Pixel Scroll 3/25/19 Oh, The File At The Heart Of The Pixel, Wins More Rocketships Than Asimov Or Clarke

(1) NAME THAT FAHRENHEIT TEMP. “Chinese Govt. Burns Call of Cthulhu Supplement” claims Lovecraftian news site Yog-Sothoth. The main content is in the video at the link, but the intro sums up the problem this way:

For many years, various publishers in the Americas and Europe have had their books printed in China as a cost-saving measure (including many in the RPG field). Often the primary downside of this has simply been the time taken for the books to arrive, but it appears there can also be another problem, as the publishers of The Sassoon Files (a Cthulhu-based RPG supplement) have announced that all print copies of their book have been destroyed by the Chinese Government – for unspecified reasons.

The Sassoon Files is a collection of Cthulhu Mythos scenarios and campaign resources set in 1920s Shanghai (for both Call of Cthulhu and Gumshoe systems) and was Kickstarted back in September 2018, raising some $24,000 USD from more than 500 backers. The volume was due to ship from the printers very shortly. As a result of this recent turn of events, the publishers, Sons of the Singularity, have released a video statement. …

(2) SPOILERIFFIC DISSECTION.  Abigail Nussbaum analyzes Jordan Peele’s “Us” at Asking the Wrong Questions.

…If Get Out was an arrow aimed straight for the heart, Us is firing in all directions. This doesn’t make it a bad film—it is, in fact, a rich and heady stew, anchored by a stunning double performance from Lupita Nyong’o. But it does make it messy, in a way that a director who wasn’t riding high off a genre-defining success like Get Out probably wouldn’t be able to get away with. I found myself thinking that Us might have worked better as a miniseries, not only to give its various storylines and characters room to breathe, but so that it could do more work to spin out and elaborate on the various symbols and recurring images it keeps dropping into the narrative.

(3) PACKAGING ISSUE EXPLAINED. Greg Machlin gives readers a good handle on the reasons for the current tension between Hollywood writers and agents. Thread starts here.

And Machlin got a shout-out from N.K. Jemisin:

Machlin calls David Simon’s “But I’m not a lawyer. I’m an agent.” required reading.

…If, on the other hand, you are my brother or sister in the Writers Guild of America — East or West, it matters not when we stand in solitarity — or conversely, if you are a grasping, fuckfailing greedhead with the Association of Talent Agents, then you might wanna hang around for this:

Here is the story of how as a novice to this industry, I was grifted by my agents and how I learned everything I ever needed to know about packaging.  And here is why I am a solid yes-vote on anything my union puts before me that attacks the incredible ethical affront of this paradigm. Packaging is a racket. It’s corrupt. It is without any basis in either integrity or honor. This little narrative will make that clear. And because I still have a reportorial soul and a journalistic God resides in the details, I will name a name wherever I can.

… Why bother to fight for 10 percent of a few dollars more for this story editor or that co-executive producer of some actor or director when to NOT do so means less freight on the operating budgets of the projects that you yourself hope to profit from?  Why serve your clients as representatives with a fiduciary responsibility and get the last possible dollar for them, when you stand to profit by splitting the proceeds of a production not with labor, but with management — the studios who are cutting you in on the back end?  Why put your client’s interest in direct opposition to your own?

No reason at all.

(4) SPFBO DROPS TIVENDALE. Facebook’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off group posted a “PSA: Concerning James Tivendale & his removal”.

This post is to inform everyone about James Tivendale’s removal as a blogger from Fantasy Book Review as well as from the SPFBO judging group. James has been accused by over a dozen people of harassment in several forms. This wasn’t something that was done spur of the moment but thanks to Esme Weatherwax & Book Wol’s efforts, several folks came forward to report James’ behavior (inappropriate touching, intimidation, etc.)”

SPFBO is Mark Lawrence’s contest to pick the top indie fantasy novel from 300 entrants based on ratings given by book bloggers. Fantasy Book Review is one of the 10 blogs, and Tivendale was one of its writers. The PSA continues:

Many of these folks didn’t want their names published as they feared reprisal for their books or careers. These accusations were sent to Lee David Sibbald (the owner of Fantasy Book Review) and special thanks to Ryan Lawler for helping coordinate these efforts. Ultimately Lee took this decision keeping everyone’s safety in mind. Mark Lawrence has also been alerted about this. For the remaining part of this SPFBO edition, Fantasy Book Review will be managed by Adam & Emma. For the future, the decision will be taken by Lee and the rest of the team.

I along with Esme, Wol, Lee & a few others wanted to make this public so everyone knows what happened exactly without any confusion or rumor-mongering. If you have ever been harrased by James in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact Esme or me. I want to reiterate that while James is a gifted blogger and I considered him my friend. His behavior wasn’t excusable and neither were his health issues. We all hope that he gets the help he needs. If you have any queries or wish to clarify anything. I’m more than happy to resolve them.

Tivendale has since shut down his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

(5) SHAZAM! The Hollywood Reporter’s Frank Scheck says the movie benefits from terrific performances: “‘Shazam!’: Film Review”.

The DC Comics universe has definitely taken to heart the criticism that its movies have been too dark and foreboding. The more lighthearted approach worked beautifully with Wonder Woman and was carried to a wackier level with Aquaman. Now comes their latest effort, based on a relatively little-known comic book character, that proves so determinedly ebullient you begin to think they’re pumping laughing gas into the auditorium. The most kid-friendly DC movie so far, Shazam! is thoroughly entertaining. But much like its central character, a 14-year-old boy able to transform himself into a superhero by uttering the titular incantation, often the pic gives the impression of a kid playing in the adult leagues.

(6) HANG UP FOREVER. Charles Stross was quoted in a Washington Post piece by Avi Selk about the increasing problem of spam phone calls: “Spam has taken over our phones. Will we ever want to answer them again?”

The sci-fi author Charlie Stross once posited a future in which spam becomes so good at mimicking human interaction it becomes self-aware –the ‘Spamularity.’  Is that what awaits us if the phones don’t shut up?

(7) ANIME BUZZ. Petréa Mitchell covers 14 shows in her “Spring 2019 SF Anime Preview” at Amazing Stories:

Welcome once again to the oncoming wave that is a new season of anime barrelling in our direction. It’s smaller than usual, owing to a drop in the overall number of new shows and an unusually low percentage of them being sf. (If you’re wondering what hot trends you’re missing out on, they’re baseball shows and comedies about high school students who are bad at studying.) As always, click on the titles to go to the official sites to see promo videos and more!

(8) IMMERSIVE PLAY. It’s called Escape Hunt.

Escape Hunt noun Def: The name given to 60 minutes of pure, unadulterated excitement, during which you and your teammates lose yourselves in an incredible experience, working together to follow a series of fiendishly clever clues and escape a locked room.

The pressure’s on, the clock’s ticking, the adrenaline’s pumping. Escape Hunt isn’t something you watch, it’s something you experience from the heart of the action. After the buzz of Escape Hunt, other entertainment just feels flat.

And there’s a Doctor Who themed version at six cities in the UK:

The Doctor needs you: a tear in space and time has been detected, and the Cybermen are about to break through!

Step into the future. Enter the offices of ChronosCorp HQ, where eccentric billionaire Alastair Montague’s efforts to develop commercial time travel have caused a tear in the fabric of space and time. The Cybermen are ready to take advantage and attack Earth.

You, the Doctor’s friends, must investigate the incident. The remains of Montague, his prototype time engine and the extensive collection of time-related artefacts acquired over the course of his experiments, are all that you have to work with.

(9) PALLADINI OBIT.  Artist David Palladini (1946-2019) died March 13. Jane Yolen wrote on Facebook:

I have just heard that David Palladini, that brilliant artist who illustrated my first three fairy tale collections, has died. RIP dear David. He also did many record jackets, Stephen King’s only middle grade novel, a tarot deck much prized by many who love them. RIP dear David.

The death notice in the New York Times begins:

David Palladini, widely renowned artist and illustrator, and regarded as one of the country’s most recognized astrological art illustrators, passed away on March 13, 2019 after a long illness at his home in Corona Del Mar, California at the age of 72. Some of his most widely held work includes the illustrations from Stephen King’s best-selling book, “Eyes of the Dragon”, and numerous children’s books, including the Jane Yolen series. His iconic astrological Aquarian & Palladini Tarot card art decks remain the most frequently preferred tarot card decks worldwide.


  • March 25, 1989 Quantum Leap premiered.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 25, 1916 Jean Rogers. Rogers is best remembered for playing Dale Arden in the science fiction serials Flash Gordon and Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars, both released in the Thirties. Kage Baker would’ve have loved them as she was a great fan of such cinema and wrote a series of essays for Tor.com that turned into  Ancient Rockets: Treasures and Trainwrecks of the Silent Screen. (Link for review of Ancient Rockets.) (Rogers died 1991.)
  • Born March 25, 1920 Patrick Troughton. The Second Doctor of who I’ll confess I’m not the most ardent fan of. The Fourth Doctor is my Doctor. Troughton had a long genre resume starting with Hamlet and Treasure Island early on before preceding to such works as Scars of Dracula and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell later on. Tellie wise, I see him on R.U.R. Radius playing a robot, on a Fifties Robin Hood show being that character, and on The Feathered Serpent. This is children’s series set in pre-Columbian Mexico and starring Patrick Troughton as the scheming High Priest Nasca. H’h. (Died 1987.)
  • Born March 25, 1939 D. C. Fontana, 80. Though best known for her work on the first Trek series, she was a story editor and associate producer on the animated series as well. During the 70s, she was staff for such series as Six Million Dollar ManLogan’s Run and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. She later wrote for the fanfic Star Trek: New Voyages series.
  • Born March 25, 1947 Elton John, 72. He appeared in Tommy, UK version as the Pinball Wizard, a perfect role for him. I see he appeared on The Muppet Show as the guest of the week and showed in Kingsman: The Golden Circle as himself.
  • Born March 25, 1950 Robert O’Reilly, 69. Best known I’d say for his appearance in the Trek franchise for a decade in his recurring role on Next Gen and DS9 as Chancellor Gowron, the leader of the Klingon Empire.  He made one further appearance in the Trek verse as Kago-Darr in the Enterprise “Bounty” episode. Other genre series he appeared in include Fantasy Island, Knight Rider, Incredible Hulk, MacGyver, Max Headroom and the first version of The Flash. I’ll let y’all tell me your favorite films with him as cast. 
  • Born March 25, 1964 Kate DiCamillo, 55. She is just being one of six people to win two Newbery Medals, noting the wonderfulness of The Tale of Despereaux and Flora & Ulysses. The first I’ve encountered, the tale of a swords mouse in making, the latter I’ve not. Her Mercy Watson series is about the adventures of a fictional pig, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen.

(12) A LITTLE TINGLE. Chuck Tingle has expanded his repertoire to short videos.

His non-moving pictures are still funny, too:

(13) WORTH THE EFFORT. Pippa reviews A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine” at Fantasy-Faction.

…Arkady Martine gives us an impressive sci-fi debut, with intricate worldbuilding and a compelling plot. Court intrigue and political manoeuvring play a large role and Martine writes these elements very well. You never fully know who to trust and the way Martine slowly unveils information creates a wonderfully suspenseful atmosphere. It does take a little while for the story to get going but stick with it as it does pick up after a couple of chapters. Once I was fully invested, I didn’t want to put it down.

(14) THAT CAT MUST BE SKY HIGH. Camestros Felapton presents “Tim’s Signs of the Zodiac”.

December 21 to January 21: You are Aqua-Goat! The very quickly cancelled 1980’s cartoon superhero who was a wise-cracking sea goat who solved sea-mysteries with his gang of friends who lived on a boat. Your friends were a cheap knock-off of the Scooby gang and the Archies. Your catchphrase was ‘Time to solve this sea mystery Aqua-Goat style!’ That sounds a bit sad but unlike all these other signs at least you HAVE friends even if one of them is a badly drawn version of Jughead mixed with Shaggy.

(15) TOMORROW’S NOT THAT FAR AWAY. CW released its midseason trailer for DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

The Legends continue their new mission to protect the timeline from temporal aberrations – unusual changes to history that spawn potentially catastrophic consequences. When Nate, the grandson of J.S.A. member Commander Steel, unexpectedly finds himself with powers, he must overcome his own insecurities and find the hero within himself. Ultimately, the Legends will clash with foes both past and present, to save the world from a mysterious new threat.

(16) CRANIAL RETENTIVE. BBC reports research that shows “New brain cells made throughout life”.

People keep making new brain cells throughout their lives (well at least until the age of 97), according to a study on human brains.

The idea has been fiercely debated, and it used to be thought we were born with all the brain cells we will ever have.

The researchers at the University of Madrid also showed that the number of new brain cells tailed off with age.

And it falls dramatically in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease – giving new ideas for treating the dementia.

Most of our neurons – brain cells that send electrical signals – are indeed in place by the time we are born.

Studies on other mammals have found new brains cells forming later in life, but the extent of “neurogenesis” in the human brain is still a source of debate.

(17) MILESTONE. “The first all-female spacewalk” — story is item #4 at the link.

Two astronauts, Christina Koch and Anne McClain, will conduct a spacewalk to replace batteries powering the International Space Station on Friday. It’s expected to last for about seven hours.

Nasa says they didn’t deliberately set out to pair Ms Koch and Ms McClain on the spacewalk, since missions are determined by scheduling issues and ability.

But of all the people who have been in space, fewer than 11% are women – so this mission is seen as a significant moment for women in space.

(18) HAVE A GUINNESS. “Harry Potter: Tonna fan bags memorabilia world record” – BBC has the story.

A Harry Potter superfan has managed to “Slytherin” to the record books after collecting thousands of pieces of memorabilia.

Victoria Maclean, of Tonna, Neath Port Talbot, has 3,686 individual JK Rowling-related items.

This earned her the Wizarding World Collection world record – which includes the Fantastic Beasts series.

YouTuber Mrs Maclean, 38, said: “I screamed a lot – it was so incredible after all these months.”

She was presented with her world record certificate by Guinness World Records on Wednesday.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Man Sitting Next To You” on Vimeo, Ali Ali tells us why going to the movies can be a nightmare.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Peer, Dann, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Daniel Dern, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

61 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 3/25/19 Oh, The File At The Heart Of The Pixel, Wins More Rocketships Than Asimov Or Clarke

  1. (15) I’m a little confused- Nate’s had powers for a while now. Maybe more powers turn up?

  2. 1) Is it too cynical of me to wonder if the creators provide any proof that the books were destroyed by the Chinese govt vs. an accidental fire or never printed? Did they receive proof from their contact in China or are they just believing what they are told?

  3. @11: hooray for the fourth Doctor!

    @12: that’s suitably weird.


  4. Modern hospital technology is wonderful. I just got a chest x-ray to check for possible pneumonia for which I got an email notice at 10.25 that it’d be taking place at 10.30 so I figured Transport would be here but instead the tech showed up with a portable X-ray machine and did it while I was in the bed.

    A half later, I did get transported down to imaging for an ultrasound on the elbow to see if there’s fluid that needs to be drained off of it. If there isn’t, they’ll need to open it up and remove more infected bone material..

    I’m hoping that’s the last one of the night as I’m planning on sleeping st five hours after my last IV dose of antibiotics is done in an hour.

  5. @Cat
    They brought a portable X-ray machine – and a portable EKG unit – when I was in last June for surgery. I can’t say that it was comfortable lying on that x-ray plate, but the EKG was easy enough. (I’d had an ultrasound done on my heart before they put the port in. That really was fun, watching my heart beating.)

  6. John A Arkansawyer on March 25, 2019 at 8:22 pm said:
    I’d have expected them to make sure of that before they even planned the walk. Have they forgotten how to prep for missions?

  7. I think Patrick Troughton died in 1987 at the age of 67. He was also in the original version of The Omen as the crazy priest who turned out to be right. (But one of my favorite Troughton roles was as the … ambitious … Thomas Howard in The Six Wives of Henry VIII.)

  8. P J Evans: I’d have expected them to make sure of that before they even planned the walk. Have they forgotten how to prep for missions?

    According to the story, because astronauts increase in height due to weightlessness, the astronaut in question has grown 2 inches, requiring the top suit component in the next larger size — the same size required by the other female astronaut — and they only have one of those.

    The more fundamental question might be, why don’t they have two, in case of failure of the one?

    I recognize that they have extreme space and weight limitations on what goes up (and stays there), but it seems like this is a lack that they would want to remedy. What if all the astronauts needed to evacuate the station for an emergency?

  9. Anne Marble says I think Patrick Troughton died in 1987 at the age of 67. He was also in the original version of The Omen as the crazy priest who turned out to be right. (But one of my favorite Troughton roles was as the … ambitious … Thomas Howard in The Six Wives of Henry VIII.)

    And you would be indeed ciorrect. Mike, please fix her a drink of her choice on me. No idea where those dates came from.

  10. Cat Eldridge said:
    And you would be indeed ciorrect. Mike, please fix her a drink of her choice on me. No idea where those dates came from.
    Nefarious Cybermen plot. 🙂

  11. P J Evans says They brought a portable X-ray machine – and a portable EKG unit – when I was in last June for surgery. I can’t say that it was comfortable lying on that x-ray plate, but the EKG was easy enough. (I’d had an ultrasound done on my heart before they put the port in. That really was fun, watching my heart beating.)

    Yeah I’ve seen my heart beating and indeed it’s fun to watch. This X-ray was due to the infectious disease doctor this afternoon strongly suspecting that I’ve got pnuemonia and wanting to treat as soon as possible.

  12. Pix-EL Pix-EL, Seven Seven-TY!
    Pix-EL Pix-EL, Glyer’s file for me!

    [Can he keep going? No. No, he can’t keep going.]

  13. I think Patrick Troughton died in 1987 at the age of 67.

    He died at an SF convention, one-time Dragon*Con arch-rival Magnum Opus Con, down in Columbus, GA. Friend of mine spoke with him the night before; said he had been having a grand time there

  14. Anne Marble on March 25, 2019 at 9:30 pm said:

    Cat Eldridge said:
    And you would be indeed ciorrect. Mike, please fix her a drink of her choice on me. No idea where those dates came from.
    Nefarious Cybermen plot. ?

    As it is somebody messing about with time and its the second Doctor, then the War Chief seems likely…

  15. @JJ. In case of emergency, the astronauts will board Soyuz and return to Earth, an EVA rated spacesuit is not needed for this.
    NASA only has two EVA suits on ISS partially to save storage space. But also because the suits have to be periodically bought back to Earth for repairs. The suits were originally made in the 80s with a 15 year estimated life, they are still being used. No new ones have been made because NASA has been trying to develop a Mars capable model and don’t want to spend money on the old model spacesuits. So they are hoping the current ones last a little longer.
    There are also 2 Russian EVA suits on the station, they are stored in a different airlock and used when repairs are needed to an area of ISS close to that airlock. The current mission calls for the NASA airlock/ suit to be used.

  16. 1) Is it too cynical of me to wonder if the creators provide any proof that the books were destroyed by the Chinese govt vs. an accidental fire or never printed? Did they receive proof from their contact in China or are they just believing what they are told?

    They say in a kickstarter update that the printers have returned their deposit, so it seems less likely that they’re being conned.

  17. Slight corrections to the space-suit problem. There are a number of suit components rather than complete suits on the ISS, they can be mix and matched to fit individuals unlike Apollo era suits that were tailored to fit just one person.

    The torso component carries most of the “clever” stuff, but takes a few days to fire up and check when it is required. There are two medium torso components on the station, but only one has been processed for the imminent EVA. There would be no problem firing up the other one, but it wouldn’t be ready until after the EVA is due. Rather than delay the EVA which would disrupt the station schedule, NASA have decided to send out one of the existing crew who has just done a very similar EVA and so still has the right suit components available.

  18. Thanks for the additional info, bookworm1398 and Anthony. It’s interesting to hear more information about the sorts of choices they have to make due to weight and space limitations, as well as safety-checks.

  19. I’m almost halfway through The City in the Middle of the Night now (160 of 360 pages), and it’s very frustrating. Between this and All the Birds in the Sky, it seems clear that the author likes to tell relationship stories which occur in SFFnal settings, while I prefer to read SFFnal stories which may or may not have relationships as subplots. I thought that the synopsis for this story sounded a lot more interesting than that of AtBitS, so I was hopeful. And the worldbuilding part of it is indeed appealing.

    But every time the story starts to get interesting, it’s interrupted for another bout of whining and pining by the main character and their love interest. If the characters seemed interesting and three-dimensional to me, it would probably make it more enjoyable… but the majority of their character development seems to be “whiny, self-absorbed, and immature young people who are infatuated with each other”. I don’t dislike them quite as much as the characters in AtBitS, but that’s a depressingly-low bar.

    I’m going to try to stick with it for another 40 pages to see if it gets better. But I just came from two books I really enjoyed (The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie and Terminal Uprising by Jim C. Hines), and I’ve got a couple of other books sitting here which I know that I will also enjoy (Edges by Linda Nagata and Veil of Spears by Bradley P. Beaulieu), and I feel as though life is too short to keep going on what feels like a tedious slog. 🙁

  20. 17) I hate to tell you this, but “Nasa cancels all-female spacewalk, citing lack of suit in woman’s size”. No, it is not from The Onion.

    Just as long as they do it before Labor Day–those suits are white.

  21. Jor El, Kal El, and now for the first time, Pix El! (sure this must’ve been done before).

  22. Is Pix El Super-cat, @ingvar? 🙂

    @JJ This book and its predecessors, kind of remind me of Robert Charles Wilson’s THE CHRONOLITHS, where I spent a lot of the time reading the relationship stuff in order to dig out and get more about the time traveling monuments.

    RE: Troughton His performance definitely is very different than the other Doctors when I first encountered him back in the day (and that was only a couple of episodes on PBS). He seemed very clownish, and playing stupid a lot, which was a big contrast to Pertwee and Baker (who seemed he was sometimes playing stupid but you could always see the gears turning).

  23. 11) Patrick Troughton was also in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, the weakest of Harryhausen’s Sinbad movies although it did have some great animation (of course) and a pretty effective female villain. And I only just now realized that he was also in Jason & the Argonauts, probably Harryhausen’s best movie — he played Phineas, the blind guy being tormented by the harpies.

    (Tom Baker, who is also MY Doctor, played the evil wizard in probably my favorite Harryhausen film, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad; it’s a shame that as far as I’m aware neither William Hartnell nor Jon Pertwee was ever in a Harryhausen movie.)

  24. And here’s another version of Pinball Wizard – set to the tune of Folsom Prison Blues.

  25. @3: I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that a group of people have worked out a way to use their connections to make money off of people who actually make things instead of shuffling the pieces around. But it is disheartening; I would love to see a racketeering charge against the agents, but I can’t see that happening under this administration.
    I wonder whether the agents believe there are so many wanna-be writers that they can just slot in new ones (ignoring any loss of experience or other quality) if the current ones decide to get day jobs instead of dealing with this?

    I saw the story on the spacesuit screwup this morning and was appalled; ISTM that the growing-in-space factor should be known and calibrated for. (The story says the issue was they put her in a large and found it was too large; do they not have tables of what sizes the suits will fit and what the typical growth is?) I was also struck by

    And when the agency looked into the issue in 2003, it found that about a third of its female astronauts couldn’t fit into existing suits. But Lara Kearney, who worked on the small suit, said it’s not about gender, but rather about logistics and cost-effectiveness. “Do we spend around $15 million to accommodate, relatively speaking, a few more people than we could today? Or, do we take that money, and turn it towards the suit development for the next generation?”

    — my answer is “Do you spend that money on pie-in-the-sky [which ISTM the Mars mission still is], or on making sure you can keep on doing current work?” Arthur C. Clarke’s “Superiority” comes to mind

    @JJ: do report back; I won’t say I “enjoyed” all of The Raven Tower, but I certainly didn’t regret the time I spent on it, unlike the time on AtBitS. It sounds like I should wonder whether Anders mistakes whinging for character.

    @John Winkelman: The BBC recently had a story on the Elton John biopic, in which the lead was being happy that John didn’t fuss over being shown warts and all; unfortunately my BBC-fu is not up to finding it. I can offer the unexpected: Bohemian Rhapsody opens in China, minus all the gay bits.

  26. @Camestros: This isn’t strictly SF but it overlaps with a classic item in sci-fi lore: a synthetic alcohol substitute that we’ll all drink in the future

    Interesting link. I’m not sure I would call it SF but it is definitely speculative and, if not deliberately fictional, highly misleading at best. I would file this under “very credulous press-release reporting” although you could also use the equivalent term “entirely typical pop-science reporting”.

    A close reading shows that there’s basically no evidence Nutt has done anything at all. I mean, he says he has something that he drank a little of in the lab, and he calls it Alcarelle, and it supposedly has “unique functional qualities.” That’s it. There is more talk about how they’re going to create their own marketable drink (“complete with its own bottle”) than about how a specialist in neurologic effects of drugs is competent to design a molecule that will have no harmful effects elsewhere in the body (safety trials are mentioned as an afterthought).

    My favorite part is this: “Yet Alcarelle finding its way into bars and shops is starting to look like a possibility. Seed funding was raised in November 2018, allowing Nutt and his business partner, David Orren, to attempt to raise £20m from investors to bring Alcarelle to market.” [emphasis mine] Yes, they managed to convince one person! Now they can attempt! It’s a possibility!

    Actually there is one clear point in favor of calling this SF: it takes place in an alternate world where “the concept of disruptive technology didn’t exist” in 2005.

  27. Am I the only one who saw the trailer for Rocketman and said (tongue very firmly in cheek), “Oh, look, they’re making a sequel to Bohemian Rhapsody!”?

  28. JJ: I would recommend that you stick with The City in the Middle of the Night, though I understand your frustrations with it. If you were only 50 pages in, I’d say let it go, but even though you still have a ways to go before you hit the titular city, it would be a shame to have invested this much time in the book without getting to the part that I found exceptional.

  29. I once dated a woman who’s friend was Elton John’s producer. After hearing me play guitar, he told her she should ditch me if she ever wanted to make it in the music business :).

    8) Cool. Been doing these escape room thingies for a while now. One day real soon now I’m sure we’ll actually succeed in solving one.

    19) A year or so ago, after returning to England, I went to see one of the new Star Wars movies at Leicester Square. The guy next to me in the cinema was using his mobile phone. Once the movie started I asked him to put it away. He threatened to beat me up. Luckily my wife was there to diffuse the situation.

  30. Cliff: Some things never change. Decades ago in a US theatre, a young yahoo was talking loudly to his girfriend right behind us. When I asked him to please quiet down, his response was, “When I want your opinion, I’ll squeeze your head.” Points for a snazzy comeback, I suppose.

  31. @Cliff/@Russell: The most flabbergasting (though not really verbally creative) response I ever got to a shushing request was when I saw Amanda Palmer play at a small outdoor venue. I was standing about 15 feet from the stage, and these two people were right in front of me. One was telling the other, loudly and at length, about all the ways in which they were Palmer’s biggest fan—the shows they’d been to, the albums and T-shirts they owned, etc.—and talking about what made her music special—”What people don’t understand about Amanda’s music is…”—etc. Neither of them was looking at the stage and they gave no sign of hearing the music at all, despite it being one of the most intense live solo performances I’ve ever seen.

    At some point I tapped the talking one on the shoulder and asked if they could keep it down. They turned around for half a second, I guess just to verify that I wasn’t a big tough person, and immediately turned back around and continued the monologue without missing a beat… except now the topic was the way some people are all concerned about whether other people are talking or not talking, and obviously that means they’re not really here for the music, because why would you go around bothering other people and shushing them instead of just listening to the music.

  32. dimensional to me, it would probably make it more enjoyable… but the majority of their character development seems to be “whiny, self-absorbed, and immature young people who are infatuated with each other”

    Sounds like my students.

    @joehill yes, itlooks like they are using the formula, so crafty parodied in walk hard.

  33. Ingvar, it was a scroll title in January: “Pix-El, the Man of Scroll.” Suggested by a rather modest chap, bit of a genius, I’m told.

    I was thinking of re-upping a suggestion (by Nigel, if memory blah blah teacup): “Oh, the Pixels You’ll Scroll,” which, amazingly, doesn’t seem to have been used yet.

  34. Jeff Smith: That’s encouraging, because I’m slogging through The City in the Middle of the Night myself. About a quarter of the way in according to my Kindle. The beginning was pretty good in a Rafael Sabbatini-esque kind of way, then the oxygen ran out.

  35. R.U.P. – Rossum’s Universcroll Pixels
    In the end, the real treasure was the pixels we scrolled along the way
    You can’t always scroll what you like

  36. Russell Letson states Cliff: Some things never change. Decades ago in a US theatre, a young yahoo was talking loudly to his girfriend right behind us. When I asked him to please quiet down, his response was, “When I want your opinion, I’ll squeeze your head.” Points for a snazzy comeback, I suppose.

    I am told by the nursing staff here that the visiting public cannot understand why quiet hours which start at eight pm apply to them. I had the noisiest group next door about a week ago sounding like they were partying in that room.

    Now reading: Charles de Lint’s Somplace To Be Flying

  37. Re The City in the Middle of the Night: I’m not really a good authority on what to do if you’re not enjoying the novel, because I liked it all the way through — minus a couple bumps here and there, mostly relating to the one character I couldn’t bring myself to like.

    I did notice what JJ said while I was reading it, that it was a relationship story told in a sfnal setting. In the old days, sf as a genre was criticized for having cardboard characters, and I always thought that was inherent. Literary (or what we called “mainstream” at the time) fiction spent its efforts on characterization because it didn’t have to invent the setting. Its job was to tell a story about these people. Sf’s job was to tell a story about this concept, and the people had to deal with the concept, not their individual issues. Also, all genre fiction was plot-based, in which characterization again had to take a back seat.

    The best writers could make their characters distinctive, but they would do so without spending a whole lot of the reader’s time on them, so “distinctive” was a better description than “well-rounded.” I remember that back in the 1960s I thought that Poul Anderson did a good job on his characters, and looking back at it now that tells you what the average characterization was like. (These were prime Nutty Nugget days.)

    In the 70s, writers started spending more time on characterization by spending less time on the setting — because they assumed the readers had read enough of the earlier stuff that they could fill in a lot of the details themselves. Yes, yes, generation ship, got it. Overpopulated Earth, yeah, I know what that looks like. The writer could deepen the setting by just adding to what was already in our heads. And because the characters weren’t limited to only reacting to the Big Picture, they could start to have an internal life, as well. (Making some readers go, “I don’t care about his psychological issues.”)

    Years ago, nobody would have done what Charlie Jane Anders does in this book, which is to write a novel about the relationship of four people, but oh yeah, it takes place on a planet that is tidal-bound, and Earth people came here in a spaceship and now live in a city that has these good points and these bad points that they have to deal with, and there’s another city founded by people who were willing to give up the good parts of the first city because they didn’t like the bad parts, so it has a different kind of society, but you can’t really choose which one to live in because it’s almost impossible to travel between one and the other, and if you try you’re likely to die, and oh yeah, aliens…no wait, we’re the aliens, but the indigenous life isn’t intelligent, just dangerous. But all that’s just the background for the story about the four people.

    And of course, if you’re not interested in the four people, then maybe the setting doesn’t matter. I’m thinking that JJ’s opinion is that it’s not a good relationship novel. I thought it was. But both opinions are valid. I felt I was greatly rewarded for the time I invested in it, but the best part came near the end, so time has to be invested.

  38. Am now about half way through Pride of Chanur (progress made to the accompaniment of a burger & fries and a couple of Finnegan’s Dead Irish Poets) and MAN, this is a great book!

    (Which I knew already, but this is the first time I’ve actually picked it up in ~20 years.)

  39. @JJ: Veil of Spears is excellent, IMO. It went on my Hugo nominations ballot. I think the next book in the series, Beneath the Twisted Trees is due out sometime this summer.

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