Pixel Scroll 7/30/21 I Never Could Get The Hang Of Scrolldays

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC CELEBRATES EPISODE 150. Scott Edelman encourages listeners to binge on the Balkans with Eisner Award-winning comics writer Tom King in episode 150 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Tom King

Tom started out in comics by interning for both DC and Marvel, where he was an assistant to X-Men writer Chris Claremont. After his comics-inspired debut novel A Once Crowded Sky was published in 2013, and after a stint in the CIA, he went on to write Batman and Mister Miracle for DC, The Vision for Marvel, and many other projects, which won him an Eisner Award in 2018 for Best Writer. Plus — and I only realized this while taking note of comic artist Joe Giella’s recent 93rd birthday — we’ve both written Supergirl stories — 43 years apart! But that’s not the only commonality to our comics careers, as you’ll soon hear.

We discussed the two questions no one in comics can answer, his attempt at age 11 to get a job at Archie Comics, how he goes back to the beginning when writing a classic character such as Supergirl, whether Alan Moore would have had the impetus to create Watchmen in today’s environment, our dealings with comic book censorship, the weird way Monica Lewinsky caused him not to get hired by MAD magazine, the differences we discovered early on between Marvel and DC, what he learned as an intern to the legendary Chris Claremont, the Black Knight pitch he got paid for which was never published, the way comic book people are like circus folk, why the current state of Krypto proves I could never go back to writing comics, and much more.

(2) WORDPLAY IN ANNIE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Historically, the bad guys in the Annie comics have had names ranging from more-or-less backwards, to descriptive ones. (Sorry, can’t think of or find examples off the top of my head nor thru brief web search, no time to walk over to L/O/A books in bedroom bookshelf…) (The names in Dick Tracy are no slouch, neither.) Currently Annie features a villain called “Bandy Dessinay”… and if that sounds familiar:

Bandes dessinées (singular bande dessinée; literally ‘drawn strips’), abbreviated BDs and also referred to as Franco-Belgian comics (BD franco-belge), are comics that are usually originally in the French language and created for readership in France and Belgium.

As for why I recognized the rephoneticized term, it’s mostly from the year or three that I was subscribing to ComiXology Unlimited (their streaming digital comic book offering), where Bandes Dessinées was often one of the group/type categories along with (something like, IIRC) issues, series, collections.

Interestingly (at least, I think so), “Annie has appeared in the Dick Tracy comic strip after Little Orphan Annie was discontinued.” according to the Pigtails in Paint article on “Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie”.

Pogo fans will, of course, remember Albert Alligator and Beauregard Frontenac Bugleboy III (“The Faithful Dog”) (or perhaps Ponce de Leon Montgomery County Alabama Georgia Beauregard Possum, per a different web site) periodically gearing up as “Little Arfin’ Lulu,” with (his) eyes “all blunked out” and Sandy.

(3) PAPERBACK SHOW RETURNS. March 20, 2022 will be the date for the Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Collectors Show. The 42nd edition of the show (which had to skip 2021) will take place as usual at the Glendale Civic Auditorium, in Glendale, California.

(4) SHARPSON REVIEWED. [Item by Olav Rokne.] “The Future Refusing To Be Born” at The Hugo Book Club Blog. I keep thinking about the book, and how the author ties rejection of modernity (nostalgia) to authoritarianism. Definitely think that Sharpson will end up on my personal ballot for the Astounding Award based on this book. 

In Neil Sharpson’s debut novel When The Sparrow Falls, that place is The Caspian Republic: a country founded by expatriate American and Russian bioconservative activists, whose boundaries are roughly those of present-day Azerbaijan.

While the rest of the world has embraced an almost-singularitarian future of AI-guided mass prosperity, near immortality, and widespread expansive human rights, this Caspian Republic has hewed to a quasi-religious “Humanity First” doctrine and polices the use of technology.

…Sharpson’s prose is sparse, clear, and engaging. He ably paints a picture of a deeply flawed society, and one that is the all-too-believable result of nostalgia-driven politics and identity-driven ideology. Because the Caspian Republic’s technology is pretty much limited to what was common in North America in the 1980s, readers will be reminded of late-era Cold War spy stories….

(5) 100 YEARS OF LEM. The Viennese are participating in the Stanislaw Lem centenary reports Radio Poland: “Austrian capital honours Polish sci-fi great Lem”. See video of the dance on Facebook.

Lem’s centenary is being celebrated in Poland as the Year of Lem, and now Vienna, the writer’s home in the 1980s, has joined in, staging a series of musical events collectively dubbed the Lem Festival.

Poland’s Adam Mickiewicz Institute (IAM) is the driving force behind the project, in co-operation with the ImPuls Tanz festival and the Klangforum Wien ensemble.

During the events, which run through the end of July, dancers and musicians are expected to invite audiences “to reflect on the possibility of communication with ‘the Alien,'” according to the Polish institute.

This is because, a century after Lem was born, and following the NASA rover’s landing on Mars, this question has again become our civilisation’s most pressing problem, the organisers have said….

(6) THEY MADE IT. The Uncanny Kickstarter hit its initial funding goal – now they start work on the stretch goals.

(7) APEX AND ABOVE. Likewise, the Apex Magazine 2022 Kickstarter reached its basic goal and is rolling up its milestone rewards. First on the list, a story by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam – who does a Q&A with publisher Jason Sizemore in the linked update.

JASON SIZEMORE: Do you and Levar Burton hang out? Talk a little about the process of working with Mr. Burton and hearing your words narrated by Mr. Reading Rainbow?

BONNIE JO STUFFLEBEAM: What an experience! I got an unexpected email from Julia Smith, the producer of LeVar Burton Reads, inviting me to be LeVar’s featured writer at his live Dallas event for my story “In the City of Martyrs.” I had no idea that this was an email that one could get, so I was immediately ecstatic to both appear live and to have my story appear on the podcast. The night of the show, I got to meet Julia and LeVar, both amazing and talented professionals, then got to hear LeVar read my story to musical accompaniment. After the reading, we did a Q&A with LeVar and then with the audience.

What I remember most from the event was LeVar’s generosity; he offered to meet-and-greet the very large group of people who came to support me. Also, the audience questions for the Q&A were perceptive as hell. The audience was clearly full of serious readers, and I’m not sure there’s a better feeling than to be surrounded by people who share that passion. Then, of course, there was the magic of hearing my short story read by a man whose voice I grew up listening to. Normally, I can’t divorce the reading of my own stories from the fact that I wrote them, but hearing LeVar read my work with a balalaika setting the story’s mood throughout, I got goosebumps.

(8) DISNEY GETS ROUGH. As reported here earlier, Scarlett Johansson filed a high-stakes breach of contract lawsuit against Disney over the release of Black Widow, alleging Disney broke its contract with her by releasing her solo feature on streaming platform Disney+ on the same day as theaters. Disney’s reply drags their star through the mud: “Disney blasts Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Black Widow’ suit: ‘No merit whatsoever’”.

…However, Disney pushed back hard against Johansson’s arguments. In a statement issued to Yahoo Finance, the media giant said, “There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”…

Johansson’s representatives at CAA hit back: “Hollywood agent Bryan Lourd steps into Disney v Scarjo fight” in the Los Angeles Times.

“They have shamelessly and falsely accused Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic, in an attempt to make her appear to be someone they and I know she isn’t,” Lourd, co-chairman of Creative Artists Agency said in a statement. Lourd represents some of Hollywood’s biggest stars besides Johansson, such as Brad Pitt and George Clooney. Disney did not respond to requests for comment on Lourd’s statement….

“Scarlett has been Disney’s partner on nine movies, which have earned Disney and its shareholders billions,” Lourd said. “The company included her salary in their press statement in an attempt to weaponize her success as an artist and businesswoman, as if that were something she should be ashamed of.”

(9) BLUE ORIGIN TRIES TO REVIVE NASA’S INTEREST. Blue Origin says it’s willing to cover $2 billion of the cost for a second lunar lander contract, should NASA award one. In a July 26th letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos said his company is willing to waive up to $2 billion in payments over the current and next two government fiscal years in exchange for a fixed-priced contract. In April, NASA selected SpaceX as the recipient of its Human Landing System (HLS) contract, a decision that competitors Blue Origin and Dynetics protested shortly after. The full letter is at the link, here are some excerpts:

Blue Origin is committed to building a future where millions of people live and work in space to benefit the Earth….

This is why Blue Origin answered NASA’s urgent call to develop a Human Landing System. We built the National Team – with four major partners and more than 200 small and medium suppliers in 47 states – to focus on designing, building, and operating a flight system the nation could count on. NASA invested over half a billion dollars in the National Team in 2020-21, and we performed well. The team developed and risk-reduced a safe, mass-efficient design that could achieve a human landing in 2024. 

Our approach is designed to be sustainable for repeated lunar missions and, above all, to keep our astronauts safe. We created a 21st-century lunar landing system inspired by the well-characterized Apollo architecture — an architecture with many benefits. One of its important benefits is that it prioritizes safety. As NASA recognized, the National Team’s design offers a “comprehensive approach to aborts and contingencies [that] places a priority on crew safety throughout all mission phases.” 

Unlike Apollo, our approach is designed to be sustainable and to grow into permanent, affordable lunar operations. Our lander uses liquid hydrogen for fuel. Not only is hydrogen the highest-performing rocket fuel, but it can also be mined on the Moon. That feature will prove essential for sustained future operations on the Moon and beyond.

From the beginning, we designed our system to be capable of flying on multiple launch vehicles, including Falcon Heavy, SLS, Vulcan, and New Glenn. The value of being able to fly on many different launch vehicles cannot be over-stated…

Yet, in spite of these benefits and at the last minute, the Source Selection Official veered from the Agency’s oft-stated procurement strategy. Instead of investing in two competing lunar landers as originally intended, the Agency chose to confer a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar head start to SpaceX. That decision broke the mold of NASA’s successful commercial space programs by putting an end to meaningful competition for years to come…. 

(10) TED LEWIN (1935-2021). Illustrator and writer of children’s books Ted Lewin died July 28. Jane Yolen paid tribute on Facebook.

Heartbroken–this says it all. Ted and [his wife] Betsy were dear friends for many years and Ted illustrated David’s only children’s book (HIGH RIDGE GOBBLER) and a bunch of mine, Several of his originals for the books decorate my dining room. I see them everyday. Ted was a lovely, lovely man, a wonderful storyteller, who brought much beauty to the world.

Ted Lewin illustrated over 200 books, winning a 1994 Caldecott Honor for Peppe The Lamplighter. A number of these were done in collaboration with his wife, Betsy.

As a young man who wanted to go to art school at the Pratt Institute, he earned money to finance his education by taking a summer job as a professional wrestler – the beginning of a fifteen year part-time career that eventually inspired his autobiographical book I Was a Teenage Professional Wrestler.

Lewin’s professional honors also include a Silver Medal in the Society of Illustrators Annual Show (2007), and he and Betsy were inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 2015. [Click below for larger image.]

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1987  – In July of 1987, Emma Bull’s War for The Oaks was published by Ace Books. It would win a Locus Best First Novel Award and be nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. This urban fantasy would get its own trailer courtesy of Will Shetterly who financed it instead of running for Governor. You’ll no doubt recognize many of the performers here as some of them are from Minnesota fandom.  Decades later, it was scheduled to have a hardcover edition from Tor Books but it got canceled after the books were printed. (They were printed. I have a signed one here.) And the music in War for The Oaks would later be done by Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull and other members of fandom with lyrics by John Ford, Steven Brust and others. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 30, 1927 Victor Wong. I remember him best as the Chinese sorcerer Egg Shen in John Carpenter’s exemplary Big Trouble in Little China. He was also The Old Man in The Golden Child, Walter Chang in Tremors, Dr. Wong in the “China Moon” episode of the Beauty and the Beast series and Lee Tzin-Soong in the “Fox Spirit” episode of Poltergeist: The Legacy. (Died 2001.)
  • Born July 30, 1947 John E. Stith, 74. Winner of two HOMer Awards, given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Forum on CompuServe, for Redshift Rendezvous and Naught for Hire. The former would be nominated for a Nebula as well. The HOMer Awards ended in about 2000. 
  • Born July 30, 1947 Arnold Schwarzenegger, 74. Terminator franchise, of course, as well as Running ManConan the Barbarian and  Conan the DestroyerTales from the Crypt and True Lies. Apparently in sort of announced Conan and Terminator reboots. Though I think that’s more rumor than reality. 
  • Born July 30, 1948 Carel Struycken, 73. I remember him best as the gong ringing Mr. Holm on Next Gen, companion to Deanna Troi’s mother. He was also Lurch in The Addams FamilyAddams Family Values and the Addams Family Reunion. He’s listed as being Fidel in The Witches of Eastwick but I’ll be damned if I remembered his role in that film though I’ve seen it twice. And he’s in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor which I’ve never seen. 
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jess Nevins, 55. Author of the superlative Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victorian and the equally great Heroes & Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which is far better than the film ever could be. He’s also written the Fable Encyclopedia which is a most excellent look at Willingham series. I didn’t know he also wrote fiction ‘til now but he has two genre novels, The Road to Prester John and The Datong Incident
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jason Watkins, 55. His first genre role was William Herrick in Being Human. He’s also had a recurring role on Dirk Gentely as DI Gilks. And he voiced Captain Orchis on Watership Down.  Naturally, he’s been in Doctor Who, specifically as Webly in the Eleventh Doctor story, “Nightmare in Silver”.  He showed up in The Golden Compass as Bolvangar Official.
  • Born July 30, 1970 Christopher Nolan, 51. Writer, producer and often director as well of the latest Batman film franchise, The PrestigeInterstellarInception and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to name some of his work. His latest, Tenet, has been nominated for a Hugo this year. 
  • Born July 30, 1975 Cherie Priest, 46. Her Southern gothic Eden Moore series is kickass good and Clockwork Universe series isa refreshing take on steampunk which has been turned into full cast audiobooks by GraphicAudio. I’ve not read the Cheshire Red Reports novels so have no idea how good they are. Anyone read these?  She won an Endeavour Award for her Dreadnought novel.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest shows the judge throwing the book at an unexpected traffic offender.

(14) GET YOUR ANSWERS READY. Your hosts for Science Fiction 101 podcast are Phil Nichols of the Bradburymedia website, who is also known for the Bradbury 100 podcast and the Bradbury 101 YouTube channel; and Colin Kuskie of the Take Me To Your Reader podcast. Episode 7, “We Goes There”, features a sci-fi quiz.

(15) BASEDCON. *Rolls eyes* Thread starts here.

(16) HEAP OF GLORY. “Londoners Were Promised a Hill With a View. They Got a Pile of Scaffolding.” Linking to this New York Times item so you can appreciate the amusing comment which I’ve quoted below.

Advance publicity for the Marble Arch Mound — London’s newest visitor attraction — suggested that an Arcadian landscape would be created in the middle of the city, with spectacular views over Hyde Park.

A huge artificial hill, over 80 feet high, would rise at one end of Oxford Street, London’s busiest shopping district. Costing around 2 million pounds, or about $2.7 million, design renderings suggested that it would be covered in lush trees and that visitors would be able to climb to the top — and “feel a light breeze” against their skin.

The hill was part of a £150 million plan by Westminster Council to lure visitors back into the center of the city after the pandemic. In May, Time Out, London’s main listings magazine, described it as “visually arresting/bonkers.”

The reality has turned out to be somewhat different. Since opening on Monday, the mound has been widely mocked online as more of a folly than a dream — a pile of blocky scaffolding covered in patches of vegetation that look in danger of slipping off, and that it isn’t even high enough to look over the trees into Hyde Park….

 A commenter on the article said:

To be fair to Westminster City Council that spot has become increasingly difficult to manage, with the combination effect of a long record of unplanned and haphazard development accumulating to create serious problems. 

Obviously, the confluence of ley lines and faerie roads there lead to that being the natural place for the portal to Avalon, which in turn attracted the gate into Narnia. But, installing the secret entrance to Q branch’s main workshop so close to both the back door to the Ministry of Magic and unquiet spirits of Tyburn Tree was asking for trouble, and probably meant spatio-temporal subsidence would inevitably produce The Rift. 

Although finding a more plausible way to conceal the essential interdimensional-engineering work needed might have been better, it can be argued that attracting widespread ridicule with this hill has provided the sort of smokescreen that was wanted more cost-effectively. 

We probably shouldn’t rush to judgement, and wait for the official paperwork to be declassified and released under the 5,000-year rule.

(17) ROBODOG. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Is the game “Quick, spot the cop” or “Quick Spot, the cop”? Another publication has chimed in on whether robotic “dogs” are suitable for use by police. “Robotic Police Dogs: Useful Hounds or Dehumanizing Machines?” at U.S. News & World Report.

If you’re homeless and looking for temporary shelter in Hawaii’s capital, expect a visit from a robotic police dog that will scan your eye to make sure you don’t have a fever.

That’s just one of the ways public safety agencies are starting to use Spot, the best-known of a new commercial category of robots that trot around with animal-like agility.

The handful of police officials experimenting with the four-legged machines say they’re just another tool, like existing drones and simple wheeled robots, to keep emergency responders out of harm’s way as they scout for dangers. But privacy watchdogs — the human kind — warn that police are secretly rushing to buy the robots without setting safeguards against aggressive, invasive or dehumanizing uses.

In Honolulu, the police department spent about $150,000 in federal pandemic relief money to buy their Spot from robotics firm Boston Dynamics for use at a government-run tent city near the airport.

“Because these people are houseless it’s considered OK to do that,” said Jongwook Kim, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii. “At some point it will come out again for some different use after the pandemic is over.”…

(18) AI ASSESSES CATS. Meanwhile, a breakthrough in cat happiness technology has made the headlines: “Feline okay? The app that tells you if your cat’s happy” reports Reuters.

Cat owners who love to take pictures of their furry friends now have a new excuse to pull out their smartphones and take a snapshot: it may actually help the cat.

A Calgary, Alberta, animal health technology company, Sylvester.ai, has developed an app called Tably that uses the phone’s camera to tell whether a feline is feeling pain.

The app looks at ear and head position, eye-narrowing, muzzle tension, and how whiskers change, to detect distress. A 2019 study published in peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports found that the so-called ‘feline grimace scale,’ or FGS, is a valid and reliable tool for acute pain assessment in cats….

(19) GIVING THE GOVERNMENT THE DIGIT. If an AI can be trusted with your cat, surely their work should not go unrewarded! “Australian Court Rules That AI Can Be an Inventor”Gizmodo has the story.

In what can only be considered a triumph for all robot-kind, this week, a federal court has ruled that an artificially intelligent machine can, in fact, be an inventor—a decision that came after a year’s worth of legal battles across the globe.

The ruling came on the heels of a years-long quest by University of Surrey law professor Ryan Abbot, who started putting out patent applications in 17 different countries across the globe earlier this year. Abbot—whose work focuses on the intersection between AI and the law—first launched two international patent filings as part of The Artificial Inventor Project at the end of 2019. Both patents (one for an adjustable food container, and one for an emergency beacon) listed a creative neural system dubbed “DABUS” as the inventor.

The artificially intelligent inventor listed here, DABUS, was created by Dr. Stephen Thaler, who describes it as a “creativity engine” that’s capable of generating novel ideas (and inventions) based on communications between the trillions of computational neurons that it’s been outfitted with. Despite being an impressive piece of machinery, last year, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) ruled that an AI cannot be listed as the inventor in a patent application—specifically stating that under the country’s current patent laws, only “natural persons,” are allowed to be recognized. Not long after, Thaler sued the USPTO, and Abbott represented him in the suit….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol,” Fandom Games says this game will take you back to the ’90s (remember Scholastic book fairs?  All-denim outfits?) and will “tickle your nostalgia nose” but still frustrate you even though you’re not a teenager any more, but have kids and a mortgage.

(21) TINGLING BULLETINS AS THEY BREAK. Chuck Tingle told Facebook followers today that the music rights holders withdrew their complaints three days ago, but Twitter still hasn’t done doodly about restoring his account.

first off POWER OF LOVE IS STRONG with help of some true buckaroos behind scenes (who i will thank when this is all over and direct you to their websites and other ways) AND ALSO with help of all buckaroos on social media: SONY MUSIC and IFPI have decided to withdraw their copyright complaints and say ‘okay just take them down lets trot on you can have your account back’ which is HUGE DEAL. SO THANK YOU SO MUCH THIS PROVES LOVE IS REAL. also even though this situation is frustrating for chuck i must say sincere thank you to sony and ifpi this was a choice they made to do right thing by chuck in the name of the buckaroo lifestyle. so thank you everyone (with more thanks to come)

this happened THREE DAYS ago and twitter was notified. since then twitter has not responded to any methods of contact from chuck or sam rand or manager of chuck. chuck remains suspended with no way of contacting them that does not get automated response even though fact of the matter is:

THERE IS NO REASON FOR CHUCK TINGLE TWITTER TO BE SUSPENDED AT THIS POINT i do not have copyright infringement marks anymore or any other infractions. i have sent message to say ‘can you tell WHY my account is still suspended even after you said it would be better if i fixed these issues?’ and no response.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Paul Weimer, Olav Rokne, Michael J. Walsh, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 4/2/19 Get Me Pixels! Pixels Of Scroller-Man!

(1) HUGO FOR A WAR YEAR. Cora Buhlert provides a very fine walkthrough of today’s Retro nominees in “Some Thoughts on the Hugo Award Finalists, Part I: The 1944 Retro Hugo Awards”.

The most remarkable thing about the 1944 Retro Hugos is that there is no Heinlein. Not a single Heinlein story was nominated for the Retro Hugos this year, not because fandom has suddenly lost its taste for Heinlein, but because Heinlein was too busy in 1943 testing military equipment at the Navy Yard* to write science fiction. Also notable by his absence (except for one fairly obscure story) is Isaac Asimov, who was also too busy testing military equipment at the Navy Yard to write, though unlike Heinlein, Asimov didn’t have a choice, because he was at danger of being drafted and expected (not without justification) that he’d be killed if he were ever taken prisoner, as Alex Nevala-Lee describes in his (excellent) chronicle of the Golden Age and what followed Astounding.

World War II also took other Golden Age stalwarts such as Lester Del Rey (also busily doing something at the Navy Yard) and L. Ron Hubbard (busily shooting at phantom subs off the Mexican coast) out of the game, leaving the field open for other voices and the 1944 Retro Hugo finalists certainly reflect that. This is a good thing, because it means that writers who are not normally recognised by the Retro Hugo Awards (though some of them have been recognised by the regular Hugos) finally get their dues.

(2) CURRENT EVENTS. Then Buhlert follows with extensive analysis of the 2019 Hugo ballot — “Some Thoughts on the Hugo Award Finalists, Part II: The 2019 Hugo Awards”. These include comments and concerns about the Best Series category. (How’s it working for you?)

Best Series

This is the third year of the Best Series category and personally, I’m getting really frustrated with it, even though I initially supported the idea. But the way I viewed the Best Series Hugo (and the way it was originally sold) was as a way to award the sort of extremely popular SFF series that are beloved by fans and regularly hit bestseller lists, but whose individual volumes are almost never recognised by the Hugos, because the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts (see Wheel of Time, which was obviously misclassified in Best Novel, but would have been a natural for this category). When the category was announced, I assumed we’d see finalists like the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (which might have been nominated, except that the series hasn’t had a new book in years, because Jim Butcher is apparently ill), the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews (which actually ended in 2018 and really would have deserved a nod), the Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs, the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, the Honor Harrington series by David Weber (not to my taste, but obviously beloved by many), etc… But that’s not what we’re seeing in this category. Instead, we’re getting the same finalists we’re seeing elsewhere on the ballot. Perhaps the Hugo electorate aren’t really series readers to the degree initially assumed. Or maybe they just have a really weird taste in series.

(3) CLARIFYING TWEET. Archive of Our Own is up for the Best Related Work Hugo. The facility of the site, not the individual works of fanfic. Did someone need that explained, or were they only amusing themselves? Just in case, someone explained it:

(4) MARK YOUR CALENDAR. The dates for the next two LA Vintage Paperback Shows have been set — March 8, 2020 and March 28, 2021.

(5) STRONG WILL. Red Wombat needs to get something done before heading to China:

(6) HEINLEIN BOOK PUBDATE PUSHED BACK. The publisher of the recently recovered Robert A. Heinlein novel titled Six-Six-Six has put out a newsletter with more information about the project:

Work on the new Heinlein work continues, but we are experiencing some production delays and so may have to postpone the release from November, to Spring of 2020…. 

Some questions on the new Heinlein answered:

1. Is Spider Robinson completing an unfinished work by Heinlein? NO. Neither Spider Robinson, nor anyone else has been tasked with completing the book. The book is complete. It did survive in fragments, but the fragments contain the complete book. It is being edited (as is every published book) to eliminate errors, inconsistencies, etc. But the work is 100% Heinlein.

2. Is this the rumored alternate text to The Number of the Beast? Yes. This is the alternate text that Heinlein wrote. There are many reasons that have been suggested as to why this was never published, including certain copyright issues that may have existed at that time (the book uses the characters created by other authors, and the book acts as a homage to a couple of authors Heinlein admired).

3. Is the unpublished version similar to the published version? No, though it largely shares the first one-third of the book, it then becomes a completely different book in every way. In the published version the villains are largely forgotten as the novel evolves into something else completely. The unpublished version is much more of a traditional Heinlein book, with a much more traditional storyline and ending.

4. What is the release date? We are trying to publish it by November, but it appears we may have to delay it till Spring 2020 due to a number of reasons

(7) MCINTYRE TRIBUTE. SFWA grieves for one of sff’s finest people — “In Memoriam – Vonda N. McIntyre”.

SFWA President Cat Rambo noted, “Vonda was one of our best and brightest, and she had three times the heart of most of the people I know. I’m so glad she managed to finish the book she was working on, but her loss hits so many of us who loved her and her words with a hardness that is tough to bear. Be kind to each other today in her honor; I can’t think of any way that would be better to celebrate the goodness and grandeur that she was.”

(8) ON THE FRONT. Joachim Boaz posted an array of McIntyre’s book covers at Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations: “Updates: Vonda N. McIntyre (August 28, 1948 – April 1, 2019)”.

(9) LEARNING TERRIBLE SECRETS. Kat Hooper reviews Aliette de Bodard at Fantasy Literature: In the Vanisher’s Palace: A fascinating world”.

The best part of In the Vanisher’s Palace is de Bodard’s fascinating world. I want to know more about the Vanishers and how they destroyed Yên’s society. I’d gladly read other stories set in this world. I also loved the “non Euclidean” and “escherscape” palace which at first makes Yên nauseated.

(10) IN COUNTRY. Elitist Book Review’s Vanessa got a kick out of No Country for Old Gnomes by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne.

If you read KILL THE FARM BOY, then NO COUNTRY FOR OLD GNOMES is the same in tone, silliness, puns, wordplay, and corny jokes. Except this time we don’t see much of Gustave, Grinda the Sand Witch, Fia, and the others; no, this is about the gnomes Offi and Kirsi and their new friends whose quest to stop the halflings turns into a journey fraught with danger.

(11) THE FUTURE OF INFIDELITY. Abigail Nussbaum’s first Strange Horizons review of the year discusses Theory of Bastards by Audrey Schulman”.

Theory of Bastards is set in the near future, and Schulman does an impressive job (especially for a newcomer to the genre) of constructing a plausible and thought-out portrait of life in the coming decades. She casually drops into the narrative such ideas as a future type of internet in which computer-generated avatars present the news, or a combination implant and gene therapy that turns the deaf bonobo keeper’s mouth into another ear, able to perceive vibrations and translate them into sound. But for the most part, the picture she paints is not encouraging.

(12) HAUNTED PAST. Leslie S. Klinger and Lisa Morton trace “The Birth of the Modern Ghost Story” at CrimeReads.

In December of 1847, John D. Fox moved his family to a house in Hydesville, New York. Although the house had an odd reputation (the previous tenant had vacated because of mysterious sounds), it wasn’t until March of the following year that the family’s troubles began. Before long, daughters Kate and Margaret claimed to be communicating with the spirit of a peddler who had been murdered in the house. The communications took the form of rapping noises in answer to questions asked aloud.

The Fox sisters (along with a third sister, Leah, who acted as their manager) soon parlayed their rapping skills into celebrity. The young ladies held public séances, underwent “tests,” and inspired copycat mediums around the world. By the time the Foxes were debunked, they’d helped to inspire a new religion, Spiritualism, which was popular in both America and Great Britain, that held as its central tenet that the spirits of the dead continued to exist on another plane and could be contacted by human mediums. The Spiritualist movement had no less a figure as its international spokesperson than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose wife Jean was also a medium.

It’s no coincidence that the ghost story experienced a rebirth of popularity at about the same time….

(13) REMAINS OF JANRAE FRANK. The Worcester (MA) Telegraph includes Andrew Porter’s photo of the late author in its coverage: “Daughter claims ashes of mother thought buried in pauper’s grave”.

Janice Frank’s body was often a burden to her, and she likely would be unfazed by the fact that her cremated remains have been lying, unclaimed, in a funeral parlor since her untimely death in 2014 at 59.

But the news that she was there stunned her daughter, Sovay Fox, and her daughter’s partner, Hallie Hauer, who both thought she’d been given a pauper’s burial and had given up on ever having possession of her ashes.

Ms. Frank, born in 1954, contracted polio from the vaccine that was designed to prevent it. She was 8 years old, and the disease left her with a deformed leg. She walked her whole life with a cane.

A journalist and author, she told other writers that the best of their craft would come from tapping into their own pain, and it seemed she had a bottomless well of suffering from which she often wrote.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 2, 1914 Alec Guinness. Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars trilogy. (What? There were more movies after them? No!)  That’s it for filmed genre roles but theatre is another matter altogether. He played Osric first in Hamlet in the early Thirties in what was then the New Theatre, Old Thorney in The Witch of Edmonton at The Old Vic and the title role of Macbeth of course at Sheffield. (Died 2000.)
  • Born April 2, 1933 Murray Tinkelman. Illustrator of genre covers during the Seventies. Glyer has a most excellent look at him here in his obituary posting. I’m very fond of his cool, diffuse style of illustration that made it seem as if the subject of the cover was just coming into focus as you looked at them. (Died 2016.)
  • Born April 2, 1939 Elliot K. Shorter. Fan, bookseller, and Locus co-editor once upon a time. He was attending conventions by the early Sixties and was a major figure in Sixties and Seventies fandom, and involved in a number of APAs. And as Glyer notes, he spread his larger than life enthusiasm wide as he ‘belonged to the Tolkien Society of America, Hyborean Legion, the City College of New York SF Club, ESFA, Lunarians, Fanoclasts and NESFA.’ He was involved in the Worldcon bid and helped run Suncon, the 1977 Worldcon which came out of the bid. All of this is particularly remarkable as he was one of the very few African-Americans in Sixties fandom. (Died 2013.)
  • Born April 2, 1975 Adam Rodriguez, 44. His first genre role is on All Souls, the haunted hospital drama, as Patrick Fortado. He’s also in season three of Roswell as Jesse Esteban Ramirez. 
  • Born April 2, 1978 Scott Lynch, 41. Author of Gentleman Bastard series of novels which is to my utter surprise now at seven with the forthcoming one. I know I read The Lies of Locke Lamora  but who here has read the entire series to date?  And I see he was writing Queen of the Iron Sands, an online serial novel for awhile. May I note he’s married to Elizabeth Bear, one of my favorite authors? 

(15) STAND BY FOR SADDLE SORES. Who needs to work, anyway? The Wrap gets fans excited to hear that “AMC to Host 59-Hour, 22-Film Marvel Movie Marathon Ahead of ‘Avengers: Endgame’”. So excited they crashed the site trying to get tickets.

Are you devoted enough to watching “Avengers: Endgame” that you’re willing to sacrifice two-and-a-half days of your life hyping up for it?

AMC is hosting yet another Marvel movie marathon leading up to “Endgame,” a 22-film marathon saga that covers every MCU dating back to 2008’s “Iron Man” and concludes with “Endgame.” And just … why? Does anyone honestly need this?

Those who do brave the experience will get special marathon collectibles, content, concession offers and will get to see “Avengers: Endgame” at 5 p.m. local time on April 26, one hour earlier than regular public show times.

(16) CLASSIC ILLUSTRATIONS. The Society of Illustrators in New York hosts its “Masters of the Fantastic” exhibit through June 8. Includes work by many artists including Winsor McCay, Kinuko Y. Craft, Leo and Diane Dillon, Vincent Di  Fate, Ed Emshwiller, Hannes Bok, Virgil Finlay, and Frank Frazetta.

The art of the fantastic gives vision to our dreaded nightmares and our most fervent hopes. Stories of fantasy and science fiction have risen from the quaint traditions of the tribal storyteller through children’s fables and pulp magazines to dominate today’s cultural mainstream. Through their use on the covers of bestselling books, to their appearance in blockbuster movies, TV shows and videogames, illustrative images play a central role in the appeal and popular acceptance of the fantastic narrative and the Society of Illustrators is pleased to celebrate this rite of passage with an exhibition of more than 100 examples of the genre’s finest artistic works. MASTERS OF THE FANTASIC encompasses a full range of otherworldly images—from dragons, specters and demons, to the far reaches of deep space—in the form of paintings, drawings and sculpture, highlighting the works of the artistic innovators who have given shape and substance to the world’s most imaginative kinds of storytelling.

(17) TO THE MOON. In the March 29 Financial Times, Jan Dalley reviews a virtual reality voyage to the moon by performance artist Laurie Anderson collaborating with Taiwanese artist Hsin-Chien Huang, in an installation currently at Art Basel Hong Kong.

The hateful headset is instantly forgotten as, with gut-lurching suddenness, the ‘floor’ shatters beneath you and you are cast off, a weightless space traveller in the wonder of the galaxy.  And quickly dumped on the surface of the moon, quaking (in my case), to face and explore a series of visions and adventures:  ghost dinosaurs composed of mathematical symbols splinter into nothing as you navigate yourself toward them (one is replaced by a phantom Cadillac); a glittering diamond-shaped mountain sucks you on high among its giant peaks, perilously close; a plethora of swirling, hideous space junk crashes into your visor before you realise you have grown an immensely long pair of arms with which, presumably, to fend off the aggressions of this man-made trash, while behind looms the immense, terrifyingly beautiful sight of Earthrise.  A fathomlessly deep stone rose (remember Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince?), still and lovely, is vast enough to be slowly circled by its own eerie moons.  Later you lose your body completely; suddenly you’re on a donkey ride; an entire galaxy explodes into a vast cosmic firework display.

(18) TWO HEADS ARE BETTER. Bill Nye and Bob Picardo talk all about how advocating for space really works in the February edition of The Planetary Post.

(19) WHAT A JOB. NPR investigates new frontiers in homeowners insurance: “Step 1: Build A House. Step 2: Set It On Fire”.

An hour south of Charlotte, N.C., two forks in the road beyond suburbia, a freshly constructed house sits in a wind tunnel waiting to be set on fire.

To the left of the house is a brick wall with a hole in the middle, made by a 2-by-4 propelled at 70 miles per hour.

In front of the house is a metal staircase five stories tall. At the top are the hail guns.

More than 100 fans begin to turn, slowly at first and then faster. The ember generators flicker on. The fire is about to begin.

The past two years have been particularly costly for insurance companies that are on the hook for billions of dollars in damage done by hurricanes, wildfires, floods and other disasters. As these disasters become more frequent and expensive, in part because of climate change, insurers are investing more in this research facility that studies how to protect homes and businesses from destructive wind, water and embers.

The facility in rural South Carolina is run by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, a nonprofit research organization funded by U.S. insurance companies….

(20) HOW TO FAIL PHYSICS. “NASA: India’s satellite destruction could endanger ISS”. Chip Hitchcock’s summary: “The perfectly safe test wasn’t. Follow-on to links you didn’t use last week; now there’s hard evidence — but somebody should have figured that a blowup in LEO would send debris up, not just down and sideways.”

Nasa has called India’s destruction of a satellite a “terrible thing” that could threaten the International Space Station (ISS).

The space agency’s chief, Jim Bridenstine, said that the risk of debris colliding with the ISS had risen by 44% over 10 days due to the test.

However he said: “The international space station is still safe. If we need to manoeuvre it we will.”

India is the fourth country to have carried out such a test.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the test – Mission Shakti – with great fanfare on 27 March, saying it had established India as a “space power”.

In an address to employees, Mr Bridenstine sharply criticised the testing of such anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons.

He said that Nasa had identified 400 pieces of orbital debris and was tracking 60 pieces larger than 10cm in diameter. Twenty-four of those pieces pose a potential risk to the ISS, he said.

…Delhi has insisted it carried out the test in low-earth orbit, at an altitude of 300km (186 miles), to not leave space debris that could collide with the ISS or satellites.

(21) HEAVE AWAY, MR. RICO. As the world of robotics continues to evolve, we’ll soon be seeing more “physically augmented” employees in the workplace: “Exoskeleton Prototypes Sent to U.S. Navy, Special Command”

Sarcos Robotics is responsible for some incredible technology. Last July, we introduced you to the company’s Guardian S, the 4-foot-long inspection robot that uses magnetic tracks to inch along everything from metal walls to oil pipelines.

The Salt Lake City-based company is also responsible for the Guardian GT robot, which allows an operator to remotely control two massive robotic arms on a tracked (or wheeled) robot to perform dangerous inspection and maintenance tasks in the nuclear, oil and gas, and construction industries.

The company also designed a powerful robotic exoskeleton, the Guardian XO, a smooth, battery-powered exoskeleton initially designed to give industrial workers the ability to repeatedly lift 200 pounds without any physical exertion.

As we’ve seen continued industry buy-in, as well as ongoing innovation, Sarcos has started to land some big contracts that could increase the amount of physically augmented workers in the workforce.

In early March, Sarcos partnered with the U.S. Navy to evaluate how workers at naval shipyards could benefit from exoskeletons. Through the deal, shipyard workers could one day use the XO to work with heavy payloads and use power tools. The deal also calls for the Guardian S to potentially inspect confined spaces — for example, in submarines as they are modernized or retired.

(22) WASTE NOT. “NASA Announces Winners of Recycling in Space Challenge”.

Figuring out how to repurpose food packaging, plastic, paper, fabric and other types of waste without gravity to work with is difficult. That’s why NASA, in partnership with NineSigma, created the Recycling in Space Challenge.

The purpose of the challenge is to engage the public to develop methods of processing and feeding trash into a high-temperature reactor. This will help NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems and space technology programs develop trash-to-gas technology that can recycle waste into useful gases.

The NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) crowdsourcing challenge received submissions from participants around the world. A panel of judges evaluated the solutions and selected one first place and two second place winners.

The award recipients are:

·        Aurelian Zapciu, Romania – $10,000 for first place, Waste Pre-Processing Unit

·        Derek McFall, United States – $2,500 for second place, Microgravity Waste Management System

·        Ayman Ragab Ahmed Hamdallah, Egypt – $2,500 for second place, Trash-Gun (T-Gun)

The three winners brought a variety of approaches to the table for the challenge. Zapciu’s submission proposed incorporating space savings features and cam actuated ejectors to move trash through the system, before bringing it to another mechanism to complete the feed into the reactor. McFall’s submission indicated it would use a hopper for solid waste and managed air streams for liquids and gaseous waste. Hamdallah proposed using air jets to compress the trash and cycle it through the system instead of gravity.

 (23) ZOMBIE ALL-STARS. The Dead Don’t Die promises —

— the greatest zombie cast ever disassembled starring Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, RZA, Selena Gomez, Carol Kane, Austin Butler, Luka Sabbat and Tom Waits. Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. In Theaters June 14th.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/27/19 One Singularity Sensation

Tardy Scroll today because I logged a lot of time on the road attending my sister-in-law’s sumptuous birthday dinner.

(1) THE NOSTROMO LANDS IN NEW JERSEY. New York Times theater reporter Dave Itzkoff tells why “High School ‘Alien’ Production Wins Internet Raves”.

There are those perennial stage works that are perfectly suited to be performed in high schools across the country every year: say, “Our Town,” “The Crucible,” “Annie” or “The Wizard of Oz.”

And now, to this canon, you might add “Alien.”

A New Jersey high school has found itself the unexpected recipient of online acclaim and viral attention for its recent stage production of “Alien,” the 1979 science-fiction thriller.

“Alien: The Play,” presented last weekend by the drama club of North Bergen High School, starred a cast of eight students in the film roles originally played by Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt and Ian Holm.

(2) SWING AND MISS. BBC samples critical reaction: “Tim Burton’s Dumbo remake fails to fly with many film critics”.

Tim Burton’s reimagining of Disney’s 1941 animated classic Dumbo has failed to dazzle many film critics ahead of its release on Friday.

The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw gave the film one star, calling it “pointlessly complicated and drawn out”.

In his two-star review, The Daily Telegraph’s Robbie Collin said it “has to be counted as a failure”.

…The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney declared his new version of Dumbo a “frustratingly uneven picture” that “holds the attention but too seldom tugs at the heartstrings”.

Variety’s Owen Gleiberman said it “transforms a miraculous tale into a routine story by weighing it down with a lot of nuts and bolts it didn’t need”.

Other critics found it more endearing. Empire’s Ben Travis awarded it four stars, calling it “an enchanting blend of Disney twinkle and Tim Burton’s dark whimsy”.

(3) VINTAGE PAPERBACK SHOW. Gregory Benford added this photo of Alice and Marty Massoglia to our coverage of Sunday’s LA Vintage Paperback Show.

(4) THE HOLE TRUTH. Remember when the space shuttle Endeavour cruised past this place on its way to the California Science Center? LAist says its now part of a growing chain: “Randy’s Donuts Is About To Get A Hole Lot Bigger”

In October 2014, Mark Kelegian got lucky. Really lucky.

He was browsing BizBuySell.com, a public business sales website, when he stumbled across a listing for an unnamed restaurant. There were no details except that it was well-known and originally built in the 1960s.

Kelegian, a retired lawyer, assumed it was one of L.A.’s old school Jewish deli’s, maybe Canter’s or Langer’s. He dialed the number on the listing and a young broker picked up. She said the mystery restaurant was Randy’s, the 24-hour drive-through donut shop that also happens to be one of the most recognizable landmarks in Los Angeles.

He bought it on the spot. At $2 million, it was a steal.

For the next three months, Kelegian says his office received over 100 phone calls from angry investors.

“Everyone in L.A. wanted to buy Randy’s first,” he says. “Most of the calls went something like, ‘Son of a bitch!'”

(5) MORE ON HOLLYN. The LA Times obituary “Norman Hollyn, USC professor, film editor who worked on ‘Sophie’s Choice,’ dies at 66”, published March 21, includes a statement from his wife, Janet Conn, and more details about his recent speaking trip.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 27, 1914 Richard Denning, He made appearances in such Fifties genre films as Creature From The Black Lagoon, Creature With The Atom BrainThe Black Scorpion and The Day the World Ended. (Died 1998.)
  • Born March 27, 1942 Michael York, 77. I remember him in the Babylon 5 episode “A Late Delivery from Avalon” as a man who believed himself to be King Arthur returned. Very chilling. I also enjoyed him as D’Artagnan in the Musketeers films and remember him as Logan 5 in Logan’s Run. So what in his genre list really impresses you?
  • Born March 27, 1969 Pauley Perrette, 50. Though she’s best known for playing Abby Sciuto on NCIS, she does have some genre roles. She was Ramona in The Singularity Is Near, a film based off Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. Next up is the most excellent Superman vs. The Elite in which she voices Lois Lane. Let’s see… she had a recurring role on Special Unit 2 as Alice Cramer but I never watched that series so I’ve no I idea what it was. 
  • Born March 27, 1971 Nathan Fillion, 48. Certainly best known for being Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds in Firefly verse. An interesting case of just how much of a character comes from the actor. In his case, I’d say most of it. He portrayed Green Lantern/Hal Jordan in Justice League: Doom, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and Justice League: Throne of AtlantisThe Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen. Oh and he appeared in a recurring role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Caleb
  • Born March 27, 1953 Patricia Wrede, 66. She is a founding member of The Scribblies, along with Pamela Dean, Emma Bull, Will Shetterly, Steven Brust and Nate Bucklin. Not to be confused with the Pre-Joycean Fellowship which overlaps in membership. Outside of her work for the the Liavek shared-world anthology created and edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, there are several series she has running including Lyra (Shadow Magic)Enchanted Forest Chronicles and Cecelia and Kate (co-written with Caroline Stevermer). She’s also written the novelizations of several Star Wars films including  Star Wars, Episode I – The Phantom Menace and Star Wars, Episode II – Attack of the Clones  in what are  listed  as  ‘Jr. Novelizations’. 
  • Born March 27, 1950 John Edward Allen. One of the forgotten dwarfs of Hollywood, he stood but three feet and ten inches tall. English by birth and English in death as he went back there after an impressive career in Hollywood to die on his native soil. How impressive? Well given how hard it was for dwarfs to find work, pretty good as he appeared in Snow White LiveBuck Rogers in the 25th CenturySide Show (circus horror film), Under the Rainbow (see Iimdb link here), Tales from the Darkside (as a goblin), Swamp Thing series (love that series), Superboy (as a carnival dwarf) and Snow White: A Tale of Terror. (Died 1999.)

(7) ATTENTION CAT-OWNING WRITERS. Lifehacker advises: “Get a Decoy Keyboard for Your Cat to Enjoy”.

This maneuver—which I saw on my mom’s clinic’s Facebook page (she’s a veterinarian)—is quite clever. Old keyboards are super cheap—find them at Goodwill or any thrift store with an electronic section—and having one on hand lets your cat do what it enjoys (be super in the way) without actually being in the way. Heck, I might buy a couple to place in various locations around my apartment, just to see what sticks.

Of course, this presumes you writers aren’t secretly hoping for feline work interruptions.

(8) SPACE RACE REDUX. Veep associates himself with manned Moon mission idea: “US aims for humans on Moon in five years”.

US Vice-President Mike Pence has said he wants Nasa to return astronauts to the Moon within five years.

Referencing China’s recent successful robotic mission to the far side, he said: “We’re in a space race today, just as we were in the 1960s.”

Nasa had already been planning to return to the Moon, but Mr Pence’s announcement accelerates the timeline.

He was speaking at a meeting of the National Space Council in Huntsville, Alabama.

“It is the stated policy of this administration and the United States of America to return American astronauts to the Moon within the next five years,” Mr Pence told the audience.

“Just as the United States was the first nation to reach the Moon in the 20th Century, so too, we will be the first nation to return astronauts to the Moon in the 21st Century.”

(9) CLUES.  “Three-unique-words ‘map’ used to rescue mother and child” – discover how. Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a note, “Good tech details further down. Not covered: whether there are non-English wordmaps for non-English speakers — who are a major part of the intended beneficiaries.”

Three seemingly unconnected words have helped rescue a mother and daughter after a car crash in remote rural Somerset.

The “coordinates” – “weekend”, “foggy” and “earphones” – allowed police to exactly pinpoint their location.

An algorithm developed by start-up what3words divides the world into 57 trillion nine-sq-m (97-sq-ft) areas and gives each a unique three-word address.

The technology has been adopted by a number of emergency services in the UK.

It was originally devised to help the millions of people in remote and impoverished areas who do not have a postcode gain an address for the first time. In turn that would allow them to apply for services and goods.

But the location system has also gained the attention of emergency services and has recently been adopted by Avon and Somerset, Humberside and West Yorkshire police services, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire fire and rescue services and the British Transport Police.

(10) DON’T BE EVIL REDUX. “Google announces AI ethics panel” – BBC has the story.

Google has launched a global advisory council to offer guidance on ethical issues relating to artificial intelligence, automation and related technologies.

The panel consists of eight people and includes former US deputy secretary of state, and a University of Bath associate professor.

The group will “consider some of Google’s most complex challenges”, the firm said.

The panel was announced at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech Digital, a conference organised the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Google has come under intense criticism – internally and externally – over how it plans to use emerging technologies.

In June 2018 the company said it would not renew a contract it had with the Pentagon to develop AI technology to control drones. Project Maven, as it was known, was unpopular among Google’s staff, and prompted some resignations.

In response, Google published a set of AI “principles” it said it would abide by. They included pledges to be “socially beneficial’ and “accountable to people”.

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

Photos of 2019 LA Vintage Paperback Show

Lots of well-known writers and artists came and signed at last Sunday’s LA Vintage Paperback Show. Robert Kerr shot these photos (below) of some of the participants.

2019 LA Vintage Paperback Collectors Show & Sale on 3/24

Get ready! The Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Collectors Show takes place Sunday March 24 at the Glendale Civic Auditorium (1401 Verdugo Rd.) from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5.

Each year there are great finds reported by folks who attend the show.  This year, you could be the person telling the story.

There will be over 80 dealer tables. Dealers at the show have been spending the year looking in those other places and are bringing their findings to this show to offer them out.

Get off the internet. Garage sale later. Come to the Paperback Show. It’s an amazing event that happens once a year.

More than 50 authors who will sign their books for free, among them William F. Nolan who has been attending almost as long as the show has existed, with over 30 years of appearances.

Here is the full guest signing schedule.

  •       Peter Atkins ………………………….11am-12pm
  •       Laura Lee Bahr ………………………..10-11am
  •       Ann Bannon ……………………………10-11am
  •       Steven Barnes …………………………2-3pm
  •       Peter Beagle ………………………….10-11am
  •       Gregory Benford ……………………….2-3pm
  •       Paul Bishop …………………………..10-11am
  •       James Blaylock ……………………..Unable to attend
  •       Jason V Brock …………………………11am-12pm
  •       Mary Burgess ………………………….2-3pm
  •       Tracy L. Carbone ………………………12-1pm
  •       Kim Cooper ……………………………2-3pm
  •       John DeChancie  ……………………….1-2pm
  •       Ashley Dioses  ………………………..11am-12pm
  •       L. J. Dopp  …………………………..1-2pm
  •       Kelly Dunn ……………………………2-3pm
  •       Joel Eisenberg ………………………..2-3pm
  •       Dennis Etchison  ………………………1-2pm
  •       Christa Faust  ………………………..2-3pm
  •       Laura Freas …………………………..10-11am
  •       Ray Garton ……………………………1-2pm
  •       Mel Gilden  …………………………..11am-12pm
  •       Tony Gleeson  …………………………1-2pm
  •       Donald Glut  ………………………….1-2pm
  •       Scott Tracy Griffin  …………………..10-11am
  •       Barbara Hambly  ……………………….11am-12pm
  •       Denise Hamilton  ………………………1-2pm
  •       Odie Hawkins  …………………………2-3pm
  •       Gar Anthony Haywood ……………………1-2pm
  •       Stephen Jared …………………………10-11am
  •       Bruce Kimmel  …………………………11am-12pm
  •       Tim Kirk  …………………………….10-11am
  •       Michael Kurland  ………………………12-1pm
  •       Terrill Lee Lankford  ………………….2-3pm
  •       Richard Lupoff  ……………………….12-1pm
  •       Michael Mallory  ………………………12-1pm
  •       R.C. Matheson …………………………11am-12pm
  •       Daniel Keys Moran ……………………..12-1pm
  •       Lisa Morton  ………………………….1-2pm
  •       Larry Niven …………………………..2-3pm
  •       William F. Nolan  ……………………..11am-1pm
  •       Charles Nuetzel  ………………………1-2pm
  •       K. A. Opperman…………………………11:00am
  •       Gary Phillips  ………………………..2-3pm
  •       Felice Picano  ………………………..1-2pm
  •       Richard & Wendy Pini …………………..10am-12pm
  •       David Pollock …………………………12-1pm
  •       Tim Powers  …………………………..11am-1pm
  •       E.F. Robertson ………………………..12-1pm
  •       Art Scott …………………………….12-1pm
  •       Duane Swierczynski……………………..10-11am
  •       Harry Turtledove  ……………………..1-2pm
  •       Stephen Woodworth  …………………….2-3pm
  •       Marc Scott Zicree………………………12-1pm

This year’s show could not have happened without the continuing dedication and energy of Tom Lesser and Rose Idlet, and also John King Tarpinian, Jim Pepper, Lisa Kingsley, and Bob Speray.

Pixel Scroll 3/18/18 The Beast That Scrolled ‘Fifth!’ At The Heart Of the World

(1) LA VINTAGE PAPERBACK SHOW. John King Tarpinian snapped a photo of the full house at today’s event. I staffed the Loscon table for a couple of hours, then unfortunately need to retreat home and nurse a bad back.

(2) CITY BEAT. Adam Whitehead attended a preview of the first episode of The City and the City, the BBC adaptation of China Miéville’s 2009 novel.

The first ten minutes or so are a bit rough, especially for readers of the novel who may be surprised by how incredibly faithful it is to the novel one moment and how it goes off on its own tangent the next: there are major additions to the cast of characters and story. This makes sense: the episode was longer than the standard hour (I didn’t get the exact runtime but it seemed to be around 65-70 minutes) and there are four of them, which means the TV show is in the unusual position of having more time to tell the story than the relatively short novel has (which barely scrapes 300 pages). The new material is, for the most part, well-judged and intelligently deployed. Giving Tyador a wife seemed an unnecessary change, but by having her vanish in a suspected act of Breach immediately personalises the strange situation in the city: rather than the split (and Breach) being remote forces Tyador is aware of, they are instead deeply personal affronts that frustrate him. It gives the premise an immediacy not present in the novel but which works wonderfully on screen.

(3) WEIRD TONGUE. Aeon explains why “English is not normal” – “No, English isn’t uniquely vibrant or mighty or adaptable. But it really is weirder than pretty much every other language.”

…Finally, as if all this wasn’t enough, English got hit by a firehose spray of words from yet more languages. After the Norse came the French. The Normans – descended from the same Vikings, as it happens – conquered England, ruled for several centuries and, before long, English had picked up 10,000 new words. Then, starting in the 16th century, educated Anglophones developed a sense of English as a vehicle of sophisticated writing, and so it became fashionable to cherry-pick words from Latin to lend the language a more elevated tone.

It was thanks to this influx from French and Latin (it’s often hard to tell which was the original source of a given word) that English acquired the likes of crucified, fundamental, definition and conclusion. These words feel sufficiently English to us today, but when they were new, many persons of letters in the 1500s (and beyond) considered them irritatingly pretentious and intrusive, as indeed they would have found the phrase ‘irritatingly pretentious and intrusive’. (Think of how French pedants today turn up their noses at the flood of English words into their language.) There were even writerly sorts who proposed native English replacements for those lofty Latinates, and it’s hard not to yearn for some of these: in place of crucified, fundamental, definition and conclusion, how about crossed, groundwrought, saywhat, and endsay?

(4) FIND AND FLAG. In March, Rocket Stack Rank reviewed 65 stories from 10 magazines, of which 20 are free online, 2 are translations, and 13 by new writers. Greg Hullender also reminds readers about the blog’s new features:

Our March 2018 Ratings Page uses our new UI, which allows readers to rearrange the data to taste. For example, it’s easy to display stories grouped by:

The highlights can be toggled independently of grouping, of course.

Stories can also be flagged and rated by fans to indicate things like:

  • Stories to read later.
  • Stories they do not want to read later.
  • Stories for their Hugo longlist/shortlist.

The results of all the flagging show up on the My Ratings page, which is useful to manage your reading during the year and for award nominations at the end of the year.

We also updated the January 2018 and February 2018 Monthly Rating pages to use the new format, so people who want to maintain a complete list for 2018 can do so. The red highlights in these two lists indicate stories that were recommended by anyone, not just RSR. The March list will get those highlights on April 1.

(5) HALDEMAN. At The Archive, “Author Joe Haldeman on How the Vietnam War Gave Him Something to Write About”.

…From the settled and perhaps rueful perch of a septuagenarian writer, looking back a half-century into the very unsettled sixties, a couple of questions do now beg to be answered:

Would you have been a writer without the experience of Vietnam? What else might you have done?

I think I would have been a writer of some sort, since I’d started scribbling stories and cartoons and poems when I was about ten. I had no encouragement except from my mother, but she liked them well enough to bind them into little books with her sewing machine. (They would be around now as embarrassing juvenilia, but my father, a neatness freak, found them and burned them.)

But the long habit of writing, to paraphrase a title I would later use, was well entrenched long before I was drafted and sent off to save America from the Communist Menace. I didn’t think of it at the time, but without the war I wouldn’t have much to write about: it gave me a consistent subject and point of view for one remembered year—and the timeless theme of one man’s survival in a hostile universe….

(6) THE IMMIGRANT’S PLIGHT. Erin Horáková has a fine review of “Paddington 2” at Strange Horizons.

…Perhaps to immigrate is not what it once was, because the nature of our struggles has changed—though “immigration” means many things, and for many contemporary refugees the process is so awful and fraught as to defy any such ameliorating comparison. Old sins have new names, and all that’s “post” is prologue. Yet in a vital way to be an immigrant, to live as an immigrant, is already to have succeeded against great odds. It is to have made a voyage, and to make it again every day in miniature. To feel they journey’s echoes in your bones, even ten years on, when you raise children in a new land. Always. Even when you “belong.”

This opening sequence shows us Paddington’s life as a success, as a blessing, as a source of pride for himself and those who love him. Silly, fallible, mess-making Paddington, who is good in small things, and through this great in goodness. The film makes several nods to the amusing misunderstandings and clumsy mishaps of Michael Bond’s Paddington series. I slightly feel that the way the films merely tip the hat to this aspect of the source material before moving on is due to the late-capitalist cult of productivity and achievement. Even in comic children’s fiction, messing up, not Being Useful in some work-like capacity, feels too cringey, too high stakes. I myself have an awful fear of failure and embarrassment, and so wince through the Amelia Bedelia-ish incidents when reading the books. Yet the films’ redirection of emphasis does serve an important narrative purpose: it enables Paddington escape being a stupid immigrant caricature, allowing him both difference and dignity, both failure and worthiness of love. When Paddington’s whimsical approach to his window-cleaning business succeeds after some false starts, we have our cake and eat it. I ultimately feel the film is performing a good update of the series. The movie’s doing its own thing, minimising one aspect of the books’ formula to focus on its own projects….

(7) MISTER ROGERS FOREVER. CNN says “Mister Rogers is coming to a post office near you”.

The stamp is set for release on March 23 and will be introduced through a free dedication ceremony at WQED’s Fred Rogers Studio in Pittsburgh, which will be open to the public.

It spotlights the cherished children’s television star along with one of his show’s prominent puppets, King Friday.

(8) THE MONEY KEEPS ROLLING IN. (Wait, that was Evita…) The Washington Post’s Peter Marks, in “Fans of the books will love Broadway’s Harry Potter — but will others?”,  discusses how Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is coming to Broadway with seven members of the London cast and how competitors have put off mounting other plays on Broadway because they know Harry Potter will crush the competition.  (Tickets for both parts of Cursed Child currently sell for $1,217 on Ticketmaster.)

Marks also visits the Harry Potter Shop in London and finds it loaded with goodies, including a personalized letter of admission to Hogwarts for 15 pounds.

In King’s Cross railway station, at the approximate location of Platform 9¾ , there bustles a small commercial temple of the multibillion-dollar Harry Potter kingdom. Within the well-stocked walls of the Harry Potter Shop, you can conduct a merchandise sweep the likes of which might cause even He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to collapse in swooning contemplation of licensing checks yet to be cashed.

(9) YOU DON’T SAY. Well, duh: “Virtual cash helps cyber-thieves launder money, research suggests”.

Between $80bn (£57bn) and $200bn of cash generated by cyber-crime is laundered every year, said Dr McGuire drawing on a study by US analyst firm Rand released in early 2018.

A significant chunk of that cash is piped through various crypto-currencies and digital payment systems in a bid to hide its origins, said Dr McGuire, who carried out the research for security firm Bromium. The study sought to understand the wide range of methods that cyber-crime gangs used to clean up cash they extract from individuals and businesses.

(10) HOW TO EXPLORE THE FUTURE. The “Imagining the History of the Future: Unsettling Scientific Stories” conference takes place March 27-29 at Ron Cooke Hub, University of York, UK:

The future just isn’t what it used to be… not least because people keep changing it. Recent years have seen a significant growth of academic and public interest in the role of the sciences in creating and sustaining both imagined and enacted futures. Technological innovations and emergent theoretical paradigms gel and jolt against abiding ecological, social, medical or economic concerns: researchers, novelists, cartoonists, civil servants, business leaders and politicians assess and estimate the costs of planning for or mitigating likely consequences. The trouble is that thinking about the future is a matter of perspective: where you decide to stand constrains what you can see

With confirmed plenary speakers Professor Sherryl Vint (University of California, Riverside, USA) and Professor Charlotte Sleigh (University of Kent, UK) this three-day conference will bring together scholars, practitioners, and activists to explore ways in which different visions of the future and its history can be brought into productive dialogue.

(11) BRING YOUR OWN PLUTONIUM. O’Reilly Auto Parts carries a listing for a Flux Capacitor.

Product Information

  • Gigawatts: : 1.21
  • Material Compatibility: : Plutonium
  • Working Speed (mph): : 88 mph
  • Maximum Power: : 1.21 Gigawatts

Detailed Description
Time Travel at your own RISK!!!

  • Plutonium is required to properly operate Flux Capacitor.
  • Plutonium is used by the on-board nuclear reactor which then powers the Flux Capacitor to provide the needed 1.21 Gigawatts of Electrical Power.
  • Plutonium not Available at O’Reilly Auto Parts. Please contact your local supplier.
  • Flux Capacitor requires the stainless steel body of the 81-83 DeLorean DMC-12, V6 2.9L , to properly function.
  • Once the time machine travels at 88 mph (142 km/h), light coming from the flux capacitor pulses faster until it becomes a steady stream of light. Then, time travel begins.
  • Upgrade Kits available: Part # 121GMF

(12) AVENGERS TRAILER. Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War – Official Trailer.

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

2018 Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Show on 3/18

Get ready! The Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Collectors Show takes place Sunday March 18 at the Glendale Civic Auditorium from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5.

There will be over 80 dealer tables and 45 authors who will sign their books for free, among them William F. Nolan who has been attending almost as long as the show has existed, with over 30 years of appearances.

Here is the full guest signing schedule.

Pixel Scroll 1/5/18 A Scroll By Any Other Name Would Pixelate Just As Adequately

(1) SETTING A VISION. Author Fonda Lee explains her approach to storytelling in a thread that begins here —

(2) LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HIGHLIGHTS WOMEN ILLUSTRATORS. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna, in “Undersung women illustrators get their due at Library of Congress exhibition”, reports on a Library of Congress exhibition featuring such significant women cartoonists as Dale Messick, Lynn Johnston, and Lynda Barry.

It is possible, in this era of increasing recognition of women artists, to gaze at the recent prize-laced success of Alison Bechdel and Roz Chast and Raina Telgemeier and Lynda Barry, to name just a few, and consider that the field of illustration is becoming more level along gender lines. But then you consider that only two women have ever won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, or that The Washington Post runs only two comic strips created by women — and none by a woman of color — and you remember how much further the cause of women artists getting fair representation has yet to travel.

That is a central thread running through “Drawn to Purpose: American Women Illustrators and Cartoonists,” the rotating exhibit of nearly 70 works now up at the Library of Congress’s Swann Gallery from its Prints and Photographs Division.

“This show has been years in the making,” says its curator, Martha H. Kennedy, noting that her vision for “Drawn to Purpose” long preceded 2017’s shifting zeitgeist amid the #Resist and #MeToo movements.

Here’s a link to the Library of Congress webpage about the exhibit.

Features the rich collections of the Library of Congress and brings to light remarkable but little-known contributions made by North American women to the art forms of illustration and cartooning. Spanning the late 1800s to the present, the exhibition highlights the gradual broadening in both the private and public spheres of women’s roles and interests, and demonstrates that women once constrained by social conditions and convention, have gained immense new opportunities for self-expression and discovery.

The exhibit, which opened in November, continues through October 20.

(3) PAPERBACK SHOW. Here’s an updated poster for the 2018 Vintage Paperback Show with the names of participating writers and artists.

(4) BY THE NUMBERS. Here’s an ambitious project – Ross Johnson gives us “Every Episode of Black Mirror, Ranked” at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

  1. “Shut Up and Dance”

Hackers take over a teen’s computer and threaten to expose his solo sexual activities to the world if he doesn’t commit a series of increasingly intense tasks. Commentary on the “for the LULZ” troll culture aside, its an episode that falls victim to the show’s worst impulses: much as in season two’s “White Bear,” the big twist undermines the whole thing, attempting to convince us maybe the kid had it coming all along—after we’ve been lead to care about him. The performances are spot on, and the story’s engaging enough for a time, but the vague moral (“people who are bad deserve absurdly elaborate punishments, or do they?”) is just lazy. This is Black Mirror at its most mean-spirited. (Season 3, Episode 3)

(5) TV SF. Here is “io9’s Ultimate Guide to 2018’s Scifi, Fantasy, and Superhero TV”. For example —

Counterpart

Series premiere: January 21 at 8:00 pm, Starz

The always-great J.K. Simmons stars in this scifi thriller about a pencil-pusher who realizes the government agency he’s working for has long been concealing the existence of a parallel dimension. Things get really odd when his double (a badass secret agent) pops up in his world and enlists him to help catch a killer who’s also slipped in from the other side.

Daniel Dern sent the link with these notes —

  • I’d given up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D ~2 seasons back, but the current one has been worth watching IMHO
  • Legion’s (the Marvel mutant, not DC’s L of Super Heroes (1)) first season was incredible. Halfway through that season, I thought they were going to go yukky-horror, but happily that’s not where they went. Yes, it’s a Marvel mutant, but no, this isn’t a mutant or superhero show per se, more like Number Six’s Last Year In Marienbad.

(6) ANTIQUE COOLTH. Gotta love this. (If you’re a geezer.) “I was there when it was cool”.

(7) NO SPECTRUM FANTASTIC ART LIVE IN 2018. John Fleskes, Cathy Fenner, Arnie Fenner announced on Facebook that they will not be holding a convention in 2018, however, there will be a Spectrum Awards ceremony.

We have (understandably) been receiving a number of messages and emails inquiring about the 2018 dates for Spectrum Fantastic Art Live. While we have worked diligently since the close of the 2017 show last April to come up with something workable this year, we, unfortunately, were unsuccessful. Kansas City is an increasingly difficult venue to find acceptable show dates; we’ve felt lucky to have been able to squeeze in when we could in the past (realizing, of course, that any dates we used put SFAL in conflict with other conventions artists like to attend). With a new downtown convention hotel in the works and a new airport approved by voters, dates in Kansas City will continue to get harder to come by in the future rather than easier as more—and bigger—shows move into the area. The dates, spaces, and hotel prices that were available to us this year simply didn’t work for the vision we have for SFAL.

Reluctantly we’re announcing that there is no Spectrum Fantastic Art Live convention planned for 2018.

However, there IS a Spectrum 25 Awards ceremony in the planning stages for May 2018: we are working with Baby Tattoo’s esteemed showman Bob Self on something pretty wonderful. We’ll be making an announcement once details are finalized in the coming weeks.

But what about another SFAL? Well, we’re working on that, too.

This hiatus is allowing us to rethink the model for an artist convention/fair. While we’re extremely grateful to the 2000+ supporters who turned out for SFAL in Kansas City, we recognize that we were falling short of the event’s potential. Being unable to break through that attendance ceiling has prevented us from achieving the goals we have for the show and community….

Certainly, the social and networking opportunities of any convention or gathering are extremely important—but so are the finances for all. SFAL was never set up as a profit-generator for us, but it has to pay for itself and to provide a reasonable return for exhibitors. Spending time together is always an emotional plus, naturally, but artists paying for their own “party” while an organizer pockets their cash isn’t—and will never be—our purpose. Growing the market and giving the Fantastic Art community the public recognition it deserves are what SFAL, like the Spectrum annual, have always been about.

(8) UP ALL NIGHT. From The Guardian, “Buy a cat, stay up late, don’t drink: top 10 writers’ tips on writing”.

…stay up late as HP Lovecraft did: “At night, when the objective world has slunk back into its cavern and left dreamers to their own, there come inspirations and capabilities impossible at any less magical and quiet hour. No one knows whether or not he is a writer unless he has tried writing at night.”

(9) STEUER OBIT. Jon Paul Steuer (March 27, 1984 – January 1, 2018), known as the first actor to play Worf’s son Alexander Rozhenko in Star Trek: The Next Generation, is dead at 33.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 5, 1950The Flying Saucer opened theatrically.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 5, 1914 Superman actor George Reeves.

(12) BLACK PANTHER. Capitalizing on the new film, Marvel will release Black Panther – Star Here, a FREE sampler, on January 31.

Featuring excerpts from Marvel’s current Black Panther ongoing series, as well as World of Wakanda, Black Panther and the Crew, and portions from Reginald Hudlin and John Romita Jr.’s Black Panther run, BLACK PANTHER – START HERE serves to introduce brand new readers to the character’s expansive 50-year Marvel history, while long-time fans will be able to relive some of T’Challa’s most epic adventures.

(13) ADVANCE NOTICE. The New York Historical Society will host “Harry Potter: A History of Magic” from October 5, 2018 through January 27, 2019:

Journey to where magic and myth began! Join us in October 2018 for “Harry Potter: A History of Magic”, a British Library exhibition. New-York Historical Members can reserve tickets starting February 14 at 12 pm. Tickets go on sale to the general public in April.

Capturing the traditions of folklore and magic at the heart of the Harry Potter stories, Harry Potter: A History of Magic unveils rare books, manuscripts, and magical objects from the collections of the British Library, New-York Historical Society, U.S. Harry Potter-publisher Scholastic, and other special collections. Visitors can explore the subjects studied at Hogwarts and see original drafts and drawings by J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter illustrators Mary GrandPré and Jim Kay. Harry Potter: A History of Magic is currently on view at the British Library in London through February 28, 2018.

September 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S. publication of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, following the 20th anniversary celebrations of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the U.K. in 2017.

(14) RELIC OF MIDDLE-EARTH. The New York Times, in “The Hero Is a Hobbit”, has unearthed W.H. Auden’s review of The Fellowship of the Ring from 1954.

Seventeen years ago there appeared, without any fanfare, a book called “The Hobbit” which, in my opinion, is one of the best children’s stories of this century. In “The Fellowship of the Ring,” which is the first volume of a trilogy, J. R. R. Tolkien continues the imaginative history of the imaginary world to which he introduced us in his earlier book but in a manner suited to adults, to those, that is, between the ages of 12 and 70. For anyone who likes the genre to which it belongs, the Heroic Quest, I cannot imagine a more wonderful Christmas present. All Quests are concerned with some numinous Object, the Waters of Life, the Grail, buried treasure etc.; normally this is a good Object which it is the Hero’s task to find or to rescue from the Enemy, but the Ring of Mr. Tolkien’s story was made by the Enemy and is so dangerous that even the good cannot use it without being corrupted….

(15) TIME PASSAGES. In the past Jim Butcher has rarely spoken out about fan controversies (no matter how hard people tried to get him involved), but after reading Larry Correia’s fresh condemnation of the Worldcon banning Jon Del Arroz he made these comments:

Don’t agree with Larry about everything, but when it comes to WorldCon and the Hugos, I think he’s got a point or two which are, based upon my experiences with WorldCon, difficult to refute.

The choices made by various folks involved with WorldCon have, over time, convinced me that there’s quite a few more less-than-nice people there than at other conventions. As I get older, my remaining time gets increasingly valuable. If I went to WorldCon, that’s a weekend I could have spent with some of the many wonderful people in my life, or with excellent and nerdy readers who don’t much care about politics and just want to do fun nerd things. Or I could have spent that time writing.

There’s probably a lot of perfectly wonderful people helping with WorldCon, and there’s certainly a lot of nice people attending. But it’s sort of hard to see them through the crowd of ugly-spirited jerks, and the nice people of WorldCon? They are completely inaudible over the noise the jerks are making.

So for the kind people at WorldCon, I hope you catch me at another con or signing sometime, and thank you so much to those of you who buy my work.

To the jerks, may you meet no one who displeases you, and I hope that your con goes exactly the way you want it to go.

(16) WHEN WAS THE FUTURE INVENTED? Can’t find a record of linking to this when it came out – Adam Roberts’ essay “Till Tomorrow” in The New Atlantis.

So this future, the one Gleick is talking about, is a quite recent technological invention. There is a peculiar irony here: Gleick, who scolds Shakespeare for being stuck in the present, is so attached to our present ideas that when he encounters past views of the future he denies that they count as “the future” at all. If the difference were not framed so absolutely, Gleick would surely be on to something — nobody could gainsay the observation that, at the very least, stories about the future are very common today whereas a few centuries ago they were not. In the hands of a less breathless writer, this might have led to a more fruitful discussion about how our “temporal sentience,” as he puts it, differs from our ancestors’.

But the larger claim is dotty. Can you really imagine any population of human beings living their lives wholly incurious about what next week, or next year, might bring, or thinking that it won’t be different? Think through the practicalities: How could anybody have planned anything, stored grain for the winter, calculated the interest on loans, or mustered armies, if the future truly were indistinguishable from the present?

And this brings us to hunter-gatherers and farmers. It is certainly possible to imagine our hunter-gatherer ancestors living in some bestial, continuous present of consciousness, their experience of time pricked out with moments of intensity — the chase, the kill, the satisfaction of a full stomach — but indifferent to the distant future.

But it is quite impossible to imagine farmers prospering in such a frame of mind. Once we humans began to depend on planted crops and domesticated animals, our new mode of life absolutely required us to think ahead: to anticipate setbacks and think through solutions, to plan, to map out the future world — indeed, many potential future worlds.

Time travel as mental exercise must have begun at least that early. And that makes this focus on recent modernity look a little parochial. We are not so special. Indeed, thinking in this way of the future’s origins might make us rethink some of the metaphors we use to articulate our sense of time. Gleick is good on the limitations of these figures of speech — for example, time, as he shows, is not really “like a river.” Farmers, the original time travelers, are likewise prone to think of rivers not first as modes of transport but means of irrigation. Might time be the same for us — not a vehicle for taking us somewhere, as a horse is to a hunter, but a resource to make fertile what we have and hold dear?

(17) MORE ON SWATTING. According to Vice, “Fatal swatting results in felony charges for gamer but not cop who pulled trigger”.

Barriss has been charged in Kansas, though he’s being held without bail in Los Angeles. He’ll likely be out in Kansas to face trial by early February, according to the Wichita Eagle, and could wind up spending up to 34 months in prison.

The police officer who allegedly pulled the trigger has not been charged, though Finch’s mother is calling for charges against the officer.

“Justice for the Finch family constitutes criminal charges against the shooting officer and any other liable officers as well as damages against the city of Wichita for the policies and practices of its Police Department,” attorney Andrew Stroth, who is representing the family, told the Associated Press in a phone interview.

The Wichita police department claims that Finch was shot after he came to the door and moved his hand toward his waistline. Police Chief Gordon Ramsay called the incident a “terrible tragedy,” according to TIME.

(18) SOUND FAMILIAR? Curvature with Lyndsy Fonseca and Linda Hamilton, is a time travel drama about an engineer who travels back in time to stop herself from committing a murder.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, K.M. Alexander, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and Woody Bernardi for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 12/18/17 Scrolls For Industry! Scrolls For The Undead!

(1) CADIGAN NEWS. Congratulations to Pat Cadigan who told her Facebook followers today:

I am now allowed to say that I am writing both the novelisation for the forthcoming movie Alita: Battle Angel as well as the prequel novel, Iron City.

And this is why I’m in Deadline Hell.

That is all.

(2) STAR PEACE CORPS. In  “Star Wars Without the Empire”, Camestros Felapton conducts an awesome thought experiment inspired by Paul Weimer’s tweet.

In post-war Germany, a version of Casablanca was produced, re-edited and with a new script for the dubbing, that had no Nazis in it. As you can imagine, given the role Nazis play in the plot, they had to do a lot of work.

I was wondering if you could do the same to Star Wars Episode 4 – remove the Empire…

Star Not Wars Because They Aren’t Having a War With Anybody: A New Hope

A spaceship has broken down. Princess Leia finds a robot on the ship and gives it something. The robot (R2D2) finds an escape pod with its friend (C3PO). They leave the ship. We don’t see the ship again. It probably had engine trouble or something. Maybe the robots have gone off to get some fuel from a service station.

The robots land in a desert. After an argument, they split up. Later they each get caught by tiny people.

Meanwhile, young Luke Skywalker is unhappy being a farmer and living with his uncle. He’d rather be…doing something else I suppose.

(3) MARK YOUR CALENDAR. The Vintage Paperback Show returns to Glendale, CA on March 18.

(4) ROBOT ON PATROL. Tech Crunch reports “Security robots are being used to ward off San Francisco’s homeless population”:

Is it worse if a robot instead of a human is used to deter the homeless from setting up camp outside places of business?

One such bot cop recently took over the outside of the San Francisco SPCA, an animal advocacy and pet adoption clinic in the city’s Mission district, to deter homeless people from hanging out there — causing some people to get very upset.

The article quotes this tweet from Brianna Wu:

The SPCA deployed a robot from security startup Knightscope to deter crime and vandalism on their campus.

And, according to both the S.F. SPCA and Knightscope, crime dropped after deploying the bot.

However, the K9 unit was patrolling several areas around the shop, including the sidewalk where humans walk, drawing the ire of pedestrians and advocacy group Walk SF, which previously introduced a bill to ban food delivery robots throughout the city.

“We’re seeing more types of robots on sidewalks and want to see the city getting ahead of this,” said Cathy DeLuca, Walk SF policy and program director, who also mentioned S.F. district 7 supervisor Norman Yee would be introducing legislation around sidewalk use permits for robots in the beginning of 2018.

Last week the city ordered the S.F. SPCA to stop using these security robots altogether or face a fine of $1,000 per day for operating in a public right of way without a permit.

The S.F. SPCA says it has since removed the robot and is working through a permitting process. It has already seen “two acts of vandalism” since the robot’s removal.

(5) THE DIAGNOSIS. Ted Chiang says “The Real Danger To Civilization Isn’t AI. It’s Runaway Capitalism” in an article for Buzzfeed.

Speaking to Maureen Dowd for a Vanity Fair article published in April, Musk gave an example of an artificial intelligence that’s given the task of picking strawberries. It seems harmless enough, but as the AI redesigns itself to be more effective, it might decide that the best way to maximize its output would be to destroy civilization and convert the entire surface of the Earth into strawberry fields. Thus, in its pursuit of a seemingly innocuous goal, an AI could bring about the extinction of humanity purely as an unintended side effect.

This scenario sounds absurd to most people, yet there are a surprising number of technologists who think it illustrates a real danger. Why? Perhaps it’s because they’re already accustomed to entities that operate this way: Silicon Valley tech companies.

(6) CHEERS AND BOOS. Fanac.org has posted a 36-minute video of Robert A. Heinlein’s guest of honor speech at the 1976 Worldcon.

MidAmeriCon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Kansas City in 1976, with Robert A. Heinlein as Guest of Honor. With a warm introduction by Bob Tucker, this sometimes uncomfortable speech touches on Heinlein’s belief in the inevitability of atomic war and his belief that mankind will go to the stars. There are comments on Russia and China, the role of men, and more than a few very bad jokes. You will hear applause and you can hear disapproving boos. If you are one of “Heinlein’s Children”, or simply a reader of classic SF, this video is a rare opportunity to hear that legendary figure.

(More background about the booing is here.)

(7) UNCANNY DINOSAUR ISSUE. The submission window opens in March – read the pitch and complete details here: “Uncanny Magazine Dinosaur Special Issue Guidelines”.

As you may know if you followed the Uncanny Magazine Year 4 Kickstarter, Uncanny Magazine Issue 23 will be a Special Shared-Universe Dinosaur Issue! The planned solicited contributors are:

Do you want to join them? One of the stretch goals was adding two extra unsolicited stories to the issue! We will be open to submissions from March 1- March 15, 2018.

(8) CAPITOL TBR. Former congressman Steve Israel profiles members of Congress in the Washington Post about their favorite books of the year and found Rep. Ted Lieu of California enjoying the Nebula Awards anthology and Rep.Adam Schiff of California reading Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series — “A former congressman asked his old colleagues for book suggestions. Here’s their list.”

(9) TROLLING FOR CLICKS. At NBC News, Noah Berlatsky asks “Is Star Wars’ ‘The Last Jedi’ science fiction? It’s time to settle this age-old argument”. Will anybody take my bet that the argument will not be settled by his op-ed? Or maybe it will, by a kind of cinematic force majeure.

To figure out whether Star Wars is science fiction, you first need to figure out how to define the term — which is harder than you might think. Genres are notoriously difficult to pin down, which is why they spark so many arguments. Some country fans protested loudly when Beyoncé appeared at the Country Music Awards because she (supposedly) was not a country artist. Some critics similarly argued that Bob Dylan’s lyrics are not literature, though the Nobel committee disagreed.

Genre is a marker of quality and belonging, of seriousness and community. Science fiction in particular is often seen as more important or serious than fantasy, so it’s no wonder that there’s been some struggle over how to place the films. George Lucas himself declared that “Star Wars isn’t a science-fiction film, it’s a fantasy film and a space opera” in 2015. Others have also waded in over the years; Annalee Newitz included Star Wars in a list of 10 science-fiction works that are really fantasy at io9, while author Brian Clegg says Star Wars is only “low-grade science-fiction” — it’s not quite real science-fiction, so it’s not high quality.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 18, 1957 The Monolith Monsters premiered.
  • December 18, 1968 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang opens in New York City.
  • December 18, 1985 — Terry Gilliam’s Brazil! was released.
  • December 18, 1996 — Wes Craven’s Scream hits theaters, and a Halloween mask was born.
  • December 18, 2009 – Director James Cameron’s Avatar premiered.
  • December 18, 2013Forbidden Planet (1956) is selected by the Library of Congress for inclusion in the National Film Registry.

(11) TODAY’S  BIRTHDAYS

  • Born December 18, 1939 – Michael Moorcock
  • Born December 18, 1941 – Jack Haldeman
  • Born December 18, 1946  — Steven Spielberg
  • Born December 18 — Steve Davidson

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy overheard Dilbert talking about a zombie apocalypse.

(13) I HAVE A LITTLE LIST. SyFy Wire’s Swapna Krishna names these as “The 10 best sci-fi and fantasy books of 2017”. People get upset if I say I haven’t heard of all the books on a “best” list, so let me say I have heard of many of these.

(14) THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS 2014. Everyone has their own way of celebrating the holidays. John King Tarpinian’s traditions include rewatching Thug Notes’ analysis of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

(15) THE BIG BUCKS. Speaking of stacks of cheddar — “Star Wars: The Last Jedi takes $450m on opening weekend”.

The movie dwarfed its nearest rival – the computer-animated comedy Ferdinand, which took $13m (£10m).

The total for The Last Jedi includes $220m (£165m) from box offices in the US and Canada, placing the film second in the all-time list for North America.

It trails behind the 2015 release Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which opened with a record-breaking $248m (£185m).

(16) BREATHLESS TAKE. Chuck Wendig launches his review with a long stretch of onomatopoeia: “The Last Jedi: A Mirror, Slowly Cracking”. And how often do you get a chance to use that word?

This will be less a review of The Last Jedi (Episode VIII) than it will be… my thoughts? An analysis? Me opening my head like a flip-top Pac-Men and seeing what globs of brain-goo I can grab and hastily smack into the screen?

Spoilers follow the noises, Wendig warns.

(17) WHAT’S BREWING IN SHORT FICTION. Nerds of a Feather’s Charles Payseur serves “THE MONTHLY ROUND – A Taster’s Guide to Speculative Short Fiction, 11/2017”.

So please, take seat. The flavors on tap this month are perfect for those looking to unwind by the fire, to shed a tear for those who have not made it this far, and to reaffirm a commitment to pushing forward, into a future that is not mired by the same harms and dangers as the past. Each pint today comes with a special side of memories and a tendril of shadow creeping just out of view. The only remedy is to drink deep, and share the moment with those you care about, and look for ways to escape the familiar cycles of hate, loss, and fear—together….

Tasting Flight – November 2017

“An Unexpected Boon” by S.B. Divya (Apex)

Notes: Pouring a dark brown rimmed with gold, the first sip is deep, subtle and smoky like dreams burning, only to reveal newer, sweeter tones underneath, a future still bright despite loss and danger.

Pairs with: Honey Bock

Review: Kalyani is a young (probably autistic) girl who experiences the world quite differently from the rest of her family. It’s something that Aruni, her older brother, finds quite difficult to handle, especially when his parents have left him in charge while they are away. For Kalyani, though, it’s the rest of the world that doesn’t make as much sense, that overflows with threats and dangers…

(18) ON STAGE. It’s live! “The Twilight Zone returns to spook theatergoers”.

In 1959, a groundbreaking TV series began in the USA. The Twilight Zone came to be regarded as a classic of science fiction for the small screen. Now the Almeida Theatre in London is taking eight episodes to make a Twilight Zone for the stage.

(19) YA. A dystopia? Why, that’s just another day in a teenaged life: “Why Teens Find The End Of The World So Appealing”.

“The hallmark of moving from childhood to adulthood is that you start to recognize that things aren’t black and white,” says Ostenson “and there’s a whole bunch of ethical grey area out there.”

Which makes dystopian fiction perfect for the developing adolescent brain, says Laurence Steinberg, a psychologist at Temple University.

“Their brains are very responsive to emotionally arousing stimuli,” he explains. During this time, there are so many new emotions and they are much stronger than those kids experienced when they were younger.

“When teenagers feel sad, what they often do it put themselves in situations where they feel even sadder,” Steinberg says. They listen to sad music — think emo! — they watch melodramatic TV shows. So dystopian novels fit right in, they have all that sadness plus big, emotional ideas: justice, fairness, loyalty and mortality.

This time in a kid’s life is often defined by acting out, but, Steinberg says, that’s a misguided interpretation of what’s happening. “It isn’t so much rebellion, but it is questioning.”

(20) BAD AIR. I remember breathing this stuff at the 2015 Worldcon: “California fires: Sentinel satellite tracks wildfire smoke plume”.

Europe’s new Sentinel-5P satellite has captured a dramatic image of the smoke billowing away from the devastating California wildfires.

It is a powerful demonstration of 5P’s ability to sense the atmosphere.

The plume is seen to sweep westwards out over the Pacific Ocean near Los Angeles and then turn north towards the State of Oregon.

(21) JDA. Jon Del Arroz shares his vision of the controversies he’s engaged in this year with BayCon, Scalzi, Cat Rambo, Chuck Wendig, and some guy who scrolls pixels in “It’s Better To Be My Friend #JDAYourFriend”.

…Where they all screwed up, is that I’m a competent writer who works hard. I’m a competent businessman who markets hard. I don’t take my ball and go home and I’m not deterred from speaking the truth by some threats or someone’s bully pulpit.

And now I’ve got a platform. It’s one a lot of people read on a daily basis. It’s only going to grow bigger in 2018. I’m a well-respected journalist, I’m a multiple-award nominated author with an avid readership. I’m winning. Readers and audiences like winners. Yet not one of these people has come forward and said “you know what, Jon, I shouldn’t have attacked you, let’s be friends.”

(22) TO SMELL THE TRUTH. Hugo-winning editor Gordon Van Gelder had a famous father, Dr. Richard Van Gelder, who tried to stump the panelists on the episode of game show To Tell The Truth aired March 13, 1961. The chairman of the Department of Mammals at the American Museum of Natural History, Van Gelder pere was specially touted as an expert on skunks. The real Van Gelder and two impostors appear at 17:00, and the truth is told right after the 23:00 mark.

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

2017 LA Vintage Paperback Show

2016 Vintage Paperback Show, panoramic view. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

Over 400 people came out to the 38th Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Show on March 19 at the Glendale Civic Auditorium.

John King Tarpinian and the rest of the event staff did a really fine job, always aware of what was going on and nice to everyone. John spoiled me with a reserved parking space that helped make everything more accessible.

As I went around the tables, many collectible items caught my eye – none more so than a Duke Snider action figure (he was a big Dodgers star when I was a kid). I find at this point in life I don’t need to personally own things like that, I’m just happy they still exist.

I wasn’t even expecting to buy any books, which must sound blasphemous considering where I was, until I visited Marty and Alice Massoglia’s table. On top of a pile was a Christopher Anvil novel The Steel, The Mist, and the Blazing Sun. I didn’t remember seeing that title before, although I read literally dozens of the guy’s stories in Analog. It was an Ace book edited by Ben Bova. The description on the jacket didn’t ring a bell either, so I paid the $2 and started reading – indeed, despite being published in 1980 it’s new to me.

I had volunteered to help at the Loscon fan table. After Michelle Pincus set up, I had a chance to talk to Marc Schirmeister and hear the latest about Taral’s health and recovery. Craig Miller, co-chair of this year’s Loscon, arrived and we table-sat for awhile, discussing his guests and publicity plans. Michael Toman came by and introduced himself, saying he reads File 770 often.

The Civic Auditorium has a stage at one end, and that’s where the Loscon and Horror Writers Association had tables. With an elevated view of the whole event, during the 11 a.m. hour I could see throngs of collectors carrying small piles of books for Jason Brock, William F. Nolan, Mel Gilden, Barbara Hambly, Joe Lansdale, Tim Powers, John Shirley and others to sign. At noon the sf/f writers included Dick Lupoff, Michael Kurland, and David J. Schow.

Larry Niven, Mike Glyer, and Jerry Pournelle. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

After lunch I got to have a long talk with Jerry Pournelle about his recollections of working in defense and on the space program in the early Sixties. He and I also compared notes about getting around on walkers. Larry Niven joined us, and when Steven Barnes came to say hello they had an impromptu 30-second story conference about the book the three are writing. I also had a chance to greet Harry Turtledove and Gregory Benford.

The Paperback Show is a terrific one-day event with a great spirit that reminds everyone why they’re glad they found the sf/f community. If you’re local, be sure to come out when it’s held again next year.