Pixel Scroll 8/9/19 Jonathan Scrollaston Pixel

(1) ON THEIR WATCH. In The Guardian, Amal El-Mohtar answers the question “Why are there so many new books about time-travelling lesbians?” Tagline: At a time when historical amnesia is making itself widely felt, these stories show how readily the past can be rewritten.

…Mascarenhas has said of her novel that time travel “[makes] you constantly think of what stories people leave behind”. Every time we recover a female author, scientist, doctor, activist, every time we affirm that black people lived in medieval Europe, that queer people have always existed and often led happy lives, we change history – not the past, crucially, but history, our story about the past, our narratives and paradigms. And as we change history, we change the future. I’d worried that our book wouldn’t be relevant – it turns out all of us were right on time.

(2) WORLDCON DINING. Now is when this massive project pays off – Dublin 2019 Eats – compiled by Guest of Honour Diane Duane and Peter Morwood.

…For a lot of years now, SFF conventions have often had local restaurant guides to help their attendees find out what the local food options were. With this concept in mind, and as a way of assisting our thousands of convention visitors in finding their way around the Dublin food scene, in 2018 we came up with the concept of this casual online guide to food that’s either in the immediate area of the Dublin Convention Centre, the Worldcon’s main venue, or accessible from that area via public transport. Your two site managers — locally-based science fiction and fantasy novelists and screenwriters Peter Morwood and Diane Duane — have between them some seventy years of experience at the fine art of tracking down and enjoying great Dublin food.

For the purposes of this guide, our attention is focused mostly on food located near the city’s fabulous Luas tram system — mainly the Red Line that serves the DCC, but also the Luas Green Line that connects to it.

We have a focus on affordable food — because we, like a lot of our Worldcon guests, have often had to spend enough just getting to the venue to make the cost of eating an issue.

(3) INTERESTING TIMES. Abigail Nussbaum returns to the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog with a commentary on Russell T. Davies’s recent miniseries about the times to come: “A Political History of the Future: Years and Years”.

…The result is a show suffused with anxiety. When discussing Years and Years, I’ve found that people tend to reference its big dramatic moments, such as the ending of episode 1, in which an air raid siren alerts the gathered family to the fact that the US has dropped an atomic bomb on a Chinese military base (Davies doesn’t try too hard to ground his predictions in carefully-reasoned reality, but his speculation that Donald Trump would do something like this on his final day in office is scarily plausible). Or that of episode 4, in which Daniel and Viktor board an overloaded inflatable raft in a desperate attempt to cross the handful of miles separating Calais from England. But I think the scene that will hit a lot of viewers where they live is actually the end of episode 2, in which Stephen and Celeste race to their bank to try to retrieve even some of their money, and find themselves in a crowd of people hoping to do the same, all equally doomed. The first two are things that you can imagine happening, but maybe not to you. The second feels like exactly the sort of calamity that the comfortably middle class people the show has been aimed at are most likely to experience in the coming decades….

(4) SENDAK FOR THE STAGE. A major exhibit of Maurice Sendak’s work runs until October 6 at The Morgan Library in New York City: “Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet”.

Renowned for his beloved and acclaimed children’s books, Maurice Sendak (1928–2012) was also an avid music and opera lover. In the late 1970s, he embarked on a successful second career as a designer of sets and costumes for the stage. Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet will be the first museum exhibition dedicated to this aspect of his career. It will include storyboards, preparatory sketches, costume studies, luminous watercolors, and meticulous dioramas from Mozart’s Magic Flute, Janá?ek’s Cunning Little Vixen, Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, and an opera based on Sendak’s picture book Where the Wild Things Are.

The exhibition will include nearly 150 objects drawn primarily from the artist’s bequest to the Morgan of over 900 drawings. Sendak borrowed gleefully from a personal pantheon of artists, some of whom he encountered firsthand at the Morgan. Several such works, by William Blake, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Domenico and Giambattista Tiepolo, will be displayed alongside his designs. Although less well known than his book illustrations, Sendak’s drawings for the stage embody his singular hand, fantastical mode of storytelling, keen—sometimes bawdy—sense of humor, and profound love of music and art history.

(5) “VERTIGINOUS TASK.” Jordy Rosenberg writes “In Praise of Samuel R. Delany” for the New York Times.

…The emotional dynamism of Delany’s sentences has been perhaps less acknowledged than his world-building, or the sweep of his vision. But when asked to speak about writing as a practice, Delany himself often turns to the art of sentences, and of how to imbue words with such “ekphrastic force” that they summon the material presence of an imagined world. When Korga and Marq return to themselves they are awe-struck, struggling to narrate the intensity of their own transformative experience. It is impossible not to hear in that a metatextual echo of the obsession of Delany’s practice: that of creating the most immersive possible aesthetic experience for us, his readers and devoted enthusiasts….

(6) COMMON SCENTS. James P. Blaylock shares “My Life in Books: A Meditation on the Writer’s Library” at Poets & Writers.

…Not long ago I was reading a collection of essays by Hilaire Belloc titled One Thing and Another, and, as is sometimes the case when I read other people’s essays, I got the idea of writing this one. The “idea,” such as it was, had nothing to do with the subject matter of any of the forty essays contained in Belloc’s book; what struck me was that the pages smelled as if they had been soaked in gasoline. I remembered abruptly that it had smelled that way when I’d bought it, and although it has sat on the shelf in my study for twenty years, waiting to be read, the odor hasn’t diminished. It could be fatal to light a match anywhere near it.

This olfactory discovery sent me off in a nostalgic search for my copy of Philip K. Dick’s Dr. Bloodmoney, which Phil gave to me in 1975. My wife, Viki, and I took off on a road trip a few days later in our old Volkswagen Bug, and I brought the book along. It mysteriously disappeared early one rainy morning in central Canada, and I didn’t find it again until a year later, after the car’s battery died. The VW’s battery was under the back seat, and when I pulled out the seat to get at the battery, there was Dr. Bloodmoney, its cover partly eaten by battery acid. I was monumentally happy to find it. The book is inscribed to “Jim Blaylock, a hell of a neat dude,” the only existing written evidence of that allegation….

(7) IN THE SPIRIT. The Tonopah Westercon committee (2021) hurried to tell Facebook followers that “Our headquarters hotel for Westercon 74 is in the running for ‘Best Haunted Hotel’” as part of USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards.

Built in 1907, the Mizpah Hotel in haunted Tonopah has many spirits supposedly roaming its halls, including Rose, a prostitute murdered by a jealous gambler. Guests report items that mysteriously move and an old elevator whose doors randomly open and close.

(8) EVEN WHEN YOU KNOW WHAT’S COMING. GQ’s Tom Philip argues that “Horror Movies Can Be Great, Even When They’re Not ‘Scary’”.

…Also, I’ve only ever seen one scene from the entire movie, when a hooded figure wielding a hook stabs a dude in the stomach and blood starts coming out of that man’s mouth. I have watched hundreds of horror films since, but stop me in the street and ask me: What’s the scariest movie you’ve ever seen? and I will unwaveringly answer “I Know What You Did Last Summer, because I was a seven-year-old wuss who had never seen a grown man run through with a sheep hook in a gas station lot before.”

What I’m saying is, “scary” is a silly metric by which to measure a horror movie’s quality, especially if it’s the only one you use. Not to get all “I own a thesaurus” on you, but there are distinct differences between something that’s scary, spooky, threatening, shocking, dreadful, et cetera. The new big horror release, Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark, for example, writes a check the movie needs to cash. It’s right there in the title…

(9) TODAY’S DAY. [Item by Hampus Eckerman.] Moomin Day today:

But not everyone is happy. Here are demonstrators from last weeks manifestation against the placement of a new Moomin theme park in the Swedish city of Karlstad. Anti-Moonin feelings are running high. The picture says it all: “Flera hinder för Mumin”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • August 9, 1930 — Betty Boop debuted in the animated film Dizzy Dishes.
  • August 9, 1989 — James Cameron’s The Abyss premiered on this day.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 9, 1899 P.L. Travers. Yes, she’s genre. A flying nanny is certainly fantasy. Did you know there are total of eight books? I’m sure I’ve seen the film but it’s been so long that I remember ‘nought about it. Anyone here seen the new film? (Died 1996.)
  • Born August 9, 1920 Jack Speer. He is without doubt was one of the founders of fandom and perhaps the first true fan historian having Up to Now: A History of Science Fiction Fandom covering up to 1939 as well as the first Fancyclopedia in 1944. Fannish song-writing (before the term “filk” was coined) and costume parties are also widely credited to him as well.  Mike has a proper remembrance here. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 9, 1927 Daniel Keyes. Flowers for Algernon was a novel that I read in my teens. Two of the teachers decided that SF was to be the assigned texts for that school year and that was one of them. I don’t now remember if I liked it or not (A Clockwork Orange was another text they assigned and that I remember) nor have I ever seen Charly. I see he has three other genre novels, none that I’ve heard of. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 9, 1944 Sam Elliott, 75. Weirdly the source for this Birthday thought he’d only been in one genre role, General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross in the 2003 Hulk film, but he’s got many other roles as well. His first was Duke in Westworld followed by being Luke Peck in Time Bandits,  Flik Whistler in The Thing and Lock in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’s the Phantom Rider in Ghost Rider and Lee Scoresby in The Golden Compass. His latest genre is as the lead in The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot as The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot
  • Born August 9, 1947 John Varley, 72. One of those authors that I’ve been meaning to read more of. I read both The Ophiuchi Hotline and Titan, the first novels respectively in his Eight Worlds and the Gaea Trilogy series, but didn’t go further. (See books, too many to read.) If you’ve read beyond the first novels, how are they as series? Worth pursuing now? 
  • Born August 9, 1949 Jonathan Kellerman, 70. Author of two novels in the Jacob Lev series (co-authored with Jesse Kellerman), The Golem of Hollywood and The Golem of Paris. I’ve read the first — it was quite excellent with superb characters and an original premise. Not for the squeamish mind you. 
  • Born August 9, 1968 Gillian Anderson, 51. The ever-skeptical, well most of the time, Special Agent Dana Scully on X-Files. Currently playing Media on American Gods. And she played Kate Flynn in Robot Overlords. Did you know she’s co-authored a X-File-ish trilogy, The EarthEnd Saga, with Jeff Rovin? 

(12) A DIFFERENT KIND OF COMIC. “Clevelander Joe Shuster’s Story Takes Flight in Graphic Novel” at IdeaStream — I missed this when it came out last year.

Without two Cleveland kids from Glenville High School, Superman never would’ve taken flight. 

Those two kids, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, fought for decades to get the recognition they deserved for creating the Man of Steel, which became a huge moneymaker for DC Comics- but not for them. 

Now their story of financial hardship is the subject of a graphic novel, told specifically from the point of view of the artist in “The Joe Shuster Story” by writer Julian Voloj and illustrator Thomas Campi…. 

(13) POSSIBLE SAINT. Paul Weimer tells how the fight against tyranny is progressing in “Microreview [book]: The Queen of Crows, by Myke Cole” at Nerds of a Feather.

…In Queen of Crows, author Myke Cole explores the burning question: Now what? A blow for freedom has been struck, yes, but the Sacred Throne, and in particular, the Inquisition-like Order is not going to take this lying down. Heloise may well be a saintly figure, possibly even a holy  Palatinate, but her actions are not an unalloyed good. The Empire will, indeed, Strike Back, and it is only a question of time before overwhelming force is brought to bear on Heloise and the people she has sworn to protect. This leads to Heloise and her people going on the road, meeting others who have not done well under the Empire’s tyranny, and asking hard questions about oppression, revolt, tyranny, resistance, prejudice, and at the same time providing solid medieval fantastic action….

(14) SILENCE OF THE TWEETS. Jon Del Arroz is in Twitter jail again.

JDA’s version: “Suspended On Twitter For Defending A Woman From Harassment” [Internet Archive link].

(15) AT GEN CON. Brian’s “Pop Up Gen Con!” report for Nerds of a Feather begins with an intriguing summary of “We’re Doomed, a game where the world is ending and the governments of the world (each government is a player) need to jointly construct a rocket ship.”

(16) CHOW QUEST. In “Military Logistics for Fantasy Writers” at the SFWA Blog, Mollie M. Madden, holder of a Ph.D. in medieval history, challenges authors to explain how the big armies of their imaginations avoid starving to death.

We all know ‘an army marches on its stomach,’ but it’s not like Napoleon discovered something new. Vegetius (De re militari) and Sun Tzu (The Art of War) were well aware of this concept, as was Alexander the Great (Engels, Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army, 1980). And it wasn’t news to them, either. Pre-modern military commanders knew this; they planned for this. They paid attention to logistics.

Fantasy writers should, too.

(17) FACE THE MUSIC. NPR reports “Users Can Sue Facebook Over Facial Recognition Software, Court Rules”. The ruling was handed down by a three-judge panel, and Facebook plans to contest the result by asking for an en banc hearing by the full court.

A U.S. court has ruled that Facebook users in Illinois can sue the company over face recognition technology, meaning a class action can move forward.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued its ruling on Thursday. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, it’s the first decision by a U.S. appellate court to directly address privacy concerns posed by facial recognition technology.

“This decision is a strong recognition of the dangers of unfettered use of face surveillance technology,” Nathan Freed Wessler, an attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, said in a statement. “The capability to instantaneously identify and track people based on their faces raises chilling potential for privacy violations at an unprecedented scale.”

Facebook told NPR that the company plans to ask the full circuit court to review the decision of the three-judge panel. “We have always disclosed our use of face recognition technology and that people can turn it on or off at any time,” said Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesman. Information about its facial recognition technology is available in the company policy online.

The case concerns Facebook users in Illinois who accused the social media giant of violating the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act.

Facebook argued that the users had experienced no concrete harm. But the 9th Circuit panel noted that intangible injuries can still be concrete, and it noted the Supreme Court has said advances in technology can lead to more personal privacy intrusions.

The appeals panel decided that Facebook’s technology “invades an individual’s private affairs and concrete interests.”

(18) THE NEW ZARDOZ? “Mark Hamill: Darth Vader balloon makes Luke Skywalker’s week” – BBC has the story

Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill has hailed the uplifting impact of a Darth Vader hot air balloon.

Hamill, who plays Vader’s son in Star Wars, posted on social media after spotting a video from the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.

He said the giant balloon of Vader’s mask had “raised his spirits” after a “horrible, no good, terrible week”, adding “thanks dad”.

(19) SWEATSHOP. “Amazon Echo devices made by Chinese teens ‘working through night’ – reports” – at BBC.

Amazon has pledged to investigate allegations that hundreds of teenagers are working illegal hours at a Chinese factory producing its Echo devices.

A new report by China Labor Watch claims more than 1,500 “interns” were manufacturing the smart assistants at a factory run by supplier Foxconn.

The teenagers, aged between 16 and 18, were reportedly pressured into work 60 hours a week and night shifts.

Foxconn has blamed local managers and vowed to improve monitoring of staff.

The company, which makes products for a number of technology giants, has allegedly fired two senior staff members at the site in Hengyang, Bloomberg reports.

It is the latest in a string of controversies surrounding working conditions at the manufacturer, which is headquartered in Taiwan.

(20) RADICAL COMFORT FICTION. At Nerds of a Feather, Adri Joy finds something lacking in the latest Becky Chambers novel: “Microreview [book]: To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers”.

…On one level, this constant release of tension from individual incidents is quite nice – no need to worry about Chekov’s gun on the mantlepiece, in this universe it’s going to stay right where it is. However, it also means that the link between individual incidents and the emotional arc of the novella – as the characters grapple with their place in the universe, without a link to Earth calling them back – is either subtle or non-existent, depending on how generous one feels….

(21) WALK INTO LEGEND. “Controversial and late, Tintagel footbridge in Cornwall to open”: The Guardian says, “After 650 years – and four months – visitors can follow in Uther Pendragon’s footsteps.”

A £5m footbridge to a dramatic, wind-battered headland that is at the heart of Arthurian legend will this weekend finally open to the public.

The bridge, one of the most ambitious, complicated and at times controversial heritage projects seen in the UK in recent years, will, says English Heritage, restore the lost crossing of Tintagel Castle in north Cornwall.

(22) LE GUIN NEWS. Paul Di Filippo asks whether he’s found a unique item: “ISFDB does not record the existence of this Le Guin essay from TV Guide, making me think it’s never been reprinted.” Read it at the Internet Archive: “’The Lathe of Heaven’ When facts look crazyyou’re your imagination shivers, — that’s science fiction at its best” (Jan. 5, 1980). 

(23) THE EATIN’ OF THE GREEN. Delish experienced a sugar rush just thinking about it: “FunkO Is Making Oogie Boogie Cereal Just In Time For Halloween”.

Sugary cereal, toys inside the box, Disney characters—does it get any more nostalgic than this? FunkO has announced the latest additions to its cereal portfolio, and my inner child is pumped.

Disney fanatics will want to get their hands on the Ursula (from The Little Mermaid) cereal, a purple version of the FunkO multigrain O’s. Tim Burton devotees and former mall goths will obviously need to try the Oogie Boogie—of The Nightmare Before Christmas fame—version, a green take on the breakfast treat. Insider reports that both cereals will come with Pocket Pop! versions of the characters’ figurines. Considering that FunkO’s Pop! figures are established as cool collectibles, these cute minis are a pretty great prize to get in your cereal box.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/25/19 Cthulhu’s On First?

Editor’s Note: My ISP took the site down for several hours to do database maintenance. I was notified earlier today it would happen and put the info in a comment, however, I doubt many people saw it. We’re back now!

(1) HOW TO SUCCEED AS A PANELIST Delilah S. Dawson’s thread “So You’re On Your First Panel As A Writer” tells participants how to sharpen their skills. Thread starts here.

(2) RINGING THE REGISTER. “How Many Copies Did Famous Books Sell in the First Year?” LitHub says from two to two million. Here’s the number for the first genre work on their list –

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932): 13,000 copies (UK); 15,000 copies (US)

(3) STOP THAT TRAIN. The New York Times says the Justice Department lawsuit is supported by The Authors Guild and PEN America: “2 Big Book and Magazine Printers Face Suit to Block Their Merger”.

In a lawsuit filed last week in federal court in Chicago, the Justice Department asked for a halt to Quad/Graphics’s planned $1.4 billion purchase of LSC Communications. Lawyers in the department’s antitrust division argued that the merger would decrease competition and drive up prices.

Quad publishes every Condé Nast title, including The New Yorker and Vogue, most publications from Hearst Magazines, including O: The Oprah Magazine, and Scholastic books. LSC Communications publishes two magazines from AARP that claim to have the largest circulations in the world, Penguin Random House books and more.

…In its attempt to block the deal, the Justice Department had two allies from the community of writers: The Authors Guild and PEN America. “The lack of competition among book printers has already caused a bottleneck and increased publishing costs, and a merger between these two companies could exacerbate this situation by creating a monopoly,” the Authors Guild said in a statement in March.

That same month, the Authors Guild and PEN America joined the Open Markets Institute, an antitrust think tank based in Washington, in sending a letter to the Justice Department recommending that the merger be blocked.

It was imperative that the government act, the letter said, because magazines and books “are fundamental to the ability of citizens to freely express and share their thoughts, ideas, opinions and works of art.”

(4) ROCKET’S RED GLARE. ScienceFiction.com learned “Marvel Monsters REALLY Want Lady Gaga To Voice Rocket Raccoon’s Love Interest In ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 3’” and kicks off its coverage with a referential pun:

Are Marvel fans a “Shallow” lot?  They are lobbying hard for James Gunn to cast Lady Gaga as the voice of Lylla, a sentient otter from the comic books who winds up being the love interest of Rocket Raccoon, who is voiced by Bradley Cooper in the movies.  This is after Film Updates posted a tease on Twitter that Gaga was under consideration, and that Lylla was “set to make an appearance” in Gunn’s upcoming ‘Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3’.

(5) DESTROYING THE INTERNET. On reason.com, Mike Godwin of the R Street Institute, in “What If Widespread Disinformation Is the Solution to Fake News?” interviews Neal Stephenson about his idea, expressed in Fall, that the solution to fake news on the Internet is to hire people to perform “libel service,” flooding the Net with so many slanderous articles about a subject that no one could believe anything on the Net about a particular person.

I confess I haven’t yet finished Stephenson’s latest 800-plus-page tome, which so far might be characterized, although not necessarily captured, by the term “near-future dystopia.”  But when I came across Stephenson’s depiction of how automated disinformation could actually remedy the damage that internet-based “doxxing” and fake news inflict on an innocent private individual, I paused my reading and jumped down the rabbit hole of tracing this idea to its 1990s roots. 

…This whole chapter rang many bells for me, not least because it paralleled a discussion I had with a law professor at a conference last year when I pitched the idea of a “libel service.” Basically, you’d hire a “libel service” to randomly defame you on the internet, so that whenever anyone says something bad about you on Twitter or Facebook, or in the comments area of some newspaper, you could just say “that’s probably my libel service.” No one would know whether the defamatory statements were true or not, and people would be predisposed to doubt anything too terrible that’s said about you.

(6) MARVEL ONE-ACT PLAYS. Samuel French and Marvel Entertainment have launched Marvel Spotlight, a collection of one-act plays “telling the stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

Developed specifically for teenagers, these one-act plays star the iconic Super Heroes Ms. Marvel, Thor, and Squirrel Girl. The scripts are now available for purchase as well as licensing within the educational theatre market at MarvelSpotlightPlays.com.

Here’s the abstract for Mirror of Most Value: A Ms. Marvel Play:

Kamala attempts to boost Ms. Marvel’s fledgling super hero profile by writing her own fan fiction. But when building a fandom becomes an obsession, Kamala’s schoolwork and relationships begin to suffer. To become the Jersey City hero of her dreams, Kamala must learn to accept herself just as she is – imperfections and all.

(7) ALL BRADBURY ALL THE TIME. Camestros Felapton points out the connections between Bradbury’s fiction and the Elton John biopic: “The Rocket Man versus Rocketman”.

Both the song and story feature a man who pilots an interplanetary rocket as a routine job that takes him away from his family for large stretches of time. However, the song places the perspective with the pilot (the titular rocket man) but the story focuses on the feelings and experiences of the pilot’s son.

Bradbury is such a powerful writer. Even though the sci-fi trappings of the story are of the gee-whiz 1950s style shiny technology, the story itself is focused on emotional connections and that signature Bradbury sense of the past and memory.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 25, 1953 Robot Monster debuted — the one where the guy in the gorilla suit wore a divers helmet with antennae.
  • June 25, 1965 Dr. Who And The Daleks was released in London. The film featured Peter Cushing as Dr. Who. Cushing would do one more film, Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. a year later.  Cushing was the First Doctor, so Roberta Tovey was cast as his granddaughter. 
  • June 25, 1975 Rollerball premiered
  • June 25, 1982 Blade Runner arrived in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 25, 1903 George Orwell. Surprised to learn he only lived to be forty-seven years old. Author obviously of Animal Farm and 1984, both of which I read a long time ago. Best use of the 1984 image goes to Apple in their ad where a female runner smashes the image of Big Brother. (Died 1950.)
  • Born June 25, 1925 June Lockhart, 93. Maureen Robinson on Lost in Space which amazingly only ran for three seasons. She has a number of genre one-offs including Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Greatest American Hero and Babylon 5. She appeared in the Lost in Space film as Principal Cartwright. 
  • Born June 25, 1935 Charles Sheffield. He was the President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and of the American Astronautical Society. He won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards for his novelette “Georgia on My Mind,” and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel for Brother to Dragons which is an amazing read. Much of his fiction is in his Heritage Universe series; the linked short stories of space traveller Arthur Morton McAndrew are a sheer comic delight. (Died 2002.)
  • Born June 25, 1956 Anthony Bourdain. That’s a death that hit me hard. Partly because he’s round my age, partly because, damn, he seemed so interested in everything that I couldn’t conceive him committing suicide. And yes, he was one of us with three works to his credit: Get Jiro!,  (with Joe Rose and Langdon Foss), Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi (with Joe Rose and Ale Garza) and Hungry Ghosts (with Joel Rose, Alberto Ponticelli, Irene Koh, Paul Pope). The first two are on DC, the latter‘s on Berger Books. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 25, 1960 Ian McDonald, 59. Now here’s an author that I’ve read a lot of starting with his first novel, Desolation Road, and following through to his most recent, The Luna series. I do have favorites — Desolation Road and the other Mars novel, Ares Express, plus the Everness series are the ones I like the best. Chaga I think is the one I need to read again as I was annoyed by it the first time. 
  • Born June 25, 1981 Sheridan Smith, 38. She makes the Birthday list for being Lucie Miller, a companion to the Eight Doctor in his Big Finish audio adventures starting in 2006 and running through at least this year. Her only video genre work was being in The Huntsman: Winter’s War as Mrs Bromwyn.

(10) WHAT A KINDNESS. Actor Michael Sheen answered a request in character as Aziraphale:

(11) STAN LEE NOVEL COMING. Per Entertainment Weekly, “Stan Lee’s posthumous project A Trick of Light to be published as a book”.

Stan Lee’s posthumous creative project A Trick of Light, initially announced as the beginning of a new series for Audible, will be published as a hardcover finished book this fall, EW has learned exclusively. The book will be classified as Lee’s first-ever novel for adult readers, and marks the first foray into his new Alliances universe, which was created in partnership between Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment, Ryan Silbert’s Origin Story, and Luke Lieberman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is set to publish A Trick of Light, with Kat Rosenfield serving as co-author.

A Trick of Light is a superhero origin story about the unlikely friendship between Cameron, a gifted young man struggling with newfound fame after a freak accident gives him the ability to manipulate technology with his mind, and Nia, a hacker and coding genius with a mysterious past. The two must combine their powers to fight the dangerous physical and online forces threatening to wipe out the human race. Audible’s original launches June 27; it’s narrated by Grown-ish star Yara Shahidi.

… The novel version publishes on Sept. 17, 2019, and is available for pre-order.

(12) THE FLEET. Ethan Mills is finally won over to Chambers’ series, as he explains in “Space Chillwave, Not Space Opera: Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers” at Examined Worlds.

The setting was really interesting and philosophically fruitful: a fleet of generation ships dating back to a time before contact with aliens who possess advanced technology that made generation ships useless.  Instead of traversing the inky depths of interstellar space, the Fleet orbits a planet.  Still, the people continue to live there.  Why? It’s complicated.  But it prompts the existential question: What are we, the readers, doing on a rock hurtling through space heading nowhere in particular, destined to die?  It starts off subtle but it all gets pretty deep (we’re talking meaning-of-life type stuff, some of it – damn it – coming from the angsty teen).  This really surprised me considering a lot of the novel feels pretty… light and fluffy.  You could totally read this as a light and fluffy space romp and enjoy it just fine, but there are depths if you’re willing to look into the subtleties.

(13) WILLITS TRIBUTE. Alan White’s Skyliner #7 is a wonderful collection, even if it is “a sad one, being dedicated to the late, great Malcolm Willits, Author, Fannish Mogul, Citizen Kane of Mickey Mouse, and one of the early fen who actually did something worthy of the fannish pantheon.” It includes long autobiographical pieces, such as “Gottfredson and Me” about Willits’ appreciation for the artist who produced Disney’s Mickey Mouse comics.

I have long loved Floyd Gottfredson, even though I did not know his name. But I knew him through his work, through his wonderful Mickey Mouse stories, and especially through his wonderful artwork. I knew it first through the Big Little Books, those miniature jewels that came out during the Depression and reprinted Mickey’s great adventures. I remember them from the ten cent store; whole counters full, all spine out and a dime apiece

A few years later all my Big Little Books disappeared, along with the comic books I had carefully protected from the wartime paper drives, thereby prolonging World War II a microsecond. My father was a YMCA Secretary, and he had given all of them to the children of Japanese-American families being relocated to internment camps. In vain was my protest that the 10¢ war stamp I purchased each week in the 2nd grade was sacrifice enough. Nor was my offer to substitute my school books even considered. I soon found myself in a staging area looking at sad-eyed Japanese-American children being held in wire cages. Dad informed me they were as American as I. It was then I began to suspect his grasp of world affairs. Didn’t he know who Captain America was fighting; had he slept through that Don Winslow serial we had seen a week or two before and neglected to notice who the villains were? But I acted properly contrite and was rewarded with some new comic books on the way home, so the world turned bright again. When my father turned 90, he was honored for his work with the Japanese-Americans during World War II. My contribution remains unheralded.

…Do artists such as Carl Barks and Floyd Gottfredson really need their friends? John W. Campbell, legendary editor of astounding science-fiction once said that if all the fans stop buying his magazine he would never know. He meant the fans that filled the letter columns, attended the conventions, published the fanzines, and badgered the authors. They probably compromise 1% of the readership, and 90% of the headaches. By being so vocal they could manage from orbit the general policies of the magazine that were keeping the rest of the readership contented. Yet where would Barks and Gottfredson be today if it were not for the godsend that two fans, Bruce Hamilton, and Russ Cochran, we’re born to collect and publish the works of these two artists? How difficult it would be to place a historical perspective on them without the pioneering works Tom Andrae, Donald Ault, Bill Blackbeard, Geoffrey Blum, Barbara Botner, Mark Evanier, Alan Dean Foster, Bob Foster, Frank & Dana Gabbard, Gottfreid Helnwein, Gary Kurtz, George Lucas, Leonard Maltin, John Nichols, Tor Odemark, Mark Saarinen, Horst Schroeder, David Smith, Kim Weston, myself, Mark Worden, and many others both here and abroad.

(14) THE HORROR OF IT ALL. Nick Mamatas’ affection for the Lovecraftian storytelling style is manifest in his review of Toy Story 4, a post made public to encourage readers to sign up for his Patreon.

…The uncanny and the unworthy populate the film. Woody, ignored by his new owner, feels valueless and thus assigns himself the task of attempting to keep Forky alive. The antagonists are antique store dolls–there a Chatty Cathylike figure whose voice box was damaged at her creation, so her pull-cord “I love you!” sounds like a twisted dream calling forth from the bottom of a tar pit. She commands a quartet of ventriloquist dummies who cannot speak and who do her bidding while flopping around on their twisted limbs. She desires Woody’s innards for her own….

(15) ASTRONAUT HEIRLOOM. All kinds of things are going under the hammer during The Armstrong Family Collection III Space Exploration Auction (July 16-18) – even “Neil Armstrong’s Childhood Toy Teddy Bear Directly From The Armstrong Family Collection”.

(16) TRANSPORTATION SENTENCES. Felicity McLean explores “Australian Gothic Literature” at CrimeReads.

Of course the Germans have a wonderful word for ‘Gothic novel’. Schauerroman. Literally: “shudder-novel”. A story that makes you shiver with fear. Because Gothic is the literature of the menacing and the macabre.

It’s the stuff of nightmares.

But how does such a dark art translate in sunny Australia? How do you cause your readers to shiver when the temperature sits stubbornly above 80 degrees?

Gothic influence has been loitering creepily in Australian literature ever since European settlement. In 1788, when the British began shipping their convicts to Australia, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Ontranto had recently been published in England and so the British transported the Gothic mode along with their very worst criminals.

(17) DEADLY TROPE. Also at CrimeReads, Caroline Louise Walker analyzes “Why Doctors Make for the Most Terrifying Villains in Fiction”.

SIR WILLIAM GULL in From Hell, by Alan Moore (art by Eddie Campbell)

In Moore’s brilliant graphic novel, we’re asked to bend all we know about a serial killer we all know: Jack the Ripper. The details and research embedded in the conspiracy theory that unfolds are haunting, staggering, and so well done. If the infamously gruesome homicidal maniac was one and the same as a highly respected royal physician, then we must consider who we are trusting with our lives, and why.

(18) ON THE CLOCK. Details on the Falcon Heavy’s key payload: “Nasa puts up deep-space atomic clock”.

Nasa has put a miniaturised atomic clock in orbit that it believes can revolutionise deep-space navigation.

About the size of a toaster, the device is said to have 50 times the stability of existing space clocks, such as those flown in GPS satellites.

If the technology proves itself over the next year, Nasa will install the clock in future planetary probes.

The timepiece was one of 24 separate deployments from a Falcon Heavy rocket that launched from Florida on Tuesday.

The other passengers on the flight were largely also demonstrators. They included a small spacecraft to test a new type of “green” rocket fuel, and another platform that aims to propel itself via the pressure of sunlight caught in a large membrane; what’s often called a “lightsail”.

But it is the mercury-ion atomic clock, developed at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which has had most attention.

(19) REMOTE LAB. “‘Jet in a box’ powers remote Halley Antarctic base” – article resonates with discussions about whether we should ever send crews rather than robot labs to other planets.

The UK has managed to get one of its major Antarctic bases operating in an automatic mode for the first time.

Halley base, on the Brunt Ice Shelf, is remotely running experiments that include the monitoring of the ozone layer and of “space weather”.

The station would normally be crewed year-round, even through the permanent darkness of winter.

But staff have had to be withdrawn because of uncertainty over the stability of nearby ice.

A giant berg the size of Greater London is about to break away from the Brunt, and officials from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) consider it prudent to keep people away from the area, at least until the light and warmth of summer returns.

That’s prompted the UK’s polar research agency to develop an innovative set-up that can continue the station’s priority science activities in what is now the third winter shutdown on the trot.

(20) TOOL FOR SF WRITERS? BBC unpacks “The simple rule that can help you predict the future”. Note Le Guin quote near end, and signup for Forecast Challenge at the top.

What will remain in 100 years’ time of the city or town where you were born: which landmarks or buildings? What about in 500 years? The controversial author Nassim Nicholas Taleb offers a counter-intuitive rule-of-thumb for answering questions like this. If you want to know how long something non-perishable will endure – that is, something not subject to the limits of a natural lifespan – then the first question you should ask is how long it has already existed. The older it is, the more likely it is to go on surviving.

…The logic of Taleb’s argument is simple. Because the only judge that matters when it comes to the future is time, our only genuinely reliable technique for looking ahead is to ask what has already proved enduring: what has shown fitness and resilience in the face of time itself, surviving its shocks and assaults across decades, centuries or millennia. The Tower of London may seem modest in comparison to the Shard skyscraper – which sits across the Thames at 11 times the height – but it has also proved its staying power across 94 times as many years. The Shard may be iconic and imposing, but its place in history is far from assured. When it comes to time, the older building looms larger.

(21) MUPPET HISTORY. DefunctTV: Jim Henson is a six-part series chronicling the life and works of the man behind the Muppet mayhem. Here’s the first of four installments.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/31/19 Moon Pixel, Wider Than A File, I’m Scrolling You In Style Someday

(1) BEST TRANSLATED BOOK AWARDS. The winners of the 2019 Best Translated Book Awards were announced May 29. I believe neither is genre. (However, Sofia Samatar, past winner of a World Fantasy Award, is among the judges.)

Slave Old Man, written by Patrick Chamoiseau, translated (from the French and Creole) by Linda Coverdale, and published by The New Press, won for fiction. Of Death. Minimal Odes, written by Hilda Hilst, translated (from the Portuguese) by Laura Cesarco Eglin, and published by co-im-press, took the prize for poetry.

…Thanks to grant funds from the Amazon Literary Partnership, the living winning author and the translators will each receive $2,000 cash prizes…

The fiction jury included Pierce Alquist (BookRiot), Caitlin L. Baker (Island Books), Kasia Bartoszy?ska (Monmouth College), Tara Cheesman (freelance book critic), George Carroll (litintranslation.com), Adam Hetherington (reader), Keaton Patterson (Brazos Bookstore), Sofia Samatar (writer), Elijah Watson (A Room of One’s Own). The poetry jury included Jarrod Annis (Greenlight Bookstore), Katrine Øgaard Jensen (EuropeNow), Tess Lewis (writer and translator), Aditi Machado (poet and translator), and Laura Marris (writer and translator).

(2) SOUVENIR SEEKER OR ARMS DEALER? LA Times columnist Mary McNamara must learn new moves when she visits a new domain in the Magic Kingdom: “Tense and intense, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is not your mother’s Disneyland”.

As a SoCal mom, I know what it takes to do Disneyland: water, sunscreen, sturdy walking shoes, lots of cash, phone, snacks and whatever other gear the age and Disney-geek demographic of the group demands.

Strollers, mouse ears, matching shirts, lanyards clanking with tradable pins, whatever; I’ve always had it covered, down to the Band-Aids, hand sanitizer and Advil.

But I never thought to pack a back story.

Within minutes of entering Galaxy’s Edge, the park’s brand-new “Star Wars”-themed land, I realized this was a hideous mistake.

“Are you looking for a job?” A young woman in native-Batuu garb asked in a low voice as she sidled up to my daughter and me.

“Um, no,” I said. “We’re looking for lightsabers.”

“Keep your voice down!” she said. “The First Order is everywhere. But Savi’s Workshop is right around the corner.”

I smiled in what I hoped was a knowing fashion and moved away….

(3) WORLDBUILDING. Marie Brennan continues with “New Worlds Theory Post: Exposition, Pt. 2” at Book View Café.

When we first hit the topic of worldbuilding exposition back in May, I discussed the exposition on the level of prose: how to work setting details into your sentences without putting a neon stop sign on them saying “HERE BE INFORMATION,” and how to use the surrounding context to make those details convey story as well as facts. That works on a small scale, but when you get to more complex matters, you often have to think larger in order to work them into the story.

One time-honored way to do this is with a naive protagonist: someone young, inexperienced, foreign, or otherwise unfamiliar with the situation at hand. They don’t have to be ignorant of everything, and in fact it can be annoying if they are — at least in fiction for adults. In kids’ literature and YA, a naive protagonist is often a natural choice….

(4) REALISM V. NUANCE. L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright explains these paradoxical characters in “The Paragon of Realism, Superheroes!” at Superversive SF.

… Reality is complicated, and it is the job of an author to reflect this. So, how does one do this? Simple, he has cause and effect function in a way that makes sense to the audience. For example, let’s talk about Superman.

One of the complaints made against Superman is that he is unrealistically good, that a normal person with his power would abuse it. To this I say, their definition of realistic is wrong. Their argument is that: since he has so much power, he must abuse it. The thing they don’t get is that by not abusing his power and being a good guy, he is making the D.C. universe more realistic. Just look at General Zod to see what I mean.

… There are many kings and presidents who use their power for good without abusing it, like Abraham Lincoln or George Washington, who was offered a crown but turned it down in favor of becoming president and then retired to his farm. It is not impossible that there could exist a man that could use his power for good without letting it control him. If there is such a man, then we as authors should write stories about him, for he is a hero. If Superman is this man, is it  any wonder he can use his power without abusing it.

Just because he does good does not make him more or less realistic than any other hero in the D.C. universe….

…This kind of touch is what makes your story realistic, having the character make logical choices in accordance with his fantastic circumstances. His job is logical.

Another example of this is the Science Patrol from Ultraman. In the Ultraman universe, there are giant monsters, generally called Kaiju, which are practically walking natural disasters.

…In a later season, someone on the staff realizes something interesting: the monsters are not innately evil. They are wild animals, so maybe we should have one of our heroes try not to kill them. Out of this idea came Ultraman Cosmos, the warrior of compassion. This is also something that comes naturally from the premise because a complicated interaction with the Kaiju makes the world seem more realistic, even with the fantastic premise.

All of these ideas take a premise and bring it to its logical extreme. ‘Realism’ so called, does not. ‘Realism’ only shows one small part of the human experience, while real realism shows as much of the human experience as is needed for the story, which is what all good stories show.

(5) ODYSSEY SCHOLARSHIP. George R.R. Martin announced Kyle De Waal is the winner of this year’s Miskatonic Scholarship to the Odyssey Writers Workshop in New Hampshire, given each year to a student working in the area of Lovecraftian cosmic horror. The scholarship is funded by Martin.

This year’s winner is Kyle de Waal, who loves to write anything with a monster in it, especially cosmic horror with a bent towards YA-lit. He also enjoys tabletop games, mountain biking, and Greek and Roman history. He lives in Canada with his border collie who is named after a poetic device: Volta.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 31, 1895 George Stewart. Author of Earth Abides which won the first International Fantasy Award in 1951. It’s worth noting that his novel Storm whichhad as its protagonist a Pacific storm called Maria prompted the National Weather Service to use personal names to designate storms. (Died 1980.)
  • Born May 31, 1897 Christine Hartley, better known as Christine Campbell Thomson. Best known for her horror anthologies published in the 1920s and 1930s. The first, Not at Night gave its name to the whole series, which ran to eleven volumes.  In all, there were 170 stories including ones by Howard and Lovecraft, and, according to bibliographer Mike Ashley, a hundred of these came from Weird Tales. All of the fiction she wrote was done under the pen name of Flavia Richardson. Neither the anthologies or her fiction appear to be in print currently. (Died 1985.)
  • Born May 31, 1907 Peter Fleming. Elder brother of that Fleming. Among his works is a novel written in 1940, The Flying Visit about an unintended visit to Britain by Adolf Hitler. It’s apparently a comedy. The Sixth Column: A Singular Tale of Our Time is also genre though it is now Forgotten Literature as his other book. (Died 1971.)
  • Born May 31, 1928 Bryce Walton. Writer on Captain Video and His Video Rangers though I can’t tell you exactly what that means as IMDB lists the numbers of episodes he did as unknown. He also wrote for Alfred Hitchcock Presents including “The Greatest Monster of Them All” which is definitely genre. He wrote one SF novel, Sons of the Ocean Deeps, and has one collection of stories, “Dark of the Moon” and Other Tales. (Died 1988.)
  • Born May 31, 1930 Gary Brandner. He’s  best known for The Howling trilogy. The first book was adapted quite loosely as into The Howling. Brandner’s second and third Howling novels have no connection to the movie series, though he was involved with writing the screenplay for the second Howling movie, Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf. Who came up with that title?  Howling IV: The Original Nightmare is actually the most faithful adaptation of his first novel hence the title. (Died 2013.)
  • Born May 31, 1961 Lea Thompson, 58. She’s obviously best known for her role as Lorraine Baines in the Back to the Future trilogy though I remember her first as Beverly Switzler in Howard the Duck as I saw Back to the Future after I saw Howard the Duck. Not sure why that was. Her first genre role was actually as Kelly Ann Bukowski in Jaws 3-D, a film I most decidedly did not see. If you accept the Scorpion series as genre, she’s got a recurring role as Veronica Dineen on it.
  • Born May 31, 1968 John Connolly, 51. Best known for his Charlie Parker noir crime series where his character solves mysteries by talking to dead. His Chronicles of the Invaders written with Jennifer Ridyard, his wife, are more traditional SF as is the Samuel Johnson series.
  • Born May 31, 1976 Colin Farrell, 43. I remember him first as Bullseye in the much dissed Daredevil film. (It wasn’t that bad.) He was in Minority Report as Danny Witwer. And I see he’s listed as being the third transformation of Tony in Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. H’h. Now he was Peter Lake in Winter’s Tale, a takeoff of Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin, a novel no film could do justice to. Oh, he’s Holt Farrier in Dumbo
  • Born May 31, 1995 Jeremy Szal, 24. He says he was (probably) raised by wild dingoes. He writes about galactic adventures, wide-screen futures, and broken characters fighting for hope in dark worlds. He is author of the dark space-opera novel Stormblood out in February 2020, the first of a trilogy. His short fiction has appeared in Nature, Abyss & Apex, Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Tor.com, The Drabblecast. He is the fiction editor for the Hugo-winning StarShipSofa, which once led to Harlan Ellison yelling at him on the phone. He carves out a living in sun-bleached Sydney, Australia. He loves watching weird movies, collecting boutique gins, exploring cities, and dark humour. Find him at http://jeremyszal.com/ or @JeremySzal

(7) COMICS SECTION.

Three stfnal installments of Bob the Angry Flower:

(8) MODERATELY GOOD OMENS. William Hughes explains the flaws that keep the first episode from perfection: “’In The Beginning,’ Good Omens struggles to let its more heavenly elements shine” at AV/TV Club.

There’s a question that inevitably dogs (or maybe that should be hellhounds?) the production of any TV or cinematic adaptation of a popular book: How close do you hew to the original text—i.e., the stuff that presumably got people in the door in the first place—vs. softening or changing it for the natural rhythms of human speech? It’s a query that gets extra tricky when the original author and the person doing the adapting are one and the same, which might help explain why screenwriter Neil Gaiman has filled so much of the first hour of his new Amazon series Good Omens with long passages taken directly from his and Terry Pratchett’s 1990 book. …And yet, Good Omens’ pilot occasionally feels like sitting through the process of listening to a friend read you some of their well-crafted short fiction while an energetic, eye-catching slideshow plays—provided, of course, that your friend was Frances McDormand, and she was also pretending to be the voice of God.

(9) NEWS SCOOP. Delish discovered that “Baskin-Robbins Is Adding Two Stranger Things-Inspired Ice Cream Flavors To The Menu”.

Earlier this week, BR announced two Flavors of the Month for June: Eleven’s Heaven and Upside Down Pralines. The first is a waffle cone-flavored ice cream (I know, WOAH) with chocolate-coated sugar cone pieces and chocolate icing. The latter is chocolate with praline pecans and chocolate caramel swirled in.

If you think those sound epic just wait, because there’s more:

  • The Upside Down Sundae includes praline scoops and toppings on the bottom.
  • The Demogorgon Sundae is served in a waffle bowl that “frightfully resembles” the monster.
  • Byers’ House Lights Polar Pizza Ice Cream Treat is basically an ice cream and candy ‘za. It has a Snickers ice cream crust and topped with fudge and M&M’s to look like Christmas lights.
  • USS Butterscotch Quarts are filled with butterscotch toffee ice cream and a toffee ribbon.
  • Elevenade Freeze = ice cream + Minute Maid Lemonade.

(10) BOOK EXPO. “What if they gave a Book Expo and no one came?” asks Andrew Porter, who shared his photos of the autographing lines on Wednesday afternoon, first day of the exhibits.

From Publishers Lunch (behind a paywall) — “Book Expo Panels: Retailers, Breakfast Authors and More”:

As predicted, this year’s Book Expo is effectively a one-day show played out over three days. After a quiet start on Wednesday, Thursday at least has attendees filling the very wide aisles, spacious lounges, empty booth slots and open meeting rooms at a convention that is more profoundly than ever a downgraded, modest shadow of its former self. (It’s very sustainable, though; exhibitors are using generous lengths of plain pipe and drape, rented chairs, and simple printed panels over fancy fixtures and displays.) With a generally quiet line-up of panels as well, one Thursday afternoon that still offered some substance of note focused squarely on physical retail.

Publishers Weekly’s public article: “BookExpo 2019: Slow Start to a Buzzy Show”

The noon opening for BookExpo on Wedesday led to a quiet start for this year’s fair. But as the day progressed, the crowd steadily built and by late afternoon, a palpable buzz began to fill the hall, as people lugged tote bags full of galleys and promotional swag.

Prior to the opening, more than 100 people, many of them book bloggers and independent authors, lined up to get an early start on the galley giveaways and literally dashed into the hall the moment the floor opened.

(11) MORE PORTER PHOTOS FROM BOOK EXPO.

  • For the YA near-future novel “Contagion,” Charlesbridge wrapped their display in Caution tape:
  • Pilgrim’s Progress: The Graphic Novel. Porter says, “The artwork reminded me of Basil Wolverton…”
  • Who knew? Dayglo and UV posters are back!

(12) SURPRISING STRIKEOUT. Kat Hooper concludes “Record of a Spaceborn Few: Third time’s not the charm” at Fantasy Literature.

…So many people love Becky Chambers’ WAYFARERS trilogy and all three books have been nominated for several awards. After reading the entire trilogy, it’s clear that it’s just not for me. I thought The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was a cool-sounding title, but the story was “like watching Barney & Friends while eating cotton candy.” I liked A Closed and Common Orbit even less, finding it dull and unchallenging. Both novels have very little plot or tension, but they do contain heart-warming scenes and sweet messages about cooperation, diversity, and other nice things.

Record of a Spaceborn Few has the same problem, but magnified….

(13) DYNAMIC DUO. Black Gate’s Elizabeth Crowens interviews one of the “Power Couples in the World of Speculative Fiction: Jim Freund and Barbara Krasnoff”. (Unexpectedly, the NYRSF Reading Series is mentioned only in photo captions, although their names appear on File 770 in connection with that more than anything else!)

Crowens: You guys are native Brooklyners, right?

Both: No.

Barbara: I’m the native Brooklyner. He’s from Queens.

Jim: I’m from Jackson Heights. She is from Canarsie… originally. It’s like the line from Captain America: Civil War when he meets Spider-man. Captain America is fighting him at the airport and says, “You’ve got heart, kid. Where are you from?” and Spider-man says, “Queens.” Captain America looks at him and says in a confrontational tone, “Brooklyn.”

(Laughs): That’s great.

Jim: Best line in the movie.

How did you guys meet?

Barbara: Online, basically.

(14) SUPPRESSING MALARIA. “GM fungus rapidly kills 99% of malaria mosquitoes, study suggests” – BBC has the story.

A fungus – genetically enhanced to produce spider toxin – can rapidly kill huge numbers of the mosquitoes that spread malaria, a study suggests.

Trials, which took place in Burkina Faso, showed mosquito populations collapsed by 99% within 45 days.

The researchers say their aim is not to make the insects extinct but to help stop the spread of malaria.

The disease, which is spread when female mosquitoes drink blood, kills more than 400,000 people per year.

Worldwide, there are about 219 million cases of malaria each year.

(15) PICK UP AFTER YOURSELF. Here’s the ultimate good example when it comes to attempts to sweep up orbital debris: “UK satellite ‘sets sail’ for return to Earth”.

A British satellite in space has just “set sail” to return to Earth.

TechDemoSat-1 was launched in 2014 to trial a number of new in-orbit technologies but has now reached the end of its operational life.

To bring it out of the sky faster than would ordinarily be the case, it has deployed a “drag sail”.

This large membrane will catch residual air molecules at its altitude of 635km and pull TDS-1 quickly into Earth’s atmosphere where it will burn up.

There is a lot of interest currently in “clean space” technologies.

The orbital highways above the planet are set to become congested with thousands of spacecraft in the coming years, and serious efforts need to be made to tidy away redundant hardware and other space junk if collisions are to be avoided.

(16) INSTANT CLASSIC. That old time edition is good enough for Matthew Johnson:

Give me that old time purple prose
Those long sentences soothe the soul
I reminisce about the pros of old
And that old time purple prose

Just take those old novels off the shelf
I’ll read Lord Dunsany by myself
I want some adjectives, sweet and low
I like that old time purple prose

Don’t try to keep me to a word count
In ten minutes I’ll be past that amount
I’ll savour adverbs Bulwer-Lytton chose
In his old time purple prose

Call it bad writing, call it what you will
Edgar Rice Burroughs can thrill me still
With each dependent clause my hunger grows
For that old time purple prose.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/11/18 The Pixellist’s Scroll Is Missing

(1) LEVAR BURTON. The good news is: Episode 32 of LeVar Burton Reads features the actor’s voicing of “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon.

(2) FLORENCE. The bad news is, the hurricane is bearing down on Oor Wombat –

(3) DOMINOS START TO FALL. Tampa Bay Online reports: “In wake of San Diego Comic Con trademark case, Tampa Bay Comic Con changes name”.

Tampa Bay Comic Con has changed its name to Tampa Bay Comic Convention.

The change comes less than two weeks after a federal judge in California ordered organizers of Salt Lake Comic Con to pay nearly $4 million in attorneys’ fees and costs to San Diego Comic Convention in a trademark infringement suit.

With the award, judge Anthony J. Battaglia affirmed a December 2017 jury verdict that Dan Farr Productions infringed on San Diego Comic Con’s trademarks by operating conventions under the name “Salt Lake Comic Con.”

Tampa Bay Comic Con co-founder Stephen Solomon, a manager at Imaginarium, the company that has run Tampa Bay Comic Con and similarly-branded comic conventions around the U.S. since 2010, confirmed the name change Wednesday after re-branded images appeared on the convention’s social media. Solomon declined to comment on whether that ruling had anything to do with the Tampa Bay Comic Con name change.

(4) SPECIAL CLARION WEST WORKSHOP. Fireside Magazine’s Elsa Sjunneson-Henry will teach a Clarion West One-Day Workshop on “Worldbuilding for Disabled Characters” in Seattle on October 7. Registration info at the link.

The world as it is now, is not what we would call disability friendly. The social model suggests that disability has little to do with one’s medical condition, and everything to do with how society reacts to disability. This class will go over both models of disability (social and medical) and talk about how theories of disability can be used to create your world to include disabled characters. How do magic systems work without creating loopholes to cure disabilities in your setting? How can disability exist on a space station?

This class will help you not only envision the contemporary setting of today with a better understanding of what disabled characters go through, but to create worlds without barriers (or with barriers that aren’t erasure.)

(5) LONDON’S FORBIDDEN PLANET. The Independent expresses its appreciation for Forbidden Planet, celebrating its 40th anniversary: “How cult comic book shop Forbidden Planet changed the way we consume geek culture”.

…Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, American comic books could be picked up in newsagents, often shelved alongside the home-produced titles such as Beano, Misty, Whizzer and Chips, and Warlord.

But while you could generally guarantee that your friendly neighbourhood newsagent would be able to procure for you British comics week in and week out, American titles such as Spider-Man were a different matter. Supply was random and the monthly comics would appear in uncertain quantities, and you could never guarantee that your newsagent would get the following month’s Uncanny X-Men, or even that they would get in any American comics at all….

Today, most towns have a specialist comic shop which works on this model, but one of the most venerable and successful brands is Forbidden Planet, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary and enjoying a position at the top of the market for not only monthly comics but the ever-growing world of geek culture that takes in action figures, toys and collectible movie merchandise.

(6) LE GUIN’S IMPACT. Becky Chambers explains “How The Left Hand of Darkness Changed Everything” at LitHub.

…I wasn’t around when the book made waves in 1969, but ripples remained in 2001, that most futuristic of years. I was in the thick of adolescence, and in a fit of who-cares-about-college rebellion, I’d abandoned Honors English. I was sick of morality tales about brooding men and tragic women, of five-paragraph essays and teachers who didn’t sympathize with my indignation toward how Odysseus treated Penelope. Instead, I enrolled in an elective course: Science Fiction and Fantasy. I walked in there, with my Star Wars notebook and my Star Trek sensibilities and my brain full of role-playing games, and I felt like I’d beat the system. Like I was getting cake for breakfast….

…I soon discovered that elective courses still meant book reports, and my teacher recommended me a title: The Left Hand of Darkness. I still have the copy I bought for class, acquired on a bookstore trip involving my parents’ car and my parents’ money. It’s sitting beside my keyboard now, dog-eared and scarred, full of acid green highlighter. The highlighter isn’t related to the book report. The highlighter came after, as I read the book again and again and again. I can’t say if I’d read any science fiction written by a woman before that point, but I’d certainly never read any science fiction like that. There were no lasers, no damsels, no chosen ones. There was war, yes, but a real war, a war not for the fate of the galaxy but for hatred and fear (things that rang true while living in America in late 2001). There was science, too, but it wasn’t the science of physics or technology. It was the science of culture. The science of bodies. These sciences were every bit as worthy, The Left Hand said, and writing fictions of them was powerful business….

(7) TOLKIEN IN THE FALL. Adam Roberts cannot resist — “J R R Tolkien, “The Fall of Gondolin” (2018)”. In fact, he really doesn’t want to.

…Tolkien’s son Christopher has, over the last four decades, edited eleven thousand (give or take) posthumous volumes of his father’s unpublished writing. The previous instalment in that endeavour, 2017’s Beren and Lúthien opened with him declaring: ‘in my ninety-third year this is presumptively the last book in the long series of editions of my father’s writings’. Such presumption evidently proved premature, for here is The Fall of Gondolin (HarperCollins 2018), plumped-up with eight full-colour Alan Lee illustrations and prefaced by Christopher Tolkien’s wryly revisited promise: ‘I must now say that, in my ninety-fourth year The Fall of Gondolin is (indubitably) the last’. This is the end/Beleriand friend/The end.

I didn’t need this book. I bought this book anyway. I already knew the story of the mighty human warrior, Tuor, beloved of the Vala Ulmo (a sea-god, Tolkien’s Poseidon), who travels through a Middle Earth occupied by the forces of darkness under the evil Vala Melko (in essence; an in-the-world Satan) and his armies of orcs, Balrogs, dragons and other nasties….

I still bought it, mind.

What did I buy? (Why did I buy it? Well, duh)….

(8) FAULTY APPEALS TO AUTHORITY. Annalee Flower Horne raises the point that arguments about historical accuracy may be undermined by the historical source they rely on. (Thread starts here.)

(9) 2018 HUGO ANALYSIS. Mark Kaedrin opines about “Hugo Awards 2018: The Results”.

The Stone Sky wins best novel and N.K. Jemisin becomes the first author ever to win three in a row. I have not been a particular fan of the series, but people seem to love these books. Too much misery porn for my liking, which always kept me at an arms length from the characters and story. Forcing myself to read the three books over the past few years (if I’m going to vote, I’m going to read the books; the authors deserve that much) probably doesn’t help. I don’t see why this series in particular deserved the three-peat, but this third book was actually my favorite of the series, so there is that (in fact, the only real baffling winner in the series was the second book, which suffered from clear middle-book-in-a-trilogy problems. I can definitely see why the first and third books won.) The other funny thing about this is that a few years ago, they created a whole award for “Best Series” that could have potentially cut down on the number of sequels in the Best Novel category, but that clearly isn’t happening. Scalzi’s Collapsing Empire came in second, and probably would have been my choice (though I certainly get the criticisms of it, it was a lot more fun and pushed my SF buttons more than most of the other nominees). New York 2140 came in last place, which also matches my preference…

(10) TODAY’S DAY

(11) QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I was continuing to shrink, to become… what? The infinitesimal? What was I? Still a human being? Or was I the man of the future? If there were other bursts of radiation, other clouds drifting across seas and continents, would other beings follow me into this vast new world? So close – the infinitesimal and the infinite. But suddenly, I knew they were really the two ends of the same concept. The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet – like the closing of a gigantic circle. I looked up, as if somehow I would grasp the heavens. The universe, worlds beyond number, God’s silver tapestry spread across the night. And in that moment, I knew the answer to the riddle of the infinite. I had thought in terms of man’s own limited dimension. I had presumed upon nature. That existence begins and ends is man’s conception, not nature’s. And I felt my body dwindling, melting, becoming nothing. My fears melted away. And in their place came acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation, it had to mean something. And then I meant something, too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God, there is no zero. I still exist!”  –  The Incredible Shrinking Man

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 11 – Sharon Lee, 66. She is the co-author with Steve Miller of the Liaden universe novels and stories, as well as other works including the Agent of Change and Great Migration series, and  the author by herself of two mystery novels. They strongly oppose fanfic written in their universe.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Pluto has a long memory at F Minus.

(14) JUSTICE FOR PLUTO. The University of Central Florida weighs in: “Pluto a Planet? New Research from UCF Suggests Yes”.

The reason Pluto lost its planet status is not valid, according to new research from the University of Central Florida.

In 2006, the International Astronomical Union, a global group of astronomy experts, established a definition of a planet that required it to “clear” its orbit, or in other words, be the largest gravitational force in its orbit.

Since Neptune’s gravity influences its neighboring planet Pluto, and Pluto shares its orbit with frozen gases and objects in the Kuiper belt, that meant Pluto was out of planet status.

However, in a new study published online Wednesday in the journal Icarus, UCF planetary scientist Philip Metzger, who is with the university’s Florida Space Institute, reported that this standard for classifying planets is not supported in the research literature.

The Daily Mail, in “Pluto SHOULD be a planet: Astronomers claim controversial demotion was based on ‘since-disproven reasoning'”, says this is the cruxof the controversy:

Since Neptune’s gravity influences its neighboring planet Pluto, and Pluto shares its orbit with frozen gases and objects in the Kuiper belt, that meant Pluto was out of planet status.

However, the new study reviewed scientific literature from the past 200 years and found only one publication – from 1802 – that used the clearing-orbit requirement to classify planets, and it was based on since-disproven reasoning.

IBTimes wants the decision overturned: “Planet Or Dwarf? Pluto Incorrectly Lost Planetary Status, Study Suggests”.

Apart from that, the researchers also noted scientists have been using the term planet to describe moons as well, like Jupiter’s Europa or Saturn’s Titan.

“We now have a list of well over 100 recent examples of planetary scientists using the word planet in a way that violates the IAU definition, but they are doing it because it’s functionally useful,” Metzger added.

The researchers added bodies, particularly those like Pluto, should be classified on the basis of their natural properties rather than features that could change – like their orbit.

The Universe Today, in “New Reasons why Pluto Should be Considered a Planet After All”, adds depth:

As an alternative, Metzger and his colleagues claim that the definition of a planet should be based on its intrinsic rather than extrinsic properties (such as the dynamics of its orbit), which are subject to change.  In short, they recommend that classifying a planet should be based on whether or not it is large enough that its gravity allows for it to achieve hydrostatic equilibrium (i.e. becomes spherical). As Metzger explained:

“Dynamics are not constant, they are constantly changing. So, they are not the fundamental description of a body, they are just the occupation of a body at a current era… And that’s not just an arbitrary definition. It turns out this is an important milestone in the evolution of a planetary body, because apparently when it happens, it initiates active geology in the body.”

(15) THE OPOSSUM FACTOR. Matthew Wills makes his case for Pogo being “The Most Controversial Comic Strip” at JSTOR Daily.

During the 1950s, Walt Kelly created the most popular comic strip in the United States. His strip was about an opossum named Pogo and his swamp-dwelling friends. It was also the most controversial and censored of its time. Long before Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury blurred the lines between the funny pages and the editorial pages, Kelly’s mix of satiric wordplay, slapstick, and appearances by Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Nikita Khrushchev, J. Edgar Hoover, and the John Birch Society, all in animal form, stirred up the censors.

Taking place in a mythic Okefenokee Swamp, Pogo satirized the human condition as well as McCarthyism, communism, segregation, and, eventually, the Vietnam War. The strip is probably best remembered today for Pogo’s environmentalist’s lament, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

(16) A BIG, SEXY DINOSAUR. A new book, The Dinosaur Artist, delves into the world of commercial fossil hunters, smuggling, and the international implications. Author Paige Williams is interviewed by Becky Ferreira for Vice’s Motherboard (‘The Bizarre True Crime Story Surrounding a ‘Big Sexy Dinosaur’”) about the book and the stories behind it.

Motherboard: What first inspired you to report on Eric Prokopi’s case, first for The New Yorker and now in a full-length book?
Paige Williams: In the summer of 2009, I happened to be home (I’m from Mississippi). I was sitting in a coffee shop reading the Tupelo Daily Journal, my hometown paper, and came across this little news brief about a dinosaur thief from Montana. His name is Nate Murphy, and he’s in the book—just barely.
But I couldn’t believe there was such a thing as a dinosaur thief. I didn’t understand how it was possible or why anyone would want to do it. I really like subcultures and understanding why people inhabit them, and it just seemed like a world that was fascinating and full of authentic characters—people who are aggressively themselves, who are irreverent, and who sometimes break the law, though most of them don’t.
Then, this Prokopi case came along. I liked it because had so many threads worth exploring—the international trade, the Gobi Desert, Mongolian culture and history, New York, Florida, Virginia, Tucson, and Denver, and every fossil zone in between. It just had a lot worth pursuing and following.

(17) A DIFFERENT KIND OF CLASS. No formal registration for this one:

(18) BROUGHT TO YOU BY. The Washington Post’s Christian Davenport says NASA is open to ideas for commercialization, including ads in space and having astronauts make commercial endorsements: “Why NASA’s next rockets might say Budweiser on the side”.

The constant creep of corporate America into all aspects of everyday life — from the Allstate Sugar Bowl to Minute Maid Park — may soon conquer a new frontier.

The final frontier.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has directed the space agency to look at boosting its brand by selling naming rights to rockets and spacecraft and allowing its astronauts to appear in commercials and on cereal boxes, as if they were celebrity athletes….

But during a recent meeting of a NASA advisory council made up of outside experts who provide guidance to the agency, Bridenstine announced he was setting up a committee to examine what he called the “provocative questions” of turning its rockets into corporate billboards the way advertisements decorate NASCAR race cars.

“Is it possible for NASA to offset some of its costs by selling the naming rights to its spacecraft, or the naming rights to its rockets?” Bridenstine said. “I’m telling you there is interest in that right now. The question is: Is it possible? The answer is: I don’t know, but we want somebody to give us advice on whether it is.”

(19) MARVEL. X-Men: The Exterminated #1 arrives this December.

Cable has fallen, and the events of Extermination have left a hole in the X-Men family. What comes next??

In the wake of Cable’s death, his adopted daughter Hope Summers is attempting to deal with her loss – but a dark and terrifying path beckons her, and the X-Men’s own Jean Grey may be her only hope for survival!

This December, CABLE creative team Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler re-team for a special one-shot to say good-bye to the time-traveling, fan-favorite mutant – featuring covers by Geoff Shaw and a special back-up story that celebrates the life of Nathan Summers, from legendary X-Men series writer Chris Claremont!

“This issue is our chance to say a proper farewell to Cable, to honor his legacy, and to really see the immense impact the time travelling mutant had on those closest to him,” said Nadler. “Most importantly, it’s about how the Summers family copes with grief, and the difficulty of forging ahead. The issue is packed with fan favorite X-Men from all different eras, and we’re super excited to be bringing them together, despite the somber occasion.”

(20) BOUCHERCON. Tampa Bay Online’s Colette Bancroft had many kind words to say about last week’s Bouchercon: “It’s no mystery why fans, authors gathered for Bouchercon in St. Petersburg”.

…The 1,500 authors and fans (some from as far away as Japan) were in St. Petersburg for Bouchercon 2018, a.k.a. the World Mystery Convention. The annual gathering (named after influential mystery writer and editor Anthony Boucher) began in 1970 and is now one of the biggest mystery conventions in the world.

This was its first stop in St. Petersburg, with approximately 600 writers of crime fiction and true crime on hand to meet and mingle with fans, with many of the top names in the genre strolling the Vinoy’s halls. The event’s special guests were Mark Billingham, Sarah Blaedel, Sean Chercover, Tim Dorsey, Ian Rankin, Karin Slaughter and Lisa Unger. Other luminaries included Ace Atkins, Lawrence Block, Alafair Burke, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Laura Lippman and Sara Paretsky….

(21) WELCOME OUT-OF-TOWNERS. David Doering found a copy of the pitch made to attendees of the Pacificon (fourth Worldcon) in 1946 to visit the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. He notes, “Remarkably, don’t really need to change much at all to describe what I saw in Freehafer Hall the first time I went in 1985 forty years later. (For all I know, the “infamous” 4E trunk might still be in there somewhere…)”

LASFS OPEN HOUSE

CLUB ROOM OPEN FOR YOUR INSPECTION

That famous mecca for all fen, the LASFS CLUB ROOM, will most naturally be open at all times for the benefit of visiting fen, who will naturally be Interested In seeing this famous j?o?i?n?t? place.

You will see the (In) famous Ackerman trunk, repository of Ghu knows what; the fine library we maintain for the benefit of our members; the very spot where those wonderful (who said that?) meetings are held; the many fine original Illustrations which adorn the walls; that mighty project, Donald Warren Bratton’s cardfile of approximately 10,000 cards cross-indexIng all pro-mag stories and authors, as well as books pertaining to our field.

Indeed, lndeedy, your visit will not be complete until you have visited the LASFS Club Room. However, we think it only fair to warn you you will never be the same again after you have been there — in fact, YOU MAY NEVER BE SEEN AGAIN! So while you are more than welcome, you are also given fair warning in advance!

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Fern on Vimeo, Johnny Kelly looks at what happens to a grieving widow when her husband dies and is resurrected as a friendly houseplant.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/31/18 It’s An Honor Just To Be Pixelated

(1) FAREWELL, PORNOKITSCH. Yesterday Anne Perry and Jared Shurin signed off their long-running sff blog: “Pornokitsch: The Exit Interview”. The existing content will remain online for some time to come.

Anne: …As you say above, Pornokitsch is what we wanted it to be: a home for thoughtful, fun (and funny) essays about… whatever. Back when it was just the two of us writing for the site, that’s what we did. And it’s been a pleasure to watch the site bloom with much, much more of that…

By and large, I’m happy to say that I think I wrote more or less exactly what I wanted to write for the site. There are a few reviews I would do differently now, if I could go back in time. But we  founded Pornokitsch as a way of talking about the pop culture we love with the humour and intelligence we wished to see in those conversations, and at the end of the day, I think we – and our many brilliant contributors over the years – have done just that.

Jared: On that note… We’ve mentioned our amazing contributors: words and art, regular and guest, past and present. We owe them a huge, huge thanks for all of their hard work and help and patience. Thank you all.

Anne: We owe you a huge debt of gratitude. Thanks also to all the publishers – editors, marketers and publicists – who offered us books to review and put quotes from us on the actual books, zomg. And, finally, thanks also to our tolerant and very supportive families, enthusiastic friends and – most of all – our readers over the years.

For those arriving too late, they created a kind of postmortem FAQ on their “Bye!” page.

How can I check if you verbally flensed my favourite piece of pop culture? I need know whether or not I should hate you forever.

An index of features and reviews can be found here.

Is there some Pornokitsch memorabilia that I could cherish forever?

Nope. Buy one of our contributor’s books instead.

(2) PUPPY FREE. I like how this was the fifth point in John Scalzi’s “Thoughts On This Year’s Hugo Finalist Ballot” at Whatever.

  1. To get ahead of a question I know someone will ask, no, there’s not any “puppy” nonsense this year. It appears the changes in nominating finalists to reduce slating had their intended effect, and also, the various puppies appear to have lost interest slamming their heads into this particular wall. This makes sense as it provided no benefit to any of them, damaged the reputations and careers of several, and succeeded only in making their rank and file waste a lot of time and effort (and money). They’ve gone off to make their own awards and/or to bother other media, which is probably a better use of their time. There was an attempt by a cadre of second-wave wannabe types to replicate slating this year, but that unsurprisingly came to naught.

In its stead are excellent stories and people, all of which and whom got on to the ballot on the strength of their work. Which is as it should be.

(3) IT’S BEEN AWHILE. Piet Nel said on Facebook about Sarah Pinsker’s “Wind Will Rove” (from Asimov’s, September/October 2017), a Best Novelette Hugo finalist —

This is the first time since 2013 that a story from Asimov’s has made the final ballot of the Hugos.

(4) NOT A NATIVE SPEAKER. J.R.R. Tolkien on Elvish:

(5) GRIMOIRES. In the Horror Writers Association Newsletter, Lawrence Berry discusses a source of “Forbidden Words (And When to Use Them)”.

Do genuinely forbidden, occult treatises exist in the modern world?

Yes, definitely.

Who has them and how do I get a look?

The great libraries of the world, private antiquarian collectors, and the Vatican’s Secret Archives all house works on satanism and witchcraft. An interested party would need to earn scholar’s credentials or have someone very good at creating false identities counterfeit them. A wide and nimble knowledge of Olde English, Middle English, Latin, Arabic, ancient German and Italian, along with gifted insight into the science of cryptography would help—a person could be burned at the stake for the sin of heresy in more centuries than not and grimoires were often written in code. It would also be wise to attain a master’s knowledge of very old books themselves—the paper they were penned on, the material used to construct the covers, the ink used in the illuminated borders and illustrations, the quality and flow of period quills and brushes. Authentic editions, with provenance, sell for a great price, and forgeries are rampant. An equally lavish fee is charged for a single reading of the rarest, genuine, and powerful spell-books.

(6) SFF AUTHORS ON GENDER PANEL IN HONG KONG. In conjunction with the Melon Conference 2, the University of Hong Kong recently held a seminar on Gender in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing. Mlex interviewed an attendee about what the panelists had to say in “Hong Kong Science Fiction Scene – Gender in SFF” for Yunchtime.

To find out more about the Hong Kong Science Fiction and Fantasy scene, Yunchtime reached out to Dr. Christine Yi Lai Luk, at the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences of the Univeristy of Hong Kong, who attended the panel discussion….

YUNCHTIME: How did the seminar and panel discussion live up to the proposed topic?

LUK: There is plenty of room for improvement, I’d say. It is a panel of three women SF writers, but they did not explore “the world of women in SF” as advertised in the above description. It is more appropriate to call the seminar “women/gender and SF” because it is just three women talking about their SF work.

YUNCHTIME: How about the panelists, can you describe briefly some of their thoughts or comments?

LUK: I think Becky Chambers‘ views were the most relevant to the proposed topic. Chambers revealed how she was drawn into the world of SF from an early age onward. Raised in a space science-heavy family (her father is a rocket engineer and her mother an astrobiologist), she was introduced to SF and space fantasy movies as early as she could remember.

Her favorite SF novel of all time is “The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula LeGuin (a lot of nods from the audience as the name was dropped). She said writing SF gives her confidence as she is an introvert.

I think her experience reflects a certain gender norm in the SF realm: Unlike the blondy sorority type of girls, girls who are into SF are perceived as shy and nerdy, and incapable of drawing the attention from the opposite sex (except maybe from Wookie-dressed superfans).

Tang Fei does not write in English, only in Chinese. Her Chinese works are translated into English and they draw attention in the English-speaking world partly because her works are banned in China. Actually, Tang Fei is a pen name.

Because the conference was being held entirely in English and due to the language barrier, Tang Fei’s sharing was not effective as we could have hoped. She only managed to say a few sentences in English (with a very soft voice). Then, during the Q&A, she was relying on the organizer, Nicole Huang, to act as her interpreter.

The main thing I caught from Tang Fei is that in the future, human beings will exist in disembodied form and thus the only “gender” issue for SF writers to engage in will be purely on the psychological aspect.

Zen Cho talked about her upbringing in Malaysia and her identity as an English-speaking Hokkien among mainstream Malays. She did not identify herself as a SF writer, but as a fantasy writer. I don’t think she has said anything remotely relevant to gender.

(7) STEELE AND SF IN HONG KONG. Mlex also covered “Hong Kong Science Fiction Scene – Allen Steele on the Melon Conference 2018” for Yunchtime.

YUNCHTIME: What is your impression of Fritz Demoupolis? Is he a big SFF fan? Demoupolis is a successful entrepreneur and venture capitalist, do you think he sees a business opportunity for the SFF genre in Hong Kong and China?

STEELE: Fritz Demopoulos is an interesting fellow … a California-born ex-pat who came to Hong Kong about 20 years ago and has stayed to make his fortune. My brother-in-law did much the same thing, so I’m familiar with this sort of entrepreneurship. He’s most definitely a SF fan. He discovered the genre through finding his father’s beat-up copy of Asimov’s Foundation and has been reading SF ever since. He knows the field, is familiar with major authors both old and new, loves the same movies and TV shows the rest of us do, and overall is an example of a highly-successful businessman who also happens to be something of a geek.

Melon is Fritz’s brainchild — he’d have to explain to you why he gave it that name — and it’s unique among SF gatherings. As I said, it’s not a con in the conventional sense — yes, that’s a deliberate pun; stop groaning — but rather a symposium that’s sort of academic without being stuffy or pretentious. The people Fritz invited to be speakers were SF writers — a few Americans like myself, but mainly young Asian authors— scientists from the U.S., Europe, and Asia, and a number of Hong Kong-based entrepreneurs working in both emerging technologies like AI and also mass media

(8) HAWKING OBSEQUIES. Henry Nicholls, in the Reuters story “Friends, Family, Public Flock To Funeral of Physicist Stephen Hawking,” says that Hawking’s coffin had white “Universe” lilies and white “Polar Star” roses and a “space music” composition called “Beyond The Night Sky” was played.

The 76-year-old scientist was mourned by his children Robert, Lucy and Timothy, joined by guests including playwright Alan Bennett, businessman Elon Musk and model Lily Cole.

Eddie Redmayne, the actor who played Professor Hawking in the 2014 film “The Theory of Everything” was one of the readers in the ceremony and Felicity Jones, who played his wife, Jane Hawking in the film also attended the service.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 31, 1840 — President Van Buren issued executive order establishing 10-hour workday for federal employees.
  • March 31, 1987 Max Headroom aired on TV.
  • March 31, 1995 Tank Girl debuted in theaters.
  • March 31, 1999 The Matrix premiered.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) WHICH COMES FIRST? THE PRESS RELEASE. In “The Silicon Valley elite’s latest status symbol: Chickens” the Washington Post says, “Their pampered birds wear diapers and have personal chefs — but lay the finest eggs tech money can buy.”

…In true Silicon Valley fashion, chicken owners approach their birds as any savvy venture capitalist might: By throwing lots of money at a promising flock (spending as much as $20,000 for high-tech coops). By charting their productivity (number and color of eggs). And by finding new ways to optimize their birds’ happiness — as well as their own.

Like any successful start-up, broods aren’t built so much as reverse engineered. Decisions about breed selection are resolved by using engineering matrices and spreadsheets that capture “YoY growth.” Some chicken owners talk about their increasingly extravagant birds like software updates, referring to them as “Gen 1,” “Gen 2,” “Gen 3” and so on. They keep the chicken brokers of the region busy finding ever more novel birds.

“At Amazon, whenever we build anything we write the press release first and decide what we want the end to be and I bring the same mentality to the backyard chickens,” said Ken Price, the director of Amazon Go, who spent a decade in San Francisco before moving to Seattle. Price, 49, has had six chickens over the past eight years and is already “succession planning” for his next “refresh.”

(12) ENERGIES IMAGINED. In “Fuelling the Future” on Aeon, Aberstywyth University historian Iwan Rhys Morus analyzes Robert A. Heinlein’s 1940 story “Let There Be Light” in an analysis of how sf writers created stories about new power sources.

Heinlein needed the sunscreens to make his future work; that is, to answer the problem of how technological culture might flourish in a world of diminishing resources. This was not a new problem, even in 1940, and it is an increasingly pressing one now. The question of what is going to fuel the future has never been more urgent. Is it going to be wind or wave power? Will fuel cells, solar panels or even the holy grail of fusion be the answer to our problems? Or are we going to frack ourselves into oblivion? If we want to better understand how we speculate about future energy now, then we need to appreciate the extent to which those speculations have a history, and that their history (from the early Victorian period on) contains such fictions as Heinlein’s story as often as, and frequently mixed in with, highly technical debates about the characteristics and requirements of different modes of energy production and consumption.

(13) RUSS’ INFLUENCE. The Baffler’s Jessa Crispin, in “No Mothers, No Daughters”, an excerpt from her introduction to a new edition of Joanna Russ’s How to Supress Women’s Writing, says “I came at Russ sideways…seeing her name-checked by the punk rock chicks who created their own culture through zines an mix tapes when they failed to see themselves through thee wider culture.”

Reading Joanna Russ’s How to Suppress Women’s Writing, I wondered, what the hell is it going to take? For decades we have had these types of critiques. We have had books and lectures and personal essays and statistics and scientific studies about unconscious bias. And yet still we have critics like Jonathan Franzen speculating on whether Edith Wharton’s physical beauty (or lack of it, as is his assessment of her face and body) affected her writing, we have a literary culture that is still dominated by one small segment of the population, we have a sense that every significant contribution to the world of letters was made by the heterosexual white man—and that sense is reinforced in the education system, in the history books, and in the visible world.

This complaint wasn’t even exactly fresh territory when Russ wrote her book, which I do not say to diminish her accomplishment. It is always an act of bravery to stand up to say these things, to risk being thought of as ungrateful. Your small pile of crumbs can always get smaller.

But what is it going to take to break apart these rigidities? Russ’s book is a formidable attempt. It is angry without being self-righteous, it is thorough without being exhausting, and it is serious without being devoid of a sense of humor. But it was published over thirty years ago, in 1983, and there’s not an enormous difference between the world she describes and the one we currently inhabit.

(14) THE MARCHING GENIUSES: At Featured Futures, Jason’s prepared another list of bright literary lights in the Summation: March 2018

The fifteen noted stories (nine recommended) come from the 112 (of about 560,000 words) that I’ve read with a publication date between February 26 and March 31. The printzines were decent, with Analog, Asimov’s, F&SF and Interzone (the latter reviewed for Tangent) being represented by more than one story from their bi-monthly issues. On the web, Lightspeed has two from just this month while Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Flash
Fiction Online
, and Nature also make appearances.

(15) JDA SIGHTING. Kilroy was there.

Or as JDA put it in his press release (!) –

Today was a step forward for the cviil rights of conservative-libertarians in SF/F, as I attended the Hugo Award Nomination ceremony without harassment from the Worldcon 2018 staff. It proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am 1. not disruptive at Worldcon events — or any convention, as FogCon proved and 2. that the discrimination I face from them was for reasons other than my being a danger to any guests (since I am clearly not, and they clearly didn’t think I was here).

The Worldcon Staff was uninviting — a nearly all white group I might add — not seeming to want to have a Hispanic author in their presence. It is something we will have to overcome in fandom together in time.

(16) GRAND THEFT LUNCH. SFF cannot keep up with stories like this from the real world!!!! Begin here —

(17) IN CHARACTER. Jeff Goldblum in his Thor: Ragnarok character in a short film “Grandmaster Moves To Earth.” From 2017, but it’s news to me!

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

Pixel Scroll 11/22/17 By Jove, Who Scrolled The Quartz Monkey Pixel Fudge?

(1) WORLDCON 76 HOTEL RESERVATIONS. Worldcon 76 emailed the passkey to members today and opened reservations today at 1 p.m. Pacific time.

The Marriott and the Hilton, the two hotels directly connected to the CC, and the least expensive of the official hotels, almost immediately became unavailable, presumably due to being booked up.

The Fairmont, the party hotel ($199/night), The Hyatt Place, Westin and The AC Hotel by Marriott remain available on the convention dates (Thursday-Monday) at this writing. However, when I added Wednesday to my request, only The Fairmont was available.

(2) NEW “NOTHING TO READ” UPDATE. North Carolina schoolteacher Becky Sasala (sister of John Joseph Adams) has received hundreds of donated books for her classroom library since her appeal was posted in September (item #2).

View this post on Instagram

Updated classroom library. #englishteacher

A post shared by Becky Donovan Sasala (@becky_sasala) on

(3) NEW HUMBLE BOOK BUNDLE. The “Humble Book Bundle: Stellar Sci-Fi & Fantasy by Tachyon” is offered for a short time at the usual pay-what-you-want rates. Pay more, unlock more books.

$1+

  • Falling In Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson (World Fantasy Award Winner)
  • The Third Bear by Jeff VanderMeer
  • In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle
  • Invaders by Junot Diaz, Katherine Dunn, Jonathan Lethem, contributors
  • Wicked Wonders by Ellen Klages

$8+

  • The Very Best of Kate Elliott
  • The Very Best of Tad Williams
  • Beyond the Rift by Peter Watts
  • Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology by John Kessel, James Patrick Kelly, contributors
  • Wonders of the Invisible World by Patricia A. McKillip
  • Pirate Utopia by Bruce Sterling

$15+

  • Context: Further Selected Essays on Productivity, Creativity, Parenting, and Politics in the 21st Century by Cory Doctorow
  • Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror by Stephen King, Clive Barker, George R. R. Martin, contributors
  • Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds (Locus Award Winner)
  • Not So Much, Said the Cat by Michael Swanwick (Hugo Award Winner)
  • Hap and Leonard Ride Again by Joe R. Lansdale
  • Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, contributors
  • The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson (Hugo Award Winner)

$18+

  • Central Station by Lavie Tidhar (Campbell Award Winner)
  • Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress (Nebula Award Winner)
  • Led Astray: The Best of Kelly Armstrong
  • Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade by Joe R. Lansdale
  • Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, contributors
  • The New Voices of Fantasy by Peter Beagle, Jacob Weisman, contributors

(4) SPEED SHOPPING. Pornokitch’s 2017 gifting guide begins with Becky Chambers’ suggestions:

Becky recommends:

If they need a laugh after this garbage fire of a year, then get them season one of The Good Place, because we’re all messy humans, we’re all caught up in stupid systems beyond our control, and we all could use some frozen yogurt.

If they’re still ride or die for Game of Thrones while simultaneously nursing a bitter resentment over how much better this show could do by its female characters, then get them the Skyrim Special Edition and let them live their own high fantasy adventure. It’s got all the time-sucking goodness of the original game, but the art’s gloriously remastered, the DLC’s unlocked, and the bugs are (mostly) fixed.

If they aren’t religious but love the winter holidays for symbolizing love and kindness in the face of the freezing dark, then give them The Bonobo and the Atheist by primatologist Frans de Waal. It’s a thought-provoking, perspective-altering, brain-calming book about compassion as natural instinct….

(5) PIXAR EXEC PLACED ON “SABBATICAL”. The Washington Post’s Steven Zeitchik, in “Disney animation guru John Lasseter takes leave after sexual misconduct allegations” follows up The Hollywood Reporter piece about John Lasseter being sidelined on sexual harassment allegations by noting that Lasseter is “one of the most important figures in modern entertainment…in charge of hundreds of people, making discipline a more fraught affair.”

Citing a six-month “sabbatical,” Lasseter closed the letter to employees saying he looked forward to “working together again in the new year.”

It remains unclear whether Disney could extend the leave or make it permanent. The company released a short statement late Tuesday saying that it is “committed to maintaining an environment in which all employees are respected and empowered to do their best work. We appreciate John’s candor and sincere apology and fully support his sabbatical.”

…The Hollywood Reporter piece cited one woman as saying Lasseter was prone to “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes.” Another woman said that Lasseter’s statement Tuesday that centered on hugs minimized the alleged offenses. Many of the accusers were anonymous.

The story said that the writer-actor Rashida Jones had left “Toy Story 4” because of Lasseter’s behavior. But she and writing partner Will McCormack later issued a statement that “we did not leave Pixar because of unwanted advances.  That is untrue.” They said instead that diversity concerns played a role. “There is so much talent at Pixar and we remain enormous fans of their films.  But it is also a culture where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice,” they wrote.

(6) BLABBING FOR DOLLARS. SyFy Wire says “J.J. Abrams is selling Star Wars spoilers for a good cause”.

When J.J. Abrams directed Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he was his usual secretive self right up until the end. But something seems to have changed in the Star Wars/J.J. Abrams universe since he was tapped to direct Star Wars Episode IX. He’s now selling Star Wars spoilers to the highest bidder.

After Ron Howard’s masterful use of social media when it came to getting fans engaged with Solo: A Star Wars Story, Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy announced a shift in the company’s attitude toward sharing more information with the fans, and we even saw a verified Twitter handle pop up for Abrams (no tweets yet, but we remain hopeful), but J.J.’s appearance on HBO’s Night of Too Many Stars definitely qualifies as a new development.

To help raise money for autism, J.J. offered up the plot of Star Wars Episode IX to one lucky bidder. What happened next? Well, you’ll just have to watch….

(7) UNLIKELY PAIR. Yahoo! Entertainment writer Gwynne Watkins, in “‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’: 7 things we just learned”, summarized  the Entertainment Weekly issue devoted to the film, and says that a reunion between Luke and Leia is highly unlikely and General Leia’s successor is her childhood friend Admiral Holdo, played by Laura Dern.

One of the biggest questions for longtime Star Wars fans is whether estranged twins Luke and Leia will find one another in The Last Jedi, since Carrie Fisher died before shooting any scenes for Episode IX. (Lucasfilm has said they will not digitally recreate the character to conclude her storyline.) EW won’t say either way, but their coverage suggests that a reunion may have been planned for the third part of the trilogy, which is slated for 2019 and hasn’t begun production. Nevertheless, director Rian Johnson chose to pair Luke (Mark Hamill) and Leia on one of EW‘s four covers. “It’s nice seeing them on the cover though. Even if all we have is that,” Johnson told the magazine.

(8) PROP WORTH MORE THAN MOVIE. After Bonham auctioned Robby the Robot for over $5.3M, Phil Nichols of Bradburymedia did a little checking —

According to Wikipedia (so it MUST be true!), the movie cost $1,968,000. It took in $2,765,000 at the box office. So Robby alone has earned nearly double what the film earned.

(9) TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES FOR FORTY THOUSAND BUCKS, Another sff treasure sold at yesterday’s auction was “A Harper Goff scrapbook pertaining to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, for $40,000 including premium.

“Forget Robby,” says Andrew Porter. “Click on images to see gorgeous preproduction paintings and behind-the-camera photos.”

Titled “A history in informal photography,” this is production designer Harper Goff’s personal scrapbook documenting every stage of the making of his masterpiece, Walt Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This is a mother lode of original artwork, rare photographs, and ephemera from the film, curated throughout with Goff’s handwritten captions. Goff’s original art in this lot includes an incredible series of 5 vividly-colored, action-packed sequential paintings of the submarine Nautilus’ attack on the USS Abraham Lincoln.

(10) PHOENIX EVENT CANCELLED. From Nerdvana we learn — “LepreCon 44 cancels 2018 Phoenix Science Fiction and Fantasy Art Expo”.

The Phoenix Science Fiction and Fantasy Art Expo, which was scheduled for March 16-18, 2018, in conjunction with and presented by LepreCon 44, is apparently canceled — but may be retooled.

…According to the group’s Facebook page and website, “LepreCon 44, in the form of the Phoenix Sci-Fi & Fantasy Art Expo, which was scheduled for March 2018 at the Unexpected Art Gallery, has been cancelled. LepreCon, Inc. is no longer associated with any event of that name.

(11) UNDER THE HAMMER. Dominic Winter Auctioneers will be handling the sale of The Library Of Richard Adams on  December 14. The catalog is now available in print and online.

Comprising 1500 books sold singly and in groups in a total of 134 lots, the antiquarian highlights include a Shakespeare Second Folio, 1632, a uniformly calf-bound set of the first editions of Jane Austen, a very rare first edition of John Milton’s Lycidas, 1638, and a two-volume first edition of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary, 1755. Among the highlights of the children’s books are first editions of Alice in Wonderland, Wind in the Willows and the four Winnie-the-Pooh books. Adams’s deep interest in the history of English literature, poetry, nineteenth-century fiction and country matters is also reflected throughout the collection, many of the highlights of which bear his bookplate.

(12) COCO. NPR’s Bob Mondello says: “In ‘Coco,’ Pixar Finds Joyous Life — In Death”

We get there alongside young Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), who lives with his shoemaking family in a Mexican village. He’s a happy kid, except for one thing: His family has lived an entirely music-free existence for three generations. His grandmother (Renee Victor) has forbidden it all — no blowing into soda bottles, no listening to passing car radios and absolutely no mariachis.

Miguel knows why. Years ago, his musical great-great-grandfather grabbed his guitar and left, never to return. On Dia de Muertos — the Day of the Dead — when it’s said the deceased return to visit their families, no one so much as mentions great-great-granddad. Which means Miguel gets a bit of a shock when he strums a guitar in a cemetery on that day and finds himself and his street puppy Dante — get it? — transported to the land of the dead.

(13) TANZER REVIEWED. NPR’s Jason Sheehan approves of subtlety: “‘Creatures Of Will And Temper’ Is A Slow-Burn Slide Into Deviltry”

The biggest problem with most urban fantasy is that, by nature, it becomes alternate history. It’s Renaissance Italy, but with vampires. Or Victorian England, but everyone wears cool goggles and has an airship!

And there’s nothing wrong with that. There are stories out there that have done wonders with their skewed versions of our shared past. I’m just saying it’s rare for a writer to be able to do one (insert a fantasy element into a historical setting) without doing the other (letting the dragons eat the townsfolk, thereby giving rise to Bert the Dragonbasher, hero of West Crudwell, or whatever). And when someone pulls it off as well as Molly Tanzer in her new novel, Creatures of Will and Temper, it’s worth checking out just to see the restraint and careful worldbuilding gymnastics required.

Honestly, if that was the only thing Tanzer accomplished here, I’d be impressed. She has created a Victorian England which is, in all noticeable ways, exactly the Victorian England we know — the mother of our modern world, by turns smoky, smutty, gross and backward, then beautiful, wondrous and louche with the turn of a corner. And yet, embedded in it — woven so closely into the fabric of normalcy that almost no one can see it — Tanzer has given us … demons.

(14) DON’T SPARE THE ROD. John W. Campbell would have been thrilled to hear it: “U.K. Water Companies Sometimes Use Dowsing Rods To Find Pipes”.

Most of the major water companies in the United Kingdom use dowsing rods — a folk magic practice discredited by science — to find underwater pipes, according to an Oxford Ph.D. student and science video producer who accidentally discovered the practice is still in use.

Ten out of the U.K.’s 12 regional water and sewer utilities confirmed to Sally Le Page that they at least occasionally use dowsing rods, also known as divining rods or “witching sticks,” to locate underground water sources. Many of the companies later emphasized that dowsing is done by individuals, not as a company-wide policy, and that it does not cost any money.

Le Page began asking water companies about the practice after her parents told her that they saw a water technician holding “two bent tent pegs” to decide how much of the road needed to be closed off. Le Page was incredulous and started asking water companies if this was an actual practice they used.

(15) FREQUENT VISITOR. It’s been in and out of Europe multiple times: “Plague reached Europe by Stone Age”.

Plague was present in Europe during the late Stone Age, according to a study of ancient remains.

Writing in Current Biology journal, researchers suggest the deadly bacterium entered Europe with a mass migration of people from further east.

They screened more than 500 ancient skeletal samples and recovered the full genomes of plague bacteria from six individuals.

These six variously date to between Late Neolithic and Bronze Age times.

The plague-positive samples come from Russia, Germany, Lithuania, Estonia and Croatia.

“The two samples from Russia and Croatia are among the oldest plague-positive samples published. They are contemporary with [a] previously published sample from the Altai region [in Siberia],” co-author Alexander Herbig from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, told BBC News.

The plague bacterium, Yersinia pestis, was responsible for several major historic pandemics, including the infamous Black Death in the 14th Century, which is estimated to have killed between 30% and 60% of Europe’s population.

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

2017 Prix Utopiales Winners

The Prix Utopiales 2017 were announced November 4 during an award ceremony at the Utopiales International Science Fiction Festival of Nantes in France. Here are the winners in the fiction and comic book categories.

The European Utopiales Award

  • L’Installation de la peur by Rui Zink, translated from the Portuguese “A Instalação do Medo” (The Installation of Fear) by Maira Muchnik

The award recognizes a novel, or a collection, published in French during the eligibility period by a European author. The prize has a cash value of 3000 euros.

Prix Utopiales Européen Jeunesse 2017 (Utopiales European Youth Awards)

  • Le jardin des épitaphes, tome 1: Celui qui reste debout, Taï-Marc Le Thanh (Didier jeunesse)

The award has a cash value of 2000 euros. The winner was chosen by a jury of seven young people from the Nantes region, aged between 13 and 16: Stellenn Le Moine, Alban Mentzer, Irenee Brasseur, Anais Gervais, Louis Espi, Garance Tulli-Houzet, Ruffine Kitenge. President of the Jury: Denis E. Savine, translator.

Prix Utopiales BD 2017 (for Best Comic Book)

  • La terre de fils de Gilpi (Éditiones Futuropolis)

Prix Extraordinare Utopiales 2017

  • Pierre Bordage, French sff novelist

Prix Joel-Champetier

  • Feldrik Rivat for Le Contrat Antonov-201

The prize is for unpublished short fiction in French by non-Canadian writers. The winner receives € 1000. The winning work will be published in the Winter 2017 issue of the Canadian prozine Solaris.

Presented earlier this weekend was the Julia Verlanger Prize, a literary award established in 1986 which honors science fiction and fantasy novels.

Prix Julia Verlanger 

  • L’espace d’un an et Libration de Becky Chambers (L’Atalante) (A Closed and Common Orbit)

Pixel Scroll 10/20/17 The Fan In The High Pixel

(1) WELCH’S STAR WARS VINTAGES. Collect and swill ’em all!

The Force is strong with these ones! Welch’s new Star Wars™ themed Sparkling Red 100% Grape Juice is the perfect addition to your celebration, or to your collection. Find all 4 unique designs, including the limited edition!

(2) PULLMAN ON THE AIR. Starting next Monday, BBC Radio 4 is presenting a 10-part audio narration of Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage, volume 1 of Pullman’s new The Book of Dust trilogy.

Episode 1 at 10:45 PM (GMT), Monday 10/23. As usual with BBC, the episodes will be available for online listening “shortly after broadcast”.

This is part of BBC’s Book At Bedtime series, which is more of an audiobook-on-radio than the dramatic adaptations they’ve done elsewhere on their schedule.

Accompanying the novel installments will be nonfiction essays by Pullman, “Dreaming of Spires”:

In these personal, entertaining and deeply thoughtful essays, Philip Pullman examines the art of storytelling.

Written over a period of 30 years, they reflect on a wide range of topics including the origins of his own stories, the practice of writing and the storytellers who have most inspired him.

(3) FORMERLY FORBIDDEN. Cat Rambo conducts an “Interview with Sherwood Smith on Omniscient Point of View in the Inda Series”.

Recently the question of omniscient POV has come up in several classes, so I started reading some examples of it. One of the best I hit was Sherwood Smith’s Inda series. I figured, why not go to Sherwood and ask some questions about how she pulled that off.

What drew you to using omniscient point of view for the Inda series? What sorts of stories work particularly well with that POV? Were there any models that you looked when working with it?

I had always written in omni. I’m a visual writer (with all its pluses and pitfalls), which means I see a movie in my head—not just dialogue but characters’ inner lives. Omni always seemed the easiest way to get that movie down.

But when I started selling, I was told to switch to limited third, which I had to learn.

Segue up a couple decades, I was desperate to escape the limitations of third, and omni was no longer (trigger doom music) Forbidden….

(4) BECKY CHAMBERS’ NEXT NOVEL. Hodderscape invites you to “Read the first extract from Becky Chamber’s Record of A Spaceborn Few

When we heard that Becky Chambers was writing a new book set in the world of the Wayfarers we were over the moon. When we read the blurb and heard that one of the main characters was an alien academic (squee!) we were way over the moon and somewhere near Jupiter. Then we read this extract and we shot into a whole other galaxy entirely.

Record of a Spaceborn Few arrives 26th July 2018 and is available to pre-order now.

(5) FILERS AND REFILERS. Librarians at an Auckland public library kept finding books that had gone missing from their shelves “reshelved” in nooks & crannies.  Turns out bookloving homeless people were responsible (because they didn’t want the books to be lent out before they got a chance to finish reading). The New Zealand Herald has the story: “The curious case of the missing books at Auckland Library”.

“A lot of the guys that come in are extremely well-read and have some quite eccentric and high-brow literary tastes … people are homeless for so many different reasons, and being intelligent and interested in literature doesn’t preclude that.”

According to Rivera, around 50 homeless people visit the library daily.

The story also has been taken up by The Guardian.

(6) FOR YOUR SJW CREDENTIAL. Cat bowls hand-painted by celebrities are being auctioned for the benefit of “Architects For Animals Giving Shelter”. They include the handiwork of William Shatner, Elvira, and Jeri Ryan.

(7) HOVERCRAFTER. IBM’s Science and Star Wars video series talks about how superconductors are the future of mass transportation – an installment featuring Kevin Roche, engineer scientist at IBM Research Almaden who coincidentally is also chair of next year’s Worldcon in San Jose.

(8) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Episode Five-Oh! Book ‘em, Danno! Scott Edelman invites everyone to “Bask in Basque beef stew as Eating the Fantastic turns 50 with guest Xia Jia”.

Here we we are, more than 20 months later, and those of you who’ve followed my journey have listened as I’ve shared at times full meals—at times a donut, during my two lightninground episodes—with more than 75 guests. And the feasting’s not over yet!

This time around, I’m inviting you to join me and my guest for lunch during Worldcon at Parrilla Española, the oldest Spanish restaurant in Helsinki.

And who is this episode’s guest?

Xia Jia, whose short stories have been published in Nature, Clarkesworld, Year’s Best SF, Science Fiction World, and many other venues. She’s won five Galaxy Awards for Chinese Science Fiction as well as six Nebula Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy in Chinese. But her science fiction skills have been visible on more than just the page, because she directed the 2007 science fiction film Parapax, in which she also acted, appearing as three different identities of the protagonist across parallel universes.

We discussed how reading science fiction gave her the courage to take risks; what it means when she says she writes not hard SF, nor soft SF, nor slipstream, nor cyberpunk, but “porridge sci-fi;” why Ray Bradbury matters so much to her; the challenges of writing in Chinese, writing in English, and translating from one language to the other; our mutual love for Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler; how The Three-Body Problem changed the perceptions of science fiction in China, why she has faith she’ll eventually get to Mars, and more.

(9) MAY OBIT. Julian May (1931-2017) died October 17.

John Hertz profiled her in “May the Force Be With Her” in 2015, after he accepted her First Fandom Hall of Fame Award on her behalf.

She has always spelled her name Julian, and although after marrying T.E. Dikty (1920-1991, elected posthumously in 2013) she sometimes declared copyright as Julian May Dikty, she continued to write under the name Julian May — among others, including, I’m told, Wolfgang Amadeus Futslogg, by which I dare not address her.

Her fanzine was Interim Newsletter, rendering her to some extent a surrogate for all of us. Her story “Dune Roller” was in the December 1951 issue of Campbell’s Astounding, with four interiors by herself (it was made into a 1972 film, credited to her as Judy Dikty). Eight months later she chaired Chicon II, at the age of twenty-one….

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 20, 1932 — James Whale’s The Old Dark House opens in theaters.
  • October 20, 1943 Son of Dracula premieres.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • October 20, 1882 – Bela Lugosi

(12) COMICS SECTION.

John King Tarpinian believes in Frankensteinly speaking as practiced by The Argyle Sweater.

(13) SPEAK UP. Mary Robinette Kowal is boosting the signal.

(14) SOUND INVESTMENT.  Atlas Obscura takes us “Inside the World of a Halloween Sound-Effects Artist”.

…Jumping ahead to the late 1950s, vinyl records allowed people to bring albums of sound effects home. Novelty records by the likes of Spike Jones, featuring funny monster songs and spooky stories set to eerie effects, became popular. However, possibly the first record with a track of just spooky sounds seems to be a record released by Disney in 1964 called Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House. The album features effects that are now Halloween staples: moaning ghosts, barking dogs, clattering chains, and screaming victims, interspersed with short, often comedic, vocal segments that established them. “Disney’s Haunted House album, which was rereleased in 1995, seems to have become a staple in the U.S.A. in particular,” Haggerwood says.

(15) ANOTHER WORLD. At Nerds of a Feather, The G kicks off a new series of posts: “WORLDBUILDING: A Big World and Beyond”.

Welcome to the first post in our Worldbuilding series, where our writers explore various elements of imagining place, people and culture. Today I’m going to discuss where inspiration for fantasy worlds comes from, and what I’d like to read more of in that regard. Obligatory disclaimer: this is an opinion piece. You may agree, if our tastes align or if the arguments put forth resonate with you; or you may disagree, if they do not. That’s healthy. There is ample space for all kinds of approaches to fantasy, and life would be boring if we all wanted to read the same things. -G

Second-world fantasy is not historical, but draws from human histories, cultures and mythologies. The most famous and influential fantasy author, J.R.R. Tolkien, drew heavily from Nordic and Celtic mythologies in constructing Middle Earth. Most fantasy published since The Lord of the Rings has been similarly Eurocentric, utilizing the tropes he established and/or popularized as well as other widely-known (European) sources: Arthurian Legends, the Brothers Grimm, Niebelungenlied and various medieval bestiaries. Many, like Tolkien, are also in a sense a retelling of Song of Roland, or Herodatus–wherein a “civilized” stand-in for the West is threatened by a horde from the geographic periphery.

(16) TASTER’S CHOICE. Also at Nerds of a Feather, Charles Payseur uploads his monthly short fiction reviews: “THE MONTHLY ROUND – A Taster’s Guide to Speculative Short Fiction, 09/2017”.

The stories very much run the gamut between joyous and crushing, but each one is beautiful in its own way, and each brings its unique flavor to this early autumn tasting experience. So settle in and raise a glass, and let’s get to it. Cheers!

Tasting Flight – September 2017

“Pan-Humanism: Hope and Pragmatics” by Jess Barber and Sara Saab (Clarkesworld)

Notes: Expertly balanced between darkness and light, the story tastes like a breath of fresh air after a lifetime of smog, warms and lifts and offers a hope of healing.

Pairs with: Amber Bock

Review: Amir and Mani grow up in a Beirut strained by climate change, by water-scarcity, by the fear of doing greater harm. Both characters, because of their world and because of the weight of history, know only too well the cost of possession, of privatization. Both enter into service to try and heal the planet and bring water and hope and life back to a world that is on the brink. At the same time, they find themselves drawn to one another, and yet mindful that how humans treat the world, and how they treat each other, is linked, and that treating people like possessions, just like treating the Earth like a possession, leads only to corruption, deprivation, and loss. The story, through the exploration of these characters lives and relationships, begins to build a picture of what it might take to make the world work better. It stresses that it’s not technology alone that will save us, because without a philosophy to match, the exploitation and consumption will continue to escalate, pushing past all obstacles and barriers and safeguards. I love how the story implies that humanity needs a different framework in order to respect humans and the environment, in order to put cooperation and compassion ahead of personal ambition or passion. And it is a beautiful story that touches on how love still works in this philosophy, not quite in the same way that we now expect but still in profound and powerful dimensions that allow Amir and Mani’s story to be one of hope and healing and triumph, even as it is often about longing and distance as well. It is an amazing piece, and one of my very favorite stories of the year, period.

(17) WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE. At Centauri Dreams, an interesting piece on whether robotics might make the traditional SF vision of asteroid mining practical — “Robotic Asteroid Mining: Bootstrapping the Solar System Economy”.

While the prospects for humans in space dimmed somewhat, a renewed flowering of developments in AI and robotics burst onto the scene with capabilities that astonished us each year.  On the endlessly orbiting ISS, while astronauts entertained us with tricks that we have seen since the dawn of spaceflight, autonomous robots improved by leaps and bounds.  Within a decade of a DARPA road challenge, driverless cars that could best most human drivers for safety appeared on the roads.  Dextrous robots replaced humans in factories in a wide variety of industries and threaten to dramatically displace human workers. DeepMind’s AlphaGo AI beat the world’s champion GO player with moves described as “beautiful” and well within the predicted time frames.  In space, robotic craft have visited every planet in the solar system and smart rovers are crawling over the face of Mars.  A private robot may soon be on the Moon.  In orbit, swarms of small satellites, packing more compute power than a 1990 vintage Cray supercomputer, are monitoring the Earth with imaging technologies that equal those of some large government satellites. On Earth we have seen the birth of additive manufacturing, AKA 3D printing, promising to put individual crafting of objects in the hands of everyone.

What this portends is an intelligent, machine-based economy in space.  Machines able to operate where humans cannot easily go, are ideally suited to operating there.  Increasingly lightweight and capable, and heedless of life support systems, robotic missions are much cheaper..  How long before the balance tips overwhelmingly in the machines’ favor? Operating autonomously, advanced machines might rapidly transform the solar system.

(18) FASHION VIOLATIONS. Kelly Woo’s Yahoo! piece, “Halloween horror: 19 terrible ‘sexy’ movie and TV costumes no one should ever wear”, is clickbait that warns that women who want to dress up as Sexy Freddy Kruger, Sexy Strawberry Shortcake, and Sexy Remote Control, don’t do it!

So-called sexy Halloween costumes have gotten out of control in the last few years, with manufacturers doing their best to crank out a “sexy” version of pretty much anything. Even characters that have no business being sexy are now tarted up — and it’s time for the madness to end. Click through to see 19 terrible “sexy” pop culture costumes that simply should not exist.

(19) KEEPS ON TICKING. Lisa Taylor is enthusiastic about The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones — review at The Speculative Herald.

I’ll cut straight to it: The Salt Line is one of my favorites for the year. The entire concept of killer ticks sounds like it could be campy or over the top. That is not at all the case. The ticks are described in such a realistic and terrifying way that it truly becomes plausible. Or at least feels plausible. The author is able to use enough facts grounded in science to create this terrifying epidemic. This book did remind me a bit of Joe Hill’s The Fireman in that way. It depicts a world that has been ravaged by some disease, where people’s ways of life are altered because of them. I suppose there are a number of books that could fit this, but the over all tone and presentation and just the quality of writing put me in mind of Hill. That is a huge compliment from me as Hill is one of my favorite, must read authors.

(20) IT IS THE END, MY FRIEND. Talk about “news to me” – I never heard there was another ending: “Frank Oz restores dark original ending of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ for Trump era”.

The first time Warner Bros. screened Little Shop of HorrorsFrank Oz’s 1986 film musical, test audiences ate it up like a bloodthirsty plant devouring a sadistic dentist. They rooted hard for Seymour (Rick Moranis), the nerdy 1960s shop assistant who makes a devil’s bargain with a man-eating plant to win the love of his co-worker Audrey (Ellen Greene). Every scene met with laughter and applause — until the plant devoured Seymour and Audrey, and the audience went silent. After two previews and many livid comment cards, Oz and screenwriter Howard Ashman decided to scrap the original, 23-minute ending — in which the plant eats everyone and takes over the world — in favor of giving Seymour and Audrey their happily-ever-after. Oz has no regrets. “My job is to entertain,” he tells Yahoo Entertainment, and the new ending was “more satisfying to the audience.” However, film fans have long mourned the disappearance of the original ending, which included a heartbreaking reprise of Audrey’s ballad “Somewhere That’s Green” and a fantastic montage of the plant, named Audrey II, rampaging, Godzilla-style, across New York City.

This month, Little Shop of Horrors will be screened for the first time nationwide with its original, darker ending restored. Oz wonders if the film will have a new resonance in the Trump era, when America’s real-life monsters thrive on blood, greed, and the misguided good intentions of countless Seymours….

(21) THE KINDEST CUT OF ALL. Vanity Fair interviews the principals to find out “How The Princess Bride Built Film’s Most Beloved Sword Fight”.

For six months, Princess Bride star Mandy Patinkin had trained to become Inigo Montoya, the world’s greatest swordsman. His worthy opponent, the Man in Black/Westley—played by Cary Elwes—had four months of prep under his belt as well. Spirits were high as the actors performed their duel for director Rob Reiner on the Cliffs of Insanity set for the first time, in London in 1986.

Elwes and Patinkin finished, drawing applause from the film’s crew. Then, both drenched in sweat, they looked to Reiner, who voiced his own response: “That’s it?” It wasn’t exactly the reaction they had hoped for.

(22) THE PEN IS MIGHTIER. Marked down to $6,862.50! “Montegrappa Limited The Iron Throne Game Of Thrones Limited Edition Fountain Pen & Rollerball Set Matching Number”.

But if you can’t swing that, there’s always “Montegrappa Limited DC Comics Superhero Set Ballpoint” for  $3,920.00.

(23) SPACE JOCKEY. Jockey statues have mostly gone out of fashion – unless it’s one created by H.R. Giger. You’ve got less than a week to put in your bid at Nate Sanders Auctions: “H.R. Giger Hand-Painted Model of Space Jockey & the Derelict Spaceship From ”Alien” — Measures Over 3 Feet by 3 Feet, Personally Owned by 20th Century Fox Executive Peter Beale”. Minimum bid: $100,000.

The enormous Space Jockey and cavernous spaceship are quintessential Giger, renowned for human-machine melded beings called biomechanoids; the walls of the spaceship appear to be either vertebrae from a once living creature, or cogs in a vast industrial machine system, or perhaps both. Space Jockey is fused into his command station and wears either a mask, or has an elephantine trunk extending from his face. In the ”Alien” set — which was built based on this model — Space Jockey sits 26 feet tall, dwarfing the characters of Kane, Dallas and Lambert who find him dead, his rib cage blasted open, serving as foreshadowing to what awaits the crew later in the film. So pivotal was the scene — establishing the world of the Alien creature and serving as ground zero for the film’s mythology — that Ridley Scott insisted upon its construction, despite the enormous cost of building the life-size (or larger than life) set. Space Jockey so enthralled the audience of ”Alien”, that the character would even go on to serve as a critical and central story point in Scott’s ”Promethus”, the ”Alien” origin story released in 2012.

(24) HORROR MUST ADVERTISE. Adweek has the story behind a series of seasonal candy commercials: “The Makers of the ‘Bite Size Horror’ Ads Tell Us All About Their Wonderfully Spooky Creations”

Halloween advertising has been a treat this year, thanks to Fox and Mars candy brands, which teamed up for a wonderfully creepy series of two-minute “Bite Size Horror” films that have been airing on Fox TV networks.

The series has included four films— “Floor 9.5” for Skittles, “The Road” for M&Ms, “The Replacement” for Starburst, and “Live Bait” for Snickers. (The campaign was created by Fox Networks Group’s integrated agency All City. Tony Sella from All City is the executive producer of the campaign, and Arby Pedrossian from Fox Digital Studio is the producer.)

 

[Thanks to Bruce Arthurs, John King Tarpinian, Lenore Jean Jones, Michael Brian Bentley, JJ, Alan Baumler, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Soon Lee, and Mark Hepworth for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 6/29/17 Strong Enough for a Scroll, But Made for a Pixel

(1) IN TIMES TO COME. Stephanie Lai’s eye-opening post about strategies for coping with microaggressions on panels and elsewhere at sff cons, “Continuum: First Aid for paper cuts”, is not merely advice, it may be a forecast of what will be happening at cons in the immediate future.

Interrupting micro aggressions in a social setting

Sometimes micro aggressions happen in a panel, but sometimes they occur in the bar or in a conversation or in passing. No Award recommends a few techniques. These are applicable to both the people being aggressed at, and those friends who want to have our backs.

For the extremely non-confrontational or when you just don’t have the patience, go the non-sequitur and change the subject: “Do you like cats? Would you like to look at pictures of mine? Please tell me in detail about your pets.” Always have your cat pictures ready to hand for quick whipping out. You can do this one, I believe in you.

A bit more confronting: “Gosh, I wouldn’t have said that.”

Really lean on in to it: “Wow, that’s an anecdote. How would you relate that to the topic we’re talking about?”

Go for it: “Wow, that’s racist.” “Wow, do you think that’s appropriate?” “Wow, don’t ever talk to me ever again.” GO FOR IT. Make it uncomfortable. They already have.

Please manage this institutionally

This note is specifically directed at my white friends who want to fix the thing. It is also applicable if you are some other sort of not-marginalised voice, such as if you are straight. When you find something that needs to be fixed, please understand that it cannot be fixed by my friend, it has to be fixed by the convention committee. It cannot be fixed by my friend because that’s not how institutional change works. And when we talk about micro aggressions, when I talk about micro aggressions, I’m talking about institutionalised racism.

It’s nice that I have your friendship — and I really value it — but what I really want is the promise of the institution, not the individual.

(2) SPUFFORD INTERVIEW. Gavin Edwards interviewed “Francis Spufford: The Benign Dictator” for Barnes & Noble Review. Spufford, has many sff devotees because of Red Plenty, and such a rich and entertaining discussion of long-ago Manhattan is well worth reading. Gavin Edwards is the New York Times-bestselling author of many books, most recently The Tao of Bill Murray.

BNR: So how did you end up writing about Manhattan in the 1740s?

FS: A random effect of visiting New York: suddenly realizing that once you got down below the grid, the southern tip was strangely like the city of London, down to the same street names. And like the city of London now, also burned down by great fires. So you’ve got a pre-modern net of lanes with enormous glass temples of international finance growing out of them. And I thought, heavens, this is still haunted by the city that was.

I got a photocopy of an eighteenth-century street map and tried to walk lower Manhattan to see if it was still there. And it kind of is, apart from the fact that the shoreline has gone outwards about a block all the way round. There’s nothing above ground level so far as I could see, apart from the tombs in Trinity Church and Bowling Green — which has the same railing around it, although the crowns were snipped off the top with the Revolution….

BNR: There’s a line in the musical Hamilton that New York City is “the greatest city in the world.” While that’s flattering to Broadway audiences, I don’t think most people in the eighteenth century thought of New York as the greatest city in the world.

FS: They didn’t. The strange thing is that it was urban in feeling, even though there was hardly any of it. But Philadelphia was the financial center; New York was this slightly provincial place that exported flour to slave plantations down in Barbados and Jamaica. And in return, turned sugar into rum. Not cosmopolitan. On the contrary, rather suspicious and narrow, Anglo and Dutch and African and very suspicious of the outside world, particularly if it spoke French.

In some ways, satisfyingly the opposite of everything you associate with New York City now. Very small rather than huge, ethnically exclusive rather than a vast melting pot. Very pious rather than being possibly one of the secular places on earth. Very closed and paranoid about the outside world rather than open and curious. And yet, to my fascination, I could still see a recognizable New York?ness in the New York of the 1740s. Even when you can walk end to end in ten minutes, even when everybody in it thinks they’re British or Dutch, there is still something about it as a deal-making city living on its wits, already sure that it’s the center of something, even if they don’t know what yet.

And at his own blog Gavin Edwards put up a bonus bit where he talks about why Red Plenty is appealing to sci-fi fans: “The Golden Age of Francis Spufford”.

(3) LOOKING BACK. Steve Mollmann of Science’s Less Accurate Grandmother reviews The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers” before moving on to the author’s Hugo-nominated sequel.

I also felt very uncomfortable with the way the majority of the crewmembers impose their moral views on one character and their way of life, in a book that was otherwise about celebrating the joys of multiculturalism and (what I guess you might call) multibiologism. I don’t think the book sufficiently made the case that a particular character was being exploited to justify what was done to them against their will.

(4) HALFWAY MARK. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog makes its picks of “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2017 So Far”.

These 25 novels represent the finest SFF this still young year has to offer. They’re smart, scary, uplifting, terrifying, thrilling, prescient, unforgettable. At the bookstore, at least, it’s been a very good year…so far. Here’s looking at six months’ worth of the best science fiction & fantasy books of 2017.

One of them is –

Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty A locked-room mystery nestled comfortably inside a big-idea sci-fi premise, Lafferty’s latest is a interstellar page-turner, building a compelling future world of human clones and interstellar travel, and rewriting the rules of the crime novel accordingly. Societal and climate collapse drives humanity to send 2,000 cryo-frozen people to a distant, Earth-like planet on a ship crewed by six criminals who volunteer to be cloned again and again as they shepherd their precious cargo to its final destination. Every time the crew is cloned, they maintain their collective memories. When they wake up at the beginning of the novel, however, their former bodies are dead—brutally murdered in various ways; the ship is in shambles (gravity is off, the controlling artificial intelligence is offline, and they’re off-course); and their memories (and all other records) have been erased. The six have to clean up the mess—but they also have to figure out who killed them and why, and how to survive within a paranoid pressure-cooker of a ship. Lafferty steadily ramps up the tension from the jarring first pages to the nail-biting conclusion. We dare you to stop reading it. Read our review.

(5) SENSE8 NOT ENTIRELY DEAD. SciFiStorm reports Sense8 will return, at least temporarily…

After getting canceled by Netflix earlier this month with some things unresolved, Lana Wachowski, via the official Sense8 Twitter account, explained why she hasn’t said much, but also why she is talking now

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 29, 1979 Moonraker was released.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born June 29, 1920 – Ray Harryhausen

Harryhausen receiving his Oscar:

(8) BEEP BEEP KA-CHING. The Associated Press, in “‘Star Wars’ R2-D2 Droid Sells for $2.76M at Auction”, reports that auctioneer Profiles in History sold an R2 D2 made from “parts” of droids used in the Star Wars films for $2.76 million.

A Darth Vader helmet and a Luke Skywalker lightsaber sold for lower sums says The Wrap:  

Other “Star Wars” items that were up for auction include Mark Hamill’s “Luke Skywalker lightsaber used in the first two films, which sold for around $450,000 and original concept art by Tom Jung that were used to inspire the movie posters. A Darth Vader helmet from the original film sold for $96,000.

(9) GENRE IN ASIA. In another post at No Award, Stephanie Lai contrasts Western and Asian horror writing in “Continuum: SFFH with Asian characteristics”.

We talked a lot about how horror is not considered a genre when you think about Asia, in large part because the things that are classified as horror in the west are actually just a daily part of life. The telling of ghost stories is very social. We talk about them all the time, like a description of the car that overtook us at the lights or the reason we rejected that house in the cul-de-sac, like the aunty who always compliments your hair.

Mia spoke about finding Australians and people in general less superstitious when she moved to Australia; nobody saying ‘excuse me’ to ant hills. She BEAUTIFULLY described ghost stories as being stories about neighbours you never acknowledge but you know are there. It’s true. I talk a lot about how the unspoken spirits and ghosts rule my family life (the ghosts of Alzheimer’s and accidents; the spirits of bankruptcy and the fire in the oven that never lights first try). It’s a bit like following superstitions just in case, which Mia, Devin and I all agreed we do; but it’s a bit like knowing the ghosts believe in you.

(10) 90 MINUTES LIVE. Videos of two author interviews from 1978 have been posted to YouTube.

Harlan Ellison

Kurt Vonnegut

(11) SF AUTHOR CARD GAMES. Darrah Chavey is here to introduce Filers to Buddyfight, a Japanese and English card game, of the general genre of Magic: The Gathering or (more accurately) Yu-Gi-Oh!.

What makes this card game more interesting to us is that several of the card characters are the last names of SF authors. So you could put together a game deck consisting of (Arthur C.) Clarke, (Ray) Bradbury, (Ursula) Le Guin, (Robert) Heinlein, (Brian) Aldiss, (Edgar Rice) Burroughs, (Andre) Norton, (Robert F.) Young, (James) Tiptree, (George Alec) Effinger, and (Alfred) Bester.

Each of the characters comes with a “flavor text”, which seems to play to the author. Tiptree is saying “Hehe, I wonder what I should write next…”, and Burroughs says “I’ll survive anywhere as long as I have this sword with me.”

At the following link are sample images of some of the author cards. The Bradbury and Effinger cards are shown below. I have no doubt George Alec Effinger would have been pleased to see himself represented as a figure in a deck of magic game cards.

(12) CHAMBERS. I don’t think I mentioned the announcement earlier this month of Becky Chambers’ next novel, coming out in 2018:

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Darrah Chavey, Martin Morse Wooster, and Elizabeth Fitzgerald’s Earl Grey Editing blog for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day clack.]

Pixel Scroll 6/3/17 Hello Pixel My Old Friend, I’ve Come To Scroll With You Again

(1) SCORING WONDER WOMAN. Vox explains that Wonder Woman’s score/rating is 93% or 76%, depending on how you look at it, in “Why people are freaking out over Wonder Woman’s stellar Rotten Tomatoes score”

To be clear, a 97 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating doesn’t mean that critics scored the movie at 97 on a scale of 1 to 100, or that Wonder Woman is a perfect movie — rather, it signifies that an overwhelming majority of critics have given the movie a positive review. The average critical rating for the movie is around a 7.6 out of 10 according to Rotten Tomatoes, and a 76 according to Metacritic, both of which take into account any actual score, like a star rating or a letter grade, that a critic gave the movie.

(2) WORD PROBLEM. Or, for those of you who find a verbal response more helpful that a number, Gary Westfahl offers “A Working Model for Superhero Films: A Review of Wonder Woman” at Locus Online.

One important lesson to learn seems obvious enough: since the DC superheroes first became popular because of their appearances in comic books, filmmakers should generally remain faithful to the contents and spirit of their original adventures. One of the irksome aspects of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was his willingness to tinker with Superman’s and Batman’s back stories and ignore facets of their established characters, so that one watches these films regularly thinking, “Superman would never do that,” or “Batman would never do that.” In contrast, though Snyder is co-credited with Wonder Woman‘s story, its other writers — Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs — must be primarily credited with a film that, with minor changes to be noted, is remarkably faithful to the longstanding traditions of Wonder Woman (even though she is never called Wonder Woman in the film), projecting a strong awareness and respect for the three aspects of the heroine that make her almost unique (and her gender, though relevant, is not the most significant issue).

(3) OMNI FOR SALE — BUT SHOULD IT BE? The entire run of Omni magazine is available for purchase from Amazon for $2.99/issue (or free if you have Kindle Unlimited.) — see Omni archive.

But SFWA President Cat Rambo points out there are unanswered questions about the rights to market the fiction in these issues:

Be aware that there’s some questions about those runs of Omni. While the nonfiction seems to have been often work for hire, I don’t believe that’s true of the fiction, and I also don’t think they’re paying the writers of that fiction. At least, they have not replied to repeated and increasingly pointed queries on my part about it. I’ve asked affected fiction writers to mail me if they know their work has been stolen by these folk.

(4) GET OUT THE KLEENEX. The New York Times debuted its feature New York Stories by getting some artists (including Tom Gauld) to draw header illustrations for selected articles.

First one I read was the lost dog story — “World (or at Least Brooklyn) Stops for Lost Dog” by reporter Andy Newman. Big tearjerker.

Bailey, a 2½-year-old goldendoodle, lived a placid, largely uneventful life on a block of handsome brownstones in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, until 7:15 on the morning of Oct. 24.

That was when her owner leashed her to a metal chair outside Henry’s Local, a coffee shop on Henry Street, and went in for an iced latte.

Another customer entered the cafe. Bailey, startled, jumped to the side. The chair crashed to the sidewalk. The noise spooked Bailey further.

She bolted — down Henry Street, dragging the clattering chair behind her, with her owner, Orna Le Pape, in pursuit, yelling: “Bailey, stop! No! No!”

The NYT allows ten free articles before you a paywall. But there are ways around that, as you probably know.

(5) HARRY POTTER FAN FILM. ScienceFiction.com interestingly reports, “Warner Bros. Okays ‘Harry Potter’ Fan Film ‘Voldemort: Origins Of The Heir’”. The spectacular-looking trailer was linked in the Scroll the other day — now it looks like the makers will be allowed to do their feature.

But considering that this borders on copyright infringement, this trend has caused studios much alarm and has even caused some to call in the lawyers. For example, CBS and Paramount went after a ’Star Trek’ fan film titled ‘Axanar’ and tied that production in litigation for over a year. Eventually, things settled down and the filmmakers were allowed to proceed with their project with certain conditions, but it set a precedent for studios and future fan films that have recently played out with Warner Bros. and a ‘Harry Potter’ fan film titled ‘Voldemort: Origins of the Heir’. Luckily, just as with the ‘Star Trek’ production, it would seem that the studio has given the fans their blessing to move forward with their labor of love.

While speaking with Polygon, ‘Origins of the Heir’ co-director Gianmaria Pezzato of Tryangle Films revealed that after WB had their Kickstarter campaign shut down in July 2016, the two parties came to some kind of agreement that would allow Pezzato, co-director Stefano Prestia, and the whole crew to continue their work. However, there were some conditions:

“We had a private and confidential discussion with Warner Bros who contacted us during the period of the crowdfunding campaign. The only thing we can say is that they let us proceed with the film, in a non profit way, obviously.”

With WB’s blessing, Tyrangle is back in business. It’s a good thing too because their film looks really awesome. I mean, when fans can create a House Elf as well as some of the best animators in the business, it would be a crime for a cease and desist to keep the movie from coming to fruition.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 3, 1965 — Astronaut Edward H. White II was the first American to perform a “spacewalk” when he stepped outside of his spacecraft

(7) YESTERDAY IN HISTORY

  • June 2, 1950 Influential sci-fi film Rocketship X-M opens in theaters.
  • June 2, 1989 Nicolas Cage stars in horror comedy Vampire’s Kiss.

(8) YESTERDAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born June 2, 1915 — Lester del Rey

(9) WATCH FOR THE BLINK. Offering more participation than SETI@home: “Citizen Scientists Comb Images To Find An ‘Overexcited Planet'”.

“Maybe Mesklin is out there just waiting to be discovered,” comments Chip Hitchcock.

Professional astronomers have been turning to the public for help with their research. So far, these “citizen scientists” have helped characterize distant galaxies and discovered gravitation lenses.

Now you can add finding brown dwarfs to the list. An article just published in Astrophysical Journal Letters describes a brown dwarf discovered with the help of four volunteers through an online crowdsourced search.

The project is called Backyard Worlds: Planet 9. When NPR reported on it in February, the focus was on finding the planet that astronomers predict exists at the farthest reaches of the solar system.

(10) EARTH, THE FINAL FRONTIER. “This is exactly what Captain Kirk was portrayed as trying to do in the beginning scenes of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier,” David Klaus points out. “I didn’t think it actually was physically possible to do, and the ability to make such a climb was part of the fictional Star Trek future.” — “‘Free solo’ climber conquers El Capitan without rope, safety gear”

Alex Honnold, a celebrated 31-year-old rock climber, on Saturday became the first person to scale Yosemite’s El Capitan, a nearly 3,000-foot granite wall, without using ropes or other safety gear, according to National Geographic

(11) DUFF DOINGS. Down Under Fan Fund delegate Paul Weimer tweets more highlights from the New Zealand leg of his trip.

(12) WISCON. In “That was Wiscon!”, Sigrid Ellis has both favorable things to say about the con, and some other specific observations bracketed by the following excerpts.

Wiscon still has room for improvement in areas of social justice, but this year was certainly better than five years ago. I think it helps that a number of people No Longer Feel Welcome at Wiscon and have decided to go to OddCon instead. Which, is sad for people who liked OddCon, but good for Wiscon.€¦

(A note on Not Feeling Welcome at Wiscon: If you no longer feel welcome at Wiscon because people criticize you and tell you you are saying and doing bigoted things, perhaps you should examine that in your heart. Listen. Read up on the topic. Challenge your views. Think on it a while. Perhaps, apologize. Perhaps grow as a person. Or, you know, clutch your bigotry to your chest and flounce away on a cloud of hurt privilege and drama. That’s a choice you can make, sure, why not.)

(12) TO SEE THE UNSEEN. The Washington Post’s Julie Zauzmer discusses how children’s book author Marissa Moss decided to make her memoir of her husband’s death, Last Things, a graphic novel in order to best convey her emotions about her husband’s death: “In graphic memoir, children’s author aims to show adults what they don’t see about death”.

…Part of the problem, Moss said, is that American culture isolates death from everyday life, cordoning off the messy experiences of illness and grief in hospital rooms and nursing homes. Most people don’t see the ill or bereaved until they become the mourner themselves.

With her memoir “Last Things,” published last month, Moss becomes one of a growing group of writers attempting to expose these hidden yet universal processes. From tell-all bloggers posting about every stage of sickness and death, to Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s “Option B” published after her husband’s untimely death, Moss joins in to illustrate grief — in her case, quite literally.

A prolific children’s book writer best known for her popular “Amelia’s Notebook” series, Moss has been telling stories through a mix of words and pictures for decades. But when she first sat down to create a memoir of Harvey’s illness, she only wrote prose.

Publishers balked. …

(13) CLUB MEETING. The Hugo Award Book Club takes up a popular sequel in “A Closed And Common Orbit — Book Club Review”.

Generic Space Setting

Becky Chambers’ strength is not world building. Both of her books so far feature fungible aliens from central casting, off-the-shelf worlds, and a feel-good interstellar society not dissimilar from the United Federation of Planets.

But this is actually not a bad thing, since digging into the world doesn’t detract from what’s important in the book: the relationships and the characters. Numerous novels in recent years have been marred by too much focus on the universe, and not enough focus on the characters.

(14) WE’RE HERE. At The Bearded Trio Paul Gibbs studies the only Name of the Game episode anybody still cares about: “L.A. 2017: A look back at Steven Spielberg’s Early Sci-Fi Time Travel Movie”.

When I first [heard] two years ago that Steven Spielberg had directed a science fiction TV movie called L.A. 2017, I was puzzled. How could I not know about this? I pride myself on my extensive knowledge of Spielberg’s work, and even on the relative completeness of my personal collection (when people try to catch me by asking if the collection includes Duel, I smirk and reply it even includes the far lesser known Something Evil.). How could i not be aware of this one?

(15) TOY TIME. Forbes writer Ollie Barder is excited: “Bandai Unveils Its Perfect Grade Millennium Falcon Model Kit And It Is No Hunk Of Junk”.

For Star Wars fans, Bandai is now the go to resource for the best toys and model kits for the entire franchise. Its latest offering though is all kinds of epic; a massive 1/72 scale Perfect Grade Millennium Falcon kit.

If you are not familiar with the term “Perfect Grade“ that comes from Bandai’s Gundam model kit, or gunpla, line. It’s the highest grade in terms of complexity, gimmicks, detailing, scale and price. The results are usually incredibly though and I have availed myself of a few of these kits over the years, so I speak from experience here.

In this instance, the Millennium Falcon matches the same 1/72 scale as its X-Wing and TIE Fighter kits, so you can totally do a huge nerdy diorama if you so wish.

The size thing is a big point here, as this kit is massive. It’s also gimmick ridden and full of lights and a removable cockpit cover.

 

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, Chip Hitchcock, Joe H., Cat Rambo, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]