Pixel Scroll 2/2/19 Apologies To Voltaire

(1) THE BETTER BATTLE ANGELS OF OUR NATURE. The Hollywood Reporter’s Stephen Dalton makes it sound like the promotional beer (linked here the other day) is better than the movie — “‘Alita: Battle Angel’: Film Review”

…Twenty years in gestation, James Cameron’s long-cherished manga adaptation Alita: Battle Angel finally reaches the big screen with help from director Robert Rodriguez and Peter Jackson’s digital effects team. With that kind of cinematic pedigree, backed by a reported $200 million budget, this kick-ass cyberpunk adventure seems to be aiming for the same blockbusting box office heights as the Hunger Games franchise. But a lumpy script, muddled plot, stock characters and tired genre tropes may dampen its commercial breakout potential beyond its core sci-fi action-fantasy demographic. While not exactly a misfire, Rodriguez and Cameron’s joint effort lacks the zing and originality of their best individual work. Fox is releasing it across much of Europe next week, with a U.S. launch to follow Feb. 14.

(2) GOFUNDME AND CHARITY ANTHOLOGIES BENEFIT ROPES. Splatterpunk writer Christopher Ropes has a serious health problem with his teeth, and the horror-writing community is rallying to make the funds available. First, there’s Ropes’ GoFundMe, “Get Christopher’s Teeth Fixed” with photos that illustrate the problem.

My name is Christopher Ropes. I was born with ameleogenesis imperfecta, a condition that has caused more pain and suffering in my life than any other source, even my fibromyalgia. Essentially, I have teeth that rot and break much more easily than normal because they lack proper enamel protection. I’ve suffered through countless infections that swell up the entirety of my face. And all of this doesn’t even begin to describe the fact that my teeth just make me feel
ugly and unloveable.

I have no dental insurance because I’m on Disability and Medicare doesn’t cover any dental work, no matter how medically necessary.

My problems with my teeth have gotten so bad, I can hardly even chew anything anymore. I got an estimate from the dentist and all the work is going to come to approximately $14,000. I added a little bit to the total to cover any GoFundMe fees, as well as medications and special dietary needs while the work is being done, and the possibility that the estimate is shy of what the actual total will be.

On the same day his GoFundMe launched, two charity anthologies were released, the profits to benefit Christopher Ropes.

Planet X Publications is proud to present this charity anthology, benefitting our friend, horror writer Christopher Ropes. It features stories & poems generously donated from members of the weird fiction & horror communities.

Tables of Contents: Introduction by Nadia Bulkin / 1) Blue Broken Mind by Farah Rose Smith / 2) An Incident on a Cold Winter’s Afternoon by Matthew A. St. Cyr / 3) Fishing Boots by Douglas Draa / 4) Chindi & Night of the Skinwalker by Frank Coffman / 5) How to Live Without Meds? by Norbert Góra / 6) Nothing Else Matters by Calvin Demmer / 7) The Denturist by Jo-Anne Russell / 8) The Tooth by Russell Smeaton / 9) To Anne by Paula Ashe / 10) I Can’t See the Bottom by James Fallweather / 11) Forbidden Knowledge by K.A. Opperman / 12) Outlaws by Bob Pastorella / 13) Project AZAZEL by Christopher Slatsky / 14) Prototype by E.O. Daniels / 15) Eton’s Last Will and Testament by Maxwell Ian Gold / 16) Last Call at the Overlook by Kathleen Kaufman / 17) Reflection in Blood by Scott J. Couturier / 18) Four Ropes by Shayne Keen / 19 Vore by Brian O’Connell / 20) “Hotel California” is the Devil by John Claude Smith / 21) Spare Parts by Jill Hand / 22) Salten by John Boden / 23) The Fever River by Matthew M. Bartlett / 24) Verdure by Brandon Barrows / 25) “INK” by Sarah Walker / 26) Twitching and Chirping by Robert S. Wilson / 27) Denizens of Mortuun by C.P. Dunphey / 28) Hungery by John Linwood Grant / 29) Chrysalises by Jeffrey Thomas / 30) I Keep It in a Little Box by S. L. Edwards / 31) Trace of Presence by Jason A. Wyckoff / 32) Thirty-Two by Donald Armfield / Wisdom Tooth ~ Insanity’s Steed by Frederick J. Mayer / Afterword by Christopher Ropes

Table of Contents: Introduction to Volume Two by Michael Wehunt / 1) “Alouette A La Blanc” by Bob Freville / 2) A Plague Of The Most Beautiful Finery by Kurt Fawver / 3) Believe Me by Ashley Dioses / 4) New Moon in November by K.A. Opperman / 5) That What Was Under The Surface by Norbert Góra / 6) My Valentine’s Day Ball by Donna Marie West / 7) The Last to Die by Jayaprakash Satyamurthy / 8) Hammer Dulcimer by T.M. Morgan / 9) The Ballad Stone by Adam Bolivar / 10) Lost on the Road to Nowhere by Pete Rawlik / 11) The City of Xees by Scott J. Couturier / 12) The View by Philip Fracassi / 13) The Figurehead by A.P Sessler / 14) The Triumph of the Skies by Eric Ruppert / 15) Growth; or, The Transubstantiation of Apartment 3C by Ross T. Byers / 16) Fertility by Brooke Warra / 17) Zugzwang by K. H. Vaughan / 18) On a Bed of Bone by Can Wiggins / 19) Yellow Voices by Luis G. Abbadie / 20) The Outsider by John Paul Fitch / 21) Mutinous Facial Abstractions by John Claude Smith / 22) Of Blood, Oil & Tin by Michael Brueggeman / 23) Cold by Sean M. Thompson / 24) Umbriel is The Darkest Moon by Marguerite Reed / 25) Humlin by Farah Rose Smith / 26) 32 White Horses by Justin Burnett / 27) Convince Me Not to Put a Bell on You by Andrew M. Reichart / 28) A Little Delta of Filth by Jon Padgett / 29) 2.0 by Aaron Besson / 30) We All Make Sacrifices by Jonathan Maberry / 31) Insect Queen by Roy K. Phelps / 32) Last Wraps by Duane Pesice / Afterword by Christopher Ropes

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present F. Brett Cox and Peng Shepherd on Wednesday, February 20 at the KGB Bar in New York.

F. Brett Cox

F. Brett Cox’s debut collection, The End of All Our Exploring: Stories, was published by Fairwood Press in 2018.  His fiction, poetry, plays, articles, and reviews have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies.  With Andy Duncan, he co-edited the anthology Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic.  He is a co-founder of the Shirley Jackson Awards and currently serves as Vice-President of the SJA Board of Directors.  A native of North Carolina, Brett is Charles A. Dana Professor of English at Norwich University and lives in Vermont with his wife, playwright Jeanne Beckwith.

Peng Shepherd

Peng Shepherd was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where she rode horses and trained in classical ballet, and has lived in Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, London, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New York. Her debut novel, The Book of M, was chosen as an Amazon “Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of the Year,” and has been featured on The Today ShowNPR On Point, and in The Guardianio9, GizmodoSYFY Wire, and Elle Canada. Find her at www.pengshepherd.com or on Twitter @pengshepherd.

Starts 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.) New York, NY

(4) GOING FOR BROKE. Locus Online reports the results of a new “Author Income Survey”.

The Authors Guild has released their 2018 Author Income Survey. 5,067 authors participated, and the Guild says the results point to a “crisis of epic proportions for American authors, particularly literary writers.” The median income from writing was $6,080, a decline of 3% from their 2013 survey, and 42% from 2009, a drop the Guild ascribes to declining royalties, “blockbuster mentality” at publishing companies, and the sales practices of Amazon.com.

The Guild’s conclusions, and a PDF with lots of data (and anecdata) is available at the Authors Guild website.

(6) VARIANT HEINLEIN NOVEL “SIX-SIX-SIX” ON THE WAY. Phoenix Pick has announced “A New Robert A. Heinlein Book to be Published Based on Newly Recovered Manuscript”:

Phoenix Pick recently announced that, working with the Heinlein Prize Trust, they have been able to reconstruct the complete text of an unpublished novel written by Robert A. Heinlein in the early eighties.

Heinlein wrote this as an alternate text for “The Number of the Beast.” This text of approximately 185,000 words largely mirrors the first one-third of the published version, but then deviates completely with an entirely different story-line and ending.

This newly reconstructed text also pays extensive homage to two authors Heinlein himself admired: Edgar Rice Burroughs and E. E. “Doc” Smith, who became a good friend. Heinlein dedicated his book “Methuselah’s Children” to Smith, and partially dedicated “Friday” to Smith’s daughter, Verna.

The alternate text, especially the ending, is much more in line with more traditional Heinlein books, and moves away from many of the controversial aspects of the published version.

There has been speculation over the years about a possible alternate text, and the reason it was written, particularly since one version is not just a redo of the other ? these are two completely different books.

It is possible that Heinlein was having fun with the text as “The Number of the Beast” and the new book both deal with parallel universes. Given his sense of humor, it would not be surprising for Heinlein to have written two parallel texts for a book about parallel universes.

The new book was pieced together from notes and typed manuscript pages left behind by the author. It is currently under editorial review by award-winning editor, Patrick LoBrutto .

Phoenix Pick expects to publish both The Number of the Beast and the new book, tentatively titled ”Six-Six-Six,” just ahead of this year’s holiday season.

(7) UMBRELLA UMBRAGE. Alexander Lu reviews Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy:

…So on the one hand, I’m overjoyed to say that Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy adaptation has all the absurdity and chaos of the source material. On the other hand, I’m bummed because it feels like some of the comic’s inherent joy was lost in the jump between the page and the screen…

In contrast, Alex Abad-Santos likes Umbrella Academy—at least mostly so (Vox: “Netflix’s Umbrella Academy is as good as it is weird. It’s very weird.”) The article is subtitled, “The show weaves a brutal family portrait into a save-the-world adventure. It also has Mary J. Blige as a time-traveling assassin named Cha-Cha.”

…Portraying the rough parts of being a superhero has been a little bit harder, mainly because it’s so hard to believe that superhero lives could ever be that terrible. 

[…] Making the rotten part of being a superhero as essential as the good parts is where Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy begins. The stylish and crackling new series — written by Steve Blackman and developed by Jeremy Slater — is based on the Eisner Award-winning comic book by Gerard Way (who is also the frontman for the band My Chemical Romance, and serves as the Netflix show’s co-executive producer) and artist Gabriel Ba (also a co-executive producer).

[…] The basic premise revolves around the parasol protégés: seven kids born to different mothers who are brought together as young children a man named Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) who becomes their adopted “dad.” He assembles them into a makeshift family, helps them hone their powers, and turns them into an efficient and successful teenage superhero squad known as the Umbrella Academy. 

[…] Style and doomsday aside, it’s in these pockets of emotion that The Umbrella Academy flashes its true beauty and intent. The show may be wrapped in superheroics and action, but it’s really about a group of people who have to work through their painful pasts and realize that forgiving one another is far tougher than the bigger task (saving the world, I guess) at hand. 

(8) BATTU? NOT MUCH, WHAT’ BATTU WITH YOU? The new Star Wars parks to be part of Disneyland and Disney World are being tied in to the SW novels (StarWars.com: “Step into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge with new books, comics, and fables”). Six titles of the new series have been announced.

As we prepare to make our first pilgrimage to the fringes of Wild Space and journey to the planet of Batuu, when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort later this year, there’s a galaxy of books and comics coming to shelves featuring stories that intersect with the inhabitants of the far-flung world.

Meet Dok-Ondar, the infamous Ithorian who deals in rare antiquities, find out why General Leia Organa takes an interest in Black Spire Outpost, and indulge in myths and fables from a galaxy far, far away, plus other stories set on the Outer Rim locale.

(9) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Things Used To Be Hidden” on Vimeo, Tara Mercedes Wood looks at what happens if people could see -everything- other people were trying to hide.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 2, 1905 Ayn Rand.  Best known for The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged which is ISFDB lists as genre though I personally think they’re just pieces of badly written political shit. Her works have made into films many times starting with The Night of January 16th based on a play by her in the early Forties to an animated series based off her Anthem novella. No, I really don’t care who John Galt is. (Died 1982.)
  • Born February 2, 1933 Tony Jay. Ok I most remember him as Paracelcus in the superb Beauty and the Beast series even it turns out he was only in for a handful of episodes. Other genre endeavours include, and this is lest OGH strangle me only the Choice Bits, included voicing The Supreme Being In Time Bandits, an appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Third Minister Campio In “Cost of Living”, being in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (and yes I loved the series) as Judge Silot Gato in “Brisco for the Defense” and Dougie Milford In Twin Peaks. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 2, 1940 Thomas Disch.  Camp Concentration, The Genocides, 334 and On Wings of Song are among the best New Wave novels ever done. He was a superb poet as well though I don’t think any of it was germane to our community. He won the Nonfiction Hugo for The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of, a critical but loving look on the impact of SF on our culture. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 2, 1949 Brent Spiner, 70.  Data on more Trek shows and films than I’ll bother listing here. I’ll leave it up to all of you to list your favorite moments of him as Data. He also played Dr. Brackish Okun in Independence Day, a role he reprised in Independence Day: Resurgence, a film I’ve not seen. He also played Dr. Arik Soong/Lt. Commander Data in four episodes of Enterprise. Over the years, he’s had roles in Twilight Zone, Outer LimitsTales from the DarksideGargoylesYoung JusticeThe Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest HeroesWarehouse 13 and had a lead role in the thirteen-episode run of Threshold
  • Born February 2, 1949 Jack McGee, 70. Ok so how many of us remember him as Doc Kreuger on the Space Rangers series? Six episodes all told. Not as short as The Nightmare Cafe I grant you but pretty short. I’ve also got him as Bronto Crane Examiner in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, as a Deputy in Stardust, Mike Lutz in seaQuest, Doug Perren in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a Police Officer Person of Interest, to name some of his genre roles.
  • Born February 2, 1986 Gemma Arterton, 33. She’s best known for playing Io in Clash of the Titans, Princess Tamina In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace, and as Gretel in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. She also voiced Clover in the current Watership Down series. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) DISCOVERY RECAP. Camestros Felapton enthuses about “Star Trek Discovery: A Point of Light (S2:E3)”.

Old-style Discovery comes roaring back with a vengeance and a bloody bat’leth. Spore drive, parasites, Klingon man-buns, Ash Tyler, black-ops Star Fleet, hallucinating Tilly, grimdark space-opera — its a week for the weird and wacky on Discovery and I love it.

It’s all story arc this week. Michael is looking for Spock and in a twist so is Spock’s mum. Meanwhile, Ash Tyler is starring in Game of Thrones: The Klingon Years as he struggles with his new reality and seeks to support L’rell as she attempts to unite the now much hairier Klingons. Meanwhile, meanwhile, Tilly is being harassed by the annoying ghost of a former school mate.

(13) COLLECTIBLES AUCTION. Prop Store (offices in London & LA) has an upcoming auction of vintage toys & collectables. Dozens of TV series and movies/series are represented, with the large majority of them genre. The full catalog is online as a PDF. A quick perusal of that reveals pre-auction estimates ranging from $100 (US) to at least $20,000.

Prop Store is pleased to announce its first Toys & Collectibles auction, to be held as a live-auction on Thursday February 28, and Friday March 1, 2019. The auction will include high-quality production toys, preproduction items, international collectables, store displays & marketing materials, bootlegs, posters, press kits, cast and crew items, and more.

(14) VERSE OF THE DAY. From John Hertz:

Each day we scroll up every pixel.
Their coruscant electronic tricks’ll
Make the Filers smile.
If we miss some, those five or six’ll
Set off commenters, whose kicks’ll
Busy us for a while;
Call OGH: he in the mix’ll
Let things run, unless a nix’ll
Scatter a dog-pile.
And never fear for Oz.  Your clicks’ll
Safely mispronounce “Pyrzqxgl”,
Not in dangerous style.

(15) LEARN FROM GAIMAN ONLINE. Just like Margaret Atwood, linked here the other day, Neil Gaiman also has a course available through Masterclass:

Award-winning author Neil Gaiman has spent more than a quarter of a century crafting vivid, absorbing fiction. Now, the author of Stardust, Coraline, and The Sandman teaches his approach to imaginative storytelling. Learn how to find your unique voice, develop original ideas, and breathe life into your characters. Discover Neil’s philosophy on what drives a story—and open new windows to the stories inside you.

(16) TRANSFORMERS. Will our future homes build themselves? A BBC video shows how it could be done — mostly blue-sky and simulations at this point, but some interesting ideas.

At the touch of a button, these incredible homes of the future can self-deploy and build themselves in less than 10 minutes, transforming from a box into a building eight to ten times its original size. Ten Fold Engineering’s David Martyn explains the surprisingly simple design concept that makes this possible.

(17) BABY, IT’S (REALLY) COLD OUTSIDE. Wake up sleepy head! The Chinese lander on the back side of the Moon is once again in daylight and has been back in touch with Earth after a 2-week slumber (Wired:China’s Moon Lander Wakes Up From Its Long, Ultra-Cold Night; partial paywall”).

We already know it’s chilly on the moon. A lunar night lasts 14 Earth days, and its temperatures can dip into a cold so punishing it makes the polar vortex look like a hot tub. But yesterday, China’s space agency announced that the frigidity of the lunar night is even more intense than we’d thought: The country’s Chang’e 4 spacecraft recorded an icy low of –310 degrees Fahrenheit (–190 degrees Celsius).

Consisting of a stationary lander and a six-wheeled rover named Yutu-2, Chang’e 4 landed on the far side of the moon earlier this [year]—a first for any spacecraft. During its first lunar night, Chang’e 4 went into hibernation, relying on internal heat sources to survive.

[…] With both the lander and rover awake, the rover should soon begin its task of exploring and analyzing the 115-mile-wide Von Kármán crater. Exploring the moon’s far side comes with many challenges: The lunar surface is exposed to more impacts from cosmic debris, so the rover will need to carefully watch the terrain (it has already beamed backed a panorama of its surroundings). […]

(18) READY FOR YOUR CLOSE-UP? The subject line “Press Release: Former TAFF delegate found brutally murdered (NSFW?)” was pretty scary ‘til I found out the email press release was about Steve Green’s appearance in a horror movie:

British science fiction fan Steve Green, former editor of the newszine Critical Wave and European TAFF delegate to the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal, has been found brutally murdered in the isolated English village Bell’s End… or at least, his character has, in a pastiche movie trailer currently in production from indie team Vamporama Films.

Terror at Bell’s End is an homage to the 1980s giallo slashers directed by the likes of Lucio Fulci (The Black Cat), Riccardo Freda (Iguana in a Woman’s Skin) and Luciano Ercoli (Forbidden Photos of a Woman Under Suspicion — the new Blu-ray release of which includes a 44-minute documentary from Vamporama Films among the extras). Steve, who’s producing the short, was persuaded by writer-director Chrissie Harper to make a grisly cameo as the mysterious killer’s first on-screen victim.

“It’s very tongue-in-cheek,” Steve explains, “only we’re not quite sure where the tongue came from and precisely whose cheek it’s been left in. My character gets murdered with his own pipe, which I guess underlines the health risks of smoking.”

Meanwhile, Vamporama Films is also seeking festivals and conventions interested in screening its latest horror short Monsters, described by former Giallo Pages editor John Martin as “a chilling glimpse into our future that looks like it was shot by the ghost of Mario Bava”.

(19) DO YOU WANT TO PLAY  GAME? The robots are taking to another human game, though this time not (yet) up to a championship level (TechCrunch: “MIT researchers are training a robot arm to play Jenga”).

Turns out training a robotic arm to play Jenga is a surprisingly complex task. There are, so to speak, a lot of moving parts. Researchers at MIT are putting a modified ABB IRB 120 to work with the familiar tabletop game, utilizing a soft gripper, force-sensing wrist joint and external camera to design a bot that can remove a block without toppling the tower. 

[…] “Unlike in more purely cognitive tasks or games such as chess or Go, playing the game of Jenga also requires mastery of physical skills such as probing, pushing, pulling, placing and aligning pieces. It requires interactive perception and manipulation, where you have to go and touch the tower to learn how and when to move blocks,” says MIT assistant professor Alberto Rodriguez. “This is very difficult to simulate, so the robot has to learn in the real world, by interacting with the real Jenga tower. The key challenge is to learn from a relatively small number of experiments by exploiting common sense about objects and physics.”

(20) SIL RETURNS. An old and much-missed Doctor Who villain is returning — but not in the current iteration of “NuWHO”. The original creator of the evil alien Sil, Philip Martin, and the original actor, Nabil Shaban, are reuniting in Devil Seeds of Arodor, which is being produced independently of the BBC. The DVD’s due out in November. Full details here.

An original drama from the world of BBCtv’s DOCTOR WHO, featuring SIL, the ruthless alien entrepreneur from planet Thoros Beta, played by NABIL SHABAN.

SIL is worried, very worried, which doesn’t keep his reptilian skin in the best condition! Confined in a cold detention cell on the moon, awaiting a deportation hearing for trial on drugs offences on Earth, he faces a death sentence if the application is successful and he is found guilty.

And his employers at the Universal Monetary Fund aren’t pleased either. Not at all.

As time runs out and friends desert him, SIL must use all of his devious, vile, underhanded, ruthless, and amoral business acumen to survive.

Can he possibly slime his way out of this one?

(21) ANOTHER DOCTOR WHO REFERENCE. This tweet went viral yesterday —

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew, Robert Adam Gilmour, Steve Green. Lise Andresen, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, James Davis Nicoll, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 8/1/18 For I Must Be Scrolling On, Now Cause There’s Too Many Pixels I’ve Got To See

(1) THE COCKY SOLUTION. The hydra sprouts a new head in the Authors Guild’s report on “Quantumgate: Son of Cockygate”.

The Cockygate case is close to resolution: the parties have entered into a settlement agreement and author Faleena Hopkins has filed a request with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to withdraw her “cocky” trademark. Other recent applications to register questionable trademarks for book series, however, do remain a matter of concern. A recent misinformed attempt to register a common book cover template (which is not a trademark under any interpretation of the law) was withdrawn after some backlash, thank goodness, but a recent application to register “Big” as a series title is still under review.

Now, another romance writer has applied to register the term “Quantum Series” in connection with her “series of fiction books.” When the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, became aware of this application, they approached the Authors Guild for assistance. We recommended counsel to SFWA, and Eleanor Lackman of the law firm Cowan, DeBaets Abrahams & Sheppard LLP is taking up the case by filing an opposition to the proposed trademark on behalf of SFWA member Douglas Phillips, who has his own “Quantum Series” of books”…

The Trademark Office clarified that the owner of a trademark in a book series title cannot use that trademark against single book titles. Since single titles cannot serve as trademarks, they also cannot infringe series title trademarks. So, if another author or a publisher ever tries to stop you from using a single book title because of their series trademark, you can tell them to take a hike. Only series titles can infringe another series title. [emphasis added]

(2) BELLA NOVELLA. Wired’s Jason Kehe applauds “The Rise of the Sci-Fi Novella: All The Imagination, None of the Burden”.

…The form, after all, honors the genre: The novella traces its origins to fairytales and morality plays. Proto-fantasies, basically. In that sense, Tolkien’s world-building was never native to the genre. He simply blew up the balloon.

A balloon which is now about to burst. More than ever, successful world-building seems to require of creators a transmedia commitment to spin-offs and prequels and various other increasingly extraneous tie-ins like comic books and card games. Consumers are rightly overwhelmed. The joy of the sci-fi novella, by contrast, is in its one-off-ness, its collapsed space, its enforced incapaciousness. Authors can’t indulge family trees or maps; they must purify their storytelling. One or two main characters. A single three-act quest. Stark, sensible rules. (And no Starks.)

Containment need not mean compromise. In many cases, spareness heightens prose. My favorite of Tor’s wide-ranging catalog is Kai Ashante Wilson’s A Taste of Honey, a stunning romance that unfolds on the shores of a remote god colony. Something like math poeticized, or poetry mathematized, at novel size the book would’ve gone down way too rich. At 158 pages, though? Practically perfect. Deadlier serious but no less compelling is Laurie Penny’s Everything Belongs to the Future, in which the rich can extend their youth by centuries while the poor age and die naturally. The paltry page count lets Penny, in full author-activist fervor, get away with punking up the familiar biotech premise. Plus, you can read it in one sitting, the way the good lords of lit intended.

(3) CLARKE WINNER’S NEW STORY. Paul Weimer weighs in about “Expectations of Genre: The Expert System’s Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky” in a review for Tor.com.

This novella’s contribution to that conversation is that, in order to colonize distant alien planets already full of life, change, severe change, is needed. This puts The Expert System’s Brother into dialogue with novels such as Stephen Baxter’s Flux (where humans are altered to live on a neutron star) and James Blish’s Surface Tension. All of these stories explore the idea that in the end, it is not easy to change people to survive and thrive on alien planets. There are severe costs and consequences to doing so, to the point that those who do so might lose most of their connection to who and what they are. But those costs are absolutely payable, and are worth doing. We are never so much human as we are exploring, heading out there, and changing ourselves and reinventing ourselves to do so.

(4) OKORAFOR. A BBC profile: “Black Panther spin-off author Nnedi Okorafor’s African inspiration”.

…Okorafor’s journey as a writer began at 19. That year, she was paralysed from the waist down after an operation to correct scoliosis.

Distraught as she realised her budding athletic career would be cut short, Okorafor began writing short stories to occupy her time.

When she recovered, she took a creative-writing class at university.

Her rise in the world of speculative fiction was “gradual”, she says, mainly because no one knew how to place her work.

By the time she published her debut novel Zahrah the Windseeker in 2005, reviewers struggled to understand it, she says.

“It was young adult science fiction with Nigerian mysticism, blended with fantasy and written by a Nigerian American – I was confusing and many didn’t know how to read me.

“But over the years, the more I wrote, the more known I became. I was slowly somewhat understood, and thus enjoyed.”

(5) YOU COULD L**K IT UP. Laura Anne Gilman tells why research is a necessity in “A Meerkat Rants: History will F*ck You Up” at Book View Café.

Here’s the thing. I wrote urban fantasy for a long time .  A dozen+ books’ time, in fact.  Books set in New York, a city that I know reasonably well.  And I still had to pull out the map and get on the subway, and check shit out, to make sure I had my facts straight, because trust me, if I got it wrong, someone (probably many someones) would let me know.

As an aside, did you know that the underside of the Brooklyn Bridge is painted purple-ish?  Also, that if you start taking photos of the underside of a bridge, a cop may give you a very thorough side-eye?  Always bring your id and your business cards with you when you Research, kids.  Seriously.  I shit thee not.

But that’s fact-checking, Person with Opinion says.  That’s not research.  It’s all still made up.

At this point I usually stop to remind myself that the agency bail fund probably won’t cover even justifiable homicide, so I only ask my interrogator if they ever wrote a research paper in their lives, and if so how they gathered the material to do it.  If they say “Wikipedia,” I give up and drown my sorrows in whisky.

(6) A GRAIL-SHAPED ENDING. In The Hollywood Reporter: “Monty Python Archive Unveils Unused ‘Holy Grail’ Sketches”.

Michael Palin’s private archive, deposited at the British Library in London, is set to go on display to the public later this month, but The Times of London reports that its contents includes several major unseen scenes written by Palin and Terry Jones, his writing partner in the Monty Python group, whose other members included Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, John Cleese and Graham Chapman.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail famously ends abruptly when King Arthur (Chapman) is arrested by police just minutes before a final climactic battle. However, according to The Times, Palin’s draft scripts show that this decision was only made to cut costs, and that a mighty fight was due to take place between the knights of Camelot, the French and also the killer rabbit of Caerbannog (a much-loved character from a previous scene).

(7) COMPELLING CROWDFUNDING. Joe Stech has launched a Kickstarter to fund Compelling Science Fiction: The First Collection, a hardcover print collection. The table of contents with 27 fantastic short stories by 24 authors is at the link. Swag is available for heftier pledges.

(8) MEXICANX INITIATIVE ANTHOLOGY. Fireside has set up a Kickstarter for the “Mexicanx Initiative Anthology”. They’ve already surpassed their $1,500 goal with pledges totaling $2,382 as of this writing.

Contributors include: José Luis Zárate, David Bowles, Julia Rios,  Felecia Caton Garcia, Iliana Vargas, Angela Lujan, Raquel Castro, Pepe Rojo, Alberto Chimal,  Gabriela Damián Miravete, Andrea Chapela, Verónica Murguía, Libia Brenda, and Richard Zela.

Our goal is to raise $1,600 to cover printing and shipping costs. Any funds raised above the goal will be split evenly among all the authors and artists who graciously donated their time and words. The anthology has been edited and laid out and features a beautiful cover by Mexicanx Initiative founder John Picacio.

We plan to print 200 copies of the anthology; 80 will be held for members of the Mexicanx Initiative and contributors, and 120 signed and/or numbered will be available as backer rewards. All copies will be brought to Worldcon 76 in San José, California, where they will be signed and available for pickup. If you are not attending Worldcon we will ship your copy and any other rewards you purchase.

(9) WORLDCON DOORS OPEN THESE HOURS.

(10) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

More than 80 million years separated the Stegosaurus from the Tyrannosaurus Rex. But the so-called Age of Mammals — which began when the non-avian dinosaurs were wiped out — has been going on for about 66 million years. This means that we are closer in time to the T-Rex than the T-Rex was from the Stegosaurus. [Source: Smithsonian Institute.]

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 1, 1971 — Charlton Heston as The Omega Man premiered in theatres

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 1 – Oona Laurence, 16 Celebrity Ghost Stories, a Penny Dreadful short and the animated Pete’s Dragon series. 
  • Born August 1 – Jack O’Connell, 28. Role in 300: Rise of An Empire, also Robot & Scarecrow, an animated short about a robot and a scarecrow (voiced by him) who fall in love at a summer music festival, and the lion in Jungleland which or may be not be based on an Asian theme park.
  • Born August 1 – Jason Momoa, 39. DCU as Aquaman in of course Aquaman, Justice League, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Khal Drogo in Games of Thrones, Conan in Conan the Barbarian and Ronon Dex in Stargate: Atlantis. 
  • Born August 1 – Sam Mendes, 53. Producer of Penny Dreadful, Shrek the Musical, and Stage Director for the tv version of Cabaret (“Which allows me to note how much i really, really like Leiber’s The Big Time novella,” says Cat Eldridge.)
  • Born August 1—John Carroll Lynch, 55. Considerable genre work starting with the Voice from the Grave horror series, and including The Visitor series as well as the Apollo lunar landing series From the Earth to the Moon, Star Trek: VoyagerCarnivàle, The Walking Dead and American Horror Story.

(13) BIRTHDAY KING. Steven H Silver’s August 1 celebrant is Ray Palmer – “Birthday Reviews: Raymond A. Palmer’s ‘Diagnosis’” at Black Gate.

Although Palmer wrote short stories and novels, he was best known as an editor. From 1938-1949, he edited Amazing Stories and from 1939-1949 he edited Fantastic Adventures as well for Ziff-Davis, resigning when they moved production from Chicago to New York. He formed his own company, Clark Publishing, and began publishing Other Worlds Science Stories from 1949 to 1957, during which time he also edited and published Fate Magazine, Universe Science Fiction, Mystic Magazine, Science Stories, and Space World. His assistant in the early 1950s, and often times credited co-editor, was Bea Mahaffey. Palmer is perhaps best remembered for publishing the fiction of Richard Shaver and promoting Shaver’s stories as non-fiction. In 1961, comic author Gardner Fox paid tribute to Palmer by using his name for the DC character the Atom.

Did you miss any? Silver has cataloged last month’s work — “Birthday Reviews: July Index”.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Sheldon does another cartoon profile on an early leader in the science fiction genre. Given the breadth of his work, he may have founded an empire!
  • At PvP, Scratch wants to adopt an heir – but can’t seem to get through to his prospect, a dedicated book reader –

July 30
July 31

(15) HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!

(16) CATS SLEEP ON TWITTER. Claire O’Dell cuts out the middleman –

(17) HAYLEY ATWELL VISITED BRADBURY’S MARS. Nerdist lets you “Hear Derek Jacobi and Hayley Atwell Bring Ray Bradbury’s THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES to Life” (2017 post, but news to me!)

While the characters that Jacobi and Atwell are playing in this aural adaptation of The Martian Chronicles were arguably written as American, I somehow don’t think fans are going to hugely object to Captain Wilder and Spender suddenly sounding impeccably English (please don’t let me down by being petty, Internet).

(18) LEAVES HIS COMFORT ZONE. Sean Grigsby takes the challenge:

(19) BREWPRINT. It’s a rare piece of news that makes a person want to move out of the U.S. but not to Canada! From VinePair: “MAP: The Most Popular Beer In Every Country”.

Ed. Note on North America: Although Anheuser-Busch InBev still markets Budweiser as “the King of Beers,” in the U.S. Bud Light outsells Budweiser by a wide margin. Ironically, in Canada, where the company owns iconic local brand Labatt, the company has sold more Budweiser than any other brand for nearly a decade. In 2012, the Toronto Star published the article “‘Sniff of death’ taints iconic beer brands,” which provides analysis on how Budweiser came to be the best-selling beer in Canada.

(20) BESIEGING YOUR BANK ACCOUNT. As Seen On TV, as they say: “Game of Thrones castle can be yours for less than $1 million”.

If you’ve been bargain shopping for one of the Great Houses of Westeros, get ready for the deal of a lifetime.

Gosford Castle, a 19th-century country house in Northern Ireland that was used to portray the Riverrun castle on Game of Thrones, is for sale and accepting offers over £500,000 (or $656,452), according to its online listing.

Riverrun, first depicted in season 3 of the acclaimed series, is the former seat of House Tully, and the current lawful home to House Frey. While the castle itself is not often seen on the show, its occupation has long been the subject of strategic interest for the series’ main characters.

(21) SPACE OPERA PILOT. Robert Hewitt Wolfe of DS9 and Andromeda fame is doing something interesting on Twitter. Several years ago he wrote a pilot for a space opera on SyFy that would be called “Morningstar”. It ended up not being made. But under WGA rules he retains publishing rights, so he’s publishing the script for the pilot on Twitter, one page per day for 95 days. He’s already 2/3 of the way through. The thread begins here.

(22) SHARK JERKING. People used to do “Stupid Crook Reports” at LASFS meetings. This would have been prime material: “Shark kidnapped from Texas aquarium in baby’s pram”.

A shark disguised by thieves as a baby in a pram and abducted from a Texas aquarium has been found and returned.

The horn shark – called Miss Helen – “is in quarantine right now resting” and “is doing good so far”, San Antonio Aquarium said.

On Saturday, the shark was grabbed from an open pool by two men and a woman, then wrapped in a wet blanket and put in a bucket with a bleach solution.

The public helped track the thieves and one suspect is now in custody.

(23) NUMBER ONE. Marvel’s C.B. Cebulski introduces a new Captain Marvel comic book series.

Carol Danvers has been involved in some of the biggest adventures in the Marvel Universe…but in her new series, she’s going back to the basics with Margaret Stohl, Carlos Pacheco, and Marguerite Sauvage at the helm. Marvel is proud to present this behind-the-scenes look at THE LIFE OF CAPTAIN MARVEL #1, featuring Stohl and Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski! “This is a story about Carol Danvers. We’re taking Carol back to basics,” said Cebulski. “We hear that a lot, but this is something where we’re going to dance between the raindrops and find the secrets of Carol’s origins that are based in the roots of her family.” “It’s really a family story and it’s as much about the human instead of her as her Kree powers,” added Stohl.

 

(24) GET WOKE, GO FOR BROKE. ScreenRant ponders “What If Trump Was President When Captain America Was Woken Up?”

Before he was elected in 2016, Donald Trump had a small cameo appearance in New Avengers #47. In that comic, Trump failed to pull over to the side to let an ambulance go past, so Luke Cage gave him a hand by picking up his limousine and moving it out of the way. An irate Trump threatened to sue Luke, but then quickly thought better of it.

 

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

Google Kicks Copyright Holders’ Butts

A Federal judge today dismissed the Authors Guild’s lawsuit over Google’s library book scanning project which has been in litigation for the last eight years.

Many of the books scanned by Google were under copyright, and Google did not obtain permission from the copyright holders its use of their copyrighted works, leading to the class action suit charging Google with copyright infringement.

In dismissing the case, reports Publishers Weekly, the judge enthusiastically praised Google’s project. The full text of the decision is here.

The judge was impressed with the technology in place to allow online users to look at snippets why preventing them from acquiring a complete copy of a scanned book.

Google takes security measures to prevent users from viewing a complete copy of a snippet-view book. For example, a user cannot cause the system to return different sets of snippets for the same search query; the position of each snippet is fixed within the page and does not “slide” around the search term; only the first responsive snippet available on any given page will be returned in response to a query; one of the snippets on each page is “black-listed,” meaning it will not be shown; and at least one out of ten entire pages in each book is black-listed…

An “attacker” who tries to obtain an entire book by using a physical copy of the book to string together words appearing in successive passages would be able to obtain at best a patchwork of snippets that would be missing at least one snippet from every page and 10% of all pages…. In addition, works with text organized in short “chunks,” such as dictionaries, cookbooks, and books of haiku, are excluded from snippet view.

And the judge said that Google satisfied the “fair use” standard of the copyright law.

In my view, Google Books provides significant public benefits. It advances the progress of the arts and sciences, while maintaining respectful consideration for the rights of authors and other creative individuals, and without adversely impacting the rights of copyright holders. It has become an invaluable research tool that permits students, teachers, librarians, and others to more efficiently identify and locate books. It has given scholars the ability, for the first time, to conduct full-text searches of tens of millions of books. It preserves books, in particular out-of-print and old books that have been forgotten in the bowels of libraries, and it gives them new life. It facilitates access to books for print-disabled and remote or underserved populations. It generates new audiences and creates new sources of income for authors and publishers. Indeed, all society benefits.

Similarly, Google is entitled to summary judgment with respect to plaintiffs’ claims based on the copies of scanned books made available to libraries. Even assuming plaintiffs have demonstrated a prima facie case of copyright infringement, Google’s actions constitute fair use here as well. Google provides the libraries with the technological means to make digital copies of books that they already own. The purpose of the library copies is to advance the libraries’ lawful uses of the digitized books consistent with the copyright law. The libraries then use these digital copies in transformative ways.

They create their own full-text searchable indices of books, maintain copies for purposes of preservation, and make copies available to print-disabled individuals, expanding access for them in unprecedented ways. Google’s actions in providing the libraries with the ability to engage in activities that advance the arts and sciences constitute fair use.

The Authors Guild said it plans to appeal the ruling. Its president, Paul Aiken told Publishers Weekly, “Google made unauthorized digital editions of nearly all of the world’s valuable copyright-protected literature and profits from displaying those works. In our view, such mass digitization and exploitation far exceeds the bounds of the fair use defense.”