Pixel Scroll 12/21/20 I Saw Mommy Kzin Santa Claus

(1) BAKE AND SHAKE. Fan Dave Rowe, who lives on the Big Island, reassured his friends today:

Last night (Sunday 20th) Halema’uma’u magma chamber caused an eruption at Kilauea Volcano (it’s already stopped), that’s about twenty miles from here, and an hour later there was an earthquake which we experienced.  No damage to us or our home. The lava flow went south-west, well away from us.

(2) PAY THE WRITER, REDUX. Inside the Magic, which specializes in covering Disney properties, quotes a less intransigent response to the unpaid royalty issue raised by Alan Dean Foster, SFWA, and others than the company originally gave:  “More Writers Report Missing Royalty Payments From Disney”.

…Disney initially responded by saying that it purchased the rights of the novels when it acquired the parent properties Lucasfilm and 20th Century and no longer needed to pay royalties. But a Disney spokesman has since come forward, and said, “We are carefully reviewing whether any royalty payments may have been missed as a result of acquisition integration and will take appropriate remedial steps if that is the case.”

While the royalty payments are expected to be a small percentage of Disney’s profits — especially with Lucasfilm’s properties — the more daunting task appears to be calculating how much Disney owes its writers over the past six years. That requires tracking down the sales of every book under every author’s name in every market around the world.

Foster’s agent estimates that he “had made more than $50,000 in royalties on the original Star Wars novelization alone before the checks stopped in 2012.”…

(3) ISS MAS. The stockings were hung by the bulkhead with care. “Starry Night: A History of Celebrating Christmas in Space” at Mental Floss.

…No American had an overlapping space mission with Christmas again until 1996, when John Blaha was on board Russia’s Mir space station. Blaha and the crew received a delivery from the Progress spacecraft, which was full of presents, cards, and food. “It was a shining star, rising toward us at great speed from beneath the horizon,” Blaha later recalled of the Progress. “All of a sudden, the light from the Progress extinguished as we passed into the shade of the Earth. Five seconds later, four lights on the Progress were turned on. I watched the remainder of the rendezvous through a tiny window in the aft end of the Kvant module.”

Opening the packages from Progress, he added, was “like Christmas and your birthday, all rolled together, when you are 5 years old.” What might become routine to Earthbound observers took on a new and special meaning in the vastness of space.

(4) DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY. Cliff sent me the link to “Goodreads’ 200 Most Difficult Novels”. I’m no fan of difficult novels, which accounts for my score of 13 read. In contrast, Cliff scored 45/200. But should any Neil Gaiman novel be on a “most difficult” list, let alone half a dozen of them? It’s also not clear what Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time is doing on a list of novels although I shouldn’t complain, since I got a point for reading it.

(5) ET BLOWN HOME. [Item by James Davis Nicoll.] From a paper at arXiv.org: Model suggests absence of ET is one part we’re late to the party, one part we’re in the wrong neighborhood, and one part most technological species kill themselves off comparatively quickly. “A Statistical Estimation of the Occurrence of Extraterrestrial Intelligence in the Milky Way Galaxy”.

In the field of Astrobiology, the precise location, prevalence and age of potential extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) have not been explicitly explored. Here, we address these inquiries using an empirical galactic simulation model to analyze the spatial-temporal variations and the prevalence of potential ETI within the Galaxy. This model estimates the occurrence of ETI, providing guidance on where to look for intelligent life in the Search for ETI (SETI) with a set of criteria, including well-established astrophysical properties of the Milky Way. Further, typically overlooked factors such as the process of abiogenesis, different evolutionary timescales and potential self-annihilation are incorporated to explore the growth propensity of ETI. We examine three major parameters: 1) the likelihood rate of abiogenesis ({\lambda}A); 2) evolutionary timescales (Tevo); and 3) probability of self-annihilation of complex life (Pann). We found Pann to be the most influential parameter determining the quantity and age of galactic intelligent life. Our model simulation also identified a peak location for ETI at an annular region approximately 4 kpc from the Galactic center around 8 billion years (Gyrs), with complex life decreasing temporally and spatially from the peak point, asserting a high likelihood of intelligent life in the galactic inner disk. The simulated age distributions also suggest that most of the intelligent life in our galaxy are young, thus making observation or detection difficult.

(6) GILER OBIT. David Giler, who won a Hugo as the producer of Aliens, died on October 19 in Bangkok, from cancer. Deadline recaps his career. These are just a few of his genre credits —

…Giler’s screenwriting credits include The Parallax View (1974), Fun With Dick And Jane (1977) and The Money Pit (1986). He has writing or story credits for both Aliens (1986) and Aliens 3 (1992), and was a producer of the original Alien (1979) and its seven sequels, up to 2017’s Alien: Covenant (though his and Hill’s involvement lessened in the later sequels).

…In television, Giler wrote scripts for ’60s series Burke’s Law, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. In 1970, at 25 years old, Giler took on Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckinridge, his battles with director Michael Sarne becoming nearly as infamous as the legendary Raquel Welch-Rex Reed flop itself. One significant outlier: Vidal himself, who praised Giler’s original draft and became a lifelong friend….

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 21, 1937 –On this day 83 years ago, Walt Disney released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, one of the earliest full-length animated films. It premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre in Los Angeles, California. It was the first full-length cel animated feature film and the earliest Disney animated feature film.  It was a critical and commercial success and, with international earnings of more than eight million dollars during its initial release, (compared to its 1.5 million dollar budget), it briefly held the record of highest-grossing sound film at the time.  He took out a mortgage on his house to help finance the film. 

(7b) MEDIA ANNIVESARY.

1958 — At Solacon in South Gate, California, the first Hugo for Outstanding Movie would be awarded. It would go to Richard Matheson for The Incredible Shrinking Man, a Universal Film which had premiered the previous year for which he had written the screenplay based off his novel The Shrinking Man. It had been published by Gold Medal Books / Fawcett two years previously in paperback for thirty five cents. It would be his only Hugo. 

(8) TODAY’S DAY.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 21, 1892 – Dame Rebecca West.  Immortal for Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941; get an edition with her husband’s photos), she wrote us a novel and two shorter stories.  Feminist and idiosyncratic.  (Died 1983) [JH]
  • Born December 21, 1898 – Hubert Rogers.  One of our greatest artists, whom we naturally honored with not one Hugo or Chesley.  Five dozen covers, three hundred interiors.  Here is the Aug 40 Astounding.  Here is the Aug 49.  Here is the Jan 52.  Here is The Man Who Sold the Moon.  Here is an interior for “Children of the Lens”.  See Di Fate’s treatment in Infinite Worlds.  (Died 1982) [JH]
  • December 21, 1929 James Cawthorn. An illustrator, comics artist and writer who worked predominantly with Michael Moorcock. He had met him through their involvement in fandom. They would co-write The Land that Time Forgot film, and he drew “The Sonic Assassins” strip which was based on Hawkwind that ran in Frendz. He also did interior and cover art for a number of publications from the Fifties onwards including (but not limited to) Vector 3New Worlds SFScience Fantasy and Yandro. (Died 2008.) (CE) 
  • December 21, 1937 Jane Fonda, 83. I’m sure everyone here has seen her in Barbarella. Her only other genre appearances are apparently by voice work as Shuriki in the animated Elena of Avalor series, and in the Spirits of the Dead, a 1968 anthology film based on the work of Poe. She was the Contessa Frederique de Metzengerstein in the “Metzengerstein” segment of the film.  (CE) 
  • December 21, 1943 John Nance. Let’s just say he and David Lynch were rather connected. He’s Henry Spencer in Eraserhead, he had a small role as the Harkonnen Captain Iakin Nefud in Dune and he’s Pete Martell in Twin Peaks. He had a supporting role as Paul, a friend of Dennis Hopper’s villain character in Blue Velvet but even I couldn’t stretch that film to be genre adjacent. (Died 1996.) (CE)
  • Born December 21, 1944 – James Sallis, age 76.  For us a novel, a hundred twenty shorter stories, half a dozen poems, a hundred book reviews in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, a stint co-editing New Worlds, two anthologies, Ash of Stars on Samuel Delany; also crime fiction (Grand Prix de Littérature policière, Hammett Award, Bouchercon lifetime achievement award), music including as a teacher and musicologist, translator e.g. Queneau’s Saint Glinglin.  [JH]
  • Born December 21, 1946 – Lenny Bailes, age 74.  San Francisco Bay Area fan, ornament (that’s applause, Lenny) to FAPAOMPASFPA.  Fanzines Ink Gun BluesWhistlestar.  Guest of Honor at Minicon 35.  [JH]
  • December 21, 1948 Samuel L. Jackson,  72. Where to start? Did you know that with his permission, his likeness was used for the Ultimates version of the Nick Fury? It’s a great series btw. He has also played Fury in the Iron ManIron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First AvengerThe AvengersCaptain America: The Winter SoldierAvengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers: Infinity War and showed up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. too! He voiced Lucius Best (a.k.a. Frozone) in the Incredibles franchise, Mace Windu in The Phantom Menace and The Clone Wars, the Afro Samurai character in the anime series of the same name and more other genre work than can be listed here comfortably so go ahead and add your favorite role by him. (CE) 
  • Born December 21, 1963 – Mandy Slater, age 57.  A dozen short stories.  Interviewed Bob Eggleton for Secret City.  Worked on Program Ops (or “Oops”) at candidate-for-best-ever-Worldcon (the 47th) Noreascon 3.  [JH]
  • December 21, 1966 Michelle Hurd, 54. She currently portrays Raffi Musiker in Picard. (I weirdly thought she’d been on Trek before but she hadn’t.) She was in a twenty year old Justice League of America pilot as B.B. DaCosta / Fire, and one-offs in Beyond Belief: Fact or FictionLeap YearsCharmedFlashForward, and Witches of East End. She had recurring roles inAsh vs. Evil Dead as Linda Bates Emery and Daredevil asSamantha Reyes. (CE) 
  • December 21, 1966 Kiefer Sutherland, 54. My he’s been in a lot of genre undertakings! I think that The Lost Boys was his first such of many to come including FlatlinersTwin Peaks: Fire Walk with MeThe Three Musketeers, voice work in Armitage: Poly-MatrixDark City, more voice work in The Land Before Time X: The Great Longneck Migration, Marmaduke and Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn TwilightMirrors, and yes, he’s in the second Flatliners as a new character. (CE)
  • Born December 21, 1982 – Eliza Wheeler, age 38.  Author and illustrator.  Here is Doll Bones.  Here is The Left-Handed Fate.  Here is “Sky Sailing”.  Here is Cornelius the Grudge Keeper.  In this interview after winning the SCBWI (Soc. of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) portfolio-showcase grand prize she shows how she built a picture and includes a few others like this.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brewster Rockit’s idea for a 2020 holiday souvenir makes me think the strip should have ended with someone keeling over and saying, “Rosebud.”

(11) THE BURBANK LETTERS. At Black Gate, Bob Byrne reacquaints fans with Groucho Marx’s “The Casablanca Letters”. (And for a much fuller explanation, consult Snopes.)

I think that Groucho Marx was one of the funniest men who ever lived. And I laugh out loud a the movies he made with his brothers. Well, most of them, anyways. I strongly recommend his book. The Groucho Letters. When word was making the rounds around 1944 that the boys were going to make a movie called A Night in Casablanca, Warner Brothers threatened legal action.…

(12) ALIAS MOOSE AND SQUIRREL. The Smithsonian Magazine explores “How Bullwinkle Taught Kids Sophisticated Political Satire”.

Mr. Chairman, I am against all foreign aid, especially to places like Hawaii and Alaska,” says Senator Fussmussen from the floor of a cartoon Senate in 1962. In the visitors’ gallery, Russian agents Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale are deciding whether to use their secret “Goof Gas” gun to turn the Congress stupid, as they did to all the rocket scientists and professors in the last episode of “Bullwinkle.”

Another senator wants to raise taxes on everyone under the age of 67. He, of course, is 68. Yet a third stands up to demand, “We’ve got to get the government out of government!” The Pottsylvanian spies decide their weapon is unnecessary: Congress is already ignorant, corrupt and feckless.

(13) ONE TO BEAM DOWN. In the Washington Post, Dalvin Brown discusses “immersive technology start-up Blank XR,” which plans to use virtual reality to beam holograms of performers into people’s homes, thanks to a $3500 headset that “projects 3-D images that respond to your voice and gestures” so you can immerse yourself in a concert at home. “BLANK XR has plans for mixed-reality concert platform”.

…Live-streaming performances and music downloads brought in some revenue, but those experiences aren’t as captivating or money-generating as in-person concerts. That’s where innovative tech offerings like holograms and personalized digital concerts fit in, according to Denise White, CEO of BLANK XR and former director of direct-to-consumer technologies at the Walt Disney Company.

“From our point of view, the new normal is holographic,” White said. “What that will enable you to do is put on a headset and actually have a conversation with your favorite artists.”

Digitizing musicians and capturing their likeness involves a two-step process…

(14) SOME RARE GOOD NEWS. And are you ready to hear it? “Holiday Special with Dwayne Johnson: Some Good News with John Krasinski”.

John Krasinski highlights some good news around the world, including weather from George Clooney, a message from Justin Timberlake, and John’s friend Dwanta Claus, aka Dwayne Johnson, joins to spread some holiday cheer for the end of 2020.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George, in “TENET Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, says that TENET “is so confusing and hard to hear that people will have to see it several times” to figure out what the film is all about.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Trey Palmer, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Stephen H Silver, Rich Lynch, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/8/20 Who’s Going To Sing If You Don’t Have Emperors?

(1) PRESCIENT PANDEMIC PROSE PRAISED. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In a thoughtful and in-depth piece about plague-related fiction, Joelle Renstrom (@couldthishappen) of Slate Magazine explores how Connie Willis’ 1992 Hugo Winner Doomsday Book seems particularly relevant in 2020. “Doomsday Book, the 1992 time-travel novel that sheds light on today’s pandemic”.

Doomsday Book—whose name is a nod to the Domesday Book, a 1086 survey commissioned by William the Conqueror—features two protagonists who try to stop the spread of deadly contagions 700 years apart. In the 2054 timeline of Doomsday Book, there are no cellphones, but thanks to a complex machine called the “net,” time travel exists. The net prevents time travelers from altering history, so its main use is for historians conducting research. In Oxford, England, history professor Dunworthy sends an undergraduate researcher back in time to what he thinks is 1320. Afterward, the time travel device technician who helped send the student back in time falls seriously ill with an unknown virus. The very night he is hospitalized, public health workers begin tracking down his primary and secondary contacts and researchers begin sequencing the virus. In this future, there are governmental and scientific systems in place to respond rapidly to a new contagion. Indeed, that’s the easier part. Willis underscores a poignant truth, particularly for contemporary readers:  A pandemic’s true toll is determined not by doctors and politicians, but by everyone else.

(2) IMAGINING LIFE ON OTHER WORLDS. Alien Worlds Season 1 is streaming on Netflix.

Applying the laws of life on Earth to the rest of the galaxy, this series blends science fact and fiction to imagine alien life on other planets.

(3) VOTER FAVORITE. Congratulations to Mikki Kendall whose Hood Feminism placed second in the Best Nonfiction category of the 2020 Goodreads Choice Awards.

(4) FANS SKEPTICAL ABOUT FUNDRAISING FOR TOLKIEN HOUSE. The UK’s Tolkien Society says they don’t support the Project Northmoor charity which is raising money to buy J.R.R. Tolkien’s Oxford house. The Society’s “Statement on Project Northmoor” lists concerns —

…As a leading Tolkien organisation, the Trustees considered whether Project Northmoor would help achieve the Society’s objective to educate the public in, and promote research into, the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien. The Trustees unanimously concluded that it did not.

The Trustees’ specific concerns include that:

  • Project Northmoor’s two-page plan lacked sufficient detail;
  • No prominent members of the Tolkien community – be they writers, academics, artists etc – are directors of the company, or are named as running the project;
  • This would not be a museum and would not be open to the public;
  • Project Northmoor’s primary intention appears to be to run creative workshops, rather than educational programmes about Tolkien;
  • Project Northmoor’s plan includes spiritual retreats, which falls outside the scope of the Society’s objective;
  • Their business model includes running a bed and breakfast, with a full-time resident warden;
  • The property itself is a listed building in a conservation area – with a blue plaque proudly showing its connection to Tolkien – meaning the property is well protected under the law and not in need of rescue;
  • The relationship between the US and UK organisations appeared unclear; and
  • As a new organisation – Project Northmoor having only existed for a month – it is difficult to assess their ability, capability, and capacity to deliver the project successfully.

The Trustees wanted to provide this transparency of their conversation for the benefit of the Tolkien community. The Trustees – as is their legal duty under the law in England and Wales – were considering the best interests of the charity and whether it achieved the charity’s objective. For the above reasons they felt it did not.

(5) 55 YEARS AGO THIS WEEK. Mx. Kris Vyas-Myall helps Galactic Journey readers navigate the New Wave: [DECEMBER 4, 1965] A SIGN OF THE TIMES (MICHAEL MOORCOCK’S BOOKS OF 1965).

Across Britain, there has been a recent explosion of road signage. These are designed to establish safer traffic rules and to give people direction on how to use the area who would otherwise be unfamiliar. The one flaw with this is most people are confused as to what they mean….

Pedestrians do not fare much better. Only a small fraction knew that a white bar on a red circle means no entry, with many believing it meant something different, such as a pedestrian crossing.

This responses to the signage is similar to the relationship between science fiction readers and the new wave. For some they are stories full of meaningless symbols that go nowhere, for others it is an essential step in moving science fiction forward. And right at the centre of the new wave is Michael Moorcock.

In spite of being only 25 years old, Moorcock is one of the core figures in British science fiction. He previously edited both Tarzan Adventures and The Sexton Blake Library before taking over New Worlds magazine last year. For the last 5 years he has been a regular contributor to Carnell’s trio of magazines and has published books before such as The Stealer of Souls.

(6) ESSENCE OF WONDER. “For the Love of litRPG” is the theme of this week’s Essence of Wonder With Gadi Evron. Scheduled for Saturday, December 12 at 3 p.m. Eastern. Register at the link.

For an episode celebrating litRPG, a hugely successful genre ruled by indie authors, joining Gadi and Karen will be Shemer Kuznits, Avi Freedman, John Dodd, Avril Sabine, and Storm Petersen.

From what makes litRPG tick and our favorite authors, to the weird tropes hidden within, we fully intend to geek out.

(7) #DISNEYMUSTPAY. YouTuber Daniel Greene interviewed Alan Dean Foster and Mary Robinette Kowal about the #DisneyMustPay issue. Some interesting updates, including SFWA President Kowal confirming that Alan Dean Foster is not the only author affected. 

(8) YEAGER OBIT. Aviator Chuck Yeager (1923-2020) died December 7. The LA Times profiled the first man to break the sound barrier.

Chuck Yeager

After test pilot Chuck Yeager became the first man to break the sound barrier, he confessed to the highly un-Yeager-like emotion of fear.

“I was scared,” he wrote in a memoir, “knowing that many of my colleagues thought I was doomed to be blasted to pieces by an invisible brick wall in the sky. But I noticed that the faster I got, the smoother the ride. Suddenly, the Mach needle began to fluctuate, then tipped right off the scale.”

For 18 seconds on Oct. 14, 1947, Yeager was supersonic — a feeling he later likened to “a poke through Jell-O.” The achievement made Yeager an aeronautic legend — “the foremost in the Olympus,” according to author Tom Wolfe, “the most righteous of all the possessors of the right stuff.”…

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine issued a statement that concludes: “His path blazed a trail for anyone who wanted to push the limits of human potential, and his achievements will guide us for generations to come.”

(9) WALTER HOOPER OBIT. Walter Hooper (1931-2020). a literary advisor of the estate of C.S. Lewis, died December 7 of COVID-19. He served briefly in 1963 as C.S. Lewis’s private secretary prior to Lewis’s death, and became a custodian of Lewis papers and editor of his works. Joseph Loconte profiled him for National Review: “Remembering Walter Hooper: C.S. Lewis Expert Brought Author’s Work to World”.

…Hooper never tired of drawing attention to Lewis’s talent for making Christian thought persuasive to the layman. In his encyclopedic book C.S. Lewis: Companion and Guide, Hooper relates how Lewis gained national attention for his BBC broadcasts defending Christianity during World War II, receiving many speaking invitations. He engaged with fellow dons, members of the Royal Air Force, factory workers, and university students. “It was partly due to this varied experience,” Hooper writes, “that he came to see why the professional theologians could not make Christianity understandable to most people.” In the Protestant tradition to which he belonged (the Anglican Church), Lewis combined reason and imagination to translate the gospel into terms everyone could grasp.

“At times it embarrassed me, when Lewis was talking about God, that I hardly believed in the same way that he did,” Hooper told me. In this case, admiration generated a lifelong calling: What Christopher Tolkien achieved in excavating the work of his famous father, Walter Hooper accomplished for C.S. Lewis. At a recent conference in Slovakia, Hooper was asked to explain why he invested so much of his life quietly serving someone else’s legacy. He did not hesitate in answering: “I said, ‘It’s been wonderful. I wish to God I could do it all again.’”

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • In 1982, Shadows of Sanctuary, the third Thieves’ World as edited by Robert Lynn Asprin, and published by Ace Books, wins the Balrog Award. It was not the first nominated as both Thieves’ World, the first anthology, and Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn, the second anthology, were also nominated. The Balrogs which were given out from 1979 to 1985  were created by editor Jonathan Bacon in Issue #15 of Fantasy Crossroads and first presented at the Fool-Con II convention on April Fool’s Day, 1979.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 8, 1861 Georges Méliès. Best known as a film director for A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune) which he said was influenced by sources including Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon. (Died 1938.) (CE) 
  • Born December 8, 1894 – James Thurber.  The 13 ClocksThe Wonderful OThe White Deer are fantasy, supposedly but not necessarily for children.  The Last Flower seems to be science fiction.  What are we to make of his seventy-five “Fables for Our Time” – are they fantasy?  “The Rabbits Who Caused All the Trouble”?  “The Owl Who Was God”?  In “The Unicorn in the Garden” there really is a unicorn but denying it is wiser.  “If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox” is a spoof of alternative history.  What of his cartoons?   In any event, his particular subtle, almost sour humor excels. (Died 1961) [JH]
  • Born December 8, 1894 E. C Segar. Best known as the creator of Popeye who first appeared in 1929 in Segar’s comic strip Thimble Theatre. Popeye’s first line in the strip, upon being asked if he was a sailor, was “Ja think I’m a cowboy?” J. Wellington Wimpy was another character in this strip that I’m fond of. (Died 1938.)  (CE) 
  • Born December 8, 1917 – James Taurasi.  A founder of fandom.  Attended the 1938 Philadelphia Conference.  One of the “triumvirate” (with Moskowitz and Sykora) who produced Nycon I the first Worldcon.  Ran “Fandom’s Corner” in Super Science Stories.  His Fantasy Times, later Science Fiction Times, won the 1955 & 1957 Best-Fanzine Hugo.  Big Heart (our highest service award). (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born December 8, 1930 – John Morressy.  A score of novels, eighty shorter stories, some dark, some light-hearted.  In fantasy, Kedrigern is a reluctant wizard first shown as an adult, then prequels of his youth.  In science fiction, Nail Down the Stars and two more paint the same interstellar intrigue from three viewpoints while none sees the whole.  Professor of English at Franklin Pierce College.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born December 8, 1939 Jennie Linden, 81. She’s here for being Barbara in Dr. Who and the Daleks, the 1965 non-canon film. Her next genre forays were both horror comedies, she was in A Severed Head as Georgie Hands, and she’d later be in Vampira as Angela. She’d show up in Sherlock Holmes and The Saint as well. (CE)
  • Born December 8, 1950 Rick Baker, 70. Baker won the Academy Award for Best Makeup a record seven times from a record eleven nominations, beginning when he won the first award given for An American Werewolf in London.  So what else is he known for? Oh, I’m not listing everything but his first was The Thing with Two Heads and I’ll single out The ExorcistStar WarsThe Howling which I quite love, Starman for the Starman transformation, Beast design on the Beauty and the Beast series and the first Hellboy film version. (CE)
  • Born December 8, 1951 Brian Attebery, 69. If I was putting together a library of reference works right now, Attebery would be high on the list of authors at the center of my shopping list. I think The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature: From Irving to Le Guin is still essential reading and Parabolas of Science Fiction with Veronica Hollinger is very close to a Grand Unification Theory of the Genre. (CE) 
  • Born December 8, 1954 Rebecca Neason. She wrote a Next Generation novel, Guises of The Mind,  plus several Highlander novels, and two fantasy novels; her widower says one novel went unpublished. She was a regular panelist at conventions in the Pacific Northwest. Jim Fiscus has a remembrance here. (Died 2010.) (CE) 
  • Born December 8, 1964 – Genevieve Graham, age 56.  First studied to be an oboe player; began writing after age 40.  Now devoted to Canadian historical fiction.  Two novels for us, four others.  Has read Charlotte’s WebHuckleberry FinnNineteen Eighty-Four.  [JH]
  • Born December 8, 1966 – Anthony Lewis, age 54.  Illustrator.  Three hundred children’s books; also advertising, design & editorial.  Here are the cover and two interiors for The Owl Tree.  Here are the cover and two interiors for Why Do Stars Come Out at Night?  Here is an interior for Why I Can’t See the Wind.  Here is his image for Follow the Reader posters, bags, bookmarks.  [JH]
  • Born December 8, 1982 – Elizabeth Miles, age 38.  Three novels, six covers.  Here is one, Moon Window.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) MONOLITHS PROLIFERATING. Birds do it. Bees do it. Even men with stainless steel do it: “California Men Declare Themselves Makers of Pine Mountain Monolith” says the New York Times. And there are two other new ones.

For the first time, someone has taken credit for erecting one of the monoliths that have popped up in the last few weeks, riveting the world.

A group of four artists and fabricators unveiled themselves on Saturday as the creators of the stainless-steel curiosity that was placed atop Pine Mountain in Atascadero, Calif., on Tuesday — and shared a YouTube video of a newly made replacement going up after some young men unceremoniously toppled the original and put a cross in its spot, livestreaming themselves in the process.

“We intended for it to be a piece of guerrilla art. But when it was taken down in such a malicious manner, we decided we needed to replace it,” Wade McKenzie, one of the California monolith’s creators, said in an interview Sunday evening.

The news of the origins of the monolith was first reported by the website YourTango.

McKenzie said he built the three-sided steel structure with the help of his friend Travis Kenney, Kenney’s father, Randall, and Jared Riddle, a cousin of Travis Kenney.

Early Friday morning, another shiny steel tower was discovered in downtown Las Vegas under the Fremont Street Experience, a five-block entertainment district in the city’s casino corridor.

And yet another was found Saturday morning in Los Padres National Forest by campers at a site about 100 miles southeast of the one in Atascadero, The San Luis Obispo Tribune reported. According to the Tribune, the Los Padres monolith has “Caution” written in red letters at the top and features an image of a U.F.O. The creators of the Atascadero monolith told the news outlet on Sunday that they had not placed the monolith there.

(14) THE ROCKETS OF ‘65. In Episode 42 of the Two Chairs Talking podcast, Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg discuss the fine art of tsundoku and then fire up the Hugo Time Machine yet again to return to the year of 1965, when Fritz Leiber’s “The Wanderer” won Best Novel Hugo. “Life, the Universe, and Everything”.

(15) FROM THE ARCHIVES. See a unique 1997 television production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella on YouTube.

Cinderella (Brandy) chafes under the cruelty of her wicked stepmother (Bernadette Peters) and her evil stepsisters, Calliope (Veanne Cox) and Minerva (Natalie Desselle), until her Fairy Godmother (Whitney Houston) steps in to change her life for one unforgettable night. At the ball, she falls for handsome Prince Christopher (Paolo Montalban), whose parents, King Maximillian (Victor Garber) and Queen Constantina (Whoopi Goldberg), are anxious for him to find a suitable paramour.

(16) WRITING WITH AI. “What’s it like to write a book with an A.I.?” at Slate is an interview with K Allado McDowell.

What is it like to write with GPT-3, the latest language model neural network artificial intelligence system created by Open AI? Clarke Center Assistant Director Patrick Coleman interviewed K Allado McDowell, writer, researcher, and co-author of Pharmako-AI, the first book co-written with GPT-3, for Slate’s Future Tense series. For anyone interested in the nature of artificial intelligence as a model for human intelligence (and imagination) or the use of AI to create art and provoke new lines of thinking, Allado-McDowell’s provocative insights point to new approaches.

(17) SPEAKING OF ROBOTS. Calling Ursula K. Le Guin!

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Epic Rap Battles of History has updated. This time, it’s “Harry Potter vs Luke Skywalker”, done entirely in Lego.

[Thanks to John Hertz, Olav Rokne, Cora Buhlert, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

The #DisneyMustPay Alan Dean Foster and SFWA Joint Press Conference

Cora Buhlert

By Cora Buhlert: After some confusion regarding the start time, the joint Zoom press conference of Alan Dean Foster and SFWA about Disney’s failure to pay royalties due to Mr. Foster, started with a slight delay. Present were Alan Dean Foster, his agent Vaughne Hansen and Mary Robinette Kowal, president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. The moderator was Kitty Kurth.

The press conference began with statements from Alan Dean Foster and Mary Robinette Kowal. Alan Dean Foster phrased his statement as an open letter to Mickey Mouse, while Mary Robinette Kowal talked about the broader implications of the issue. Both statements may be found on the SFWA website. After the statements were read, moderator Kitty Kurth opened the floor to questions from the audience.

Some time ago, Alan Dean Foster noticed that he no longer received either royalties or royalty statements for the novelization of the first Star Wars movie, the Star Wars tie-in novel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye as well as the novelizations of Alien, Aliens and Alien 3.

Alan Dean Foster contacted his agent Vaughne Hansen, who contacted the current publishers of the novels in question. It turned out that the problem was not with the publishers, but with Disney.

When Disney’s legal department kept stonewalling Vaughne Hansen, Alan Dean Foster contacted the SFWA grievance committee, who had no more luck getting a response from Disney. According to Alan Dean Foster, his agent and SFWA have been trying to talk to Disney without success for over a year now. So the matter was escalated to SFWA president Mary Robinette Kowal, who decided to take the unprecedented step to go public with the issue.

In essence, Disney claims that when they purchased Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox, they purchased the rights to the five novels in question, but not the obligation to pay Alan Dean Foster the royalties he is entitled to.

Mary Robinette Kowal stated that according to US contract law, when a company is bought or merged, both rights and obligations are transferred to the legal successor of the original company. Vaughne Hansen confirmed that the original contract for the Alien novelisations also includes a clause stating that rights and obligations are transferred to the legal successor in case of a buyout or merger. No word on the two Star Wars novels, but it would be very unusual, if the contract did not contain a transference of rights and obligations clause.

In my day job as a translator, I see a lot of contracts and can confirm that every contract contains a clause regarding the transferences of rights and obligations in case of a buyout or merger. This is very much a legal and business standard.

Vaughne Hansen stated that the problem is not with the contracts, but with Disney. Mary Robinette Kowal also pointed out that Disney’s behaviour sets a dangerous precedent with potentially huge consequences for all creatives. Mary Robinette Kowal also implored any writers who have experienced similar issues with Disney or any other company to contact SFWA via this form on their website.

Alan Dean Foster’s experience does not seem to be an isolated incident, because during the Q&A part of the press conference Steve Davidson reported experiencing a similar issues regarding the trademark to Amazing Stories, which he holds, and the eponymous Apple TV series. Michael Capobianco also expressed concerns regarding the novelisation of Alien Resurrection, which his late wife A.C. Crispin wrote.

Mary Robinette Kowal once more stressed that SFWA and Alan Dean Foster’s representatives want to talk to Disney to find a solution to the problem and that they only decided to go public, because they could not get a reply from Disney. Mary Robinette Kowal also stated that whether the contracts in question continue or are cancelled, Disney must pay the outstanding royalties to Alan Dean Foster.     


Here are the statements by Mary Robinette Kowal and Alan Dean Foster posted at the SFWA Blog:

#DisneyMustPay Alan Dean Foster

A message from SFWA’s President, Mary Robinette Kowal:

Last year, a member came to SFWA’s Grievance Committee with a problem, which on the surface sounds simple and resolvable. He had written novels and was not being paid the royalties that were specified in his contract. The Grievance Committee is designed to resolve contract disputes like this. As part of our negotiating toolbox, we guarantee anonymity for both the writer and the publisher if the grievance is resolved.

When it is working, as president, I never hear from them.

When talks break down, the president of SFWA is asked to step in. We do this for any member.

In this case, the member is Alan Dean Foster. The publisher is Disney.

Here are his words.

Dear Mickey,

We have a lot in common, you and I.  We share a birthday: November 18.  My dad’s nickname was Mickey.  There’s more.

When you purchased Lucasfilm you acquired the rights to some books I wrote.  STAR WARS, the novelization of the very first film.  SPLINTER OF THE MIND’S EYE, the first sequel novel.  You owe me royalties on these books.  You stopped paying them.

When you purchased 20th Century Fox, you eventually acquired the rights to other books I had written.  The novelizations of ALIEN, ALIENS, and ALIEN 3.  You’ve never paid royalties on any of these, or even issued royalty statements for them.

All these books are all still very much in print.  They still earn money.  For you.  When one company buys another, they acquire its liabilities as well as its assets.  You’re certainly reaping the benefits of the assets.  I’d very much like my miniscule (though it’s not small to me) share.

You want me to sign an NDA (Non-disclosure agreement) before even talking.  I’ve signed a lot of NDAs in my 50-year career.  Never once did anyone ever ask me to sign one prior to negotiations.  For the obvious reason that once you sign, you can no longer talk about the matter at hand.  Every one of my representatives in this matter, with many, many decades of experience in such business, echo my bewilderment.

You continue to ignore requests from my agents.  You continue to ignore queries from SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.  You continue to ignore my legal representatives.  I know this is what gargantuan corporations often do.  Ignore requests and inquiries hoping the petitioner will simply go away.  Or possibly die.  But I’m still here, and I am still entitled to what you owe me.  Including not to be ignored, just because I’m only one lone writer.  How many other writers and artists out there are you similarly ignoring?

My wife has serious medical issues and in 2016 I was diagnosed with an advanced form of cancer.  We could use the money.  Not charity: just what I’m owed.  I’ve always loved Disney.  The films, the parks, growing up with the Disneyland TV show.  I don’t think Unca Walt would approve of how you are currently treating me.  Maybe someone in the right position just hasn’t received the word, though after all these months of ignored requests and queries, that’s hard to countenance.  Or as a guy named Bob Iger said….

“The way you do anything is the way you do everything.”

I’m not feeling it.

Alan Dean Foster

Prescott, AZ

Alan Dean Foster

Mary Robinette Kowal adds:

In my decade with the organization, the fact that we are forced to present this publicly is unprecedented. So too, are the problems. The simple problem is that we have a writer who is not being paid.

The larger problem has the potential to affect every writer. Disney’s argument is that they have purchased the rights but not the obligations of the contract. In other words, they believe they have the right to publish work, but are not obligated to pay the writer no matter what the contract says. If we let this stand, it could set precedent to fundamentally alter the way copyright and contracts operate in the United States. All a publisher would have to do to break a contract would be to sell it to a sibling company.

If they are doing this to Alan Dean Foster, one of the great science fiction writers of our time, then what are they doing to the younger writers who do not know that a contract is a contract?

To resolve the immediate issue regarding their breach of contract with Alan Dean Foster, Disney has three choices:

Pay Alan Dean Foster all back royalties as well as any future royalties.

Publication ceases until new contract(s) are signed, and pay all back royalties to Alan Dean Foster as well as any future royalties.

Publication ceases and pay all back royalties to Alan Dean Foster.

This starts with a conversation. You have our contact information and offer to sit down with a Disney representative, Alan’s agent Vaughne Lee Hansen, and a SFWA representative.

Regardless of choice, Disney must pay Alan Dean Foster.

If you’re a fan of Alan Dean Foster or believe that a writer’s work has value, please let Disney know.

If you are a writer experiencing similar problems with Disney or another company, please report your circumstances to us here.

#DearMickey #DisneyMustPay

#DisneyMustPay Alan Dean Foster

SFWA and Alan Dean Foster will hold a joint press conference on November 18 about unpaid royalties Disney owes the author.

Famed science fiction and fantasy writer Alan Dean Foster, writer of multiple book series, numerous novelizations of film scripts and more than 20 novels, will hold a joint press conference with Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America on Wednesday, November 18 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern/1:00 p.m. Central/ 11:00 a.m. Pacific. Foster and SFWA will discuss the non-payment by Disney of several contracts for works including multiple Star Wars and Aliens novelizations. 

Foster was originally contracted to write the Alien novelizations by Titan Books, and the Star Wars novelizations by Lucasfilms. Both companies regularly paid his royalties. When The Walt Disney Company acquired the rights to these novelizations in 2015, the payments stopped although the books continue to be sold. Disney continues to get money for the books. Alan Dean Foster, and possibly other authors with similar contracts, have not been paid.

Foster and SFWA will discuss the fact the contracts are contracts and that Disney must pay this author and any author to whom they owe royalty checks.  

The press conference will be available via Zoom Zoom (register at link).

The press conference will also be available on the SFWA Facebook page.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 5/6/17 And He Called For His Pipe, And He Called For His Scroll, And He Called For His Pixels, Three.

(1) DUALING. Sherwood Smith discusses “Tremontaine: When Collaboration Really Works” at Book View Café.

Nowadays, collaborations are happening in all kinds of forms, in print form in our genre not just the traditional pair of co-authors: there was a rise of senior writer-and-junior writer combos, and the continued series.

Then there are the collaborations that share a lot in common with film development, in which writers gather (in film it’s the writers’ room) and hammer out a story between them all.

Then they either go off separately and write portions, or they pass material back and forth, each adding or subtracting or putting their own spin on the emerging narrative.

The most successful of these that has come to my attention lately is Tremontaine, which initially came out in episodes from Serial Box.

Serial Box in itself is interesting: they are using a TV model for readers. The episodes come out weekly, and I believe most if not all are developed by teams. The episodes individually are cheap—less than you’d spend on a Starbucks coffee….

(2) UP ABOVE THE BEAR SO HIGH. Jeff VanderMeer may inspire a new subgenre of sff with the great reception being given to his new novel Borne:

Wow. In Canada, the #1 hardcover bestseller in Calgary for the week is Borne. Thanks, Calgary. You must really love giant psychotic flying bears. (Borne was #5 in Canada overall, across all 260 indie bookstores that report in.)

(3) STAR TREKKIN’. Visit the edge of space with Captain Kirk. Space.com tells how — “‘Star Trek’ Icon William Shatner to Take Zero-G Flight in August”.

This August, William Shatner will get closer to the final frontier than he ever did in his “Star Trek” days.

The 86-year-old actor, who famously portrayed Captain James T. Kirk in the original “Star Trek” TV series and a number of movies, has signed up for an Aug. 4 flight with the Zero Gravity Corporation (Zero-G). The Virginia-based company sells rides on its modified Boeing 727 aircraft G-Force One, which flies in a series of parabolic arcs to give passengers brief tastes of weightlessness.

“Going weightless will turn a dream into reality,” Shatner said in a statement. “I’ve always wondered what it would be like to actually explore the final frontier, and now I have the opportunity to experience zero gravity firsthand. It will be an incredible adventure.”

You have a chance to share this adventure with Shatner, if you wish: Zero-G is selling a limited number of tickets aboard the actor’s flight for $9,950 apiece, plus 5 percent tax. (For perspective: a seat aboard a normal Zero-G flight runs $4,950, plus 5 percent tax.) Go to Zero-G’s website if you’re interested.

(4) TOURING CHINA. China Miéville is coming to the U.S. later this month on a book tour promoting October: The Story of the Russian Revolution, which is non-fiction.

(5) COMING ATTRACTION. Teaser poster for the FORUM FANTÁSTICO convention taking place in Lisbon, Portugal this September.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

In The Big Bang Theory series Wil Wheaton is a recurring character. In one episode, Sheldon goes to Wil’s house to confront him. The house number is 1701…a homage to the USS Enterprise.

John King Tarpinian adds, “Something even more trivial got me thinking: ‘A homage or an homage?’

(7) TODAY’S DAY

Free Comic Book Day

History of Free Comic Book Day Free Comic Book day was established by Joe Field in 2001. While writing for a magazine of the comic industry, he noted that there had been a resurgence in purchases in the wake of the recent flow of comic book franchise movies. Society and finances were both looking favorably on this unending wealth of stories, and so it was that he suggested the institution of a Free Comic Book Day to spread the fandom as wide as possible.

(8) FUR AND FEATHERS. Special effects aficionados will love the preview reel for the upcoming SIGGRAPH conference.

SIGGRAPH 2017 brings together thousands of computer graphics professionals, 30 July – 3 August 2017 in Los Angeles, California, USA.

 

(9) A FEATURE NOT A BUG. Dragonfly cyborgs will fight terrorism reports Fox News — “How insect cyborgs could battle terrorism”.

The US military, like others around the world, has long pursued tiny flying robots to deploy for surveillance. Armed with tech like cameras and sensors, these flying robots could gather data that larger technology or humans could not.

To be useful in realistic conditions, the drones would need to be able to fly for long periods of time and be able to navigate around obstacles. They also need to be able to carry the weight of the data gathering systems.

(10) THE WORLD ON A STRING. If you like expensive toys, here’s a chance to pay a lot for “Yomega – Star Wars – Darth Vader – The Glide Yo-Yo” – tagged at $118.25.

  • Now available for a limited time, Yomega has produced its professional level yo yo, The Glide, in a collectible Star Wars Series with laser etching of Darth Vader and both Rebel and Imperial symbols.
  • The Glide has been engineered to the highest competition level standards. Machined from airplane grade aluminum, with a silicone pad return system and the world famous Dif-e-Yo KonKave bearing, this is a yo-yo meant for the most discerning player.
  • If you want the “Force to be With You” this is a must have piece for your collection.

Or for the same price you can rock the rebel logo — “Yomega – Star Wars -Rebel Symbol – Glide Yo-Yo”.

(11) GETTING PAID. Someone who should be able to buy as many yo-yos as he wants is Alan Dean Foster – Inverse recalls how “How George Lucas Made a Young, Anonymous Author Rich”. (And as Foster explains in the story, it’s something Lucas didn’t have to do.)

Alan Dean Foster, the author of the very first Star Wars book, remembers George Lucas doing him a huge solid, even when the fledgling director wasn’t rich.

The original Star Wars was released on May 25, 1977, and a full six months before that, on November 12, 1976, its novelization hit bookstore shelves. Though the author of the book — Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker — is listed under George Lucas’s byline, the novelization was in fact ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster.

(12) THIS BOX OFFICE WEEKEND IN HISTORY

Directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire in the title role, the eagerly awaited comic book adaptation Spider-Man was released on Friday, May 3, 2002, and quickly became the fastest movie ever to earn more than $100 million at the box office, raking in a staggering $114.8 million by Sunday, May 5.

(13) BRADBURYVERSARY. Seventy years ago this week, recalls Phil Nichols, Ray Bradbury’s first book was published.

DARK CARNIVAL, a hardcover from Arkham House, collected Ray’s finest dark fantasy stories, most of them having previously been published in WEIRD TALES magazine.

Some of the classic story titles you may recognize: The Lake, The Small Assassin, The Jar, The Homecoming, The Crowd, The Scythe, There Was An Old Woman, Uncle Einar. Some of his best-ever fiction; and some of the best fantasy fiction of the twentieth-century.

Ray revised some of the stories between their WEIRD TALES appearances and their first book appearance. Then, with the passing years, he came to have second thoughts about some of the stories, and so he re-wrote them again when they were re-packaged for a new book, THE OCTOBER COUNTRY. The OCTOBER COUNTRY remains in print to this day.

Because of THE OCTOBER COUNTRY, Ray allowed DARK CARNIVAL to retire, and only once permitted a re-printing. That was for a special limited edition from Gauntlet Press. Both the original book and the Gauntlet edition are out of print today….

(14) BRICK AND MORTAR. Atlas Obscura takes you inside “Internet Archive Headquarters” in San Francisco.

With the stated mission of providing “universal access to all knowledge,” the Internet Archive is one of history’s most ambitious cataloging projects. So far millions of books, movies, television, music, software, and video games have been collected and digitized by the project, and that’s not counting the billions of websites they’ve been archiving over the past two decades with the Wayback Machine.

Fitting of such an ambitious project, the archive’s brick-and-mortar headquarters are also quite grand. The old Christian Scientist church in San Francisco’s Richmond district was chosen largely because the church’s front resembled the Internet Archive’s logo: the Library of Alexandria’s Greek columns. Inside the beautiful building you’ll find dozens of employees and volunteers digitizing everything from old home movies, to old LPs, to 8-bit video games….

(15) THUMBS DOWN ON DARK TOWER TRAILER. According to Forbes, “‘The Dark Tower’ Should Be A Surrealist Western, Not A Superhero Blockbuster”.

When I pictured The Dark Tower movie, I thought about the structure and pacing of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly mixed with the tone of The Road with the aesthetics of The Cell. If that sounds wacky, good, because The Dark Tower is wacky as hell. It’s a western with high fantasy elements thrown in, mixed with every book Stephen King has ever written, and actually includes Stephen King as a character himself in one of the most surreal storylines in literary history.

But what I’m seeing from this trailer weirds me out in a bad way….

(16) IN LIVING BLACK & WHITE. Terror Time forewarns — “LOGAN – B&W Version of Film Hitting Theaters In May”.

Fans of Wolverine will be getting an extra treat very soon. A Black & White version of the film ‘Logan’ will be hitting theaters May 19th and it will also be included on the DVD when that hits the shelves. Only down side of this awesomeness is that it will only be released in U.S. theaters.

This all started when the film was first released and a fan tweeted at the director James Mangold asking if a B&W version could be done like Mad Max. The director replied in kind and here we are.

(17) NEIL CLARKE, MOVIE STAR? I’m sure it’s just a coincidence. Watch the Absolutely Anything trailer.

Neil Clarke, a disillusioned school teacher, suddenly finds he has the ability to do anything he wishes, a challenge bestowed upon him by power-crazed aliens. Unbeknownst to Neil, how he employs his newfound powers will dictate the fate of mankind — one wrong move and the aliens will destroy Earth. CAST: Simon Pegg, Kate Beckinsale, Rob Riggle, Robin Williams, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and JohnFromGR for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg Hullender.]

Star Wars Day at MidAmeriCon II

Star Wars posterMidAmeriCon II, the 2016 Worldcon, will celebrate Star Wars with special guests, programming, and exhibits on Friday, August 19.

“Star Wars Day” will take place exactly forty years after the first MidAmeriCon (1976) hosted publicist Charles Lippincott’s presentation to Worldcon members of a slide show promoting Star Wars (now called Star Wars: Episode IV, A New Hope.) This was followed by a Q&A session where Charles was joined by actor Mark Hamill and producer Gary Kurtz. The movie debuted 8 months later, in May 1977.

At this year’s Worldcon, Charles Lippincott and Gary Kurtz will return to talk about the Star Wars phenomenon, along with Alan Dean Foster who ghost wrote the original Star Wars novelization (and more recently, wrote the novelization of Star Wars: The Force Awakens).

Alan Dean Foster at MidAmeriCon (1976).

Alan Dean Foster at MidAmeriCon (1976).

During the afternoon of August 19, Charles, Gary, and Alan will take part in a panel and Q&A session to discuss the marketing of Star Wars. In the evening, Charles will recreate the original MidAmeriCon slide presentation and participate in a further Q&A session. There will also be an opportunity to watch a contemporary video of the original 1976 Q&A session.

These events will provide a unique insight into the way that Star Wars was presented and talked about before it became the worldwide phenomenon we know today.

Charles Lippincott will also be re-creating the associated special exhibit which was presented in 1976 at MidAmeriCon. This will use a combination of reproductions alongside original, contemporary props and other materials associated with the film.

It was inside the original 1976 exhibit that LA fan Bill Warren had a conversation with Mark Hamill and listened to him complain, “I’m the star of a major motion picture only nobody knows it!”

The MAC daily newzine even felt the need to run an item clarifying, “It’s Mark Hamill, not Mike Hamill …”

Pixel Scroll 3/31/16 The One They Pixel, The One You’ll Scroll By

(1) IT’S BIG. At Entertainment Weekly, “Jeff VanderMeer explains what it’s like to edit The Big Book of Science Fiction”.

During one part of our research, we even had to contact the Czech ambassador to the Philippines for intel on particular authors; in another life this man had been the editor of a Czech science-fiction magazine that, before the Wall came down, paid Western writers in items like books of surreal erotic photography. He had become an expert, due to his travels, on fiction in many countries. From him we received a flurry of photocopies and advice that will likely inform future projects. It’s a small world, but also a big, complex one, too.

(2) ENOUGH PI? NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory answers the question “How Many Decimals of Pi Do We Really Need?”

We posed this question to the director and chief engineer for NASA’s Dawn mission, Marc Rayman. Here’s what he said:

Thank you for your question! This isn’t the first time I’ve heard a question like this. In fact, it was posed many years ago by a sixth-grade science and space enthusiast who was later fortunate enough to earn a doctorate in physics and become involved in space exploration. His name was Marc Rayman.

To start, let me answer your question directly. For JPL’s highest accuracy calculations, which are for interplanetary navigation, we use 3.141592653589793. Let’s look at this a little more closely to understand why we don’t use more decimal places. I think we can even see that there are no physically realistic calculations scientists ever perform for which it is necessary to include nearly as many decimal points as you present. Consider these examples:

  1. The most distant spacecraft from Earth is Voyager 1. It is about 12.5 billion miles away. Let’s say we have a circle with a radius of exactly that size (or 25 billion miles in diameter) and we want to calculate the circumference, which is pi times the radius times 2. Using pi rounded to the 15th decimal, as I gave above, that comes out to a little more than 78 billion miles. We don’t need to be concerned here with exactly what the value is (you can multiply it out if you like) but rather what the error in the value is by not using more digits of pi. In other words, by cutting pi off at the 15th decimal point, we would calculate a circumference for that circle that is very slightly off. It turns out that our calculated circumference of the 25 billion mile diameter circle would be wrong by 1.5 inches. Think about that. We have a circle more than 78 billion miles around, and our calculation of that distance would be off by perhaps less than the length of your little finger….

(3) WHICH GHOST WROTE THE MOST? “Houdini manuscript ‘Cancer of Superstition’ divides opinion over Lovecraft, Eddy ghostwriting”. The Chicago Tribune has the story.

…Potter & Potter lists Lovecraft as the ghostwriter, in part citing “An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia” by S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, a 2001 anthology of Lovecraft’s work. The book says, however, Houdini approached Lovecraft and Lovecraft’s fellow Providence, R.I., author C.M. Eddy Jr. “jointly to ghostwrite a full-scale book on superstition.”

But how much of “The Cancer of Superstition” was the work of Lovecraft vs. Eddy is up for debate.

Douglas A. Anderson, co-founder of Wormwoodiana, a blog dedicated to researching and discussing the work of Lovecraft and his peers, said one needs to look at “The Dark Brotherhood and Other Pieces,” a 1966 Lovecraft anthology edited by August Derleth that published a detailed outline and the project’s first chapter. Derleth, who had exchanged letters with Eddy prior to the book’s publication, listed Lovecraft as the author of the outline but Eddy as the author of the chapter….

(4) CASSIDY IN GALLERY SHOW. Kyle Cassidy’s photos from Toni Carr’s Geek Knits book will be part of an art show opening April 1 at the Stanek Gallery in Philadelphia. The book, subtitled Over 30 Projects for Fantasy Fanatics, Science Fiction Fiends, and Knitting Nerds, has been mentioned here in the Scroll before. Cassidy is known in sf for his photographs of fans taken at the Montreal Worldcon in 2009.

EPSON MFP image

thread of art exhibit

(5) LOSE THE RECUSE. Kevin Standlee says Cheryl Morgan ”Talked Me Into It”.

I am quite obviously eligible for the Best Fan Writer Hugo Award for the stuff I write on this LJ plus a whole lot of writing elsewhere, possibly most notably on Mike Glyer’s File 770 news site. But as people were talking me up for a Hugo Award nomination, I was uneasy, given that I’m Chairman of the WSFS Mark Protection Committee and possibly the most visible member of the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee. While I’m not required to recuse myself from consideration, I thought it possible that it would be unseemly and that I’d be considered using undue influence. But Cheryl Morgan wrote yesterday about this subject, and I found her argument persuasive. So if you should in fact think that my writing is award-worthy, don’t think that you’re throwing your vote away to mention me.

(6) INFLUENCE VS PERFORMANCE. Or as Cheryl Morgan said it in “Kevin and the Hugos”

My view on this is that it is one thing to have a high position and get nominated for something else (in my case being on the staff of Clarkesworld). It is quite another to have a high position and get nominated for doing that job. In my case, if my WSFS job was getting me votes for my Clarkesworld work, that could be construed as unfair. (I think it is silly to suggest that it was, and the Business Meeting agreed, but that’s not relevant here.) In Kevin’s case the job and the work are the same thing. So yes, having the job makes him noticed, but he’s being nominated for doing the job. That seems entirely reasonable to me.

(7) YOUTUBE STARS. Here’s a trailer for Electra Woman & Dyna Girl, which will be “available on all major digital platforms” on June 7.

(8) COME CORRECT. Adam-Troy Castro says “No, You Have Not Been Nominated For a Hugo This Year”.

Attention to a certain self-published author: no, you have not been nominated for a Hugo this year. Now, I don’t know whether you’ve made an honest mistake, have fallen prey to wishful thinking, or are actively lying, but in any event, you are wrong; just because some folks have filled out the name of your magnum opus on the online Hugo nomination form, doesn’t mean you are “nominated;” certainly not before the nomination period closes, this Thursday.

(9) IT’S GREAT TO BE A GENIUS OF COURSE. Kate Paulk holds forth on “The Problem of Being Too Good” at Mad Genius Club.

One of the things I learned was that in pretty much any creative endeavor the really good ones don’t look like they’re making any effort. They’re so good they make it look easy. They make it feel easy, and they appear to effortlessly produce the effect they’re aiming for, be it a gem of a musical performance or a story that’s a perfect or near perfect example of its art – and it’s so apparently effortless and clear that those of lesser understanding can too easily fail to see the work the author or musician or artist has carefully concealed behind the appearance of easy. That is why seeing the writer sweat is annoying.

Of course, this leads to those of lesser understanding (many of whom think they’re the bees knees and – to paraphrase Douglas Adams – the every other assorted insectile erogenous zone in existence) thinking that a book (or performance or whatever) that looks effortless actually is effortless and therefore is easy. Simply put, they mistake sweat and visible exertion for skill.

What this reminds me of is my favorite Robert Moore Williams quote. Williams was a self-admitted hack sf writer. He was leery of losing sales by being too literary. He said, “You have to stink ’em up just right.”

(10) WHERE THE ROCKS ARE. An amazing map of prehistoric stone structures in the United Kingdom can be found at http://m.megalithic.co.uk/asb_mapsquare.php.

This map of Britain and Ireland, is divided into 100 kilometre squares. Locations of prehistoric stone circles and stone rows are indicated by the red dots. Click on a grid square to see that map sheet in greater detail. Many of the pages have images and links to information elsewhere on the web, making this a master index of Britain and Ireland’s Prehistoric sites.

(11) MEOW WOW.  “George R.R. Martin Spent $3.5 Million to Make This Sci-Fi Art Utopia a Reality” – at Vice.

Perhaps the only thing more disorienting than visiting the art collective Meow Wolf’s permanent art installation, the House of Eternal Return, is getting a Skype tour of the place, which is what I recently received. Labyrinthine and almost hallucinatory, the sprawling former bowling alley has been transformed to a freak-out art mecca, funded by $3.5 million from Game of Thrones creator George R. R. Martin and another $2.5 million from Kickstarter and other fundraising.

The 20,000-square-foot art space, the size of Gagosian’s Chelsea gallery, opened on Friday with a cavalcade of 5,500 visitors in the first three days, including Martin himself and Neil Gaiman. Described by 33-year-old CEO Vince Kadlubek as the “inside [of] a sci-fi novel,” the House of Eternal Return is many things: a psychedelic art space, a bar, an educational center, a ceramics studio, and an elaborate music venue (with a half school-bus upper deck), featuring a slew of dream-like elements such as black-light carpeting, a laser harp, pneumatic doors, and a 20-foot climbable lookout tower.

(12) COLE’S HEART. I was very impressed with Myke Cole’s contribution to “The Big Idea” feature at Whatever – but I didn’t want to pick an excerpt that would dilute the reading experience, so here is a comparatively bland quote…

When I did my Big Idea post for Gemini Cell, I straight up owned the PTSD allegory. Schweitzer’s undead status kept him permanently apart from the living. He was among them, but not of them, anymore. The resultant isolation was pretty much the same thing many returning veterans feel.

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 31, 1969 — Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Slaughterhouse Five, published.

(14) SUPER BOOKS. Random House Books for Young Readers announced the acquisition of four DC Comics YA novels, with bestselling young adult authors: Wonder Woman will be written by Leigh Bardugo, Batman will be written by Marie Lu, Superman will be written by Matt de la Peña, and Catwoman will be written by Sarah J. Maas.

Wonder Woman will release first at the end of August 2017.

(15) CURSES VERSUS. “Superman And The Damage Done” at Birth.Movies.Death.

There have been other Supermans since, and while none have, in my opinion, reached the heights of Christopher Reeve, all have imparted a similar sense of decency, humbleness and grace. From Brandon Routh to various animated incarnations, children growing up over the past 40 years have found new Supermans they could look to as inspirational models of how heroes act.

But what do the children of today have? Warner Bros, custodian of the Superman legacy, has handed the keys of the character over to Zack Snyder, a filmmaker who has shown he feels nothing but contempt for the character. In doing so they have opened the character to an ugly new interpretation, one that devalues the simple heroism of Superman and turns the decent, graceful character into a mean, nasty force of brutish strength.

Where Superman was originally intended as a hopeful view of strength wielded with responsibility, Snyder presents him as a view of strength as constant destructive force; where Christopher Reeve’s Superman would often float and flit away, Snyder’s version explodes like a rocket at all times, creating sonic booms above city centers in fits of pique, such as after his scene of moping on Lois Lane’s Washington DC hotel balcony. He is a constant weapon of destruction, often smashing concrete when he comes to earth. There are no soft landings for this Superman.

(16) CROWD PLEASER. “SciFi Author Alan Dean Foster Draws Largest Science Speaker Series Crowd in Prescott Campus History” reports the Embry-Riddle Newsroom.

Hundreds of students, staff and faculty filled the AC-1 lecture hall to capacity to hear internationally acclaimed science fiction author Alan Dean Foster talk about “Science in Science Fiction” as part of the College of Arts and Science Speaker Series last Friday.

Foster has written over 100 novels but is best known for authoring the novel versions of many science fiction films including “Star Wars”, the first three Alien films, “The Chronicles of Riddick”, “Star Trek”, “Terminator: Salvation”, and two Transformers films.

Foster believes science is the foundation of science fiction. If the work is not grounded in science then it’s not science fiction, it is fantasy or science fantasy.

“Science fiction sets you on other worlds where you have to create entire environments. Maybe it’s a world with seven different layers or an entirely frozen world. You have to look at a problem and say what’s the best solution here, even if it’s not been created yet,” said Foster. “That solution should still be reasonable. As an author of science fiction, and especially with novel adaptations from movies, I try to fix the science as best as I can. Sometimes they let me and sometimes they don’t.”

(17) BREAKING GAME SHOW NEWS. The March 31 episode of Jeopardy! had a Hugo Award-Winning Novels category – but I haven’t found out what the titles were yet.

(18) SAD NUMBERS. Brandon Kempner spends the last voting day “Estimating the 2016 Hugo Nominations, Part 4” at Chaos Horizon.

What we do know, though, is that last nomination season the Sad Puppies were able to drive between 100-200 votes to the Hugos in most categories, and the their numbers likely grew in the finally voting stage. I estimated 450. All those voters are eligible to nominate again; if you figured the Sad Puppies doubled from the nomination stage in 2015 to now, they’d be able to bring 200-400 votes to the table. Then again, their votes might be diffused over the longer list; some Sad Puppies might abandon the list completely; some Sad Puppies might become Rabid Puppies, and so forth into confusion.

When you do predictive modelling, almost nothing good comes from showing how the sausage is made. Most modelling hides behind the mathematics (statistical mathematics forces you to make all sorts of assumptions as well, they’re just buried in the formulas, such as “I assume the responses are distributed along a normal curve”) or black box the whole thing since people only care about the results. Black boxing is probably the smart move as it prevents criticism. Chaos Horizon doesn’t work that way.

So, I need some sort of decay curve of the 10 Sad Puppy recommendations to run through my model. What I decided to go with is treating the Sad Puppy list as a poll showing the relative popularity of the novels. That worked pretty well in predicting the Nebulas. Here’s that chart, listing how many votes each Sad Puppy received, as well as the relative % compared to the top vote getter.

(19) FROM TEARS TO CHEERS. Dave Hogg is basically a happy voter tonight.

(20) NOT AN APRIL FOOL? From the Official Gmail Blog: “Introducing Gmail Mic Drop”.

Friends and family have been testing Gmail Mic Drop for months, and the response so far has been awesome:

  • “Sending email is so much easier when you don’t have to worry about people responding!”
  • “Mic Drop is a huge improvement over Mute! I can finally let everyone know I’m just not interested.”
  • “My team solves problems so much faster with Mic Drop. In fact, we stopped talking to each other entirely!”

Gmail Mic Drop is launching first on the web, but mobile updates are on the way. So stay tuned, and stay saucy.

Will R. asks me, “Will you be introducing a similar feature? It would make the flounce a whole lot easier.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, A Wee Green Man, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Swanwick, Will R., Rich Lynch, and Reed Andrus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day StephenfromOttawa.]

2015 ALAA Hall of Fame Inductees

By Fred Patten: The Anthropomorphic Literature and Arts Association announced the 2015 inductees to the ALAA Hall of Fame at Midwest FurFest 2015 in Chicago on December 4-6. They are —

  • Hayao Miyazaki (person)
  • Walt Kelly (person)

The ALAA Hall of Fame Award was instituted in 2012 to “honor people who were crucial to the formation of furry fandom as what it is today” but it can go to a writer, artist, a favorite character, book, movie, TV series – anything that would make most people say, “Oh, yeah, sure — how could we have overlooked him, or her, or it?”

Hayao Miyazaki has created many fine animated TV series and features, including working on Animal Treasure Island, designing Famous Detective Holmes/Sherlock Hound, and creating the title character of Porco Rosso. Walt Kelly, of course, created Pogo Possum and his whole cast of Okeefenokee Swamp friends and enemies.

In 2012 the first selections to the Hall of Fame were Walt Disney, Bugs Bunny, and Richard Adams’ Watership Down. In 2013 the inductees were Animal Farm by George Orwell, Pride of Chanur by C. J. Cherryh, and the 1973 animated movie Robin Hood from Walt Disney Studios.  In 2014 they were Carl Barks, the novel Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White, and Osamu Tezuka.

The ALAA also presents the Ursa Major Awards and compiles an annual Recommended Anthropomorphics List.

Midwest FurFest 2015 had 5,606 attendees and donated $62,020.71 to Save-A-Vet.org, a military and law-enforcement working dog rescue and support organization. The charity auction included a bidding war up to $5,500 for a Blackhawks team-signed charity hockey stick.

Update 12/11/2015: Correction by Fred Patten. Removed Alan Dean Foster from the list of inductees. He was a runner-up.