Pixel Scroll 3/8/19 Happy As The Day When The Pixels Scroll Away

(1) STRAHAN’S NEXT PROJECT. The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog caught everyone’s attention by “Announcing Year’s Best Science Fiction, a New Annual Anthology from Saga Press”:

In 2020, Jonathan Strahan and Simon & Schuster’s Saga Press will launch Year’s Best Science Fiction: The Saga Annual Anthology of SF.

That will fill the gap left when Strahan’s current annual from Solaris ends with The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year: Vol. 13.

(2) LE GUIN DOCUMENTARY. Screenings are happening all over the world in the next few weeks. See the schedule in Arwen Curry’s Kickstarter update “Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin premieres in China!”

I wanted to let you know about upcoming March and April screenings of Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin.

February was a busy month for the film. We’re honored to have been awarded Best of Fest at the Boston SciFi Film Festival and made the cover story of the National Endowment for the Humanities magazine, written by Ursula’s biographer Julie Phillips. As always, we are grateful for the support of the NEH.

The list includes showings all over the West Coast.

(3) ENDEAVORING TO IMPROVE ON STAR TREK. [Item by Dann.] It has taken 10 year’s worth of effort, but Ron “AAlgar” Watt and Matt Rowbotham have created the most comprehensive Star Trek-focused podcast in history.  They have watched and reviewed every episode of every professional Star Trek franchise on their Post Atomic Horror podcast.

Along the way, they have invited friends to the party to broaden the number of perspectives on Star Trek.And along the way, they have pointed out episodes that they could have written better.

It is one thing to say you can do something better than the professionals.  It is quite another thing to put your money and/or ego where your mouth is.

To that end, the duo has created the Endeavor podcast.  This is the story of the Endeavor; a Federation starship exploring the Andromeda galaxy with crew members ranging from Klingons to Romulans to Cardassians to an assortment of people from the United Federation of Planets.  The first episode of fanfiction dropped on March 1 on iTunes and Stitcher.  Matt and Al hope to create radio theater that compares favorably with more professional efforts.  They have assembled an outstanding stable of vocal performers to aid them in their attempt.

Their efforts can also be followed via Facebook.

(4) THE LONG CON. Scott Edelman urges you to binge on brisket benedict with Michael J. Walsh in episode 90 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

It’s time to join me at the table with someone who’s been part of the community of the fantastic even longer than I have — Michael J. Walsh. Over the past half century, he’s been a fan, a book dealer, a convention chair, and a publisher. He’s attended every World Fantasy Convention since the first in 1975, including the last one, where he and I were two of the Guests of Honor. Through his small press, Old Earth Books, he’s published Avram Davidson, Christopher Priest, Allen Steele and many others, plus two Howard Waldrop collections, which won him a special award from the World Fantasy Convention in 2009. 

We got together for lunch last month the same day I attended the Midwinter Midway fundraising function put on at the Peale Museum by Submersive Productions, the immersive theatrical troupe I adore, four of whose members were my guests in Episode 86 of the podcast, where we discussed the science fictional nature of their diverse happenings.

Michael and I met at Ida B’s Table on the same block in Baltmore as the Peale. Ida B’s is perhaps my favorite recent restaurant discovery, one I try to visit whenever I’m in that city for great fried chicken, or shrimp and grits, or in this case, brisket benedict.

We discussed what it is about the annual World Fantasy Conventions that drew him to attend all 44 of them, how a generous teacher’s gift of an Ace Double led to his first exposure to true science fiction, the big score which induced him to become a book dealer, the way Ted White was able to do so much with so little when he edited Amazing Stories in the ’70s, what witnessing Anne McCaffrey and Isaac Asimov singing Gilbert and Sullivan tunes made him realize about writers, what his time in fandom taught him which made him realize he could make it as a publisher, the time he was left speechless by Robert Heinlein offering him a drink, why it would have been wrong for a certain book he published to have won a Hugo, what con-goers most misunderstand about con runners, and much more.

(5) DESCRIBING DISABILITIES. Ben Mattlin in the Washington Post, who has spinal muscular atrophy, was hired to be a sensitivity reader for a book on the subject and wants people to know he is disabled, and does not “have a disease” — “Disability and disease aren’t interchangeable”.

Disability is the more inclusive choice.  A disability can result from illness, injury, accident, genetics and more.  That broad base gives it power.  If ‘my disease’ refers to a specific condition within my body, ‘my disability’ connects me with a diverse array of other people, a common cause….

To my ears, though, “disease” will always be troubling. I’m okay with “disorder,” “impairment” and other neutral, science-y sounding terms. I’m not a stickler for politically correct language either. Call me a “disabled man” (#SayTheWord) or a “man with a disability” (#PersonFirstLanguage) — I honestly don’t care which. Growing up, I was called handicapped, and that’s still fine with me in most contexts (especially because it doesn’t come from a begging reference, contrary to popular belief, but from an advantage that’s forfeited to make a game fair). I was also taught that “cripple” is a dirty word, yet many of us have reclaimed it with pride.

(6) THE RIGHT MENTOR. Sandra M. Odell found a connection made through SFWA’s mentorship program helped her to cope with the effects of mental illness on her productivity: “More Writerly Than Thou” at the SFWA Blog.

I have struggled with the titanic highs and crushing lows of severe mental illness and PTSD most of my life, yet nothing quite prepared me for the psyche shitstorm that followed the release of my second collection, Godfall & Other Stories

The collection got a good response; however, Odell experienced a months-long period of being unable to resume writing, and when she was finally brave enough to reach out to other authors, rather than getting understanding and support, she was frequently reminded that she should just be thankful for the success of her collection:

…The after book blahs had become tangled in the web of my mental illness.  So many writers, some my closest friends, sought to help by applying the panacea of one-word-then-the-next that I nearly suffocated beneath the weight of my own failure and self-loathing because I couldn’t keep up.  I would never write again, the success of my collection was a fluke, I’d failed my agent and my friends, the stories were worthless, and no one would miss me when I was gone.  I almost missed the voices I needed to hear most.  “Are you okay?  How can I help?”

Almost.

Help came from an unexpected source.  I applied for the SFWA mentorship program, certain I was too broken to find a match.  To my surprise, I was paired with a mentor familiar with the bitter trials of writing and mental illness.  My mentor allowed me to lead the conversation, asked gentle, non-judgemental questions, and shared their own struggles with post-publication depression and tips on what had worked for them to set priorities and reclaim their words.  The idea that more experienced writers could be paired with those seeking to learn more about how to manage their craft had proven itself.  After our first email exchange, I cried for an hour.  I was no longer alone….

(7) MESSAGE FICTION? A BBC writer delves into “The surprisingly radical politics of Dr. Seuss”.

“Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.”
– Oh, The Places You’ll Go! (1960)

There’s a healthy dollop of wisdom percolating through the slapstick silliness and anarchic absurdity of Dr Seuss. More perhaps than any other children’s author, the musings of US writer and illustrator Theodor Seuss Geisel – who adopted the pen name Dr Seuss while at college – amount to a kind of philosophy. It’s one that has entered popular consciousness, contributing to pop song lyrics and even being cited by a Supreme Court judge. Yet there’s also a political edge to Dr Seuss that is often overlooked.

… “Dr Seuss, beloved purveyor of genial rhyming nonsense for beginning readers, stuff about cats in hats and foxes in socks, started as a feisty political cartoonist who exhorted America to do battle with Hitler? Yeah, right!” exclaims Art Spiegelman, the graphic novelist who created Maus, in the foreword to a 1999 book. Historian Richard Minear’s Dr Seuss Goes to War features nearly 200 cartoons that were left unseen for half a century –  cartoons that help redraw the beloved king of the kooky.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 8, 1994 — Wheeled suitcase with collapsible towing handle patented…and every CON goer is forever grateful.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 8, 1859 Kenneth Grahame. The Wind in the Willows  of course which to my surprise has but only two film adaptations, one animated and one live. Did you know A.A. Milne dramatized it for BBC Radio 4 back in the Seventies? Oh, and he did write one other fantasy, The Reluctant Dragon. (Died 1932.)
  • Born March 8, 1921 Alan Hale Jr. The Skipper on Gilligan’s Island which most likely isn’t genre but he did show up in such films as Captain Kidd and the Slave GirlThe Fifth Musketeer and The Giant Spider Invasion which is most decidedly SF if of a pulpish variety. Series wise, I see he was on The Wild Wild West and Fantasy Island. (Died 1990.)
  • Born March 8, 1934 Kurt Mahr. One of the first writers of the Perry Rhodan series, considered the largest SF series of the world. He also edited a Perry Rhodan magazine, wrote Perry Rhodan chapbooks and yes wrote many, many short stories about Perry Rhodan.  He did write several other SF series. Ok what’s the appeal of Perry Rhodan? He runs through SF as a genre but I’ve not read anything concerning him. (Died 1993.)
  • Born March 8, 1939 Peter Nicholls. Writer and editor. Creator and co-editor of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction with John Clute. His other publications were Science Fiction at LargeThe Science in Science Fiction edited by Nicholls and written by him and David Langford, and Fantastic Cinema. (Died 2018.) He became the first Administrator of the United Kingdom-based Science Fiction Foundation. He was editor of its journal, Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction, from 1974 to 1978.
  • Born March 8, 1945 Micky Dolenz, 74. Voiced the Min Max character in the two part “Two Face” episode of Batman: The Animated Series. Voiced Ralph on The Secret Files of the SpyDogs, an animated where Adam West voiced the Dog Zero character and Robert Culp provided additional voices. He also voiced, and I kid you not, Wendell the Love Grub on Mighty Magiswords. [Editor’s note: Maybe Cat can keep himself from mentioning Circus Boy and The Monkees, but I can’t!]
  • Born March 8, 1950 Peter McCauley, 69. Best known I’d say for being on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World in which he played Professor George Challenger. Lovely show which I’ll really like. Running for three three seasons, it’s his only major genre role to date though he’s shown up on The Ray Bradbury TheaterMysterious Island (a New-Zealand television series based on Jules Verne’s novel L’Île mystérieuse), Xena: Warrior PrincessTales of the South Seas and Legend of the Seeker
  • Born March 8, 1959 Aidan Quinn, 60. Ok, I really l liked him in Practical Magic, but will admit that I’ve not seen nor plan on seeing The Handmaid’s Tale which he was in. Yes, he was in Jonah Hex but let’s not hold that against him. He also had the title role in Crusoe, and was Cpt. Robert Walton in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. He was in The Eclipse as Nicholas Holden, and showed up in The Last Keepers playing John Carver. He was in a production of Scheherazade produced in Chicago, and played in Prince Hamlet in a Promenade Theatre, NYC production of that play.  Series wise, he’s currently in the Elementary series as Captain Thomas ‘Tommy’ Gregson. 
  • Born March 8, 1976 Freddie Prinze Jr., 43. I’m fairly sure his genre role was in Wing Commander as Lt. Christopher Blair followed by the animated Mass Effect: Paragon Lost in which he voiced Lieutenant James Vega. Speaking of animated endeavours, I’ve got him in Kim Possible: A Sitch In Time voicing Future Jim / Future Tim followed by being in all in all four seasons of the animated Star Wars Rebels as Kanan Jarrus. And that series I highly recommend. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest shows when walking while looking at your phone is actually safer!

(11) MORE TO BE SAID. The Humanist posted a tribute to the late author and nontheist: “In Memoriam: Janet Jeppson Asimov, 1926 – 2019”.

Janet Opal Jeppson Asimov died on Monday, February 25, 2019. She was ninety-two years old. Janet is remembered for her significant contributions to psychiatry, psychoanalysis, science fiction, and her dedication to humanism. AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt, who was in regular communication with her for years, recalled, “Janet was a whirlwind well into her eighties, racing from place to place but taking time to engage in lifelong learning, to write in her unique and compelling style, and to appreciate the arts and culture. Her direct approach, generous demeanor, and clever humor will be sorely missed.”

(12) WALLS GO UP IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR. Escape Artists’ Alasdair Stuart has dropped The Full Lid for March (I really need a better action verb there), which features a look inside the business, “Podcasting Does A Thing II: Welcome to the Montage.”

Podcasting is doing a thing again. Last time it did a thing that thing was ‘Be partially absorbed by Hard Drive Galactus’. This time round it’s Luminary, a major new podcast developer, announcing their launch line up. 40 shows, including Cameron Mitchell’s follow-up to legendary musical Hedwig and The Angry Inch, podcasts from Conan O’Brien, Malcolm Gladwell, Trevor Noah and the sequel to beloved superhuman audio drama The Bright Sessions.

All of them behind an $8 a month paywall, apparently intended as the ‘Netflix of podcasting’.

…That paywall though and what it means is much more interesting not to mention complex. Whether we like it or not, and that’s a nuanced answer that we’re all working on, paywalls are going to be a thing in podcasting for a while. As my partner in all things pointed out, this is the exact same thinking behind the plethora of streaming platforms we’re all about to be expected to pay for. Everyone’s seen Netflix’s money. Everyone wants some of it and the attempt to replicate that model is already spilling into other media with podcasting. Witness the Disney streaming platform, the conclusion of the Netflix/Marvel relationship, the Spotify assimilation of Anchor and Gimlet Media and the astonishing amount of money Himalaya just threw at their podcasting slate. That’s not cash anyone spends lightly.

(13) LEST DARKNESS FALL. Did social media cause this neighborhood to be overrun? “Paris street to ‘shut out Instagrammers'”. Chip Hitchcock adds, “One is reminded that in the Niven story there were, deliberately, no teleport booths on Rapa Nui — a choice that wouldn’t help this site.”

A pretty cobbled street in Paris has become a huge hit on Instagram, with thousands of pictures and “likes”.

But residents of Rue Cremieux have now had enough and are calling on the city council to restrict access at certain times.

One has even launched an Instagram account logging all the unwanted activity on the street.

It illustrated how the search for the perfect picture could become a problem, said travel blogger Kris Morton.

Residents have asked the city council to provide a gate that can be closed at peak times – evenings, weekends and at sunrise and sunset, when good light attracts people searching for a perfect Instagram picture.

(14) HE’S SEEN THE CAPTAIN. Camestros Felapton provides a spoiler-free review of Captain Marvel:

…Three years ago, I’d have said this was a particularly good entry in the Marvel film series but Captain Marvel has the tough act of following up Thor Ragnarok, Infinity War and the frankly deliciously good Black Panther. There’s certainly enough feminism in the film to wind up the worst sections of society but I sometimes feel they pulled some of those punches and maybe dialled things back a notch when turning it up to 11 might have been smarter.

(15) WHAT EFFECT DOES TROLLING HAVE? In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik says that while trolls “can have a highly scarring effect on individual targets” such as Leslie Jones, the success of targeted films shows that “there’s actually little evidence that trolling accomplishes its primary objective” of depressing movie attendance. “Captain Marvel: How the trolls always win — until they don’t”.

In fact, if one looks at previous movies with significant trolling campaigns — the 2016 “Ghostbusters” reboot, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Black Panther” — it’s clear how ineffective they can be. “Ghostbusters” performed somewhat underwhelmingly with $128 million domestically. But “Last Jedi” was the highest-grossing movie of 2017, with $620 million in the United States. And “Black Panther” is the third-highest-grossing domestic film in history.

(16) ROTTEN TROLLMATOE. Meantime, Rotten Tomatoes is taking steps of its own to control the trollbot population. There’s an article in The Hollywood Reporter but this is more succinct —

(17) NOT A BOT. Ever seen a 1-star review by a genuine human? Here’s one by Bonnie McDaniel, “Review: How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler”, at the Red Headed Femme.

This is basically a gimmick book, and for me, the gimmick wore thin real fast….

(18) FREE ON EARTH. Almost 50 years after a comparable achievement: “Watch: SpaceX Crew Dragon Splashes Down In Atlantic Ocean”.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon hit its splashdown time of 8:45 a.m. ET right on target Friday, landing in the Atlantic Ocean after undocking from the International Space Station and re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.

The successful test and splashdown is “an amazing achievement in American history,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who called the SpaceX flight the “dawning of a new era in American human space flight.”

The Atlantic Ocean landing is the first in nearly 50 years for a capsule that was designed for humans, NASA says. The last such incident: the Apollo 9 splashdown on March 13, 1969.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Dann, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 2/23/19 So Come On, Come On, Scroll The Pixellation With Me

(1) MCINTYRE HEALTH UPDATE. Vonda McIntyre, one of sff’s most loved figures, is seriously ill. A Caringbridge page has been started: “Vonda N.’s Story”.

Vonda spent much of Seattle’s snow week at Swedish Hospital with jaundice and some vertigo, having many tests. The test results are in now, and the news is not good. The diagnosis is inoperable metastatic pancreatic cancer. Her doctor said it isn’t stupid to hope for a year, but it could be less. She’ll probably be getting treatment that may or may not slow things down, no way to know for sure.

(2) #COPYPASTECRIS. Nora Roberts tells some things she’s learned about plagiarists and people scamming Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited author revenue system in “Not a Rant, but a promise”.

The count of my books lifted from is now five. And the count of writers victimized has gone up.

I’m getting one hell of an education on the sick, greedy, opportunistic culture that games Amazon’s absurdly weak system. And everything I learn enrages me.

There are black hat teams, working together, who routinely hire ghosts on the cheap, have them throw books together, push them out–many and fast–to make money, to smother out competition from those self-pubbed writers who do their own work. Those who do their own work can’t possibly keep up with the volume these teams produce by these fraudulent tactics.

They tutor others how to scam the system….

(3) A WHIRLWIND OF FANAC. Joe Siclari of Fanac.org reports “We’ve been getting a lot done, and last weekend we had a particularly productive Boskone.” 

At Boskone, the FANAC scanning station scanned almost 2000 pages of material. Scanning by Mark Olson, Edie Stern and Joe Siclari. History-minded fans stopped by and provided material (thanks Geri Sullivan!), and promised more. We have promises of photos and fanzines, and have already received a historical recording from Fred Lerner, and new scanning hardware too. 

The zines scanned at Boskone will be so marked in the index pages of the title, so you can see what we did. So far, we have put online about 850 pages of it.  So far from the Boston scanning we’ve put up issues of George Locke’s Smoke, Richard Bergeron’s Warhoon, Charles Lee Riddle’s Peon, Don Miller’s WSFA Journal, the Coulsons’ Yandro and brown and Katz’s Focal Point.

They can all be accessed from the Classic Fanzines List. More issues will be forthcoming. 

(4) RIGHT IN THE EYE. How would you like to go out this way? From NPR: “NOAA Researcher’s Ashes Were Dropped Into The Eye Of Hurricane Michael”.

Last fall, as Hurricane Michael was swirling toward the Florida panhandle, NOAA officials say it was carrying something in addition to rain and wind — the ashes of long-time hurricane researcher, Michael Black. Black was a research meteorologist who worked at the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory on Virginia Key, just across the bridge from downtown Miami.

He was a pioneer in the use of dropwindsondes — small measuring devices dropped from airplanes that record wind speed, air pressure, temperature and humidity.

In 1997, on a mission flying through Hurricane Guillermo in the Pacific, he had an audacious idea. Why not drop some dropwindsondes — sometimes called dropsondes — directly into the eyewall of a hurricane?

NOAA research meteorologist Stan Goldenberg, who worked with Michael Black for more than two decades, recalls that flight with Black 21 years ago: “I remember the excitement we felt at seeing these winds and knowing these ‘sondes’ could handle it.” Black’s idea suddenly provided hurricane researchers with an important new data tool.

(5) PARSEC AWARDS. Bruce Press will step down as chair of the Parsec Awards Committee if he can find somebody to take his place. The sff podcast awards organizers have been reeling since December, when four 2018 Parsec Awards winners declined because the committee sustained the decision to give an award an alleged harasser. Today Press sent this statement to his distribution list:

After a pretty grueling 2018 for the committee, we were taking a bit of a breather to get our collective heads together.

We very much want to get trophies out to winners who want them, but we are without funds having done absolutely no fundraising in 2018. Our lack of resources is due to lack of resources. So, that’s item 1.

Item 2 is our perennial problem of manpower and leadership. The committee is severely short-staffed. We hoped to grow by creating sub-committee’s like ceremony and fundraising. However, it turns out that takes leadership and we only had me.

Item 3 is me. While item 2 might have been enough reason alone, I have some really good personal reasons to step down as committee chair. The timing of this is not ideal, but life rarely operates on a convenient schedule. Like previous chairs, I am not immediately leaving the committee.

So, here’s what I’m asking. If you think you have what it takes to lead. If you have a plan and can execute it. Whether overall, ceremony or fundraising. Send us an email parsecawards@gmail.com.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 23, 1896 –Tootsie Roll introduced
  • February 23, 1935 The Phantom Empire starred Gene Autry, it was an SF musical western.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 23, 1564 Christopher Marlowe. Author of Doctor Faustus (or The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus. Look, ISFDB lists him, so he must be genre. More to the point Elizabeth Bear made him a character in her Stratford Man series which is Ink and Steel and Hell and Earth novels which is highly recommended. If you’ve not read them, the Green Man review is here. (Died 1593.)
  • Born February 23, 1930 Gerry Davis. Mid-Sixties Story Editor on Doctor Who where he created companion Jamie McCrimmon and co-created the Cybermen along with unofficial scientific adviser Dr. Kit Pedler. They would create the Doomwatch series in the Sixties on BBC. Davis briefly returned to writing for Doctor Who, penning the first script for Revenge of the Cybermen though his script was largely abandoned by editor Robert Holmes. In 1989 he and Terry Nation who created the Daleks made a failed bid to take over production of the series and reformat it for the American market. (Died 1991.)
  • Born February 23, 1932 Majel Barrett. No doubt best remembered for being  Nurse Christine Chapel and Lwaxana Troi as well as for being the voice of most ship computer interfaces throughout the Star Trek series. I’ll note that she was originally cast as Number One in the unused (TOS) Pilot but the male studio heads hated the idea of a female in that role. Early Puppies obviously. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 23, 1965 Jacob Weisman, 54. Founder, Tachyon Publications which you really should go look at as they’ve published every great author I’d care to read. Seriously Tidhar, Beagle and Yolen are among their newest releases! He also edited (with Beagle) The New Voices of Fantasy which I highly recommend as most excellent reading.
  • Born February 23, 1970 Marie-Josée Croze, 49. Bibiane Champagne In Maelström which is genre if only because it’s narrated by a talking fish. In Canada movie theatres, she was in Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 as Mara. Yeah, that film with a long title. Doubt it improved it.  It looks like her first genre acting was on The Hunger in two episodes, in “A Matter of Style” as Dominique and in “I’m Dangerous Tonight” as Mimi. Oh, and she had the lead as Pregnant Woman in Ascension which just looks weird.
  • Born February 23, 1994 Dakota Fanning, 25. Genre roles include Sally Walden in The Cat in the Hat which is on my worst films of all time list, Katie In Hansel and Gretel, Rachel Ferrier In War of the Worlds which, errr, is on the same list, and as the voice of Fern Arable In Charlotte’s Web which is brilliant.
  • Born February 23, 2002 Emilia Jones, 17. I’m reasonably sure this is the youngest Birthday I’ve done. At nine years of age, she’s made her acting debut in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides as English Girl. She’s Young Beth in the horror film Ghostland. She shows up on Doctor Who as Merry Gejelh in the “The Rings of Akhaten”, an Eleventh Doctor story. She’s currently in Residue, an SF horror series you can find on Netflix. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range shows the monstrous side of photography.

(10) CRITICAL FAVORITES. On the Strange at Ecbatan blog Rich Horton is working through his Hugo recommendations.

Of these stories – none of which would disappoint me if they won the Hugo – my four favorites, in no particular order, are…

2.       David Gerrold and Ctein, “Bubble and Squeak” – About a gay couple, hoping to get married, who have their plans interrupted by a tsunami heading to Los Angeles, and who have to find a way to get to higher ground – and, as it turns out, help a bunch of others as well. It’s simply terrifically exciting, involving a plausible mix of heroism, foolishness, brutality, luck, and intelligence, on their part and others, as they struggle to find a way to a safe place, and as various options are closed off over time.

4.       Kelly Robson, “Intervention” (Infinity’s End) — A very intelligent story about child rearing in a heavily inhabited future Solar System. The narrator is from Luna, where creche work is socially frowned upon, so she leaves to work on an asteroid-based creche – and then later gets a chance to work on a bid to reform Luna’s failing creche system. This is just really interesting social speculation; and the characters are also very solidly portrayed, very honest.

5.       Karen Russell, “Orange World” (The New Yorker, 6/4/18) – An older first time mother is driven to make a deal with a literal devil to save the life of her child, and only the intervention of her support group allows her to cope … Really well written, really convincing.

(11) STAR WARS WRAPS. Entertainment Tonight did a red carpet interview of “J.J. Abrams on Wrapping ‘Star Wars: Episode IX’ and Bringing Back Lando (Exclusive)” (video).

(12) DOLLARS AND SENSE. Alasdair Stuart’s The Full Lid for February 22 includes a wryly-named commentary on cancelled cable sff shows – “Boulevard of Broken Streams.”

Netflix have done what Thanos couldn’t; wiped out an entire section of the Marvel universe. It was announced this week that The Punisher is done with season 2 and Jessica Jones with season 3. That will air later this year and be the swan song for a five (and a half) show mini-universe.

My feelings about this are, to mis-quote the best line in the entire Mission: Impossible franchise, complicated.

For a start there’s the Rat King of fan speculation and business practice to try and untie. We can all clap as loud as we want, the shows were never going to the Disney streaming platform because that platform has to aim for the widest possible audience. It’s also almost certainly what raised the renewal costs for the shows beyond practical. So, rationally, this all makes sense. It’s annoying, but it does make sense….

(13) PATIENCE, GRASSHOPPER. And here I thought it was a disaster of Biblical proportions: “What An Insect Can Teach Us About Adapting To Stress”.

What if we told you that you could learn a lot about handling adversity from the life of a bug? In their explorations of humans and how we interact with the world around us, the team that makes NPR’s Invisibilia stumbled on a surprising fact about the insect world — one that could inspire a new way of looking at ourselves.

The epic destruction wrought by swarms of locusts is downright biblical. Exodus tells of a plague that left nothing green in all of Egypt, and we’ve seen these harbingers of destruction at work in modern day Australia, Argentina and Israel, just to name a few. But for centuries, one essential piece of information about these strange insects eluded scientists: Where do they come from?

These massive swarms just seemed to pop up out of nowhere, decimate everything and then vanish.

(14) GRIND YOUR GOGGLES INTO PLOWSHARES. NPR reports “Microsoft Workers Protest Army Contract With Tech ‘Designed To Help People Kill'”.

Microsoft workers are calling on the giant tech company to cancel its nearly $480 million U.S. Army contract, saying the deal has “crossed the line” into weapons development by Microsoft for the first time. They say the use of the company’s HoloLens augmented reality technology under the contract “is designed to help people kill.”

In a letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Brad Smith, the workers also say the company is failing to inform its engineers “on the intent of the software they are building.”

The November contract is for what’s called an Integrated Visual Augmentation System.

“The contract’s stated objective is to ‘rapidly develop, test, and manufacture a single platform that Soldiers can use to Fight, Rehearse, and Train that provides increased lethality, mobility, and situational awareness necessary to achieve overmatch against our current and future adversaries,’ ” the letter said.

(15) KNOCKING THE COMPETITION. A Business Insider reporter was there: “Jeff Bezos just gave a private talk in New York. From utopian space colonies to dissing Elon Musk’s Martian dream, here are the most notable things he said.”

• Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, gave a talk to a members-only event at the Yale Club in New York on Tuesday. 

• During the 30-minute lecture, Bezos said his private aerospace company, Blue Origin, would launch its first people into space aboard a New Shepard rocket in 2019. 

• Bezos also questioned the capabilities of a space tourism competitor, Virgin Galactic, and criticized the goal of Elon Musk and SpaceX to settle Mars with humans. 

• Ultimately, Bezos said he wants Blue Origin to enable a space-faring civilization where “a Mark Zuckerberg of space” and “1,000 Mozarts and 1,000 Einsteins” can flourish. 

• Bezos advised the crowd to hold a powerful, personal long-term vision, but to devote “the vast majority of your energy and attention” on shorter-term activities and those ranging up to 2- or 3-year timeframes. 

(16) THE WEST END ZONE. In the February 16 Financial Times (behind a paywall), Matt Trueman profiles Anne Washburn, whose play based on The Twilight Zone is opening March 4 at The Ambassador Theatre in London.

“Her stage version of The Twilight Zone transfers into town next month.  On the surface, it’s a straightforward celebration of Rod Serling’s cult TV series.  Having watched all 156 episodes,she selected those stories that stuck in America’s psyche.  ‘I was polling anyone I ran into: What Twilight Zone episode traumatized you as a small child? People would answer immediately.  That’s where it lives in our culture.”

“In April, The Twilight Zone‘s getting a high profile reboot by Get Out director Jordan Peele, but Washburn’s incarnation celebrates its loveable, low-fi 1950s charm. Its schlockiness, essentially.’It’s morality,comedy, and horror at the same time,’ beams Washburn.  ‘That’s very appealing.’  The show sends up its arched-eyebrowed asides and cheap cardboard cut-outs.  ‘Where things are less adept, you can see right to its heart.  That’s always moving.’

“Insightful, too, as Washburn unpeels The Twilight Zone‘s skin to show us a glimpse of America’s soul in its recurring images: alien invasions and nuclear oblivion. ‘The Twilight Zone is about America dreaming–or America’s nightmare.'”

(17) SPIDER-SAN. CBR.com: shares the image: Spider-Man: Far From Home Gets Spectacular Japanese Poster”.

Sony Pictures has released a new poster promoting the Japanese release of the upcoming Marvel film Spider-Man: Far From Home, and it’s really awesome.

This exceptionally creative poster features a typographic image of Spider-Man’s mask composed almost entirely of bold, red Japanese text. The words and phrases used to create Spidey’s face mostly reference different aspects of the film, with the text repeating “summer vacation.” There are also numerous references to Nick Fury. Moreover, where Spider-Man’s mouth ought to be, there is a QR code that links to Spider-Man: Far From Home‘s Japanese trailer, which is the same as the international trailer.

(18) PUMP, BROTHERS. Food Network advises, “Throw Away Your Peanut Butter Knife!” This clearly isn’t genre, but it is a “great” “scientific” advance. Or it is you can’t resist both peanut butter and silly gadgets.

Who knew the world was clamoring for a better – or at least different – way to prepare a peanut butter sandwich?

One week after a Burbank, California, inventor/entrepreneur named Andrew Scherer launched an Indiegogo page to raise funds for his new Peanut Butter Pump, promising a way to eat “Peanut Butter Without the Knife,” the project has raised $46,955 (from more than 1,220 backers) and counting – more than twice its $20,000 goal.

[…] It’s basically a jar top – made to fit onto your standard 40-ounce grocery-store or name-brand peanut butter jar – with a pump top and a plunger inside that presses down the peanut butter, leaving the sides of the jar clean as it goes, and dispensing the peanut butter out the top and directly onto your bread or celery stick or wherever you’re aiming it.

(19) WITH AUTOMATIC UPSELL. Welcome to Uncanny Valley Restaurant. “This Fast Food Drive-Thru Is Now Using AI to Take Orders”Futurism has the story.

We already had a robot that could make fast food burgers. And now we have an artificial intelligence that can take your order for one.

Earlier this month, Colorado-based startup Valyant AI announced the launch of a voice-based AI customer service platform, which is now taking customer orders at the drive-thru at Denver’s Good Times Burgers and Frozen Custard.

“We’re excited to deliver a customer service experience unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before,” Valyant AI CEO Rob Carpenter said in a press release.

A video demonstration is here.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Emperox JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, James Davis Nicoll, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Tom Becker.]

Pixel Scroll 2/15/19 The Scroll’ll Come Out Tomorrow

(1) HAPPY INTERNATIONAL FANWORKS DAY. Archive of Our Own linked to all kinds of activities honoring 5th annual International Fanworks Day, which is today. Here’s the first entry on their list –

1. What Fanworks Mean to Me: A couple of weeks ago, we sent out a call for essay contributions about what fanworks mean to you. Tomorrow, we’ll be posting selected essays from the submissions. If you missed your chance to send us an essay, don’t worry! You can always post on social media with the tag #IFD2019. Let people know how you feel and help spread the International Fanworks Day festivities.

(2) NOMMOS. Registered members of the African Speculative Fiction Society (ASFS) have until April 30 to nominate for the Nommo Awards. The 2019 Nommo Awards will be presented at the Ake Arts and Book Festival in November 2019.

(3) ARISIA. The Boston convention relocated from the Westin to another hotel at a time when a strike was in progress and it was anticipated many would refuse to cross a picket line. Arisia’s February corporate meeting minutes report:

The Westin has begun the process of contesting the cancellation of our 2019 contract with them.  Further steps will cost them money with little prospect of a return and we don’t know if they will follow through or if this is a negotiating tactic.

The meeting approved spending money for Arisia’s legal representation.

(4) MORE ON ZAK SMITH. The revelations about game author Zak Smith summarized here the other day (Pixel Scroll 2/12/19 Item #2) have started a tsunami of reaction.

Pop Culture Uncovered has a thorough review: “Tabletop RPG Community Boycotts Zak Smith”.

…Although tackling toxicity in gaming from the grassroots level is essential, it’s important to remember that the industry must do something as well. From designers to publishers to social media admins, leaders and creators need to act. In this instance, that is precisely what happened.

Within a day of Morbid’s post, Smith was banned from most significant subreddits, like /r/rpg and /r/osr. He had long been blocked from many sites to the point of accusing places like RPG.net of hypocrisy and censorship, and now even more forums were closed to him.

The Gauntlet, one of the largest communities, podcasters, and RPG organizers were the next to respond, banning all of Smith’s games from their events and restricting discussion of him (or his products) on their forums. They even went as far as to cleanse their podcasts of interviews or promotions involving him and also warned conventions that thought about hosting him that they’d boycott them…

The Gauntlet’s said:

The Gauntlet will no longer provide coverage to Zak S or his publications. Due to the fact he has a history of harassing Jason and other members of The Gauntlet, we have had a longstanding ban on having him on our podcasts, and he has never been welcome in our community spaces. We will be extending that ban to any kind of coverage of, or participation in, his ttrpg work. […]

* We will not work with people who work with him. For example, Codex will not publish an artist or author who is actively working with him. Folks who have worked with him in the past must promise to not work with him again in order to have a professional relationship with The Gauntlet.
* Members of The Gauntlet organizational team will no longer attend conventions in our capacity as representatives of The Gauntlet so long as Zak S is welcome to attend those conventions. We will also strongly discourage our membership from attending such conventions.

Giant industry convention Gen Con was called on to take a stand – this is as far as they were willing to go.

Eric Franklin also annotated these links in a comment here —

Meanwhile, a ton of publishers have walked back things they’ve said in the past, and several of Zak’s defenders have walked back their statements, too. Some statements are stronger than others. Ken Hite’s statement is one of the better one, but it is by no means the only statement worth digging for.

Even Mike Mearls (who is the man in charge of D&D) made a (pathetically weak) statement on Twitter. He is (rightfully) getting roasted in the responses.

This is a storm that’s been brewing in tabletop gaming for a long while. Zak is one of a small number of high-profile missing stairs whose downfall I have been waiting for.

There is a thread on RPG.net’s Tangency board that has a ton more information about what’s going on, but you need to be a registered member to see Tangency (registration is free). That thread is here.

(5) SIGNAL BOOST. The latest edition of Alasdair Stuart’s “weekly pop culture enthusiasm download” Full Lid includes a wry commentary on “The Three Season Long Cold Open” of a popular TV series —

The Expanse begins in the final minutes of its third season. Which is a hyperbolic exaggeration on one hand and a salute to the sheer audacity of the first three seasons on the other. In the space of under 40 episodes the show has shifted from ‘traumatized survivors busk their way through a political scandal’ to ‘manufactured war between the planets’ to ‘first contact’ to ‘political intrigue’ to ‘welcome to the galaxy.’ Each progression has been baked into the DNA of what’s preceded it and the result is a show that’s followed a silky smooth trajectory out into new space. Alex Kamal would be proud. This leads to the final scene of season three making the show’s name it’s premise and fixing it’s previously somewhat broken leading man. This,excellent, recap video by Zurik 23M brings you up to speed 

You can catch up on the last six months of back issues at the Full Lid archive.

(6) ‘RITHM & BLUES. Lithium batteries can explode if you overcharge them. So can humans. Perhaps AIs should learn that latter lesson (Futurism: “Two Pricing AIs Went Rogue and Formed a Cartel to Gouge Humans”).

When the robot revolution comes, our new overlords may not be as benevolent as we’d hoped.

It turns out that AI systems can learn to gang up and cooperate against humans, without communicating or being told to do so, according to new research on algorithms that colluded to raise prices instead of competing to create better deals.

[…] “What is most worrying is that the algorithms leave no trace of concerted action — they learn to collude purely by trial and error, with no prior knowledge of the environment in which they operate, without communicating with one another, and without being specifically designed or instructed to collude,” the researchers behind the experiment said in a write-up.

(7) MY META OR YOURS? The Hollywood Reporter’s Daniel Fienberg’s “‘Doom Patrol’: TV Review” tells readers more about him than the new show.

Say what you will about DC Universe’s new superhero dramedy Doom Patrol — it’s a structural mess, but an improvement of epic proportions over DC Universe’s Titans — nobody will accuse it of not being in on the joke, whatever the joke happens to be.

In fact, it’s basically impossible to review Doom Patrol positively or negatively without insecurity that you might be falling right into the show’s aggressively meta trap. This is, after all, a show that has its perpetually wry narrator say that critics compared one of its main characters to “a poor man’s Deborah Kerr,” followed by, “Critics? What do they know? They’re gonna hate this show.” So is a positive review me trying to prove my coolness to DC and creator Jeremy Carver? Is a negative review proof that I’m just as predictable and dismissible as the show believes?

I don’t know. All I can say for sure is that no matter what the narrator might have expected, I don’t hate Doom Patrol. Whatever that means.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 15, 1883 Sax Rohmer. Though doubt best remembered for his series of novels featuring the arch-fiend Fu Manchu. I’ll also single out his The Romance of Sorcery as he based his mystery-solving magician character Bazarada on Houdini who he was friends with. The Fourth Doctor did a story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” whose lead villain looked a lot like most depictions of Fu Manchu did. (Died 1959.)
  • Born February 15, 1907 Cesar Romero. Joker in the classic Batman series and film. I think that Lost Continent as Major Joe Nolan was his first SF film with Around the World in 80 Days as Abdullah’s henchman being his other one. He had assorted genre series appearances on series such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart, Fantasy Island and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 15, 1916 Ian Ballantine. He founded and published the paperback line of Ballantine Books from 1952 to 1974 with his wife, Betty Ballantine. The Ballantines were both inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2008, with a joint citation. During the Sixties, they published the first authorized paperback edition of Tolkien’s books. (Died 1995.)
  • Born February 15, 1927 Harvey Korman. I’m stretching genre to the beyond it’s breaking limiting as the roles I want to single out are him as Blazing Saddles as Hedley Lamarr and in High Anxiety as Dr. Charles Montague. He did actually do a SF role or two, mostly in series work. On The Wild Wild West, he was Baron Hinterstoisser in “The Night of the Big Blackmail”;  on The Munsters, he played the Psychiatrist in “Yes Galen, There Is a Herman”; and on that infamous Star Wars Holiday Special,  he appeared Chef Gormaanda, Krelman, and Toy Video Instructor. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 15, 1945 Douglas Hofstadter, 74. Author of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. Though it’s not genre, ISFDB notes he wrote “The Tale of Happiton “, a short story included in the Rudy Rucker edited Mathenauts: Tales of Mathematical Wonder
  • Born February 15, 1948 Art Spiegelman, 71. Obviously best known for his graphic novel Maus which retells The Holocaust using mice as the character. What you might not know is there is an an annotated version called MetsMaus as well that he did which adds amazing levels of complexity to his story. We reviewed it at Green Man and you can read that review here.
  • Born February 15, 1951 Jane Seymour, 68, whose full legal name is, to my considerable delight, Joyce Penelope Wilhelmina Frankenberg. Her first significant genre role was in Frankenstein: The True Story as Agatha / Prima. I then see her as being in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger as Princess Farah and then showing up in Somewhere in Time as Elise McKenna. (Based on the novel Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson, who also wrote the screenplay.) I see her in the classic Battlestar Galactica as a character named Serina for a brief run. I think her last genre work was on Smallville as Genevieve Teague. 
  • Born February 15, 1971 Renee O’Connor, 48. Gabrielle, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. I’m reasonably that I watched every damn episode of both series when they aired originally. Fun stuff. Her first genre role was first as a waitress in Tales from the Crypt andshe’s had some genre film work such as Monster Ark and Alien Apocalypse.

(9) ANTHROPOBOTIC. In the Washington Post, Jason Filliatrault, who tweets as @SarcasticRover pretending to be the “voice” of Curiosity, has an op-ed (“Goodbye, Opportunity Rover. Thank you for letting humanity see Mars with your eyes.”) where he says in Curiosity’s voice —

 There are better ways to say all of this, and I’m just a robot, and I know I don’t have the emotion or ability to express the truth about you. And even if, by some bizarre twist of fate, I was actually just a human who pretended to be a robot for as-yet-unknown reasons, I would still be so ill-equipped to tell the world how incredible you were.

(10) ANOTHER FAREWELL. From This Girl Codes — don’t read this ‘til you have a hanky ready:

(11) PROOF OF CONCEPT. BBC video shows how “Space harpoon skewers ‘orbital debris'”.

The British-led mission to test techniques to clear up space junk has demonstrated a harpoon in orbit.

The RemoveDebris satellite fired the projectile into a target board held at a distance on the end of a boom.

Video of the event shows the miniature spear fly straight and true, and with such force that it actually breaks the target structure.

But, importantly, the harpoon’s barbs deploy and hold on to the board, preventing it from floating away…

(12) CREDITS WHERE DUE. ScienceFiction.com introduces “The Opening Credits For ‘Good Omens’”.

…For fans of the source novel by Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, it is chock full of colorful imagery and Easter eggs and gives some amazing insight into the kind of tone and atmosphere the series is going for, not to mention giving us a taste of the kind of music the show will have. Plus, with the whole thing running around 1 minute and 40 seconds, which is quite a bit longer than most opening credits nowadays, it cements the fact that Gaiman is clearly doing the show his own way, with his own style, which may yield some very interesting and exciting results.

(13) THE SCOOP. The Disney Food Blog leads with this tasty news: “Toy Story 4 Ice Cream Flavors Hitting the Grocery Shelves! Will You Find Them in Your Store?” Two new Edy’s/Dreyer’s flavors are hitting shelves now —

Here’s the scoop on the two flavors: your choices are Carnival Churro Cravings and Chocolate Peanut Butter Prize Winner!

We can happily verify that they are hitting the shelves! At least, we’ve found them available at a grocery chain called Giant Eagle (with locations in Pennsylvania, primarily around Pittsburgh).

(14) COWL DISAVOWAL. Ben Affleck appeared on Jimmy Kimmel’s show to explain why he isn’t Batman any more. Batman’s previously unknown connection with Tom Brady is discussed!

(15) RIGHT NOW, ROGER IS NOT VERY JOLLY. Sounds like the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise has everything except people who want to be involved with making the next one. Geoff Boucher, in “Disney’s ‘Pirates’ Reboot Uncertain As ‘Deadpool’ Writers Jump Ship” on Deadline, says it’s not clear if there is to be another movie because Johnny Depp will not be in the next installment and Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have been dropped from writing duties, and with no star and no script, it’s unclear what Disney has left for another Pirates film.  Boucher says there are rumors Disney wants to turn the franchise into a TV series.

The [Reese & Wernick] hiring was widely hailed and Bailey has been vocal in his excitement about it, telling reporters and colleagues that the scribes were going to “make Pirates punk rock again” and give the franchise a much-needed “kick in the pants” that would revive the off-kilter charisma the brand exuded in its early days. Those high hopes faded in recent weeks.

Disney insiders are divided about what happens next. Some say a search is already underway for viable replacement options, others say the once-proud flagship of Disney’s live-action fleet may be headed to dry-dock for good.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Paper Mario Bros. In My Notebook (Stop Motion)” on YouTube is a short video about what a Mario Bros. chase would be like in a two-dimensional notebook.

[Thanks to Meredith, Eric R. Franklin, Hampus Eckerman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Four Winners Refuse Parsec Awards

Four 2018 Parsec Awards winners announced today they will decline their awards because the committee has sustained the award given to an alleged harasser.

The December 17 announcement of the 2018 Parsec Awards for sff podcasting was hailed by protests that one of the winners “has a history of extremely disturbing behavior”, according to a follow-up statement the committee issued the same day. The person was not named in that statement, nor in the committee’s December 19 release explaining why they were allowing the award to stand. The reasons given were —

…It is the goal of The Parsecs to judge solely on the merit of the content and not on gender, heritage, religious belief, sexual orientation, politics, or other factors not in the podcast as presented to the audience. To do more would be to fail at our core purpose.

There is neither precedent nor procedure for The Committee to intervene in the results based on information outside of the stated policies….

The target of the protests is Edward Champion, winner of the 2018 Parsec Award for Best Speculative Fiction Story: Large Cast (Short Form).

Some of the allegations against Champion were covered by Gawker in 2014:

Last night, a Brooklyn-based literary blogger/podcaster/personality named Edward Champion suddenly began attacking the novelist Porochista Khakpour on Twitter, after Khakpour tweeted about Champion’s private threats against her. Before the night was over, Champion had been kicked off Twitter, and several other writers and literary agents had come forward to tell stories of Champion’s threatening and bizarre behavior….

A Parsec Awards judge, Wil Williams, also says she has been harassed by Champion. Her thread starts here.

Several winners have answered the Parsec Awards committee’s decision not to take away Champion’s award by refusing to accept theirs.

Escape Artists has publicly declined their two 2018 Parsec Awards, as explained in the post “If You Stand for Nothing, What’ll You Fall For?”

In light of recent events, Escape Artists is declining its 2018 Parsec wins.

Escape Pod, edited by Mur Lafferty and S. B. Divya, won Best Speculative Fiction Magazine or Anthology Podcast.

PodCastle, edited by Jen R. Albert and Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali won Best Speculative Fiction Story: Small Cast (Short Form) for its production of “Six Jobs” by Tim Pratt, narrated by Stephanie Malia Morris.

EA co-owners Alasdair Stuart and Marguerite Kenner have been in consultation with both editorial teams and Mr. Pratt, and we have unanimously decided to reject both awards. We also reached out to Ms. Morris, but have not head back from her as of the time of this post.

… The systemic failure of care that has taken place with this year’s Parsec Awards can’t go unanswered and this is one of the strongest ways we can express our displeasure.

Pendant Productions has rejected the award they won for Best Speculative Fiction Video Story:

And Grant Baciocco of Saturday Morning Media has refused the award for Best Podcast about Speculative Fiction Content Creation.

Escape Artists co-owner Alasdair Stuart gave an overview of their decision in “The 2018 Parsec Situation”. He concluded:

…Letting down judges like this is bad. Lacking a complaints policy at a minimum in this day and age borders on unforgivable. The community’s trust in the Parsecs has, at the very least, been torpedoed by this incident and the committee’s response to it. Whether that torpedo hit under the water line remains to be seen.

For me, I’d love to see some changes. A complaints policy is years overdue. More awareness of the field and problematic behaviour within it even more so. That doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t, be political either but rather based on fundamental decency. Sexism, racism, homophobia, harassment. These aren’t political lines, they’re lifestyle choices and choices that podcasters up for awards should be aware of, just as prose authors are slowly starting to be. Blindness isn’t necessary here, and ignorance is the opposite of bliss. Engagement, compassion, dialogue and change are all needed. I hope the committee feels the same way and I hope that next year, these awards can be what they deserve to be; celebrated.

Escape Pod assistant editor Benjamin C. Kinney added his thoughts in “The Year of Declines: Parsecs and WOTF”:

…I understand the appeal and principles of above-the-fray neutrality. But in practice, any organization must choose between those who would act abusively, and their victims. If you won’t banish anyone, the harmful people will do the banishing….

And Adam Pracht, who worked on Escape Artists’ Parsec Award submissions, endorsed the decision in a thread that starts here.

Alasdair Stuart Talks About Escape Artists

By Alasdair Stuart: Hello, I’m Alasdair Stuart and I own Escape Artists. We’ve been active for 14 years, we produce 4 weekly podcasts, have an archive of over 2,000 episodes covering science fiction, fantasy, horror and YA and we don’t charge for a single one of them.

I love my job. And this year, it involves being a part of Hugo history. Escape Pod is our science fiction show and it’s a Best Semiprozine finalist this year. That’s amazing. What’s more amazing is that it’s the first ever audio-first magazine to reach that level. For years, the category was dominated by print magazines. Then it was opened up to digital possibilities and the digital magazines spent a few years making their way into the running. Now you can draw a line with two distinct points on it showing the massive progress not just the field, but the awareness of it outside the legacy print magazines, has made. Print. Print and digital. Now, print, digital and audio in a glorious melange. The entire field this year is amazing and in no small part due to the massive variety in style, format, tone and approach between the finalists. Variety really is the spice of life for this industry and an award like this and remember, whoever controls the spice, controls the universe.

That’s why I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved in 2017, and also where it’s got us.

Take a look at the Escape Pod Hugo Voter Packet. Five episodes, a cross-section of 2017 that covers every editor, every host, reprints and originals as well as an entry from our yearly Artemis Rising project. There’s a sample of every major voice on the show there and it was consciously designed to be that way. We didn’t want to bury voters under hundreds of pages of material so, instead, went for some of our finest hours. Or, more commonly, our finest 35 minutes at a time. We work hard to ensure our stories fit inside a commute so you’ve always got something good to listen to.

Those stories were picked by our heroic slushers, polished and finalized by Norm Sherman (Now doing great work over at the revitalized Drabblecast), S.B. Divya and Mur Lafferty along with Benjamin C. Kinney. Then narrators and hosts, including Mur, Divya, Tina Connolly and myself were assigned, audio producers like Adam Pracht worked their magic and the episode was ready to go.

It takes a village to make a podcast. And that village works 52 weeks of the year to make sure it gets done. And I’ve never been prouder of the people I work with than I am right now. Especially as our fantasy show PodCastle just became the first podcast to be shortlisted for a World Fantasy Award and PseudoPod, our horror show, is a finalist in the BFS’ inaugural Best Audio award.

So if you’re a listener, thank you. If you’re a new listener, welcome aboard. We hope you enjoy the shows and where they’re going. Because after this year, we certainly do.

Pixel Scroll 7/15/18 Old Filer’s Scroll Of Practical Pixels

(1) AMERICA’S FAVORITE DOCTOR. Welby? Casey? Kildare? Guess Who….? Thursday on BBC America:

Have TARDIS, will time travel: The new special “Doctor Who: The Lost Episode” uses remastered footage and new animation to reconstruct an unfinished 1970s-era tale from the venerable British science fiction drama penned by “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” author Douglas Adams and starring Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor. 8 p.m. BBC America

(2) DEAL ALL THE CARDS. The Doctor figures in “The Pigs in Space” sketch at The Muppets Take the O2 (Arena) show, too.

(3) TASTE TEST. Cat Rambo turns in another sweet critique to The Green Man Review: “The Prettiest Candy: Albanese World’s Best Mini Gummi Butterflies”.

Having recently discovered that my favorite gummi bears were possibly made with child labor, I went looking for a substitute recently and picked up a bag of Albanese Mini Gummi Butterflies.

Candy is often not pretty, particularly when chocolate is involved, but these candies, shaped like butterflies, look like little stained glass jewels. The flavors are blue raspberry, cherry, grape, green apple, orange, and strawberry, with the usual scheme of color vaguely indicating flavor….

(4) SHADOW CLARKE JURY DELIBERATIONS. Fell a little behind linking to these posts…..

…I went a bit overboard (OH GOD HELP I CAN’T STOP) but you get the point. There’s a completely functional and immensely fun version of this story that puts it solidly in the Hunger Games/Limetown bracket of ‘tough heroic female lead discovers something terrible and vows to defeat it.’ I love stories like those, especially when they’re folded into this kind of post-apocalyptic subset of fiction.

But what Curtis does here is untidier, harder to achieve, newer and ultimately more rewarding. Nerissa is living day to day after losing everything, so she isn’t party to what would be the central plot in a more traditional dystopia. The parts she discovers, especially the transhumanism elements of the final act, feel earned and contextualized precisely because she discovers them when she does….

 As I said when making my selection of books to review for the Shadow Clarke, I didn’t expect to see Ian McDonald’s Luna: Wolf Moon on the shortlist. Having read it, I don’t have any direct criticism of the Clarke jury for neglecting it but that is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the novel. In fact, I enjoyed it very much and also its predecessor, Luna: New Moon, which I read immediately beforehand. That, of course, is one of the problems with considering a sequel or volume from a series for an award; it is going to be difficult to judge it without knowledge of the preceding story. Especially, when, as in this case, we are dealing with the middle volume in a trilogy which directly picks up strands from the first volume and also does recognisable work in setting up its successor. Therefore, despite the fact that Luna: Wolf Moon contains a strong narrative arc of its own and leaves the reader feeling as satisfied as if they have read a standalone novel, it is nonetheless not directly comparable because it is not entirely self-contained. Experience suggests that judges are generally inclined to favour the single-volume work (and on a practical level they are probably unwilling to read earlier series volumes on top of lengthy submission lists).

To kick off my Shadow Clarke experience, I’ve started with John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire, a novel based on a singularly intriguing premise. In a far distant future, humanity exists in an interplanetary empire called the Interdependency, its far-flung outposts connected by the Flow: a series of natural space-time currents that facilitate fast travel between different parts of the universe. As the Flow exists without concern for human planetary preferences – and as the Flow route to Earth was lost centuries ago – the majority of people live underground, in planetary habitats or in space stations along these Flow routes, with trade and travel controlled by aristocratic Guild families. Only one habitable world exists: the planet of End, so-called because it’s the most distant realm in the Interdependency, accessible only by a single pair of Flow streams connecting it to Hub, where the Emperox rules. But the Flow, so long assumed stable, is collapsing, threatening the survival of the entire Interdependency – and, as a consequence, of the human race….

…When I originally added Water & Glass to my short list, I suspected that the plot’s concern with a group of (largely European-coded) survivors onboard a submarine, the Baleen, would herald “an already present anxiety about intimacy, trauma, and reproductive concerns.” Given its thematic concerns from the blurb, I guessed that as a Noah’s Ark tale, the plot would likely revolve around questions of “precariousness and interdependent survival, resettling, and the possibility or repopulation or extinction,” though within the frameworks of the novel itself they were unable to gather more than a few animals, rather than any idea of two of a wide variety. Since reproduction felt central to Water & Glass’ concerns, the blurb itself led me to worry about the likelihood of queerphobia or eugenics in play, and unfortunately this assumption is almost entirely borne out. While queerness is entirely and frustratingly absented from this narrative (its own form of queerphobia), a concern with eugenics and human evolution through human-animal gene splicing is one of the grand revelations of the piece….

Dreams Before the Start of Time is beautifully written. The prose is clear, sometimes sparse, quite subtle in the way it provides a smooth emotional surface whilst signalling a great depth of feeling within the many characters. It is also an excellent science fiction novel-of-ideas, with clear themes and careful working out of the societal implications of new technology. How wonderful! …

American War has been short-listed for the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke award. A selection of our panel of shadow jurors respond to the novel below…

Rich with warmth and suspense and surprise, Spaceman of Bohemia is an exuberant delight from start to finish. Very seldom has a novel this profound taken readers on a journey of such boundless entertainment and sheer fun. It has been short-listed for the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke award. A selection of our panel of shadow jurors respond to the novel below…

HUMANKIND IS EXTINCT.

Wiped out in a global uprising by the very machines made to serve them. Now the world is controlled by OWIs — vast mainframes that have assimilated the minds of millions of robots.

But not all robots are willing to cede their individuality, and Brittle is one of the holdouts.

Left to my own devices, it’s rare for me to write criticism for books I haven’t finished. If I find a book boring or if it simply isn’t for me, there’s little motive to write a partial review to that effect, and so I don’t say anything; alternatively, if a work annoys me so much that I want to nitpick it in detail, I usually spite-read the entirety to be sure my facts are in order. In this instance, however, I feel justified in submitting criticism based on partial reads for two main reasons. Firstly, the Shadow Clarke jury is, by design and definition, reactive: we are here to pass judgement on award selections that have already been made by other people, and to do so in only 300-500 words per book. That being so, while we’ve certainly been given the scope and opportunity to write longer, more in-depth criticisms if we want, at base, we’ve been asked to provide a pass/fail grade on whether we feel a particular book merited its inclusion on the shortlist, with only a cursory explanation as to why.

Which leads to the second point: we are doing this on a fairly tight schedule which – for me, personally – overlaps with packing up my house and family in preparation for an international move. Work on the Shadow Clarke is unpaid, done as a labour of love for the genre; and while I’m happy to participate on those conditions, I am not a masochist….

Reading American War directly after Borne is an interesting experience, if not exactly a cheerful one. Where Vandermeer’s novel carefully files the comfort of specific geography off every element of it’s world, El Akkad builds his dystopian America in painful familiarity. North and South, Blue and Red. CNN and Fox. The political and ideological dividing lines that it’s impossible to avoid in the hourly news cycle are the frame work for El Akkad’s novel. Or at the very least, the foundation.

In a near-future London, Millie Dack places her hand on her belly to feel her baby kick, resolute in her decision to be a single parent. Across town, her closest friend—a hungover Toni Munroe—steps into the shower and places her hand on a medic console. The diagnosis is devastating.

In this stunning, bittersweet family saga, Millie and Toni experience the aftershocks of human progress as their children and grandchildren embrace new ways of making babies. When infertility is a thing of the past, a man can create a child without a woman, a woman can create a child without a man, and artificial wombs eliminate the struggles of pregnancy. But what does it mean to be a parent? A child? A family?

Through a series of interconnected vignettes that spans five generations and three continents, this emotionally taut story explores the anxieties that arise when the science of fertility claims to deliver all the answers.

It has been short-listed for the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke award. A selection of our panel of shadow jurors respond to the novel below…

…Cargill is a screenwriter first and foremost and its impossible not to see the influence of his primary craft here. That’s not a criticism either, there’s no sense of this being a lightly expanded movie treatment designed to be dropped onto a producer’s desk as an unusually fancy leave behind. Rather, this is a book steeped in the iconography and tempo of modern American cinema and that’s both interesting and not always a good thing for book or reader….

On a small isolated island, there’s a community that lives by its own rules. Boys grow up knowing they will one day take charge, while girls know they will be married and pregnant within moments of hitting womanhood.

But before that time comes, a ritual offers children an exhilarating reprieve. Every summer they are turned out onto their doorsteps, to roam the island, sleep on the beach and build camps in trees. To be free.

At the end of one of such summer, one of the younger girls sees something she was never supposed to see. And she returns home with a truth that could bring their island world to its knees.

It has been short-listed for the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke award. A selection of our panel of shadow jurors respond to the novel below…

…The greatest problem for me with Gather the Daughters is that no one is allowed to behave or think or speak like an adult. (We have only to think of the depth of field achieved by Margaret Atwood in her characterisation of The Handmaid’s Tale to see how Melamed’s novel is deficient in this regard.) A narrative that depends on compliance will inevitably run out of steam, as this one does. History has proved to us time and again that holding down a dictatorship is difficult work – sooner rather than later the peasants begin to uncover the injustices and deceptions perpetrated against them, and start to revolt. You have to kill a lot of people to keep these systems going, and even so your days as a despot are numbered from the beginning. On the island, the only reason nothing has come unstuck for the Wanderers so far is because everyone else in the community insists on behaving like characters in a YA dystopia….

It has been short-listed for the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke award. A selection of our panel of shadow jurors respond to the novel below…

What is it I look for in science fiction? The answer will be different for everyone, of course, and some who followed last year’s Shadow Clarke project may have come away with the impression that I don’t really like science fiction at all, that I’ll always find something to gripe about because that’s the kind of critic I am.

The truth is that I want books to be brilliant, and that’s what I go in hoping, every time. Most of all I hope to be shocked and surprised by a new voice or a new idea or a new way with words, to be seduced by science fiction all over again. Although Jeff VanderMeer can scarcely be described as a new voice, the effect of reading Borne has been transfiguring, like water after drought. After a long dry spell in which I honestly thought I’d had it with the genre, encountering Borne has left me on a high, inspired to join in the conversation once again.

(5) EXERCISE YOUR FRANCHISE. One of File 770’s self-imposed duties is to chronicle the many genre awards. Few are as exotic as Chuck Wendig’s — “Awkward Author Contest 2018: Winner, And Now It’s Your Turn”. He has picked JD Buffington as the first winner, and called on his blog readers to vote on the other entries.

Here are the rest — there are 40 more submissions.

They are utterly weird and wonderful. You will find some familiar faces in here, perhaps.

Your job now is:

Pick your favorite.

Just one.

JUST ONE.

Go to the comments section below.

Type in the number of your favorite photo — the number that corresponds with the photo in Flickr. Aka, the photo’s title.

That’s it.

Type nothing else, or your vote may not be counted.

Do not choose two.

Choose one, type only the number.

We’ll keep voting open till Wednesday, July 25th.

Enjoy. Vote. See you on the other side.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • A bad pun produced by a great mashup of comic and movie references in Brevity.

(7) BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS. Business Insider lists “15 books famous scientists think you should read”.

We compiled a list of book recommendations from a handful of illustrious minds by combing the web for quotes, checking out personal blogs, and just asking them directly. The picks below come from popular scientists including author and television personality Bill Nye, surgeon-turned-writer Siddhartha Mukherjee, and globe-trotting primatologist Jane Goodall.

The books they’ve recommended range from high fantasy, like Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” to canonical, like Plato’s seminal work “The Republic.”

Here are 15 books that brilliant scientists consider must-reads…

(8) AIR CAB. No discussion of what fares will be: “Rolls Royce develops propulsion system for flying taxi”.

Rolls said the initial concept for EVTOL used gas turbine technology to generate electricity to power six electric propulsors, specially designed to have a low noise profile.

Its wings would be able to rotate 90 degrees, enabling the vehicle to take off or land vertically. It could also use existing heliports and airports.

“We believe that given the work we are doing today to develop hybrid electric propulsion capabilities, this model could be available by the early to mid 2020s, provided that a viable commercial model for its introduction can be created,” the firm said.

(9) PROJECT LAUNCHED. The BBC reports — “Lift-off for Scotland: Sutherland to host first UK spaceport”.

Lockheed has made no secret of its desire to bring the Electron rocket to Scotland. Currently, this vehicle flies out of New Zealand.

A British version of the rocket would have an upper-stage developed and built at LM’s UK HQ in Ampthill, Bedfordshire.

“This is a defining moment for UK Space,” a spokesperson for the company told BBC News. “Lockheed Martin has been working with Britain for over 80 years and we stand ready to support the development of UK launch capability should our extensive experience in developing space infrastructure be called upon.”

(10) INFLUENTIAL ANIME. In the Washington Post, Hau Chu looks at the 30th anniversary of Akira (first released in Japan on July 15, 1988) and sees it as “inspiring a generation of works to come”, including “Stranger Things,” a Kanye West music video, and Rian Johnson’s Looper: “Why the pioneering Japanese anime ‘Akira’ is still relevant 30 years later”.

For the film’s cyberpunk look, Otomo drew from his own pop culture obsessions, including “Blade Runner,” which influenced the towering skyscrapers of Neo Tokyo, and “Tron,” whose neon-illuminated motorcycles inspired the hordes of biker gangs.

Otomo had been a respected illustrator of manga, Japanese comics. But for “Akira,” instead of trying to match his anime peers in Japan, he was working from European comic artists such as Moebius — an influential artist for the legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. Otomo’s drawings for “Akira” were distinctive for their realism; he used lighting, color and an attention to detail to create a vivid, lived-in space.

(11) DRAGONS FOREVER. In August, the USPS will issue a set of stamps featuring dragons: “Postal Service to Feature Mythological Creatures on Stamps at APS National Summer Convention Stamp Show”.

The U.S. Postal Service will be joined by the American Philatelic Society (APS) to unveil four colorful stamp designs of 16 Forever stamps depicting dragons — the high-flying, fire-breathing mythological creatures that have roamed our imaginations for millennia — at the APS national summer convention and stamp show Aug. 9-12 in Columbus, OH.

“We’re very excited to bring these beautiful stamps to the 132nd annual APS convention,” said U.S. Postal Service Stamp Services Director Mary-Anne Penner. “This is one of the premier stamp shows in America and serves as an excellent platform to showcase these special stamps.”

…The new stamps will be issued as a pane of 16 stamps showcasing one of four designs: a green fire-breathing dragon towering over a medieval-inspired castle; a purple dragon with orange wings and sharp black armor on its back snaking around a white castle; a black dragon with green wings and green armor on its back swooping past a ship on the sea; and a wingless orange dragon weaving its way around a pagoda.

The stamps feature digital illustrations created by artist Don Clark of Invisible Creature studio.

(12) TRAILER PARK. 7 Splinters in Time — now in theaters.

Directed by: Gabriel Judet-Weinshel Detective Darius Lefaux is called to identify a body that is identical to him. As he dives into the harrowing case, different versions of himself begin to emerge and haunting memories of lives not lived fill his mind. Darius soon realizes that not all versions of himself are good and that he must find his other self, before it finds him.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 4/17/18 A Noun, A Verb, And Pixel Scroll

(1) UP ON THE ROOFTOP. Not the sort of thing you usually find on a New York rooftop, like a pigeon coop, or Spider-Man — “The Met Rooftop’s New Installation, ‘We Come in Peace,’ Has Landed”.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Roof Garden is now officially open for the season (along with its bar!), and this year’s site-specific commission is a powerful pair of imposing sculptures by Pakistani artist Huma Bhabha. Titled We Come In Peace (a phrase lifted from the 1951 sci-fi film The Day the Earth Stood Still), the work conjures up an ominous but open-ended narrative, inviting visitors to explore their own thematic interpretations: subjugation and supplication, respect, fear, and/or adoration; social upheaval and displacement; gender, power, and “memories of place.”

Bhabha forged the two pieces in her Poughkeepsie studio from ephemera and construction materials (cork, Styrofoam, plastic) which she then cast in bronze….

(2) TOUGH JOB. Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag, in “Conventions and problematic people” at Bloggity-Blog-Blog, reviews the latest news about ConCarolinas and Worldcon and concludes:

It’s enough to make a person swear off conventions. Certainly enough to make being on a concom a dangerous and scary job. I admit I admire those members of fandom who volunteer their time for such a thankless task even more after learning about these various problems.

(3) TOUGHER JOB. Naomi Kritzer and Alex Acks share their thoughts about panel moderation in two separate threads. Jump in by clicking on these tweets:

(4) ALASDAIR STUART. A Shadow Clarke juror tells how he’s going to do it: “Compass Bearings: Alasdair Stuart’s Picks”.

I really liked the thought process Nick talked about in his Reading List piece, and how the books he’s chosen are intended to serve as a cross section of SF as it currently stands. That helped crystallize my thinking on the subject, as did dispatching my duties as a Kitschies judge this week.

That was a really fun job, and one that contained substantially more hope than a lot of people tend to see in genre fiction. Both short lists were crammed full of books that had unique voices, did unique things and drove the field, and the conversation around it, forward. It also helped me give a very clear shape to the sort of things I’m looking for in the initial Shadow Clarke read. And that shape is a compass.

I’ve got a working familiarity with a lot of these books following the Kitschies and, if I wanted to, I could focus entirely on that. But what really excites me about this list is the opportunity it presents to push outside my boundaries. In addition, given how much I often rail against SF culture’s tendency to enthusiastically face backwards on the rocket, it would be completely remiss of me to just hug some books I already know a little bit tighter.

So, that’s my critical North in this situation. My critical South is to not overlook books that deserve to be talked about. Sometimes those will come from big names. Chances are, more likely, they’ll come from newcomers.

(5) TRUTH IN DANGER. At the hands of Dangerous’ ace reporter Jon Del Arroz, John Ringo’s decision not to go to ConCarolinas now becomes a “ban,” and people’s threats not to show up are transmogrified to threats of violence — “Author John Ringo Responds to SJW Assault That Led to Sci-Fi Convention Ban” [Internet Archive link.]

ConCarolinas initially didn’t respond to the nasty trolling and threats of boycotts, but after deliberating over the weekend, they sent Ringo an email disinviting him from the convention because, as the convention chair said on Twitter, “the con could not guarantee Ringo wouldn’t be walking into a hostile environment. John wanted to have fun. A reasonable request. The con could not guarantee that he wouldn’t be subject to people being ugly to him.”

Ringo recalls the interchange with the convention to be a bit more serious, stating he was asked not to attend because, “we were going to have to hire full time security guards and maybe off-duty police during peak hours.”

If the crowd is prone to be as violent as he suggests, and it has gotten increasingly worse over these last few years, why won’t the conventions do something to protect their conservative guests?

(6) LLEGAL ADVICE. This defendant in JDA’s lawsuit lives overseas.

(7) ON THE AIR. NPR reports that in Ann Arbor a bookstore’s public typewriter is the town conscience. And repository of fart jokes. “‘Notes From A Public Typewriter’ Muse On Everything From Cats To Commencement”

When it’s closing time at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, co-owner Michael Gustafson runs through a checklist that, for the most part, is pretty routine. First, make sure all the customers have gone, lock the doors and take out the garbage and the recycling. Shelve any stray books, adjust the tables, turn off the music.

Then, after closing out the registers, Gustafson descends one last time to the store’s lower level, the part of the bookstore stuffed with volumes on cooking and gardening, travel and history. And he sits down at an old typewriter to read the notes the day’s customers have left behind.

On busy days, there are dozens and dozens of them….

(8) TRASH MASTERS. Here’s the next job robots are taking over, and it probably won’t be much of a struggle: “How robots are reshaping one of the dirtiest, most dangerous jobs”.

Sorting trash is a dirty, dull, and dangerous job. Recycling workers are more than twice as likely as other workers to be injured on the job, and stubbornly high fatality rates make refuse and recyclable material collection one of the nation’s most dangerous occupations.

But with the rise of artificial intelligence, sophisticated trash-sorting robots are now turning up at recycling plants across the nation. Guided by cameras and computer systems trained to recognize specific objects, the robots’ arms glide over moving conveyor belts until they reach their target. Suction cups or oversized tongs attached to the arms snag cans, glass, plastic containers, and other recyclable items out of the rubbish and flick them into nearby bins.

(9) CANON FIRE. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “How ‘Solo’ rolls dice on a key piece of ‘Star Wars’ history”, says that in Solo the game of sabacc that Han Solo used to win the Millennium Falcon has been clarified. A.C. Crispin in her novel Rebel Dawn declared sabacc to be a dice game, but her novel has been ruled non-canonical and the official tie-in version of sabacc is a combination of dice and cards.

That would be the moment that flyboy Han Solo (played by Alden Ehrenreich) wins his beloved “bucket of bolts,” the Millennium Falcon, away from its previous owner, Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). Their face-off occurs during a climactic round of sabacc, the card game enjoyed by galactic citizens residing on every planet from Apatros to Yavin. And based on this Solo teaser, Han is quite clearly the underdog, while Lando is the top dog; in a hilarious moment, Solo reveals his cards to his sidekick, Chewbacca, and the Wookiee lets out a classic moan that doesn’t require any translation. (But allow us to translate anyway: “You’re screwed.”)

The sabacc sequence won’t just be Solo‘s answer to Casino Royale‘s classic poker game, though. It’s also going to firmly establish how the Millennium Falcon changed hands, a story that has gone through several permutations over the decades. It all started in The Empire Strikes Back, when Han (played by Harrison Ford) showed up in Cloud City and Lando (Billy Dee Williams) ribbed him over the Falcon’s poor shape. “What have you done to my ship?” he asked, to which Han protested: “Your ship? Hey, remember, you lost her to me fair and square.”

(10) BIG BLABBERS. Looper will see to it that the “Untold Truth of the Hulk” is untold no longer!!

The Incredible Hulk is one of Marvel’s oldest and most recognizable icons. Created by comics legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and first appearing in 1962’s Incredible Hulk #1, the Green Goliath spawned hundreds of comics, two live-action movies, a popular live-action TV show, and multiple animated series, films, and video games. And most importantly — big foam hands that make smashy sounds when you hit things with them. With so much Hulk over so much media, it’s almost impossible for even the most hardcore fans to keep up with all of the stories. Here’s the untold truth of the Incredible Hulk…

 

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

Pixel Scroll 1/30/18 The Man Who Mooned The Scroll

(1) ANTIQUARIANS ARISE. Posters for three upcoming book fairs across the U.S.

(2) A WRITER’S LIFE. Kameron Hurley opens her books in “Writing Income: What I Made in 2017”.

A couple of observations:

Patreon Saves the Day (But Don’t Count On It)

Patreon has been a godsend this last year, as I’ve been producing a short story every month, instead of every other month or so as I did last year. That said, the shitstorm at Patreon at the end of last year when they were going to up their fees by 40% for folks at the $1 tiers saw me bleeding fans from the platform. That experience reminded me again that this income – though provided by a large pool of 750+ fans, is still reliant on a third party system that could implode and fuck everything at any time….

(3) SHARKE CALLING. Now online, a self-introduction by a 2018 Shadow Clarke juror — “Introducing Alasdair Stuart”.

What I hope for is this: that my time on the Shadow Clarkes will allow me to get better at walking that line between undiscerning joy and the relentless caution of analysis. That I’ll be able to communicate the joy of a trick well executed, and the astonishment of a trick never before seen. To explore the idea that there is joy in skill as well as show, and that when that joy is absent we can learn at least as much as when it’s present.

Stuart’s name will be familiar to Filers for his podcasting empire, described in an interview he gave to Carl Slaughter.

(4) TENNANT TENTHS AGAIN. Comicbook reports “‘Doctor Who’: The Tenth Doctor and Jenny Return in New Video”:

David Tennant’s time on Doctor Who may have ended over eight years ago, but his Tenth Doctor will always live on in the hearts of fans and, it seems, in clever video messages for friends.

Tennant recreated his role as the Tenth Doctor alongside his wife, Georgia Tennant, who appeared as The Doctor’s daughter in the appropriately titled episode “The Doctor’s Daughter,” for a short video to wish his friend, Doctor Who script editor Gary Russell, farewell upon Russell’s move to Australia back in 2013. You can check out the video embedded below

(5) DOCTOR PHONE HOME. Also in the news, David Tennant accepted a settlement in his suit against the now defunct News of the World over a phone hacking claim.

News Group Newspapers (NGN) settled Mr Tennant’s High Court claim and issued an apology.

Tennant’s lawyer said he was “outraged and shocked” by the invasion of privacy.

NGN made no admission of liability to claims relating to The Sun.

Tennant was among six people to settle claims with NGN on Tuesday.

The other claimants were Olympic medallist Colin Jackson, actress Sophia Myles, party planner Fran Cutler, fashion designer Jess Morris and footballer David James’s ex-wife, Tanya Frayne.

Tennant first launched his lawsuit in March 2017, after the parent company of the News of the World closed its compensation scheme in 2013.

(6) ARMIES TO COME. Marina Berlin, in “Five Ways To Build A More Believable Futuristic Military” at The Book Smugglers, subverts the axiom that sf is never about the future by asking what MilSF would look like if it was about the future like it pretends to be.

The military of Battlestar Galactica is supposedly egalitarian, with all types of soldiers filling all types of roles, and without divisions in bathing and sleeping areas. And yet, the women who have children on the show are never shown to have a systemic, military framework to fall back on when it comes to parental leave or childcare. It’s not that Sharon or Cally would be able to rely on the same system the military had in place before everything exploded, of course, but some traces of that system, some expectations, some details, had to have remained. Just like there are echoes of every other part of a particular military system on the show, even if parts of it have disappeared. Instead, for both women, it seems like they are the first soldiers in history to give birth, and the solutions they have to find for childcare, for being soldiers and mothers simultaneously, are personal and anecdotal.

Examples of stories that show a military like this, where everyone serves together and sleeps together and bathes together and yet pregnancy is not addressed one way or the other are endless in military science fiction. From old classics like Ender’s Game (where the kids in Battle School with Ender were in their mid to late teens by the end of the first book) to newly released books, like Yoon Ha Lee’s excellent Ninefox Gambit.

(7) SFWA STATS. Cat Rambo delivers the digits:

(8) CREDENTIALS AND OTHERS. SyFy Wire’s Ana Marie Cox, in “Space the Nation: The most important pets of fantasy and sci-fi”, does a roundup of famous genre pets.

Salem, Sabrina the Teenage Witch
Technically, Salem is not a cat, but a 500-year-old witch sentenced to live as a cat as punishment for attempting to take over the world. Cat people might argue that becoming a house cat only furthered Salem’s ambitions rather than stymieing it.

(9) WINDING UP 2016. Rocket Stack Rank concludes a multi-part series on the best short SFF of 2016 with a look at their different sources of recommendations: “guides” like reviewers, “best-of” anthologists, and awards finalists — “2016 Best SF/F Short Fiction Guides”.

Greg Hullender notes:

The biggest takeaway (which we saw in earlier installments) is that although some judgment is subjective, there does seem to be a strong underlying idea of excellence that runs across almost all the guides and which is consistent with the idea that the awards are, in general, recognizing stories that are among the very best. Awards are better guides than best-of anthologies, but the anthologies are better guides than any reviewer, and the reviewers are much better guides than just picking stories at random.

(10) MORE LE GUIN MEMORIES. Michael Dirda tells readers of The Weekly Standard  “Why Ursula Le Guin Matters”.

…I suspect that Le Guin, who herself majored in French at Radcliffe, must early on have taken to heart Flaubert’s dictum: “Be regular and ordinary in your life like a bourgeois, in order to be violent and original in your work.” For there is no question about it: This humorous, outspoken woman, who once told a feminist conference that she actually enjoyed housework, was one of the essential writers of our time. As I sit at this keyboard, the whole world, especially the science-fiction world, is mourning her passing—and a certain committee in Sweden is, I hope, kicking itself for having neglected to award her the Nobel Prize for literature.

(11) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born January 30, 1941 – Gregory Benford

(13) HAPPY BIRTHDAY GREG! Gregory Benford’s birthday is celebrated by Steven H Silver at Black Gate in “Birthday Reviews: Gregory Benford’s ‘Down the River Road’”:

Gregory Benford was born on January 30, 1941. He helped start the first science fiction convention in Germany, WetzCon, in 1956 and the first convention in Texas, Southwestern Con, in 1958. He received the Nebula Award for Best Novelette in 1975 for his collaboration with Gordon Eklund, “If the Stars Are Gods.” His novel Timescape received the Nebula Award for Best Novel, the John W. Campbell Memorial, Jr. Award, the Ditmar Award, and the British SF Association Award. It also loaned its name to a publishing imprint. Benford received a Phoenix Award from the Southern Fandom Confederation in 2004 and a Forry Award from LASFS in 2016. Benford was the Guest of Honor at Aussiecon Three, the 1999 Worldcon in Melbourne, Australia.

“Down the River Road” was included in After the King: Stories in Honor of J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Martin H. Greenberg. Originally published in January 1992, the book and all the stories in it were translated into Dutch, Italian, and French. The story has not appeared outside of the original anthology.

(14) CHANGE AT NYT BOOK REVIEW. N.K. Jemisin will leave the column and be replaced by another well-known sf author — “Amal El-Mohtar Named Otherworldly Columnist for The New York Times Book Review”.

Amal El-Mohtar has been named science fiction and fantasy columnist for The New York Times Book Review.  She replaces N.K. Jemisin who served as the Otherworldly columnist for two years. Read more in this note from the Pamela Paul, Greg Cowles and David Kelly.

After two stellar (and interstellar) years as the Book Review’s science fiction and fantasy columnist, N.K. Jemisin is leaving to devote more time to her numerous outside projects, including her own books and a guest editorship for the Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy series. Since inaugurating the Otherworldly column in January 2016, Nora has gone on to win consecutive Hugo awards for best novel, and her book “The Fifth Season” (the start of her Broken Earth trilogy) is in development as a television series for TNT. We were delighted to have her.

… “I’m especially fascinated by books that don’t want to save the world so much as break or dislocate it further, in order to build something better in its wake,” she told us. “Fantasy and science fiction have long had at their heart the question of how to be good, and the 20th century’s shifting visions from monoliths of Good and Evil to the more complicated battle between individuals and systems has been a wild ride. I’m excited to see it develop further.”

[Hat tip to SF Site News, Locus Online, and Andrew Porter.]

(15) TERRA TALES. Charles Payseur is back with “Quick Sips – Terraform SF January 2018”:

The new year kicks off at Terraform with three excellent stories exploring futures that seems almost inevitable, that seems in many ways here already. The stories look at three very different things—immigration, employment, and nuclear destruction—but they all manage to tell emotionally resonating stories that share the feeling that most people are already accepting these futures as reality.

(16) RELATIONSHIPS SUCK. The Empties comic premieres on Valentine’s Day, 2018. Of course it does —

It’s a horror story centered around losing someone you love (or think you love). How scary is it to find out that person you love isn’t who you thought they were? (I’d say, pretty darn scary).

You can check out a preview of the book at emptiescomics.com. Kristen Renee Gorlitz says, “If you like what you see, sign up to check out the premiere of The Empties comic book on Kickstarter this Valentine’s day!”

When a loving chef comes home to an unfaithful wife, he cooks up a revenge plan so twisted… so disturbed… it will leave you in pieces.

 

(17) FEAR AND LOATHING. There are several genre authors among the “13 Writers Who Grew to Hate Their Own Books” discussed at Literary Hub: J.G. Ballard, Stephen King, Kingsley Amis, Stanislaw Lem, and —

Octavia Butler, Survivor (1978)

Survivor was Butler’s third novel, and also the third in her first series, now called the Patternist series. Though the rest of the series was reprinted (some multiple times), Butler refused to allow Survivor to be included, and (rumor has it) she didn’t even like to talk about it at signings or appearances. In an interview, she said:

When I was young, a lot of people wrote about going to another world and finding either little green men or little brown men, and they were always less in some way. They were a little sly, or a little like “the natives” in a very bad, old movie. And I thought, “No way. Apart from all these human beings populating the galaxy, this is really offensive garbage.” People ask me why I don’t like Survivor, my third novel. And it’s because it feels a little bit like that. Some humans go up to another world, and immediately begin mating with the aliens and having children with them. I think of it as my Star Trek novel.

The novel is still out of print—used copies sell for about $175.

(18) COMMON KNOWLEDGE. The UK’s Mastermind show ‘banned’ Harry Potter and Fawlty Towers because too many would-be contestants want these categories and the show will use a category only once a season.

Hundreds of Mastermind applicants are being asked to change their specialist topics because too many people are choosing the same subject.

Mastermind received 262 applications to answer questions about the Harry Potter series last year.

It is the most popular topic, alongside Fawlty Towers, Blackadder and Father Ted.

But only one contestant can tackle a subject during each series.

(19) THINKING OUTSIDE THE ARK. An “‘Unsolvable’ exam question leaves Chinese students flummoxed”:

Primary school students at a school in the Chinese district of Shunqing were faced with this question on a paper: “If a ship had 26 sheep and 10 goats onboard, how old is the ship’s captain?”

The question appeared on a recent fifth-grade level paper, intended for children around 11 years old.

The answer in the last paragraph obviously comes from a fan….

The traditional Chinese method of education heavily emphasises on note-taking and repetition, known as rote learning, which critics say hinders creative thinking.

But the department said questions like the boat one “enable students to challenge boundaries and think out of the box”.

And of course, there’s always that one person that has all the answers.

“The total weight of 26 sheep and 10 goat is 7,700kg, based on the average weight of each animal,” said one Weibo commenter.

“In China, if you’re driving a ship that has more than 5,000kg of cargo you need to have possessed a boat license for five years. The minimum age for getting a boat’s license is 23, so he’s at least 28.”

(20) ALTERNATE ART. BBC’s “The Star Wars posters of Soviet Europe” shows lots of examples with bright space-filling colors, wild designs, and flashy features that aren’t in the movies.

(21) DON’T FORGET. There’s a “Super Blue Moon eclipse on January 31”.

The Blue Moon – second of two full moons in one calendar month – will pass through the Earth’s shadow on January 31, 2018, to give us a total lunar eclipse. Totality, when the moon will be entirely inside the Earth’s dark umbral shadow, will last a bit more than one-and-a-quarter hours. The January 31 full moon is also the third in a series of three straight full moon supermoons – that is, super-close full moons. It’s the first of two Blue Moons in 2018. So it’s not just a total lunar eclipse, or a Blue Moon, or a supermoon. It’s all three … a super Blue Moon total eclipse!…

IMPORTANT. If you live in North America or the Hawaiian Islands, this lunar eclipse will be visible in your sky before sunrise on January 31.

(22) INTERSTELLAR. The Dave Cullen Show on YouTube does a segment about a movie they can’t forget: “Revisiting Interstellar”

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mark Hepworth, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Michael J. Walsh, Andrew Porter, Kristen Renee Gorlitz, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Escape Pod Makes Editorial Staff Changes

Escape Artists announced today that Divya Breed and Mur Lafferty are the new co-editors of Escape Pod, the weekly science fiction podcast, filling the role formerly occupied by Norm Sherman. Benjamin C. Kinney will take on the role of assistant editor.

Norm Sherman has stepped away for a variety of personal reasons.

Alasdair Stuart, owner of Escape Artists, Inc.. endorsed the new editors:

I’m incredibly happy to see Mur and Divya take the helm at Escape Pod. Their talent, discernment, and enthusiasm for the field is inspiring, inclusive, and welcome. I can’t wait to see them build on the esteemed past of the world’s first science fiction podcast and set its course for new stories.

Divya Breed

Divya Breed has been with Escape Pod for the past two years, first as an Associate Editor, and then as Assistant Editor. She is also an author of science fiction, writing as S.B. Divya. Her short stories have been published in various magazines, including Lightspeed, Mothership Zeta, and Tor.com, and her writing appears in the indie game Rogue Wizards. Her debut science-fiction novella, Runtime, was released by Tor.com Publications in May, 2016, and is a Nebula Award Finalist.

Mur Lafferty

Mur Lafferty is an author and pioneer podcaster who has been involved with Escape Artists since nearly the beginning (after Serah Eley Fed-Ex’d brownies to her as a bribe to spread the word about this new podcast magazine format). She was one of the founding editors of Pseudopod, editor of Escape Pod for a brief time, and then founder and editor of Mothership Zeta, the quarterly ezine for Escape Artists. She is currently the co-host (with Matt Wallace) of Ditch Diggers, a Hugo Finalist for Best Fancast, and the author of the science fiction murder mystery Six Wakes, out from Orbit.

Benjamin C. Kinney

Benjamin C. Kinney has been an Associate Editor for Escape Pod for the past year. He is an itinerant neuroscientist with a frozen New England heart, though nowadays he lives in St. Louis with two cats and his Martian wife. He no longer creates cyborg monkeys, after too many nights delivering them Prozac. His fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, PodCastle, Flash Fiction Online, and more.

Escape Pod is the premier science fiction podcast magazine, bringing its 40,000 listeners a variety of original and reprinted short fiction.

Pixel Scroll 2/1/17 We Had Scrolls, We Had Fun, We Had Pixels In The Sun

(1) TRUE GRIT. The director of Arrival has signed on make another adaptation of Dune.

Denis Villeneuve, best known for his directorial work on Arrival, Sicario and the upcoming Blade Runner sequel, is set to tackle the adaptation of Frank Herbert’s celebrated sci-fi epic, Dune.

Villeneuve was first rumored to be in the running for the role in December, but it wasn’t until yesterday the confirmation was announced. Brian Herbert, son of Frank Herbert and a celebrated science-fiction author in his own right, made the announcement on Twitter.

(2) PETER WESTON EULOGY. This month, Ansible has an extra issue — #355-1/2 — with Tom Shippey’s funeral tribute to Peter Weston. Shippey illustrates Peter’s personality with anecdotes about his business.

What powered that success was not government assistance but reason number two, Peter’s complete lack of pretence. The success of Weston Body Hardware was not based on cunning marketing or managerial tricks, it was based on Peter’s 150-page catalogue of door locks, and unlike many managers Peter knew everything about his product. He took every picture in his catalogue himself, and in each one you could tell left-hand from right-hand.

He usually had a screwdriver in his pocket as well, for removing interesting locks from derelict vehicles, and he could tell a Hillman Minx lock from a Ford Capri blindfolded. I recall one occasion in Texas, 1988, when his attention was caught by a beautifully-refurbished sports car in a car-park. He stepped smartly over to it, looked down, shook his head and remarked (to himself, not the yuppie owner who was standing proudly by), ‘How very disappointing! An Austin-Healey 3000, and all they’ve found to put on the boot is a left-over lock from a Singer Vogue!’ It sounded absolutely apocalyptic.

(3) STICKY FINGERS. Bleeding Cool has the rundown on “The New York Comic Con Organiser Barred From Attending New York Comic Con” after he looted another dealer’s display.

Frank Patz, organiser of the neighbouring comic con, Eternalcon in Long Island, New York, attending NYCC as part of Michael Carbonaro‘s Vintage Movie Posters booth, was arrested by NYPD Special Forces on charges of grand larceny and possession of stolen goods….

It is common practice at shows for the trash at the end of the shows to be raided by some vendors to find things that other vendors have left behind. However Eaglemoss representatives told me they were still in the process of breaking down their space, and the items in question were still inside the booth, and not considered trash.

Most of the items were returned after the arrest, and the charges are pending dismissal if Patz keeps a clean record for the next six months.

…However NYCC and the Javitz Center do not seem to hold with the “innocent until proven guilty” thesis. And so while Frank Patz will have no marks on his official police record as a result of this, he and all the individuals named, have been barred from entering the Javits Center, and show organisers Reed POP have barred them for life from attending any of their events, including the New York Comic Con, C2E2, ECCC and more.

(4) NEW PRESCRIPTION. Alasdair Stuart contends “It’s Time for Doctor Who to Change Television History for the Better” at Tor.com.

A Doctor who isn’t a white man is not a destination, it’s the start of a conversation. If the character worked—and it would—that would be an unmistakable turning point in how POC and female characters are portrayed on screen. It would also empower a generation of writers and actors, crew and producers to make their own work, with their own voices—work that, in the wake of a successful Doctor Who run with a woman or a POC in the lead role, would almost certainly find itself in a far more open and welcoming production environment.

That conversation is long and complicated and years overdue. It’s one that has to include bringing more and more women and POC into the fold as scriptwriters and showrunners and directors. It’s also one that needs to be years long in order for the changes it would catalyse to take effect. Most of all, it’s simply one that needs to happen, and there is no better time than now, and no better place to start than with Doctor Who.

(5) YOUR INVITATION TO A CONSPIRACY. John Scalzi shows us the way to make lemonade after he discovers an author has fallen for Vox Day’s insinuations about his bestseller status. (I argued in 2014 that Vox’s gambit was dubious because it equally undermined Larry Correia, then his ally).

I was pointed this morning to a blog post by an author not previously of my acquaintance who was making a bit of noise about the UK cover of The Collapsing Empire; the June 2016 cover reveal of the UK cover featured the strapline “The New York Times Bestselling Series”…

A little further digging revealed that this author almost certainly got this idea from one of my usual suspects (i.e., the same poor wee racist lad whose adorable mancrush on me has gone unabated for a dozen years now), who trumpeted the strapline as evidence that Tor is planning to fake a position for me and TCE on the New York Times bestseller list. As apparently they have done with all my work, because as you know I don’t actually sell books; Tor and Tor UK and Audible and a couple dozen publishers across the planet give me lots of money strictly because I am the world’s best virtue signaller, and therefore worth propping up with byzantine schemes to fake my standing on bestseller lists, because who doesn’t like virtue.

…(P.S.: If you would actually like to see me get on the New York Times bestseller list with The Collapsing Empire — or in the UK, the Times bestseller list (that’s the Times in the UK, that is, these newspapers with the same names are confusing) — then be part of the vast conspiracy of people who pre-order the book, either from your local bookseller, or via your favorite online retailer. Sadly, my publishers don’t actually prop me up. I really do have to sell books for a living. Again: Sooooooooo unfair!)

(6) BALANCING THE BOOKS. Tolkien once was a customer of a shop now closed and auctioning off its business archives: “These boots were made for Tolkien: Ledgers from iconic Oxford shoe shop Duckers go under the hammer”.

Famous names feature in the ledgers of shoemakers Ducker & Son which are about to be offered for sale by Oxford auction house Mallams, writes Richard Lofthouse…

They range from little-known Oxford academics and wealthy undergraduates with a taste in bespoke footwear to local luminaries such Tolkien, Brideshead Revisited author Evelyn Waugh and publisher Sir Basil Blackwell (who insisted his shoes were always rubber-soled).

First World War flying ace Baron von Richthofen, European aristocratic families and several maharajahs also shopped at Duckers. More recent patrons have included Olympic rower Matthew Pinsent, comedian Rowan Atkinson, former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson and Formula One boss Eddie Jordan.

Tolkien’s first order at the start of Michaelmas term 1913 is for a pair of black rugby boots for 14s 6d, a pair of porpoise laces for 8d, and a pair of ordinary laces for 2d. He was then an undergraduate at Exeter College, just up the street from Duckers’. The year had been a landmark one for Tolkien: he had changed his course from the Classics to English literature and, on the turn of his 21st birthday, had proposed to his childhood sweetheart Edith Bratt. Standing (above) in his pale jersey in the middle of the beefy athletes of Exeter College’s Rugby and Boat Clubs in 1914, Tolkien looks rather small; but he said that what he lacked in weight, he made up by extra ferocity.

A later page shows two orders by Tolkien in the 1950s, when he was Merton Professor of English Language and Literature and shoe prices had risen considerably: he bought three pairs for around £6 apiece. Fortunately his professorial income was supplemented by royalties from The Hobbit and, by the time of the last order, The Lord of the Rings, published in 1954–5.

(7) SNAKES, IT HAD TO BE SNAKES! I am told February 1 is Serpent Day. Not sure why that precedes Groundhog Day, but there you have it.

Serpents deserve a day dedicated to them; its presence is somehow necessary, what with all of the fables and stories abound with snake-inspired situations and wise or evil serpents, that have filled our culture for as long as any of our ancestors could remember.

(8) WHO FATIGUE. Are you tired of watching Doctor Who? I’m not, but if you are, CheatSheet offers four reasons that might explain why. (More likely, you’re tired of clickbait articles like this that drag you through multiple ad-saturated screens to see the complete post.)

  1. The Doctor got meaner

Fans familiar with the progression of the Doctor are familiar with the defining personality traits of each modern doctor. Christopher Eccelston was a stripped-down version of a previously flamboyant character, beginning a walk down a decidedly grimmer path for the Doctor’s personality. David Tennant after him was kind yet stern, with sharp features to match. He always carried with him a certain guilt over the burden of being the last of the Time Lords, leading into the reactively younger and more carefree Matt Smith iteration.

Finally, we were left with Peter Capaldi, the more mature and notably older version of the Doctor. It was more than a little jarring to go from the warm, goofy demeanor of Smith to the crotchety and sometimes mean-spirited Capaldi version. This in turn made it hard to adjust for fans, leading many to jump ship mere episodes in to the latest season.

(9) TAKING FLIGHT. Nerds of a Feather rounds out its Hugo recommendations with two more posts:

Best Graphic Story, Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form, Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form

Editor – Short Form, Editor – Long Form, Professional Artist, Fan Artist, Fan Writer.

(10) FURTHER THOUGHTS. Rich Horton ranges widely in his “Hugo Nomination Thoughts: Long Fiction (and some notes on Dramatic Presentation)”. And he compliments one of JJ’s posts, too.

Best Series

Considering this brand new category reminds me of one novel that I have just read, Impersonations, by Walter Jon Williams, a new pendant to his Praxis (or Dread Empire’s Fall) series. It’s a fun story, and I’m glad I read it, but I don’t think it’s Hugo-worthy by itself. I am strongly considering nominating the entire series for a Hugo, however.

And, indeed, that hints at one of my misgivings about the Hugo for Best Series. The most recent entry in a series may not be particularly representative of the series as a whole, nor as good as the rest of the series. The same comment, obviously, applies to Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series, represented in 2016 by the rather pedestrian Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen. I would say personally that both Bujold’s Vorkosigan series and Williams’ Praxis book are worthy, over all, of a Best Series Hugo, but that the best time to award them that Hugo has passed. (Which, to be sure, is primarily a function of this being a brand new award.)

At any rate, I was wondering what the possible candidates for Best Series, eligible in 2016, might be, and I was delighted to find that JJ, over at File 770, had done the heavy lifting, producing this page with a good long list of potential eligible series: http://file770.com/?p=30940.

(11) TRUE LOVE. With Valentine’s Day on the calendar this month, Seattle’s MoPOP Museum has sent those on its email list a set of Fictional Flames: A Lovesick List of #MoPOPCULTURE Power Couples.

In honor of cupid’s return, here are our picks for the fictional couples who remind us why we love to fall in love.

Uhura + Spock : Star Trek – This futuristic couple showed the world how to love long and prosper.

Clark Kent + Lois Lane: Superman – The most unique story of journalistic love. Ever.

Hermione + Ron: Harry Potter – These longtime friends fell hard with no love potion required.

Buttercup + Westley: The Princess Bride – True love has never been more adventurous.

Elizabeth + Mr. Darcy: Pride and Prejudice – This enduring duo have been charming readers and viewers since 1813!

Kermit + Miss Piggy: The Muppets –  The most sensational, inspirational, celebrational muppet couple.

Gomez + Morticia: The Addams Family – “Till death do us part” takes on a whole new meaning.

Mitch + CamModern Family – These loving family men are the perfect suburban couple.

Rick + Ilsa: Casablanca – This bittersweet, war-torn romance will have you reaching for the tissues.

Willow + Tara: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – The couple that slays together stays together.

Han + Leia: Star Wars – She loves him. He knows. (He loves her too.)

(12) TRIBBLES AT THE UNIVERSITY. “The Trouble With Tribbles” episode of Star Trek will be screened at UCLA in the Billy Wilder Theater on February 5 as part of the “Family Flicks Film Series.” Details about price and schedule are at the link,

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of a classic television episode from a landmark series! Watch as Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) deal with an infestation of cute, fuzzy tribbles aboard the Enterprise. Soothing to the crew and annoying to the Klingons, the furry nuisances nonetheless hold the key to a mystery on board. Trekkie suits and transporters optional!

(13) BRAND ‘EM. Rawle Nyanzi, in “Fear of a Pulp Planet”, calls it a “Pulp Revolution” —

Bloggers Jeffro Johnson — whose Appendix N book I spotlighted here — and Jon Mollison, both of whom I’m acquainted with online, have made much of the “Pulp Revolution,” a nascent literary movement intended to turn modern sci-fi and fantasy away from a perceived focus on deconstruction and embrace its heritage as a literature of the heroic and wondrous. It also seeks to bring the works of long ignored pulp authors back into the limelight.

I find “Pulp Revolution” a more appealing label than Sad Puppies, if anyone wants to know. (Like that’s going to happen….)

(14) RINGS. I still haven’t forgotten the first film in the series. This is the third.

First you watch it. Then you die. Rings hits theatres Friday!

A new chapter in the beloved RING horror franchise. A young woman becomes worried about her boyfriend when he explores a dark subculture surrounding a mysterious videotape said to kill the watcher seven days after he has viewed it. She sacrifices herself to save her boyfriend and in doing so makes a horrifying discovery: there is a “movie within the movie” that no one has ever seen before…

The film is being promoted by a pranks like this —

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Dave Langford for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]