Pixel Scroll 8/25/19 Pixel, Pixel, Scrolling Bright, In The Files Of The Night

(1) WORLDCON PHOTOS. Simon Bubb, part of Dublin 2019’s staff photography team, has posted albums of his photos from the Worldcon at Facebook. Beautiful photos. So many good memories for those who participated.

Worldcon Dublin 2019 – Wednesday 14th August

Worldcon 2019 – Thursday

Worldcon 2019 – Day 2 (Friday)

Worldcon – Saturday

Worldcon 2019 – Sunday

Worldcon 2019 – Hugos

Worldcon 2019 – Monday & Closing

(2) DINO SQUIRREL REVIVAL. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This week’s episode of Stranger than Sci-Fi on Beeb Beeb Ceeb Radio 4 was the penultimate episode. Next week is the final in the series and is on telekinesis.

Alice Fraser and Jen Gupta.

The latest episode, “Jurassic Park” (available for a month), looked at de-extinction. Crichton not only read up on the science, he was so taken with one paper that hypothesized possibly near-future DNA technology that he went to visit the researchers.  And the rest is history.

The programme pointed to the limits of de-extinction but did say that we could digitize DNA of current endangered species and bring them back if we had to.

Astro-physicist Jen Gupta and comedian Alice Fraser travel the parallel worlds of science and sci-fi.

Starting with the latest books and films, they discover real life science that sounds too strange to be true – from babies grown in bags, via black hole Jacuzzis, to flowers that behave like our ears.

In this episode, they tackle the question everyone wants to know the answer to – can we bring the dinosaurs back to life? They talk to the journalist Britt Wray about the surprising origin story for the book Jurassic Park. Then they dive into the world of de-extinction research and find out why there is a group of scientists who focus all their time on reviving extinct species.

They ask if we might soon see woolly mammoths roaming the Siberian steppe once again. What are the potential pitfalls of resurrecting the dead?

(3) UPDATED 2018 BESTS. Eric Wong of Rocket Stack Rank sends the link to RSR’s 2018 Best SF/F list with the scores updated and Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019 stories highlighted (all 20 in TOC + 33 notable stories that scored 2 or more) with links to stories that are free online.

(4) AN AUTHOR’S PICK. Silvia Moreno-Garcia tells NPR that “In ‘Automatic Eve,’ Steampunk Meets ‘Blade Runner’ — In Japan”. A publisher’s last gasp is a winner.

I’m going to give you the Hollywood elevator pitch in order to secure your attention: This is a Japanese steampunk novel for fans of Blade Runner. Do I have your attention now? Good. Because we’re going to flash back in time to 2009, when Haikasoru popped into the world.

…Unfortunately, Haikasoru didn’t quite catch the imagination of the public in the United States. Its biggest hit was probably All You Need is Kill, adapted into the Tom Cruise vehicle Edge of Tomorrow, but otherwise it sadly went on being ignored by most of the speculative fiction fans, while ironically producing the stuff fans say they hunger for.

…But the first incarnation of the imprint has one last, lyrical swan song before it drifts to sleep: Automatic Eve, a mosaic novel.

I like mosaic novels thanks to having read Clifford D. Simak’s City as a teenager. Some people despise them, the break with non-linearity, the short episodes building up to something more, frustrate certain readers. But even if you don’t exactly fancy that format, Rokuro Inui’s Automatic Eve, translated by Matt Treyvaud, works well. Characters, situations and plot points reoccur during the course of the book, so that you are left with a feeling of coherence rather than of stories thinly strung together, which can be the issue that turns readers away from mosaic novels in the first place – and sometimes earns them the pejorative term of “fix-ups.”

Much of the wonder of the book derives from its setting and mechanics. In a steampunk Japan where artisans can produce automatons that perfectly mimic humans and animals, an intricate web of deceit and secrets has been laid down. At the center of this web sits the beautiful, mysterious Eve and her father, an inventor with ties to both the shogunate and the ruling imperial house, which are locked in a battle for power.

(5) CORRECTION. The participants James Davis Nicoll is recruiting participants for the next phase of Young People Read Old SFF must have been born after 1990. The post still says “1980,” however, he later corrected this in the comments. Uh, never mind!

(6) WHAT A FAN DOES TO A $40K CAR. [Item by Dale Arnold.] Baltimore area fan Miriam Winder Kelly recently bought a brand new Tesla Model 3 for over $40,000.00 and immediately put bumper stickers for  her favorite causes on it. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society, The Red Cross and Middle Earth?  The BSFS bumper sticker is quite old and apparently she saved several from 20 years ago so she could always have one on her car.

By the way the bumper sticker was designed by a committee chaired by the late costuming fan Bobby Gear. (wife of the late multiple Worldcon Masquerade MC Marty Gear) Bobby said when she delivered the design, “I am never helping design anything with a committee again!”

(7) LOOMIS OBIT. Game publisher Rick Loomis of Flying Buffalo Incorporated died August 24, his birthday, after battling cancer. He was 73.  A “Help Gaming Legend Rick Loomis” for his medical expenses had been started just recently.

Rick was one of the founding members of the Game Manufacturing Association and served as its President several times when they needed him. He started Flying Buffalo Games back in 1970 and was one of the first people to ever run a Play-by Mail game on a dedicated computer. He has traveled the world to promote role-playing and card games and over the years Rick has befriended hundreds (thousands!) of people at conventions from his Flying Buffalo Games booth and company.  He published Tunnels & Trolls, the Nuclear War Card Game, Grimtooth’s Traps and so much more…

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • August 25, 1851 George Parsons Lathrop. Noted for co-authoring In the Deep of Time novella with Thomas A. Edison which ran in English Illustrated Magazine on the third of March 1897. (Died 1898.)
  • August 25, 1909 Michael Rennie. Definitely best remembered as Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still. He would show up a few years later on The Lost World as Lord John Roxton, and he’s got an extensive genre series resume which counts Lost in Space as The Keeper in two episodes, The Batman as The Sandman, The Time TunnelThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Invaders. (Died 1971.)
  • August 25, 1913 Walt Kelly. If you can get them, Fantagraphics has released Pogo in six stunning hardcover editions covering up to 1960. They’re planning to do all of his strips eventually. Did you know Kelly began his career as animator at Walt Disney Studios, working on DumboPinocchio and Fantasia? (Died 1973.)
  • August 25, 1930 Sean Connery, 89. Worst film? Zardoz. Best film? From Russia with Love. Best SF film? Outland. Or Time Bandits you want go for silly.
  • August 25, 1940 Marilyn Niven, 79. She was a Boston-area fan who lives in LA and is married to writer Larry Niven. She has worked on a variety of conventions, both regionals and Worldcons.  In college, she was a member of the MITSFS and was one of the founding members of NESFA. She’s also a member of Almack’s Society for Heyer Criticism.
  • August 25, 1947 Michael Kaluta, 72. He’s best known for his 1970s take on The Shadow with writer Dennis O’Neil for DC in 1973–1974. He’d reprise his work on The Shadow for Dark Horse a generation later. And Kaluta and O’Neil reunited on The Shadow: 1941 – Hitler’s Astrologer graphic novel published in 1988.
  • August 25, 1955 Simon R. Green, 64. I’ll confess that I’ve read pretty much everything he’s written. Favorite series? The Nightside, Hawk & Fisher and Secret History are my favorite ones with Drinking Midnight Wine the novel I’ve re-read the most. 
  • August 25, 1958 Tim Burton, 61. Beetlejuice is by far my favorite film by him. His Batman is interesting. Read that comment as you will. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is definitely more Dahlish than the first take was, and Sleepy Hollow is just damn weird. 
  • August 25, 1970 Chris Roberson, 49. Brilliant writer. I strongly recommend his Recondito series, Firewalk and Firewalkers. The Spencer Finch series is also worth reading.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio mourns the loss of a favorite magazine.

(10) HE GAVE US SUPE’S DIGITS. CBR.com wants to know “When Did We Learn the Address of Clark Kent’s Apartment?” Hint: Bill Finger thought it up.

In “When We First Met,” we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore, like the first time someone said, “Avengers Assemble!” or the first appearance of Batman’s giant penny or the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth or the first time Spider-Man’s face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter. Stuff like that.

Today, based on a suggestion from reader Riccardo N., we look into the first time that Clark Kent’s apartment was given the address of 344 Clinton Street, Apartment 3-D.

Obviously, in the early days, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were not really all that considered about world-building. No one in comics really was. Batman’s set-up was different from issue to issue early on (my favorite is where Bruce Wayne just kept his Batman costume in a chest at the foot of his bed). So when they say Superman is in his apartment, there really was no thought into it beyond “Superman is in his apartment”…

(11) WEBS ON THE WAY. SYFY Wire got this straight from the spider’s mouth: “Tom Holland says his third Spider-Man film has already been pitched, describes it as ‘something very different'”.

During his first-ever visit to Philadelphia at Keystone Comic Con, Tom Holland teased his third live-action Spider-Man film, teasing that it’s already been pitched and will be “something very special and something very different” from what we saw in Homecoming and Far From Home, while having a deep personal connection to the actor’s own life. Moreover, he gave an enthusiastic “of course!” when asked if Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) has a long-term romantic shot with Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). 

Holland also took a moment to tackle the headline-making split between Disney and Sony, which many see as Peter Parker’s removal from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

“Uh, it’s been a crazy week,” he said, echoing his statement at D23 Expo yesterday. “The news came as a bit of a shock, but we’ve made five great movies … you guys have made it so special for me and it’s not the end of me playing Spider-Man. There’s definitely more to come … I’m just really excited for everything … It’s only gonna get bigger and better … It’s pretty crazy.”

(12) COINING A WORD. John M. Jordan, in “The Czech Play That Gave Us the Word ‘Robot’” on the MIT Press website reminds us that, although we might know that Karel Capek coined the term “robot” most people don’t know the plot of Capek’s play R.U.R. or know that robota is Czech for “forced labor.”  The post is an excerpt from Jordan’s MIT Press book Robots.

The contrast between robots as mechanical slaves and potentially rebellious destroyers of their human makers echoes Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and helps set the tone for later Western characterizations of robots as slaves straining against their lot, ready to burst out of control. The duality echoes throughout the twentieth century: Terminator, HAL 9000, Blade Runner’s replicants.

The character Helena in “R.U.R.” is sympathetic, wanting the robots to have freedom. Radius is the robot that understands his station and chafes at the idiocy of his makers, having acted out his frustrations by smashing statues.

(13) CASTALIA’S BUSINESS PLAN. Vox Day addresses the retrenchment at Castalia House in “A change to the Caligan campaign” [Internet Archive link.]

In light of the changes in the ebook market and our retreat from the Kindle Unlimited space, we’ve been making some strategic changes at Arkhaven and Castalia House. Now that we’ve successfully entered the video space, we’re concentrating our efforts on our strongest fiction and non-fiction properties, primarily because we don’t have the bandwidth to devote to everything.

This is why we’ve returned the publishing rights to their books to a number of our authors, although we continue to support them and their self-publishing efforts, and why we have methodically reduced the number of books that we are publishing. Our sales remain strong, which tends to indicate that our revised approach is a viable one.

Day responded to a complaint in comments:

It’s not a democracy. And given some of the lessons we’ve learned, we are no longer going to push IP that we do not control into other media.

Publishers are in a trap of sorts. If a book doesn’t sell well, the author thinks he should have self-published. If the book sells really well, the author thinks he should have self-published.

And in another comment he said:

I was told a lot of things that didn’t come to pass too. So I am not going to accept being held accountable for things that were entirely contingent upon other’s responsibilities.

If you want a refund, we’ll give you one. You have that option. But I’m not going to waste my time or the backers’ resources on projects that should not have been done in the first place. We all meant well, but the foundation was not solid.

We are going to be in the red on this no matter what due to the need to produce 18 comics. So I want to make sure at least some of them will sell well enough to give us a shot at breaking even on it.

(14) WHO STAYS, WHO GOES. Camestros Felapton identifies the affected creators in “Day confirms the Castalia retreat”.

…So what does Day mean be ‘our strongest fiction and non-fiction properties’. There are some clues.

  • We know John C Wright has at least partially been dropped or moved on.
  • We know that the core of this announcement was shifting what comic would be provided to people who had pledged to a crowd funding campaign. Day is shifting from a story by Rolf Nelson to an adaptation of one of his own books.
  • In a comment Day says: “And given some of the lessons we’ve learned, we are no longer going to push IP that we do not control into other media.” What IP does Day control? What he writes himself.

The problem with being a publishing house is you have to deal with two groups of people best avoided in business: writers and readers. Castalia’s business model also includes a third: Amazon. It sounds like Day has problems with all three….

(15) YES BUGS M’LADY. NPR’s “Nailed It: Bringing Science Into Nail Art” shows photos of parasites and other things you never expected to find on fingernails.

Of all the things I love about being a girl, I love doing nail art the most. But I’m also a scientist, and scientists aren’t usually associated with perfectly manicured nails. Nail art became my way of debunking some common stereotypes, including those that associate scientists with being cold or unapproachable.

I got into nail art four years ago after a friend of mine bought a beginner nail art kit. It contained one metal plate with various nail-sized designs etched on the surface – animals, flowers, food – along with nail polish, a scraper and a silicone stamper.

…At the time, I was working as a research scientist studying Alzheimer’s disease at Cornell University, where I was looking for ways to get lay people interested in science. On Instagram, I found some science communicators using drawings or video to explain concepts like how stem cells help heal wounds.

Then I had an epiphany! None of these science communicators were using nail art as a platform. And none of the nail artists I followed were doing scientific designs.

I had been blogging about science for a while, but I wanted to try something new. So on October 10, 2018, I started an Instagram account (@nailsciart) where I’d use nail art to reach a very specific demographic: teenage girls. I wanted to show them the fun side of science through an art form many of them could find appealing — and that it’s possible to have polished nails and work on cool science.

[Thanks to Simon Bubb, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Dale Arnold, Eric Wong, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, BravoLimaPoppa, Danny SIchel, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

63 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 8/25/19 Pixel, Pixel, Scrolling Bright, In The Files Of The Night

  1. @Soon Lee:

    We didn’t start the File, it was always Scrolling since the Fans’ been squeeing

    “Gurney Halleck, Ace just clubbed a Dalek; Borg are on the holodeck, reading Amis’ New Maps of … Heck”

  2. John Hertz responds by carrier pigeon:

    Walt Kelly’s Pogo being thought a work for children is not quite as terrifying as Gulliver’s Travels. Kelly gets credit (literary present tense) for reaching past the politics of the moment. I sometimes say Be bigger than your immediate adventure.

    Ten Ever-Lovin’ Blue-Eyed Years with Pogo (hardback, 1959; paperback 1987) has helped me with the politics of his moment, like why Miz Sis Boombah is a Rhode Island Red, or why Simple J. Malarkey and Indian Charlie can’t show her their faces.

    While I’m at it, I also recommend America’s Great Comic-Strip Artists (R. Marschall, rev. 1997).

    I respectfully suggest Kelly, and for that matter Harold Gray, are great not because of, nor despite, but more largely than their politics

  3. I admit I’ve not seen Zardoz, but personally I’d rank Connery’s worst film as Highlander II (there should have been only one). And speaking of Highlander, N.K. Jemisin did a live-tweet of the first movie over the weekend; thread starts here:
    https://twitter.com/nkjemisin/status/1165115575246499840
    Bonus – it included a shout-out to Clancy Brown, who replied:
    https://twitter.com/RealClancyBrown/status/1165756914258665472

    Well I’ve scrolled through the pixel on a file with no name

  4. So (following recs from a bunch of people here) I’m reading Gareth Powell’s Embers of War. I’ve reached the part where we learn that gur cbrg ynql vf npghnyyl n trabpvqny jne pevzvany ba gur eha. Nz V tbvat gb or rkcrpgrq gb yvxr be flzcnguvmr jvgu guvf punenpgre? Orpnhfr JBJ, gung jvyy or n uneq fryy.

  5. Doctor Science, I described Embers of War as like Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers novels (decent people struggling to make their way, and their “found” family”) — but with a lot more violence and grimness.

    There are some mitigating circumstances with that character, of the “it’s this, or a hell of a lot worse” sort.

    I suspect that this book will violate your “more than one person” rule — and the sequel, which is more grim than the first, most certainly does. So while I loved both books, I am guessing that they are not your cup of tea.

  6. Jonathan Cowie: Thanks for recommending the Stranger Than Sci-Fi podcast. I listened to JURASSIC PARK as an audiobook and thought it mostly was quite good. I thought the presenters should have done more to address Crichton’s ideas but it was a perfectly pleasant half-hour and I appreciate being introduced to it.

  7. About Sean Connery’s worst movie: how about the one based on the Green Knight where he spent the entire film in green makeup? That was pretty bad.

  8. It saddens me to read that Rick Loomis passed away. I had the pleasure of playing his PBM games (StarWeb!) in the 70s. And later in the 90s, working with him at many cons. He was a great guy, Full of stories and advice. A Real Gaming Legend. You will be missed, my friend.

  9. @Jack Lint: granted that LXG was Connery’s last movie; however, I think saying it made him quit is an exaggeration. For some people, 50 years is enough — especially given the sometimes-horrendous hours. His Wikipedia article links to a 2005 Scotsman article in which he says he’s having too much fun in retirement.

    @Doctor Science: I concluded that BSFA had picked Embers of War because it showed that War Is Bad — but the book is still MilSF, if not outright violence porn. wrt your specific, V fhfcrpg jr’er fhccbfrq abg gb flzcnguvmr ohg zreryl gb jngpu nf fur nggrzcgf gb erqrrz urefrys. I think @JJ’s reading is optimistic, but I may have less patience with the framework of this form.

  10. @JJ, @Chip Hitchcock:

    Thank you for your info! I’m bailing because of that, but also because it’s multiple, rotating POVs and the voices and settings aren’t sufficiently distinct, I end up not caring about anyone. I’m letting Mr Dr Science give it a shot.

    As for the situation I’m having particular trouble with, I think I can say outside of rot-13 that the first chapter has one side in a war committing both genocide and ecocide, against (what I think are) non-combatants. I’ve been influenced by Brin’s Uplift Cycle (esp the early volumes, before wtf happened) and by real world developments to see ecocide as absolutely unforgivable and unredeemable, genocide squared.

    You can’t redeem yourself after a war crime on that level, the best you can do is confess in a way that makes it less likely to happen again. And go to your execution humbly.

  11. Of all of the people I share a birthdays with, I am very proud to be tethered to Walt Kelly, the creator of one my favorite daily comic strips of all time Pogo…

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