Pixel Scroll 7/11/19 Pixel Twice, Scroll Once

(1) NOW WITH ADDED KA-BOOM! Filer Charon Dunn is off to the San Diego Comic-Con to plug her new book, A Dark and Stormy Day, the culmination of the Adventures of Sonny Knight trilogy, “which has even more explosions than the last two.”

I’m going to be providing copious updates on my Facebook page, but if you’re not a Facebooker, I’ll do a summary after I get back. If you are a Facebooker, throw me a like. It’s my first SDCC, so I’m mostly going to be wandering around gawking at everything like an utter yokel.

I will be wearing my fabulous SDCC battle armor: a denim vest with the solar system embroidered on the back, to discourage me from buying more superfluous hoodies while giving me a place to display my collectable pins.

Dunn will also be carrying swag to distribute to her readers – don’t miss out!

(2) ONLY HUNDREDS OF SHOPPING DAYS TIL CHRISTMAS. During Hallmark’s Keepsake Ornament Premiere Event from July 13-21, there will be “event exclusive offers” on the Hogwarts Tree Topper and Harry Potter Collection. The castle lights up and plays music. Ooh, ahh!

(3) STATION ELEVEN COMING TO MORE STATIONS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Emily St. John-Mandel’s award-winning post-apocalyptic novel Station Eleven is getting a small-screen adaptation. The novel, which won the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke award, follows a theatre troupe as they travel around the Great Lakes some decades after a pandemic wiped out most of civilization. It’s an excellent novel, though I have to admit that I find the author’s dismissal of science fiction as a genre to be annoying (much like Ian MacEwan). 

CBC Books has the story: “Emily St. John Mandel’s novel Station Eleven being adapted into 10-episode TV series”

(4) BOWIE FIGURE. The New York Times shares details of “A David Bowie Barbie: Mattel Unveils Ziggy Stardust Doll”.

On Thursday, the world learned that Barbie is a Bowie fan.

With its release of a doll dressed as David Bowie’s glittering alter ego Ziggy Stardust, Mattel said it was celebrating the 50th anniversary of “Space Oddity,” released in 1969.

The new Barbie doll wears a body-hugging metallic “spacesuit,” calf-high red platform boots and silver earrings with dangling stars. Her dark red hair is slicked back like Ziggy Stardust’s, and daubed on her forehead is the golden circle he wore. Her nails are painted black.

It’s a notably androgynous look for a doll that epitomized the stereotypes of feminine appearance in its earlier iterations….

(5) BARBIE’S SPACESUIT. And that’s not all the Barbie news – BBC reports “Barbie and ESA launch plan to get more girls in space”.

Barbie has teamed up with the European Space Agency (ESA) to encourage girls to become the next generation of astronauts.

Currently, only 15 percent of active astronauts in the world are female and, 50 years on from the first person landing on the moon, no woman has ever landed on the moon.

The ESA only has one active astronaut. She’s called Samantha Cristoforetti.

In order to highlight the lack of female astronauts, the company behind Barbie – Mattel – has made a special one-of-a-kind doll of Cristoforetti.

The astronaut hopes her collaboration with Barbie “will help young girls and boys to dream about their future without limits.”

(6) THE MOTES ON NEIL’S SUIT. A lot bigger and older than Barbie’s, and in need of refurbishing: “Of Little Details And Lunar Dust: Preserving Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 Spacesuit”.

When astronaut Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon 50 years ago, it was a giant leap for functional fashion.

The spacesuit he wore was an unprecedented blend of technology and tailoring.

“The suit itself is an engineering marvel,” says Malcolm Collum, the chief conservator for the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. “Every single thing on here is a specific function. It is engineered to the last little detail.”

Take the metal fittings that connect the helmet, air tubes and gloves. They’re brightly colored — for example, vivid red metal for the right glove, neon blue for the left. Patriotic, yes, but also exceptionally functional. That’s because NASA wanted to make sure that in all of the excitement of landing on the moon, Armstrong was able to easily connect his gear.

And that attention to detail is evident from helmet to toe. The stitching throughout is meticulous — much of it done by hand in 1969. The suit had to be tough, flexible and airtight. Armstrong’s life depended on a finely guided needle and thread.

But decades of being on display throughout the country took a toll. In 2006, Smithsonian technicians noticed Armstrong’s spacesuit was showing signs of age. So they removed it from the Air and Space Museum in Washington, moved it to a storage facility and laid it out in a drawer.

Collum and his team of technicians have had the job of getting Armstrong’s spacesuit standing tall and back on public view again.

(7) SOURCE OF THE TROUBLE. The author of Ash Kickers explains the set-up in “The Big Idea: Sean Grigsby” at Whatever.

Whatever catastrophe nature throws at us, people always seem to make it worse.

Not all of us. Some seek to help and not to hurt, to heal instead of destroy. Firefighters are just one example of a few good people trying to make a difference. I’m proud to call myself one. But, like I said, sometimes there are a few hateful assholes standing in our way.

The Smoke Eaters series is about firefighters versus newly-returned dragons, sure, but there are other big ideas at play. In the first book I talk about corrupt government using disasters for their own gain, and replacing first responders with robots. In Ash Kickers, it’s something much worse…

(8) E UNUM PLURIBUS? Popular Mechanics tells how “Pangea Gave Us Modern Oceans”:

It’s hard to imagine all of the world’s land masses together as one supercontinent. Over 200 million years ago, however, that’s what Earth looked like. The breakup of Pangea was essentially the first step in the creation of the modern world….

Around 175 million years ago, as Pangea was violently being ripped apart, new rifts started opening on the ocean floor. Water-heavy slabs started falling in one after another, faster and farther down than they had before until the water began to evaporate entirely. With no water left, the end result was millions of years of water loss like the planet had never seen.

With ocean levels now rising due to man-made climate change, the idea of chucking all the water into the Earth’s mantle sounds tempting. No such luck, Karlsen says.

“While the deep water cycle can effectively change sea level over hundreds of millions to billions of years, climate change can change the sea level in zero to 100 years,” she says. “For comparison, the present-day sea level rise associated with climate change is about 0.1 inches (3.2 millimeters) a year. The sea level drop associated with the deep water cycle is about 1/10,000 of that.”

(9) CORTESE OBIT. Her credits included Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits (1965) and Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988). The New York Times remembers her in “Valentina Cortese, a Leading Italian Film Actress, Dies at 96”.

Valentina Cortese, an Italian film actress best known for her role as a fading, tippling movie diva in François Truffaut’s “Day for Night,” which earned her a 1975 Academy Award nomination and, remarkably, an apology from the winner, Ingrid Bergman, died on Wednesday in Milan. She was 96.

(10) NICKERSON OBIT. BBC reports the death of  Willy Wonka cast member: “Denise Nickerson: Violet Beauregarde actress dies aged 62”

Denise Nickerson, the former child actress who played Violet Beauregarde in the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, has died aged 62.

Nickerson’s family announced the news in a Facebook post that read: “She’s gone.”

In earlier updates on social media, her family said she had pneumonia and had experienced several seizures.

Nickerson – who was cast opposite Gene Wilder at the age of 13 – had previously survived a stroke in 2018.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 11, 1899 E. B. White. Author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, both of which are surely genre. (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 11, 1913 Cordwainer Smith. Pen name of Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger. Most of his fiction was set in The Instrumentality of Mankind series which I know I’ve read once upon a time at in fragments. Both iBooks and Kindle are well stocked with his novels and short stories including Scanners Live in Vain, a most excellent novella. (Died 1966.)
  • Born July 11, 1920 Yul Brynner. The Gunslinger in Westworld and its sequel Futureword.  He would also play Carson, a human warrior in the post-apocalyptic The Ultimate Warrior. I don’t think we can consider The King and I genre… (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 11, 1925 David Graham, 84. Early voice of the Daleks on Doctor Who, Dutch as The Daleks and The Dalek Invasion of Earth. He also provided a number of the voices on the Thunderbirds. And In the 1984 television Super Bowl advert filmed to introduce the Apple Macintosh computer, he played the role of Big Brother.
  • Born July 11, 1956 Amitav Ghosh, 63. Author of the absolutely brilliant The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Fevers, Delirium and Discovery. Really go read it and with we’ll discuss it over a cup of chai masala. 
  • Born July 11, 1958 Alan Gutierrez, 61. An artist and illustrator, specializing in SF and fantasy cover art. His first professional sale was to the now defunct semi-professional Fantasy Book in 1983. He then began producing work for Baen Books, Tor Books,Pequod Press  and other publishers. He has also painted covers for Analog magazine, Aboriginal Science Fiction, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and other SF magazines.
  • Born July 11, 1959 Richard James Bleiler, 60. Genres breed academics. One of them is this bibliographer of speculative, crime, and adventure fiction. Among his papers are “The Fantastic Pulp Fiction of Frank Belknap Long” which appeared in Gary Hoppenstand’s Pulp Fiction of the ’20S and ’30S and “Forgotten Giant: A Brief History of Adventure Magazine” which was published in Extrapolation: A Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy.
  • Born July 11, 1972 Leona Wisoker, 47. Green Man Reviewer and author of the excellent Children of the Desert series. 
  • Born July 11, 1984 Marie Lu, 35. Best known for her Legend trilogy, a dystopian and militarized future.  Lionsgate has optioned it for a film. She’s also a novel in the DC Icons series, Batman: Nightwalker. And a YA series called the Young Elites.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • How do you like this selection of “Rejected Wizard of Oz Characters,” courtesy of The Argyle Sweater?

(13) HE CAN SIT ANYWHERE HE WANTS. Camestros Felapton did something rather amusing with the new poster art for Star Trek: Picard — “New TNG Spin Off Looks Interesting”.

(14) TRUE GRIT. Gizmodo finds a very good way to make a dry topic interesting: “Research Sheds Light on Strange Seaway That Once Covered the Sahara”.

The Sahara might seem like one of Earth’s most lifeless regions today, but its fossils show it was once a vast seaway filled giant fish and some of the largest sea snakes the planet has ever seen.

From 100 million to 50 million years ago, a large seaway up to 160 feet deep covered much of West Africa, leaving behind lots of marine fossils, including vertebrates, invertebrates, plants, and microbes. Many of them were surprisingly large. It’s difficult to study this region due to harsh geopolitical and physical climates, so a group of scientists decided to compile and synthesize lots of existing research on the area

(15) ON THE SCALES. Paul Weimer analyzes the pedigree of Evan Winter’s new book for readers of the B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog: Gladiator Meets The Count of Monte Cristo in the African-Inspired Fantasy Epic The Rage of Dragons.

The Rage of Dragons, the debut epic from self-publishing success story Evan Winter, distinguishes itself by its setting, a fantasy world inspired by Africa, but truly impresses with its storytelling. It weaves a tale of determination, love, revenge, and war that is, at its core, the story of one young man who, even as he seeks to improve his life by learning the art of war, must grapple with deadly politics, powerful magic, and a threat that could destroy an entire civilization.

(16) RELATIVITY. The Hugo Award Book Club blog reviews a set of finalists in “Best Related Work: Category or Collection of Categories?”. One work on the list is —  

The Story Of The Hugos 
It seems odd to us that this is only the second time that Jo Walton has appeared on a Hugo Award ballot. It can be argued that several of her novels and non-fiction works warrant the recognition.

Her Informal History Of The Hugo Awards, based around the Tor.com blog posts of the same name that she wrote a couple of years ago, traces the history of the awards through their creation in 1953, through to the year 2000. True to its name, this is a subjective look at both the winners and the shortlists, livened with insight and personal anecdotes.

The book version adds significant material, additional essays and footnotes, as well as a curated set of comments from the blog. Walton has a deep and rich knowledge of science fiction and of fandom, and it shines through in essay after essay tackling controversies of years past, or years where she might disagree with the verdict of Hugo voters.

This is a work that we believe will have enduring value. In most years it would be a lock for the top of our Best Related Work ballots.

(17) HUGO REVIEWS. Bonnie McDaniel is back with “Hugo Reading 2019: Best Novelette”.

4) “The Thing About Ghost Stories,” Naomi Kritzer

This is a lovely story about just what it says–ghost stories, not ghosts. Although ghosts definitely make an appearance, in the form of the narrator’s mother, who recently succumbed to Alzheimer’s. (The details of this ring scarily true, by the way.) This is another quiet story, but in this case, the still waters run deep, and the mother-daughter relationship depicted here is sad and beautiful.

(18) GRAPHIC STORY. J.C. Reid does a good rundown of one of the more rarely-reviewed categories: “Hugo Awards Extravaganza 2019 -Graphic Story”. First up —

Abbott by Saladin Ahmed, art by Sami Kivelä, colours by Jason Wordie, letters by Jim Campbell

A journalist fights racism and magic in 70s Detroit.

You can’t go past a good high concept, and Blaxploitation Call of Cthulhu is a pretty great high concept.  What rapidly becomes apparent is that Ahmed has aspirations beyond kick ass action comics, and is engaging with more than the superficial trappings of blaxploitation.  It starts with the setting – 70s Detroit in washed out colours, newspaper headlines, and near ubiquitous smoking.  Everywhere we visit in the story we see divisions along race, gender and class, and the genius at work here is to carry these divisions over to the supernatural.

(19) IN THIS CORNER. James Davis Nicoll orchestrates a cage match between two classic names in “Heinlein’s Juveniles vs. Andre Norton’s Young Adult Novels” at Tor.com.

Something about Heinlein’s characters that eluded me when I was an idiot teen: some of his protagonists (in particular Rod from Tunnel in the Sky) were not necessarily the sharpest pencils in the box. They’re always good-hearted fellows, but also naive enough to justify folksy lecturing from mentors. This also allows readers to feel just a little superior to the fellow who, for example, can’t seem to work out that another character is a girl even after he wrestles with her, then partners up with her (leading a third party to inquire, “Rod…were you born that stupid? Or did you have to study?”).

(20) OBJECTS MAY BE SMALLER THAN THEY APPEAR. NPR says “At The T-Rex Races: On Your Mark, Get Set, Rawwrr!”

At first glance, the starting gate at Emerald Downs racetrack looks relatively normal. But then the gates open and the race begins, and instead of thoroughbreds a mass of people bursts forth, running as fast as they can — while wearing oversized T-Rex costumes.

“The T-Rexes stand at the ready — and T-Rexes away!” track announcer Tom Harris yells, as prehistoric — and hilarious — chaos breaks out on the track.

At the wire, a dino named Regular Unleaded took the victory, holding off Rex Girlfriend by a tail.

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

55 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 7/11/19 Pixel Twice, Scroll Once

  1. Penny is the only named female character in Double Star (unless I’m forgetting someone very minor) and she’s treated like a child by every character that deals with her.

  2. bookworm1398: infomocracy is not too far off from America today with a few tweaks.

    While the political machinations in the book bear a large resemblance to those of the current day, I don’t see any plausible way to get to that setup from the current one.

    It’s an interesting thought experiment, and if you’re willing to roll with the idea of the setup without questioning how it came about, the book is reasonably interesting. But I found toward the latter part of the novel, it felt to me as though it had turned into a bit of a slog. I gave it 3.5 stars out of 5.

  3. I also found Infomocracy hard going, but the concept was interesting enough that I picked up the sequels (Null States and State Tectonics), which I found to be more story and less mechanics; there was also some interesting questioning of the premise of the first book. Not hugely recommended, but people might find them interesting.

  4. I had a suspension-of-disbelief-hanged-from-the-neck-until-dead problem with Infomacracy. If legal systems and laws can change from block to block and even building to building, there’s no sane way to navigate the culture. As an example, walking down the street you can walk from a block where full body-shrouding clothing is mandatory through another where clothing is illegal and back to one where everyone must wear blue. An extreme example, but possible. How can anyone possibly know which laws do, and do not, apply at any given moment, in any given place? You’d have information overload just trying to keep up.

  5. Sorry — I wasn’t on the computer for a couple of days, then forgot about this ongoing discussion!

    I just want to ditto everything that Cassy said. That’s exactly the problem I had with the political system in Infomocracy. You just can’t change laws every couple of blocks and expect anything better than sheer anarchy, given the freedom of movement between those blocks.

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