Pixel Scroll 6/19/19 You’ve Got Mule!

(1) GREEN EYED MONSTER. Elizabeth Bear’s “Jealousy part two: what if it isn’t a friend?” is a public post from her subscription newsletter.

In response to my previous newsletter on dealing with jealousy for the career successes of friends and colleagues, I’ve had a couple of conversations about how one might deal with an even more difficult form of jealousy: jealousy for the successes of people you just can’t stand—or, even worse, who have done you some personal harm. Sometimes abusers, toxic exes, harassers, or people who got you fired go on to have brilliant careers and amass great amounts of personal power.

And that’s a hard thing to take. Especially if, every time you go to an industry event, somebody is telling you how awesome that person is.

If there’s one thing that the #MeToo movement has made evident, it’s that this isn’t a problem unique to publishing. It’s a terrible situation to be in—triggering, traumatizing, and grief-provoking. It can make you doubt your own experience, memories, and senses. It can prove a constant reminder of violation.

It’s also (if there’s another thing the #MeToo movement has made evident) a depressingly common situation.

So how does one deal with it, when one finds one’s self in a situation like that?

(2) BECOMING SUPERMAN. J. Michael Straczynski previews his forthcoming autobiography. Thread starts here.

(3) TWO-COUNTRY PROBLEM. Jiayang Fan profiles Liu Cixin for The New Yorker: “Liu Cixin’s War of the Worlds”

… When the first volume of the series was published in the United States, in 2014, the models for Trisolaris and Earth were immediately apparent. For the Chinese, achieving parity with the West is a long-cherished goal, envisaged as a restoration of greatness after the humiliation of Western occupations and the self-inflicted wounds of the Mao era. As Liu told the Times, “China is on the path of rapid modernization and progress, kind of like the U.S. during the golden age of science fiction.” The future, he went on, would be “full of threats and challenges,” and “very fertile soil” for speculative fiction.

In the past few years, those threats and challenges have escalated, as China’s global ambitions, especially in the field of technology, have begun to impinge upon America’s preëminence.

…As the standoff has intensified, Liu has become wary of touting the geopolitical underpinnings of his work. In November, when I accompanied him on a trip to Washington, D.C.—he was picking up the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation’s Award for Imagination in Service to Society—he briskly dismissed the idea that fiction could serve as commentary on history or on current affairs. “The whole point is to escape the real world!” he said. Still, the kind of reader he attracts suggests otherwise: Chinese tech entrepreneurs discuss the Hobbesian vision of the trilogy as a metaphor for cutthroat competition in the corporate world; other fans include Barack Obama, who met Liu in Beijing two years ago, and Mark Zuckerberg. Liu’s international career has become a source of national pride. In 2015, China’s then Vice-President, Li Yuanchao, invited Liu to Zhongnanhai—an off-limits complex of government accommodation sometimes compared to the Kremlin—to discuss the books and showed Liu his own copies, which were dense with highlights and annotations.

(4) CHANGING EXPECTATIONS. Why didn’t the latest Men In Black movie take off? Is it the chemistry of the leads, the script, or a third cause proposed by The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Men in Black’ and When Spectacle Isn’t Enough”.

There’s another potential explanation as to why Men in Black: International has failed to click with audiences, and it has to do with spectacle. Spectacle has long been a key part of the draw of big-budget Hollywood films. And for a long time, spectacle in terms of what films were using the most cutting-edge technology — had the most lifelike monsters, the most extensive battle sequences and so on — quite often corresponded with what films did well.

Think of a film like Avatar (2009). No one was writing home about the story. In spite of the various box office records it broke, the actual content of the film has left little lasting impression on popular culture in comparison to other comparable box office successes. While Jaws lives on in references like, “you’re gonna need a bigger boat” and the characters of the Star Wars films or the Marvel Cinematic Universe are household names, a lot of people would have a far more difficult time recalling any characters or lines of dialogue from Avatar. And this is because Avatar is the sort of film that reached the heights it did by merit of technical spectacle — immersing the audience in what, for many, was a compellingly photorealistic alien world.

(5) AUDIO FURNITURE. The new Two Chairs Talking podcast, in which David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss talk about sff books and movies, takes its name from the pair’s history as Worldcon Chairs — David: Aussiecon Two; and Perry: Aussiecon Three and co-chair of Aussiecon 4.

The fifth episode, “Episode 5: An Incomplete History of Serious Events”, features guest Leigh Edmonds talking about how he became a historian, and about his project to write a history of science fiction fandom in Australia.  It also features Perry on Greg Egan, and David, as he says, “talking probably for too long about the tv series A Series of Unfortunate Events.

(6) CALLING DOUGHNUT CONTROL. Krispy Kreme is cashing in on the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing by launching a new type of doughnut. (John King Tarpinian, who sent the link, promises he’ll be sticking to his traditional Moon Pie.)

One small bite for man. One giant leap for doughnut-kind! As America prepares for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Krispy Kreme is making a giant leap for doughnut-kind by introducing a whole NEW interpretation of the brand’s iconic Original Glazed. This will be the FIRST TIME Krispy Kreme has offered another version of the Original Glazed Doughnut on the menu PERMANENTLY.

(7) GOAL EXCEEDED. The Dennis Etchison Memorial Fund at GoFundMe raised $5,445 to help Kristina Etchison with costs incurred to have Dennis laid to rest. (The target amount was $4,000.)

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 19, 1954 Them! released on this day.
  • June 19, 1964 The Twilight Zone aired its series finale: “The Bewitchin’ Pool”, penned by Earl Hamner.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 19, 1915 Julius Schwartz. He’s best known as a longtime editor at DC Comics, where at various times he was primary editor for the Superman and Batman lines. Just as interestingly, he founded the Solar Sales Service literary agency (1934–1944) where Schwartz represented such writers as  Bradbury, Bester,  Bloch, Weinbaum, and Lovecraft which including some of Bradbury’s very first published work and Lovecraft’s last such work. He also published Time Traveller, one of the first fanzines along with Mort Weisinger and Forrest J Ackerman. (Died 2004.)
  • Born June 19, 1921 Louis Jourdan. Fear No Evil and Ritual of Evil, two tv horror films in the late Sixties, appear to be his first venture into our realm. He’d play Count Dracula in, errr, Count Dracula a few years later. And then comes the role you most likely remember him for, Dr. Anton Arcane in Swamp Thing which he reprised in The Return of Swamp Thing. Definitely popcorn films. Oh, and let’s not forget he was Kamal Khan, the villain in Octopussy! (Died 2015.)
  • Born June 19, 1926 Josef Nesvadba. A Czech writer, best known for his SF short stories, many of which have appeared in English translation. ISFDB lists a number of stories as appearing in English and two collections of his translated stories were published, In The Footsteps of the Abominable Snowman: Stories of Science and Fantasy and Vampires Ltd. : Stories of Science and Fantasy. Neither’s available in digital format. (Died 2005.)
  • Born June 19, 1947 Salman Rushdie, 72. Everything he does has some elements of magic realism in it. (Let the arguments begin on that statement.) So which of his novels are really genre? I’d say The Ground Beneath Her FeetGrimus (his first and largely forgotten sf novel), Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights and Haroun and the Sea of Stories. If you’ve not read anything by him, I’d start with The Ground Beneath Her Feet which is by far both one of his best works and one of his most understandable ones as well.
  • Born June 19, 1953 Virginia Hey, 66. Best known for her role as Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan in the fabulous Farscape, series and playing the Warrior Woman in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. She’s also Rubavitch, the mistress of KGB Head, General Pushkin, in The Living Daylights. She also had a brief appearance as a beautician in The Return of Captain Invincible, an Australian musical comedy superhero film.
  • Born June 19, 1954 Kathleen Turner, 65. One of her earliest roles was in The Man with Two Brains as Dolores Benedict. Somewhat of a Fifties retro feel with that title. Of course, she voiced sultry Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, one of my favorite all time films. I still haven’t seen all of the Roger Rabbit short films that were done. She voiced Constance in Monster House a few years later, and was in Cinderella, a television film where she was the lead of the Wicked Stepmother Claudette.
  • Born June 19, 1957 Jean Rabe, 62. She’s a genre author and editor who has worked on the Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Rogue Angel and BattleTech series, as well as many others. Ok, I admit to a degree of fascination with such writers as I’m a devotee of the Rogue Angel audiobooks that GraphicAudio does and she’s written according to ISFDB five of the source novels under the house name of Alex Archer.  
  • Born June 19, 1978 Zoe Saldana, 41, born with the lovely birth name of Zoë Yadira Saldaña Nazario. First genre role was Anamaria in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. She’s Nyota Uhura in the  new Trek series and she’s also Neytiri in the Avatar franchise. She portrays Gamora in the MCU, beginning with Guardians of the Galaxy, a truly great film.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • This Off the Mark could be the pilot for CSI: Springfield, if you know what I mean.

(11) SIGHTING. The commemorative Moon Landing Oreos have hit the markets. John King Tarpinian snapped this photo in a Target store.

(12) HUGH JACKMAN. Ahead of his live show in Houston, Hugh Jackman visited NASA, something he’s been dreaming about doing since childhood:

Also, in the opening number of the second act of his show, channeling Peter Allen, he brought a NASA salsa dance instructor up on stage with him. Who even knew NASA had salsa dance instructors? It’s a real thing apparently! 

“I don’t know about you guys! I’m going to Mars!” … “I’m gonna sign up to be an astronaut tomorrow!”

(13) THANKS FOR PLAYING. Kotaku: “Amazon Lays Off Dozens Of Game Developers During E3”.

Yesterday, as the video game industry’s attention was focused squarely on the final day of the E3 convention in Los Angeles, Amazon’s video game division quietly laid off dozens of employees.

Amazon Game Studios, which is currently developing the online games Crucible and New World, told affected employees on Thursday morning that they would have 60 days to look for new positions within Amazon, according to one person who was laid off. At the end of that buffer period, if they fail to find employment, they will receive severance packages.

Amazon also canceled some unannounced games, that person told Kotaku.

(14) FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND. BBC now knows “Why are Nike trainers washing up on beaches?”

Over the past year, from Bermuda and the Bahamas to Ireland and Orkney, hundreds of pairs of unworn shoes have washed up on beaches. But how did they get there, and why are scientists so interested in where they are being found?

…The source of all these shoes is believed to be a single ship.

“Through the research I have done,” Mr Ribeiro says, “everything indicates they may have been from some of the 70 to 76 containers that fell overboard from the Maersk Shanghai.”

…Despite the environmental damage, scientists can salvage something from such incidents – a better understanding of our oceans and the currents that drive them.

While many of the shoes from the Maersk Shanghai have been washing up on beaches, far more are likely to be doing laps of the North Atlantic ocean, stuck in a network of powerful currents.

…Even more enlightening, Dr Ebbesmeyer says, is how the shape of the shoes seems to dictate where they end up.

“The left and the right sneakers float with different orientation to the wind,” he explains. “So when the wind blows on them they will go to different places. So on some beaches you tend to get the left sneakers and on others you get the right.”

(15) VLOGBRO NOVEL. Ana Grilo’s “Book Review: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green” appears at The Book Smugglers:

…This book is a cool mixture of puzzle-solving, personal story and world-changing events.

What strikes me the most about it though is the choice of having this particular type of protagonist because April? Not exactly a super great person. She is kinda of a jerk, she is flawed, full of contradictions, she well and truly fucks up on numerous occasions. She loves AND hates all the attention and fame she receives – especially in a world that mirrors our own in terms of how social media shapes the lives of people. There is good in it, but there is also bad and there is certainly the ugly too and at different times April embodies all of these possibilities.

(16) KEEP ON DOWN THE ROAD. Andrew Liptak praises Rebecca Roanhorse’s next novel — Storm of Locusts is like American Gods meets Mad Max: Fury Road. (Beware spoilers in the body of the review.)

In her debut novel Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse introduced readers to a compelling future in which climate change and wars have wrecked North America, resulting in some fantastical transformations to the country. Native American gods walk alongside mortal humans, some of whom have developed fantastical clan powers, and magical walls have grown around the traditional Navajo homeland Dinétah. In her next adventure, Storm of Locusts, Roanhorse ups the stakes for her characters and the world….

(17) KEEPING THE SRIRACHA IN SF. This is Jason Sheehan’s advice for NPR readers: “Regular Old Sci-Fi Not Weird Enough For You? Try ‘FKA USA'” (Reed King’s new book.)

Hey, you. Did you really like A Canticle For Leibowitz but think it needed more robot hookers and a talking goat? Then FKA USA is the book for you.

Did you think The Road suffered by not having enough gunfights with Mormons? Do you have a fondness for The Wizard Of Oz but believe, deep in your weird little heart, that it suffered a crippling lack of footnotes, bad language and fart jokes? Yeah, me, too. Which is (maybe) why I liked FKA USA so much.

(18) SAVAGE BUILDS. The Verge invites everyone to “Watch Adam Savage make a flying Iron Man suit in his new show, Savage Builds.

For a limited time, the first episode of Savage Builds—in which Adam Savage (late of Mythbusters) constructs and tests an Iron Man suit—is available free on the Discovery Channel website.

Adam Savage became a household name as the cohost of Mythbusters, and now, he’s returned to the Discovery Channel with a new show: Savage Builds. In each episode of the series, Savage goes out and builds something, consulting with other experts and builders. The series just began airing on Discovery, and the first episode, in which he builds a flying Iron Man costume, is available for free online (at least in the US) for the next two weeks

Think of it like a builder’s version of Mythbusters: take a thing from pop culture or history, and make a version that functions as closely as possible to its on-screen counterpart. In the show’s first episode, Savage sets out to build a real, flying Iron Man costume that’s also bulletproof. 

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Woke Up Looking” on Vimeo is a love song Gideon Irving sings to his robot.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/6/17 Darling, You Give Kzin A Bad Name

(1) BEWARE STOLEN VALOR. Cat Rambo issued a warning on Facebook today:

Be aware if you’re publicly claiming that you’re a former Nebula nominee or winner, and you can’t back that up, SFWA is going to come after you like a bat out of hell with me riding its back, a flaming sword in my hand.

I’d pay money to see that.

(2) REAL OR FOOLS’ GOLD? Inkican has heard – “Long-Lost Philip K Dick Manuscript Found?”  Lifted from Christian Brunschen’s comment.

Hey, this is pretty cool. Someone over at Reddit is claiming to have found a lost manuscript from Philip K. “The Guy Who Wrote the Stories Behind ‘Blade Runner,’ ‘Total Recall,’ ‘A Scanner Darkly,’ and ‘Minority Report’” Dick. PKD’s influence on science fiction is tremendous. The fact that people know him for his work, rather than his notoriously-phallic name, is proof-positive of the evocative, prolific stories he told.

And now they seem to have a lost manuscript of his. Authentication is in progress, but you can enjoy the story now. They’ve posted “Whatever You Do To The Rest Of You, Your Mind Belongs To Lasconte” to Dropbox in PDF, MOBI and EPUB formats. Stay tuned as we follow the story … for nerds, this is like discovering a long-lost Renoit or Mattisse painting. Instead of hording it and teasing us, this nerd is sharing the story with us immediately. GG, anonymous geek! It’s stuff like this that makes the sci-fi community what it is.

(3) WAY OUT WET. “Scientists Find That Water Might Exist in a Whole New State”. Yeah, California, after all the rain we’ve had in the past few weeks.

Okay, the Smithsonian is really talking about something else.

…Because the phase of a substance is determined by how its molecules are configured, many physical properties of that substance will change abruptly as it goes from one state to another. In the recent paper, the researchers measured several telltale physical properties of water at temperatures between 0? and 100? under normal atmospheric conditions (meaning the water was a liquid). Surprisingly, they found a kink in properties such as the water’s surface tension and its refractive index (a measure of how light travels through it) at around 50?.

…If confirmed, the authors’ findings could have many applications. For example, if changes in the environment (such as temperature) cause changes in a substance’s physical properties, then this can potentially be used for sensing applications. Perhaps more fundamentally, biological systems are mostly made of water. How biological molecules (such as proteins) interact with each other likely depends on the specific manner in which water molecules arrange to form a liquid phase.

(4) INFORMED GUESSER. On Recode, journalist John Markoff shares some of the sci-fi books that helped him get a leg up as a tech reporter for the New York Times over the past 30 years.

On the new podcast, he praised one non-fiction book, 1980’s “The Micro Millennium” by Christopher Evans, and one movie, 2013’s “Her,” for their prescience about tech.

“He just walked through, in a really prophetic way, how the emergence of the microprocessor was going to transform society,” Markoff said of Evans. “So I looked at that, and it really kind of intrigued me.”

He also peppered the conversation with recommendations of sci-fi books that helped him get a leg up on other reporters in the field:

  • “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson (1992): “The premise is, America only does two things well. One is write software, and the other is deliver pizzas. [laughs] What’s changed?”
  • “The Shockwave Rider” by John Brunner (1995): Markoff said he built his career on an early understanding that the internet would change everything. He said, “[The Shockwave Rider] argued for that kind of impact on society, that networks transformed everything.”
  • “True Names” by Vernor Vinge (1981): “The basic premise of that was, you had to basically hide your true name at all costs. It was an insight into the world we’re living in today … We have to figure it out. I think we have to go to pseudonymity or something. You’re gonna participate in this networked existence, you have to be connected to meatspace in some way.”
  • “Neuromancer” by William Gibson (1984): Markoff is concerned about the growing gap between elders who need care and the number of caregivers in the world. And he thinks efforts to extend life are “realistically possible,” pointing to Gibson’s “300-year-old billionaires in orbit around the Earth.”

(5) SOUNDS SUPER FAMILIAR. Flickeringmyth reports tonight’s Supergirl’s title is “The Martian Chronicles.”

‘The Martian Chronicles’ is the title of the eleventh episode of Supergirl season two, and will see the two heroes teaming up to battle a White Martian. Check out the official episode synopsis here…

WHITE MARTIANS ATTACK THE DEO — Armek (guest star Terrell Tilford), a White Martian, descends on National City intent on taking M’gann (guest star Sharon Leal) back to Mars to face her punishment as a traitor. Hank (David Harewood) and Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) determine the best way to keep M’gann safe is to bring her to the DEO. However, when it is revealed that Armek shape-shifted into M’gann and is now loose in the building, the team realize he could be disguised as any one of them

(6) NASA GETS IN ON THE ACT. For some reason there are a lot of football references in today’s Scroll, like in this NPR article “Want To Throw A Football More Than 500,000 Yards? Just Head To Space”.

Matt Ryan is no slouch.

The Atlanta Falcons quarterback, who will be vying for Super Bowl LI on Sunday, drew plaudits all year for what many have called an MVP-caliber season. By the end of the season, Ryan racked up 4,944 passing yards.

Still, it took Ryan 16 games — and more than 500 throws — to get to that number.

Astronaut Tim Kopra just threw for 564,664 yards. And he did it on a single throw. Underhand.

Kind of.

In new video shot on the International Space Station, NASA posed the question: How far can you throw a football in a zero-G environment?

The answer, it turns out, is really, really far.

Chip Hitchcock comments, “I wonder whether that was their first try or their 20th; it would be more impressive if the ball at least made it from one end of the ISS to the other, but the pictures are pretty.”

(7) MEASURING THE UNSHINE. Galactic X-rays could prove the existence of dark matter.

A small but distinctive signal in X-rays from the Milky Way could be key to proving the existence of dark matter.

That is the claim of US scientists who analysed the energy spectrum of X-rays gathered by Nasa’s Chandra satellite.

They found more X-ray photons with a particular energy than would be expected if they were produced only by familiar processes.

Those photons could in fact have been generated by the decay of dark matter particles, say the researchers….

(8) NOW A WORD FROM OUR SPONSORS. I decided it was worth running the best sf movie spots shown during yesterday’s Super Bowl. The trailer for the next Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers sequels didn’t make the cut.

  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Extended Big Game Spot

  • Ghost in the Shell (2017) – Big Game Spot – Paramount Pictures

  • Logan | “Grace” #SB51 Commercial | 20th Century Fox

(9) LAST MONTH IN HISTORY BUT I CAN STILL SMELL IT

  • January 6, 1945 — Pepé Le Pew made his first appearance in Warner Bros. cartoon, “Odor-able Kitty.”

(10) IT’S BRADBURY. Recently updated from its original 2012 appearance in the San Francisco Chronicle “Susan Steinberg’s Most Treasured Book”. (Note: Contrary to my usual practice, I have copied the entire post.)

Susan Steinberg is the author of the forthcoming story collection “Spectacle.”

When I was 13, my mother put me on a plane to visit my aunt and uncle in New Hampshire. My parents were going through a divorce, and I had been dealing with it by screaming and repeatedly slamming doors throughout the house.

It was fall. It rained the whole time I was in New Hampshire. My aunt and uncle, now looking back, were pretty young. They didn’t even have kids yet. They didn’t know what to do with me. I slept on a couch in my uncle’s study, which was filled, floor to ceiling, with books. They were mostly science fiction paperbacks. The covers had rockets and robots and Martians on them. I wasn’t going to read those books. I liked to read books about girls and drugs, and girls and guys.

I watched a lot of television. There was a day my aunt and uncle drove me to Boston to get me out of the house. They took me to a bookstore and said they would buy me a book. I wanted the kind of book I liked, but my uncle bought me a book called “The Stories of Ray Bradbury.” It was huge and hardcover. I was like, “Why are you buying me this?”

But late that night in my uncle’s study, I started to read it. And it was terrifying. It was a different kind of terrifying. I was totally into the terror. I felt like my life was another life. I mean, I was 13. And sheltered. I hadn’t known there was more to the world. Or more in the world. I mean more than my own sad self.

(11) BRINGING MORE LIGHT. Adam Savage (of Mythbusters) takes you behind the scenes of The Expanse and gives you a look into Season 2, which airs February 8.

(12) NZ NATCON UPDATE. LexiCon, the 38th New Zealand National Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention (NatCon). has announced that a draft programme for the event is available.

LexiCon will be held at the Suncourt Hotel in Taup? from June 2-4, 2017 (Queen’s Birthday Weekend).

(13) VOCATION. Armed with 3 years of experience at the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters and a recommendation from Steven Spielberg, Hugh Jackman applies for a job at Harlem Village Academies.

(14) IF I HAD A HAMMER. Another Carl Slaughter find —

Carl says: “In this superhero comedy skit starring Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo, Thor travels to Australia for some me time, hammer in hand.  He visits a local elementary school and his roommate’s office.  He offers to help Tony Stark resolve the conflict with Steve Rogers.  Stark does not reply.  Then Thor discovers that Stark has invited Bruce Banner, who has no interest in the brewing civil war, to join his team.  Thor feigns to not be offended.   I give up, who’s the guy sitting down in the purple suit?”

(15) COMING TOMORROW. Speaking of…  This book comes out tomorrow: “Neil Gaiman Busts Out Thor’s Hammer For ‘Norse Mythology”.

While the new book, out February 7, 2017, won’t connect to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s version of Thor, it will feature Gaiman’s own unique retellings of the ancient Norse Myths from which Thor derives.

Putting Thor’s hammer on the cover is a smart move by Gaiman, as it allows his dive into myths to potentially crossover into mainstream culture. People who are only familiar with Thor through the Marvel Cinematic Universe probably describes a vast majority of potential readers. This high/low combination on Gaiman’s part isn’t exactly a new move for him — he’s adapted Norse Myths before.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Christian Brunschen, John King Tarpinian, JJ, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit inspiration goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]