Pixel Scroll 11/10/19 Let’s Build Robots With Genuine Pixel Personalities, They Said

(1) FORWARD MOMENTUM. Odyssey Writing Workshop’s Jeanne Cavelos works on “Uncovering the Mysteries of Flow in the Opening of Stephen King’s 11/22/63 in a new post:

…As the director of the Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust, I’m constantly critiquing fiction in our online classes or in-person workshops, and I’ve come to realize how important flow is to a story. A story may have an exciting plot, compelling characters, a fascinating world, and a clear style, but without flow, we’ll be struggling to reach the end.

What is flow? The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that, when applied to composition or speech, to flow is “To glide along smoothly, like a river.” So a story with flow is one that carries the reader ahead smoothly and effortlessly. That describes the sensation we may feel when reading a story with flow, but what techniques can we use to write stories with flow?

This article was inspired by two interesting blog posts by V. Moody analyzing the opening of Stephen King’s novel 11/22/63, and the openings of Stephen King novels in general.

(2) ON THE COVER. Steven H Silver’s latest feature for Black Gate pays tribute to a superb sff artist: “The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Joan Hanke-Woods”. And Richard Chwedyk contributes a section about her life nearly all of which was new to me. 

…She loved SF. She loved fandom. But there were a lot of folks in fandom who could make her regret her passion. This isn’t to say there weren’t good people around, trying to help her whenever they could. Kelly-Freas once told her, “It’s a CRIME you’re not working as a pro!” But for most of her professional years she worked as a legal secretary or administrative assistant in various law offices.

(3) SOUL. Disney Pixar just dropped a teaser trailer for Soul, to be released next June.

“Soul” introduces Joe Gardner, a middle-school band teacher whose true passion is playing jazz. “I think Joe is having that crisis that all artists have,” says Powers. “He’s increasingly feeling like his lifelong dream of being a jazz musician is not going to pan out and he’s asking himself ‘Why am I here? What am I meant to be doing?’ Joe personifies those questions.” In the film, just when Joe thinks his dream might be in reach, a single unexpected step sends him to a fantastical place where he’s is forced to think again about what it truly means to have soul. That’s where he meets and ultimately teams up with 22, a soul who doesn’t think life on Earth is all it’s cracked up to be. Jamie Foxx lends his voice to Joe, while Tina Fey voices 22. “The comedy comes naturally,” says Murray. “But the subtle emotion that reveals the truth to the characters is really something special.”

(4) WORTHY OF THEIR HIRE. Ann VanderMeer exhorts people to “Pay the writer” (and other creatives). Thread starts here.

(5) CONQUER THAT BLANK PAGE. Servicescape has published “660 Science Fiction Writing Prompts That Will Get You Writing at Warp Speed” in a wide variety of subgenres, from Nanopunk and Time Travel to Utopia and Slipstream. Their  new writing guide “aims to help Sci-Fi writers find creative inspiration, get past writer’s block, and discover new story ideas and starters.”

(6) SCIENCE MEETS POETRY. Brain Picking’s Maria Popova introduces  “In Transit: Neil Gaiman Reads His Touching Tribute to the Lonely Genius Arthur Eddington, Who Confirmed Einstein’s Relativity”.

“You have got a boy mixed of most kindly elements, as perhaps Shakespeare might say. His rapidly and clearly working mind has not in the least spoiled his character,” a school principal wrote at the end of the nineteenth century to the mother of a lanky quiet teenager who would grow up to be the great English astronomer Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington (December 28, 1882–November 22, 1944) and who would catapult Albert Einstein into celebrity by confirming his relativity theory in his historic eclipse expedition of May 29, 1919….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 10, 1919 — National Book Week was first observed in the United States.
  • November 10, 1966 Star Trek’s “The Corbomite Manuever” first aired. It was written by Jerry Sohl who also wrote who wrote for The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Outer Limits.  It starred Clint Howard as Balok, Walker Edmiston as the voice of Balok and Ted Cassidy (Lurch) as the voice of the Balok puppet. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 10, 1889 Claude Rains. Though you’ll likely remember him for another film, he did a lot of genre acting  with his first feature role was being  that of Dr. Jack Griffin, better known as The Invisible Man.  He also was in The Wolf Man, Phantom of the Opera, ScroogeThe Adventures of Robin Hood,The Lost World, and Battle of the Worlds. (Died 1967.)
  • Born November 10, 1924 Russell Johnson. Best known in what is surely genre for being Professor Roy Hinkley in Gilligan’s Island. His genre career started off with four Fifties films, It Came from Outer Space, This Island Earth, Attack of the Crab Monsters and The Space Children. He would later appear in both the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. On ALF, he would appear as Professor Roy Hinkley in “Somewhere Over the Rerun”. (Died 2014.)
  • Born November 10, 1932 Roy Scheider. First genre role was as Dr. Heywood R. Floyd in 2010, the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey. His other major genre performance was as Captain Nathan Bridger in the SeaQuest DSV series. He also has roles in The Curse of the Living Corpse (his first acting role, a very low budget horror film), one of The Punisher films, Dracula III: Legacy and Naked Lunch which may or may not be genre.  The Jaws films are obviously genre as well. (Died 2008.)
  • Born November 10, 1943 Milt Stevens. Today is indeed his Birthday. On the day that he announced Milt’s unexpected passing, OGH did a wonderful post and y’all did splendid commentary about him, so I’ll just send you over there. (Died 2017.)
  • Born November 10, 1946 Jack Ketchum. Winner of four Bram Stoker Awards, he was made a World Horror Convention Grand Master Award for outstanding contribution to the horror genre. Oh, and he wrote the screenplays for a number of his novels, all of which he quite naturally performed in. (Died 2018.)
  • Born November 10, 1948 Steven Utley. Best known for his short stories of which he had two series, the first being his Silurian tales (collected in two volumes,  The 400-Million-Year Itch and Invisible Kingdoms),  and his time travel stories have been collected in Where or When. The Silurian tales Are available on iBooks and Kindle, Where or When isn’t either place. (Died 2013.)
  • Born November 10, 1955 Roland Emmerich, 64. Usually I don’t touch upon SJW affairs here but he’s very strong campaigner for the LGBT community, and is openly gay so bravo for him! Now back to his genre credits.  The Noah’s Ark Principle was in ‘84 by him written and directed by Roland Emmerich as his thesis after seeing Star Wars at the Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film München. Moon 44 followed which likely most of you haven’t seen but now we get to his Hollywood films, to wit Universal Soldier, The High Crusade (yes the Poul Anderson novel), Stargate, Independence Day.. no, I’m going to stop there. Suffice it to say he’s created a lot of genre film. And oh he directed Stonewall, the 2015 look at historic event. 
  • Born November 10, 1955 Clare Higgins, 64. Her genre film appearances include Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II and The Golden Compass. She was Miss Cackle on the Worst Witch series, and had a memorable role on Doctor Who as Ohila, the High Priestess of the Sisterhood of Karn, that started off with the War Doctor and the Eighth Doctor going through the Twelfth Doctor. 
  • Born November 10, 1960 Neil Gaiman, 59. Summarizing him is nigh unto impossible so I won’t beyond saying that his works include Neverwhere, Anansi Boys, the Sandman series, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book. As for film, I think the finest script he did is his “Day of The Dead” one for Babylon 5, not  his Doctor Who scripts. The animated Coraline is I think the most faithful work of one of his novels, the Neverwhere series needs to be remade with decent CGI and the less said about Stardust the better. My first encounter with him was reading the BBC trade paper edition of Neverwhere followed by pretty much everything else he did until the last decade or so when I admit I stopped reading him, but I still remember those early novels with great fondness. I even read the Good Omens film script that he and Pratchett wrote.
  • Born November 10, 1963 Hugh Bonneville, 56. He’s here because he was Captain Avery in two Eleventh Doctor stories, “The Curse of the Black Spot” and “A Good Man Goes to War”. Which is not to say that he hasn’t done other genre work as he has as he’s got appearances on Da Vinci’s DemonsBonekickers, Bugs and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. 
  • Born November 10, 1971 Holly Black, 48. Best known for her Spiderwick Chronicles, which were created with fellow writer & illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi, and for the Modern Faerie Tales YA trilogy. Her first novel was Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale. (It’s very good.) There have been two sequels set in the same universe. The first, Valiant, won the first Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Doll Bones which is really, really creepy was awarded a Newbery Honor and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. Suffice it to say if you like horror, you’ll love her. 

(9) TIPPING — FOR SCIENCE! “Boston Dynamics boss learned by unbalancing toddler” — note also cooperative robot behavior 1:00 into video.

The boss of robotics company Boston Dynamics has confessed he once nudged his one-year-old daughter over to work out how people balance.

A YouTube video of Marc Raibert’s humanoid robot Atlas remaining upright while being poked with hockey sticks has 34 million views.

He no longer knocked his robots over just to show people they could get themselves back up again, he said.

But when he had done so, it was because he had felt like a “proud parent”.

“In fact, I have video of pushing on my daughter when she was one year old, knocking her over, getting some grief,” he told BBC News, at Web Summit in Lisbon.

“She was teetering and tottering and learning to balance and I just wanted to see what would happen. But we’re still good pals.”

(10) THAT STAR WARS ICE CREAM. Martin Morse Wooster writes, “I had the Star Wars Breyers ice cream.  Silly me.  It combines generic vanilla, generic chocolate and some sort of crumble in the chocolate.  It’s not very good.”

(11) YOU ARE FALSE DATA. BBC reports “Apple’s ‘sexist’ credit card investigated by US regulator”.

A US financial regulator has opened an investigation into claims Apple’s credit card offered different credit limits for men and women.

It follows complaints – including from Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak – that algorithms used to set limits might be inherently biased against women.

New York’s Department of Financial Services (DFS) has contacted Goldman Sachs, which runs the Apple Card.

Any discrimination, intentional or not, “violates New York law”, the DFS said.

The Bloomberg news agency reported on Saturday that tech entrepreneur David Heinemeier Hansson had complained that the Apple Card gave him 20 times the credit limit that his wife got.

In a tweet, Mr Hansson said the disparity was despite his wife having a better credit score.

Later, Mr Wozniak, who founded Apple with Steve Jobs, tweeted that the same thing happened to him and his wife despite their having no separate bank accounts or separate assets.

(12) A SNITCH IN TIME…FOR CHRISTMAS. Own Harry Potter’s Golden Snitch Drone for $39.95.

Ideal for Seekers in training, this is the golden snitch drone based on the classic Quidditch ball from the Harry Potter series. Just like its film counterpart, it can hover in place and flies away if you try to catch it via built-in proximity sensors that detect motion from a hand or foot. The heliball can also be controlled using an included remote that lets you set the speed and altitude. Copter charges via included USB cable; remote uses one button cell battery (included). Ages 8 and up.

(13) UP YOU LIGHTEN. There’s also a Yoda Table Lamp to chase away the dark side….

This is the lamp that illuminates a room with Jedi Master wisdom. Its cold-cast bronze base captures a meticulously detailed sculpture of Yoda—emblematic of his pose displayed in The Empire Strikes Back as he imparted his knowledge of the Force to an impatient and ambitious Luke Skywalker. A textured cloth lampshade enhanced with golden lining displays the classic quote “Do, or do not there is no try” bisected by the Jedi Order logo. Ideal for padawans and Jedi Knights alike, the lamp saves one from the dark side with an included energy efficient bulb.

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

2019 Clarion Workshop Marked by Special Events and Activities

The Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop begins June 23. The intensive six-week summer program at UC San Diego focuses on fundamentals particular to the writing of science fiction and fantasy short stories.

Clarion Faculty Reading Series: While the workshop itself is behind closed doors, the Clarion Faculty Reading Series hosted by San Diego’s Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, is open to the public.

Click on the above for more information about each of the faculty via the Mysterious Galaxy event pages.

Clarion Write-a-Thon: Every year, the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop holds a six-week Write-a-thon to coincide with the workshop. Like a walk-a-thon, participants write to raise money for scholarships to support future students.

This year, the Write-a-thon will begin June 23, the same day that the workshop begins. Participants commit to achieving their writing goals for the summer, whether that’s a daily word count, number of chapters, stories or submissions, or just butt-in-chair writing time.

You can either sign up to do the Write-a-thon yourself, donate to individual participants, or just make a general donation to the workshop. Everything helps achieve Clarion’s goal of $15,000 to support the workshop and future students. The majority of the Thon funds goes to scholarships for incoming students. Check it out and sign-up or back a writer today!

[Based on a press release.]

2019 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards

Dartmouth’s Neukom Institute announced the winners of the 2019 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards for speculative fiction and playwriting on June 4.

2019 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Speculative Fiction (Debut Category)

  • Peng Shepherd, The Book of M (William Morrow, 2018)

2019 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Speculative Fiction (Open Category)

  • Audrey Schulman, Theory of Bastards (Europa Editions, 2018)

2019 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Playwriting

  • Francisco Mendoza, Machine Learning

The book awards were judged by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. The play award was judged by a panel of experts from Northern Stage, VoxFest, Dartmouth’s Department of Film and Media Studies, Dartmouth’s Department of Theater and The Civilians theater company.

Each award winner will receive a $5,000 honorarium that will be presented during a Dartmouth-hosted panel to discuss the genre and their work.

Ann VanderMeer said about Peng Shepherd’s debut novel The Book of M:

It’s an outstanding first novel. Very ambitious, highly imaginative, and hits all the right emotional beats. Parts of it took my breath away.

And she said of the open book category winner, Audrey Schulman’s Theory of Bastards:

Beautifully written, provocative and yet highly satisfying, this novel took lots of risks. And it paid off in this remarkable story. Unlike many dystopian novels, this one gives you hope for humanity and the future without being sentimental.

The 2019 Neukom award winner for playwriting is Francisco Mendoza, whose play, “Machine Learning,” draws on insights from the immigrant experience and the human relationship with technology to detail how a computer scientist’s intelligent nursing app both repairs and complicates his troubled relationship with his father.

Mendoza will receive assistance with the play’s development in the form of a reading with VoxFest at Dartmouth College in July, and a staged reading at Northern Stage in White River Junction, Vermont, during the 2019/2020 season.

The Neukom Institute for Computational Science is dedicated to supporting and inspiring computational work. The Literary Arts Awards is part of the Neukom Institute’s initiative to explore the ways in which computational ideas impact society. The Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards were established in 2017. The awards aspire to raise general awareness of the speculative fiction genre, as well as the interconnectivity between the sciences and the arts.

2019 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards Finalists

Ten books that “dare to imagine how society collides with the future” have been shortlisted for the 2019 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards.

From the challenges of life on a floating Arctic city, to epidemics of forgetfulness and zombification, to an Earth occupied by amphibious aliens, the Neukom shortlist forces readers to grapple with uncomfortable twists to familiar storylines of climate change, social justice and technological innovation.

The second annual speculative fiction awards program will be judged by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. The winners will be announced in late May.

Open Category

Debut Category

Co-judge Jeff VanderMeer commented:

It’s been gratifying to play a part in reading and selecting such unique and strong fiction from so many different points of view. We’ve particularly enjoyed encountering writers we had not read before—and it’s especially gratifying to find so many new voices, who we believe readers will be encountering for decades to come. The Dartmouth prize is a much-needed addition to the current slate of science fiction awards.

And co-judge Ann VanderMeer said:

We’re looking forward to selecting the winners. This is such a strong list and a difficult choice for us but a very good problem to have! It’s wonderful to see so many writers taking chances and showing us other ways to view the world we live in today and what our tomorrows could be.

Each award winner will receive a $5,000 honorarium that will be presented during a Dartmouth-hosted panel to discuss the genre and their work.

The Neukom Institute for Computational Science is dedicated to supporting and inspiring computational work. The Literary Arts Awards is part of the Neukom Institute’s initiative to explore the ways in which computational ideas impact society. The Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards were established in 2017. The awards aspire to raise general awareness of the speculative fiction genre, as well as the interconnectivity between the sciences and the arts.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 4/7/19 Filing On the Outside, Crying On the Inside

(1) GAME CHOW. Food & Wine doesn’t want you to miss a single offer: “All of the ‘Game of Thrones’ Food and Beverage Tributes for the Final Season”

Wherever your house allegiance may lie, there’s an Oreo for that—no, seriously. On April 2, the cookie brand announced a special line of Game of Thrones Oreos, which are stamped with the sigils of House Stark, House Targaryen, and House Lannister, symbolizing the main families that are left in the battle for the Iron Throne (and against the White Walkers). There’s even a cookie with the Night King on it, if you’re rooting for the dark side; plus, Oreo also recreated the show’s iconic opening sequence with (you guessed it) Oreos, which you can check out below.

(2) REALITY BOOZE. And Eater has another product roundup: “From Johnnie Walker to Oreos, Brands Are Going Ham on ‘Game of Thrones’ Merch”.

Then there’s sneakers, a $2,700 leather jacket, underwear, and even GoT wine and Johnnie Walker whiskey, which at least have a very tenuous connection, given that alcohol actually exists in Westeros (as compared to Oreos). Of course, none of these products will appear on screen, unless a final twist reveals that the entire Game of Thrones universe was actually the fever dream of a Mountain Dew advertising executive.

Hey, Fevre Dream is another clever GRRM reference, if intentional.

(3) DON’T PANIC. That’s what SFWA says, even though there’s no tickets left. Right now, anyway.

The 2019 Nebula Conference is SOLD OUT, but don’t panic! We’re looking into expanding capacity & expect to release more tickets. If you haven’t bought your membership yet, email events@sfwa.org to be notified when additional tickets are released.

(4) NOT WHISPERING. This morning I stopped at an intersection behind a “Smith Family Exterminating” truck and had the obvious thought. It came back to me now as I was reading Galactic Journey’s review of an old IF theme issue: “[Apr. 6, 1964] The art of word-smithing (May 1964 IF)”.

Science fiction magazines are no strangers to gimmicks.  Fantasy and Science Fiction has “All-star issues” with no authors but big names (though they often turn in second-rate stuff).  Analog is trying out a run in “slick” 8.5? by 11? size. 

And this month, IF has gotten extra cute.  Every story in the issue is written by a guy named “Smith.”  It’s certainly a novel concept, but does it work?

(5) WRITER’S BLOCH. His advice to Ray Bradbury is #5: “Robert Bloch: The World Explained in 20 Quotes” at CrimeReads.

“I urge you with all sincerity to get to work, write a book, write two—three—four books, just as a matter of course. Don’t worry about ‘wasting’ an idea or ‘spoiling’ a plot by going too fast. If you are capable of turning out a masterpiece, you’ll get other and even better ideas in the future. Right now your job is to write, and to write books so that by so doing you’ll gain the experience to write still better books later on.” (Bloch in an August 27, 1947 letter to Ray Bradbury)

(6) FLYOVER SLEUTHING. The winner of this year’s Paretsky Award for mysteries set in the Midwest was announced March 23: 

Scott Turow, the author of such best-selling novels as Presumed Innocent (1987), Reversible Errors (2002) and Testimony (2017), has received the annual Paretsky Award for his work. That commendation was presented to him during the third annual Murder and Mayhem in Chicago convention, held this last Saturday. The Paretsky Award, named after Sara Paretsky, the creator of Windy City private detective V.I. Warshawski, “honors mysteries set in the Midwest.”

(7) RAPHAEL OBIT. Rabbi Lawrence Raphael died March 17 at the age of 74 reports Mystery Fanfare. In addition to being a rabbi, he edited anthologies of Jewish mysteries and crime fiction, and was also an expert in Jewish science fiction.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 7, 1915 Stanley Adams. He’s best known for playing Cyrano Jones in “The Trouble with Tribbles” Trek episode. He reprised in the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode “More Tribbles, More Troubles” and archival footage of him was later featured in the Deep Space Nine “Trials and Tribble-ations” episode.  He also appeared in two episodes of the Batman series (“Catwoman Goes to College” and “Batman Displays his Knowledge”) as Captain Courageous. (Died 1977.)
  • Born April 7, 1915 Henry Kuttner. While he was working for the d’Orsay agency, he found Leigh Brackett’s early manuscripts in the slush pile; it was under his guidance that she sold her first story to Campbell at Astounding Stories.  His own work was done in close collaboration with  C. L. Moore, his wife, and much of they published was under pseudonyms.  During the Forties, he also contributed numerous scripts to the Green Lantern series. (Died 1958.)
  • Born April 7, 1928 James White. His best-known novels were the Sector General hospital series published over a nearly a forty year period. No, I’m not going to remember which ones I read but I do fondly remember reading several of them and encountering the short stories in various magazines. Definitely popcorn literature at its best! (Died 1999.)
  • Born April 7, 1934 Ian Richardson. His first genre performance was in  A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Oberon. That’s the film with Diana Rigg, Helen Mirren, Ian Holm and David Warner as well. He’s the Narrator of Gawain and the Green Knight, Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Sign of Four, Mr. Warrenn in Brazil (a film I’ve never understood), Polonius In Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Mr. Book in Dark City, Wasp in Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There and Sir Charles Warren in From Hell based off the Alan Moore excellent graphic novel about the Ripper murders. (Died 2007.)
  • Born April 7, 1935 Marty Cantor, 84. He’s the editor with then his wife Robbie of Holier Than Thou.  It was nominated for the 1984, 1985 and 1986 Hugo Awards for Best Fanzine, losing in the first two years to File 770 and in the last to Lan’s Lantern. He also published Who Knows What Ether Lurks in the Minds of Fen?, a rather nice play off The Shadow radio intro.
  • Born April 7, 1939 Francis Ford Coppola, 80. Director / Writer / Producer. THX 1138 was produced by him and directed by George Lucas in his feature film directorial debut in 1971. Saw it late at night after some serious drug ingestion with a redhead into Morrison — strange experience that was. Other genre works of note include Bram Stoker’s Dracula, an episode of Faerie Tale Theatre entitled“Rip Van Winkle”, Twixt (a horror film that almost no one has heard of), Mary Shelley’s FrankensteinJeepers Creepers and Jeepers Creepers 2
  • Born April 7, 1946 Stan Winston. He’s best known for his work in Aliens, the Terminator franchise, the first three Jurassic Park films, the first two Predator films, Batman Returns and Iron Man. He was unusual in having expertise in makeup, puppets and practical effects, and was just starting to get in digital effects as well. (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 7, 1945 Susan Petrey. There are days I don’t like the Universe very much and it’s things like her death which cause that. Dead at 35, she’s the author of the Varkela, a series of stories where vampires heal instead of kill. Her collected work is be found in Gifts of Blood. She was very active in Portland, Oregon fandom where her friends established the Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund in her memory which raises funds to send aspiring writers to the Clarion. (Died 1980.)
  • Born April 7, 1951 Janis Ian, 68. Stars: Original Stories Based on the Songs of Janis Ian is an anthology of stories edited by her and Mike Resnick. It looks damn good and I’ve got the  ISFDB link here for the contents.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) FINALISTS CONSIDERED. Gary Tognetti reacts to the ballot in “2019 Hugo Nominations Post – Impressions, Surprises, Disappointments” at The 1000 Year Plan.

…The opinions expressed below are not intended to divide the nominees up into things that “deserve” to be there and things that don’t. Every work/person on the ballot deserves to be there because their fans were passionate enough to make it happen. Fans are an opinionated bunch: we think some things are better than other things and we like to argue about it. That’s what I’m doing here.

(11) BRW. We’ve been talking a lot about AO3 – Paste takes a look at another Best Related Work that’s also a product of the times: “YouTuber Lindsay Ellis Has Been Nominated for a Hugo Award for Her Acclaimed ‘Hobbit Duology'”.

The YouTube video essay has become perhaps the defining form of entertainment media of the digital age, and yet it’s still not a medium that garners a lot of respect. Except for the likes of a handful of film YouTubers such as the dearly departed Every Frame a Painting, it’s a field where all of the middling quality entries have an anchor-like effect upon all the superior efforts. In much the same way that feature films on streaming services have slowly clawed their way into award recognition, though, the same is true of the YouTube video essay. And YouTuber Lindsay Ellis just made a major statement to that effect, garnering a Hugo Award nomination for her critically acclaimed “Hobbit Duology,” in the category of Best Related Work.

It’s not the first time a YouTuber has been nominated for a Hugo Award—it’s happened at least once before, when Rachel Bloom was nominated in 2010—but it’s still a major honor and an important precedent, all the same. And it’s a fitting recognition of Ellis’ instantly gripping series of three videos on Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, which offer a postmortem on how one of the most beloved film trilogies of all time (The Lord of the Rings) ended up being followed by a disappointing, overstuffed miscalculation.

(Note: Rachel Bloom was a 2011 nominee.)

(12) AWARD NEWS. The judges for the Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards are Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer reports Locus Online. The $5,000 awards will be presented in May at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

(13) THE METAPHORICAL RED PLANET. Kelly Lagor digs into a classic Bradbury collection at Tor.com: “On the Origins of Modern Biology and the Fantastic: Part 10—Ray Bradbury and Mechanisms of Regulation”.

The Martian Chronicles, published in 1950, represented something unique and different in science fiction. At the optimistic opening of the space age, if offered a perspective on the lie that the promise of a new frontier offers, as though by traveling to Mars we assumed we would leave behind our weakness and bigotry. It’s Bradbury up and down, sacrificing scientific rigor in favor of poetic metaphor; one part awe, one part sadness, three parts nostalgia. It brought a literary perspective to science fiction, tackling themes of loneliness, regret, and the inevitable loss of innocence. Bradbury sought the deeper meanings in the established mechanics of science fiction and his stories encompassed an added layer of complexity that would have a profound impact on an up-and-coming generation of writers.

(14) BOOK REVIEW BONANZA. Sweet Freedom’s “Friday’s Forgotten Books” feature links to the week’s collection of genre reviews.

This week’s books and more, unfairly (or sometimes fairly) neglected, or simply those the reviewers below think you might find of some interest (or, infrequently, you should be warned away from); certainly, most weeks we have a few not at all forgotten titles…a big week for Christie books…pushing the limit of “forgotten” but as with some of the other hugely popular, hugely prolific writers, each title aside from the most popular tends to be lost in the shuffle…how many John Creasey novels can most non-Creasey fans name?

The hotlinks to the items listed below are here:

  • Patricia Abbott: Go With Me by Castle Freeman
  • Les Blatt: The Judas Window by “Carter Dickson” (John Dickson Carr)
  • Joachim Boaz: The Road to Corlay by “Richard Cowper” (John Middleton Murry, Jr.)
  • John Boston: Amazing: Fact and Science Fiction Stories, August 1963, edited by Cele Goldsmith Lalli
  • Ben Boulden: “The Double Whammy” by Robert Bloch, Fantastic, February 1970, edited by Ted White
  • Brian Busby: Jimmie Dale Alias The Gray Seal by Michael Howard
  • Brandon Crilly: On Spec co-edited by Diane Walton
  • Martin Edwards: Dominoes by John Wainwright
  • Peter Enfantino: Atlas (proto-Marvel) Horror Comics: March 1952
  • Will Errickson: Off Season by “Jack Ketchum” (Dallas Mayr)
  • José Ignacio Escribano: The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie
  • Curtis Evans: A Spot of Folly by Ruth Rendell
  • Olman Feelyus: The Prone Gunman by Jean-Patrick Manchette (translation by James Brook)
  • Paul Fraser: New Worlds SF, February 1965, edited by Michael Moorcock
  • Barry Gardner: A Cool Breeze on the Underground by Don Winslow
  • Charles Gramlisch: The Best of the West edited by Joe R. Lansdale
  • John Grant: Gangway! by Donald Westlake and Brian Garfield; The Pursuit of Alice Thrift by Elinor Lipman
  • Aubrey Hamilton: Suddenly While Gardening by Elizabeth Lemarchand 
  • Rich Horton: Captives of the Flame by Samuel Delany; The Psionic Menace by “Keith Woodcott” (John Brunner); Ian McDonald stories; Ilium by Dan Simmons; Again, Dangerous Visions edited by Harlan Ellison
  • Jerry House: Negro Romance, #2 Fawcett August 1950/#4 Charlton May 1955, written and edited by Roy Ald and illustrated by Alvin Hollingsworth
  • Kate Jackson: Dead Man’s Folly by Agatha Christie; Mothers in Crime Fiction
  • Tracy K: What Never Happens by Anne Holt; Remembered Death by Agatha Christie
  • Colman Keane: Atlanta Deathwatch by Ralph Dennis
  • George Kelley: The Great SF Stories 8 (1946) edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg
  • Joe Kenney: Rock & Roll Retreat Blues by Douglas Kent Hall
  • B. V. Lawson: Picture Miss Seeton by “Heron Carvic” (Geoffrey Richard William Harris)
  • Evan Lewis: Comic Book Nation by Bradford W. Wright
  • Steve Lewis: Lord Mullion’s Secret by Michael Innes; Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie; 30 for a Harry by Richard Hoyt; “First Life” by Roger Dee, Super-Science Fiction, July 1950, edited by Ejler Jakobsson; “The Flies of Memory” by Ian Watson (novella version); Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, September 1988, edited by Gardner Dozois
  • Todd Mason: Fantastic, September 1974, edited by Ted White; The Paris Review, Autumn 1974, edited by George Plimpton; The Ontario Review, Autumn 1974, edited by Raymond J. Smith; The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September 1974, edited by Edward Ferman
  • Francis M. Nevins: the works of John Roeburt
  • John F. Norris: The Crowing Hen by Reginald Davis; The Hand of the Chimpanzee by Robert Hare
  • Scott Parker: Faraday: The Iron Horse by James Reasoner
  • Matt Paust: That Old Scoundrel Death by Bill Crider
  • James Reasoner: Hearts of the West edited by Jean Marie Stine
  • Richard Robinson: Bodies from the Library edited by Tony Medawar
  • Gerard Saylor: The End of Vandalism by Tom Drury
  • Jack Seabrook and Peter Enfantino: DC War Comics, September 1974
  • Doreen Sheridan: The King of the Rainy Country by “Nicholas Freeling” (Nicolas Davidson)
  • Steven H. Silver: the works of Anne McCaffrey
  • Victoria Silverwolf: Fantastic: Stories of Imagination, November 1963, edited by Cele Goldsmith Lalli
  • Kevin Tipple: A Reader’s Book of Days: True Tales from the Lives and Works of Women for Every Day of the Year assembled by Tom Nissley
  • “TomCat”: “Mystery at the Dog Pound” by Robert W. Cochran, Street & Smith’s Detective Story Magazine, May 1942, edited by Daisy Bacon

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

Pixel Scroll 2/25/17 The Pixelated Things Apply As Time Scrolls By

(1) MONEY MANAGEMENT. Kristine Kathryn Rusch counsels authors in “Business Musings: Writer Finances Versus The Paycheck World”.

Here’s a piece of advice you don’t hear very often:

Pay off your house.

Seriously, my writer friends. If you get a lump sum of money, pay off your house.

Or your car.

Definitely pay off your credit cards, and take them out of your wallet. Use them only when you travel to a conference or plan to make a big purchase.

If the indie writers who made a lot of money in 2012-2014 had followed that advice, they’d still be writing and publishing. Sure, their incomes would still be down, along with their sales, but their careers would continue.

How do I know they didn’t do that? Because they’re gone. Mark Coker commented on it in his year-end blog. Writers in the comment section on this blog have mentioned that they’re leaving the business. The Kindle Boards discuss all the writers no one hears from any more.

And if you go to writer website after writer website, many of them for successful indies, you’ll see sites that haven’t been updated for a year or two, or you won’t find any site at all.

What happened?

(2) COLLECTIBLES. The March WIRED has a photo essay called “Scene Stealers:  Inside The Deeply Nerdy–And Insanely Expensive–World of Hollywood Prop Collectors.” (Online here.)  This tells us that you don’t just want a phaser from the original Star Trek –you want a “hero phaser,” created by designer Wah Chang for close-ups, because only two were made.  But if you want the Aries 1 Translunar Shuttle from 2001: A Space Odyssey, you’ve been outbid by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who spent $344,000 on it for a museum the academy plans to open in 2018.

The 2006 Worldcon makes an appearance, because the hero blaster used by Rick Deckard in Blade Runner showed up there after most collectors thought this prop had been lost because no one had seen it for over two decades.

(3) READING THE TEA LEAVES. If you want to know “How China Became a Sci-Fi Powerhouse”, Foreign Policy Magazine’s Emily Feng will tell you – it’s the internet.

Chen Qiufan, a sci-fi writer who has won the Milky Way Award and Xingyun Award, China’s equivalent of the Hugo, remembers life before the web changed everything. “All we could do was write in paperback books and magazines. We sent out our stories on paper by mail,” Chen told Foreign Policy. Sending them out and waiting for a response and feedback took a long time — sometimes forever.” But the early 2000s saw an explosion of dedicated online sci-fi forums that allowed writers and fans to mingle virtually, swapping stories, publishing serialized works, and exchanging intense feedback. Social media sites like Baidu Tieba, the arts and literature-focused site Douban, and college messaging boards hosted the most active online communities.

Suddenly, anyone could be a writer; and writers could get instant, massive feedback on draft work. This development was particularly important for the heretofore much-ignored genre of sci-fi; a large portion of today’s most well known and decorated Chinese science fiction writers did not start inside the formal publishing and literary world.

… “In print publishing it was always difficult” for science fiction, said Michel Hock, director of the Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies at the University of Notre Dame and the author of a book on Chinese internet literature. “The state still owns most of the publishing houses, and state ideology is very ambivalent about literature that caters to mass taste.”

Hock noted that “the Communist Party represents the masses, but does not like the masses’ taste very much.”

(4) REGENERATIONS. At CBR.com, Charles Pau Hoffman asks, “Is Marvel Finally Embracing Legacy Characters with Generations?”

For decades, legacy heroes have been associated strongly with DC Comics rather than Marvel, and for understandable reasons. Apart from DC’s Trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, most of its big name superheroes were reimagined into younger, more modern incarnations during the Silver Age. While DC’s creators eventually settled on the idea of the multiverse as the in-universe explanation for two radically-different Flashes or Green Lanterns, these stories helped to build an expectation among readers that as characters aged, they might be replaced.

The DC Universe is full of legacy heroes; there are now enough Green Lanterns to necessitate a whole Corps, nearly as many Flashes, and more Robins (and former Robins) than grains of sand on the beach. While the focus ebbs and flows between the iconic versions and their legacies, the idea of legacy heroes is so engrained in DC Comics that not even the New 52 could kill it.

While legacy heroes have traditionally been more associated with DC, in the past few years Marvel has leaned hard into the concept. Practically every major Marvel hero now has a legacy of one sort or another: Sam Wilson took up the mantle of Captain America, Jane Foster proved she was worthy of wielding Mjolnir, Miles Morales is swinging around New York with Peter Parker’s blessing, Kamala Khan has taken Ms. Marvel’s battle for justice to Jersey City, and even Nick Fury, Jr., is upping his spy game as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. And that’s not even getting to Kate Bishop, Sam Alexander, Amadeus Cho, Laura Kinney, Riri Williams, Viv, the Original 5 X-Men, and an unending list of Young Avengers, New X-Men and Spider-Women…

Last week, Marvel released an incredible new piece of art by Alex Ross, accompanied by four simple words: “GENERATIONS – coming Summer 2017.” It is not clear yet whether “Generations” will be a new prestige miniseries, event, or line-wide rebranding a la Marvel NOW, but the name and image highly suggest whatever “Generations” is, it will focus on the idea of legacy heroes in the Marvel Universe.

(5) COMICS ART. Elle Collins curates a gallery of Silver Age sci-fi comic book covers at Comics Alliance.

While the Golden Age established comics as a medium, the Silver Age was when comic book art really came into its own. And it’s worth noting that comics’ Silver Age corresponded with a wider cultural fascination with science fiction. The actual Space Race was in full swing, and everybody was thinking about rocket ships, alien monsters, and the wonders of science.

In comics, it was science fiction that gave comics artists the freedom to go big. Giant monsters, futuristic technology, and huge-scale threats to the entire Earth became commonplace. And of course everyone had their own ideas about what aliens might look like, from the typical little green men with antennae to yellow giants with segmented eyes and butterfly wings for ears.

In assembling this Silver Age sci-fi gallery, I looked for covers that had more science fiction elements to them than just giant monsters, because while there’s overlap, I think giant monsters deserve their own gallery. I also avoided superheroes, because while so many of their stories are science fiction by nature, we understand superheroes as a different genre. Plus this whole gallery could easily be filled up with Fantastic Four and Green Lantern covers, but that would be a different thing. Sci-fi heroes like Adam Strange and Captain Comet were allowed, on the other hand.

(6) NANCY WILLARD OBIT. Black Gate reports the passing of author Nancy Willard, June 26, 1936 – February 19, 2017.

Nancy Willard was the author of more than 70 books, including more than 40 books for children, such as the Anatole trilogy, Firebrat (1988), East of the Sun and West of the Moon: A Play (1989), and Pish, Posh Said Hieronymus Bosch (1991), illustrated by the Dillons. She won the Newbery Award in 1982 for her book of poetry, William Blake’s Inn, illustrated by Alice & Martin Provensen. It was the first book of poetry to win the Newbery.

Willard’s Things Invisible to See won the William L. Crawford – IAFA Fantasy Award for first fantasy book (1986).

The family obituary is here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY HOBBIT

  • Born February 25, 1971 – Sean Astin

(8) PATRON OF THE ARTS. Ray Bradbury was on the Chamber Symphony Society of California’s board of directors, as this 1973 clipping reminds us.

(9) HELLO, CENTRAL? In “The Coming Amnesia”, Geoff Manaugh explores a prediction made by Alistair Reynolds that if the universe keeps expanding, galaxies wouldn’t be able to communicate with each other and any interstellar civilizations would be unable to contact any other ones.

As the universe expands over hundreds of billions of years, Reynolds explained, there will be a point, in the very far future, at which all galaxies will be so far apart that they will no longer be visible from one another.

Upon reaching that moment, it will no longer be possible to understand the universe’s history—or perhaps even that it had one—as all evidence of a broader cosmos outside of one’s own galaxy will have forever disappeared. Cosmology itself will be impossible.

In such a radically expanded future universe, Reynolds continued, some of the most basic insights offered by today’s astronomy will be unavailable. After all, he points out, “you can’t measure the redshift of galaxies if you can’t see galaxies. And if you can’t see galaxies, how do you even know that the universe is expanding? How would you ever determine that the universe had had an origin?”

There would be no reason to theorize that other galaxies had ever existed in the first place. The universe, in effect, will have disappeared over its own horizon, into a state of irreversible amnesia.

…It is worth asking here, however briefly and with multiple grains of salt, if something similar has perhaps already occurred in the universe we think we know today—if something has not already disappeared beyond the horizon of cosmic amnesia—making even our most well-structured, observation-based theories obsolete. For example, could even the widely accepted conclusion that there was a Big Bang be just an ironic side-effect of having lost some other form of cosmic evidence that long ago slipped eternally away from view?

Remember that these future astronomers will not know anything is missing. They will merrily forge ahead with their own complicated, internally convincing new theories and tests. It is not out of the question, then, to ask if we might be in a similarly ignorant situation.

(10) THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL. Dave Langford reports that in addition to their 2017 TAFF ballot platforms, all three candidates have since posted campaign material online. Click on each name for more: Sarah Gulde, Alissa McKersie, John Purcell.

(11) INTELLIGENT TALK. Kim Stanley Robinson and a non-genre author will be interviewed by Adam Roberts at Waterstones in London on April 3.

Waterstones Piccadilly is delighted to announce a very special event featuring three exceptional authors.  Kim Stanley Robinson and Francis Spufford will be discussing their work with critic and author Adam Roberts.

Kim Stanley Robinson is widely regarded as one of the foremost living writers of science-fiction. Author of the bestselling Mars trilogy as well as numerous works of fiction and non-fiction, he has won many awards over the years, including multiple Hugo and Nebula prizes.

Francis Spufford teaches writing at Goldsmiths University and has written 5 highly-acclaimed works of non-fiction. His first fiction title, Golden Hill, was a Waterstones Book of the Month and won the 2016 Costa Prize for First Novel.

Adam Roberts has written an extensive collection of works in both the fiction and critical genres. Author of some wonderfully original science-fiction and parody titles, Adam teaches English literature and writing at Royal Holloway University.

(13) NOT BEEN BERRY BERRY GOOD. The 2017 Golden Raspberry Awards, a.k.a. The Razzies, highlighting the “cinematic sludge” of the past year, were announced today.

WORST PICTURE

Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party

WORST ACTOR

Dinesh D’Souza in Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party

WORST ACTRESS

The “Actress” Who Plays Hillary Clinton in Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party

WORST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Kristen Wiig / Zoolander No. 2

WORST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Jesse Eisenberg / Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

WORST SCREEN COMBO

Ben Affleck & His BFF (Baddest Foe Forever) Henry Cavill / Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

WORST DIRECTOR

Dinesh D’Souza & Bruce Schooley / Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party

WORST REMAKE, RIP-OFF or SEQUEL

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

WORST SCREENPLAY

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer

RAZZIE® REDEEMER AWARD

2014 Worst Supporting Actor nominee Mel Gibson, for his Oscar-nominated direction of Hacksaw Ridge

 

(14) HOW HARD IS YOUR SF? Futurism groks the fullness: “How Scientifically Accurate Is Your Favorite Sci-Fi Film?”

“Minority Report”

If you can look past the draconian dystopia of the world presented in the movie, you’ll find a lot of interesting scientific details “Minority Report” strived to get correct. Steven Spielberg consulted with computer engineers to come up with the now-iconic vision of the next gen computer systems. While our current touchscreen devices aren’t exactly what was depicted in the film, we are getting closer to gesture-based interfaces.

(15) INKSTAINED WRETCH. Jon Skovron, author of Hope and Red and Bane and Shadow, gives us an insight into how he writes, from first draft to the final book.

(16) THUG NOTES OF GENRE INTEREST. Selected by John King Tarpinian.

  • 1984

  • BRAVE NEW WORLD

  • FAHRENHEIT 451

  • A HANDMAID’S TALE

(17) SUMMER CAMP. Tor.com says “Shared Worlds is Now Open for Registration!” Shared Worlds is supported by co-director Jeff VanderMeer and Editor-in-Residence Ann VanderMeer.

Shared Worlds, a world-building summer camp for kids, is now open for registration. The program is open to rising 8th-12th graders, and will take place from July 16th-29th at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Registration will be open until April 1st so be sure to register soon!

The students work in small groups with an experienced “world-building coordinator” to design and build a world, spending a week building their worlds from the ground up: geography, population, religion and philosophy, legal systems—everything you’d need for a functional world. The second week is spent writing stories that can only occur in the worlds they’ve created. The program culminates in individual sessions between the students and the guest authors so the students get personalized feedback on their work. Finally, the students’ stories are published in the annual program anthology.

[Thanks to JJ, Dave Langford, John King Tarpinian, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 12/23/16 Kissin’ By the Pixel Scroll

(1) TAILOR-MADE AWARDS. Who can resist a title like that? From The Book Smugglers “The 2016 Unconventional, Not At All Traditional, And Completely Unscientific Book Awards by Sarah Kuhn”.

Choosing a “best of” list is one of those tasks that always seems to send me down a rabbit hole of over-analysis, self-doubt, and internal hand-wringing, somehow ending in watching the same “pug confused by butterfly” video over and over again until I can’t remember what I was doing in the first place.

So! Instead of doing a “best of” list, I’m handing out very specific awards to the books that delighted me in very specific ways in 2016. All of these books brought me so much joy and will surely have a spot on my re-read shelf for years to come.

Best Use of Emoji Flirting Hold Me by Courtney Milan

Courtney Milan is one of my favorite authors, a virtuoso at combining endearing characters, ingenious plots, and scorching hot chemistry on every single page. In Hold Me, the much-anticipated sequel to the brilliant Trade Me, Maria Lopez and Jay na Thalang hate each other at first sight—but don’t realize they’re falling in love via the internet magic of online chat. It’s a tricky feat to give characters palpable, believable chemistry when they’re not even in the same room, but Milan’s depiction of Maria and Jay’s whipsmart, banter-y texts and emails made me die a kazillion swoony deaths. And of course their special use of emojis is [emoji of cat with heart-eyes].

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Nalo Hopkinson is Scott Edelman’s guest on the milestone 25th episode of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson

For the 25th episode of Eating the Fantastic—which is also the final episode of 2016—my guest and I brunched at Aggio during a break from the Baltimore Book Festival. Aggio is a restaurant from Chef Bryan Voltaggio which the Baltimore City Paper recently dubbed as offering the Best Modern Italian in town.

I’d eaten at Aggio before, but that was when it was still a pop-up within a different Voltaggio restaurant, Range, in Friendship Heights—where, by the way, I recorded an earlier episode of Eating the Fantastic with Carolyn Ives Gilman, which I hope you’ll be moved to download for dessert once you’re done with the entree of this episode.

My guest for this meal was the always entertaining Nalo Hopkinson, winner of the 1999 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. And she’s more than lived up to the promise of that award, winning the World Fantasy Award for her short story collection Skin Folk, as well as winning the Sunburst Award, the Prix Aurora Award, and many others. Plus her novel, Sister Mine, won my own personal award for being one of my favorite novels of 2013.

(3) CHARTING SF. Mark-kitteh sent a link with an introduction, “A long and interesting survey of the field by the VanderMeers (also the introduction to their recent Big Book of Science Fiction). I liked their determination to look more internationally.”

Since the days of Mary Shelley, Jules Verne, and H. G. Wells, science fiction has not just helped define and shape the course of literature but reached well beyond fictional realms to influence our perspectives on culture, science, and technology. Ideas like electric cars, space travel, and forms of advanced communication comparable to today’s cell phone all first found their way into the public’s awareness through science fiction. In stories like Alicia Yáñez Cossío’s “The IWM 100” from the 1970s you can even find a clear prediction of Information Age giants like Google?—?and when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, the event was a very real culmination of a yearning already expressed through science fiction for many decades.

Science fiction has allowed us to dream of a better world by creating visions of future societies without prejudice or war. Dystopias, too, like Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, have had their place in science fiction, allowing writers to comment on injustice and dangers to democracy. Where would Eastern Bloc writers have been without the creative outlet of science fiction, which by seeming not to speak about the present day often made it past the censors? For many under Soviet domination during those decades, science fiction was a form of subversion and a symbol of freedom. Today, science fiction continues to ask “What if?” about such important topics as global warming, energy dependence, the toxic effects of capitalism, and the uses of our modern technology, while also bringing back to readers strange and wonderful visions.

(4) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION. The finale of Jim C. Hines’ Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is the TGM raffle to win a book from DAW Books.

In 24 hours, I’ll be drawing the rest of the winners for the DAW Books raffle, which will officially wrap up the fundraiser.

To enter, just  donate $5 to Transgender Michigan and email me a copy of the receipt at jchines -at- gmail.com, with the subject line “DAW Raffle Entry.”

Winners will receive one of the following:

Tad Williams Bundle: each bundle includes one copy of Otherland: City of Golden Shadow (hardcover first edition, first printing)  plus 1 Advance Review Copy of The Heart of What Was Lost.

DAW December Release Bundle: each bundle includes one copy of all DAW December titles: Dreamweaver, Tempest, Alien Nation, and Jerusalem Fire, plus a bonus ARC (dependent on stock).

You can donate more than $5. For example, donating $20 would get you four entries. However, you can only win a maximum of one of each bundle.

Looking at the number of bundles remaining, and the number of entries, every $5 you donate will get you an approximately 1 in 6 chance to win. (And hey, even if you don’t win, you’ve gotten yourself a tax deduction and supported a good cause! Not a bad way to wrap up the year, eh?)

I’ll do one more post in a few days to announce the final results. My thanks to everyone who donated, signal-boosted, bid, and otherwise supported the fundraiser. It makes a difference.

(5) PETER DAVID IMPROVING. Kathleen has good news — “Peter David Update Finally Progress”.

I saw Peter yesterday and he was able to stand and take a few steps. This is monumental to getting him home. He is still in pain but nothing compared to that he was even the day before. We know this because he hasn’t taken any painkillers since Wednesday so again a good sign.

So the nebulous might be date is rapidly turning into Saturday, which will mean that he will be home for Chrismas/Hanukkah.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 23, 1823: “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, first published.
  • December 23, 1958The 7th Voyage of Sinbad opens in American theaters. There’s your average non-Christmas movie. John King Tarpinian says, “Ask people if they know who Ray Harryhausen is and you’ll most likely get a blank stare.  Ask them if they remember seeing a movie with sword fighting skeletons and all of a sudden their eyes glow bright.”
  • December 23, 1986: U.S. pilots, Dick Rutan and Jeanna Yeager, landed the experimental aircraft Voyager in California after a record nine days, 3 minutes and 44 seconds round-the-world flight without stopping or refueling.

(7) COUNTING ON WOMEN. Aziz Poonawalla writes about “Rogue One, the Force, and gender”.

A (female) friend of mine loved Rogue One, but noted an imbalance in the Force:

Wept tears of joy. And not to nitpick the film’s clear feminist intentions, but couldn’t at least a handful of the nameless cannon-fodder strike force be women?

The ramblings that follow began as a long-winded reply, but grew so unwieldy and disorganized that I decided it fit better here. Spoilers may follow.

I thought the gender distributions were significant and consistent with the themes of Balance in the Force, and the tension between Dar and Light, in the movie canon to date. The Empire was entirely male – scientists, warriors, leaders. The Rebellion has women in elite warrior roles (pilots) alongside men, but political leadership is always female, and heroes are equally female (Leia, Rey, and Jyn vs Luke, Finn, and Solo, though the latter was usually just plot catalyst). The Rebellion’s leadership from Mon Mothma to Leia has been female, but the Republic during the Clone Wars was male-led, even before Palpatine (though the Senate had prominent female members). The villains have always been male, with the exception of the Seventh Sister from Rebels (but Rebels is a true ensemble cast and will skew the analysis).

(8) ANYBODY THIRSTY? Space.com poetically sees “Water, Water Everywhere on Dwarf Planet Ceres”.

There’s water, water everywhere on the dwarf planet Ceres, according to new research. New observations have provided direct evidence that water ice is ubiquitous on the surface and shallow subsurface of this massive asteroid.

Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt that lies between Mars and Jupiter, and has long been suspected of containing significant amounts of water — estimates projected up to 30 percent of its total mass. Evidence has pointed to water ice being mixed with the rock on Ceres’ surface, and in a few rare cases, more concentrated patches of exposed ice have been found. Ceres has even belched up plumes of water vapor.

(9) A HOMER RUN. There are many strange stories in Odysseus’s long journey home after the sack of Troy, but where do they come from? The BBC speculates about “The strange inspirations behind Greek myths”.

One of the early wrong turns comes when strong northerly winds carry Odysseus off course to the land of the lotus-eaters. The sailors enjoy the local delicacy so much that they forget about returning home and Odysseus has to drag them back to the ships. There are multiple theories for what the lotus could be, such as strong wine or opium.

Another contender is a plant called Diospyros lotus – the scientific name means “fruit of the gods”. The fruits in question are round and yellow with succulent flesh that is said to taste like a cross between a date and a plum. That explains its common name: “date plum”. But could tasty fruit be enough to convince Odysseus’s men to stay put forever?

(10) GREETINGS FROM AN IMAGINARY SEASON. At Fantasy-Faction, Laura M. Hughes reviews Hogfather by Terry Pratchett.

‘On the second day of Hogswatch I . . . sent my true love back, A nasty little letter, hah, yes indeed, and a partridge in a pear tree—’

Of the quarter or so of the Discworld I’ve explored, Hogfather is my favourite. Vadim Jean’s TV adaptation is superb: I watch it religiously every Christmas, struck each time by just how much of it – dialogue, stage directions, settings, narration, everything – is lifted directly from the source material. This should tell you much about the quality of the book itself, for rare indeed is an original story ‘adapted’ for the screen with so few alterations.

For me, reading Terry Pratchett’s work is not only a joy but an indulgence, too. Sir Terry is one of my major influences. Those books of his I’ve read, I’ve re-read again and again, taking the time to savour the deliciousness of the prose, the wryness of tone, the trademark humour that is at once delightful and poignant.

(11) SANTA YODA!

(12) CHEWBACCA SINGS SILENT NIGHT. After listening to this, you will know why a silent night is treasured by so many…

Merry Wookie Christmas from HISHE and James Covenant! The brilliant idea for “Chewbacca Sings Silent Night” was actually created in 1999 by Scott Andersen (story here: http://room34.com/chewbacca/) and since then his audio has been shared many times, often without crediting him.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mark-kitteh, Scott Edelman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Redheadedfemme.]

VanderMeer Creative Sponsors the Octavia Project for 2016-2017

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The Octavia Project, a free summer program that uses science fiction and fantasy to teach 21st century skills to underserved Brooklyn teenage girls, announced today that they will be funded by VanderMeer Creative for one year. VanderMeer Creative is run by editor Ann VanderMeer and author Jeff VanderMeer. Along with the announcement of their fiscal support of the Octavia Project for 2016-2017, VanderMeer Creative is offering an all-expense paid scholarship (including air travel) to one 2017 Octavia Project participant to attend their summer writing intensive Shared Worlds at Wofford College in South Carolina in 2018.

Named after science fiction author Octavia E. Butler, the Octavia Project is delighted with the support of the VanderMeers, who have been champions of the program since its inception. “Now in our third year, this sponsorship means we will have more time to create dynamic summer programming and get the word out to even more girls. It’s a dream come true at this stage in our development.” said co-founder and director Meghan McNamara.

McNamara also spoke of expanding their paid teaching staff and their commitment to hiring women of color as teachers and guest artists. “From the very beginning, our greatest champions have come from the science fiction community,” said co-founder and author Chana Porter. “N.K. Jemisin, Malka Older, Ibi Zoboi, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, the staff of Tor.com— these members of the science fiction community helped make the Octavia Project possible.” Porter and McNamara went on to say that the Octavia Project was created to honor, support, and celebrate the imaginations of black and brown girls in Brooklyn, immigrant girls, and LGBTQ youth.

The Octavia Project uses girls’ passion in science fiction, fantasy, fan-fiction, and gaming to teach them skills in science, technology, art, and writing, equipping them with skills to dream and build new futures for themselves and their communities. Their inspiration and namesake is Octavia E. Butler, who broke barriers in writing and science fiction to become an award-winning and internationally recognized author (Kindred, Lilith’s Brood). The Octavia Project is inspired by her visions of possible futures and commitment to social justice.

Jeff VanderMeer commented, “Most of the things we fund or donate money to, we don’t make public, but the point of it being public is to up the profile of this important program and also to bring more major sponsors to them.”

VanderMeer interviewed one of the founders, Chana Porter, about the work of the Octavia Project for Electric Literature — “We Need the Alternate Realities Living Inside Girls of Color from Brooklyn”.

VanderMeer: How do you use science fiction as part of the Octavia Project?

Porter: Meghan McNamara, a science teacher and dear friend, saw the opportunity to teach science and tech skills through SF/F writing workshops I was leading with teen girls. Over the course of the month at the Octavia Project, teen girls from Brooklyn write SF/F stories that are enriched by interdisciplinary projects. A SF story is transformed into a text-based computer game. The girls learn simple coding while building the game based around their story. The computer game is a branching narrative, and this changes the way the author has been thinking about her story. So she keeps writing, incorporating the new ideas she gleaned from the computer game project.

The next day, a professional woman architect comes to teach the basics of 3-D modeling. The girl builds a cityscape from her imaginary world. Then we take it back to the page. Building her city has changed the way she thinks about her story. Every project is connected back to storytelling at the Octavia Project. The girl designs clothes and tools from her world, then uses basic circuitry and principles of electrical engineering to create wearable electronics based on her design. This causes her to think about how tools function in her story. She takes it back to the page.

This summer our theme at the Octavia Project is “200 Years in the Future”?—?we chose this theme for a few reasons. First, it pushes our participants to think about what they want their futures and the futures of their communities to look like. We’re asking them a question “What do you want the future to be like?” and then we’re helping them build the skills to create the answer. While most people agree that scientific discoveries can make the world a better place to live in, we created the Octavia Project to help address the imbalance around who gets to benefit from current and future technologies.

While most people agree that scientific discoveries can make the world a better place to live in, we created the Octavia Project to help address the imbalance around who gets to benefit from current and future technologies.

Along with our theme, this summer we’re learning about the evolution of life on Earth. We are looking at how plants and animals have evolved to where they are today, and then we’re imagining what these plants and animals might be like hundreds of years from now. We’re asking how has life on Earth changed and what conditions or events have made it change.

Octavia Project is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a nonprofit arts service organization, and donations are tax deductible.

Pixel Scroll 12/5/16 And They Will Know Us By The Trail Of Pixels

(1) POSTER CHILD. Early this year Cat Rambo placed herself at the forefront of the movement encouraging writers to put up awards eligibility posts, and using the authority vested in her by the Science Fiction Writers of America now calls on everyone to do it.

Practicing what she preaches, Rambo has done a year-end recap of her publications:

The stories of my own I am pushing this year are “Left Behind” (short story), “Red in Tooth & Cog” (novelette), “Haunted” (novella co-written with Bud Sparhawk), and the fantasy collection Neither Here Nor There. SFWA members should be able to find copies of those on the member boards; I am happy to mail copies to people reading for awards whether or not you are a member. Drop me a line and let me know the preferred format. I am looking for reviewers interested in Neither Here Nor There and happy to send copies as needed.

The recap contains links to nearly 30 other F&SF writer awards eligibility posts.

(2) PW PRIDE. Rambo is also proud of Publishers Weekly’s starred review for her new short story collection Neither Here Nor There.

This double collection showcases Rambo’s versatility within the fantasy genre. In the “Neither Here” half, tales set in her existing worlds of Tabat (“How Dogs Came to the New Continent”) and Serendib (“The Subtler Art”) rub shoulders with new worlds of magic and mystery. “Nor There” displays her skill at seeing our world through different lenses, with locations including steampunk London (“Clockwork Fairies”) and urban fantasy Seattle (“The Wizards of West Seattle”)…

(3) SCREEN TIME. George R.R. Martin is getting busy recommending things for Hugos – including other people’s things.

For my part, I already know what two of my Hugo nominations for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form will be. ARRIVAL, to start with. Terrific adaptation of a classic story by Ted Chiang. Brilliant performance from Amy Adams. (She is always great, I think, but this was her best role to date). A real science fiction story, not a western in space. Intelligent, thought-provoking, with some wonderfully alien aliens. And WESTWORLD, season one, from HBO. Of course, as with GAME OF THRONES, one can nominate individual episodes of this one in Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form… but for me it makes more sense to nominate the entire season in Long Form. (GAME OF THRONES season one was nominated in this fashion

(4) HITS AT THE LIBRARY. Library Journal’s “Best Books 2016” picked these as the top five titles from the year’s SF and fantasy.

Borderline, by Mishell Baker
The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers
The Invisible Library, by Genevieve Cogman
Every Heart A Doorway, by Seanan McGuire
Behind The Throne, by K.B. Wagers

(5) SURPASSING THE MASTER. No spoilers for the movie Arrival in the following excerpt, only for the story it’s based on. But it’s natural that the movie spoilers quickly follow in Peter Watts analysis of the adaptation: “Changing Our Minds: ‘Story of Your Life’ in Print and on Screen”.

What might come as a shock— and I hesitate to write this down, because it smacks of heresy— is that in terms of storytelling, Arrival actually surpasses its source material.

It’s not that it has a more epic scale, or more in the way of conventional dramatic conflict. Not just that, anyway. It’s true that Hollywood— inevitably— took what was almost a cozy fireside chat and ‘roided it up to fate-of-the-world epicness. In “Story of Your Life”, aliens of modest size set up a bunch of sitting rooms, play Charades with us for a while, and then leave. Their motives remain mysterious; the military, though omnipresent, remains in the background. The narrative serves mainly as a framework for Chiang to explore some nifty ideas about the way language and perception interact, about how the time-symmetric nature of fundamental physics might lead to a world-view— every bit as consistent as ours— that describes a teleological universe, with all the Billy Pilgrim time-tripping that implies. It’s fascinating and brow furrowing, but it doesn’t leave you on the edge of your seat. Going back and rereading it for this post, I had to hand it to screenwriter Eric Heisserer for seeing the cinematic potential buried there; if I was going to base a movie on a Ted Chiang story, this might be the last one I’d choose.

(6) CALL FOR PAPERS. GIFcon, Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations, is looking for papers and creative works. The deadline is December 19. The SFWA Blog gave their announcement a signal boost:

With a focus on intersections (academic and creative writing; film, art, and games) we aim for GIFCON’s inaugural event to be a crossroads at which these communities can meet and come into conversation.

Fantasy at the Crossroads: Intersections, Identities, and Liminality

29th – 30th March 2017

What is Fantasy? This is a question that the University of Glasgow’s MLitt in Fantasy has explored throughout its first year. While this may seem an unanswerable question, for many of us, fantasy is where reality and the impossible meet. Fantasy inspires a sprawling collection of worlds that stem from a myriad of identities, experiences, and influences. From traditional epics to genre-melding, fantasy branches out into every style imaginable. Cross-sections of genre and identity create cracks in traditional forms, opening in-between spaces from which bloom new ideas and stories.

Examples of intersections in fantasy can be found in:

– Julie Bertagna’s Exodus trilogy, which explores environmentalism within the context of fantasy and science fiction.

– Arianne “Tex” Thompson’s Children of the Drought series, which focuses on subversions of race and gender.

– China Miéville’s The City and the City, which fuses the detective novel with the fantastic.

– Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child, which uses fairy tale inspirations to create a magical realist setting and narrative.

– Netflix’s Stranger Things, which melds horror with Dungeons and Dragons via a coming-of-age science fiction story.

– The Elder Scrolls video game series, which intersects narrative, music, and visual arts.

– Frank Beddor’s Looking Glass Wars series, which combines science fiction and fantasy to explore unique, genre-melded world-building.

…Please submit a 300-word abstract, along with a 100-word biography (both in DOC or RTF format) to submissions.gifconference@gmail.com by Monday 19th December 2016.

(7) RIVENDELL AUDIO. Here is the schedule of December Readings from Rivendell program in the Twin Cities, MN.

readings-from-rivendell-december

(8) WETA DIGITAL END OF YEAR PARTY 2016. I’d love to be on the invitation list for this shindig —

The Weta Digital End of Year Party has always had the reputation of being the best party in town. As with previous years, no one knew where the party was being held, or what was involved, all we knew was we had to go to platform 9 at the Wellington train station. After boarding buses at the station, we were transported to the secret location. This is what went down after we arrived… The party was themed by the four elements of nature – Water, Fire, Air/Wind and Earth. As you can see in the video, the themed installations and performance art at the party location were fantastic, and an amazing time was had by all! A big thanks to Weta Digital for putting on such an incredible party!

 

(9) PUCK VS. CUPID. The Book Smugglers present Tansy Rayner Roberts’ review of the year’s favorites in “Smugglivus 2016: A Very TansyRR Smugglivus”. There’s a lot of entertaining writing in the post, not to mention revelations about the previously unsuspected (by me, anyway) subgenres of gay hockey comics and novels.

This has also been an important year for Check! Please, one of my favourite all time web comics. I a couple of scary, stressful months earlier in the year, and the Check! Please fandom pulled me through until I was ready to face the world again. Check! Please was already an adorable gay hockey comic about bros and sports and friendship and pies, but its creator Ngozi gave us so many gifts this year, starting in February with The Kiss which pretty much made the comics fandom lose their collected minds.

Their love is so canon, y’all!

We’ve also had several waves of updates throughout the year, following the ups and downs of our hero Bitty and his secret NHL boyfriend. Ngozi also launched a Kickstarter for the book publication of Year 2 which was crazy successful, showing how dramatically her work’s popularity has soared since Jack Zimmermann got a clue that he was a character in a sweet gay rom com, not a gritty hockey tragedy.

(10) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #9. The ninth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for an autographed copy of Jenna Black’s Replica, and a matching handmade pendant to go with it.

Today’s auction is for an autographed copy of REPLICA and a handmade pendant to go with it (pictured below). You can see samples of Black’s other gorgeous pendants at her Etsy store.

About the Book:

Sixteen-year-old Nadia Lake’s marriage has been arranged with the most powerful family in the Corporate States. She lives a life of privilege even if she has to put up with paparazzi tracking her every move, every detail of her private life tabloid fodder. But her future is assured, as long as she can maintain her flawless public image—no easy feat when your betrothed is a notorious playboy.

Nathaniel Hayes is the heir to the company that pioneered human replication: a technology that every state and every country in the world would kill to have. Except he’s more interested in sneaking around the seedy underbelly of the state formerly known as New York than he is in learning to run his future company or courting his bride-to-be. She’s not exactly his type…not that he can tell anyone that.

But then Nate turns up dead, and Nadia was the last person to see him alive.

When the new Nate wakes up in the replication tanks, he knows he must have died, but with a memory that only reaches to his last memory back-up, he doesn’t know what—or rather, who—killed him. Together, Nadia and Nate must discover what really happened without revealing the secrets that those who run their world would kill to protect.

(11) NOT ASKING SANTA FOR THESE. This link leads to a page from Hunter’s Planet of the Apes Archive. Consider it an online museum of print advertising for Planet of the Apes merchandise.

(12) IN DOORSTOPS TO COME. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer have sold another Big Book – “Announcing The Big Book of Classic Fantasy”.

As Ann and I announced on social media last week, we’re thrilled to have sold another behemoth of an anthology, The Big Book of Classic Fantasy, to editor Tim O’Connell at Vintage Books!! Tentatively scheduled for publication in 2018 and covering roughly the period 1850 up to World War II. Thanks to our agent, Sally Harding, and the Cooke Agency. This will be our fourth huge anthology project, following this year’s The Big Book of Science Fiction, The Time Traveler’s Almanac, and the World Fantasy Award-winning The Weird.

Will this anthology include not just your favorite classics from the English language, but also translations from all over the world? Yes. Will it include never-before-translated new stories? Yes. Will it include the best of the Decadents and the Surrealists in a fantastical vein? Oh yes, most certainly. We hope to widen our net on the translation side, focusing on areas of the world that have been underrepresented in prior anthologies.

(13) WILLIAMS OBIT. Van Williams, famed as television’s The Green Hornet, has died at the age of 82.

Variety reports he actually died on Nov. 28, but his passing only became publicly known on Sunday.

Born in 1934 in Forth Worth, Texas, Williams was working as a diving instructor in Hawaii when he was discovered in 1957 by producer Mike Todd, who persuaded him to move to Hollywood. He earned his big break two years later with a lead role on the ABC private detective drama “Bourbon Street.” He followed that with “Surfside 6,” starring opposite Troy Donahue.

However, it’s on the short-lived “Green Hornet” that Williams made a lasting mark as newspaper publisher Britt Reid, who fought crime as the masked Green Hornet alongside his partner Kato, so memorably played by Bruce Lee.

(14) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 3, 1974 – The last new episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus was broadcast on the BBC.

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 5, 1901 – Walt Disney

disney-comic-lio161205

(16) A CAPRINE TRAGEDY. As discussed in comments on an earlier Scroll, the Gävle Yule Goat was burned down on its inauguration day, and replaced by a baby goat made of straw.

Only a week later, a vandal drove a car into the replica.

But in the early hours of Monday, those who were unable to sleep and instead found themselves watching the goat’s webcam feed (we’re told this is a thing) were able to see in real-time how someone raced towards the new goat in their car and brutally ran it over.

(17) SEND THE BILL TO LUCASFILMS. VentureBeat has been reliably informed coff that “The Death Star would cost $7.8 octillion a day to run”.

The British energy supplier Ovo has put some very well-spent hours into a comprehensive calculation of the operating costs of the Death Star, which will return to the spotlight in the December 16th movie Rogue One. They conclude that operating the planet-destroying starbase would cost 6.2 octillion British pounds, or $7.8 octillion, per day—that’s $7,800,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

To put that absurdly large number in perspective, $7.8 octillion is more than 100 trillion times the $70 trillion annual global economic activity of Earth, or 30 trillion times the roughly $200 trillion in wealth on our little blue planet.

(18) WHAT IF THEY’RE NOT LITTLE AND GREEN? NPR reports on NASA’s efforts to recognize life if they find it:

There’s a growing interest in so-called biosignatures — or substances that provide evidence of life — because NASA has upcoming missions that have real potential to search for them. Those include a visit to Europa in the 2020s and the 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, which could scan the atmospheres of planets around other stars.

The last thing NASA officials want is a repeat of the experience with the Viking missions back in the 1970s, when analysis of Martian soil chemistry produced what was initially interpreted as evidence of life — but then later deemed a false-positive.

“I remember the aftermath of that,” says James Kasting, a professor of geosciences at Penn State University, who was tasked with planning this week’s meeting. “NASA was criticized heavily for looking for life before they had investigated the planet and for not having thought that through carefully. They’re hoping to avoid that same experience.”

Finding life means first defining life, and NASA’s Green says the key features are that it must metabolize, reproduce and evolve.

(19) ESA WILL BUILD ROVER. The European Space Agency will build a Mars rover, even if the cost keeps going up.

Europe will push ahead with its plan to put a UK-assembled robotic rover on the surface of Mars in 2021.

Research ministers meeting in Lucerne, Switzerland, have agreed to stump up the outstanding €436m euros needed to take the project through to completion.

The mission is late and is costing far more than originally envisaged, prompting fears that European Space Agency member states might abandon it.

But the ministers have emphatically reaffirmed their commitment to it

(20) AUTO INTELLIGENCE. Uber has bought an AI company to move toward self-driving car.

Ride-sharing service Uber has acquired a New York-based artificial intelligence start-up which it hopes can speed up its progress in creating self-driving cars.

The deal, for an undisclosed sum, will see Uber gain 15 specialist researchers who will form a new division at the company known as Uber AI Labs.

(21) DISAPPEARING STAR. Did you enjoy the video of Chris Pratt’s magic, linked here the other day? Cards aren’t the only medium he does tricks in — “Chris Pratt keeps cropping Jennifer Lawrence out of Instagram selfies and it’s hilarious”.

The acting megastar duo are both starring in upcoming sci-fi romance Passengers, but throughout the film’s promo tour 37-year-old Pratt has been enjoying social media hijinks by cutting out 26-year-old Lawrence whenever the pair share a snap together….

 

(22) WINTER IS COMING. At Dangerous Minds, “Stunning images of pagan costumes worn at winter celebrations around the world”.

In a recent interview, French photographer Charles Fréger revealed that he has always been fascinated by European tribal traditions. This fascination inspired the well-known artist to travel all around Europe to capture images of people dressed in ritualistic costumes honoring the arrival of winter and other seasonal celebrations.

Fréger began his journey in Austria and to date has photographed stunning costumes and rituals from 21 countries around the world. According to Fréger there are many celebrations that mark the arrival of winter that take place in the Czech Republic and, say, Italy that are quite similar when it comes to the materials that are used to create the costumes. Such as the incorporation of animal pelts, branches from trees, horns and bells into the costumes. Though they may share similar appearances, the story behind each living piece of folklore varies from country and location. Here’s more from Fréger about why so many of these celebrations often involve a human masquerading as an animal:

It is not about being possessed by a spirit but it is about jumping voluntarily in the skin of an animal. You decide to become something else. You chose to become an animal, which is more exciting than being possessed by a demon.

(23) LOL. Larry Correia goes through the comments carefully answering everyone’s questions about when the electronic and audiobook versions of his latest novels will be available, when one fan decides to yank his chain:

Ben Smith: Will the leather bound book have a kindle version?

(24) MR. GREEN HAS ARRIVED. Let’s kick off the verse segment of today’s Scroll with a link to Theodora Goss’ “The Princess and the Frog” which begins….

I threw the ball into the water.
The frog came out and followed after,
bringing me the golden ball —
which I did not want at all, at all.

(25) SEASONED GREETING. Joe H. and Heather Rose Jones produced this collaboration in comments.

Lo, how a pixel scrolling,
From tender file hath sprung…
Of Glyer’s laptop coming
As SMOFs of old hath sung

(26) THEN ONE FOGGY CHRISTMAS EVE. In a piece called “Hamildoph (An American Christmas Story)” the group Eclipse 6 performs “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” as if it was done by the cast of Hamilton.

I cannot fly if I cannot see, people!
I’m in dire need of assistance.
Brrr
Your Excellency, you wanted to see me?
Rudolph, come in—did you say “brrr”?
Yes, sir, ‘cause it’s freezing.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Rambo, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]