable as it sounds. And yet, even as everything falls apart, you reach the end—“a canal, Panama!”—and it’s like all is forgiven, like everything is somehow right once more.

(15) DINO CASH. “British dinosaurs to feature on UK money for the first time” – the Natural History Museum has the story.

The Royal Mint is releasing three new dinosaur-themed coins – the first ever in the UK.

The series of 50p coins is a collaboration with palaeoartist Bob Nicholls and experts at the Museum.

The coins will honour the first three dinosaurs ever named – Megalosaurus, Iguanodon and Hylaeosaurus – although at the time they were named, ‘dinosaurs’ as a group didn’t exist. In fact, it was these three animals that made Sir Richard Owen realise that there was something different enough about them that they warranted being placed in a new group, which he named Dinosauria.

The three species will be featured on five series of collectors’ coins. Although they will be legal tender, they won’t go into circulation. Instead members of the public will be able to buy the coins, either individually or in sets.

(16) RESTORED TO THE THRONE. “Rise of Skywalker: How we brought Carrie Fisher back” — and other details of the effects are discussed by filmmakers in this BBC video.

Actress Carrie Fisher, who was best known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars series, died in 2016.

She recently appeared in the 2019 film Rise of Skywalker, but how was this possible?

BBC Click speaks to the visual effects supervisor, Roger Guyett and animation supervisor, Paul Kavanagh of ILM to find out more.

(17) I’M MELTING! “Antarctica logs highest temperature on record of 18.3C”

A record high temperature of 18.3C (64.9F) has been logged on the continent of Antarctica.

The reading, taken on Thursday by Argentine research base Esperanza, is 0.8C hotter than the previous peak temperature of 17.5C, in March 2015.

The temperature was recorded in the Antarctic Peninsula, on the continent’s north-west tip – one of the fastest-warming regions on earth.

It is being verified by the UN World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

“[This] is not a figure you would normally associate with Antarctica, even in the summertime,” WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis told reporters in Geneva.

(18) EIGHT MILES HIGH. That was quick: “British Airways Sets Record, Crossing The Atlantic In Under 5 Hours In Strong Winds”.

Kubilay Kahveci’s flight was supposed to be in the air for more than six hours — an overnight voyage from New York City to London. But British Airways Flight 112 made the trek in under five hours, setting a new record for the fastest subsonic commercial flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

(19) LEAST HYPOTHESIS. Nothing acute about this: “Wreck’s Identification 95 Years After Ship’s Disappearance Puts Theories To Rest”.

Lore had it that the SS Cotopaxi was swallowed by the infamous Bermuda Triangle after the steamship, and all 32 crew members on board, inexplicably vanished in 1925.

In the sci-fi film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, aliens are responsible for the ship’s disappearance.

But a team of divers has identified the ship and debunked the fictions, theories and conspiracies that emerged over the years. And unlike in Close Encounters, the ship wasn’t found in the Gobi desert, but rather 35 miles off St. Augustine in Florida.

The Cotopaxi had set off on its normal route between Charleston, S.C., and Havana, carrying a cargo of coal, when it was caught in a powerful storm, Michael Barnette discovered.

The wreck isn’t located within the boundaries of the Bermuda Triangle — a region in the Atlantic Ocean with its corners at South Florida, Bermuda and Puerto Rico that has been blamed for unexplained disappearances.

(20) BACK TO THE BASICS. How it all got started — “Tom and Jerry: 80 years of cat v mouse”.

A cartoon cat, sick of the annoying mouse living in his home, devises a plot to take him out with a trap loaded with cheese. The mouse, wise to his plan, safely removes the snack and saunters away with a full belly.

You can probably guess what happens next. The story ends as it almost always does: with the cat yelling out in pain as yet another plan backfires.

The plot may be familiar, but the story behind it may not be. From Academy Award wins to secret production behind the Cold War’s Iron Curtain – this is how Tom and Jerry, who turn 80 this week, became one of the world’s best known double-acts.

The duo was dreamt up from a place of desperation. MGM’s animation department, where creators Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera worked, had struggled to emulate the success of other studios who had hit characters like Porky Pig and Mickey Mouse.

Out of boredom, the animators, both aged under 30, began thinking up their own ideas. Barbera said he loved the simple concept of a cat and mouse cartoon, with conflict and chase, even though it had been done countless times before….

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

25 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 2/13/20 Doctor Pixelstein’s Scrollster – or The Filing Prometheus

  1. I remember “Tom Corbett, Space Cadet” from the ’50s–one of my favorite TV shows back then. It was a Saturday morning kid’s program, wasn’t it? Another show from that time was “Captain Midnight”: remember him? I had a Captain Midnight mug for my morning Ovaltine (one of the show’s sponsors, IIRC).

  2. 13) I’m a big fan of the In Death series and regularly nominate it in the Best Series category for the Hugos. Sadly, not enough voters agree with me.

    18) The winter storm Ciara/Sabine has been hammering us since the weekend, causing storm surges and multiple flight cancellations throughout Europe. Though it did carry some eastbound flights faster across the Atlantic.

  3. I remember Tom Corbett, Space Cadet coming on very early on Saturday morning. It might have been 7, or it might have been 6, but I remember having to drag myself out of bed while everyone else was asleep and putting the tv on, low volume.

    I got used to the early Saturdays, apparently, because when the station finished showing all the Corbetts, they started with Hopalong Cassidy, and I still got up to watch those, even though they weren’t nearly as much to my taste.

    Hey, Cat, could I suggest you stop referring to “reviewers” when you quote Rotten Tomatoes? That could refer to either of their metrics. Maybe use “critics” and “audience” instead?

  4. It must be time to mention one of my favorite pasttimes: failed palindromes!
    * A man, a plan, a canal. Suez!
    * Able was I ere I saw Waterloo.
    * Satan, oscillate my metallic symphonies!

    eta: first fifth!

  5. 8) The green great dragon mentioned in the article was an invention of a young J.R.R. Tolkien, and his mother’s explanation that the adjectives had to go in the other order may well have started him towards his ultimate academic fate.

  6. Palindromes) Fans of Tim Powers will understand what I’m doing when I say “L.A. cigar, too tragical”.

  7. I hate limited edition books with exclusive content. Not falling for that anymore.

  8. @Cora —

    13) I’m a big fan of the In Death series and regularly nominate it in the Best Series category for the Hugos. Sadly, not enough voters agree with me.

    What do you like about them? I read the first one or two, but I didn’t see the appeal.

  9. Just because it fits in with today’s title, February 13th is also Bo Svenson’s birthday. Back in 1973, Svenson played Frankenstein’s monster in a two-part adaption of the book on ABC’s Wide World of Entertainment. I vaguely remember them promoting it as being true to the source material. I stayed up late to watch it (probably on two school nights!) and was not too impressed.

    Svenson was also in Beyond the Door III, Deep Space and played Kor the Conqueror in Wizards of the Lost Empire (seen on MST3K) and Andy Colby’s Incredible Adventure.

  10. (13) over the year-end holidays I read a 10 book series by Ilona Andrews in two weeks. I read til my eyes watered. I still don’t know why I felt compelled to read ALL of them RIGHT NOW, except that the series was complete, and there was no need to wait for the next installment. At the end of it I had to read something entirely different to reset my brain.

    (5) Leonard Maltin is… confused? nuts? what? He calls this movie gruesome when he thought Pulp Fiction was a masterpiece (it is, but it’s a hundred times more gruesome than Birds of Prey). Birds of Prey is an R rated comic book heros n villains flick, which means, like Deadpool, that a whole lot of people get beat up. Only the bad guys resort to guns; Harley Q prefers a confetti bomb or two and Black Canary uses martial arts skills. The Birds of Prey kick ass no more or less than the Kingsmen and it’s a pretty fun film to watch. Is he having a problem with the fact that the combatants are women?

  11. @Tracy He calls this movie gruesome when he thought Pulp Fiction was a masterpiece (it is, but it’s a hundred times more gruesome than Birds of Prey).

    Almost as if there was something different about Birds of Prey that made the violence more shocking to him. I wonder what that could be?

  12. @Tracy —

    The Birds of Prey kick ass no more or less than the Kingsmen and it’s a pretty fun film to watch.

    Ya gotta admit that parts of Kingsmen were pretty gruesome. 😉

    Nonetheless, I agree with both you and Sophie Jane. Oh, horror of women beating up on men!

  13. @Sophie Jane:

    Almost as if there was something different about Birds of Prey that made the violence more shocking to him. I wonder what that could be?

    Yes, it is a mystery what factor could have engendered such a difference in his reaction.

  14. 3) It has its uses. But they grow fewer over time. If civil disagreement is so difficult among friends, there’s little wonder that it is harder among acquaintances or strangers.

    If you are being asked to hate certain people or groups, whether liberal or conservative — ask yourself for a moment, who benefits from you hating them?

    Great advice.

    Regards,
    Dann
    Me on Goodreads.

  15. @Contrarius

    What do you like about them? I read the first one or two, but I didn’t see the appeal.

    The main appeal for me are the characters and their interactions. If you don’t like Eve, Rourke and the rest of the gang, the series probably won’t work for you. The mysteries are also pretty good and different enough to keep the series fresh after so many books.

  16. @Cora —

    The main appeal for me are the characters and their interactions. If you don’t like Eve, Rourke and the rest of the gang, the series probably won’t work for you.

    Thanks. Is it one of those series that gets better/finds its groove after the first couple of books, or are the first few just as good as the rest? For instance, I nearly dnfed the Dresden Files after the first two, but I’m thrilled that I persisted — so I’m always aware of the possibilities!

  17. @6: my first reaction was that all books need to build their particular slice-of-world unless they are so formulaic that the world can be assumed. However, Braffet makes an interesting argument: that the noir world is specifically not what the reader might assume, and therefore requires introduction more like fantasy — although not observing that this is just as true of science fiction suggests the writer needs to get out more. I’ve already reserved the book based on theinteresting essay on tor.com; I’ll be looking to see how well the author avoids the “Look how original I’m being” syndrome that frequently hits mundane writers who step into our genre.

  18. @Contrarius–In Death is a series that, I think, initially is a little weak, but has its charms, and then gets steadily stronger after the first couple of books. Partly because the characters grow as is normal in a mystery series, and Roberts/Robb is building her world the same way. Also, though, because, in my opinion, because she got enough sf readership for it that she started paying more attention to the expectations of those readers, and not just her mystery and romance readers.

    So, yes, it gets better and better.

  19. I’d second Lis. I did enjoy the first few books, but the In Death series definitely gets stronger as it goes along and the characters as well as the central relationship between Eve and Roarke develop and grow.

    The presence of SF elements varies. Several books are mainly mysteries set against a near future backdrop, but in others the SF elements are integral to the plot.

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