Pixel Scroll 2/24/19 Flow My Peanut Butter, The Panini-Maker Scrolled

(1) HIDDEN FIGURE HONORED. A NASA facility has a new name: “NASA Renames Facility in Honor of ‘Hidden Figure’ Katherine Johnson”.

NASA has redesignated its Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) Facility in Fairmont, West Virginia, as the Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation Facility, in honor of the West Virginia native and NASA “hidden figure.”

“I am thrilled we are honoring Katherine Johnson in this way as she is a true American icon who overcame incredible obstacles and inspired so many,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “It’s a fitting tribute to name the facility that carries on her legacy of mission-critical computations in her honor.”

… Born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, in 1918, Johnson’s intense curiosity and brilliance with numbers led her to a distinguished career — spanning more than three decades — with NASA and its predecessor agency, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Among her professional accomplishments, Johnson calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 mission in 1961. The following year, Johnson performed the work for which she would become best known when she was asked to verify the results made by electronic computers to calculate the orbit for John Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission. She went on to provide calculations for NASA throughout her career, including for several Apollo missions.

At a time when racial segregation was prevalent throughout the southern United States, Johnson and fellow African American mathematicians Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson — who was later promoted to engineer — broke through racial barriers to achieve success in their careers at NASA and helped pave the way for the diversity that currently extends across all levels of agency’s workforce and leadership. Their story became the basis of the 2017 film “Hidden Figures,” based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly.  

(2) THE ART OF SIGNING. CoNZealand (2020 Worldcon) GoH Larry Dixon shares some wisdom in a Twitter thread that begins here.

(3) A GHOST SPEAKS. Sean McLachlan rises “In Defense of Professional Ghostwriting” at Black Gate.

…I’m acquainted with Cristiane Serruya. She was part of the Kindle Scout program, having won an advance, 50% royalties, and publication for at least one of her works from Amazon’s imprint Kindle Press. Two of my books are also in the program. We chatted numerous times on the Kindle Scout Winners Facebook group and we even traded critiques. She read the first two books in my Masked Man of Cairo mystery series and I read Damaged Love, which turns out to contain plagiarized passages too. At the time I was surprised she would want me to be a beta reader on a romance novel, a genre she knew I didn’t read and knew nothing about. Now I know why.

…It’s true that some unscrupulous people are hiring teams of underpaid ghostwriters to churn out dreck in order to game Amazon’s algorithms, which tilt in favor of newly publishing titles and prolific authors.

Unfortunately, professional ghostwriters like me are being lumped in with the hacks. There is a place for a professional ghostwriter in indie publishing, and it is a valid one.

Ghostwriting has been around since the days of the dime novel. It was strong throughout the pulp era and the post-war paperback boom. In the modern world, house names such as Don Pendleton (The Executioner) and Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew) have been used by pools of ghostwriters to make some of the most popular series around.

Ghostwriting is my day job. To date, I have ghostwritten 18 novels, 7 novellas, and one short story for various clients, and am currently contracted for another series of novels. The clients are generally independent publishers who put out work under a variety of pen names. I get one or two pen names, and other ghostwriters get other ones. Thus each pen name keeps the specific tone of a particular writer. I have worked for one guy who used several ghostwriters writing for the same house name, but we all were given strict instructions as to tone, style, etc. None of my clients put their real name on their books, and all of them were looking for quality work….

(4) UP THE AMAZON. Nora Roberts expands on what she’s been learning about the environment for indie authors at Amazon: “Let Me Address This”.

A Broken System. Then came the scammers, and with the methods discussed in previous blogs, who flooded the market with 99 cent books. What a bargain! Readers couldn’t know these books were stolen or copied or written by ghostfarms. Couldn’t know about the clickfarms, the scam reviews.

At this price, the author receives only 30% (there’s a price point cut off on royalty rate). So all those out of pocket expenses may or may not be covered.

The legit indie saw her sales suffer, her numbers tank, her placement on lists vanish. To try to compete, many had to struggle to write faster, to heavily discount their work. Some had to give up writing altogether.

One other scamming method is to list a book–forever–as free. Not as a promotion, or incentive, but to toss up hordes or free books, so the reader wants–and often demands–free. They make their money off the scores of cheap and stolen books, and destroy the legit writer. Why pay when there are scores of free books at your fingertips?

(5) SFF ROMANCE AWARDS. The winners of genre interest for the 2018 Australian Romance Readers Awards are:

Favourite Paranormal Romance

  • Ocean Light by Nalini Singh

Favourite Sci-Fi, Fantasy or Futuristic Romance

  • Cursed by Keri Arthur

(6) FANHISTORY. Here’s a link to Archive.org footage from the 1975 Star Trek convention in New York. William Shatner’s appearance takes up the first few minutes – you can see Ben Yalow among his escorts at the 30-second mark. The latter half of the film shows a woman in front of art show panels – I think I should recognize her, but I can’t come up with a name. Maybe you can. [Update: Adrienne Martine-Barnes, maybe?] [Now identified as Jacqueline Lichtenberg.]

Yalow is on the right.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

  • On November 1, 1884 Bat Masterson published his first newspaper article in Dodge City. The newspaper was called Vox Populi.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 24, 1786 Wilhelm Grimm. Here for two reasons, the first being the he and his brother were the first to systematically collect folktales from the peasantry of any European culture and write them down. Second is that the number of genre novels and short stories that used the Grimms’ Fairy Tales as their source for source material is, well, if not infinite certainly a really high number. I’d wager that even taking just those stories in Snow White, Blood Red series that Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow co-edited would get quite a number based the tales collected by these bothers. (Died 1859.)
  • Born February 24, 1909 August Derleth. He’s best known as the first book publisher of H. P. Lovecraft, and for his own fictional contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos (a term that S. T. Joshi does not like), not to overlook being the founder of Arkham House which alas is now defunct. I’m rather fond of his detective fiction with Solar Pons of Praed Street being a rather inspired riff off the Great Detective. (Died 1971.)
  • Born February 24, 1933 Verlyn Flieger, 86. Well known Tolkien specialist. Her best-known books are Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s WorldA Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Road to Faerie, which won a Mythopoeic Award, Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth (her second Mythopoeic Award) and Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien (her third Mythopoeic Award). She has written a VA fantasy, Pig Tale, and some short stories.
  • Born February 24, 1942 Sam J. Lundwall, 77. Swedish writer, translator and publisher. He first started writing for Häpna!, an SF Zine in the 50s. In the late 60s, he was a producer for Sveriges Radio and made a SF series. He published his book, Science Fiction: Från begynnelsen till våra dagar (Science Fiction: What It’s All About) which landed his first job as an SF Editor. After leaving that publisher in the 80s, he would start his own company, Sam J. Lundwall Fakta & Fantasi. Lundwall was also the editor of the science fiction magazine Jules Verne-Magasinet between 1972 and 2009. He has been active in fandom as he organised conventions in Stockholm six times in the 60s and 70s. And I see he’s written a number of novels, some released here, though not recently. 
  • Born February 24, 1947 Edward James Olmos, 72. Reasonably sure the first thing I saw him in was as Detective Gaff in Blade Runner, but I see he was Eddie Holt In Wolfen a year earlier which was his genre debut. Though I didn’t realise it as I skipped watching the entire film, he was in The Green Hornet as Michael Axford. (I did try watching it, I gave up after maybe fifteen minutes. Shudder.) he has a cameo as Gaff in the new Blade Runner film. And he’s William Adama on the new Battlestar Galactica. He was made appearances on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Eureka
  • Born February 24, 1966 Ben Miller, 53. He first shows up in our corner of things on The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones in the “Daredevils of the Desert” episode as an unnamed French Officer. His main genre role was on Primeval, a series I highly recommend as a lot of fun, as James Lester.  He later shows up as the Sheriff of Nottingham in a Twelfth Doctor episode entitled “Robot of Sherwood”. 
  • Born February 24, 1968 Martin Day, 51. I don’t usually deal with writers of licensed works but he’s a good reminder that shows such as Doctor Who spawn vast secondary fiction universes. He’s been writing such novels first for Virgin Books and now for BBC Books for over twenty years. In addition, he’s doing Doctor Who audiobooks for Big Finish Productions and other companies as well. He’s also written several unofficial books to television series such as the X Files, the Next Generation and the Avengers

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) LEGAL EAGLE. John Scalzi has been doing his due diligence this afternoon.

(11) ROLE OF A LIFETIME. Cleveland.com has a conversation with the actor: “Wil Wheaton wraps up run as Wil Wheaton on ‘Big Bang Theory’”.

…Then “Big Bang” executive producer and co-creator Bill Prady offered him the ideal role. Would he be interested in playing, well, Wil Wheaton . . . an evil Wil Wheaton?

“If they had actually wanted me to play myself, I don’t think I would have been interested,” he said. “First, it would have felt like a cheat. So what? Show up and be yourself? There’s no challenge in that. But when Bill said, ‘We want you to play an evil version of yourself,’ I immediately got and loved that idea.”

(12) PAPERS PLEASE. Spikecon has put out a “Call for Academic Submissions”:

Westercon 72, NAFIC 2019, 1632 Minicon, and Manticon 2019 are together inviting submissions of academic papers for presentation at Spikecon to be held on July 4th-7th, 2019 in Layton, Utah. We are seeking 30 minute papers which raise the level of dialogue and discussion in the Science Fiction/Fantasy community and seek to empower fans as well as creators.

Topics of Interest Include:

  • Literary analysis/criticism of science fiction or fantasy works including those of our Spikecon Guests of Honor
  • Historical events impacting science fiction and/or fantasy works
  • Fandom
  • Developments in science and technology
  • Craft of writing
  • Cultural impact of scifi/fantasy
  • Fan and creator relationship
  • Studies of individual creators/universes

(13) PLAY BY MALE. NPR’s Etelka Lehoczky says “Chronin’s Elegant, Minimalist Samurai Adventure Is – Literally – Timeless”.

Let’s hear it for cleverness! Sometimes a few modest, well-thought-out ideas can add up to an artistic creation as impactful as — and even more appealing than — the weightiest projects. That’s the case with Chronin, Alison Wilgus’ new graphic novel. Like a miniaturist or scrimshaw engraver, Wilgus has a keen appreciation for the power of constraints. By setting careful limits on what her book will look like and what kind of story it will tell, she’s achieved an aesthetic balance that’s a thing of beauty in itself.

Chronin is lighthearted but not frivolous, simple but not simplistic. Since it’s set in 19th-century Japan, you could compare it to a netsuke: A tiny sculpture whose beauty lies in what it does with so little. Chronin’s narrative and visual themes are rather basic, but it explores them in a way that’s precise, insightful — and supremely clever.

Wilgus has experimented with artistic constraints before. A Stray in the Woods, published in 2013, originated as a Tumblr webcomic driven by suggestions from readers. And, of course, much of her work has been shaped by the will of her employers, including DC and the Cartoon Network. Plenty of creators try to blow the doors off with their first solo graphic novels, but Wilgus takes the opportunity to go small. Chronin’s story of a time-travel screw-up is familiar, even a bit of a chestnut. Protagonist Mirai Yoshida, a New York City college student in 2042, travels with some classmates back to 1864 Japan to conduct research. An accident leaves her trapped there, so she masquerades as a male — and as a member of the warrior class — for safety while she tries to figure out a way back.

(14) SURVEYING THE FIELD. Rich Horton winds up his Hugo discussion with “Hugo Nomination Thoughts, 2019: Summary Post”. One item he touches on is —

Best Series

Here’s JJ’s list of eligible series posted at File 770: http://file770.com/best-series-hugo-eligible-series-from-2018/. Much props to JJ for the tireless work of maintain this list, but … I think the list itself speaks to problems with the whole concept of this award.

I was skeptical about this award from the start, and I don’t think its history helps it. I’m really bothered by the way adding one short story to a very old series, for example, makes it again eligible (as with Earthsea, objectively by far the most worthy and influential eligible series, but does “Firelight”, beautiful as it absolutely is, really mean we should give it an award now?) Also, the endless parsing of “series” vs. “sub-series”. The way an award can be for, really, semi-random assemblages of related works. I could go on and on.

(15) TWEETING HISTORY. Myke Cole is running a giveaway, and has been retweeting some of the choicer quotes people are submitting. For example:

(16) BACKING UP TO THE MOON. CNET: “Thirty-million-page backup of humanity headed to moon aboard Israeli lander”.

If the apocalypse strikes, the Arch Mission Foundation wants to be sure all the knowledge we’ve accumulated doesn’t disappear.

On Thursday night, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carried an Israeli-made spacecraft named Beresheet beyond the grasp of Earth’s gravity and sent it on its way to the surface of the moon. On board Beresheet is a specially designed disc encoded with a 30-million-page archive of human civilization built to last billions of years into the future.

The backup for humanity has been dubbed “The Lunar Library” by its creator, the Arch Mission Foundation (AMF).

“The idea is to place enough backups in enough places around the solar system, on an ongoing basis, that our precious knowledge and biological heritage can never be lost,” the nonprofit’s co-founder Nova Spivack told [CNET] via email.

(17) THE FLYING DEAD. Salon: “Zombie stars shine on after mystery detonations”.

It should have been physically impossible. Millions of years ago, a white dwarf—the fading cinder of a sunlike star—was locked in a dizzying dance with a bright companion star. The two had circled each other for eons, connected by a bridge of gas that flowed from the companion onto the white dwarf allowing it to grow heavier and heavier until it could no longer support the extra weight. At this point, the white dwarf should have exploded—blowing itself to smithereens and producing a supernova that briefly shone brighter than all the stars in the Milky Way combined. Then once the supernova faded and the white dwarf’s innards were dispersed across the galaxy, there would quite literally be nothing left save for its companion star. But against all odds, the explosion did not fully rupture the white dwarf. Instead, it survived.

…Raddi’s team made these discoveries after combing through data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia spacecraft, which is particularly well suited for finding high-speed stars—an important characteristic of ones like LP 40-365 (because a supernova explosion has the power to slingshot stars across the galaxy). Two are destined to escape the Milky Way entirely, and one is orbiting “backward” against the usual rotation of stars in our galaxy. Additionally they all boast large radii, presumably because they were puffed up by the extra energy they received from the failed explosion. And yet they possess relatively small masses, likely due to the loss of much of their material during the explosion. But perhaps the most compelling evidence these stars are supernova survivors is that they brim with heavier elements. Whereas typical white dwarfs comprise carbon and oxygen, these stars are mostly composed of neon. “That’s absurd,” Hermes says. “That’s like some barroom beer sign just flying through the galaxy.” The stars’ second-most common element is oxygen, followed by a sprinkling of even heavier elements such as magnesium, sodium and aluminum. “This is about as weird as it gets,” Hermes says…

(18) IT’S A THEORY. Orville’s season 1 Rotten Tomatoes critics score was 23%.  Season 2 is holding at 100%.  Nerdrotic theorizes that the explanation is Disney’s purchase of Fox.

(19) BLADE RUNNER COMICS. Launching this summer, Titan Comics’ new Blade Runner 2019 series will be set during the exact timeframe of the original Blade Runner film, and feature a (mostly) new set of characters and situations.

Titan also confirmed that noted artist Andres Guinaldo (Justice League Dark, Captain America) will be joining acclaimed Blade Runner 2049 screenwriter Michael Green (Logan) and veteran collaborator Mike Johnson (Star Trek, Super­man/Batman) to breathe life into their all-new Blade Runner comic books.

(20) AND HE’S NOT EVEN WELSH! CBR.com checks out “Superman’s Less Legendary LL’s!”.

In Drawing Crazy Patterns, I spotlight at least five scenes/moments from within comic book stories that fit under a specific theme (basically, stuff that happens frequently in comics). Note that these lists are inherently not exhaustive. They are a list of five examples (occasionally I’ll be nice and toss in a sixth). So no instance is “missing” if it is not listed. It’s just not one of the five examples that I chose. 

Today, we look at the less legendary LLs in Superman’s life. 

Unless you hate me and all that I stand for, you know that Superman has an inordinate amount of notable people in his life whose names are double Ls. 

Names (etc.) mentioned in the 2-page article include:

* Lori Lemaris

* Lightning Lad

* Little League (seriously)

* Lita Laverne

* Lester Link

* Liza Landis

* Lyrica Lloyd

* Lorraine Lewis

(21) CLOUDY, WITH A CHANCE OF DRAGONS. HBO puts out mashup trailer to coincide with the Oscars — SYFY Wire: “Arya Stark beholds dragon for first time in HBO mashup trailer; new Watchmen footage also included”.

Just like it did during the Golden Globes, HBO has released another mega-trailer featuring new footage from all of its new and returning shows airing this year. Of course, the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones was among the shows included in the tantalizing teaser.

[…] Game of Thrones Season 8 debuts on HBO Sunday, April 14. There’s no set premiere date for Watchmen just yet, but it will arrive sometime this year.

(22) FROM THE BEEB TO THE BO. BBC released a trailer of His Dark Materials, which will air on HBO in the U.S.

We’re keeping our daemons close. Here’s an early sneak peek of His Dark Materials. Dafne Keen, Ruth Wilson, James McAvoy, Clarke Peters and Lin-Manuel Miranda star in this thrilling new series. Adaptation of Sir Philip Pullman’s acclaimed series of novels.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Your Supreme Awesome Royal Majesty Highnessness JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter.  Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Amazon Reopens Castalia House’s KDP Account

Castalia House’s Amazon Kindle Digital Publishing account was restored yesterday within hours after Vox Day told readers it had been taken down (see “Amazon Terminates Vox Day’s Castalia House Account”.) The problems were caused by Castalia’s Collapsing Empire parody Corrosion by “Johan Kalsi” with the look-alike cover, which has brought Day’s business into conflict with Amazon’s rules many times since the book came out in 2017.

Collapsing Empire author John Scalzi seems to have had this news in mind when he tweeted on Thursday —

Although the Amazon account was reopened, Markku Koponen of Finland, where the Castalia House entity is based, told readers of Vox Day’s blog that the “Kalsi” book will no longer be sold on Amazon.

But the sales had dropped so low on it (because people seem to connect it only with the Scalzi events, which isn’t really fair. Again, it’s an actual, serious book) that removing that tool from them had more value than having the title there. And it’s still available on our own site, from which we keep 100% of the revenue instead of 70%.

And he said they have asked Audible to take down the audiobook.

Vox Day also contacted File 770 “to set the record straight,” saying —

  1. CORROSION by Johan Kalsi was cleared of being “misleading” no less than 7 times by the highest-level managers at KDP. The previous time it was depublished by the Quality Assurance employee, in September 2018, it was republished before we even received the email telling us it had been depublished.
  2. The reason we were given for our account was terminated was a claim of copyright infringement. This claim was incorrect and was subsequently acknowledged to have been incorrect when our account was restored.
  3. What Amazon did yesterday affected more than 60 authors, and any author who was feeling schadenfreude would do well to keep in mind that not every employee at Amazon with access to their account is fully in agreement with them either. We are very far from the first to have our account terminated, even if it was only for 20 hours in our case.
  4. We sold more copies of Corrosion via our direct store yesterday than we had sold in the previous three months on Amazon. We’ve sold even more copies of it today. That is why we decided not to republish it on KDP and why we will remove it from Audible as well. It’s simply not worth the potential conflict.

When one of his fans encouraged him to initiate legal action against Amazon. Vox Day replied —

No. We’re already in a significant legal battle with Indiegogo. We will not take on any additional conflict unless it is forced on us. Nor are we interested in going to war against our own distribution channel.

Day was referring IndieGoGo’s action last October, shutting down Arkhaven’s current fundraiser for Alt-Hero: Q, and refunding backers’ money (see “After Bleeding Cool Interviews Vox Day, IndieGoGo Axes Latest Alt-Hero Comic Campaign”.) Arkhaven is Castalia’s comics imprint.

Amazon Terminates Vox Day’s Castalia House Account

Update: Vox Day says his Amazon KDP account is now “Reinstated” [Internet Archive link.]


Amazon told Vox Day they have shut down his Castalia House Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account because of the latest issues about its goon book Corrosion (The Corroding Empire Book 1), a parody of John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire which Castalia markets with a look-alike cover.

Castalia House’s efforts to sell the book have repeatedly brought it into conflict with Amazon rules since the work first appeared in March 2017 (see “Amazon Yanks Castalia House’s ‘The Corroding Empire’”). According to Vox Day (“Amazon Takes Down Castalia House” [Internet Archive link]): “This is the second attack on that book this month, as ten days ago, they pulled the book itself down for the sixth or seventh time due to claims that it was ‘misleading’.”

Day says he received the following message from Amazon on January 21. At that time they only removed the one book from sale on Amazon.

From: Amazon.com [kdp-quality-assurance@amazon.com]
Sent: 21 January 2019 21:59
Subject: Notification from Amazon KDP

While reviewing the following books we found the title, cover image, descriptions and/or authors of the following book(s) are misleading to our customers:

Title: Corrosion (The Corroding Empire Book 1)
ASIN: B06XFQ24QC

As a result, the book(s) have been removed from sale from Amazon.

However, today Amazon shut down the Castalia House KDP account and banned Day from opening any others. Not only that, Day was told he will not receive any unpaid royalities that he may be owed on sales.

As last communicated in the message on January 21, 2019, we have identified the submission of content for which you did not have the necessary rights. Due to this and previous violations, we are terminating your account and your Agreement effective immediately.

As part of the termination process, we will close your KDP account and remove the books you have uploaded through our channels from sale on Amazon. Note that you are no longer eligible to receive unpaid royalties for sales that occurred prior to this termination.

Additionally, as per our Terms and Conditions, you are not permitted to open any new KDP accounts.

Despite the message, Day sounded confident the account would be reopened.

Of course, there were no previous violations that internal SJWs did not invent as we’ve been repeatedly cleared of the “misleading” charge for that book. Needless to say, we will not be taking this latest SJW attack lying down. I won’t be surprised if the account is rapidly restored once we contact the manager who has been repeatedly dealing with this issue, especially since we were promised that it would never happen again after the last time.

Or he did before he updated the post with this calamitous discovery —

UPDATE: Amazon can’t even find the account information. It looks like whoever was responsible actually wiped all the data.

[Thanks to rcade for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 1/18/19 Learn To Scroll The Pixelphone, I File Just What I Feel, Drink Straight Tully All Night Long, And Filk Behind The Wheel

(1) AMAZON SAYS THEY’RE NOT TO BLAME. “Amazon hits back at claims it is to blame for falling author earnings”The Guardian has the story.

Amazon has called the conclusions of a recent report into US author earnings flawed, after the Authors Guild suggested that the retail giant’s dominance could be partly responsible for the “a crisis of epic proportions” affecting writers in the US.

The report from the writers’ body, published last week, highlighted the statistic that median income from writing-related work fell to $6,080 (£4,730) in 2017, down 42% from 2009, with literary authors particularly affected. Raising “serious concerns about the future of American literature”, the writers’ body singled out the growing dominance of Amazon for particular blame. “Amazon (which now controls 72% of the online book market in the US) puts pressure on [publishers] to keep costs down and takes a large percentage, plus marketing fees, forcing publishers to pass on their losses to authors,” said the report.

But on Wednesday, Amazon took issue with the report’s conclusions. “The Authors Guild has acknowledged that there are significant differences between the data it compared in its recent survey and years prior, noting that ‘the data does not line up’,” said an Amazon statement. “As a result, many of the survey’s conclusions are flawed or contradictory. For instance, the survey also shows that earnings increased almost 17% for traditionally published authors and 89% for independent [self-published] authors, and that full-time authors saw their median income rise 13% since 2013.”

(2) OVERSAUCED. Cora Buhlert wrote an emphatic dissent from Lee Konstantinou’s Slate article “Something Is Broken in Our Science Fiction” (linked in the Scroll a few days ago). Buhlert’s post is titled “Science Fiction Is Dying Again – The Hopepunk Edition”

…And now science fiction is dying again. Or rather, it already died in the 1980s and has been shambling along like a mirroshaded cyberpunk zombie ever since. For inspired by the hopepunk debate that broke out in late December (chronicled here), Lee Konstantinou weighs in on cyberpunk, hopepunk, solarpunk and the state of science fiction in general as part of Slate‘s future tense project (found via File 770). And this is one case where I wish I could use the German phrase “seinen Senf dazugeben” (literally “add their mustard”) instead of the more neutral English “weigh in”. Because Lee Konstantinou absolutely adds his* mustard, regardless whether anybody actually wants mustard or whether mustard even fits the dish….

(3) THE NEXT SFWA PRESIDENT. He’s not a SFWA member but he believes that could change — Jon Del Arroz declares “My Endorsement Of Mary Robinette Kowal For SFWA President” [Internet Archive link]

…Outreach to underserved and underrepresented writers in the SFF community

Again, the most important aspect of this, as the most underserved and underrepresented writers in the SF/F community are conservatives and Christians. These groups feel like they’re not welcome anywhere within the sphere of publishing, and it needs to change.

I’m confident Ms. Kowal will enact change here, which is the primary reason for my endorsement. I also volunteer to act as an ambassador to the conservative/Christian writing communities on her behalf, as many writers feel they can safely speak with me in confidence, when their concerns might get them ostracized or their businesses hurt if they voice their issues elsewhere. With me in such a role, we can repair the bridge in fandom so we can make it about books again, and selling for authors, and not about petty political squabbles.

Ms. Kowal has demonstrated to me personally that she is sincere in this effort by attempting to assist me with Worldcon 2018 when they horribly discriminated against me last year because of my outspoken beliefs, and because I was under threat of physical harm being done to me at their convention by extreme left-wing agitators.  The cycle of victim blaming must stop, and Kowal has assured me SFWA will not be an organization that will treat conservative authors as 2nd class citizens. This is a human rights issue and very big for me!

But Kowal also puts her money where her mouth is. When I was coming up and needed promotion as a writer, Kowal featured me on her blog not just once—but twice, and the second after I’d already become a prominent outspoken conservative within the community. She cares about books FIRST – and this is what sets her apart from others.

I’m excited for her tenure so I can finally join the professional guild (as is my due) without being shut down and held to standards others within SFWA are not.

(4) SPOCK BACKSTORY. Showrunner Alex Kurtzman discusses the launch of Star Trek: Discovery season 2 with The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Star Trek’ Showrunner: ‘Discovery’ Season 2 Is About Spock’s ‘Unwritten Chapter’”.

Discovery season one seemed like a declarative end of a chapter with the Federation-Klingon war coming to its conclusion. Why did you choose to start the second chapter by bringing in the Enterprise, considering its notoriety?

We discover in season one that Michael has a relationship with Spock. The mystery of why Spock, who we’ve known for over 50 years, has never mentioned his sister, is huge. It felt like there was no way we were going to be able to answer that question in one or two episodes. It was easily going to be the substance of a whole season. This season is a deep-dive into that relationship and what went wrong, their history and where they’re headed. That excited me. It’s the unwritten chapter of how Spock became the character that we meet in the original series. We’ll come to understand that were it not for his relationship with Michael, many of the things we know and love about Spock may not have flowered in the way that they did.

(5) LOOKING GOOD. Camestros Felapton reviews the premiere in “Star Trek Discovery: Brother (S2E1)”.

…Launching into this first episode reminded me that I do actually like these characters. I felt happy to see Michael, Tilly, Saru and Stamets again. Also, Discovery remains visually impressive, it’s easily the best looking Star Trek. The promised story arc appears to be a mysterious simultaneous signal from five points across the galaxy — a signal that Spock knows something about and which (apparently coincidentally) Captain Pike has been tasked with investigating….

(6) COSTA BOOK AWARDS. The 2018 Costa Book Awards, a general literary prize in the UK, have a winner of genre interest — Stuart Turton won the First Novel award for The Seven (or 7 1/2) Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

At a party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed – again.  She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day Aidan Bishop is too late to save her.  The only way to break this cycle is to identify Evelyn’s killer.  But every time the day begins again, Aidan wakes in the body of a different guest.  And someone is desperate to stop him ever escaping Blackheath……   

Stuart Turton is a freelance travel journalist who’s previously worked in Shanghai and Dubai.  He’s the winner of the Brighton and Hove Short Story Prize and was longlisted for the BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines competition.  TV rights for The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle have been optioned by House Productions.  He lives in West London with his wife and daughter.     

Judges: ‘Impossibly clever, genre-busting murder mystery that feels like a mash-up of Cluedo, Sherlock and Groundhog Day.’

(7) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “WCFF-Dream” on Vimeo is an animated version of “I Dreamed a Dream” with many cute animals that was shown at the World Conservation Film Festival in October.

(8) PEARLMAN OBIT. Alan R. Pearlman (1925-2019) has died at the age of 93. The New York Times notes he was —

Founder of ARP Instruments and designer of its early synthesizers, which were used in Star Wars: A New Hope (R2-D2’s beeps), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (that infamous 5-note sequence, shown being played on an ARP 2500), and the 1980’s version of the Dr. Who theme.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 18, 1882 A.A. Milne. Oh Pooh has to count as genre, doesn’t he? Certainly that an exhibition entitled “Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic” appeared at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London shows his place in our culture. There’s also Once on a Time, a rather charming fairy tale by him. And though it isn’t remotely genre, i wholeheartedly recommend The Red House Mystery, a Country House Mystery that’s most excellent! (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 18, 1933 John Boorman, 86. I will admit that he does not at all have a lengthy genre resume though it’s quirky one nonetheless as it manages to encompass one howlingly horrible film being Zardoz featuring Sean Connery in diapers and Excalibur giving us a bare breasted Helen Mirren as Morgana. Did you know by the way that Robert Holdstock wrote the novelisation of The Emerald Forest which he directed? He also directed Exorcist II: The Heretic which frankly the less said about, the better.
  • Born January 18, 1937 Dick Durock. He was best known for playing Swamp Thing in Swamp Thing and The Return of Swamp Thing and the following television series. His only other genre appearances were in The Nude Bomb (also known as The Return of Maxwell Smart) and  “The First” of The Incredible Hulk. (Died 2009)
  • Born January 18, 1953 Pamela Dean, 66. Her best novel is I think Tam Lin though one could make an argument for Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary which Windling claims is her favorite fantasy novel. Her Secret Country trilogy is a great deal of fun reading. Much of her short stories are set in the Liavek shared universe created by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Alll of these are now available on all major digital platforms. According to the files sitting in my Dropbox folder, there’s eight volumes to the series. They’re wonderful reading. End of plug.
  • Born January 18, 1955 Kevin Costner, 64. Some of his films are his genre films are really atrocious, to wit Robin Hood: Prince of ThievesWaterworldThe Postman and the recent Dragonfly but I really like  his Field of Dreams and his acting in it as Ray Kinsella is quite excellent. Not quite as superb as he was as  “Crash” Davis in Bull Durham but damned good. I forgot until just reminded that he was Jonathan Kent in both Man of Steel and  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I know that’s two more horrid films he’s been in. 
  • Born January 18, 1960 Mark Rylance, 59. Prospero’s Books, an adaption of The Tempest which I really want to see, The BFG and Ready Player One are the films he’s been in. An active thespian, he’s been in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Royal Opera House, Hamlet at American Repertory Theater and Macbeth at Greenwich Theatre to show but a few of his appearances.
  • Born January 18, 1968David Ayer, 51. Film director, producer and screenwriter. Recent genre film from him were Suicide Squad and Bright, both of which have Will Smith in them and both of which, errr, were utter crap. He’ll be directing Gotham City Sirens which will not presumably have Will Smith in it. Yes I’m being snarky. 

(10) SIGNS OF SPRING. Jonathan Cowie announced that the Spring edition of SF2 Concatenation is now online, with its rich mix of con reports, articles, seasonal giant news page and loads of book reviews.

(11) BRICKS OF MONEY. Bloomberg says “The Hot New Asset Class Is Lego Sets”.

In a paper titled “Lego — The Toy of Smart Investors,” Dobrynskaya analyzed 2,300 sets sold from 1987 to 2015 to measure their price-return over time. She found that collections used for Hogwarts Castles and Jedi star fighters beat U.S. large-cap stocks and bonds, yielding 11 percent a year. Smaller kits rose more than medium-sized ones, similar to the size effect in the Fama-French model (though the relation isn’t exact).

Lego sets that focus on superheroes, Batman and Indiana Jones are among the ones that do best over time. The Simpsons is the only Lego theme that has lost value, falling by 3.5 percent on average.

(12) DANISH CRIME FICTION AWARDS. The winners of the 2018 Danish Criminal Academy Awards for the best Danish crime fiction have been announced.

The Harald Mogensen Prisen for the best thriller went to Jesper Stein for his novel Solo.

The Danish Criminal Academy’s debut award was won by Søren Sveistrup for the thriller novel “Kastanjemanden” (The Chestnut Man).

 The Palle Rosenkrantz Award for this year’s best foreign thriller novel has been awarded to Michael Connelly for Two Kinds of Truth. The award recognizes the best crime fiction novel published in Danish. It is named in honour of Palle Rosenkrantz (1867-1941), who is considered the first Danish crime fiction author; his novel Mordet i Vestermarie (Murder in Vestermarie) was published in 1902.

(13) J FOR JANUARY AND JOY. Cora Buhlert’s guest post “Space Opera and Me” is part of the Month of Joy project of the Skiffy and Fanty Show:  

At the time, a friend asked me why I always watched Star Trek, even though I’d seen much of it before and it was all the same anyway. “You watch soap operas, don’t you?” I asked her. She nodded and said, “Yes, to relax.” – “Well, Star Trek is my soap opera,” I told her.

I was on to something there, because there are similarities between space operas and soap operas beyond the fact that both started out as derogatory terms including the word “opera”. Both soap operas and space operas (and actual operas for that matter) offer larger-than-life drama with a huge cast of characters. Both offer the grand spectrum of emotion, love and hate, birth and death, weddings and funerals. However, space opera has aliens, ray guns, starships and space battles to go with the melodrama.

Another thing that unites space operas and soap operas is that no matter how fascinating the settings, how shocking the twists, how grand the melodrama, what makes us come back for more are the characters. The best space and soap operas feature people (in the loosest sense of the term) we want to spend time with, whether it’s in the mundane surroundings of Coronation Street or Lindenstraße or on the deck of a starship or the surface of an alien planet.

(14) FLOCKS OF HUGO RECOMMENDATIONS. Nerds of a Feather makes its collective picks in several Hugo categories at each post. Examples are included below.   

“2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 2: Visual Work Categories”

Graphic Story

  • Destroyer, Victor LaValle and Dietrich Smith
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Volume 7: Synthesis, by Tom Sidell
  • Lumberjanes, Volume 8: Stone Cold, by Shannon Waters and Kat Leyh
  • Monstress: Volume 3: Haven, by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda
  • Saga: Volume 9, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  • The Walking Dead, Volume 29: The Lines We Cross, by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
  • White Sand: Volume 2, by Brandon Sanderon, Rik Hoskin, and Julius Gopez
  • X-Men: Grand Design, by Ed Piskor

“2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 3: Individual Categories”

Fan Writer

“2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 4: Institutional Categories”

Semiprozine

(15) HOW WE GOT HERE. An article in this week’s Nature reminds me of the old t-shirt design pointing out “You are here” — “The Once and Future Milky Way” [PDF file].

Data from the Gaia spacecraft are radically transforming how we see the evolution of our Galaxy.

There was a a smashup between the young Galaxy and a colossal companion . That beast once circled the Milky Way like a planet around a star, but some 8 billion to 11 billion years ago, the two collided, massively altering the Galactic disk and scattering stars far and wide. It is the last-known major crash the Galaxy experienced before it assumed the familiar spiral shape seen today. Although the signal of that ancient crash had been hiding in plain sight for billions of years, it was only through the Gaia space probe’s data set that astronomers were finally able to detect it.

(16) CITY CHESS. Maybe nothing to do with Brunner’s The Squares of the City, but designers can plot their moves with this — “Virtual cities: Designing the metropolises of the future”.

Simulation software that can create accurate “digital twins” of entire cities is enabling planners, designers and engineers to improve their designs and measure the effect changes will have on the lives of citizens.

Cities are hugely complex and dynamic creations. They live and breathe.

Think about all the parts: millions of people, schools, offices, shops, parks, utilities, hospitals, homes and transport systems.

Changing one aspect affects many others. Which is why planning is such a hard job.

So imagine having a tool at your disposal that could answer questions such as “What will happen to pedestrian and traffic flow if we put the new metro station here?” or “How can we persuade more people to leave their cars at home when they go to work?”

This is where 3D simulation software is coming into its own.

Architects, engineers, construction companies and city planners have long used computer-aided design and building information modelling software to help them create, plan and construct their projects.

But with the addition of internet of things (IoT) sensors, big data and cloud computing, they can now create “digital twins” of entire cities and simulate how things will look and behave in a wide range of scenarios.

(17) YOUNGER THAN RINGTIME. BBC says “Saturn’s spectacular rings are ‘very young'” — thought likely for a while, but now it’s locked down.

We’re looking at Saturn at a very special time in the history of the Solar System, according to scientists.

They’ve confirmed the planet’s iconic rings are very young – no more than 100 million years old, when dinosaurs still walked the Earth.

The insight comes from the final measurements acquired by the American Cassini probe.

The satellite sent back its last data just before diving to destruction in the giant world’s atmosphere in 2017.

“Previous estimates of the age of Saturn’s rings required a lot of modelling and were far more uncertain. But we now have direct measurements that allows us to constrain the age very well,” Luciano Iess from Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, told BBC News.

(18) BOX SCORE. The sff/horror drama Bird Box was very good for Netflix’s business:

Shows including Bird Box helped Netflix end 2018 with more than 139 million subscribers, adding 8.8 million members in the last three months of the year.

Bird Box was watched by 80 million households in its first four weeks after release

The firm reported quarterly revenue of $4.2bn (£3.2bn), up 27% from the same period in 2017.

(19) WALK THIS WAY. Cnet explains how “Scientists built a lizard-like robot based on a 280-million-year-old fossil”.

You can tell a lot about an animal from the way it moves, which is why scientists have been recreating the movements of an extinct crocodile-like creature called Orobates pabsti. Orobates lived well before the time of the dinosaurs and is what’s called a ‘stem amniote’ – an early offshoot of the lineage which led to birds, reptiles and mammals. Using 3D scans of an exquisitely preserved Orobates fossil – and an associated set of fossilised footprints – researchers were able to build a dynamic computer simulation of the creature’s movement. The simulation incorporates data from extant animals such as lizards and salamanders to create more realistic motion as it walks along. And the simulation didn’t just stay on a computer; the researchers tested the models in the real world using a Orobates robot, helping bring this ancient creature to life.

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Alan Baumler, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 11/21/18 Never Pixel Or Scrollardy. Never Click Up, Never File In

(1) WORLD FANTASY CON. After Silvia Moreno-Garcia criticized WFC 2019 for announcing an all-white guest slate, the concom’s answer did not allay complaints. And the World Fantasy Convention Board’s answer to a letter she sent them has only fanned the flames. Moreno-Garcia’s screencap of their reply is part of a reaction thread which starts here.

Once the copy of the letter was tweeted, the WFC Board and World Fantasy Con 2019 came in for another round of criticism from writers including —

  • N.K. Jemisin (Thread starts here.)

  • Jeff VanderMeer (Thread starts here.)

  • S.A. Chakraborty (Thread starts here.)

  • Michi Trota (Thread starts here.)

  • Fonda Lee (Thread starts here.)

(2) JEMISIN AT HAYDEN PLANETARIUM. On Tuesday, November 27 the Hayden Planetarium Space Theater in New York will host “Astronomy Live: The Perfect Planet”.

Earth is a rare and special place in the universe. Astrophysicist Jackie Faherty joins forces with Broken Earth series author N.K. Jemisin to examine what makes our planet unique compared to others in our solar system and beyond. Find out where artists and scientist alike look for life beyond Earth, from Io to Enceladus and beyond.

(3) DON’T RALPH. NPR’s Scott Tobias tells us “Toxic Masculinity Is The Bad Guy In ‘Ralph Breaks The Internet'”.

In Ralph Breaks the Internet, a hyperconnected sequel to the animated hit Wreck-It Ralph, the possibilities of a Disney/Star Wars/Marvel crossover are breathlessly celebrated while fragile masculinity threatens to destroy the world. Cultural anthologists of the future will require no carbon dating to recognize this film as extremely 2018. In fact, as a screen grab of online and entertainment culture, Ralph Breaks the Internet seizes so shrewdly on the times that the prospect of watching it 10, 20 or 100 years from now is more exciting than seeing it in a theater today, when it feels too much like an animated extension of everyday stresses and distractions. Clickability isn’t always a virtue.

(4) CRITICS AT THE FBI. The Harper’s Magazine post “Literary Agents” has excerpts from Writers Under Surveillance in which they reprint the FBI’s description of writers they were watching.

The FBI said Ray Bradbury was “a freelance science fiction writer whose work dealt with the development and exploitation of Mars, its effect on mankind, and its home world.”

By contrast, they said Gore Vidal was “A writer who is intolerable, masquerading as smart-aleck entertainment.”

(5) COURSE CORRECTION. In “DC’s Birds Of Prey a ‘great opportunity’ to end ‘sluggish’ films”, a BBC writer asks, “Could this be DC’s Guardians of the Galaxy moment?”

Movies about Superman and Justice League may have flopped with the critics, but DC will be hoping to find more favourable reviews for new franchise, Birds Of Prey.

Or, to give the movie its full title: Birds Of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn.

Margot Robbie revealed the full title of the film on Instagram.

And it certainly seems like they are steering away from the dark, sour tones of Batman vs Superman this time around.

View this post on Instagram

😆

A post shared by @ margotrobbie on

(6) GOREY FLASHBACKS. A new biography tells of “The mysterious, macabre mind of Edward Gorey”. The title/author are somewhat buried in the article– Born To Be Posthumous by Mark Dery.

That he is not better known elsewhere is perhaps due to the unclassifiable nature of his work – yet his influence can be seen everywhere, from the films of Tim Burton to the novels of Neil Gaiman and Lemony Snicket.

Gorey himself was a complicated, reclusive individual whose mission in life was “to make everybody as uneasy as possible”. He collected daguerreotypes of dead babies and lived alone with 20,000 books and six cats in his New York apartment. Sporting an Edwardian beard, he would frequently traipse around the city in a full-length fur coat accessorised with trainers and jangling bracelets.

(7) UNDER AN ASSUMED NAME. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast has tons of advice to share — “SFFMP 208: Improving Visibility, Launching New Pen Names, and the ‘Trifecta of Indie Success’”.

This week, we’re joined by fantasy and science fiction author Nicholas Erik, who also writes and experiments under the pen name D.N. Erikson. He’s an analytical guy who’s always observing what’s working and what’s not, both for his own work and for others.

  • Reasons for launching a pen name and whether it should be secret or not.
  • Trying a new series and new genre when you’re not getting the results you hoped for from your first effort.
  • Nick’s “trifecta of indie success” — marketing, craft, and productivity….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • November 21, 1924 – Christopher J. R. Tolkien, 94, Writer and Editor who is the son of  J. R. R. Tolkien, and editor of so much of his father’s posthumously-published material. He drew the original maps for the Lord of the Rings, and provided much of the feedback on both The Hobbit and LoTR; his father invited him to join the Inklings when he was just twenty-one years old, making him the youngest member of that group. He published The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise: Translated from the Icelandic with Introduction, Notes and Appendices. The list  of his father’s unfinished works which he has edited and brought to published form is a long one; I’ll leave it to the august group here to discuss their merit, as I have mixed feelings on them.
  • November 21, 1937 – Ingrid Pitt, Actor from Poland who emigrated to the UK who is best known as Hammer Films’ most sexy female vampire of the early Seventies. Would I kid you? Her first genre roles were in the Spanish movie Sound of Horror and the science-fictional The Omegans, followed by the Hammer productions The Vampire Lovers, Countess Dracula, and The House That Dripped Blood. She appeared in the original version of The Wicker Man and had parts in Octopussy, Clive Barker’s Underworld, Dominator, and Minotaur. She had two different roles in Doctor Who – somewhat of a rarity – as Dr. Solow in the “Warriors of the Deep” episode and as Galleia in “The Time Monster” episode. (Died 2010.)
  • November 21, 1941 – Ellen Asher, 77, Editor who introduced many fans to their favorites, as editor-in-chief of the Science Fiction Book Club (SFBC) for thirty-four years, from 1973 to 2007 (exceeding John W. Campbell’s record as the person with the longest tenure in the same science fiction job). She was personally responsible for selecting the monthly offerings to subscribers, and oversaw the selection of individual works for their special anthologies and omnibuses. She has been honored with a World Fantasy Special Award and an Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction. In 2009, she was given a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and she was Editor Guest of Honor at Worldcon in 2011.
  • November 21, 1942 – Al Matthews, Actor, Singer, and former Marine with two Purple Hearts, who is best known for his appearance as Gunnery Sergeant Apone in Aliens – a performance so memorable that his character was the inspiration for Sgt. Avery Johnson in the Halo franchise. He reprised his role 27 years later in the video game Aliens: Colonial Marines. Other genre films include The Fifth Element, Superman III, Riders of the Storm (aka The American Way), Omen III, The Sender,  and Tomorrow Never Dies. (Died 2018.)
  • November 21, 1944 – Harold Ramis, Actor, Writer, and Producer, best-known to genre fans for his role as Egon Spengler in the Saturn-winning, Oscar- and Hugo-nominated Ghostbusters and its lesser sibling Ghostbusters II (the scripts for both of which he co-wrote with Dan Aykroyd). He had voice roles in Heavy Metal and Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, and a cameo in Groundhog Day, for which he received Saturn nominations for writing and directing. He was also director and producer of Multiplicity. (Died 2014.)
  • November 21, 1945 – Vincent Di Fate, 73, Artist and Illustrator who has done many SFF book covers and interior illustrations since his work first appeared in the pages of Analog in 1965. He was one of the founders of the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA), and is a past president. In addition to his Chesley Award trophy and 7 nominations, he has been a finalist for the Professional Artist Hugo 11 times, winning once; two collections of his artwork, Infinite Worlds: The Fantastic Visions of Science Fiction Art and Di Fate’s Catalog of Science Fiction Hardware, have been Hugo finalists as well. He was Artist Guest of Honor at the 1992 Worldcon, for which he organized their Art Retrospective exhibit. He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2011. You can see galleries of his works at his website.
  • November 21, 1950 – Evelyn C. Leeper, 68, Writer, Editor, Critic, and Fan, who is especially known for her decades of detailed convention reports and travelogues. A voracious reader, she has also posted many book reviews. She and her husband Mark founded the Mt. Holz Science Fiction Club at Bell Labs in New Jersey (Mt = abbreviation for the labs’ Middletown facility), and have produced their weekly fanzine, the MT VOID (“empty void”), since 1978; it is currently at Issue #2,041. She was a judge for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History for 20 years. She has been a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twelve times, and Fan Guest of Honor at several conventions, including a Windycon.
  • November 21, 1953 – Lisa Goldstein, 65, Writer, Fan, and Filer whose debut novel, The Red Magician, was so strong that she was a finalist for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer two years in a row. Her short fiction has garnered an array of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominations, as well as a Sidewise Award. The short story “Cassandra’s Photographs” was a Hugo and Nebula finalist and “Alfred” was a World Fantasy and Nebula finalist; both can be found in her collection Travellers in Magic. Her novel The Uncertain Places won a Mythopoeic Award. You can read about her work in progress, her reviews of others’ stories, and other thoughts at her blog.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Rabbits Against Magic has a wonderful “Cartoon Lexiconville” showing English words and phrases that were originated in or popularized by comic strips.
  • Pay attention authors! Incidental Comics illustrates “Types of Narrators.”

(10) FLAME ON! “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fry!” – is not a quote from “’Eat, Fry, Love’ a Turkey Fryer Fire Cautionary Tale presented by William Shatner & State Farm.” (Released in 2011 but it’s news to me!)

It is a turkey fryer cautionary tale with excellent video of the dangers associated with using turkey fryers. It shows how fire can rapidly intensify, spread, destroy and cause serious injury. Enjoy this video, learn from it and stay safe.

 

(11) SICKROOM HISTORY. Brenda Clough tells Book View Café readers it’s easy to make — “Feeding Your Invalid in the 19th Century 2: Barley Water”.

Horatio Wood’s ‘Treatise on therapeutics’ (1879) says that “Barley-water is used as a nutritious, demulcent drink in fevers.” It is still in use….

(12) PRIME TIMING. At NPR — “Optimized Prime: How AI And Anticipation Power Amazon’s 1-Hour Deliveries”. Skeptic Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a comment: “I’ll believe in their AI when it issues delivery instructions good enough that packages for someone else’s front door don’t show up at my side door.”

But a lot of it is thanks to artificial intelligence. With AI, computers analyze reams of data, making decisions and performing tasks that typically require human intelligence. AI is key to Amazon’s retail forecasting on steroids and its push to shave off minutes and seconds in the rush to prepare, pack and deliver.

“It goes beyond just being able to forecast we need a hundred blouses,” Freshwater says. “We need to be able to determine how many do we expect our customers to buy across the sizes, and the colors. And then … where do we actually put the product so that our customers can get it when they click ‘buy.’ ”

That’s a key element to how Amazon speeds up deliveries: The team predicts exactly where those blouses should be stocked so that they are as close as possible to the people who will buy them.

(Note: Amazon is one of NPR’s financial supporters.)

This process is even more essential now that the race is on for same-day and even same-hour delivery. Few other retailers have ventured into these speeds, because they’re very expensive. And few rely quite so much on AI to control costs while expanding.

(13) THE ROADS MUST ROIL. NPR finds “Climate Change Slows Oil Company Plan To Drill In The Arctic”. They were relying on winter ice to let gravel trucks drive out to build a drill pad in the water. No ice, no driving.

A milestone oil development project in Alaska’s Arctic waters is having to extend its construction timeline to accommodate the warming climate. The recently approved Liberty Project — poised to become the first oil production facility in federal Arctic waters — has altered its plans due to the shrinking sea ice season.

The challenge comes as the Trump administration has reversed an Obama-era policy and proposed re-opening the majority of Alaska’s federal waters to drilling. It’s pushing to hold a lease sale in the Beaufort Sea next year. The lease for the Liberty Project pre-dates the Obama-era ban on oil development in Arctic waters.

(14) MORE BRICKS THAN LEGO. “Drones called in to save the Great Wall of China” – the BBC video shows how drone surveys identify the most-decayed parts of hard-to-reach sections, so reconstruction can be targeted where it’s most needed.

(15) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman has strategically released Episode 82 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast before people have a chance to stuff themselves on Thanksgiving. Scott invites you to savor a steak dinner with comics legend Paul Levitz.

Get ready to get nostalgic — or rather, listen to me get nostalgic — on an episode of Eating the Fantastic which features a guest I believe I’ve known longer than any other — comics legend Paul Levitz.

Paul and I go way back, all the way to Phil Seuling’s 1971 Comic Art Convention, when I would have been 16 and him 15, both fans and fanzine publishers, long before either of us had entered the comics industry as professionals. We later, along with a couple of other friends, roomed together at the 1974 World Science Fiction Convention in Washington D.C. As you listen, think of us as we were in the old days — that’s us in 1974 compared to us now —

In 1976, he became the editor of Adventure Comics before he’d even turned 20. He ended up working at DC Comics for more than 35 years, where he was president from 2002–2009. He’s probably best known for writing the Legion of Super-Heroes for a decade, scripting the Justice Society of America, and co-creating the character Stalker with Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko. He was given an Inkpot Award at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2002 and the Dick Giordano Hero Initiative Humanitarian of the Year Award in 2013 at the Baltimore Comic-Con. And if you try to lift his massive and essential history 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking, you’re going to need to see a chiropractor.

We discussed why even though in a 1973 fanzine he wrote he had “no desire to make a career for myself in this industry” he’s spent his life there, how wild it was the suits let kids like us run the show in the ’70s, the time Marv Wolfman offered him a job over at Marvel (and why he turned it down), what he learned from editor Joe Orlando about how to get the best work out of creative people, the bizarre reason Gerry Conway’s first DC Comics script took several years to get published, how he made the Legion of Super-Heroes his own, which bad writerly habits Denny O’Neil knocked out of him, the first thing you should ask an artist when you start working with them, why team books (of which he wrote so many) are easier to write, our shared love for “Mirthful” Marie Severin, how glad we are there was no such thing as social media when we got started in comics, why Roger Zelazny is his favorite science fiction writer, and much, much more.

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

Amazon Names Best SFF Books of 2018

Christelle Dabos’ A Winter’s Promise (translated from the French by Hildegarde Serle) is Amazon’s pick as the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy book of 2018. It tops Amazon’s year’s best list posted November 9.

  • A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos (tr. Hildegard Serle)
  • Exit Strategy by Martha Wells
  • How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin
  • Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
  • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
  • Gunpowder Moon by David Pedreira
  • Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews
  • The Spaceship Next Door by Gene Doucette
  • Rosewater by Tade Thompson
  • The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
  • The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander
  • Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
  • Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang
  • Vita Nostra by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko
  • Iron Gold by Pierce Brown
  • Before Mars by Emma Newman
  • The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
  • The Black God’s Drums by P. Djeli Clark
  • Tsumik and the Enslaved Fox by Forthright
  • The Razor by J. Barton Mitchell

Pixel Scroll 11/8/18 Octokittens

(1) DUMBLEDORE. Another Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald  featurette, “Distinctly Dumbledore,” released this week. The movie arrives in theaters November 16.

At the end of the first film, the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) was captured by MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), with the help of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). But, making good on his threat, Grindelwald escaped custody and has set about gathering followers, most unsuspecting of his true agenda: to raise pure-blood wizards up to rule over all non-magical beings. In an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s plans, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists his former student Newt Scamander, who agrees to help, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided wizarding world.

 

(2) WHAT’S UP, WHITE WOLF? Joseph D. Carriker identifies a big problem with the next Camarilla book for Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition in a public post on Facebook.

So, filing this under “Second Verse Same As The First”: the excerpt below is from the upcoming Camarilla book for Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition.

In it, it describes a vampire-dominated Chechnya. Even setting aside the gross implications of that design decision – and there are plenty of them – it also turns the internment of queer people into literal death camps into what amounts to a distraction.

This text literally refers to the “controversy” (which is such a weighted word in this context, quite frankly, carrying with it connotations of mountains being made of mole-hills) over queer internment and murder as “clever media manipulation.” This text literally turns the ending of queer lives into a throw-away feint that hides vampires. Which is a monstrous reframing of that real-world thing STILL GOING ON.

This is egregiously vile. It’s not okay. Our lives are constantly being *ended* for straight peoples’ prejudices in real life, but also in fiction and media for straight peoples’ fucking entertainment, and all of this is just “second verse same as the first.”

…This is not a good fucking look, White Wolf. Not in the least.

(3) PRO TIP. How to avoid crossouts while autographing books:

(4) ABEBOOKS BACKS DOWN. An Amazon subsidiary has yielded to an international protest by booksellers and abandoned its plans to stop allowing rare and used booksellers in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia and South Korea to sell books on AbeBooks. The New York Times article “After Protest, Booksellers Are Victorious Against Amazon Subsidiary” says the “Banned Booksellers Week” protest involved nearly 600 booksellers around the world who stopped selling nearly 3.8 million titles via AbeBooks.

A worldwide strike by antiquarian booksellers against an Amazon subsidiary proved successful after two days, with the retailer apologizing and saying it would cancel the actions that prompted the protest.

It was a rare concerted uprising against any part of Amazon by any of its millions of suppliers, leading to an even rarer capitulation. Even the book dealers said they were surprised at the sudden reversal by AbeBooks, the company’s secondhand and rare bookselling network.

The uprising, which involved nearly 600 booksellers in 27 countries removing about four million books, was set off by the retailer’s decision to cut off stores in five countries: the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, South Korea and Russia. AbeBooks never explained its actions beyond saying it was related to payment processing.

“AbeBooks was saying entire countries were expendable to its plans,” said Scott Brown, a Eureka, Calif., bookseller who was an organizer of the strike. “Booksellers everywhere felt they might be next.”

… “I don’t think anything like this has ever happened before with any part of Amazon,” said Juozas Kaziukenas, chief executive of Marketplace Pulse, an e-commerce analytics firm. “It would be much harder to have a strike on Amazon itself, just because there are so many sellers there and they are not part of an organized community.”

(5) KATHERINE KURTZ JOINS WOTF PANEL. Broadway World reports “Internationally Acclaimed Author, Katherine Kurtz, Named as Judge for Writers of the Future”.

Historical fantasy author of the Deryni series, Katherine Kurtz, is the newest judge to join the ranks of the internationally-acclaimed L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest, now in its 35th year.

Kurtz is now amongst a blue-ribbon panel of 23 judges, including Brandon Sanderson, Orson Scott Card, Nnedi Okorafor, Tim Powers, Jody Lynn Nye, and Robert Silverberg….

(6) REMEMBER THE CRATONS. Fragments of ancient continents, known as cratons, have been isolated as parts of Antarctica using data from a European satellite (Newsweek: “Lost Continents Hidden Deep Beneath Antarctica Ice Sheet Discovered From Space”). Cratons—both in Antarctica and as parts of other continents—comprise the oldest surviving parts of Earth’s lithosphere. The satellite data was from a mission that ended in 2013.

Scientists have discovered the remnants of ancient lost continents hidden deep beneath Antarctica’s ice. Using the European Space Agency’s gravity mapping satellite, researchers were able to peer beneath the ice to map out the terrain below.

The findings, published in Scientific Reports, reveal a long-lost landscape littered with cratons—large, stable blocks of the Earth’s crust that are remnants of ancient continents. They are part of the lithosphere—which consists of the crust and upper mantle—and are generally found in the center of modern continental plates. Studying these features allow researchers to understand the history of the Earth—and its future.
The ESA’s Gravity Field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite was launched in 2009 to measure the pull of Earth’s gravity. However, during its last year of operation, it was flown at an altitude of just 158 miles—meaning it could take extremely accurate measurements of localized gravity gradients. Using this data, the team was able to build up a patchwork 3D image of the lithosphere beneath Antarctica—including the cratons.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 8, 1847 – Abraham “Bram” Stoker. You know that he’s author of Dracula, but did you know he wrote other fiction such as The Lady of the Shroud and The Lair of the White Worm? The short story collection Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories was published in 1914 by Stoker’s widow, Florence Stoker. (Died 1912.)
  • Born November 8, 1906 – Matt Fox. I’m here to praise an illustrator of one of those magazines that published the stories of such writers as Robert Bloch, Manly Wade Wellman and Ray Bradbury. The covers by Fox were of course intended to lure you to magazine rack, pick up the magazine and purchase it. Such was what he did for Weird Tales from 1943 to 1951. After that, during the fifties and sixties he worked for Atlas Comics, inking and penciling Journey into Mystery, World of Fantasy, Tales of Suspense and Journey into Unknown Worlds. It is thought that his last known published work is an advertisement, printed in 1967, for original mail-order glow-in-the-dark posters. (Died 1988.)
  • Born November 8, 1932 – Ben Bova. He’s written more than 120 books. While at Analog, he won six Hugo awards as Best Professional Editor, and he was once editorial director at Omni. Hell, he even had the thankless job of SFWA President. (Just kidding. I think.) I couldn’t hope to summarize his literary history, so I’ll single out his Grand Tour series that, though uneven, is overall splendid hard sf, as well as his Best of Bova short story collections put out recently in three volumes. Like R.A. Lafferty, I know each of you has favorites by him.
  • Born November 8, 1952 – Alfre Woodard. Her most memorable genre role is as Lily Sloane in Star Trek: First Contact in which she assisted Zefram Cochrane in building the Phoenix. Other genre roles are Captain America: Civil War,  A Series of Unfortunate EventsLuke Cage, The Last Ship, True Blood, The animated Black Panther, and  K-PAX.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) TEXAS LEGISLATOR OF GENRE INTEREST. Here’s an election news item you may have missed — Luke Plunkett, in Dragon Ball Z Composer Elected To Texas State Senate” on Kotaku says that Nathan Johnson, a lawyer who has composed a lot of Dragon Ball Z music, was elected to the Texas state senate from the 16th district as a Democrat.

Johnson, a Democrat, won 54% of the vote to beat out the incumbent, Republican Don Huffines. It’s not like he just suddenly jumped into office from composing—he’s a lawyer by trade…

(10) WELCOME HOME. Been a long time since I was overseas, however, I remember the importance of gifts that are easy to pack…

(11) A SPLIT-LEVEL HEAD. James Davis Nicoll, who barely has room enough for his own thoughts, tells why he’s horrified by the idea – “Get Out of My Head: SFF Stories About Sharing Brain-Space With Somebody Else” at Tor.com.

I have a modest dream. I hope one day to live in an isolated skull-shaped mountain guarded by carnivorous birds. My lair would be surrounded by a fearsome fence, adorned with the heads of uninvited guests. I like my privacy. It should not surprise anyone, then, that I would emphatically NOT like to have a second person sharing my head.

Mental timeshares are a rich source of plot for science fiction and fantasy authors. I was reminded of this trope when I was reading, or re-reading, a few novellas in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric series.

(12) STAND ASIDE, CHAUVET. “Indonesian Cave Hold Oldest Figurative Painting Ever Found, Scientists Say” — new uranium-thorium dating tech shows paintings are 40,000 years old, vs Chauvet’s 32,000 and Lascaux’s mere 17,000.

It depicts … a cow. Despite the humble subject matter, the painting is extraordinary because it’s at least 40,000 years old. That makes it thousands of years older than the oldest such paintings in Europe.

The Indonesia painting is one of thousands of drawings and stencils in a warren of limestone caves tucked into remote mountains at the far eastern edge of the island of Borneo, a part of Indonesia called Kalimantan. Archaeologists went there in the 1990s looking for cave art.

The BBC reports uncertainty from some reviewers:

The prehistoric cave paintings of Lascaux and Chauvet in France, and Altamira in Spain, are similarly magnificent. They contain images of a veritable prehistoric menagerie, including cave lions, hyenas, horses, deer, rhinos and bison.

But a paper published earlier this year in the journal Science pushed the dates for cave art in Europe back to as much as 65,000 years. These paintings pre-date the known arrival of modern humans in Europe, leading to the study’s suggestion that they might have been made by Neanderthals.

One of the authors of that paper in Science was Prof Alistair Pike, an archaeologist from the University of Southampton. Prof Pike – who was not involved with the new research – welcomed the findings, but expressed reservations about the date for the oldest figurative painting.

(13) NEW FOSSIL SITE. NPR is there to see the bones — “Scientists Unveil Ancient Sea Monsters Found In Angola”.

When the South Atlantic Ocean was young, sea monsters ruled it.

Some of their bones have turned up along the coast of West Africa and are going on exhibit Friday at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. They tell a story of the bloody birth of an ocean.

The fossils of giant swimming reptiles called mosasaurs have been found in the rocky cliffs of Angola, overlooking the Atlantic. It’s not a country known for fossils. Few scientists have looked there — half a century of civil war made it too dangerous. But geologically, Angola is special.

(14) DOWNSIZING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The Verge talks  bout how “SpaceX’s helipad-equipped boat will bring astronauts safely home”. I mean, Apollo used a frikin’ aircraft carrier plus many other ships for recovery. Now SpaceX will use the GO Searcher, which looks more like the captain’s gig for an aircraft carrier—though it does have a brand new helipad grafted above the main deck.

Go Searcher is part of a fleet of ocean vessels that SpaceX has acquired over the years to aid in its spaceflight efforts. The most famous of these are SpaceX’s autonomous drone ships, which are used as landing pads when the company’s Falcon 9 rockets are recovered in the ocean after launches. Go Searcher used to accompany these drone ships when they were tugged back to shore as a support vessel. But at the end of summer, SpaceX gave Go Searcher a suite of upgrades — including the addition of a helipad and a radar dome — to make sure the boat can swiftly recover Dragon capsules that carry astronauts back to Earth.

As part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, SpaceX has been developing the Crew Dragon capsule to take astronauts to the ISS. And the company is also responsible for getting these crews safely back to Earth. When astronauts need to return home, the plan is for the Crew Dragon to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. During an ideal mission, Go Searcher will lift the Crew Dragon out of the water with a crane, attached to the end of the boat, according to NASA. The capsule will then be hauled onto the deck of Go Searcher, and the astronauts will be evaluated by doctors from SpaceX and NASA.

(15) BOOK TRAILER. Does A Town Divided by Christmas mark the beginning of a “War on Christmas” series by Orson Scott Card?

It began with a quarrel over which newborn should be the baby Jesus in the town’s Christmas pageant. Decades later, two scientists arrive to study small-town genetic patterns, only to run up against the invisible walls that split the leading citizens into two congregations that can only be joined by love and forgiveness. And maybe a little deception, because there might be some things that people just don’t need to know.

 

(16) REACH OUT AND TOUCH E.T. One grad student – completely disregarding warnings by everyone from Stephen Hawking to Cixin Liu — would like to use a laser beam to send a “Here We Are” signal to aliens (Popular Mechanics: “Firing a Giant Laser Into Space Could Help Find Aliens, MIT Scientist Says”). There’s no word if the laser would be attached to a shark.

If scientists wanted aliens to find Earth, how would they arrange such an encounter? A new paper from MIT suggests that a giant laser, magnified by a giant telescope and aimed out into space, could do the trick.

In what author James Clark calls a “feasibility study,” he proposes that a high-powered 1-to 2-megawatt laser be focused directly into space. While the Earth has been sending signals like radio waves into space for over a century, like those famously seen in the opening of Contact, it’s possible that solar entities like the sun and exoplanets beyond the solar system have been interfering with signals, making it harder for potential aliens to touch base.

The goal of the laser-telescope rig is the creation of an energy beam, meant to stand out amid all of the excess noise in the solar system. Its target would be areas like Proxima Centauri, the closest star to Earth, and TRAPPIST-1, a star around 40 light-years away with seven exoplanets in orbit. Scientists say 3 of those exoplanets are potentially habitable.

“If we were to successfully close a handshake and start to communicate, we could flash a message, at a data rate of about a few hundred bits per second, which would get there in just a few years,” says Clark, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, in a press statement.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The 3-Second Dumpling” on YouTube explains how you can cook dumplings in three seconds if you happen to have a cannon and a flamethrower! (I may have linked to this one before – but let’s do it again!)

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

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 7/28/18 Error 770 Pixel Not Scrolled

(1) HUGO VOTING CLOSES JULY 31. Worldcon 76 sent members a reminder earlier in the week:

Voting for both will end on Tuesday, July 31, 2018 at 11:59 PM PDT.  Online voting forms and Voter Packet downloads for both sets of awards are located on the Worldcon 76 website. The 2018 ballot can be found at https://www.worldcon76.org/hugo/vote.php and the 1943 ballot can be found at https://www.worldcon76.org/hugo/retro_vote.php.

(2) SHAKEN, NOT BEAMED UP. This is not my father’s Popular Mechanics, full of fannish esoterica like “Ten Forward Vodka Is What Riker Puts in His Martini”.

The next time you want to grab a vesper martini with a Vulcan or pour yourself a holodeck Harvey Wallbanger, reach for a bottle of Ten Forward. That’s right: There is now an officially licensed Star Trek: The Next Generation vodka made by Silver Screen Bottling Company and named for Guinan’s bar on the USS Enterprise-D.

The best thing about this novelty booze is clearly the bottle. Its type and graphics are an homage to the LCARS computer system seen on all the terminals and pads used throughout the show.

(3) AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH. BBC does a word study: “Tsundoku: The art of buying books and never reading them”.

Do you have a habit of picking up books that you never quite get around to reading?

If this sounds like you, you might be unwittingly engaging in tsundoku – a Japanese term used to describe a person who owns a lot of unread literature….

The word “doku” can be used as a verb to mean “reading”. According to Prof Gerstle, the “tsun” in “tsundoku” originates in “tsumu” – a word meaning “to pile up”.

So when put together, “tsundoku” has the meaning of buying reading material and piling it up.

“The phrase ‘tsundoku sensei’ appears in text from 1879 according to the writer Mori Senzo,” Prof Gerstle explained. “Which is likely to be satirical, about a teacher who has lots of books but doesn’t read them.”

While this might sound like tsundoku is being used as an insult, Prof Gerstle said the word does not carry any stigma in Japan.

(4) AMAZON’S AMBITIOUS GENRE TV PLANS. SYFY Wire has published a story (“Star Trek 4 Writers to Helm Lord of the Rings TV Series and More from Amazon Studios”) with a variety of news from Amazon about upcoming genre shows. The headline news is that “writers JD Payne and Patrick McKay [who wrote the upcoming 4th Star Trek movie] will oversee the Lord of the Rings TV series” which is expected to air no sooner than 2020. The series will be set in a time prior to the events of the LorR books (and movies) but little other details has been annoiunced by the studio. Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke has said “It’s a vast world and so many ways to go with that property. We brought in so many people with abundant enthusiasm for the property. They will move us into the the next stage as they build out this world.”

The SYFY Wire story also brings news of other genre series from Amazon:

  • THEM: Covenant[…] is: ‘Set in 1953, Alfred and Lucky Emory decide to move their family from North Carolina to an all-white Los Angeles neighborhood. The family’s home on a tree lined, seemingly idyllic street becomes ground zero where malevolent forces both real and supernatural threaten to taunt, ravage and destroy them.’”
  • Half-hour comedy Upload“will revolve around the ability of humans to upload themselves to a selected afterlife” and is said to be “a sci-fi romcom [that] will star Robbie Amell [and] Andy Allo.”
  • Cryptically, “Avengers: Infinity Wardirectors Joe and Anthony Russo are developing ‘a radical global storytelling disruption’ that will be ‘a large-scope, multi-layered international event series’ [and an] ‘origin mothership series will function as a fire-starter to ignite the creation of multiple original local language and local production series. All of the local series are meant to enhance the entire entertainment experience and will be available for the viewer to deep dive into an imagined layered world.’”

(Can anyone parse that last one and tell me what that last sentence really means?)

(5) THIRTY YEARS OF THE SIMPSONS?! Mike Riess, veteran of The Simpsons, has written a book about the series: Springfield Confidential.

Four-time Emmy winner Mike Reiss—who has worked on The Simpsons continuously since episode one in 1989—shares stories, scandals, and gossip about working with America’s most iconic cartoon family ever. Reiss explains how the episodes are created, and provides an inside look at the show’s writers, animators, actors and celebrity guests. He answers a range of questions from Simpsons fans and die-hards, and reminisces about the making of perennially favorite episodes.

In his freewheeling, irreverent comic style, Reiss reflects on his lifetime inside The Simpsons—a personal highlights reel of his achievements, observations, and favorite stories. Springfield Confidential exposes why Matt Groening decided to make all of the characters yellow; dishes on what it’s like to be crammed in a room full of funny writers sixty hours a week; and tells what Reiss learned after traveling to seventy-one countries where The Simpsons is watched (ironic note: there’s no electricity in many of these places); and even reveals where Springfield is located! He features unique interviews with Judd Apatow, who also provided the foreword, and Conan O’Brien, as well as with Simpsons legends Al Jean, Nancy Cartwright, Dan Castellaneta, and more…

(6) REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY. Adweek points out a reference-filled video: “Buckle Up. This Short Film From a Financial Tech Startup Is Part Black Mirror, Part ‘They Live’”.

Bank ads love to talk about your dreams. A bucolic retirement, an Ivy League education for your kids, that five-bedroom home with the “Sold” sign in the yard.

But a new long-form ad—or branded short film, more accurately—from Canadian financial tech startup Koho positions banks not as the enablers of your best life but rather as harvesters of dreams, brutally siphoning customers of both their money and their aspirations.

It’s not a pretty picture.

Dystopian, bleak and visceral, “Dream Thieves” accomplishes exactly what Koho set out to do with its first major marketing push. Led by Jason Chaney, Koho’s chief creative officer, the video was directed by French music video visionary Fleur Fortuné and produced by acclaimed Canadian agency Cossette, where Chaney previously served as chief strategist.

Sci-fi aficionados will notice no small number of references, some subtle and others overt, to previous movies, shows and even ads. While the overall tone may remind modern TV viewers of the Netflix anthology Black Mirror, Chaney says his team has counted roughly 30 references in “Dream Thieves,” including callbacks to A Clockwork Orange, Poltergeist and Apple’s iconic ad “1984.”

 

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

When you complain about slow internet service, remember this:

The first transcontinental phone call was held between the device’s inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, and his former assistant Thomas Watson in 1915. Bell called from Dey Street in New York City to Grant Avenue in San Francisco. It took five telephone operators 23 minutes to manually connect the call. (Source: Wikipedia)

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 28, 1956 The Cyclops had its theatrical release
  • July 28, 1995Waterworld premiered

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born July 28 – Georgia Engel, 70. First genre appearance on the first Fantasy Island series followed by lots voice work in such productions as The Special Magic of Herself the Elf, Dr. Doolittle 2,  and the Hercules series.
  • Born July 28 – Lori Loughlin, 54. First genre work was in The Tom Swift and Linda Craig Mystery Hour series, also the Amityville 3-D film, the animated Justice League Unlimited series, likewise the animated Casper: A Spirited Beginning film.
  • Born July 28 – Elizabeth Berkley, 46. Yes she’s done some genre work including The Twilight Zone, Perversions of Science which appears to be akin to the Tales from The Crypt series, the animated Armitage III: Polymatrix series, and the Threshold series which pops up regularly in these birthday notes.
  • Born July 28 – Tom Pelphrey, 36. Regular role in the Iron Fist series and not much else for genre work other than appearing in Ghost Whisperer.
  • Born July 28 – Dustin Milligan, 33. Regular role in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency series; other genre roles were on Andromeda (which I’ve not seen — worth seeing?), in the Final Destination 3 film, The Dead Zone, Supernatural, and a bit of probably horrible horror called Demonic.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) RELOADED.  Lou Antonelli’s Hugo nominee “Replacement Pins” have arrived. Photo at the post.

(12) A THOUSAND TIMES, NEIGH. The Verge shows why “The future of search-and-rescue robots might be centaur, not human”. The embedded video has the bot doing what looks for all the world like a tai chi routine for the first several seconds of the ~3 min video.

Centauro is the latest experiment by scientists to find the most adaptable and useful body-shape for robots designed to help in disasters. Usually, these machines are built like humans, with two arms and two legs, but researchers are increasingly finding that hybrid designs offer more flexibility. With its four wheeled legs, Centauro is more stable than a humanoid bot, but still retains the two forward-facing arms needed for manipulating objects like tools and doors. (Or, as in the video below, karate-chopping some plywood for fun.)

(13) WHEN THE SEA IS BOILING HOT. NPR explains how “Hot Weather Spells Trouble For Nuclear Power Plants”.

Air temperatures have stubbornly lingered above 90 degrees in many parts of Sweden, Finland and Germany, and water temperatures are abnormally high — 75 degrees or higher in the usually temperate Baltic Sea.

That’s bad news for nuclear power plants, which rely on seawater to cool reactors.

Finland’s Loviisa power plant, located about 65 miles outside Helsinki, first slightly reduced its output on Wednesday. “The situation does not endanger people, [the] environment or the power plant,” its operator, the energy company Fortum, wrote in a statement.

The seawater has not cooled since then, and the plant continued to reduce its output on both Thursday and Friday, confirmed the plant’s chief of operations, Timo Eurasto. “The weather forecast [means] it can continue at least a week. But hopefully not that long,” he said.

(14) NO SINGULAR SENSATION. Forbes says the public needs to catch up, that model is decades out of date: “There Was No Big Bang Singularity”.

…There is a theorem, famous among cosmologists, showing that an inflationary state is past-timelike-incomplete. What this means, explicitly, is that if you have any particles that exist in an inflating Universe, they will eventually meet if you extrapolate back in time. This doesn’t, however, mean that there must have been a singularity, but rather that inflation doesn’t describe everything that occurred in the history of the Universe, like its birth. We also know, for example, that inflation cannot arise from a singular state, because an inflating region must always begin from a finite size.

Every time you see a diagram, an article, or a story talking about the “big bang singularity” or any sort of big bang/singularity existing before inflation, know that you’re dealing with an outdated method of thinking. The idea of a Big Bang singularity went out the window as soon as we realized we had a different state — that of cosmic inflation — preceding and setting up the early, hot-and-dense state of the Big Bang. There may have been a singularity at the very beginning of space and time, with inflation arising after that, but there’s no guarantee. In science, there are the things we can test, measure, predict, and confirm or refute, like an inflationary state giving rise to a hot Big Bang. Everything else? It’s nothing more than speculation.

(15) BITE ME. Here’s some more bad science you’ll be less surprised to hear about. The Washington Post’s Emily Yahr notes that Discovery broadcast Megalodon:  Fact vs. Fiction last night, even though there is no evidence that hungry prehistoric sharks are in the ocean: “A fake Shark Week documentary about megalodons caused controversy. Why is Discovery bringing it up again?”

At the beginning of this special, a narrator explains the dust-up. Unflattering headlines from news articles at the time (“Discovery kicks off Shark Week with dishonest documentary”) and angry tweets fly across the screen. The special keeps a tongue-in-cheek tone; at one point, shark conservationist Julie Andersen acknowledges the scenes of Shark Alley, a real-life area off the South African coast, was pretty accurate in the fake film.

“But let me repeat myself: There are no megalodons!” she adds.

“We get it, smarty-pants. No megalodons roam the modern seas,” the voice-over narrator shoots back. “But when they did, the oceans were like a Darwinian Thunderdome, survived only by the fittest and biggest.”

(16) HOLD FAST. Beth Elderkin at Gizmodo’s io9 takes a look at Star Wars weapons and the characters who love them (“A Shockingly In-Depth Examination of How Star Wars Characters Hold Their Weapons”). Though, one might quibble about just how shockingly in-depth it is. Blasters, light sabers, stunners, and even capes are considered. Poses and grips are dissected. As the author puts it, “We’re here to not only explore but celebrate the art of looking cool while holding a toy gun or fluorescent lightbulb on a stick.”

(17) BY GEORGE! Item 5 in yesterday’s Scroll set Camestros Felapton’s muse to weavnig a copacetic comma filk:

[With apologies to Culture Club]

Words running altogether every day
To make sense they need something in their way

[Pre-Chorus]
I’m a sign without conviction
I’m a tiny mark that doesn’t know
How to work as punctuation
I come and go and come and go

[Chorus]
Comma comma comma comma comma chameleon
I come and go and come and go
Usage would be easy if you used me when you pause
Or to break a clause, to break a clause

[Bridge]
An em-dash is not my rival
I’m a punctual revival
It is not a matter of survival
Style guides are not my bible

[Chorus]
Comma comma comma comma comma chameleon
I pause and go and pause and go
Commas would be easy if you used them sparingly
Or not at all or not at all

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

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.]