Pixel Scroll 1/2/19 A Noble Pixel Embiggens The Smallest Scroll.

(1) A STRANGER FOURTH. A creepy New Year’s countdown heralds the third season of Stranger Things.

1985 will never be the same. Stranger Things returns for a third season July 4, 2019 on Netflix.

(2) WHO SPECIAL CHALKS UP FEWER UK VIEWERS. “Ratings Low for Time-Shifted ‘Doctor Who’ Festive Special” says The Hollywood Reporter.

But its overnight viewings in the U.K. were anything but stellar, with 5.15 million tuning in on the BBC, a 22.4 percent share, according to reports, half a million less than Idris Elba’s return as Luther the same evening. The figure — which is before consolidated views have been included — marks the lowest for any Doctor Who festive special since the series returned in its modern form in 2005, and also Whittaker’s second-worst episode this season. By contrast, David Tennant’s first special landed 9.4 million overnight views, Matt Smith’s 10.3 million and Peter Capaldi’s 6.3 million. However, these were all broadcast Christmas Day.

(3) AQUAMAN. He’s doing the backstroke to the bank: “Aquaman swims past Wonder Woman at global box office, could pass Batman v Superman next “.

James Wan’s Aquaman became one of the highest-grossing DCEU films this week when it surpassed $822 million at the global box office, reports Variety.

This figure placed the feature above Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, which lassoed a little over $821 million during its theatrical run in 2017. Domestically, Aquaman also broke the $200 million mark in North America, but it still needs $197 or so million to beat Wonder Woman‘s total American gross of $412 million.

(4) WU AND ARISIA. During Brianna Wu’s 2018 congressional race she focused on issues with wide appeal, and on attracting attention from major media. But the other day on Facebook she returned a fannish subject, the forthcoming Arisia convention:

If you attend Arisia, Inc. this year, I’m not going to say anything to you – but I will absolutely think less of you.

A convention that had multiple sexual predators at senior leadership levels and ignored the rape of a teenager is not a convention you should support. You cannot attend Arisia and also also support women.

I will not be buying your books. I will not support your art. I will never do you a favor.

You are the choices the [sic] make.

(5) BLACK MIRROR IN FINANCIAL TIMES. Martin Morse Wooster peeked behind the Financial Times paywall to report on their coverage of Black Mirror’s “Bandersnatch” episode.

In the December 29 Financial TImes, Shannon Bond interviews “Black Mirror” showrunners Charlie Brooker and Anabel Jones about the forthcoming episode of Black Mirror called “Bandersnatch” which will be interactive.  It’s about a choose your own adventure writer who gets trapped in “a branching set of storylines that descend down rabbit holes exploring free will and mind control.”

“‘We didn’t know what the story would be and we were like, ‘Wouldn’t that just be a gimmick?’ said Mr Brooker.

But once the pair hit upon a plot with the right themes, they were quick to embrace the opportunity, said Ms Jones,

‘It’s absolutely baked into the story this idea of freedom of choice and control and the illusion of control and the illusion of choice.  Once you’ve got that as the basic conceit and you have the protagonist and you can give them multiple endings but these endings only build to reinforce the whole, then that’s delicious,’ she said.”

They could call it “Choose Your Own Adventure–To Despair!” says Wooster. “Good times!”

(6) BEWARE THE BIRD BOX CHALLENGE. Ethan Alter, in “Netflix to Fans:  Don’t Be Like Bullock And Avoid BIRD BOX Challenge,” says that Netflix is telling fans to avoid a viral challene to do things while blindfolded just like Sandra Bullock does in BIRD BOX, saying they could hurt themselves and Bullock announced she bumped into the Steadicam several times while doing her blindfolded scenes.

(7) ROBERTS OBIT. BBC reports “Net’s founding father Dr Larry Roberts dies aged 81”

American scientist Larry Roberts who helped design and build the forerunner of the internet has died aged 81.

In the late 1960s, he ran the part of the US Advanced Research Projects Agency (Arpa) given the job of creating a computer network called Arpanet.

He also recruited engineers to build and test the hardware and software required to get the system running.

Arpanet pioneered technologies underpinning the internet that are still used today.

Dr Roberts is recognised as one of the four founding fathers of the internet along with Bob Kahn, Vint Cerf and Len Kleinrock.

The son of two chemists, Dr Roberts reportedly chose electronics as a field of study because it was more forward-looking.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 2, 1920 Isaac Asimov. I can’t possibly summarise him here so I won’t. My favourite novels by him are the original Foundation novels followed very closely by his Galactic Empire series and I, Robot. I also still like the Robot series a lot and I know I’ve read a lot of his short fiction. (Died 1992.)
  • Born January 2, 1929Charles Beaumont. He is best remembered as a writer of such Twilight Zone episodes such as “The Howling Man”, “Printer’s Devil”, and the “Number Twelve Looks Just Like You”, but he also penned the exemplary 7 Faces of Dr. Lao screenplay, and The Masque of the Red Death, a horror film with Vincent Price which is rather good. (Died 1967.)
  • Born January 2, 1978 Renée Elise Goldsberry, 41. Currently Quellcrist Falconer in the Altered Carbon series with her first SF role having been Crewman Kelly on the “Vox Sola” episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. I think her only other genre appearance is as Denise Watkins in the long titled “Things to Do in New York When You Think You’re Dead” episode of Life on Mars series. I’ve read the entire Altered Carbon series but not seen the series, so how is it? 
  • Born January 2, 1979 Tobias Buckell, 40. I read and enjoyed a lot his Xenowealth series which was both both original and managed to wrap nicely. Do note that “The Alchemist and The Executioness “ novella  he wrote with the latter and is which is part of the latter’s Tangled Lands Universe is definitely worth chasing down out for reading
  • Born January 2, 1983 Kate Bosworth, 36. Not a long resume in the genre I grant you but her Lois Lane in Superman Returns certainly was impressive and she’s was recently in a series that I’m looking forward to seeing no matter how depressing it probably is, an adaptation of Len Deighton’s SS-GB, and she’s got The I-Land, a web series which sounds more horror than SF forthcoming. 

(9) FINALLY THEY TRIED SCIENCE. The popular theory about learning-by-guess was always wrong: “Why Millions Of Kids Can’t Read, And What Better Teaching Can Do About It”.

Harper attended a professional-development day at one of the district’s lowest-performing elementary schools. The teachers were talking about how students should attack words in a story. When a child came to a word she didn’t know, the teacher would tell her to look at the picture and guess.

The most important thing was for the child to understand the meaning of the story, not the exact words on the page. So, if a kid came to the word “horse” and said “house,” the teacher would say, that’s wrong. But, Harper recalls, “if the kid said ‘pony,’ it’d be right because pony and horse mean the same thing.”

Harper was shocked. First of all, pony and horse don’t mean the same thing. And what does a kid do when there aren’t any pictures?

This advice to a beginning reader is based on an influential theory about reading that basically says people use things like context and visual clues to read words. The theory assumes learning to read is a natural process and that with enough exposure to text, kids will figure out how words work.

Yet scientists from around the world have done thousands of studies on how people learn to read and have concluded that theory is wrong….

(10) OLD TECH MADE NEW. NPR “Climate Change Is Bad For Peru’s Pastures … But There’s A 1,200-Year-Old Fix”

Climate change, vanishing ice and erratic rain patterns are causing the wetlands in two Andean communities to shrink — and that’s a big problem for the communities of Miraflores and Canchayllo. The villagers depend on the puna, a set of alpine ecosystems above 13,000 feet that include grasslands and wetlands to graze sheep, cows, alpacas, llamas and vicunas — animals that provide them with their livelihoods.

Instead of looking for modern solutions to improve access to water, the villagers turned to an old one: centuries-old hydraulic systems that dot the Nor Yauyos Cocha Landscape Reserve, a state-protected natural area seven hours east of Lima. These ancient systems have been used to help irrigate the reserve’s pastures and provide nutrient-rich soil for hundreds of years.

So in 2013, the communities teamed up with scientists from U.S. nonprofit The Mountain Institute (TMI) and reserve authorities to devise plans to revive their historic waterways, including canals, lakes and reservoirs. In addition to providing water, the project would also help mitigate the effects of climate change on the landscape, which has been degraded by grazing, melting glaciers and erratic rainfall.

(11) THE SPEED OF DARK. The real world moves past Moon’s novel: “The firm whose staff are all autistic”.

Peter, Evan and Brian work at a small technology firm based by the beach in Santa Monica, testing software and fixing bugs.

On first inspection it seems like any other Los Angeles-based company, with tasteful art on the white walls and calm-inducing diffusers dotted about.

Peter describes the working atmosphere as “quiet, but fun”, and especially likes the fact that there is no pressure to socialise, while Evan says of his employers that they are “very accommodating and understanding”. Brian describes his office as “unique”.

Auticon is one of only a handful of companies that cater exclusively for employees who are on the autistic spectrum.

Formerly known as MindSpark before being acquired by German-based Auticon, the firm was founded by Gray Benoist who, as the father of two autistic sons, saw few options in the workplace that could cater for their needs.

(12) BETTER FUZZY PIXELS. “New Horizons: Nasa probe survives flyby of Ultima Thule” – BBC has the story.

The US space agency’s New Horizons probe has made contact with Earth to confirm its successful flyby of the icy world known as Ultima Thule.

The encounter occurred some 6.5bn km (4bn miles) away, making it the most distant ever exploration of an object in our Solar System.

New Horizons acquired gigabytes of photos and other observations during the pass.

It will now send these home over the coming months.

The radio message from the robotic craft was picked up by one of Nasa’s big antennas, in Madrid, Spain.

(13) THE FAR SIDE. Follow-up to a previous Scroll item: “China mission primed for landing on Moon’s far side”

China is preparing to make the first attempt at landing robotic spacecraft on the Moon’s far side.

A static lander and rover are expected to be deployed to the surface in the next day, state media reports.

The vehicles are carrying a suite of instruments designed to characterise the region’s geology, as well as a biological experiment.

In recent days, the Chang’e-4 spacecraft had lowered its orbit in preparation for landing.

At the weekend, Chinese state media said the probe had entered an elliptical path around the Moon, bringing the vehicles to within 15km (9 miles) of the lunar surface at its closest point.

Authorities have not specified the exact time of the attempt to touch down in the Von Kármán crater. But a report in the state-run China Daily newspaper suggests Chang’e-4 could begin descending on its thrusters sometime from 2-3 January.

(14) ORBITAL OBSTETRICS. The Atlantic reports a proposed experiment: “Imagine Giving Birth in Space”.

“SpaceLife Origin, based in the Netherlands, wants to send a pregnant woman, accompanied by a “trained, world-class medical team,” in a capsule to the space above Earth. The mission would last 24 to 36 hours. Once the woman delivered the child, the capsule would return to the ground. “A carefully prepared and monitored process will reduce all possible risks, similar to Western standards as they exist on Earth for both mother and child,” SpaceLife Origin’s website states. The company has set the year 2024 as the target date for the trip.

“The concept raises a host of questions—we’ll get to those later—but perhaps the most immediate may be this: Why?

(15) JEOPARDY! Direct from Andrew Porter’s living room, tonight’s sff reference on Jeopardy!

In Final Jeopardy, in “British Memoirs,” the answer was, “Before his death in 1996, this famous son wrote the memoirs “The Enchanted Places” & “The Hollow on the Hill”.

Wrong questions: “Who is Churchill?”, “Who is Christopher Tolkien?”

Correct question: “Who is Milne?” — Christopher Robin Milne

(16) HERTZ PENS COOLEST VERSE. John Hertz cheered me up after reading my complaint about a cold house —

We all of us knew you were cool,

But now it seems too you are cold.

We’ll hope that you had a good Yule

And were safe while Old/New Year change rolled.

But we still don’t see a new header,

And your scrolling voice has been scant.

Are you merely under the weather?

Or does some worse thing mean you can’t?

I join my small voice to the others

Who wish you both good and the best.

You know that if we had our druthers

You’d not go through any such test.

(17) THE VOLCANIC KIMCHI CURE. But if I need it, LAist touts “Kimchi Jjigae, The Volcanic Korean Stew That Can Kill Colds”.

When the winter sun sets before 5 p.m. and you’re nursing a nasty case of the sniffles, there’s a piping-hot Korean stew that provides the perfect antidote to illness and hunger. Huge, hearty and volcanic red, kimchi jjigae can blaze the mucus out of your body better than a Neti pot.

The Korean dish is believed by some to have originated in the mid-Joseon era, during or shortly after the Imjin Wars of 1592 to 1598, when Japan invaded Korea and brought Portuguese traders’ chili peppers with them. Others argue that the chili has been farmed in Korea for 1,500 years, after it was brought to the region millions of years ago by birds. Still others believe the chili came from China, thanks to Indian and Arab traders peddling the seeds along the Silk Road.

Whatever kimchi jjigae’s origins, it lets thrifty Korean cooks use super-ripe kimchi that’s not ideal to eat on its own. With the kimchi’s intensity mellowed by pork, tofu, gochugaru (chile pepper flakes), garlic, ginger, scallions and broth, the spicy stew has become a year-round favorite. During long, harsh winters, like the kind we have here in Los Angeles, jjigae with pork has a reputation as an almost magical antidote to winter colds….

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

Pixel Scroll 12/23/18 Galileo, (Galileo) Galileo, Galileo Pixel Scroll

Abbreviated Scroll after a busy day of family celebrations.

(1) A BIG FISH TAIL. No, Jason Momoa is not the first actor to portray Aquaman in a live-action film (SYFY Wire: “How a $10,000 1984 fan film became the world’s first Aquaman movie”).

Warner Bros.’ Aquaman is poised to make a super splash this weekend as DC’s oft-maligned underwater wonder makes his solo feature debut. The $160 million fantasy adventure, directed by Saw and Insidious franchise helmer James Wan, already boasts optimistic box office predictions, targeting a $65 million opening.

But long before Jason Momoa emerged as the charismatic King of Atlantis in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, 2017’s Justice League, and, now, Aquaman, an officially authorized, $10,000 fan film became the world’s first Aquaman movie.

The film in question is on YouTube here. It runs about 20 minutes. I haven’t watched it – you’re on your own!

(2) SILVER BELLS. Galactic Journey’s Victoria Silverwolf celebrates the coming year at the newsstand: “[December 23, 1963] Ring Out the Old, Ring In the New (January 1964 Fantastic)”.

The Lords of Quarmall, by Fritz Leiber and Harry Fischer

You may not know the name Harry Fischer.  A new writer, perhaps?  Well, not exactly.  In fact, Fischer created the famous characters Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in a letter to his friend Leiber nearly three decades ago.  Since then, of course, the great fantasist has made the pair of adventurers his own.  In 1937, Fischer wrote about ten thousand words of a novel.  Leiber completed it, and it appears here for the first time.

Quarmall is a strange kingdom.  Its ruler lives in a keep above ground, but the rest of his realm lies deep down below.  He has two adult sons.  One reigns over the upper half of this underground land, the other the lower half.  The brothers are bitter rivals, each trying to destroy the other through treachery and magic.  They also plot against their father.  He, in turn, hopes to eliminate his sons and leave his kingdom to the unborn child of a concubine. 

Unknown to each other, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are each hired as a swordsman by one of the brothers.  When the king’s archmage announces the death of his master, the conflict between the siblings explodes into open warfare….

(3) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 23, 1945 Raymond E. Feist, 73. Best known for the Riftwar  series. The only novel I’ve read by  him is was Faerie Tale, a dark fantasy set in the state of New York, which is one damn scary work. 
  • Born December 23, 1971 Corey Haim. You’ll most likely remember him from the Lost Boys but he had a long career in genre film after that with roles in Watchers, Prayer of the Roller Boys, Fever Lake, Lost Boys: The Tribe  (no, I’ve never heard of heard it) and Do Not Disturb. He showed in two series, PSI Factor and Merlin. (Died 2010.)

(4) COMICS SECTION.

  • #TimesUpSanta at Pearls Before Swine.
  • John A Arkansawyer explains, “The strip is there, big as day, but you have to mouse over for the Christmas greeting. I’m sorry he’s not updating as regularly as he did, but this week and last week were both very fine send-ups of supercliches. Maybe it’s just as well that we have to wait longer for longer, consistently good strips” — The Non-Adventures of Wonderella.

(5) MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS. Mike Kennedy asks, “Is it just me, or does the idea of parallel walls comprising a whole-body security scanner (Wired: “Super-Fast Airport Scanners Are Coming—Eventually”) remind you, too, of the scene in the original Total Recall where Arnold Schwarzenegger is spotted carrying a gun into a restricted area? I wonder if they can get these wholesale?”

Some passengers traveling through Denver International Airport this holiday season are in for a treat—or what amounts to a treat in today’s high-throughput, high-stress security environment. As they go through TSA screening, they’ll be able to keep their hands at their sides because of a new type of rapid body scanner. Instead of standing sideways in a plastic tube while a scanner shwoop shwoops around them, Denver fliers will step between two white plastic walls, about 4 feet apart. There are no moving parts, and the scan takes less than a second; if all is clear, the passenger moves on. The Denver scanner is built by Rohde & Schwarz, which also has a system up and running in Cologne Bonn Airport, Germany.

Not having to raise your arms over your head is a tiny improvement, but it’s a big deal for people with limited mobility. And saving even a second per person adds up to shorter lines for everyone. The new scanner is an example of the booming, maturing field of full-body scanners. They are based on millimeter-wave technology, and they’re giving security personnel the equivalent of Superman’s x-ray vision. (But without the x-ray radiation concerns.)

(6) WHAT SHAT. Mr Bill says, “Ohh Nooo!!!” The headline in The Independent (“William Shatner criticises ‘hysterical’ Me Too movement: ‘Women use it as a weapon’”) really sounds bad. It’s up to you to read the article and find out if he’s being taken out of context or is seriously stepping in it.

(7) ANOTHER PILE. BBC overheard this one: “Sending astronauts to Mars would be stupid, astronaut says”.

One of the first men to orbit the Moon has told BBC Radio 5 Live that it’s “stupid” to plan human missions to Mars.

Bill Anders, lunar module pilot of Apollo 8, the first human spaceflight to leave Earth’s orbit, said sending crews to Mars was “almost ridiculous”.

Nasa is currently planning new human missions to the Moon.

It wants to learn the skills and develop the technology to enable a future human landing on Mars.

Nasa was approached for a response to Anders’ comments, but hasn’t responded.

Anders, 85, said he’s a “big supporter” of the “remarkable” unmanned programmes, “mainly because they’re much cheaper”. But he says the public support simply isn’t there to fund vastly more expensive human missions.

“What’s the imperative? What’s pushing us to go to Mars?” he said, adding “I don’t think the public is that interested”.

(8) FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS. Patti Abbott returns with links to the following reviews at her blog: “Friday ‘s Forgotten Books, December 21, 2018”.

  • Frank Babics, SENTENCED TO PRISM, Alan Dean Foster
  • Les Blatt, MORE MURDER IN A NUNNERY, Eric Shepherd
  • Brian Busby, BEST BOOKS read in 2018
  • Kate Jackson/CrossExaminingCrime. MYSTERY IN WHITE. J. Jefferson Farjeon
  • Martin Edwards, FIVE ROUNDABOUTS TO HEAVEN, Francis Iles
  • Rich Horton, THE CONFIDENCE MAN, HIS MASQUERADE, Herman Melville
  • Jerry House, THE CALIGARI COMPLEX, Basil Copper; THE SECRET OF SHARK REEF by “William Arden” (Dennis Lynds)
  • George Kelley, TIED UP IN TINSEL, Ngaio Marsh 
  • Margot Kinberg, ALL SHE WAS WORTH, Miyuke Miyabi 
  • Rob Kitchin, COP HATER, Ed McBain; SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE, Kurt Vonnegut
  • B.V. Lawson, DANGLE, Meg Elizabeth Atkins 
  • Evan Lewis, THE KING’S COAT, Dewey Lambdin 
  • Todd Mason, “The Faithless”, a novella by John D. MacDonald, plus stories by James McKimmey, Jr. et al.: REDBOOK, May 1958
  • J.F. Norris, THE VALANCOURT BOOK OF VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS GHOST STORIES, V. 3, edited by Simon Stern
  • Mike Lind/Only Detect, CHARLIE CHAN: HIS UNTOLD STORY, Yunte Huang
  • Matt Paust, THE DEATH OF MR. LOMAS, Francis Vivian James Reasoner, LONGARM AND THE COLDEST TOWN IN HELL, Tabor Evans  Richard Robinson, A HOLIDAY FOR MURDER, Agatha Christie Gerard Saylor, THE TOMB, F. Paul Wilson  Andi Shechter, NO HUMAN INVOLVED, Barbara Seranella
  • Kevin Tipple, FLASHBACK, Ted Wood 
  • TomCat, “Time Wants a Skeleton”, Ross Rocklynne 
  • TracyK, THE SHORTEST DAY, Jane Langton

(9) VIDEO OF THE DAY. James Cordon: 22 Musicals In 12 Minutes w/ Lin Manuel Miranda & Emily Blunt. Daniel Dern says, “No real sfnal aspect here, but hey, who doesn’t love a quick zoom through great musical moments…and see the current ‘Ms. Poppins’ strut some other stuff.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, John A Arkansawyer, Todd Mason, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.] n Locked=

Pixel Scroll 12/20/18 Five Chaptered Twice Chaptered Filing Purple Pixel Scroller

(1) YEAR’S BEST FANTASY BOOKS. The popular culture website Paste calls these “The 15 Best Fantasy Novels of 2018”.

The following 15 books capture the range that makes fantasy fiction so great, from epic high fantasy to alternate reality to urban fantasy to literary fiction that just happens to star a Greek goddess. These books visit other magical worlds, sure, but also draw from West African, Chinese and Greek mythology, as well as the American Civil War, ’80s punk scenes, far-off planets and Edwardian England. Most of these are stand-alone novels, but there are also a few continuations of some of our favorite fantasy series.

4. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Named Paste’s best Young Adult novel of 2018, Dread Nation blends elements of fantasy, horror and alternate history to create something wholly unique and utterly memorable. Set in an alternate world in which the undead rose up at the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War, the novel picks up years later as the United States is spiraling into horror. Readers meet Jane, a teen studying to be an Attendant who is trained to fight zombies for the wealthy white class. But it isn’t the life she wants. A novel that discusses race, class and so much more, Dread Nation is one of 2018’s best reads. —Eric Smith

(2) QUEST, OR GUILT TRIP? However, Forbidden Futures’ Cody Goodfellow takes a skeptical view of epic fantasy: “Exiled from Middle-Earth: Why Fantasy Failed Us”.

…If Tolkien stirred our noblest aspirations, he also created a benign propaganda that mythologized cultural differences until nationalities became species, and denied basic humanity to its antagonists, rendering the defense of the divine right of kings into a Manichean conflict between absolute light and absolute darkness––arguably, in spite of his denials, an allegory for Europe’s agonizing crusade against Hitler. As noted contrarian David Brin observed in an essay coinciding with Jackson’s grandiose adaptation of Lord Of The Rings, the humans and their allies worship at the altar of absolute hereditary rule, and libel the one agent of merit, inclusion and technological progress in Middle Earth. Certainly, the notion that the land might incarnate itself in the form of a devoted ruler is a beautiful conceit, but it’s only the most richly embroidered defense of a myth that’s brought little but tribulation and tragedy, in the real world. If one were to ask the Saudi Crown Prince in a candid moment about the butchery of Jamal Khashoggi only this month, he would no doubt clothe his rationalization by noting that the Washington Post journalist dismembered with bone saws in the Saudi consulate in Turkey was just another orc threatening his divinely ordained kingdom….

(3) ELSEWORLDS CROSSOVER. A highlight from the CW event — “Black Suit Superman Speaks With Kara In Meta Jail — Elseworlds Crossover Supergirl.”

(4) DEEP FAN. NPR’s Glen Weldon discusses “Aquaman, From Super Friend To Surfer Dude: The Bro-Ification Of A Hero”.

Let’s get the bona fides out of the way up top.

This post is about some of the sweeping changes that the DC Comics superhero Aquaman (Swift and Powerful Monarch of the Ocean! King of the Seven Seas!) has undergone on his way to this weekend’s blockbuster movie Aquaman. Inevitably, it will elide many details important to ardent fans of the character, and open its author up to charges of not knowing whereof he speaks, of a willful ignorance of the character, of simply echoing stale observations hastily ransacked from the Aquaman Wikipedia page.

The defense humbly (okay, smugly) presents the following evidence.

Exhibit A: That photo atop this post? That’s the author’s collection of aqua-memorabilia. Kindly do not refer to it as a shrine, as it is simply the by-product of what happens when the author’s lifelong obsession with a fictional character intersects with his husband’s insistence that said obsession not take up more space in their tiny apartment than the top of one friggin’ dresser.

(5) COUNTERPOINT. Despite several quibbles, NPR’s Linda Holmes says “‘Mary Poppins Returns’ Is A Fine And Fresh Take On A Classic”.

The first rule of Mary Poppins is that you must never explain Mary Poppins.

Perhaps the smartest decision in the sequel Mary Poppins Returns is that it’s no more clear than it ever was how, exactly, this nanny floats in. We don’t know where Mary came from, how exactly she has relatives given that she seems to have simply materialized from the sky, or whether she was ever a child herself. Mary Poppins simply is.

It’s hard to bring to life a character with no past and no future except to visit more children, take them on more adventures, and then leave them again. Created in the P.L. Travers children’s books and indelibly committed to film by Julie Andrews in 1964, Mary is special in part because since she’s magic, she is nurture without need. She doesn’t need to be thanked; she doesn’t even need to be remembered. The helping is all.

(6) OUT, DARNED DOTS. Jeff VanderMeer says the problem is very simple:

If the semi-colon is ruining your writing, periods, colons, and commas probably are ruining it, too.

(7) HANG UP. Continuing today’s Abbreviated Wisdom for Authors section: “Michael Chabon’s Advice to Young Writers: Put Away Your Phone”.

…And it’s advice I give to myself, as much as to anyone, but especially to younger writers. Writers coming up now. Which is put your?—?put this [points to phone]?—?away. When you’re out in the world, when you’re walking down the street, when you’re on the subway, when you’re riding in the back of a car, when you’re doing all those everyday things that are so tedious, where this [phone] is such a godsend in so many ways. As in that David Foster Wallace graduation speech, when he talks about standing in line at the grocery store. When you’re in those moments where this [phone] is so seductive, and it works! It’s so brilliant at giving you something to do. I mean walking down the street looking at your phone?—?that’s pretty excessive. But in other circumstances where it feels natural, that’s when you need to put this [phone] away. Because using your eyes, to take in your immediate surroundings… Your visual and auditory experience of the world, eavesdropping on conversations, watching people interact, noticing weird shit out the window of a moving car, all those things are so deeply necessary to getting your work done every day. When I’m working on a regular work schedule, which is most of the time, and I’m really engaged in whatever it is I’m working on, there’s a part of my brain that is always alert to mining what can be mined from that immediate everyday experience. I don’t even know I’m doing it, but I’ll see something, like,“That name on that sign is the perfect last name for this character!” Or the thing I just overheard that woman saying, is exactly the line of dialog I need for whatever I’m doing. And if you’re like this [phone in your face], you miss it all.

(8) BILL CRIDER PRIZE FOR SHORT FICTION. Bouchercon 2019 will inaugurate the Bill Crider Prize for Short Fiction in the mystery genre.

Debuting at the 50th Anniversary of Bouchercon, Carol Puckett and the 2019 Bouchercon Dallas committee launched the Bill Crider Prize for Short Fiction to celebrate this treasured literary form, both the short story and the widely-admired mystery author and reviewer, Bill Crider. Designed to encourage writers from all over the world, these distinguished prizes award stories with fascinating characters and twisty plots, all in the mystery genre.

First Prize: $1000

Second Prize: $750

Third Prize: $500

Janet Hutchings, editor of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and Linda Landrigan, editor of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, will choose the winners from the shortlisted writers.

Once the final four writers have been chosen, all shortlisted authors will be notified on or near October 1.

Bouchercon Dallas Guest of Honor, Hank Phillippi Ryan, will recognize the shortlisted authors and award the top prizes during Bouchercon 2019 in Dallas, Texas. The convention takes place October 31-November 3, 2019.

The deadline for submissions is March 1, 2019. Full guidelines at the link.

(9) MORE ON NINE WORLDS. Robot Archie steered me to another exposition about the fate of Nine Worlds. Avery Delany’s Twitter thread begins here.  

(10) STRONG LANGUAGE, HARLAN? Fanac.org returns you to the thrilling days of yesteryear with an audio recording of Harlan Ellison at Pacificon II, the 1964) Worldcon, speaking about “Adaptation of Science Fiction to a Visual Media.” Visually annotated, illustrated with convention photos, and preceded with this little warning —

Pacificon II, the 22nd World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Oakland, CA in 1964. WARNING – 1) Harlan uses some strong language in this recording. 2)The first few minutes are missing. Harlan gives an engrossing talk (audio, enhanced with images) about writing for television and about how Hollywood works. The talk took place during the filming of the Outer Limits episode, “Demon With a Glass Hand”, and Harlan speaks very frankly (including complaints) about his experience as the writer on the episode. Includes Harlan’s reading of a scene as written, and as changed by management as well as discussion on the casting, the directing and the location. Embedded are photos of Harlan throughout his science fiction career. This audio material was provided by The Southern California Institute for Fan Interests (SCIFI), and Jerome Scott, Director of Projects for SCIFI in LA.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 20, 1933Son Of Kong premiered in theaters.
  • December 20, 1961 – The film version of Jules Verne’s drama Mysterious Island was released.
  • December 20, 1974 — Walt Disney’s The Island At The Top Of The World debuted.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 20, 1838 Edwin Abbott Abbott. Author of the Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, an 1884 novella that has come to be adopted as SF even though it’s really mathematical fiction. Go ahead, argue with me. (Died 1926.)
  • Born December 20, 1942  — Angel Tompkins, 76. Anyone remember Amazon Women on the Moon? Yeah she was in it. She later shows up in the Knight Rider series and, oh, that Starlost series which Cordwainer Bird swore off before the first episode. There’s an episode of Wild Wild West and Night Gallery as well but she stopped acting twenty years ago.
  • Born December 20, 1943 Jacqueline Pearce. Longest and definitely best known role would be as the evil Supreme Commander Servalan/ and Commissioner Sleer on Blake’s 7. She’d show several times in Doctor Who, one on screen in The Two Doctors (Yes, I saw it) and once as a voice only role in Death Comes to Time, a Seventh Doctor story.  She played a Mrs. Annabelle Levin in the “Paris, October 1916” episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as well, a series I really liked. She did a bit of time travel in Moondail as Miss Vole / Miss Raven and finally showed up in The Avengers as a character named Miaranne. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 20, 1952 Jenny Agutter, 66. Fist SF role was Jessica 6 in Logan’s Run. Later genre roles include Nurse Alex Price In An American Werewolf in London (great film), Carolyn Page in Dark Tower which is not  a Stephen King based film, an uncredited cameo as a burn doctor in one of my all time fav films which is Darkman and finally Councilwoman Hawley in The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
  • Born December 20, 1960 Nalo Hopkinson, 58. First novel I ever read by her was Brown Girl in The Ring, a truly amazing novel. Like all her work, it draws on Afro-Caribbean history and language, and its intertwined traditions of oral and written storytelling. I’d also single out  Mojo: Conjure Stories and Falling in Love With Hominids collections as they are both wonderful and challenging reading. Worth seeking out out out is her edited Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction. She was a Guest of Honor at Wiscon thrice. Is that unusual?
  • Born December 20, 1970 Nicole de Boer, 48. I first saw her in a Canadian produced series called Beyond Reality where she played multiple roles. Very odd show. You’ll more likely know her as Ezri Dax on i or Sarah Bracknell Bannerman on The Dead Zone as those are her major genre series to date. She’s also shown up in Forever Knight, TekWar, Poltergeist, The Outer Limits, Stargate Atlantis, Haven, Five Days to Midnight, The Fearing Mind, Mission Genesis and Psi Factor. I believe all of these latter shows were filmed in Canada, some of them of Toronto if memory serves me right.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) DRUM ROLL, PLEASE. WhatCulture has designated these the 10 Best Comic Books of 2018.

(15) COMICS’ JEWISH INFLUENCERS. Career artist and fan Hugo winner Steve Stiles responded to the Baltimore Jewish Times’ farewell to Stan Lee in this recently-published letter of comment. Steve begins —  

As one who enjoyed a five-year stint as a freelance illustrator for Marvel’s British publications, I enjoyed reading Arie Kaplan’s article on Stan Lee (“Stan Lee Gave Comic Books Permission to Be More Jewish, JT online”). I was, however, surprised that one of Marvel’s leading Jewish characters, Ben Grimm, aka The Thing, the strong man of the Fantastic Four, was overlooked….

(16) KEEP COUNTING. Seems there’s still a lot to discover on this planet! Per the BBC: “The secret life of plants: Ten new species found this year”.

Plant collectors have searched for the hidden wonders of the plant world for centuries.

Yet plants that are new to science are still being described, at a rate of about 2,000 a year.

Scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, discovered and named more than 100 new plants in 2018.

Their list of the top new plants includes carnivorous pitcher plants, exotic orchids and climbers with untapped medicinal powers.

(17) LITTLE BROTHER IS LISTENING. Get ready to shake and bake: “Nasa’s InSight deploys ‘Marsquake’ instrument”.

The American space agency’s InSight mission to Mars has begun to deploy its instruments.

The lander’s robotic arm has just placed the bell-shaped seismometer package on the ground in front of it.

This suite of sensors, developed in France and the UK, will listen for “Marsquakes” in an effort to determine the internal structure of the Red Planet.

InSight touched down near the world’s equator in November.

(18) PIE A LA GIANT MODE. Speaking of baking, this has nothing to do with genre, but dang! In Australia, “Domino’s Is Selling Its Biggest Pizza Ever, And It Barely Can Fit Into Cars”.

It’s available in extremely limited quantities.

Only two are available per store, per day, so you have to order one online ahead of time if you want in. Domino’s requires a 24 hour heads-up, so plan your hang-outs accordingly.

It’s too big for delivery.

Do you really expect someone to carry this on their bike to you?! No, you gotta go in and pick it up. And since it’s a full 40 inches across (Domino’s had to make new boxes to stand up to the weight!) you might want to go in an SUV.

(19) MONSTERS FROM THE US. From Entertainment Weekly: Us first look: See photos from Jordan’s Peele’s Get Out follow-up”

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, not only delivered a bone-chilling psychological thriller, it dissected the underlying racial oppression running through the veins of America, spearheaded conversations of societal fractures, and earned four Oscar nominations. (It would go on to win Peele the Best Original Screenplay award.) So after Peele’s killer success, what does the filmmaker do next?

“For my second feature, I wanted to create a monster mythology,” Peele tells EW. “I wanted to do something that was more firmly in the horror genre but still held on to my love of movies that are twisted but fun.”

Details are very, very vague about Peele’s upcoming film Us. The story is set in the present day and follows Adelaide and Gabe Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke) as they take their kids to Adelaide’s old childhood beachside home in Northern California for the summer.

(20) GET STARTED BOOING NOW. No need to wait — you know this will end badly The Hollywood Reporter says “‘Harvey’ Remake in the Works at Netflix”. The idea does not sound either oh, so nice, or oh, so smart….

‘Shrek 2’ writers J. David Stem and David N. Weiss have been tapped to write.

One of film’s best-known rabbits is hopping his way back to Hollywood.

A Harvey remake is in the works at Netflix, with J. David Stem and David N. Weiss set to write the screenplay. Fabrica de Cine, which is working with the streamer on Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, will produce.

(21) I DREAM OF GENIE. Footage from the forthcoming Aladdin live-action movie with Will Smith as the Genie.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/26/18 Caution: Pixels In Scroll Are Closer Than They Appear

(1) POUNDING AWAY AT IT. Although I’ll never carry this much British cash, I’m interested in the story: “New £50 note scientist nominations released”.

 On the list are computing pioneers Alan Turing and Ada Lovelace, telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell and astronomer Patrick Moore.

The Bank received 174,112 nominations, of which 114,000 met the eligibility criteria.

To be on the list, the individual must be real, deceased and have contributed to the field of science in the UK.

The list, which includes more than 600 men and almost 200 women, includes black holes expert Stephen Hawking, penicillin discoverer Alexander Fleming, father of modern epidemiology John Snow, naturalist and zookeeper Gerald Durrell, fossil pioneer Mary Anning, British-Jamaican business woman and nursing pioneer Mary Seacole and Margaret Thatcher, who was a scientist before becoming prime minister.

Here’s the Bank of England’s eligibility list [PDF file]. Fred Hoyle is on it. (Don’t you think he looks darling in the mockup below?) Keep looking, probably lots more sf writer/scientists. And I see other unexpected names – like Jethro Tull….

The BBC story notes that there are a lot of women and minorities on the list, but not whether the bank intends to pick someone ignored rather than someone obviously famous. Hawking is the favorite of bookmakers, but women are #2, #3 (tied) and #6 on that list.

(2) EARLY START ON NEBULA WEEKEND PROGRAM. I’m hungry already.

(3) INSIGHT REACHES THE SURFACE OF MARS. CNN follows the headline with a full retrospective of the mission: “NASA’s InSight lander has touched down on Mars”.

After seven months of traveling through space, the NASA InSight mission has landed on Mars. A few minutes after landing, InSight sent the official “beep” to NASA to signal that it was alive and well, including a photo of the Martian surface where it landed.

Mission Control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory exploded into celebratory applause and cheers after the touchdown was confirmed. The landing was watched around the world and even broadcast live on the Nasdaq Stock Market tower in New York City’s Times Square.

(4) OUTASIGHT. Satirical Canadian news site The Beaverton suggests that the lander must be glad to be away from humans: “Mars probe glad to leave doomed Earth behind”.

“After the atmospheric entry procedure, InSight reported that it was ‘functioning normally, unlike your ill-fated Earth-bound governments,’” said NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a press release…

(5) SLOSHING ON THE RED CARPET. Elle’s R. Eric Thomas wasn’t a big fan of the stars’ red carpet outfits: “I Don’t Really Understand the ‘Aquaman’ Premiere’s Dress Code”.

Look, I don’t want to rain on the parade here. I’m not trying to dampen anyone’s spirits. I don’t want to be a wet blanket. I’m not trying to be a drip. But, what was the dress code for this event?

Amber Heard is going very literal with an Esther Williams realness water ballet lewk, complete with an embroidered cap. Loves it. She is giving me 1970s country club loungewear vibes. She just got a perm and she’s just trying to get some sun and maybe stick her feet in the pool. That all tracks.

But what is is Jason Momoa doing in this scenario? This look says less Son of Atlanna and more Son of Anarchy. Whereas Amber is giving us Busby Berkley balletics, Jason is serving Rizzo from Grease.

(6) LAST GEEKWIRE. Frank Catalano reports, “I’ve decided to end my GeekWire podcast series on science fiction, pop culture, and the arts. Or at least take a long pause that, hopefully, refreshes –”

After 18 stories and 14 episodes over about a year and a half, the “popcast” I hosted has run the gamut for now. GeekWire generally is rethinking its podcast strategy, so the timing is right. The episodes were great fun, and not only were the podcasts distributed through Google Play and Apple Podcasts, but they also aired in Seattle on KIRO-FM on the weekends.

Among the science fiction episodes were interviews with Greg Bear, Cat Rambo and Ramez Naam, a look at the history of Clarion West, how Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture looks for and preserves science fiction and fantasy artifacts, and how the SF and science fact site Scout uses science fiction as a business planning tool.

All episodes were recorded in real time and not heavily produced, on purpose, to make the guests and topics the star, not the production. However, the audio quality was always excellent.

I will continue to cover science fiction for GeekWire, but just not necessarily in audio form. (Unless Brian Herbert finally gives me that interview I’ve been pestering him about for 18 months, if he ever makes it into Seattle proper.)

All the episodes and stories can be found at this link: https://www.geekwire.com/tag/popcast

(7) JAY OBIT. Magician and actor Ricky Jay died November 24 reports Variety. BravoLimaPoppa3 notes: “For genre related works, he was in The Prestige, Mystery Men and an episode of the X-Files. Plus he could pull off stunts that made magic look real – as close to a real life wizard as you could get. He will be missed.”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 26, 1986Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home had a whale of a time

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 26, 1919 – Frederik Pohl, Writer, Editor, and Member of First Fandom, who was active for more seventy-five years from his first published work, the 1937 poem “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna” to his final novel All the Lives He Led. He edited Astounding Stories, Galaxy Science Fiction and Galaxy Science Fiction UK, If, Star Science Fiction Magazine (which I’ve never heard of), Super Science Stories which were a companion to Astounding Stories, and the list goes on. As a writer, he was amazing. My favorite was the Heechee series, though I confess some novels were far better than others; Gateway won Hugo Nebula, Campbell, Prix Apollo, and Locus Awards for Best Novel. Man Plus, I think, is phenomenal, the sequel less so. Your opinion, of course, will no doubt vary. The Space Merchants, co-written with Cyril M. Kornbluth in 1952, is damn fun. He wrote a lot of short fiction, some I think brilliant and some not – but that was true of most SF writers of the time. That he was great, and that he was honoured for being great, is beyond doubt — he won seven Hugo Awards (three as editor, three as author, and one as fan writer!) and two Nebula Awards; and for his 1979 novel Jem, he won a U.S. National Book Award in the special one-off category Science Fiction. SWFA made him its 12th recipient of their Grand Master Award in 1993, and he was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1998. (Died 2013.)
  • Born November 26, 1936 – Shusei Nagaoka, Artist and Illustrator from Japan who is best known for his music album cover art in the 1970s and 1980s. He designed covers for many of Earth, Wind and Fire’s albums, and many of his covers were very distinctively SFFnal; especially notable are Out of the Blue, by Electric Light Orchestra and When We Rock, We Rock, and When We Roll, We Roll by Deep Purple. His art also graced numerous genre books, including Tepper’s After Long Silence, Attanasio’s The Last Legends of Earth, and Reed’s Down the Bright Way. He helped to design the 1970 Osaka World’s Fair Expo, and had one of the first artworks which was launched into outer space and attained orbit, via the Russian Mir Space Station, in 1991. He won a Seiun Award for Best Artist in 1982. (Died 2015.)
  • Born November 26, 1939 – Tina Turner, 79, Grammy-winning Actor, Composer, Singer, and Dancer. She rates being mentioned just for being the oh-so-over-the-top Aunty Entity in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, but let’s not forget her as The Acid Queen in the musical Tommy, and a cameo as The Mayor in The Last Action Hero.
  • Born November 26, 1940 – Paul J. Nahin, 78, Engineer and Writer of numerous non-fiction works, some of genre interest, and at least 20 SF short fiction works. Time travel is certainly one of the intrinsic tropes of SF, so certainly there should be at least one academic that specializes in studying it. Oh, there is: I present this Professor Emeritus of electrical engineering at the University of New Hampshire who has written not one, but three, works on the subject, to wit: Time Machines: Time Travel in Physics, Metaphysics, and Science Fiction, Time Travel: A Writer’s Guide to the Real Science of Plausible Time Travel, and Time Machine Tales: The Science Fiction Adventures and Philosophical Puzzles of Time Travel. No mere dry academic is he, as he’s also had stories published in genre venues which include Analog, Omni, and Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine.
  • Born November 26, 1949 – Victoria Poyser-Lisi, 69, Artist, Illustrator, Teacher, and Fan who was inspired at the 1979 World Fantasy Convention to become a genre artist. She did more than a hundred covers and interior illustrations for fanzines, magazines, and books, and won two of her three Hugo Award nominations for Best Fan Artist. She now works in collaborative children’s book illustration and instructional painting books, and teaches drawing and painting courses in Colorado.
  • Born November 26, 1961 – Steve MacDonald, 57, Musician, Writer, Singer, Filker, and Fan. He served for several years as the Evangelista for the Pegasus Awards (the Filkers’ most prestigious awards, given out by the Ohio Valley Filk Fest), and was responsible for many changes in the award process that led to greater participation among the voting base. In 2001, he attended ten filk conventions around the world and recorded filkers singing “Many Hearts, One Voice”, a song he had composed; the tracks were merged electronically for the WorlDream project to celebrate the new millennium. He has won six Pegasus Awards, for Best Performer, Writer/Composer, Filk Song, Adapted Song, Dorsai Song, and Myth Song. He has been Filk Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, and was inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame in 2006, after which he emigrated to Germany to marry fellow filker Katy Droge, whom he had met eight years before at OVFF.
  • Born November 26, 1966 – Garcelle Beauvais, 52, Actor and Producer born in Haiti, whose first role was in Manhunter, the original adaptation of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon featuring Hannibal Lector. She has also appeared in Spider-Man: Homecoming, I Know Who Killed Me, and the steampunk Wild Wild West film, had a main role in the cybertech TV series Eyes, and played recurring roles in Grimm and The Magicians.
  • Born November 26, 1973 – Peter Facinelli, 45, Actor, Director, and Producer whose genre appearances include a main role in all of the Twilight movies, the first season of Supergirl, parts in The Scorpion King, The Damned, Angela, and Hollow Man 2, and as the oh-so-creepy villain in Supernova.

(10) TRUMP TREK. Reason’s Jonathan Rauch wastes no subtlety on “How Star Trek Explains Donald Trump”

Sociopaths have haunted fiction since fiction began, and no wonder. Sociopathy is civilization’s greatest challenge. Richard III and Iago; Raskolnikov, Kurtz, Willie Stark, and Humbert Humbert; J.R. Ewing, Frank Underwood, and even HAL 9000. How do we understand the narcissist, the demagogue, the liar, the manipulator, the person without scruples or conscience? The creative imagination can probe dark places that psychology and medicine can’t reach. So I am not being cute when I say that Star Trek is a source of insight into the universe of President Donald Trump.

….In “Mirror, Mirror,” the normal Kirk, realizing he has entered a barbaric parallel world, is able to impersonate a barbarian long enough to save himself and his shipmates. In our own universe, meanwhile, Kirk’s corrupt counterpart cannot fake values like empathy, trust, and fair play, and quickly finds himself locked in the brig. The sociopath may be charismatic, wily, and manipulative, but he lacks the moral depth and imagination to fool people who do not wish to be fooled….

This did not go over well with Reason readers, however, you need to register to read the comments. If you’re not willing, just think of a lot of comments that sound like Tank Marmot wrote them…

(11) FACE THE MUSIC. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Apropos item (6) (“Negative Feedback”) from the Pixel Scroll of this past Saturday (11/24), Gizmodo brings us news that “Facial Recognition Flags Woman on Bus Ad for ‘Jaywalking’ in China”. A businesswoman whose visage appeared in ads on busses was publicly shamed for jaywalking, before the authorities had to pull an Emily Litella.

China’s surveillance system is becoming increasingly omnipresent, with an estimated 200 million cameras and counting. While this state of existence alone is unsettling, it’s even more troubling that the machines are fucking up even the simplest task.

Last week, the face of Dong Mingzhu—the chairwoman of a leading air conditioner manufacturer in China—was displayed on a giant Billboard-sized screen in Ningbo, a major port city in east China’s Zhejiang province, to publicly shame her for breaking a traffic law. Zhejiang is one of the provinces that last year deployed facial recognition technology that humiliates citizens who jaywalk by putting their photos on massive LED screens. But the cameras didn’t catch Mingzhu jaywalking—they identified a photo of her in a bus ad, South China Morning Post reported.

The error was caught, acknowledged, and corrected and the police were even thanked by Dong Mingzhu’s company (Gree Electric Appliances) “for their hard work” in a blog post. One may be forgiven for wondering if the error would have been caught, acknowledged, or corrected had the citizen offended been of a less lofty station.

(12) CYBER MONDAY. Via KinjaDeals, “ThinkGeek’s Cyber Monday Sale Is a Bonkers 50% Off Sitewide”.

for Cyber Monday, ThinkGeek is taking 50% off sitewide via coupon code DOTCOM. Combined with the lowered free shipping threshold (today you have to spend only $35 pre-discount, rather than the usual $75)

Daniel Dern suggests: “If nothing else, grab a ’Bag of Holding – Con-Survival Edition’here’s an image — It quickly became my favorite day bag, not just for cons but also trade shows and general carrying of stuff during a day.”

(13) ROAR OF SKY. Jana Nyman praises Beth Cato’s trilogy-ending book in “Roar of Sky: A solid conclusion to this magical alternate-history trilogy” at Fantasy Literature. (Beware spoilers.)

…However, I do love everything about the magic system, and Cato’s exploration of geomancy and its potential uses for good and ill is thoughtful and feels sturdy, like it could actually exist. Madam Pele is literally awesome. The sylphs are fun without becoming twee….

(14) MALKA OLDER’S SERIES. Abigail Nussbaum looks over “A Political History of the Future: State Tectonics by Malka Older” for Lawyers, Guns & Money.

The point of the Centennal Cycle books, as I see it, is not to offer a plausible alternative to our current democratic system, but to encourage us to ask questions about how that system is organized, and whether we could make different choices that could lead to better outcomes. The idea of a non-contiguous political entity, for example, one that is united by shared policy preferences rather than ethnic or national identity, is an intriguing one. So is the notion of expanding the concept of political parties past national lines (though on a darker note, it also has its echoes in discussions we’ve had on this site about the trans-national nature of many far-right, supremacist movements). It’s not so much that you’d want to pursue any of these ideas in the real world, as that they provide an interesting thought experiment with which to expand your understanding of what government is and can be.

(15) REFINER’S FIRE. This is a hell of a story from the LA Times coverage of the Northern California fires: “As deadly flames approached, a mother called her daughters to say goodbye”. (Definitely skip the comments on this one.)

This is how I die.

She is standing in the driveway of a sand-colored house — she doesn’t know whose — and the air is choked with smoke.

The sky is a nuclear orange. Wind is hurling embers against her body and into her blond wavy hair.

She has just seen an ambulance melt. Transformers are blowing up around her. Homes are caving in and trees are bowing. Fleeing cars have jammed the roads, and flames dance on both sides of the asphalt….

[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Olav Rokne, BravoLimaPoppa3, Mike Kennedy, Frank Catalano, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 11/24/18 Haikuna Pixelata! Or Cest La Scroll, As The French Would Say

(1) DOCTOR WHO AT DUBLIN 2019 BLOG. Nicholas Whyte explains why it’s a challenge to write about “Doctor Who in Ireland”, then fannishly does so anyway —

23 November 2018 marks the 55th anniversary of the first episode of Doctor Who. It is a sad fact that not a single second of TV screen time on the show, or any of its spinoffs, has been set in Ireland. Indeed, the Doctor has spent more televised time in Hungary than on the Emerald Isle (special prize if you know what story I am referring to). A couple of confused characters do wonder if Gallifrey, the home planet of the Time Lords, may be in Ireland, but that’s as close as we get.

(2) A SHURI THING. Issue 2 of Nnedi Okorafor’s Shuri comics for Marvel was released November 21. This is one of the variant covers, by Afua Richardson.

(3) BUBBLES POPPIN’. Julie Andrews has reportedly performed a voice role in Aquaman (Entertainment Weekly: “Julie Andrews has a secret role in Aquaman”). Aquaman opens theatrically 21 December. Amazon Prime members will get a chance to buy tickets to advance screenings 15 December.

A member of Hollywood royalty has a secret role in Warner Bros.’ upcoming Aquaman.

None other than Oscar-winner Julie Andrews has a previously unannounced part to play in the superhero adventure, EW has learned exclusively.

The Sound of Music actress voices the mythic Karathen, an undersea creature that holds the key to Arthur Curry’s (Jason Momoa) quest to unite the Atlantean and surface worlds.

The casting is particularly interesting as Aquaman is going head-to-head at the box office next month against Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns[…]

Andrews hasn’t appeared in a film in nearly a decade, but has lent her unmistakable voice to other big screen projects over the last decade (such as Despicable Me 3 and Shrek Forever After) and appeared in the Netflix series Julie’s Greenroom.

(4) COUNTLESS BRICKS. Arrives in theaters February 8 — The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part. Here’s Official Trailer 2.

The much-anticipated sequel to the critically acclaimed, global box office phenomenon that started it all, “The LEGO® Movie 2: The Second Part,” reunites the heroes of Bricksburg in an all new action-packed adventure to save their beloved city. It’s been five years since everything was awesome and the citizens are facing a huge new threat: LEGO DUPLO® invaders from outer space, wrecking everything faster than they can rebuild. The battle to defeat them and restore harmony to the LEGO universe will take Emmet, Lucy, Batman and their friends to faraway, unexplored worlds, including a strange galaxy where everything is a musical. It will test their courage, creativity and Master Building skills, and reveal just how special they really are.

 

(5) CHINA STRENGTHENS PENALTIES ON BANNED CONTENT. Reuters news service reports “Ten years’ jail term for Chinese author of homoerotic novel sparks outcry”.

A Chinese court’s 10-year jail term for an author of a homoerotic book found guilty of profiting from selling “obscene” literature has been met with disbelief among some internet users who question how the crime could warrant so severe a punishment.

The author, surnamed Liu, was found guilty on Oct. 31 by Wuhu county court in eastern Anhui province after she self-published a book that “obscenely and in detail described gay male-male acts”, according to state media.

The court ruled that the strict sentence was enforced due to her having made 150,000 yuan ($21,600) by selling over 7,000 copies, the article said.

…Pornography has long been illegal in China, but in recent years, the Communist Party has intensified efforts to clear away what it sees as inappropriate content, introducing new legislation, rewards and punishments to help its aims.

Authorities on Saturday launched a campaign to “eradicate pornography and illegal publications” by offering heightened rewards of up to 600,000 yuan for reporting banned content to the police, starting from December.

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) is an independent agency of the U.S. government which monitors human rights and rule of law developments in the People’s Republic of China. It was created in October 2001. Their post on the topic asserts “Freedom of Expression in China: A Privilege, Not a Right”:

Chinese officials have stated that anyone wanting to publish their opinions may submit their article or book to a government-licensed publisher, but if they are unable to find a licensed publisher, then the only way they can legally exercise their constitutional right to freedom of publication is to “enjoy their works themselves, or give copies to friends and family.”

While homosexuality hasn’t been classified as a crime since 1997, same-sex relationships are still banned from the small screen and online streaming platforms. And the government seems to have a bone to pick with pornography, as authorities recently upped the monetary reward given to those who report such “illegal” content to a maximum of more than $86,000 (U.S).

The Hong Kong Free Press, in its story “China ups cash rewards to US$86,000 for citizens who report porn”, provides additional background about the government’s enforcement of internet rules:

… Starting December 1, people can rake in up to 600,000 yuan (US$86,000) for reporting illegal content, online or otherwise, double the 300,000 yuan under previous guidelines.

What counts as “illegal” content in China is broadly defined, but includes work that “endangers national unity”, “leaks state secrets”, and “disturbs social order” — umbrella terms that are also sometimes used when authorities punish or silence Chinese dissidents and rights campaigners.

… Earlier this week the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said it had “cleaned up” 9,800 accounts on Chinese social media platforms which it accused of spreading “politically harmful” information and rumours.

(6) NEGATIVE FEEDBACK. The Independent details the impact of China’s newly-implemented “social credit” system: “China blacklists millions of people from booking flights as ‘social credit’ system introduced”.

Millions of Chinese nationals have been blocked from booking flights or trains as Beijing seeks to implement its controversial “social credit” system, which allows the government to closely monitor and judge each of its 1.3 billion citizens based on their behaviour and activity.

The system, to be rolled out by 2020, aims to make it “difficult to move” for those deemed “untrustworthy”, according to a detailed plan published by the government this week.

It will be used to reward or punish people and organisations for “trustworthiness” across a range of measures.

A key part of the plan not only involves blacklisting people with low social credibility scores, but also “publicly disclosing the records of enterprises and individuals’ untrustworthiness on a regular basis”.

The plan stated: “We will improve the credit blacklist system, publicly disclose the records of enterprises and individuals’ untrustworthiness on a regular basis, and form a pattern of distrust and punishment.”

For those deemed untrustworthy, “everywhere is limited, and it is difficult to move, so that those who violate the law and lose the trust will pay a heavy price”.

The credit system is already being rolled out in some areas and in recent months the Chinese state has blocked millions of people from booking flights and high-speed trains.

According to the state-run news outlet Global Times, as of May this year, the government had blocked 11.14 million people from flights and 4.25 million from taking high-speed train trips.

The state has also begun to clamp down on luxury options: 3 million people are barred from getting business class train tickets, according to Channel News Asia.

(The Global Times is a daily Chinese tabloid newspaper under the auspices of the People’s Daily newspaper, focusing on international issues from the Chinese government’s perspective. Channel News Asia is a pay TV news channel based in Singapore.)

(7) ROEG OBIT. Nicholas Roeg (1928-2018), director of The Man Who Fell to Earth and the Roald Dahl based The Witches; photographer on Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death and Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451“Nicolas Roeg obituary: From tea-maker to director’s chair”.

‘His breakthrough came in 1964 when he worked as a cinematographer on Roger Corman’s film The Masque of the Red Death, an adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe short story, starring Vincent Price.

Corman was gaining a reputation for spotting and developing new talent and boosted the careers of other future directors including James Cameron and Martin Scorsese.

Interestingly the red-clad figure in the Corman film foreshadowed a similarly dressed character in Roeg’s masterpiece, Don’t Look Now.

He also worked on Francois Truffaut’s Farenheit 451, which was notable for the bright hues in which it was shot, and on John Schlesinger’s 1967 adaptation of the Thomas Hardy novel, Far From the Madding Crowd.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 24, 1882 – E.R. Eddison. Writer whose most well-known work by far is The Worm Ouroboros. It’s slightly connected to his lesser-known later Zimiamvian Trilogy. And quite frankly, having never read a word of his works, that’s all I can say. (Died 1945.)
  • Born November 24, 1907 – Evangeline Walton. Her best-known work, the Mabinogion tetralogy which retells the Welsh Mabinogi, was written during the late 1930s and early 1940s. The first volume came out in 1936 under the publisher’s title of The Virgin and the Swine, which is inarguably a terrible title. Although it receiving glowing praise from John Cowper Powys, the book sold quite awfully, and therefore none of the other novels in the series were published at that time. Granted a second chance by Ballantine’s Adult Fantasy series in 1970, it was reissued, with a much better title of The Island of the Mighty, and sold accordingly. The other three volumes followed quickly. Her Theseus trilogy was produced during the late 1940s. Witch House is an occult horror story set in New England, and She Walks in Darkness – which just came out from Tachyon Publications – is genre as well. I think that is the extent of her genre work, but I’d be delighted to corrected. She has won a number of awards including the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature, Best Novel, The Fritz Leiber Fantasy Award, World Fantasy Award, Convention Award and the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1996.)
  • Born November 24, 1916 – Forrest J Ackerman. It’s no wonder that he got a Hugo Award for #1 Fan Personality in 1953, and equally telling that after he was handed the trophy (at Philcon II by Asimov), he physically declined, saying it should go to Ken Slater, to whom the trophy was later given by the con committee. That’s a nice summation of him. As a literary agent, he represented some two hundred writers, and he served as agent of record for many long-lost authors, thereby allowing their work to be reprinted. Hell, he represented Ed Wood! He was a prolific writer, more than fifty stories to his credit, and he named Vampirella and wrote the origin story for her. Speaking of things pulp, which she assuredly is, he appeared in several hundred films which I’ll not list here, and even wrote lesbian erotica. Eclectic doesn’t begin to describe him. His nonfiction writings are wonderful as well. I’ll just single out Forrest J Ackerman’s Worlds of Science FictionA Reference Guide to American Science Fiction Films, and a work he did with Brad Linaweaver, Worlds of Tomorrow: The Amazing Universe of Science Fiction Art. Did I mention he collected everything? Well, he did. Just one location alone contained some three hundred thousand books, film, SF material objects and writings. The other was eighteen rooms in extent. Damn, if anyone needed their own TARDIS, it was him. In his later years, he was a board member of the Seattle Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, which now has possession of many items of his collection. If there was ever anyone who truly was the best in fandom, I believe it was him. So let’s toast him his memory. (Died 2008.)
  • Born November 24, 1948 – Spider Robinson. His first story “The Guy with the Eyes” was published in Analog February 1973. It was set in a bar called Callahan’s Place, a setting for much of his later fiction. In 1976, his first published novel, Telempath, was an expansion of his Hugo award-winning novella “By Any Other Name”. The Stardance trilogy was co-written with his wife Jeanne Robinson. In 2004, he began working to expand into a novel a seven-page 1955 outline left by the late Heinlein. The resulting novel would be called Variable Star. Who’s read it? Oh, he’s certainly won awards. John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (1974; Hugo Awards for: Best Novella (1977); “By Any Other Name”; Best Novella (1978); “Stardance”‘ (with Jeanne Robinson); Best short story (1983); “Melancholy Elephants”; Nebula Award for: Best Novella (1977); “Stardance” (with Jeanne Robinson) 2008;  Robert A. Heinlein Award (for Lifetime Achievement) 2015; LASFS Forrest J Ackerman Award for Lifetime Achievement; Named a Guest of Honor at the 2018 World Science Fiction Convention.
  • Born November 24, 1957Jeff Noon, 61. Novel and playwright. Prior to his relocation in 2000 to Brighton, his stories reflected in some way his native though not birth city of Manchester. The Vurt sequence is a very odd riff off Alice in Wonderland that Noon describes as a prequel to those works. Look I’m not sure I’m the right person to explain these books so y’all should do so. Really go ahead, educate me. Same goes for all the other books he’s done such as Needle in the Groove.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) WHOVIAN COMPLAINT FORM. The popular meme has been given an update to include the latest gripes:

(11) LAST OF THE INKLINGS. Weekly Standard profiles “The Steward of Middle-earth”, Christopher Tolkien.

…Now, after more than 40 years, at the age of 94, Christopher Tolkien has laid down his editor’s pen, having completed a great labor of quiet, scholastic commitment to his father’s vision. It is the concluding public act of a gentleman and scholar, the last member of a club that became a pivotal part of 20th-century literature: the Inklings. It is the end of an era.

All of this would have come as a great surprise to 24-year-old J.R.R. Tolkien as he scrambled down the lice-ridden trenches of the Somme. Catching trench fever removed Tolkien from the front lines and probably saved his life. While on sick leave, he began a draft of The Fall of Gondolin. Now, 102 years later, it sits on the shelves of every Barnes & Noble in the country.

The first draft of The Fall of Gondolin was begun during the Great War; the final incomplete version is dated 1951. Both versions are included in the newly published book, along with fragments and working drafts. While the story itself is good, its true weight is as the final piece of the Tolkien legendarium, a project an entire century in the making.

It is work that has spanned Christopher Tolkien’s life….

(12) HISTORY OF DUDS. This BBC video highlights “The museum that embraces failure” – of mostly-tech ideas that didn’t catch on. My fellow vintage Filers will remember some of them.

(13) EGGSACTLY. Yahoo! Entertainment gets all the free-range references: “From ‘Frozen 2’ to ‘Star Wars’: Here’s your guide to all the Disney Easter eggs in ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet'”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

As the title suggests, the animated sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet finds everyone’s favorite fictional ’80s video game character, Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly), careening through the online world like — what else? — a wrecking ball. But even as the new film lightly satirizes internet giants like eBay and Google, many of its best gags are aimed directly at its parent corporation, the Walt Disney Company.

(14) THE UNITED STATES SPACE PROGRAM CINEMATIC UNIVERSE. If the Marvel and DC Cinematic Universes are by design, there are others you might claim have been created by coincidence. Patrick Willems takes us on an idea-trip through some of “The Original Cinematic Universes.”

(15) FIRST FLIGHT OF ION-DRIVE AIRCRAFT. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A remarkable machine propelled by ionic wind could signal a future with cleaner aeroplanes. Nature reports on “Flight test for ion drive”:

In February 1904, a short news item in Nature marked a monumental event. It recorded the achievements of the American brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright and the contraption that they had launched from a hill in North Carolina a couple of months earlier. “They now appear to have succeeded in raising themselves from the ground by a motor-driven machine,” Nature stated. It was, “the first successful achievement of artificial flight”. That first trip lasted barely 12 seconds.

Nearly 115 years later, Nature reports on another historic brief flight, which this time lasted 8–9 seconds. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge describe an aviation breakthrough that will draw inevitable comparisons to that wobbly and fragile first journey by air. The aeroplane is powered by a battery connected to a type of engine called an ion drive that has no moving parts.

You can watch the flight here:

Summary of the science at Nature here [PDF file].

Apparently, the inventor was inspired by the Star Trek shuttles.

Full primary research article here (you can access if you are either at an academic/research institution with a Nature subscription or if you are a subscriber yourself, otherwise it costs) — https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0707-9.pdf

(16) TIME’S UP. This item is more fun if you watch the video before reading Slate’s intro:

A project description said that Baas was inspired by “the many faceless men who sweep, clean and work at an airport in their blue overalls.” (Are there no female janitors at the Amsterdam airport?) Baas described the “Schiphol Clock” as “basically a big box hanging from the ceiling in Lounge 2,” adding that he decided to use “the most archetypical form of a clock.”

But he added a ladder and a door to create an imaginary path that his video janitor might have used to access the clock, just to heighten the surrealism. “He has a red bucket and a yellow cleaning cloth and he is cleaning up after the hands of time, after which he creates a new minute, every time again,” Baas said…

 

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

Pixel Scroll 11/4/18 The Scrolled Fan and the Spree

(1) EDELMAN GOH SPEECH AT WFC44. World Fantasy Con GoH Scott Edelman has posted a video of his speech, which is a call for inclusiveness in many dimensions of conrunning and the sff community. Scott hired the ASL interpreter seen in the video at his own expense, reports Andy Duncan.

(2) ARISIA 2019 NEWS. Arisia Inc. announced that Bjo and John Trimble will remain as GoHs, as will artist Elizabeth Leggett, but not Daniel Older and Malka Older.

It is with respect and regret that we are confirming what Daniel Older reported in his social media; he and his sister, Malka Older will not be participating in Arisia 2019. We asked each guest to make the choice they felt most comfortable with, and Malka and Daniel let us know they could not participate as things stood.

Our Fan Guests of Honor, Bjo and John Trimble, have confirmed that they would like to continue to be our guests. Lastly, as we shared from her social media post earlier, Elizabeth Leggett will continue to be our Artist Guest of Honor.

On top of Arisia 2019’s other problems, their venue is one of seven Boston area Marriott hotels where workers are on strike, and Arisia leadership are creating contingency plans because they won’t hold the con there if the strike is still going on. An unofficial Facebook page published the text of the staff email on the subect:

We cannot hold a convention in a hotel that is striking. If the strike continues, we see two possible options, and are looking for your help to determine which one is best. We can either move the convention to another property, or cancel Arisia 2019. We will need to work together to determine a timeline to make the go/no-go decision, as well as which of the two outcomes we should choose in the event the strike continues….

(3) PARDON THE INTERRUPTION. Some booksellers are retaliating against a new AbeBooks policy: “Booksellers Protest Amazon Site’s Move to Drop Stores From Certain Countries” – the New York Times has the story.

More than 250 antiquarian book dealers in 24 countries say they are pulling over a million books off an Amazon-owned site for a week, an impromptu protest after the site abruptly moved to ban sellers from several nations.

The flash strike against the site, AbeBooks, which is due to begin Monday, is a rare concerted action by vendors against any part of Amazon, which depends on third-party sellers for much of its merchandise and revenue. The protest arrives as increasing attention is being paid to the extensive power that Amazon wields as a retailer — a power that is greatest in books.

The stores are calling their action Banned Booksellers Week. The protest got its start after AbeBooks sent emails last month to booksellers in countries including South Korea, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Russia to say that it would no longer “support” them. “We apologize for this inconvenience,” the company said….

(4) MORE MEXICANX. Stephen C. Tobin covered the MexicanX Initiative for Latin American Literature Today: “The Long-Overdue Recognition of Mexicanx Science Fiction at This Year’s WorldCon76”.

The Initiative sprang forth from the seedling of an idea by one of this year’s WorldCon76 Guest of Honor, illustrator John Picacio. In the past he has twice won a Hugo Award –the crown jewel of science fiction awards– and was also invited to be this year’s Master of Ceremonies for the Hugos. His being Mexican-American led him to discover that no Guest of Honor or Hugo Award MC had ever been a brown person. “I thought it’s great to be the first,” he said, “but who cares if you’re the last? That’s the question I kept thinking about: who would come behind me? I break the door down, but then who’s coming through the door after me?” Initially, he thought he would sponsor one or two people (i.e., pay for their membership fees) out of his own pocket, but then his friend and novelist John Scalzi said he would do the same. Shortly after, more people agreed to sponsor, and before long, when the number reached 10 people, the whole process gained the momentum of a sizable snowball just picking up speed down a mountain. At that moment, Picacio decided to aim for sponsoring 50 people and gave the project its official title of The Mexicanx Initiative. By convention time, approximately 15 Mexicanx nationals along with 35 Mexicanx-Americans held sponsorships. (A similar origin story lies behind the bilingual anthology A Larger Reality: Speculative Fiction from the Bicultural Margins, which was published just for the Initiative at WorldCon76 and receives an in-depth treatment in the prologue to the dossier.) Ultimately, Picacio said, this was not just merely some brown people getting together but “this was a human endeavor, like George R.R. Martin said [at the Hugo Awards after party]. It was all cultures getting together to bring in another that wasn’t really being included.”

(5) A DISTURBANCE IN THE FORCE.

(6) SUB SANDWICH. Quartzy posits “Nine sci-fi subgenres to help you understand the future”. The fifth is —

5. Solarpunk

“What does ‘the good life’ look like in a steady-state, no-growth, totally sustainable society?”

According to “On The Need for New Futures,” a 2012 article on Solarpunk.net, that’s the question this movement—which melds speculative fiction, art, fashion and eco-activism—seeks to answer. In the same post, Solarpunk’s anonymous founders warn, “We are starved for visions of the future that will sustain us, and give us something to hope for.” Yet what if we dreamed differently? What if we tried to answer a separate question: What does a sustainable civilization look like, and how can we get there?

As Olivia Rosane puts it, what if we tried to “cancel the apocalypse?”

Solarpunk is the opposite of cyberpunk’s nihilism, offering stories, the founders say, about “ingenuity, positive creation, independence, and community.” These narratives are often framed around infrastructure as both a form of resistance and as the foundations for a new way of life—the eponymous solar panels feature heavily.

What to read

Kim Stanley Robinson, Mars trilogy (beginning with Red Mars,1992)

“I’ve always written utopian science fiction,” says Robinson. He’s one of the best world-builders in contemporary sci-fi, and these stories of terraforming Mars are super worked-through, both technically and sociopolitically. They describe a future in which humans just might be able to achieve ecosystem balance.

Cory Doctorow, Walkaway (2018)

This is far less utopian than Robinson’s work, but perhaps, quietly, just as hopeful. In a world wracked by climate change and fully captured by corporate power, most people live grinding lives of toil in “Default” cities. Yet 3-D printing has created post-scarcity, and so Doctorow’s trio of characters simply secede and walk away into the lands in between, and start to rebuild the world. “The point of Walkaway is the first days of a better nation,” one says.

Check out Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation (2017, eds. Phoebe Wagner and Brontë Christopher Wieland), the first English-language collection of solarpunk fiction . For stories from Brazil and Portugal, there’s Solarpunk: Ecological and Fantastical Stories in a Sustainable World (2014 / English 2018, ed. Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro).

(7) BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME. James Davis Nicoll wonders if we missed the chance at a real-life Rendezvous with Rama: “Recent Interstellar Asteroid May Have Been Alien Artifact, Speculates New Paper”.

… “Just what is ‘Oumuamua?” you may ask. I am so glad you asked. It’s the first ever verified interstellar object traversing our solar system. It was discovered in late 2017. Unlike Rama, it was only spotted over a month after its first and only perihelion. Also unlike Rama, there weren’t any space probes conveniently located where they could be diverted to take a close look. And of course, unlike Rama, we have NO nuclear-powered crewed spacecraft bopping around the Solar System, let alone one in the right place at the right time to visit ‘Oumuamua….

(8) MARTENSSON OBIT. “[Swedish fan] Bertil Mårtensson died this morning, from the effects of inhaling smoke and soot during a fire in his apartment kitchen last Thursday – he was weakened from other illnesses, and unable to escape from the apartment,” John-Henri-Holmberg announced on Facebook.

The Science Fiction Encyclopedia has an entry about his writing career here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • November 4, 1920 – Sydney Bounds, Writer, Editor, and Fan from England who was a prolific author of short fiction, and novels — not just science fiction, but also horror, Westerns, mysteries, and juvenile fiction — from 1946 until his death in 2006. He was an early fan who joined Britain’s Science Fiction Association in 1937 and was active in fandom there. He worked as an electrician on the Enigma machine during World War II, and while in the service, he started publishing the fanzine Cosmic Cuts. The film The Last Days on Mars (an adaptation of “The Animators”) and the Tales of the Darkside episode “The Circus” are based on stories by him. In 2005, two collections of his fiction were released under the title The Best of Sydney J. Bounds: Strange Portrait and Other Stories, and The Wayward Ship and other Stories. In 2007, the British Fantasy Society honored him by renaming their award for best new writer after him.
  • November 4, 1934 – Gregg Calkins, Writer, Editor, and Fan. Mike Glyer’s tribute to him reads: “Longtime fan Gregg Calkins died July 31, 2017 after suffering a fall. He was 82. Gregg got active in fandom in the Fifties and his fanzine Oopsla (1952-1961) is fondly remembered. He was living in the Bay Area and serving as the Official Editor of FAPA when I applied to join its waitlist in the Seventies. He was Fan GoH at the 1976 Westercon. Calkins later moved to Costa Rica. In contrast to most of his generation, he was highly active in social media, frequently posting on Facebook where it was his pleasure to carry the conservative side of debates. He is survived by his wife, Carol.”
  • November 4, 1950 – John Vickery, 68, Actor of Stage and Screen. Wearing making makeup and prosthetics is something this performer did very well, as he appeared as a Cardassian military officer in Deep Space Nine’s “The Changing Face of Evil”, a Betazoid in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Night Terrors”, and a Klingon in Star Trek: Enterprise‘s “Judgment”. In Babylon 5 and its spinoff Crusade, he had dual roles, as Neroon and Mr. Welles, and he had guest parts in episodes of Medium and The Others. A veteran stage actor, he originated the role of Scar in The Lion King on Broadway.
  • November 4, 1955 – Lani Tupu, 63, Actor and Director from New Zealand. He’d be on the Birthday scroll just for being Crais on the Farscape series, but he’s actually been in several other genre undertakings, including the 1989 Punisher, Robotropolis, and Finders Keepers. He also had guest parts in episodes of Tales of the South Seas, Time TraxArthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, and the Australian remake of the Mission: Impossible series (which if you haven’t seen it, is quite excellent; I just found it in DVD format sometime in the past month).
  • November 4, 1953 – Kara Dalkey, 65, Writer and Musician. Author of YA fiction and historical fantasy. She is a member of the Pre-Joycean Fellowship (which, if memory serves me right, includes both Emma Bull and Stephen Brust) and the Scribblies. Her works include The Sword of Sagamore, Steel Rose, Little Sister, and The Nightingale; her Water Trilogy blends together Atlantean and Arthurian mythologies. She’s been nominated for Mythopoeic and Tiptree Awards.
  • November 4, 1953 – Stephen Jones, 65, Editor from England. He is a prolific Anthologist — and that is putting quite mildly, as he went well over the century mark in edited anthologies quite some time ago. The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror accounts for seventeen volumes by itself, and his editions of The Mammoth Book of (Pick A Title) run for at least another for another dozen. He has also authored a number of horror reference works, such as The Art of Horror Movies: An Illustrated History, Basil Copper: A Life in Books, and H. P. Lovecraft in Britain. He chaired the World Fantasy Conventions in 1988 and 2013, and has himself been a Guest of Honor at a World Fantasy Convention. His work has won a whopping 22 British Fantasy Awards, 5 Stoker Awards, and 3 World Fantasy Awards. In 2006, the British Fantasy Society recognized him with the Karl Edward Wagner Award for outstanding contribution to the genre.
  • November 4, 1965 – Kiersten Warren, 53, Actor who has had roles in Bicentennial Man, Independence Day, 13 Going on 30, The Astronaut Farmer, The Thinning, and The Invisible Mother, and guest roles on episodes of Night Man, Wolf Lake, and Fringe.
  • November 4, 1970 – Anthony Ruivivar, 48, Actor whose genre appearances include Starsthip Troopers and The Adjustment Bureau, along with a plethora of recurring roles in TV series Frequency, The Haunting of Hill House, American Horror Story, Scream, Revolution, and the new Beauty and the Beast, and recurring voice roles in Beware the Batman and Avengers Assemble.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brevity turns to Auric Goldfinger for a laugh.

(11) CHUCK TINGLE’S HALLOWEEN COSTUME. This has probably never been done before.

(12) HELP NEEDED BY LONGTIME ASFA, SFWA, WHC VOLUNTEER MAURINE DORRIS. “Medical for Maurine Dorris” is a fundraiser on Facebook started by Joann Cavitt Parsons. To date they’ve raied $1,000 of the $10,000 goal. Latest update is that her cancer is Stage 4, with widespread metastases.

Older fans, especially in the South, will remember Maurine Dorris as a force to be reckoned with. She and JoAnn Parsons ran more ASFA suites and SFWA suites than I can remember.  They started World Horror Convention, and ran the first two, in Nashville, TN.

Maurine fell at home last week and broke her hip. Happens to lots of us these days. Sadly, while in the ER for that, it came out that she has metastatic cancer in multiple sites.

Maurine has never been well blessed with money. The only insurance she has is Medicare Part A, because she felt that she couldn’t even afford Part B. She was widowed at an early age, and has only one son. She lives by herself, in a trailer on the property of her best friend JoAnn Parsons and her husband.

Maurine has decided not to treat the cancer, and to return home as soon as possible. Clearly, she will need help. JoAnn has started a GoFundMe account for her, which I hope that you will be kind enough to share.

(13) POWERFUL LINEUP. Joe Sherry recalls an influential 1975 Pamela Sargent anthology in “Feminist Futures: Women of Wonder” at Nerds of a Feather.

…How familiar readers are with the twelve writers of Women of Wonder likely depends on how well and broadly read they are with the overall field of science fiction. For many, Vonda McIntyre may only be known as the writer of one Star Wars novel (The Crystal Star) and five Star Trek novels. Other readers will know McIntyre from her three Hugo Awards and one Nebula Award.

Pamela Sargent put together a powerful lineup of writers (and stories), some of which have become absolute giants of the field. Anne McCaffrey. Ursula K. Le Guin. Joanna Russ. Marion Zimmer Bradley (more on her later)….

(14) FILE TYPE. Paul Weimer adds an entry to Ursula K. Le Guin’s dossier for Nerds of a Feather — “Feminist Futures: The Word for World is Forest”.

…Finally, there is our Athshean protagonist, Selver. It is from his semi-omniscient point of view that we get the major worldbuilding of the novel as regards to how the Athesheans see themselves, and how their societies actually work. Davidson and even Lyubov, for his sympathies for the native inhabitants, simply doesn’t see or know about….

Legacy: The novella’s polemic, strong, unyielding tone meant that it had an immediate impact on readers, especially since it was in the high profile Again, Dangerous Visions anthology edited by Harlan Ellison. It deservedly was nominated for and won a Hugo award. It’s anti-colonial and ecological themes were likely the greater focus of readers at the time, given the Vietnam War, and the realization and maturation of the work into recognition for its gender and feminist ideals is something that has become a function of seeing it placed within the Hain-verse. …

(15) BOOK LIFE. This time the author of The Traitor Baru Cormorant supplies the titles for Nerds of a Feather’s recurring feature — “6 Books with Seth Dickinson”.

  1. How about a book you’ve changed your mind about over time–either positively or negatively? Guns, Germs, and Steel. When I read it in high school I thought it was the smartest thing ever written. Now it’s pretty obviously reductionist. (I’m not, like, clever for figuring this out, there’s a bot on the history reddit whose only job is to post disclaimers about GG&S.)I used to think Pale Fire was a clever postmodern novel with a ‘true’ story hidden behind the one we’re given. Now I know that Zembla is real and John Shade failed its people.God, I can never remember enough books.

(16) AQUAMAN. They call this trailer “Aquaman – Attitude.”

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

Aquaman – Extended Video

 

This is pretty irresistible — Aquaman, in theaters December 21.

From Warner Bros. Pictures and director James Wan comes an action-packed adventure that spans the vast, visually breathtaking underwater world of the seven seas, “Aquaman,” starring Jason Momoa in the title role. The film reveals the origin story of half-human, half-Atlantean Arthur Curry and takes him on the journey of his lifetime—one that will not only force him to face who he really is, but to discover if he is worthy of who he was born to be…a king.

The film also stars Amber Heard (“Justice League,” “Magic Mike XXL”) as Mera, a fierce warrior and Aquaman’s ally throughout his journey; Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe (“Platoon,” “Spider-Man 2”) as Vulko, council to the Atlantean throne; Patrick Wilson (“The Conjuring” films, “Watchmen”) as Orm/Ocean Master, the present King of Atlantis; Dolph Lundgren (“The Expendables” films) as Nereus, King of the Atlantean tribe Xebel; Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Netflix’s “The Get Down”) as the vengeful Black Manta; and Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (“The Hours,” “Lion”) as Arthur’s mom, Atlanna; as well as Ludi Lin (“Power Rangers”) as Captain Murk, Atlantean Commando; and Temuera Morrison (“Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones,” “Green Lantern”) as Arthur’s dad, Tom Curry.

 

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 7/18/18 Your Scroll Is Important To Us. Please Hold.

(1) OKORAFOR BRANCHES OUT. The Black Panther’s sister, Shuri, is getting her own comic series. Marvel’s press release says:

All hail Wakanda’s technological genius! As revealed exclusively on Bustle, Marvel is thrilled to announce that this fall, award winning author Nnedi Okorafor and Eisner-nominated artist Leonardo Romero (Hawkeye) will be bringing SHURI #1 to readers everywhere! And revealed for the first time, Marvel is excited to share the dazzling cover to issue #1 by industry-acclaimed artist, Sam Spratt, best known for his cover art work on Janelle Monae’s “Electric Lady.”

The world of Wakanda is facing a tragic crisis: Black Panther is lost in space, and everyone is looking at who will step up to lead their country in his absence. But Shuri is happier in a lab than she is on the throne…how does a princess choose between her duties to her country and her own ideals?

“Shuri is an African young woman of genius level intelligence who is obsessed with technology and has traveled spiritually so far into the past that she’s seen Wakanda before it was Wakanda,” Okorafor told Bustle in an interview. “The Ancestors call her Ancient Future. And she’s super ambitious. What do I love about her? Alllll that and more. She’s a character in the Marvel Universe who really sings to me.”

(2) OVERLORD TRAILER. J.J. Abrams’ zombie horror movie Overlord is in theaters November 9.

On the eve of D-Day, US paratroopers drop behind enemy lines, to infiltrate a small village. Unfortunately, they realize the Nazis are experimenting with supernatural forces to fight them.

 

(3) BATWOMAN ON THE WAY. SYFY Wire has two stories about the development of a Batwoman TV show to join the other DC Comics properties running on the CW network (the “Arrowverse”). CW is already the home of The FlashArrowLegends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl, with a tradition of doing a set of crossover episodes as an annual event since the 2014–2015 season. In “Batwoman TV Series in Development at the CW to Join the Arrowverse” some of the basics are discussed:

Vampire Diaries writer/producer Caroline Dries is locked in as a writer and producer on the project, along with Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, and Geoff Johns. To that end, the casting and tonal decisions made for the crossover event would likely carry over into a potential series. Think of it as one heck of a big backdoor pilot, basically.

That article also speculates on which version of Batgirl would be filmed, noting that the original 1956 character is not in the modern comics:

However, this iteration of the hero was wiped out of DC’s continuity during 1985’s seminal limited series, Crisis on Infinite Earths. Batwoman was reestablished into existence in 2006 in the form of Kate Kane, a Jewish LBGTQ character, one of the first-openly gay characters in the DC universe.

The story “Report: The CW Seeking Lesbian Actress With Open Ethnicity to Play Batwoman in Solo Series” pursues that aspect more thoroughly as well as sounding a cautionary note [emphasis added]:

TVLine is reporting the network has put out the call for an actress of any ethnicity who can play in the age range of 24-29, and that it’s looking for a lesbian for the role if possible. The right person would join scriptwriter and co-producer Caroline Dries (The Vampire Diaries) to develop the standalone Batwoman series. Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, and Geoff Johns are also co-producing.

News that The CW is eyeing Batwoman for the series treatment is still super-fresh, and it’s not guaranteed that her appearance in the crossover will lead directly to a green-lit show. If the network does move forward with Batwoman, the show is expected to debut sometime next year.

(4) SHAZAM! Yahoo! Entertainment reports Shazam! will be released April 5, 2019 — “Shazam! on EW’s special Comic-Con cover: ‘It’s Superman meets Big'”.

Zachary Levi throws off the perfect Shazam! pitch: “It’s Superman meets Big!” declares the affable former Chuck star who’s squeezing into a skin-tight suit to play what’s perhaps the ultimate daydream-come-true superhero across all of comic book lore: An ordinary 14-year-old kid named Billy Batson who can transform into a grown-up superhero with an array of heroic powers by uttering a single world (“Soundhound!” No wait: “Shazam!”) and then return to his regular self whenever he wants.

(5) THAT SOUND YOU HEARD. JJ read this tweet and squeed — “This is by the same guy who did The Silence space SF trilogy which I really loved last year (under pen name D. Nolan Clark).”

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 18, 1948 — James Faulkner, who played Mr. K in Martian Chronicles (TV edition in the US)
  • Born July 18 – Paul Verhoeven, 80. Director of RoboCop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers. Also Hollow Man which has a gratuitous nude scene fitting a man who responsible for Basic Instinct. Also Producer of the animated Starship Troopers series which is quite excellent. Writer for the apparently forthcoming RoboCop Returns film.
  • Born July 18 – Vin Diesel, 51. Guardians of The Galaxy (“I am Groot!”) and other MCU films, The Iron Giant, xXx and Chronicles of Riddick franchises and The Fifth Element.
  • Born July 18 – Kristen Bell, 38. The forthcoming animated Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, also DeadwoodFlatland: The Movie, Heroes and the Astro Boy franchise and iZombie.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • SJW credential tech in Arlo and Janis.
  • Fantasy tropes face retrenchment in Bizarro.
  • Something has two possible explanations, and since you’re reading this blog the odds are you’ll prefer Last Kiss’ second choice.

(8) MARKET REPORT. According to Yahoo! Finance, “Comic sales are down as readers abandon print”.

Comic book and graphic novel sales fell 6.5% in 2017 from a 2016 high of $1.015 billion. Graphic novels brought in $570 million while comic books brought in about $350 million.

A report posted to Comichron notes that comic stores are still the biggest source for revenue while $90 million is attributable to digital downloads.

“After a multiyear growth run, the comics shop market gave back some of its gains in 2017, with lackluster response to new periodical offerings and, consequently, graphic novel sales,” wrote Comichron’s John Jackson Miller. “The third quarter of 2017 saw the worst of the year-over-year declines, leading into what has turned out to be a stronger spring for stores in 2018.”

(9) THE OVERPRICE GUIDE. (Or so Bruce Pelz used to call it….) Heritage Auctions encourages comics collectors to “Download the Complete 2018-19 48th Edition Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide!” at a cost of $30.

In conjunction with the release of the book the new 2018-19, 48th edition of the electronic Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide is now available for immediate download! (Compatible with both Mac and PC!) No serious collector should be without an Overstreet, and this is even more true of the searchable electronic version. Available exclusively through Heritage Auctions, this new version is:

  • Alphabetically indexed
  • Searchable (by any keyword)

At a cost of only $30, this revolutionary new format is one of the best investments available in our hobby. Begin enjoying the benefits right now. Download your copy to your hard drive today.

(10) SEE IT FREE. On July 22 the community will get in free to the Dreaming the Universe sf exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of History.

(11) OWN BOND’S RIDE. Lego has come out with the official James Bond Aston Martin DB5 which you can make out of Lego elements.

(12) MORE LEGO CREATIONS. Here are a couple more cool projects, including a ferocious Lego SJW credential….

(13) DOUBLE PARKED. When Bob Shaw MC’d the Hugos in 1986, one of his humorous interludes involved a job assignment to write copy about a submarine prone to take “unplanned depth excursions.” “Spain’s new submarine ‘too big for its dock'”.

An attempt to deploy a new submarine for Spain’s navy has run aground again, after it emerged it cannot fit in its dock, Spanish media report.

The S-80 boat was redesigned at great expense after an earlier mistake meant it had problems floating, and it was lengthened to correct the issue.

Spanish newspaper El País now reports that after the changes, the docks at Cartagena can no longer fit the vessel….

The original problem with the submarine dates back to 2013, when it was discovered that it was about 100 tons heavier than it needed to be.

That caused a problem for its buoyancy – so it could submerge, but might not come back up again.

A former Spanish official told the Associated Press at the time that someone had put a decimal point in the wrong place, and “nobody paid attention to review the calculations”.

(14) BIG LIFTER. Clip of the An-124 in action: “Business booming for giant cargo planes”. Possibly highest capacity — internal crane, kneeling landing gear — what’s not to like?

$7tn of goods travel by air every year. Most goes in the hold of normal airliners. But for those big, awkward loads, something rather larger is required.

(15) TAKING A BITE OUT OF DEVELOPMENT. “Anne Rice’s ‘Vampire Chronicles’ Lands at Hulu”The Hollywood Reporter has the news.

Two years after being put into development, Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles TV series has found a home.

In a competitive situation with multiple outlets pursuing the project, Hulu has landed Vampire Chronicles. The streamer, home to Emmy darling The Handmaid’s Tale, has put the drama into development.

Bryan Fuller, who boarded the Paramount Television and Anonymous Content effort as showrunner in January, exited the project six months ago. Fuller opted to step back rather than step on the toes of longtime friends Rice and her son, Christopher, who penned the original script. (Christopher is a four-time New York Times best-selling author and recipient of the Lambda Literary Award.)

Anne and Christopher Rice will executive produce the potential series, alongside Anonymous Content’s David Kanter and Steve Golin.

Paramount Television and Anonymous Content optioned the rights to 11 books from the Vampire Chronicles franchise back in April 2017. More than 100 million copies have been sold worldwide. Rice’s Interview With the Vampire was first published in 1976 and served as the basis for the 1994 feature of the same name starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst and Antonio Banderas.

(16) COURT RULES ON PARENT’S NOTE. Dear Judge, please excuse my boy from having the pants sued off him for thieving on the internet….. From Techspot we learn that a “Federal court says Epic can go ahead with its lawsuit against teen”.

Judge says mother’s letter does not establish a strong enough claim to dismiss…

According to TorrentFreak, most of the arguments put forth in the document were irrelevant because they failed to state a claim. The only complaint that held any water was whether or not C.R. could have entered into the EULA agreement.

Epic argued that minors cannot invalidate the terms of a contract while receiving the benefits of said contract. In other words, C.R. illegally misrepresented himself as an adult and is therefore still obligated to the contractual terms.

According to court rules, an accuser’s complaint holds more weight than a motion to dismiss. Judge Howard ruled that the letter from the mother was not enough to throw out the suit.

“As detailed in plaintiff’s response memorandum, defendant has not shown that the complaint fails to allege sufficient facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. [T]herefore, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, plaintiff has stated a plausible claim, and the motion to dismiss must be denied.”

The defendant now has two weeks to file a response to the complaint. Failing that, Epic can proceed to ask for a default judgment in the case.

(17) ENCHANTMENT UNDER THE SEA.  Deadline has the art: “‘Aquaman’ Poster Revealed: Jason Momoa Dives In To The Crowded DC Pool”

The film will have [a] Comic-Con panel this week, where director James Wan has said the fir.st trailer will be revealed. The initial footage shown at CinemaCon showed the undersea kingdom of Atlantis, replete with swimming fish people — some riding sea horses — and futuristic submarines. Aquaman is challenged by his brother (Patrick Wilson) for the throne, with Amber Heard’s Mera begging Aquaman, “Unless you help us, millions will die.”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/25/17 J.J. Abrams Apologizes For Pixelwashing In File Trek: Into Scrollness

(1) NEW DAY JOB. Congratulations to Uncanny Magazine’s Lynne M. Thomas who has been appointed to head the Rare Book & Manuscript Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, one of the largest repositories for rare books and manuscripts in the United States: “University of Illinois alumnus to head Rare Book and Manuscript Library”

Exactly 20 years after starting work as a graduate assistant in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Lynne M. Thomas is returning as the new head of the library.

Thomas, who earned her master’s degree in library and information sciences at the University of Illinois in 1999, has been the curator of rare books and special collections at Northern Illinois University since 2004 and the head of distinctive collections there since 2014. She’ll begin her appointment at the library and assume the Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Rare Book and Manuscript Library Professorship on Sept. 1.

While working at Northern Illinois University, Thomas helped grow its holdings of the papers of contemporary sf authors.

(2) PUBLICATION OF BLACK SFF WRITERS. Fireside Magazine has issued “The 2016 #BlackSpecFic Report” (follow-up to its 2015 report):

We are considering the field both with and without the “People of Colo(u)r Destroy!” special issues of Lightspeed, Nightmare, and Fantasy Magazine, since they constitute a project that is limited to one year. Without these issues, a sample of 24 professional SF/F/H magazines yielded 31 stories by Black authors out of 1,089 total stories — that’s 2.8% — while 2.9% of 2016’s published unique authors are Black. In 2015 we found figures of 1.9% and 2.4%, respectively. While there’s no way to determine yet if these small increases are evidence of gradual long-term improvement or just normal variation — two years is too short a trajectory for that — perhaps we can find a cautious degree of optimism…..

Effects of the “People of Colo(u)r Destroy!” Issues

In spite of comprising a tiny portion of the field’s story volume, the “PoC Destroy” issues collectively contained over 20% of 2016’s stories by Black authors. They alone raise the 2016 field-wide ratio by nearly a full percentage point, from 2.8% to 3.6%. Put another way: any improvements that took place from 2015 to 2016? The “PoC Destroy” issues are responsible for about half….

Where Do We Go From Here?

Again, we think there’s reason to have a degree of optimism. Some magazines made substantive changes to their editorial staffs and marketing strategies subsequent to the 2015 report, which was released late enough last year that any resulting improvements would impact only 2017 and beyond. It’s for this reason that this 2016 follow-up is not a comparative analysis but rather should serve as a baseline for comparison in future years.

Progress isn’t always linear; not all magazines have equal resources or lead times, which is why we want to hear from editors and publishers. What are your strategies for combating low publication rates of Black authors? Please answer our survey to let us know.

Black SF/F writers: we’d like to hear your comments and suggestions for how we can improve future reports. This also goes for data collection; we’re working purely from what’s publicly available on the Internet, and we don’t want to force people to publicly self-identify in order to be counted. If you suspect your stories are not included in this count and would like them to be, just want to double check, or have any other concerns — please let us know. Our email address is BlackSpecFicReport@gmail.com; correspondence will be kept confidential.

(3) CHIPPING IN. A Scroll last month talked about one man getting chipped; now it’s an entire company workforce: “Wisconsin company Three Square Market to microchip employees”.

Three Square Market is offering to implant the tiny radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip into workers’ hands for free – and says everyone will soon be doing it.

The rice grain-sized $300 (£230) chip will allow them to open doors, log in to computers and even purchase food.

And so far, 50 employees have signed up for the chance to become half-human, half-walking credit card.

(4) GAME OF SIMPSONS. The Verge has learned “Matt Groening is making an animated medieval adult fantasy with Netflix” called Disenchantment.

Netflix announced today that Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons and Futurama, will be developing a medieval animated adult fantasy called Disenchantment. It’s scheduled to begin streaming on Netflix in 2018.

The series’s protagonist is a young, “hard-drinking” princess named Bean (Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson), and her two male companions are a “feisty elf” named Elfo (Nat Faxon) and a demon named Luci (Eric Andre). While both The Simpsons and Futurama have dynamic, fleshed-out female characters, this is Groening’s first series with a clear female lead.

Rough Draft Studios, the studio that does the art for Futurama, will animate Disenchantment. From the few details Netflix is offering, it’s easy to imagine a sort of epic-fantasy version of Futurama, with the same acerbic, absurdist humor as Groening’s other shows. In the US, Netflix doesn’t have a series that fits this exact bill, though Archer may come closest. (Netflix also carries Futurama, so Disenchantment should fit in.)

(5) ROLL THE BONES. Tom Galloway sent this link with the comment, “Curiously, ‘Santa Fe, NM’ isn’t given as a location from which large bets would raise suspicions…” — “Growing Strong: Inside the Burgeoning ‘Game of Thrones’ Gambling Business”.

Increasingly, Thrones also lends itself to speculation in the financial sense of the word. As Thrones has ascended to its singular place in the splintered TV firmament, it’s not only come to be covered like the Oscars and the Super Bowl, but it’s started to support a similar secondary market of rumors and wagers. Thanks to the series’ big built-in audience, large (if shrinking) cast of characters, and uncertain endgame, Game of Thrones and gambling go together like lovestruck Lannister (or Targaryen) twins.

Some Thrones-related betting contests, like The Ringer’s Thrones Mortality Pool, are just for fun. But in recent years, a number of ostensible sportsbooks have gotten in on the action, with prominent sites such as Sportsbet, MyBookie.ag, and Pinnacle (which debuted its Thrones odds this year) trying to capture a piece of the (hot) pie. The best-known of these books is Bovada, an online gambling and casino-games site owned by a group based in Québec.

Bovada began publishing prop bets for Game of Thrones in 2015. Since the start, those bets have been the personal province of Pat Morrow, who’s been with Bovada for a decade and has served as the site’s head oddsmaker for the past four years. Technically, Morrow oversees all of the site’s wagers, but he’s much more likely to delegate work on the data-based bets that make up most of the site’s offerings. The Thrones odds come from his head alone, both because they require a personal touch and because no one else at Bovada is as qualified to apply it

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 25, 1969 – In theaters: The Valley of Gwangi, a schlockfest of cowboys vs. dinosaurs in Forbidden Valley

(7) SPACE STYLES. The Fashion Spot is telling everyone “Gucci’s Fall 2017 Campaign Is Out of This World!”

Alessandro Michele continues to raise the bar at Gucci while refusing to follow the rest of the fashion pack. His advertising campaigns for the iconic Italian fashion house are often extremely well-received by our hard-to-thrill forum members (despite a few controversies). The newly unveiled Fall 2017 campaign, captured by Glen Luchford, is on another planet — literally. Yes, Michele revisits his sci-fi concept, going all-out for the new mainline campaign — complete with dinosaurs, hovering spaceships, models channeling their inner alien and so much more.

(8) T AND SEE. Lisa Allison at Adventures In Poor Taste lists her faves: “SDCC 2017: Top 5 nerdy t-shirts”. John King Tarpinian says he’d have bought this shirt –

#2: Vampires Don’t Do Dishes

I was drawn to this one for a few reasons. It pairs a quote from What We Do in the Shadows starring Jemaine Clement with a sort of buck toothed, vampire. It’s fun, creepy and artistic. The Benday dots on the sides are a nice touch.

(9) BITER BIT. A Discovery magazine columnist showed several fee-for-publication medical journals seem to have nonexistent professional standards, in “Predatory Journals Hit By ‘Star Wars’ Sting”.

A number of so-called scientific journals have accepted a Star Wars-themed spoof paper. The manuscript is an absurd mess of factual errors, plagiarism and movie quotes. I know because I wrote it….

Four journals fell for the sting. The American Journal of Medical and Biological Research (SciEP) accepted the paper, but asked for a $360 fee, which I didn’t pay. Amazingly, three other journals not only accepted but actually published the spoof. Here’s the paper from the International Journal of Molecular Biology: Open Access (MedCrave), Austin Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics (Austin) and American Research Journal of Biosciences (ARJ) I hadn’t expected this, as all those journals charge publication fees, but I never paid them a penny.

So what did they publish? A travesty, which they should have rejected within about 5 minutes – or 2 minutes if the reviewer was familiar with Star Wars. Some highlights:

“Beyond supplying cellular energy, midichloria perform functions such as Force sensitivity…”

“Involved in ATP production is the citric acid cycle, also referred to as the Kyloren cycle after its discoverer”

“Midi-chlorians are microscopic life-forms that reside in all living cells – without the midi-chlorians, life couldn’t exist, and we’d have no knowledge of the force. Midichlorial disorders often erupt as brain diseases, such as autism.”

“midichloria DNA (mtDNRey)” and “ReyTP”

And so on. I even put the legendary Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise monologue in the paper…

…This matters because scientific publishers are companies selling a product, and the product is peer review. True, they also publish papers (electronically in the case of these journals), but if you just wanted to publish something electronically, you could do that yourself for free. Preprint archives, blogs, your own website – it’s easy to get something on the internet. Peer review is what supposedly justifies the price of publishing.

[Via Ansible Links.]

(10) PASSING THE HELMET. And in other bogus Star Wars news, Darth Vader has started a GoFundMe: “Help Me Build a Death Star!”.

The Empire is under attack. We are in urgent need of funds to construct a Death Star to crush this rebel alliance!

It had raised zero of its $900 million goal when I last checked in.

(11) SUCKING UP DATA. Speaking of world domination – Eric Persing shared this link with the comment, “This is pretty much the beginning of how the robots take over humanity…right? The vacuum maps your home, sells your home layout to the highest bidder and before you know it, the toaster is trying to kill you.” — “Roombas have been mapping your homes for years, and that data’s about to be sold to the highest bidder”.

As Reuters reports, Roomba maker iRobot is bullish on the prospect of selling what it learns about your home to whoever might want it. “There’s an entire ecosystem of things and services that the smart home can deliver once you have a rich map of the home that the user has allowed to be shared,” iRobot boss Colin Angle told Reuters.

If that sounds more than a little creepy that’s because, well, it is, but companies pushing into the smart home market would most certainly be willing to pony up the dough for the data. Products like smart speakers, security monitors, high-tech thermostats, and many other gadgets could potentially benefit from knowledge of your home’s layout, but in order for iRobot to actually sell archives of the data, it would likely need to be anonymize — that is, scrubbed of any personally identifiable information and lumped in with countless others.

(12) NOT MY FAULT. Munchkin is concerned:

(13) PUPPY RADAR. Camestros Felapton has compiled a list of authors and works being promoted for the Dragon Awards in “Time for those Dragon Projections!”

  1. The titles listed are based on what I have found trawling the web looking for people who were, to some degree or other, promoting works to be nominated for a Dragon Award. I found a lot but who knows what I missed. I did find some stuff on Facebook but it and other places are hard to search inside of. Also, maybe some authors are promoting the Dragons like crazy in forums I cna’t access or on their email lists. Who knows? So large pinches of salt please.
  2. There is though a ‘status’ column and that is even a greater testament to hubris in data collection. The higher the status the more wallop I think the promotion of the work had – either in multiple places or by venues with known impact (e.g. the Rabid slate). “Low” though also includes stuff whose promotional impact I don’t know. Some are authors I don’t know but who may have some legion of highly devoted followers ever ready to throw their bodies and email addresses at an awards website. It is NOT any kind of assessment of the quality or even the popularity of the work – so if you an author and you see ‘very low’ next to your book, don’t be disheartened.
  3. So it is all a bit pointless then? No, no. Basically the more stuff on the list that appears as Dragon Awards finalists, the more the finalists were determined by overt public campaigning on blogs – and predominately from the Rabid and Scrappy corners. The less stuff on the list making it as finalists, then the less impact that kind of campaigning had on the Dragon Awards.

(14) THE SHARKES BITE. The Clarke Award will be announced this week. The Shadow Clarke jury dashes off one more review, then begins analyzing the Sharke experience and the future of the Clarke award.

An inspector investigates the case of a disappeared man but despite his occasional dreams of solving the case, he never uncovers the truth and only succeeds in stripping away layer after layer of appearance until nothing is left. Infinite Ground is a kind of metatext in which the ostensible missing person investigation in the plot simultaneously functions to interrogate fundamental aspects of being such as identity and even existence, as though the world itself is also text. By the end of MacInnes’s novel we are no longer sure if the man, the inspector and the society they come from are still in existence or, indeed, if they ever existed at all. Among the many facets of the text is a strain of the kind of hermeneutic deconstruction that marks out my natural enemies in any literature faculty. ‘At the heart of meaning there is no meaning’ is the refrain of this theme but it often seems to coexist very comfortably with institutional power structures and academic management hierarchies. MacInnes takes this to extreme levels of quantum indeterminacy and fractal microbiology that defy any kind of systematisation, however there is still a level of destruction wrecked on everyday life in texts like this which I find uncomfortable. I am reminded of reading Paul Auster’s different, but not entirely dissimilar New York Trilogy and turning afterwards to Dashiell Hammett for an equally relentless but more grounded interrogation of social existence. MacInnes, however, had me turning to Hammett within 30 pages…

So, what did we achieve here?

If nothing else – apart from a few good jokes floating around the web about who has read which Iain Banks novels – we have demonstrated why the actual Clarke Award juries don’t make their deliberations public. Nevertheless, I do think the level of discussion and analysis we have provided has been a positive feature even when this has provoked a certain amount of pushback. There hasn’t been a hidden agenda and the motivations and various criteria used by members of the shadow jury have become reasonably clear across the process. Anyone looking at the project from the outside is in a position to weigh up the assumptions and judgements made and to criticise these for deficiencies; and, of course, a number of people have done this. I have found it interesting to read the discussion on File770 and twitter as well as on the comment boxes on the Sharke posts themselves. Some of this seems fair and some seems unfair; but that is often the way of things.

As this year’s Clarke festivities wind inexorably towards their close, I thought it would be interesting to cast an eye over the landscape ahead of us. It does the heart good to have something to look forward to, after all, and what could be more fun than making a few early advance predictions about next year’s Clarke Award?

I’m not here to discuss the more obvious entries. We all know that Kim Stanley Robinson, Cory Doctorow, Kameron Hurley and Ann Leckie have new novels out this year and everybody will be talking about them as possible contenders soon enough. As the books I’m most interested in tend to be those that hover around the edges of genre, I thought I’d do better to focus upon novels published by mainstream imprints that might otherwise be overlooked by SFF commentators. With a little over half the year gone, there will inevitably be titles I’ve overlooked, authors I’ve not come across yet. This is just a tiny sample of what next year’s Clarke jury might have to look forward to.

And as a bonus, a review of the actual Clarke shortlist from Strange Horizons. Interestingly, the reviewer has a good go at linking the 6 nominees together thematically, even though the Sharkes were of the opinion that the shortlist lacked a coherent theme…

In theme, style, and content, the 2017 Clarke Award shortlist—Emma Newman’s After Atlas, Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit, Tricia Sullivan’s Occupy Me, Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit, Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, and Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station—is a diverse set. However, in different ways, each of these books speaks to [Jill] Lepore’s concern about “a fiction of helplessness and hopelessness.” Perhaps, as a function of the times we are in, these books do not heed Le Guin’s call to envision alternatives to how we live. The futures—and in one case, the past—that these books offer is either dystopic or close to dystopic, in utterly recognizable ways. Many of the pregnant battles of today—for democracy, for equality, for privacy, and against universal surveillance—have in these pages been lost for good, and there is no pretence that any individual, or group of individuals, has the power to transform the world. There is little in the way of grand narrative or vaulting ambition in terms of the stories that these novels set out to tell. Far greater—and in some cases, exclusive—focus is placed on human relationships, on more mundane struggles; it is as if Marx’s utopianism of overthrowing centralized power has been replaced by Foucault’s bleaker understanding of power’s ubiquity, and the dispiriting realization that the struggle is limited to daily, quotidian acts. Above all, there is—almost—a palpable mistrust of any radical re-imagination of the ways in which society might be organised.

(15) CARRIE VAUGHN. Lightspeed poses questions to the author in “Interview: Carrie Vaughn”.

You explored Enid’s world in your Hugo-nominated short story “Amaryllis,” which, contrary to most post-apocalyptic stories, has a positive ending. What made you want to explore the dark side of this world at novel length in Bannerless?

It’s a multifaceted culture with both good and bad to it, and Enid is in a unique position to see both. I went into the story assuming that a culture built up like this one is, with a huge amount of scrutiny to go along with the community building, is going to have some unintended consequences, such as the bullying of outsiders.

(16) CONNECTIONS. Matt Mitrovich reviews Nick Woods’ Azanian Bridges for Amazing Stories.

Azanian Bridges is a well-written novels that tackles a difficult period of South African history that, in the grand scheme of things, only recently ended. I read it shortly after I finished Underground Airlines and found myself comparing the two novels. Both deal with de jure racial inequality in two different countries continuing long after it ended in our timeline. To be honest, I felt Underground Airlines had a bigger impact on me since I am an American and have a better understanding of my own country’s past, but if you have any knowledge of South African history, there is enough about this world that Nick created for you to enjoy.

And yet the actual history plays a secondary role to the primary purpose of Azanian Bridges: that we can have peace if we can bridge the divide between peoples.

(17) COSPLAY AT COMIC-CON. ScienceFiction.com shares stunning photos in “SDCC 2017: Cosplay Gallery Part 1”.

(18) ONE DOES NOT SIMPLY EVICT THE SUPERNATURAL. Todd Allen continues The Mister Lewis Incidents  — a monthly short form satirical horror detective / urban fantasy series featuring the adventures of a “physics consultant” who consults on matters that defy the laws of physics. The fourth one is out commercially and the fifth one is in the hands of the crowdfunding folks.

The Gentrified Bodega Investigates the Secrets of a Shady Landlord

Wherever rents are rapidly rising, and especially where there’s rent control, there’s always a problem with landlords stepping outside the law to evict renters.  But what happens when there’s something in the building that isn’t human and isn’t ready to leave?

About The Gentrified Bodega

“The neighborhood was improving and people were dying to move in. Then their bodies were turning up in the back aisle of the bodega. The building wove a web of shady evictions, fake leases and unexplainable deaths. Can Mister Lewis discover the secret of the gentrified bodega or will the housing crisis be solved by mass attrition?”

The Gentrified Bodega is available on Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook and Kobo or direct from the publisher.

(19) ALL WET. Aquaman Movie 2018 Teaser Trailer.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge,JJ, Todd Allen, Carl Slaughter, DMS, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day JJ.]