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

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

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

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

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

Yep, they’re doing it again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ray Bradbury and Chuck McCann

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

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born April 8, 1974 – Nnedi Okorafor

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

Nnedi Okorafor was born on April 8, 1974.

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

(9) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 4/5/18 Scrollman Vs. Mr Mxyzpixeltk

(1) SOLO MENU. Bold NEW menu inspired by Solo: A Star Wars Story. Fat, salt, sugar, and Star Wars. What could be better?

(2) USAGE. How many Lego is two? Ann Leckie gives her answer. The thread starts here:

(3) GUGGENHEIM FELLOWS. The Guggenheim Fellows named for 2018 include fiction writer China Miéville, nonfiction writer Roxane Gay, and in Fine Arts, Elizabeth LaPensee, a writer, artist and game creator who earlier won a Tiptree Fellowship.

(4) WRITERS OF THE FUTURE. The 34th Annual L. Ron Hubbard Achievement Awards Gala for  the winners of the Writers and Illustrators of the Future will be held in Los Angeles on Sunday, April 8. Celebrities attending include Nancy Cartwright, Marisol Nichols, Catherine Bell, Jade Pettyjohn, Stanley Clarke and Travis Oates.

(5) NESFA SHORT STORY CONTEST. The New England Science Fiction Association is running the fifth annual NESFA Short Story Contest. The deadline for submissions in July 31.

The purpose of this contest is to encourage amateur and semi-professional writers to reach the next level of proficiency.

Mike Sharrow, the 2018 contest administrator, sent this pitch —

Attention aspiring writers! Do you like to write science fiction or fantasy stories? Are you a new writer, but not sure if you’re ready for the big time? Then you’re just the kind of writer we’re looking for! The New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA for short) is running a writing contest. Prizes include free books, and a grand prize of a free membership to Boskone. More important though is that we offer free critiques of your work. Our goal is to help young & aspiring writers to improve their writing, so you can become our new favorite writer! Check out our website for details.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 5, 1940 One Million B.C. premiered

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born April 5, 1917 — Robert Bloch. Steve Vertlieb reminds everyone, “Bloch would have turned one hundred one (101) years of age today.  Wishing one of Horror fiction’s most legendary writers a joyous 101st Birthday in the Heavenly shower stall of The Bates Motel in Heaven.”
  • Born April 5, 1926 – Roger Corman

(8) COMIC SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy says this Tom the Dancing Bug is either a loving tribute to 2001: A Space Odyssey or scary as hell. Or maybe both.

(9) KGB READINGS. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present  Livia Llewellyn and  Jon Padgett on Wednesday, April 18, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar in New York.

Livia Llewellyn

Livia Llewellyn is a writer of dark fantasy, horror, and erotica, whose short fiction has appeared in over forty anthologies and magazines and has been reprinted in multiple best-of anthologies and two Shirley Jackson Award-nominated collections, Engines of Desire and Furnace. You can find her online at liviallewellyn.com, and on Instagram and Twitter.

Jon Padgett

Jon Padgett is a professional ventriloquist. His first short story collection, The Secret of Ventriloquism, was named the Best Fiction Book of the Year by Rue Morgue Magazine. He has work out or forthcoming in Weird Fiction Review, PseudoPod, Lovecraft eZine, and in the the anthologies A Walk on the Weird SideWound of WoundsPhantasm/Chimera, and For Mortal Things Unsung. Padgett is also a professional voice-over artist with over forty years of theater and twenty-five years of audio narration experience. Cadabra Records will soon be releasing 20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism, a story written and narrated by Padgett.

(10) AVOIDING UNPRODUCTIVE GENERALIZATIONS. Annalee Flower Horne suggests this is a subject where it helps to get more specific – jump on the thread here.

(11) GARDEN OF HOLES. Theory said there should be smaller holes around the monster Sgr A*; now there’s confirmation: “Dozen black holes found at galactic center”.

“The galactic centre is so far away from Earth that those bursts are only strong and bright enough to see about once every 100 to 1,000 years,” said Prof Hailey.

Instead, the Columbia University astrophysicist and his colleagues decided to look for the fainter but steadier X-rays emitted when these binaries are in an inactive state.

“Isolated, unmated black holes are just black – they don’t do anything,” said Prof Hailey.

“But when black holes mate with a low mass star, the marriage emits X-ray bursts that are weaker, but consistent and detectable.”

(12) EARWORMS FOR WHALES. Bowheads appear to have more-complex songs than the famous humpbacks: “The whales who love to sing in the dark”.

Over the course of three years, the whales of the Spitsbergen population produced 184 unique song types. The vocalisations were detected 24 hours a day throughout most of the winter each year.

“The alphabet for the bowhead has got thousands of letters as far as we can tell,” Prof Kate Stafford, lead author of the study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, told BBC News.

“I really think of humpback whale songs as being like classical music. Very ordered. They might last 20 – 30 minutes. An individual [bowhead] song might only be 45 seconds to 2 minutes long, but they’ll repeat that song over and over again,” the University of Washington researcher added.

(13) GIVING MARS HIVES. NASA will throw a little cash at this idea: “NASA Wants To Send A Swarm Of Robot Bees To Mars”.

A Japanese-American team of engineers is working to send a swarm of bee-inspired drones to the Red Planet with new, exploratory funding from NASA. Yes, bees on Mars. The team calls the concept “Marsbees.”

NASA selected the idea as part of its “Innovative Advanced Concepts” program, which annually supports a handful of early concept ideas for space exploration. The team of researchers will explore the possibility of creating a swarm of bees that could explore the Martian surface autonomously, flying from a rover. The rover would act as centralized, mobile beehive, recharging the Marsbees with electricity, downloading all the information they capture, and relaying it to Earth’s tracking stations. They describe the Marsbees as “robotic flapping wing flyers of a bumblebee size with cicada-sized wings.” Those oversized wings, in relation to their bodies, compensate for the density of Mars’ atmosphere–which is much thinner than Earth’s.

(14) BLACK PANTHER OVERCOMES ANOTHER BARRIER. According to The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Black Panther’ to Break Saudi Arabia’s 35-Year Cinema Ban”.

Black Panther is set to make some more history.

Marvel’s record-breaking superhero blockbuster — which has already amassed north of $1.2 billion since launching in February — will herald Saudi Arabia’s long-awaited return to the cinema world, becoming the first film to screen to the public in a movie theater in the country since it lifted a 35-year cinema ban.

(15) INCREDIBLES 2. Bravo, Edna is a fresh pitch for Disney/Pixar’s Incredibles 2, which opens in theatres June 15.

Icon. Artist. Legend. Edna Mode is back, dahlings.

 

(16) ROWAN ATKINSON. Universal Pictures followed up yesterday’s teaser with a full-length Johnny English Strikes Back trailer.

[Thanks to JJ, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Steven J. Vertlieb, Matthew Kressel, Jeff Smith, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 4/1/18 Oh Lord, Pixel Let Me Be Misunderscrolled

(1) OKORAFOR INTERVIEW. In the Chicago Tribune, “Nnedi Okorafor talks words, career, ‘Black Panther’ and C2E2”.

Q: You write for adults, the young … is there anything you can’t do?

A: I can’t write poetry.

Q: What does your Google search cache look like?

A: (Laughs.) It looks very eccentric, wide and broad — it can go from looking at political issues and looking at the violence of the herdsmen in northern Nigeria to looking up butterflies. I use the internet, and I enjoy it. I feel like it’s having another brain. So anything that pops into my mind, I’ll look it up, even the slightest thing that I’m curious about. If I’m looking at the rug and wondering what kind of dust mites live in the shade of my vent near the window, I will look that up. The internet is amazing.

(2) STRETCHING FOR DOLLARS. The Dark Magazine hit its Kickstarter goal to fund the zine’s next two years – now they’re shooting for the stretch goal.

And we funded! (Wow). With 61 hours to spare! Now . . . do you think we can hit the first stretch goal in that time? It’s just $882 to get a monthly podcast, pay Kate Baker more, and do an one-off Spanish-language edition . . .

(3) SOUTH PACIFIC. “China’s Tiangong-1 Space Station Has Fallen Back to Earth Over the Pacific” reports the New York Times.

A Chinese space station the size of a school bus re-entered Earth’s atmosphere at about 5:16 p.m. Pacific time on Sunday, scattering its remaining pieces over the southern Pacific Ocean, according to the United States’ Joint Force Space Component Command.

The demise of the station, Tiangong-1, became apparent when radar stations no longer detected it passing overhead. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries; the likelihood that pieces would land on someone was small, but not zero.

The station may have landed northwest of Tahiti, Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said on Twitter. That location is north of the Spacecraft Cemetery, an isolated region in the Pacific Ocean where space debris has frequently landed.

(4) PROBLEMATIC PRIZE. Brian Keating, author of Losing the Nobel Prize, will appear April 25 at UCSD’s Atkinson Hall Auditorium beginning at 5:30 p.m. Free ticketed event/RSVP here.

Presented by the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and the UC San Diego Library

Please join us for a profound discussion that explores the perils of science’s highest honor with astrophysicist Brian Keating and celebrated science fiction writer David Brin… A book signing and reception will follow the talk; books will be available for purchase from the UC San Diego Bookstore.

…Keating’s book tells the story of how the Nobel Prize, instead of advancing scientific progress may actually hamper it, encouraging speed and greed while punishing collaboration. Keating offers practical solutions for reforming the prize.

Keating is a professor of physics at UC San Diego; a fellow of the American Physical Society; and co-leads the Simons Observatory. He’s the author of more than 100 scientific publications and holds two U.S. patents. In addition, he’s a recipient of a NSF CAREER Award and the Presidential Early Career Award.

(5) HAL 9000. So should we say Martin Balsam was HAL 8999, because Douglas Rain ended up being HAL 9000? “The Story of a Voice: HAL in ‘2001’ Wasn’t Always So Eerily Calm” from the New York Times.

The story of the creation of HAL’s performance — the result of a last-minute collaboration between the idiosyncratic director Stanley Kubrick and the veteran Canadian actor Douglas Rain — has been somewhat lost in the 50 years since the film’s release in April 1968. As has its impact: Artificial intelligence has borrowed from the HAL persona, and now, unwittingly, a slight hint of Canadianness resides in our phones and interactive devices.

… But artificial intelligence was decades from a convincing facsimile of a human voice — and who was to say how a computer should sound anyway?

To play HAL, Kubrick settled on Martin Balsam, who had won the best supporting actor Oscar for “A Thousand Clowns.” Perhaps there was a satisfying echo that appealed to Kubrick — both were from the Bronx and sounded like it. In August 1966, Balsam told a journalist: “I’m not actually seen in the picture at any time, but I sure create a lot of excitement projecting my voice through that machine. And I’m getting an Academy Award winner price for doing it, too.”

Adam Balsam, the actor’s son, told me that “Kubrick had him record it very realistically and humanly, complete with crying during the scene when HAL’s memory is being removed.”

Then the director changed his mind. “We had some difficulty deciding exactly what HAL should sound like, and Marty just sounded a little bit too colloquially American,” Kubrick said in the 1969 interview. Mr. Rain recalls Kubrick telling him, “I’m having trouble with what I’ve got in the can. Would you play the computer?”

Kubrick had heard Mr. Rain’s voice in the 1960 documentary “Universe,” a film he watched at least 95 times, according to the actor. “I think he’s perfect,” Kubrick wrote to a colleague in a letter preserved in the director’s archive. “The voice is neither patronizing, nor is it intimidating, nor is it pompous, overly dramatic or actorish. Despite this, it is interesting.”

(6) CONNECTING WITH NONHUMANS. Into the Impossible, the podcast of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, resumes with Episode 16: Alien Contact: Part 2

We’re continuing our conversation from episode 14 about alien contact by focusing on language barriers: barriers between humans and aliens, humans and animals, and, in what some consider the most alien encounter of all, between scientists and artists. With acclaimed science fiction writer Ted Chiang, dolphin researcher Christine Johnson, and visual artist Lisa Korpos.

(7) BOCHCO OBIT. Before he showed a golden touch with his famed cop series, Bochco wrote the script for SF film Silent Running: “Steven Bochco, creator of ‘Hill Street Blues,’ dies at 74”.

Bochco once recalled a fan telling him that “Hill Street Blues” was the first TV series with a memory.

“That’s what I always thought of myself doing in the context of TV: craft a show that over time would have a memory,” he told The Associated Press in an interview two years ago. “I sensed that very early in my career. It just took me another 10 or 12 years to get to the point where I earned the right to take a shot at it.”

Bochco grew up in Manhattan, the son of a painter and a concert violinist. On arriving in Los Angeles after college, he wrote for several series at Universal Studios. Then he got a big break: writing the screenplay for the 1972 sci-fi film “Silent Running.” But Bochco said the disrespect he confronted as the writer soured him on writing for the big screen.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Rich Lynch found April 1st’s Non Sequitur theme suitable for the date.

(9) GAME ANIMALS. I think my main reason for running this is that I recognized the Animal Crossing reference — my daughter used to play it by the hour: “Mineko’s Night Market is a cat-filled spin on Animal Crossing”. The rest of you will like it because the game involves cats.

The world of Mineko’s Night Market is one obsessed with cats. Felines roam freely around its cartoony, cutesy island. Mini-games make sport of their adventures, and occasionally they’ll trail after you like ducklings behind their mother. On Mount Fugu Island, inhabitants even worship cat deities — specifically, the Sun Cat, a portly, upright creature called Abe. Developer Meowza Games has made no secret of its love of one specific animal, but the pleasing aesthetic of its upcoming game only lends to the friendly, approachable atmosphere of it all.

Mineko’s Night Market, launching this year, follows a girl named Mineko who’s recently moved to Mount Fugu Island. She currently runs a market, but it’s been in a financial pinch as of late. Players spend their time collecting weird items and crafting, as well as selling their goods around the island. Brandi Kobayashi, half of the team at Meowza, says the game draws from folklore and aims to be a more narrative adventure than one built around resource gathering. Part of Mineko’s journey will involve unraveling the mystery around Abe, who’s been spotted around the island as of late.

(10) FILERS IN NEW ZEALAND. Hampus Eckerman says, “This is me and Soon Lee at our filers meetup in Auckland. File 770 is really great in creating connections all over the world!”

Soon Lee and Hampus Eckerman

(11) BUILD A BETTER QUBIT. The future of computing is nigh: “Microsoft gambles on a quantum leap in computing”.

In a laboratory in Copenhagen, scientists believe they are on the verge of a breakthrough that could transform computing.

A team combining Microsoft researchers and Niels Bohr Institute academics is confident that it has found the key to creating a quantum computer.

If they are right, then Microsoft will leap to the front of a race that has a tremendous prize – the power to solve problems that are beyond conventional computers.

In the lab are a series of white cylinders, which are fridges, cooled almost to absolute zero as part of the process of creating a qubit, the building block of a quantum computer.

“This is colder than deep space, it may be the coldest place in the universe,” Prof Charlie Marcus tells me.

(12) APRIL FOOLS. Foreign Policy provides analysis of The King’s Speech (think Chadwick Boseman, not Colin Firth) in “Wakanda Shakes the World”.

It’s been six weeks since the “Wakanda speech,” and the world is still reeling. The announcement by King T’Challa at the United Nations General Assembly that the Kingdom of Wakanda is not a developing nation of textiles, farms, and shepherds — estimated in the 2016 CIA World Factbook to have a GDP per person of approximately $760 — but a technological superpower has left global leaders and analysts stunned. The term “uber-developed” nation has been coined to describe the country’s widespread use of advanced magnetic levitation trains, flying vehicles, opaque holograms, and spinal cord-healing beads.

“Welcome to the Future,” an introductory film produced by Wakanda’s newly founded Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is now the most watched video ever on YouTube. T’Challa himself provides a voice-over describing the country’s semi-mythical history, tracing back to the impact of a vibranium meteorite, and the subsequent foundation of the country by five tribes, giving it the name “Wakanda” — “The Family.” As a camera swoops over brush, the trees themselves seem to glitch, and a futuristic skyline resembling a mixture of New York, Timbuktu, and Cairo appears. The video goes on to detail Wakanda’s claimed hyper-achievements: nanotechnology that allows for replicable organs, an average lifespan in the 100s, and a quality of life for the ordinary citizen that surpasses that enjoyed by the top 1 percent in the United States.

(13) APRIL FOOLS REDUX. Jabba the Sushi?

(14) HISTORICALLY MEMORABLE HOAXES. And if you need any more – “The Top 100 April Fool’s Day Hoaxes of All Time”.

We’ve researched the entire history of April Fool’s Day and selected its top 100 hoaxes ever, as judged by creativity, historical significance, the number of people duped, and notoriety. The first version of this list was created in the late 1990s. Over the years it’s been revised a number of times, based upon reader feedback and ongoing research. The most recent major revision occurred in March 2015.

(15) ZOE QUINN INVITES TINGLE. This is not an April Fools, so who knows, maybe it will happen.

[Thanks to Steven H Silver, Cat Eldridge, Arifel, JJ, John King Tarpinian, StephenfromOttawa, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Mark Hepworth, Chip Hitchcock, Hampus Eckerman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 3/25/18 The Unscrollable Molly Pixel

(1) BOX OFFICE KING UNSEATED. Black Panther set records: “Box Office: ‘Black Panther’ Becomes Top-Grossing Superhero Film of All Time in U.S.”.

The Disney and Marvel release achieved the milestone on Saturday after passing fellow Marvel title The Avengers, which grossed $623.4 million in 2012. To boot, Black Panther is only one of seven films to ever earn $600 million or more domestically, finishing Sunday with $630.9 million to put it at No. 5 on the all-time list.

But it finally has been bumped from the top of the weekly pyramid: “Weekend Box Office: ‘Pacific Rim 2’ Beating ‘Black Panther’ With Muted $25M-Plus”

Legendary and Universal’s big-budget release Pacific Rim: Uprising may have the distinction of being the film to finally unseat blockbuster Black Panther atop the box office, but the big-budget tentpole may not open to much more than $26 million in its domestic debut, according to early Friday returns. The first Pacific Rim, released in summer 2013, opened to $37 million in Nrth America.

Stomping into 2,850 theaters, Pacific Rim 2 grossed $10.4 million on Friday, including $2.4 million in Thursday previews.

(2) GUARD THOSE FOOTPRINTS. The White House (the Office of Science and Technology Policy) has issued a document proposing standards for “Protecting & Preserving Apollo Program Lunar Landing Sites & Artifacts” – Popular Mechanics has the story: “The U.S. Doesn’t Want Anyone Messing With the Apollo Landing Sites”.

Nations, space companies, and even private citizens have big plans to colonize the Moon. But this reinvigorated focus on our nearest celestial neighbor have some worried that this mad dash could destroy historical lunar landmarks.

Yesterday, The White House issued a report calling for ways to protect Apollo-era landing sites, calling them “rich in scientific and historical significance.” Congress mandated the report in the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017. Damage from exhaust blasts of nearby spacecraft, biological contamination, and the obliteration of tracks in the regolith are all concerns.

“Three Apollo sites remain scientifically active and all the landing sites provide the opportunity to learn about the changes associated with long-term exposure of human-created systems in the harsh lunar environment,” the report says. “Currently, very little data exists that describe what effect temperature extremes, lunar dust, micrometeoroids, solar radiation, etc. have on such man-made material.”

(3) FOWLERS. LitHub presents “Shannon Leone Fowler on Traveling After Her Fiancé’s Death, In Conversation with her mother, Karen Joy Fowler”.

KJF: So you wrote Traveling with Ghosts while raising your kids. And you’re still interested in animals—the book has a lot of marine biology, and of course Sean’s death from a box jellyfish. This is a grief memoir, and you’ve gotten a lot of response to the grief part, but it’s also a travel memoir, and my impression is that there’s been less response to the travel part.

SLF: Yes, the vast majority of personal messages from readers as well as the media have been about Sean’s death, and I wasn’t entirely anticipating that. Because although the book is very much centered around Sean’s death, the bulk of the story is the journey after and the travel that I did following. I think the lessons I learned that were the most surprising and profound were the lessons I learned traveling. So I wasn’t entirely prepared for the focus on Sean’s death, although I guess I should have been because it’s so shocking. But it was difficult at the beginning because I was thinking I was going to have conversations about these amazing Israeli girls or the resilience of Bosnia, and instead I kept finding myself back on the beach in Thailand.

(4) 451. The Verge has the schedule: “HBO will air its film adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 on May 19th”.

HBO’s upcoming adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 finally has a release date: May 19th, 2018, according to Variety. The network announced the project last year, which stars Black Panther’s Michael B. Jordan and The Shape of Water’s Michael Shannon. Ramin Bahrani (99 Houses) directed and co-wrote the film.

(5) NEW MEXICO TIME. Walter Jon Williams linked to video of him being interviewed by George R.R. Martin.

So here I am any the Jean Cocteau Theater in Santa Fe, being interviewed by George R.R. Martin.  Right at the start he says I’m an important guy, so I must be.

 

(6) SILVERBERG-INSPIRED OPERA. “To See The Invisible”, an opera based on a Robert Silverberg story, will be performed at the 2018 Aldeburgh Festival, UK, June 8-11.

The opening performance of To See The Invisible will be recorded for future broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s “Hear and Now”.

Tickets from £5.00 to £25.00

…Condemned for a ‘crime of coldness’ by an authoritarian regime, The Invisible is cast adrift from society. All human interaction is outlawed. This life of isolation leads to strange, vicarious thrills and painful inner torment. Yet, as the lonely exile draws to a close, it is not coldness but perilous empathy with a fellow Invisible that risks the cycle of exclusion beginning all over again…

Emily Howard’s new opera, based on a short story by renowned American sci-fi writer Robert Silverberg, is a claustrophobic study of isolation; a dark satire on social conventions; and a stark reminder of our cruelty to outsiders. Howard’s music embraces extremes – the eerie beauty of The Invisible’s secluded psychological spaces set against the perpetual motion of the World of Warmth.

 

(7) FAITH AND FICTION. In “Publishers rejected her, Christians attacked her: The deep faith of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ author Madeleine L’Engle”, the Washington Post’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey interviews Madeleine L’Engle’s granddaughter, Charlotte Jones Voiklis, L’Engle biographer Sarah Arthur and King’s College English professor Alissa Wilkinson about how Madeleine L’Engle’s deep Episcopalian faith was reflected in her fiction.

It took 26 publisher rejections before Madeleine L’Engle could get “A Wrinkle in Time” into print in 1962. The book was an instant hit, winning the Newbery Medal the following year, but despite its wild success, L’Engle still had fierce critics — including a good number of them who disliked her book for faith reasons.

(8) DIETRICH OBIT. Erwin C. Dietrich (1930-2018): Swiss film producer, aged 87. Specialised in sexploitation cinema, but genre releases include Jesus Franco’s Jack the Ripper (1976) and the horror-comedy Killer Condom (1996).

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY TREKKER

  • Born March 25, 1939 – D.C. Fontana

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy says either the world is doomed, or ready for a feast: Non Sequitur.

(11) AKIRA AND AKITA. The Washington Post’s Michael O’Sullivan interviews Wes Anderson, who says Isle of Dogs is a homage to Akira Kurosawa and that here are also references to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II: “Why ‘Isle of Dogs’ may be Wes Anderson’s most timely film yet”

But if this is Anderson’s most timely film, why use animated dogs, not actors, to make his point?

Anderson says there was something hard to explain about the germ of the idea — a society of outcast and abandoned dogs living on a trash-strewn island — that fired up his imagination. “When Roman and Jason and I were first discussing this story, they said, ‘What do you see here? What is it that you are so interested in?’ I don’t know why, but I just had this idea that there’s a movie in that world and about this group of dogs. What are they going through? Why are they there? And the next thing you ask is, ‘What happens?’ The story just came out of our subconsciousness as much as anything else.”

(12) I CAN’T IMAGINE. What novels would you expect to find in JDA’s “man-bundle”? Maybe Monty Python’s Short History of Men Named Bruce?

(13) HOPKINSON TO WRITE COMICS. ComicsBeat boosted the signal: “WonderCon 2018: DC Announced New Justice League Titles”

Last month, Vertigo shocked readers when they announced the return to the Dreaming in a Neil Gaiman-curated THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE imprint this August. Today, Vertigo and DC Black Label Executive Editor Mark Doyle, along with guest Nalo Hopkinson who will pen the HOUSE OF WHISPERS title, gave fans a first look at Bilquis Evely’s interiors for THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1. Hopkinson shared her excitement for the transition from novelist to comic book writer, and shared some first insights into the mysterious new house and its proprietor. THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1 is available August 8, 2018.

(14) TO THINE OWN SELF. Neither an ape nor an alien be…: “Origin of ‘six-inch mummy’ confirmed”.

In addition to its exceptionally small height, the skeleton had several unusual physical features, such as fewer than expected ribs and a cone-shaped head.

The remains were initially discovered in a pouch in the abandoned nitrate mining town of La Noria. From there, they found their way into a private collection in Spain.

Some wondered whether the remains, dubbed Ata after the Atacama region where they were discovered, could in fact be the remains of a non-human primate. A documentary, called Sirius, even suggested it could be evidence of alien visitations.

Genetic investigation

The new research puts those ideas to rest.

A scientific team analysed the individual’s genome – the genetic blueprint for a human, contained in the nucleus of cells.

They had already used this to confirm that the individual was human. Now, the team has presented evidence that Ata was a female newborn with multiple mutations in genes associated with dwarfism, scoliosis and abnormalities in the muscles and skeleton.

(15) BETTER MOUSETRAP. Predator introduced by colonists eliminated from World Heritage sites: “Global implications for NZ ‘Million Dollar Mouse’ success”.

Million Dollar Mouse, part-funded by a public crowd-funding campaign, aimed to continue the work of other eradication projects around New Zealand, and involved a team setting up camp on the islands, air drops of pesticides from three helicopters, culminating in a month-long search involving trained dogs for any remaining pests, Radio NZ says.

According to a Stuff.nz feature on the islands, the mice likely arrived on ships belonging to sealers, and drove at least two local species to extinction. If the project hadn’t tackled the rodents they “would have spelled doom for many of the species there,” the feature said.

“The project was done to benefit the whole ecosystem there,” Mr Horn told Stuff, “These islands are high value, they’re World Heritage sites”. Animal life on the Antipodes Islands include bird species not found anywhere else.

(16) BOUNCEHENGE REDUX. Nickpheas says:

If you’re going to discover the inflatable Stonehenge then you really need the response song by musical comedian and sometime science fiction writer Mitch Benn (Terra, Terra’s World).

When Mitch does a live show he asks the audience for typical suggestions and tries to write a song during the interval. Generally they’re forgotten. This one, which I was there to hear it’s first performance had more legs.

 

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

Marvel Knights: Black Panther

Compiled by Carl Slaughter: The 2010 animated mini-series Black Panther is available on YouTube.

  • Episode 1

At a White House briefing, a history of the African nation of Wakanda is given. Highlighted are an early story of an attack by another warrior tribe, Captain America’s mission against invading Nazis and his subsequent battle with Black Panther, and the Battle for the Crown where T’Challa becomes the new Black Panther.

 

  • Episode 2

  • Episode 3

  • Episode 4

  • Episode 5

  • Episode 6

Pixel Scroll 3/17/18 Several Species Of Small Furry Filers Gathered Together In A Scroll And Grooving With A Pixel

(1) DISNEY EXTRACTS HAND FROM COOKIE JAR. Design Taxi reports “Disney Redesigns ‘Star Wars’ Posters After Getting Called Out For Plagiarism”.

Disney has unveiled a new set of posters for the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story after its previous artworks were called out by a French artist for plagiarism.

In this redesigned collection, Disney has amended the graphics whilst sticking to a similar color scheme.

Each character remains paired with a unique color. For instance, ‘Han’ is matched with an orange-red aesthetic, ‘Lando’ gets a blue hue, while ‘Q’ira’ receives a pink-purple scheme.

 

(2) SCRYING THE CRYSTAL CLARKE. Ian Mond takes his shot at predicting the Clarke Award shortlist in “Brief Thoughts on the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2018 Submissions List” at The Hysterical Hamster.

Mark Hepworth did the same in a comment here on File 770.

(3) MANO-A-MANO. Steven Barnes, while speculating about which characters will get killed off in the next Avengers movie, added an interesting cultural critique of the martial arts in Black Panther.

this is petty, and a trivial objection, but another missed opportunity was the battle between T’Challa and Killmonger during the ceremony. It relates to a complaint I had about Civil War (which I loved). This is from a life-long martial artist’s perspective, so I’m only partially serious. The problem is this: BP fought like everyone else in Civil War, and his technique looked very Asian. Korean in the kicks. Not what the Prince of Wakanda would use, because African arts are as lethal. But in BP, both T’Challa and Killmonger fought pretty much the same. I find it difficult to believe that Killmonger, never having been in Wakanda, would fight with techniques that look as if he had been trained by the same people who trained T’Challa. They could have had a fascinating clash of styles. But that is really nit-picking.

(4) PANTHER POLITICAL ANALYSIS. At Blog of the APA: In “Black Issues in Philosophy: A Conversation on The Black Panther”, Greg Doukas and Lewis Gordon discuss the politics and ethics of leading characters in the movie.

GREG DOUKAS: I am thoroughly perplexed by the reaction exhibited in some of my friends and colleagues, whose ideas I otherwise ordinarily agree with. The proposition they raise, and which I’ve been troubled by, is this: Over the duration of the film, our hero T’Challa [the Black Panther] makes a transformation from a nativist into a character representing a liberal politics of amelioration and liberalism more generally, while his nemesis Killmonger emerges as a distinctly Fanonian character in his own politics by presenting a radical critique of colonialism and racism. 

LEWIS GORDON: This is far from the case. First, Killmonger is not Fanonian. He is a tyrant. Fanon believed in radical democracy.  Wakanda is clearly a republic and possibly a constitutional monarchy in which each member of the society contributes as counsel and skilled citizen. It’s clearly a city-state or what in ancient Greek is called a polis, in which politeia (the thriving of citizens through activities cultivated by such a social space) is expected to occur. Killmonger is more like the case studies of colonial disorders in the later part of Fanon’s The Damned of the Earth. He is a tyrant because his relationship to everyone was asymmetrical, driven by resentment and hate, and his regard for life was nil. Think of how he killed his loyal girlfriend Linda and how he ultimately aimed to destroy or destabilize Wakanda—a functioning African state—with the now faddish Afropessimistic declaration of “burning it all down.”  His ego was such that he wanted to bar, through destruction of the special vibranium affected plant, the possibility of future Black Panthers emerging. Bear in mind also that T’Challa was not against fighting/violence. His point is that it should be used only when necessary, and he was doing so always on behalf of justice and a people in whose respect rested his legitimacy.  Killmonger didn’t care about respect from the people.  He also didn’t have respect for them. His “legitimacy” was like, say, Donald Trump’s: achieved purely from the strict adherence to the imperfect rules, though unlike Trump he actually defeated his opponent in fair combat. The people revolted against him not because he won the ritualistic battle but because his tyrannical rule defied the virtues the battle was to manifest. They fought against him in fidelity to the spirit of the rules.

(5) IMPRESSIVE. Rich Lynch actually came up with video of the Octavia Butler clue from Friday’s episode of game show Jeopardy! Click here: Jeopardy! Butler clue

(6) WHO AGAINST GUNS. Comics Beat updates readers: “Who Against Guns raises $16,000”.

We’ve been reporting on the fan-led effort known as Who Against Guns for several weeks now. Today, just over two weeks after the start of the campaign which launched February 26, organizers have announced that they’ve raised $16,000 for these gun violence prevention charities:  Community Justice Reform CoalitionMarch For Our Lives, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Moms Demand Action.

(7) TOLKIEN’S DOG STORY. Middle-Earth Reflections takes up J.R.R. Tolkien’s Roverandom.

Originally Roverandom was conceived in 1925 when the Tolkiens — Ronald and Edith with their sons John, Michael and Christopher — went on a family holiday to Filey, Yorkshire. They rented a cottage with the view of the sea and the beach to spend a big part of September there. At that time the Tolkiens’ second boy Michael, who was about five years old, had a small, black-and-white toy dog. The boy  was extremely fond of it to the extent that he never parted with it. It was an unfortunate loss of that beloved toy during a walk on the beach one day and unavailing search for it that led Tolkien to make up a story about the dog’s adventures to explain its disappearance to the saddened boy.

In 1936, when The Hobbit was accepted for publication by Allen & Unwin, Tolkien was asked for more children’s stories, so he sent in Roverandom together with  Mr Bliss and Farmer Giles of Ham. However, Roverandom was not published then: in 1937 The Hobbit came out, proved a tremendous success and the publishers demanded more Hobbit stories from the author. It was only in 1998 that Rover’s tale finally saw the light of day.

Just like some other stories written by Tolkien, Roverandom began as something told to the amusement (or, in this case, consolation was the initial motive) of his own family. But as the story began to grow, it inevitably drew in more aspects of Tolkien’s background and interests. From a simple children’s story it established connections with Tolkien’s own Legendarium, Norse mythology, Arthurian legends, folklore, history and real events which took place at the time when the story was being created and written down.

(8) SPOILER WARNING. In Zhaoyun’s “Microreview [TV series]: The Frankenstein Chronicles” for Nerds of a Feather, the spoiler isn’t what you think.

It’s one of the longest-running gags in show business: cast Sean Bean in your TV series and there is an extremely high chance his character will perish by the end of season one. If in a movie, he’ll probably die heroically, indeed motivationally, spurring the surviving heroes on to greater successes; in TV series, his specter looms over the remainder of the show, meaning everything that happens from then on occurs in the shadow of his sacrifice (since he is usually innocent of any wrongdoing but is executed/killed anyway). So when I finally watched The Frankenstein Chronicles, I knew to expect a gruesome end for Bean’s “John Marlott” at the end of season one. I don’t even feel the need to issue a spoiler alert so far, because Sean Bean’s near-inevitable death early in projects is a truth universally acknowledged.

(9) TENTH ANNIVERSARY. Kasma editor Alex Korovessis offers 10 Years of SF as a free download:

10 Years of SF! is an anthology featuring some of the best stories I have had the privilege to publish over the past 10 years, since Kasma’s inception in 2009. It is available freely by clicking the appropriate button below.

(10) THE MORE THINGS CHANGE. A fan lamented:

In the few months I have been an active member of fandom, I have found knit into its fabric a conglomeration of ego, hate, progressiveness, overbearing acts, belligerence, perversities, totalitarianism, crack-pot ideas and every good and bad thing that goes to make up the outside world.

Today on Facebook? No, these are the words of Clarence “Sully” Roberds, an Illinois fan writing in November of 1939. Think about that the next time you read a complaint that fandom isn’t what it used to be.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian passes along Drabble’s stfnal St. Paddy’s joke.
  • And Bizarro’s tribute to the Sasquatch.

(12) 2019 HUGO RECOMMENDATIONS. Coffee break’s over – back to work!

Click to see Renay’s 2019 Hugo Sheet (at Google Docs).

(13) OFTEN IMITATED. Inverse celebrated the release of Forbidden Planet on March 15 in “62 Years Ago Today, the Template for All Sci-Fi Movies Was Born”.

Nearly every science fiction story you know and love today owes it all to one movie that came out in 1956, a film that set the standard for how sci-fi stories work for the modern audience. Franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek might have defined sci-fi for generations, but Fred McLeod Wilcox’s Forbidden Planet basically created sci-fi as we know it.

There’s even an opening scrawl with yellow text more than 20 years before the first Star Wars movie.

(14) BALLS. “Ikea Is Developing The Meatball Of The Future” – no, it’s not made from ground-up Billy bookcases.

Ikea is the largest furniture retailer in the world. But did you know that it’s also likely the largest meatball retailer in the world? Across its 340 stores worldwide, Ikea feeds people 2 million meatballs each day. Which is why Ikea’s high-concept Space10 lab is experimenting with a meatball of the future–one that uses zero actual meat. They call it the Neatball.

…The Space10 team is careful to clarify that none of these items are coming to market, but it’s interesting to see Ikea’s thought process on the future of food all the same. After all, Ikea has already given us a veggie version of its famous meatballs that people seem to like. And Space10 released meatball concepts not long ago that have since gone from art project to fully cooked concept here–because that’s what Space10 does: It prototypes the future for Ikea.

(15) AMAZON VS. CONSERVATIVES. Vox Day finds that Amazon’s alleged massacre of conservative authors’ book reviews is highly exaggerated [Internet Archive].

Of course, the mere fact that there is a closed alliance of authors with personal relationships who pay very close attention to reviews may explain at least a reasonable percentage of these deletions, given the terms of service. I checked out my reviews and it looks like ten or fewer reviews were deleted across all my various book listings. Not only that, but several of the reviews were one-star fake reviews, so two of my average ratings actually increased. This made me suspect that the deleted reviews were likely in open violation of Amazon’s terms of service, which Amanda Green’s investigation appears to have generally confirmed.

He also says in a comment:

Don’t get Clintonian. It’s not tricky at all. Are they family? Are they close friends? Did they work on your book?

If so, then don’t review their books.

That being said, I think Amazon would be well advised to limit reviews to Verified Purchases in addition to whatever conflict-of-interest limitations they see fitting.

Let’s face it, the world doesn’t need any more reviews on the lines of “I am so-and-so’s mother and I can’t believe he wrote a whole book! It’s really good!”

(16) COMICS RANT. The comics artist Colleen Doran went on an epic Twitter rant about “diversity hires.”

It implies things about race, it implies things about sex, it implies things about sexuality. And because I can’t read your mind, I don’t really know what “diversity hire” means to you. But I know what it means to me. So tread that ground with care.

Start the thread here —

(17) THE FORCE IS WITH THEM. Pacific Standard profiles “The Jedi Faithful”.

Disambiguating real-world practices from the traditions that the Star Wars franchise established is not so much a passing curiosity as one of the central reasons the group of Jedi has assembled here for the weekend. Belief in the Force here on Earth is ultimately simple enough, a matter of faith that requires no greater suspension of disbelief than praying to any other life-force or deity. However, the practical extension of that belief, as demonstrated in the Star Wars canon—namely, that one can use the Force to exert mental influence on the external world—poses a larger problem: The cosmos, absent green screens, doesn’t so easily succumb to the will.

And so, for those following the Gospel of Lucas, life can often seem a battle of approximations. Lightsabers here on Earth aren’t in fact shafts of light, but an alloy of plastic and LEDs. Jedi on Earth have downgraded telekinesis for noetic sciences and a belief that collective thought can influence external change. And, as their possession of DVD box sets, plastic lightsabers, and Star Wars kitsch indicates, they, unlike their fictional counterparts, haven’t quite subscribed to an ascetic’s denial of worldly attachments

(18) MAGIC SCHOOLS. L. Jagi Lamplighter says Superversive SF’s Fantastic Schools and Where to Find Them blog is “just a fun thing a couple of us are doing–covering magic schools and schooling in general. We are open to posts from anyone who writes about Magic Schools. It’s just a labor of love kind of thing. Nothing big. (Or anyone who has an opinion on either magic schools or schools in general.)”

She penned their most recent post: “Which Magic School Is For You: Roke”.

How many of you ever wished you could attend Roke? I bet many readers don’t even know what Roke is.

Once upon a time, in the long-ago dream time of the 1970s and 80s, there were three fantasy series everyone read: Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, C. S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles, and Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea Trilogy. Everyone who read fantasy had read all three, and they were considered equally great.

I remember the day, some years ago now, when I realized that while Narnia and Lord of the Rings had made the grade, Earthsea had been basically forgotten. Many modern fantasy fans had never heard of the books. They didn’t even know that LeGuin had invented one of their favorite concepts: the magic school.

But Ursula Leguin’s magic school in Wizard of Earth Sea was the first time a fantasy writer thought “Gee, we see so many wizards in stories. Who trains them? Where do they go to school?”

And what she gave us was Roke.

(19) MUPPETS. Gwynne Watkins, in the Yahoo Entertainment story “Miss Piggy’s ‘a mess inside’: Frank Oz and puppeteer pals reveal Muppet secrets”, interviews several associates of Jim Henson who are promoting Frank Oz’s HBO documentary Muppet Guys Talking.

If I were thinking about, from a viewer’s perspective, which Muppet changed the most over time, I would say Miss Piggy

Oz: Yeah, probably so. But Piggy is a different situation. I’ve said this before: Her beginnings were in the women’s liberation movement, just by accident. And I don’t consciously change things, but the characters don’t interact with the world — I interact with my world. And I don’t interact in such a way where I say, “Oh, I’ve got to put that in my character.” I think because of the zeitgeist, it just kind of happens without me knowing it. But Piggy’s a little different. Piggy is such a mess inside, that I think as the years go on, she gets more and more emotional baggage. And that’s mainly why she changes. She keeps being rejected by the frog. She keeps trying and cannot do the things that she wants to, like tell jokes or dance. So I think she has this emotional baggage that hurts her more and more and more, and as a result she covers more and more and more. That’s what I think. 

[Thanks to JJ, Mark Hepworth, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, rcade, Cat Eldridge, David Doering, Carl Slaughter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ken Richards.]

Pixel Scroll 3/12/18 Dammit, Jim, I’m A Filer, Not A Pixel-Scroller!

(1) MOOMIN FAN.  She remembers the Moomin scape her father made for her: “My family and other Moomins: Rhianna Pratchett on her father’s love for Tove Jansson” in The Guardian.

I don’t remember the precise moment I was introduced to the Moomins. They were always just there; a cosy, comforting and slightly weird presence in my childhood that has stayed with me. My father called Tove Jansson “one of the greatest children’s writers there has ever been”, and credited her writing as one of the reasons he became an author.

My father’s family were the kind of postwar, no-nonsense British people who didn’t really do hugs or talk about their feelings. Instead, they showed their love by building things: toys, puzzles, go-carts, treehouses. It was a tradition that my father, still very much the awkward hugger himself, would continue during my childhood. He built me a market stall, a beehive (complete with toy bees), a stove and, most memorably, Moominvalley.

It was crafted out of wood and papier-mache – a staple of all art projects in the 70s and 80s. It had a forest and a river and even a dark cave. He also made the Moominhouse and crafted all the Moomin characters out of clay; then painted and varnished them. Many years later we would turn over an entire attic full of junk trying to find a box that I thought might contain a solitary hand-made Moomin. He’s still out there somewhere.

(2) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. Declan Finn says something’s missing from Amazon. It’s the reviews he’s written about people’s books, and some of the reviews others have written about his books. Why? He calls it “Amazon’s War on Users”.

Has Amazon declared war on authors?

It would seem so at first pass. Last week, I had 315 reviews spread out over my various and sundry projects. Honor at Stake, for example, had 63, 68 reviews.

Today, I only have 238 reviews over all of them. Honor at Stake in particular having only 45 now. When I ask Amazon via email, they know nothing. Could I be more specific? It’s literally EVERY BOOK. They need a road map?

The mystery depends when I looked at reviews that I myself have written. They’re all gone. Poof. Vanished.

What the Hell?

And I’m not the only one. In fact, one writer’s group I’m a part of has had a lot of the same problem.

The Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance.

Funny that. And the one person outside of CLFA who had also had problems is friends with three of us.

However, I’m not about to declare enemy action just yet. For that, I need your help, that of the average reader. Because there is a problem. We can’t ask people outside the group, that we don’t know, if they have the same problem. Why?  Because if we don’t know them, it’s hard to ask. And if we know them, it can be construed as guilt by association.

Camestros Felapton joined the investigation. The conspiracy-minded won’t find his thoughts nearly as pleasing as Finn’s: “Amazon Purging Reviews Again”.

(3) FEAST FOR THE EYES. A cover reveal for Latchkey by Nicole Kornher-Stace, sequel to Archivist Wasp. Art by Jacquelin de Leon.

(4) THE MONEY KEEPS ROLLING IN. BBC reports — “Black Panther film: ‘Game-changing’ movie takes $1bn”.

Marvel’s superhero film Black Panther has taken more than a billion US dollars (£794m) at cinemas worldwide.

It is the fifth movie based in Disney’s Marvel Universe to hit the milestone.

(5) WAKANDA. A group hopes to run Wakanda Con in Chicago, IL this summer. Right now they’re building a list of interested fans.

WAKANDA CON is a fan-driven, one-day celebration of Afro-Futurism, Tech, and Black superheroes in film, television, and comic books, and of course, Black Panther. Our event will be held in Chicago, IL in Summer 2018. Join fellow citizens of Wakanda for discussion, education, networking, and festivities.

Marvel’s Black Panther has ushered in a new wave of thought about issues surrounding the African Diaspora and a new future for Black people around the world. The image of an African country with advanced technology and equality has inspired some of the world’s greatest thinkers and all of Black Twitter to create, think, and respond. WAKANDA CON is chance to take the conversation about Black Panther offline and into the real world.

(6) BRING KLEENEX. John Scalzi gives people lots of reasons to want to see A Wrinkle in Time.

(And, you may ask, what do I think about the film’s multicultural and feminine viewpoint and aesthetic? I think it works very well, and it’s a reminder that things that are not designed specifically for one in mind may still speak significantly and specifically to one, if one is open to it. I would not have imagined A Wrinkle in Time the way DuVernay has — I seriously doubt I could have imagined it this way — and yet there I was crying my eyes out all the same. I do not need the world to be imagined as I would have imagined it. I want the world and the things in it to exceed my imagination, to show me things I cannot make for myself but can take into myself, hold precious, and make my imagination that much wider from that point forward. As I noted before, this movie was not, I think, made for me, and still here I am, loving it as much as I do.)

(7) HEARTFELT STORY. Charles Payseur is just as persuasive in getting people to read his short fiction reviews: “Quick Sips – GigaNotoSaurus March 2018”

GigaNotoSaurus offers up a beautiful short story for March that might have been a bit more appropriate for February and Valentine’s Day because it is adorable and wonderful and sweet and just good! I’m a sucker for romance, and so the focus of this story for me is refreshing, especially because it refuses to tread the same tired paths of angst and powerlessness that seem to dominate so many romantic story lines. It’s not without darkness or sadness, but it’s a story to me about the triumph of love and humans over despair, loss, and death. To the review!

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 12, 1971Andromeda Strain was first released theatrically.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock studied the canine cosmology in Pooch Cafe.

(10) COMEDIAN SECTION. Today’s relevant joke, from the just-late Ken Dodd: “Ken Dodd: 17 of his funniest one-liners”.

So it turns out that if you bang two halves of a horse together, it doesn’t make the sound of a coconut.

(Other 16 are NSF just about everything….)

(11) BEYOND THE FAIL FRONTIER. ScreenRant delights in finding these contradictions: “Star Trek: 17 Memes That Prove The Show Makes No Sense”. They begin with an infographic —

(12) INCLUSIVE OR NOT? Dave Huber, in The College Fix story, “MIT Librarian:  Tech Posters Plastered With Star Trek Posters, Other Geeky Stuff Is Non-Inclusive to Women,” says that MIT head librarian Chris Bourg has said that students should “replace Star Trek posters with travel posters…and generally just avoid geek references and inside nerd jokes” if they want to be inclusive for women.

Since the many incarnations of “Star Trek” are considered some of the most diverse shows in the history of television, not to mention that about half those attending Star Trek conventions are female, The College Fix contacted Bourg about this particular reference.

She responded by pointing out her advice “comes directly from the research,” and provided a link to the study: “Ambient Belonging: How Stereotypical Cues Impact Gender Participation in Computer Science.”

The 2009 study examined whether “stereotypical objects” like Star Trek posters “signal a masculinity that precludes women from ever developing an interest in computer science.” Or, as the authors dub it, how the “ambient belonging” of women is affected by tech-geek ware.

While conceding that the tech-geek “masculinity” in question may not refer to a “traditional definition” (think “strength, assertiveness, and sexual prowess”) the authors argue the “stereotypicality” of the group still has a “profound” effect on the ability to recruit people who do not see themselves as fitting that stereotype.

(13) PROPHET OF DOOM? “Tim Berners-Lee says net has ‘heaps of problems'”. [[Voice only]]

The inventor of the World Wide Web says the internet as we know it is “under threat” and faces “heaps” of problems.

Monday 12 March marks 29 years since Sir Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web. This year is expected to be the first time that more than half of the world’s population will have internet access.

Sir Tim spoke to the BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones about the challenges faced.

(14) ELON MUSK. More blue-skying? “Elon Musk: Mars ship test flights ‘next year'”.

A Mars colony, he said, would reduce the chance of an extended new Dark Ages if a nuclear conflict was to wipe out life on Earth.

But, aware of his reputation, he added: “Sometimes my timelines are a little… y’know.”

But enough about reality.

Elon Musk is unquestionably the most interesting businessman in Silicon Valley – arguably the world – thanks to his almost single-handed reignition of the space race.

(15) MONITORING TV. Rich Lynch says tonight’s “Literary L.A.” Category on Jeopardy! had a Bradbury clue. It even showed a photo of him.

The contestant got it right.

(16) TENT TECH. It’s not your grandfather’s yurt — “To Fight Pollution, He’s Reinventing The Mongolian Tent”.

In Gamsukh’s office those possibilities seem endless. Books, papers and sketches cover a desk and table. Dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, Gamsukh, whose dark hair has a slight orange tint, comes off as artistic. But the sketches he produces are not dreamy musings. They are technical drawings supported by mathematical calculations. They are solid, like the sturdily built Gamsukh. Many are already being implemented, including a partially completed passive solar heated immobile ger that adds windows, insulation and solar collectors to the traditional model. Passive solar heating design uses windows, walls and floors to collect, store and distribute heat in the winter and reject it in the summer. Designs vary depending on the climate in which they are built, but shade can be used to block the sun in summer without taking away from warmth in winter because the sun is higher in summer.

When it is finished, Gamsukh plans to call it home. He is also testing another modified ger that uses solar power and those underground pipes he tried to dig in winter for heat.

(17) SHORT ORDER ROBOT. “Burger-flipping robot begins first shift” at Cali-Burger in Pasadena, CA. See a video of the robot in action, at the link.

Flippy, a burger-flipping robot, has begun work at a restaurant in Pasadena, Los Angeles.

It is the first of dozens of locations for the system, which is destined to replace human fast-food workers.

The BBC’s North America technology reporter Dave Lee saw it in action.

(18) BUSTED. To go with the recent Pixel on Iceland running out of energy due to Bitcoin generation: “Iceland police arrest suspected Bitcoin server thieves”.

Police in Iceland have arrested 11 people suspected of stealing more than 600 computers that were being used to mine crypto-currencies, reports AP.

The computers were stolen during four raids on data centres around Iceland.

The country is a popular location for data centres because almost 100% of the power generated there comes from renewable sources.

(19) THE OTHER JJ. ScreenRant says this JJ Abrams sketch was cut from Saturday Night Live for time.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Allen, John King Tarpinian, Mark Hepworth, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Rich Lynch, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 3/10/18 Great Scroll Title

(1) WIKIPEDIA. What an amazing coincidence (or not)! Amazing Stories is Wikipedia’s Featured Article today. I hope it gives Steve Davidson’s Kickstarter a boost.

(2) WISCON. The WisCon Member Assistance Fund is rising money through sales of t-shirts etc. with this design:

You’ve always been able to support the WMAF via our Donate page, during the Registration process, or by using our direct Paypal link.

But now you can take care of your own need for clothing and benefit the WMAF at the same time! Sam Haney Press has designed artwork based on an idea from Nicasio Andres Reed (inspired by Woodie Guthrie) and we’re making it available on t-shirts! (And on a tote bag, which you will probably need to…carry the multiple t-shirts you are going to want to buy.)

Buy shirts at this link.

(3) UNRECOGNIZED. Scott Bradfield explains why pop culture fame eludes Clark Ashton Smith in “The Bard of Auburn: Getting Weird in the Long Valley” for LA Review of Books.

WHEN IT COMES to being underrated, Clark Ashton Smith has long been a quadruple-threat. For more than a century, Smith has been unfairly disregarded as a poet, a short story writer, a painter, and even a sculptor; had he perhaps enjoyed just a little professional good fortune during his lifetime, he might have gone on to spend his twilight years being unfairly disregarded in numerous additional endeavors: prose poetry, novel writing, drama, screenwriting, you name it. Instead, he spent those last decades as a gardener and handy-man, never achieving the recognition of his friends and fellow Weird Tales contributors, H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. Almost unforgivably, no proper biography has yet been published about Smith — only a scattering of bibliographies and essays from small (but resolute) specialty presses.

In many ways, this ponderous, multi-generational neglect of Smith isn’t hard to understand. Unlike Howard (the stylish creator of Conan and Solomon Kane), Smith never wrote filmable series characters that could be played by the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Vin Diesel….

(4) BOFFO B.O. Looper tells “Why Black Panther Blew Everyone Away At The Box Office.”

(5) AS SANDS THROUGH AN HOURGLASS. “Dune reboot will span two movies, take at least two years, says Denis Villeneuve” reports SyFy Wire.

We’ve known for a while that Denis Villeneuve is working on a reboot for Dune, Frank Herbert’s landmark sci-fi novel famously adapted for the big screen by David Lynch all the way back in 1984. But now we’re learning that Villeneuve has no plans to try to cram everything from the sprawling source material into just one movie.

Via The Playlist, Villeneuve recently told a crowd gathered for a Montreal film event that his adaptation of the 1965 novel “will probably take two years to make,” with a goal of making “two films; maybe more.” That bomb drop reaffirms Villeneuve’s long-haul commitment to what’s long been a passion project.

(6) WIKIMYSTERY. A scholarly paper posits the automatic generation of adventure games from open data such as Wikipedia articles, OpenStreetMap, and images from Wikimedia Commons: “Who Killed Albert Einstein? From Open Data to Murder Mystery Games”.

Every WikiMystery game revolves around the murder of a person with a Wikipedia article and populates the game with suspects who must be arrested by the player if guilty of the murder or absolved if innocent. Starting from only one person as the victim, an extensive generative pipeline finds suspects, their alibis, and paths connecting them from open data, transforms open data into cities, buildings, non-player characters, locks and keys and dialog options. The paper describes in detail each generative step, provides a specific playthrough of one WikiMystery where Albert Einstein is murdered, and evaluates the outcomes of games generated for the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

(7) CARTOON NETWORK. The Hollywood Reporter tells readers: “Cartoon Network Unveils Largest-Ever Slate of Content for 2018-19”.

Among the new shows is Diego Molano’s Victor and Valentino, a supernatural comedy about a pair of half-brothers who spend the summer with their grandmother in a mysterious town where Latin American folklore comes to life, and Owen Dennis’ Infinity Train, which has already developed a passionate following through the network’s Artist Program, about a girl who tries to find her way home from a train full of infinite worlds. Victor and Valentino is slated to release this year, while Infinity Train will reach viewers in 2019.

Other new Cartoon Network shows include buddy-comedy Apple & Onion, set in a world of anthropomorphic food; the surrealist animal adventure Summer Camp Island; and adventure comedy Craig of the Creek, which follows the expeditions of a group of best friends across a neighborhood creek.

And that’s not all!

(8) THE DORKEST HOUR. There’s something you don’t see every day — “Winston Churchill dancing like James Brown, played by Gary Oldman.”

(9) SHARKE WATCH. Shadow Clarke jury convenor Dr. Helen Marshall provides “A Means of Escape: A Round-Up of Our Posts So Far”.

As we eagerly await the end of the snows and the release of the submissions list, which will launch the first major phase of the Arthur C. Clarke jury’s deliberations, I thought it would be useful to pause for a moment and reflect upon the major threads introduced by our jury members so far. In assembling the jury, Maureen and I wanted to draw together reviewers from different backgrounds and with different ideas of what criticism might mean and what it ought to do. I’ve been delighted to see the range of approaches offered so far as well as the questions they open up. What follows then are my own impressions of some of the major threads that connect these approaches.

(10) SF ENCYCLOPEDIA CREATOR. Here’s the text of Peter Douglas Nicholls’ death notice that appeared in The Age of Melbourne on March 9.

Science fiction critic, encyclopedist, bon vivant, and pontificator. Died on 6th March 2018, aged 78, surrounded by family. Inspired adoration and exasperation in equal measure. Remembered with enormous love by his sister, Meg; children, Sophie, Saul, Tom, Jack, and Luke; grandchildren, Pia, Cassia and Uma; and his wife, Clare Coney.

My brain tells stories to itself
While I’m asleep. Last night
I smoked and talked, the dead replied
A party in my dreams.
What fun!

– Peter Nicholls

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 10, 1972 Silent Running premiered
  • March 10, 1997 — The Warner Brothers (WB) television network airs the inaugural episode of Joss Whedon’s, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

(12) ELLISON. Damien Walters posted his 2013 interview with Harlan Ellison last October, and linked to it on Facebook today.

DW: You famously described sci-fi fandom as an “extended family of wimps, twinks, flakes and oddballs.” But don’t the geeks kind of run the world now?

HE: I am a steadfastly 20th-century guy. I’ve always been pathologically au courant. Even today I can tell you the length of Justin Bieber’s hair. But it has now reduced society to such a trivial, crippled form, that it is beyond my notice. I look at things like Twitter and Facebook, and “reality TV”?—?which is one of the great frauds of our time, an oxymoron like “giant shrimp”?—?and I look at it all, and I say, these people do not really know what the good life is. I look at the parched lives that so many people live, the desperation that underlies their every action, and I say, this has all been brought about by the electronic media. And I do not envy them. I do not wish to partake of it, and I am steadfastly in the 20th century. I do not own a handheld device. Mine is an old dial-up laptop computer, which I barely can use?—?barely. I still write on a manual typewriter. Not even an electronic typewriter, but a manual. My books keep coming out. I have over 100 books published now, and I’ve reached as close to posterity as a poor broken vessel such as I am entitled to reach.

(13) PETS WHO SLEEP NEAR WRITERS. Mark-kitteh made sure we didn’t miss “13 Of The Most Adorable Pets Owned By Famous Writers” at Buzzfeed.

  1. J.K. Rowling’s endearing West Highland terrier named Bronte:

(14) DO THE LOCOMOTION. A BBC video shows a “Rollerskating robot to the rescue” (video)

Researchers in Zurich are teaching a robot how to balance on wheels attached to its four legs.

The goal is to help it complete search and rescue missions and other tasks in less time.

(15) BOOM, JAMES BOOM. The volcano used in You Only Live Twice is throwing off ash, lava and rocks – but no rocket launch parts: “Mount Shinmoedake: Warning over Japan’s James Bond volcano”.

(16) PURPLE HAZE? When they’re done, they have an educated guess: “Alien atmospheres recreated on Earth”.

“Clouds and hazes determine the temperature and the chemistry of the atmosphere, and also how deep we can look into a planet’s atmosphere,” explained Dr Helling.

“Exoplanet clouds can be made of sparkling minerals, in addition to the photochemical hazes just produced in the lab.”

While clouds form from the continuous cycling of material, much like the hydrological cycle on Earth, the process of producing hazes is “more of a one way trip” according to Dr Hörst.

The solid particles then remain in the planet’s atmosphere, where they can scatter light and affect the surface temperature, or travel to the surface via precipitation.

(17) ROBOTS BEHAVING BADLY. CNN Money gives a video demonstration: “Watch this robot get attacked by ransomware”.

Ransomware is not only a threat on phones or computers. It’s coming for robots, too. Researchers at security firm IOActive successfully conducted a ransomware attack on a SoftBank Robotics robot

(18) MOVIE THEOLOGY. The Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein finds Coco opens the way for a decreasingly religious America to discuss the idea of an afterlife for loved ones: “How the Oscar-winning ‘Coco’ and its fantastical afterlife forced us to talk about death”.

There is little solid data on the wide range of beliefs Americans have about post-death existence and how those views are changing. Much of what there is has to do with the words “heaven” and “hell” — amorphous for many. Seventy-two percent of Americans say they believe in heaven, and 58 percent in hell — numbers very slightly down since about a decade ago, according to the Pew Research Center.

People who work with the dying say these beliefs are fluid.

“Death opens you up,” said Aram Haroutunian, a longtime hospital and hospice chaplain in Denver. “And death is the great unknown. People are more open. And especially at the very end, they are very open.”

Haroutunian said he doesn’t think hammering out theology around the afterlife is a particularly common priority for the dying. However, he said, a common experience among hospice workers is hearing people who are dying start to speak of the deceased — long-dead family or friends — in the present tense, “like they’ve been talking with them.” Metaphors about travel are extremely common, he said: I’m getting on a train, taking a bus ride, packing my bags. “It’s uncanny,” he added.

(19) PRODIGY. Alex Haughey and Brian Vidal’s Prodigy, to be released March 13, is available for pre-order at iTunes.

Prodigy follows Dr. Fonda, a psychologist with a mysterious new patient. After being searched and issued warnings, he is taken to a cell where he finds Ellie, a young girl strapped in a straitjacket. Ellie immediately begins dissecting Fonda, revealing her genius-level intellect. Fonda holds fast, only faltering when Ellie claims to have killed her own mother. The team observing this interaction suggest Ellie is more dangerous than Fonda knows. She possesses “gifts” they wish to analyze — a process which will result in Ellie’s death. With the execution scheduled for the next day, Fonda must alter his strategy. He engages Ellie in a battle of wits, which results in Ellie’s telekinetic “gifts” revealing themselves. Objects hover, furniture topples, the foundation of the building quakes, but Fonda continues chipping away at Ellie’s tough facade. His methods begin to win over the experts, but he will need drastic results to prove the monster they see is actually a child worth saving.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 3/3/18 Scrolling Occupants Of Interpixellary Craft

(1) STRANGE TOY. Robin Sloan offers “Voyages in sentence space”.

Imagine a sentence. “I went looking for adventure.”

Imagine another one. “I never returned.”

Now imagine a sentence gradient between them—not a story, but a smooth interpolation of meaning. This is a weird thing to ask for! I’d never even bothered to imagine an interpolation between sentences before encountering the idea in a recent academic paper. But as soon as I did, I found it captivating, both for the thing itself—a sentence… gradient?—and for the larger artifact it suggested: a dense cloud of sentences, all related; a space you might navigate and explore.

…My project called sentencespace, now public on GitHub, serves up an API that provides two things.

  1. Sentence gradients: smooth interpolations between two input sentences.
  2. Sentence neighborhoods: clouds of alternative sentences closely related to an input sentence.

Sentence neighborhoods are simpler than gradients. Given an input sentence, what if we imagine ourselves standing at its location in sentence space, peering around, jotting down some of the other sentences we see nearby?

Mlex sent the link together with a screenshot of his own experiment with gradients between two sentences: “I put in the opening and closing phrases of Dhalgren and got the output (in the screenshot attached).”

(2) JUKKA WINS. The Finnish Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association presented Worldcon 75 chair Jukka Halme with the Cosmos Pen Award, their highest honor.

(3) SPIRIT AWARDS. Get Out won the top two categories at today’s Film Independent Spirit Awards ceremony, Best Feature and Best Director.

The Spirit Awards recognize independent filmmakers. Read the full list of winners here.

(4) SUGGEST CHESLEY AWARD NOMINEES. The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists is seeking suggestions for 2017 works for consideration for this year’s Chesley Awards in the categories Hardback Cover, Paperback Cover, Magazine Cover, Interior Illustration, Gaming Related Illustration, Product Illustration, Color Work Unpublished, Monochrome Work Unpublished, Three Dimensional Art, Art Director, and Lifetime Artistic Achievement. Anyone can suggest works for consideration, you do not need to be an ASFA member.

The Suggestion form is here: https://goo.gl/v8QuzP

The gallery of works suggested so far is here.

The deadline is March 5.

(5) THESE BOOTS. Will Terry Goodkind get a veto over his next book cover? Although not yet displayed on the Macmillan website, another service is circulating this draft cover art for the third novel in his Nicci Chronicles series. Siege of Stone goes on sale December 31, 2018. Unfortunately, the banner obscures the character’s footwear, one of the things Goodkind criticized in his recent blast about the cover for Shroud of Eternity.

(6) DID PKD EVER COMPLAIN ABOUT HIS COVERS? Alicia Kroell, in “33 of the Weirdest Philip K. Dick Covers We Could Find” at LitHub, has unearthed some truly creepy covers!

(7) ASSEMBLY REQUIRED. Roy Scranton reviews an Iraqi sf novel in New Republic — “A Surreal Story from Baghdad”.

Frankenstein in Baghdad begins with an explosion in Baghdad’s Tayaran Square, the full significance of which doesn’t become clear until later, when the junk dealer Hadi tells his story to a group of journalists at a coffee shop. One, a German documentary-maker, leaves halfway through, laughing off Hadi’s tale as a fable stolen from a Robert De Niro movie. But Mahmoud al-Sawadi, an Iraqi magazine journalist, stays and listens closely, because what Hadi’s telling him is genuinely weird, even for Baghdad: how after the explosion he’d picked up someone’s nose off the street and sewed it onto the face of a corpse he’d been building in his shed. Then how, while he was sleeping, the corpse apparently got up and walked away.

Hadi’s a well-known liar, and a drunk to boot, but as Mahmoud discovers, this time the junk man was telling the truth. His story sparks the plot of Ahmed Saadawi’s brilliant, rueful novel, which won the 2014 International Prize for Arabic Fiction and has recently appeared in a crisp, moving, and mordantly humorous English translation from Jonathan Wright and Penguin Books. Hadi, it turns out, created a monster.

(8) STIERS OBIT. David Ogden Stiers, best known for playing Major Charles Emerson Winchester III on MAS*H, died March 3 at the age of 75. He also appeared in several genre TV shows, and had numerous voice acting roles in animated films.

Stiers was a prolific voice actor, working in eight Disney animated features including 1991’s Beauty and the Beast (in which he played Cogsworth), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (the Archdeacon), Pocahantas (Governor Ratcliffe) and Lilo & Stitch (Dr. Jumba Jookiba). He also voiced Kamaji in the English-dubbed version of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born March 3, 1920James Doohan, Actor (Star Trek)
  • Born March 3, 1945George Miller, Director & Producer (Mad Max franchise)
  • Born March 3, 1958Miranda Richardson, Actor (Blackadder, Harry Potter)
  • Born March 3, 1980Katherine Waterston, Actor (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Alien: Covenant)
  • Born March 3, 1982Jessica Biel, Actor (Blade: Trinity, Total Recall)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY DOMAIN

(11) WAKANDA AND COSPLAY. NPR explores how “‘Black Panther’ Brings New Visibility To Cosplayers Of Color”.

The film “Black Panther” has inspired black cosplayers around the country to be more visible within the cosplay community.

Cosplay, which is short for “costume play,” is when people wear often-handmade costumes to embody fictional characters from comic books and popular movies like Captain America and Star Wars. But black and other non-white cosplayers often feel excluded because non-white characters are rarely featured prominently in the fantasy worlds of comics. They are often relegated to the roles of sidekicks or villains rather than the superheroes.

But Black Panther, which features a black lead and a predominantly black cast, offers a multifaceted depiction of African life where people of color play both the villains and the heroes. These characters are transforming the playing field for non-white cosplayers like Tamara Heredia, a black cosplayer from Houston, Texas. …

(12) ANCIENT SAILORS. Learn Moana’s real history — “DNA sheds light on settlement of Pacific”.

Prof Reich, who is lead author of the study in Current Biology, added that Vanuatu was a “gateway to the remote Pacific islands… through that region of Vanuatu and neighbouring islands, people spread all over the Pacific”.

The first people to arrive in the islands belonged to the Lapita culture, who expanded out of Taiwan between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago, reaching Vanuatu about 3,000 years ago. “They were really talented seafaring people,” said Dr Cosimo Posth, from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany. Dr Posth was co-author of the study in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Their secret was the specialised outrigger canoe, which is characterised by the addition of lateral support floats which stabilise the main hull. This innovation, says Dr Posth, “allowed them to cover immense distances of the ocean”.

(13) BUTLER TALK. The Pasadena (CA) Museum of History will host a lecture, “Telling My Stories: The Pioneering Fiction of Octavia E. Butler”, on March 29 at 6:30. Tickets now on sale.

Join Natalie Russell, Assistant Curator of Literary Collections at the Huntington Library and curator of the recent Huntington exhibition, Telling My Stories: The Pioneering Fiction of Octavia E. Butler, for this lecture in celebration of Womens History Month and in conjunction with the new exhibition Dreaming the Universe. Octavia E. Butler was the first female African American writer to make science fiction her career. A shy, only child from Pasadena, she dreamed of ordinary people in extraordinary worlds, and extraordinary people in ordinary worlds, and put them on the page. Her stories brought the voice of women of color to a genre traditionally dominated by white men. That powerful voice tackled issues, not just about race, but themes that continue to resonate with a wide audience: power, identity, gender, class, the environment, and what it means to be human.

This program is presented in partnership with the Historical Society of Southern California – George A. V. Dunning Lecture Series.

Tickets include light refreshments and entrance to the exhibition Dreaming the Universe: The Intersection of Science, Fiction, & Southern California starting at 5:30 pm. Tickets: Members $10; General $15. Advanced ticket purchase is recommended, visit https://octaviabutlerlecture.brownpapertickets.com.

(14) APPRENTICED TO A PILOT. From 2012, John Hodgman presents “Dana Gould as Maurice Evans as Dr. Zaius as Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain.” And I’ll throw in a twisted Gilbert & Sullivan reference as the headline.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC also has a story.

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

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

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

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

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

Groot is dead. Long live Baby Groot!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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