Pixel Scroll 7/16/18 Now With Bolded Typos

(1) GONE WITH THE YUAN. The most expensive film ever made in China bombed and is already out of theaters. The Hollywood Reporter has the story — “China’s First $100M Film Pulled From Cinemas After Disastrous Opening Weekend”.

In the long lead-up to its release, Chinese fantasy epic Asura was promoted as China’s most expensive film ever made, with a production budget of over $110 million (750 million yuan). So perhaps it’s unsurprising that the film’s producers, which include Jack Ma’s Alibaba Pictures, decided to take desperate action after the movie opened to just $7.1 million over the weekend.

Late Sunday evening in Beijing, Asura‘s official social media accounts posted a simple statement saying that the film would be pulled from cinemas as of 10 p.m. local time. After landing in theaters with limited fanfare, China’s priciest picture ever would vanish from the scene entirely.

Asura is co-produced by Zhenjian Film Studio and Ningxia Film Group — two of the investors behind the successful Painted Skin fantasy franchise — along with Alibaba Pictures Group and other minority investors.

The statement announcing Asura‘s retreat from cinemas supplied no explanation for the unprecedented move. But a representative from Zhenjian Film, which is credited as lead producer, later told Chinese news site Sina: “This decision was made not only because of the bad box office. We plan to make some changes to the film and release it again.”

Chinese site Sixth Tone tells it this way: “Epic Budget, Epic Fail: Chinese Blockbuster ‘Asura’ Tanks”.

China’s latest fantasy epic, “Asura,” claimed to be the most expensive domestic production to date — but it didn’t even last three days in cinemas.

Six years in the making, the film was planned as the first of a trilogy based on ancient Tibetan mythology. The Alibaba Pictures production promised lush CGI from an award-winning, international team in its depiction of war between two heavenly realms. Marketing campaigns for the film emphasized its budget of $100 million.

But after opening on Friday, the film made a mere $7.1 million over its first weekend. By contrast, “Hidden Man,” a highly anticipated action-thriller by actor and director Jiang Wen, brought in $46.5 million. Meanwhile “Dying to Survive,” a dark comedy about cancer drug smuggling operations, defended its box office lead, racking up $68.5 million on its second weekend and even prompting a spike in online insurance sales.

Aggregate user ratings of “Asura” varied wildly across China’s two biggest ticketing platforms, Tencent-funded Maoyan and Alibaba-owned Tao Piaopiao, earning 4.9 and 8.4 out of 10, respectively. Users of review platform Douban rated the film a miserable 3.1 out of 10.

(2) EFFECTS OF COMIC CON PROLIFERATION. Heidi MacDonald tells Publishers Weekly readers why “In a World of Too Many Cons, San Diego Is Still King”.

An ever-increasing number of comics and pop culture conventions are taxing publishers’ exhibition budgets and turning artists into nomads, on the road signing autographs in a different city or country every weekend….

Indeed, the expanding comics convention schedule is beginning to tax publisher budgets while turning comics creators into a hardened (and often exhausted) group of road warriors who must trek to a different city every weekend.

As more and more events flood the schedule, publishers and creators alike are developing new strategies for dealing with the demands for their time. And the conventions are beginning to evolve, some developing business models to stay above the pack of newly launched shows, while others, including many poorly planned and financed events, are becoming synonymous with disaster, poor attendance, canceled events, and disappointed fans.

“The number of cons has really exploded over the last five years,” says Martha Donato, president of MAD Events Management, which puts on the Long Beach Comic Con every September, along with other shows. “It’s [become] every city, every weekend, all year, globally.”

Even for a location such as Long Beach, Calif., close to many West Coast comics publishers, the competition for guest artists and publisher-exhibitors has become fierce, she says. “A much bigger percentage of our time, energy, and resources are now devoted to getting exhibitors to attend,” she adds. “Talent and their publishers have many more offers than they could ever accept, even if they wanted to.”

Donato’s show gets support from publishers in Los Angeles, including Top Cow and Aspen, but even loyal exhibitors have to pick and choose. “Publishers are facing a deluge of opportunities and they can afford to be choosy,” says Donato. “There’s a lot of saying no.”

(3) RECASTING MUPPETS MOVIES. The most selfless answer is….

(4) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 16, 1955 Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe premiered on the small screen
  • July 16, 1958The Fly creeped the heck out of everybody…”Help Me…Help Me.”
  • July 16, 2005 — The 6th book in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series sold 6.9 million copies in its first 24 hours.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 16, 1928 – Robert Sheckley
  • Born July 16 – Will Ferrell, 51. Holmes in the forthcoming comedy Holmes and Watson film,  HerculesHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every ChildCurious George and The Last Man on Earth series.
  • Born July 16 – Corey Feldman, 47. Genre roles in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film series, the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,Tales from the Crypt and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven series to name but a few of his files.
  • Born July 16 – Rose Salazar, 33. Genre work includes American Horror StoryMaze Runner: The Death Cure, and Batman: Arkham Origins video game.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • Updating a Kafka classic at Bizarro.

(7) THE TIDE IS IN. Camestros Felapton continues scoping out the Hugo nominees: “Review: The Black Tides of Heaven (Novella) J.Y.Yang”.

As I said above, I found the second half easier to engage with than the first. It focuses more on Akeha, the surpising “spare” half of the twins, who in post-adolesence decides to be confirmed as a male (gender is assigned post-childhood in this world). Fate, prophercy, control and inevitability (whether magical or political) play out as important themes but, again, I think their impact as ideas get lost amid the scale of the story.

(8) IN ORDER. Mark Kaedrin gives his rankings and his reasons — “Hugo Awards: Short Stories”.

In the past five years of reading Hugo nominated short stories, I think I’ve enjoyed about 2-3 of the stories quite a bit. That’s… not a very good batting average. For whatever reason, I always find that this category just fills up with stories that don’t work for me. True, several puppy trolling nominations made the cut, which didn’t help (for example: they nominated SF-themed erotica two years in a row, and then another that was a bad parody of a bad story, etc…), but even the stories I liked weren’t that great. I’ve always chalked that up to this category having the lowest barrier to entry. It doesn’t take a whole lot of time or effort to seek out a bunch of short stories (mostly available for free online too), so the nominations are spread far and wide. There used to be a requirement that a finalist had to have at least 5% of the nominations in order to be considered, which often resulted in a small category because most stories couldn’t clear that bar. So basically, the stories that do make it here rarely have wide appeal. That being said, this year’s nominees are actually a pretty congenial bunch. I don’t actually hate any of the stories, even if a few don’t quite tweak me the way I’d like (even those are pretty good though). I do still find it hard to believe that these are the actual best short fiction of the year, but I’ll take this over the past 4 years’ worth of nominations. However, I do think it’s telling that at least one story on the 1942 Retro Hugos ballot, Proof by Hal Clement, is far better than any of these nominees, which I think says something (I’d have to read/reread a couple of the other 1942 finalists to be sure, but I suspect that ballot is more my speed). Anyway, let’s get to it….

(9) CURRENT EVENTS. And don’t forget this year’s fiction. Rocket Stack Rank hasn’t — “July 2018 Ratings”. Greg Hullender summarizes:

We posted our monthly ratings last night. It was a typical month, with 11 stories recommended (with 4 or 5 stars) out of 72 (expected would be 11 to 13).

We recommended 4 stories from F&SF, 3 from Asimov’s,  2 from Analog had 2. The other two were in Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Lightspeed. Over time, the three print and seven online magazines we follow split the recommendations 50/50 (not counting stand-alone novellas or original anthologies), and the print magazines only come out 6 times a year, so this isn’t quite as lopsided as it looks, but it was definitely a good month for the traditional three magazines.

(10) START YOUR COCKY CAREER. This article on “Cocky-gate” also seems to be a great blueprint for how to use Kindle Unlimited to give you a 6-figure salary. Let The Verge tell you about it: “Bad Romance”.

…The fight over #Cockygate, as it was branded online, emerged from the strange universe of Amazon Kindle Unlimited, where authors collaborate and compete to game Amazon’s algorithm. Trademark trolling is just the beginning: There are private chat groups, ebook exploits, conspiracies to seed hyperspecific trends like “Navy SEALs” and “mountain men,” and even a controversial sweepstakes in which a popular self-published author offered his readers a chance to win diamonds from Tiffany’s if they reviewed his new book.

Much of what’s alleged is perfectly legal, and even technically within Amazon’s terms of service. But for authors and fans, the genre is also a community, and the idea that unethical marketing and algorithmic tricks are running rampant has embroiled their world in controversy. Some authors even believe that the financial incentives set up by Kindle Unlimited are reshaping the romance genre — possibly even making it more misogynistic.

A genre that mostly features shiny, shirtless men on its covers and sells ebooks for 99 cents a pop might seem unserious. But at stake are revenues sometimes amounting to a million dollars a year, with some authors easily netting six figures a month. The top authors can drop $50,000 on a single ad campaign that will keep them in the charts — and see a worthwhile return on that investment….

(11) THEY’VE GOT ‘RITHIM. Or you can try this route–sell your old pb’s for hundreds or thousands of dollars each on Amazon. The New York Times has the story: “Amazon’s Curious Case of the $2,630.52 Used Paperback”.

Even a casual browse through the virtual corridors of Amazon reveals an increasingly bizarre bazaar where the quaint policies of physical bookstores — the stuff no one wants is piled on a cart outside for a buck a volume — are upended. John Sladek, who wrote perceptive science fiction about robotics and artificial intelligence, predicted in a 1975 story that computers might start making compelling but false connections:

If you’re trying to reserve a seat on the plane to Seville, you’d get a seat at the opera instead. While the person who wants the opera seat is really just making an appointment with a barber, whose customer is just then talking to the box-office of “Hair,” or maybe making a hairline reservation …

Mr. Sladek, who died in 2000, is little read now, which naturally means his books are often marketed for inordinate sums on Amazon. One of his mystery novels, “Invisible Green,” has a Red Rhino “buy box” — Amazon’s preferred deal — offering it for $664.

That is a real bargain compared with what a bookseller with the improbable name Supersonic Truck is asking: $1,942. (Copies from other booksellers are as little as $30.) Supersonic Truck, which Amazon says has 100 percent positive ratings, did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Ms. Macgillivray, who has published eight novels, said she had been poking around Amazon’s bookstore and was more perplexed than ever by the pricing.

“There’s nothing illegal about someone listing an item for sale at whatever the market will bear, even if they don’t have the book but plan to buy it when someone orders it,” she said. “At the same time, I would think Amazon wouldn’t want their platform used for less than honorable practices.”

(12) READERCON PORTRAITS. Paul Di Filippo shares photos of “Some Members of Fictionmags Attending Readercon 2018 “ at The Inferior 4.

In order of appearance: Ellen Datlow, Fred Lerner, Gary Wolfe, George Morgan, Gordon van Gelder, Henry Wessells, Jess Nevins, Michael Dirda, Peter Halasz, Scott Andrews, Scott Edelman, Sheila Williams, Steve Dooner, Mark Walsh.

(13) ONCE MORE WITH FEELING. And Daniel Dern covered the non-human population at ReaderCon, photographing this “alternative SJW credential.”

An ‘edge-‘og (hedgehog). (Not mine.)

Yeah, the SF context isn’t visible, would you take my word for it?

(14) ICE DELIVERY. NPR tells what it’s like for locals: “Massive Iceberg Looms Over A Village In Greenland”.

The photographs are stunning: a giant mountain of ice towers over a tiny village, with colorful homes reminiscent of little doll houses against the stark, blue-gray landscape.

But for the people living in those houses – that beauty could be life-threatening.

“It’s kind of like, if you lived in the suburbs, and you woke up one morning and looked out, and there was a skyscraper next to your house,” says David Holland, an oceanographer at New York University who does research in Greenland during the summer months. “I’d be the first to get out of there.”

He says that’s why authorities have taken action to evacuate those living closest to the water from the village of Innaarsuit, where the iceberg has parked itself just off the coast. According to the BBC, the village has just 169 residents.

(15) THE IMPORTANCE OF POORFEADING. “Harry, it s***s” — just not quite so badly: “Aliens killed by spelling mistake in 2013 Colonial Marines game”.

An infamously dreadful 2013 Aliens video game is now believed to have fallen victim to the most chilling of threats in the universe: a typo.

Aliens: Colonial Marines was released on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 to terrible reviews.

Many of them mentioned how badly the artificial intelligence (AI) behaved.

But it has now emerged that a single stray “a” in the game’s code may have been to blame.

Videos on YouTube show the game’s AI characters – the aliens and human teammates the player doesn’t control – ignoring threats, shooting wildly at nothing or standing in the line of fire.

(16) EARLY BRADBURY. David Doering has been digging through ancient fanzines and found a curiosity: “Here’s a little gift for you: a verse by Ray Bradbury himself–likely never before reprinted in the history of, well, like poetry or something. And maybe for some reason…”

VERSE OF THE IMAGI-NATION

“TIs a Sinema”
by Ray Bradbury

I think that I shall never see
Flash Gordon as he ought to be.
Midst growls of pain & awful lafter
each Saturday I see a chapter.
I cannot bear to see him more
for he Is really such a bore.

& Tarzan! too, is all so poor:
A shrinking violet demure
who beats upon his frazzled chest
& turns his puss into the west
to roar defiance with…”Fresh fish!
–I think that he’s a lousy dish…

From: Imagination, v. 1, issue 11, whole no. 11, August 1938

[Thanks to David Doering, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, StephenfromOttawa, Brian Z., Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Greg Hullender, Bill Burns, John King Tarpinian, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Mix Mat.]

69 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 7/16/18 Now With Bolded Typos

  1. 11) If the price makes no sense it’s probably being set by an algorithm.

    4)The barely remembered days when you had to go to the store at midnight instead of having it delivered to your ereader

  2. 11) I’ve always assumed some of these ridiculously priced third-party sales on Amazon and eBay (and other vendors) are tied to money laundering in some way. Take ‘dirty’ money, buy $5 item for $5000 from an accomplice and after Amazon’s cut you’ve probably cleared more ‘Clean’ money than a traditional fence.

  3. I thought Sarah Jeong’s piece on Cockeygate was a very interesting piece of reporting and I’m glad you linked to it.

  4. 11) On the other hand, I’ve scored some excellent Folio Society editions of history books off Amazon by watching third-party sellers closely.

    What really shocked me was when I saw a copy of GURPS Traveller: Ground Forces on an auction site for about $900. I’m the author of that book, and that figure is close to my advance for writing it.

  5. The Verge article is fascinating and I thought I was already well informed on the shenanigans going on in KU but there are depths below the depths and deeper things below those.

  6. (3) RECASTING MUPPETS MOVIES. There are some other good ones in the thread (including casting which Muppet should be which character for various movies), but yeah, that’s a great one.

    (5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS. “Born July 16 – Corey Feldman” – Let’s not forget “Dream a Little Dream”! 😉

    (13) ONCE MORE WITH FEELING. The cuteness. The cuteness!

    (14) ICE DELIVERY. Woah, holy carp! I’m hearing that “Jaws” music when I look at the picture at the link.

    – – – – –

    @Douglas Berry: Yowza! Do you have a few copies to sell??? 😉

  7. Of all the people I share a birthday with, Robert Sheckley is my favorite.

    I think I finally have my Hugo ballot composed, but I’m going to sleep on it first.

  8. (10) START YOUR COCKY CAREER

    Wow, that rabbit hole was much deeper and weirder than I’d realised.

  9. (3) My original suggestion was to take any Star Wars movie and keep Anthony Daniels. However, some TV series could be somewhat entertaining…

    I Dream of Jeannie with a human Dr. Bellows
    The Twilight Zone with Rod Serling
    Alfred Hitchcock Presents with, naturally, Hitchcock
    Bewitched with Darren.

    (11) As Lise’s link (from 2011) demonstrates, this is neither new nor mysterious. Algorithmic pricing is common for big Amazon sellers, and when two or more bots get into a war, this is the result.

  10. Re Birthdays: For lack of an Oxford comma, there is a series that I would totally read with my children.

    “Curious George and The Last Man on Earth series”

    I see it as a retelling of I Am Legend with the man in the yellow hat as the titular role.

    @Soon Lee – All but the one on the bottom. His name is Gary.

  11. 1) I still want to see it. But then, I liked DRAGON BLADE…

    @JJ
    MURDERBOT NOVEL!

    3) I had seen this meme before a few weeks ago. It went a little more viral this time,

    13) I saw a couple of SFF folk show off their pictures with the hedgehog. Popular little guy.

    14) My camera and I wish we were there…

  12. @Paul — Have you seen the series Ice Fantasy on Netflix? I also recently got a bunch of random wuxia fantasy films from Amazon, including Once Upon a Time and Legend of the Naga Pearls that may be of interest.

  13. 11) “At the same time, I would think Amazon wouldn’t want their platform used for less than honorable practices.

    Heh.

  14. 11) “Less honourable business practices” is their entire business model. As others above have mentioned, bot-driven price wars and money laundering are potential culprits here.

    15) Everything I’ve heard about this story from gave devs point to the environment the game was built in as being the probable cause of such an error. Here is an interesting (short) twitter thread about it.

  15. 3) Army of Darkness with Bruce Campbell as the only human (Evil Ash as a muppet).

  16. Last-minute Hugo-related Meredith Moment — Mur Lafferty’s Six Wakes is currently $2.99.

  17. MURDERBOT NOVEL!!!!eleventy!!!

    (Why, yes, I *am* excited. However did you tell?)

  18. (11) When I was at Amazon, we looked into some of the items with ridiculous prices. In every case, it was the result of a third-party merchant failing to understand that he/she could delete an offer (a price/quantity value) without deleting the corresponding listing (the page in the catalog describing the product). Listings don’t get deleted just because there are no offers–they just get marked “out-of-stock.”

    Merchants who didn’t understand that would instead raise the offer price to something astronomical. If you actually tried to order one of those things, the merchant would have to cancel the order and admit that he/she didn’t have it in stock. (Amazon will cancel your merchant account if you do that very often, so you need to make the price very, very high to be sure no one tries to order it.)

    Worse, some programs designed to help merchants manage their inventory also didn’t know they should signal out-of-stock by deleting offers, not raising prices to infinity. So we recommended making an effort to contact the vendors of those programs, try to better educate the merchants, and otherwise ignore it. There were plenty of real problems out there, and this one wasn’t hurting anyone.

    That doesn’t mean gouging doesn’t happen, but that’s asking 2 or 3 times the normal price–not 1000x. Gouging works on a product that doesn’t have a lot of people selling it, so when everyone else goes out of stock (even if only for a day or so), you’re the only one on the platform selling, so if someone really wants it, he/she may not notice that your price is unreasonable. This only works with products you can easily buy from other sources, since you won’t want to keep inventory. The customer is essentially paying 2x to 3x the price for the privilege of having someone else hunt down the item. We could never agree whether that was okay or not.

  19. My first title credit. Should I be blamed or honored? Anyway, I’m grateful for Mike’s scrolls and the credit. I promise, as I observed then wrote on another Pixel Scroll, I’ll follow Rob Thornton’s example if I ever write a correction here again. That’s if in the near future. If I do it again because I’ve forgotten, hope you’ll forgive me/remind me nicely. Thanx.

  20. Also – since I lurk and don’t click the follow-ups, just saw @Soon Lee, I find I don’t read as much SFF or books as much as I did in my younger days (80s to the mid-00s). The last new book I read may have been Maggie Shen King’s “An Excess Male”. Liked the idea and enjoyed while I was reading it but seems to have less impression on me than Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota. Which I’m eagerly awaiting the fourth book to come out. While waiting I’m also interested to get Rachel Heng’s “Suicide Club”. Hope it’s ok if I crosspost this to 2 pixel scrolls.

  21. Since there’s a Commander Cody mention:

    My pappy said “Son your gonna make me tempt Schicksal*
    If you don’t stop scrolling that hot rod pixel”

    * Fate

  22. Mix Mat: It’s just my way of saying it never bothered me in the first place.

  23. Michael J. Walsh: I have a strange history with that misspelling — making it myself, correcting it when others make it….

  24. Meredith Moment (of sorts):

    Open Roads Media is holding a large sale over all its retailers (not just Amazon) during Amazon Prime Day. Too many titles to list, but pretty much any author they have titles by is represented. The Complete Short Fiction of Clifford D. Simak (12 volumes) is on sale at $1.99 each, for example. The Portalist has pages up, as do their other arms for different types of books.

  25. @Greg Hullender : I have read that in some cases its just much easier and faster for sellers to raise the prices than to list an offer as sold out and later as available again.

  26. Also, Amazon (for Prime day) is giving a 30% credit against future purchase of the price of any Kindle book you pick up.

    Please note that this only applies to the first eligible book you buy; had I known, I probably would’ve tried to buy something that wasn’t already marked down to $2.99.

  27. Had I known in advance, well, I’ve had my eye on that $80 combined edition of all 10 Malazan books … Sigh.

  28. @Doug

    What really shocked me was when I saw a copy of GURPS Traveller: Ground Forces on an auction site for about $900. I’m the author of that book, and that figure is close to my advance for writing it.

    . . . and here I am with three or four copies of some of those books still on my shelves. Not Ground Forces, though – didn’t Gene Seabolt edit that one?

    That kind of price has to be a fluke, alas. Auctions sometimes get out of hand.

  29. Filers, I’m here to ask for your help:

    Friend of mine is looking for fiction with good portrayals of neurodivergent people in primeval/prehistoric or Tolkienesque settings. Any recommendations?

  30. (3) My first thought was The Exorcist with Linda Blair and the Muppets. (The power of felt compels you!)

    A natural conversion would be any of the Omega Man/I am Legend/Last Man on Earth movies.

    If you were to break the rules, you could do an interesting version of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers/Invaders from Mars where people are gradually replaced by their Muppet counterparts.

  31. OLeg89: you could look up Ada Hoffmann’s Autistic Book Party posts and recommendation lists. She’s pretty responsive to comments too, and might remember ones that fit that don’t jump out from the names.

  32. @Jon F. Zeigler Yes, Gene was the editor, although my first draft was mostly gone over by Loren Wiseman and Steve Jackson. It was sent back to me with singed edges and smelling faintly of brimstone.

    If you like, I have a spare copy and would happily trade for a copy of Fifth Wave.

  33. (3) The Fifth Element with Bruce Willis. Or Die Hard with Alan Rickman. Let’s be honest, though, any move that has Alan Rickman should continue to have Alan Rickman, even if everyone else is a muppet.

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