Pixel Scroll 6/2/18 I Can’t Pixel That – It’s More Than My Scroll’s Worth

(1) BEA ACCESS ISSUE. Black comic book artist Tee Franklin, an invited Book Expo America panel participant who uses a wheelchair, arrived at today’s item and found there was no ramp allowing her to get on the platform with other panelists. She wrote a Twitter thread about the experience — it starts here:

The moderator — who probably should have been aware in advance of the panelists and their backgrounds, who the panelist says knows her, and knows that she’s disabled — wasn’t paying attention and didn’t think as soon as they arrived to call the con management and say “we need a ramp in this room, STAT”.

Here’s one of the many tweets in support.

Franklin adds that this is chronic occurrence:

(2) YOUNG PEOPLE RETURNS! James Davis Nicoll launches a new round of Young People by having them listen to a radio adaptation of Frederik Pohl’s “The Tunnel Under The World”.

Welcome to the first installment of Young People Listen to Old SFF, an experiment to see if old science fiction and fantasy radio shows aged better than old science fiction and fantasy. Unsurprisingly, my first selection is from that classic old time SF radio show, X Minus One.

To quote from my tor dot com piece: NBC’s Dimension X (1950-1951) and X Minus One (1955-1958) shared a network, some staff and initial source material for scripts. The first fifteen scripts for X Minus One were repurposed Dimension X scripts. Although the shows began by adapting stories from Astounding, X Minus One turned to more sophisticated material from Galaxy Magazine. I prefer X Minus One over Dimension X, so I’ve snagged two episodes from the first and none from the second. As I’ve said before, DX had the all time best ad lib: immediately after a character in one play made an impassioned plea for world peace, the news broadcasters broke in to announce the outbreak of the Korean War.

Among other things, the panel says this show failed the Bechdel Test!

(3) SILENCED, Heather Altfeld explains how “Every Day, Another Language Dies” at Lit Hub.

…Recent broadcast from the terrarium of sadness and destruction: it will take between ten and fourteen days from now for another of the world’s 6,900 languages to die out. So let’s say that today the last speaker of something somewhere is dying.

Exhibit A: Alban Michael. Out of the 7,700,000,000 people on earth, he was only one left who could speak Nuchatlaht. He lived near Nootka Island, he spoke to his parents in dreams, as there was no one left to speak to him. And then one year ago, he was gone, himself a dream, his language buried with him….

(4) POLITICS IN SF? YES. The Village Voice’s Carol Cooper is “Catching Up With the Next Generation of Sci-Fi Writers”.

…Surely in a community that attracts atheists, Wiccans, CIA agents, physicists, semioticians, libertines, libertarians, and unrepentant Trotskyites, one might anticipate a few political debates. More recent controversies have centered on fears that “political correctness” is taking the field too far away from the kinds of themes and characters that ruled SF in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. Evidently, gay, non-white, and feminist themes and writers were getting too much attention in the 21st century, leaving straight, white protagonists with conservative plot lines unfairly ignored. But gathering to learn and play at regional and national conventions is one way these schisms in the larger SF community are addressed and eventually healed.

At Nebula Con, we discussed these questions of diversity in SF on panels like “How to Decolonize Your Fiction” and “Collaborations: More Than the Sum of Their Parts.” For the former, book agent DongWon Song asked a roundtable of non-white authors if it’s possible to write fiction free of the influence of Western imperialism and white supremacy. Bill Campbell, a middle-class, half-Jamaican author and publisher, described how after a white agent accidentally told him his work “wasn’t ghetto enough,” he reacted by self-publishing the satiric Koontown Killing Kaper, a gumshoe fantasy in which vampire crack babies are accused of murdering local rappers. Frustrated by the overly narrow expectations of existing publishers, he started Rosarium Publishing in 2013 as a home for multicultural SF, comics, nonfiction, and crime fiction that doesn’t pander to the “white gaze” and disregards stereotypical assumptions….

(5) THE COCKY CROWS. Here’s the Authors Guild update on “Cockygate” — “Authors Guild and RWA Prevail in Court Defending Authors in “Cocky” Trademark Dispute”.

The Authors Guild and the Romance Writers of America (RWA) joined forces in this case to defend the principle that no one should be able to own exclusive rights to use a common word in book or book series titles. In ruling against the author Faleena Hopkins, who claimed exclusive rights to “cocky” for romance titles, Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York, stated that he did not believe that Hopkins was likely to succeed on the merits.

…When Hopkins’ trademark registration was issued in April, Hopkins sent notices to multiple authors telling them to change the titles of their books and asked Amazon to take down all other cocky-titled romance books (not just series).

That is when the Authors Guild stepped in to defend the authors whose books were targeted. The Guild and the RWA separately requested that Amazon put the books back up, since the trademark claims were disputed, and it promptly complied. The two groups then jointly hired the Authors Guild’s outside counsel, Cowan Debaets Abrahams & Sheppard, to write a letter to Hopkins on behalf of Tara Crescent, author of another “Cocky” book series (and an Authors Guild member).

In response, Hopkins filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against three people: Crescent, author and lawyer Kevin Kneupper (who challenged Hopkins’ trademark registration), and book publicist, Jennifer Watson. In doing so, Hopkins asked for a temporary restraining order to prevent the May 26th publication of a collection of stories by different authors, entitledCocktales: The Cocky Collective (Hopkins incorrectly named Watson as the publisher). The Guild’s attorneys prevailed in court last Friday the 25th to prevent the temporary restraining order and again today in a hearing on Hopkins’ motion for a preliminary injunction.

We opposed the attempt to block publication of a book, arguing: “Any order that restricts creative expression in favor of promoting the tenuous (at best) purported rights of a single author is simply contrary to the public interest in freedom of expression.”

Judge Hellerstein agreed and found that Hopkins was not likely to succeed on the merits because the word “cocky” is a common and weak trademark, there was no evidence of actual confusion, and romance readers are sophisticated consumers—meaning that they are not likely to confuse Hopkins’ and Crescent’s books.

You can read our papers here, filed jointly with attorneys for Kneupper and Watson.

(6) GRIDLOCK. The Ogden UnCon takes place June 7-9, 2019 in Ogden, Utah. That means there are three general SF cons scheduled within the same month — UnCon, FyreCon, and Westercon — all within 10 miles of each other.

(7) NOT TAKEI TOO? Washington Post op-ed writer Eric Berkowitz considers “The case against George Takei was always weak. Why were we so quick to believe it?”.

… But there was always a lot wrong with the Brunton story. Unlike Weinstein, C.K. or Spacey, Takei had never been known — even in whispers — for sexual misconduct. And Brunton’s tale didn’t quite hang together. He didn’t accuse Takei of drugging him until days after he first contacted the media, and, as detailed in a recent Observer article , he hadn’t even suspected that Takei had spiked his drink until years after the incident, when he read about the accusations against Bill Cosby. According to Shane Snow’s reporting, if Brunton had been given one of the date rape drugs in use back then, he probably would have no memory of what happened. Finally, Brunton told the Observer that he didn’t recall any touching by Takei. What began as an accusation of sexual assault was now, for Brunton, “a great party story” and “just a very odd event.” Takei responded to the Observer article with relief, tweeting, “I wish him peace.”…

The result is that we are too ready to believe that George Takei committed sexual assault and to assume that gay men are prone to it. We don’t know exactly why there was a rush to judgment against Takei — in the immediate wake of #MeToo, there were so many accusations being hurled, it was hard to keep track — but we can reflect on why so many of us are inclined to think the worst.

(8) DABNEY OBIT. NPR reports “Ted Dabney, Co-Founder Of Atari And Video Game Pioneer, Dies At 81”. He also co-founded the ancestor of Chuck E. Cheese’s.

Dabney, who generally went by Ted, and Nolan Bushnell had been working together at an electronics company called Ampex back in the mid-1960s, and Bushnell had an idea for a “carnival-type pizza parlor,” Dabney recalled in 2012.

“It’s one of these things, you have these ideas and no way you could ever make it happen,” he told the Computer History Museum. “I mean, you could barely afford the pizza, much less buy a pizza place.”

Turns out he was right — they couldn’t afford to start a pizza place, at least not then. But those conversations did start a tumultuous partnership that would, within just a few years, go on to create Atari, introduce Pong as a cultural phenomenon and help blaze a trail for the very medium of video games as we know them today.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 2, 1977  — Capricorn One premiered

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 2, 1915 – Lester Del Rey, sf author
  • Born June 2, 1945 – Jon Peters, Executive Producer of Batman Returns, Producer of Batman, The Witches Of Eastwick and the Wild Wild West film.
  • Born June 2, 1977 – Zachary Quinto, the new Mr. Spock
  • Born June 2, 1978 — Dominic Cooper (Jesse in Preacher, Howard Stark in Agent Carter and  Captain America: The First Avenger and a role in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.)

(11) HIRSUTE KNOWLEDGE. Camestros Felapton has posted the answers to his sff author beard identification quiz. How did you score?

(12) A FRIGHT AT THE OPERA. Broadway World says a Bradbury-inspired opera will open this summer: “Sci-Fi Opera THE BRADBURY TATTOOS To Premiere This July”.

In the nearly 70 years since late author Ray Bradbury published “The Illustrated Man,” various short stories in the classic science fiction anthology have been adapted for film, stage and television. Now, four of them serve as the basis for “The Bradbury Tattoos,” an ambitious new rock opera, scheduled to premiere July 13 and 22 at Memorial Hall in Cincinnati.

Written by composer Zac Greenberg and librettist Michael Burnham, “The Bradbury Tattoos” will be presented by concert:nova, a contemporary-classical ensemble founded by musicians from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Partial funding for the production is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.

“The opera is in four movements,” Greenberg explained. “The first three movements happen simultaneously, in different rooms. The audience moves from room to room, and then everyone comes together in the main hall for the grand finale.”

Stylistically, the movements range from classical string quartet to avant-garde classical, folk and big band. Though the stories are different, they share a common theme of humans coping with a frightening future:

  • “Kaleidoscope” – The crew of a disabled spacecraft reflects on their lives, while drifting toward death.
  • “Zero Hour” – Children play a game called “Invasion,” which turns out to be more than a game.
  • “The Highway” – A husband and wife who live near a highway help refugees fleeing a nuclear war.
  • “The Last Night of the World” – A married couple goes about their normal routines, despite realizing that the world is about to end

(13) CAREFULLY TAUGHT. The BBC asks: “Are you scared yet? Meet Norman, the psychopathic AI” — another demo that data matters when teaching an AI.

Norman is an algorithm trained to understand pictures but, like its namesake Hitchcock’s Norman Bates, it does not have an optimistic view of the world.

When a “normal” algorithm generated by artificial intelligence is asked what it sees in an abstract shape it chooses something cheery: “A group of birds sitting on top of a tree branch.”

Norman sees a man being electrocuted.

And where “normal” AI sees a couple of people standing next to each other, Norman sees a man jumping from a window.

The psychopathic algorithm was created by a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as part of an experiment to see what training AI on data from “the dark corners of the net” would do to its world view.

(14) SCARE THE HELL INTO YOU. The hype machine says “Hereditary: The ‘scariest film for years’ is coming”.

It’s been described as “the singularly most terrifying horror film in years” and “a new generation’s The Exorcist”.

Horror movie Hereditary has become one of 2018’s most eagerly anticipated releases after scaring and impressing critics in equal measure.

Actress Toni Collette is coming in for particular praise as a woman whose family has demons in its DNA.

Bustle said it’s “truly unlike anything you’ve seen before”, while The AV Club called it “pure emotional terrorism”.

The film is released in the US on 8 June and in the UK a week later.

(15) CAT HELP WANTED. In San Diego a “Beloved book store closing after 53 years” – and the bookstore cat, Bartleby, is unemployed!

It’s the end of an era on Adams Avenue in Normal Heights. After 53 years, the Adams Avenue Book Store is set to close its doors.

(16) ROAD ROCKET. Messy Nessy shares its photo album of “Fantastic French Publicity Caravans of Yesteryear”, which begins with this epic vehicle:

My wormhole began with this photo of the world’s first (possibly only) vehicle-shaped pen, the BIC mobile, photographed at the Tour de France in 1953. I’ve never been an avid follower of the annual cycling race that was created in 1903 by a French newspaper as a gimmick to sell more papers– but this? Give me a parade of the wackiest concept cars and publicity vehicles, and you’ve got my attention!

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

Pixel Scroll 5/3/18 In Space, No One Can Hear Your Shirt

(1) SAVING THROW. A replacement pop-up con for Universal Fan Con served vendors and a thousand fans in Baltimore: “How The Creators of Wicomicon Executed A Blerd Convention In A Week”Black Enterprise has the story.

Karama Horne was moved to tears when she entered the room at 1100 Wicomico St. in Baltimore on Saturday morning. She knew people were going to show up but just how many, she wasn’t sure. The week prior, one of the largest, blackest, most diverse fan-organized conventions, Universal FanCon, had indefinitely postponed its 24-hour event leaving fans stranded with hotel bills and plane fares they couldn’t get out of. Knowing the financial hole people were in, but also understanding the longstanding stigma and perhaps the consequences of the cancellation of the convention, prompted Horne and her friends to band together to create and hold WICOMICON on the same day Universal FanCon was supposed to be held.

(2) LET THE AI WIN. Dr. Janelle Shane has been at it again, this time with D&D character names  At lewisandquark: “D&D character names – generated by a neural network”. Some are pretty good. Not these —

Other names made perhaps less sense.

  • The Cart – Kenku Rogue
  • Nine Case – Dark Elf Fighter
  • Rump – Kenku Cleric
  • Gubble Daggers – Tabaxi Monk
  • Bog – halfling wizard
  • Jameless – Dwarf Champion Barbarian
  • Rune Diggler – Halfling Rogue
  • Borsh the Bardlock – Human Paladin
  • Spullbeard – Dwarf Fighter
  • Tovendirgle – Human Ranger
  • Pinderhand The Bugs – Gnome Wizard
  • Rune Wash – Human Wizard
  • Stumbleduckle – Human Paladin

(3) DEADPOOL AND DION. ScienceFiction.com says “Celine Dion And Deadpool Make Beautiful Music In ‘Deadpool 2’ Trailer”.

Deadpool 2’ has brought back the music video in its own weird way by having Celine Dion sing a song for the upcoming film. The music video gives us a glorious shot of Deadpool in heels dancing to the music.

 

(4) THE ROMANCE IS OVER. Digital Reader reports the pushback being given to Dragon Con about a guest: “DragonCon Invites the Infamous Lori James of All Romance eBooks as Author Guest”.

All Romance eBooks was at one time a leading romance ebook retailer, but by the time it shut down in late 2016 it was clouded in scandal…

ARe owner Lori James is being sued by a class of authors, so one would think she would maintain a low profile.

… According to the DragonCon website, Lori James has been invited to attend the con as an author guest. She will be coming under her pen name, Samantha Sommersby, but no matter what you call her this is still the same person who owes authors hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

DragonCon was first made aware of this situation 3 weeks ago by authors who belong to the (closed) FB group Pissed Off former ARe Authors

Dragon Con says they’re looking into it.

(5) PART ROLLER COASTER, PART VIDEO. A VR sci-fi theme park in China:

Looking for an out of this world experience during your next theme park adventure? Well, today we get our first look at China’s massive new Sci-Fi virtual reality theme park, the ‘Oriental Science Fiction Valley.’ This unique part is found in Guizhou, China, spanning over 330 acres while allowing visitors to immerse themselves in a futuristic world. The park features everything from VR attractions and much more, offering 35 rides in all for guests to enjoy.

The highlight of the park is the huge mecha at 174 feet tall that weighs 700 tons. CEO Chen Jianli said in a YouTube interview “There’s fierce competition in the theme park market right now.” He went on to add “We are trying to give customers a new experience by combining modern technologies such as VR and [augmented reality] with traditional recreational facilities.

 

(6) WELCOME TO CALIFORNIA. A “New Film Festival Planned In Beverly Hills” will feature the premiere of a new restoration of 1953 sci-fi classic War of the Worlds.The Hollywood Reporter says —

The City of Beverly Hills will be the home of a newly-created film festival aimed at bridging Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach.

While planning is still underway, the debut The Beverly Hills Infinity Film Festival is slated to take place Nov. 1-4 with The Paley Center for Media as its home base. Additional intended locations include the Writers Guild Theater and various private screening rooms at Beverly Hills-based talent agencies. Organizers also hope to attract Beverly Hills hotels for participation and various retail storefronts to host pop-ups for exhibitions and installations.

The first two days will feature screenings and programming for industry professionals. At press time, organizers confirmed that Paramount Pictures intends to premiere a new restoration of its 1953 classic War of the Worlds, which won an Academy Award for special effects, at the festival….

(7) TRIBUTE TO LE GUIN. Literary Arts announced tickets are now available for the Tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin on June 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, Oregon. Click here to reserve your free seat. Tickets are for General Admission (open seating). Reservations will be limited to 2 tickets per person.

This event will include tributes from fellow writers and close friends of Le Guin, including Margaret Atwood (by video), Molly Gloss, Walidah Imarisha, Jonathan Lethem, Kelly Link, China Miéville, and Daniel José Older. The tribute will also include rare documentary footage of Le Guin, along with photos and images from her life and work

(8) PROTTER OBIT. Literary agent Susan Protter (1939-2018) died on May 3. Andrew Porter recalls, she was the agent for many SF writers, including Rudy Rucker, Terry Bisson, David Nighbert, Michael D. Weaver, and David Hartwell. More info here.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy and John King Tarpinian saw how the world ends in Non Sequitur.

(10) PREDATORS ON DISPLAY. Visit “Fran Wilde’s Museum of Errant Critters” at Terrible Minds. Exhibit includes her cartoons of each specimen.

Welcome to The Museum of Errant Critters – Established somewhere between 1812 and 2018 to catalog and archive mind-creatures that often behave in creatively destructive ways.

Visit our exhibits to learn tips and tricks for Critter Management… (results not guaranteed). In particular, we’ve found that identification and discussion helps with management of many of these critters. At least, it helps with identifying the gnawing sounds in the dark of night….

Guilt Gorilla

The gravity well near most Guilt Gorillas is extensive and can drag down even a stalwart creative. Feeds on: pre-existing feelings of not doing enough, overwork, and lateness. Distraction devices include planning calendars, reminding yourself to stand up and stretch once in a while, and that yes even you should take a @!%$#@ vacation now and then.

(11) DESPERATELY SEEKING SNORTS. Yes, this is what we’re talking about:

(12) COLLECTIBLES. If only you’d ever owned one of these in the first place, right? Syfy Wire chronicles “Awesome Stuff We Want: The original Star Wars toy vouchers are insanely valuable now”.

There is no shortage of Star Wars toys and paraphernalia these days; the franchise is an industry unto itself, with branded merchandise that spans from action figures to toiletries, and just about anything else you can imagine. But back when the first movie premiered in 1977, Lucasfilm and Fox had no idea how big of a hit it would be and what kind of demand it would create for Star Wars toys. They had to scramble to catch up, and so they issued vouchers that fans could redeem for toys when they were ready.

Up for grabs on eBay is one of those Star Wars Early Bird Certificate packages, which has remarkably never been opened. It’s just an envelope from 1977 that promises a handful of the first Star Wars action figures to arrive in the middle of 1978 — and it is now way more valuable than any of those toys. All it will cost you is $12,950.

(13) OH, NUTS! The Popular Mechanics headline reads: “Screws and Washers Are Falling Off NASA’s Multi-Billion Dollar Space Telescope”.

On anything that moves, from vehicles to rolling office chairs, you need to be wary of bolts rattling loose over time. Thread-locking fluids and tapes are a great way to make sure your suspect bolts stay where they should, and nyloc nuts can also keep components snug and secure.

Northrop Grumman might need to look into something along these lines, because apparently “screws and washers” are falling off the spacecraft and sunshield it is building to carry NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Space News reports that NASA’s JWST program director, Greg Robinson, said that hardware was found underneath the spacecraft element of JWST (everything but the mirror and instruments) after it was moved from an acoustic testing chamber to a vibration testing chamber.

“Right now we believe that all of this hardware—we’re talking screws and washers here—come from the sunshield cover,” Robinson said today at the National Academies’ Space Studies Board in Washington D.C., according to Space News. “We’re looking at what this really means and what is the recovery plan.”

And the Space News story has more details: “JWST suffers new problem during spacecraft testing”

(14) 24 KLEENEX PER SECOND. MeTV asks you to “Pick: What’s your favorite cartoon tearjerker?”.

Who got you to turn on the waterworks: Dumbo or Mufasa?

Some cartoon movies are so good, you could cry. In fact, many of them set out to make you do just that. But which cartoon tearjerker inspired the most waterworks for you?

Log your vote below for your favorite cartoon tearjerker to make your choice between classics like Bambi and those emotional Pixar movies that dependably dampen faces today. See how many others wept along with you!

(15) SCARCE AS HEN’S TEETH. There was a time when they weren’t so rare — “How birds got their beaks – new fossil evidence”.

Scientists have pieced together the skull of a strange ancient bird, revealing a primitive beak lined with teeth.

The “transitional” bird sheds light on a pivotal point in the pathway from dinosaurs to modern birds.

Ichthyornis dispar lived in North America about 86 million years ago.

The seagull-sized bird had a beak and a brain much like modern birds, but the sharp teeth and powerful jaws of dinosaurs like Velociraptor.

“It shows us what the first bird beak looked like,” said Bhart-Anjan Bhullar of Yale University, a study researcher.

“It’s a real mosaic of features, a transitional form.”

(16) ASK THE MAN WHO OWNS ONE. More Solo: A Star Wars Story promo – “Tour The Millennium Falcon with Donald Glover”

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

Pixel Scroll 4/8/18 Do Not Go Pixel Out Of That Good Hive, Buzz, Buzz, Against The Flying Of The Five

(1) WALK / DON’T WALK. This not-quite-infinite series of variations on Le Guin’s famous story: “Once upon a time there was a city called Omelas, where everyone lived good and happy and fulfilling lives” is a hoot!

“…the best predictions of our scientists suggest that there will be a slight average decrease in various hard-to-measure kinds of happiness, which nevertheless in total adds up to more suffering than this child experiences.”
And Outis said to the elder, “I will have no part in this evil thing.” And he took the child and bathed him and cared for his wounds. And the average happiness increased in some ways and decreased in others, and the net effect might have been negative, but the best results on the matter had p > 0.05, so the scientists of Omelas could not rule out the null hypothesis.

(2) SUE ‘EM, DANNO. Dorothy Grant gives the rundown on a scam to inflate payments from Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program in “Book stuffing, KU reads, and Amazon’s Doing Something” at Mad Genius Club.

While I would hope that everyone who reads this is interested in being a real author making up real stories that are your own, writing them down, and publishing them, we are all aware that there are scammers out there, and people who care more about the money, than acting ethically or the readers. We also know that Amazon has a habit of taking a wide swath of potential wrongdoers, then filtering out and restoring the innocent.

Yep, they’re doing it again.

  1. David Gaughran gave us the first heads-up on twitter that Amazon has filed suit against an author for book-stuffing.

Forbes article here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamrowe1/2018/04/07/amazon-has-filed-suit-to-stop-the-six-figure-book-stuffing-kindle-scam/#2af7a11b7344

Book stuffing is when authors take all their works and stuff them into the back of every other book to artificially inflate their page count. Some authors even stuff in newsletters: the goal is to inflate the page count as much as possible, and thus the payout on KU page reads.

(3) ATOMIC PILES OF LAUGHS. Scott Tobias profiles “artificial intelligence-assisted comedy” in “Can algorithms be funny? Veterans of Clickhole and the New Yorker team up to find out” at the Washington Post. What they do is put giant amounts of text into a computer and produce “interactive text collages.”  For example, they put all the Harry Potter novels into a computer and came up with a pastiche that said, “Ron’s ron shirt was just as bad as Ron itself.”  A lot of the weird pastiches they produce are sf.

Onstage at the Hideout, a small Chicago music club, two performers read passages from Civil War love letters. “Oh darling wife of the war,” one begins, “I shall always be a husband to you and the children and all the folks in our neighborhood.” He goes on to complain that “the boys from the army have taken my breakfast.” The news is worse back home. “Our horses are sadly on fire,” his wife laments. But they’re ever reunited, she promises, “I would kiss you as many times as there are stitches in the children.”

Rest assured, every word from these letters is authentic. It’s just that the words have been scrambled up by a computer algorithm and pieced back together, one by one, by writers with an ear for the absurd.

(4) WESTERCON BID NEWS. Seattle (SeaTac, using the same hotel as Norwescon) has formally filed what Kevin Standlee says is likely to be the only bid for the 2020 Westercon.

(5) REINCARNANIMATION. MovieWeb has learned that “Lucasfilm Has Digital Clones of Every Star Wars Actor”.

The digitally recreated Grand Moff Tarkin and Young Princess Leia in Rogue One were unsettling and creepy for some Star Wars fans. But that technology is almost two years old and only improving at an expedient rate. The next time an actor gets digitally inserted into a Star Wars movie, it’s gong to be a lot harder to tell the difference. And before long, the line will be completely burred. Soon, Lucasfilm and Disney could have the potential to create a whole Star Wars movie featuring an authentic young Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, which practical effects built around them. And this will be entirely possible, even for Carrie Fisher, as Lucasfilm has confirmed they have digital clones of all Star Wars actors both young and old.

Incredible, right? As of now, these digital clones are being used sparingly and are often mixed with live-action footage of the actor to create scenes that would be impossible to shoot or are deemed far to expensive to do practically. We’ve seen this with Tarkin and Leia in Rogue One, and we’ve also seen it in The Last Jedi, even if you didn’t know that’s what you were looking at.

(6) MCCANN OBIT. Chuck McCann died April 8 reports Mark Evanier. Much of his career revolved around children’s television, however, the Wikipedia recalls that he was in vogue as a TV/movie actor back in the Seventies —

In the 1970s, McCann’s life and career shifted west, and he relocated to Los Angeles. He made frequent guest appearances on network television shows including Little House on the Prairie, Bonanza, Columbo, The Rockford Files and The Bob Newhart Show. He appeared in the 1973 made-for-TV movie The Girl Most Likely to… and was a regular on Norman Lear’s All That Glitters.

In addition, he co-starred with Bob Denver in CBS’s Saturday-morning sitcom Far Out Space Nuts, which he co-created. The 1970s also brought him fame in a long-running series of commercials for Right Guard antiperspirant: he was the enthusiastic neighbor with the catch phrase “Hi, guy!” who appeared on the other side of a shared medicine cabinet, opposite actor Bill Fiore.

McCann impersonated Oliver Hardy in commercials for various products (teaming with Jim MacGeorge as Stan Laurel),

John King Tarpinian sent along a photo of McCann meeting Ray Bradbury.

Ray Bradbury and Chuck McCann

If you want to see his act, watch “Chuck McCann & Dick Van Dyke as Laurel & Hardy & The Honeymooners.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born April 8, 1974 – Nnedi Okorafor

(8) CANDLES ON THE CAKE. Steven H Silver celebrates Okorafor’s natal day at Black Gate in “Birthday Reviews: Nnedi Okorafor’s ‘Bakasi Man’”.

Nnedi Okorafor was born on April 8, 1974.

Okorafor won her first Carl Brandon Award for the novel The Shadow Speaker and she won the Carl Brandon Award and the World Fantasy Award for her novel Who Fears Death, which was also nominated for the Nebula Award. She won the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award for her novella Binti in 2016. Her fiction has also been nominated for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, the British Science Fiction Association Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the Andre Norton Award. Okorafor has collaborated with Alan Dean Foster and Wanuri Kahiu on short diction. She co-edited the anthology Without a Map with Mary Anne Mohanraj.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Daniel Dern is right – Curtis knows how to throw a party.

(10) POISONING PIXELS IN THE SCROLL. Nature celebrates an April birthday boy: “Tom Lehrer at 90: a life of scientific satire”.

Much of Lehrer’s oeuvre — some 50 songs (or 37, by his own ruthless reckoning) composed over nearly three decades — played with tensions at the nexus of science and society. His biggest hit, That Was The Year That Was, covered a gamut of them. This 1965 album gathered together songs Lehrer had written for That Was The Week That Was, the US satirical television show spawned by the BBC original. ‘Who’s Next?’ exposes the dangers of nuclear proliferation. ‘Pollution’ highlights environmental crises building at the time, such as undrinkable water and unbreathable air.

The rousing ballad ‘Wernher von Braun’ undermines the former Nazi — who designed the V-2 ballistic missile in the Second World War and later became a key engineer in the US Apollo space programme. In Lehrer’s view, it was acceptable for NASA to hire von Braun, but making him into an American hero was grotesque. “‘Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?’/‘That’s not my department,’ says Wernher von Braun” — lines that still resonate in today’s big-tech ethical jungle.

(11) FINDING THE RETRO NOMINEES. Nicholas Whyte, with an assist from Carla, presents “How to get the 1943 Retro Hugo finalists” —

(12) CAST OF FAVORITES. And for your collecting pleasure, here is where you can get a copy of the Fifth Annual Science Fiction Film Awards (1978).

The 5th Annual (first televised) Science Fiction Film Awards. Hosted by Karen Black & William Shatner (who performs an absolutely jaw dropping rendition of Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s “Rocket Man”) Starring Buzz Aldrin, Richard Benjamin, Ray Bradbury, Mark Hamill, Charlton Heston, Wolfman Jack, Quincy Jones, Piper Laurie, Christopher Lee, Paula Prentiss, Ralph the Robot, Lord Darth Vader, and many more. Included are the original broadcast TV commercials from 1978!

(13) GOOD IS NOT BAD. Rich Horton is working his way through the Hugo nominees. Here are his comments on Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty.

…But even before the award nominations, Six Wakes was getting some good notice, and I bought it and read it after the Nebula nod. And, you know what – I liked it. It’s a good fun fast-moving read. I’m glad I read it.

But – well – you saw that coming, right? There had to be a but. The thing is, there are lots of enjoyable novels published any year, and I’m glad when I encounter those. But I can enjoy a novel and not think it worthy of an award. And, really, that’s the case with Six Wakes. It’s fun, it’s pretty darn pure hard SF (with the understanding that “hard SF” absolutely does NOT mean “SF that gets all the science right”), it’s exciting. But, it also has some annoying logic holes, and it doesn’t really engage with the central (and very worthwhile) moral issues it raises as rigorously as I wish it had, and the prose is just OK….

(14) ARISTOTLE. Nitsuh Abebe explores the question “Why Have We Soured on the ‘Devil’s Advocate’?” at the New York Times Magazine.

…That name dates back to the 17th century, when the Roman Catholic Church created an office popularly known as the advocatus diaboli — a person tasked with making the case against the canonization of new saints, scrutinizing every report of their miracles and virtue. How could a claim be trusted, the thinking went, if it hadn’t been rigorously tested? Plenty of educators will still tell you that devil’s advocacy isn’t just useful as a practical matter but also as an intellectual exercise: Imagining other perspectives and plumbing their workings is essential to critical thinking.

But on today’s internet, the devil’s advocate is less admired than ever, and it’s often the advocate’s own fault. The problem isn’t just debate-club tedium. Last year, on Slate, the writer Maya Rupert neatly outlined just how toxic devil’s advocates could be on a topic like race. She noted that they often seemed to be adopting the stance of a disinterested logician in order to air beliefs they knew were socially unacceptable to hold in earnest; the phrase “just to play devil’s advocate,” she wrote, had come to occupy the same role in her life as “not to sound racist, but. … ” A black person continually asked to consider — just hypothetically, just for a moment — whether she was possibly inferior to other humans would have to be masochistically broad-minded to entertain this challenge more than a few times before dismissing it, and the sort of people who presented it, forever.

A little more than a decade ago, around the same time online sentiment began to turn against the devil’s advocate, it also seized on a close cousin: the “concern troll.” If the devil’s advocate playacts disagreement with you for the sake of strengthening your argument, the concern troll is his mirror image, a person who pretends to agree with you in order to undermine you. The concern troll airs disingenuous worries, sows doubt, saps energy, has reservations, worries that things are going too far. At first, the term described purposeful double agents — people like the congressional staffer suspected, back in 2006, of posing as a Democrat to leave comments on liberal blogs suggesting everyone abandon the candidate vying for a Republican incumbent’s seat. But the term has evolved in such a way that, at this point, a person can very easily qualify as a concern troll without even knowing it.

A tidy summary on the “Geek Feminism” Wiki site explains why this is the case: Even earnest concern-airing can be pernicious, turning every discussion into a battle over basic premises. …

(15) UNEVENLY DISTRIBUTED. The BBC reports “The Swedes rebelling against a cashless society” where the elderly are especially likely to be left out.

However, while Sweden’s rush to embrace digital payments has received plenty of global hype, and is frequently flagged as an example of the Nordic nation’s innovation, there are growing concerns about the pace of change.

Some worry about the challenges it poses for vulnerable groups, especially the elderly.

“As long as there is the right to use cash in Sweden, we think people should have the option to use it and be able to put money in the bank,” says Ola Nilsson, a spokesperson for the Swedish National Pensioners’ Organisation, which is lobbying the government on behalf of its 350,000 members.

“We’re not against the cashless society, we just want to stop it from going too fast.”

(16) THE LIGHTS IN THE SKY ARE… What we can see from the ground is only part of what happens: “Hunting mystery giant lightning from space”.

The electrifying effects of storms are frequently observed from the space station.

Yet when lightning strikes downward, something very different is happening above the cloud tops.

Known as Transient Luminous Events (TLEs), these unusual features were first spotted by accident in 1989.

Minnesota professor John R Winckler was testing a television camera in advance of an upcoming rocket launch, when he realised that two frames showed bright columns of light above a distant storm cloud.

(17) SOLVING FOR 2001. The BBC Culture post “Why 2001 remains a mystery” actually dwells less on mystery, and more on interesting parallels with Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove.

It’s been 50 years since the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and we’re still trying to make sense of it. Stanley Kubrick’s science-fiction masterpiece is regularly voted as one of the greatest films ever made: BBC Culture’s own critics’ poll of the best US cinema ranked it at number four. But 2001 is one of the most puzzling films ever made, too. What, for instance, is a shiny rectangular monolith doing in prehistoric Africa? Why does an astronaut hurtle through a psychedelic lightshow to another universe, before turning into a cosmic foetus? And considering that the opening section is set millions of years in the past, and the two central sections are set 18 months apart, how much of it actually takes place in 2001?

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Chadwick Boseman hosted Saturday Night Live last night, and appeared in a Black Jeopardy! sketch:

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

Pixel Scroll 2/27/18 But A Scroll Files What It Wants To File And Pixelates The Rest

(1) SCROLLO. Four genuine Solo posters appeared in this space recently. I learned from Nerdist there have been a lot of Solo parodies, like these —

(2) WHAT, ME WORRY? In December, the Scroll linked to Washington Post writer Joel Achenbach’s query about whether robots will kill us all once AI becomes smarter than people. The Bookmark has responded with “Artificial Intelligence: Today’s Intrigue. Tomorrow’s Terminator”, which tells each AI’s Terminator Score, and how close each AI is to bringing about the end of the world.

“How might AI fit into our lives?” Our chart explains advancements in AI ranging from novelty to utility. You can click on any of the AI to learn more about how humans benefit from their existence. And, use our Terminator score (with 1 being the least threatening and 5 being the most) to help decide if you should worry about a robot uprising with each AI.

(3) LEVAR AND LANGFORD. Congratulations to David Langford, whose short story “Different Kinds of Darkness” is on Episode 19 of LeVar Burton Reads.

A group of children form a secret society around a mysterious and powerful artifact….

(4) SURPRISED BESTSTELLER. This scam involving fake books is a means of laundering money (not to gull regular readers into buying fake books as if they came from their favorite author) — “Money Laundering Via Author Impersonation on Amazon?”

Patrick Reames had no idea why Amazon.com sent him a 1099 form saying he’d made almost $24,000 selling books via Createspace, the company’s on-demand publishing arm. That is, until he searched the site for his name and discovered someone has been using it to peddle a $555 book that’s full of nothing but gibberish….

…Reames said he suspects someone has been buying the book using stolen credit and/or debit cards, and pocketing the 60 percent that Amazon gives to authors. At $555 a pop, it would only take approximately 70 sales over three months to rack up the earnings that Amazon said he made.

(5) KUGALI. One of several crowdsourced projects hoping to ride the Black Panther’s wave is “The Kugali Anthology”, featuring African and diaspora creators.

200 full colour pages.  15 incredibly talented creators, 6 amazing stories and two wonderfully designed covers. But above all: a comic book experience you won’t find anywhere else!

From multiple award-winners to the brightest up-and-coming voices, Kugali has united some of the most talented artists across the African continent and diaspora. Our creators hail from across Africa (Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Senegal, Cameroon, South Africa, Uganda) and other parts of the world (Venezuela, Brazil, Jamaica, the US and the UK)….

So far backers have pledged $2,890 of the $13,596 goal, with 28 days remaining.

(6) OTHERING. Dare Segun Falowo has a lot of interesting things to say about the villains from Black Panther.

….A lot of people are like he was right ideologically and I get where they are coming from. Still he wouldn’t have ended up being morally right because his repressed disdain for his place in the world has left him ill. He would have kept on drinking more and more of that sense of complete and utter power and it would have ruined him. He even had the purple plant destroyed because he wanted it for himself alone.

So he basically had actions that marked him out as obviously villainous but behind all these actions are factors like being abandoned as a child, being excluded by his blood. Think of it, how African Americans and certain Africans don’t get along because these Africans believe that African Americans are not African blah blah blah. It really hits a spot and the way the character is crafted, down to the jagged family ties, brings together a lot of the facets of what is seemingly wrong with the idea of the African-American both from the Western viewpoint, and from the African viewpoint. He stands in the middle. He’s othered actually. He’s an other in the story. Even though he has the accent and all, he belongs nowhere….

(7) SOCIOLOGY AT THE BOX OFFICE. According to NPR, a “Hollywood Diversity Study Finds ‘Mixed Bag’ When It Comes To Representation”.

The global box office success of Black Panther is no surprise to UCLA sociologist Darnell Hunt. His annual report on Hollywood diversity argues that movies and TV shows with diverse casts and creators pay off for the industry’s bottom line.

Hunt says Black Panther, for example, “smashed all of the Hollywood myths that you can’t have a black lead, that you can’t have a predominantly black cast and [have] the film do well. It’s an example of what can be done if the industry is true to the nature of the market. But it’s too early to tell if Black Panther will change business practices or it’s an outlier. We argue it demonstrates what’s possible beyond standard Hollywood practices.”

The fifth annual diversity report is subtitled, “Five Years of Progress and Missed Opportunities,” suggesting that America’s increasingly diverse audience prefers diverse film and television content. The study reports that people of color bought the majority of movie tickets for the five of the top 10 films in 2016, and television shows with diverse casts did well in both ratings and social media.

(8) MELNIKER OBIT. Benjamin Melniker, best known as a producer on Warner Bros.’ many Batman projects, has died at the age of 104.

Melniker was credited on every big-screen version of the DC superhero since Tim Burton’s 1989 film.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian found genre laughs in the Wizard of Id – I laughed too!

(10) DEEPSOUTHCON. At last weekend’s DeepSouthCon business meeting, CONtraflow (New Orleans) won its bid to host DSC in 2020.

(11) ANNIHILATION. The BBC’s Caryn James awards “Four Stars for the thrilling Annihilation.

… The further the team explores, the more we see of each character’s particular vulnerability. Cass is grieving for a dead child. Anya is a sober addict. In flashback we learn that Lena’s marriage was not as perfect as it seemed at the start. “Almost none of us commit suicide,” Ventress says about the team’s apparent suicide mission, extending it to a sweeping assessment of human nature. “Almost all of us self-destruct.”

Garland playfully borrows from classic genre films and makes those references and influences his own. There are scenes that evoke 2001, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Alien and any number of Terrence Malick films. The minimalist, electronic score by Geoff Barrow (of the group Portishead) and Ben Salisbury adds a subtle layer of mystery….

(12) YOUTUBER MIGRATES TO TUBE WITH NEW SFF COMEDY. The Daily Beast’s Karen Han asks “Is ‘Final Space’ the Next Great Animated Series?”

Even if the name Olan Rogers doesn’t ring a bell, if you’ve spent any time on the internet over the past few years, you’ve probably seen his face. His YouTube channel has close to a million subscribers, and his videos are popular to the point that they’ve been mined for reaction images and GIFs. His latest project is considerably larger in scale, though it still bears the signs, good and bad, of that more short-form medium.

Final Space, airing on TBS and executive produced by Conan O’Brien, is an animated sci-fi comedy. Like most TV shows, it falls prey to the rule of “give it a few episodes and then it’ll get good,” but it’s charmingly animated and bite-sized to boot (each episode clocks in at just over 20 minutes), so it’s worth sitting through the shaky opening episodes to get to what lies beyond.

(13) NO MORE HAPPY FEET? French scientists report that king penguin breeding grounds will become untenable due to global warming: “Scientists Predict King Penguins Face Major Threats Due To Climate Change” (Of course, you all know Happy Feet is about emperor penguins rather than king penguins, so apologies if the headline struck you as a shocking error….)

Seventy percent of the world’s king penguin population could face threats to its habitat by the end of this century, according to a new scientific model.

The researchers say the problem is that the animals’ primary source of food is moving farther away from places where the penguins can breed. They’re very likely going to have to swim farther for their dinner.

“This is really surprising to us, to find such a massive change is going to happen in such a short time frame,” says Emiliano Trucchi, a researcher in evolutionary genetics from the University of Ferrara. The team’s research, co-led by Céline Le Bohec of the Université de Strasbourg, was published Monday in Nature Climate Change.

Trucchi tells NPR that king penguins breed only on islands that are ice-free near Antarctica, and there are “just a handful” of those.

BBC also has a story.

(14) KEEP DANCING. Maxwell Smart would be proud: hands-free emergency signaling via shoe radios: “Morse code shoes send toe tapping texts at MWC 2018”.

A pair of smart shoes has been created to let industrial workers keep in touch via toe-typed coded messages.

The footwear was inspired by Morse code, but made possible by the latest communication technologies.

BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones meets the firm responsible at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

(15) TODAY’S OUTRAGE. Io9 was not exactly surprised to find an argument on the internet getting out of hand, one that seemed to have lost track of an obvious fact: “We’re Sorry to Have to Remind You, But Groot Is Dead”.

Groot is dead. Long live Baby Groot!

Die-hard Guardians of the Galaxy fans are known for having watched and rewatched the James Gunn films multiple times in search of the hard-to-find Easter eggs the filmmaker scattered throughout the movie. That’s what makes it so odd that these fans seem to have forgotten something rather important about our dear friend Groot. He’s dead.

Gunn recently got into a heated philosophical debate with Entertainment Tonight producer Ash Crossan about whether it would be better to save the life of a single porg (from Star Wars: The Last Jedi) or Groot if forced to choose in a hypothetical situation. Crossnan argued in favor of the porg and Gunn understandably went to bat for Groot, pointing out that the sentient plant had a direct hand in saving the universe.

(16) LUCIFER EPISODE RECAP. Martin Morse Wooster decided to save me from my bad wi-fi by writing a recap instead of sending a link. Thanks, Martin!

I watched Lucifer last night.  I haven’t seen the show in a while, but it now has a credit (which it didn’t used to have) acknowledging that the comic book on which it is based was created by Neil Gaiman and two other people.  This was the first time I saw that Gaiman had anything to do with this show.

The plot was about a popular YA author who wrote the Class of 3001 series, in which she fictionalized characters from her high school years.  But she put her high school antics in the future, and as one detective said, “She did have to come up with that futuristic sci-fi fantasy stuff.  That’s not easy.”  The author died because she wrote her novels on a typewriter, and there was only one copy.  The killer pummeled the author with her typewriter, and ultimately confessed that he did it because “she ended the series in the most boring way possible” and didn’t want anyone to read her ending.

Also, in the show a clueless nerd fails to impress a blind date by giving her a plant that was “the traditional Mexican cure for constipation.”

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Dave Doering, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Rich Lynch, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little.]

Pixel Scroll 1/29/18 The Man Who Scrolled The Moon

(1) PAIN FOR PLEASURE. The sheer, greedy click-seeking that fuels this kerfuffle is being paid for by the pain of the targeted family, as Foz Meadows makes clear in “A Personal Note”.

And it is an insult, regardless of Freer’s claims that he’s only saying what anyone might think. It is also uniquely hurtful – and again, I say this with no expectation that Freer himself cares for my feelings. Manifestly, he does not, and will doubtless rejoice to know that he’s upset me. Nonetheless, I am upset. I’ve tried to pretend that I’m not, but I am, and having admitted as much to myself, I feel no shame in admitting it here. Before all this, I’d never heard of Freer at all, and while I’m aware that the public nature of my life online means that I am, in a sense, accessible to strangers, there’s a great deal of difference between having someone object to my writing, and having them construct malicious falsehoods about my personal life.

In the past few days, at least one person has asked me if I’m really sure that Toby isn’t Camestros; that maybe he’s doing it all behind my back. Freer, Torgersen and Antonelli have laughed at the idea that, if Camestros isn’t Toby, then surely I must be grateful for their alerting me to the presence of a stalker-impersonator – as though they aren’t the ones rifling through my marriage in pursuit of a link that is not, was never, there.

(2) HELLBOY’S DRAWER. The Society of Illustrators presents “THE ART OF MIKE MIGNOLA: Hellboy and Other Curious Objects”, a selection of works from the comic artist and writer behind the award-winning Dark Horse Comics series Hellboy, from March 6 – April 21.

In this exhibit, the Society will feature highlights from his fan-favorite Hellboy series, as well as other spin-off titles including work from B.P.R.D., Abe Sapien, and Witchfinder. The Society is also pleased to feature samples from his award-winning comic books including the Eisner Award winner The Amazing Screw-On Head (Dark Horse Comics) as well as Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire (Bantam Spectra), co-written by best-selling author Christopher Golden. This special exhibit will include an array of comic pages, covers, and rarely seen original paintings by Mignola.

An opening reception for the exhibit will take place on Tuesday, March 6th, beginning at 6:30PM.

In addition, Mike Mignola will be a Guest of Honor at this year’s MoCCA Arts Festival. This 2-day multimedia event, Manhattan’s largest independent comics, cartoon and animation festival, draws over 8,000 attendees each year. Held on April 7 and 8, the Fest will include speaking engagements, book signings, and parties. Further scheduling for Mignola’s appearances including a panel talk and book signings will be available in future announcements.

(3) CONDENSED CREAM OF 2016. If they’re short stories, does that mean they don’t fluff up your Mt. TBR pile quite as much as book recommendations? Greg Hullender notes Rocket Stack Rank is continuing its 2016 catch-up posts:

Here’s our next-to-last article about 2016 short fiction. This one focuses on which publications were most likely to run stories that earned recommendations/awards/spots in year’s-best anthologies.

“2016 Best SF/F Short Fiction Publications”

The two tables of publication coverage are actually a very compact representation of almost all the raw data for this and the final article, which will focus on the sources of recommendations (i.e. awards, reviewers, and year’s-best anthologies).

(4) EXPANDED UNIVERSE: At Featured Futures, Jason recaps the first month of the new year, discussing some new zines and some (old) news in the January Summation.

Covering January short fiction was exciting (and busy), as Featured Futures added Analog, Ares, Asimov’s, Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, F&SF, and Galaxy’s Edge to its roster, resulting in significantly more stories read than usual (86 of 455K words) and a similarly larger than usual recommended/mentioned list. In webzine news, and speaking of Galaxy’s Edge, I was going to add coverage of it as a print zine but, coincidentally, it returned to webzine status, once again making all its fiction available on the web. The categorized “List of Professional SF/F/H Magazines” (which doubles as a list of the markets Featured Futures covers as well as being a sort of index of reviews) has been updated to reflect this.

(5) TOWARDS CANONISATION. The advocates of sainthood for J.R.R. Tolkien are calling for support of preliminary events, as well as the planned Tolkien Canonisaton Conference:

Please pray for the following intentions and dates for the upcoming Tolkien year in the lead up to the Tolkien Canonisation Conference in September 2018 in Oxford:…

  • Saturday 17th March – St Patrick’s Day Ceilidh Fundraiser 2018: raising funds for the Tolkien Canonisation Conference.
  • Friday April 13th – (provisional) Lecture on the Theology of the Body and J. R. R. Tolkien in London.
  • Saturday 1st September – Sunday 2nd September 2018 : Tolkien Canonisation Conference in Oxford.

(6) CHANGE AT TOR BOOKS. Publisher’s Lunch reports —

Liz Gorinsky is leaving her position as a senior editor at Tor Books on February 2. She will continue to handle some of her authors as a consulting editor at Tor and edit short fiction at Tor.com.

Gorinsky tweeted –

Catherynne M. Valente added –

(7) ROBERTS’ RECS. A thread by Adam Roberts is aimed at BSFA Award nominators but is interesting for everyone. Starts here —

(8) STORY SCRAPING AT LOCUS. Locus Online miraculously noticed the 2018 Darrell Award finalists today, one day after File 770 reported the story. Since Mark Kelly stopped doing the news posting there, Locus Online has become especially active scraping stories from File 770 without acknowledging where they got them. A little “hat tip” would be appropriate and appreciated.

(9) SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL PLANET. It’s time for any book blogger, podcaster, or “booktuber” to nominate for the 2017 Planetary Awards. Click on the link to learn how to participate. The nomination deadline is February 14th, 11:59PM US Pacific time.

The Puppy-influenced Planetary Awards were given for the first time two years ago.  The inaugural awards for 2015 work were posted in May 2016 –

  • Best Novel: Torchship by Karl Gallagher
  • Best Short Story: “Something in the Water” by C.S. Boyack

The awards for 2016 work were posted in May 2017 –

  • Best Novel: Swan Knight’s Son by John C. Wright
  • Best Short Story: “Athan and the Priestess” by Schuyler Hernstrom

The awards are administered by the Planetary Defense Commander, whose identity is findable with a little effort, but there’s no harm in having a handle, right Lou Antonelli? (Wait, maybe I should ask somebody else…)

(10) MORE ON MORT. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna has an appreciation of the late Mort Walker, who he interviewed in 2010 and 2013: “‘Beetle Bailey’ creator Mort Walker, 94, created laughter ‘nearly every day of his life’”.  Cavna notes that Walker was around so long that Beetle Bailey was personally greenlit by William Randolph Hearst, and notes Walker’s efforts to create the Reuben Award and bring in more women into the cartooning field.

He was drafted into the Army Air Corps during World War II, but within the world of Walker, even that sometimes turned comically absurd. He spent time at Camp Crowder, which he said inspired “Beetle Bailey’s” Camp Swampy. “I signed up to go into psychiatry,” he told me in 2013 of the Army’s specialized training program, “and I ended up studying engineering. It was typical Army reasoning.”

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 29, 1845 — Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven,” is published on this day in the New York Evening Mirror.
  • January 29, 1964 Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb premiered.

(12) VOTING BOOTH ABOUT TO OPEN. The official Hugo Awards website announced “2018/1943 Hugo Award Nominations Opening Soon”. (Date not specified.)

Worldcon 76 San Jose advises us that they will open nominations for the 2018 Hugo Awards and 1943 Retrospective Hugo Awards within the next few days. They have been working with Worldcon 75 Helsinki and Worldcon 2018 Dublin to coordinate the combined membership information from all three Worldcons, and to do so within the limitations of the three countries’ data-protection laws. When testing of the online nomination form is complete, Worldcon 76 San Jose will release it on the Worldcon 76 web site and make an announcement. We’ll also announce the start of nominations here on The Hugo Awards web site. Paper ballots will also be distributed with Worldcon 76 Progress Report 2, which we understand is going to press in a few days and should mail to members of Worldcon 76 in February. Besides the online form, a PDF of the paper form will be available from Worldcon 76’s web site when it is ready for release.

(13) FAN HUGOS. Rich Horton, in “First Hugo Recommendations: Dramatic Presentation, Fan Writer, Fanzine”, is among the first to blog about prospective 2018 fan Hugo nominees. (Horton also covers the Dramatic Presentation – Long Form category.)

Best Fan Writer

The two fan writers I want to promote the most this year are a couple I mentioned last year as well: John Boston and John O’Neill. John Boston’s most publicly available recent stuff is at Galactic Journey, where he reviews issues of Amazing from 55 years ago, month by month. (It will be noted, perhaps, that I also review issues of Amazing from the same period, at Black Gate.) John’s work there is linked by this tag: http://galacticjourney.org/tag/john-boston/.

As for John O’Neill, of course his central contribution is as editor of Black Gate, for which he writes a great deal of the content, often about “vintage” books he’s found on Ebay or at conventions, and also about upcoming fantasy books….

Best Fanzine

As I did last year, I plan to nominate Black Gate, Galactic Journey, and Rocket Stack Rank for the Best Fanzine Hugo. I’m particularly partial in this context to Black Gate, primarily of course because I have been a contributor since the print days (issue #2 and most of the subsequent issues)….

I heartily agree with Horton’s interest in finding other fan publications than File 770 to put up for the Hugo (though he does have kind words for this site). It seemed a good opportunity to say so here.

(14) REAR VIEW MIRROR. Meanwhile, DB makes a start on the “Retro-Hugos for 1942” with a canvass of his favorite writers.

…Now for Lord Dunsany. In 1942 Dunsany published five stories, all very brief, and about a dozen poems, mostly in Punch. Most of the poems are hopeful gazes towards military victory, and a couple of them introduce the allegorical figure of Liberty, so they could technically be considered fantasy.

None of the stories are SF or fantasy, though the only one of them that’s worth reading could possibly squeeze in by courtesy. It’s a Jorkens story reprinted in The Fourth Book of Jorkens (1947), where it’s the shortest piece in the book. Jorkens is Dunsany’s long-running clubman character who’s prone to making outrageous claims or telling absurd stories which nobody can disprove. In this brief tale, “On the Other Side of the Sun,” that topic comes up – “I wonder what’s there?” – and Jorkens astonishes all by stating, “I have been there.” His regular patsy, Terbut, demands “When, may I ask?” At Jorkens’ reply, “Six months ago,” any red-blooded SF reader should know instantly how the story is going to end, but the penny doesn’t drop for the hapless Terbut until after he makes a large bet that Jorkens is lying…

(15) RETRO FANZINES. While Fanac.org marshals digital copies of 1942 fanzines in support of Worldcon 76’s Retro-Hugos, Robert Lichtman and Bill Burns have tracked down additional fanzines published in 1942 by Bob Tucker available elsewhere online – specifically, at the Internet Archive, which has scans of Tucker’s zine Le Zombie. Four 1942 are issues listed.

(16) SAVED FROM THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR. WIRED Magazine’s “Cantina Talk: Finally, a Complete Guide to All of The Last Jedi’s Easter Eggs” not only covers the story in the title, but this even more compelling news —

The Last Jedi Adds Some More Material (But Not Onscreen)

The Source: An official announcement from Lucasfilm

Probability of Accuracy: It’s totally legit.

The Real Deal: So apparently, there was more to Star Wars: The Last Jedi than appeared onscreen—but fortunately for fans, it’s not going to remain a secret. Writer/director Rian Johnson is working with novelist Jason Fry to create all-new scenes for the book’s forthcoming novelization, as well as rescuing deleted scenes from the cutting room floor, to firmly place them in the canon. Amongst the things audiences didn’t see in theaters but will read about: Han Solo’s funeral. Prepare your tissues for March 6; you’ll get to read all about it then.

(17) FUTURE IMAGINED. BBC interview with 2016 Hugo winner — “Hao Jingfang: China’s award-winning science fiction writer” (video).

She tells the BBC a lot of her stories originate from thought experiments, and her latest novel imagines “a dark possibility for the future” where robots have replaced human’s jobs.

(18) THE MARKETPLACE OF THE INTERNET.  Kim Huett sent a link to “Boring Talks #02 – Book Pricing Algorithms” with a comment: “Those of you into buying books online (assuming some of you indeed are) might like to listen to the following cautionary tale brought to us by BBC radio. It will confirm everything you ever suspected about the practise…”

A book for $1.7 million? To a computer, it made sense. Sort of. Tracy King explains.

(19) WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY A GAME? If you play poker you may be interested in a new infographic, “Poker & AI: The Raise of Machines Against Humans”. It details insights and research about the evolution of poker-playing artificial intelligence.

But what about the poker industry? Surely there must be an AI capable of playing poker at high levels. The answer is yes, there is. This infographic will show you how the poker’s AI developed throughout the history, as well as where it is now. You can find a lot of interesting stats and information in this infographic, but if you are interested in reading more about poker related stuff, visit our website.

(20) WHERE THE BOYS ARE. This belongs in Connie Willis’ next satirical speech about things science fiction predicted (none of which ever were) — “U.S. soldiers are revealing sensitive and dangerous information by jogging”.

Strava says it has 27 million users around the world, including people who own widely available fitness devices such as Fitbit and Jawbone, as well as people who directly subscribe to its mobile app. The map is not live — rather, it shows a pattern of accumulated activity between 2015 and September 2017.

Most parts of the United States and Europe, where millions of people use some type of fitness tracker, show up on the map as blazes of light because there is so much activity.

In war zones and deserts in countries such as Iraq and Syria, the heat map becomes almost entirely dark — except for scattered pinpricks of activity. Zooming in on those areas brings into focus the locations and outlines of known U.S. military bases, as well as of other unknown and potentially sensitive sites — presumably because American soldiers and other personnel are using fitness trackers as they move around.

Not just men, of course, but it made a good headline.

(21) OH NOES! Just think what a career he might have had, if he hadn’t been muted by the Guild!

(22) DISCOVERY SPOILERS. There, that should be enough warning about — “‘Star Trek: Discovery’: Jason Isaacs Apologizes for Lying, Admits to Feeling Like a ‘Drunken Hippo’ When Fighting Michelle Yeoh”.

“I’ve done nothing but lie since September,” he said to IndieWire. “I knew, perfectly well, everything before we started. And that meant that every interview was a lie and every conversation I had with my friends… Actually, with quite a lot of my family, was a lie. Anybody on the street was a lie. Anybody in Toronto. So I apologize for all that, but that was the only way to tell the story well.”

(23) PEJORATIVE’S PROGRESS. Inverse’s Ryan Britt looks back on “How the Word “Terran” Became a Sci-Fi Slur”.

In the Mirror Universe of Star Trek, humans aren’t called humans. They’re called “Terrans.” The word “Terran” comes from the root Latin word “terra,” meaning “dry earth,” which is where we get the phrase “terra firma.” But the word “Terran” has been prevalent in science fiction long before it cropped up again on Star Trek: Discovery in 2018. As it turns out “Terran” has a long history of being a dirty word for “human.”

(24) BLACK PANTHER. Marvel Studios’ Black Panther – “Let’s Go” TV spot.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/7/17 Pixel, It’s Scrolled Outside

(1) SOCIETY PAGE. Cat Valente and Heath Miller shared their news on Twitter. Jump onto the thread about the romantic proposal here —

Part of the announcement:

(2) A GOOD COUNTRY FOR OLD MAN. Deadline started with an Exclusive story, but now we all know — “Netflix Grabs Hold Of John Scalzi’s Sci-Fi Novel ‘Old Man’s War’ For Jon Shestack, Madhouse”.

Netflix has acquired John Scalzi’s modern sci-fi classic Old Man’s War to develop as an original film. The novel is the first in a bestselling six-book series and is considered to be one of the best of the genre over the past two decades, nominated for a Hugo Award. Jon Shestack Productions and Madhouse Entertainment will produce.

John Scalzi goes into a little more detail in his FAQ about the news: “Old Man’s War in Development at Netflix”.

Are you excited?

Hell, yes. One, because I would love to see an OMW movie. But also, two, Netflix is a place where a lot of fantastic entertainment is happening these days. It’s trying a lot of things and taking a lot of chances, and most people I know who are working with Netflix are thrilled about being there right now. It really seems like it could be a great place for the OMW universe.

So is this a movie or TV series?

It’s a movie. On your television!

(Or computer or phone or monitor or wherever you choose to watch Netflix, I don’t judge.)

(3) GODSTALKER. James Davis Nicoll brings you his list of “Twenty Core Works of Religious Speculative Fiction Every True SF Fan Should Have on Their Shelves”. Here are four examples –

  • High Deryni by Katherine Kurtz
  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller

(4) ROWLING CHALLENGED ON SUPPORT OF DEPP. Amy Zimmerman of The Daily Beast calls it “J.K. Rowling’s Cowardly Defense of Alleged Abuser Johnny Depp in ‘Fantastic Beasts’”.

… In May 2016, actress Amber Heard filed for divorce from Johnny Depp, declaring at the time, “During the entirety of our relationship, Johnny has been verbally and physically abusive to me…I endured excessive emotional, verbal, and physical abuse from Johnny, which has included angry, hostile, humiliating, and threatening assaults to me whenever I questioned his authority or disagreed with him.” In the wake of these explosive allegations, The Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon wrote a piece titled “Amber Heard Says Johnny Depp Beat Her. It Will Ruin His Career. Just Kidding!”, in which he argued that Depp, like so many accused A-listers before him, was destined to emerge from this scandal professionally unscathed.

…On the one hand, Rowling has inarguably found herself in a difficult position, and it’s hard to watch as female creators are asked to answer for the alleged misconduct and immorality of their male collaborators. In her statement, Rowling acknowledges the seriousness of the allegations against Depp, and appears to have taken the pressure to potentially recast seriously. But, make no mistake: she is supporting and defending Johnny Depp. And, in doing so, she is calling his accuser’s testimony into question.

The most damning sentence here is when Rowling cites “our understanding of the circumstances” to justify the fact that she is “genuinely happy” with Depp’s starring role; it sounds like she’s implying that, if we knew what she knew, we would feel comfortable dismissing Heard’s story too. Rowling is, finally, saying “I believe you”—but the person she’s acknowledging in this scenario is Johnny Depp, not Amber Heard

Here is J.K. Rowling’s complete statement on “Grindelwald casting”:

When Johnny Depp was cast as Grindelwald, I thought he’d be wonderful in the role. However, around the time of filming his cameo in the first movie, stories had appeared in the press that deeply concerned me and everyone most closely involved in the franchise.

Harry Potter fans had legitimate questions and concerns about our choice to continue with Johnny Depp in the role. As David Yates, long-time Potter director, has already said, we naturally considered the possibility of recasting. I understand why some have been confused and angry about why that didn’t happen.

The huge, mutually supportive community that has grown up around Harry Potter is one of the greatest joys of my life. For me personally, the inability to speak openly to fans about this issue has been difficult, frustrating and at times painful. However, the agreements that have been put in place to protect the privacy of two people, both of whom have expressed a desire to get on with their lives, must be respected.  Based on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies.

I’ve loved writing the first two screenplays and I can’t wait for fans to see ‘The Crimes of Grindelwald’. I accept that there will be those who are not satisfied with our choice of actor in the title role. However, conscience isn’t governable by committee. Within the fictional world and outside it, we all have to do what we believe to be the right thing.

(5) QUICK SIP SHORT FIC RECS. I think I missed Charles Payseur’s “Quick Sip Reviews 2017 Recommended Reading List”, posted last month.

This comes courtesy of my monthly recommendation column, The Monthly Round. The rules are fairly easy, in that the stories must come from publications I regularly read. It’s the single greatest limiting factor for the list, because I do not read everything, but this prevents me from essentially cherry-picking stories from other publications. So there are my favorite stories published at the places I read regularly and have reviewed. There’s a whole wide world of other stories out there, but I did dearly love these. So I hope that, even with that limitation in mind, the list is helpful for finding some truly awesome short SFF. If you want more info on any of the stories, there are links to each or you can do a search of this blog to find my more in-depth reviews.

(6) BLACK SF HONORED. The Root has named “The 16 Best Books of the Year by Black Authors”. Three of these books are of genre interest.

  • #1 — Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel by Jesmyn Ward, which Amazon currently lists as the top-selling book in Magical Realism.
  • #4 — Akata Warrior by World Fantasy/Hugo/Nebula Award winner Nnedi Okorafor.
  • #9 — What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky, by Lesley Nneka Arimah, a debut short-story collection from an award-winning Nigerian-American writer whose short stories hit fantasy, magical realism, science fiction, and horror.

(7) THERE ARE NO OLD, BOLD EQUATIONS. RedWombat mashes up a classic poem with a Hall of Fame story. The first tweet in response by Tim Chase is brilliant, too,

(8) JOIN THE VAMPIRE LODGE. An io9 exclusive! “Vampire Veronica Descends on Riverdale in a New Archie Horror Series”.

Between Afterlife with Archie, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and the recent addition of Jughead: The Hunger, Archie Comics’ horror imprint is flying higher than Sabrina’s broomstick ever thought possible. But there’s already another series coming to Archie Horror, and it’s got a bit of a bite to it….

Veronica Lodge, Riverdale’s socialite encounters a centuries-old creature of the night, who transforms her into a bloodthirsty vampire. Now she must descend on her unsuspecting hometown to quench her newfound hunger. Veronica now has to contend with this new transformation However, she is still the Veronica we all know and love.

(9) GULP FICTION. Fainting cloths have been in much demand since news broke that “Quentin Tarantino Might Direct a Star Trek Movie”io9 has the story.

Apparently Tarantino recently pitched an idea for a Trek movie to producer J.J. Abrams, who loved it, and they’ll soon begin to assembling a writer’s room to flesh it out. If everything falls into place, Tarantino could be interested in directing with Abrams producing.

This isn’t something that’ll be happening soon, though. Next up for the iconic director is his still-untitled 1969-set movie, which Sony Pictures just picked up. That already has a release date of August 9, 2019, so there’s no doubt that’s next for him. That leaves almost two years of time for a script to get written that could woo Tarantino into doing several things he’s never done before.

He’s never directed a feature he didn’t write. He’s never done a scifi film. He’s never done a major franchise film.

(10) EARLY BIRDS. Worldcon 76 and Dublin 2019 announced their Retro Hugo plans a few days ago and the Hugo Awards Book Club wasted no time coming up with the first set of recommendations: “Retro Hugos 1943: Novels”

It was with no small degree of excitement that we greeted the news that there would be Retro Hugo awards presented at next summer’s Worldcon. Just on principle, we love Retro Hugos, and will take any opportunity to do a deep dive into the science fiction published in a particular year. The Hugo year of 1943 (which would cover works published in 1942) has some excellent novels to choose from. We will explore other fiction categories for these awards in later posts.

Legendary science fiction pioneer Olaf Stapledon has never been nominated for a Hugo

Award in any category. The author of Last and First Men, Star Maker, and Odd John had published most of his major works prior to the first Worldcon, so even with Retro Hugos, there hasn’t been much opportunity to honour his works with the genre’s top award. Although Darkness And The Light is not one of his most well-remembered works, and although it has some flaws, it is still one that should be considered for the award.

(11) CRIDER IN HOSPICE. Crime fiction writer Bill Crider, who also won a 2015 Sidewise Award for his story “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” has entered hospice care. He signed off from his blog saying –

Things could change, but I suspect this will be my final post on the blog. I met with some doctors at M. D. Anderson today, and they suggested that I enter hospice care. A few weeks, a few months is about all I have left. The blog has been a tremendous source of pleasure to me over the years, and I’ve made a lot of friends here. My only regret is that I have several unreviewed books, including Lawrence Block’ fine new anthology, Alive in Shape and Color, and Max Allan Collins’ latest collaboration with Mickey Spillane, The Last Stand, which is a collection of two novellas, “A Bullet for Satisfaction,” an early Spillane manuscript with an interesting history, and “The Last Stand,” the last thing that Spillane completed. It saddens me to think of all the great books by many writers that I’ll never read. But I’ve had a great life, and my readers have been a big part of it. Much love to you all.*

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 7, 1972 — The crew of Apollo 17, while on their way to the Moon, took a photo of Earth from about 28,000 miles.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born December 7, 1915 — Leigh Brackett, well-known sf author and screenwriter. George Lucas hired Brackett to write the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back, which she completed shortly before she died in March of 1978.

(14) ALL BRADBURY. Courtesy of Cora Buhlert, here’s a brief clip from a German cultural TV program  presenting a new illustrated German edition of Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes”. (Video.)

(15) THE GOLD RUSH IS OVER. In “Business Musings: Sustainability”, Kristine Katherine Rusch argues that the market for independently published books has “matured” and that authors should expect much slower growth and lower incomes from here on.

I’m talking about the changes in income to writers who were not rushing to every new way of doing something, writers who were not gaming algorithms, writers who were producing a lot, interacting professionally with their fans, and doing everything right.

Those writers received major rewards, both in sales and in income, in the early years of indie publishing. Those rewards have diminished, because we are entering into a mature market.

What does that mean, exactly?

In business, markets respond to things in similar ways, whether we’re talking markets for shoes or markets for books.

When something is new, everyone wants it. When something is new, the growth is usually exponential. We see that in all kinds of new markets over the years, from desktop computers twenty-five years ago to smart phones ten years ago. There’s always something cool, and consumers flock to it, sometimes in very large numbers.

In publishing, we went through a shift, from traditional only to anyone-can-do-it indie, because of the rise of the neat-o ereader, the Kindle, from Amazon, which gave that ereader a platform and an ecosystem.

Year to year, the number of people who joined the new ecosystem was huge. Other players created viable ereaders and ebook ecosystems. You didn’t just have to use Amazon to publish a book. You could do it on other platforms.

(16) SEVENTIES SF RARITY. The British Film Institute tells “How lost British TV sci-fi Thwum was rediscovered”.

On 16 December 2017, BFI Southbank is offering the first opportunity for over 40 years to see Thwum, a sci-fi-themed 1970s rarity that had long been thought lost forever – and Pete Postlethwaite’s first TV appearance with it.

At the time of Thwum’s broadcast in 1975, it was still common practice for TV companies to wipe much of their output, meaning that many television programmes from the era are now sadly missing. Since 1993, it’s been the mission of the BFI’s Missing Believed Wiped initiative to track down and screen material long AWOL from the official TV archives. Finds over the years have included material from television programmes such as The Avengers, Till Death Us Do Part, Dad’s Army, Armchair Theatre and Top of the Pops.

The case of Thwum provides an interesting example of how missing UK TV material can be recovered….

(17) THE KING IS DEAD. Google’s general-purpose AI beats chess specialist: “Google’s ‘superhuman’ DeepMind AI claims chess crown”. It won or drew 100 games 4 hours after being given the rules of chess.

Even so, one human chess grandmaster was still hugely impressed by DeepMind’s victory.

“I always wondered how it would be if a superior species landed on earth and showed us how they played chess,” Peter Heine Nielsen told the BBC.

“Now I know.”

(18) WHERE YOUR PIZZA DELIVERS ITSELF. There are limits: “San Francisco to restrict goods delivery robots”.

Opponents are concerned about the safety of pedestrians, particularly elderly people and children.

Walk San Francisco, a group that campaigns for pedestrian safety, wanted a complete ban.

A range of companies have begun trialling small robots that can deliver food and other goods.

They use sensors and lasers in a similar way to self-driving cars in order to navigate their routes.

(19) ON A HOLE FAR AWAY. BBC tells where “Farthest monster black hole found”.

The matter-munching sinkhole is a whopping 13 billion light-years away, so far that we see it as it was a mere 690 million years after the Big Bang.

But at about 800 million times the mass of our Sun, it managed to grow to a surprisingly large size in just a short time after the origin of the Universe.

The find is described in the journal Nature.

The newly discovered black hole is busily devouring material at the centre of a galaxy – marking it out as a so-called quasar.

(20) PETRIFEYED. They say it may not be possible to find one any earlier: “Researchers find ‘oldest ever eye’ in fossil”.

An “exceptional” 530-million-year-old fossil contains what could be the oldest eye ever discovered, according to scientists.

The remains of the extinct sea creature include an early form of the eye seen in many of today’s animals, including crabs, bees and dragonflies.

Scientists made the find while looking at the well-preserved trilobite fossil.

These ancestors of spiders and crabs lived in seas during the Palaeozoic era, between 541-251 million years ago.

(21) FTFY. They’re not riotously funny, though some are clever or wonderfully bitter: “These Parody Book Covers Of Famous Classics Will Make Any True Literary Nerd Laugh Out Loud”. Here’s a sample:

(22) SHOULD THAT BE PETREON? Another Patreon critic heard from.

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth, Paul Weimer, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Cora Buhlert, Cat Eldridge, rcade, Greg Hullender, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Allan Maurer, Chip Hitchccock, Darrah Chavey, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chris S.]

Pixel Scroll 10/29/17 Please Remember To Scroll Your Pixels In The Form Of A Question

(1) THE ORIGINAL KTF REVIEWER. Humanities revisits “Edgar Allan Poe’s Hatchet Jobs”.

Poe churned out reams of puff-free reviews—the Library of America’s collection of his reviews and essays fills nearly 1,500 dense pages. Few outside of Poe scholarship circles bother reading them now, though; in a discipline that’s had its share of so-called takedown artists, Poe was an especially unlovable literary critic. He occasionally celebrated authors he admired, such as Charles Dickens and Nathaniel Hawthorne. But, from 1835 until his death in 1849, the typical Poe book review sloshed with invective.

Tackling a collection of poems by William W. Lord in 1845, Poe opined that “the only remarkable things about Mr. Lord’s compositions are their remarkable conceit, ignorance, impudence, platitude, stupidity, and bombast.” He opened his review of Susan Rigby Morgan’s 1836 novel, The Swiss Heiress, by proclaiming that it “should be read by all who have nothing better to do.” The prose of Theodore S. Fay’s 1835 novel, Norman Leslie, was “unworthy of a school-boy.” A year later, Poe doomed Morris Mattson’s novel Paul Ulric by pushing Fay under the bus yet again, writing, “When we called Norman Leslie the silliest book in the world we had certainly never seen Paul Ulric.”

Attacking better-known writers – a tactic still in use today by several minor sff authors — was also typical of Poe.

The twist, though, is that as a critic Poe often treated ethics as disposably as we do coffee filters. That self-dealing rave review is just one example. Poe plagiarized multiple times early in his career (most notably in The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and “Usher”), but still spent much of 1845 leveling plagiarism accusations against Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Poe delivered his attacks under his own name, but also anonymously, and through an imaginary interlocutor named “Outis.” But for all of Poe’s bluster, evidence of Longfellow’s thievery was thin, and the poet, wisely, didn’t respond. “Poe’s Longfellow war,” said publisher Charles Briggs, who’d hired Poe at the Broadway Journal, “is all on one side.”

(2) WHAT A REVIEWER IS FOR. New Yorker’s Nathan Heller revisits the American Heart controversy in “Kirkus Reviews and the Plight of the “Problematic” Book Review”.

People make sense of art as individuals, and their experiences of the work differ individually, too. A reviewer speaks for somebody, even if he or she doesn’t speak for you.

To assume otherwise risks the worst kind of generalization. I went to high school in San Francisco at the height of the multiculturalism movement. My freshman curriculum did not include “The Catcher in the Rye,” “The Great Gatsby,” or “Moby-Dick.” We read, instead, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and “Bless Me, Ultima,” and other books showing the range of American fiction. I’m glad. (One can read “The Grapes of Wrath” anytime.) I remember finding Hurston’s novel brilliant and Anaya’s novel boring. I did not conclude, from these feelings, that African-American literature was interesting and Chicano literature was not. Why would I? The joy of books is the joy of people: they’re individuals, with a balance of virtues and flaws. We are free to find—and learn our way into—the ones that we enjoy the most, wherever they come from.

That specificity of response is what Vicky Smith seems to encourage by opening the full canon of new work to new readers. It’s also, though, the diversity that Kirkus has smothered by issuing a “correction”—the editor’s word—on the political emphasis of a published response. Although it’s easy these days to forget, a politics is a practice of problem-solving, case by case, not a unilateral set of color-coded rules. If certain inputs guarantee certain outputs, what’s in play isn’t politics but doctrine. Kirkus, admirably, is trying to be on the progressive side of a moment of transition in our reading. But its recent choices aren’t about progress, or about helping young people find their way through many voices. They’re about reducing books to concepts—and subjecting individuals who read them to the judgments of a crowd.

(3) AWARD REBOOT. Newly appointed award administrator Tehani Croft announced “Significant changes for the Norma K Hemming Award”.

The Norma K Hemming Award, under the auspices of the Australian Science Fiction Foundation (ASFF), announces significant changes to the Award structure.

Designed to recognise excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability in a published speculative fiction work, the Norma K Hemming Award, which has been running since 2010, has had a major overhaul this year, with new categories and a two year cycle.

The award is now open to short fiction and edited anthologies, alongside the previous eligible work of novellas, novels, collections, graphic novels and stage plays. It will also make allowances for serialised work. In addition, entry submissions may be digital or print for all submissions.

Two prizes will now be given, one for short fiction (up to 17,500 words) and one award for long work (novellas, novels, collections, anthologies, graphic novels and play scripts), with a cash prize and citation awarded.

Nominations for the 2018 awards, covering all eligible work published in 2016 and 2017, will open in early November.

(4) THE HORROR. Chloe continues the Horror 101 series at Nerds of a Feather with “HORROR 101: The Uncanny”.

The uncanny to me is a crucial element of horror: not being able to pinpoint exactly what makes us scared. While the extreme can be terrifying (the xenomorph in Alien is a category crisis—its something we can’t classify/is not instantly knowable—but it’s not uncanny because we shouldn’t be able to know it/classify it as its something completely new to the human experience). However, even more terrifying is that which is just a little off: pod people who may look like your lover, but they smile in just a slightly different way. A man with fingers just a little too long. Women with hair in front of their faces so that their expressions are unknowable.

In technology, we refer to the “uncanny valley” (a term coined by Masohiro Mori in the 70’s) when dealing with robots and computer designed images of people. A robot who looks human-like but not realistically so (think Bender in Futurama) wouldn’t trigger the uncanny valley but a robot who looks extremely close to human, but has some tiny bit of offness, such as the more and more realistic robots we have currently, would fall into it and create a sense of slight fear, revulsion, or distrust. In the film Ex Machina (which on its surface is a film about a Turing test going very wrong, but in its heart is a take on the tropes of Gothic literature and the Bluebeard fairy tale), Alicia Vikander portrays Ava brilliantly by making the robotic elements include both Ava’s movements (more perfect than an average person’s) and speech (carefully clipped and enunciated)—this heightens the uncanny valley feeling while going against the entirely human looks of her face (which wouldn’t necessarily fall into the uncanny valley).

(5) WHEN WILL YOU MAKE AN END? Alastair Reynolds writes a whole post – “Gestation time” — around a term that also came up in a discussion of Zelazny here earlier this week.

In the previous post I mentioned that my new story “Night Passage” – just out in the Infinite Stars anthology – was one I was glad to see in print because it had taken about five years to finish. I thought that was approximately the case, but when I checked my hard drive I saw that I opened a file on that story at the end of November 2009, so the better part of eight years ago. That wasn’t an attempt at the story itself, but as per my usual working method, a set of notes toward a possible idea. I rarely start work on a story cold, but instead prefer to brainstorm a series of rambling, sometimes contradictory thoughts, out of which I hope something coherent may emerge. This process can take anything from a morning to several days or weeks, but I never start a story in the first fire of inspiration.

(6) INITIAL QUESTION. At Nerds of a Feather, The G interviews Shadow Clarke reviewer Megan AM – “FIRESIDE CHAT: Megan AM of Couch to Moon”.

MEGAN AM: …  My own personal goal was to demonstrate that good, interesting, literary SF does exist; that it can come from anyone, anywhere, and in any language; and that it can compete with the basic, Americanized, TV-style SF I keep encountering on shortlists. Unfortunately, the 2017 Clarke submissions list didn’t give me much to work with on that front–a lot of the choices were very formulaic, very bland, not to mention very British, white, and male– but I did manage to find some champions I’m grateful to have read: Joanna Kavenna, Martin MacInnes, Lavie Tidhar, Johanna Sinisalo. As for my experience as a contributor… I mean, eight people I have admired in this field–most of whom I had never interacted with before– read and talked books with me. It was the coolest thing ever. I’m curious what you thought of the whole thing. Watching you watch it from the outside was interesting: You seemed genuinely interested in bridging gaps between contentious parties, communicating good faith in all sides, and withholding judgment until it was all said and done. So, now that it is done, what do you think? …

THE G: …. I’d also extend these observations to criticism itself. So I try to have a thick skin anytime I press “publish.” Someone is bound to think my ideas are rubbish, and that’s fine. At the same time, authors and fans are often guilty of violating the text/person distinction–taking depersonalized comments on a text personally and lashing out at the person who made them. The effect is to police what critics, bloggers and other reviewers can say in public, and that’s bullshit. 

I could go on, but let’s get back to the Sharke project! Or rather, back to awards. One thing that’s come up a lot in discussions is the concept of “award worthiness,” i.e. that there is some objective-ish bar that works of fiction must live up to in order to be proper candidates. I’ve bandied this term about a few times, generally when talking about the Hugos. I have a very clear sense of what, for me, constitutes award worthiness in science fiction and fantasy–some combination of ideas, execution, emotional resonance and prose chops. Not always the same combination, but hitting all four to a significant degree, and hitting one or two out of the park….

MEGAN AM: ….This comes back to questioning the idea of an objective kind of “award worthiness.” You mention “comfort SF,” which is just as subjective, because I don’t find that kind of SF comforting at all. We’re living in a Trumpnado, where critical reading and thinking skills are devalued, fake news accusations are flying from all directions, nazism is being given a platform in centrist media, and yet progressive SF fans feel threatened by the idea that it might be necessary to sharpen up on difficult, rigorous, uncomfortable novels? I’m not sure it’s appropriate right now to award anything less than radical and complex. And even setting politics aside, the these ‘comfort food books’ are aesthetically old and crusty. Reading award-nominated novels from different decades really helps to put that into perspective: Not a lot has changed in the styling of SF and its “coding” of metaphors, so I’m confused by why we keep awarding the same styles and thoughts… seventy. years. later.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

Amazingly, Clemens photographed 117 of the 156 episodes of the series. His crisp black-and white photography is well featured in the Blu-ray format – so crisp that a freeze-frame sometimes reveals details that even the art directors didn’t want you to see. For instance, in the Donald Pleasence episode “Changing of the Guard” (the final episode of the third season), the diploma on the wall of Professor Ellis Fowler’s office should feature his name. It doesn’t. Thanks to George Clemens’ crystal-clear photography, we see that it belongs to another man.

  • October 29, 1998 – John Glenn returned to outer space.

(8) THINKING ABOUT MOOLAH.  Franklin Templeton Investments gives a rundown about AI “Science Fiction To Science Fact: The Rise Of The Machines”.

By Mat Gulley, CFA, Executive Vice President, Head of Alternatives and Co-Head IM Data Science, Fintech & Rapid Development; Ryan Biggs, CFA, Research Analyst

The rapid expansion of artificial intelligence (AI) has generated a lot of excitement, but also some (perhaps justified) paranoia. Will computers replace-or even overtake-human beings? Mat Gulley, executive vice president and head of alternatives at Franklin Templeton Investments, and Ryan Biggs, research analyst at Franklin Equity Group, explore the ramifications of “the rise of the machines” in the realm of asset management. They say the full implications of the new machine age will likely take decades to fully play out, but will likely be staggering.

We have been anticipating their arrival for decades. As far back as 1958 the New York Times wrote a story about a machine developed at Cornell University called the Perceptron. The device was said to be “the embryo of an electronic computer … expected to walk, talk, see, write, reproduce itself and be conscious of its own existence.” In 1958!? That would have been an astonishing achievement in a time even before the microwave oven graced our kitchen countertops.

For the past half century, humanity has been eagerly anticipating the age of artificial intelligence (AI); imagining it in Hollywood and reporting on its progress in the media. Perhaps at times our optimism has gotten ahead of itself. Not any longer. This time, the machines are not just coming-they are already here….

(9) SPEAKING UP. The Washington Post’s Todd C. Frankel looks at the career of the video game voice actor, who can spend four hours straight practicing ways of screaming death scenes and who went on an eight-month strike to get better working conditions and residuals: “In $25 billion video game industry, voice actors face broken vocal cords and low pay”.

Yet voice actors in this industry are not treated like actors in television and movies. This led voice actors to go on strike last year against 11 of the largest video game developers over bonus pay and safety issues such as vocal stress. The bitter labor dispute dragged on for 11 months, making it the longest strike in the history of Hollywood’s largest actors’ union, SAG-AFTRA. Burch was forced to give up a critically acclaimed role she loved. Gaming fans feared delays for their favorite titles before a tentative deal was reached late last month. A vote by the full union is going on now.

The lengthy strike highlighted how video games have emerged as the scene of a tense clash between Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Voice actors want to be treated more like TV and film actors, who are viewed as central to the creative process. Tech firms often see the developers and engineers as the true stars of the show.

“They keep saying, ‘Games are different,’?” said J.B. Blanc, a well-known voice actor and director who has worked with Burch several times. “But that’s no longer true. Because games want to be movies, and movies want to be games. These are basically 100-hour-long movies.”

(10) EASY PICKINGS. Abbie Emmons has now taken her Twitter account private after absorbing a thorough and professional internet beating. The punishment began after she tweeted the opinion belittled by Foz Meadows in “Dear Abbie: An Open Letter”. Foz begins with the admission “I don’t know where your hometown is” but doesn’t let that keep her from making assumptions about it, or from working in “white” and “Christian” four times in her opening paragraph, and not in a positive way.

You’re quite right to say that you, personally, will not encounter every type of person in your small corner of the world. But “small” is the operative word, here: wherever your hometown might be, the fact that it’s the basis of your personal experience doesn’t make it even vaguely representative of the world – or even America – at large.

You claim that you “love everyone” regardless of their background, and I’m sure you believe that about yourself. Here’s the thing, though: when you say you wish people would stop being “correct” and “just write books that actually… reflected the kind of thing we encounter in real life,” you’re making a big assumption about who that “we” is. There might be very few black people in your hometown, but if one of them were to write a novel based on their memories of growing up there, you likely wouldn’t recognise certain parts of their experience, not because it was “incorrect,” but because different people lead different lives. And when you claim that certain narratives are forced and unrealistic, not because the writing is badly executed, but because they don’t resemble the things you’ve encountered, that’s not an example of you loving everyone: that’s you assuming that experiences outside your own are uncomfortable, inapplicable and wrong.

(11) EXOTIC NATTER. NextBigFuture declares “Teleportation and traversible wormholes are all real”. You wouldn’t doubt Han Solo would you?

Einstein-Rosen or “ER” bridges, are equivalent to entangled quantum particles, also known as Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen or “EPR” pairs. The quantum connection between wormholes prevents their collapse without involving exotic matter.

The quantum-teleportation format precludes using these traversable wormholes as time machines. Anything that goes through the wormhole has to wait for Alice’s message to travel to Bob in the outside universe before it can exit Bob’s black hole, so the wormhole doesn’t offer any superluminal boost that could be exploited for time travel.

Researchers are working towards lab tests of quantum teleportation to verify their theories…

(12) POT. KETTLE. BLACK. Camestros Felapton, in “Reading Vox Day So You Don’t Have To: The last essay on Chapter 6”, thinks the way to refute Vox Day’s characterization of alleged SJW organizational tactics is to show how Republicans have done the same thing to each other. True as that may be, the trouble is tit-for-tat casemaking isn’t entertaining – and usually, Camestros is very entertaining.

Organizational Tactics

These are the terrible things SJWs are supposed to do to organizations. Vox lists seven and he manages to set up a deeply insightful analysis of how an organization can be destroyed by political extremists. The only problem is that as an analysis it fit bests how the right have wrecked the Republican party. Again, I’ve changed the order to show the sequence of events better.

“The Code of Conduct: Modifying the organization’s rules and rendering them more nebulous in order to allow the prosecution or defense of any member, according to their perceived support for social justice.”

Lobbying organizations on the right like the NRA or “Americans for Tax Reform”  have systematically created an extension of the GOP’s actual rules and accountabilities for their politicians. For example the ATR has been pressurizing Republican candidates (at state and federal level) to sign the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge”: …

(13) DEAR SIR OR MADAM. SyFy Wire tells about the exhibit where you can read J.K. Rowling’s original Harry Potter pitch to publishers.

Rowling’s original pitch opens with:

Harry Potter lives with his aunt, uncle and cousin because his parents died in a car-crash — or so he has been told. The Dursleys don’t like Harry asking questions; in fact, they don’t seem to like anything about him, especially the very odd things that keep happening around him (which Harry himself can’t explain).

The Dursleys’ greatest fear is that Harry will discover the truth about himself, so when letters start arriving for him near his eleventh birthday, he isn’t allowed to read them. However, the Dursleys aren’t dealing with an ordinary postman, and at midnight on Harry’s birthday the gigantic Rubeus Hagrid breaks down the door to make sure Harry gets to read his post at last. Ignoring the horrified Dursleys, Hagrid informs Harry that he is a wizard, and the letter he gives Harry explains that he is expected at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in a month’s time.

The synopsis goes on to discuss Hagrid’s arrival and his revelations about Harry’s forehead scar while also explaining that “Harry is famous among the witches and wizards who live in secret all over the country because Harry’s miraculous survival marked Voldemort’s downfall”.

(14) SPACE VAMPIRES AND THE FUTURE OF “I”. Peter Watts brings a whole new level to the term “self-effacing” – “The Bicentennial 21st-Century Symposium of All About Me”.

This feels a bit weird. Creepy, even.  If it makes any difference, I advised them not to go ahead with it.

A couple of weeks from now— Nov 10-11— the University of Toronto will be hosting an academic symposium about me. More precisely, about my writing.

You could even call it an international event. While U of T is providing the venue, the symposium itself is organized by Aussie Ben Eldridge, of the University of Sydney. At least two of the presenters are from the US (although one of them will be Skyping in, doubtless to avoid the mandatory cavity search that seems to be SOP at the border these days).

Friday is layperson-friendly: a round-table discussion of my oeuvre, or omelet, or however you say that; a reading (new stuff, yet to be published); an interview; a bit of Q&A.  The schedule only listed 15 minutes for drinks after that, but as Ben reminds me he is an Australian and would never make so rookie a mistake. That 15 minutes is only for warm-up drinking on campus, after which we retire to the Duke of York.

Saturday is the academic stuff….

(15) VISIBLE WOMAN. We probably have more cyborgs than Taylor Swift fans on this site — which still means some of you should be interested in this new recording: “Taylor Swift Turns Cyborg For New ‘Blade Runner’-Inspired Video to ‘…Ready For It?’ Watch”.

As fans of the Blade Runner universe mull over Denis Villeneuve’s cerebral cinematic study of what makes a human, Swift goes full replicant in the new futuristic music video, which dropped at midnight.

Taylor lit up the Internet earlier this week when she teased snippets from the sci-fi clip, in which she appears in a skin-tone thermoptic suit, giving the illusion of actually being her birthday suit. Who needs threads when you’re a machine, right?

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Carl Slaughter, and Elizabeth Fitzgerald for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 10/27/17 Dark Scroll Crashes, Pouring Pixels Into Ashes

(1) ASSUAGING YOUR TBR GUILT. Fantasy-Faction’s Nicola Alter playfully advises about “Coping with Reading Guilt in 7 Easy Steps”.

Signs you might suffer from Reading Guilt of one form or another can include:

1. The pile of unread books on your shelf, be it virtual or real, makes you feel anxious every time you look at it.
2. You occasionally dust off that book your friend loaned you and pretend you are about to read it, knowing in your heart you are just preparing it to collect more nightstand dust.
3. The sight of a bookstore evokes complex feelings of longing and guilt.
4. The book-devouring speed of a well-read friend makes you irrationally envious.
5. The question, “have you read…” elicits an instinctual dread, because whatever it is, you’ve usually never read it.
6. When someone recommends a book to you, you smile and make enthusiastic noises to cover the sinking feeling in your stomach, because it’s just another to add to the endless list and you’ll probably never get around to reading it anyway.
7. You are so behind on that reading goal you set that it just serves to depress rather than motivate you.
8. You have a vague but pervasive feeling that you haven’t read enough of the “important” books.
9. The hunt for bookmarks depresses you, because you realise they are all wedged in half-finished books and you can’t bring yourself to remove them.
10. You participate in online “How many of these books have you read?” quizzes, even though you know the results will not cheer you up.

Fortunately, Reading Guilt is a very treatable disorder, and if you are exhibiting these symptoms, you are not alone. Here are seven easy steps to help you cope with Reading Guilt, and prevent it from getting in the way of your bookly enjoyment….

(2) A CHEESY EVENT. The Harry Potter Festival that promised to “bring the magic” to Jefferson, WI last weekend has been roundly criticized as a dud: “Angry fans say organizers of Harry Potter Festival in Jefferson were unprepared”.

Some Harry Potter fans are cursing their decision to attend last weekend’s Harry Potter Festival USA in Jefferson, Wisconsin.

Fans says organizers promised an immersive experience but were instead unprepared for the crowds. City officials provided an estimate that around 35,000 attended the event on Saturday.

Here are some of the main criticisms circulating on the festival’s Facebook page: 1) Visitors say hidden costs were added on top of the price of admission 2) the effort put into decorations were at the level of a high school homecoming and 3) poor transportation planning caused long lines for shuttles.

…For hours people waited to get to certain attractions that have also been highly criticized online.

One person commented on the festival’s Facebook page “‘Hagrid’ ate breakfast without his wig and played on his phone the whole time and did not get up once for pictures. Very disappointing, especially for $20 per person!”

Another person wrote “Went to the ‘prison’ – where nothing was happening?! Empty tennis court? So extremely disappointed.”

Others say they wouldn’t make the drive to the again and regret doing it the first time.

“We traveled an hour and a half,” Maria Remillard of Elk Grove Village, Illinois said.

“And once we got there we were basically stuck there. The bus lines were hours long. I ended up walking back to the fairgrounds to pick up our car so I could go back and pick up my parents, my sister, and my daughter,” Remillard said.

“‘The Owlry’ was a small VFW hall with one stuffed animal and one girl signing letters for an extra fee,” Remillard said.

(3) SUBURBAN BLIGHT.  Adweek highlights another scary ad: “Xfinity Adds Its Own Creepy 5-Minute Film to 2017’s Fright Fest of Longer Halloween Ads”.  See the video at the link.

The Comcast cable brand just unveiled its own five-minute horror short, titled “The Neighborhood,” developed by Goodby Silverstein & Partners and written and directed by Dante Ariola of production company MJZ.

The tale concerns a spooky old mask, made out of a burlap sack, that seems to be making the rounds in one suburban neighborhood on Halloween. But those gifted with it quickly come to regret their mysterious new present.

(4) PULP ART BOOK. IDW Publishing has released “The Art of the Pulps: An Illustrated History” co-edited by Doug Ellis, Ed Hulse, and Robert Weinberg. Doug Ellis gives the background:

“The Art of the Pulps”, co-edited by myself, Ed Hulse and Robert Weinberg, came out earlier this week, on October 24 from IDW. For me, it was a long wait, but I think the final book was well worth it. Bob and I actually started preliminary work on the book back in January 2016, so it’s been nearly a two year project for me. Bob unfortunately passed away in late September 2016, just as we were about to start working on it in earnest, but fortunately Ed Hulse was willing to step in and help see the book through to its completion. I think Bob would have been very pleased with how it came out.

The book focuses on the colorful cover art of the pulps, along with a sampling of some black and white interior pulp art, containing roughly 460 images. But in addition to the images, there’s well over 50,000 words of text, written by some of the top experts in the pulp field. Besides contributions from the co-editors, we were fortunate enough to enlist the writing talents of (in alphabetical order): Mike Ashley (science fiction), Will Murray (hero), Michelle Nolan (sports), Laurie Powers (love), Tom Roberts (air and war), David Saunders (the great pulp artists), F. Paul Wilson (foreword) and John Wooley (detective). We think you’ll agree, if you read the book, that each did a bang-up job!

(5) DOWN THESE MEAN STREETS. Stevens Point author Patrick Rothfuss’ new show on Travel Channel, Myth or Monster, debuts with three showings this weekend on Travel Channel. Myth or Monster will first air 9 p.m. on Friday.

Rothfuss “dives into the past and consults with present-day eyewitnesses to expose the truth behind stories long believed to be sheer fantasy.”

The first episode is titled “Mothman:

Armed with new evidence of a modern-day sighting, acclaimed fantasy author Patrick Rothfuss investigates the local legend of an 8-foot-tall man-bird hybrid that has haunted a small West Virginia town for over 50 years.

(6) THE DICKENS YOU SAY. Alonso Duralde of The Wrap was disappointed: “‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’ Review: Scrooge’s Origin Story Ends Up a Bit of a Humbug”

The history of Christmas is a fascinating one, from the biblical account of Jesus’ birth, to the church’s moving of his birthdate so as to capitalize on the popularity of pagan holidays like Saturnalia and Yule, to the Puritans banning it as a feast of licentiousness, to the abundant, familial celebration we know today. Standiford touches upon all of this, and on how the immense popularity of “A Christmas Carol” changed the culture around the holiday, but screenwriter Susan Coyne (“Anne of Green Gables”) and director Bharat Nalluri (“Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day”) gloss right over it in a way that will leave most viewers befuddled by the film’s title.

While Dickens (played here by Dan Stevens) was a well-established writer by 1843, the author was in something of a slump before he decided to take a crack at writing a Christmas story. “Barnaby Rudge” and “Martin Chuzzlewit” were slow sellers, and his essays about his trip to America hadn’t flown off the shelves either; meanwhile, he and his family were grandly restoring a new house, and his constantly-in-debt father John (Jonathan Pryce) was one of many people in Dickens’ orbit with hands perpetually out.

(7) KING TUT. Someone apparently tutted at John Scalzi about his weekly photos of incoming ARCs and review copies.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born October 27, 1948 – Bernie Wrightson
  • Born October 27, 1953 – Robert Picardo, who played the holographic doctor in ST-Voyager and is on the board of directors of the Planetary Society.

(9) LOOK OUT BELOW. Newsweek brings out Michael Rampino  to answer the question: “Did Dark Matter Kill the Dinosaurs? How Mass Extinctions Are Linked With Universe’s Mystery Ingredient”.

… Over the last three decades, some scientists have found a good correlation of mass extinctions with impacts and massive volcanism. Curiously they have also turned up evidence that these events occur in a cycle of about 26 to 30 million years. This attracted the interest of astrophysicists, and several astronomical theories were proposed in which cosmic cycles affected Earth and life on the planet.

My own hypothesis linked the Earthly events to the motion of the solar system as it moves through the galaxy.  Now, it seems that these geologic cycles may be a result of the interactions of our planet with mysterious dark matter.

How does dark matter affect our planet? Most dark matter can be found as huge haloes surrounding the disc-shaped spiral galaxies, like our own Milky Way. But in 2015 physicist Lisa Randall at Harvard, proposed that significant dark matter is concentrated along the central mid-plane of the galactic disk.

During the cyclic movement of the sun and planets through the galaxy, we pass through the mid-place about once every 30 million years. At these times, the dark matter concentrated there tugs on the myriad Oort cloud comments found at the edge of the solar system. This gravitational perturbation causes some of the loosely bound comets to fall into the zone of the inner planets, where some would collide with Earth, producing a roughly 30 million year cycle of impacts and associated mass extinctions. As a result, dark matter may have killed the dinosaurs.

(10) TREMONTAINE. At Fantasy Literature, Marion Deeds reviews the book version of Tremontaine Season One by Ellen Kushner, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Malinda Lo, Joel Derfner, Patty Bryant, Racheline Maltese and Paul Witcover — “Tremontaine Season One: Magic can’t always be re-created”.

The most interesting secondary character is Micah, a young county girl in the city, who is a math genius. Disguised as a boy, Micah is taken up by the university students because she has a gift for winning card games, and because she is a genius. Micah is a problematic character for some of the writers. She is neuro-atypical. In some of these novellas, Micah convinces me that she is somewhere on the autism spectrum. In the hands of others she reads more like an innocent, much younger girl (eleven or twelve). This wobbliness broke my suspension of disbelief. Beyond the problem of Micah’s characterization, tone in general is a problem, changing from episode to episode, and sometimes clashing with the previous chapter, as it does most noticeably in Episode Seven, “The Swan Ball.”

(11) THEY LOST HIM AT HELLO. Superversive SF’s Declan Finn says he was so offended by Star Trek: Discovery that he had already turned it off before they reached the part that was designed to offend him: “The STD That Will Never Go Viral”.

I gave up at the 40 minute mark. So, all of this is this is, of course, before I got to the stuff that was designed to offend me. I’m told there are gay, bisexual and other sexes all over the place, that the Klingons were supposed to be Trump supporters, that they use cussing but can’t say “God” on the show.  Heck, I didn’t even get far enough into the episode to see “Michael” assault her captain, take over the ship in a mutiny specifically so she could commit an act of war on the Klingons… which happened.

But they never got a chance to appeal to my politics. They never got a chance to offend me. They never got a chance to make me angry. Because they never got me to care. Because this isn’t Star Trek. This is just a bad parody.

This is one STD that will never go viral.

(12) THE NOT RIGHT. Prager University produced a video, “What is the Alt-Right?” which briefly mentions Vox Day.

What is the alt-right? What is its worldview? How big is it? Michael Knowles, bestselling author and host of The Michael Knowles Show, took a deep dive into alt-right culture. Here’s what he learned.

When a reader of Vox Popoli brought it to Day’s attention he teed off on the site’s namesake.

I would have been shocked if Dennis Prager had anything positive to say about me. He’s a mediocre thinker and a mediocre writer whose columns on WND were lightweight, little trafficked, and almost entirely forgettable.

(13) ARISTOTLE! Speaking of Aristotle….Camestros Felapton has now reached Chapter 6 in his dissection of Vox Day’s SJWs Always Double Down: Anticipating the Thought Police.

“It is one of more than a dozen such tactics that I have observed SJWs utilizing over the past few year, and what is fascinating is how many of these tactics were first observed more than 2,400 years ago by one of Man’s greatest thinkers, Aristotle.”

Having said that, we don’t get an illustration of social media bait and report re-imagined for ancient Athens (which might have been interesting). I’d imagine the advice would be simple from Aristotle – if somebody is trying to bait you then don’t let them wind you up. There is an excellent example from Jesus in the New Testament dodging a “bait and report” when he is quizzed about paying taxes. Mind you I don’t think Vox reads the New Testament much, particularly not a section where his God implies that you should pay your taxes.

Anyway, put my side trip to Jesus aside, Vox is back with our friend Aristotle. This time rather than Aristotle’s Rhetoric, Vox wants us to look at The Organon and in particular the section called On Sophistical Refutations. “Sophistical” here referring to sophists – the quasi-professional arguers of stuff and/or Plato’s contemporary philosophers not in tune with the Socratic wing of thinking.

Aristotle lists 13 fallacies and Vox goes through them all to some extent. I’m going to look at them from a different direction…

(14) LET THERE BE LIGHTS. Tesla in real-world success: “Turns Power Back On At Children’s Hospital In Puerto Rico”.

Tesla has used its solar panels and batteries to restore reliable electricity at San Juan’s Hospital del Niño (Children’s Hospital), in what company founder Elon Musk calls “the first of many solar+battery Tesla projects going live in Puerto Rico.”

The project came about after Puerto Rico was hit by two devastating and powerful hurricanes in September, and Musk reached out about Tesla helping.

Musk’s company announced its success in getting the hospital’s power working again less than three weeks after Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello tweeted on Oct. 6, “Great initial conversation with @elonmusk tonight. Teams are now talking; exploring opportunities.”

Tesla’s image of the project’s solar array, in a parking lot next to the hospital, has been liked more than 84,000 times since it was posted to Instagram Tuesday.

(15) SOFTCOVER SCARES. Rise of a genre? “These ‘Paperbacks From Hell’ Reflect The Real-Life Angst Of The 1970s”. NPR did an interview with Grady Hendrix who argues that “horror” was not a mainstream term before _Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, et al.

On the appeal of horror paperbacks in the ’70s and ’80s

In the early ’70s, I think part of the appeal of these books is [that] they were written fast and without a lot of pretensions, and so in doing that, these authors were kind of capturing the time in which they were writing. And so you had in the early ’70s, late ’60s, all this fascination with the occult. Astrology was big, Time magazine had two covers that were like, “The New Age occult craze in America” and also there was a fear of our children — “What is this rock music and this LSD and this ‘Summer of Love’? Surely there must be a dark side there.”

And so these books really reflected a lot of where we were at the times and answered a lot of questions, and the answer to most of the questions was, “Yes, be very, very afraid of everything.” Jellyfish, mattresses, curtains, dogs, moths, caterpillars, children, dolls, clowns, puppets. But at least they were answers.

(16) NO RENDEZVOUS WITH THIS RAMA. Passing through: “Scientists Spot First Alien Space Rock In Our Solar System”.

It’s long been assumed that an interstellar object like this one should be out there, because giant planets in forming solar systems are thought to toss out bits of space crud that haven’t yet glommed into anything. But this is the first time scientists have actually found one.

The mysterious object is small — less than a quarter mile in diameter — and seems to have come from the general direction of the constellation Lyra, moving through interstellar space at 15.8 miles per second, or 56,880 miles per hour.

“The orbit is very convincing. It is going so fast that it clearly came from outside the solar system,” says Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “It’s whipping around the Sun, it has already gone around the Sun, and it has actually gone past the Earth on its way out.”

(17) INSECURITY. The internet doesn’t know you’re a dog – or an AI: “AI Model Fundamentally Cracks CAPTCHAs, Scientists Say”.

A new model, described in research published today in Science, fundamentally breaks the CAPTCHA’s defenses by parsing the text more effectively than previous models with less training, George says.

He says that previous models trying to get machines to learn like humans have largely relied on a prevailing AI technique called deep learning.

“Deep learning is a technique where you have layers of neurons and you train those neurons to respond in a way that you decide,” he says. For example, you could train a machine to recognize the letters A and B by showing it hundreds of thousands of example images of each. Even then, it would have difficulty recognizing an A overlapping with a B unless it had been explicitly trained with that image.

(18) RUNAWAYS. Marvel’s Runaways will be on Hulu starting November 21.

(19) YOU HAD ONE JOB. Alien Invasion S.U.M. 1 official trailer.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/8/17 The Heinlein Appertainment Collision: Pixel, The Cat That Walks Through Scrolls

(1) HINES ARC GIVEAWAY TO SUPPORT DISASTER RELIEF. Jim C. Hines is doing a giveaway of an advance copy of Terminal Alliance to encourage people to donate to flood/hurricane relief: “Disaster Aid and Terminal Alliance Giveaway”:

Two weeks ago, Sophie received advance review copies of Terminal Alliance. I’ve been meaning to do a giveaway, but I was struggling to come up with a good way to do it.

Then I started seeing the damage reports come in from hurricanes and flooding. The devastation they’ve left in their wakes, and the devastation yet to come. A million people without power in Puerto Rico. Record-breaking rain and flooding in the southwest U.S. 41 million affected by flooding and landslides in South Asia.

And now I know how I want to do this giveaway. You want to win an autographed ARC of Terminal Alliance? There are two things you need to do.

  1. Donate to one of the organizations helping with disaster relief.
  2. Leave a comment saying you donated.

(2) USE YOUR OWN DARNED IMAGINATION. Bestselling fantasy writer Mark Lawrence tells his fans “Why you’re not getting a map”.

A question posed to me on this blog.

Q: When are you going to draw a map for Book of the ancestors series? I’m dying to read Red Sister but can’t bring myself to do it without a map.

A: I’m not going to. If you can’t read a book without a map I guess it’s not a book for you.

I’m often asked: “Did you draw the map first or as you wrote the book.” This is frequently by people who haven’t read any of my books.

There is an assumption there … fantasy books have maps. Which is odd, since I have read hundreds (possibly thousands) of novels without maps, many of them set in regions I’m unfamiliar with. The fact is that for a great many works of fiction maps are irrelevant, they are about what people are doing in their lives, if Sarah goes to visit her uncle in Vostok it is sufficient for me to know it took her several hours on the train and when she got there the forests were covered in snow. I don’t need to look it up on a map. It doesn’t matter.

(3) SELLING SHORT. Charles Payseur begins a new series of posts with “MAPPING SHORT SF/F: Part 1, A Key to the Kingdom” at Nerds of a Feather.

Really, the reasons I want to do this can be broken down thusly:

  1. To provide a tool for readers to break down short SFF into meaningful, manageable chunks that will help them locate stories they will hopefully love.
  2. To counter the narrative that short SFF is either too massive, too disparate, or too opaque to be successfully navigated.
  3. To talk about short SFF, which is one of my great loves.
  4. To highlight publications, authors, and trends within short SFF.

…One last thing before I close this down. People often come to me to ask how to find stories. How to refine their search. While I hope to help through this series, there are some tools that are available to you right now, and I find that not everyone thinks of this when they’re considering where to look as readers for particular genres/styles/etc. Your best resource as a reader is…submissions guidelines. Yes, they are written for writers, but if you want to know what a publication is interested in, submissions guidelines are where to look. Skip the About Us section of publications. Read what they want. See if they have a diversity statement. Check to see what other tactics they might have to encourage marginalized writers to submit. This is a really easy “cheat” for readers to get a feel for a publication without checking out reviews or reading sample stories. And using a tool like The Submissions Grinder at Diabolical Plots allows you to search by genre, by length, by basically whatever you want. It’s not what it was designed for, but it is amazing for searching out venues and stories to read.

(4) SINGULARITY SINS. Rodney Brooks has written an excellent article explaining in detail why the future of AI isn’t going to be quite as scary or as exciting as most SF stories would have you think: “The Seven Deadly Sins of Predicting the Future of AI”. Here’s an excerpt from one of his seven main points.

Some people have very specific ideas about when the day of salvation will come–followers of one particular Singularity prophet believe that it will happen in the year 2029, as it has been written.

This particular error of prediction is very much driven by exponentialism, and I will address that as one of the seven common mistakes that people make.

Even if there is a lot of computer power around it does not mean we are close to having programs that can do research in Artificial Intelligence, and rewrite their own code to get better and better.

Here is where we are on programs that can understand computer code. We currently have no programs that can understand a one page program as well as a new student in computer science can understand such a program after just one month of taking their very first class in programming. That is a long way from AI systems being better at writing AI systems than humans are.

Here is where we are on simulating brains at the neural level, the other methodology that Singularity worshipers often refer to. For about thirty years we have known the full “wiring diagram” of the 302 neurons in the worm C. elegans, along with the 7,000 connections between them. This has been incredibly useful for understanding how behavior and neurons are linked. But it has been a thirty years study with hundreds of people involved, all trying to understand just 302 neurons. And according to the OpenWorm project trying to simulate C. elegans bottom up, they are not yet half way there. To simulate a human brain with 100 billion neurons and a vast number of connections is quite a way off. So if you are going to rely on the Singularity to upload yourself to a brain simulation I would try to hold off on dying for another couple of centuries.

(5) LUCASFILM HELPS DESIGN REAL WORLD MISSION PATCH. In space no one can hear you squee.

Taking a modern twist on a longstanding spaceflight tradition of mission patch design, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) partnered with Lucasfilm to blend iconic images from the Star Wars franchise with a real-world space station for its latest mission patch.

BB-8 meets ISS

Though it should come as no surprise that the intersection of space science and science fiction fans is quite large, it isn’t often the two areas come together in such overt fashion, even with something as basic as a patch. Indeed, mission insignia are usually designed by astronauts or engineers involved with a particular mission, not an outside organization.

CASIS, however, has a history of engaging third parties to influence – or outright design – its ensigns. Before the current collaboration with Lucasfilm, CASIS worked with Marvel to design its 2016 mission patch. That work featured Rocket Raccoon and Groot from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy looking upwards toward the International Space Station (ISS).

(6) TECHNOLOGY AND FREEDOM. Coming September 17 at the Brooklyn Historical Auditorium: “Structures of Power: Politics, Science Fiction, and Fantasy presented by the Center for Fiction”

Science fiction and fantasy are uniquely positioned to explore structures of power. Four authors examine how power struggles impact individuals and collectives, intersections between technology and politics, and methods of resistance to oppressive governments and technologies. N.K. Jemisin (The Stone Sky), Eugene Lim (Dear Cyborgs), Malka Older (Null States), and Deji Bryce Olukotun (After the Flare) will discuss how science fiction and fantasy respond to our hopes and fears for the future, offers alternatives to conventional politics, and examines how technology affects freedom. Moderated by Rosie Clarke.

(7) BRADBURY ALL THE TIME. Here’s the first of “11 Deep Facts About The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” from Mental Floss.

  1. THE MOVIE WAS PARTLY BASED ON A RAY BRADBURY STORY.

It all started with a roar. One night, while he was living near Santa Monica Bay, legendary sci-fi author Ray Bradbury was awakened from his sleep by a blaring foghorn. Moved by the mournful bellow, he quickly got to work on a short story about a lovelorn sea monster. Called The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (later retitled The Foghorn), it was published in The Saturday Evening Post on June 23, 1951.

At roughly the same time, Mutual Films was developing a script for a new action-packed monster movie. The finished product would ultimately bear more than a slight resemblance to a certain Saturday Evening Post story. For instance, both of them feature a scene in which a prehistoric titan lays waste to a lighthouse. According to some sources, Mutual had already started working on its marine creature flick when studio co-founder Jack Dietz happened upon Bradbury’s yarn in the Post. Supposedly, he contacted the author without delay and bought the rights to this tale.

But Bradbury’s account of what happened behind the scenes is totally different. The other co-founder of Mutual was one Hal Chester. Late in life, Bradbury claimed that when a preliminary script for what became Beast had been drafted, Chester asked him to read it over. “I pointed out the similarities between it and my short story,” Bradbury said. “Chester’s face paled and his jaw dropped when I told him his monster was my monster. He seemed stunned at my recognition of the fact. He had the look of one caught with his hand in the till.”

In any event, Bradbury received a $2000 check and a shout-out in the movie’s opening credits.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Star Trek Day

[The anniversary of when the first episode aired in 1966.]

“I haven’t faced death. I’ve cheated death. I’ve tricked my way out of death and patted myself on the back for my ingenuity; I know nothing.” ~ James T. Kirk, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Long ago, in the depths of the cold war, America had a prophet arrive. He spoke not of religious texts and damnation, but instead provided us with a vision of the future so hope-filled, so compelling, that it has indelibly marked the imaginations of man-kind ever since. Star Trek Day celebrates that vision, and the man who created it, Gene Roddenberry.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 8, 1966 — Original Star Trek series debuted on television.
  • September 8, 1973 Star Trek: The Animated Series premiered. (Talk about coincidences.)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock rightly says, “Today’s Rhymes With Orange is for the strong of stomach.”
  • John King Tarpinian found a funny about cosplay – today’s Lio.

(11) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler is giving out his annual Galactic Stars – this time in the TV category: “[Sep. 8, 1962] Navigating the Wasteland (1961-62 in (good) television)”. These awards are not limited to sff – Route 66 and The Andy Griffith Show made the list – but The Twilight Zone a couple other genre series made the list.

Other stand-outs include:

Mr. Ed 1960-: despite being overly rooted in conventional gender roles, one can’t ignore Alan Young’s charm, the fun of the barbed banter between Young’s married neighbors, or the impressive way they make a horse appear to talk.

Supercar 1961-62: this British import is definitely kiddie fare, but it’s still fun to watch Mike Mercury and his two scientist associates defeat criminals and triumph over natural disaster.  Of course, the acting’s a bit wooden…

(12) WHEN BRUCE WILLIS ATTENDS YOUR OFFICE PARTY. Io9 reports “The Best Christmas Movie of All Time Is Being Turned Into a Must-Have Children’s Book”. I was thinking, A Christmas Story? Miracle on 34th Street? I was wrong….

It’s unfortunate that Die Hard, the best Christmas movie of all time, isn’t really a film you can watch with your kids. But this year, instead of suffering through Elf once again, you can spend some quality time with your PG-rated family members by reading a new holiday children’s book based on the adventures of John McClane.

A Die Hard Christmas: The Illustrated Holiday Classic, written by comedian Doogie Horner, and illustrated by JJ Harrison, was inspired by the classic Christmas poem, Twas the Night Before Christmas. But instead of detailing Santa’s attempts to deliver presents to good boys and girls, the book tells the timeless tale of a New York police officer single-handedly taking down a gang of European terrorists.

(13) THE IT FACTOR. The children’s movie about a clown with a red balloon did well. SyFy Wire says “The weekend’s only starting, and IT has already broken 4 box office records”.

According to Deadline, the R-rated IT’s record-breaking take of $13.5 million means it had:

  • The largest gross for a horror pre-show gross.
  • The largest gross for a R-rated preview gross.
  • The largest gross for a September preview, ever.
  • The largest gross for a movie based on a Stephen King novel.

This Thursday night preview kicked the stuffing out of the R-rated Deadpool, which only earned $12.7 from its pre-show screenings. Experts are predicting more record-shattering as the weekend progresses.

(14) KOWAL SIGNED FOR NARRATION. Parvus Press has contracted with Mary Robinette Kowal to perform the audiobook narration for the upcoming title Flotsam by R J Theodore. The book will be released in digital, print, and audio on January 30, 2018.

“We are incredibly excited to be able to work with a world-class talent like Mary Robinette Kowal on this title,” said Colin Coyle, Publisher at Parvus Press. “We know that this book is going to find a dedicated fan base and we want to bring it to as many readers and listeners as possible.”

…R J Theodore couldn’t be more pleased with Parvus’ choice for FLOTSAM‘s narrator. She says, “Mary’s voice is a complex bourbon that bites with a wry humor on the way down. I am very excited to hear it applied to FLOTSAM’s narration.”

Cat Rambo, author of “Beasts of Tabat”, describes FLOTSAM as “Combining the best elements of steampunk and space opera,” and promises “[P]laced in a lavishly detailed and imagined world, Flotsam will hold you firmly till the final page.”

…Mary Robinette Kowal, a professional puppeteer, also performs as a voice actor (SAG/AFTRA), recording fiction for authors including Seanan McGuire, Cory Doctorow, and John Scalzi. She lives in Chicago with her husband Rob and over a dozen manual typewriters.

(15) NEXT TURN OF THE WHEEL. Although the blog has devoted years to teaching indie authors how to put together and market their books, Mad Genius Club’s Peter Grant has a new message: “It’s time to face facts: online lending and streaming media is, increasingly, the future of books”.

I’ve written before about the threat that streaming media poses to traditional book sales.  I’ve had a certain amount of pushback about that, particularly from those who don’t like the thought of their income from writing declining to such an extent.  Some have even refused to make their books available on streaming services such as Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited.  Now, however, the signs are clear.  We have to face up to the reality of streaming media in our future – or be swept aside.

Those signs are most clear in other areas of the entertainment industry.  Let’s not forget, that is our industry, too.  We’re not selling books.  We’re selling entertainment, and our products (books and stories) are competing with every other avenue of entertainment out there – movies, TV series, music, games, the lot.  If we don’t offer sufficient entertainment for consumers’ dollars, they’re going to spend them on another form of entertainment – and we’re going to starve.

(16) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. At Phys.org they ask: “Are we being watched? Tens of other worlds could spot the Earth”.

Thanks to facilities and missions such as SuperWASP and Kepler, we have now discovered thousands of planets orbiting stars other than our sun, worlds known as ‘exoplanets’. The vast majority of these are found when the planets cross in front of their host stars in what are known as ‘transits’, which allow astronomers to see light from the host star dim slightly at regular intervals every time the planet passes between us and the distant star.

In the new study, the authors reverse this concept and ask, “How would an alien observer see the solar system?” They identified parts of the distant sky from where various planets in our solar system could be seen to pass in front of the sun – so-called ‘transit zones’—concluding that the terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) are actually much more likely to be spotted than the more distant ‘Jovian’ planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune), despite their much larger size.

“Larger planets would naturally block out more light as they pass in front of their star”, commented lead author Robert Wells, a PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast. “However the more important factor is actually how close the planet is to its parent star – since the terrestrial planets are much closer to the sun than the gas giants, they’ll be more likely to be seen in transit.”

(17) THE MARTIAN HOP. Stephen Baxter is featured in “Tell Us 5 Things About Your Book: A Sequel to ‘The War of the Worlds’” at the New York Times.

What’s the most surprising thing you learned while writing it?

The work that Wells put into the original; the development it went through. There are some surviving drafts, at the University of Illinois. What really surprised me was how the narrator evolved. In the initial drafts, he’s a much more competent character, much more purposeful. He loses his wife to the Martians; they destroy the town he lived in. He becomes enraged and wants revenge, so he falls in with the resistance, and he’s going to blow up the Martians, like a suicide bomber.

But Wells clearly wasn’t happy with that. In the final draft, the narrator is burned, wounded, but he follows the Martians in a way that’s more “get it over with.” Then he goes into a fugue, a kind of three-day dropout. I think Wells was groping for a prediction of shell shock, which wasn’t a recognized condition until the First World War, 20 years later. So it’s a tremendous prediction, which I think is underrated by critics. That discovery, of how much Wells worked on the book, was a real revelation for me.

(18) ANOTHER GLIMPSE. Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, in “My Late Post regarding the 2017 Hugo Awards”, shares  great photos from the ceremony.

(19) BEARS DISCOVER EMAIL. End of a bizarre story: “Judge dismisses email invention claim”. The plaintiff was looking not for royalties on email but for libel damages for a story doubting his claim to have created the “definitive” email program — the modern equivalent of claiming to have invented fire?

Shiva Ayyadurai sued news website Tech Dirt earlier this year after it published several articles denying his claim….

Mr Ayyadurai’s controversial claim revolves around a program he wrote in 1978, called EMAIL, that was used by staff at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. He was granted a copyright for this program in 1982.

Many news websites have published detailed rejections of his claim.

Tech Dirt was one of the most vocal critics of Mr Ayyadurai’s campaign to establish his software as the definitive version.

Technology history suggests that modern email programs have a lot of influences, but much of the work was done prior to 1978 by many different developers.

Ray Tomlinson is widely acknowledged as the programmer who, in the early 1970s, first used the “@” symbol as a way to describe a particular user on a particular network.

(20) RIDE WEST, YOUNG MAN. Adweek tells about this bit of fictionalized history: “Lyft Travels Back to 1836 With Jeff Bridges in First Brand Work From Wieden + Kennedy”.

Man invents the wheel. Man walks on the moon. Man calls a car to the East Village on a Friday night, when you can’t flag a yellow cab to save your life.

These are some of the major developments in the history of human transportation, according to Lyft, whose big new brand campaign is set to debut during NFL games this Sunday.

…W+K made a splash with a summer activation in which Lyft “took over” an Los Angeles car wash, but the new work is even more ambitious. In the first spot, “Riding West,” Jeff Bridges relays a few lessons about the importance of choice that are as relevant today as they were to the wagon trains of the early 19th century.

 

There are a few more videos at the link. I also like this one:

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Greg Hullender, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Steven H Silver, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 3/13/17 Do Androids Dream Of Crottled Greeps?

(1) UNENDING DANGER. Jared takes a look back at Ellison’s never-published “The Last Dangerous Visions” at Pornokitsch.

The Last Dangerous Visions might be the most famous science fiction book to never exist. ‘TLDV’ was the long-mooted and nearly-almost-published sequel to Dangerous Visions (1967) and Again, Dangerous Visions (1972) – two vastly important and influential publication in modern speculative fiction.

This ambitious anthology, seemingly intended to be the final word in contemporary SF, was delayed for numerous reasons, documented elsewhere by both Ellison and many others. The anticipation, the delays, and the numerous authors it affected made for, to put it mildly, a great deal of drama….

(2) THE BIRDMAN OF AL-LAWZ. John Ringo’s “The Raptor God Incident” has its rough spots but the last four lines are sweet. (This is an excerpt from the middle).

One day as I was preparing to come off night guard duty I noticed some big birds flying by. It was dawn (another pretty time) and there were three of them in a group just beginning to catch the thermals. They ended up going by right at eye level and no more than fifty meters away. I identified them as goshawks, large black and white raptors. They were involved in their annual migration from Africa up to Northern Europe.

I sat and watched as more and more of the groups came by. They were one of the first signs of beauty I’d seen in a long time. And it was clear the migration was just starting.

I thought about that for a while that day and I thought about how much I hated to be woken up at O Dark Thirty to go freeze my ass off in the shack.

So I made a deal with the other guys. I’d take ALL the day duty. Every day. Seven days a week. IF I didn’t have to take a night watch.

‘The Deal was made in Sinai, on a hot and cloudless day…’ (Hmmm… That even scans…)

(3) CARD TRICK. Cat Rambo advises pros about “Working Comic Conventions” at the SFWA Blog. First on the list —

Make sure you have a business card. This should have your contact information, your social media presence (you’ll see why in the at the convention tips) and at least one way to find your books. You will also use it for networking; make sure there is enough blank space on it for you to jot a note down on it before handing it to someone. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on cards but I would also suggest not cheaping out. The lowest rate cards are often flimsy and can look unprofessional….

(4) CAMPBELL AWARD ANTHOLOGY. Jonathan Edelstein, in a comment here, let everyone know that this year’s Campbell anthology, “heroically thrown together at the last minute” by Jake Kerr, is now available. It has stories from over six dozen writers, including Edelstein. Get the free download here.

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer is presented annually at WorldCon to an outstanding author whose first professional work of science fiction or fantasy was published within the previous two years. This anthology includes over 75 authors and nearly 400,000 words of fiction. A resource of amazing new writers for both Hugo Award voters and those interested in seeing the brightest new lights of fantasy and science fiction, Event Horizon is exclusively available via this page until July 15, 2017.

(5) CONS THAT WISH THEY WERE FOR-PROFIT. Trae Dorn at Nerd & Tie posted about two more cons with financial problems.

Effectively, organizer Ben Fritzsching told the event’s guests that there was no money to pay them at the event. Fritzsching then, at several guests’ request, gave them written IOU’s with the promise that the money would be paid by the end of 2016. Agent Nery Nolan Lemus posted a copy of one of the IOUs to the group Rate that Comic Con on Facebook…

As it’s now March of 2017, and we’re writing about this, you can imagine how well those IOUs held up.

No reasons were given for the event’s cancellation beyond “complications with the facility,” though we can speculate it’s likely for the normal reasons any con cancels — no one is buying. Frankly, we’ve heard reports of sub par experiences from their 2016 event, so there’s been a distinct lack of surprise. The event organizers did go on to say in the comments that they were unsure of their plans for the con in 2018 as well.

(6) RESISTANCE RADIO. Sometimes it’s hard to keep the resistors separated from the transistors. “Amazon launched a fake radio station to promote ‘The Man in the High Castle.’ Angry Trump supporters thought it was real.” The Washington Post has the story.

An ad campaign for a dystopian television show has some Trump supporters seeing red.

Amazon’s “The Man in the High Castle,” loosely based on a Philip K. Dick novel, is ramping up for its third season. The thriller, set in 1962, imagines a world in which the Axis powers won World War II and America is controlled by fascist leaders. The East Coast belongs to Nazi Germany; the West Coast is in the clutches of Imperial Japan.

At SXSW in Austin last week, as part of a marketing campaign for “The Man in the High Castle,” Amazon launched “Resistance Radio,” a fake Internet-based radio station broadcast by the fictional American “Resistance” from the show.

“Hijacking the airwaves, a secret network of DJs broadcast messages of hope to keep the memory of a former America alive,” the website said. Click through, and an interactive image of an antique, dual-knob radio appears while mod tunes drift through your computer’s speakers. In between songs, DJs on three different stations speak about how to fight the “Reich” in America.

Soon #ResistanceRadio, the campaign’s sponsored hashtag, spread like wildfire on Twitter. Some Trump supporters seemingly mistook it for an anti-Trump radio station and expressed their displeasure. (Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

….It’s important to note that well before Amazon launched this campaign, #ResistanceRadio had been used, however sparingly, on social media while promoting certain anti-Trump podcasts.

 

(7) FAREWELL. Gardner Dozois, in a public Facebook post, told about Saturday’s memorial service for his wife, Susan Casper.

We had people who came in from New York City, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, Delaware, and England, and celebrities in attendance included Samuel Delany, Michael Swanwick, Pat Cadigan, Ellen Datlow, artists Bob Walters and Tess Kissinger, Scott Edelman, Sheila Williams, Ginjer Bucanan, John Douglas, Moshe Feder, Tom Purdom, and Greg Frost. After the speaking part of the function, everyone fell on a huge fish-and-coldcuts platter from Famous Deli, one of the last traditional Jewish Delis left in the city, and devoured nearly all of it.

This half-hour video slideshow of Casper played in the background. (YouTube has muted its soundtrack, which contains copyrighted music.)

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 13, 1942 The Ghost of Frankenstein was released, starring Lon Chaney Jr as the Monster and Bela Lugosi as Ygor.
  • March 13, 1969 The Love Bug, a Walt Disney movie about the adventures of a Volkswagen Beetle named Herbie, opens in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born March 13, 1855 — Percival Lowell (astronomer)
  • Born March 13, 1911 – L. Ron Hubbard

(10) TODAY’S COINCIDENCE

  • March 13, 1930 — The discovery of Pluto, formerly known as the ninth planet, was officially announced on this date, which was Percival Lowell’s birthday. Lowell was founder of Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, where Clyde W. Tombaugh discovered Pluto on February 18, 1930.

(11) STUFF THEY DON’T KNOW YOU ALREADY KNOW. ScreenRant offers “Lord Of The Rings: 15 Things You Never Knew About Galadriel”. Titles like this are one of the recurring motifs of the internet, so don’t take offense when you find how many of these things you already know. I can say there were a couple I’d never thought about before.

  1. SHE’S MARRIED

It speaks to Galadriel’s significance that her husband hardly figures into the picture. Still, it’s important to acknowledge his existence, even if it doesn’t have a huge impact on the overall story of Lord of the Rings. Galadriel actually rules over the land of Lothlórien alongside Celeborn. While all elves are relatively old, Galadriel is older than Celeborn. Galadriel was born before the first age began, and Celeborn was born in Doriath before it fell, which suggests that he’s at least 500 years younger than his wife.

While this age difference probably isn’t all that significant in the extended lives that elves live, it’s still interesting to consider, especially alongside the fact that Galadriel is much more well-known than her husband. He may not be as wise as his wife, but Celeborn is still considered one of the wisest elves in Middle Earth, and stayed in Middle Earth for a time into the Fourth Age before joining his wife in the Undying Lands.

(12) 2017 PRIX BOB MORANE. Locus Online has reported the winners of the 2017 Prix Bob Morane, awarded by a jury of French-speaking writers, journalists, critics, and collections directors.

Romans francophones (French Novels)

Manhattan Marilyn, Philippe Laguerre (Éditions Critic)

Romans traduits (Translated Novels)

Les enfermés [Lock In], John Scalzi, translated by Mikael Cabon (L’Atalante)

Nouvelles (Short Stories)

Il sera une fois, Southeast Jones (Éditions Séma)

Coup de coeur (Favorites)

L’exégèse de Philip K. Dick (J’ai Lu)

Rae Armantrout

(13) WELL VERSED. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination presents Entanglements: Rae Armantrout & the Poetry of Physics on April 13 at 6 p.m. in Atkinson Hall Auditorium on the UC San Diego campus. It is free to the public.

One of the favorite subjects of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Rae Armantrout (Professor Emerita, UCSD) is physics–from the big ideas of cosmology to the infinitesimally small wonders of the quantum world. To celebrate the publication of Entanglements, a chapbook selection of her science-minded poems, Brian Keating (Astrophysics, UCSD) and the Clarke Center are hosting an evening with Rae Armantrout, who will read selections and discuss the creative process behind her work. Keating, along with Brandon Som (Creative Writing, UCSD) and Amelia Glaser (Literature, UCSD), will join her in a conversation about how these poems mix the personal with the scientific and speculative, the process of interdisciplinary creativity, and what her poetic engagement with physics can teach those working in the physical sciences.

(14) SOLVING FOR X. Melissa Leon’s really thoughtful and well-written review of Logan appears in The Daily Beast.

Logan, Hugh Jackman’s ninth and final outing as the Wolverine, is really a profoundly hopeful film. It loves and deeply understands its characters and the fraught, familial relationships between them. Its action scenes—brutal, bloody, and thrillingly inventive in a way comic book beat-em-ups rarely are—are as character-driven and impactful as its story. (Like, really impactful: You feel each punch, stab and dismemberment. Bless that R-rating.) This is a Western that happens to star superheroes; a road movie grounded in quiet, tender moments. It’s an elegy, wholly unconcerned with franchise-building or connecting distant universes. And with the introduction of Laura, a young mutant with powers similar to Wolverine’s, it becomes a portrait of makeshift families, empathy, and finding normalcy, too. That’s what the best X-Men stories are usually about. Turns out no one knows this better than her.

(15) TANGLED TECH. At SWSW, Disney showed plans to add AI to animatronics.

It’s rare that the company delves too far into how the “magic” – as they call it – works. Their logic is a magic trick doesn’t get better if you know how it’s done.

On Saturday, Disney – quite uncharacteristically – gave us a bit of an insight into how they plan to use technology to bring their much-loved brand of storytelling to new forms, by using robotics and artificial intelligence.

Jon Snoddy, the company’s senior Vice President for research and development, explained how soon you’ll be able to interact with story-telling robots at Disney parks.

“I think AI [artificial intelligence] and machine learning is going to be very important for what we do,” he told the BBC.

“Things like characters that can move around among our guests. They’re going to need to understand where they’re going, have goals, and they’re going to have to know how to navigate in a world with humans….

During a panel discussion, the company shared footage – which unfortunately we’re not able to republish here – of a robotic Pascal, the cute lizard from 2010 movie Tangled.

It’s a terrific recreation of the digital character, but the real challenge for Disney will be to avoid the so-called “uncanny valley” – the theory that if something is very lifelike, but not exactly right, it can be slightly creepy or disturbing.

“Obviously we’re not the business of scaring kids!” Mr Snoddy said….

(16) THE PEN FROM OUTER SPACE. The perfect placeholder while you’re waiting to win your Hugo — the Astrograph.

….As you first encounter it, the Astrograph is an elongated teardrop, with window-like depressions picked out in black lacquer at the narrow end. The wider end has three curved metal elements ending in sharp points, and there’s a miniature ladder going up one side of the barrel that ends in a tiny door.

The door is actually a hidden lever that, when pulled, deploys those curved elements, which are the landing gear – and suddenly the pen is a miniature spaceship.

The spaceship illusion is underscored by touches like a red “thruster” at the pen’s base. The landing gear has actual working shock-absorbing struts, and with the gear down, the bottom half of the pen acts as a pen-holder.  The pen itself is housed in the upper half of the Astrograph, which you release simply by unscrewing it (it’s available either as a fountain pen or rollerball pen, but both work the same way)….

The Astrograph, in keeping with its philosophy of taking a toy to its logical extreme, also comes with, naturally, a tiny astronaut figurine with a magnet in its chest that lets you pretend the little guy’s climbing up or down the ladder, the better to explore strange new worlds; it also comes with a landing pad base that doubles as the pen’s box. Did you really expect anything less? I didn’t think so.

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