Pixel Scroll 10/5/18 The Curious Incident Of The Scroll In The Night-Time

(1) LOOKING BACK ON HORROR. From Rocket Stack Rank, here’s a new (perhaps the first annual) selection of “Outstanding SF/F Horror” of 2016-2017.

Although horror isn’t our focus, we do review horror stories that turn up in our regular magazines, so in honor of Halloween, here are 26 outstanding science fiction & fantasy horror stories from 2016-2017 that were either finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction (see Q&A).

Observations:

(2) WRITING PROCESS. Jonathan LaForce notes it would be a waste to take the popular phrase literally — “Killing off the Darlings” at Mad Genius Club.

Perhaps “killing our darlings” is too much the wrong verbiage.  Let us say, instead, “putting them on ice.”  That’s really all we’re doing- setting them aside till we can use them again later.  In this age of incredible digital technology, why worry about where you’ll save those scenes, those stories, those parts and pieces?  Anybody take a look at how much space is available to use on cloud servers?  My goodness!

(3) VENOM. NPR’s Chris Klimek reports “Tom Hardy Gets His Teeth Into ‘Venom,’ Though The Film Lacks Bite”.

Eddie’s struggles to find a new gig while oily tentacles are shooting out of his body in response to even minor discomforts are the most diverting section part of the film, if only because Hardy is fully committed in a way no other actor here is. Had this thing been greenlit at the 1990s apex of Venom’s popularity as a comic book character, it almost certainly would’ve starred Jim Carrey. So we all dodged a bullet there.

(4) SOUND NUTRITION. While in San Jose, Scott Edelman nibbled naan with K. Tempest Bradford and recorded the results for Episode 78 of Eating the Fantastic.

K. Tempest Bradford

…I also went out to dinner with K. Tempest Bradford for one of the best meals of that extended weekend in the Santana Row neighborhood at Amber India.

K. Tempest Bradford’s short stories have been published in such magazines as Abyss & Apex, Sybil’s Garage, Electric Velocipede, and Farthing, and anthologies like Clockwork Cairo, Diverse Energies, Federations, and Shadow of the Towers: Speculative Stories of a Post 9/11 World. Her non-fiction has appeared at NPR, io9, xoJane, plus the Angry Black Woman blog, sometimes — as you’ll hear us discuss — going viral. Along with Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward, she teaches the Writing the Other workshop, and is on the board of the Carl Brandon Society. She also happens to be one of the funniest people I know. Whenever I’m with Tempest, I can be assured there will be laughter.

We discussed how her Egyptian Afro-retro-futurism idea grew from a short story into a series of novels, the way she used crowdfunding to complete the research she needed, why her discovery of my Science Fiction Age magazine means I bear the responsibility for all she’s done since, how an online writing community gave her the confidence to be a writer, the advice from Samuel R. Delany she embraces the most, why she set aside her goal of becoming an opera singer and decided to become a writer instead, the reason there are so many female monsters in Greek mythology, how she blew up the Internet with her “Stop Reading White, Straight, Cis Male Authors for One Year” challenge, her extremely strong opinions about Steven Moffat’s version of Doctor Who, and much more.

(5) NOT RAINBOWLED OVER. Bowlestrek snarks about that Doctor Who costume, asking which is worse, the 6th Doctor Who costume or the 13th Doctor Who costume?

—  “Hipster, Wesley Crusher, Rainbow Brite, Mork & Mindy thrown into a blender abomination.”

—  “Like somebody was trolling Doctor Who fans.”

—  “I’ve shown this picture to people who are fashion conscious and the response almost across the board has been, “What the hell is that?”

—  “What’s with the earrings, the suspenders, the rainbow shirt, what appears to be Tardis socks, and the old man pants?”

— “She looks like an elf.”

(The references to Wesley Crusher and Mork and Mindy are about the rainbow across the shirt.)

(6) FIRST, THE BAD NEWS. This just in from James Davis Nicoll – “Sorry to Crush Your Dreams, But We’re Not Colonizing Space Anytime Soon”.

Perhaps because some of the early space hype was unconvincing when regarded with any attitude other than fanboy enthusiasm. And perhaps because there weren’t any compelling reasons (political, economic, scientific) for significant human presence beyond low Earth Orbit. We don’t need to send up squishy frail humans when we can send probes and remote-controlled vehicles .

Some readers might even now be making squinchy faces, maybe even pondering which unflattering cartoon of me to post in protest.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 5, 1862 – Edward Stratemeyer, Writer and Publisher. Creator of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, which pioneered the book-packaging technique of producing a consistent, long-running series of books using a team of freelance writers, which sold millions of copies, some series of which are still in publication today. He himself wrote more than 1,300 juvenile novels, including the Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, and Bobbsey Twins series, Tom Swift being the main character of a series of more than a hundred juvenile science fiction and adventure novels.
  • Born October 5, 1917 – Allen Ludden, Actor who became well-known for decades of hosting TV game shows, but who surprisingly had a part in an episode of Adam West’s Batman, played Perry White in the TV movie It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman!, and had a cameo – as a game show host – in Hugo finalist Futureworld.
  • Born October 5, 1919 – Donald Pleasence, Actor and Writer who famously played the doctor in the Halloween movies and the President in Escape from New York. He also had a plethora of parts in other genre properties, a few of which include the main role in the Hugo finalist movie Fantastic Voyage which was novelized by Isaac Asimov, roles in episodes of the The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and The Ray Bradbury Theater, a part in George Lucas’ first foray into filmmaking, THX 1138, John Carpenter’s The Prince of Darkness, and the role of Merlin in the TV movie Guinivere.
  • Born October 5, 1949 – Peter Ackroyd, 69, Writer, Biographer, and Critic known for his interest in the history and culture of London. His best-known genre work is likely the Whitbread Award-winning Hawksmoor, the story of an 18th-century London architect building a church interwoven with the narrative of a contemporary detective investigating horrific murders involving that church, and is highly recommended. His novel Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem was recently made into a movie, and he produced a TV miniseries documentary entitled Peter Ackroyd’s London.
  • Born October 5, 1951 – Karen Allen, 67, Actor and Director known to genre fans as Marion in the Hugo finalist Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, as well as roles in Starman, Ghost in the Machine, and Scrooged. She also played Christa McAuliffe in the TV movie Challenger.
  • Born October 5, 1952 – Clive Barker, 66, Writer, Director, Artist and Videogame Designer, famous for his horror novels. His series include Hellraiser, Book of the Art, and Books of Blood, as well as The Abarat Quintet which is quite superb. Though not recent, The Essential Clive Barker: Selected Fiction, published some twenty years ago, contains more than seventy excerpts from novels and plays and four full-length short stories. His Imaginer series collects his decidedly strange art. My personal favorite work by him is the Weaveworld novel. His works have received many World Fantasy, British Fantasy, Stoker, Locus and International Horror Guild Award nominations and wins, and have been made into movies, videogames, and comic books. He was the Toastmaster at the 1988 World Fantasy Convention, and Guest of Honor at Albacon III in 1986 and FantasyCon 2006.
  • Born October 5, 1952 – Duncan Regehr, 66, Actor from Canada probably best known to genre fans for his recurring role as a Bajoran resistance leader on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but who also had guest roles on The Greatest American Hero, Star Trek: The Next Generation, V, and appeared in the film Timemaster.
  • Born October 5, 1958 – Neil DeGrasse Tyson, 60, Astrophysicist, Cosmologist, and Writer whose nonfiction work Reflections on Carl Sagan’s Cosmos is considered genre. He has had cameos in several genre TV shows and films, including Stargate: Atlantis, Ice Age: Collision Course, Bojack Horseman, The Simpsons, and The Big Bang Theory. Tyson is known for tweeting about inconsistencies and bad science in science fiction films, and Andy Weir famously posted “Someday, Neil deGrasse Tyson is going to either read The Martian or see the film adaptation of it. When he does, he’s going to immediately know that the sandstorm part at the beginning isn’t accurate to physics. He’ll point out that the inertia of a Martian storm isn’t enough to do damage to anything… The knowledge that this is going to happen haunts me.”
  • Born October 5, 1959 – Rich Horton, 59, Writer, Critic, and Editor. He is best known as an anthology editor – and a damn superb one at that – who has been putting out Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy anthologies since 2006, as well as one-off anthologies Space Opera, Robots: The Recent A. I., and War & Space: Recent Combat. He started out writing reviews for SF Site in the late 90s, and has been reviewing books and short fiction for Locus Magazine since 2002.
  • Born October 5, 1967 – Guy Pearce, 51, Actor and Director from Australia who is known for genre works Memento, the remake of The Time Machine, Prometheus, and the Hugo finalist Iron Man 3.
  • Born October 5, 1974 – Colin Meloy, 44, Musician, Singer, Songwriter, and Writer. Front man of the indie folk rock band The Decemberists, and author of the juvenile fantasy novels The Wildwood Chronicles.
  • Born October 5, 1975 – Carson Ellis, 43, Writer, Artist, and Illustrator whose work graces genre works The Wildwood Chronicles written by her husband Colin Meloy, The Mysterious Benedict Society series, a Lemony Snicket book, and The Decemberists albums. Birthday celebrations must be an intimate affair.
  • Born October 5, 1975 – Kate Winslet, 43, Actor from England whose genre credits include the TV series Dark Season and the films A Kid in King Arthur’s Court, the Hugo finalist Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Finding Neverland, Contagion, the Divergent series, and the upcoming Avatar 2.
  • Born October 5, 1975 – Parminder Nagra, 43, Actor from England who appeared in Ella Enchanted, had a recurring role on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a guest part on TRON Uprising, and a voice part in Batman: Gotham Knight.
  • Born October 5 – Paul Weimer, Writer, Reviewer, and Podcaster, also known as @PrinceJvstin. An ex-pat New Yorker living in Minnesota, he has been reading science fiction and fantasy for over 30 years and exploring the world of roleplaying games for more than 25 years. An avid blogger, he also contributes to the Hugo-nominated fancast The Skiffy and Fanty Show and the SFF Audio podcast. He was the 2017 Down Under Fan Fund delegate to the Australia and New Zealand National Conventions, and his e-book DUFF trip report, consisting of more than 300 pages of travel stories and stunning photographs, is still available here.

(8) WAY OUT WEST. LiveScience passes the word from the USAF — “US Air Force: Don’t Worry About Those Weird Lights and Booms Sunday, It’s Just a Space Ship”.

Sunday (October 7) SpaceX will try (for the first time) to land a Falcon 9 rocket on the West Coast.

If you’re in the vicinity of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California Sunday evening (Oct. 7), you might hear some strange booming and see some weird lights in the sky. But the Air Force would like you to know that there’s no need to worry; something entirely normal is going on — a rocket that heaved its way up into space will be falling back to Earth, correcting its trajectory with “multiple engine burns,” and then (if all goes well) settling comfortably back on its landing struts in the vicinity of its launch site.

(9) OVERSERVED. These avians have found a natural high: “Minnesota Residents Call Police On Rowdy Drunk Birds”.

Life lately in the tiny northern Minnesota town of Gilbert has resembled a scene out of an Alfred Hitchcock film. Birds, lots of birds, have been “flying into windows, cars and acting confused,” according to the city police department, which has been fielding reports from anxious residents.

But these birds aren’t out for human blood. They’ve just had a few too many — a few too many overripe berries, that is.

“Certain berries we have in our area have fermented earlier than usual due to an early frost, which in turn has expedited the fermenting process,” Gilbert Police Chief Ty Techar explained in a statement. “It appears that some birds are getting a little more ‘tipsy’ than normal.”

Yes, having a boozy lark is nothing abnormal among the feathered set.

(10) CASTALIA HOUSE CHANGING STRATEGY. Vox Day will be pulling most of his imprint’s books from Kindle Unlimited, and will reduce the number of new fiction authors he publishes — “Why KU is killing ebooks” [Internet Archive link]

I did an analysis of our ebook sales and was surprised to discover that with 7 exceptions, Kindle Unlimited is simply not worth it even without taking potential non-Amazon sales into account. So, we’re going to be removing most of our books from KU and returning them to the Castalia House store over the next three months. By the start of the new year, most of our books will be available from all the major ebook platforms as well as our online store.

Remember, every dollar in the KU pool represents about THREE dollars removed from the ebook sales pool. And because the overall market is not growing, it is a zero-sum game.

We’re also going to reduce the number of new fiction authors we publish. Because repeated experiments have demonstrated that even the very best-selling KU novelists don’t sell very well in print, and because the success of KU puts us in a catch-22 situation with them regardless of whether they sell well through us or not, we are going to focus our efforts on strategic properties that we create, own and develop rather than those that we merely publish.

Because non-fiction a) sells well in print and b) is not popular on KU, our non-fiction publishing will continue without any change in focus or strategy.

(11) NOT THAT VOX, THE OTHER VOX. At Vox, Todd VanDerWerff asks why this had such an impact: “Russian trolls used Star Wars to sow discord online. The fact that it worked is telling.”

Maybe the Russian bots that Bay identified are all extra-governmental, built by trolls with spare time on their hands and a grudge against Lucasfilm. Or maybe Bay’s findings are yet another example of how thoroughly Russian intelligence has zeroed in on the idea that white nationalism is central to driving a wedge into American society.

If the latter is true, then what’s most unnerving about Russia’s intelligence strategy and its connection to Star Wars isn’t what that strategy says about Russia, but what it says about us.

Whomever you believe is behind movements like Gamergate and the pushback against The Last Jedi, what they reveal about America in the 2010s feels a little hard to swallow at first: At this point in history, a lot of us — and especially a lot of young, white men — are centering their identities and their senses of right and wrong on pop culture artifacts, sometimes with a near-religious zealotry. Call it “fandamentalism.”

(12) CREEPY PHONE. In this BBC video, “Feely finger phone crawls across desk”.

A touch-sensitive robotic finger that can be attached to smartphones has been developed by a researcher in France.

The MobiLimb finger can crawl across the desk, waggle for attention when messages arrive and be used as an interface to control apps and games.

It can also stroke its owner on the hand, which developer Marc Teyssier said could create more personal connections.

He told the BBC people generally found the finger creepy or weird because it was so unusual, but hoped it would be “accepted” in time.

(13) KEEPING IT OFF THE TIP OF THEIR TONGUE. French language body urges alternative phrase for “fake news”. Somehow information fallacieuse doesn’t have the same je ne sais quoi; the Commission offers “infox” among the alternatives, possibly not knowing how “Fox” is Frenched in the US.

Or if that is too long-winded, CELF suggested the abbreviation “infox”, formed from the words “information” and “intoxication”.

“The Anglo-Saxon expression ‘fake news’, which refers to a range of behaviour contributing to the misinformation of the public, has rapidly prospered in French,” the commission rued.

“This is an occasion to draw on the resources of the language to find French equivalents.”

(14) DRAWN THAT WAY. Comic artist Alex Ross appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers promoting his latest book, Marvelocity.

Comic book writer and artist Alex Ross talks about his artistic process, what drew him to the idea of drawing realistic versions of superheroes and explains why he doesn’t have an email.

 

(15) SIGN UP FOR THE ZONE. Rod Serling pitches The Twilight Zone to advertisers back in the day.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Eric Wong, JJ, Alan Baumler, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll, Scott Edelman, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Edd Vick.]

Pixel Scroll 8/10/18 This Pixel Scroll Title Has Been Used Before

(1) TARDIS MAKEOVER. Doctor Who Today has this leaked photo of a new TARDIS design.

(2) ANOTHER BIG $ALE. The Hipsters of the Coast report that the “Art for Chandra, Torch of Defiance SDCC Promo Sells for $35,000”.

Chandra, Torch of Defiance, the third of the five San Diego Comic Con promotional planeswalker paintings by Terese Nielsen, has sold for $35,000. The final bid all but doubled in the closing minutes of the auction that ended on eBay Sunday evening.

…Chandra, Torch of Defiance blew past the final prices of Liliana, Untouched by Death ($22,950) and Nissa, Vital Force ($25,600), eclipsing the highest total by almost $10,000. I did not expect Chandra to surpass these two, and I’m not sure that anyone, even Terese herself, might have guessed she would either.

(3) CHICAGO 8. The Book Smugglers feature an Uncanny Kickstarter promo about Chicago by the hosts-in-waiting of Uncanny TV: “Eight Nerdy Chicago People and Organizations We Love By Matt Peters and Michi Trota (Uncanny Magazine Kickstarter shout out)”

Our home nerd community in Chicago has countless examples of nerdy groups and individuals using their own geeky passions to inspire and shape incredibly diverse and wide-ranging projects. Their work reminds us why stories matter, and wanting to talk with creators like them and hear their own stories is a primary reason we’re so excited for the potential of Uncanny TV. Chicago is one home among many to geeky creators from all walks of life, and our hope is that Uncanny TV will have a chance to visit as many of those communities as possible. We couldn’t possibly name all of the nerds and geeks we know whose art and activism are fueled by their geeky loves, but here are eight based in Chicago who provide a snapshot of the inspiring work being created in fandom.

Acrobatica Infiniti Circus

“Cosplay” and “circus” aren’t two things we would have thought of putting together before but thankfully someone did! Acrobatica Infiniti Circus, also known as “the Nerd Circus,” was created several years ago by Tana “Tank” Karo, who had a background in dance and design but had wanted to create something that allowed her to merge her love for circus and geekery. The resulting collaboration among extraordinarily talented and undeniably nerdy jugglers, acrobats, aerial artists, contortionists, and object manipulators is delightful and surprising each time: Leeloo performing mind-boggling contortionist poses, Totoro juggling sootballs, Harley Quinn on a trapeze. The fact that the group has a rotating cast allows the performers to stay fresh and provides continuous opportunities for new performers to come in and join the show. And rather than approaching the performance scene as a competition, AIC often works in collaboration with similar performance groups to encourage more artistic development and positive ties within the community….

(4) LITTLE-KNOWN WORLDCON BUSINESS. I must have missed this on my first read-through of the agenda. The thread starts here.

(5) 2007 BUSINESS MEETING. Kevin Standlee has uploaded four videos of the 2007 WSFS Business Meeting in Yokohama.

It took him awhile to do it. Kevin says, “My upload bandwidth at home is so poor that I could only upload one file per night overnight.”

(6) SIMULATING MARS. NBC News posts a video (“The human factor: What it will take to build the perfect team for traveling to Mars”) about a simulated mission to Mars that didn’t turn out as planned.

Hi-SEAS in Mauna Loa, Hawaii is a simulated Mars habitat that’s meant to facilitate the study of human behavior. A group of four-to-six participants is selected from a pool of hundreds of astronaut aspirants to make up the crew for each mission. So far five missions have been conducted successfully. Mission VI began earlier this year but things didn’t go exactly as planned.

The Atlantic thoroughly reviews what happened in the article “When a Mars Simulation Goes Wrong”.

… In February of this year, the latest batch of pioneers, a crew of four, made the journey up the mountain. They settled in for an eight-month stay. Four days later, one of them was taken away on a stretcher and hospitalized….

(7) ACROSS THE WALL. Cora Buhlert writes from the divided Germany of 1963 at Galactic Journey“[August 10, 1963] The Future in a Divided Land, Part 3 (An Overview of Science Fiction in East and West Germany)”.

In the last two entries in this series, I gave you an extensive overview of West German science fiction. Now let’s take a look across the iron curtain at what is going on in East Germany. For while the inner German border may be nigh insurmountable for human beings, mail does pass through. A lot of us have family in the East, including myself, and are in regular contact with them via letters and parcels. Parcels from West to East Germany usually contain coffee, nylons, soap, canned pineapple and all sorts of other consumer goods that are hard to come by in Communist East Germany.

Unfortunately, we cannot send books and magazines, cause they will probably be seized at the border for fear of “dangerous” ideas spreading. East Germans, on the other hand, are free to send books and magazines to relatives and friends in the West. And since my love for reading in general and for “space books” in particular is well known to my aunts in East Germany, the occasional science fiction novel from beyond the iron curtain has found its way into my hands.

…However, the most exciting of those voice from beyond the iron curtain is not German at all, but a Polish writer, Stanislaw Lem, whose work I encountered via East German translations. I particularly enjoy Lem’s humorous stories about the adventures of a space traveller named Ijon Tichy, which have been collected as Die Sterntagebücher des Raumfahrers Ijon Tichy (The Star Diaries of the Spaceman Ijon Tichy).

Lem’s more serious works include the novels Eden with its fascinating portrayal of a truly alien society, Planet des Todes (Planet of Death), which was even filmed in 1960, and the generation ship story Gast im Weltraum (Guest in Space), which is currently being filmed in Czechoslovakia.

(8) MASSIVE ROUNDUP. Todd Mason has an ambitious collection of more than three dozen links to recent reviews and essays in “Friday’s ‘Forgotten’ Books and more: the links to the reviews” at Sweet Freedom.

(9) STEAMIN’ WORLDCON. Included in The Steampunk Explorer’s “Steampunk Digest – August 10, 2018”:

Worldcon, the World Science Fiction Convention, will be held August 16-20 in San Jose, within shouting distance of The Steampunk Explorer’s International Headquarters. The program lists several steampunk-themed panels, including “Carriger & Adina Talk Steampunk (tea and silliness optional)” with authors Gail Carriger and Shelley Adina; “The Victorian & Edwardian Tech Tree” with Steve Frankel; and “Defining Steampunk” with Elektra Hammond, Anastasia Hunter, William C. Tracy, Diana M. Pho, and Jaymee Goh. We plan to be there, and for the benefit of attendees, we’ll be posting stories about steampunk-related attractions in San Jose and elsewhere in Silicon Valley.

(10) LOOKING FOR BOOKS. Donations needed –

(11) WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN AT WAR WITH EAST BAYSIA. The Digital Antiquarian remembers the big brawl between Apple and Microsoft in “Doing Windows, Part 8: The Outsiders”.

…Having chosen to declare war on Microsoft in 1988, Apple seemed to have a very difficult road indeed in front of them — and that was before Xerox unexpectedly reentered the picture. On December 14, 1989, the latter shocked everyone by filing a $150 million lawsuit of their own, accusing Apple of ripping off the user interface employed by the Xerox Star office system before Microsoft allegedly ripped the same thing off from Apple.

The many within the computer industry who had viewed the implications of Apple’s recent actions with such concern couldn’t help but see this latest development as the perfect comeuppance for their overweening position on “look and feel” and visual copyright. These people now piled on with glee. “Apple can’t have it both ways,” said John Shoch, a former Xerox PARC researcher, to the New York Times. “They can’t complain that Microsoft [Windows has] the look and feel of the Macintosh without acknowledging the Mac has the look and feel of the Star.” In his 1987 autobiography, John Sculley himself had written the awkward words that “the Mac, like the Lisa before it, was largely a conduit for technology” developed by Xerox. How exactly was it acceptable for Apple to become a conduit for Xerox’s technology but unacceptable for Microsoft to become a conduit for Apple’s? “Apple is running around persecuting Microsoft over things they borrowed from Xerox,” said one prominent Silicon Valley attorney. The Xerox lawsuit raised uncomfortable questions of the sort which Apple would have preferred not to deal with: questions about the nature of software as an evolutionary process — ideas building upon ideas — and what would happen to that process if everyone started suing everyone else every time somebody built a better mousetrap.

(12) NAVIGATING THE AMAZON. Peter Grant relates more “Lessons learned from a trilogy, Part 2: the impact on sales of rapid releases, and other factors” at Mad Genius Club. He discovered several benefits from releasing a trilogy of new novels in a short timeframe.

You can see at once that sales rose a little per volume after each launch, but not spectacularly so.  What did rise very strongly were KU [Kindle Unlimited] “borrows”.  The triple “bounce” is obvious to the naked eye, even without numbers.  It seems that, once they were aware of the series, KU readers jumped on it, and read each volume in turn (sometimes “binge-reading” all three within a week).  That drove the series’ sales ranks higher, and is still doing so, long after I’d have expected the earlier books’ ranks to drop by much more.  As I write these words, all three volumes are still ranked in the top three-tenths of one percent of all books in the Kindle Store.  Needless to say, I find that very satisfying.

(13) DID THEY GAME THE SYSTEM? Six writers who have been booted from Amazon say they can’t understand why: “Amazon self-published authors: Our books were banned for no reason” at Yahoo! Finance.

In recent weeks, Amazon (AMZN) has taken down e-books written by at least six self-published novelists who say they did nothing wrong and depend on the platform to make their living, those six novelists told Yahoo Finance.

The six authors published many of their books through Amazon’s online self-publishing platform Kindle Direct Publishing Select, and they expressed shock and frustration over losing their livelihoods without understanding why.

Amazon, for its part, has been cracking down on KDP Select authors who supposedly game the system in order to get paid more. But the authors Yahoo Finance spoke to insist they haven’t engaged in this kind of fraud, and that Amazon banned them without sufficient explanation of wrongdoing.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 10 — Rosanna Arquette, 59. Amazon Women on the Moon as well as voice work in Battle for Terra, appearances in Medium and Eastwick.
  • Born August 10 — Antonio Banderas, 58. Genre work in Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, the Spy Kids franchise, voice work in Puss in Boots and Shrek 2, appearances in the forthcoming The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle and The New Mutants.
  • Born August 10 — Suzanne Collins, 56. The Hunger Games trilogy which became a film series as well and The Underland Chronicles, a epic fantasy series.
  • Born August 10 — Angie Harmon, 46. Barbara Gordon in the animated Batman Beyond series and voice work in the current Voltron series, appeared on Chuck. 
  • Born August 10 — Joanna Garcia Swisher, 39. Quite a bit genre work including the From the Earth to The Moon miniseries, the animated The Penguins of MadagascarAre You Afraid Of The DarkThe Astronaut Wives Club,  Kevin (Probably) Saves the World and Once Upon a Time series. 

(15) SHORT FICTION REVIEWS. Charles Payseur sells Ceaseless Sips by the seashore: “Quick Sips – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #257”.

I am sorely tempted to guess that the link between the two latest stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies is that their both authored by a Christopher. Because, at first glance, these two pieces are very different in terms of character, tone, and theme. Looking closer, though, and the stories seem paired not because of how well they work in harmony, but in how well they contrast, showing two sides of the same coin. On one, we get to see a man on a quest realize that he’s in danger of losing something of himself and pause, take stock, and find comfort and guidance in another person. In the other story, though, we find a man who has fully embraced his quest, regardless of who he needs to destroy or hurt. Both stories feature mostly conversations and philosophy, but in one a lesson is learned, and in the other it is utterly destroyed. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

(16) PICK SIX. Grow your TBR pile by reading “Six Books with Sam Hawke” at Nerds of a Feather.

  1. What upcoming book you are really excited about?Probably Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett is the one I’m looking forward to the most. He wrote one of my favourite fantasy trilogies of recent years (the Divine Cities) and Foundryside has the thieves and heists in city state, Locke Lamora kind of vibe that I dig. Special mention to The Monster Baru Cormorant (because the Traitor was amaaaaazing) though I am scared of how much it is going to hurt me.

(17) POWER ARRANGERS. Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams surprises with his deep interest in the meanings of Lord of the Rings: “Master of his universe: the warnings in JRR Tolkien’s novels” in New Statesman.

…Yes, Sam is an idealised version of a socially ambivalent and archaic stereotype. Forget this for a moment and look at his instinctive realisation that fantasies of high-octane power, celebrity and control are poisonous. He is anything but perfect: his stubborn parochialism and his taunting of Gollum are failings, with bad consequences. But he retains some fundamental instinct of moral realism. This helps him share Frodo’s burden without collapsing. Frodo’s empathy for Gollum (rooted in a shared understanding of the Ring’s terrible seduction), finally leads to a genuinely shocking denouement; but Gollum, furious, alienated by Sam, recklessly greedy for the Ring, saves Frodo from his self-inflicted catastrophe and dies as a result.

Somehow, the tangled web of interaction between these three ends in “salvation”. Some force overrules and rescues them – but only through the weaving together of a whole set of flawed agencies, mixed motives, compassion, prejudice, courage and craving. Tolkien is seeking to model the way in which the creator works not by intervening but by interweaving. It is this starkly unexpected conclusion to the quest and the journey that makes the book most clearly a Christian fiction.

But even for the non-religious reader, this diagnosis of power is a reason for treating Tolkien more seriously than many are inclined to. Look beyond the unquestionable flaws: the blandly patriarchal assumptions, the recurrent patronising of the less “elevated” characters, the awkwardness of the would-be High Style of narrative and dialogue, the pastiche of Scott or Stevenson at their worst; beyond even the fantastically elaborated histories and lores and languages of Middle Earth.

The work is ultimately a fiction about how desire for power – the kind of power that will make us safe, reverse injustices and avenge defeats – is a dream that can devour even the most decent. But it is also a fiction about how a bizarre tangle of confused human motivation, prosaic realism and unexpected solidarity and compassion can somehow contribute to fending off final disaster. Not quite a myth, but something of a mythic structure, and one that – in our current climate of political insanities and the resurgence of varieties of fascistic fantasy – we could do worse than think about.

(18) UP YOUR UPLOAD. BBC discovered “This rigged charger can hijack your new laptop”. “Who ran a sewer through a recreation area?” is joined by “Who put charging on a data line?”

A neat feature of many modern laptops is the ability to power them up through the USB port. Unlike the rectangular USB ports of old, the newer type – USB-C – can carry enough power to charge your machine.

That’s great news: it means you don’t need to add a separate port just for charging. And when the USB port isn’t being used for power, it can be used for something useful, like plugging in a hard drive, or your phone.

But while you and I may look at that as an improvement, hackers see an opportunity to exploit a new vulnerability.

One researcher, who goes by the name MG, showed me how a Macbook charger could be booby-trapped. Modified in such a way it was possible to hijack a user’s computer, without them having any idea it was happening.

(19) SENT BACK LIKE GANDALF? “Gladiator 2: The strangest sequel never made?” — Maximus resurrected by Jupiter to fight a rebel god, then sent time-travelling through wars of the ages.

At the time, [Nick] Cave had written just one produced screenplay, John Hillcoat’s Ghosts… of the Civil Dead, and he was concentrating on his music career. But he couldn’t resist when Crowe offered him the Gladiator 2 job, despite one obvious misgiving. “Didn’t you die in Gladiator 1?” he asked. “Yeah, you sort that out,” replied Crowe.

And that’s what he did. Cave’s Gladiator 2 screenplay opens with Maximus waking up in the afterlife. To his disappointment, it isn’t the sun-kissed Elysium he dreamt of in Gladiator, but an endless rain-sodden netherworld where wretched refugees huddle on the shores of a black ocean. With the help of a ghostly guide, Mordecai, Maximus treks to a ruined temple where he meets Jupiter, Mars and five other diseased and decrepit Roman deities. Jupiter explains that one of their number, Hephaestus, has betrayed them, and is now preaching the gospel of another god who is more powerful than all of them. Just to quibble for a moment, Hephaestus is a Greek god, not a Roman one, so Cave should really have named him Vulcan. But the screenplay compensates for this slip with some writing to relish….

(20) DO YOU REMEMBER WHO KILLED SUPERMAN? At SYFY Wire“An oral history of the original Death and Return of Superman, 25 years later”.

…Jurgens fittingly enough would be the artist who drew that final image of a battle-weary Superman finally succumbing to battle with Doomsday, cradled in Lois Lane’s arms, with Jimmy Olsen forlorn in the background.

Jurgens: As for that final double page splash, well… it first appeared as a triple page spread at the end of Superman #75. I don’t think it has ever been reprinted that way, with a double page spread that then folds out into a triple pager. We spent an extraordinary amount of time getting it to work properly and I think it really helped bring Superman #75 to an appropriate close.

Superman #75 would go on to sell millions copies over multiple printings, reaching sales figure that were bolstered in no small part by the mainstream attention the death of this international icon had attracted.

Ordway: Coincidentally, the public’s actual reaction mirrored what we did in the comics — they suddenly came out in numbers, professing their love for Superman. That was what we wanted all along, though of course none of us had any idea it would sell. We had hopes that people would respond, maybe comic shops might order more Superman comics.

Jurgens: There is no way we, DC or anyone was prepared for the reaction to our story. We were simply trying to tell a good, dramatic story that said something about the nature of a great character.

Carlin: I still can’t believe people believed Superman would be gone forever. Reporter after reporter came up to DC and asked “Why are you killing Superman?” and my standard answer was “When was the last time you bought a Superman comic? Hell, when was the last time you bought ANY comic?” And every reporter said they hadn’t bought a Superman comic since they were kids, to which my response was: “Then you’re the one who killed Superman!” And most of these reporters, men and women, said that they were reporters because of Clark and/or Lois’s inspiration!

For the creative team, the story they yearned to tell was not the slugfest that led up Superman’s death, but the stories of loss afterward.

Bogdanove: In what seemed like no time, we’d written most of “Funeral for a Friend,” which was where the real meat of the story was. I think we accomplished exactly what Louise spoke of. Through the eyes of Metropolis and the world, via the reactions of heroes, villains and the friends and family he knew, I think we got to say a lot about why Superman matters.

Certain scenes stand out in my memory: Bibbo (Bibowski, a supporting character who idolized the Man of Steel) saying, “It shoulda’ been me!” Ma and Pa Kent watching the funeral of their own son on television, all alone by themselves. Some of these scenes we talked about that day still make my eyes tear up just thinking about them.

(21) JOIN THE SPACE FORCE. Commander Fred Willard comes out of retirement to enlist in Trump’s Space Force.  “We’re going to build a big, beautiful wall and those filthy Neptunians are going to pay for it.”  “When there’s trouble in space, we’re on the case.” From the Jimmy Kimmel Show. Fast forward to 3 minutes and 30 seconds.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Kevin Standlee, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, David Doering, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, and Hyman Rosen for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 8/7/18 Not First, Nor Fifth, Nor even Frog, Just Little Old Me, PixelDog

(1) SAN JOSE LOCAL CUISINE. The Worldcon 76 Local Guide is now available as an app:

Announcing the Worldcon 76 “Local Guide” app from the Publications & Communications team. We’ve prepared it to help newcomers and visitors to San Jose with detailed information about the stores and restaurants that are nearby the Convention Center, downtown hotels, and the SJC airport. You can view the app on our website at: https://www.worldcon76.org/travel-lodging/local-guide

(2) WHITLEY ROBBED. Dave Chalker reported Eva Whitley’s bad news:

This is an update for family and friends of Eva Whitley. Last night her house was broken into while she was there. She was held at gunpoint and robbed of money and her phone. Physically, she was not harmed. But as you can imagine she is in rough shape emotionally. She’s going to try and rest now after a very difficult evening (wherein the police were not only not helpful but actively abusive) but when she wakes up later, she’s going to need all the support she can get.

David had already started a GoFundMe for her — “Save Mom’s July” – which has seen a new burst of donations since this news came out today. (It originally hit $3,793 of its $1,000 target).

(3) WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO READ? Nerds of a Feather features “6 Books with Martha Wells”.

  1. What upcoming book you are really excited about?I was excited about The Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault Rivera, which comes out this fall, and I just got to read an ARC of it. The first book, The Tiger’s Daughter, was probably my favorite epic fantasy of last year. It’s an original, rich, fully realized fantasy world, with an epic story told from an unusual angle. The second book goes more into the threat looming over this world, and what the characters are actually fighting. I can’t wait for the next book.

(4) SPIDEY AND COMPANY. “Spider-Man Will Be Joined by Two MCU Veterans in ‘Homecoming’ Sequel” and Inverse tells you who they are.

Iron Man won’t be joining Spidey on his European tour in the upcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home, but Spider-Man will be joined by two MCU veterans even if Tony Stark doesn’t survive the end of Avengers 4. Nick Fury and Maria Hill are reportedly going to appear in the Homecoming sequel, due out next summer.

(5) HONEY BADGER BRIGADE LOSES SUIT. Nerd and Tie’s Trae Dorn tracked down the result: “MRA Group “The Honey Badger Brigade” Lose Their Lawsuit Against Calgary Expo, The Mary Sue”.

So it’s been a while since we provided an update on the lawsuit MRA group “The Honey Badger Brigade” filed against the Canadian convention Calgary Expo and US-based blog The Mary Sue back in Fall of 2015, but we finally have a resolution to the story. Last week, on August 1st, the Provincial Civil Court of Alberta ruled in favor of Calgary Expo and The Mary Sue.

To explain how we got here, the short version is that the Honey Badger Brigade had filed suit because Calgary Expo kicked the MRA group out during their 2015 event. Calgary Expo claimed it was because the Honey Badgers misrepresented the artist booth they were occupying and were disruptive to the event. The Mary Sue also ended up getting named in because they wrote about it? I guess? They also hired a disbarred lawyer and crowdfunded tens of thousands of dollars to pay for the case. Literally none of this case made a lick of sense.

And apparently the judge agreed.

(6) DOING INTERVIEWS. At Black Gate, the Uncanny Magazine crew tells how they prepare for and do interviews. “Uncanny Magazine Year 5 Meta-Interview: A Look at How Interviews Come Together”.

Caroline M. Yoachim does print interviews for the magazine, Lynne M. Thomas does the podcast interviews, and now we are introducing Matt Peters and Michi Trota as the video interviewers (and hosts) of Uncanny TV!

When we got the idea to write about interviews, we realized that we could do the post by interviewing each other, and BOOM, the meta-interview was born! …

Lynne: What kinds of interviews have you looked at to help shape your questions for Uncanny’s print interviews?  Are there any approaches or formats to print interviews that you would be interested in trying out to try to change things up?

Caroline: When I started doing interviews for Uncanny, the first thing I did was go back and read several interviews from past issues, to get a feel for what kind of questions to ask and the scope of the interviews. I also often glance at previous interviews from whichever author I’m interviewing, so I can avoid asking questions they’ve answered repeatedly.

As for interesting approaches, I remember there was an interview I did for Shimmer where I answered interview questions jointly with a character from my story. It was a fun way to mix things up a little bit!

Lynne: What is the most bizarre/memorable question you’ve ever asked in an interview? Have there been any bizarre/memorable questions that you’ve been asked when being interviewed?

Caroline: I’ve done relatively few interviews (either as an interviewer or as an interviewee) and while I have asked and answered good questions with memorable answers, I’m not sure I’ve ever had a question that was memorable/bizarre in and of itself. However, if future interviewers of me would like an unusual question to throw into the mix, I recommend: “Have you ever photographed the secret life of gummy bears?”

(7) GEEK SHOPPING. Daniel Dern calls your attention to these ThinkGeek Anniversary Deals

Like this Old Book BackPack (which I’m using to tote magic tricks to local events)

And the Con-Survival Bag of Holding (great for con-going day side pack, I use mine a lot, see lots of others in use)

RD-D2 Coffee press (not on my list, but maybe yours)

(8) RUH-ROH! Ursula Vernon gives a progress report from the garden. The thread starts here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 7, 1933 – Jerry Pournelle
  • Born August 7 — Tobin Bell, 76. Myriad genres roles in such productions as Alien Nation, Mann & MachineStargate SG-1, Strange Worlds, The X- Files and voice work in the current Flash series. Oh and played Jigsaw in the long running Saw horror film series.
  • Born August 7 — Wayne Knight, 63. Extensive voice work including The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat, HerculesThe Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars and the Green Lantern series. Appeared in Jurassic Park and credited as Nerdy. Also in Torchwood: Miracle Day and 3rd Rock from the Sun.
  • Born August 7 — David Duchovny, 58. X-Files of course, also Space: Above and Beyond and Twin Peaks, the Area 51  video game and The Lone Gunmen series.
  • Born August 7 — Harold Perrineau, 55. Regular cast on the BladeLost and Constantine series, also Z Nation30 Days of Night: Dark Days, Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions.
  • Born August 7 — Michael Shannon, 44. General Zod in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Also Fahrenheit 451The Shape of Water and Jonah Hex.
  • Born August 7 — Charlize Theron, 43. Genre roles include Snow White and The Huntsman with a sequel called The Huntsman: Winter’s War, other credits include Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (uncredited but her first role), Æon Flux, Mad Max: Fury Road and Mortica Addams in the latest reboot of The Addams Family.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro needs the public’s help to solve this robotic crime….

(11) WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS. John Scalzi is on to something — thread starts here.

(12) THE EIGHTIES. James Davis Nicoll quantum leaps his series into the next decade: “Fighting Erasure: Women SF Writers of the 1980s, Part I”.

(13) YOUR 1-STAR REVIEW, SIR. Yes, it’s so precious when people need to flag authors about them.

(14) CULTURAL CURRENCY. A criticism about 2140.

Well, I know what X, Y and Z were, but I don’t remember who they were. I take your point.

(15) DRAGON OVERVIEW. Cora Buhlert’s rundown “The 2018 Dragon Award Nominees and the Rise of the Kindle Unlimited Writing Factories” focuses on counting things like the ethnicities and sex of the nominees. She also has Internet Archives links to ballot reactions from Declan Finn and Richard Paolinelli (consisting of a little bit of reaction and a great deal of self-promotion, but what else is an author’s blog for?)

(16) TOP MAGAZINES. The Splintered Mind did its annual ranking – “Top Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazines 2018”. Asimov’s is way out in front of this list of 50 magazines. Here are the criteria:

(1.) Only magazines are included (online or in print), not anthologies or standalones.

(2.) I gave each magazine one point for each story nominated for a Hugo, Nebula, Eugie, or World Fantasy Award in the past ten years; one point for each story appearance in any of the Dozois, Horton, Strahan, Clarke, or Adams “Year’s Best” anthologies; and half a point for each story appearing in the short story or novelette category of the annual Locus Recommended list.

(3.) I am not attempting to include the horror / dark fantasy genre, except as it appears incidentally on the list.

(4.) Prose only, not poetry.

(5.) I’m not attempting to correct for frequency of publication or length of table of contents.

(6.) I’m also not correcting for a magazine’s only having published during part of the ten-year period. Reputations of defunct magazines slowly fade, and sometimes they are restarted. Reputations of new magazines take time to build.

(17) SHORT FICTION REVIEWED. Charles Payseur shares “Quick Sips – Uncanny #23 [August stuff]”.

The second half of the special Dinosaur issue of Uncanny Magazine brings even MOAR dinosaurs, with five new stories and three new poems. Two of the poems aren’t really dinosaur-centric, but the issue as a whole offers up a great diversity in styles and ways of incorporating the source material and expanding the shared space of the issue. Here we are treated to more stories of dinosaurs displaced in time, landing on the Oregon Trail, or in a strange fairy tale, or in the middle of a small town. There’s not quite the same focus on communication and understanding as before, though. Instead, these pieces look a bit more at violence, and hunger, and corruption. They don’t flinch away from showing some dinosaurs getting their feed on, as well as getting their freak on. It’s a strange, rather wonderful collection of short SFF, so let’s get to the reviews!

(18) GRAPHIC STORY PICKS. Joe Sherry’s review of his Hugo ballot at Nerds of a Feather goes into overtime: “Reading the Hugos: Graphic Story”

Today we’ll be looking at the six finalists for Graphic Story.  By the time this goes live we’ll be a full week past the close of voting and while I’ve thoroughly enjoyed covering as many categories as I have, I’m ready for the reading and voting stage to be done. It’s a lot, even when it’s something I love to do.

Two works on my nominating ballot are here on the final ballot (Bitch Planet and Paper Girls), but the category as a whole is soli and filled with interesting and strong works. Like the novella category, though, Graphic Story is fairly dominated by one publisher: Image Comics. With four of the six slots, Image has a fair lock on the category. As great as Image is and how fantastic the comics, the category will be stronger if a wider variety of publishers are represented in future years (though, three of the works on my nomination ballot were also from Image – so there’s that)

(19) NEW SANDMAN STORIES. ComicsBeat presents a “Sandman Universe Exclusive: How Hopkinson & Stanton plan to break diverse new ground in the Dreaming”. Here’s the introduction to the interview –

From 1989-1996, Neil Gaiman and a group of artistic collaborators including Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, and more crafted The Sandman. This 75 issue DC Comics/Vertigo series followed Dream and his primordial siblings, who collectively formed the Endless, through imaginative and transformative stories steeped in classic mythology and boundless imagination. To this day, The Sandman remains one of DC’s most beloved series. And now, eager comics fans will have the opportunity to return to the Dreaming once again with this Wednesday’s release of Sandman Universe #1, a special one-shot that introduces a new line of Sandman stories to the world.

One of these new stories is House of Whispers. Written by notable fantasy and sci-fi author Nalo Hopkinson and drawn by Domo Stanton with colors from John RauchHouse of Whispers follows two sets of characters. The first is the Yoruba goddess Erzulie, whose House of Dahomey is “where the souls of Voodoo followers go when they sleep [in order] to beseech the flirtatious and tragic goddess to grant them their hearts’ desires and counsel them on their futures and fortunes.” The second is a group of four human girls in New Orleans who have stumbled upon a journal “filled with whispers and rumors” that threatens to unleash “Sopona, the loa lord of infectious disease.” Tied together by circumstance, Erzulie, cousin to Sopona, attempts to come to the aid of the humans, but finds herself in a crisis of her own as her House crashes into the Dreaming.

(20) BAT CASTING. From io9 we learn that  “The CW’s Live-Action Batwoman Is Ruby Rose”.

Both Variety and Deadline report that Rose, currently appearing in the giant-shark action movie The Meg, has been tapped to portray Kate Kane in both the upcoming Arrow/Flash/Supergirl/Legends of Tomorrow crossover special and the potential Batwoman series being helmed by Caroline Dries that could air in 2019.

Rose, also known for turns in Orange Is the New Black and appearances in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter and John Wick: Chapter 2, will first appear in the role later this year. The heroes of the CW’s other DC supershows (sans Black Lightning, off in its own universe) will head to Gotham City for the first time, where they’ll team up with Kate Kane—one of DC Comics’ few lesbian characters—for a new adventure.

(21) CATCH THE WAVE. We’re not talking about water here — “‘Extraordinary’ waves from Jupiter’s moon Ganymede spotted”.

Scientists have observed “extraordinary” waves coming out of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede.

The electromagnetic waves, also known as “chorus waves,” were spotted using the Galileo Probe spacecraft, which has a mission of surveying Jupiter’s wave environment.

“It’s a really surprising and puzzling observation showing that a moon with a magnetic field can create such a tremendous intensification in the power of waves,” Yuri Shprits, the lead author of the study, told the Independent.

(22) THE LIVING END. Deadpool 2 – How It Should Have Ended. You heard it here fifth.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/26/18 What Is The Law? Not To Reuse Titles, That Is The Law

(1) GOOD THOUGHTS ON BAD PRACTICES. Kristine Kathryn Rusch comments on historic efforts to game Amazon’s algorithms. “Business Musings: Sometimes I Just React…”

…Back when I started blogging on publishing in 2010 (after writing The Freelancer’s Survival Guide on this site in 2009), I had the lovely experience of being trashed repeatedly by the Kindle Unlimited folks. Only there wasn’t Unlimited—not yet. There was just the Kindle Boards, where writers gathered to talk.

And what they talked about was what professional writers everywhere talk about—how to make money. (We don’t dare discuss craft with each other for fear that we’ll insult our peers. We all have friends who have great writing careers, whom we believe {in our heart of hearts} can’t write their way out of a paper bag. And, we know, that some of our friends think the same thing about us. It’s better to discuss quantifiable things, like money, instead of qualitative things, like craft. {See my post on “Taste” from last week.})

That “how to make money” thing took on a life of its own on the Kindle Boards. It wasn’t about how to improve your storytelling to make money. It wasn’t about those old-fashioned systems like agents or traditional publishers or contracts, although there occasionally was talk like that.

Instead, it was about which subgenres sold, and how many books you had to write and publish each month to stay ahead of the algorithms. It was about writing short so that you had more books published (in the early days) or putting the table of contents at the end so that the algorithm would think someone who clicked there had read the whole book….

(2) RUNNING DARMOK. Whew, people really took off with this meme game….

For example (the second is what I have in mind) —

JJ suggests, “Breq, outside a tavern in snow.”

(3) AT THE CORE. Scientific American tells how “Milky Way’s Black Hole Provides Long-Sought Test of Einstein’s General Relativity”.

Genzel and his colleagues have tracked the journey of this star, known as S2, since the early 1990s. Using telescopes at the European Southern Observatory in Chile, the scientists watch it as it travels in an elliptical orbit around the black hole, which lies 26,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Sagittarius. With a mass of 4 million times the Sun, the black hole generates the strongest gravitational field in the Milky Way. That makes it an ideal place to hunt for relativistic effects.

On 18 May this year, S2 passed as close as it ever does to the black hole. The researchers pointed instruments including GRAVITY, an instrument called an interferometer that combines light from four 8-meter telescopes and became operational in 2016. “With our measurements the door is wide open to black-hole physics,” says team member Frank Eisenhauer, an astronomer at the Max Planck institute.

GRAVITY measured S2’s movement across the sky; at its fastest, the star whizzed along at more than 7,600 kilometres a second, or nearly 3% the speed of light. Meanwhile, a different instrument studied how fast S2 moved towards and away from Earth as it swung past the black hole. Combining the observations allowed Genzel’s team to detect the star’s gravitational redshift—its light being stretched to longer wavelengths by the black hole’s immense gravitational pull, which is consistent with the predictions of general relativity.

“What we measured cannot be described by Newton any more,” says Odele Straub, an astrophysicist at the Paris Observatory. Future observations of S2 might confirm other Einstein predictions, such as how the spinning black hole drags space-time around with it.

(4) SFWA MENTEE PROGRAM. The deadline to apply is July 31.

(5) UNCANNY KICKSTARTER. Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas have launched a Kickstarter for Year Five of their 2016 and 2017 Hugo Award-winning professional online SF/F magazine: Uncanny Magazine. The funds will cover some of its operational and production costs for the fifth year, with an initial goal of $18,700. plus an added stretch goal of launching a new Uncanny TV video magazine. The Kickstarter runs through August 24: “Uncanny Magazine Year Five: I Want My Uncanny TV!”

For Year Five, Uncanny has solicited original short fiction from Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award-winning and nominated authors and bestselling authors including: Ursula Vernon, Mary Robinette Kowal, Kelly Robson, Maurice Broaddus, Fran Wilde, Ellen Klages, Naomi Kritzer, Greg van Eekhout, John Chu, Sarah Pinsker,  Rebecca Roanhorse, and Delilah S. Dawson.  There will also be numerous slots for unsolicited submissions.

Uncanny Magazine Year Five plans to showcase original essays by Mark Oshiro, Zoë Quinn, Alexandra Erin, Tanya DePass, Jim C. Hines, and Diana M. Pho,  plus poetry by Beth Cato, S. Qiouyi Lu, Brandon O’Brien, Cassandra Khaw, Nicasio Reed, and Leah Bobet.

Uncanny Magazine Year Five will also feature cover art by John Picacio and Galen Dara.

This year, Uncanny is back with a new mission for the ranger corps: UNCANNY TV.

Hosted and produced by Michi Trota and Matt Peters, Uncanny TV will be the launch of our community-based vid channel, featuring exclusive geeky content related to Uncanny and the Space Unicorn Ranger Corps community. Matt Peters & Michi Trota will host a short (20-30 min) variety talk show Uncanny Magazine style: highlighting creators in SF/F working in a variety of art forms and projects, focusing on people building and nurturing their communities, particularly highlighting marginalized creators. They’ll talk about topics that can be serious, but the overall tone of the show will be to celebrate the things we enjoy and the people who make our communities good places to be in SF/F.

(6) DOES THIS WORK? Beatrice Verhoeven, in The Wrap’s story “‘Star Wars’ Director Rian Johnson Deletes 20,000 Tweets After James Gunn Firing in ‘Why Not?’ Move”, says that Johnson has deleted all his tweets before January 25 of this year, explaining, “if trolls looking for ammunition is the new normal, this seems like a ‘why not’ move.”

On Tuesday, The Mary Sue tweeted a story that said, “it’s also possible that Disney has issued some sort of directive to their talent about social media post-Gunn situation, suggesting caution or deletion.” In response, Johnson tweeted, “No official directive at all, and I don’t think I’ve ever tweeted anything that bad. But it’s nine years of stuff written largely off the cuff as ephemera, if trolls scrutinizing it for ammunition is the new normal, this seems like a ‘why not?’ move.”

(7) NO BUCKS AND NO BUCK ROGERS. The Hollywood Reporter has the latest about the Buck Rogers rights litigation: “Judge Directs Government Intervention in “Buck Rogers” Bankruptcy”.

The audacious plan to use a bankruptcy court to auction off “Buck Rogers” rights despite lingering ownership challenges appears to have backfired on those ostensibly serving the interests of heirs of John Dille, who published the fictional space hero in magazines in the early-to-mid 20th century. On Wednesday, a Pennsylvania bankruptcy court issued an extraordinary decision that faulted the Dille Family Trust with a number of sins. As a result, the Office of the U.S. Trustee has been directed to appoint a Chapter 11 Trustee in what could ultimately result in a long anticipated film adaptation of Armageddon 2419 A.D., the 1929 novella by Philip Francis Nowlan that introduced the Buck Rogers character.

The background of what happened is detailed much more extensively here, but in November 2017, the Dilles declared bankruptcy in the midst of litigation with Nowlan’s heirs about trademark rights and in the middle of fighting with producer Don Murphy about whether Armageddon 2419 A.D. was in the public domain. Filing for bankruptcy meant a pause on litigation, and the Dilles wanted to liquidate their interests in Buck Rogers rights — whatever those might be — through Heritage Auctions. Since the filing of bankruptcy, Murphy and the Nowlans have pounded the table that this proceeding was all a farce.

Now, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jeffery Deller has seen enough.

In a memorandum opinion (read here), he writes that it is undisputed that the Dille Family Trust has no business operations, has no meaningful income, is liquidating as opposed to reorganizing, has incurred administrative expenses with no liquid assets available to satisfy these debts, and has invoked the automatic stay for the primary purpose of avoiding a trial regarding an alleged interest in various intellectual property.

(8) WORLDCON WOES. John Scalzi delivers “A Little More On Recent Worldcon Stuff”.

Also, while I’m on the subject of the Hugo and Worldcon, I see some various turdlings out there are gleeful about the recent dustup re: the Worldcon program. “The SJWs are eating themselves!” is the basic line of the turdlings. In fact, something entirely different happened.

Which was: When the problems cropped up (and they did) and people started to complain (and they did), the Worldcon, within a day, acknowledged that various mistakes had happened and actively moved to correct those mistakes. Not perfectly or instantly, but it still happened.

Which is what you want to happen! In an ideal world, mistakes don’t get made, but we don’t live in an ideal world and none of us is our ideal self. The next best thing is, when mistakes are pointed out, you move to fix them and to learn from them.

The turdlings who are gleeful at the Worldcon’s temporary woes don’t care about anything other than an institution they dislike and tried (or are still trying) to sabotage having a stumble. That’s because they’re basically awful, whiny menchildren. No surprise there.

(9) TAKE ME OUT TO THE BOT GAME. Flippy the Robot, from Miso Robotics, will be “wearing” Dodger blue this summer (Food & Wine: “Flippy the Robot Is the Tater Tot-Making Boyfriend I Deserve”) and manning (robotting?) the fry basket:

In 2017, Miso Robotics introduced the world to Flippy, a jaunty new robot that can make food alongside humans, prepping fried chicken and tater tots and burgers with ease. And this summer, Flippy will be gainfully employed at Dodgers Stadium to make concessions, working the frying station. This follows a successful stint flipping burgers at a Pasadena CaliBurger earlier this year.

“Adapting Flippy into a fryer assistant … has been a great opportunity to demonstrate the scale of Miso’s platform,” Miso Robotics CEO David Zitosaid in a statement. “[T]his technology [is] a win-win — improving working conditions for stadium employees and improving the game experience for fans.” In February, Flippy raised $10 million from investors.

(10) ROBOTS OVER THE MILLENNIA. A Nature open-access PDF article, “Ancient dreams of intelligent machines: 3,000 years of robots”, in which “Stephen Cave and Kanta Dihal revisit the extraordinary history of cultural responses to automata.”

The word ‘robot’ was born in Czech writer Karel ?apek’s 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). In the very work coining the term, the robots rebel against and destroy their creators. And that narrative of rebellion has proved to be the most potent of all our AI fears, retold repeatedly as technology evolves.

During the cold war space race, the film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) gave us HAL 9000, the murderous spaceship supercomputer. With the rise of the Internet, we got Skynet — a defence network that becomes self-aware in the Terminator films (starting in 1984) — and The Matrix (1999), featuring intelligent machines that farm humans whose minds unknowingly inhabit a virtual reality. Now, with AI dominating headlines, we have sophisticated robots again overthrowing their wetware masters, from Ava in the 2015 film Ex Machina to the android amusement-park hosts in the Westworld television series.

The persistent trope of robot revolts reveals the paradox at the heart of our relationship with intelligent machines. We want to create clever tools that can do everything we can do, and more. They will be the perfect oracles, servants, soldiers, even lovers. To fulfil our hopes, they must have attributes such as intellect and agency — minds of their own, superior to ours. But, paradoxically, that is also why we fear HAL and Skynet. The tension lies in our conflicted desire to create beings superhuman in capacity, but subhuman in status.

(11) PETERSEN OBIT. Andrew Petersen, a student I met at Azusa Pacific University’s Yosemite Semester in 2001, has died. One of his ambitions was to captain a Jungle Cruise boat at Disneyland and he not only did that, he went to work at the Park, along the way running the Indiana Jones ride and the Enchanted Tiki Room. What a character he was, what a great guy.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 26, 1894 – Aldous Huxley. Swap two numbers in the year and you have another dystopian author’s book.
  • Born July 26, 1928 – Stanley Kubrick.
  • Born July 26 – Helen Mirren, 73. Genre work includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, the classic Twilight Zone, Faerie Tale Theatre and as Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy film.
  • Born July 26 – Sandra Bullock, 54. First genre role was in, I kid you not, Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, also Demolition Man and Gravity to name but two of her other genre appearances.
  • Born July 26 – Jeremy Piven, 53. Jeffrey Tanner in the quickly and mercifully canceled Wisdom of the Crowd series, in Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde, the Hercules animated series, the Cupid series as well and a lot of voice work.
  • Born July 26 – Olivia Williams, 50. Adelle DeWitt in Dollhouse and Emily Burton Silk in Counterpart, also the Jason and the Argonauts series in a recurring role as Hera, yet another Peter Pan  film, and apparently an uncredited appearance in X-Men: The Last Stand.
  • Born July 26 – Kate Beckinsale, 45. Selene in the Underworld film franchise, also Van HelsingAlice Through the Looking Glass, Haunted and a recurring role in the Elder Scrolls Online video game franchise.
  • Born July 26 – Eve Myles, 40. Gwen Cooper in both the Doctor Who and Torchwood series, and voice performer in the Big Finish series of audiobooks including Golden Age, a splendid story involving Torchwood India.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) A CAREER, JUST NOT THE ONE PRESENTED. Her history of crowdsourcing funds, promoting literary events, and tendency to not deliver made the LA Times ask “Who Is Anna March?”

…Anna March whisked in and out, a flash of pink hair in a polka-dot dress. The 2015 party at the Ace’s mezzanine bar, serving free drinks, was packed to overflowing.

March had never published a book but had been quietly working literary Los Angeles’ social media connections for months. A spunky, unapologetic, sex-positive feminist ready to raise hell, she was supportive and flattering. She was also conspicuously generous — concerned about the line of people waiting to get into the party, March asked a pair of new acquaintances if she should give $20 bills to those stuck on the sidewalk. The bill for the night would total more than $22,000.

Why is she doing this? people asked, stealing glances at March.

Some had a larger question:

Who was Anna March?

That was a harder question to answer than you might think. Anna March first appeared around 2011, when she started publishing online. Before that, she was known by different names in different cities. In researching this story, The Times found four: Anna March, Delaney Anderson, Nancy Kruse and Nancy Lott.

In three places — Los Angeles, San Diego and Rehoboth Beach, Del. — March became a part of the literary community. She won over new friends, even accomplished authors but especially writers trying to find a way into that world, with her generosity, her enthusiasm and apparent literary success — only to leave town abruptly…

(15) DOUBLE JEOPARDY. No sooner had Jon Del Arroz started an Indiegogo to fund a comic book project than somebody unveiled a bogus Kickstarter featuring an image of the same character. JDA has gotten the hoax Kickstarter taken down.

Fake fundraiser screencap

JDA knows his audience — his announcement of the real Indiegogo appeal on his blog is sandwiched between a post gloating about Worldcon 76 program travails and another post complaining that Tor Books is attacking him — and the Indiegogo appeal is closing in on its $6,000 goal.

(16) ALAN MOORE. Paste Magazine says these are “The 10 Best Alan Moore Comics of All Time”.

  1. A Small Killing
    Artist: Oscar Zarate
    Publisher: Avatar Press
    Here’s the landmark which stands nearest to Moore. Allow me to explain: I don’t think A Small Killing is the work that means the most to Moore emotionally, or that it shows some never-revealed Rosebud, or that it amounts to autobiography by code. What I mean is that A Small Killing is the work I see as somehow closest to the heart of the creator, the way the Book of Job is central to any exegesis of the Tanakh. A Small Killing is a story that unconsciously comments on Moore’s anxiety. (This is all rabid hearsay, of course, and should not be aired in a legitimate court of law.)

(17) IN UNIFORM. People.com shows how “Natalie Portman Transforms Into NASA Astronaut in Pale Blue Dot. Natalie Portman plays a NASA astronaut in Pale Blue Dot, a fictional story said to be based loosely on the Lisa Nowak -Bill Oefelein-Colleen Shipman “astronaut love triangle” of 2007.

In the early morning hours of that day, Nowak was wearing a black wig and trench coat when she approached Colleen Shipman’s car in the parking lot of Orlando International Airport. She banged on the Shipman’s window and begged for a ride. When Shipman rolled down her window, Nowak sprayed her with pepper spray and tried to get in the car.

Shipman fled the scene, shaken but unhurt. Police arrested Nowak on attempted murder and kidnapping charges.

The resulting case was dubbed the “astronaut love triangle.”

(18) DOOR-TO-DOOR.

(19) ON THE BEACH. “Liquid water ‘lake’ revealed on Mars” — ESA’s Mars orbiter finds something too big (12 miles across) to be just sub-ice meltwater — probably very cold and briny, and a mile under the ice, but definitely a lake.

Marsis wasn’t able to determine how thick the layer of water might be, but the research team estimate that it is a minimum of one metre.

“This really qualifies this as a body of water. A lake, not some kind of meltwater filling some space between rock and ice, as happens in certain glaciers on Earth,” Prof Orosei added.

(20) MARSWARD BOUND. Here’s The First Teaser. The series comes to Hulu September 14.

The First is created by Beau Willimon (House of Cards) and stars Sean Penn. Set in the near future (2030), this groundbreaking story explores the challenges of taking the first steps towards Mars. Viewers will get an intimate look at the dedicated characters trying to reach the unknown while dealing with the psychological and physical toll it takes to achieve the impossible.

 

(21) NOT ALONE. The last man on earth was alone in his room. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. – Oops, sorry, this is not the Fredric Brown story, it’s the I Think We’re Alone Now teaser trailer.

Del (Peter Dinklage) is alone in the world. After the human race is wiped out, he lives in his small, empty town, content in his solitude and the utopia he’s methodically created for himself – until he is discovered by Grace (Elle Fanning), an interloper whose history and motives are obscure. Worse yet, she wants to stay.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Joel Zakem, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and John  King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 7/16/18 Now With Bolded Typos

(1) GONE WITH THE YUAN. The most expensive film ever made in China bombed and is already out of theaters. The Hollywood Reporter has the story — “China’s First $100M Film Pulled From Cinemas After Disastrous Opening Weekend”.

In the long lead-up to its release, Chinese fantasy epic Asura was promoted as China’s most expensive film ever made, with a production budget of over $110 million (750 million yuan). So perhaps it’s unsurprising that the film’s producers, which include Jack Ma’s Alibaba Pictures, decided to take desperate action after the movie opened to just $7.1 million over the weekend.

Late Sunday evening in Beijing, Asura‘s official social media accounts posted a simple statement saying that the film would be pulled from cinemas as of 10 p.m. local time. After landing in theaters with limited fanfare, China’s priciest picture ever would vanish from the scene entirely.

Asura is co-produced by Zhenjian Film Studio and Ningxia Film Group — two of the investors behind the successful Painted Skin fantasy franchise — along with Alibaba Pictures Group and other minority investors.

The statement announcing Asura‘s retreat from cinemas supplied no explanation for the unprecedented move. But a representative from Zhenjian Film, which is credited as lead producer, later told Chinese news site Sina: “This decision was made not only because of the bad box office. We plan to make some changes to the film and release it again.”

Chinese site Sixth Tone tells it this way: “Epic Budget, Epic Fail: Chinese Blockbuster ‘Asura’ Tanks”.

China’s latest fantasy epic, “Asura,” claimed to be the most expensive domestic production to date — but it didn’t even last three days in cinemas.

Six years in the making, the film was planned as the first of a trilogy based on ancient Tibetan mythology. The Alibaba Pictures production promised lush CGI from an award-winning, international team in its depiction of war between two heavenly realms. Marketing campaigns for the film emphasized its budget of $100 million.

But after opening on Friday, the film made a mere $7.1 million over its first weekend. By contrast, “Hidden Man,” a highly anticipated action-thriller by actor and director Jiang Wen, brought in $46.5 million. Meanwhile “Dying to Survive,” a dark comedy about cancer drug smuggling operations, defended its box office lead, racking up $68.5 million on its second weekend and even prompting a spike in online insurance sales.

Aggregate user ratings of “Asura” varied wildly across China’s two biggest ticketing platforms, Tencent-funded Maoyan and Alibaba-owned Tao Piaopiao, earning 4.9 and 8.4 out of 10, respectively. Users of review platform Douban rated the film a miserable 3.1 out of 10.

(2) EFFECTS OF COMIC CON PROLIFERATION. Heidi MacDonald tells Publishers Weekly readers why “In a World of Too Many Cons, San Diego Is Still King”.

An ever-increasing number of comics and pop culture conventions are taxing publishers’ exhibition budgets and turning artists into nomads, on the road signing autographs in a different city or country every weekend….

Indeed, the expanding comics convention schedule is beginning to tax publisher budgets while turning comics creators into a hardened (and often exhausted) group of road warriors who must trek to a different city every weekend.

As more and more events flood the schedule, publishers and creators alike are developing new strategies for dealing with the demands for their time. And the conventions are beginning to evolve, some developing business models to stay above the pack of newly launched shows, while others, including many poorly planned and financed events, are becoming synonymous with disaster, poor attendance, canceled events, and disappointed fans.

“The number of cons has really exploded over the last five years,” says Martha Donato, president of MAD Events Management, which puts on the Long Beach Comic Con every September, along with other shows. “It’s [become] every city, every weekend, all year, globally.”

Even for a location such as Long Beach, Calif., close to many West Coast comics publishers, the competition for guest artists and publisher-exhibitors has become fierce, she says. “A much bigger percentage of our time, energy, and resources are now devoted to getting exhibitors to attend,” she adds. “Talent and their publishers have many more offers than they could ever accept, even if they wanted to.”

Donato’s show gets support from publishers in Los Angeles, including Top Cow and Aspen, but even loyal exhibitors have to pick and choose. “Publishers are facing a deluge of opportunities and they can afford to be choosy,” says Donato. “There’s a lot of saying no.”

(3) RECASTING MUPPETS MOVIES. The most selfless answer is….

(4) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 16, 1955 Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe premiered on the small screen
  • July 16, 1958The Fly creeped the heck out of everybody…”Help Me…Help Me.”
  • July 16, 2005 — The 6th book in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series sold 6.9 million copies in its first 24 hours.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 16, 1928 – Robert Sheckley
  • Born July 16 – Will Ferrell, 51. Holmes in the forthcoming comedy Holmes and Watson film,  HerculesHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every ChildCurious George and The Last Man on Earth series.
  • Born July 16 – Corey Feldman, 47. Genre roles in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film series, the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,Tales from the Crypt and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven series to name but a few of his files.
  • Born July 16 – Rose Salazar, 33. Genre work includes American Horror StoryMaze Runner: The Death Cure, and Batman: Arkham Origins video game.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • Updating a Kafka classic at Bizarro.

(7) THE TIDE IS IN. Camestros Felapton continues scoping out the Hugo nominees: “Review: The Black Tides of Heaven (Novella) J.Y.Yang”.

As I said above, I found the second half easier to engage with than the first. It focuses more on Akeha, the surpising “spare” half of the twins, who in post-adolesence decides to be confirmed as a male (gender is assigned post-childhood in this world). Fate, prophercy, control and inevitability (whether magical or political) play out as important themes but, again, I think their impact as ideas get lost amid the scale of the story.

(8) IN ORDER. Mark Kaedrin gives his rankings and his reasons — “Hugo Awards: Short Stories”.

In the past five years of reading Hugo nominated short stories, I think I’ve enjoyed about 2-3 of the stories quite a bit. That’s… not a very good batting average. For whatever reason, I always find that this category just fills up with stories that don’t work for me. True, several puppy trolling nominations made the cut, which didn’t help (for example: they nominated SF-themed erotica two years in a row, and then another that was a bad parody of a bad story, etc…), but even the stories I liked weren’t that great. I’ve always chalked that up to this category having the lowest barrier to entry. It doesn’t take a whole lot of time or effort to seek out a bunch of short stories (mostly available for free online too), so the nominations are spread far and wide. There used to be a requirement that a finalist had to have at least 5% of the nominations in order to be considered, which often resulted in a small category because most stories couldn’t clear that bar. So basically, the stories that do make it here rarely have wide appeal. That being said, this year’s nominees are actually a pretty congenial bunch. I don’t actually hate any of the stories, even if a few don’t quite tweak me the way I’d like (even those are pretty good though). I do still find it hard to believe that these are the actual best short fiction of the year, but I’ll take this over the past 4 years’ worth of nominations. However, I do think it’s telling that at least one story on the 1942 Retro Hugos ballot, Proof by Hal Clement, is far better than any of these nominees, which I think says something (I’d have to read/reread a couple of the other 1942 finalists to be sure, but I suspect that ballot is more my speed). Anyway, let’s get to it….

(9) CURRENT EVENTS. And don’t forget this year’s fiction. Rocket Stack Rank hasn’t — “July 2018 Ratings”. Greg Hullender summarizes:

We posted our monthly ratings last night. It was a typical month, with 11 stories recommended (with 4 or 5 stars) out of 72 (expected would be 11 to 13).

We recommended 4 stories from F&SF, 3 from Asimov’s,  2 from Analog had 2. The other two were in Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Lightspeed. Over time, the three print and seven online magazines we follow split the recommendations 50/50 (not counting stand-alone novellas or original anthologies), and the print magazines only come out 6 times a year, so this isn’t quite as lopsided as it looks, but it was definitely a good month for the traditional three magazines.

(10) START YOUR COCKY CAREER. This article on “Cocky-gate” also seems to be a great blueprint for how to use Kindle Unlimited to give you a 6-figure salary. Let The Verge tell you about it: “Bad Romance”.

…The fight over #Cockygate, as it was branded online, emerged from the strange universe of Amazon Kindle Unlimited, where authors collaborate and compete to game Amazon’s algorithm. Trademark trolling is just the beginning: There are private chat groups, ebook exploits, conspiracies to seed hyperspecific trends like “Navy SEALs” and “mountain men,” and even a controversial sweepstakes in which a popular self-published author offered his readers a chance to win diamonds from Tiffany’s if they reviewed his new book.

Much of what’s alleged is perfectly legal, and even technically within Amazon’s terms of service. But for authors and fans, the genre is also a community, and the idea that unethical marketing and algorithmic tricks are running rampant has embroiled their world in controversy. Some authors even believe that the financial incentives set up by Kindle Unlimited are reshaping the romance genre — possibly even making it more misogynistic.

A genre that mostly features shiny, shirtless men on its covers and sells ebooks for 99 cents a pop might seem unserious. But at stake are revenues sometimes amounting to a million dollars a year, with some authors easily netting six figures a month. The top authors can drop $50,000 on a single ad campaign that will keep them in the charts — and see a worthwhile return on that investment….

(11) THEY’VE GOT ‘RITHIM. Or you can try this route–sell your old pb’s for hundreds or thousands of dollars each on Amazon. The New York Times has the story: “Amazon’s Curious Case of the $2,630.52 Used Paperback”.

Even a casual browse through the virtual corridors of Amazon reveals an increasingly bizarre bazaar where the quaint policies of physical bookstores — the stuff no one wants is piled on a cart outside for a buck a volume — are upended. John Sladek, who wrote perceptive science fiction about robotics and artificial intelligence, predicted in a 1975 story that computers might start making compelling but false connections:

If you’re trying to reserve a seat on the plane to Seville, you’d get a seat at the opera instead. While the person who wants the opera seat is really just making an appointment with a barber, whose customer is just then talking to the box-office of “Hair,” or maybe making a hairline reservation …

Mr. Sladek, who died in 2000, is little read now, which naturally means his books are often marketed for inordinate sums on Amazon. One of his mystery novels, “Invisible Green,” has a Red Rhino “buy box” — Amazon’s preferred deal — offering it for $664.

That is a real bargain compared with what a bookseller with the improbable name Supersonic Truck is asking: $1,942. (Copies from other booksellers are as little as $30.) Supersonic Truck, which Amazon says has 100 percent positive ratings, did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Ms. Macgillivray, who has published eight novels, said she had been poking around Amazon’s bookstore and was more perplexed than ever by the pricing.

“There’s nothing illegal about someone listing an item for sale at whatever the market will bear, even if they don’t have the book but plan to buy it when someone orders it,” she said. “At the same time, I would think Amazon wouldn’t want their platform used for less than honorable practices.”

(12) READERCON PORTRAITS. Paul Di Filippo shares photos of “Some Members of Fictionmags Attending Readercon 2018 “ at The Inferior 4.

In order of appearance: Ellen Datlow, Fred Lerner, Gary Wolfe, George Morgan, Gordon van Gelder, Henry Wessells, Jess Nevins, Michael Dirda, Peter Halasz, Scott Andrews, Scott Edelman, Sheila Williams, Steve Dooner, Mark Walsh.

(13) ONCE MORE WITH FEELING. And Daniel Dern covered the non-human population at ReaderCon, photographing this “alternative SJW credential.”

An ‘edge-‘og (hedgehog). (Not mine.)

Yeah, the SF context isn’t visible, would you take my word for it?

(14) ICE DELIVERY. NPR tells what it’s like for locals: “Massive Iceberg Looms Over A Village In Greenland”.

The photographs are stunning: a giant mountain of ice towers over a tiny village, with colorful homes reminiscent of little doll houses against the stark, blue-gray landscape.

But for the people living in those houses – that beauty could be life-threatening.

“It’s kind of like, if you lived in the suburbs, and you woke up one morning and looked out, and there was a skyscraper next to your house,” says David Holland, an oceanographer at New York University who does research in Greenland during the summer months. “I’d be the first to get out of there.”

He says that’s why authorities have taken action to evacuate those living closest to the water from the village of Innaarsuit, where the iceberg has parked itself just off the coast. According to the BBC, the village has just 169 residents.

(15) THE IMPORTANCE OF POORFEADING. “Harry, it s***s” — just not quite so badly: “Aliens killed by spelling mistake in 2013 Colonial Marines game”.

An infamously dreadful 2013 Aliens video game is now believed to have fallen victim to the most chilling of threats in the universe: a typo.

Aliens: Colonial Marines was released on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 to terrible reviews.

Many of them mentioned how badly the artificial intelligence (AI) behaved.

But it has now emerged that a single stray “a” in the game’s code may have been to blame.

Videos on YouTube show the game’s AI characters – the aliens and human teammates the player doesn’t control – ignoring threats, shooting wildly at nothing or standing in the line of fire.

(16) EARLY BRADBURY. David Doering has been digging through ancient fanzines and found a curiosity: “Here’s a little gift for you: a verse by Ray Bradbury himself–likely never before reprinted in the history of, well, like poetry or something. And maybe for some reason…”

VERSE OF THE IMAGI-NATION

“TIs a Sinema”
by Ray Bradbury

I think that I shall never see
Flash Gordon as he ought to be.
Midst growls of pain & awful lafter
each Saturday I see a chapter.
I cannot bear to see him more
for he Is really such a bore.

& Tarzan! too, is all so poor:
A shrinking violet demure
who beats upon his frazzled chest
& turns his puss into the west
to roar defiance with…”Fresh fish!
–I think that he’s a lousy dish…

From: Imagination, v. 1, issue 11, whole no. 11, August 1938

[Thanks to David Doering, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, StephenfromOttawa, Brian Z., Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Greg Hullender, Bill Burns, John King Tarpinian, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Mix Mat.]

Pixel Scroll 6/25/18 Don’t Forget To Pick Seven Pixels To Put Under Your Pillow So You’ll Dream Of Your One True Scroll

(1) WEATHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET. “NASA reveals stunning images of Jupiter taken by the Juno spacecraft”Yahoo! has the story.

The breathtaking images show swirling cloud belts and tumultuous vortices within Jupiter’s northern hemisphere.

Scientists said the photos allowed them to see the planet’s weather system in greater detail.

According to the space station, the brighter colours in the images represent clouds made up of ammonia and water, while the darker blue-green spirals represent cloud material “deeper in Jupiter’s atmosphere.”

(2) HOW TO MAKE MAGIC. Fantasy-Faction’s Aaron Miles advises writers about “Creating A Magic System”.

The naming of a thing gives you power over it. Sorcery is the will and the word. Cast fireball now and you won’t be able to again until tomorrow and have finished your revision.

Magic systems exist in scores of fantasy novels. Diverse in their rules, varying in complexity, they instruct us in how the magic of the world of the story works and in any rules that govern it. Some authors disdain them, preferring to keep their magical arts shrouded in mystery, while others will provide exhaustive explanation and runic charts in the back of the book. I’ve always believed that a good magic system can only enhance a book, serving to develop the world, engage the reader and open up the scope for storytelling. Clever use of such a system can create new plot opportunities, allow an author to foreshadow and enact hidden twists, not to mention being interesting creations in their own right.

A common stop on the road to worldbuilding, many authors love to craft their own systems with various casting protocols, methodologies and effects. It can be great fun to develop your own magic system but if the groundwork is poor it will quickly become difficult to manage or hard to understand for the reader. This article will cover the various aspects involved in creating a magic system and how to make it interesting and effective….

(3) BET AWARDS. Black Panther and its king won hardware at last night’s BET Awards, but another of the movie’s stars was responsible for a highlight of the evening:

[Jamie] Foxx brought “Black Panther” star Michael B. Jordan to the stage and asked him to recite the powerful line from the film, “Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, cause they knew death was better than bondage.”

Best Actor Award

  • Chadwick Boseman *WINNER

Best Movie Award

  • Black Panther *WINNER

(4) PUPPY ADJACENT. N.K. Jemisin’s Twitter thread on bigotry and artistic mediocrity begins here.

(5) NO LONGER THE WILDER AWARD. BBC reports “Laura Ingalls Wilder removed from book award over racist language”.

The US Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) has removed Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from one of its awards over racist views and language.

The association had received complaints for years over the Little House on the Prairie author’s “anti-Native and anti-Black sentiments in her work”.

The ALSC board voted unanimously on Saturday to remove Wilder’s name from the children’s literature award.

The medal will be renamed as the Children’s Literature Legacy award.

(6) FANTASTIC POSTER. Yet another brilliant poster heralds Portugal’s Forum Fantastico, to be held from October 12 to 14 in Lisbon.

(7) WHAT TO CHARGE? Peter Grant’s comment at Mad Genius Club sheds new light on indie authors’ book pricing strategies.

Kindle Unlimited changes this equation dramatically, depending on the length of a book. I’ll be writing at greater length about this in a couple of weeks, but here’s a potted summary.

KU pays out just over $0.0045 for a single page read by a subscriber. If your book is (say) 100,000 words, that translates (in KENP, or KU equivalent pages, according to Amazon’s calculations) to about 360 pages. That means a KU “borrow” of your book will earn you about $1.62. If you sell that same book for $2.99 via Amazon, with a 70% royalty rate, you’ll earn about $2.00 after Amazon’s charge to download the book to the purchaser. In other words, a $2.99 price point is barely better, from an earnings perspective, than a KU “borrow”. It’s probably not economical. You’ll make more money pricing it at $3.99 or $4.99.

However, that brings up the question of what readers will pay. For a relatively unknown author, $2.99 might be all that most buyers are prepared to pay. For someone better know, $4.99 might be feasible. I’ve been charging that for my books for some years, and I’m getting sales at that level; but there’s also growing resistance even to that price from some readers. I’ve actually had e-mails saying that I’m being greedy to charge that much, and that I should price it much cheaper, otherwise they won’t spend their money on me – or they’ll use KU instead of buying the book. Even Amazon’s beta price recommendation service from KDP recommended, for my latest trilogy, that I price it at $2.99 per volume, to maximize sales income. Of course, it didn’t factor KU into that pricing equation.

I now take KU into my pricing calculations. If I won’t make much more per sale than I know I’ll earn on a KU “borrow”, it’s frankly not worth my while to sell the book at all! Why not just make it available in the subscription library?

(8) WHAT’S BREWING AT CAPE CANAVERAL? Galactic Journey’s Traveler popped back to the present long enough to inform beer drinkers about the Mercury program: “[June 25, 1963] It’s showtime!  (A musical and educational performance on the Mercury 7)”.

We’ve a special treat for you, today!  As you know, the Journey frequently presents at conventions and venues across the country.  Our last event was at the science-themed pub, The Wavelength Brewing Co.

Not only was a fine selection of craft beers on tap, but also the Young Traveler, performing a suite of current musical hits.  I followed things up with a half-hour presentation on the recently concluded Mercury program, discussing all of the flights and the folks who flew them.

 

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Max Brooks wrote The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z.  His parents are Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 25, 1976 – The Omen premieres in North America.

(11) RINGO. As two departed Dragon Con staffers (Pixel Scroll 6/9/18 Item #3) anticipated, the con is inviting John Ringo as a guest. Ringo shared the news on Facebook along with a request:

My Letter of Agreement to Dragon Con has been sent in and the announcement will go out this week that I am, again, going to be a guest of the con.

Due to various ‘stuff’ the leadership of DCon already knows/suspects/has-been-informed there will be ‘push-back.’

I am hereby asking my fans to STAY OUT OF IT. Don’t respond on any page especially any DCon page. Let the (extremely professional) con management handle any response.

Rpt: STAY OUT.

DragonCon has handled far worse in their time and they’re not worried about this particular kerfuffle.

“Meddle not in the affairs of Dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.”

(12) HOWEY SHORT FICTION. Jana Nyman reviews Hugh Howey’s collection for Fantasy Literature: “Machine Learning: Thoughtful and thought-provoking stories”.

Odds are good that you’ve heard of Hugh Howey — whether you’ve read one of his novels or short stories, or even if you’re just aware of the runaway success of his SILO trilogy, which began with Wool. Machine Learning (2017) is the first collection of his short stories (and one novelette), most of which were published elsewhere in various times and places, and it’s an excellent display of his range, insight, and talent. Each story is followed up by a brief Afterword from Howey, giving him the opportunity to explain where the story came from and what his goals were in writing it. When necessary, I’ve marked stories that were previously reviewed at Fantasy Literature, so that you can compare/contrast my thoughts with those of our other reviewers.

“The Walk up Nameless Ridge,” previously reviewed by Kat Hooper. A mountain climber hopes to be the first to summit a frighteningly tall peak, thereby receiving the honor of having it named after him, which is something he cares about more than anything else in his life. Howey gets deep in this man’s head, examining what motivates him to keep going despite literal loss of limbs and the emotional and physical distance placed between him and his family….

(13) TAKEI V. TRUMP. George Takei compares his family’s internment during WWll to Trump’s family separation policy and says the situation on the Mexican border is much worse.  He shares a lot of background, offers a lot of insight, and sets the records straight on many counts. From CNN: “George Takei: Donald Trump’s immigration rhetoric is ‘grotesque'”

(14) REDEEMING MASS EFFECT ANDROMEDA. Future War Stories analyzes a controversial game: “FWS Video Game Review: MASS EFFECT ANDROMEDA”.

Among the icons of military science fiction are some legendary video game titles that have reinforced the fans and forged new ones. One of the most beloved was BioWare’s Mass Effect series that spanned across three primary games, a number of DLCs, books, and comics. It was a beloved universe for its fans that caused them to cosplay, wear N7 gear, and even tattoo themselves. When 3rd and final Mass Effect game was released in 2012, we fans wondered if this was indeed the end of the journey after the mishandling of the ending to the trilogy. Then came happy news of a new game that was a fresh start with new characters and a focus on exploration in a new setting. When 29th century centered game was released in March of 2017, there was understandable disappointment and many fans felt deeply betrayed by EA and BioWare. But it is worth the hate and loathing? I decided to embarked on the journey to the Andromeda galaxy to see if it was a betrayal of the heritage of the Mass Effect games or a merely misunderstood entry into the franchise.

The GOOD

There is much made about the broken nature of ME:A and its ugly or underwhelming graphics…but under all of the noise and press is a semi-solid game that does delivery a long, relatively enjoyable campaign that becoming more and more rare these days. Overall, the concept of the Andromeda Initiative expedition to the nearest galaxy is maybe something that has been seen in sci-fi, but it a great way to separate this new ME game from the previous titles…

(15) SOUNDTRACKS. Courtesy of Carl Slaughter:

  • Hobbit soundtrack

  • Lord of the Rings soundtrack

(16) NAZIS IN SPACE – NOT. Revell has taken off the shelves in Germany a model kit for the Haneubu II aircraft because it is convincing customers that the Nazis had camouflaged-covered flying saucers with zap guns. Gizmodo reports: “Flying Saucer Toy Recalled For Teaching Kids That Nazis Achieved Space Travel”. The model kit has been recalled because it promotes the idea that Nazis not only had the capability for space travel, but could use their saucer-type spacecraft to blast Allied aircraft. Quoting the article:

If you’ve ever watched the History Channel at 3AM, you know that the Nazis had a secret program during World War II to develop flying saucers. The Nazi’s UFO experiments never actually flew, but the model toy company Revell recently released a set in Germany that makes it look like one of the Nazi saucers actually worked. And historians are pissed….

The toy company has pulled the 69-part set, known as the Haunebu II, from store shelves. But you can still find plenty of the toys available for sale online. The Nazi UFO is even seen on the box blasting Allied planes out of the sky—a disgusting image to promote, to say the least….

“Unfortunately, our product description does not adequately express [that the Nazi saucer program was unsuccessful] and we apologize for it,” Revell said in a statement.

(17) WESTWORLD’S FALLOUT PROBLEM. BBC says “Westworld game hit by Bethesda legal claim”.

Game publisher Bethesda is suing Warner Brothers over a game based around the HBO series Westworld.

Bethesda alleges the Westworld game, released last week, is a “blatant rip-off” of its Fallout Shelter title.

Included in the legal challenge is Canadian developer Behaviour Interactive, which helped Bethesda develop Fallout Shelter in 2014….

The Westworld game gives players the job of managing the titular theme park and its robotic inhabitants.

The facility managed by the player can be expanded underground and includes many of the locations seen in the TV series.

Many reviews of the game mentioned its similarity to Bethesda’s Fallout Shelter, which gives players the job of managing and expanding an underground facility….

(18) TURING TESTER. The classic WWII device has a new home: “Codebreaking Bombe moves to computer museum”. (Chip Hitchcock suggests it’s another tourism opportunity for people willing to travel a distance before/after Dublin 2019.)

The UK’s National Museum of Computing has expanded its exhibits celebrating the UK’s wartime code-breakers and the machines used to crack German ciphers.

On Saturday it will open a gallery dedicated to the Bombe, which helped speed up the cracking of messages scrambled with the Enigma machine.

The Bombe was formerly on display at Bletchley Park next door to the museum.

A crowd-funding campaign raised £60,000 in four weeks to move the machine and create its new home.

… The initial design of the Bombe was drawn up by Alan Turing and later refined by Gordon Welchman. The gallery is being opened on the 106th anniversary of Turing’s birth.

(19) BIRD IS THE WORD. Scientists say “Bird family tree shaken by discovery of feathered fossil”.

The turacos, or banana-eaters, are today found only in Africa, living in forests and savannah.

A beautifully preserved fossil bird from 52 million years ago is shaking up the family tree of the exotic birds.

The fossil’s weird features suggests it is the earliest known living relative not just of the turacos, but of cuckoos and bustards (large long-legged birds).

And the fact the remains were unearthed in North America shows the distribution of different birds around the globe would have been very different in the past.

(20) GOOD TO THE LAST PROTON. Ars Technica says the retirement party will be happening soon: “Russia’s Proton rocket, which predates Apollo, will finally stop flying”. With over 400 launches under its figurative belt (and about an 89% success rate) the Proton rocket family is nearing retirement. Dating from tis first launch, the Proton will turn 56 in mid July. That means it predates the Saturn V used in the Apollo program by more than 2 years.

The Russian-manufactured Proton rocket has been flying into space since before humans landed on the Moon. First launched in 1965, the rocket was initially conceived of as a booster to fly two-person crews around the Moon, as the Soviet Union sought to beat NASA into deep space. Indeed, some of its earliest missions launched creatures, including two turtles, to the Moon and back.

But now, Russian officials confirm, the Proton rocket will finally reach its end. In an interview with a Russian publication, Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin said production of the Proton booster will cease as production shifts to the new Angara booster. (A translation of this article was provided to Ars by Robinson Mitchell, a former US Air Force Airborne Cryptologic Language Analyst). No new Proton contracts are likely to be signed.

…With a capacity of 22.8 tons to low-Earth orbit, it became a dominant player in the commercial market for heavier satellites.

It remained so during much of the 2000s, but as Ars has previously reported, the lack of technical oversight began manifesting itself in an increasing rate of failures. At the end of 2010, one Proton plunged into the ocean because too much propellant had been mistakenly loaded into its upper stage. In 2013, another vehicle performed a fiery dance seconds after liftoff because flight control sensors were hammered into the rocket’s compartment upside down.

…Whether the Angara booster can capture anything close to the Proton’s once highly profitable share of the global launch market remains highly uncertain.

(21) LIZARD WRASSLIN’. In this tweeted photo set, a T-Rex finds it’s no match for Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock (Dwayne Johnson)

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

Pixel Scroll 4/8/18 Do Not Go Pixel Out Of That Good Hive, Buzz, Buzz, Against The Flying Of The Five

(1) WALK / DON’T WALK. This not-quite-infinite series of variations on Le Guin’s famous story: “Once upon a time there was a city called Omelas, where everyone lived good and happy and fulfilling lives” is a hoot!

“…the best predictions of our scientists suggest that there will be a slight average decrease in various hard-to-measure kinds of happiness, which nevertheless in total adds up to more suffering than this child experiences.”
And Outis said to the elder, “I will have no part in this evil thing.” And he took the child and bathed him and cared for his wounds. And the average happiness increased in some ways and decreased in others, and the net effect might have been negative, but the best results on the matter had p > 0.05, so the scientists of Omelas could not rule out the null hypothesis.

(2) SUE ‘EM, DANNO. Dorothy Grant gives the rundown on a scam to inflate payments from Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program in “Book stuffing, KU reads, and Amazon’s Doing Something” at Mad Genius Club.

While I would hope that everyone who reads this is interested in being a real author making up real stories that are your own, writing them down, and publishing them, we are all aware that there are scammers out there, and people who care more about the money, than acting ethically or the readers. We also know that Amazon has a habit of taking a wide swath of potential wrongdoers, then filtering out and restoring the innocent.

Yep, they’re doing it again.

  1. David Gaughran gave us the first heads-up on twitter that Amazon has filed suit against an author for book-stuffing.

Forbes article here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamrowe1/2018/04/07/amazon-has-filed-suit-to-stop-the-six-figure-book-stuffing-kindle-scam/#2af7a11b7344

Book stuffing is when authors take all their works and stuff them into the back of every other book to artificially inflate their page count. Some authors even stuff in newsletters: the goal is to inflate the page count as much as possible, and thus the payout on KU page reads.

(3) ATOMIC PILES OF LAUGHS. Scott Tobias profiles “artificial intelligence-assisted comedy” in “Can algorithms be funny? Veterans of Clickhole and the New Yorker team up to find out” at the Washington Post. What they do is put giant amounts of text into a computer and produce “interactive text collages.”  For example, they put all the Harry Potter novels into a computer and came up with a pastiche that said, “Ron’s ron shirt was just as bad as Ron itself.”  A lot of the weird pastiches they produce are sf.

Onstage at the Hideout, a small Chicago music club, two performers read passages from Civil War love letters. “Oh darling wife of the war,” one begins, “I shall always be a husband to you and the children and all the folks in our neighborhood.” He goes on to complain that “the boys from the army have taken my breakfast.” The news is worse back home. “Our horses are sadly on fire,” his wife laments. But they’re ever reunited, she promises, “I would kiss you as many times as there are stitches in the children.”

Rest assured, every word from these letters is authentic. It’s just that the words have been scrambled up by a computer algorithm and pieced back together, one by one, by writers with an ear for the absurd.

(4) WESTERCON BID NEWS. Seattle (SeaTac, using the same hotel as Norwescon) has formally filed what Kevin Standlee says is likely to be the only bid for the 2020 Westercon.

(5) REINCARNANIMATION. MovieWeb has learned that “Lucasfilm Has Digital Clones of Every Star Wars Actor”.

The digitally recreated Grand Moff Tarkin and Young Princess Leia in Rogue One were unsettling and creepy for some Star Wars fans. But that technology is almost two years old and only improving at an expedient rate. The next time an actor gets digitally inserted into a Star Wars movie, it’s gong to be a lot harder to tell the difference. And before long, the line will be completely burred. Soon, Lucasfilm and Disney could have the potential to create a whole Star Wars movie featuring an authentic young Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, which practical effects built around them. And this will be entirely possible, even for Carrie Fisher, as Lucasfilm has confirmed they have digital clones of all Star Wars actors both young and old.

Incredible, right? As of now, these digital clones are being used sparingly and are often mixed with live-action footage of the actor to create scenes that would be impossible to shoot or are deemed far to expensive to do practically. We’ve seen this with Tarkin and Leia in Rogue One, and we’ve also seen it in The Last Jedi, even if you didn’t know that’s what you were looking at.

(6) MCCANN OBIT. Chuck McCann died April 8 reports Mark Evanier. Much of his career revolved around children’s television, however, the Wikipedia recalls that he was in vogue as a TV/movie actor back in the Seventies —

In the 1970s, McCann’s life and career shifted west, and he relocated to Los Angeles. He made frequent guest appearances on network television shows including Little House on the Prairie, Bonanza, Columbo, The Rockford Files and The Bob Newhart Show. He appeared in the 1973 made-for-TV movie The Girl Most Likely to… and was a regular on Norman Lear’s All That Glitters.

In addition, he co-starred with Bob Denver in CBS’s Saturday-morning sitcom Far Out Space Nuts, which he co-created. The 1970s also brought him fame in a long-running series of commercials for Right Guard antiperspirant: he was the enthusiastic neighbor with the catch phrase “Hi, guy!” who appeared on the other side of a shared medicine cabinet, opposite actor Bill Fiore.

McCann impersonated Oliver Hardy in commercials for various products (teaming with Jim MacGeorge as Stan Laurel),

John King Tarpinian sent along a photo of McCann meeting Ray Bradbury.

Ray Bradbury and Chuck McCann

If you want to see his act, watch “Chuck McCann & Dick Van Dyke as Laurel & Hardy & The Honeymooners.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born April 8, 1974 – Nnedi Okorafor

(8) CANDLES ON THE CAKE. Steven H Silver celebrates Okorafor’s natal day at Black Gate in “Birthday Reviews: Nnedi Okorafor’s ‘Bakasi Man’”.

Nnedi Okorafor was born on April 8, 1974.

Okorafor won her first Carl Brandon Award for the novel The Shadow Speaker and she won the Carl Brandon Award and the World Fantasy Award for her novel Who Fears Death, which was also nominated for the Nebula Award. She won the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award for her novella Binti in 2016. Her fiction has also been nominated for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, the British Science Fiction Association Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the Andre Norton Award. Okorafor has collaborated with Alan Dean Foster and Wanuri Kahiu on short diction. She co-edited the anthology Without a Map with Mary Anne Mohanraj.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Daniel Dern is right – Curtis knows how to throw a party.

(10) POISONING PIXELS IN THE SCROLL. Nature celebrates an April birthday boy: “Tom Lehrer at 90: a life of scientific satire”.

Much of Lehrer’s oeuvre — some 50 songs (or 37, by his own ruthless reckoning) composed over nearly three decades — played with tensions at the nexus of science and society. His biggest hit, That Was The Year That Was, covered a gamut of them. This 1965 album gathered together songs Lehrer had written for That Was The Week That Was, the US satirical television show spawned by the BBC original. ‘Who’s Next?’ exposes the dangers of nuclear proliferation. ‘Pollution’ highlights environmental crises building at the time, such as undrinkable water and unbreathable air.

The rousing ballad ‘Wernher von Braun’ undermines the former Nazi — who designed the V-2 ballistic missile in the Second World War and later became a key engineer in the US Apollo space programme. In Lehrer’s view, it was acceptable for NASA to hire von Braun, but making him into an American hero was grotesque. “‘Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?’/‘That’s not my department,’ says Wernher von Braun” — lines that still resonate in today’s big-tech ethical jungle.

(11) FINDING THE RETRO NOMINEES. Nicholas Whyte, with an assist from Carla, presents “How to get the 1943 Retro Hugo finalists” —

(12) CAST OF FAVORITES. And for your collecting pleasure, here is where you can get a copy of the Fifth Annual Science Fiction Film Awards (1978).

The 5th Annual (first televised) Science Fiction Film Awards. Hosted by Karen Black & William Shatner (who performs an absolutely jaw dropping rendition of Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s “Rocket Man”) Starring Buzz Aldrin, Richard Benjamin, Ray Bradbury, Mark Hamill, Charlton Heston, Wolfman Jack, Quincy Jones, Piper Laurie, Christopher Lee, Paula Prentiss, Ralph the Robot, Lord Darth Vader, and many more. Included are the original broadcast TV commercials from 1978!

(13) GOOD IS NOT BAD. Rich Horton is working his way through the Hugo nominees. Here are his comments on Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty.

…But even before the award nominations, Six Wakes was getting some good notice, and I bought it and read it after the Nebula nod. And, you know what – I liked it. It’s a good fun fast-moving read. I’m glad I read it.

But – well – you saw that coming, right? There had to be a but. The thing is, there are lots of enjoyable novels published any year, and I’m glad when I encounter those. But I can enjoy a novel and not think it worthy of an award. And, really, that’s the case with Six Wakes. It’s fun, it’s pretty darn pure hard SF (with the understanding that “hard SF” absolutely does NOT mean “SF that gets all the science right”), it’s exciting. But, it also has some annoying logic holes, and it doesn’t really engage with the central (and very worthwhile) moral issues it raises as rigorously as I wish it had, and the prose is just OK….

(14) ARISTOTLE. Nitsuh Abebe explores the question “Why Have We Soured on the ‘Devil’s Advocate’?” at the New York Times Magazine.

…That name dates back to the 17th century, when the Roman Catholic Church created an office popularly known as the advocatus diaboli — a person tasked with making the case against the canonization of new saints, scrutinizing every report of their miracles and virtue. How could a claim be trusted, the thinking went, if it hadn’t been rigorously tested? Plenty of educators will still tell you that devil’s advocacy isn’t just useful as a practical matter but also as an intellectual exercise: Imagining other perspectives and plumbing their workings is essential to critical thinking.

But on today’s internet, the devil’s advocate is less admired than ever, and it’s often the advocate’s own fault. The problem isn’t just debate-club tedium. Last year, on Slate, the writer Maya Rupert neatly outlined just how toxic devil’s advocates could be on a topic like race. She noted that they often seemed to be adopting the stance of a disinterested logician in order to air beliefs they knew were socially unacceptable to hold in earnest; the phrase “just to play devil’s advocate,” she wrote, had come to occupy the same role in her life as “not to sound racist, but. … ” A black person continually asked to consider — just hypothetically, just for a moment — whether she was possibly inferior to other humans would have to be masochistically broad-minded to entertain this challenge more than a few times before dismissing it, and the sort of people who presented it, forever.

A little more than a decade ago, around the same time online sentiment began to turn against the devil’s advocate, it also seized on a close cousin: the “concern troll.” If the devil’s advocate playacts disagreement with you for the sake of strengthening your argument, the concern troll is his mirror image, a person who pretends to agree with you in order to undermine you. The concern troll airs disingenuous worries, sows doubt, saps energy, has reservations, worries that things are going too far. At first, the term described purposeful double agents — people like the congressional staffer suspected, back in 2006, of posing as a Democrat to leave comments on liberal blogs suggesting everyone abandon the candidate vying for a Republican incumbent’s seat. But the term has evolved in such a way that, at this point, a person can very easily qualify as a concern troll without even knowing it.

A tidy summary on the “Geek Feminism” Wiki site explains why this is the case: Even earnest concern-airing can be pernicious, turning every discussion into a battle over basic premises. …

(15) UNEVENLY DISTRIBUTED. The BBC reports “The Swedes rebelling against a cashless society” where the elderly are especially likely to be left out.

However, while Sweden’s rush to embrace digital payments has received plenty of global hype, and is frequently flagged as an example of the Nordic nation’s innovation, there are growing concerns about the pace of change.

Some worry about the challenges it poses for vulnerable groups, especially the elderly.

“As long as there is the right to use cash in Sweden, we think people should have the option to use it and be able to put money in the bank,” says Ola Nilsson, a spokesperson for the Swedish National Pensioners’ Organisation, which is lobbying the government on behalf of its 350,000 members.

“We’re not against the cashless society, we just want to stop it from going too fast.”

(16) THE LIGHTS IN THE SKY ARE… What we can see from the ground is only part of what happens: “Hunting mystery giant lightning from space”.

The electrifying effects of storms are frequently observed from the space station.

Yet when lightning strikes downward, something very different is happening above the cloud tops.

Known as Transient Luminous Events (TLEs), these unusual features were first spotted by accident in 1989.

Minnesota professor John R Winckler was testing a television camera in advance of an upcoming rocket launch, when he realised that two frames showed bright columns of light above a distant storm cloud.

(17) SOLVING FOR 2001. The BBC Culture post “Why 2001 remains a mystery” actually dwells less on mystery, and more on interesting parallels with Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove.

It’s been 50 years since the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and we’re still trying to make sense of it. Stanley Kubrick’s science-fiction masterpiece is regularly voted as one of the greatest films ever made: BBC Culture’s own critics’ poll of the best US cinema ranked it at number four. But 2001 is one of the most puzzling films ever made, too. What, for instance, is a shiny rectangular monolith doing in prehistoric Africa? Why does an astronaut hurtle through a psychedelic lightshow to another universe, before turning into a cosmic foetus? And considering that the opening section is set millions of years in the past, and the two central sections are set 18 months apart, how much of it actually takes place in 2001?

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Chadwick Boseman hosted Saturday Night Live last night, and appeared in a Black Jeopardy! sketch:

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Kevin Standlee, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Nicholas Whyte, ULTRAGOTHA, Carl Slaughter, Danny Sichel, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ky.]

Pixel Scroll 9/8/17 The Heinlein Appertainment Collision: Pixel, The Cat That Walks Through Scrolls

(1) HINES ARC GIVEAWAY TO SUPPORT DISASTER RELIEF. Jim C. Hines is doing a giveaway of an advance copy of Terminal Alliance to encourage people to donate to flood/hurricane relief: “Disaster Aid and Terminal Alliance Giveaway”:

Two weeks ago, Sophie received advance review copies of Terminal Alliance. I’ve been meaning to do a giveaway, but I was struggling to come up with a good way to do it.

Then I started seeing the damage reports come in from hurricanes and flooding. The devastation they’ve left in their wakes, and the devastation yet to come. A million people without power in Puerto Rico. Record-breaking rain and flooding in the southwest U.S. 41 million affected by flooding and landslides in South Asia.

And now I know how I want to do this giveaway. You want to win an autographed ARC of Terminal Alliance? There are two things you need to do.

  1. Donate to one of the organizations helping with disaster relief.
  2. Leave a comment saying you donated.

(2) USE YOUR OWN DARNED IMAGINATION. Bestselling fantasy writer Mark Lawrence tells his fans “Why you’re not getting a map”.

A question posed to me on this blog.

Q: When are you going to draw a map for Book of the ancestors series? I’m dying to read Red Sister but can’t bring myself to do it without a map.

A: I’m not going to. If you can’t read a book without a map I guess it’s not a book for you.

I’m often asked: “Did you draw the map first or as you wrote the book.” This is frequently by people who haven’t read any of my books.

There is an assumption there … fantasy books have maps. Which is odd, since I have read hundreds (possibly thousands) of novels without maps, many of them set in regions I’m unfamiliar with. The fact is that for a great many works of fiction maps are irrelevant, they are about what people are doing in their lives, if Sarah goes to visit her uncle in Vostok it is sufficient for me to know it took her several hours on the train and when she got there the forests were covered in snow. I don’t need to look it up on a map. It doesn’t matter.

(3) SELLING SHORT. Charles Payseur begins a new series of posts with “MAPPING SHORT SF/F: Part 1, A Key to the Kingdom” at Nerds of a Feather.

Really, the reasons I want to do this can be broken down thusly:

  1. To provide a tool for readers to break down short SFF into meaningful, manageable chunks that will help them locate stories they will hopefully love.
  2. To counter the narrative that short SFF is either too massive, too disparate, or too opaque to be successfully navigated.
  3. To talk about short SFF, which is one of my great loves.
  4. To highlight publications, authors, and trends within short SFF.

…One last thing before I close this down. People often come to me to ask how to find stories. How to refine their search. While I hope to help through this series, there are some tools that are available to you right now, and I find that not everyone thinks of this when they’re considering where to look as readers for particular genres/styles/etc. Your best resource as a reader is…submissions guidelines. Yes, they are written for writers, but if you want to know what a publication is interested in, submissions guidelines are where to look. Skip the About Us section of publications. Read what they want. See if they have a diversity statement. Check to see what other tactics they might have to encourage marginalized writers to submit. This is a really easy “cheat” for readers to get a feel for a publication without checking out reviews or reading sample stories. And using a tool like The Submissions Grinder at Diabolical Plots allows you to search by genre, by length, by basically whatever you want. It’s not what it was designed for, but it is amazing for searching out venues and stories to read.

(4) SINGULARITY SINS. Rodney Brooks has written an excellent article explaining in detail why the future of AI isn’t going to be quite as scary or as exciting as most SF stories would have you think: “The Seven Deadly Sins of Predicting the Future of AI”. Here’s an excerpt from one of his seven main points.

Some people have very specific ideas about when the day of salvation will come–followers of one particular Singularity prophet believe that it will happen in the year 2029, as it has been written.

This particular error of prediction is very much driven by exponentialism, and I will address that as one of the seven common mistakes that people make.

Even if there is a lot of computer power around it does not mean we are close to having programs that can do research in Artificial Intelligence, and rewrite their own code to get better and better.

Here is where we are on programs that can understand computer code. We currently have no programs that can understand a one page program as well as a new student in computer science can understand such a program after just one month of taking their very first class in programming. That is a long way from AI systems being better at writing AI systems than humans are.

Here is where we are on simulating brains at the neural level, the other methodology that Singularity worshipers often refer to. For about thirty years we have known the full “wiring diagram” of the 302 neurons in the worm C. elegans, along with the 7,000 connections between them. This has been incredibly useful for understanding how behavior and neurons are linked. But it has been a thirty years study with hundreds of people involved, all trying to understand just 302 neurons. And according to the OpenWorm project trying to simulate C. elegans bottom up, they are not yet half way there. To simulate a human brain with 100 billion neurons and a vast number of connections is quite a way off. So if you are going to rely on the Singularity to upload yourself to a brain simulation I would try to hold off on dying for another couple of centuries.

(5) LUCASFILM HELPS DESIGN REAL WORLD MISSION PATCH. In space no one can hear you squee.

Taking a modern twist on a longstanding spaceflight tradition of mission patch design, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) partnered with Lucasfilm to blend iconic images from the Star Wars franchise with a real-world space station for its latest mission patch.

BB-8 meets ISS

Though it should come as no surprise that the intersection of space science and science fiction fans is quite large, it isn’t often the two areas come together in such overt fashion, even with something as basic as a patch. Indeed, mission insignia are usually designed by astronauts or engineers involved with a particular mission, not an outside organization.

CASIS, however, has a history of engaging third parties to influence – or outright design – its ensigns. Before the current collaboration with Lucasfilm, CASIS worked with Marvel to design its 2016 mission patch. That work featured Rocket Raccoon and Groot from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy looking upwards toward the International Space Station (ISS).

(6) TECHNOLOGY AND FREEDOM. Coming September 17 at the Brooklyn Historical Auditorium: “Structures of Power: Politics, Science Fiction, and Fantasy presented by the Center for Fiction”

Science fiction and fantasy are uniquely positioned to explore structures of power. Four authors examine how power struggles impact individuals and collectives, intersections between technology and politics, and methods of resistance to oppressive governments and technologies. N.K. Jemisin (The Stone Sky), Eugene Lim (Dear Cyborgs), Malka Older (Null States), and Deji Bryce Olukotun (After the Flare) will discuss how science fiction and fantasy respond to our hopes and fears for the future, offers alternatives to conventional politics, and examines how technology affects freedom. Moderated by Rosie Clarke.

(7) BRADBURY ALL THE TIME. Here’s the first of “11 Deep Facts About The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” from Mental Floss.

  1. THE MOVIE WAS PARTLY BASED ON A RAY BRADBURY STORY.

It all started with a roar. One night, while he was living near Santa Monica Bay, legendary sci-fi author Ray Bradbury was awakened from his sleep by a blaring foghorn. Moved by the mournful bellow, he quickly got to work on a short story about a lovelorn sea monster. Called The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (later retitled The Foghorn), it was published in The Saturday Evening Post on June 23, 1951.

At roughly the same time, Mutual Films was developing a script for a new action-packed monster movie. The finished product would ultimately bear more than a slight resemblance to a certain Saturday Evening Post story. For instance, both of them feature a scene in which a prehistoric titan lays waste to a lighthouse. According to some sources, Mutual had already started working on its marine creature flick when studio co-founder Jack Dietz happened upon Bradbury’s yarn in the Post. Supposedly, he contacted the author without delay and bought the rights to this tale.

But Bradbury’s account of what happened behind the scenes is totally different. The other co-founder of Mutual was one Hal Chester. Late in life, Bradbury claimed that when a preliminary script for what became Beast had been drafted, Chester asked him to read it over. “I pointed out the similarities between it and my short story,” Bradbury said. “Chester’s face paled and his jaw dropped when I told him his monster was my monster. He seemed stunned at my recognition of the fact. He had the look of one caught with his hand in the till.”

In any event, Bradbury received a $2000 check and a shout-out in the movie’s opening credits.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Star Trek Day

[The anniversary of when the first episode aired in 1966.]

“I haven’t faced death. I’ve cheated death. I’ve tricked my way out of death and patted myself on the back for my ingenuity; I know nothing.” ~ James T. Kirk, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Long ago, in the depths of the cold war, America had a prophet arrive. He spoke not of religious texts and damnation, but instead provided us with a vision of the future so hope-filled, so compelling, that it has indelibly marked the imaginations of man-kind ever since. Star Trek Day celebrates that vision, and the man who created it, Gene Roddenberry.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 8, 1966 — Original Star Trek series debuted on television.
  • September 8, 1973 Star Trek: The Animated Series premiered. (Talk about coincidences.)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock rightly says, “Today’s Rhymes With Orange is for the strong of stomach.”
  • John King Tarpinian found a funny about cosplay – today’s Lio.

(11) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler is giving out his annual Galactic Stars – this time in the TV category: “[Sep. 8, 1962] Navigating the Wasteland (1961-62 in (good) television)”. These awards are not limited to sff – Route 66 and The Andy Griffith Show made the list – but The Twilight Zone a couple other genre series made the list.

Other stand-outs include:

Mr. Ed 1960-: despite being overly rooted in conventional gender roles, one can’t ignore Alan Young’s charm, the fun of the barbed banter between Young’s married neighbors, or the impressive way they make a horse appear to talk.

Supercar 1961-62: this British import is definitely kiddie fare, but it’s still fun to watch Mike Mercury and his two scientist associates defeat criminals and triumph over natural disaster.  Of course, the acting’s a bit wooden…

(12) WHEN BRUCE WILLIS ATTENDS YOUR OFFICE PARTY. Io9 reports “The Best Christmas Movie of All Time Is Being Turned Into a Must-Have Children’s Book”. I was thinking, A Christmas Story? Miracle on 34th Street? I was wrong….

It’s unfortunate that Die Hard, the best Christmas movie of all time, isn’t really a film you can watch with your kids. But this year, instead of suffering through Elf once again, you can spend some quality time with your PG-rated family members by reading a new holiday children’s book based on the adventures of John McClane.

A Die Hard Christmas: The Illustrated Holiday Classic, written by comedian Doogie Horner, and illustrated by JJ Harrison, was inspired by the classic Christmas poem, Twas the Night Before Christmas. But instead of detailing Santa’s attempts to deliver presents to good boys and girls, the book tells the timeless tale of a New York police officer single-handedly taking down a gang of European terrorists.

(13) THE IT FACTOR. The children’s movie about a clown with a red balloon did well. SyFy Wire says “The weekend’s only starting, and IT has already broken 4 box office records”.

According to Deadline, the R-rated IT’s record-breaking take of $13.5 million means it had:

  • The largest gross for a horror pre-show gross.
  • The largest gross for a R-rated preview gross.
  • The largest gross for a September preview, ever.
  • The largest gross for a movie based on a Stephen King novel.

This Thursday night preview kicked the stuffing out of the R-rated Deadpool, which only earned $12.7 from its pre-show screenings. Experts are predicting more record-shattering as the weekend progresses.

(14) KOWAL SIGNED FOR NARRATION. Parvus Press has contracted with Mary Robinette Kowal to perform the audiobook narration for the upcoming title Flotsam by R J Theodore. The book will be released in digital, print, and audio on January 30, 2018.

“We are incredibly excited to be able to work with a world-class talent like Mary Robinette Kowal on this title,” said Colin Coyle, Publisher at Parvus Press. “We know that this book is going to find a dedicated fan base and we want to bring it to as many readers and listeners as possible.”

…R J Theodore couldn’t be more pleased with Parvus’ choice for FLOTSAM‘s narrator. She says, “Mary’s voice is a complex bourbon that bites with a wry humor on the way down. I am very excited to hear it applied to FLOTSAM’s narration.”

Cat Rambo, author of “Beasts of Tabat”, describes FLOTSAM as “Combining the best elements of steampunk and space opera,” and promises “[P]laced in a lavishly detailed and imagined world, Flotsam will hold you firmly till the final page.”

…Mary Robinette Kowal, a professional puppeteer, also performs as a voice actor (SAG/AFTRA), recording fiction for authors including Seanan McGuire, Cory Doctorow, and John Scalzi. She lives in Chicago with her husband Rob and over a dozen manual typewriters.

(15) NEXT TURN OF THE WHEEL. Although the blog has devoted years to teaching indie authors how to put together and market their books, Mad Genius Club’s Peter Grant has a new message: “It’s time to face facts: online lending and streaming media is, increasingly, the future of books”.

I’ve written before about the threat that streaming media poses to traditional book sales.  I’ve had a certain amount of pushback about that, particularly from those who don’t like the thought of their income from writing declining to such an extent.  Some have even refused to make their books available on streaming services such as Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited.  Now, however, the signs are clear.  We have to face up to the reality of streaming media in our future – or be swept aside.

Those signs are most clear in other areas of the entertainment industry.  Let’s not forget, that is our industry, too.  We’re not selling books.  We’re selling entertainment, and our products (books and stories) are competing with every other avenue of entertainment out there – movies, TV series, music, games, the lot.  If we don’t offer sufficient entertainment for consumers’ dollars, they’re going to spend them on another form of entertainment – and we’re going to starve.

(16) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. At Phys.org they ask: “Are we being watched? Tens of other worlds could spot the Earth”.

Thanks to facilities and missions such as SuperWASP and Kepler, we have now discovered thousands of planets orbiting stars other than our sun, worlds known as ‘exoplanets’. The vast majority of these are found when the planets cross in front of their host stars in what are known as ‘transits’, which allow astronomers to see light from the host star dim slightly at regular intervals every time the planet passes between us and the distant star.

In the new study, the authors reverse this concept and ask, “How would an alien observer see the solar system?” They identified parts of the distant sky from where various planets in our solar system could be seen to pass in front of the sun – so-called ‘transit zones’—concluding that the terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) are actually much more likely to be spotted than the more distant ‘Jovian’ planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune), despite their much larger size.

“Larger planets would naturally block out more light as they pass in front of their star”, commented lead author Robert Wells, a PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast. “However the more important factor is actually how close the planet is to its parent star – since the terrestrial planets are much closer to the sun than the gas giants, they’ll be more likely to be seen in transit.”

(17) THE MARTIAN HOP. Stephen Baxter is featured in “Tell Us 5 Things About Your Book: A Sequel to ‘The War of the Worlds’” at the New York Times.

What’s the most surprising thing you learned while writing it?

The work that Wells put into the original; the development it went through. There are some surviving drafts, at the University of Illinois. What really surprised me was how the narrator evolved. In the initial drafts, he’s a much more competent character, much more purposeful. He loses his wife to the Martians; they destroy the town he lived in. He becomes enraged and wants revenge, so he falls in with the resistance, and he’s going to blow up the Martians, like a suicide bomber.

But Wells clearly wasn’t happy with that. In the final draft, the narrator is burned, wounded, but he follows the Martians in a way that’s more “get it over with.” Then he goes into a fugue, a kind of three-day dropout. I think Wells was groping for a prediction of shell shock, which wasn’t a recognized condition until the First World War, 20 years later. So it’s a tremendous prediction, which I think is underrated by critics. That discovery, of how much Wells worked on the book, was a real revelation for me.

(18) ANOTHER GLIMPSE. Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, in “My Late Post regarding the 2017 Hugo Awards”, shares  great photos from the ceremony.

(19) BEARS DISCOVER EMAIL. End of a bizarre story: “Judge dismisses email invention claim”. The plaintiff was looking not for royalties on email but for libel damages for a story doubting his claim to have created the “definitive” email program — the modern equivalent of claiming to have invented fire?

Shiva Ayyadurai sued news website Tech Dirt earlier this year after it published several articles denying his claim….

Mr Ayyadurai’s controversial claim revolves around a program he wrote in 1978, called EMAIL, that was used by staff at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. He was granted a copyright for this program in 1982.

Many news websites have published detailed rejections of his claim.

Tech Dirt was one of the most vocal critics of Mr Ayyadurai’s campaign to establish his software as the definitive version.

Technology history suggests that modern email programs have a lot of influences, but much of the work was done prior to 1978 by many different developers.

Ray Tomlinson is widely acknowledged as the programmer who, in the early 1970s, first used the “@” symbol as a way to describe a particular user on a particular network.

(20) RIDE WEST, YOUNG MAN. Adweek tells about this bit of fictionalized history: “Lyft Travels Back to 1836 With Jeff Bridges in First Brand Work From Wieden + Kennedy”.

Man invents the wheel. Man walks on the moon. Man calls a car to the East Village on a Friday night, when you can’t flag a yellow cab to save your life.

These are some of the major developments in the history of human transportation, according to Lyft, whose big new brand campaign is set to debut during NFL games this Sunday.

…W+K made a splash with a summer activation in which Lyft “took over” an Los Angeles car wash, but the new work is even more ambitious. In the first spot, “Riding West,” Jeff Bridges relays a few lessons about the importance of choice that are as relevant today as they were to the wagon trains of the early 19th century.

 

There are a few more videos at the link. I also like this one:

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Greg Hullender, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Steven H Silver, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 7/16/17 Doctor Whoa!

(1) SHE’S THE DOCTOR. The casting of Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor Who hit all the mainstream news outlets.

However, the reaction of some Daily Mail readers left a lot to be desired. But as they say, when you have lemons make lemonade. That’s what comedian Aaron C. M. Gillies did:

And just before the Whittaker announcement, this meme was getting a lot of play on Twitter.

(2) OH NOES! Matthew Foster has also been taking soundings and shared what he found with his Facebook readers.

Fun with sexism. So I just had to go looking to see what the dim set had to say about Doctor Who, and it is amusing. Most that I peaked in on want to keep their sexism on the down low, so while they always object to the Doctor being female, it is never due to her being female. No, no. That’s not the problem… exactly… So there’s lot’s of:

  • I don’t like the Doctor being a woman, but because that’s pandering. Yeah.
  • I don’t like the Doctor being a woman, but because it isn’t for a good story reason… You know, the way choosing a male for have been for a good story reason.

Plus 9 more…

(3) RIVER SONG. Radio Times reports actress Alex Kingston was given the news while onstage at a con in North Carolina: “Alex Kingston’s reaction to a female Doctor Who was SO River Song”.

“Jodie Whittaker? Oh my goodness!” the actress told the crowd, after making joke kissing noises. “God, I’m always the damn cradlesnatcher!

“Oh, that’s lovely. She’s a really great actress. She’s fantastic. Oh my God that’s so exciting! Ohhhh! How fabulous.

“Well, we’ve all discovered that together,” she concluded. “That’s marvellous.”

(4) THE FIRST WOMAN DOCTOR. Some argue there’s already been a woman Doctor Who. (Besides Doctor Donna, that is.) It happened in 1997.

Lily Savage (Paul O’Grady) is The Doctor in a comedy sketch from The Lily Savage Show back in 1997. Features Gayle Tuesday (Brenda Gilhooly) as her companion and a classic impression of Liz McDonald from Coronation Street.

 

(5) SCAMMERS LIVE IN VAIN. My latest strategy for finding news is to hang around Camestros Felapton’s blog. He had a bunch of good links in this post: “Is the Kindle store broken?”

And far from living in vain, the scammers are running away with the store, according to David Gaughran: “Scammers Break The Kindle Store”.

On Friday, a book jumped to the #1 spot on Amazon, out of nowhere; it quickly became obvious that the author had used a clickfarm to gatecrash the charts.

The Kindle Store is officially broken.

This is not the first time this has happened and Amazon’s continued inaction is increasingly baffling. Last Sunday, a clickfarmed title also hit #1 in the Kindle Store. And Amazon took no action.

Over the last six weeks, one particularly brazen author has put four separate titles in the Top 10, and Amazon did nothing whatsoever. There are many such examples….

How Clickfarms Work

As I explained in my post last month, unscrupulous authors and publishers are now adopting scammer tactics, and it’s pretty obvious this guy used a clickfarm to artificially borrow his book. Those fake borrows are equivalent to a sale for ranking purposes. A few thousand of them at the same time can be enough to put you at the top of the charts.

For those who don’t know what a clickfarm is, read this or this, but the basics are as follows. Clickfarms can do a number of things for those with flexible morals. Depending on what the author is trying to achieve, they can download free books, or borrow KU books, and/or page through borrowed books to generate reads – which will then be paid out of the communal KU pot. These services are easy to find, they are all over Google and Fiverr. They are especially popular in shady internet marketing circles and places like Warrior Forum.

We aren’t taking about the darknet here. These services are open to the public and incredibly easy to find. I’m not going to link to them directly, but here’s an example of the kind of services they offer:

  • 100 guaranteed KU borrows for $59
  • 200 KU borrows with a guaranteed Top 100 ranking for $109
  • 1000 KU borrows with a guaranteed Top 5 ranking in any category for $209

They also provide paid reviews, ghostwriting services, the works. Fake authors, fake books, fake borrows, all parlayed into real chart position stolen from genuine authors and significant funds paid out of the communal KU pot.

(6) STAR WARS LAND. You can learn preliminary details about Disney’s forthcoming attraction, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge from The Verge.

There will be two main attractions: one that lets guests captain the Millennium Falcon on a secret mission, while the other places thrill-seekers in the middle of a “climatic battle” between the First Order and the Resistance. The images released show rugged terrain, lush forests reminiscent of scenes on Endor in Return of the Jedi, and metal cantina structures. According to Bloomberg, the new Star Wars lands will cost about $1 billion each….

Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, revealed the official name of the Star Wars-inspired lands that are currently under construction at the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts, and shared details on the immersive experiences guests will be able to enjoy when the lands open in 2019!

 

(7) MARTIN LANDAU OBIT. He won an Oscar playing Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood, but Martin Landau, who passed away today at the age of 89, was first seen by fans in Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone (both the Sixties original and again in the Eighties relaunch). Having turned down an offer to play Spock in the original Star Trek series, the pinnacle of Landau’s science fictional success came while playing Commander John Koenig in Space:1999.

He worked constantly over the decades, and appeared in many genre productions — The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (one episode, 1966), Mission: Impossible (76 episodes as “Rollin Hand”, 1966-69), Get Smart (one episode, 1969), The Fall of the House of Usher, Meteor (both 1979), The Return (1980), The Being (1983), The Return of the Six-Million-Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman (1987), Spider-Man (voice, 1995-96), The X-Files (1998), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Frankenweenie (voice, 2012).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 16, 1952 Zombies of the Stratosphere flickered briefly through theatres.
  • July 16, 1955 — The TV serial Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe blasted into the popular consciousness.
  • July 16, 1958 — Audiences gasp for the first time at The Fly.
  • July 16, 1959The Alligator People was released.
  • July 16, 1969 Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy, Florida, to become the first manned space mission to land on the moon.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 16, 1928 – Robert Sheckley

(10) AND THEY’RE OFF. With Game of Thrones Season 7 starting, the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog gets its kicks by imagining how each character will die. First up —

Daenerys Targaryen

After finally saying goodbye to noted hellhole Meereen, Dany will be cut down in a tragic boating accident, lest her plot line advance. The tragedy will be of Titanic proportions, with Dany and Missandei struggling to share space on a door before both drowning. Varys will float by moments later and note there was plenty of room on the flotsam for both women. 

(11) TOP TEN. And The Daily Beast it getting its clicks by publishing the list of “‘Game of Thrones’ Author George R.R. Martin’s Top 10 Fantasy Films”.

  1. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

The frightening thing about Holy Grail is that it may very well be the best version of the Matter of Britain ever put on film. King Arthur has not been well served by the movies, I fear. Yes, yes, there’s John Boorman’s Excalibur, a flawed film with with some great parts. Beyond that and Holy Grail, what do we have? Knights of the Round Table (some gorgeous spectacle, but a ham-handed script–the Timpo toy knights issued as tie-ins to the film were better than the movie), Prince Valiant (I liked the Singing Sword, and those pigskins full of boiling oil, but it’s hard to get past Robert Wagner’s wig), First Knight (gag), King Arthur (yes, let’s just let all the Saxons through Hadrian’s Wall and fight them on the other side, what a clever tactic)…. I do have a certain fondness for the film version of Camelot, but only because I never got to see the stage play. But back to Holy Grail. Back to Brave Sir Robin. The Black Knight. The Knights Who Say Ni. The Frenchman on the ramparts. The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. Castle Anthrax. Coconuts. (They still sell coconuts at Castle Doune in Scotland, where much of Holy Grail was filmed). What more do I need to say? Let’s go to Camelot! Yes, it is a silly place, but that’s what I love about it.

(12) WAIT UP. io9’s Germain Lussier’s post “This Mysterious New Droid Is Rolling Around the Star Wars Section at D23 Expo” has photos, though apparently they weren’t easy to get.

Disney loves a good surprise, and fans at the D23 Expo in Anaheim got plenty of those over the weekend. One of the more subtle ones featured a brand new droid, rolling around the display for the new theme park additions called Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge.

The droid definitely resembles other Star Wars droids you know, kind of a R5 droid’s body with 2-1B arms. But, according to Walt Disney Imagineers in the area, it does not yet have an official Star Wars distinction. In fact, the may not even be part of Galaxy’s Edge when it opens in 2019. It’s just kind of an experiment at how droids and humans who are just mulling around can interact. And let me tell you, it’s not necessarily a smooth relationship.

The Imagineers call this guy “Jake” and he would not stand still for a photo. You’d set up to snap one, and he’d just start going the other way. Here’s what it’s like.

(13) CONTAINS SOME NUDITY. In fact, that’s what it mostly contains. Chip Hitchcock is convinced fans could break the record at Worldcon 75 if they put it on the program — “Finland naked swimmers bid for biggest skinny dip record”.

Hundreds of naked swimmers have taken to the water in Finland in a bid to break the world record for the biggest naked swim.

Some 789 people at a music festival in eastern Finland went skinny dipping on Saturday, organisers said, beating the previous record set in Australia by just three, reports said.

Organisers were waiting for Guinness World Records to confirm the record.

It is the third Finnish attempt at the record, Yle news website said.

(14) KING’S SECRET IDENTITY. Mental Floss remembers: “Known Alias: How Stephen King Was Outed as Richard Bachman”.

King’s cover endured for a surprisingly long period. But the 1985 release of Thinner would usher in fresh suspicion about Bachman. Unlike the other four novels, Thinner was contemporary King, a hardcover written with the knowledge it was a “Bachman book” and perhaps more self-conscious about its attempt at misdirection. And unlike early-period Bachman, which often featured nihilistic but grounded scenarios—a walking marathon that ends in death, or a game show where prisoners can earn their freedom—Thinner took on more of a horror trope, with a robust lawyer cursed to lose weight by a vengeful gypsy until he’s practically nothing but skin and bone.

When Stephen Brown obtained an advance copy at Olsson’s, he had an innate belief he was reading a King novel. To confirm his suspicions, he visited the Library of Congress to examine the copyrights for each Bachman title. All but one were registered to Kirby McCauley, King’s agent. The remaining title, Rage, was registered to King himself. It was the smoking gun.

(15) IN THE ARCHIVES. The Verge tells you where to find Galaxy —“One of the greatest science fiction magazines is now available for free online”.

If you like classic science fiction, one of the genre’s best magazines can now be found online for free. Archive.org is now home to a collection of Galaxy Science Fiction, which published some of the genre’s best works, such as an early version of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man.

The collection contains 355 separate issues, ranging from 1950 through 1976. Open Culture notes that it’s not quite the entire run of the magazine, but it’s got plenty of material to keep fans occupied for years. It includes stories from science fiction legends such as Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Clifford Simak, and Theodore Sturgeon. There are also some underappreciated authors who deserve re-discovery, such as Kris Neville, Alan E. Nourse, or John Christopher. (Sadly, like most publications of this era, female SF authors were underrepresented.)

(16) LAST-MINUTE VOTING. Spacefaring Kitten got in under the wire with a second set of Hugo recommendations.

(17) NAME ABOVE THE TITLE. Stan Lee is rebranding his Los Angeles convention. The Hollywood Reporter has the story: “Stan Lee Reintroduces His L.A. Convention: New Name, Even Greater Ambitions”.

Stan Lee is putting Los Angeles on the map in a new way.

The legendary comic book creator is not only getting a citywide day named in his honor (Oct. 28), he is also rebranding his popular pop culture convention Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo and giving it a new name: Stan Lee’s Los Angeles Comic Con.

Comic book fans area rejoiced when Lee launched his convention in 2011, and for Lee, the name change makes sense when major cities from New York to San Diego have flagship conventions bearing their cities’ names.

“I felt that a lot of people didn’t know what Comikaze really meant or what it was. And I didn’t think we should hide under a bushel,” Lee tells Heat Vision of the con, which runs Oct. 28-30. “Los Angeles is, to me, the center of the world’s entertainment. It has to have a Comic Con.”

(18) FUNNY AND DIE. Reason TV is getting in on the new season, too, with Game of Thrones: Libertarian Edition.

As HBO’s blockbuster series Game of Thrones returns for its seventh season, Reason offers its own freedom-filled parody. A libertarian paradise north of the wall? What’s happened to Westeros’ social security trust fund? Should it take low-income Dothraki four years to get a hair-braiding license? Watch!

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, Colin Kuskie, JJ, Cat Eldridge, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Pixel Scroll 4/25/16 That Which We Call A Pixel By Any Other Name Would Scroll As Sweet

(1) NORTH CAROLINA FAN EVENT AWAITS DEVELOPMENTS. Walker Stalker Con has announced that they are postponing their 2016 Charlotte, NC event until December to give the North Carolina state house a chance to repeal NC HB 2 (or the courts to throw it out).

Steven H Silver adds, “Just last night, I was wondering if conventions and conferences (not just in NC) would start to try to include a clause which allows the event to pull out of the venue without penalty if the state government passes discriminatory laws.”

(2) HAVING FUN YET? Geek Crusade analyzes “How (almost) everything went wrong at the Civil War blue carpet”. Apparently this was a celebrity event in Singapore. I don’t even know what a “blue carpet” is, so let me turn this over to the experts….

Civil war blue carpet jm wong for geek

As the time neared for fans to be let into the skating rink, the crowd swelled to a ridiculous size and effectively blocked off any sort of access to the food court or the surrounding shops itself. And when VIPs and fan zone winners asked where they could queue up for entry into the rink, no one had any answers for them.

So about 20 minutes before we were let in, I was queueing in the corner of the rink (marked “Access point for inner sanctum” in the picture at the top of this post), right smack in the middle of a big crowd. That one access point was where everything went in and out, so at one point I had trays of hot food for VIP guests brushing past my left, while random people kept pushing me from behind or squeezing in front of me to get to the escalators. I was quite literally trapped on all sides.

To make things worse, when members of the media started going in with bulky equipment, I got pushed around a lot because there was literally no more space to move or to let people through. And people were STILL trying to push their way through the crowd to try and get closer to the rink. That bottleneck was a serious fire hazard, and at one point I seriously thought that I’d never get out of this bloody event unharmed….

(3) YOU PAYS YOUR MONEY. Geek Crusade also has this post – “’I paid $688 for the Civil War blue carpet package and I loved it’”

One fan flew all the way in from Brunei for the chance to meet Cap, Falcon and Winter Soldier.

So after all that hoohah about the $688 and $1288 packages for the Civil War blue carpet, there’s only one question left to ask: Was it all really worth it?

In the run up to the event, many fans had contacted Geek Crusade for more information about the blue carpet. But we soon realised that one of them had actually purchased a $688 package, before the packages on offer mysteriously disappeared from the event page. (Reed Exhibitions later told The Straits Times that the packages had sold out)

(4) HOW SHE FOUND FANDOM. MidAmeriCon II chair Ruth Lichtwardt ponders, in “A Reflection on the Hugos”.

In the long-ago days before email and about when ARPANET was becoming the Internet, there was a young woman who was a fan but not in fandom. She barely knew of the existence of fandom, and if any of the people around her were SF fans, they didn’t talk about it because it was somehow lowbrow. But she had read all the Bradbury, Bradley, Heinlein, and Le Guin in her school libraries. She loved books, and reading, and SF, and fantasy, and somewhere along the way had become aware that in far away places there were people who thought SF was pretty cool and authors won awards for this stuff, prestigious awards, a thing called the Hugo Awards. But these were the pre-internet days and news about this was not widely circulated unless you knew where to look.

The young woman went off to college. One day she stopped by the office of one of her professors and was standing in the doorway talking with him. On his desk was a beautiful silver rocket on a wooden base. “That’s a really lovely sculpture,” she said. “Thank you,” he replied, “That is my Hugo.”

That was the day that I learned that the Hugo Awards were not some unobtainable honor given only to mythical, unapproachable authors by mysterious deities. That shiny rocket had been bestowed on James Gunn for “Best Related Work”, his biography of Isaac Asimov. The book had been chosen by the biography’s actual readers, by science fiction fans, as deserving of the award. To me, that made it even more of an honor….

 

(5) THE PINOCCHIO GAMBIT. If you’re one of the people who told a friend you nominated them for the Hugo, and they went and blabbed it all over the internet, what are you going to do when they find out they’re not on the final ballot tomorrow? Don’t fret. Order your friend a set of these Rocket-shaped salt and pepper mills and tell them they already won!

rocket salt and pepper grinders

(6) WHO BENEFITS? John Scalzi spotlights the way Kindle Unlimited compensates authors in “Scammers and Fixed Pots” at Whatever.

…(Nor is adjusting one’s work to take advantage of the market a problem; publishers have always done this. Is the money is cheap paperbacks? They will make cheap paperbacks. Is the money in hardcovers? They’ll make hardcovers. What, novellas are the next big thing? They’ll all make novellas! Likewise, if Amazon is saying to self-pubbed authors (and, by extension, scammers) “[X] is the way we decide to pay you,” then it’s rational to do [X].)

The problem with the Kindle Unlimited scammers isn’t really the compensatory triggers of KU or the fact that everyone, legit author or otherwise, is looking for the way to squeeze as much money as possible from it. The problem is: who bears the immediate economic brunt of the scammers taking advantage of whatever scheme Amazon decides upon? Well, it’s not Amazon, that’s for sure, since its financial exposure is only what it wants to pay out on a monthly basis; scammers in the system or no, Amazon only pays what Amazon wants to pay. The readers also get off lightly; their economic exposure is only they flat fee they pay to access KU.

So that leaves the actual authors, whose share of a fixed amount of money is being diluted by bad actors who see how the system can be gamed and are cheerfully gaming it as fast as they can….

(7) SPEAKING OF MONEY. The BBC’s piece “If cryonics suddenly worked, we’d need to face the fallout” deals a glancing blow to the discussion in today’s comments.

…It is possible, however, that money will no longer exist by the time cryonics pays off, and that people will not have to work for a living. A society that has achieved the medical breakthroughs necessary to cure disease and end aging, Kowalski and others believe, may also be one bereft of poverty and material want. In such a scenario, clothing, food and homes, fabricated with 3D printers or some other advanced means, would be abundant and freely available. “It doesn’t make sense that they’d take the time to revive people into some dystopian, backward future,” Kowalski says. “You can’t have the technology to wake people up and not have the technology to do a bunch of other great things, like provide abundance to the population.”

Still, even if cryogenically revived persons come back to a more equitable and advanced future, the mental flip-flops required to adjust to that new world would be substantial. Dislocated in time, alienated from society and coming to grips with the certainty that everyone and everything they had ever known is irretrievably lost, they would likely suffer symptoms of intense trauma. And that’s not to mention the fact that some may have to deal with a whole new body because only their head was preserved.

(8) EX MACHINA. Abigail Nussbaum delves into the issues raised (and some missed) by the movie “Ex Machina”. BEWARE SPOILERS. Scores high on bringing to my attention new ways of thinking about things. (Will they be new to you? I guess there’s only one way to find out.)

While I agree with [Laurie] Penny about the anxiety that underpins these stories [about fembots], I think that I would take a step further, and suggest that they–and Ex Machina in particular–are getting at the more fundamental question of what being a woman actually is.  As much as it raises feminist issues, Ex Machina makes much more sense to me when read through a trans lens, as the story of Ava’s becoming–unwillingly, and only as a means of survival and escape–a woman.

(9) SF’S VANISHING COMPETENCE. Charlie Jane Anders’ io9 post, “The Moment When Science Fiction Split off From Competence Porn” is recommended by Gregory N. Hullender as an “Interesting article about how mainstream shows and movies have ultra competent technical folks but SF shows have incompetent people. Anders suspects it’s because lots of people are overwhelmed by new technology these days and they like post-apocalypse stories because they let us return to a simpler world.”

 …[The], the original Star Trek mostly shows the Enterprise crew being pretty competent, but now we’re only allowed to have science explorer heroes if the focus is on the captain being unqualified for his rank.

But meanwhile, “competence porn” is our most popular entertainment, in the movies as well as television. Medical shows (like House) and forensic/detective shows (like CSI or Bones) celebrate the hero who has godlike powers of reconstructing the past and figuring out exactly what’s happened. There are detectives who can tell whether you’re lying at a glance, or who can reconstruct a complicated crime scene by looking at a few twigs, Sherlock-style.

And as we wrote a while back, every police procedural and spy show (or movie) has to have the stock “nerd” character, the slightly loopy guy or gal who can hack into any computer or zoom-and-enhance any video. There is an army of incredibly brilliant, nigh-omnipotent nerds on television….

David Brin has his own take on why this happens: authors are lazy.

“How SF split off from ‘competence porn’.” The latter genre – like The Martian – thrills fans with a can-do spirit that used to be core to science fiction, both on-page and on-screen. In io9, Charlie Jane Anders writes: “This shift coincides with the decline in space opera on television, and the rise of apocalypses and “disaster porn,” which are at least partly a wish-fulfillment fantasy about life becoming simpler and less confusing again. We have ‘competence porn’ in the present day, but when we imagine the near future, we reach for ‘disaster porn.’” I revere Charlie Jane for (among other things) clearly citing the current, largely dismal mood in SF as dull, unimaginative and unhelpful, contributing to decayed confidence in real life problem solving.

Where I part company is over why. This is not a matter of near-future vs far. Competence and hope – set amid thrilling danger and good writing – can be found in SF set amid all kinds of futures — near, middle and far — as evoked by Stargate and Firefly, by the works of Banks and Vinge. (And some of the rest of us try, as well.) No, the plague of zombies and apocalypses and illogically red-eyed dystopias has one central cause — laziness.

(10) INFORMATION WANTS TO BE FREE. This is a week old, but here’s an epic example of trying to work the system – “’Game of Thrones’: Journalist Files FOIA Request for President Obama’s Season 6 Screeners”.

A day following the April 13 news that President Obama will receive early screeners of the highly anticipated Game of Thrones season six episodes, a journalist requested through the Freedom of Information Act that he “share his advance screeners” with the public.

Though HBO announced in early March that no members of the press will receive advance screeners, unlike in past seasons, a journalist is still trying. On Friday, Vanessa Golembewski revealed in a Refinery 29 article titled “Only Obama Gets Game of Thrones Screeners, So I Filed an FOIA Request for Them” that an FOIA request was filed on Thursday in an attempt to obtain the episodes….

Upon learning that Obama would come to know the fate of three of the show’s stars before the rest of the waiting global audience, Golembewski reasoned in the application: “If the president — and by extension, our government — is in possession of a file, surely that file is subject to my request to see it as a U.S. citizen.” In the “description” section of her web application, Golembewski penned, “I would like President Obama to share his advance screeners for Game of Thrones with the public” and filed “$0” as the amount of fees she would be willing to pay for the information.

(11) AND ONE MORE THING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT. By all means, get emotional over the change in the Cracker Jacks packaging, and weep that those cheap little prizes have been replaced with QR codes to access a game app. Gizmodo leads the Greek chorus —

Truth be told, the prizes inside Cracker Jacks haven’t been that cool for some time. There used to be decoder rings and toy figurines. In the most recent “box” of Cracker Jack that I ate, I got a temporary tattoo. But they were prizes! They were real. They did not require a smartphone to appreciate them.

A world with prize-less Cracker Jack is not a world I want to live in, but I think I’m more upset about the loss of the box. The Uncanny Valley-ization of Sailor Jack and his dog Bingo in the logo is awful enough, but taking the box away is an affront to baseball fans everywhere.

(12) SHAKESPEARE V. FAKESPEARE. The Digital Reader brings you an “Infographic: Fourteen Amazing Shakespeare Facts (Including a False One)”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Bruce Arthurs, Will R., Mark-kitteh, Steven H Silver, Gregory N. Hullender, and David Doering for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]