Pixel Scroll 3/26/18 You Know How To Pixel, Don’t You Steve? You Just Put Your Files Together And Scroll

(1) BANKS WITH AND WITHOUT THE M. Abigail Nussbaum’s latest column for Lawyers, Guns & Money is “A Political History of the Future: Iain M. Banks”.

In this installment of A Political History of the Future, our series about how science fiction constructs the politics and economics of its future worlds, we discuss the late, great SF author Iain M. Banks, and specifically his Culture series.

Iain M. Banks died in 2013, and his last work of science fiction was published in 2012. In the context of this series, one might even argue that the last book Banks published that is relevant to our interests was Look to Windward (2000), or maybe The Algebraist (2004). There are, however, two reasons to go back to Banks in 2018. The first is that last summer, the University of Illinois Press’s Modern Masters of Science Fiction series (edited by Gary K. Wolfe), which produces short studies about important mid- and late-20th century science fiction authors, published what is to my knowledge the first complete critical study of Banks’s life and work. Iain M. Banks, by the Hugo-nominated British critic Paul Kincaid (by next week we will know whether he’s been nominated a second time for this volume), is both a biography of Banks’s life and his writing career, and an analysis of the themes running through his work. It is essential reading for any Banks fan.

(2) THIS SPACE NOT INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK. Farah Mendlesohn’s book about Heinlein now has a title.

One of the comments I’ve frequently made, is that in some ways I have been channelling the great man himself. Verbosity, intemperance, etc etc. But nowhere has this been truer than my inability to come up with a title. Heinlein had a terrible ear for titles. Most of his stories were titled by magazine editors, and most of his adult novels were titled by Virginia. His original title for Number of the Beast, for example, was The Panki-Barsoom Number of the Beast, or even just Panki-Barsoom.

So I did what Heinlein did and outsourced the problem, in this case to many friends on facebook.

And the title is…..

The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein.

With a release date in March 2019.

(3) A WAY. In “Mountain and Forest” Nick Stember analyzes “the Tao of Ursula K. Le Guin.”

For science fiction fans, the fact that The Left-Hand of Darkness owes a debt of inspiration to Taoism is nothing new, of course. As early as 1974 Douglas Barbour was pointing out parallels in Le Guin’s earlier books in the Hainish cycle, and Le Guin herself said as much in  interviews. Perhaps more surprising is the fact that Le Guin’s last novel in the Hainish cycle, The Telling, was directly inspired by the Cultural Revolution:

I learned that Taoist religion, an ancient popular religion of vast complexity and a major element of Chinese culture, had been suppressed, wiped out, by Mao Tse-tung…In one generation, one psychopathic tyrant destroyed a tradition two thousand years old…And I knew nothing about it. The enormity of the event, and the enormity of my ignorance, left me stunned.

(4) SUSPICION. The authorities spent the day grilling two writers:

(5) DON’T BOTHER ME BOY. And yet they let this one go Scot-free! Richard Paolinelli, borrowing a page from Lou Antonelli’s book – the one printed on a thousand-sheet roll – tried to embroil Camestros Felapton with the Aussie cops:

(6) PRO TIP. This is the way professional writers handle feedback, says Cole McCade in “The Author’s Guide to Author/Reviewer Interactions”. Strangely enough, calling the cops isn’t on his list.

B-but…I read a bad review of my book!

Then stop reading your goddamn reviews.

…all right. Okay. I know you won’t. I still read my reviews sometimes, I just don’t talk about it. And I generally try to stay on the positive ones; they’re a good pick-me-up. Even those, though, I don’t talk about.

That’s the thing. You can read reviews all you want, but you can’t engage with them save for in very specific circumstances. Don’t like a review on GoodReads. Don’t flag it for removal unless it actually meets the guidelines, such as posting derogatory things about you as a person/author rather than reviewing the book. Don’t comment on the review. Don’t send your fans to comment on the review defending you. (I actually have a policy in my street team that anyone caught attacking negative reviewers gets booted from the group.) Don’t seek out tweets about your book and reply to them (particularly if you or the book aren’t mentioned by name; if you’re stalking reviewers on social media for the idlest sideways mention of your book, that’s fucking creepy and intrusive). If you happen to have friendly conversations with a reviewer, do not bring up their review or try to chat about it.

You know why?

Because reviews are not for you.

They’re for other readers.

(7) EXPLOITATION. At the SFWA Blog, John Walters is irate about “The Egregious Practice of Charging Reading Fees” – although his examples are from outside the sff field —

The sad state of affairs in the field of literary magazines is that a high percentage now charge reading fees. The amounts range from two dollars to five dollars or more, but the average is three dollars. They justify it in all sorts of ways. Some, to avoid the stigma of charging reading fees, call it a handling fee or a software fee. Evidently they haven’t heard that many email services are free. Some, even as they ask it of writers, say outright: This is not a reading fee. Yeah, right. As if calling it by another name makes it all better. Several sites explain that if you were to send the manuscripts by mail you would have to spend at least that much in postage, so send that postage money to them instead. Most modern magazines and anthologies are getting away from postal submissions anyway, both as a money saver and to protect the environment, so that argument doesn’t make any sense.

(8) BSFATUBE. The British Science Fiction Association’s publication Vector has branched out to producing YouTube videos. Here’s the first one:

Glasgow-based DJ Sophie Reilly, aka ‘Sofay’, talks about her love of science fiction and the connections that exist between some of her favourite records and novels such as Ursula Le Guin’s ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ and Stanislaw Lem’s ‘Solaris’…

 

(9) CARRINGTON OBIT. Actress Debbie Lee Carrington has died at the age of 58:

She began her acting career in 1981, appearing in the Chevy Chase-starring comedy, Under the Rainbow. Later, Carrington landed a role in Return of the Jedi, famously playing the Ewok who consoles another Ewok that was blown up by a landmine. She ended up starring in The Ewok Adventure and Ewoks: Battle for Endor as Weechee, Wicket’s older brother. Carrington was also an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities in Hollywood and also had a degree in child psychology, which earned her much respect in the industry along with her giant body of work. Mike Quinn, who worked with Debbie Lee Carrington on Return of the Jedi, had this to say.

“So sad to hear of the passing of a fellow Return Of The Jedi performer Debbie Lee Carrington. She was an advocate for actors with disabilities and had a degree in child psychology. She had done so much, not only as an Ewok but was inside the costume for Howard The Duck, appeared in Total Recall, Grace & Frankie, Dexter, Captain Eo, the list goes on… Way too young. She was a real powerhouse! My condolences to all her family and friends at this time.”

(10) CAMERON OBIT. SF artist Martin G. “Bucky” Cameron died unexpectedly on March 26.

For over 35 years he worked as a professional artist. He was the first 3D artist at the Lucasfilm games division. Other game companies he worked for included NAMCO, Broderbund, and Spectrum Holobyte. He also did art for magazines including Analog and Penthouse, and for myriad companies.

His recent project was creating a shared Steampunk world with Robert E. Vardeman. The first issue came out in February.

MT Davis adds, “Martin was usually known as ‘Bucky’ at the Cons he attended and was part of the Sacramento/Bay Area Fan nexus that went into the computer Gaming industry as it rose in the late 80’s early 90’s. Very congenial and always cordial accepting of almost all.”

(11) TODAY’S YESTERDAY’S DAY

It’s Tolkien Reading Day!

Tolkien Reading Day is held on the 25th of March each year.

It has been organised by the Tolkien Society since 2003 to encourage fans to celebrate and promote the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien by reading favourite passages. We particularly encourage schools, museums and libraries to host their own Tolkien Reading Day events.

Why 25 March?

The 25th of March is the date of the downfall of the Lord of the Rings (Sauron) and the fall of Barad-dûr. It’s as simple as that!

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 26, 1985 Outer Limits was reincarnated for TV.
  • March 26, 1989 Quantum Leap made its TV premiere.
  • March 26, 2010 Hot Tub Time Machine appeared in theaters.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 26, 1931 – Leonard Nimoy

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY VACCINE

On March 26, 65 years ago, Dr. Jonas Salk announced he had successfully tested a vaccine against polio. Look back at Dr. Salk’s achievement.

Alan Baumler comments, “If you are wondering ‘Who is the model for the heroic scientist who saves the world?’ as seen in thousands of SF stories, it is probably him.”

From the Wikipedia:

Author Jon Cohen noted, “Jonas Salk made scientists and journalists alike go goofy. As one of the only living scientists whose face was known the world over, Salk, in the public’s eye, had a superstar aura. Airplane pilots would announce that he was on board and passengers would burst into applause. Hotels routinely would upgrade him into their penthouse suites. A meal at a restaurant inevitably meant an interruption from an admirer, and scientists approached him with drop-jawed wonder as though some of the stardust might rub off.”

For the most part, however, Salk was “appalled at the demands on the public figure he has become and resentful of what he considers to be the invasion of his privacy”, wrote The New York Times, a few months after his vaccine announcement.

(15) CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN. Not much about superhero movies has to make logical sense, but there’s an odd reason why this development does. Inverse reports that “‘Captain Marvel’ Will Bring Back Two ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Villains” who audiences have already seen killed off.

Captain Marvel may be the 22nd movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but thanks to its Nineties setting, it’s chronologically the second film in the series, following Captain America’s World War II setting. That means that MCU characters who died in recent movies would still be alive during Captain Marvel’s time, and Marvel revealed on Monday that three somewhat unexpected deceased characters will be appearing in the upcoming film.

In a posting announcing the start of principal photography on Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson as the titular hero, Marvel announced that Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, and Clark Gregg would all make appearances in the upcoming film. Hounsou and Pace played Guardians of the Galaxy villains Korath the Pursuer and Ronan the Accuser, respectively, while Gregg played the beloved Agent Coulson in the MCU’s Phase One (and continues to play the character on the TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

(16) OH BRAVE NEW WORD. Tor.com’s Emily Asher-Perrin investigates “What We Mean When We Call Something ‘Shakespearean’”.

It does seem a term that falls into two categories: (a) a term used to denote high quality, or (b) a term used to denote a certain type of story. Sometimes it is used to indicate both of these things at the same time. But we see it everywhere, and often reapplied past the point of meaning. When Marvel Studios released the first Thor film in 2011, it was heralded as Shakespearean. When Black Panther was released earlier this year, it was labeled the same. Why? In Thor, the characters are mythological figures who speak in slightly anachronistic dialects, and family drama is the three-dollar phrase of the hour. Black Panther also contains some elements of family drama, but it is primarily a story about royalty and history and heritage.

So what about any of this is Shakespearean?

(17) APOSTLE TO THE CURMUDGEONS. What do Ambrose Bierce and the fashion magazine Cosmo have in common? Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett says you might be surprised: “Ambrose Bierce Buries Jules Verne”.

In Cosmopolitan Magazine, Vol. XL No. 2, December 1905 [Bierce] reacted to what he considered to be a hagiographic response to the death of Jules Verne:

The death of Jules Verne several months ago is a continuing affliction, a sharper one than the illiterate can know, for they are spared many a fatiguing appreciation of his talent, suggested by the sad event. With few exceptions, these “appreciations,” as it is now the fashion of anthropolaters to call their devotional work, are devoid of knowledge, moderation and discrimination. They are all alike, too, in ascribing to their subject the highest powers of imagination and the profoundest scientific attainments. In respect of both these matters he was singularly deficient, but had in a notable degree that which enables one to make the most of such gifts and acquirements as one happens to have: a patient, painstaking diligence—what a man of genius has contemptuously, and not altogether fairly, called “mean industry.” Such as it was, Verne’s imagination obeyed him very well, performing the tasks set for it and never getting ahead of him—apres vous, monsieur. A most polite and considerate imagination, We are told with considerable iteration about his power of prophecy: in the “Nautilus,” for example, he foreshadows submarine navigation. Submarine navigation had for ages been a dream of inventors and writers; I dare say the Egyptians were familiar with it…

(18) STOKERS. The Horror Writers Association has posted video of the 2018 Bram Stoker Awards ceremony held at StokerCon in Providence, RI on March 3.

(19) ROBO PUNCHING. NPR’s Glen Weldon, in “‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ serves up another helping of mech and cheese”, holds a mock press conference:

REPORTER #1: … and then we clucked our tongues, the way we do, and sat there a while basking in our keenly developed aesthetic sense. Then we got to wondering who in the world would ever actually see it.

CRITIC: I mean … you shouldn’t.

REPORTER #1: So you agree. (Cluck.)

CRITIC: Do I agree that you shouldn’t see it? I very much do. I mean, listen to yourself. You expressly do not count yourself among the cohort of giant-robots-fight-giant-monsters potential filmgoers, safe to say. So clearly you shouldn’t see it. I mean … I would have thought that was obvious. Unless … I’m sorry, is someone forcing you to go see it? Are there armed gangs of street toughs employed by Universal Studios going house-to-house and frog-marching the hapless citizenry into Pacific Rim Uprising showings across this nation?

REPORTER #1: No. Look, I’m just sayi-

CRITIC: Yes, you are just saying, not asking, and I’m here to answer questions about the film Pacific Rim Uprising. This is not a forum for your smug condemnation of the fact that a given piece of popular culture is popular. This is a press conference, not Facebook. Security, kindly remove this person. Next question. Yes, you there….

Chip Hitchcock calls it, “Much kinder than the Boston Globe’s response: ‘If only they hadn’t made a movie that plays like a lost “Transformers” entry.’”

(20) RESISTANCE IS RUTILE. Got to love this. On Quora Nyk Dohne answers the question “Would a Borg Cube be any match for a Star Destroyer if the two ever met in battle?”

Here is what clearly will happen: The Borg beam over some scouts to investigate. Because the Death Star is so huge, let’s say it is only a few dozen scout Borg. Stormtroopers try to repulse them, and 2 Borg are killed before they adapt and become quite invulnerable. The Death Star predictably uses the superlaser to destroy the Borg Cube, which doesn’t have a chance to adapt because it is all over in one shot. Only a few components of the cube survive re-entry as they scatter and fall on the nearby forest moon; all the Borg humanoids are dead. All? Not quite: There are still a few dozen (-2) Borg on the Death Star. Those few dozen quickly begin Assimilating the Death Star and it’s crew. Because the Death Star is so huge, it takes a LONG time, but the Imperials are not known for the innovative tactics required to stop the onslaught. The battle lasts for months, but it is unstoppable. The Borg grows exponentially, despite reinforcements….

And Nyk goes on from there.

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, MT Davis, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Alan Baumler, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 9/22/17 How Can You Tell If An Elephant Has Been On Your Scroll? By The Footprints On The Pixels

(1) EBOOKS FOR HURRICANE RELIEF. Fireside Fiction has teamed up with other small presses, authors, and editors to offer e-books to raise money for hurricane relief through the Hurricane Relief Bookstore.

Fireside Fiction Company has put together the Hurricane Relief Bookstore to raise funds for disaster relief and rebuilding for Houston, the Caribbean, and Florida.

100% of profits from sales on this store will go toward the following three relief organizations:

• For Houston: Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund

• For the Caribbean: Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Fund

• For Florida: ShelterBox

The ebooks on this store are intentionally priced high—the more money we raise, the better. If you want to increase your donations, simply increase the quantities in your shopping cart before checking out.

Each ebook consists of a Zip file that includes a Mobi file for your Kindle and an Epub file for iBooks, Nook, Kobo, or any other reader (some publishers also include a PDF file). All files are DRM-free (because come on, it’s 2017).

(2) THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS SATURN. E.R. Ellsworth presents the bittersweet “Lost Letters From Cassini” on Medium.

January 1st, 2001

My Dearest Geneviève:

I hope this missive finds you well. As far as my travels have taken me, you remain ever in my thoughts.

Huygens and I celebrated the new year with the majestic visage of Jupiter full in our sights. I’m enclosing several photographs of that celestial marvel for you and the kids to enjoy. I am no Ansel Adams, however, and I fear my skills with the lens cannot capture the true beauty of this place.

Yours always,

Cassini

(3) ABOVE AND BEYOND. It is the nature of we humans to be more interested in someone’s opinion of Amazon Author Rankings if he or she happens to be speaking from the top of the pile. Take John Scalzi, for example.

Yesterday nine of my novels were on sale for $2.99 in ebook format, across a bunch of different retailers, but most prominently on Amazon, because, well, Amazon. Amazon has a number of different ways to make authors feel competitive and neurotic, one of which is its “Amazon Author Rank,” which tells you where you fit in the grand hierarchy of authors on Amazon, based (to some extent) on sales and/or downloads via Amazon’s subscription reading service. And yesterday, I got to the top of it — #1 in the category of science fiction and fantasy, and was #4 overall, behind JK Rowling and two dudes who co-write business books. Yes, I was (and am still! At this writing!) among the elite of the elite in the Amazon Author Ranks, surveying my realm as unto a god.

And now, thoughts! …

  1. This opacity works for Amazon because it keeps authors engaged, watching their Amazon Author Rankings go up and down, and getting little spikes or little stabs as their rankings bounce around. I mean, hell, I think it’s neat to have a high ranking, and I know it’s basically nonsense! But I do think it’s important for authors to remember not to get too invested in the rankings because a) if you don’t know how it works, you don’t know why you rank as you do, at any particular time, b) it’s foolish to be invested in a ranking whose mechanism is unknown to you, c) outside of Amazon, the ranking has no relevance.

(4) NEEDS MEANER VILLAIN. Zhaoyun presents “Microreview [book]: Babylon’s Ashes (book six of The Expanse), by James S.A. Corey” at Nerds of a Feather.

…And this is where, in my opinion, Babylon’s Ashes missteps.

It turns out Inaros just isn’t that compelling a villain, and perhaps as a consequence of this, the good guys’ inevitable victory over him isn’t particularly cathartic. In one sense that shouldn’t matter, since of course it’s entirely up to Daniel Abraham and Ty Francks what sort of villain to create, and nothing mandates a “tougher than you can believe” archetype. The problem, as I see it, is that they fell into this narrative trope without having the right sort of villain for it. Inaros is simply a megalomaniac with a flair (sort of) for PR, but his ridiculous behavior and blunders end up alienating many of his erstwhile supporters. This leeches the catharsis right out of the mano y mano confrontation at the end, since in a manner of speaking Inaros has already been beaten, in small ways, numerous times before this….

(5) HOBBIT FORMING. The 80th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit prompted Vann R. Newkirk II to recall when right made might, in “There and Back Again” for The Atlantic.

Modern fantasy and its subgenres, as represented in [George R.R.] Martin’s work, might be positioned as anti-art in relation to Tolkien. In that way, Tolkien still dominates. While the watchword of the day is subversion—twisting tropes, destroying moral absolutes with relativism, and making mockeries of gallantry and heroism—subversion still requires a substrate. So although fantasy creators in all media have devoted most of their energies in the past eight decades to digesting Tolkien, so in turn Tolkien has become part of the fabric of their works. There’s a little Bilbo in Tyrion, a bit of Smaug in Eragon’s dragons, a dash of Aragorn in Shannara’s Shea Ohmsford, and a touch of Gandalf in the wizards of Discworld.

That’s why, on this week’s anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit and of the entrance of Tolkien into the fantasy genre, it’s important to reread and reconsider his works, and his first especially. Although the short and whimsical book is considered lightweight compared to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s still in many ways the best that literature has to offer. Tolkien is first a linguist, and it’s not only his creation of elvish, dwarvish, and orcish languages out of whole cloth that impresses, but also the way he toys with English and illustrates the power of language itself to create. Ever a good author surrogate, Bilbo’s true arms and armor aren’t his trusty half-sword Sting or his mithril shirt, but—as Gollum would find out—his words and riddles.

(6) NOT THE DIRECTOR’S CUT. Matthew Vaughn, director of Kingsman 2, wouldn’t have put the film’s biggest surprise in the damn trailers, he told IGN:

Trailers revealed that Colin Firth’s Harry Hart – who seemed to have died in the course of the first film – would return in the sequel.

Speaking to IGN, Vaughn was forthright about his feelings on that particular promotional choice: “Well, I’m not in charge of marketing. The thinking about that was stupidity, to be blunt.

“I begged the studio not to reveal it. Because it’s the whole driving force of the first act and if you didn’t know that scene it would’ve made the whole audience gasp. So you have to ask the lovely marketing guys because I think their job is to open the movie and don’t really care about the experience of the movie.”

(7) TODAY’S DAY

Hobbit Day

The birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.

 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 22, 1968 — Irwin Allen’s Land of the Giants aired “The Crash,” its first episode.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • September 22, 1971 – Elizabeth Bear

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Was Mark-kitteh surprised to find an sf reference in xkcd? No more than you will be.
  • Nor should anyone be surprised by the sports reference Mike Kennedy found in a comic called In the Bleachers. But its Star Wars component, maybe?

(11) END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. Surely something called “Read For Pixels 2017 (Fall Edition)” needs a mention here?

Read For Pixels 2017 (Fall Edition) raises funds to help end violence against women in collaboration with award-winning bestselling authors.

The Pixel Project‘s “Read For Pixels” 2017 (Fall Edition) campaign features live readings+Q&A Google Hangout sessions with 12 award-winning bestselling authors in support of the cause to end violence against women. Participating authors include Adrian Tchaikovsky, Alafair Burke, Genevieve Valentine, Ilona Andrews, Isaac Marion, Kass Morgan, Ken Liu, Kristen Britain, Paul Tremblay, Sara Raasch, Soman Chainani, and Vicki Pettersson.

These awesome authors have donated exclusive goodies to this special “Read For Pixels” Fall 2017 fundraiser to encourage fans and book lovers to give generously to help tackle VAW. Additional goodies come courtesy of Penguin Random House’s Berkley and Ace/Roc/DAW imprints, acclaimed Fantasy authors Aliette de Bodard, Charles de Lint, Christopher Golden, Dan Wells, Jacqueline Carey, Kendare Blake, Steven Erikson, bestselling mystery/thriller author Karen Rose, and more.

(12) AN ANIMATED GROUP. Crave would like to tell you their picks for “The Top 15 Best Chuck Jones Cartoons Ever” and you may want to know – but I warn you in advance it’s one of those click-through-the-list posts. If you’re not that patient I’ll tell you this much – ranked number one is “Duck Amuck” (1953).

Few filmmakers could ever claim to have brought as much joy into our lives as Charles M. Jones, better known to many as Chuck Jones, who worked for Warner Bros. on their classic Looney Tunes shorts for 30 years. Afterwards, he directed shorts for MGM, co-directed the family classic The Phantom Tollbooth, and also directed one of the best Christmas specials ever produced, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

His career was varied – he won four Oscars, including a lifetime achievement award in 1966 – but Chuck Jones was and still is best known as one of the comic and cinematic geniuses who made Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Pepé Le Pew, Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner the pop culture staples they are today. Along with his team of skilled animators, writers and fellow directors, Chuck Jones brought biting wit and visual wonders to the cartoon medium, and most – if not all – of the cartoons we love today owe him a direct debt of gratitude, in one form or another.

(13) AN APPEAL. A GoFundMe to “Save Rosy’s Inheritance” has been started for his wife by Guy H. Lillian III to fund these legal expenses –

Nita Green, Rose-Marie Lillian’s mother, passed away in April. 2015. Her intent, as stated in her will, was to have her only daughter inherit a logical percentage of her worldly goods. In person she was promised Nita’s collection of original paintings by Frank Kelly Freas, a renowned artist and long-time personal friend of them both. Rose-Marie lived with and cared for her mother and her stepfather for the last two years of her mother’s life. Since Nita’s death, however, she has been denied her inheritance, despite the stated wishes of her mother and an agreement arrived at a legal deposition taken in December, 2016. She has no recourse but to sue.  Though her husband is an attorney, he is licensed only in another state and Rosy’s cause of action is in Florida. All attorneys rightly require retainers before beginning representation and have every right to be paid. Rose-Marie turns to you for help. The retainer required will fall between $5000 and $7500…. Can you help?

(14) ENDOWED CHAIR. PZ Myers contends, “Only a conservative twit would believe he’s entitled to a speaker’s slot at a con”.

By the way, I have a similar example: I was a speaker at Skepticon multiple times. One year they decided they needed new blood, so they invited some other people, instead of me. If I were like Jon Del Arroz, I would have made a big stink over the violation of tradition — they invited me once (actually, a couple of times), so now they must invite me every time. Every year. Over and over. Until attendees are sick of me, and even then they aren’t allowed to stop.

That isn’t the way this works. I approve of diversity in the line-up. I think it’s great that they have enough people with interesting things to say that they can have a different roster of speakers every year. I’m perfectly willing to step aside, especially since it means I can just attend and enjoy the event without having to give a talk.

(15) DOTARD Alan Baumler sees a link between today’s headlines and The Lord of the Rings which he elaborates in “North Korea in the News-Trump is a dotard”.

So what does this tell us? Is the North Korean propaganda apparatus filled with Tolkien fans? Or is their understanding of modern idioms based on an idiosyncratic selection of foreign texts? I would guess that it is the latter, but the former would be cooler and more optimistic.

(16) ANOTHER SERVING OF SERIAL. Our favorite breakthrough author, Camestros Felapton, proves once again why books need maps – to keep the author from losing his place: “McEdifice Returns: I can’t remember which Chapter Number this is”.

…The hyper-specialism of the galactic civilisation has inexorably led to planets that were just-one-thing: the desert planet of Sandy, the lumpy planet of Lumpus, the planet that just looks like Amsterdam all over of Damsterham, and the Sydney Opera House planet of Utzon-Jørn to name but a few. To resist the planetary monoculture creating a fundamental fragility to galactic civilisation, the ruling Galactical Confederation of Galactic Imperial Republics had instigated a controversial “Come on, Every Planet Has to Have at Least Two Things Guys” law, that mandated that every planet had to have at least a pair of signature things….

(17) WATCHMEN. HBO has given a formal pilot green light to and ordered backup scripts for Watchmen, based on the iconic limited comic series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons that had previously been adapted as the 2009 film, Deadline reported. The new project will be Damon Lindelof’s followup to his HBO series The Leftovers. Warner Horizon TV, which also was behind The Leftovers, is the studio as part of Linderlof’s overall deal at Warner Bros. TV.

(18) ALAN MOORE TAKES QUESTIONS. At ComicsBeat, Pádraig Ó Méalóid has posted two sessions of Alan Moore Q&As from 2015 and 2016.

In what may or may not become a long-standing tradition, Alan Moore has answered questions at Christmas set by the members of a Facebook group called The Really Very Serious Alan Moore Scholars’ Group, who are, as the name might suggest, a bunch of people who are interested in his work. At least, Moore answered 25 questions for the group in December 2015, which were later published here on The Beat over four posts towards the end of 2016. Those four posts can be found here:

And I can only apologise for the faux-clickbait titles. At the time I thought they were hilarious. What a difference a year makes…

Anyway, Moore once again answered a number of questions for the group at the end of 2016 and, having allowed the group to savour these on their own, the time has once again come to share them with the wider public. They cover subjects from Food to Fiction, but we’re starting with various aspects of Magic and Art.

Mark Needham: Do you like Tim-Tams, Hob-Nobs, Chocolate Digestives or any other kind of biscuit with your tea?

Alan Moore: These days, I find that my love of biscuits is increasingly abstract and theoretical, like my love for the comic medium, and that much of the actual product I find deeply disappointing on an aesthetic level. While the chocolate malted milk biscuit with the cow on the back is of course a timeless classic and a continuing source of consolation, why oh why has no one yet devised the glaringly obvious dark chocolate malted milk? We have a spacecraft taking close up pictures of Pluto, for God’s sake, and yet a different sort of chocolate on our cow-adorned teatime favourites is apparently too much to ask.

(19) LEGO MOVIE REVIEW. Glen Weldon of NPR sees Lego Ninjago as running in third place in its own genre: “Plastic Less-Than-Fantastic: ‘The LEGO Ninjago Movie'”.

  1. Constantly undercutting the film’s deliberately overblown genre trappings with surprisingly naturalistic dialogue that explicitly questions those trappings? Check.

The film’s stellar supporting cast gets not nearly enough to do — so little that viewers are left to impute the nature of many of the relationships among them. (Nanjiani’s Jay is meant to have a crush on Jacobsen’s Nya, I think? Based on one line?) That’s the bad news, and given the talent on hand, that news … is pretty bad.

But what’s shunting all those very funny actors into the background is the relationship between Franco’s aching-for-connection Lloyd and Theroux’s blithely evil Garmadon. And Theroux — deliberately channeling, he has stated in interviews, Will Arnett — is so fantastic here you almost forgive Garmadon’s hogging of the spotlight. Almost.

Watching him — or, more accurately, listening to him — is when you truly begin to appreciate how much of the load these vocal performances are carrying, how totally the success of a given Lord/Miller LEGO movie lives or dies in the specific execution of that breezy, naturalistic humor.

Because here, just three movies in, the Lord/Miller LEGO genre is showing signs of exhaustion.

(20) NEANDERTHALS GET ANOTHER BOOST. “Did Robert J. Sawyer have a point?” Chip Hitchcock, who sent the link to the BBC’s article “Neanderthal brains ‘grew more slowly'”. The gist of the article is that slow-growing brains were associated with the ‘most advanced species’ (i.e., homo sapiens sapiens); discovery further knocks the idea that Neanderthals were brutes.

A new study shows that Neanderthal brains developed more slowly than ours.

An analysis of a Neanderthal child’s skeleton suggests that its brain was still developing at a time when the brains of modern human children are fully formed.

This is further evidence that this now extinct human was not more brutish and primitive than our species.

The research has been published in the journal Science.

Until now it had been thought that we were the only species whose brains developed relatively slowly. Unlike other apes and more primitive humans, Homo sapiens has an extended period of childhood lasting several years.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, Alan Baumler, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Love, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]