Pixel Scroll 8/9/18 I Was A Dream Scroller And I Had Pixels For You

(1) WHAT DO WHILE THE POWER IS OUT. Ursula Vernon’s ideas make scents.

(2) I PRAY FOR ONE LAST LANDING. Adweek covers a company’s creative message about sustainability: “An Astronaut Returns Home in This Gorgeous Film From Impossible Foods”.

“There’s life,” he begins, traversing the varied terrain, from bustling thoroughfares to nearly silent, sun-soaked forest glades, in full spacesuit. “Everything is here. The colors. The beauty. The motion. It looks like a living, breathing organism. It’s so beautiful here.”

That planet, of course, is Earth, and the film launches this week to coincide with the release of Impossible Foods’ first sustainability report. In that study, the creator of the plant-based Impossible Burger discusses its goal of eliminating the need for animals as a food source by 2035. Doing so will help cut greenhouse gas emissions while conserving natural resources.

 

(3) SOCIAL GRACES. Here’s a helpful reminder.

(4) NO BOX FITS THIS GRAPHIC NOVEL. NPR’s Etelka Lehoczky says “Spooky And Off-Kilter, ‘Come Again’ Shows Nate Powell’s Virtuosity”.

Earnest yet unpredictable, Nate Powell’s graphic novel Come Again is a perfect example of what’s possible when a creator roams outside of set conventions. Come Again fits no particular genre, though much of its style and tone resemble the slow-building, true-to-life narratives of Craig Thompson, Lucy Knisley and Mariko and Jillian Tamaki. But a touch of the mystical keeps this book off-kilter, raising the stakes on a story that might otherwise have seemed thin.

(5) 2017 #BLACKSPECFIC REPORT. Fireside Magazine has published its third annual report about the underrepresentation of black writers in sff magazines. There’s a Twitter thread that starts here. And a narrative version here — “The 2017 #BlackSpecFic Report”. The data is available in a spreadsheet here.

Some highlights:

2017

In 2017, the magazines in this dataset are, as with 2016’s report, professional-rate magazines (as defined by the SFWA) that have been in existence for at least two years and are currently open to submissions. They published 1,112 stories by 816 unique writers, 38 of whom are Black and who wrote 48 of the stories. The unique Black author ratio is 4.7%, and the story ratio is 4.3%. Compared with 2015 data, Black representation in this aspect of the field has essentially doubled.

… When we began this initiative, many worried that the majority of the few stories published would be by Black authors with household names; that still is not the case.

They are, however, generally published in the same set of magazines.

 … Most of the magazines portrayed in this image doubled, tripled, or quadrupled their Black representation from 2015-6 to 2017. When combined with 2 magazines that already performed relatively well in publishing stories by Black authors, but that hadn’t improved significantly — namely, Lightspeed and Nightmare — the magazines in this image published about one fourth of all stories in this dataset. Yet, they published close to 90% of this year’s stories by Black authors. In other words, as with 2016, one quarter of the field is publishing the vast majority of its Black work. Field-wide submission rates can’t explain that.

Furthermore, while these magazines’ representation varies individually, when taken as a combined unit, their Black representation approximates U.S. population distribution at 13%. Five of them published Black authors at rates approximating or exceeding it.

(6) SCOOP NEWS. BBC says the world’s largest ice cream parlor is officially Parque Coppelia, but Cubans call it la catedral de helado: “Cuba’s communist ice cream cathedral”.

We’re at Parque Coppelia, the world’s largest ice cream parlour and an iconic institution in Cuba. Taking up an entire block diagonally opposite the Hotel Habana Libre in the once-tony Vedado district, this state-run ‘people’s park’ offers a for-pennies indulgence for the masses and serves an average of 30,000 customers a day – and up to 600 at any one time.

When Havana sizzles, the entire city seems to descend seeking relief. The helado – served with taciturn efficiency by waitresses in 1950s plaid miniskirts – wins no awards. But no other experience speaks so sweetly to Cuba’s revolutionary idealism.

(7) CITY SECURITY. From the Black Hat cyber security conference, “Warning over ‘panic’ hacks on cities”. Chip Hitchcock observes, “Katherine MacLean’s ‘Missing Man’ spoke of ‘city chess,’ in which senior maintenance workers put up plausible point failures that usually ruin the city very quickly — and she was just talking about breakage, not about deliberate attacks.”

Security flaws have been found in major city infrastructure such as flood defences, radiation detection and traffic monitoring systems.

A team of researchers found 17 vulnerabilities, eight of which it described as “critical”.

The researchers warned of so-called “panic attacks”, where an attacker could manipulate emergency systems to create chaos in communities.

The specific flaws uncovered by the team have been patched.

“If someone, supervillain or not, were to abuse vulnerabilities like the ones we documented in smart city systems, the effects could range from inconvenient to catastrophic,” wrote Daniel Crowley, from IBM’s cyber research division, X-Force Red.

“While no evidence exists that such attacks have taken place, we have found vulnerable systems in major cities in the US, Europe and elsewhere.”

The team plans to explain the vulnerabilities at Black Hat – a cyber-security conference – on Thursday.

(8) 1994 HUGO CEREMONY VIDEO. Thanks to Kevin Standlee for the head’s up:

The 1994 Hugo Awards video is online, thanks to us finding a videotape of it among the files here in Fernley, Lisa digitizing it, and Linda Ross-Mansfield on behalf of the parent of ConAdian giving permission to publish it. The quality isn’t great, but that’s in the original on our tape.

 

(9) BAEN FANTASY ADVENTURE AWARD. In addition to the grand prize winner reported here, “Dragon’s Heart” by David VonAllmen, Baen today issued a press release naming the runners-up:

  • Second Place: “Deny the World with a Thought” by Benjamin Scott Farthing
  • Third Place: “The Lady of Pain” by Steve DuBois.

The press release says the winners were selected by Baen editorial staff.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 9, 1930 — Betty Boop premiered in the animated film Dizzy Dishes.
  • August 9, 2004 — Donald Duck received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 9 — Sam Elliot, 74. Genre roles include The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot, the Land of the Giants series, the 1999 Hulk film, Ghost Rider, The Golden Compass and The Good Dinosaur animated series.
  • Born August 9 — Melanie Griffith, 61. Hebron roles in Cherry 2000Alfred Hitchcock Presents series, voice work in the second Stuart Little animated film do likewise in the Back to the Jurassic film.
  • Born August 9 — Gillian Anderson, 50. The X-Files of course, roles also in the Harsh RealmHannibal and American Gods series.  Voice work in a number of animated series including Reboot as a character as a Data Nully.
  • Born August 9 — Thomas Lennon, 48. Appeared in Transformers: Age Of Extinction, but more commonly a voice actor with some of his credits being for Justice League Action (most excellent series), one of the computers in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy film, The Dark Knight Rises, ArcherRocky and Bullwinkle and Legend of the Three Caballeros.
  • Born August 9 — Rhona Mitra, 42. First genre role was in a sf update of Beowulf, later roles include Underworld: Rise of the LycansSGU Stargate Universe, The Gates, an urban fantasy set in a gated community where no one is human, The Last Ship post-apocalypse series and The Strain, a Guillermo del Toro vampire series.

(12) SLIGHT UPDATE. While his comments on what happened with Worldcon programming are apt, John Scalzi may not be reading the same sites I do. Thread starts here

Though I feel he’s overly optimistic about the silence of people hoping the Worldcon will eat itself alive — I could list three bloggers who are still writing about that.

(13) PICK THE ROCKET FROM THEIR POCKET. Here’s Russian retaliation for sanctions could include: “Russia targets the U.S. space program after latest round of ‘draconian’ sanctions”Vice News has the story.

…On Wednesday the White House announced it would be imposing fresh sanctions on Moscow over its role in the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the U.K. earlier this year.

The latest round of sanctions, due to take effect on August 22, will impose broad restrictions on technology exports to Russia, with further sanctions set to hit Russian airlines and banks. The latest round of sanctions could block hundreds of millions of dollars in exports.

The Kremlin has strenuously denied any involvement in the incident, and on Thursday morning Russian lawmakers fumed over the latest U.S. announcement, calling it “draconian” and “absurd.”

One high-ranking Russian lawmaker then suggested hitting back at the U.S. where it hurts.

Sergey Ryabukhin, a senior Russian senator who is chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Committee for International Affairs, said Moscow could restrict exports of RD-180 rocket engines to the U.S.

RD-180 engines power the Atlas V rocket, which is used for military satellite launches, interplanetary missions and cargo runs to the International Space Station. The Atlas V has completed more than 75 launches with no major failures to date, and is key to the U.S. space program.

This isn’t the first time RD-180s have been caught in the middle of strained U.S.-Russian relations. Back in 2014, U.S. lawmakers opted to exempt the rocket engine from a ban on Russian military technology due to it importance to the U.S. space program.

(14) GUESS AGAIN. Popular Mechanics shares the revelation: “Weird Prehistoric Plant Turns Out To Be Weird Prehistoric Animal”.

Algae? Fungi? Some other type of plant? The Ediacaran organisms, ancient life forms that were common on in the Earth’s oceans half a billion years ago, have puzzled scientists for decades. Now two paleontologists feel confident that the ancient species were something completely different: animals that were unlike any seen on Earth today.

Scientists have discovered nearly 200 different types of Ediacarans within ancient rocks around the globe since the first discovery in the 1940s. It’s easy to identify an Ediacaran through their unique bodies, which are branched fronds taking the shape of fractals. Looking like long tubes that could grow up to six feet, Ediacaran fronds also had sub-fronds which replicated these patterns.

It’s easy to mistake an Ediacaran for a plant. But Jennifer Hoyal Cuthill at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, along with Jian Han at Northwest University in Xi’an, China, has found evidence that says otherwise. They came to their conclusion through studying Stromatoveris psygmoglena, a marine species first discovered in 2006 that dates back to around 30 million years after Ediacarans supposedly died out.

(15) THE BATTLE FOR THE UR-QUAN HIERARCHY. Olav Rokne of Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club wanted to be sure I didn’t miss this gaming litigation story:

“Cult classic video game Star Control 2, beloved for its science fiction storylines and diverse cast of alien characters, is the subject of a bitter legal feud over who has the rights to release an official sequel. Original Star Control creators Paul Reich and Fred Ford maintain that their author contract’s rights-reversion clause was triggered more than a decade ago, while games company Stardock claim they bought the rights during Atari’s bankruptcy sale.

“It’s a feud that blazes more hotly than a Thraddash Torch, but is harder to understand than Orz dialogue. Thankfully, copyright lawyer Leonard French has created two excellent YouTube videos to explain it to the layperson.”

Video One:

Video Two: 

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Kevin Standlee, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

69 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 8/9/18 I Was A Dream Scroller And I Had Pixels For You

  1. (1) BEFORE THERE WERE USED BOOKS! That’s pretty ancient times, especially if you count scroll-form books as well as the more modern codex-form books. I have read that there was a trade in used books in ancient Rome.

  2. Vaguebook of the day: There’s a site praised by reviewers I respect. So I have it bookmarked, and go look at it every couple of months. There’s rarely a new post and 80% of those posts I have no interest in. I go away asking, “What did I miss??” I don’t always like a site, but I am usually able to understand why somebody else would like it. I’m striking out here. (This is only a “problem” because I do a daily roundup, and it wouldn’t take much for me to include something from them.)

  3. Julie Dillon’s Kickstarter is currently at $33724, with twelve days left. (Yes, it’s fully funded.)

  4. Meh, I am deeply unimpressed with claims that comics are in trouble that hinge on Marvel and DC’s numbers and fail to mention that, f’rexample, Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels are international bestsellers and move a few zillion copies a month, or that manga has a massive wall at Barnes & Noble, or Iron Circus can fund a Kickstarter in five minutes flat.

    Superhero comics may be suffering, but I point the finger squarely at truly Byzantine distribution issues. I hated the notion of Nazi Cap as much as the next fangirl, but I have serious doubts that we can even get a good look at how writing affects sales at Marvel/DC until they’ve sorted some of their bizarre retail practices.

    Comics though, are trucking along great.

  5. @Matthew Johnson: “She was a day scroller, one-box ticker yeah / It took me so long to file out, what I filed out”

    Bravo! 😀

  6. Redwombat – you may be right. I’m wondering if digital downloads of popular comics on cell phones might revive the superhero comic genre. Lower price point, lower distribution costs. There would be a lot of piracy (like with music), but you may get enough paying customers to make it economically viable.

    The indirect distribution system for physical comics (and magazines) is pretty strange.

  7. I look forward to another of Kurt Busiek’s erudite comments here.

    Who, me?

    I’ll say this, at least: Most of the time, when people talk about why comics are in sales trouble, they’re wrong. They’re looking at single-issue sales without thinking about digital or book-edition sales, or they’re deciding that patterns that have existed for decades only matter starting at the point they want to gripe about — I’m sure that’s totally unfamiliar to SF fans, huh?

    Mainstream American comic-book comics took a boneheaded wrong turn somewhere around 1947, and a huge number of problems have stemmed from that wrong turn. But all of these doomsday articles talk like the structural problems comics has are recent, and about editorial content — when in fact they’re very old, and about packaging and distribution, and the editorial content changes that have happened over the years are largely a reaction to the structural problems, not the other way around.

    It’s a much longer speech than anyone has time for, but the short version is this: When comic books cost the same as TIME magazine, Captain America outsold TIME magazine. When magazine prices went up, and the comics publishers decided to cut pages and keep the price low, the comics industry ghettoized itself. From that point on, comics weren’t economically competitive with other magazines, because retailers made more profit on other magazines. So comics lost the shelf space, moving to those spinner racks that people remember fondly, and then later lost retail outlets when video games offered a better financial return for the same floor space as a couple of spinner racks.

    Everything that’s come since — the direct market, the obsessive focus on dedicated fans, the loss of most previously-popular genres, the price-per-page value-for-money issues, the reliance on gimmicks and crossovers and first issues…it all stems back to the choice to self-ghettoize rather than compete for rack space. [And, sure enough, in France and Japan, where they didn’t do that, they had a comics mass market for much longer. They’ve had their own problems, but they’re different problems.]

    Any article about comics sales that doesn’t go back to 1947 is talking nonsense. The wish to return to the halcyon days of the 1960s, when Marvel was “booming” (but sales overall were still dropping) or the 1980s, when direct market sales were actually booming (but newsstand sales, which were where new customers came from, were dying) or the 1990s, which many of the “you oughtta do comics like we used to like” crowd loves (but which experienced an actual market crash and a slow, painful rebuild) are wishes to go back to a time when comics were having sales problems; they were just higher on the slope. Returning to those practices wouldn’t recapture the sales levels of those days, it’d recapture the problems, just farther down the slope, where they’d be disastrous.

    But looking at single-copy sales of periodical comics and basing your industry analysis on that is like looking at the sales of ANALOG and F&SF in the 1980s and acting as if they were all of SF.

    The trade paperback boom (which started in the 1980s and slowly built from there) and the growing digital market (much more recent) are the first things that have been effectively bringing in new readers since the newsstand died — and it had been fading for decades before then.

    So, long story short: The comics industry isn’t in as much trouble as the doomsayers like to say, and the troubles it has are almost never the troubles they say it does. That doesn’t mean there aren’t problems — the history of mainstream American comic books since 1947 is a history of finding ways to stem the slow, steady problems caused by inept decisions made back then — but the problems these articles fret about either aren’t the real issues or won’t be fixed by the solutions they propose, or both.

    The comics industry is flailing about and experimenting because they’re seeing some things work that no one expected to work but they’re not things that can be applied line-wide (like strong sales of SQUIRREL GIRL and MS. MARVEL through Scholastic), and things that used to work not working so well, and other things working slowly but requiring a greater capital investment than usual (comics publishers hate risk but can’t avoid it), but the reason they’re not leaping backward into what was a huge success in years gone by is that it doesn’t work. Either the huge successes didn’t last, or they were based on factors that don’t exist today, or whatever else. But the people who want to go back to the glory days of their choice are like people who say that the big TV networks would be saved by a return to “Who Shot J.R.” as if the audience fragmentization of cable and streaming and time-shifting doesn’t exist. Just bring back Johnny Carson.

    So when they hold forth on the doom that is facing the industry unless the tits get bigger and the faces get whiter, I just shrug, because I’ve been hearing about the imminent collapse of the comics industry since before I sold my first script. I remember when the word was that Warner Bros was going to pack in all of DC Comics, sell it to Marvel and covert the offices into a parking lot. That was, like, 1977.

    A friend of mine once projected out the sales patterns and said that if things went on the way they were, the industry would be dead in 5 years. That was over 20 years ago.

    So it’s fine if these guys want to make predictions of doom. I’ll wait and see if they amount to any more than the last several sets have. But I have the advantage of seeing things from an angle they don’t, and when I talk about the profit levels of these companies, they reject it as vile lies. There’s no point; they don’t want to be convinced that their way isn’t the only possible salvation of the industry.

    I think the companies are flailing around and experimenting like they were in the 1950s and 1970s and 1990s, and it’ll be interesting to see what they hit on — but unlike earlier days, they won’t hit on one thing that’ll be “the new direction,” they’ll find multiple things that’ll support multiple directions at once.

    At least that’s my prediction.

    We can check back in 5 or 10 years and see what the industry looks like. As it is, there are a fair number of people making a good living doing things that would have died overnight back when I was starting out, and there are people doing traditional-type things that sell worse in single issues but still make more money overall than those same traditional-type things made for their creators decades ago.

    [And I’m making royalties on books that sold terribly decades ago, but people are buying them digitally now — what a thing!]

    All in all, it seems to me like the old story of the blind men and the elephant, except this time the blind men are furious.

    So let ’em rage — neither Marvel nor DC are in the kind of trouble they think it is, and the troubles they are wrestling with won’t be solved by bigger tits and whiter faces.

    The only constant is change, and you can’t go home again.

    But we can see where change will take us.

    I dunno if that was erudite, but it was supposed to be short, at least. Sorry about that.

  8. I’m wondering if digital downloads of popular comics on cell phones might revive the superhero comic genre. Lower price point, lower distribution costs. There would be a lot of piracy (like with music), but you may get enough paying customers to make it economically viable.

    It’s one of the growing revenue streams for comics already, and has been for a while.

    Price point isn’t lower, though, not for new books. They don’t want to cannibalize the print market by undercutting it. Older books get price breaks, and there are often large-scale sales.

    And I think more people read digital comics on tablets than phones, but phones are an option.

    And piracy is an issue, but it was an issue even when the pirates had to scan the books themselves.

  9. @Kurt Busiek: Thanks for the erudite, not-short comment!

    they won’t hit on one thing that’ll be “the new direction,” they’ll find multiple things that’ll support multiple directions at once.

    This reminds me of something John Scalzi’s said about (SFF) authors needing to do multiple things, adapt to changes, have multiple revenue streams, etc.

  10. @ avery abernethy “I’m wondering if digital downloads of popular comics on cell phones might revive the superhero comic genre.”

    If digital downloads on cell phones became a significant market force, one thing it would do would be to affect “outside the panel” artistic expression. The linear panel format may be the default comic structure, but the ways in which artists break out of that structure for effect is a deeply rooted tradition. As an amateur sociologist, I’m fascinated by the ways in which delivery technology affects art. And often people don’t think about those consequences until after they’ve happened.

  11. @Heather Rose Jones: Did you read Fans? I was very impressed with the various ways T Campbell and his collaborators found to vary from the standard page. They didn’t always, of course–there were plenty of grid pages and splash pages and so on–but when they did, it was spectacular on at least two occasions.

  12. @ John A Arkansawyer

    I’m not actually much of a graphic story consumer. I don’t tend to be very visual in my appreciation of Story, so my gut-level reaction to comics/graphic novels tends to be “well, that was rather short, wasn’t it?” Not a criticism of the medium, just a personal sensory quirk. But as a linguist I’m fascinated by the semiotics and meta-communication of how graphic stories are told.

  13. @Heather Rose Jones: If I can isolate the points in Fans I’m thinking of, I’ll provide links. It’s a very long story, and even narrowing it down to a chapter isn’t helping.

  14. I was actually on an awesome panel a few years back with someone who was talking about how he was having to basically train the artists for their line of tablet-viewable comics. (Naturally I have forgotten his name.) And there was a whole system, which, lacking a whiteboard, I’m not gonna try to explain, but which amounted to “Every horizontal tablet screen is one half page of a comic. Thou shalt not cross the center line.” (There were neat exceptions, which is why I’d need a whiteboard.)

    It was technically fascinating and I was probably a very bad panelist because I stopped even trying to move things along and instead grilled this dude on how it worked for about ten minutes, but as someone who spent a long damn time in webcomics and set my format before tablets existed, it was about as far in my wheelhouse as stuff gets.

    If I ever suffered selective amnesia and did Digger II: Marsupial Boogaloo, I would optimize for tablet, thereby insuring that some new technology would come along a year later.

  15. @Red Wombat, for what it’s worth, I’ve read Digger with my tablet multiple times (the tablet’s a lot lighter weight than the omnibus print edition on my shelf), and had no problem. I had to scroll a bit, but usually that was easy enough.

    I’d pay good money for Digger II.

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