Pixel Scroll 12/9/19 My High School Class Voted Me Most Likely To Scroll Pixels

(1) INTERSTELLAR TBR. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In response to comet Borisov streaking through the solar system, the Guardian invited Alastair Reynolds to talk about his favorite books about interstellar objects. Alongside some obvious choices, he gives shout-outs to some lesser known gems. It’s a nice little article: “Space invaders: the best books about interstellar arrivals”.

… A significant triumph in recent astronomy has been the detection of gravitational waves, finally achieved by an international consortium using immensely precise (and huge) laser interferometers. But the work to reach this discovery began a century ago, and encompasses a huge cast of heroes and dreamers – and its share of failure. In Black Hole Blues astrophysicist Janna Levin has written the definitive account of this grand quest, and it’s as insightful about the human protagonists in this story as it is about the mind-bending physics of black holes and warped spacetime….

(2) BOOKSCAN. Jason Sanford’s informative analysis “An Author’s Guide to Understanding BookScan” is an unlocked post at his Patreon page.

How Authors Should Use BookScan

If you’re an author, be aware of the limitations in what BookScan captures. A good publisher or agent will know BookScan numbers are useful for analyzing overall sales trends but do not reflect total sales. Be sure to point out your correct sales numbers when approaching publishers and agents. 

You can also try pointing out any important sales not captured by BookScan, such as with e-books. If you’ve hit a Kindle Bestseller list, definitely mention that because it won’t be reflected in BookScan. If you’ve likewise sold a large number of books at conventions and other appearances, mention that.

And if you’re an author where BookScan captures a much lower percentage of your print sales than the 45 to 50% mentioned above, point that out. The BookScan numbers for one of the ChiZine authors represented only 20% of their total print sales in the USA. If I was this author I’d mention that to any publisher or agent I worked with. Otherwise people may assume your sales are extremely low when they aren’t.

(3) OSHIRO UPDATE. Mark Oshiro filled in blog readers about his loss, and made a request: “Mark Does Stuff is going on hiatus”.

…I am currently safe and surrounded by friends every day. Suffice to say that I am devastated beyond words; even typing all of this feels trite and artificial. I don’t think there’s a person in this community in the last five years who doesn’t know how intensely I loved him or how instrumental he was in my life, in my work, and in my happiness. 2019 has been truly one of the worst in my life, as I unfortunately separated from him in the beginning of the year, a choice I knew was necessary but yet still regret and have regretted for a long time. Love is fucking awful like that, and there is no person on this Earth I have ever loved so completely and painfully as Baize.

Baize’s mother started a fundraiser to pay for the astronomical costs of not just the funeral, but sending his body back home to Los Angeles for the funeral. It is most important that if you decide to help out, you start here. If you are not able, a simple boost on social media is very much appreciated.

(4) ACTING I’M NOT. “Baby Yoda: ‘The Mandalorian’ Star Isn’t Real, but Why Shouldn’t It Compete for Awards?”Variety makes the question sound almost reasonable.

… In 2003, the Broadcast Film Critics Association took a step in that direction, creating the category “best digital acting performance” for its Critics Choice Awards. Gollum won the inaugural award, for his part in “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.” Serkis accepted the award, along with New Zealand’s Weta Digital team, which animated the character. Among nominees, Gollum beat out Yoda for “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” and Dobby from “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” But the category was a bit controversial, and didn’t return the following year — or in any future Critics Choice Awards after that.

The MTV Movie Awards also went tongue-in-cheek with its Lifetime Achievement award for a period of time, handing out the prize to characters such as Chewbacca, John Shaft, Godzilla and Jason Voorhees — but that was in the telecast’s early, 1990s life.

(5) THE EXPANSE. AV Club’s reviewer Zack Handlen reassure fans, The Expanse has a new home, but it’s as excellent as ever”.

On The Expanse, every choice has weight. Sometimes literally. Early in the show’s compelling fourth season, a character decides to leave her spaceship home and go planetside. It’s a decision her crewmates have made multiple times before, but in Naomi Nagata’s (Dominique Tipper) case, there are special circumstances. As a Belter, Naomi was born and raised in low-gravity environments, which means that her body hasn’t built up the necessary muscle mass to endure planetary gravity. The series hasn’t lost its sense of scope since it left the SyFy channel for Amazon Prime. If anything, it’s broadened its horizons, taking in new worlds and the political strife of multiple systems. Yet a small but meaningful amount of tension is generated out of wondering if a person can walk across level ground without collapsing.

Naomi’s struggles, and the attention paid to those struggles, is emblematic of what makes The Expanse so effective. The show’s canny use of consequences ensures that its wilder sci-fi concepts exist in a context that grounds them without diminishing their impact….

(6) EAR CANDY. Paste calls these the “The 19 Best Audiobooks of 2019”. Ann Leckie and Nnedi Okorafor are on the list, and so is this author –

The Passengers by John Marrs

Narrators: Clare Corbett, Roy McMillan, Tom Bateman, Shaheen Khan, Kristin Atherton, Patience Tomlinson

Run time: 11 hours and 39 minutes

John Marrs’ The Passengers, which follows strangers from the near-future who are locked in their self-driving cars by a murderous hacker, might be your new favorite thriller. As read by a quintet of narrators—all British, for you American listeners looking for your next pond-hopping aural hit—and scored by tempered sound effects, this novel reads as a multi-dimensional nightmare. Do we need another reason to mistrust both technology and the government? Obviously not. Do we still plan to obsessively listen? Of course! If you’re the type of reader who enjoys a truly harrowing story, Marrs’ chilling book is for you.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 9, 1960 The Twilight Zone First aired “The Trouble with Templeton”. Written by Ernest Jack Neuman (1921 – 1998) who was an Edgar and Peabody award-winning writer and producer, it had an amazing cast as well including  Brian Aherne as Booth Templeton, Pippa Scott as Laura Templeton  and Sydney Pollack as Arthur Willis. The Twilight Museum has an great essay on this episode here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 9, 1848 Joel Chandler Harris. American journalist, fiction writer, and folklorist who is best known for his collection of Uncle Remus stories. Yes, he’s white and the stories are about the ‘Brer Rabbit’ stories from the African-American oral tradition but he’s widely accepted by all about having done these stories justice.  James Weldon Johnson called them “the greatest body of folklore America has produced.” (Died 1908.)
  • Born December 9, 1900 Margaret Brundage. An illustrator and painter who’s now remembered chiefly for having illustrated Weird Tales. She’s responsible for most of the covers for between 1933 and 1938. Wiki notes that L. Sprague de Camp and Clark Ashton Smith we’re several of the writers not fond of her style of illustration though other writers were. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 9, 1902 Margaret Hamilton. Most likely you’ll remember her best as The Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz. She would appear later in The Invisible Woman, along with much later being in 13 Ghosts, a horror film, and a minor role in The Night Strangler, a film sequel to The Night Stalker. (Died 1985.)
  • Born December 9, 1911 Don Ward. Author of H. Rider Haggard’s She: The Story Retold. More intriguingly, he ghost-wrote works credited according to ESF to both Alfred Hitchcock (Bar the Doors: Terror Stories) and Orson Welles (Invasion from Mars: Interplanetary Stories). He also worked with Theodore Sturgeon on Sturgeon’s West. (Died 1984.)
  • Born December 9, 1916 Jerome M. Beatty Jr. His best-read fiction is the Matthew and Maria Looney books, a SF series for children. They were a brother and sister who live on the Moon, part of an alien civilization resident there. ISFDB lists seven novels in total across two series, one for each child. Nothing of his books including The Tunnel to Yesterday, a time travel novel, is available digitally, nor does it appear that anything is in print currently. (Died 2002.)
  • Born December 9, 1934 Judi Dench, 85. M in a lot of Bond films. Aereon in The Chronicles of Riddick, Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love which is at genre adjacent, Society Lady in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Miss Avocet in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Her very first genre film in the late Sixties, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, was poorly received by critics and I recall her role being a mostly nude faerie. 
  • Born December 9, 1937 – Fandom. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says “Fandom’s Thursday meetings in London begin, 1937 – then weekly in a teashop, now in a pub on the first Thursday of the month.”
  • Born December 9, 1952 Nicki Lynch, 68. She and her husband Rich Lynch edited Mimosa which won six Best Fanzine Hugos and was nominated a total of 14 times. She and her husband have been members of WSFA, the Southern Fandom Confederation, the Chattanooga Science Fiction Association. She has also been a member of SAPS, SFPA, Myriad (Galactic Hitch Hiker), and LASFAPA.  Nth Degree has a neat conversation with her and her husband about Mimosa here.
  • Born December 9, 1952 Michael Dorn, 67. Best known for his role as the Klingon Worf in the Trek franchise. Dorn has appeared on-screen in more Star Trek episodes and movies as the same character than anyone else. 
  • Born December 9, 1953 John Malkovich, 66. I was pondering if I was going to include him then decided that Being John Malkovich which won him a New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor was enough for me to include him. What a strange role that is! He also shows up in the dreadful Jonah Hex film and played Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach in the Crossbones series which is at genre adjacent. He also appeared in Mutant Chronicles, though, and there was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well.
  • Born December 9, 1970 Kevin Hearne, 49. I’ve really, really enjoyed the Iron Druid Chronicles.  Though I’ll confess that I’ve not yet read the spin-off series, Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) DECONSTRUCTING THE GHOSTBUSTERS TRAILER. Vanity Fair hunts down all the Easter eggs: “Who You Gonna Call-Back? How the Ghostbusters: Afterlife Trailer References the 1984 Original”.

…In the original film, Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman, Dan Aykroyd’s Ray Stantz, and the late Harold Ramis’ Egon Spengler investigated a spirit in the New York Public Library, where they found a similar tower in one of the basement corridors. “Symmetrical book stacking!” Ray exclaimed, like a kid opening a birthday present. “Just like the Philadelphia Mass Turbulence of 1947!”

“You’re right,” Peter replied, drolly. “No human being would stack books like this.”

In that original scene, we hear a haunting, three-note piano trill on Elmer Bernstein’s score as the three men proceed deeper into the library. Those same three notes play in the Afterlife trailer when Mr. Grooberson examines a real-life ghost trap….

(11) THE CYBER WHISPERER. “How William Gibson Keeps His Science Fiction Real” is a New Yorker profile of the legendary author.

… Droll, chilled out, and scarily articulate, Gibson talked about the future on television. (“It doesn’t matter how fast your modem is if you’re being shelled by ethnic separatists,” he told the BBC.) He appeared on the cover of Wired, did some corporate consulting, and met David Bowie and Debbie Harry. For a time, U2, which had based its album “Zooropa” in part on Gibson’s work, planned to scroll the entirety of “Neuromancer” on a screen above the stage during its Zoo TV tour. The plan never came to fruition, but Gibson got to know the band; the Edge showed him how to telnet. During this period, Gibson was often credited with having “predicted” the Internet. He pointed out that his noir vision of online life had little in common with the early Web. Still, he had captured a feeling—a sense of post-everything information-driven transformation—that, by the nineties, seemed to be everywhere.

As the Internet became more accessible, Gibson discovered that he wasn’t terribly interested in spending time online himself. He was fascinated, though, by the people who did. They seemed to grow hungrier for the Web the more of it they consumed. It wasn’t just the Internet; his friends seemed to be paying more attention to media in general. When new television shows premièred, they actually cared. One of them showed him an episode of “Cops,” the pioneering reality series in which camera crews sprinted alongside police officers as they apprehended suspects. Policing, as performance, could be monetized. He could feel the world’s F.Q. drifting upward….

 (12) HOLODECK QUALITY EXPERIENCE. Olav Rokne says, “Anytime I see an article about Douglas Trumbull in the news, I’m going to read it because the guy created the most important visuals of my childhood. I still think the best Enterprise is the one from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” — “‘Star Trek’ special effects expert gives talk in Monroe”.

… MAGI projects regular and 3D images at a rate of 120 frames per second. The standard rate at modern theaters is 24 frames per second.

Trumbull has been working on the MAGI technology for years at his home studio, where he has constructed a prototype of the MAGI Pods he hopes to one day install at public venues and movie theaters across the globe. These pods are fully enclosed, small-theater experiences featuring a hemispherical screen and cutting edge projection and sound technology.

“It’s so much like a holodeck, you wouldn’t believe it if you actually saw what we have,” Trumbull said. “In this hemispherical screen, with laser projection, and an extremely wide field of view and my frame rate, it’s like a window onto reality. It’s as close to a holodeck as we are going to get, and we could do it tomorrow, right now.”…

(13) PROPOSED INTERVENTION. A spammer is offering to help Paul Weimer fix everything wrong with File 770. Which apparently is a lot — (click for larger image)

Some of my titles are too long? (Said in the same tone as Rick in Casablanca when he looks up from his dossier and asks, “Are my eyes really blue?”)

Meanwhile Paul wonders, why him?

There actually have been days when this blog has been run by a non-male person (like when I was hospitalized, or needed a couple days away). Did the spammers not notice, or just treat the sudden, short-lived improvement as a statistical outlier? 🙂

(14) LEARNING ABOUT FACIAL RECOGNITION. Don’t be put off by the Harvard Gazette’s headline: “Who’s That Girl?”

Our ability to recognize faces is a complex interplay of environment, neurobiology, and contextual cues. Now a study from Harvard Medical School suggests that country-to-country variations in sociocultural dynamics — notably the degree of gender equality in each — can yield marked differences in men’s and women’s ability to recognize famous faces.

The findings, published Nov. 29 in Scientific Reports, reveal that men living in countries with high gender equality — Scandinavian and certain Northern European nations — accurately identify the faces of female celebrities nearly as well as women. Men living in countries with lower gender equality, such as India or Pakistan, fare worse than both their Scandinavian peers and women in their own country on the same task. U.S. males, the study found, fall somewhere in between, a finding that aligns closely with America’s mid-range score on the United Nations’ Gender Inequality Index.

The results are based on scores from web-based facial recognition tests of nearly 3,000 participants from the U.S. and eight other countries, and suggest that sociocultural factors can shape the ability to discern individual characteristics over broad categories. They suggest that men living in countries with low gender equality are prone to cognitive “lumping” that obscures individual differences when it comes to recognizing female faces.

(15) RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. A BBC video chronicles how a “South African creates sign language glove for deaf parents”.

Having struggled throughout his childhood to communicate with his deaf parents, Netshidzati Lucky Mashudu, from Limpopo, South Africa, created smart glove which translates sign language into speech.

Through an app, it can also work the other way, translating speech into sign language.

He says it’s helped him to communicate with his parents.

He showed BBC Life Clinic how it works and what he hopes it could mean for others in the future.

(16) PARADE OF MYTHS. BBC’s post “Mythical creatures appear in Medellín” has spectacular photos.

Fantasy creatures took over the Colombian city of Medellín on Sunday with 800 artists taking part in the annual Parade of Myths and Legends.

The parade is in its 45th year. It started in 1974 as a family event and to bring the country’s myths and legends to life.

The event’s artistic director said that in 2019 the emphasis was less on Colombian myths but on legends from across the world.

As a result, Mexican “catrinas”, elegant skeletons made famous by cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada more than a 100 years ago, featured heavily in the parade.

(17) UGLINESS WASN’T THE PROBLEM. Exceptional tastelessness was, explains Global News: “Walmart.ca pulls Christmas sweater featuring Santa with cocaine”. There’s a good video of the merchandise at the link.

Walmart Canada is apologizing after several adult-themed “ugly” Christmas sweaters — including one involving Santa and drugs — were posted for sale on its website.

…One sweater shows a bug-eyed Saint Nick and three lines of a white substance that is heavily implied to be cocaine, along with the phrase “let it snow.”

…Another featured an upside-down snowman with its carrot nose and jingle bells suggestive of genitals while another showed Santa roasting his “chestnuts” over a holiday ornamented fireplace.

(18) ON THE AVENUE. HBO dropped a new trailer for Avenue 5 with Hugh Laurie:

(19) A GRAND IDEA. Rich Horton is happy with SFWA’s latest choice for Grand Master – however, he would be even happier if an exception could be made to allow the addition of one more woman writer, as he explained to his Facebook followers.

Lois McMaster Bujuld has just been named the latest SFWA Grand Master, an honor she surely deserves. She is the seventh. The first was Andre Norton, in 1984.

However, in 1983 SFWA wanted to name C. L. Moore Grand Master. Alas, she had Alzheimer’s disease, and her family declined the award in her name, stating that she would find this too confusing. (Some have suggested that her second husband’s dislike of SF contributed to this, but I don’t know that we KNOW this, and, especially after the recent revelations about John M. Ford’s case, I don’t want to make such assumptions without knowing more about it.)

Moore was an entirely deserving recipient, and in fact the list of Grand Masters seems incomplete without her. And an idea occurred to me — would it be possible for SFWA to, even at this late date, posthumously award C. L. Moore the Grand Master title?…

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Olav Rokne, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, N., Michael Tolan, Contrarius, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]

Pixel Scroll 4/17/19 Heroic Struggle Of The Little Guys To Finish The Scroll

(1) SCRAMBLED WHO. “Neil Gaiman Shares That There Are Multiple ‘Doctor Who’ Easter Eggs In ‘Good Omens’”ScienceFiction.com has the story.

So, what kind of Easter Eggs might we see appear on the screen? Gaiman chimed in and shared:

“Jack Whitehall plays Newton Pulsifer, and the first time you see him going off to do a job he’s about to be fired from, his tie is actually the fourth Doctor’s scarf — really small, as a tie.

You know he must be an enormous Doctor Who fan, because he only owns one tie”

There’s also a new teaser trailer for the show –

(2) SINGING GEEKS! “Batman! Spider-Man! Marvel! DC! The Geeks are back this Sunday night in NYC!” The Off Broadway production of Geeks! The Musical! opens April 21 at St. Luke’s, 308 W 46th Street in New York. The music is by LASFSian Ruth Judkowitz.

David Bratman reviewed the 2014 production in San Diego.

…The story takes place over several days at a Comic-Con, though it could be any large generic media-oriented SF con – the coincidence of running into somebody and the difficulty of finding them when you’re looking for them plays some role in the plot. It’s the story of three pairs of friends who come to the convention, one set specifically in hopes of selling the avant-garde comic they’re working on, the others to buy collectibles or to attend programming or just to people-watch. They interact, and romantic pairings, both straight and gay, ensue….

The material has been updated for the 2019 production.

(3) TYPECAST ON TWITCH. Half a dozen sff and game writers will launch TypeCast RPG on Twitch this coming April 23. The continuing role-playing game will stream live Tuesday nights from 7-10 MST.

The members of TypeCast RPG will adventure in a world they’ve collaboratively created named Vaeron. Throughout the sessions, the dungeon master and five game players will make use of the Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition rule system to take their characters through a dark and heroic world in which cities have been built on the backs of slumbering eldritch monsters, stone-age dangers lurk in the lands below, and sky-ships plunder both land and air! 

The cast includes: 

  • Dan Wells will serve as the Dungeon Master for the group.
    • Notable Works: I am Not a Serial Killer, the Partials series, the Writing Excuses podcast. TwitterFacebookWebsite
  • Charlie N. Holmberg will be playing Fleeda, a Stone Age human druid with complicated family problems.
  • Alan Bahr brings forth Seggrwyrd, the gentlest (and biggest) Jotunnblut barbarian you’ve met.
  • Robison Wells is Grummund, a scoundrel sky dwarf pirate you’ll cheer for.
  • Mari Murdock is Grisk, a half-orc rogue torn between profit and faith, and willing to switch allegiances for the right reward.
    • Notable Works: Legend of the Five Rings Contributor, RPG Writing, Whispers of Shadow and Steel. TwitterFacebookWebsite
  • Brian McClellan is Krustov, the necromancer cleric and atheist (yes, it’s that confusing).
    • Notable Works: The Powder Mage Trilogy, Gods of Blood and Powder, Uncanny Collateral. TwitterFacebookWebsite

After the livestream wraps up, video viewing will be available on YouTube, as well as a podcast intended to launch on Wednesday afternoons. Various bonus content such as interviews, industry discussions for both fiction writing and gaming, and guest stars will be part of the live stream and other formats!

(4) AMAZON WILL PUBLISH SFF COLLECTION. The AP service carried the announcement of a prestigious collection:

Amazon Original Stories, an imprint of Amazon Publishing, announced today the forthcoming six-part science-fiction collection Forward, featuring original short stories from some of today’s most celebrated voices in fiction, including Blake Crouch, N. K. Jemisin, Veronica Roth, Amor Towles, Paul Tremblay, and Andy Weir. Forward will be available for free on September 17 th, 2019 to Prime and Kindle Unlimited customers. Readers can download the collection as a Kindle eBook or Audible audiobook.

Forward explores a central theme: the resounding effects of a pivotal technological moment. While each author started with this same prompt, readers will discover that each story unearths a unique corner of the sci-fi genre, ranging from intimate to epic, grounded to far future, hopeful to harrowing.

 Andy Weir ( Artemis, The Martian ) imagines a high-tech Las Vegas casino heist; Paul Tremblay ( The Cabin at the End of the World ) immerses readers in a patient’s mysteriously slow healing process; Amor Towles ( A Gentleman in Moscow ) explores a fertility clinic’s god-like abilities to alter an unborn child’s life path; Veronica Roth (Divergent trilogy) spins a story of finding connection in the face of our world’s certain destruction; N.K. Jemisin (The Broken Earth series) subverts all expectations when an explorer returns to the ravaged Earth his ancestors fled; and Blake Crouch ( Dark Matter) follows a video game designer whose character Maxine unexpectedly “wakes up.”

(5) BLADE. Is this the sword that Claire Ryan’s pen was mightier than? Authors thanked Claire Ryan for her work helping to expose #CopyPasteCris. (A list of 40 plagiarized authors is posted at the link.)

(6) RAISING A WRITER. Stuart Anderson’s Forbes profile “Isaac Asimov: A Family Immigrant Who Changed Science Fiction And The World” starts with a topical hook but is mainly a literary biography.

Isaac Asimov, one of the greatest science fiction writers of the 20th century, came to America as a family immigrant. In fact, he came as part of what some people, sometimes those not particularly in favor of immigrants, today call “chain migration.”

(7) NO SURPRISE. You will not be shocked by this BBC news item — “Hellboy: David Harbour remake fails to fire up box office”.

The latest remake of Hellboy has failed to catch fire, mustering a mere $12m (£9m) at the US box office in its opening weekend.

The turnout falls short of Lionsgate’s $20m (£15m) estimated figures.

Directed by Neil Marshall, the film stars Stranger Things’ David Harbour as a demon who switches satanic allegiance to protect humanity from evil.

Based upon Mike Mignola’s graphic novels, tensions reportedly plagued the R-rated superhero production.

Its poor performance with audiences, (underlined by its disappointing C-rating on Cinema Score), was also reflected by critics.

The Chicago Sun-Times described it as “loud and dark – but almost instantly forgettable,” while the Washington Post lamented its “flat performances and incoherent story”.

(8) PICARD. Three additions to the CBS All Access “Picard” series have been announced. Variety: “‘Star Trek’ Jean-Luc Picard Series Adds Three to Cast”.

Alison Pill, Harry Treadaway and Isa Briones have jumped aboard as series regulars alongside Sir Patrick Stewart in the upcoming untitled “Star Trek” series.

They join previously announced cast members Santiago Cabrera, Michelle Hurd and Evan Evagora.

…Pill, who is represented by CAA and The Burstein Company, is best known for playing Maggie Jordan on Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series “The Newsroom.” Treadaway is known for playing Victor Frankenstein on “Penny Dreadful.” He is represented by Principal Entertainment LA. Briones, who recently starred in “American Crime Story: Versace,” is repped by Piper/Kaniecki/Marks Management.

(9) ALIEN  RETURNS TO STAGE. “Date announced for North Bergen High School’s ‘Alien’ encore performance” reports NorthJersey.com.

There will be an encore performance of the stage version of the classic 1979 sci-fi movie, which became a viral sensation when some enterprising North Bergen High School students produced it with eye-popping sets and effects.

On April 26 at 8 p.m., North Bergen will reprise the show, which was staged for only two performances in March. Those performances caused a tsunami of interest when a video posted the weekend of March 23 got some 3 million hits.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 17, 1923 Lloyd Biggle Jr. He was the founding Secretary-Treasurer of Science Fiction Writers of America and served as Chairman of its trustees for many years. Writing wise, his best-known series were the Jan Darzek and Effie Schlupe troubleshooting team, and the Cultural Survey.  I find it interesting wrote his own Sherlock Holmes stories from the perspective of Edward Porter Jones, an assistant who began his association with Holmes as a Baker Street Irregular. There’re are two novels in this series, The Quallsford Inheritance and The Glendower Conspiracy. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 17, 1923 T. Bruce Yerke. He was active member of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, serving as its secretary for many years, and is credited with getting Bradbury involved with the group. Myrtle R. Douglas, Forrest Ackerman and he edited Imagination!, the Retro Hugo Award-winning fanzine. (Died 1998.)
  • Born April 17, 1942 David Bradley, 77. It’s his Who work that garners him a Birthday honour.  He first showed up during the time of the Eleventh Doctor playing a complete Rat Bastard of a character named Solomon in the “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” episode. But it was his second role on the series as the actor who was the First Doctor that made him worth noting. He portrayed William Hartnell in An Adventure in Space and Time and then played the role of the First Doctor in “The Doctor Falls” and “Twice Upon a Time”, both Twelfth Doctor stories. He is also known for playing Argus Filch in the Harry Potter film franchise, Walder Frey in Game of Thrones and Abraham Setrakian in The Strain.
  • Born April 17, 1959 Sean Bean, 60. His current role that garners him recognition is his performance as Ned Stark in Game of Thrones, but he’s worked in our area of interest a long time.  His first genre role was in GoldenEye as the the antagonist of Bond, Alec Trevelyan (Janus).  Next he shows up as Boromir in the first of The Lord of the Rings films. He played Dr. Merrick in the horror SF film The Island and was James in horror flick The Dark which purports to be based off Welsh myth. Following in the horror vein, he’s Chris Da Silva in Silent Hill (which gets a sequel later in Silent Hill: Revelation) and in yet more horror is John Ryder in the remake of The Hitcher. (Was it so good that it yearned for a remake? I doubt it.)  Black Death — yes more horror — and the character of Ulric ensued next. Finally something not of a horror nature in playing Zeus in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief happened. I’m going to forgo listing the subsequent horror films he’s in and just finally note that he’s in The Martian playingMitch Henderson. 
  • Born April 17, 1972 Jennifer Garner, 47. Back before there was the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there were Marvel Comic movies. Such was the case with Elektra Natchios and its lead character of Elektra Natchios. Don’t remember anything about the film anymore. She also had the same role in Daredevil.
  • Born April 17, 1973 Cavan Scott, 46. To my thinking, there’s somewhat of an arbitrary line between fanfic and professional writing. (Ducks quickly.) which brings me to the world of fiction set in media universes where a lot of fanfic is set. This writer has apparently specialized in such writing to the extent that he has novels in the universes of  Dr. Who (including the subgenre of Professor Bernice Summerfield), Blake’s 7, Judge Dredd, Skylanders Universe, The Tomorrow People, Star Wars and Warhammer Universe. Judge Dredd?  Novels? 

(11) SOMEONE BLEW THE BUGLE. Do cats really have nine lives, or do they make up the other eight? The question is inspired by the latest installment of Timothy the Talking Cat’s autobiography — “Beyond the Bounds of Genius: Chapter 3”

Chapter 3: Marine Sergeant Tim

…My first attempt failed as I had mistaken the Post Office for the Marines. In my defence “Royal Mail” and “Royal Marines” look very similar if you are reading a sign from cat height. Further confusion at the Salvation Army ended more violently as I attempted to attack a uniformed man with a trumpet in an attempt to show my martial temperament….

(12) RIGHT THERE IN THE TAX RECORDS. CNN reports: “Shakespeare home in London, where he wrote ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ found by historian”.

…Marsh’s quest began after The Theatre, an Elizabethan playhouse in East London’s Shoreditch, was discovered in 2008. The historian wondered where Shakespeare was living when his plays were performed there, which predated The Globe as the playwright’s workplace.

It had previously been identified that the Shakespeare lived in Central London near Liverpool Street Station, then known as the parish of St. Helens, after he was listed on taxpayer records in 1597/98, but the exact location was never identified….

(13) UNQUOTE. This 1975 letter from Thornton Wilder mentions the Dinosaur from “The Skin of Our Teeth” while illustrating a classic writers’ problem:

Before leaving for Europe (hope you had a lovely time) you sent me a beautiful American Wildlife Calendar. I was enjoying the pictures – the timber wolf, the woodchuck, the bison – and the mottos, Job, Walt Whitman. Dostoievsky, Dante – when I was thunderstruck to see my name-my birthday month, April … subscribed to a howling idiocy: “The best thing about animals is  that they don’t say much.” I never wrote that! I never thought that! I yelled for Isabel and pointed it out to her, the tears rolling down my face. “Isabel! Somebody’s played a cruel joke on me.  WHEN DID I SAY SUCH A THING? Let’s move to Arkansas until the laughter dies down.”
 
      “Don’t you remember that Mr. Antrobus says it in The Skin of Our Teeth when the Dinosaur is whining about the Ice Age.”
       “But l, I didn’t say it.”
       Then I thought of all the damaging things that could be brought up against me from that same play:
The Child Welfare Calendar: “A child is a thing that only a parent can love” Thornton Wilder.
The Anti-War Calendar: “God forgive me but I enjoyed the war; everybody’s at their best in wartime.” Thornton Wilder.

X

No more playwriting for me.

(14) DREAMSNAKE. Adri Joy gives a very fine overview of the book and its influence in “Feminist Futures: Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre” at Nerds of a Feather.

Executive Summary: Snake is a healer in a fractured post-apocalyptic world, travelling through various communities which live out relatively isolated existences in a world which appears to have gone through nuclear war. As you might guess from her name, the title, and almost every book cover Dreamsnake has been released with (except for a 1994 edition which decides to focus on the book’s stripey horse. There’s also… this.) this healing involves snakes: Mist, an albino cobra, and Sand, a rattlesnake, are both bred to synthesise various cures and vaccinations for illnesses, representing a combination of genetic engineering and on-the-spot biochemistry. The third snake is even more special: Grass is a dreamsnake, an extremely rare “offworlder” breed able to create hallucinations and pleasant dreams which are most often used to ease the pain of the dying.

(15) THINKING INSIDE THE BOX. Spacefaring Kitten bring Nerds of a Feather readers up to speed about the series of which this new Reynolds work is a part: “Microreview [Book]: Shadow Captain by Alastair Reynolds”.

There’s something in the dying (or at-least-super-old) Earth subgenre that has always resonated with me: a storyworld littered with weird and wondrous leftovers from times so far past that people are not quite sure what to make of them. In those stories, the massive weight of history hangs over the world and makes it alien in a very specific way….

(16) NO SHORTAGE. Charles Payseur uncorks more short fiction reviews in “Quick Sips – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #275”.

The two stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies’ first April issue feature young women separated from their families to learn some hard lessons from some rather kick ass older women. The pieces look at death and loss and war and where the characters fit into the larger tapestry of their communities, families, and worlds. They look at service, and sacrifice, and honor, and all the complicated ways those are used both against and to educate children, to prepare them for the roles they are expected to inhabit. These are two stories that carry some heavy darknesses, and yet tucked into them as well are narratives of care, healing, and hope. To the reviews!

(17) MUSIC OF THE SPHERES. The BBC will supply a soundtrack for the anniversary of the first Moon landing — “The BBC Proms are going to outer space: 2019’s season highlights”.

The BBC Proms will blast into hyperspace this summer, with a series of interstellar concerts marking the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings.

Alongside classics like Holst’s The Planets, the season will include a Sci-Fi Prom, featuring scores from films such as Gravity and Alien: Covenant.

A CBeebies concert will take children on a journey to the Moon, including a close encounter with The Clangers.

And the season opens in July with a new piece inspired by the first Moon walk.

Zosha Di Castri’s Long Is The Journey, Short Is The Memory will be premiered on Friday 19 July, under the baton of Karina Canellakis – the first female conductor to oversee the First Night of the Proms.

Meanwhile, art-rock band Public Service Broadcasting will play their concept album Race For Space in a special late night Prom.

The record, which combines sparse electronic beats with archive audio recordings from the US-Soviet space race, will be presented in a new arrangement with the Multi-Story Orchestra.

(18) DESERVES A TOUNGELASHING. “Star Wars: George Lucas names Jar Jar Binks as his favourite character”. Check the calendar – nope, it’s not April first.

George Lucas’ has revealed that Jar Jar Binks, one of the most reviled characters in the Star Wars saga, is actually his all-time favourite.

The 74-year-old director made the surprise announcement at a fan event marking the 20th anniversary of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.

“[It] is one of my favourite movies and of course Jar Jar is my favourite character,” he said via video.

(19) A.K.A. Maybe George was just creating a distraction to keep us from noticing that “Disney Has Officially Renamed The First Star Wars Movie”. Let Gamebyte explain:

Just when you think you’ve got your life sorted and you know what’s what with the world, Disney has to go and screw with all our heads and rename the original Star Wars movie.

Heading back to 1977, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope was our first trip to that galaxy far, far away and made household names of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford. Jump to 2019 and we’re on the cusp of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode IX.

We’ve come a long way since A New Hope, but now, the House of Mouse is renaming George Lucas’ epic space opera. The movie is now called Star Wars: A New Hope, fitting with Disney’s current naming of the movies since Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015.

(20) COMIC RELIEF. Philip Ball’s 2014 post “The Moment of Uncertainty” translated his interview on uncertainty, with Robert Crease, historian and philosopher of science at Stony Brook University. The interview appeared in the French publication La Recherche. Amid the serious scientific stuff is this little joke —

There’s even an entire genre of uncertainty principle jokes. A police officer pulls Heisenberg over and says, “Did you know that you were going 90 miles an hour?” Heisenberg says, “Thanks. Now I’m lost.” 

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Mlex, 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 WIlliams.]

Pixel Scroll 10/26/18 Eight Scrolls A File

(1) CRYSTAL HUFF AND ARISIA NEWS DEVELOPMENTS. During the day, Noel Rosenberg resigned as Operations Division Head and President of Arisia Inc. on the Arisia Corporate Members mailing list, per a report by Kris Snyder on Facebook.

Huff’s initial public response was:

Arisia continues to hear from program participants, for example, this group — “Public Statement Re: Arisia Convention Performances”.

We at the Post-Meridian Radio Players are committed to supporting Crystal Huff following her bringing to light the deeply upsetting actions taken by Arisia leadership to shield and promote her assailant.

As a performance group, we have long appreciated our working relationship with the Arisia convention. That relationship ends immediately, unless the called-for changes in leadership take place.

Sonya Taaffe offered a historical perspective on “Safety concerns at Arisia”

…As a member of the Readercon convention committee in 2012, I had a ringside seat when the similar failure of a convention to abide by its own stated policies led to the creation of its safety committee, the total overhaul of its code of conduct as well as incident report protocols, and the resignation of all members of the Readercon board. All steps including public statements of apology and accountability were necessary to restore the trust of a membership built over decades and burned in hours. I do not joke when I say it was a near-death experience for the convention. We still work to make its reputation inclusive, responsive, and safe, as opposed to tarnished by double standards and more tolerance for perpetrators than victims.

It is my sincere hope that the executive board of Arisia can heed the lesson of Readercon in choosing from this moment forward which kind of convention it wishes to be.

This is a more explicit version of the statement Nalo Hopkinson tweeted yesterday.

Kris Snyder, who works on Arisa and chaired the con in 2016, says “I believe Crystal that Noel violated her consent,” but sees a number of other things differently than Huff described them.

…I have received training for working with people who have been subjected to trauma and sexual violence. I have an extensive abuse and trauma history myself. I understand that it can take years to fully process a traumatic event like sexual assault or rape. I support Crystal’s right as a victim to evolve her understanding of what took place, and to make decisions later about how to handle the situation that are different than the ones she initially made.

I take issue with her characterization of how members of Arisia handled the situation. I do not like that she now demonizes people for actions (or lack thereof) that she specifically requested of them.

I don’t doubt that there were some people in leadership positions within the community that downplayed or dismissed the situation. That was not OK. I was not one of them. In 2012, when Crystal started enforcing boundaries with Noel, she sent several of us an email complaining about his actions but addressed it “To you guys as my friends and not as people in charge of things.” Once Arisia officially instated a disciplinary process in the spring and summer of 2013, Crystal was approached to make a report about Noel’s behavior. She declined, as was and is her right to do. Members of the eboard asked Crystal multiple times between 2013 and 2017 if she wanted to make a report and encouraged her to handle this through process. She said no….

(2) BOOK BURNING. “Iowa man burns LGBTQ children’s books from public library to protest pride festival”The Hill has the story.

An Iowa public library is considering legal options after a man checked out and burned children’s books to protest the city’s Pride festival and story time.

Paul Dorr posted a live video on Facebook on Friday that showed him throwing at least four books with LGBTQ themes into a fire inside a trash can, The Des Moines Register reported on Monday.

Dorr’s video was posted just before the beginning of the second annual OC Pride, a three-day weekend of “love, acceptance and pride” in conservative Sioux County in northwest Iowa.

Libraries here struggle to stock decent, recent books for kids as it is. Hhere’s a call to answer this crime by donating to the library —

(3) IT GOES ROUND. Alastair Reynolds saw “File 777” discussing “Paternoster Elevators” and says he knew about one in a familiar building that had, in fact, claimed a victim —

Years later I reasoned that the story must have been a carefully engineered rumour designed to stop people using the elevator in a way that wasn’t intended, not because of the risk of injury (or death) but because it caused problems with the mechanism, perhaps leading to the elevator shutting down or needing maintenance. I could well imagine that the authorities would “leak” a story like that just to stop students larking around and causing expensive breakdowns.

But (being a grisly sort of fellow) the File777 article prompted me to read up a little bit more paternosters and their history of accidents, and rather shockingly the first such account I read about was indeed one in the Claremont Tower, in 1975:

(4) ROLL THE BONES. Publishers Weekly has learned “‘Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell’ To Become a Board Game”.

Osprey Games will publish Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: A Board Game of English Magic, a game set in the world of Susanna Clarke’s novel, coming in June 2019. Players will take on the role of four principle characters from the novel—Jonathan Strange, Mr. Norrell, Miss Redruth, or John Segundus—and “travel around England and Europe, attending social engagements and performing feats of magic in the hope of becoming the most celebrated magician of the age. On their travels they encounter a host of familiar characters, from the jovial Mr Honeyfoot and beautiful Lady Pole to the extraordinary Stephan Black and the enthusiastic Lord Portishead. All the while they will be building up their magical abilities, as the gentleman with the thistledown hair is weaving his magic in the background and must be stopped for any player to have a chance of claiming victory.” The game was created by designers Marco Maggi and Francesco Nepitello, who have previously brought the worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien, H.P. Lovecraft, and the Marvel Universe to the tabletop. The game is illustrated by Ian O’Toole.

(5) THE VOICE OF EXPERIENCE. Clip and keep this handy if you aspire someday to be making the rounds to promote your book: “Notes and Advice From a Book Tour”

  1. Authors: Want to make friends with the bookseller hosting you on the tour? At the end of your presentation, just before the signing part, encourage the people at the event to buy a book from the bookstore (even if it’s not your own book!). Most people at your event have probably gotten a book from the store already (and probably your book, because they want you to sign it), but some haven’t, and some people forget that there’s a high correlation between a bookseller hosting future events, and the bookseller doing well with the current events. So remind people to buy books from the bookstore at your event, and to support them the rest of the time as well.

(6) SABRINA REVIEW. The BBC’s Annabel Rackham answers a burning question: “Does Netflix’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch reboot live up to the hype?” She says the show is more feminist, but “more innocent than Riverdale.”

Whilst Sabrina in 90s-sitcom form didn’t realise she had magic powers until her 16th birthday, the new Sabrina is already well aware of her supernatural skills.

That’s not the only difference – the modern Sabrina is as Kelly-Leigh puts it, “woke”. She’s a feminist icon for a new generation of teens and is not afraid to question the archaic rules of the satanic cult she’s a part of.

Also, Sabrina’s cutting rebuttals of everything high priest Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle) says is her way of bringing down the patriarchy, and I for one loved it.

(7) TOP WITCH. Vulture rates “The Best Teen Witches of Pop Culture, From Buffy to Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”.

Queenie, American Horror Story (Class of 2013)

Most Likely to Defect From the Coven: Queenie’s power was so great she thought she might be the Supreme, and she was one of two witches who survived the Seven Wonders, which is a pretty great reward for all the crap she had to deal with during AHS: Coven.

Activities: Witches’ Council; voodoo; practicing the Seven Wonders

Senior Quote: “I grew up on white-girl shit like Charmed and Sabrina the Teenage Cracker. I didn’t even know that there were black witches. As it turns out, I’m an heir to Tituba. She was a house slave in Salem. She was the first to be accused of witchcraft. So, technically, I’m part of your tribe.”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 26, 1966 — Jerry Lewis’ Way … Way Out had fun with the genre.
  • October 26, 1984 — The Terminator premiered.
  • October 26, 2015 Supergirl premiered on television.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born October 26, 1934 – Dan McCarthy, the grand old man of New Zealand fandom. He belonged to Aotearapa, New Zealand’s APA, for 25 years, and was its official editor from 1986-1987 and 2001-2003. As a member, he contributed 77 issues of his fanzine Panopticon, for which he did paintings and colour graphics. His skills as a fanartist were widely appreciated: he was a Fan Guest of Honour at the New Zealand national convention, a nominee for the Sir Julius Vogel Award, and he won NZ Science Fiction Fan Awards (the predecessor of the Vogel) Best Fan Artist twice.
  • Born October 26, 1942 – Bob Hoskins, Oscar-nominated Actor from England who is famous for his quirky character roles and is known in genre circles for the Hugo-winning Who Framed Roger Rabbit (for which he received a Saturn nomination) and Super Mario Bros. He played Professor George Challenger in the most recent film version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, and also appeared in Snow White and The Huntsman, Hook, the Hugo-nominated Brazil, A Christmas Carol, Son of The Mask, and as the voice of The Badger in an animated version of The Wind in The Willows.
  • Born October 26, 1942 – Jane Chance, 66, Teacher, Writer, and Lecturer who specializes in medieval English literature, gender studies, and J. R. R. Tolkien – with a very, very impressive publication list for the latter, for which she has received three Mythopoeic Award nominations, including Tolkien’s Art: A Mythology for England, Tolkien the Medievalist, The Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power, and Tolkien, Self and Other: “This Queer Creature”.
  • Born October 26, 1959 – Jennifer Roberson, 59, Writer of of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is a desert-based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed most is her Sherwood duology that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood, telling that tale from the perspective of Marian. She has been Guest of Honor at more than a dozen conventions, including a Westercon, and a novel she co-authored received a World Fantasy Award nomination. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis.
  • Born October 26, 1959 – François Chau, 59, Actor from Cambodia who is most known to genre fans as Jules-Pierro Mao on the Hugo-winning series The Expanse, but who has also had recurring roles on Lost and Gemini Division, and appeared in episodes of the TV series The Flash, Intruders, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., Time Trax, The Invisible Man, The X-Files, Alias, Medium, and Awake, as well as lending his voice to numerous videogames.
  • Born October 26, 1962 – James Pickens Jr., 56, Actor and Producer who played the FBI’s Deputy Director on 21 episodes of The X-Files; he also appeared in genre films Rocket Man, Sphere, Venom, and Red Dragon, and had guest roles in episodes of The Pretender and Touched by an Angel.
  • Born October 26, 1962 – Cary Elwes, 56, Actor, Director, and Producer from England who is unquestionably most famous for his role as the pirate Westley in The Princess Bride; he alsoplayed astronaut Michael Collins in the miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, voiced historical roles in Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, appeared in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Ella Enchanted, Shadow of the Vampire, Saw, and Saw 3D, had parts in episodes of Stranger Things, The X-Files, The (new) Outer Limits, and Night Visions, and has provided voices in animated features and series including Quest for Camelot, The Adventures of Tintin, Hercules, Batman Beyond, Sofia the First, and Family Guy.
  • Born October 26, 1963 – Keith Topping, 55, Writer from England. It being the month of ghoulies, I’ve got another academic for you. He’s published a number of non-fiction reference works – frequently in collaboration with Martin Day and/or Paul Cornell – for various genre franchises, including The Avengers, The X-Files, Stargate SG-1, Star Trek Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and for horror film fans in general, A Vault of Horror: A Book of 80 Great British Horror Movies from 1956-1974. He’s also written four novels in the Doctor Who universe, and co-authored The DisContinuity Guide.
  • Born October 26, 1971 – Jim Butcher, 47, Writer who was nominated for the Compton Crook Award for the first novel in his Dresden Files urban fantasy series, now up to 15 novels and countless short fiction works, which became immensely popular and was made into a TV series lasting one season. He has also written half a dozen novels in his Codex Alera series and contributed a novel to the Spiderman universe. He has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including an Eastercon (the UK natcon).
  • Born October 26, 1976 – Florence Kasumba, 42, Actor of German Ugandan heritage who has done films in English, German, and Dutch languages. She is best known for her role as Ayo in the Marvel universe movies Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, and Avengers: Infinity War, but she also had a role in the Hugo-winning Wonder Woman, played the Wicked Witch of the East in the TV series Emerald City, and voices a character in the upcoming live-action remake of The Lion King.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) NO PUMPKIN SPICE HERE. In the Washington Post story, “Halloween cocktails can be lame. These Stephen King and ‘Beetlejuice’ drinks are scary good”, Fritz Hahn says two Washington bars are specializing in Beetlejuice and Stephen King cocktails for Halloween (one is having a Pet Sematary night for animals to spend time with their drinking owners).

The drinks, meanwhile, are playful and delicious, with names that will have “Beetlejuice” fans exchanging knowing looks. (They’ll be available through early November.) My favorite is the Miss Argentina, a twist on the classic Corpse Reviver #2. Blue Curacao gives it a lovely blue color — a nod to the skin of the undead beauty queen-turned-receptionist in Beetlejuice’s Netherworld — while stripes of Peychaud’s bitters are reminiscent of the “little accident” that sent her to the afterlife.

(12) IS SMOKING REQUIRED? Aliya Whiteley, in “Smoking, Science Fiction, and Addiction” on Den of Geek, asks: if you’re writing a hard-boiled sf novel, should your protagonist smoke?”  Looking at John Constantine in the comics, the movie Watchmen, and Tade Thompson’s novel Rosewater, she answers:  “Yes, sometimes.”

For instance, back in the film noirs of the 1940s and 50s it would have been inconceivable for our hero not to smoke. Look at the thick smoke hanging in the light from the projector in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950) or the silhouette of Robert Mitchum, the cigarette smoke rising up and out of the French windows, in Jacques Tourneur’s Out Of the Past (1947) – it was often used as an excuse for intimacy between lovers, the camera closing in on the lips, or to bring movement to a still frame. Great directors used it as a language of its own, and it must be really difficult to decide to not use that language, as a contemporary director, if you’re making a film that deliberately uses noir elements.

(13) WHAT GOES AROUND. Bounding Into Comics, which publicizes comics from JDA and Vox Day, says industry professionals are trying to silence them.

Bounding into Comics has become the latest target of comic book industry professionals’ attempts to silence those whose opinions they disagree with.

On Tuesday, prominent Marvel and DC Comics Colorist Tamra Bonvillain (Doom Patrol, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Uncanny Avengers) issued a call to her followers to unfollow and ignore Bounding Into Comics (henceforth BiC):

(14) RAP SHEET LENGTHENS. “Fatal ‘swatting’ hoaxer faces more charges” — jerk whose swatting lead to death of a gamer had been doing it for years.

This incident arose following a dispute in the Call of Duty video game between two men. One of them owned the home occupied and rented by Mr Finch and this address was given to Mr Barriss as the place to send police.

The two men have been charged for their role in the fatal incident. Both have pleaded not guilty.

US federal prosecutors filed the fresh charges in a California court, claiming that many of the crimes were committed when Mr Barriss lived in Los Angeles.

The charge sheet details incidents in which Mr Barriss is suspected of being involved, between September 2014 and December 2017.

Many of the charges relate to fake calls about bombs planted in schools, federal buildings and universities. Others relate to separate swatting incidents, bank fraud, other hoax calls to police departments and threats of violence.

(15) THE SMELL OF SUCCESS. NPR’s Glen Weldon reports “Swedish Film Cleverly Blurs The ‘Border’ Between Reality And Folklore”.

Ostensibly, the title of the Swedish film Border refers to the internationally recognized demarcation separating one country from another. Its main character Tina (Eva Melander), after all, works at the Swedish Customs Service, where she screens those entering the country for contraband. She’s very, very good at her job: She can literally smell deceit, which, when you think about it, should single-handedly earn her portrait pride of place on the Employee of the Month wall, in perpetuity.

Of course, there’s more to it. If Border were only about Customs practices, howsoever informed they might be by nasal lie-detection, the film would be odd, but relatively straightforward — a kind of Nordic, olfactory-powered superhero yarn, maybe. Happily, this is not the case.

(16) THE WILD LIFE. Timothy the Talking Cat provides “A Helpful Guide to the Wonderful World of Mammals” at Camestros Felapton.

Squirrel: Sinister bastards who crave power and control and off-season nuts. You know they are whispering about you in the trees with their clever little hands and distracting tails.

(17) COOKIE IN A BOTTLE. Treat your palate — “Stroopwafel Liqueur”

Anyone who has visited the Netherlands has undoubtedly come across the country’s famous stroopwafels, a pair of thin, crisp waffles sandwiching a caramel filling. Fans especially enjoy the fantastic aroma that stroopwafel stands emit when making a fresh batch, and many claim that no better treat exists. However, the company Van Meer’s did not agree and decided to up the ante by transforming the stroopwafel into alcohol form.

The resulting liqueur, which won a gold medal at the 2017 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, captures both the distinctive smell and flavor of stroopwafels.

(18) THE SITUATIONAL ETHICS OF DRIVERLESS CARS. Mike Kennedy says what he learned from The Verge’s article “Global preferences for who to save in self-driving car crashes revealed”, is “Why I should stay away from school zones with self driving cars around.”

“If self-driving cars become widespread, society will have to grapple with a new burden: the ability to program vehicles with preferences about which lives to prioritize in the event of a crash. Human drivers make these choices instinctively, but algorithms will be able to make them in advance. So will car companies and governments choose to save the old or the young? The many or the few?”

Researchers from MIT have published a paper (Nature: “The Moral Machine experiment”) discussing the results of an online experiment (using a platform they call the Moral Machine) to “explore the moral dilemmas faced by autonomous vehicles”. They gathered 40 million decisions across a variety of languages and cultures. The paper itself is behind a paywall, but the article on The Verge takes a look at their findings. The data itself—and the code the researchers used to perform some of their analyses—is available to the public.

PerThe Verge article, the Moral Machine asked users to:

“make a series of ethical decisions regarding fictional car crashes, similar to the famous trolley problem. Nine separate factors were tested, including individuals’ preferences for crashing into men versus women, sparing more lives or fewer, killing the young or the elderly, pedestrians or jaywalkers, and even choosing between low-status or high-status individuals.”

Millions of users took the quiz. There were some fairly universal agreements. Again, per The Verge coverage:

“[…] the study’s authors found certain consistent global preferences: sparing humans over animals, more lives rather than fewer, and children instead of adults.”

There were also some disagreements, including:

“The study’s authors suggest this might be because of differences between individualistic and collectivist cultures. In the former, where the distinct value of each individual as an individual is emphasized, there was a ‘stronger preference for sparing the greater number of characters.’ Counter to this, the weaker preference for sparing younger characters might be the result of collectivist cultures, ‘which emphasize the respect that is due to older members of the community.’”

Of course, at present self driving cars might be able to tell most animals from most humans, but haven’t a clue about most age differences—nor can they likely tell law-abiding pedestrians from jaywalkers. So, this is mostly academic at present (see, e.g., the reference to MIT, above) but sooner or later some sort of ethical decisions will probably be baked into a car’s programming. Thinking about what that should be now seems sensible.

Taking a step past the automakers themselves, though, The Verge article also asks:

“But how close are we to needing legislation on these issues? When are companies going to start programming ethical decisions into self-driving vehicles?”

[…] the problems ahead can already be glimpsed in Germany, the only country to date to propose official guidelines [Google Translate version] for ethical choices made by autonomous vehicles. Lawmakers tried to slice the Gordian knot of the trolley problem by stating that all human life should be valued equally and that any distinction based on personal features like age or gender should be prohibited. […] if this choice is implemented, it would go against the public’s strong preference for sparing the younger over the elderly. If a government introduces this policy […], how will it handle the backlash “that will inevitably occur the day an autonomous vehicle sacrifices children in a dilemma situation.”

Obviously, much more work remains to be done

(19) PROVED AGAIN. “Archaeopteryx: The day the fossil feathers flew” – Back in the day, noted contrarian (and SF writer) Fred Hoyle claimed the fossil was a fake; disproved then by analysis, and disproved now by precision scanning of fossil halves and “fitting” them together by computer.

Sir Fred was high-profile and if the idea of fakery in a transitional fossil went unchallenged, Archaeopteryx would quickly become a cause célèbre for the anti-evolution movement. And don’t forget, the museum was the scene of perhaps the biggest fossil fake of all time – Piltdown Man.

The astronomer’s accusation could not be allowed to pass.

(20) NOT BIRDBRAINS. “Clever crows reveal ‘window into the mind'” — several assembled a reaching tool out of pieces.

New Caledonian crows are known to spontaneously use tools in the wild. This task, designed by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany, and the University of Oxford, presented the birds with a novel problem that they needed to make a new tool in order to solve.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Orson Welles On Censoring Horror Comics” on YouTube is an excerpt from an interview Welles gave a British show in the mid-1950s where he says that he personally dislikes horror comics, but feels that they shouldn’t be censored.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Bill, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 777, er, 770, contributing editor of the day Kendall.]

Pixel Scroll 10/23/2018 If You’re Filing To ScrollFrancisco, Be Sure To Wear Some Pixels In Your Hair

(1) DOZOIS REMEMBERED AT NYRSF. Via David Langford comes news that New York Review of Science Fiction #349, a Special Gardner Dozois Memorial Issue, is available as a free download.

Memories, anecdotes, appreciations, confessions, and clickbait, from:

Michael Bishop • F. Brett Cox • Jack Dann Samuel R. Delany • Andy Duncan Greg Frost • Eileen Gunn • Joe Haldeman John Kessel • Nancy Kress • George R.R. Martin • Mike Resnick Darrell Schweitzer • Nisi Shawl Allen M. Steele • Michael Swanwick Lynne M. & Michael Damian Thomas Gordon Van Gelder • Howard Waldrop Patty Wells • Henry Wessells Fran Wilde • Sheila Williams

Michael Swanwick’s contribution leads off the issue:

Daredevil: Gardner appeared as a character in a Daredevil comic book. I am not kidding you. It was a minor role. His friend George Alec Effinger, aka “Piglet,” played a larger part in the plot, much to Gardner’s pretended chagrin. “I don’t know why I couldn’t get to beat up crooks,” he would say. “Piglet did!”

Eccentrics: Susan Casper loved to relate how she had once overheard two writers bemoaning the fact that, with the deaths of some of the founding fathers of science fiction, there were no longer any great eccentrics in the genre. Those two writers were Gardner and Howard Waldrop.

(2) INVALUABLE MAPS. The Guardian has three excerpts from The Writer’s Map, An Atlas of Imaginary Lands, ed. Hew Lewis-Jones.  In the excerpts, called “Wizards, Moomins and pirates: the magic and mystery of literary maps”,  Frances Hardinge discusses the map she made of Tove Jansson’s Moominland, Miraphora Mina writes about the Marauder’s Map featured in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Robert Macfarlane writes about his map of Treasure Island.

I remember poring over the Moominland map at the front of Tove Jansson’s Finn Family Moomintroll. The map is homely, crowded and jubilantly out of scale, yet also haunting. Like the books themselves, the map always touched me with a gentle and inexplicable sadness. I imagined the Lonely Mountains isolated by their own vastness and strangeness, their slow, cold hearts filled with a drear and incurable loneliness.

But even then I noticed that one feature of the little map was not accurate, except in the sense that a stopped clock is right twice a day. Near a bridge is drawn a small tent, and beside it sits a little figure in a tapering hat. This is clearly meant to show the campsite of the green-clad, harmonica-playing Snufkin. But Snufkin cannot be pinned to a location so easily. He is an inveterate nomad, vanishing from the Moominvalley for long months at a time, then returning without warning or explanation. He was probably packing up his tent before the ink on the map had dried.

(3) NARCOTIC POWERS. Lev Grossman also endorses the cartographic impulse at Literary Hub: “Lev Grossman: Why We’ve Always Needed Fantastic Maps”.

I mention this as one example of the strange narcotic power that maps have, especially fictional ones, even when they’re present only in trace quantities. Of course I also had the usual transports over maps of Middle-earth, and Narnia, and the archipelagos of Earthsea, and the Hundred Acre Wood, and The Lands Beyond, where The Phantom Tollbooth took place. But I could get a contact high just from the cartographical border of the Uncle Wiggily board game. All maps are fascinating, but there’s something extra-mesmerizing about maps of places that don’t exist. Maps are part of the apparatus of reality, and the navigation thereof. There’s a subversive, electric pleasure in seeing them miswired up to someplace fictional. In most cases, the closest you can get to actually visiting the land in a fictional map is by reading about it. But in my youth I got a little closer. I did this by playing Dungeons & Dragons.

(4) DEMOLITION AND SALVAGE. Aliette de Bodard has a guest post on Chuck Wendig’s blog about “Cannibalizing A Draft (Or: The Art Of Rewriting)”.

…I looked at my field of ashes draft and thought I might as well toss it in the bin: usually I manage to salvage scenes but this felt like no single scene was working properly.

I moped for a couple of weeks (a totally writer thing to do! Well, at least this writer!) And then I sat down, turned to a fresh page in my brainstorming notebook, and wrote, very deliberately, “list of current scenes in the draft”, and “list of scenes I would like in new draft” (ok, it might have been a teensy bit more cryptic since they were notes to myself). I also took another notebook and did pages of brain dumps that were essentially me talking to myself about what I needed to fix. Writing it down without judgement was actually super helpful to unlock the issues and possible fixes: since it was longhand and not on a computer, I didn’t feel like it was a final story or even graven in stone. It forced me to keep thinking, to keep track of what I was doing, but not in a way that paralyzed me….

(5) HE CONTROLS THE VERTICAL. While it’s cliché to ask an sf writer “Where do you get your ideas?”, Alastair Reynolds is happy to tell you where he got one of his — “Oh, Atlanta”.

I haven’t been back to Atlanta since 1992, but the hotel did have one lingering influence on my work which that article prompts me to mention. Those swooping interior elevators left a big mark on me, and when I came to write Revelation Space – which I started later that year – they became the model for the elevators in the Nostalgia for Infinity, especially the part where Ilia Volyova’s elevator plunges through the vast interior of the cache chamber. When, in Chapter Two, Ilia’s elevator announces its arrival at the “atrium” and “concierge” levels, that’s all down to the Marriot Marquis. I’d never been in an elevator that spoke before.

(6) TOUGH DAY FOR WOMBATS. My goodness!

(7) LOVECRAFT CONTINUES. Paul St.John Mackintosh considers the writers who are “Revising Lovecraft: The Mutant Mythos” in the LA Review of Books.

You can’t understand Lovecraft’s conflation of personal miscegenation and hereditary flaws with outside threats, social decay, and vast panoramas of evolution across Deep Time without first understanding the turn-of-the-century traditions within mainstream experimental literature and polemical pseudo-scientific writing that influenced him. Lovecraft may have been a bizarre, original outlier in the context of 1920s horror or science fiction, but he was completely comprehensible (and even representative) within these older and larger traditions. Many other far-right literary figures on both sides of World War I share much of Lovecraft’s grab-bag of Symbolist, Decadent, Spenglerian, and world-weary fin-de-siècle values and tropes. Period clichés of Yellow Book dandyism and racial doomsaying abound in this context. D’Annunzio, Hamsun, and Jean Lorrain would all have recognized a kindred spirit in Lovecraft, and period readers of Max Nordau’s Degeneration and sponsors of the Race Betterment Foundation would recognize familiar ideas, thinly recast, in Lovecraft’s oeuvre.

(8) RESISTANCE. Eneasz Brodski at Death Is Bad comes out “Against ‘Networking’”.

…So I hate it when people refer to going to these sorts of events as “networking.” I dislike the whole concept of networking. It makes people feel like tools. Networking implies business. It’s about profit and career. I never approach a friend with “Hey, you wanna network on Saturday?” I never ask a partner “Hey, I miss you, haven’t networked with you in a bit, got plans this weekend?” So why the hell am I “networking” at a convention about one of my passions in life?

I blame capitalism. Apparently one can’t even have fun without feeling guilty, unless it’s about advancing oneself in life. >:( I just like meeting people and talking and making acquaintances. I don’t expect anything from any of these evenings except a fun evening.…

(9) STILL GOLDEN. The Scientific American blog presents a profile of sff writer James Gunn, “Can Science Fiction Save the World?”

There was once a time when robots roamed the surface of Mercury, when a shape-shifting alien emerged from the ice of Antarctica, and when a galactic empire of 25 million planets spanned the Milky Way. It was called the “Golden Age” of science fiction, the period from the late 1930s to the late 1940s, when pioneering authors such as Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein wrote their first mind-bending stories. And though newer literary movements have mutated sci-fi’s DNA since then, the last surviving storyteller of the Golden Age—95-year-old James Gunn—is still writing.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 23, 1918 – James Daly, Actor known best to genre fans as Flint in the Star Trek original series episode “Requiem for Methuselah”. He also played the simian prosecutor in Planet of the Apes, and had the role of the sinister pioneering doctor in what was possibly the first movie about providing organ transplants from the body parts of clones, The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler. In addition to roles on The Invaders, Mission: Impossible, The Twilight Zone, and The Evil Touch, he appeared in the Wernher von Braun docudrama I Aim at the Stars.
  • Born October 23, 1919 – Roy Lavender, Aerospace Engineer, Writer, Conrunner, and Member of First Fandom. He was one of the early members of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group (the third-oldest continuously running SF fan club), a member of the National Fantasy Fan Federation, and a co-founder of Midwestcon. He sent out an annual newsletter in which he discussed both scientific and science-fictional subjects. He and his wife, DeeDee (who was also a member of First Fandom) played instrumental roles in the planning and running of Cinvention, the 7th Worldcon, in 1949. He later moved from Ohio to California, where he was part of John and Bjo Trimbles’ sercon (serious and constructive) fan group The Petards, formed to actually discuss SF books (out of disgust with those feckless socializers in LASFS). He was Fan Guest of Honor at Kubla Khatch in 1994.
  • Born October 23, 1942 – Michael Crichton, Physician (non-practicing), Writer, Director, and Producer who became disillusioned with medicine after graduating from Harvard Medical School. He went on to write many genre novels which were made into movies (or vice-versa), including the Hugo-nominated Westworld and The Andromeda Strain (which won a Seiun Award), The Terminal Man, Sphere, the Hugo-winning Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Eaters of the Dead (filmed as The 13th Warrior), and Timeline. He wrote and directed Looker, which is notable for being the first commercial film to attempt to make a realistic computer-generated character, and was also the first film to create 3D shading with a computer, months before the release of the better-known Tron. (JJ is sorry to report that The Suck Fairy has had a go at many of these films – sometimes before they even got to the theaters! – but at least Timeline had the virtue of featuring Billy Connolly, Gerard Butler and Marton Csokas.)
  • Born October 23, 1950 – Wolf Muser, 68, Actor originally from Germany who has had recurring roles on Alias, Grimm, and The Man in the High Castle, guest roles in episodes of Carnivale, Timecop, and Misfits of Science, and appearances in the films Kiss Me Goodbye, Pandora’s Clock, and Final Equinox. He played a major role in The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery, an interactive movie point-and-click adventure game released by Sierra On-Line in 1995 which was produced entirely in full motion video, was noted by a reviewer for being “one of the few computer games to actually involve personal, meaningful growth in a player-character”, and was named Game of the Year by Computer Gaming World.
  • Born October 23, 1953 – Ira Steven Behr, 65, Television producer and screenwriter, most known for his work first on Star Trek: The Next Generation, but especially on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, for which he served as showrunner and executive producer, and for which he wrote 53 episodes. He also had a hand in such genre series as Dark Angel, The 4400, The (new) Twilight Zone, Alphas, and Outlander, for which he is Executive Producer. He is credited with the DS9 novel The Ferengi Rules of Acquisition, and he has been the driving force, as producer, behind the DS9 documentary What We Left Behind, which is now premiering in selected theaters.
  • Born October 23, 1959 – Sam Raimi, 59, Writer, Director, and Producer known for his frequently over-the-top genre works, including Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Young Hercules, Xena: Warrior Princess, the cult horror Evil Dead series, the original, Hugo-nominated Spider-Man trilogy, Darkman, and Oz the Great and Powerful. Okay, he produces lots of popcorn video. Let’s now give this writeup a true genre connection: Kage Baker, who was a dyed-in-the-wool Bruce Campbell fan, reviewed not only The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. for us over at Green Man Review, but she did a very nice look at Jack of All Trades, which Raimi produced and of which Campbell is the star. For your reading pleasure, here’s the review: Jack of All Trades: The DVD Set.
  • Born October 23, 1969 – Trudi Canavan, 49, Graphic Artist, Writer and Fan from Australia who started her own graphic design business and became editor of the Australian fantasy and science fiction magazine Aurealis, where she was responsible for the cover art and design, reading manuscripts, and maintaining the website. During this time, she took up writing, and went on to win Ditmar and Aurealis Awards, first for her short fiction, and then for her novels. She has done covers and many interior illustrations for books and magazines, and received two Ditmar nominations for Best Artwork. She has been a Guest of Honour at numerous conventions, including the Australian and New Zealand National Conventions, and Denmark’s Fantasy Festival.
  • Born October 23, 1970 – Grant Imahara, 48, Engineer, Roboticist, TV Host, and Actor who is probably best known for his work building robots and providing engineering and computer support on the Mythbusters TV series, which, using scientific methodology, engages in spectacular tests of myths and fictional book and movie scenes. He started his career at Lucasfilm’s THX and ILM divisions, working on special effects for many blockbusters including the Star Wars, Terminator, Matrix, and Jurassic Park films. He has made appearances on Battlebots with his robot Deadblow, and had cameo appearances in episodes of Eureka and The Guild. He also portrayed Mr. Sulu in the Star Trek Continues webseries, and had a role in the fan film Star Trek: Renegades.
  • Born October 23, 1976 – Ryan Reynolds, 42, Actor and Producer from Canada who had early roles in Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Boltneck, Blade: Trinity, The Amityville Horror remake, and The Nines, before being tapped to play Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool, in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. He has since appeared as that wisecracking character in two, now going on three, Deadpool movies and associated shorts and cameos in related films, including in the Celine Dion video for the music from Deadpool 2. No, there was no such thing as a Green Lantern movie, that was just a figment of your imagination.
  • Born October 23, 1986 – Emilia Clarke, 32, Actor from England who has become famous for playing Khaleesi Daenerys Targaryen in the Hugo-winning series Game of Thrones – a role for which she has received Emmy and Saturn nominations. She also played major roles in Terminator Genisys (as Sarah Connor) and Solo: A Star Wars Story (sans dragons). She auctioned a chance to watch an episode of Game of Thrones with her, which raised more than $120,000 for a Haitian Disaster Relief Organization.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • This Close To Home joke won’t be too obscure after all the time spent on the Ark in recent comments.
  • Faceblindness is inevitable in this case — Off the Mark.

(12) GRAHAM JOYCE. A 1998 interview with speculative fiction writer Graham Joyce, recipient of numerous awards, including the O. Henry Award and the World Fantasy Award, has just been uploaded — “Graham Joyce BBC Radio Leicester Interview 1998”.

(13) GOING CONCERN. This could be bad news — “Microplastics Are Turning Up Everywhere, Even In Human Excrement” – and it could be worse news if they aren’t leaving the body.

Microplastics have been found in human stool samples from countries in many parts of the world, according to a small pilot study being presented this week at the 26th annual United European Gastroenterology conference in Vienna.

The study, conducted by researchers from the Medical University of Vienna and the Environment Agency Austria, looked at stool samples from eight individuals in eight different countries: Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, the U.K. and Austria. Every stool sample tested positive for up to nine different plastic types, with an average of 20 particles of plastic per 10 grams of stool.

“Personally, I did not expect that each sample would … [test] … positive,” says lead researcher Dr. Philipp Schwabl of the Medical University of Vienna. He and his colleagues found that all eight stool samples contained polypropylene and polyethylene-terephthalate particles, which are major components of plastic bottle caps and plastic bottles. “Is it harmful to human health? That’s a very important question and we are planning further investigations.”

(14) CODE THREE. BBC says “Shipwreck found in Black Sea is ‘world’s oldest intact'”. It matches a portrayal of Odysseus and the Sirens.

A Greek merchant ship dating back more than 2,400 years has been found lying on its side off the Bulgarian coast.

The 23m (75ft) wreck, found in the Black Sea by an Anglo-Bulgarian team, is being hailed as officially the world’s oldest known intact shipwreck.

The researchers were stunned to find the merchant vessel closely resembled in design a ship that decorated ancient Greek wine vases.

The rudder, rowing benches and even the contents of its hold remain intact.

… The vessel is similar in style to that depicted by the so-called Siren Painter on the Siren Vase in the British Museum. Dating back to around 480 BC, the vase shows Odysseus strapped to the mast as his ship sails past three mythical sea nymphs whose tune was thought to drive sailors to their deaths.

(15) MORE BOMB THEORIES. Steven Zetichik in the Washington Post looks at the box-office failure of First Man (Peter Rabbit did better!) and says two reasons are that the film opened as a wide release, whereas director Damian Chazelle’s other two films, Whiplash and La La Land, opened in limited releases and built momentum.  Also, the film didn’t do as well in space-friendly Houston and Los Angeles because Astros and Dodgers fans were too deeply involved in the playoffs to think about movies — “The Neil Armstrong movie appears to be flopping because of Marco Rubio. The truth is more complicated.”.

Some Hollywood pundits certainly thought so. In a post on the trade site Deadline, Michael Cieply asked, “What Do Words Cost? For ‘First Man,’ Perhaps, Quite A Lot,” and broke down the box-office underperformance by the word count in Gosling’s interview. Meanwhile, the Hollywood Reporter columnist Scott Feinberg advanced the theory even more directly.

“FIRST MAN got Swiftboated,” he posted on Twitter, referring to the politically motivated set of attacks during the 2004 presidential election about John Kerry’s Vietnam War record. “I genuinely believe its box-office performance was undercut by the BS about the planting of the American flag.”

He makes a potent case, given the decibel level of the controversy and the fact that “First Man” contains subject matter that might be expected to play strongly in red states.

But this political question, attention-grabbing as it is, ignores more nuts-and-bolts movie issues that were just as likely to have a significant impact, relating as much to how and when the film was released as to what a politician was tweeting about it.

(16) VINTAGE HOODIE. Don’t let the reception for First Man dissuade you from ordering the “3D Neil Armstrong space suite Tshirt – Zip Hoodie”!

(17) I THE JURY. Fantasy Literature’s Sandy Ferber finally has a chance to render a verdict: From Hell It Came: Kimo therapy”.

Back in the 1960s, when I was just a young lad and when there were only three major television stations to contend with, The New York Times used to make pithy commentaries, in their TV section, regarding films that were to be aired that day. I have never forgotten the terse words that the paper issued for the 1957 cult item From Hell It Came. In one of the most succinct pans ever written, the editors simply wrote: “Back send it.” Well, I have waited years to find out if this hilarious put-down was justified or not, and now that I have finally succeeded in catching up with this one-of-a-kind cult item, have to say that I feel the Times people may have been a bit too harsh in their assessment….

(18) FILLED WITH PORPOISE. From SciFiNow we learn “Mary Poppins Returns first look video previews a new song”:

Mary Poppins Returns will be set in Depression-era London and follow now-grown up versions of Jane and Michael Banks, as well as Michael’s three children who are visited by Poppins following a personal loss….

 

(19) WHO DARES WINS. John Hertz, who once met Grace Slick, dares to conceive further attention to a parody (first offered in comments by Bonnie McDaniel) —

[Based on “White Rabbit”, G. Slick 1967]

When the pixels
From the day’s scroll
Get up and tell you where to go,
And you’ve just had some kind of comment
And your cursor’s moving, oh —
Go ask Glyer.
I think he’ll know.

When logic and proportion
Won’t even keep credentials fed,
And Camestros is hoaxing Hampus,
And Anna Nimmhaus’ titles are dead,
Remember
What the Filers said:
Get books read.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/8/18 And We Are Her Sisters, And Her Cousins, And Her Ancillaries

(1) RECESS IS OVER. File 770 was down for approximately 7 hours today, for reasons never fully explained by customer support, except they were “actively working” on a server problem. Well, to quote Sam Gamgee, “I’m back.”

(2) WHO WATCHED. The Guardian has the numbers: “Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who debut is most watched launch for 10 years”.

Jodie Whittaker’s take on the Time Lord drew Doctor Who’s biggest series launch audience in more than a decade on Sunday night.

An average of 8.2m viewers watched Whittaker’s first outing as the Doctor, beating the ratings for political thriller sensation Bodyguard, which attracted 6.7m viewers when it debuted in August. With an audience share of 40.1%, Whittaker’s performance was the most-watched episode of the science fiction drama since the 2008 series.

The first female doctor bettered Matt Smith and David Tennant’s debut viewing figures of 7.7m and 8m respectively. While she drew a smaller audience than Christopher Eccleston’s first appearance, which was watched by 9.9m, he had the advantage of appearing in the show’s comeback episode in 2005.

(3) WHO LISTENED. But some claim the Doctor Who theme music has been defaced. “Yes,” says SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, “thought impossible but some consider true.”

The brand new theme for Doctor Who Series 11, composed by Segun Akinola, which premiered tonight during the closing credits of ‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth’

 

(4) IT’S ALREADY BEEN DONE! Alastair Reynolds apparently blazed the trail for Banksy“Artist shreds unique work of art”.

Alastair Reynolds destroys last english copy of his short-story “Pandora’s Box” at Finncon’09

 

(5) A VOLUNTEER FOR PICARD’S CREW. Wil Wheaton told a Baltimore Comic Con audience he’d say yes — “Star Trek: Wil Wheaton Wants to Return in New Picard Series” at Comicbook.

Of course, fans also want to know if he could appear as Wesley Crusher could appear in the new show. Wheaton says he thinks its unlikely he’ll be asked, but he’d definitely be up for it if asked.

“I think it is very unlikely they will ask me to participate in it,” Wheaton said. “I mean, I think it is just extraordinarily unlikely that will happen. If they did, I would say ‘yes,’ of course. I think all of us would say ‘yes.’ I think all of us if we were given the opportunity to put on the spacesuits again and go work together and bring those characters back, as they would be thirty years later, we would all say ‘yes.’ And I don’t think it’s because we want the work. I don’t think it’s because we need the money. I don’t think it’s because we don’t have other things to do. It’s because we love each other so much and an opportunity, even for a day, to return emotionally to some of the best times of our lives, I think that we would jump at that opportunity.”

(6) LONG LIST ANTHOLOGY. David Steffen’s Long List Anthology Volume 4 Kickstarter has fully funded, included the stretch goal — 204 backers pledged $4,754.

(7) BITE CLUB. Ron Charles in the Washington Post discusses how Fangoria, which died last year, has been revived “as a new quarterly journal with photos so high-gloss that the blood looks wet.”  But Charles notes many book reviews amid all the gory photos, as well as a short story by Chuck Pahlaniuk — “Fangoria, the fabled horror magazine, has risen from the dead”.

…There’s also a piece for die-hard fanatics about continuity problems among the various “Halloween” sequels and a true story about a young man in North Carolina who built a replica of the Myers house. “I have to carefully pick what I’m going to invest my time in,” he says without any apparent irony.

Handy advice abounds in these pages. Makeup artist Tate Steinsiek explains “how to slit your own throat,” and director Corin Hardy walks us through hideous visuals in his new movie “The Nun.” “Malignant Growths,” a piece about homemade horror films, should come with its own barf bag….

(8) RAH RAH RAH (RAH RAH).  In a piece for Tor.com, James Davis Nicoll says there are “Five Books That Improve Upon Heinlein’s Juveniles”. (How can that be possible?)

Nothing fills me with dread quite like a middle-aged male writer announcing that he plans to write a YA novel just like the ones Robert Heinlein used to write . I could explain why this is such a harbinger of disappointment…but Charles Stross has already beat me to it. Instead, allow me to offer some non-Heinlein novels that succeed in scratching some of the same itches that the RAH juvies once scratched. For me, that requires the intended audience to include teens, that the genre be science fiction in the narrow sense, that the protagonist be a young adult, and that they get to do something that actually matters in the course of the book .

(9) NYCC COSPLAY. Huffington Post’s photo gallery promises “Here Are The Best Costumes From 2018’s New York Comic Con”.

But aside from stars to see, artists to discover, and unique merchandise to buy, people go to Comic Con to see (and be seen in) costumes. There were probably as many people in costume as not this year, and as always it was a wonderful distraction when walking from one part of the convention center to another.

(10) NYCC PROGRAM VIDEOS. On the Penguin Random House YouTube channel you’ll find links to 12 full panels recorded at New York Comic Con. These include a Patrick Rothfuss panel, Pierce Brown’s Red Rising Panel, A Night with Author Andy Weir (The Martian), “How Writers Build Authenticity Into Diverse Worlds Panel,” Patrick Rothfuss and R.A. Salvatore Discuss Epic Fantasy, “Disney-Lucasfilm Publishing: Stories from a Galaxy Far, Far Away,” The World of Lore with Aaron Mahnke Panel, “Disney-Lucasfilm Presents: A Celebration of Female Writers in a Galaxy Far, Far Away.”

 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 8, 1916 – George Turner, Writer and Critic from Australia, who was a successful mainstream novelist but turned to writing SF fiction and criticism in his sixties. His novel Drowning Towers (also published as The Sea and Summer) was a near-future story about global warming and economic collapse, which won the Clarke Award and was a finalist for the Nebula, Campbell, and Ditmar Awards. His book In the Heart or In the Head: An Essay in Time Travel, a memoir in which he chronicles his chaotic growing-up in a family for whom fact and fantasy were equally acceptable and often indistinguishable, won the William J. Atheling Jr. Award and was a finalist for the Hugo for Best Nonfiction Book. He wrote a lot on the history of the genre, including John W. Campbell: Writer, Editor, Legend for an Australian symposium on Campbell in 1971. He was given an A. Bertram Chandler Award – Australia SFF fandom’s highest honor – and his other works, both SF and genre nonfiction, received many nominations and wins for Ditmar and Atheling Awards, all earned between the age of 60 and his death at age 80. He was to be Author Guest of Honor at Aussiecon 3, the 1999 Worldcon, but died prior to the convention. The interview “Judith Buckrich in Conversation with George Turner” can be found in SF Commentary #76.
  • Born October 8, 1920 – Frank Herbert, Writer well-known for his Dune series – the first of which won Hugo, Nebula, Seiun, and Locus Awards – which has been translated into more than a dozen languages and adapted to movies and videogames, including the Hugo-nominated version by David Lynch. Songs of Muad’Dib: Poems and Songs from Frank Herbert’s Dune was published posthumously, edited by his son Brian Herbert. Other work includes the ConSentiency universe novels, Under Pressure and Hellstrom’s Hive (which was awarded the Prix Apollo), and works in his Pandora and Jorj McKie universes. He was nominated for the 1956 Most Promising New Author Hugo, and was Author Guest of Honor at a number of conventions.
  • Born October 8, 1941 – Penny Frierson, 77, Writer, Editor, Conrunner, and Fan who chaired or co-chaired several conventions and Worldcon bids, and co-chaired the 1986 Worldcon. She was one of the founders of the Birmingham Science Fiction Club. She collaborated with her husband Meade in her fan writing; they were big H.P. Lovecraft fans, and their fanzines included Science Fiction on Radio, HPL, The HPL Tribute, The HPL Supplement, and the fannish play, Shattered Like a Clockwork Orange. She was a member of the APAs Myriad, RAPS, and SFPA, Guest of Honor at Coastcon in 1978, and in 1987 Southern Fandom recognized her with the Rebel Award.
  • Born October 8, 1943 – David Dvorkin, 75, Writer from England who emigrated to the U.S., and has written more than a dozen of his own speculative fiction novels, but is perhaps best known for three of the earliest novels written in the Star Trek Original Series and Next Generation universes for Pocket Books.
  • Born October 8, 1943 – R.L. Stine, 75, Writer, Editor, and Producer. Author of more than 300 novels, mostly young adult horror, most famously the Goosebumps series, which, along with some of his other works, has been made in TV series and videogames. He has written novelisations of the genre films Ghostbusters II and Spaceballs. He was recognized with a Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2013.
  • Born October 8, 1949 – Sigourney Weaver, 69, Oscar-nominated Screen and Stage Actor and Producer. Her most famous genre roles are in Hugo-winning movies the Alien series and the Star Trek homage Galaxy Quest, in addition to parts in both Hugo-nominated versions of Ghostbusters, Dave (an uncredited version of Robert Heinlein’s Double Star), the Hugo finalist Avatar and its upcoming sequels, The Village, Vamps, and Chappie. She has also provided voices for animated films including the Hugo-winning WALL-E, Happily N’Ever After, The Tale of Despereaux, and Finding Dory.
  • Born October 8, 1949 – Richard Hescox, 69, Artist and Illustrator who, between the years of 1976 and 1993, illustrated over 135 covers for genre books, but now works mostly in the games industry and for private commissions. He is also notable for producing advertising art for such movies as Escape from New York, Time Bandits, Swamp Thing, The Dark Crystal, The Neverending Story, and Conan the Barbarian. Some of his work has been gathered into two collections, The Fantasy Art of Richard Hescox and The Deceiving Eye: The Art of Richard Hescox, with text by Randy Dannenfelser. He has been nominated for a Chesley a half a dozen times, winning in 2003, named Artist Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, and received The Jack Gaughan Award for Best Emerging Artist in 1991.
  • Born October 8, 1956 – Stephanie Zimbalist, 62, Writer and Actor of Stage and Screen. While she is best known for the lead in the TV series Remington Steele, she has appeared in more than 60 stage plays and as many TV series, with her most notable genre appearances being the films Jericho Fever and a Saturn Award-nominated role in The Awakening, the film version of Bram Stoker’s The Jewel of Seven Stars. She appeared in the 2006 documentary Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the Stars, and also portrayed McAuliffe in the play Defying Gravity.
  • Born October 8, 1970 – Matt Damon, 48, Oscar-winning Writer, Actor, and Producer. His most famous genre roles involve having to be rescued in both the Hugo-winner The Martian and the Hugo finalist Interstellar. After starting his career with a role as an uncredited extra on the Hugo-nominated Field of Dreams, he later had parts in genre films The Adjustment Bureau (based on a Philip K. Dick story), The Brothers Grimm, Contagion, Elysium, The Zero Theorem, Downsizing, and he reprised his Dogma role playing Loki in a cameo in the Hugo-nominated Thor: Ragnarok.
  • Born October 8, 1979 – Kristanna Loken, 39, Actor and Producer, known to genre fans as the cyborg Terminatrix from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Her other genre appearances include the films Bloodrayne and In the Name of the King, and the TV series Mortal Kombat: Conquest and Painkiller Jane.

(12) HERBERT DAY. Steven H Silver finds a story to celebrate in a 1971 Analog – “Birthday Reviews: Frank Herbert’s ‘By the Book’” at Black Gate.

Originally published by John W. Campbell, Jr. in the October 1966 issue of Analog Science Fiction Science Fact, “By the Book” was reprinted in 1971 in The Worlds of Frank Herbert and again in The Best of Frank Herbert. It was also included in the Herbert collections Eye and The Collected Stories of Frank Herbert. The story was translated into Croatian in 1978 for inclusion in the Yugoslavian magazine Sirius and into French in 1987 for the Hebert collection Champ Mental.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) LOCAL TALENT. In LA on October 11 — “Dana Gould – A reading of Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space”. Here’s some names you don’t see all the time anymore.

Dana Gould presents A Live, Stage Reading of EdWood’s… Plan 9 from Outer Space

w/ Bobcat Goldthwait, David Koechner, Janet Varney , Laraine Newman, Kevin MacDonald, Dana Gould, Matt Braunger, Rob Zabrecky, Ron Lynch, Nate Mooney, DeborahBaker, Jr., Ken Daly, G CharlesWright, w/ Eban Schletter and other surprises!

(15) DADDY DATA? Variety reports — “TNT Orders Ridley Scott-Produced Sci-Fi Drama ‘Raised by Wolves’”.

TNT has given a straight-to-series order to a sci-fi drama project that hails from executive producer Ridley Scott.

Titled “Raised by Wolves,” the series centers on two androids tasked with raising human children on a mysterious virgin planet. As the burgeoning colony of humans threatens to be torn apart by religious differences, the androids learn that controlling the beliefs of humans is a treacherous and difficult task….

(16) SECOND NOVEL. Adri Joy has been looking forward to the continuation of this series – see “Microreview [Book]: The Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault Rivera” at Nerds of a Feather.

…The Phoenix Empress pick up almost exactly where its predecessor leaves off, and while the “present” takes up more of the narrative in this volume, there’s still a substantial story-within-a-story as Shizuka fills Shefali in on the events that led to her becoming empress, not to mention developing an alcohol addiction and a severe phobia of water. Shefali has returned from her own travels even more changed, following events in that have led to her being contaminated by black blood but not succumbing to the usual progress of the illness, and now expects to die on her next birthday in four months’ time. A great deal of the book is therefore based on learning each others’ secrets and renewing their relationship, as well as working out what the wider implications of Shefali’s return are for the future of Hokkaro and the black- blood plague.

I suspect that the unusual structure of these novels is playing an important trope-subverting role as well as being a narrative choice….

(17) AGE BEFORE BEAUTY. Apparently D.B. Jackson couldn’t resist the challenge – at Whatever, “The Big Idea: D.B. Jackson”.

Anyone who has written a time travel novel knows that they can send an author ‘round the bend. Time travel is a plotting nightmare. It creates narrative holes big enough to accommodate a truck. It acts as a virtual eraser, a do-over generator, a distributor of endless mulligans. Even the most sound, well-considered plot point can be undermined by the simple question, “Well, why can’t one of our characters go back and prevent this?” Hermione Granger’s ill-advised flirtation with Time-Turners is just the tip of the iceberg. Time travel will make an author’s brain explode.

So, naturally, I have just published the first novel in a new time travel/epic fantasy series.

(18) PALACE INTRIGUE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Various sources are reporting that the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) has announced an intent to deorbit their Tiangong-2 (Celestial Palace 2) space laboratory during or after July 2019. You may recall that Tiangong-1 deorbited in an uncontrolled manner (though the Chinese claim otherwise) earlier this year. Fortunately,  the bits of Tiangong-1 that didn’t burn up on reentry happened to hit an unoccupied part of the Pacific Ocean. The plan for Tiangong-2 is to deliberately aim for such a spot.

Neither of the Celestial Palaces were intended to be permanent space stations, though China is planning a modular space station of a more permanent nature. Mooted dates for launching the various parts of that are currently 2020–2023.

(19) GOTHAM’S FIFTH. The trailer for the last season of Fox’s Gotham was played at the New York Comic Con.

(20) THE LAST GYRO. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA has confirmed, via Twitter, that the Hubble Space Telescope has been put into “safe mode” following the failure of one of its gyroscopes (Space.com: “Hubble Space Telescope in ‘Safe Mode’ After Gyroscope Failure”). This leaves the iconic telescope with only two gyros operating, not enough to “ensure optimal efficiency” per the Hubble website. All six gyroscopes were last replaced during Servicing Mission 4 when Shuttle Atlantis visited in 2009 during mission STS-125. With the Shuttle fleet long retired now, further servicing is not an option.

Dr. Rachel Osten, Hubble Deputy Mission Head, has tweeted that the “[f]irst step is try to bring back the last gyro, which had been off, and is being problematic.” If that fails, there was quick speculation that a change in operational mode may emerge, Dr. Grant Tremblay, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tweeted:

*IF* the third [gyroscope] doesn’t spin back up, I wouldn’t be surprised if they drop to 1 gyro mode, keeping the second as reserve. @rachelosten might know, but I imagine it’s a stressful, difficult decision. Let’s just hope the brilliant people at @STScI can recover the third. Stress.

That plan was confirmed shortly after, when Dr Osten replied:

It’s not a difficult decision, @astrogrant: the plan has always been to drop to 1-gyro mode when two remain. There isn’t much difference between 2- and 1, and it buys lots of extra observing time. Which the Astro community wants desperately.

In fact, the gyroscope that just failed lasted “about six months longer” than had been anticipated. This failure is one more confirmation that the Hubble is nearing the end of it’s life, though it is clearly still doing good science.

(21) RED HAT. Mlex says he’d wear one –

(22) STYLE POINTS IF YOU STICK THE LANDING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] There’s video of the first Vandenberg landing of a SpaceX Falcon 9 on The Verge (“SpaceX successfully landed its Falcon 9 rocket on the California coast for the first time”). The video includes launch, side-by-side views of the second stage burn and the first stage return to Vandenberg, and more. If you want to skip ahead to the final landing  burn, that starts just after the 29 minute mark of the video when the stage is still over 4 km in altitude. This is a night landing, so the burns are spectacular, but overall visibility is limited. The split screen for the last few moments of the landing has video from the side of the stage (looking down) and from a ground camera viewing from a safe distance.

(23) EPISODE RECAP. Martin Morse Wooster says, “My local public television station is showing the New Zealand series The Brokenwood Mysteries.  Last night they showed an episode which appeared in the show’s third season and was broadcast in New Zealand in 2016.” —

The premise is that a sleazy tour operator is offering “Lord of the Ringz” tours to the Brokenwood forest for Chinese tourists.  They’re shown a crappy matte painting of mountains.  Guys with pointy ears do some swordplay. The climax of the tour is when a giant plush toy spider descends on a woman wrapped up in spider webbing–but the unplanned but is that the woman is dead, and the detectives then find out who killed her.

A German guy complains that he isn’t seeing anything from The Lord of the Rings, and is told, “Oh, in New Zealand we spell things creatively.”  In another scene, a lawyer explains that as long as the customers aren’t told they’re seeing things from The Lord of the Rings–and every sign, for some reason, isn’t spelled correctly!–then it’s legal.  “We could be showing scenes from some direct-to DVD film,” he said.

I hope this lawyer never deals with the Tolkien estate…

(24) SHADOW OF VADER. Chuck Wendig will write a five-issue miniseries for Marvel Star Wars:

Chuck Wendig on Darth Vader and his newly-announced series, Shadow of Vader: “Vader is a character with a long shadow, literally and figuratively. His legacy is deep and unpleasant.” The world will not be bereft of Darth Vader in their comics for long, as Wendig announced that he will be writing a miniseries called Shadow of Vader, beginning in November. Each issue will feature a different set of characters: Issue #1 is a Friday the 13th homage, with Vader hunting down kids at summer camp; issue #2 stars the one-and-only Willrow Hood; issue #3 centers on a morgue attendant on the Death Star; issue #4 diverges to focus on the Acolytes of the Beyond; issue #5 follows a New Republic pilot — whose parents were killed by Vader — who joins the Resistance only to learn that Leia’s father is the Sith Lord.

(25) AMERICAN GODS TRAILER. The second season of American Gods is on the way.

A storm is coming. American Gods returns to STARZ in 2019. Starring Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Yetide Badaki, Orlando Jones, Omid Abtahi, Mousa Kraish, and more.

 

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

More Gardner Dozois Tributes

Gardner Dozois in 2017. Photo by Mark Blackman.

Gardner Dozois died May 27, and Michael Swanwick’s “The Gardner Dozois You Didn’t Know You Knew” (linked yesterday) has gone viral in the sf community.

Many other friends, colleagues and admirers of Dozois are also mourning the famed sff editor and writer. Here are a few excerpts:

Pat Cadigan on Facebook.

You will read a whole lot of tributes to Gardner, lauding him as a person, an editor, and a writer, and even the most superlative won’t be superlative enough.

But Gardner Dozois and Susan Casper were more than that to me…they were family.

I’m not trying to claim I’m part of Gardner’s and Susan’s family. I’m saying they’re part of mine.

But, as Michael Swanwick has pointed out to me, we don’t get the people we love for free. The pain of losing them is the price we pay for the privilege of having them in our lives.

They’re worth it.

Walter Jon Williams: “The Passing of a Titan”.

In public, Gardner was a Personality.  Loud, lewd, and Rabelaisian, he was an effervescent source of fun and mischief.  I remember chatting with him in a crowded restaurant when the room suddenly went quiet, in one of those odd silences that can sometimes occur even in a busy room.  Gardner was the only person in the room who kept talking, and suddenly the entire room heard Gardner’s high tenor voice singing out the words “FEMALE . . . GENITAL . . . MUTILATION.”  

The silence went on for some time after that.

But if he were only the large-scale public personality, he wouldn’t have had the impact on the field that he did, and he wouldn’t have found and published the literate, sensitive stories for which his tenure at Asimov’s became known.  He wouldn’t have won the Hugo Award so many times, and there wouldn’t be so many very good authors who owe him a boost in their careers.

David Gerrold on Facebook:

Over the years, he established himself as one of the people who simply defined what science fiction could be — as a writer, an editor, and a reviewer. It was my privilege to present the Skylark award to him at a Boskone a few years ago — but because of his health issues, he wasn’t able to accept the trophy in person. I think I was as honored to present it to him as he was to receive it.

To put it simply, Gardner was one of the people whose respect I wanted to be worthy of. He edited the Year’s Best SF anthology for over three decades. But it wasn’t until number 23 (if I remember correctly) that he finally decided one of my stories should be included. (And then one more time, a couple years ago.) To make it into one of his anthologies had been on my bucket list. I am heartbroken that there will be no more Year’s Best with his name as editor.

Equally saddening, losing him as a reviewer. Gardner had an insightful eye — which is why I always turned to his reviews first in nearly every new issue of Locus. I think that’s one of the things I will miss the most — there will be no more reviews of short fiction by Gardner and Locus will be just a little less fun to read.

Alastair Reynolds, after recounting Dozois’ influence on his career, ends his  “Gardner Dozois” tribute —

I can’t say I knew him terrible well; we met on perhaps two of three occasions over the years during which he (and his late wife) were charming company, but I liked him very much and his passing will leave a considerable void in the SF community. I always let him know how much it meant to me that he picked up my stories, and I hope some of that got through to him – it really was sincerely meant. And – all too briefly – I ought to mention that he was also a fine and stylish writer, a very accomplished SF thinker who could easily have had a career just as a writer, but who directed most of his energies into editing instead, and thereby did the community a great favour. He was also a very readable diarist, and – although it’s been many years since I last encountered them – his travel writings were extremely enjoyable. He was a loud, colourful presence at SF conventions, but also a sensitive, cultured and knowledgeable man in private.

Lorena Haldeman on Facebook.

Some days you wake up and the daylight seems a little dimmer, your gravitational spin seems a little off; as if a star has gone out and the universe has to learn to adjust to new patterns.

I’ve always truly believed that the best way to keep people with us, in our hearts, when they have to leave the party, is to look for the qualities we so deeply admired in them and cultivate those in ourselves. May a part of me, going forward, always find mad humor in the angry darkness, keep the ability to be gentle in the tossing storm of life, and to be able to find the heart of the story by expertly cutting out the unnecessary.

Matthew Cheney shares bittersweet memories of growing up with Asimov’s – and growing apart, in “Gardner Dozois (1947-2018)”.

Dozois never showed interest in avant-garde fiction, at least to my knowledge, but in his early years at Asimov’s and in the late-’80s/early-’90s Year’s Bests he published quite a bit of work that pushed against various borders and walls, especially the expectations of genre readers about what SF could and, indeed, should be. His was a pluralistic, ecumenical, eclectic vision of the field, one gained from coming up as a writer himself in the years after the New Wave had shaken things up a bit. He loved a good space opera, but he was just as much a champion of “The Faithful Companion at Forty”, the sort of story that less open-minded readers said didn’t belong in a science fiction magazine.

Lavie Tidhar will miss him in a very practical way: “RIP Gardner Dozois (1947-2018)”.

What I can say about Gardner is that he meant a hell of a lot to me. He was my most strident champion in short fiction. He first contacted me about ten years ago, asking to reprint one of my stories in his seminal Year’s Best Science Fiction anthology series. Since then, he’s included me in every volume, sometimes doing me the honour of reprinting not one but two in the same volume. I only skipped one year – I got fed up with short fiction for some reason and published barely nothing, and it was the realisation that I missed a volume in Gardner’s anthology, I think, that made me realise how ridiculous I was being, so I started again.

…He’d asked me for a new one just 3 weeks ago. I was just about to start writing it… I don’t really know what happens now. He was an amazing editor, a defining force, and my knight in shining armour. He knew my work better than I did. There is no one else like him. The world of science fiction is poorer for not having him, but God damn it, I needed you, Gardner!

Jamie Todd Rubin shares memories of one of “The Nine Billion Names of Science Fiction”.

…I was present for an amazing “panel” discussion that included Gardner, and George R. R. Martin at Capclave back in 2013. It was standing-room only, and I stood near the back for two hours, laughing harder than I’d laughed in years. Gardner told stories from his days in the army, and the refrain across the convention the following day went something like: “IF YOU DO (X) YOU WILL DIE.” You had to be there.

…I have to remind myself that Gardner himself was a supernova. He was a nursery for new stars. And while his star may have winked out, there are thousands that he helped create that still shine brightly, and will continue to do so for generations to come.

Alec Nevala-Lee was affected by “The Constant Gardner”.

Gardner and I never met, and we exchanged only a handful of emails over the last decade, but he profoundly affected my life on at least two occasions. The first was when I was twelve years old, and I received a copy of Asimov’s Science Fiction—which Gardner was editing at the time—for my birthday. As I’ve recounted here before, it was that present from my parents, given at exactly the right moment, that made me aware of short science fiction as a going concern, as embodied by its survival in the three print digests. My career ended up being more closely tied to Analog, but it was Asimov’s that set me on that path in the first place. Without that one issue, I don’t know if it would have occurred to me to write and submit short stories at all, and everything that followed would have been very different.

Lou Antonelli says “Farewell, Oh Great One!”

I will always be grateful to Gardner Dozois for encouraging me and giving me invaluable writing advice when I was just starting to write spec fic back in 2003 and 2004, and ultimately accepting my first pro sale, “A Rocket for the Republic”, which was published in Asimov’s Science Fiction in Sept. 2005.

That was the only story of mine he ever accepted, because it was the last he ever accepted before he retired in April 2004. I will always be proud of the fact that mine was the last story he bought before leaving Asimov’s after 19 years.

John Clute concludes his entry on “Dozois, Gardner”  at The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction —

It may be that Dozois’s main contribution to sf – including a maturely realistic sense of the nature of the worlds he honoured both in his creative work and in his edited books – was technical: his remarkable capacity to select (and to edit) work that is both exciting to read and adult on reflection. But over and above that, his abiding contributions to the field seem from the first to have been fueled by his deep love for the field, not uncritical but unfaltering.

Richard Parks remembers hanging out on Delphi: “Gardner Dozois 1947-2018”.

I actually “met” Gardner online back in the early 1990’s, in the relatively early days of what was almost but not quite the internet. Before FB and Reddit there was Genie and Delphi, “bulletin board” sites where you logged in through an analog modem to argue and chat with friends. A lot of the sf/f field hung out on Genie, but on one night a week a smaller, very lucky group came together on the sf/f board on Delphi. Membership varied, but at one time or another there was Janet Kagan, Pat Cadigan, Lawrence Person, Jack L. Chalker, Eva Whitley, Mike Resnick, Susan Casper and yes, Gardner Dozois. And me. I wasn’t the only nobody there, of course, but on the other hand there weren’t any nobodies there. It was a friendly group and everyone felt welcome. I certainly did. At the time I had only sold one story, several years earlier, to Amazing SF, and while I was still working hard, I was beginning to think that was it. And even though talking business was generally frowned on, it was there that Gardner broke the news that he was taking a story of mine, “Laying the Stones,” for Asimov’s SF. Now imagine yourself drowning, not for a minute or two but for months, years, and somebody finally throws you a lifeline.

For me, that somebody was Gardner Dozois.

Pixel Scroll 10/29/17 Please Remember To Scroll Your Pixels In The Form Of A Question

(1) THE ORIGINAL KTF REVIEWER. Humanities revisits “Edgar Allan Poe’s Hatchet Jobs”.

Poe churned out reams of puff-free reviews—the Library of America’s collection of his reviews and essays fills nearly 1,500 dense pages. Few outside of Poe scholarship circles bother reading them now, though; in a discipline that’s had its share of so-called takedown artists, Poe was an especially unlovable literary critic. He occasionally celebrated authors he admired, such as Charles Dickens and Nathaniel Hawthorne. But, from 1835 until his death in 1849, the typical Poe book review sloshed with invective.

Tackling a collection of poems by William W. Lord in 1845, Poe opined that “the only remarkable things about Mr. Lord’s compositions are their remarkable conceit, ignorance, impudence, platitude, stupidity, and bombast.” He opened his review of Susan Rigby Morgan’s 1836 novel, The Swiss Heiress, by proclaiming that it “should be read by all who have nothing better to do.” The prose of Theodore S. Fay’s 1835 novel, Norman Leslie, was “unworthy of a school-boy.” A year later, Poe doomed Morris Mattson’s novel Paul Ulric by pushing Fay under the bus yet again, writing, “When we called Norman Leslie the silliest book in the world we had certainly never seen Paul Ulric.”

Attacking better-known writers – a tactic still in use today by several minor sff authors — was also typical of Poe.

The twist, though, is that as a critic Poe often treated ethics as disposably as we do coffee filters. That self-dealing rave review is just one example. Poe plagiarized multiple times early in his career (most notably in The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and “Usher”), but still spent much of 1845 leveling plagiarism accusations against Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Poe delivered his attacks under his own name, but also anonymously, and through an imaginary interlocutor named “Outis.” But for all of Poe’s bluster, evidence of Longfellow’s thievery was thin, and the poet, wisely, didn’t respond. “Poe’s Longfellow war,” said publisher Charles Briggs, who’d hired Poe at the Broadway Journal, “is all on one side.”

(2) WHAT A REVIEWER IS FOR. New Yorker’s Nathan Heller revisits the American Heart controversy in “Kirkus Reviews and the Plight of the “Problematic” Book Review”.

People make sense of art as individuals, and their experiences of the work differ individually, too. A reviewer speaks for somebody, even if he or she doesn’t speak for you.

To assume otherwise risks the worst kind of generalization. I went to high school in San Francisco at the height of the multiculturalism movement. My freshman curriculum did not include “The Catcher in the Rye,” “The Great Gatsby,” or “Moby-Dick.” We read, instead, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and “Bless Me, Ultima,” and other books showing the range of American fiction. I’m glad. (One can read “The Grapes of Wrath” anytime.) I remember finding Hurston’s novel brilliant and Anaya’s novel boring. I did not conclude, from these feelings, that African-American literature was interesting and Chicano literature was not. Why would I? The joy of books is the joy of people: they’re individuals, with a balance of virtues and flaws. We are free to find—and learn our way into—the ones that we enjoy the most, wherever they come from.

That specificity of response is what Vicky Smith seems to encourage by opening the full canon of new work to new readers. It’s also, though, the diversity that Kirkus has smothered by issuing a “correction”—the editor’s word—on the political emphasis of a published response. Although it’s easy these days to forget, a politics is a practice of problem-solving, case by case, not a unilateral set of color-coded rules. If certain inputs guarantee certain outputs, what’s in play isn’t politics but doctrine. Kirkus, admirably, is trying to be on the progressive side of a moment of transition in our reading. But its recent choices aren’t about progress, or about helping young people find their way through many voices. They’re about reducing books to concepts—and subjecting individuals who read them to the judgments of a crowd.

(3) AWARD REBOOT. Newly appointed award administrator Tehani Croft announced “Significant changes for the Norma K Hemming Award”.

The Norma K Hemming Award, under the auspices of the Australian Science Fiction Foundation (ASFF), announces significant changes to the Award structure.

Designed to recognise excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability in a published speculative fiction work, the Norma K Hemming Award, which has been running since 2010, has had a major overhaul this year, with new categories and a two year cycle.

The award is now open to short fiction and edited anthologies, alongside the previous eligible work of novellas, novels, collections, graphic novels and stage plays. It will also make allowances for serialised work. In addition, entry submissions may be digital or print for all submissions.

Two prizes will now be given, one for short fiction (up to 17,500 words) and one award for long work (novellas, novels, collections, anthologies, graphic novels and play scripts), with a cash prize and citation awarded.

Nominations for the 2018 awards, covering all eligible work published in 2016 and 2017, will open in early November.

(4) THE HORROR. Chloe continues the Horror 101 series at Nerds of a Feather with “HORROR 101: The Uncanny”.

The uncanny to me is a crucial element of horror: not being able to pinpoint exactly what makes us scared. While the extreme can be terrifying (the xenomorph in Alien is a category crisis—its something we can’t classify/is not instantly knowable—but it’s not uncanny because we shouldn’t be able to know it/classify it as its something completely new to the human experience). However, even more terrifying is that which is just a little off: pod people who may look like your lover, but they smile in just a slightly different way. A man with fingers just a little too long. Women with hair in front of their faces so that their expressions are unknowable.

In technology, we refer to the “uncanny valley” (a term coined by Masohiro Mori in the 70’s) when dealing with robots and computer designed images of people. A robot who looks human-like but not realistically so (think Bender in Futurama) wouldn’t trigger the uncanny valley but a robot who looks extremely close to human, but has some tiny bit of offness, such as the more and more realistic robots we have currently, would fall into it and create a sense of slight fear, revulsion, or distrust. In the film Ex Machina (which on its surface is a film about a Turing test going very wrong, but in its heart is a take on the tropes of Gothic literature and the Bluebeard fairy tale), Alicia Vikander portrays Ava brilliantly by making the robotic elements include both Ava’s movements (more perfect than an average person’s) and speech (carefully clipped and enunciated)—this heightens the uncanny valley feeling while going against the entirely human looks of her face (which wouldn’t necessarily fall into the uncanny valley).

(5) WHEN WILL YOU MAKE AN END? Alastair Reynolds writes a whole post – “Gestation time” — around a term that also came up in a discussion of Zelazny here earlier this week.

In the previous post I mentioned that my new story “Night Passage” – just out in the Infinite Stars anthology – was one I was glad to see in print because it had taken about five years to finish. I thought that was approximately the case, but when I checked my hard drive I saw that I opened a file on that story at the end of November 2009, so the better part of eight years ago. That wasn’t an attempt at the story itself, but as per my usual working method, a set of notes toward a possible idea. I rarely start work on a story cold, but instead prefer to brainstorm a series of rambling, sometimes contradictory thoughts, out of which I hope something coherent may emerge. This process can take anything from a morning to several days or weeks, but I never start a story in the first fire of inspiration.

(6) INITIAL QUESTION. At Nerds of a Feather, The G interviews Shadow Clarke reviewer Megan AM – “FIRESIDE CHAT: Megan AM of Couch to Moon”.

MEGAN AM: …  My own personal goal was to demonstrate that good, interesting, literary SF does exist; that it can come from anyone, anywhere, and in any language; and that it can compete with the basic, Americanized, TV-style SF I keep encountering on shortlists. Unfortunately, the 2017 Clarke submissions list didn’t give me much to work with on that front–a lot of the choices were very formulaic, very bland, not to mention very British, white, and male– but I did manage to find some champions I’m grateful to have read: Joanna Kavenna, Martin MacInnes, Lavie Tidhar, Johanna Sinisalo. As for my experience as a contributor… I mean, eight people I have admired in this field–most of whom I had never interacted with before– read and talked books with me. It was the coolest thing ever. I’m curious what you thought of the whole thing. Watching you watch it from the outside was interesting: You seemed genuinely interested in bridging gaps between contentious parties, communicating good faith in all sides, and withholding judgment until it was all said and done. So, now that it is done, what do you think? …

THE G: …. I’d also extend these observations to criticism itself. So I try to have a thick skin anytime I press “publish.” Someone is bound to think my ideas are rubbish, and that’s fine. At the same time, authors and fans are often guilty of violating the text/person distinction–taking depersonalized comments on a text personally and lashing out at the person who made them. The effect is to police what critics, bloggers and other reviewers can say in public, and that’s bullshit. 

I could go on, but let’s get back to the Sharke project! Or rather, back to awards. One thing that’s come up a lot in discussions is the concept of “award worthiness,” i.e. that there is some objective-ish bar that works of fiction must live up to in order to be proper candidates. I’ve bandied this term about a few times, generally when talking about the Hugos. I have a very clear sense of what, for me, constitutes award worthiness in science fiction and fantasy–some combination of ideas, execution, emotional resonance and prose chops. Not always the same combination, but hitting all four to a significant degree, and hitting one or two out of the park….

MEGAN AM: ….This comes back to questioning the idea of an objective kind of “award worthiness.” You mention “comfort SF,” which is just as subjective, because I don’t find that kind of SF comforting at all. We’re living in a Trumpnado, where critical reading and thinking skills are devalued, fake news accusations are flying from all directions, nazism is being given a platform in centrist media, and yet progressive SF fans feel threatened by the idea that it might be necessary to sharpen up on difficult, rigorous, uncomfortable novels? I’m not sure it’s appropriate right now to award anything less than radical and complex. And even setting politics aside, the these ‘comfort food books’ are aesthetically old and crusty. Reading award-nominated novels from different decades really helps to put that into perspective: Not a lot has changed in the styling of SF and its “coding” of metaphors, so I’m confused by why we keep awarding the same styles and thoughts… seventy. years. later.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

Amazingly, Clemens photographed 117 of the 156 episodes of the series. His crisp black-and white photography is well featured in the Blu-ray format – so crisp that a freeze-frame sometimes reveals details that even the art directors didn’t want you to see. For instance, in the Donald Pleasence episode “Changing of the Guard” (the final episode of the third season), the diploma on the wall of Professor Ellis Fowler’s office should feature his name. It doesn’t. Thanks to George Clemens’ crystal-clear photography, we see that it belongs to another man.

  • October 29, 1998 – John Glenn returned to outer space.

(8) THINKING ABOUT MOOLAH.  Franklin Templeton Investments gives a rundown about AI “Science Fiction To Science Fact: The Rise Of The Machines”.

By Mat Gulley, CFA, Executive Vice President, Head of Alternatives and Co-Head IM Data Science, Fintech & Rapid Development; Ryan Biggs, CFA, Research Analyst

The rapid expansion of artificial intelligence (AI) has generated a lot of excitement, but also some (perhaps justified) paranoia. Will computers replace-or even overtake-human beings? Mat Gulley, executive vice president and head of alternatives at Franklin Templeton Investments, and Ryan Biggs, research analyst at Franklin Equity Group, explore the ramifications of “the rise of the machines” in the realm of asset management. They say the full implications of the new machine age will likely take decades to fully play out, but will likely be staggering.

We have been anticipating their arrival for decades. As far back as 1958 the New York Times wrote a story about a machine developed at Cornell University called the Perceptron. The device was said to be “the embryo of an electronic computer … expected to walk, talk, see, write, reproduce itself and be conscious of its own existence.” In 1958!? That would have been an astonishing achievement in a time even before the microwave oven graced our kitchen countertops.

For the past half century, humanity has been eagerly anticipating the age of artificial intelligence (AI); imagining it in Hollywood and reporting on its progress in the media. Perhaps at times our optimism has gotten ahead of itself. Not any longer. This time, the machines are not just coming-they are already here….

(9) SPEAKING UP. The Washington Post’s Todd C. Frankel looks at the career of the video game voice actor, who can spend four hours straight practicing ways of screaming death scenes and who went on an eight-month strike to get better working conditions and residuals: “In $25 billion video game industry, voice actors face broken vocal cords and low pay”.

Yet voice actors in this industry are not treated like actors in television and movies. This led voice actors to go on strike last year against 11 of the largest video game developers over bonus pay and safety issues such as vocal stress. The bitter labor dispute dragged on for 11 months, making it the longest strike in the history of Hollywood’s largest actors’ union, SAG-AFTRA. Burch was forced to give up a critically acclaimed role she loved. Gaming fans feared delays for their favorite titles before a tentative deal was reached late last month. A vote by the full union is going on now.

The lengthy strike highlighted how video games have emerged as the scene of a tense clash between Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Voice actors want to be treated more like TV and film actors, who are viewed as central to the creative process. Tech firms often see the developers and engineers as the true stars of the show.

“They keep saying, ‘Games are different,’?” said J.B. Blanc, a well-known voice actor and director who has worked with Burch several times. “But that’s no longer true. Because games want to be movies, and movies want to be games. These are basically 100-hour-long movies.”

(10) EASY PICKINGS. Abbie Emmons has now taken her Twitter account private after absorbing a thorough and professional internet beating. The punishment began after she tweeted the opinion belittled by Foz Meadows in “Dear Abbie: An Open Letter”. Foz begins with the admission “I don’t know where your hometown is” but doesn’t let that keep her from making assumptions about it, or from working in “white” and “Christian” four times in her opening paragraph, and not in a positive way.

You’re quite right to say that you, personally, will not encounter every type of person in your small corner of the world. But “small” is the operative word, here: wherever your hometown might be, the fact that it’s the basis of your personal experience doesn’t make it even vaguely representative of the world – or even America – at large.

You claim that you “love everyone” regardless of their background, and I’m sure you believe that about yourself. Here’s the thing, though: when you say you wish people would stop being “correct” and “just write books that actually… reflected the kind of thing we encounter in real life,” you’re making a big assumption about who that “we” is. There might be very few black people in your hometown, but if one of them were to write a novel based on their memories of growing up there, you likely wouldn’t recognise certain parts of their experience, not because it was “incorrect,” but because different people lead different lives. And when you claim that certain narratives are forced and unrealistic, not because the writing is badly executed, but because they don’t resemble the things you’ve encountered, that’s not an example of you loving everyone: that’s you assuming that experiences outside your own are uncomfortable, inapplicable and wrong.

(11) EXOTIC NATTER. NextBigFuture declares “Teleportation and traversible wormholes are all real”. You wouldn’t doubt Han Solo would you?

Einstein-Rosen or “ER” bridges, are equivalent to entangled quantum particles, also known as Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen or “EPR” pairs. The quantum connection between wormholes prevents their collapse without involving exotic matter.

The quantum-teleportation format precludes using these traversable wormholes as time machines. Anything that goes through the wormhole has to wait for Alice’s message to travel to Bob in the outside universe before it can exit Bob’s black hole, so the wormhole doesn’t offer any superluminal boost that could be exploited for time travel.

Researchers are working towards lab tests of quantum teleportation to verify their theories…

(12) POT. KETTLE. BLACK. Camestros Felapton, in “Reading Vox Day So You Don’t Have To: The last essay on Chapter 6”, thinks the way to refute Vox Day’s characterization of alleged SJW organizational tactics is to show how Republicans have done the same thing to each other. True as that may be, the trouble is tit-for-tat casemaking isn’t entertaining – and usually, Camestros is very entertaining.

Organizational Tactics

These are the terrible things SJWs are supposed to do to organizations. Vox lists seven and he manages to set up a deeply insightful analysis of how an organization can be destroyed by political extremists. The only problem is that as an analysis it fit bests how the right have wrecked the Republican party. Again, I’ve changed the order to show the sequence of events better.

“The Code of Conduct: Modifying the organization’s rules and rendering them more nebulous in order to allow the prosecution or defense of any member, according to their perceived support for social justice.”

Lobbying organizations on the right like the NRA or “Americans for Tax Reform”  have systematically created an extension of the GOP’s actual rules and accountabilities for their politicians. For example the ATR has been pressurizing Republican candidates (at state and federal level) to sign the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge”: …

(13) DEAR SIR OR MADAM. SyFy Wire tells about the exhibit where you can read J.K. Rowling’s original Harry Potter pitch to publishers.

Rowling’s original pitch opens with:

Harry Potter lives with his aunt, uncle and cousin because his parents died in a car-crash — or so he has been told. The Dursleys don’t like Harry asking questions; in fact, they don’t seem to like anything about him, especially the very odd things that keep happening around him (which Harry himself can’t explain).

The Dursleys’ greatest fear is that Harry will discover the truth about himself, so when letters start arriving for him near his eleventh birthday, he isn’t allowed to read them. However, the Dursleys aren’t dealing with an ordinary postman, and at midnight on Harry’s birthday the gigantic Rubeus Hagrid breaks down the door to make sure Harry gets to read his post at last. Ignoring the horrified Dursleys, Hagrid informs Harry that he is a wizard, and the letter he gives Harry explains that he is expected at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in a month’s time.

The synopsis goes on to discuss Hagrid’s arrival and his revelations about Harry’s forehead scar while also explaining that “Harry is famous among the witches and wizards who live in secret all over the country because Harry’s miraculous survival marked Voldemort’s downfall”.

(14) SPACE VAMPIRES AND THE FUTURE OF “I”. Peter Watts brings a whole new level to the term “self-effacing” – “The Bicentennial 21st-Century Symposium of All About Me”.

This feels a bit weird. Creepy, even.  If it makes any difference, I advised them not to go ahead with it.

A couple of weeks from now— Nov 10-11— the University of Toronto will be hosting an academic symposium about me. More precisely, about my writing.

You could even call it an international event. While U of T is providing the venue, the symposium itself is organized by Aussie Ben Eldridge, of the University of Sydney. At least two of the presenters are from the US (although one of them will be Skyping in, doubtless to avoid the mandatory cavity search that seems to be SOP at the border these days).

Friday is layperson-friendly: a round-table discussion of my oeuvre, or omelet, or however you say that; a reading (new stuff, yet to be published); an interview; a bit of Q&A.  The schedule only listed 15 minutes for drinks after that, but as Ben reminds me he is an Australian and would never make so rookie a mistake. That 15 minutes is only for warm-up drinking on campus, after which we retire to the Duke of York.

Saturday is the academic stuff….

(15) VISIBLE WOMAN. We probably have more cyborgs than Taylor Swift fans on this site — which still means some of you should be interested in this new recording: “Taylor Swift Turns Cyborg For New ‘Blade Runner’-Inspired Video to ‘…Ready For It?’ Watch”.

As fans of the Blade Runner universe mull over Denis Villeneuve’s cerebral cinematic study of what makes a human, Swift goes full replicant in the new futuristic music video, which dropped at midnight.

Taylor lit up the Internet earlier this week when she teased snippets from the sci-fi clip, in which she appears in a skin-tone thermoptic suit, giving the illusion of actually being her birthday suit. Who needs threads when you’re a machine, right?

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Carl Slaughter, and Elizabeth Fitzgerald for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 10/28/17 You’re So Scroll, You Probably Think This Pixel’s About You

(1) YOUNG PEOPLE READ NOT SO OLD SFF. As part of a planned change-of-pace, James Davis Nicoll unleashed the Young People Read Old SFF panel on some very new sf indeed — “Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer.

We’ve cycled around to another recent story for my volunteers. I got a lot of suggestions for Naomi Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures Please”, a Hugo and Locus winning short story about an artificial intelligence whose desire to assist humanity is sadly somewhat larger than its ability to do so. Well, almost everyone likes cats and this has lots of cats in it. The AI is one of the helpful variety and who doesn’t like an Emma Woodhouse interfering in lives? It seemed like a safe choice. But I’ve been wrong before….

“Cat Pictures Please” is available at Clarkesworld.

(2) DOWN THE BLOCK FROM ZENDA. Lois McMaster Bujold’s “The Prisoner of Limnos”: a Penric & Desdemona novella in the World of the Five Gods. Book 6 is out. Bujold told Goodreads followers, “The novella topped out at 44,950 words, not including the title page.”

In this sequel novella to “Mira’s Last Dance”, Temple sorcerer Penric and the widow Nikys have reached safety in the duchy of Orbas when a secret letter from a friend brings frightening news: Nikys’s mother has been taken hostage by her brother’s enemies at the Cedonian imperial court, and confined in a precarious island sanctuary. Their own romance still unresolved, Nikys, Penric, and of course Desdemona must infiltrate the hostile country once more, finding along the way that family relationships can be as unexpectedly challenging as any rescue scheme.

(3) PENRIC AND OTHER COVERS. Michaeline Duskova from Eight Ladies Writing, who says she loves Ron Miller’s cover for The Prisoner of Limnos, interviewed Lois McMaster Bujold about choosing ecovers, and it turns out she has quite a bit to say about the process: “Questions about Covers with Lois McMaster Bujold”.

EMD: For the early Penric covers, I know you asked for fan input about the public domain pictures you used, and I believe you mentioned that your agency helped you with the typography. Before that, did you have much input in the covers of your traditionally published books? What was the most useful piece of advice you got when you were choosing your own covers for the e-publications? What kind of parameters did you use for choosing the public domain pictures? And can you share any websites you found helpful in your search for a cover?

LMB: My input on my traditional-publisher artwork has varied over the years, from none to intense. There seems to be no discernible relationship between the amount of my involvement and the results. I’ve had great covers with no involvement, disappointing covers with lots, and the other way around, apparently at random.

I don’t recall I had much advice when I embarked on doing e-covers years ago with The Spirit Ring. (That would have been back in late 2010.) My helper putting them together could at the time only work with one image, cropping but no photoshopping, so options were limited. I wanted to choose historical paintings for the fantasies, because not only could I see what I was getting, but they were already at a high level of artistic accomplishment. Bad photoshopping/image collage is much worse than none, amateurish and off-putting, and any hint of photography was very wrong for the fantasy mood. As we’ve worked together over the years, my e-wrangler and I have both grown better at sorting through the challenges.

(4) ATTENTION ALASTAIR REYNOLDS FANS. Infinite Stars, a mixed reprint/original anthology edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt, contains a lot of well-known stories. In the mix is a brand new Alastair Reynold story.

The book contains an entirely new 16,000 word story of mine, entitled “Night Passage”, which happens to be set in the Revelation Space universe. The story revolves around the discovery of the first “Shroud”, a class of alien artefact which goes on to play a significant role in the future history. My story took about five years to write, so I am very pleased to finally see it both completed and in print.

Here’s the list of stories in the anthology, with the new ones in bold. [Updated courtesy of Greg Hullender.]

  • Renegat” (Ender) by Orson Scott Card
  • “The Waters Of Kanly” (Dune) by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson
  • “The Good Shepherd” (Legion of the Damned) by William C. Dietz
  • “The Game Of Rat and Dragon” by Cordwainer Smith 1956 Hugo Best Story, 1955 Galaxy SF, October
  • “The Borders of Infinity” (Vorkosigan) by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • “All In A Day’s Work” (Vatta’s War) by Elizabeth Moon
  • “Last Day Of Training” (Lightship Chronicles) by Dave Bara
  • “The Wages of Honor” (Skolian Empire) by Catherine Asaro
  • “Binti” by Nnedi Okorafor TOR.COM, 2015; 2016 Nebula/Hugo/BFA Best Novella
  • “Reflex” (CoDominium) by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
  • “How To Be A Barbarian in the Late 25th Century” (Theirs Not To Reason Why) by Jean Johnson
  • “Stark and the Star Kings” (Eric John Stark) by Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton
  • “Imperium Imposter” (Imperium) by Jody Lynn Nye
  • “Region Five” (Red Series) by Linda Nagata
  • “Night Passage” (Revelation Space) by Alastair Reynolds
  • “Duel on Syrtis” by Poul Anderson
  • “Twilight World” (StarBridge) by A.C. Crispin
  • “Twenty Excellent Reasons” (The Astral Saga) by Bennett R. Coles
  • “The Ship Who Sang” by Anne McCaffrey
  • “Taste of Ashes” (Caine Riardon) by Charles E. Gannon
  • “The Iron Star” by Robert Silverberg
  • “Cadet Cruise” (Lt. Leary) by David Drake
  • “Shore Patrol” (Lost Fleet) by Jack Campbell
  • “Our Sacred Honor” (Honorverse) by David Weber

(5) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Grady Hendrix and David Leo Rice on Wednesday, November 15, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.).

Grady Hendrix

Grady Hendrix has written about the confederate flag for Playboy magazine, covered machine gun collector conventions, written award shows for Chinese television, and answered the phone for a parapsychological research organization. His novel, Horrorstör, about a haunted IKEA, has been translated into 14 languages and he’s also the author of My Best Friend’s Exorcism, now out in paperback. He recently wrote Mohawk, a horror movie about the War of 1812 which premiered at Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival. His latest book is Paperbacks from Hell, a non-fiction history of the horror paperback boom of the Seventies and Eighties.

David Leo Rice

David Leo Rice is a writer and animator from Northampton, MA, currently living in NYC. His stories and essays have appeared in Black ClockThe BelieverThe CollagistHobartThe RumpusVol. 1 Brooklyn, and elsewhere, and his animations have played at festivals around the world. A Room in Dodge City, the start of a trilogy, is his first novel. It won the 2016 Electric Book Award and was published this year. He recently finished a standalone novel, Angel House.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Brian May, founding member of Queen, took thirty years to get his PhD.

(7) TODAY’S DAY

International Animation Day

The International Film Association was originally established in France, and was organized for the purpose of recognizing all forms of cinema and art. Among them was Animation, and thus they developed International Animation Day in 2002 to serve as the pinnacle event in the celebration of the rising art of animation.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 28, 1962 Fireball XL5 premiered on television.
  • October 28, 1994 Stargate, the motion picture, premiered in theaters on this day.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born October 28, 1951 – Joe Lansdale
  • Born October 28, 1982 – Matt Smith

(10) COMICS SECTION

  • John King Tarpinian surprised me with a stfnal reference in Garfield.
  • And he found an Asimov reference in today’s Dilbert.
  • Elsewhere, a Halloween comics trope is about to be disrupted by Lio.

(11) DOING COSMOLOGY. Edge hears the word from UCSD astrophysicist Brian G. Keating in “Shut Up And Measure”.

What is this cosmic hubris that makes us feel so important about the Universe and our place within it? This is the question that I’m grappling with right now. I’m trying to experimentally shed some light on these extremely heated discussions that have taken over cosmology in the last few months with a debate about the deep past of cosmology and the implications for the future.

Specifically, what concerns me is whether we can drill down to the first moments, nanoseconds, microseconds, trillionths of a second after the Big Bang. And if we do, is it really going to tell us something about the origin of the Universe, or is it merely tacking decimal places onto the primordial collection of stamps? My question is one of bringing data. When people were waxing philosophic and having existential crises of faith about their equations, Feynman used to say, “Shut up and calculate.” And that meant that the implications of what you were doing metaphysically, philosophically, and otherwise didn’t matter; what mattered were the answers that you got at the end of the calculation.

A lot of what my colleagues and I do is shut up and measure….

(12) THROWING OUT THE FIRST PITCH. As a Dodgers fan I haven’t found as much to feel good about in the World Series as I’d hoped, but this may make up for some of it — “This 7-Year-Old Girl Is Pitching at the World Series With a 3D Printed Hand”.

On Saturday, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros will meet for Game 4 of the World Series. As with any Major League Baseball game, the competition will kick off with a ceremonial pitch. But this one will be especially awe-worthy, featuring a 7-year-old girl with a 3D-printed hand.

Hailey Dawson will fling the first baseball using a prosthetic hand that allows her to grip objects despite missing and underdeveloped fingers on her right side.

(13) ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST. Gizmodo keeps track of this sort of thing: “$1,000 Tea Infuser Heavily Discounted as Company Crashes and Burns”

You’re probably reading the tea leaves here, and guessing that Teforia is hinting that the spectacular, $118 million implosion of Juicero might be contributing to its troubles of educating the market about the value of an over-engineered machine that no one needs. For anyone keeping count, Teforia only wasted $17 million, thank you very much.

(14) LIVE PLAN 9 READING. If you wondered what happened to Laraine Newman, you can find out tomorrow night at the Largo in LA: “Dana Gould presents A Live, Stage Reading of Ed Wood’s… Plan 9 from Outer Space”.

(And they’ve done this at least once before.)

(15) DOING WORK. Thor: Ragnarok actor/director Taika Waititi told a New Zealand site about his new projects: “Taika Waititi is busy, reportedly looking to make US What We Do in the Shadows show”.

He is a busy man. Fresh for releasing his Marvel superhero film, Thor: Ragnarok, reports are circulating saying Taika Waititi is about to reboot What We Do in the Shadows.

Waititi is developing plans for a television version of the Kiwi vampire comedy for American television, according to film site Fandago.

He and Jemaine Clement are also working on a What We Do in the Shadows spinoff for TVNZ. Called Paranormal Unit, the TVNZ show is described as “Motorway Patrol meets The X-Files” and follows the Wellington Police’s investigations into supernatural crime.

A TVNZ spokeswoman said the rumoured project in the US was different to what they had commissioned. She confirmed Paranormal Unit would be filmed in New Zealand.

Waititi told Fandango that he was in talks to create a US version of What We Do In The Shadows, which would be filmed in the US, for an American television audience.

He confirmed that the New Zealand spinoff would be released in 2018, as promised.

(16) CLARKE CENTER PUMPKIN PODCAST. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination’s Into the Impossible podcast engages the season in Episode 11, “Stranger Things (While Podcasting); or: On Fear and Imagination with Christopher Collins”

In honor of Halloween, we’re exploring the relationship between fear and imagination. First, a story about when the production of this very podcast was visited by a demon from the Upside Down (maybe?). Then, a conversation with Christopher Collins, author of Paleopoetics: The Evolution of the Preliterate Imagination, on the auditory and visual imagination, the evolution of language, and how human culture has spent so much time telling itself scary stories.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, ULTRAGOTHA, Michaeline Duskova, Errol Cavit, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 4/13/17 Hark! What File Through Yonder Pixel Scrolls?

(1) ODYSSEY CON LOSES SECOND GOH. Honoring the reasons for the withdrawal of Monica Valentinelli, another Odyssey Con GoH has dropped out — Tad Williams made this announcement on Facebook:

I am sad to announce that I won’t be appearing at the upcoming Odysseycon. I feel a debt of conscience to guests of this con and to others whose complaints of harassment (and worse) at gatherings in our field have gone unheard and unresolved.

At the same time it seems to me and Deb that the issues are complicated and a lot of people must be having a very miserable time right now. We don’t want to contribute to the heat, and hope that things can be improved for everyone in the future. Odysseycon have been straightforward in their dealings with us, and gracious when we withdrew. I wish to extend my apologies to any members of the convention who will be disappointed by my not attending.

(2) TOOLMAKING. And today, Monica Valentinelli is looking for knowledge to make cons safer.

How can we…

  • …teach people not to harass?
  • …teach allies what to watch out for?
  • …foster healthy and safe communication about harassment?
  • …teach people how best to enforce harassment policies?
  • …address safety concerns that are not part of an official claim?
  • …share experiences between conventions so each con doesn’t live in a silo?
  • …implement better documentation policies so materials aren’t lost?
  • …help allies understand how to support victims?
  • …help victims have the confidence to come forward?
  • …guarantee that personal e-mails will not be posted publicly?
  • …help victims/allies mitigate the losses that come from making hard decisions?
  • …teach con goers how we take their safety seriously?
  • …teach con goers what to do next if something should happen?
  • …address what proper resolutions are and how they should be implemented?
  • …leverage our social communities better to review our convention attendance?
  • …help con runners decide how to implement training for their staff?
  • …help con runners understand how important it is to have the right people on staff to handle this?

I am 100% certain there are other questions I am missing, as I am speaking through the lens of my experiences. Regardless, I feel that the first step is to ask questions like these before they can be answered. Then, we need to have those hard discussions to take additional steps.

(3) TALKIN’ ABOUT M-MY REGENERATION. Beware, this will make your head spin — a video of every Doctor Who regeneration at Yahoo! TV. (The only bad part is you have to watch at least 30 seconds of a commercial before the video begins.)

(4) CARRIE FISHER. Is there anybody who hasn’t seen the Star Wars tribute to Carrie Fisher yet? Or who doesn’t want to watch it a couple more times?

(5) ROLLING IN THE GREEN. You might have said that’s a lot of lettuce to ask for a 50 pence coin, but the Royal Mint’s offering of a Peter Rabbit 2017 UK 50p BU Coin for £10 has sold out.

The Mint also put out a set of coins in 2016 to celebrate Potters’ 150th anniversary –

Features four coins depicting some of her best-loved characters: Peter Rabbit, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, Jemima Puddle-Duck and Squirrel Nutkin

(6) PKD FILM FEST. The fifth annual Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival takes place May 25-30 in New York City.

The program showcases over 100 films, premieres, panels, virtual reality demonstrations and celebratory gatherings as the festival continues its salute to the master of science fiction, Philip K. Dick.

Highlights include the world premieres of Maryanne Bilham-Knight’s A Life Gone Wild (2016) and Jean-Philippe Lopez’s III (2016), North American premiere of Adam Stern’s FTL (2017), USA premieres of Caroline Cory’s Gods Among Us: The Science of Contact (2016), Rasmus Tirzitis’s Vilsen (2016) and Ove Valeskog’s Huldra: Lady of the Forest (2016), east coast premieres of Niall Doran/Justin Smith’s Sixteen Legs (2016) and Renchao Wang’s The End of the Lonely Island (2016) and NYC premiere of Bruce Wemple’s The Tomorrow Paradox (2016).

The festival will also launch PKD Talks: Conversations with Luminaries, Visionaries and Mavericks, a new panel series discussing scientific, inspirational and world changing themes with industry professionals including author and physicist Dr. Ronald Mallett, acclaimed directors Maryanne Bilham-Knight and Caroline Cory, web host Joe Cerletti, astrophysicist Rudy Schild, computer scientist Jacques Vallee and more distinguished guests.

Check out the full schedule here.

(7) ATWOOD STORY ON TV. The Verge has seen the first three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale and gives the show an enthusiastic endorsement.

But The Handmaid’s Tale is more than a political jab. In the first three episodes provided to reviewers, it’s a dystopia that manages to stand out in a television landscape already full of apocalypses and oppressive imaginary societies. It’s a colorful TV series about a woman negotiating domestic drama, and judging from its initial installments — all three of which will be released simultaneously on April 26th — it might be one of the darkest shows on television this year.

(8) THE EVENING NEWS. Problems with a furry convention have made it onto TV. That’s not surprising anymore, is it? But this is still a story that makes a fan’s hair (or fur) stand on end — “Amid allegations of unpaid taxes, neo-Nazism, and sex offender, Denver furry convention canceled”.

Head of company that operates RMFC exposed

But the letter was not signed by an attorney, nor did it contain language or punctuation consistent with those typically used by lawyers. But it did contain a red thumb print, sometimes associated with a movement the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as extremists.

And Kendal Emery, the man who signed the letter and the self-identified “Chief Executive Contract Law Officer” for Midwest Anthropomorphic Arts Corporation, is a convicted sex offender.

The Arvada man pleaded no contest to three counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor in 1993 in Alamogordo, New Mexico, near his native Carlsbad. New Mexico court records show he served at least probation and underwent out-patient counseling as part of his sentence.

But that isn’t the end of Emery’s issues: though he registered Mid America Anthropomorphic and Art Corporation in Colorado in 2005 at an Aurora address and also with the IRS, the IRS revoked the company’s status in May 2011 and has not reinstated it

(9) WHAT MAKES A WRITER REAL. Sarah A. Hoyt’s inspirational column “You’re real” ends:

A contract won’t make you real.  Writing more will make you real.  Indie and traditional both thrive on content.  The more you write the more you’ll make.  And in indie, this is all in your hands.  You don’t need anyone to give you permission.

Go write and publish.  Stop obsessing about being real.  I say you’re real, and in proof thereof, I’ve made the following certificate, which you can download, fill in and print at your convenience.

STOP GIVING AWAY part of you income for nothing, particularly to small presses of dubious value.  Write.  Publish.  Repeat.  Become a professional.

(10) EUROCON NEWS. The first announcement with details of 2017 ESFS Business Meeting has been made available on the European SF Society website.

The ESFS General Meeting for 2017 will take place at U-Con, the Dortmund (Germany) Eurocon, on June 16-18.

(11) TODAY’S DAY

Scrabble Day

By far the best way to celebrate Scrabble Day is with Oxyphenbutazone. That’s right, Oxyphenbutazone is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug – you already knew that – but it’s also the word that, in a single play, can give the highest possible score on a Scrabble board. The chances of it ever coming up are similar to the chances of winning this week’s lottery, as you’d need to join all seven of your tiles with eight already on the board across three triple word scores. Still, it’d be worth waiting for, scoring 1,778 points. You’d almost certainly win the game with that.

(12) TODAY IN ALTERNATE HISTORY

April 13, 1967 — In another reality, 50 years ago today would have been the end of Star Trek. The final new first-season episode, “Operation — Annihilate!,” aired April 13, 1967. Only an unprecedented letter-writing campaign, spearheaded by Bjo Trimble and other science-fiction writers and fans, got the show renewed for a second season.

(13) TODAY IN REGULAR OLD HISTORY

April 13, 1970 — …disaster strikes 200,000 miles from Earth when oxygen tank No. 2 blows up on Apollo 13, the third manned lunar landing mission. Astronauts James A. Lovell, John L. Swigert, and Fred W. Haise had left Earth two days before for the Fra Mauro highlands of the moon but were forced to turn their attention to simply making it home alive.

(14) MATH OF KHAN. Why, this is heresy! Space.com says “Redshirts Aren’t Likeliest to Die – and Other ‘Star Trek’ Math Lessons”.

Grime first focused on an age-old assertion: that crewmembers wearing red shirts in the original “Star Trek” series, which denote working in engineering or security, are far more likely to be killed off than any other shirt color.

That claim, in fact, is false — more “redshirts” died on-screen than any other crew type (10 gold-shirted, which are command personnel; eight blue-shirted, who are scientists; and 25 red-shirted, Grime said), but that calculation fails to take into account that there are far more redshirts on the ship to start with than any other crew type.

In other words, we’re looking at the probability that you are a redshirt if you die (58 percent) — what we want to know is the probability that you die if you’re a redshirt, Grime said.

Grime used the “Star Trek” technical manual to find out how many of each crew type there were, which painted a different picture: out of 239 redshirts, 25 died, which is 10 percent. Out of 55 goldshirts, 10 died, which is 18 percent! So you are more likely to die as a goldshirt, Grime said.

Oh, so it’s actually true – this is just a lawyerly exercise in lying with statistics.

(15) FAN MAIL. Alastair Reynolds praised Erin Horakova’s Strange Horizons article article about Captain Kirk:

If you have a little time on your hands I commend this excellent Strange Horizons article by Erin Horakova on our changing (and inaccurate) perception of the character of Captain Kirk…

Regardless of the quality of the individual episodes, though, I quickly found myself wondering when this legendary bad Shatner was going to turn up, because all I was seeing – right from the outset – was an efficient and convincing portrayal of a man in a complex, demanding position of authority. Shatner isn’t just much better at playing Kirk than the popular myth would have it, but the character itself is also much more plausibly drawn than the supposed brash womaniser of the insidious meme.

Erin Horakova dismantles this false Kirk in expert fashion, while lobbing a few well-earned potshots at the reboot films.

(16) THE NEW NUMBER SIX. John  Scalzi continues Reader Request Week with “#6: Reading as Performance”.

  1. Recognize it is a performance. Which is to say that you can’t just go in front of a room, mumble your way through fifteen minutes of text, answer a couple of questions and go home (I mean, you can, but it won’t turn out the way you want it to). You actually have to be up and on, from the moment you get to the event until the moment you’re done. Which is draining, but can also be fun. When you read, don’t just read the text, act it. When you’re answering questions, don’t answer quickly, answer completely. When you’re signing, work to make it so the person you’re signing for feels like that those 30 seconds with you is a pretty good 30 seconds of their life. Know all this going in, and prepare.

(17) WAITRESSING FOR GODOT. Ann Leckie was prompted by Scalzi’s post to add her own thoughts – “On Performance and Sincerity”.

Now as it happens, I have a tiny bit of theater experience, along with that music degree, so I’m actually pretty comfortable onstage. But you know what else I think has helped me–years of waiting tables. I am a serious introvert, but working at waiting tables gave me practice interacting with lots of strangers for hours at a time, keeping my demeanor pleasant and mostly cheerful. It’s practice that has stood me in good stead for a lot of my non-writing-related life, actually. In a lot of ways waiting tables can be a really miserable job, but that aspect of it, learning how to be “on” very pleasantly and confidently, has been super valuable to me.

(18) WHAT GOES UP… Just don’t ask for an explanation: “Mysterious X37-B ‘space plane’ stays in orbit for 677 days – and no one knows why”.

A mysterious robotic ‘space plane’ has now been in orbit for a record 677 days – and America is remaining silent about what it’s doing up there.

The robotic Boeing X-37B craft – also known as Orbital Test Vehicle 4 – conducts long missions in orbit, carrying a classified payload.

Observers have speculated that the Space Shuttle-esque vehicle might be designed to destroy satellites – or work as a ‘movable’ satellite itself.

(19) LOST BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. Evidently, Scotland’s witch prosecution records leave something to be desired. Atlas Obscura has the story — “Maggie Wall’s Memorial”.

A mysterious monument where a woman who records say never existed was burnt alive for being a witch.

…Outside of a small village of Dunning, nestled in the former parklands of Duncrub Castle, lies a monument. It’s a collection of stones about 20 feet high, topped with a cross and decorated with gifts left by visitors—pennies, feathers, shells, fluffy stuffed animals, and tiny tea candles. The stones bear the words in stark white lettering: “Maggie Wall burnt here 1657 as a witch.”

Scotland was home to nearly 3,800 people accused of witchcraft between 1500s and 1700s, the vast majority of whom were women. In the end, about 1,500 were murdered as a result of witch hunt inquisitions. However, mysteriously, there is no record of a woman named Maggie Wall being tried as a witch. What’s more, there’s no record of the monument itself until 1866, though a forest surrounding the monument called Maggie Walls Wood was documented as of 1829.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Michael J. Walsh, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Steven H Silver, and David Doering for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contirbuting editor of the day Rev. Bob.]

Pixel Scroll 3/10/17 Anachronism of Green Gables

(1) SKULL SESSION. NPR doesn’t think much of King Kong: Skull Island, but compensates by adding interesting movie trivia to their review:

A noble beast gets shackled, ape-napped from his island home and dragged to America in:

  • Minute 84 of 1933’s landmark King Kong,
  • Minute 90 of 1976’s Jeff Bridge/Charles Grodin/”and introducing Jessica Lange”-starring King Kong, and
  • Minute 135 of Peter Jackson’s 2005 prestige pic King Kong — which, at three hours and change, qualifies as the most Kong-sized of the bunch.

In the new, comparatively unambitious Kong: Skull Island, the big guy finally claims a perk of his eight decades of stardom: He gets to do the entire picture from home.

Indeed, this new colon-ized, name-and-address-formatted Kong is at its mediocre best when it pretends to be a nature documentary about Skull Island’s bizarro flora and fauna. One of its most captivating scenes has the big ape bathing himself in a river — at last, computer animators have learned to make convincing water! But every time the movie threatens to get interesting, one of its hordes of ersatz, non-animated characters shows up and starts talking again.

There’s plenty of top-flight talent — Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, the Johns Goodman and C. Reilly, and the Jacksons Samuel T. and Marc Evan — so it’s no chore to sit through. But good luck being able to remember in two months whether you saw this thing or not.

By comparison, the Boston Globe thought it was fun and gave it 3 stars out of 4:

“Kong: Skull Island” isn’t a remake or a reboot or a re-anything. It’s just a Saturday matinee creature feature with a smart, unpretentious script, a handful of solid supporting players, and a digital Kong who feels big enough and real enough to provoke the necessary awe. This is all to the movie’s credit.

Better yet (and unlike [Peter Jackson’s 2005] film), the new movie understands the line between thrilling an audience and scaring it silly — between action-adventure awe and horror-movie gross-outs. The movie feels as if it has been made for a 10-year-old kid, either the one living in your house or the one living in your heart.

(2) COMIC SECTION. And Dan Thompson’s Brevity welcomes the movie with a punny cartoon.

(3) NAVIGATING THE AMAZON. Why did Amazon build a brick-and-mortar bookstore in the first place? Why is it now about to open number 10?

People were surprised when Amazon announced its first brick-and-mortar bookstore in November 2015. Then came No. 2, 3 and 4.

Sixteen months later, Amazon just confirmed to Recode that it is now working on store No. 10 — a location at the Bellevue Square shopping center across Lake Washington from Seattle. Plans for this new location were found in building permits flagged by the building contractor site BuildZoom.

“We are excited to be bringing Amazon Books to Bellevue Square in 2017, and we are currently hiring store managers and associates,” an Amazon spokesperson said.

If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: Amazon really likes the traction it has seen in the four stores that have opened so far and is committed to becoming a physical retailer at scale. New locations are opening in places like Chicago, New York City and the suburbs of New Jersey later this year.

That doesn’t mean the stores still aren’t puzzling. Why does Amazon — bookstore killer — want to become a physical book purveyor? One smart take has been that the stores are as much about selling Amazon devices like the Echo and Kindle as they are about selling books.

(4) NEW STOPS ON THE INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY. China’s Internet may be showing the way. British anthropologist Tom McDonald, who moved to Anshan, a small rural town between Beijing and Shanghai, has written a book about the Chinese internet, about which he is apparently very protective, and is the source of information for this BBC article.

Most writing about China’s internet had explored metropolitan elites living in the country’s huge cities – and had tended to focus on the issues of censorship and government control, painting a joyless place straight out of George Orwell’s 1984. Yet here in Anshan, McDonald was surprised to find a vibrant and innovative online world. “It is easy for us to assume that ‘the Chinese Internet’ ought to be a very drab and boring and constraining place, whereas actually, Chinese internet users are incredibly creative and the internet is incredibly lively,” he tells me. “It was more like an online carnival.”

….One of the core differences, from British social media use, was the fact that the people of Anshan tended to shy away from political pronouncements on their profile pages – “not because of censorship, but just because all the people around them would ask why are you posting that on here,” says McDonald. Instead, their updates tended to be centred on the family and relationships with somewhat saccharine images and messages – perhaps as a way of upholding some of the values at the heart of their rural community.

Chip Hitchcock sent this comment along with the link: “The writer seems especially taken with the way everything works together, which suggests the (possibly-mythical) computer scientist’s praise of cyberpunk (~’Sure, everybody’s doing terrible things to each other — but their computers all work together!’)”

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 10, 1972 — Killer-creature flick Frogs hops into theaters.
  • March 10, 1972 Silent Running premieres.
  • March 10, 1997 Buffy the Vampire Slayer premieres on television.

(6) THE BUFFYVERSARY. “20 Years Ago ‘Buffy’ Welcomed Us All To The Hellmouth (aka High School)” NPR reminds us.

Twenty years ago, on March 10, 1997, TV audiences were introduced to Buffy Summers, a pint-sized blonde who could hold her own against the undead. Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran for seven seasons from 1997 to 2003. It had witty dialogue and used monsters as a metaphor for everyday high school problems like bullies, catfishing and feeling invisible.

If that wasn’t enough to make high school seem hellish, the characters went to school on top of a literal Hellmouth. “So many people at the time sent us letters saying, ‘I’m only getting through high school because of Buffy,‘ ” says Buffy writer and producer Jane Espenson.

The BBC also cites Buffy’s influence on pop culture:

Without Buffy’s brilliant musical episode Once More, With Feeling would Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s movie ever have been green-lit?

Actually, yes, it would have been. But if you enjoyed the singing dancing love letter to LA which didn’t win best film at this year’s Oscars, you could do worse than to check out Buffy’s musical extravaganza.

It’s exactly like La La Land, but with added demons.

It also set a trend for other TV shows to unexpectedly feature a musical episode halfway through a series, including medical comedy Scrubs and medical drama Grey’s Anatomy – and an upcoming Supergirl/The Flash crossover.

(7) TODAY’S DAYS. You get your choice.

  • Mario Day

Mario Day came about when it was noticed that when one marks the day Mar.10, it spells Mario. From then it just took off. Mario was first introduced in Nintendo’s game Donkey Kong. When he appeared in this game in the early 1980’s he was not the well-named plumber that would be recognized today. His name was Mr. Jumpman and he was a carpenter.

  • International Bagpipe Day.

The Bagpipe Society has been sponsoring the celebration of International Bagpipe Day since 2012. They have helped to bring the bagpipe to new players since 1986. It is important to them that the history and playing of the bagpipes is not lost. Putting this day together was with the hope of bringing awareness of the over 130 different types of bagpipe throughout the world.

(8) JEDI JOCULARITY. Mark Hamill tweeting as Trump —

(9) DANDELION WINE KICKSTARTER FAILS. Filmmakers ambitious to produce a movie of Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine” attempted to crowdfund production with a Kickstarter campaign but they had received only $4,791 of the hoped-for $350K when the campaign ended in January.

In December, the Utah Independent profiled the men behind the effort.

RGI Productions filmmaker Rodion Nahapetov and producer Natasha Shliapnikoff, long-time friends and colleagues of Ray Bradbury, have launched their Kickstarter campaign for the “Dandelion Wine” movie.

“The Kickstarter campaign is so important to us because by receiving the support of Ray’s fans and friends, we will be able to make the movie the way Ray would have wanted it made independently, true to his vision and with love!” said Shliapnikoff.

(10) ELIGIBILITY POST. Adam Rakunas keeps voters informed —

(11) NATIONAL TREASURE. Maybe the original art for the cover of Action Comics #1, which introduced Superman to the world in June 1938, no longer exists, but in late 1938 or ’39, Joe Shuster re-drew that cover for use as a puzzle from the Saalfield Company of Cleveland, Ohio, which was manufactured in 1940. “I wonder what this piece of original art might be worth today?” asks John King Tarpinian. The search is on!

(12) OOPS! Meanwhile, we know what happened to these treasures — “Pulped fiction: Blundering artist destroys rare first edition of The Avengers and other valuable comics worth £20,000 to make papier-mache scultpture”. The Daily Mail has the story.

An artist made a papier-mâché sculpture from comics only to discover that the books were in fact first editions worth about £20,000.

The piece of artwork, called Paperboy, was created by Andrew Vickers, 49, from Sheffield, who found the comics for the man-sized statue in a skip.

However, after handing the sculpture over to an exhibition he was told the comics, which included a first edition of The Avengers, would have been worth a small fortune.

(13) THE NOT-SO-DREAD PIRATE GAME. The Digital Antiquarian remembers when Ron Gilbert made an adventure game that didn’t suck – Monkey Island.

The game casts you in the role of Guybrush Threepwood, a lovable loser who wants to become a pirate. Arriving on Mêlée Island, a den of piratey scum and villainy, he has to complete a set of trials to win the status of Official Pirate. Along the way, he falls in love with the island’s beautiful governor Elaine — her name sets the game up for a gleeful The Graduate homage — and soon has to rescue her from the villain of the story, the evil ghost pirate LeChuck.

The Disnefied piracy wasn’t hard to do, especially after Gilbert discovered a charming little historical-fantasy novel by Tim Powers called On Stranger Tides.

(15) SF IN LIVE THEATER. Alastair Reynolds tells about seeing Diamond Dogs in Chicago, a stage play based on his story.

The House Theatre team did a remarkable job with this undoubtedly challenging material, working with inventive stage and prop design to nonetheless evoke a series of settings many light years away, and hundreds of years in the future. All the cast are in the above photo, along with the crew behind the production, and it was a pleasure and privilege to see so much skill and imagination come together on stage.

My story takes place in a range of locales, from the bowels of Chasm City, to a starship, to the ravaged surface of an alien world, and ultimately the many-roomed interior of the enigmatic alien structure named Blood Spire, an enormous tower floating just off the surface of the planet Golgotha. Depicting all this in film would be a feat in itself, and quite beyond any reasonable notions of practical theatrical staging. The solution adopted by the House Theatre was to use artful minimalism and suggestion, trusting in the audience to employ their imaginations given the narrative cues provided the actors and the sound and lighting effects. I thought it worked tremendously well, and the later stages of the story – involving the passing through of the puzzle rooms in the Spire – achieved a strange, stark beauty, all with little on stage but the illuminated, moving doorways and the actors in their spacesuits. Later, as the story progressed to its grim conclusion, extremely effective use was made of the ingenious puppet designs of Mary Robinette Kowal, allowing us to follow the actors as they became something other than human. These latter scenes, aided by an unsettling score, had a truly surreal power.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]