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.]

Pixel Scroll 5/30/18 Pixels, Scrolls…I’m The Guy With The Book

(1) TAKEDOWN. The New York Post tells how “Accountant embezzled $3.4M from famed literary agency”.

A Manhattan accountant cooked the books at a prestigious literary agency that represents top writers, including “Fight Club” author Chuck Palahniuk, bilking its clients of millions and leaving the company on the brink of bankruptcy, according to legal papers.

Darin Webb, 47, faces 20 years in jail on wire-fraud charges for embezzling $3.4 million from storied Manhattan agency Donadio & Olson, according to a recently unsealed federal criminal complaint.

Although the agency, which also represents the estates of “Godfather” writer Mario Puzo and radio legend Studs Terkel, was not named in court papers, a lawyer representing the firm confirmed to The Post that Donadio & Olson was the subject of the alleged theft.

…The stolen money — allegedly lifted between January 2011 and March of this year — was earmarked for author royalties and advances, the complaint says.

But the theft could be exponentially more, a source told The Post, noting that a forensic accountant is combing through Donadio & Olson’s books all the way back to 2001, Webb’s first year at the agency.

He allegedly fessed up to the theft in March in a videotaped interview with company executives and their attorneys at the agency’s Chelsea office, saying he filed monthly financial reports that “contained false and fraudulent representations in order to accomplish the theft and evade detection,” the complaint states.

Webb was arrested May 15 by the FBI and is out on $200,000 bail.

The Guardian reports on a celebrity victim: “Chuck Palahniuk ‘close to broke’ as agent’s accountant faces fraud charges”.

Palahniuk – one of many starry authors represented by the firm, including the estates of Mario Puzo and Studs Terkel – said his income had dwindled for several years. He had blamed multiple factors, including piracy and problems at his publisher, for the decline in earnings.

More recently, Palahniuk said, “the trickle of my income stopped” and payments for titles including Fight Club 2 “never seemed to arrive”. He wondered if the money had been stolen, but told himself he “had to be crazy” – until the news broke.

“All the royalties and advance monies and film-option payments that had accumulated in my author’s account in New York, or had been delayed somewhere in the banking pipeline, [were] gone. Poof. I can’t even guess how much income. Someone confessed on video he’d been stealing. I wasn’t crazy,” wrote Palahniuk in a statement on his website.

The novelist said that “this chain of events leaves me close to broke”, but that he had found himself to be “rich … with friends and readers who’ve rushed to my rescue”.

“On the minus side, the legal process will be long and offers an iffy reward. On the plus side, I’m not crazy. Nor am I alone,” added the author.

(2) WISCON. Sophygurl, a Tumblr blogger, was present at a controversial WisCon panel and has written an account of what she heard: “WisCon 42 panel The Desire for Killable Bodies in SFF”. The post begins –

This is going to serve as my panel write-up for this panel, but it also a copy of what I wrote as a report to the Safety team about the panel. I am posting this on DreamWidth and Tumblr and will be linking to Twitter and Facebook. Please feel free to link elsewhere. This should all be public knowledge, imo.

For anyone who doesn’t know – this panel included a panelist who ended up talking about the importance of sympathizing with Nazis. This is obviously not the kind of thing you expect to find at an intersectional feminist convention. It was upsetting and disturbing. Most of the panel was actually very interesting and even funny, and I appreciated what the other two panelists had to say. I even appreciated *some* of what the panelist in question had to say. All of this was overshadowed by the awful things she said, however.

(3) BRANDON SANDERSON WARNS FANX. Utah author Brandon Sanderson has raised his voice against “Harassment at FanX”. (For background, see “FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention Sharply Criticized for Handling of Anti-harassment Complaint”.)

I don’t normally discuss charged issues on my social media, but I do find harassment at science fiction conventions a topic that is very important to discuss. It is also very relevant to my fans, as conventions are often how they interact with me.

Recently, Salt Lake City’s biggest media convention (FanX, formerly called Salt Lake Comic Con) has made some troubling missteps. First, it grossly mishandled harassment claims—then it doubled down on its mistakes, bungling interactions with voices that have called for reform.

Some authors I respect deeply have composed an open letter to FanX, calling for them to do better—and I have co-signed it. Many of these authors have spoken better about this specific issue than I can, and I encourage you all to read what they have said. I believe that conventions like these (alongside the smaller literary conventions that were so instrumental in my road to publication) are important parts of our community—and it is essential that they provide a place where victims are not silenced and harassment is not tolerated.

For now, I am still scheduled to appear at FanX this fall. My team and I have been evaluating whether or not this is a position we can still take—and it will greatly depend on how FanX responds to this letter in the next few weeks. I will keep you informed of our decision—and if I do decide to bow out of FanX, I will try to schedule some replacement signings instead.

(4) OPEN LETTER. The “Open Letter to FanX” that Sanderson refers to calls on the convention to do the following thigs:

One: In a public statement, and without disclosing her name, apologize to the victim who filed the sexual harassment report for disclosing their private report to the media without their knowledge or consent. Admit that the victim’s trust was violated, and promise future attendees who may report incidents that they will never undergo the same scrutiny or mishandling. Assure everyone that all reports will be heard, evaluated, and confidential. Keep the victims’ names confidential at all times.

Two: Hire a professional with experience writing, implementing, and upholding sexual harassment policies. Clarify the consequences for breaking the policy and reiterate that those consequences will be upheld. Removal and banishment from the conference should be among those ramifications.

Three: Address harassment complaints quickly. The past complaint was filed in October, and the complaint was not investigated until January. This shows a lack of concern and a reluctance to address the situation, as well as disregard for the seriousness of the issue.

Four: Recognize that trust is earned not through words, policies, and statements, but by a proven track record of implementation and action over time.

It’s signed by Robison Wells, Shannon Hale, Bree Despain, Emily R. King, Ally Condie, and Dean Hale, and co-signed by Brandon Sanderson, Maureen Johnson, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler, Annette Lyon, Mette Harrison, J. R. Johansson, Jessica Day George, Courtney Alameda, Lindsey Leavitt, and Sarah M. Eden.

(5) BOMB DISPOSAL. The Washington Post’s Steven Zeitchik, in “How Disney could get Star Wars back on track”, says the relative failure of Solo at the box office shows that Disney will have to take steps to make Star Wars films more appealing, including spacing them out more, making them edgier, and not releasing Star Wars films in May or June.

Fewer movies. Five months is not a long time for Star Wars to be away. Certainly it’s not the year that stretched between the previous three movies, or the 10 years between the last of the George Lucas movies and “The Force Awakens” in 2015. With Marvel that seems to help — releases in quick succession enhance one another. But with Star Wars, seen less as the rapid-fire sequel, novelty and absence may be the key to the game. Disney could do better by going back to the 12-month spacing — or even longer.

Why it’s tricky: This sounds good to fans. The problem is it doesn’t sound good to Wall Street or Disney financial executives. Star Wars movies are such juggernauts that Disney wants to cash in whenever it can. Waiting that long doesn’t help in that bid. Disney and Lucasfilm are encountering a major paradox here. Modern Hollywood says when you have successes you should replicate them early and often. But making Star Wars movies early and often may make them less successful.

(6) SOLO ACT. Guess who’s writing the tie-in? “’Solo: A Star Wars Story’ Novelization Coming In September 4th, Written By Mur Lafferty”.

The Solo novelization is continuing the trend that The Last Jedi novelization started of being released several months after the film.  Previously the novelizations have been released closer to the films theatrical releases.  The original and prequel novelizations were released before the films, while The Force Awakens and Rogue One adaptations were released as e-books the same day as the film and as hardcovers shortly thereafter.

(7) SFWA STUFF. Security protocols may have been breached….

(8) BIG BOX STORE. Adweek reports “Amazon Is Driving Around a Jurassic-Sized Box, and You Can Ask Alexa What’s Inside”. (Registration required to read full article.)

The last time we noticed Amazon driving around a giant box, the mysterious delivery turned out to be a Nissan Versa. But this time, perhaps it’s something a bit more … carnivorous?

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock thinks those penguin prognosticators might be right about what’s coming: Arctic Circle Cartoons.
  • Not sure whether I should thank Chip for also making sure I didn’t miss a horrible pop-culture pun at Bliss.

(10) THE DIRECTOR VANISHES. Comics shop owner Cliff Biggers showed this photo to his Facebook friends.

UPS employees like Alfred Hitchcock so much that they opened our package, tore open the action figure packaging, stole the figure, and then re-taped the box and sent it to us.

(11) LISTEN UP. The Parsec Awards Steering Committee is accepting nominations for the 2018 Parsec Awards through June 15 – submit nominations here.

Any material released between May 1, 2017 and April 30, 2018 is eligible for the 2018 awards. Material released needs to be free for download and released via a mechanism that allows for subscriptions. Thus, YouTube, Facebook, etc.. series are eligible.

If you are a podcaster or author, please feel free to nominate your own podcast or story. It is one way we know that your contact information filled is correct.

(12) KEEPING SCORE AT HOME. Seanan McGuire, in the area for ConCarolinas this weekend, took time to rate Ursula Vernon’s cats. Start the thread here —

(13) THE LAW & ANN LECKIE. A little known fact (in some quarters).

(14) SPEAKING OF WHOM. Joe Sherry launches his Nerds of a Feather post series with “Reading the Hugos: Novel”:

Provenance: This is a novel which took a while to settle out from under the weight of unfair expectations that I placed on it. Once it did, I was able to engage more fully with Leckie’s story of truth, lies, and cultural identity. Provenance is a strong novel in its own right, and in the end, I appreciated Leckie’s light touch in how she connected it to the larger Ancillary universe.

It’s just that when we look back on Leckie’s career in twenty years, I suspect Provenance will be viewed as minor Leckie. It’s good, please don’t take this the wrong way, but the Ancillary trilogy was a major accomplishment and Provenance is “just” a very good book. I appreciated how Provenance pushed me to think about historical documents and relics, how their perception of importance could override the truth they should represent. There’s great stuff to chew on here

(15) SOLO REVIEW. And Nerds of a Feather contributor Dean E. S. Richard sounds relieved as much as anything in “Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story”.

The good news: it doesn’t suck! I mean, there’s some forgettable stuff, and Han Solo isn’t, like, Han Solo, but if you’re willing to watch it for the sake of itself and not expect Harrison Ford, it’s fine. It tries a little too hard for quips, and his against-odds/I-don’t-actually-have-a-plan moments come across a little forced, but, again, we’re measuring this against complete disaster, so I’ll take it.

(16) SIPS OF CEASELESS. Charles Payseur comments in “Quick Sips – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #252”

Competition can bring out the worst in people, but as this issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies proves, it can also bring out the best. Both stories this issue are about races, and magical ones at that, featuring women who find themselves squaring off against their lovers (former or current) for the chance to win a great prize. In both stories, though, the actual prize might not matter as much as the competition itself, as the thrill of the race. Because when these characters are faced with what they’d do if they won, the results are…interesting. It’s a wonderfully fun pair of stories, expertly paired, and I’ll stop yammering on in introduction and just get to the reviews!

(17) THE ORIGINS DEBACLE GOES ANOTHER ROUND. According to Larry Correia, who was dropped as a GoH of Origins Game Fair two weeks ago, “Origins sent out yet ANOTHER message about me, and my response” [Internet Archive link].

At Monster Hunter Nation he cites this as the text of Origins’ Executive Director John Ward’s message to educate vendors about the social media uproar following the “disinvitation.”

Good afternoon Exhibitors,

We are a few weeks away from Origins and the anticipation is building!

Things are looking great for this year’s show. The Exhibit Hall is officially sold out and badges are currently trending 15% above pre-registration numbers from 2017.

We have taken a brief hiatus from social media but are fully prepared to continue promoting the show and its exhibitors starting this week. Before we begin communicating through social, there are a few things we wanted to bring to your attention.

Some individuals have rallied online with plans to harass companies exhibiting at the show—this is in response to the disinviting of Larry Correia as a guest at Origins.

To provide you with some background: our original decision to invite Larry as a guest at Origins was simple—he’s a successful author, has been a guest at other conventions in previous years, and any one that knows him knows that he is big into gaming.

Unfortunately, we were not aware of Mr. Correia’s online presence and following. Upon further research we found an abundance of confrontational discourse and polarizing behavior online.

We have nothing against Larry as a person or as a professional, but we have seen the drama that follows him, and we do not want that at Origins.

As an exhibitor at Origins, we wanted you to be aware of the general MO of the group we are explaining:

Company pages are inundated with comments and negative rankings
Employers and publishers are contacted
Messages with keywords regarding to the show are targeted

Time has passed, and things have calmed down, but we should all still be aware of these potential behaviors. If you receive any threats or libel regarding you or your company, please send them to John Ward.

Thank you for your support. Good luck with the final preparations for the show!

Correia explains that he actually believes vendors should be left alone. Except for the ones that deserve what’s happening to them, that is.

My only comments during this entire debacle concerning the vendors was that they should be left alone. The vendors are just small businessmen trying to have a good sales weekend, and they have nothing to do with the incompetence of John Ward.  I’ve specifically gone out of my way to say that to my fans on multiple occasions.

The only vendors I’ve seen animosity directed at were the ones who specifically went out of their way to virtue signal on Twitter about how booting me for having the wrong opinions was So Brave. And that’s a short and very specific list who did that usual social media thing where they decided to throw punches, and then cry about getting punched back afterwards.

But hey, toss that out there. The important thing is that everyone knows Origins is the real victim here.

(18) GAME LOSES STEAM. Who thought this was a good idea? “School shooting game Active Shooter pulled by Steam”.

A game pitched as a “school shooting simulation” has been ditched from Steam’s online store ahead of release.

The title had been criticised by parents of real-life school shooting victims, and an online petition opposing its launch had attracted more than 180,000 signatures.

Steam’s owner, Valve, said it had dropped the game because its developer had a history of bad behaviour.

But the individual named has denied involvement.

Active Shooter came to prominence after the BBC revealed that an anti-gun violence charity had described it as “appalling” last week.

CNN subsequently reported that the families of two students killed in February’s high school attack in Parkland, Florida had described the game as being “despicable” and “horrific”.

(19) LE GUIN FILM. I’ve linked to the trailer before, but here’s a new Bustle post about the project: “This Ursula K. Le Guin Documentary Reveals How Much The Author Struggled To Write Women In Sci-Fi”.

Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, a new documentary by Arwen Curry about the life and legacy of the late author, explores Le Guin’s long career as a pioneer in speculative fiction, including the role of feminism in her work and the struggles she faced teaching herself how to write women into her novels. In the film, which Curry worked on with the author for 10 years, Le Guin admits that “from my own cultural upbringing, I couldn’t go down deep and come up with a woman wizard.” According to the author, she had been “a woman pretending to think like a man,” a behavior she had to unlearn before she could create some of her best work.

As Le Guin tells Curry in the film:

“I had to rethink my entire approach to writing fiction … it was important to think about privilege and power and domination, in terms of gender, which was something science fiction and fantasy had not done. All I changed is the point of view. All of a sudden we are seeing Earthsea … from the point of view of the powerless.”

 

(20) BIG HERO 6 THE SERIES. Coming to a Disney Channel near you. (Which means not very close to me, but maybe to you.)

Hiro, Baymax and the Big Hero 6 team are back and ready to save San Fransokyo! Big Hero 6 The Series premieres Saturday, June 9 at 9A on Disney Channel. The adventure continues for 14-year-old tech genius Hiro and his compassionate, cutting-edge robot Baymax. If dealing with the academic pressure of being the new kid at the prestigious San Fransokyo Institute of Technology weren’t enough, it’s off campus where things really get tricky. Hiro and Baymax, along with their friends Wasabi, Honey Lemon, Go Go and Fred, unite to form the legendary superhero team Big Hero 6, protecting their city from a colorful array of scientifically-enhanced villains intent on creating chaos and mayhem!

 

(21) EXPANSE. Already linked in comments, but let the Scroll Record reflect: “It’s official: Amazon has saved The Expanse”. The Verge story says —

It’s official: The Expanse has been saved. After the Syfy Channel canceled The Expanse earlier this month, Alcon Entertainment has confirmed that Amazon will pick up the show for a fourth season, after after outcry from the show’s fans.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/27/18 Pixels Scroll Good, Like An E-fanzine Should

(1) WISCON 42 COC INCIDENT. Wiscon 42 announced on social media that action was taken in response to a Code of Conduct violation on a program item today. Their Twitter thread begins —

And they put up a full blog post: “Killable Bodies In SF Panel”

During the Killable Bodies In SFF panel at WisCon this morning (Sunday), a panelist engaged in Nazi and Confederate apologia and also appeared to posit that disabled or injured people sometimes “have to be sacrificed.”

They continued this behavior even after the audience and other panel members expressed the harm this was causing them.

WisCon rejects these ideas. They are in conflict with our Code of Conduct. The panelist in question will be banned and asked to immediately leave convention spaces.

The relevant passage from the Code of Conduct is here…

If you or anyone you know are in need of any support following this experience, please contact us. We will be working to find folks who can provide emotional support to you.

ETA: This particular individual has been banned for WisCon 42. The decision as to whether this ban will be extended in the future will be determined by our Anti Abuse Team post-con. Should you have information to contribute, you are welcome to email safety@wiscon.net.

Although some deductive guesses have been made about who the panelist was, confirmation has yet to be issued. The program schedule described the item and listed the following participants:

“The Desire for Killable Bodies In SFF”

In SFF with an action element there’s a desire for cool giant battle scenes, heroes who spin, twirl, slice off heads, and general melee violence. This is an old background trope: the killable mook, guard, or minion whose life can be taken in a cool or funny way is familiar from traditional action films. But many SFF stories take this trope further with a killable race or non-sentient army: the Orcs in Lord of the Rings, the Chitauri in Avengers, and the many robot armies that we see represented solely so that heroes can create cool violent carnage without having to answer difficult moral questions. What happens when SFF comes to rely on this trope? If we’re going to have violent action in SFF, is this better than the alternative? Is it ever not just super racist?

Panelists: M: Molly Aplet. Lisa C. Freitag, Nicasio Reed

“your friend sam” livetweeted the panel but did not name the speaker:

EDITOR’S REQUEST: Please do not add your speculation about the person’s identity in comments. I have already figured out who it probably was and could put that guess here — I’m waiting for a witness, or the con, to name the person.

(2) TROLL BRIDGE. Thanks to Signature for throwing a spotlight on this Pratchett-themed production: “Trailer Surfaces For Fan-Made Discworld Film”.

Inspired by Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, “Troll Bridge” isn’t like most other films – it’s spent over a decade in production, and is entirely fan-made. Such a project may sound like it’s cursed to remain in limbo forever, but the film now has a trailer and is being submitted to festivals around the world. Between this and the upcoming Good Omens adaptation, it appears 2019 may be Pratchett’s time to shine. In the meantime, “Troll Bridge” is available for pre-order thanks to crowdfunding – but a Blu-ray is going to set you back $85.

An old barbarian and his talking horse, embark on a suicidal quest to battle a bridge troll. 15 years in the making TROLL BRIDGE is an ambitious odyssey of work in bringing Terry Pratchett’s Discworld to cinematic life.

 

(3) DOZOIS OBIT. Gardner Dozois died May 27 reports Michael Swanwick:

It is my sad duty to note the passing of Gardner Dozois today, of an overwhelming systemic infection, at Pennsylvania Hospital. Gardner was the best of friends, the best of editors, and the best of writers. And now he’s gone.

(4) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born May 27, 1911 – Vincent Price
  • Born May 27, 1922 – Christopher Lee
  • Born May 27, 1934  — Harlan  Ellison

(5) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian discovered a Star Wars fashion secret and an awful pun in Brevity.

(6) THE LATE ALAN BEAN. Astronaut Alan Bean’s death was reported in yesterday’s Scroll. Paul McAuley retweeted a great story about him today — the thread starts here (40 tweets long).

(7) ORIGINAL LANDO. MovieWeb asks “Billy Dee Williams in Training to Return as Lando in Star Wars 9?”

The older Lando Calrissian could be making a return to the big screen for Star Wars 9. 81-year old actor Billy Dee Williams is rumored to be preparing to reprise his role as the ever charming Calrissian after it was revealed that he has been training 3 days a week. Lando has been in the news quite a bit lately due to the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story and Donald Glover’s portrayal of the younger version of the character.

MegaCon Orlando took to social media to reveal that Billy Dee Williams is on a completely new diet for his return as Lando Calrissian. While this news on its own doesn’t really seem like much, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill did the same thing when preparing for 2015’s The Force Awakens and again for The Last Jedi. Williams could be just making lifestyle choices, but the timing is a little close to the production start of Star Wars 9, which is reportedly going to start in July.

(8) FOLLOW ME BOYS. Jon Del Arroz told his 12 donors he is abandoning Patreon and shifting his efforts to Freestrtr after the site banned Faith Goldy for hate speech. He told his blog readers it’ll be a sacrifice for him: “Supporting Faith Goldy – I Disassociate With Censoring Site Patreon” [Internet Archive].

It will be a financial hit for the short term. When moving platforms like this, usually only 80% of people make their way over, and freestrtr takes a bit more of a percentage than Patreon, but its time to make a change, and time to disassociate with companies that would gladly deplatform people like me.

He has 10 Freestrtr donors as of this writing, which puts his 80% estimate spot on.

(9) PAID REVIEWS ON AMAZON. In the April 24 Washington Post, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg report on the vast number of paid reviews still on Amazon, although the reviews are now for products rather than books.  The Post found that 58 percent of the reviews for Bluetooth speakers and 67 percent for testosterone supplements were from paid endorsers.

(10) NO CONCERN OF CERN. Next time you’re in Meyrin, Switzerland, Atlas Obscura advises you to pay homage to the “Birthplace of the Web”.

It may look like any other hallway, but look closely and you’ll notice a historical plaque commemorating a monumental event in digital history: the birth of the web.

The World Wide Web was invented in 1989 by British scientist Tim Berners-Lee. The web, though omnipresent in the age of the internet, was originally meant to be a communication tool for scientists scattered at universities and other institutes around the world.

Berners-Lee was working at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, when he developed the world’s first website. Though simple in appearance, this amazing technological feat revolutionized how we share and store information.

The first website was dedicated entirely to itself: a white page bearing nothing but typed hyperlinks. It described the WWW project, as well as core features of the web like how to set up a server and access documents. It was hosted on Berners-Lee’s NeXT computer, which is still at CERN. In 1993, CERN put the World Wide Web software in the public domain.

Interestingly, Berners-Lee faced some pushback for his invention, as some at CERN believed it was a waste of resources and wasn’t part of the organization’s core mission. Now, however, the organization at least marks the corridor where the web was born.

(11) THE EDITORIAL PROCESS. Kim Huett did a clean scan of this illo from Science-Fiction Times V12 #278 (September 1957) (which also is online at Fanac.org) and wrote a short introduction. Huett says —

I expect the artists among you will appreciate Kelly Freas’ depiction of the editorial process. The rest of you will hopefully enjoy Freas exploring his inner ATom (or is just me who sees a resemblance?)

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

Pixel Scroll 5/25/18 The Prospect Of Incontinent Hobgoblins

(1) FANX FLOUNDERS ON. How long will FanX’s Bryan Brandenburg’s “indefinite leave” be?

FanX’s other leader, Dan Farr, now has added his own statement and apology.

I, Dan Farr, apologize fully for any instances in which a participant has felt unsafe. We do not condone these behaviors, from anyone.

It is not our role or responsibility to judge any individual nor to disparage or use inflammatory language about any participant in our conference. It is our role to do all within our power to keep our participants safe. Our conversation with the author resulted in a mutual agreement that he will not be participating in our future events. With this agreement, we consider the matter resolved.

Additionally, my partner and cofounder, Bryan Brandenburg has made a personal and heartfelt apology for his remarks on social media that were insensitive about our attendees’ sexual harassment concerns.

However, continued postings in social media and the press have shown energy and anger to a level that Bryan has decided that his continued participation, for now, is a distraction from the goals we are striving to uphold.

Beginning immediately, Bryan Brandenburg is taking an executive leave that he hopes and believes will help to dispel the negative energy that is taking us away from our greater mission and goals. While he has not suggested a timeframe, this leave may not be permanent. We hope to see Bryan at our September event with his wife and new son.

As for Brandenburg stepping back from social media – well, he’s stepped back from where the public can see it, but he’s still busy posting – see the screencaps in this set of tweets.

Yesterday’s latest Salt Lake Tribune coverage quoted from one of the screencaps that showed Brandenburg justifying how FanX dealt with the Richard Evans harassment complaint:

The comments were later deleted, but not before screengrabs circulated on Twitter.

“We absolutely could not publicly ban [Evans],” Brandenburg wrote. “We had no proof. We would be sued for libel and defamation from Richard. Then it would get out that you would be banned and humiliated from FanX for kissing a guest on the cheek and touching her. We would be out of business. Nobody would care to read the details. We did not see it happen. It would be her word against his.”

Hale has questioned whether organizers attempted to talk to people who may have witnessed the interaction, and whether Brandenburg’s statement means that allegations won’t be looked into if they weren’t witnessed by FanX employees.

FanX’s new harassment policy promises that every report of harassment will be investigated.

Howard Tayler’s Twitter thread deconstructs the Brandenburg rationale, quoted in the Tribune. The thread starts here:

And includes these comments:

(2) OH, THE NONHUMANITY! Here’s an admirable idea for a listicle: “The 12 Most Gratuitous Robot Deaths in Sci-Fi” at Tor.com.

Sometimes it feels like robots only exist to be abused, you know? We love them and the window they provide on the human condition, but science fiction is usually pretty mean to them overall. It loves to torment robots (and when we say “robots” we’re really talking about any form of android or A.I. or sentient toaster or what-have-you) with the constant threat of obsolescence or deactivation or destruction. And some of these deaths are just plain gratuitous, leaving us betrayed, bewildered, and otherwise bereaved.

Here are the worst of them….

(3) MORE POOH. Here’s is Disney’s Christopher Robin Official Trailer. In theaters August 3.

In the heartwarming live action adventure Disney’s “Christopher Robin,” the young boy who shared countless adventures with his band of lovable stuffed animals in the Hundred Acre Wood is now grown up and living in London but he has lost his way. Now it is up to his childhood friends to venture into our world and help Christopher Robin rediscover the joys of family life, the value of friendship and to appreciate the simple pleasures in life once again.

 

(4) NEWSLETTER SIGNUP INCENTIVE. Get to know seven authors and fill a shelf with science fiction and fantasy — The SFF Grand Newsletter Giveaway is a chance to win a dozen signed books. The seven writers in this international group range from debut to established, and from near-future thrillers to high fantasy — Aliette de Bodard, SL Huang, Beth Cato, Kate Heartfield, Jim C. Hines, Kate Elliott, and JY Yang.

Between May 25 and June 25, readers can enter the giveaway once for each author, for up to seven entries. For each author, entrants will have the choice of subscribing to that author’s newsletter to enter (signing up for the newsletter is not required to be entered in the giveaway). Existing subscribers to an author’s newsletter can simply choose the giveaway-only option to receive an entry for that author.

The contest is open worldwide. One winner (chosen at random) will receive signed, physical copies of all the books:

  • The first three Tensorate novellas by JY Yang
  • The complete Court of Fives trilogy by Kate Elliott if the winner has a U.S. address, or a choice of one of the following by Kate Elliott if the winner has a non-U.S. address: Court of Fives, Cold Magic, Black Wolves, or Spirit Gate
  • Terminal Alliance by Jim C. Hines
  • Breath of Earth by Beth Cato
  • Zero Sum Game by SL Huang and The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist (novelette) by SL Huang
  • The Tea Master and the Detective and The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
  • Armed in Her Fashion and Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield

Everyone who uses this page to sign up for ANY of our newsletters before June 25 will be entered into the giveaway! You can enter once for each author, for up to 7 entries. From among ALL entries we’ll draw ONE lucky winner — who will receive SIGNED BOOKS from every one of us! A chance to win a dozen or more signed books — a whole shelf of new SFF!

(5) WRITER V. CHARACTER. Ian Sales, in “His master’s voice”, defends his criticism of a Clarke Award finalist.

So, a couple of days ago I tweeted a short quote from the book I was reading, one of this year’s Clarke Award finalists, and remarked that I was surprised to find the position expressed in the quote in a genre novel published in 2017. Most people who saw my tweet were as dismayed as I was – although, to be fair, they saw only my quote.

Which changes things. Apparently.

The book in question is Sea of Rust by C Robert Cargill, and the exact quote was “Gender is defined by genitalia”, which is spoken by the book’s narrator, Brittle, a robot, in a paragraph in which “she” admits that robots have no gender, it is not something “she” has ever thought about, but she henceforth chooses to define herself as female.

Two people I consider friends – very smart people both, and genre critics whose opinions I respect* – decided to insult my intelligence by questioning by understanding of how narrative works. Because the offending phrase – and it is offensive – was spoken by a character, they stated, that does not mean it reflects the author’s sensibilities. As another friend pointed out, I have myself written fiction featuring Nazis – and I have: ‘Wunderwaffe’ – but that obviously does not make me a Nazi. This is indeed true. Cargill has written a novel about robots, in which the first person narrator is a robot… but obviously he is not a robot himself. I never claimed this.

But the people arguing against my comment were themselves making the same assumption about me they were accusing myself of making against Cargill. Except, I think my position is backed up by the narrative.

…So yes, I do understand how narrative works. I also understand how writing works. And while I may not be as accomplished at writing as others… and I may place a higher value on narrative rigour than most people… I stand my original position:

Unless the narrative evidences a foundation for a sensibility or attitude, then it’s reasonable to assume it is a sensibility or attitude of the author that has leaked through into the narrative.

(6) MARY SHELLEY BIOPIC. NPR’s Mark Jenkins says “‘Mary Shelley’ Is Less Than The Sum Of Its Parts”

Given the familiarity of the material, the makers of Mary Shelley would have been smart to find a new approach. Philosophically, they sort of do, giving Mary more credit than usual for both her work and her choices.

Stylistically, though, the movie is all too typical of the 19th-century British literary/romantic drama. It presents London circa 1815 as misery for the poor, the young, the female, and the liberal-minded — and yet picturesque enough for a tourist brochure, suffused with dappled sun-, lamp- and candlelight and swathed in yearning music.

(7) BAIN OBIT. Meredith marks the passing of “John Bain, also known as TotalBiscuit, the Cynical Brit, who died yesterday after being diagnosed with inoperable cancer in 2015. He was a popular gaming YouTuber and started out by covering the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion before moving on to wider coverage, including a lot of indie games. He championed games on the PC and was always honest about his opinions of games, beginning in a time when that was far less common.”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 25, 1953 It Came From Outer Space appeared in theaters, a movie based on a story by Ray Bradbury.
  • May 25, 1977Star Wars premiered.
  • May 25, 1983Return of the Jedi opened in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY MUPPETEER

  • Born May 25, 1944 – Frank Oz

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cat Eldridge says “I’ve had dozens of emails telling me about the organization and how it’s complying with GDPR.” And now Xkcd is getting in on the act.

(11) NATAL DAY. Steven H Silver celebrates: “Birthday Reviews: Vera Nazarian’s ‘Salmon in the Drain Pipe’” at Black Gate.

Nazarian was nominated for a WSFA Small Press Award for her short story “Port Custodial Blues” in 2007. The following year she received a nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “The Story of Love.” She also received a Nebula nomination in 2009 for her novella The Duke in His Castle. In addition to writing, Nazarian has worked as the editor and publisher of Norilana Books since the company’s founding in 2006.

(12) KNOWS ALL, HEARS ALL, TELLS ALL. The Guardian asks “Alexa, when did the Church of England become so tech-savvy?”

The Amazon assistant can now help you with your Anglican needs. Just don’t expect answers to the really big questions…

Thomas Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer was well ahead of its time when in 1549 it addressed “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be opened, all desires known, and no secrets hid” – but it would take nearly five centuries for the church to turn this vision into technology. For now there is a Church of England “skill” – a set of canned responses – on , Amazon’s virtual assistant which can give its answer to 30 religious questions. It doesn’t answer the interesting ones though. “Alexa, ask the Church of England how can I be saved?” produces a silence easily interpreted as baffled, and I don’t think this is because the Church of England long ago decided that I couldn’t be….

(13) SFF IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. Here’s another list to pick apart, BBC Culture’s “The 100 stories that shaped the world”. Homer’s Odyssey is number 1.

Chip Hitchcock celebrates that “SFF cracked the top 5,” and he tentatively identifies the stories with these rankings as SFF: 3, 4, 15, 16, 44, 67?, 71, 72, 73? 83?

(14) THEY WERE THERE. “How ancient DNA is transforming our view of the past” the “pots not people” (cultural exchange) view is giving way to knowledge that there were huge population shifts, e.g. Stonehenge builders disappearing under flood of Beaker People.

…Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, studies of ancient DNA from our own species were highly contentious because of observations that skeletal remains were easily contaminated by the DNA of living people.

As such, there were always nagging doubts about whether a genetic sequence belonged to the long-dead individual being studied or to an archaeologist involved in excavating the remains, a museum curator who had handled them, or a visitor to the lab where they were being analysed.

However, crucial progress in overcoming these obstacles began in the late 90s with the effort to sequence DNA from Neanderthals, which was led by Professor Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

Pääbo’s group developed a set of protocols to prevent contamination slipping through, including having the same samples sequenced in two laboratories by different teams….

But the field experienced a revolution with the emergence of so-called next-generation sequencing technology. When an organism dies, the DNA in its cells begins to break down – over time it splits into smaller and smaller chunks, as well as accumulating other forms of damage.

It also gets contaminated with vast amounts of microbial DNA from the wider environment. The new sequencing machines could be used to isolate the human genetic material from bacterial DNA and then stitch together the tiny fragments into a readable sequence….

(15) ROADBLOCK. Traffic came to a standstill when….

(16) SFWA GAME CHAT. The inaugural episode of SFWA Game Chat aired this week on YouTube, hosted by Cat Rambo with Monica Valentinelli.

Did you know that SFWA now admits science fiction and fantasy game writers? Cat Rambo introduces a new show that discusses sci-fi/fantasy game writing!

 

(17) GAMING PIONEER. The Great Big Story has released a piece on the woman behind the design of the early 80’s text-based computer/adventure game, The Hobbit. Veronika Megler fell out of contact with the company that developed the game and went for many years without knowing how successful it was and how many lives it touched: “The Hunt for ‘The Hobbit’s’ Missing Hero”.

The six and a half minute video is great and the story of how (now) Dr. Megler has seized upon the lasting power of the game to help address gender balance in computer science is affecting.

 

(18) NOT AGENT 86. Missed out on this shoephone revival:

T-Mobile’s Sidekick gets a remake! Inspired by the past but stepping boldly into the future, it has revolutionary AI, headphones that double as chargers, personalized GPS guidance by John Legere, and more!

 

(19) SECOND OPINION. NPR’s Justin Chang calls Solo “A High-Speed, Low-Energy Intergalactic Heist”:

It was a good sign when Alden Ehrenreich, the terrific young actor from “Tetro” and “Hail, Caesar!” was cast as Han and also when Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the merry comic daredevils behind “The Lego Movie” and “21 Jump Street,” were hired to direct. But then Lord and Miller were fired last year due to apparently irreconcilable creative differences. And you could sense the iron will of Lucasfilm asserting itself. God forbid anyone should try to inject a little wit or personality into this surefire cash cow.

The directors were replaced by the much more risk-averse Ron Howard. And as a consequence, what might have once been a fresh and funny tour de force has devolved into bland, impersonal hackwork.

(20) CANTINA CHOW. Extra Crispy’s Tim Nelson was not impressed with the Solo/Denny’s promotional campaign, launched in April, that included trading cards and (not so) special menu items.

In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Obi Wan Kenobi warns Luke Skywalker that “you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy” than Mos Eiseley, home to the cantina where viewers first meet smuggler and scoundrel Han Solo. It’s also a fitting way to describe any Denny’s located within stumbling distance of a bar after 11 p.m.

…With proceeds from trading card purchases going to help fund nonprofit organization No Kid Hungry, the whole thing seems inoffensive enough. But if some leaked information posted on a Star Wars forum is true, some of the Solo-themed menu items seem a bit silly.

There’s the “lightspeed slam,” a healthy dish that looks more like something from a depressed nutritionist’s Instagram than a meal fit for the Star Wars universe. While Denny’s earns some points for the inclusion of “Crystal Crunch Rocks” in a milkshake and a stack of pancakes, that looks to be the closest the menu gets to anything outside the universe of the diner chain’s typical fare.

As with past Star Wars-food tie-ins, one has to wonder what purpose putting ghost pepper sauce on a bacon cheeseburger and passing it off as something Han Solo might eat ultimately serves. Why not at least serve pancakes shaped like Chewbacca’s face?

(21) NO RECIPE FOR SUCCESS? Mad Genius Club’s Peter Grant made the point that “Writing books is not like frying shrimp”, inspired by the hilarious commercial linked below.

Trouble is, some new entrants into the book-writing and -publishing business think that their ambitions can be realized in a very similar fashion.  Just set up everything, add pre-set ingredients according to some arcane recipe, strike a spark, and voila!  It’s done!

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Meredith, Chip Hitchcock, SL Huang, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, JJ, IanP, and Daniel Dern for some of these stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Elisa.]

Pixel Scroll 5/9/18 They Had Many Books For Their Kindles And Nooks And Hardcovers Kept In A Pile

(1) AWARD REVOKED. While I haven’t located any related protests in social media that would explain the decision, evidently the Romance Writers of America received enough complaints after making their award to the Washington Romance Writers to change their minds: “Update on 2018 Chapter Excellence Award”.

On May 1, 2018, RWA’s board voted to rescind the 2018 Chapter Excellence Award granted to Washington Romance Writers. This decision was made after extensive review and deliberation, because the board found it impossible to hold Washington Romance Writers up as an example of excellence due to a number of complaints received after the board voted to grant the award.

Incidents reported to RWA were submitted by WRW members as well as meeting and retreat attendees who were made to feel unwelcome, disrespected, and embarrassed by members of Washington Romance Writers. Such incidents potentially violate RWA’s Code of Ethics for Members, RWA’s By-Laws, Chapter By-Laws, and are clearly in violation of the Chapter Code of Conduct recently adopted by RWA and required to be included in all chapters’ governing documents by March 2019.

RWA’s board is dedicated to ensuring that all members feel respected, and we will no longer tolerate insensitive or biased behavior. We hope and expect that WRW is willing to take steps to ensure its future success as an RWA chapter. Only by working together can we make RWA stronger.

(2) COCKY OR NOT TO COCKY, THAT IS THE QUESTION. You may have already read news stories about Faleena Hopkins’ effort to trademark the word “cocky” for a series of romance books (her works include Cocky Romantic and Cocky Cowboy) and reports that she warned off some other writers who use the adjective in the titles of their books (see “Romantic novelist’s trademarking of word ‘cocky’ sparks outcry” in The Guardian.)

(3) THE CASE OF THE MISSING COCKY. Now there have been claims that Amazon, a primary sales channel, has been culling other authors’ titles based upon her claim.

What’s more, there have been claims that Amazon has removed some customer reviews using the word “cocky,” and delayed the posting of others (which their makers tried to post either in protest or to test Amazon’s policy.)

You can see this one’s gone:

Original URL: https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R3A3NXV2FH4Q4A

Google cache copy of page with review: https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:zxJaTw9kaAcJ:https://www.amazon.com/Falling-Hard-New-Adult-Anthology/dp/098614150X

However, there are both titles and reviews still on Amazon with “cocky” in them which are not by the author claiming the trademark. There’s no way to tell whether any of those were zapped, then restored, by Amazon.

JJ ran a search of customer reviews containing the word “cocky” and got only 3 hits, which seemed rather low:

https://www.google.com/search?safe=off&biw=1234&bih=656&q=%22cocky%22+romance+site%3Aamazon.com%2Freview

I don’t know. It does seem like a very small search return; they’re almost all “trending” results rather than individual review results, which would indicate that they are quite recent reviews.

Heidi Cullinan did a thread on the topic:

If Amazon is deleting things — what’s with their legal staff? Do they really think they have exposure from this?

The Romance Writers of America have gotten involved:

(4) GILLIAM STROKE. And it was just the other day we were reporting his luck had finally changed for the better: “Terry Gilliam Suffers Minor Stroke Days Before Verdict on Cannes Closer ‘Don Quixote'”.

Terry Gilliam suffered a minor stroke over the weekend, days before a final verdict on whether his long-gestating passion project The Man Who Killed Don Quixote will be screened as the closing film at the 71st Cannes Film Festival.

The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that Gilliam, 77, had a minor stroke but is fine now and recuperating at his home in England, awaiting the outcome of a court ruling regarding the screening of Don Quixote on the last night of the festival May 19. French newspaper Nice-Matin first reported the news.

(5) FIRST LOOK. The Daily Beast tells about “The Secret Photographs of Stanley Kubrick”.

According to Michael Benson’s authoritative Space Odyssey, Kubrick shot setups with the Polaroid then, based on the results, he and cameraman John Alcott adjusted lighting and the placement of his Super Panavision 70mm cameras.

“I think he saw things differently that way than he did looking through a camera,” Alcott told Benson. “When Kubrick looked at this Polaroid still, he would see a two-dimensional image — it was all one surface and closer to what he was going to see on the screen.”

It’s estimated Kubrick shot some 10,000 insta-images on 2001, and if you only know Kubrick as a reclusive eccentric that reliance on the Polaroid might seem a characteristic quirk.

But in fact it was an extension of the creative sensibility he developed as a teenager working for Look. From 1945 to 1950, Kubrick was a photographer for the picture magazine, evocatively and empathically documenting ordinary New Yorkers, celebrities, athletes, and post-war playgrounds like the amusement park.

He shot more than 135 assignments for Look while honing the skills, relationships, and chutzpah that led him to filmmaking.

Yet this vital strand of Kubrick’s artistic DNA has been criminally underexplored. The Museum of the City of New York’s new exhibition Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs, on view through October 28, aims to change that….

(6) HIRED HELP. BuzzFeed takes you “Inside Amazon’s Fake Review Economy”. Given the ongoing debate on deleted reviews on Amazon, it may be interesting that a ReviewMeta algorithmic analysis (per CEO Tommy Noonan) of 58.5 million reviews on Amazon found 9.1% of them (5.3 million) to be “unnatural” and possibly fake. Unsurprisingly, Amazon disagrees claiming that <1% are “inauthentic.” Note that this article is concerned with paid reviews (both positive and negative), not tit-for-tat reviews as have been discussed in File 770.

The systems that create fraudulent reviews are a complicated web of subreddits, invite-only Slack channels, private Discord servers, and closed Facebook groups, but the incentives are simple: Being a five-star product is crucial to selling inventory at scale in Amazon’s intensely competitive marketplace — so crucial that merchants are willing to pay thousands of people to review their products positively.

…In October 2016, Amazon banned free items or steep discounts in exchange for reviews facilitated by third parties. But Tommy Noonan, CEO of ReviewMeta, a site that analyzes Amazon listings, said what he calls “unnatural reviews” — that is, reviews, that his algorithm indicates might be fake — have returned to the platform. In June 2017, Noonan noticed an uptick in unnatural reviews along with an increase in the average rating of products, and the rate of growth hasn’t slowed since.

Amazon’s ban didn’t stop sellers from recruiting reviewers. It only drove the practice underground. Reviewers are no longer simply incentivized with free stuff — they’re commissioned specifically for a five-star rating in exchange for cash. The bad reviews are harder to spot, too: They don’t contain any disclosures (because incentivized reviews are banned, and a disclosure would indicate that the review violates Amazon’s terms). Paid reviewers also typically pay for products with their own credit cards on their own Amazon accounts, with which they have spent at least $50, all to meet the criteria for a “verified purchase,” so their reviews are marked as such.

(7) CYBER TAKEDOWN. Equifax has been in no hurry for the complete damages to be made public. The Register has the latest totals: “Equifax reveals full horror of that monstrous cyber-heist of its servers”.

Late last week, the company gave the numbers in letters to the various US congressional committees investigating the network infiltration, and on Monday, it submitted a letter to the SEC, corporate America’s financial watchdog.

As well as the – take a breath – 146.6 million names, 146.6 million dates of birth, 145.5 million social security numbers, 99 million address information and 209,000 payment cards (number and expiry date) exposed, the company said there were also 38,000 American drivers’ licenses and 3,200 passport details lifted, too.

(8) LOOKING FOR CIVILIZATION THAT PREDATES HUMANITY. Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist at NASA, published a recent paper about what could be left in the geological record that could identify a pre-human technologically advanced civilization.

The drier scientific discussion is here: “The Silurian hypothesis: would it be possible to detect an industrial civilization in the geological record?”

Abstract

If an industrial civilization had existed on Earth many millions of years prior to our own era, what traces would it have left and would they be detectable today? We summarize the likely geological fingerprint of the Anthropocene, and demonstrate that while clear, it will not differ greatly in many respects from other known events in the geological record. We then propose tests that could plausibly distinguish an industrial cause from an otherwise naturally occurring climate event.

Impressively, he has also written a short story about the impact of making such a discovery: “Under the Sun” at Motherboard.

(9) CRAIG OBIT. Noble Craig, U.S. actor, died April 26, 2018. Severely injured during wartime service in Vietnam, he used his disabilities to forge an acting career, taking roles those with four limbs were unable to fill, beginning with Sssssss (1973). Also appeared in Poltergeist II: The Other Side and Big Trouble in Little China (both 1986), The Blob (1988), A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child and Bride of Re-Animator (both 1989).

(10) STAR TOY. Have you fiddled with this yet? — ESASky is an application that allows you to visualize and download public astronomical data from space-based missions. Mlex sent this sample:

(11) 1984. Fanac.org has posted another Hugo ceremony video: “L.A.con II (1984) Worldcon – Hugos and Special Tributes – Robert Bloch, MC.”

Hey, there’s R. A. MacAvoy at 13:00. And guess who at 22:16 and 23:45.

L.A.con II, the 42nd World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Anaheim, CA in 1984. Toastmaster Robert Bloch’s introductory remarks are tantamount to standup comedy, and the video also includes several special and moving tributes along with the Hugos. The first tribute is presented by Robert Silverberg and Harlan Ellison to fan and editor Larry Shaw (who died within the next year) and the second to Robert Bloch himself. There’s also some fun with Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle on stage having to do with a rocket shaped object. Thanks to the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests (SCIFI) for this recording.

 

(12) PLANETARY AWARDS. The 2017 winners of the Puppy-influenced Planetary Awards have been announced.

  • Best Shorter Story: “The First American” by Schuyler Hernstrom (Cirsova).
  • Best Novel: Legionnaire (Galaxy’s Edge) by Jason Anspach and Nick Cole.

(13) FREE CELL. A better model? “Artificial Intelligence Takes Scientists Inside Living Human Cells”

A new application of artificial intelligence could help researchers solve medical mysteries ranging from cancer to Alzheimer’s.

It’s a 3D model of a living human cell that lets scientists study the interior structures of a cell even when they can only see the exterior and the nucleus — the largest structure in a cell. The model was unveiled to the public Wednesday by the Allen Institute for Cell Science in Seattle.

The technology is freely available, and Roger Brent, an investigator at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle who was not involved in the tool’s development, has been using it for several months. He’s a big fan.

“This lets you see things with a simple microscope that are going to be helpful to researchers all over the world — including in less affluent places,” Brent says.

(14) VACUUM POWER. BBC video: “The amazing power of the world’s largest vacuum” — is used for testing spaceworthiness; also tests noise resistance, and was used in first Avengers movie.

(15) DOUBLE STAR. Michael B. Jordan was on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to talk about his recent and his upcoming star turns in sff epics.

‘Fahrenheit 451’ star Michael B. Jordan approaches every role by journaling the character’s backstory, including his portrayal of Erik Killmonger in the blockbuster film ‘Black Panther.’

 

[Thanks to JJ, Steve Green, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Rob Day, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, and David K.M. Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributingh editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 3/12/18 Dammit, Jim, I’m A Filer, Not A Pixel-Scroller!

(1) MOOMIN FAN.  She remembers the Moomin scape her father made for her: “My family and other Moomins: Rhianna Pratchett on her father’s love for Tove Jansson” in The Guardian.

I don’t remember the precise moment I was introduced to the Moomins. They were always just there; a cosy, comforting and slightly weird presence in my childhood that has stayed with me. My father called Tove Jansson “one of the greatest children’s writers there has ever been”, and credited her writing as one of the reasons he became an author.

My father’s family were the kind of postwar, no-nonsense British people who didn’t really do hugs or talk about their feelings. Instead, they showed their love by building things: toys, puzzles, go-carts, treehouses. It was a tradition that my father, still very much the awkward hugger himself, would continue during my childhood. He built me a market stall, a beehive (complete with toy bees), a stove and, most memorably, Moominvalley.

It was crafted out of wood and papier-mache – a staple of all art projects in the 70s and 80s. It had a forest and a river and even a dark cave. He also made the Moominhouse and crafted all the Moomin characters out of clay; then painted and varnished them. Many years later we would turn over an entire attic full of junk trying to find a box that I thought might contain a solitary hand-made Moomin. He’s still out there somewhere.

(2) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. Declan Finn says something’s missing from Amazon. It’s the reviews he’s written about people’s books, and some of the reviews others have written about his books. Why? He calls it “Amazon’s War on Users”.

Has Amazon declared war on authors?

It would seem so at first pass. Last week, I had 315 reviews spread out over my various and sundry projects. Honor at Stake, for example, had 63, 68 reviews.

Today, I only have 238 reviews over all of them. Honor at Stake in particular having only 45 now. When I ask Amazon via email, they know nothing. Could I be more specific? It’s literally EVERY BOOK. They need a road map?

The mystery depends when I looked at reviews that I myself have written. They’re all gone. Poof. Vanished.

What the Hell?

And I’m not the only one. In fact, one writer’s group I’m a part of has had a lot of the same problem.

The Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance.

Funny that. And the one person outside of CLFA who had also had problems is friends with three of us.

However, I’m not about to declare enemy action just yet. For that, I need your help, that of the average reader. Because there is a problem. We can’t ask people outside the group, that we don’t know, if they have the same problem. Why?  Because if we don’t know them, it’s hard to ask. And if we know them, it can be construed as guilt by association.

Camestros Felapton joined the investigation. The conspiracy-minded won’t find his thoughts nearly as pleasing as Finn’s: “Amazon Purging Reviews Again”.

(3) FEAST FOR THE EYES. A cover reveal for Latchkey by Nicole Kornher-Stace, sequel to Archivist Wasp. Art by Jacquelin de Leon.

(4) THE MONEY KEEPS ROLLING IN. BBC reports — “Black Panther film: ‘Game-changing’ movie takes $1bn”.

Marvel’s superhero film Black Panther has taken more than a billion US dollars (£794m) at cinemas worldwide.

It is the fifth movie based in Disney’s Marvel Universe to hit the milestone.

(5) WAKANDA. A group hopes to run Wakanda Con in Chicago, IL this summer. Right now they’re building a list of interested fans.

WAKANDA CON is a fan-driven, one-day celebration of Afro-Futurism, Tech, and Black superheroes in film, television, and comic books, and of course, Black Panther. Our event will be held in Chicago, IL in Summer 2018. Join fellow citizens of Wakanda for discussion, education, networking, and festivities.

Marvel’s Black Panther has ushered in a new wave of thought about issues surrounding the African Diaspora and a new future for Black people around the world. The image of an African country with advanced technology and equality has inspired some of the world’s greatest thinkers and all of Black Twitter to create, think, and respond. WAKANDA CON is chance to take the conversation about Black Panther offline and into the real world.

(6) BRING KLEENEX. John Scalzi gives people lots of reasons to want to see A Wrinkle in Time.

(And, you may ask, what do I think about the film’s multicultural and feminine viewpoint and aesthetic? I think it works very well, and it’s a reminder that things that are not designed specifically for one in mind may still speak significantly and specifically to one, if one is open to it. I would not have imagined A Wrinkle in Time the way DuVernay has — I seriously doubt I could have imagined it this way — and yet there I was crying my eyes out all the same. I do not need the world to be imagined as I would have imagined it. I want the world and the things in it to exceed my imagination, to show me things I cannot make for myself but can take into myself, hold precious, and make my imagination that much wider from that point forward. As I noted before, this movie was not, I think, made for me, and still here I am, loving it as much as I do.)

(7) HEARTFELT STORY. Charles Payseur is just as persuasive in getting people to read his short fiction reviews: “Quick Sips – GigaNotoSaurus March 2018”

GigaNotoSaurus offers up a beautiful short story for March that might have been a bit more appropriate for February and Valentine’s Day because it is adorable and wonderful and sweet and just good! I’m a sucker for romance, and so the focus of this story for me is refreshing, especially because it refuses to tread the same tired paths of angst and powerlessness that seem to dominate so many romantic story lines. It’s not without darkness or sadness, but it’s a story to me about the triumph of love and humans over despair, loss, and death. To the review!

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 12, 1971Andromeda Strain was first released theatrically.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock studied the canine cosmology in Pooch Cafe.

(10) COMEDIAN SECTION. Today’s relevant joke, from the just-late Ken Dodd: “Ken Dodd: 17 of his funniest one-liners”.

So it turns out that if you bang two halves of a horse together, it doesn’t make the sound of a coconut.

(Other 16 are NSF just about everything….)

(11) BEYOND THE FAIL FRONTIER. ScreenRant delights in finding these contradictions: “Star Trek: 17 Memes That Prove The Show Makes No Sense”. They begin with an infographic —

(12) INCLUSIVE OR NOT? Dave Huber, in The College Fix story, “MIT Librarian:  Tech Posters Plastered With Star Trek Posters, Other Geeky Stuff Is Non-Inclusive to Women,” says that MIT head librarian Chris Bourg has said that students should “replace Star Trek posters with travel posters…and generally just avoid geek references and inside nerd jokes” if they want to be inclusive for women.

Since the many incarnations of “Star Trek” are considered some of the most diverse shows in the history of television, not to mention that about half those attending Star Trek conventions are female, The College Fix contacted Bourg about this particular reference.

She responded by pointing out her advice “comes directly from the research,” and provided a link to the study: “Ambient Belonging: How Stereotypical Cues Impact Gender Participation in Computer Science.”

The 2009 study examined whether “stereotypical objects” like Star Trek posters “signal a masculinity that precludes women from ever developing an interest in computer science.” Or, as the authors dub it, how the “ambient belonging” of women is affected by tech-geek ware.

While conceding that the tech-geek “masculinity” in question may not refer to a “traditional definition” (think “strength, assertiveness, and sexual prowess”) the authors argue the “stereotypicality” of the group still has a “profound” effect on the ability to recruit people who do not see themselves as fitting that stereotype.

(13) PROPHET OF DOOM? “Tim Berners-Lee says net has ‘heaps of problems'”. [[Voice only]]

The inventor of the World Wide Web says the internet as we know it is “under threat” and faces “heaps” of problems.

Monday 12 March marks 29 years since Sir Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web. This year is expected to be the first time that more than half of the world’s population will have internet access.

Sir Tim spoke to the BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones about the challenges faced.

(14) ELON MUSK. More blue-skying? “Elon Musk: Mars ship test flights ‘next year'”.

A Mars colony, he said, would reduce the chance of an extended new Dark Ages if a nuclear conflict was to wipe out life on Earth.

But, aware of his reputation, he added: “Sometimes my timelines are a little… y’know.”

But enough about reality.

Elon Musk is unquestionably the most interesting businessman in Silicon Valley – arguably the world – thanks to his almost single-handed reignition of the space race.

(15) MONITORING TV. Rich Lynch says tonight’s “Literary L.A.” Category on Jeopardy! had a Bradbury clue. It even showed a photo of him.

The contestant got it right.

(16) TENT TECH. It’s not your grandfather’s yurt — “To Fight Pollution, He’s Reinventing The Mongolian Tent”.

In Gamsukh’s office those possibilities seem endless. Books, papers and sketches cover a desk and table. Dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, Gamsukh, whose dark hair has a slight orange tint, comes off as artistic. But the sketches he produces are not dreamy musings. They are technical drawings supported by mathematical calculations. They are solid, like the sturdily built Gamsukh. Many are already being implemented, including a partially completed passive solar heated immobile ger that adds windows, insulation and solar collectors to the traditional model. Passive solar heating design uses windows, walls and floors to collect, store and distribute heat in the winter and reject it in the summer. Designs vary depending on the climate in which they are built, but shade can be used to block the sun in summer without taking away from warmth in winter because the sun is higher in summer.

When it is finished, Gamsukh plans to call it home. He is also testing another modified ger that uses solar power and those underground pipes he tried to dig in winter for heat.

(17) SHORT ORDER ROBOT. “Burger-flipping robot begins first shift” at Cali-Burger in Pasadena, CA. See a video of the robot in action, at the link.

Flippy, a burger-flipping robot, has begun work at a restaurant in Pasadena, Los Angeles.

It is the first of dozens of locations for the system, which is destined to replace human fast-food workers.

The BBC’s North America technology reporter Dave Lee saw it in action.

(18) BUSTED. To go with the recent Pixel on Iceland running out of energy due to Bitcoin generation: “Iceland police arrest suspected Bitcoin server thieves”.

Police in Iceland have arrested 11 people suspected of stealing more than 600 computers that were being used to mine crypto-currencies, reports AP.

The computers were stolen during four raids on data centres around Iceland.

The country is a popular location for data centres because almost 100% of the power generated there comes from renewable sources.

(19) THE OTHER JJ. ScreenRant says this JJ Abrams sketch was cut from Saturday Night Live for time.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Allen, John King Tarpinian, Mark Hepworth, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Rich Lynch, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor Niall McAuley.]