Pixel Scroll 6/6/20 You Get A File, I’ll Get A Troll, We’ll Head Down
To The Pixel Scroll, Honey, Enemy Mine

(1) CUTTING OFF THEIR AIR. Connie Willis starts her Facebook post by comparing recent tragedies with the Salem witch trials: “On The Surreal Situation We Find Ourselves In”.

The first thing I thought of when I saw the horrific police murder of George Floyd was the Salem witch trials. Most people think the innocent victims of those monstrous trials were burned at the stake, but they weren’t–they were hanged. Mostly. Fourteen women, five men, and two dogs were executed by hanging. And one, an eighty-one-year-old farmer named Giles Corey, was pressed to death by putting a large flat stone on his chest and then piling more stones on top of it till they crushed the life out of him.

Basically the same thing happened to George Floyd. The policeman kneeling on his neck cut off his airway, and the other two holding him down pressed him flat against the ground so that his rib cage couldn’t inflate, and he suffocated to death.

The atrocities in Salem were precipitated by a belief that Evil was loose in their community.

It was, but it didn’t reside in the helpless slaves and old women and religious dissenters (and people who dared to speak out against what was happening) who were “tried” for witchcraft and executed.

The terrible irony of Salem is that the evil they were trying so hard to stamp out resided in the pious Christian town folk who accused them and the self-righteous judges who presided over their mock trials– “spectral evidence” was allowed, and they were pronounced guilty of crimes they had supposedly committed in the town even though they were locked up in jail at the time–and sentenced them to death.

The crimes brought to light by the death of George Floyd haven’t just been the murders of other African-Americans killed by the police, but other crimes the police have committed and are committing: the brutalizing of people exercising their First Amendment rights, the calling out of troops against the citizens they’re supposed to protect, and administration officials directing them to do so, calling for violence against their own people. Crimes by so-called law-abiding citizens and the officials they’ve put in office to “serve and protect” the public….

(2) YES, THIS AUGUST. Inverse fills readers in: “Everything We Know About Lovecraft Country, HBO’s Timely New Horror Series”.

In what just might be your next obsession from HBO, the weird fiction of H.P. Lovecraft finally does what the famed author never dared to do: Tell stories about Black people.

In August, HBO will premiere the television series Lovecraft Country, a road trip horror fantasy set in Jim Crow era America. It tells the story of an Army veteran and science fiction geek embarking on a cross-country trip to find his missing father, only to encounter otherworldly — and some very familiar — horrors along the way….

(3) LESS CYBER, MORE FILLING. “The New AP Stylebook Gets Technical. Really Technical”Slate explains how.

On Wednesday, the Associated Press released the 55th edition of its official Stylebook, complete with a new chapter on digital security practices for journalists. It also comes with a slew of new entries on technology that reinforce the importance of online advertising and cybersecurity in everyday life—and journalism.

For most journalists, the advice in the AP guide on how to secure their communications—through strong passwords, multifactor authentication, and the use of virtual private networks and encrypted messaging apps—will probably not come as a surprise. Still, for those tools to have made their way into the Associated Press Stylebook seems like a landmark of some kind for measuring how mainstream digital security concerns have become for journalists.

The new and revised technology-related entries in the Stylebook also reflect some interesting shifts in what the Associated Press believes journalists can expect general audiences to know. In general, many of the recommendations tend to urge journalists in the direction of greater specificity about the technologies they are describing and away from more generic, dated terms. For instance, the Stylebook endorses the terms digital wallets and mobile wallets, but it recommends avoiding e-wallet. In a similar vein, journalists are advised to use the prefix cyber– and the terms cyberspace and cyber sparingly, and instead substitute words like internet or digital…. 

(4) THE POSITIVE POWER OF BOREDOM. Eh, maybe. “What type of ‘bored’ are you? Find out and master the art of boredom”Body+Soul tells you how.

Lockdown got you climbing the walls? Are you over feeling bored? While it’s certainly an unpleasant feeling, experts say boredom isn’t always a bad thing. Some say that ‘blah’ feeling can even spur you on to greatness.

“There’s a real misconception that boredom is a sign of laziness and associated with apathy — actually, it’s the opposite,” says Professor James Danckert, who studies boredom. “It’s motivating — and, if we listen to it, we can learn a lot.”

Other experts agree that being bored can be a good thing. “Most of the time our minds are constantly occupied by external stimuli like smartphones,” says psychologist Dr Joann Lukins. “But boredom gives us a space to pause, reflect and then, often out of necessity, sees us create our next opportunity. I find it interesting that we use negative phrases like ‘bored to tears’ to discuss boredom when we can be ‘bored to brilliance’.’’

In fact, when researchers at the UK’s University of Central Lancashire asked people to do a boring task for 15 minutes and then asked them to come up with a list of things they could do with a plastic cup, they came up with more creative ideas than those in the control group who weren’t bored….

(5) WRITING FOR TEENS. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination is promoting the SDFutures online writing courses, along with UCSD and other supporters.

Imagining fantastic worlds and the future has never been more important.

It’s how we expand our sense of what is possible. It’s how we change our culture, save our planet, and make stories that create better futures for our loved ones and ourselves. This summer, we’re inviting San Diego–area teens to join us in exploring the power and potential of one of our most powerful human capacities: imagination.

SDFutures is series of online courses to help young people write science fiction and fantasy stories by developing their skills, meeting other young writers, and stretching their imagination with incredible professional writers of speculative fiction as guides. 

Our instructors include: Rebecca Roanhorse, Minh Lê, Kali Wallace, Lilliam Rivera, Patrick Coleman, Leah Thomas, Jeanelle Horcasitas, and Olivia Quintanilla.

If you know a community group, teacher, or young person who would benefit from this opportunity, please feel free to share.

More information, including how to register, at sd-futures.org.

(6) COMING ATTRACTIONS. Rich Horton put together a list of recommended books on his TBR pile. Many well-known titles here, but being TBR, he said his own score is zero. I’ve read 7. You have probably read multiples of my score.

Recently I posted a list of 100 books that was full of crap … it claimed to be a BBC list (it wasn’t) and it claimed that the average person had read only 6 (who knows?) and it was shoddily curated (multiple weird duplicates, etc.)

Here is what I believe to be a far better list. There are no duplicates (not even duplicate authors.) It is very English-language-centric — I can’t help that, English is all I can read…

(7) WITCHER WATCHER. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall in the May 30 Financial Times, Nilanjana Roy says she misses browsing bookstores in Delhi but has found some consolation watching TV shows adapted from novels, including The Witcher.

The hugely popular Netflix series, The Witcher, is a dark fantasy based on five novels written by Andrzej Sapkowski in the 1990s, following Geralt of Rivia, a lone monster killer who plies his trade across time jumps in the Continent, a place where monsters, humans, and creatures from Slavic fantasy battle it out with one another. Sapkowski, now 71, lives in Lodz and is as big a star in Polang as Terry Pratchett was in the UK. In one of his interviews, he dismissed critics of the fantasy genre:  ‘All literature is fantastic in its own way because it tells what wasn’t on paper before and it doesn’t matter whether you write about hobbits or love.’  Over the years, the community of Witcher fans has grown larger, drawn in by three wildly successful video games based on Geralt’s adventures, but it’s only now that the books have become a hit, propelled by the Netflix show.

What drew me in was not just the lure of a fantasy world peopled by vedmaks (sorcerers) or strigas (a flying witch who sucks the blood of infants at night); it’s that many of the characters are depicted as outsiders and outcasts.  It’s refreshing to watch fantasy that has a subtle echo of this last century’s swirl of xenophobia and politics about who belongs and who lives in the periphery, and that seeps into Geralt’s bloody exploits.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 6, 1980 — The decidedly low-budget Galaxina premiered. Starring the 1980 Playboy Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten as the android Galaxina and a cast too large to detail here, it was written and directed by William Sachs. Marilyn Jacobs Tenser was the producer. She did work for Crown International which did low-budget genre films such as horror cinema, biker films, exploitation films, and B-movie drive-in fare. Critics thought it was a failure at spoofing it’s intended victims of Star TrekStars Wars and Aliens.  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a not so generous 24% rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 6, 1799 – Alexander Pushkin.  Sometimes after a surprise you re-examine and think “Oh.  Of course.”  When Ravi Shankar first visited Russia, people cried “Pushkin!  Pushkin!”  They loved Pushkin and there is a resemblance.  I’d like to call Mozart and Salieri a fantasy but, as my father used to say, not within the normal meaning of that term.  Anyway, we get Ruslan and Lyudmila and “The Queen of Spades” and The Bronze Horseman and “The Golden Cockerel” and The Stone Guest and “The Shot”.  Speaking of which –  (Died 1837) [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1918 Richard Crane. In the Fifties, he would be cast in two of the series that largely defined the look and feel of televised SF for a decade. First, he was the dashing lead in Rocky Jones, Space Ranger which lasted for thirty-nine thrilling episodes; second, he’s Dick Preston in nine of the twelve episodes of the wonderfully titled Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe. He was also the lead in the fifteen-chapter serial Mysterious Island which was a very loose adaption of the Jules Verne novel. (Died 1969.) (CE) 
  • Born June 6, 1921 – Milton Charles.  Artist and art director in and out of our field; Art Director for Jaguar (New York), later for Pocket Books; five hundred awards from Amer. Inst. Graphic Arts (AIGA), Society of Illustrators, Amer. Book Publishers, and like that.  Here is his cover for Tucker’s Wild Talenthere is Vonnegut’s Mother Nighthere is a study of his V.C. Andrews covers.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1924 Robert Abernathy. Writer during the 1940s and 1950s. He’s remembered mostly for his short stories which were published in many of the pulp magazines that existed during the Golden Age of Science Fiction such as Planet StoriesGalaxyF&SFAstounding and Fantastic Universe. He did around forty stories in total, and apparently wrote no novels that I can locate. There’s no collection of his works currently available in digital form but some of his stories are up at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1990.) (CE)
  • Born June 6, 1942 Dorothy Heydt, 78. She was the creator and first editor of the Star Trek Concordance, first published in March of 1969. (Yes, I owned a copy.) A linguist, she credited with creating one of the first widely used Vulcan languages in 1967 for a Trek fan fiction series. Though most of her short fiction is set in her own Cynthia, Daughter of Euelpides series, some was set in Bradley’s Darkover series. (CE)
  • Born June 6, 1945 – Vivian French.  Libraries in the United Kingdom say she is borrowed – that’s a metaphor, folks – shall we call it a Thing Contained for the Container? – half a million times a year; the Tiara Club books have sold three million copies.  Three dozen novels for us, some shorter stories, not least “I Wish I Were an Alien” in which the extraterrestrial boy, for his part, wishes –  [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1947 Robert Englund, 73. I think his best performance was as Blackie on the very short-lived Nightmare Cafe. Short-lived as in six episodes. Of course most will remember him playing Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. He actually appeared in a couple of now forgotten horror films, Dead & Buried and Galaxy of Terror, before landing that role. And he’s continued to do myriad horror films down to the years ranging from CHUD to Strippers vs Werewolves. Versatile man, our Robert.  (CE)
  • Born June 6, 1948 – Ron Salomon.  Hey Ron, I saw you had a Supporting Membership in last year’s Worldcon; thanks!  If CoNZealand has published a list I haven’t got one yet.  [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1959 Amanda Pays, 61. I first encountered her as Thero Jones on Max Headroom, a series I think should be considered one of the best SF series ever made. She appeared as Dawn in the Spacejacked film. She also had a guest role as Phoebe Green in the episode “Fire” of The X-Files, and was cast as Christina “Tina” McGee in The Flash of  the 1990 series, and she has a recurring role on the present Flash series as the same character.(CE)
  • Born June 6, 1964 – Jay Lake.  Born on Taiwan, lived in Nigeria, Dahomey (as it then was), Canada, and the U.S.  Won the Campbell Best New Writer award (as it then was); anyway, he was astounding.  Endeavour Award, also appropriate.  A dozen novels, two hundred seventy shorter stories, some co-authored.  Here is a cover he did for Polyphony – also appropriate.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1973 – Anne Ursu.  Teaches at Hamline, first university in Minnesota.  She’s given us eight novels, for children, adults, both.  The Lost Girl is told from the viewpoint of a crow.  In The Cronus Chronicles – three so far – two cousins find they’re in Greek myths; the first cousin we meet is Charlotte Mielswetzki, and if I say so myself it’s about time we did.  Breadcrumbs retells The Snow Queen; creatures from Hans Andersen’s tales keep showing up; and Jack, Hazel’s only friend in 5th Grade, may not want to be saved.  [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1973 Guy Haley, 57. British author of the Richards & Klein Investigations series, a cyberpunk noir series where the partners are an android and an AI. His regular paycheck comes from his Warhammer 40,000 work where he’s written a baker’s dozen novels so far. Not surprisingly, he’s got a novel coming out in the their just announced Warhammer Crime imprint which, though I’ve read no other Warhammer 40.000 fiction, I’m interested in seeing how they do it. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) MAD, I TELL YOU. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna throws a party when “Mad magazine legend Al Jaffee retires at age 99 after a record-breaking career”.

Mad magazine’s iconic back-page Fold-In is about to fold it in. Finito after 56 years. Because Al Jaffee, officially the longest-working comic artist ever, has decided to retire at age 99.

So to mark his farewell, Mad’s “Usual Gang of Idiots” will salute Jaffee with a tribute issue next week. It will be the magazine’s final regular issue to offer new material, including Jaffee’s final Fold-In, 65 years after he made his Mad debut.“He deserves some spotlight outside our industry,” Mad caricature artist Tom Richmond said of the magazine’s beloved elder statesman, who broke into the business during World War II.

One of the most heartfelt features in the send-off issue will be by Sergio Aragones, a fellow Mad legend who befriended Jaffee in 1962 upon joining the staff. They formed a mutual admiration society — both deeply steeped in the craft of the pantomime cartoon — and were occasional roommates on the Mad staff’s storied annual trips to far-flung vacation spots….

(12) TOUGH AUDIENCE. ScreenRant has surprisingly demanding standards: “”Up, Up & Away”: Every Superman Actor, Ranked By Comic Book Accuracy”.

5. Christopher Reeve: Superman The Movie (1978)

There is so much that this movie does right. Superman’s strength, powers, and heroic optimism are fully realized, while Christopher Reeve gives a performance as strong as his character’s steely muscles. In his civilian life as Clark Kent, he is bumbling and shy, but sweet and a skilled reporter.

The biggest problem working against this movie is the famous scene in which Superman turns back time by flying around the Earth and reversing its rotation. This is not how time works, and it is certainly not how Superman’s powers work. If not for this scene, Christopher Reeve would top this list (at least in his first two films).

(13) READY FOR YOUR MT. TBR. The Little Red Reviewer has high praise for A Sinister Quartet, with fiction by Cooney, Wick, McGee, and Allen”.

…Part of me wants to tell you to read this collection in the order the stories are presented, so that you can move from least dark and scary to most dark and scary: Start with Cooney’s beautifully rendered fantasy “The Twice Drowned Saint”;  then go to Jessia P. Wick’s “An Unkindness”, a dark fantasy of a sister trying to save her brother from the fae;  from there go to Amanda J. McGee’s “Viridian”, a contemporary gothic horror of isolation and obsession;  and from there go to Mike Allen’s absolutely horrifying and terrifying “The Comforter”.  If you go that path, you’ll slowly ramp up from “fun, sorta creepy” to “not sure I should be reading this before bed”.

(14) AND IN THIS CORNER. The Little Red Reviewer also gives this irresistible description about Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia”.

…one day,  when the family is on an outing, having left Caseopea at home, as a punishment,  she takes special notice of an old trunk in her grandfather’s bedroom.  And she opens the trunk.

What’s in the trunk?   oh, only the bones and soul of Hun-Kame,  Lord of Xibalba, and one of his bone shards gets lodged in Casiopea’s hand.  no biggie, right?  He can just, remove the shard, and then he can go back to Xibalba to dethrone his brother, and then Casiopea can pretend none of this ever happened, right?

hahahaha, NO.

(15) MOUTHPIECE. “Facebook Begins Labeling ‘State-Controlled’ Media”.

Facebook has begun labeling content produced by media outlets it says are under state control, enacting a policy the social network first announced in October.

Pages and posts from at least 18 outlets including Russia Today, China’s People’s Daily and Iran’s Press TV now carry notices to users that they are “state-controlled media.” Ads from state-controlled publishers will also be labeled starting later this year. The labels will initially be shown to U.S. Facebook users and roll out to other countries over time.

“We’re providing greater transparency into these publishers because they combine the influence of a media organization with the strategic backing of a state, and we believe people should know if the news they read is coming from a publication that may be under the influence of a government,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, wrote in a blog post.

Facebook will also begin barring state-controlled outlets from buying advertising in the U.S. later this summer. Gleicher said that decision was “out of an abundance of caution to provide an extra layer of protection against various types of foreign influence in the public debate” ahead of the 2020 presidential election. He noted that these outlets “rarely” advertise in the U.S.

(16) I’M THINKING IT OVER. “Facebook Will Review Policies On Posts About State Violence, Voting” reports NPR.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Facebook employees on Friday that the social network will review how it handles some of the most incendiary posts on its platform, including those by President Trump. His announcement follows a revolt by employees over his decision to do nothing about messages the president posted about violence toward protesters and mail-in voting.

In a memo to staff, Zuckerberg said he wanted “to acknowledge that the decision I made last week has left many of you angry, disappointed and hurt.”

Zuckerberg said Facebook will consider labeling posts that violate its rules, a more nuanced approach than the company’s current policy, which states that posts should either be removed or left alone. It will also review its policies allowing “discussion and threats of state use of force” and its policies on voter suppression.

(17) FACING UP. “Coronavirus face mask lights up with moving mouth shapes” – video. (At least it’s not as creepy as the Syncro Vox they tried on Clutch Cargo.)

A light-up face mask that responds to the sound of the wearer’s voice has been developed by a games developer in California.

The BBC’s Chris Fox spoke to designer Tyler Glaiel and had a go at making the mask himself – although he keeping his purely as a novelty.

(18) CONZEALAND CHAIRS Q&A. Norman Cates and Kelly Buehler held a video Q&A session this afternoon. Bottom line: Hugo voting is only being done with paper ballots right now. Site selection voting won’t start until the online advanced memberships fee token payment system is available — perhaps next week.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Soon Lee, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes o File 770 contributing editor of the day John A Arkansawyer.]