Pixel Scroll 8/5/18 This Is Not A Pixel Scroll Title

(1) MUST-READ GRAPHIC NOVELS. The Guardian has a little list: “From Maus to Tamara Drewe: the 10 graphic novels everyone should read”.

The recent hoo-ha about the Man Booker prize’s longlisting of a graphic novel for the first time, the chilling, understated Sabrina by Nick Drnaso, may have piqued your interest in exploring this ever-expanding medium further, or perhaps for the first time. Not everyone has grown up reading comics and the demands of their various verbal and visual literacies can take some adjusting to, particularly if you’re used to the orderly typesetting of prose novels. It’s never too late, though, to try stretching your brain – both sides of it when it comes to graphic novels, where looking is as important as reading.

The roundup begins with —

This experience comes through in the wordless migration parable The Arrival by Shaun Tan (2006), which follows a man who has gone on ahead of his wife and children to seek work abroad and struggles to navigate his alien surroundings and their indecipherable language. Unable to make himself understood, he resorts to making simple drawings to communicate his need for a room. The reader shares his bafflement and gradually grasps with him how his strange new homeland works. Tan’s genius in children’s picture books blossoms in this extended tale for all ages, illustrated in almost photographic sepia images.

(2) PREDATOR’S FIRST BITE. ScreenRant gives the popular actor’s fans a reason to mourn: “The Predator Cuts Edward James Olmos’ Character Due to Shorter Runtime”.

As first reported by Slash Film, Olmos won’t be appearing in The Predator as previously planned. When asked about his role in the film Olmos commented, “I’m not in the show though. It was too long so my character, they had to take me out. They were like half an hour, 3/4 of an hour too long. So I understand why“. Olmos himself doesn’t seem to be terribly disappointed by the news, but fans of his previous work such as Battlestar Galactica and Blade Runner certainly will be.

(3) CARTOON VERDICT. Camestros Felapton’s “Review: Final Space (Netflix)” is an interesting tour whether you’re likely to watch the series or not – and more likely not, based on his conclusions….

It’s basically a fun kids cartoon but with more violence and (generally mild) sexual references. With a small amount of effort, it could have been a really good kid’s cartoon instead of whatever it ended up being…

I wouldn’t want to recommend you watch it as for some readers it might result in them using their mobile device as a projectile aimed at the wall but it is sort of a better show than it deserves to be.

(4) PAPER CANCELLED.  John Teehan notes that the SFWA Bulletin is abandoning its print edition.

End of an era. As production manager and occasional editor, I worked on 56 issues over 15 some odd years. The SFWA Bulletin is now going digital, and the current issue is the last print one I’ll be involved with. It was a great run—one of the best gigs ever. Had some ups and downs, certainly, but the experience overall was a great one in which I found myself growing each year. Many thanks to everyone who supported our work over the years.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 5, 1861 — The United States government issued its first income tax, encouraging more people to write fantasy.
  • August 5, 2011Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a reboot that worked.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 5, 1930 – Neil Armstrong

(7) CURIOSITY’S QUIET ANNIVERSARY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] You may have seen headlines about Curiosity singing (well, humming) Happy Birthday to itself in honor of it’s fifth birthday (as measured in Earth years since landing) last week. Well, nope. Florence Tan at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate explained to The Atlantic why this was a one-time occurrence (in 2013) rather than an annual event — “Why the Curiosity Rover Stopped Singing ‘Happy Birthday’”.

“The answer to your question will sound rather cold and unfeeling,” her email began.

Oh, no.

“In a nutshell, there is no scientific gain from the rover playing music or singing ‘Happy Birthday’ on Mars,” Tan said. In the battle between song and science, science always wins.

Vibrating the sample-analysis unit (which is a normal part of Curiosity’s scientific endeavors) uses energy that could be put to use elsewhere and adds wear and tear to the SAM unit. Plus, of course, it takes someone to work the humming into an incredibly tight schedule:

“It’s not just, ‘Oh, I’m ready to send a command, just send an email to somebody,’” Tan said in a phone interview. The rover’s activities are scheduled down to the minute, and SAM requires power to operate. Curiosity runs on a nuclear battery that turns heat into electricity, and it will eventually die.

So, the uncaged rover no longer sings.

(8) VONARBURG BIRTHDAY. Steven H Silver lights up another cake at Black Gate with “Birthday Reviews: Élisabeth Vonarburg’s ‘Cogito’”.

She has twice been nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award and once for the James Tiptree, Jr. Memorial Award. Her greatest recognition came from the Canadian Casper/Aurora Awards, which she has won ten times. Vonarburg won the French language award in 1987 for her story “La Carte du Tendre” (“Readers of the Lost Art”). That same year, she received a second Aurora for her fannish contributions to Solaris. She won three additional short story Auroras for “Cogito” (1990), “Ici, des tigres” (1991), and “La Course de Kathryn” (2004) and five Auroras for Best book for Histoire de la Princesse et du Dragon (1991), Ailleurs et au Japon (1992), Chroniques de Pays des Mères (1993), Les Voyageurs malgré eux (1996), and Reine de Mémoire 4. La Princesse de Vengeance (2007). She won the Prix Rosny-Ainé and the Prix Boreal in 1982 for her novel Le Silence de la Cité. She also won the Boreal for Chroniques de Pays des Mères (1993), Les Rêves de la mer (1997), Reine de Mémoire 1. La Maisson d’oubli (2006) and Reine de Mémoire 4. La Princesse de Vengeance (2007). Prior to 1990, the Aurora Award was known as the Casper Award and in 2011, the Prix Aurora and Prix Boreal combined.

(9) EERIE. Bill “Beamjockey” Higgins has a birthday today, too – and is wondering how File 770’s commenting bug knew!

I can easily accept that some crazy glitch in your blogware puts a far-future date on my draft comment.

What’s spooky is that WHEN I WAS COMMENTING ABOUT CENTENNIALS AND BICENTENNIALS the date on my comment turned out to be 5 August 2854, 900 years after my own birth.

Pics, or it didn’t happen?  I attach a screenshot.

Timebindingly yours….

(10) OUTREACH. The reading evangelists from Dublin 2019 will be out again next weekend at a local event: “Dublin Comic Con and Outreach”. Chair James Bacon outlines the history:

…No matter where we go, we try and focus on ensuring we have something for all ages of reader. We isolate books for children and younger readers, and keep them to one side; we know adults also love them, but we conserve them so every child can walk away with a book or comic.

This year in Dublin we have 4 large boxes of Childrens Comics, The Beano, Whizzer and Chips and Buster, and cartoon based Superhero comics as well as children’s books, and we will ensure kids get them.

It positively encourages the gentle transition of fascination with all that is super heroes or fun on the screen, to reading on the pages.

These projects have benefited hugely from established conventions who support their logistical activities and also from individuals and organisations who make generous donations of books, magazines and comics as well as their time and effort. Publishers and book stores also support the activities, and Half Price Books in the states have consistently been very good to SF Outreach.

This year, Dave Finn from Incognito Comics has again given two car loads of magazines, books, and comics to Outreach, knowing from seeing it in action at London Film and Comic Con, that the energy and enthusiasm to encourage reading is genuine and if as a by-product, people go to more cons, well isn’t that just fabulous.

Dublin Comic Con next weekend, and if you are in Dublin and want to check out anything to do with the Worldcon, please do call by and speak to us if you are going to Dublin Comic Con. (Check tickets availability, they do sell so well!)

(11) CHOCOLATE HUGO. Jerry Pournelle famously said, “Money will get you through times of no Hugos better than Hugos will get you through times of no money,” however, at the 1984 Worldcon Larry Niven played off his collaborator’s pet phrase when he presented him with a solid chocolate rocket during the ceremony: “Jerry, this is the Hugo that will get you through times of no money better than….”

All that came back to mind when I saw Worldcon 76 will auction the version of a chocolate Hugo given at last year’s Hugo Loser’s Party in Helsinki.

Delicious?

Yes, these were awarded at the legendary Hugo Loser’s Party in Helsinki Finland at Worldcon 75. The frame is milk chocolate, the center is white chocolate. Together, they taste like victory.

We can’t guarantee they’re gluten free. They may have been made in a facility that works with nuts. If you have any kind of dietary restrictions, you can still buy and enjoy this, but don’t eat it. Just relax and bathe in the glamor of owning a Worldcon Hugo Award.

And keep cool, or it might melt.

The beneficiary of the Worldcon76 in San Jose Charity Auction is the Alzheimer’s Association.

(12) THOUGHT EXPERIMENT. If that was too much chocolate, then for certain this is too much jam: “What If the Earth Was Made Out of Blueberries?” at Popular Mechanics,

In the heart of blueberry season, Billy-bodega, a user on Physics Stack Exchange, posed the question: “Supposing that the entire Earth was instantaneously replaced with an equal volume of closely packed, but uncompressed blueberries, what would happen from the perspective of a person on the surface?” the question got promptly deleted. But it didn’t stop Anders Sandberg, a researcher at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, to seriously tackle the idea, explaining the development of this blueberry planet (and even publishing the comprehensive answer in a paper).

What you’d end up with, according to Sandberg, “is a world that has a steam atmosphere covering an ocean of jam on top of warm blueberry granita.” Here’s how the planet would form: you start with fat, thick-skinned blueberries (blueberry Earth would be much less dense than actual Earth, and gravity would be weaker). Since blueberries can’t withstand strong forces, gravity would turn them into mash, releasing air that previously separated them from their neighbors, shrinking the radius of the planet.

(13) NOVIK. Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver, her take on Rumplestiltskin, is reviewed by Choire Sicha in the New York Times Book Review“Rumpelstiltskin Redux”.

Here [the author] has gathered countless old tales and turned them into something new. The theft of summer, a burning demon who lives inside a prince, a witch’s hut in the woods, the secret power of names, the frozen winter road that winds its way through the depths of the forest—they’re all here.

(14) THUMB DOWN. At Locus Online, “An Awful Warning, in More Ways Than One: Gary Westfahl Reviews The Darkest Minds.

If anyone is glancing at this review for advice on which films to see this weekend, my recommendation would be to avoid The Darkest Minds. For while it is competently executed and offers some superficial novelties, it is a film that most people have already seen several times, and since two similar franchises to be discussed have failed to generate expected sequels, it may be that many filmgoers are growing as tired of this film as I am.

The film is a generally faithful adaptation of Alexandra Bracken’s novel The Darkest Minds (2012), yet another version of a common formula for success in the modern marketplace of young adult fiction: a future dystopia spawned by an improbable disaster that prods evil adults to torment and oppress its teenagers, despite the fact that – or even because – these amazingly talented and virtuous youth are the only ones who can save humanity from impending extinction. In this case, the improbable disaster is the sudden appearance of a disease called IAAN (Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration), which kills most young people and imbues the surviving youth with a variety of psychic powers: “greens,” superintelligence; “blues,” telekinesis; “yellows” (in the film, “golds”), control of electricity; “oranges,” the ability to control others’ minds; and “reds,” pyrokinesis. Naturally, the government responds by declaring martial law, rounding up all teenagers, and placing them in concentration camps to either be slaughtered or exploited as slave labor. Our heroine, Ruby Daly (Amandla Stenberg), conceals her feared orange powers, keeping her alive until she escapes from her camp with the help of Cate Connor (Mandy Moore), a member of an underground organization called the Children’s League which turns out to be similarly sinister. But Ruby runs away to join three other teenage fugitives, the blue Liam (Harris Dickinson), the gold Suzume, or Zu (Miya Cech), and the green Chubs (Skylan Brooks), and they proceed to have several adventures in the vicinity of Virginia (though the movie was filmed in Georgia).

(15) CLIMATE FIXES. Kim Stanley Robinson educates in “The King Of Climate Fiction Makes The Left’s Case For Geoengineering” at Huffington Post.

…Robinson’s New York 2140, published last year, lays out a vision of what climate catastrophe and a leftist uprising against the capitalist forces that caused it would look like. So HuffPost asked him to elaborate on what he sees as the future of geoengineering. The following was edited for length and clarity.

How do you define geoengineering and what are the forms it will most likely take?

I guess the definition would be something like “a deliberate planned attempt by human beings to mitigate the damages of climate change, of carbon dioxide and methane buildup in the atmosphere, and of ecological damage generally, by way of some action that is large-scale” — if not global in reach, then regional in ways that might have global repercussions.

I’ve been saying that “geoengineering” is a bad name because engineering implies we know what we’re doing more than we really do. Also, that we have more powers than we actually have. I’ve suggested we think of it as “geo-finessing” or “geo-tweaking” or even “geo-begging,” to better indicate our relative ignorance and weakness in the face of global geochemical processes. Lots of those processes we can’t do anything about, even if we really want to. So the name needs some unpacking.

The most likely forms it might take, I think, are the following: casting dust-like particles into the atmosphere to mimic a volcanic eruption, so that for a number of years after that, the global average temperatures would go down a bit. Drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere by way of biological and/or mechanical means. Pumping seawater onto the ice cap of Eastern Antarctica. Stimulating growth of small life forms in the ocean that would then die and take their carbon to the seafloor ? this has been mentioned as a possibility, but it’s widely regarded as potentially dangerous for ocean ecologies. Still, it might be tested on small scales, even used on small scales, which would reduce its power to help but also its power to harm.

(16) RETRO TECH. How we know it’s the 21st century: “Town dusts off typewriters after cyber-attack”. Remember all those post-holocaust stories of reviving old tech? (But is anybody still making ribbons?)

Government workers in a borough of Alaska have turned to typewriters to do their jobs, after ransomware infected their computer systems.

A spokeswoman for Matanuska-Susitna said the malware had encrypted its email server, internal systems and disaster recovery servers.

She said staff had “resourcefully” dusted off typewriters and were writing receipts by hand.

The borough is in the process of rebuilding its systems.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, StephenfromOttawa, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Bill “Beamjockey” Higgins, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lisa Goldstein.]

Pixel Scroll 8/4/18 Your Pixeled Pal Who’s Fun To Scroll With!

(1) AMERICA HELD HOSTAGE, DAY FOUR. Crusading investigative fanwriter Camestros Felapton has been trying to find out why the Dragon Awards ballot wasn’t released August 1, the date posted on the site, and when it will come out. Here’s what he’s been told:

The latest report is this. I got an email saying that the finalists will be announced this upcoming Tuesday (presumably US time). Don’t all get too excited at once.

(2) COME BACK, JEAN-LUC. “Patrick Stewart to star in new Star Trek TV series”Entertainment Weekly has the story.

Stewart will reprise his iconic character, Jean-Luc Picard, for a CBS All Access series that “will tell the story of the next chapter of Picard’s life.”

Stewart himself just announced the news in a surprise appearance at the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention.

“I will always be very proud to have been a part of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but when we wrapped that final movie in the spring of 2002, I truly felt my time with Star Trek had run its natural course,” Stewart said. “It is, therefore, an unexpected but delightful surprise to find myself excited and invigorated to be returning to Jean-Luc Picard and to explore new dimensions within him. Seeking out new life for him, when I thought that life was over.”

And Michael Chabon will be one of the executive producers reports Variety.

The untitled series hails from Alex Kurtzman, James Duff, Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, and Kirsten Beyer. Kurtzman, Duff, Goldsman, and Chabon will also serve as executive producers on the series along with Stewart, Trevor Roth, Heather Kadin, and Rod Roddenberry. CBS Television Studios will produce. The new series does not currently have a premiere date

(3) BOREANAZ ON BUFFY. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo Entertainment story “David Boreanaz has no plans to be in controversial ‘Buffy’ reboot: ‘I just let it be and lend my support from afar'” says that Boreanaz is too busy with SEAL Team to worry about the forthcoming Buffy reboot (which is controversial because showrunner Monica Owusu-Breen might find a new actor to play Buffy) but he doesn’t have any objections to it.

 “I think it’s great,” says David Boreanaz, who played the ensouled vampire Angel on Buffy for three seasons before graduating to his own self-titled spin-off. “I’m sure they’ll find the right storylines and the right people to fill shoes of whatever characters they want to portray. It was great to be a part of it when it first started, and now to see it being revived is just another testimony to the hard work that we did. I congratulate that, and applaud that.”

(4) KRESS REQUEST. Nancy Kress announced on Facebook:

A few people have asked if I will autograph their books at Worldcn San Jose. However, I was disappointed that Programming Reboot has given me no panels, no autographing session, and no kaffeklatch. I do have one reading, at 4:30 on Sunday, which I cannot linger afterwards because of a Hugo dinner. So if anyone wants anything autographed, I will hang around the Hyatt lobby at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday.

(5) REACHING OUT TO HUGHART. Mike Berro, who runs the Barry Hughart Bibliography website is asking for help:

If anyone knows how to contact Barry Hughart, please let me know. I run a fan page, and would constantly get emails from people wanting to contact him, mostly about doing a movie or theatrical adaptation of Bridge of Birds. I would forward them to him, and he would always politely reply (with “no thanks”). I haven’t had a reply now for over a year, and just got an email from someone who reported that even his publishers cannot contact him. I fear something unfortunate has happened.

Berro says neither SFWA nor Subterranean Press have been able to offer any help.

Mike Berro’s contact email address is — hughart@collector.org

(6) PRO ADVICE. Not certain who Mary Robinette Kowal had in mind, although JDA was sure it was about him. (Of course, he thinks everything is.)

(7) CLOUDS OF WITNESSES. Crisis Magazine recalls “When C.S. Lewis Befriended a Living Catholic Saint”.

When Luigi Calabria, a shoemaker married to a housemaid, died in Verona, Italy in 1882, the youngest of his seven sons, Giovanni, nine years old, had to quit school and take a job as an apprentice. A local parish priest, Don Pietro Scapini, privately tutored him for the minor seminary, from which he took a leave to serve two years in the army. During that time, he established a remarkable reputation for edifying his fellow soldiers and converting some of them. Even before ordination, he established a charitable institution for the care of poor sick people and, as a parish priest, in 1907 he founded the Poor Servants of Divine Providence. The society grew, receiving diocesan approval in 1932. The women’s branch he started in 1910 would become a refuge for Jewish women during the Second World War. To his own surprise, since he was a rather private person, his order spread from Italy to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, India, Kenya, Romania, and the Philippines.

With remarkable economy of time, he was a keen reader, and in 1947 he came across a book translated as Le lettere di Berlicche by a professor at the University of Milan, Alberto Castelli, who later became a titular archbishop as Vice President of the Pontifical Council of the Laity. Berlicche was Screwtape and “Malacode” served for Wormwood. The original, of course, had been published in 1943 as The Screwtape Letters and Calabria was so taken with it that he sent a letter of appreciation to the author in England. Lacking English, he wrote it in the Latin with which he had become proficient since his juvenile tutorials with Don Pietro.

… Lewis’s correspondence with Calabria went on for about seven years, and after the holy priest died, Lewis wrote at least seven letters to another member of Calabria’s religious community, Don Luigi Castelli, who died in 1986 at the age of 96. Learning of Calabria’s death, Lewis referred to him in a message to Castelli with what I suspect was a deliberate invocation of the phrase about “the dearly departed” that Horace used to console Virgil on the death of Quintilius Varo: tam carum caput. It appears as well in Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley Novels. It was an unfortunate habit of Lewis to throw out letters he received when he thought he might otherwise betray confidences. So what we have are only what he sent. The letters are a radiant model of philia friendship that he described in his 1958 radio talks:

(8) WHO’S THE HERO? John Dilillo claims “Amazon’s Proposed ‘Lord of the Rings’ Series Misses the Point of Middle-Earth” at Film School Rejects.

…Every conventionally heroic duty performed by Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings is performed in service of a greater act of heroism by Hobbits, characters who choose their own destiny instead of following the path their bloodline lays out for them. Without Hobbits, Middle-earth is just another cliched fantasy tapestry, painting with the same old tired strokes. What makes Aragorn special is not his heritage or his backstory; it is that he recognizes that he is not the hero of this story. Aragorn is the king who bows to the Hobbits. Stripped of that identity, he is indistinguishable from any other gruff sword-wielding badass.

On top of all this, we’ve already seen the type of story that results from a Tolkien adaptation that loses sight of true heroism in favor of grand tales of redeemed sons and doomed kings. The great failing of the Hobbit trilogy is that it abandons its titular character all too often in favor of the gloomy angst of Richard Armitage’s Thorin Oakenshield. Armitage does a fine job projecting gloomy wounded pride, and whoever assumes the lead role in Amazon’s series will doubtless give just as effective a performance. But all of that is ultimately wasted when the real appeal of a Middle-earth story comes from the Shire, not the Lonely Mountain. A Hobbit story that isn’t about Bilbo Baggins is a failure, and it’s a failure that should be learned from….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 4 — Richard Belzer, 74. The Third Rock fromThe Sun series as himself, also the Species II film and an awful adaption of Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, along with series work too in The X-Files, The Invaders, Human Target, and acrecurring role in the original Flash series to name a few of his genre roles.
  • Born August 4 — Daniel Dae Kim, 50. First genre role was in the NightMan series, other roles include the Brave New World tv film, the second Fantasy Island series, recurring roles on LostAngel and Crusade, the Babylon 5 spinoff series, Star Trek: Voyager, Charmed and voice work on Justice League Unlimited.
  • Born August 4 — Abigail Spencer, 37. First genre role was in the Campfire horror anthology series, other roles include Ghost Whisperer, Jekyll, a film that’s an sf riff off that meme, Cowboys & Aliens, the Oz the Great and Powerful film and Timeless, the sf series recently allowed a proper ending
  • Born August 4 — Meaghan Markle, 37. Yes, Her Royalness. Appeared in Fringe and the newer Knight Rider. Also the near future legal drama Century City.

(10) INSTAPOLL. Survey says –

(11) KEN LIU TO TV. Andrew Liptak says an animated show is on the way: “AMC is developing a sci-fi show based on Ken Liu’s short stories”.

Ken Liu is one of science fiction’s most celebrated writers working today. In addition to translating Cixin Liu’s acclaimed Three Body Problem and Death’s End, he’s also earned numerous awards, most significantly for his short story, “The Paper Menagerie”. Now, it looks as though his works could reach a new audience: AMC is developing series based on his works called Pantheon, according to Deadline.

If it’s produced, Pantheon will be an animated show “based on a series of short stories by [Liu] about uploaded intelligence,” reports Deadline. Craig Silverstein, who created and produced AMC’s American revolution drama Turn, will serve as showrunner, producer, and writer.

(12) SOLO. Lela E. Buis points out the casting problems: “Review of Solo: A Star Wars Story”.

…The worst problem with this film, of course, was Alden Ehrenreich trying to step into Harrison Ford’s shoes. Ehrenreich did a workmanlike job with the character, but workmanlike just isn’t Han Solo. Donald Glover as Calrissian got glowing reviews, but it was really the charismatic Woody Harrelson as Beckett who lights up the film—an understated, low key performance notwithstanding. Also prominent was Lando’s co-pilot L3-37, an animated character fighting against the slavery of droids.

This brings up another question. Why isn’t Disney investing in flashier talent for these movies?

(13) BAEN CHALLENGE COINS. Baen Books is taking orders for the first pressing of its new Challenge  Coins commemorating iconic names or events in the books of Ringo, Williamson, Kratman and probably whoever else you’d expect to fill out a list that starts with those three names.

Each coin is $15. Buy all 13 author coins, and the “I Read Baen’d Books” coin comes free. Shipping and handling is a flat rate of $15, $45 international, for up to 13 coins. Write to info@baen.com for rates on bulk orders.

These coins were designed by Jack Wylder with the active participation of the authors. Here’s an example —

Front: I Read Baen’d Books

Reverse: RIP Joe Buckley

All profits from this coin will go to support two charities founded, supported, and run by Baen readers: Operation Baen Bulk, which provides care packages for deployed service members, and Read Assist, a 501c3 company that serves our disabled readers. http://www.readassist.org/ Each coin is $15. Buy all 13 author coins, and the “I Read Baen’d Books” coin comes free. “I read Baened Books” was first used by Chris French. “Joe Buckley” used courtesy of Joe Buckley. Don’t forget to duck

(14) A CENTURY OF STURGEON. Scott Bradfield tries to jumpstart the party — “Celebrating Theodore Sturgeon’s centenary – so should we all” in the LA Times. (Unfortunately, the Times initially failed to get David Gerrold’s permission to run his photo of Sturgeon with the post…)

I’ve always been a bit confused by these various centenary and multi-centenary celebrations that punctuate our discussions of literature, such as Thoreau’s recent 200th birthday (2017), or the centenary of James Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” (first published in 1917), or even the fourth centenary of the death of Cervantes (d. 1616), etc. (By the way, celebrating the anniversary of someone’s death strikes me as pretty grisly.) But while some writers seem to continually receive such posthumous honors, others suffer unfairly in silence. No cake, no candles, no old friends leaping out of closets, no nothing. And this year, that seems to be the case for one of America’s greatest and most original short story writers, Theodore Sturgeon, who was born on Feb. 26, 1918. From what I can tell, nobody has yet to pitch in and even buy him a decent card.

…Take, for example, the opening of his brilliant (and often poorly imitated) 1941 novelette, “Microcosmic God”: “Here is a story about a man who had too much power, and a man who took too much, but don’t worry; I’m not going political on you. The man who had the power was named James Kidder, and the other was his banker.”

Or this, from the aforementioned “The Dreaming Jewels” (1950): “They caught the kid doing something disgusting under the bleachers at the high-school stadium, and he was sent home from the grammar school across the street.”

Or even this, from his haunting and beautiful story, “The Man Who Lost the Sea” (1959): “Say you’re a kid, and one dark night you’re running along the cold sand with this helicopter in your hand, saying very fast witchy-witchy-witchy.”

Every opening plops you down bang in the middle of a story that is already happening and in the life of a character it is already happening to. And while many of his stories were collected in “horror” or “suspense” anthologies, they are rarely shocking or violent or grotesque. Instead, they begin by introducing you to a slightly strange world and a slightly strange character who lives there; then, before the story is over, you both feel at home in the world and compassion for the character who now lives there with you.

The greatness of Sturgeon’s stories reside in their almost inflexible, relentless unfolding of strangely logical events and relationships; each sentence is as beautiful and convincing as the last; and the science-fictional inventions never rely on tricks or deus ex machinas to reach a satisfying resolution; instead, a Sturgeon story always resolves itself at the level of the all-too-human.

(15) ACCESS. At io9 Ace Ratcliff asks “Staircases in Space: Why Are Places in Science Fiction Not Wheelchair-Accessible?”

I never used to notice stairs. They were simply a way for me to get from one place to another. Occasionally they were tiresome, but they never actually stymied or stopped me entirely. Eventually, I managed to get where I needed to go.

Then I started using a wheelchair. Suddenly, stairs became a barrier that prevented me from getting from here to there. One step was often enough to stop me in my tracks. It turns out that when you start using a wheelchair, you quickly realize that there are a lot of staircases and steps in our world—and a lot of broken (or nonexistent) elevators and ramps….

Once you start realizing how many stairs there are stopping you in real life, it becomes impossible not to notice them existing in the sci-fi you adore. Turns out they’re everywhere, in all of our sci-fi. Whether it’s decades-old or shiny and brand-new, our sci-fi imitates a real-world reliance on steps and stairs in our architecture.

When we think of sci-fi that’s run the test of time, Doctor Who immediately springs to mind. The inside of the TARDIS is littered with steps—from Christopher Eccleston to Peter Capaldi, there’s no way a wheelchair using companion would be able to navigate that beautiful blue time machine. Prior to the 2005 reboot, previous embodiments of the spaceship were no less inaccessible. You’d think that a spaceship that is regularly re-decorated could easily manage ramps in at least one iteration, but no set designers seem bothered enough to make it happen. I was pleased to learn that a quick finger snap seems to occasionally unlock the TARDIS doors—a quirky replacement for the buttons that exist in real-life, usually installed near closed doors and pressed by disabled people to assist with automatically opening them—but trying to scootch through the narrow opening of that British police box with an accessibility device looks nigh impossible, even without the need for a key.

(16) KERMODE ON SF FILMS. On August 7, BBC 4 airs an episode of Mark Kermode’s Secrets of the Cinema about science fiction.

SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie says —

This is an excellent series for film aficionados but the August 7th edition will also appeal to SF fans as this episode will be on science fiction film.

Also the series is co-written by the genre critic Kim Newman whom,  some Worldcon fans will recall, with SF author Paul McAuley,  co-presented the last CalHab (formerly known as Glasgow) Worldcon Hugo Award ceremony (2005). So be assured this episode has a solid grounding.

Mark Kemode’s Secrets of the Cinema SF film episode should be available on BBC iPlayer for a few weeks after broadcast.

BBC 4’s intro reads —

Mark Kermode continues his fresh and very personal look at the art of cinema by examining the techniques and conventions behind classic film genres, uncovering the ingredients that keep audiences coming back for more.

This time Mark explores the most visionary of all genres – science fiction, and shows how film-makers have risen to the challenge of making the unbelievable believable. Always at the forefront of cinema technology, science fiction films have used cutting-edge visual effects to transport us to other worlds or into the far future. But as Mark shows, it’s not just about the effects. Films as diverse as 2001, the Back to the Future trilogy and Blade Runner have used product placement and commercial brand references to make their future worlds seem more credible. The recent hit Arrival proved that the art of film editing can play with our sense of past and future as well as any time machine. Meanwhile, films such as Silent Running and WALL-E have drawn on silent era acting techniques to help robot characters convey emotion. And District 9 reached back to Orson Welles by using news reporting techniques to render an alien visitation credible.

Mark argues that for all their spectacle, science fiction films ultimately derive their power from being about us. They take us to other worlds and eras, and introduce us to alien and artificial beings, in order to help us better understand our own humanity.

(17) GETTING BACK IN BUSINESS. “NASA Announces Crew For First Commercial Space Flights”NPR has the story.

NASA has announced the names of the astronauts who will be the first people in history to ride to orbit in private space taxis next year, if all goes as planned.

In 2019, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner are both scheduled to blast off on test flights with NASA astronauts on board. “For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Friday, standing in front of a giant American flag at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Since NASA retired its space shuttles, the agency has had to buy seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get its crews to the International Space Station.

(18) MUNG DYNASTY. FastCompany predicts “Plant-based eggs are coming for your breakfast sandwiches”.

When you order a breakfast sandwich or a scramble at New Seasons Market, a local chain in Portland, Seattle, and Northern California, you’ll bite into a yellow, fluffy food that tastes just like an egg, but did not, in fact, come from an animal. Instead, what you’re eating is a mung bean, a legume that people have been eating for thousands of years that, when ground into a liquid, happens to scramble and gel just like an egg.

Mung beans are the key ingredient in Just Egg, the latest product from Just, Inc.–the company formerly known as Hampton Creek, which manufactures plant-based alternatives to products like mayonnaise, cookie dough, and salad dressing. Just Egg, a liquid that scrambles in a way that’s eerily similar to an egg when cooked in a pan, is derived from mung bean protein, and colored with turmeric to mimic the light yellow of an egg. It’s slowly rolling out in stores and restaurants across the U.S., and New Seasons Market has gone as far as to entirely replace its regular eggs with the mung bean mixture.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/28/18 Error 770 Pixel Not Scrolled

(1) HUGO VOTING CLOSES JULY 31. Worldcon 76 sent members a reminder earlier in the week:

Voting for both will end on Tuesday, July 31, 2018 at 11:59 PM PDT.  Online voting forms and Voter Packet downloads for both sets of awards are located on the Worldcon 76 website. The 2018 ballot can be found at https://www.worldcon76.org/hugo/vote.php and the 1943 ballot can be found at https://www.worldcon76.org/hugo/retro_vote.php.

(2) SHAKEN, NOT BEAMED UP. This is not my father’s Popular Mechanics, full of fannish esoterica like “Ten Forward Vodka Is What Riker Puts in His Martini”.

The next time you want to grab a vesper martini with a Vulcan or pour yourself a holodeck Harvey Wallbanger, reach for a bottle of Ten Forward. That’s right: There is now an officially licensed Star Trek: The Next Generation vodka made by Silver Screen Bottling Company and named for Guinan’s bar on the USS Enterprise-D.

The best thing about this novelty booze is clearly the bottle. Its type and graphics are an homage to the LCARS computer system seen on all the terminals and pads used throughout the show.

(3) AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH. BBC does a word study: “Tsundoku: The art of buying books and never reading them”.

Do you have a habit of picking up books that you never quite get around to reading?

If this sounds like you, you might be unwittingly engaging in tsundoku – a Japanese term used to describe a person who owns a lot of unread literature….

The word “doku” can be used as a verb to mean “reading”. According to Prof Gerstle, the “tsun” in “tsundoku” originates in “tsumu” – a word meaning “to pile up”.

So when put together, “tsundoku” has the meaning of buying reading material and piling it up.

“The phrase ‘tsundoku sensei’ appears in text from 1879 according to the writer Mori Senzo,” Prof Gerstle explained. “Which is likely to be satirical, about a teacher who has lots of books but doesn’t read them.”

While this might sound like tsundoku is being used as an insult, Prof Gerstle said the word does not carry any stigma in Japan.

(4) AMAZON’S AMBITIOUS GENRE TV PLANS. SYFY Wire has published a story (“Star Trek 4 Writers to Helm Lord of the Rings TV Series and More from Amazon Studios”) with a variety of news from Amazon about upcoming genre shows. The headline news is that “writers JD Payne and Patrick McKay [who wrote the upcoming 4th Star Trek movie] will oversee the Lord of the Rings TV series” which is expected to air no sooner than 2020. The series will be set in a time prior to the events of the LorR books (and movies) but little other details has been annoiunced by the studio. Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke has said “It’s a vast world and so many ways to go with that property. We brought in so many people with abundant enthusiasm for the property. They will move us into the the next stage as they build out this world.”

The SYFY Wire story also brings news of other genre series from Amazon:

  • THEM: Covenant[…] is: ‘Set in 1953, Alfred and Lucky Emory decide to move their family from North Carolina to an all-white Los Angeles neighborhood. The family’s home on a tree lined, seemingly idyllic street becomes ground zero where malevolent forces both real and supernatural threaten to taunt, ravage and destroy them.’”
  • Half-hour comedy Upload“will revolve around the ability of humans to upload themselves to a selected afterlife” and is said to be “a sci-fi romcom [that] will star Robbie Amell [and] Andy Allo.”
  • Cryptically, “Avengers: Infinity Wardirectors Joe and Anthony Russo are developing ‘a radical global storytelling disruption’ that will be ‘a large-scope, multi-layered international event series’ [and an] ‘origin mothership series will function as a fire-starter to ignite the creation of multiple original local language and local production series. All of the local series are meant to enhance the entire entertainment experience and will be available for the viewer to deep dive into an imagined layered world.’”

(Can anyone parse that last one and tell me what that last sentence really means?)

(5) THIRTY YEARS OF THE SIMPSONS?! Mike Riess, veteran of The Simpsons, has written a book about the series: Springfield Confidential.

Four-time Emmy winner Mike Reiss—who has worked on The Simpsons continuously since episode one in 1989—shares stories, scandals, and gossip about working with America’s most iconic cartoon family ever. Reiss explains how the episodes are created, and provides an inside look at the show’s writers, animators, actors and celebrity guests. He answers a range of questions from Simpsons fans and die-hards, and reminisces about the making of perennially favorite episodes.

In his freewheeling, irreverent comic style, Reiss reflects on his lifetime inside The Simpsons—a personal highlights reel of his achievements, observations, and favorite stories. Springfield Confidential exposes why Matt Groening decided to make all of the characters yellow; dishes on what it’s like to be crammed in a room full of funny writers sixty hours a week; and tells what Reiss learned after traveling to seventy-one countries where The Simpsons is watched (ironic note: there’s no electricity in many of these places); and even reveals where Springfield is located! He features unique interviews with Judd Apatow, who also provided the foreword, and Conan O’Brien, as well as with Simpsons legends Al Jean, Nancy Cartwright, Dan Castellaneta, and more…

(6) REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY. Adweek points out a reference-filled video: “Buckle Up. This Short Film From a Financial Tech Startup Is Part Black Mirror, Part ‘They Live’”.

Bank ads love to talk about your dreams. A bucolic retirement, an Ivy League education for your kids, that five-bedroom home with the “Sold” sign in the yard.

But a new long-form ad—or branded short film, more accurately—from Canadian financial tech startup Koho positions banks not as the enablers of your best life but rather as harvesters of dreams, brutally siphoning customers of both their money and their aspirations.

It’s not a pretty picture.

Dystopian, bleak and visceral, “Dream Thieves” accomplishes exactly what Koho set out to do with its first major marketing push. Led by Jason Chaney, Koho’s chief creative officer, the video was directed by French music video visionary Fleur Fortuné and produced by acclaimed Canadian agency Cossette, where Chaney previously served as chief strategist.

Sci-fi aficionados will notice no small number of references, some subtle and others overt, to previous movies, shows and even ads. While the overall tone may remind modern TV viewers of the Netflix anthology Black Mirror, Chaney says his team has counted roughly 30 references in “Dream Thieves,” including callbacks to A Clockwork Orange, Poltergeist and Apple’s iconic ad “1984.”

 

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

When you complain about slow internet service, remember this:

The first transcontinental phone call was held between the device’s inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, and his former assistant Thomas Watson in 1915. Bell called from Dey Street in New York City to Grant Avenue in San Francisco. It took five telephone operators 23 minutes to manually connect the call. (Source: Wikipedia)

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 28, 1956 The Cyclops had its theatrical release
  • July 28, 1995Waterworld premiered

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born July 28 – Georgia Engel, 70. First genre appearance on the first Fantasy Island series followed by lots voice work in such productions as The Special Magic of Herself the Elf, Dr. Doolittle 2,  and the Hercules series.
  • Born July 28 – Lori Loughlin, 54. First genre work was in The Tom Swift and Linda Craig Mystery Hour series, also the Amityville 3-D film, the animated Justice League Unlimited series, likewise the animated Casper: A Spirited Beginning film.
  • Born July 28 – Elizabeth Berkley, 46. Yes she’s done some genre work including The Twilight Zone, Perversions of Science which appears to be akin to the Tales from The Crypt series, the animated Armitage III: Polymatrix series, and the Threshold series which pops up regularly in these birthday notes.
  • Born July 28 – Tom Pelphrey, 36. Regular role in the Iron Fist series and not much else for genre work other than appearing in Ghost Whisperer.
  • Born July 28 – Dustin Milligan, 33. Regular role in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency series; other genre roles were on Andromeda (which I’ve not seen — worth seeing?), in the Final Destination 3 film, The Dead Zone, Supernatural, and a bit of probably horrible horror called Demonic.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) RELOADED.  Lou Antonelli’s Hugo nominee “Replacement Pins” have arrived. Photo at the post.

(12) A THOUSAND TIMES, NEIGH. The Verge shows why “The future of search-and-rescue robots might be centaur, not human”. The embedded video has the bot doing what looks for all the world like a tai chi routine for the first several seconds of the ~3 min video.

Centauro is the latest experiment by scientists to find the most adaptable and useful body-shape for robots designed to help in disasters. Usually, these machines are built like humans, with two arms and two legs, but researchers are increasingly finding that hybrid designs offer more flexibility. With its four wheeled legs, Centauro is more stable than a humanoid bot, but still retains the two forward-facing arms needed for manipulating objects like tools and doors. (Or, as in the video below, karate-chopping some plywood for fun.)

(13) WHEN THE SEA IS BOILING HOT. NPR explains how “Hot Weather Spells Trouble For Nuclear Power Plants”.

Air temperatures have stubbornly lingered above 90 degrees in many parts of Sweden, Finland and Germany, and water temperatures are abnormally high — 75 degrees or higher in the usually temperate Baltic Sea.

That’s bad news for nuclear power plants, which rely on seawater to cool reactors.

Finland’s Loviisa power plant, located about 65 miles outside Helsinki, first slightly reduced its output on Wednesday. “The situation does not endanger people, [the] environment or the power plant,” its operator, the energy company Fortum, wrote in a statement.

The seawater has not cooled since then, and the plant continued to reduce its output on both Thursday and Friday, confirmed the plant’s chief of operations, Timo Eurasto. “The weather forecast [means] it can continue at least a week. But hopefully not that long,” he said.

(14) NO SINGULAR SENSATION. Forbes says the public needs to catch up, that model is decades out of date: “There Was No Big Bang Singularity”.

…There is a theorem, famous among cosmologists, showing that an inflationary state is past-timelike-incomplete. What this means, explicitly, is that if you have any particles that exist in an inflating Universe, they will eventually meet if you extrapolate back in time. This doesn’t, however, mean that there must have been a singularity, but rather that inflation doesn’t describe everything that occurred in the history of the Universe, like its birth. We also know, for example, that inflation cannot arise from a singular state, because an inflating region must always begin from a finite size.

Every time you see a diagram, an article, or a story talking about the “big bang singularity” or any sort of big bang/singularity existing before inflation, know that you’re dealing with an outdated method of thinking. The idea of a Big Bang singularity went out the window as soon as we realized we had a different state — that of cosmic inflation — preceding and setting up the early, hot-and-dense state of the Big Bang. There may have been a singularity at the very beginning of space and time, with inflation arising after that, but there’s no guarantee. In science, there are the things we can test, measure, predict, and confirm or refute, like an inflationary state giving rise to a hot Big Bang. Everything else? It’s nothing more than speculation.

(15) BITE ME. Here’s some more bad science you’ll be less surprised to hear about. The Washington Post’s Emily Yahr notes that Discovery broadcast Megalodon:  Fact vs. Fiction last night, even though there is no evidence that hungry prehistoric sharks are in the ocean: “A fake Shark Week documentary about megalodons caused controversy. Why is Discovery bringing it up again?”

At the beginning of this special, a narrator explains the dust-up. Unflattering headlines from news articles at the time (“Discovery kicks off Shark Week with dishonest documentary”) and angry tweets fly across the screen. The special keeps a tongue-in-cheek tone; at one point, shark conservationist Julie Andersen acknowledges the scenes of Shark Alley, a real-life area off the South African coast, was pretty accurate in the fake film.

“But let me repeat myself: There are no megalodons!” she adds.

“We get it, smarty-pants. No megalodons roam the modern seas,” the voice-over narrator shoots back. “But when they did, the oceans were like a Darwinian Thunderdome, survived only by the fittest and biggest.”

(16) HOLD FAST. Beth Elderkin at Gizmodo’s io9 takes a look at Star Wars weapons and the characters who love them (“A Shockingly In-Depth Examination of How Star Wars Characters Hold Their Weapons”). Though, one might quibble about just how shockingly in-depth it is. Blasters, light sabers, stunners, and even capes are considered. Poses and grips are dissected. As the author puts it, “We’re here to not only explore but celebrate the art of looking cool while holding a toy gun or fluorescent lightbulb on a stick.”

(17) BY GEORGE! Item 5 in yesterday’s Scroll set Camestros Felapton’s muse to weavnig a copacetic comma filk:

[With apologies to Culture Club]

Words running altogether every day
To make sense they need something in their way

[Pre-Chorus]
I’m a sign without conviction
I’m a tiny mark that doesn’t know
How to work as punctuation
I come and go and come and go

[Chorus]
Comma comma comma comma comma chameleon
I come and go and come and go
Usage would be easy if you used me when you pause
Or to break a clause, to break a clause

[Bridge]
An em-dash is not my rival
I’m a punctual revival
It is not a matter of survival
Style guides are not my bible

[Chorus]
Comma comma comma comma comma chameleon
I pause and go and pause and go
Commas would be easy if you used them sparingly
Or not at all or not at all

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

Pixel Scroll 7/16/18 Now With Bolded Typos

(1) GONE WITH THE YUAN. The most expensive film ever made in China bombed and is already out of theaters. The Hollywood Reporter has the story — “China’s First $100M Film Pulled From Cinemas After Disastrous Opening Weekend”.

In the long lead-up to its release, Chinese fantasy epic Asura was promoted as China’s most expensive film ever made, with a production budget of over $110 million (750 million yuan). So perhaps it’s unsurprising that the film’s producers, which include Jack Ma’s Alibaba Pictures, decided to take desperate action after the movie opened to just $7.1 million over the weekend.

Late Sunday evening in Beijing, Asura‘s official social media accounts posted a simple statement saying that the film would be pulled from cinemas as of 10 p.m. local time. After landing in theaters with limited fanfare, China’s priciest picture ever would vanish from the scene entirely.

Asura is co-produced by Zhenjian Film Studio and Ningxia Film Group — two of the investors behind the successful Painted Skin fantasy franchise — along with Alibaba Pictures Group and other minority investors.

The statement announcing Asura‘s retreat from cinemas supplied no explanation for the unprecedented move. But a representative from Zhenjian Film, which is credited as lead producer, later told Chinese news site Sina: “This decision was made not only because of the bad box office. We plan to make some changes to the film and release it again.”

Chinese site Sixth Tone tells it this way: “Epic Budget, Epic Fail: Chinese Blockbuster ‘Asura’ Tanks”.

China’s latest fantasy epic, “Asura,” claimed to be the most expensive domestic production to date — but it didn’t even last three days in cinemas.

Six years in the making, the film was planned as the first of a trilogy based on ancient Tibetan mythology. The Alibaba Pictures production promised lush CGI from an award-winning, international team in its depiction of war between two heavenly realms. Marketing campaigns for the film emphasized its budget of $100 million.

But after opening on Friday, the film made a mere $7.1 million over its first weekend. By contrast, “Hidden Man,” a highly anticipated action-thriller by actor and director Jiang Wen, brought in $46.5 million. Meanwhile “Dying to Survive,” a dark comedy about cancer drug smuggling operations, defended its box office lead, racking up $68.5 million on its second weekend and even prompting a spike in online insurance sales.

Aggregate user ratings of “Asura” varied wildly across China’s two biggest ticketing platforms, Tencent-funded Maoyan and Alibaba-owned Tao Piaopiao, earning 4.9 and 8.4 out of 10, respectively. Users of review platform Douban rated the film a miserable 3.1 out of 10.

(2) EFFECTS OF COMIC CON PROLIFERATION. Heidi MacDonald tells Publishers Weekly readers why “In a World of Too Many Cons, San Diego Is Still King”.

An ever-increasing number of comics and pop culture conventions are taxing publishers’ exhibition budgets and turning artists into nomads, on the road signing autographs in a different city or country every weekend….

Indeed, the expanding comics convention schedule is beginning to tax publisher budgets while turning comics creators into a hardened (and often exhausted) group of road warriors who must trek to a different city every weekend.

As more and more events flood the schedule, publishers and creators alike are developing new strategies for dealing with the demands for their time. And the conventions are beginning to evolve, some developing business models to stay above the pack of newly launched shows, while others, including many poorly planned and financed events, are becoming synonymous with disaster, poor attendance, canceled events, and disappointed fans.

“The number of cons has really exploded over the last five years,” says Martha Donato, president of MAD Events Management, which puts on the Long Beach Comic Con every September, along with other shows. “It’s [become] every city, every weekend, all year, globally.”

Even for a location such as Long Beach, Calif., close to many West Coast comics publishers, the competition for guest artists and publisher-exhibitors has become fierce, she says. “A much bigger percentage of our time, energy, and resources are now devoted to getting exhibitors to attend,” she adds. “Talent and their publishers have many more offers than they could ever accept, even if they wanted to.”

Donato’s show gets support from publishers in Los Angeles, including Top Cow and Aspen, but even loyal exhibitors have to pick and choose. “Publishers are facing a deluge of opportunities and they can afford to be choosy,” says Donato. “There’s a lot of saying no.”

(3) RECASTING MUPPETS MOVIES. The most selfless answer is….

(4) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 16, 1955 Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe premiered on the small screen
  • July 16, 1958The Fly creeped the heck out of everybody…”Help Me…Help Me.”
  • July 16, 2005 — The 6th book in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series sold 6.9 million copies in its first 24 hours.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 16, 1928 – Robert Sheckley
  • Born July 16 – Will Ferrell, 51. Holmes in the forthcoming comedy Holmes and Watson film,  HerculesHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every ChildCurious George and The Last Man on Earth series.
  • Born July 16 – Corey Feldman, 47. Genre roles in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film series, the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,Tales from the Crypt and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven series to name but a few of his files.
  • Born July 16 – Rose Salazar, 33. Genre work includes American Horror StoryMaze Runner: The Death Cure, and Batman: Arkham Origins video game.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • Updating a Kafka classic at Bizarro.

(7) THE TIDE IS IN. Camestros Felapton continues scoping out the Hugo nominees: “Review: The Black Tides of Heaven (Novella) J.Y.Yang”.

As I said above, I found the second half easier to engage with than the first. It focuses more on Akeha, the surpising “spare” half of the twins, who in post-adolesence decides to be confirmed as a male (gender is assigned post-childhood in this world). Fate, prophercy, control and inevitability (whether magical or political) play out as important themes but, again, I think their impact as ideas get lost amid the scale of the story.

(8) IN ORDER. Mark Kaedrin gives his rankings and his reasons — “Hugo Awards: Short Stories”.

In the past five years of reading Hugo nominated short stories, I think I’ve enjoyed about 2-3 of the stories quite a bit. That’s… not a very good batting average. For whatever reason, I always find that this category just fills up with stories that don’t work for me. True, several puppy trolling nominations made the cut, which didn’t help (for example: they nominated SF-themed erotica two years in a row, and then another that was a bad parody of a bad story, etc…), but even the stories I liked weren’t that great. I’ve always chalked that up to this category having the lowest barrier to entry. It doesn’t take a whole lot of time or effort to seek out a bunch of short stories (mostly available for free online too), so the nominations are spread far and wide. There used to be a requirement that a finalist had to have at least 5% of the nominations in order to be considered, which often resulted in a small category because most stories couldn’t clear that bar. So basically, the stories that do make it here rarely have wide appeal. That being said, this year’s nominees are actually a pretty congenial bunch. I don’t actually hate any of the stories, even if a few don’t quite tweak me the way I’d like (even those are pretty good though). I do still find it hard to believe that these are the actual best short fiction of the year, but I’ll take this over the past 4 years’ worth of nominations. However, I do think it’s telling that at least one story on the 1942 Retro Hugos ballot, Proof by Hal Clement, is far better than any of these nominees, which I think says something (I’d have to read/reread a couple of the other 1942 finalists to be sure, but I suspect that ballot is more my speed). Anyway, let’s get to it….

(9) CURRENT EVENTS. And don’t forget this year’s fiction. Rocket Stack Rank hasn’t — “July 2018 Ratings”. Greg Hullender summarizes:

We posted our monthly ratings last night. It was a typical month, with 11 stories recommended (with 4 or 5 stars) out of 72 (expected would be 11 to 13).

We recommended 4 stories from F&SF, 3 from Asimov’s,  2 from Analog had 2. The other two were in Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Lightspeed. Over time, the three print and seven online magazines we follow split the recommendations 50/50 (not counting stand-alone novellas or original anthologies), and the print magazines only come out 6 times a year, so this isn’t quite as lopsided as it looks, but it was definitely a good month for the traditional three magazines.

(10) START YOUR COCKY CAREER. This article on “Cocky-gate” also seems to be a great blueprint for how to use Kindle Unlimited to give you a 6-figure salary. Let The Verge tell you about it: “Bad Romance”.

…The fight over #Cockygate, as it was branded online, emerged from the strange universe of Amazon Kindle Unlimited, where authors collaborate and compete to game Amazon’s algorithm. Trademark trolling is just the beginning: There are private chat groups, ebook exploits, conspiracies to seed hyperspecific trends like “Navy SEALs” and “mountain men,” and even a controversial sweepstakes in which a popular self-published author offered his readers a chance to win diamonds from Tiffany’s if they reviewed his new book.

Much of what’s alleged is perfectly legal, and even technically within Amazon’s terms of service. But for authors and fans, the genre is also a community, and the idea that unethical marketing and algorithmic tricks are running rampant has embroiled their world in controversy. Some authors even believe that the financial incentives set up by Kindle Unlimited are reshaping the romance genre — possibly even making it more misogynistic.

A genre that mostly features shiny, shirtless men on its covers and sells ebooks for 99 cents a pop might seem unserious. But at stake are revenues sometimes amounting to a million dollars a year, with some authors easily netting six figures a month. The top authors can drop $50,000 on a single ad campaign that will keep them in the charts — and see a worthwhile return on that investment….

(11) THEY’VE GOT ‘RITHIM. Or you can try this route–sell your old pb’s for hundreds or thousands of dollars each on Amazon. The New York Times has the story: “Amazon’s Curious Case of the $2,630.52 Used Paperback”.

Even a casual browse through the virtual corridors of Amazon reveals an increasingly bizarre bazaar where the quaint policies of physical bookstores — the stuff no one wants is piled on a cart outside for a buck a volume — are upended. John Sladek, who wrote perceptive science fiction about robotics and artificial intelligence, predicted in a 1975 story that computers might start making compelling but false connections:

If you’re trying to reserve a seat on the plane to Seville, you’d get a seat at the opera instead. While the person who wants the opera seat is really just making an appointment with a barber, whose customer is just then talking to the box-office of “Hair,” or maybe making a hairline reservation …

Mr. Sladek, who died in 2000, is little read now, which naturally means his books are often marketed for inordinate sums on Amazon. One of his mystery novels, “Invisible Green,” has a Red Rhino “buy box” — Amazon’s preferred deal — offering it for $664.

That is a real bargain compared with what a bookseller with the improbable name Supersonic Truck is asking: $1,942. (Copies from other booksellers are as little as $30.) Supersonic Truck, which Amazon says has 100 percent positive ratings, did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Ms. Macgillivray, who has published eight novels, said she had been poking around Amazon’s bookstore and was more perplexed than ever by the pricing.

“There’s nothing illegal about someone listing an item for sale at whatever the market will bear, even if they don’t have the book but plan to buy it when someone orders it,” she said. “At the same time, I would think Amazon wouldn’t want their platform used for less than honorable practices.”

(12) READERCON PORTRAITS. Paul Di Filippo shares photos of “Some Members of Fictionmags Attending Readercon 2018 “ at The Inferior 4.

In order of appearance: Ellen Datlow, Fred Lerner, Gary Wolfe, George Morgan, Gordon van Gelder, Henry Wessells, Jess Nevins, Michael Dirda, Peter Halasz, Scott Andrews, Scott Edelman, Sheila Williams, Steve Dooner, Mark Walsh.

(13) ONCE MORE WITH FEELING. And Daniel Dern covered the non-human population at ReaderCon, photographing this “alternative SJW credential.”

An ‘edge-‘og (hedgehog). (Not mine.)

Yeah, the SF context isn’t visible, would you take my word for it?

(14) ICE DELIVERY. NPR tells what it’s like for locals: “Massive Iceberg Looms Over A Village In Greenland”.

The photographs are stunning: a giant mountain of ice towers over a tiny village, with colorful homes reminiscent of little doll houses against the stark, blue-gray landscape.

But for the people living in those houses – that beauty could be life-threatening.

“It’s kind of like, if you lived in the suburbs, and you woke up one morning and looked out, and there was a skyscraper next to your house,” says David Holland, an oceanographer at New York University who does research in Greenland during the summer months. “I’d be the first to get out of there.”

He says that’s why authorities have taken action to evacuate those living closest to the water from the village of Innaarsuit, where the iceberg has parked itself just off the coast. According to the BBC, the village has just 169 residents.

(15) THE IMPORTANCE OF POORFEADING. “Harry, it s***s” — just not quite so badly: “Aliens killed by spelling mistake in 2013 Colonial Marines game”.

An infamously dreadful 2013 Aliens video game is now believed to have fallen victim to the most chilling of threats in the universe: a typo.

Aliens: Colonial Marines was released on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 to terrible reviews.

Many of them mentioned how badly the artificial intelligence (AI) behaved.

But it has now emerged that a single stray “a” in the game’s code may have been to blame.

Videos on YouTube show the game’s AI characters – the aliens and human teammates the player doesn’t control – ignoring threats, shooting wildly at nothing or standing in the line of fire.

(16) EARLY BRADBURY. David Doering has been digging through ancient fanzines and found a curiosity: “Here’s a little gift for you: a verse by Ray Bradbury himself–likely never before reprinted in the history of, well, like poetry or something. And maybe for some reason…”

VERSE OF THE IMAGI-NATION

“TIs a Sinema”
by Ray Bradbury

I think that I shall never see
Flash Gordon as he ought to be.
Midst growls of pain & awful lafter
each Saturday I see a chapter.
I cannot bear to see him more
for he Is really such a bore.

& Tarzan! too, is all so poor:
A shrinking violet demure
who beats upon his frazzled chest
& turns his puss into the west
to roar defiance with…”Fresh fish!
–I think that he’s a lousy dish…

From: Imagination, v. 1, issue 11, whole no. 11, August 1938

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

Pixel Scroll 7/4/18 We Read About Dinos And We Read About Space At Ten-Thousand Words A Go

(1) THUMB ON THE SCALES. The Fourth of July was the day Vicksburg fell and the day after the South lost the Battle of Gettysburg. On our timeline, anyway. The war had a different outcome at Dinosaur Kingdom II — a theme park in Virginia where dinosaurs and an assortment of other creatures helped the Confederates defeat the Union. Or so goes the pitch from Vice News: “Inside the weird dinosaur park where Confederates defeat the Union army”).

The owner claims not to be quite the Confederate apologist you might suppose: “That war had to have happened, because the fact that you and I can own somebody is just totally outrageous… and so that had to change.” And after watching a video tour of the park I was left wondering if Vice is selling the dino Lost Cause angle a lot harder than the attraction’s owner….

(2) BRAND NEW. Jeff VanderMeer has allowed the Last Exit To Nowhere company to make Southern Reach T-shirts. He told them that they needed to donate a portion of the profits to St. Mark’s Wildlife Refuge and notes that the zip code on the shirt is the zip code for the refuge.

An official T-shirt approved by the author, Jeff VanderMeer. The inspiration for the novel was a 14-mile hike through St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in northwestern Florida. Many of the animals and vegetation that VanderMeer has seen on this hike over the past 17 years appear in the novel. A proportion of the profits for this T-shirt goes to Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge. A single colour design, using a glow-in-the-dark ink hand screen printed on a regular fit 100% cotton military olive T-shirt.

(3) BOB MADLE RECOVERING FROM STROKE. Bob Madle, 98, one of the two remaining fans who attended the first Worldcon (1939) suffered a stroke last month reports Curt Phillips” “I’ve been given permission by his daughter Jane to report that First Fandom Founder, TAFF Delegate, SF Bookseller, long time SF fan and all-around good guy Bob Madle is back at home now and doing very well after a stroke suffered during the second week of June.”

According to Jane:

My Dad is home from rehab and doing very well. His speech, which was the main thing impacted, is improving every day. He’s continuing to get therapy at home. He said he’s fine with letting others know about the stroke.

Phillips filled in the timeframe:

I had gone to Rockville just over a week ago to do some preparatory work for a convention – Corflu 36 – and naturally had tried to call Bob to arrange a visit with my fellow First Fandom member and pulpfan. It was quite alarming when my several phone calls over multiple days failed to be answered, something which had never happened before when calling Bob. I left messages and while driving home to Abingdon the next day I received a phone call from Stephen Haffner who told me about Bob’s stroke and that he was still in the hospital. Subsequent emails with Jane filled in the picture and I learned that Bob was headed for rehab the following week, which has now been successfully completed. Bob is, at this hour, back at home, no doubt watching a baseball game on tv.

Stephen and I lacked permission from Bob or his family to share this news until now, probably for concerns of Bob being overtaxed with phone calls and so forth, but Jane now tells me that he’s improving steadily, to my great relief. Keep up the good progress, Bob! I’ll come to see you next time I’m in town to share a beer, watch a ball game with you, and maybe even buy a pulp magazine or two!

(4) A REAL THREE-BODY PROBLEM. In an article on Gizmodo (“Einstein’s Theory of Gravity Holds Up on Test of a Three-Star System”), Ryan F. Mandelbaum examines a new paper in Nature (“Universality of free fall from the orbital motion of a pulsar in a stellar triple system”) and makes some comparisons on the side to Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem. The Nature paper describes a test of general relativity using a 3-body system (PSR J0337+1715, about 4200 light years from Earth) which consists of a millisecond pulsar (neutron star) and a white dwarf co-orbiting each other very closely and another white dwarf less than 1 AU distant.

Quoting the Gizmodo article:

They used 800 observations of the system spanning over six years, using the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope in the Netherlands, the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, and the William E. Gordon telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico….

The researchers [Ingrid Stairs and Anne Archibald] could measure this behavior based on the pulsing behavior of the spinning neutron star. The observations revealed that the white dwarf and the pulsar seemed to behave exactly the same way in response to the other white dwarf’s gravity. General relativity wins again….

[Mandelbaum] also asked Archibald and Stairs whether they’d read The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin. Stairs hadn’t, and Archibald is halfway through. “One of the themes of the book is fundamental physics… if you do the same experiment in two places, physics doesn’t depend on where. It’s this universal fundamental physics you can get at with careful experimentation. [Liu] asks, what happens if physics doesn’t work that way?” she said. “I’m testing that at a fundamental level.”

(5) A PERSISTENT VISITOR. JJ says be sure you read the thread down to the poem. The thread starts here.

(6) AI SPREADS HOAX DEATH REPORT. While io9 headlines “Siri Erroneously Told People That Stan Lee Was Dead” as a Siri/Apple story (and it certainly is that), the underlying story is that a troll changed a Wikidata.org page to falsely say Stan Lee was dead. (Wikidata is a sister project to the better-known Wikipedia, which latter is reportedly one of the sources used by Alexa ) Siri (and a number of other digital assistants) pull info from various sources — some of which can be edited by the public — when asked questions. In this case, Siri would be in error on Stan Lee until another Wikidata editor reverted the change less than an hour later. That window, though, was clearly enough to cause some alarm.

Quoting the article:

In a post on CinemaBlend, writer Sean O’Connell described a moment where he and his teenage son were driving home from an Ant-Man and the Wasp screening on Wednesday, to have his son ask Apple’s digital assistant Siri how old Stan Lee was. The response? “Stan Lee died on July 2, 2018.” They were concerned and checked the internet for news, but there was none… because it wasn’t true. But we were curious why Siri would share this specific information.

The io9 article concludes:

The troublesome user (“&beer&love”) who started the bad data cascade had been kicked off Wikidata before and reportedly has now been kicked off again. Sadly, as  long as there are trolls and as long as we collectively depend on data sources that can be corrupted by them, there will be such problems.

(7) MULLER OBIT. Robert Muller (1940-2018): Dutch cinematographer, died July 3, aged 78. Worked on Repo Man (1984) and Until the End of the World (1991).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY PLANET. Put another million candles on its birthday cake. “Scientists Capture First Birth Of A Planet” reports NPR.

An international team of scientists has discovered a young planet — just 5 or 6 million years old — forging its own path through space and likely growing along the way.

The scientists captured a photograph, which they say is the very first direct image of the birth of a planet still forming around a star.

It’s a major finding for those of us on Earth, a 4.5-billion-year-old planet.

The newly discovered planet may be young, but it’s huge: many times the size of Jupiter, which could fit 1,300 planet Earths inside.

The BBC adds:

Researchers have long been on the hunt for a baby planet, and this is the first confirmed discovery of its kind.

Young dwarf star PDS 70 is less than 10 million years old, and its planetary companion is thought to be between five and six million years old.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock learned from Bizarro that tech shall not release you.

(10) BOVINES WHO NEED BEANO. BBC science news — “Surf And Turf: To Reduce Gas Emissions From Cows, Scientists Look To The Ocean”. There’s much less methane being released than CO2 — but pound-for-pound it has a much worse effect on greenhousing.

Scientists think they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by tweaking the food that cows eat. A recent experiment from the University of California, Davis suggests that adding seaweed to cattle feed can dramatically decrease their emissions of the potent gas methane.

Livestock is a major source of greenhouse gases worldwide. About quarter of the methane emissions due to human activity in the U.S. can be chalked up to gas released from these animals, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

(11) HARD TO BE HUMBLE WHEN YOU’RE REALLY A GENIUS. Chuck Tingle proves love again.

(12) FUN WITH BUGS. Camestros Felapton tries but is unable to restrain his enthusiasm in “Review: Ant-man & The Wasp”.

I think it is fair to say that Ant-man & The Wasp is the most inconsequential Marvel movie for some time. No new superheroes are introduced, no new approaches to the genre are taken, there is little impact on the other MCU films, there are no big or deep themes to discuss. It is the first MCU film to have the name of a female Avenger in the title but that’s about it.

But it is a fun, often silly film….

(13) FLASH AND THEY’RE GONE. People who love LibertyCon really love it. Rev. Bob brings word that the con sold out its 2019 memberships today, the first day they were available online.

To be more precise, they opened online registration today and sold all 750 memberships in just under six hours. (“5 hours, 52 minutes, and 50 seconds!” per one source.) This is according to multiple Facebook posts by associated individuals, as well as the official convention Facebook page.

It is worth noting that, according to those same sources, no 2019 memberships were sold at the convention itself. In addition, hotel room reservations have not yet opened; that won’t happen until sometime in September.

(14) ALREADY SPOILED. Remember that spoiler-filled Batman news item I warned you about so strenuously in the July 1 Scroll? Well, genre news sites have splattered the spoiler everywhere and the comic issues in question have hit the stands. It’s up to you – skip the next paragraph if you want to preserve the surprise.

Two articles published today (SYFY Wire: “Batman and the X-Men wedding dramas are the latest in comics’ matrimonial insanity” and Comicbook.com: “‘Batman’ Writer Tom King Reveals What’s Next After the Wedding”) take separate looks at love and marriage in comic books.

As writer John Wenz says on SYFY Wire,

Superhero romance is … fraught. Marriage doubly so…

Wenz casually reels off nearly a dozen different ways that marriages have failed to happen or fallen apart in just the first few paragraphs of his article. The most recent Marvel and DC will-they/won’t-they/oh-Great-Gnu-what-just-happened stories are examined in how they fit into these patterns.

On Comicbook.com, Patrick Cavanaugh talks to Batman writer Tom King to get his view on What Just Happened. King point out that this issue (#50) is just halfway through a planned 100-issue arc so the readers don’t know how the overall story will end. King is quoted as saying,

We’re halfway through that journey. It’s a long story, a long journey. It could have a happy ending or a sad ending. You’re halfway through the movie now. You’re in the middle of Empire Strikes Back and Vader just showed up and took Han’s gun.

(15) A BUTTLOAD OF CATS. Martin Morse Wooster would hate for anyone to miss Rachel Bloom’s musical salute to SJW credentials, performed on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

This is the cleaned-up version, although to my ear “buttload” fits the meter better than “fuckton” anyway.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/2/18 Bring Me The Pixel Of Scroll Charming!

(1) KLAATU BARADA UFO. The Independent celebrates World UFO Day with a roll-call of alien encounter films: “World UFO Day 2018: Top 10 alien encounter B-movies from the golden age of schlock sci-fi”.

World UFO Day is being observed around the galaxy on Monday.

The occasion is held on 2 July in memory of the US Army Air Forces weather balloon crash in Roswell, New Mexico, that many believe was really a flying saucer landing covered up by the Pentagon.

It is marked by sky-watching parties as keen ufologists survey the heavens in search of fresh evidence of alien life.

Others prefer to mark the day on 24 June, the date on which American aviator Kenneth Arnold reported spotting a fleet of nine spaceships over Mount Rainier, Washington, in 1947….

(2) HOT READS. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak says these are “12 fantastic science fiction and fantasy novels that you should check out this July”.

July 10th

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Naomi Novik earned a Nebula Award for her fairy tale-inspired novel Uprooted. She’s back with an new book that similarly delves into folklore, Spinning Silver. In this book, a girl named Miryem is the daughter of moneylenders, but her family has fallen onto hard times. She takes their predicament into her own hands, turning silver into gold. Her abilities attract the attention of the Fey king of the Staryk, who gives her an impossible challenge, and accidentally spins a web that draws in the daughter of a local lord, angering the Tsar who had pledged to wed her.

Read an excerpt here.

Game of the Gods by Jay Schiffman

Set in the future, Jay Schiffman’s debut novel Game of the Gods follows a Federacy military commander named Max Cone, who just wants to be left alone. When war breaks out, he becomes an unwitting pawn in a global game to try to get him into the fight once again. He’s given a device that allows him to predict the future, and when his wife and children are kidnapped, he’s drawn in to rescue them, aided by a band of unlikely allies — a 13-year old girl with special abilities, a mathematician, a religious zealot, and a drug addict who was once a revolutionary

(3) SUPERHERO, SUPER REVIEWER. Luke Cage is back, and so is Abigail Nussbaum: “Five Comments on Luke Cage, Season 2”.

I don’t have that much to say about the second season of Luke Cage.  Which is actually a shame, because despite some problems, I’d say that it’s the strongest and most consistently entertaining season of television the Netflix MCU has produced since the first season of Jessica Jones.  It’s just that the things I’d have to say about it are basically a combination of my review of the first season, and my review of the second season of Jessica Jones.  The stuff that worked in season one is back here, but better–the strong visuals, the amazing music, the thrilling fight scenes, the palpable sense of place.  And like Jessica Jones, coming back for a second season seems to have freed Luke Cage from the burden of having to justify its own existence as a superhero show about X (a woman, a black man), and allowed it to simply tell a story in which most of the characters are people of color (and some of them have superpowers).  At the same time, a lot of the problems that plagued the first season, and suggested that the Luke Cage concept might not be as durable as we could hope, are back in force here, with little indication that the show is interested in addressing them.  Here are a few thoughts I had at the end of the season, though the bottom line is that it is definitely worth watching….

(4) TAFF RINGS THE REGISTER. Jim Mowatt has enriched the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund by completing his trip report Wherever I Lay My Hat!

I have recently sent copies of my 2013 TAFF report to SCIFI and FANAC and both happily paid 500 dollars each into the TAFF coffers, so helping us to keep sending more delegates across the ocean to strengthen the science fictional bonds that enhance our community. Many thanks to both these fine organisations for their encouragement and support for the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund

Find out how to get a copy here.

(5) HE’S NOT BUGGED. NPR’s Glen Weldon says you won’t demand your 2 hours back: “Flyweight: Wee, The People: ‘Ant-Man And The Wasp'”.

It’s fine.

Ant-Man and the Wasp, the sequel to 2015’s feather-light and perfectly forgettable Ant-Man, is just fine.

It does what it sets out to do, which, by all readily legible indicators, is to be … fine. Agreeable. Inoffensive. A good way to pass a couple of hours in air-conditioned darkness. Jokes. Car chases. Fight scenes. Michelle Pfeiffer, briefly, in a hoodie and a chalk-white wig and, for some reason, fingerless gloves. A gruff Michael Douglas, less briefly, as the resident goateed genius of this particular corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Tony Stark and Doctor Strange having their attentions turned elsewhere).

Also: Evangeline Lilly as badass superhero The Wasp, kickin’ thoraxes and takin’ names and even crackin’ the occasional joke, thank God. The always-winning Michael Peña as voluble sidekick Luis, whose presence in any given scene amps up its charm factor. Phrases like “We have to adjust the refractors on the regulator!” (LOTS of those.)…

(6) ADAMS OBIT.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The original time machine from the 1960 movie was sold at the MGM studio auction in 1971, the same auction that originally sold the Ruby Slippers (The Wizard of Oz (1939)). The winner of the auction was the owner of a traveling show. Five years later the prop was found in a thrift store in Orange, CA. Film historian Bob Burns purchased it for $1,000. Using blueprints his friend George Pal had given him years earlier, he and a crew of friends restored it. The restoration crew included D.C. Fontana script consultant and writer on Star Trek (1966) and Michael Minor art director on Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 2 – Margot Robbie, 28. The Legend of Tarzan was her first genre film (maybe) followed by Suicide SquadGoodbye Christopher Robin, an animated Peter Rabbit, more DCU announced films than bear thinking about and intriguingly she’s announced to be Marian in Marian, a telling of her life after the death of Robin.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian was surprised to see who is the pitchman for retirement plans in the Star Trek universe: Brevity.
  • Chip Hitchcock calls this one Arctic Circle meets Connie Willis.

(10) SUPERHERO CHOW. The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore boasts a ”DC Comics Superhero Café”. Here’s the real menu [PDF file.]

Dine in, take-away, save the day – at this immersive café-retail experience, home to the DC Comics universe.

Find apparel, accessories and gifts to unleash the DC super hero within you. Chill out at the Superman-inspired café; sip the Batman’s Late Night Summer Latte or get buzzed from The Flash’s Espresso. Grab a Green Lantern pizza to go.

At our Justice League tribute diner – eat-in for a serious scoffing of Batman’s epic Dark Knight charcoal-brioche-bun burger or battle out with The Flash Mushroom Linguine. Feeling villainous? Get your “just desserts” from the Joker.

(11) SEQUEL SUCCESS. Camestros Felapton finds time to “Review: The Incredibles 2”.

…At the time Pixar eschewed sequels (with the exception of Toy Story) and despite the implications of the end of the film, a second Incredibles movie seemed unlikely. Time moves on and Disney-Pixar is keen to capitalise on the IP it owns. Could a sequel possibly manage that same balance of action and character?

Absolutely….

(12) YOU HAVE TO WONDER. Given the 80’s setting of the upcoming Wonder Woman film, digital artist Bosslogic has populated his Instagram feed with reimaginings of the alter egos fo other superheroes as they might have looked if they were in 1984 continuity. Take a look for the   “WW84” posts scattered among the entries at Bosslogic. Here, for instance, is Henry Cavill as Clark Kent — if he were plopped down in 1984…

Credit to SYFY Wire for tipping us to this art with their story “B-Boy Batman Meets Superman’s Sweet Mullet in Awesome ’80S Fan Art for Wonder Woman 2”.

(13) INFREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS. This job is not that f**king easy!

(14) FUTURE STUNTS. TechCrunch goes behind the scenes:  “Disney Imagineering has created autonomous robot stunt doubles”.

Disney it taking their robotics to new heights… at least for a few seconds. Born out of an experiment called Stickman, the new development “Stuntronics” can fling articulated robot figures into the air. The bots control their orientation and poses to nail the same tricks — such as a superhero pose — time after time after time. According to project personnel Tony Dohi (Principal R&D Imagineer) and Morgan Pope (Associate Research Scientist):

“So what this is about is the realization we came to after seeing where our characters are going on screen,” says Dohi, “whether they be Star Wars characters, or Pixar characters, or Marvel characters or our own animation characters, is that they’re doing all these things that are really, really active. And so that becomes the expectation our park guests have that our characters are doing all these things on screen — but when it comes to our attractions, what are our animatronic figures doing? We realized we have kind of a disconnect here.”

…“So often our robots are in the uncanny valley where you got a lot of function, but it still doesn’t look quite right. And I think here the opposite is true,” says Pope. “When you’re flying through the air, you can have a little bit of function and you can produce a lot of stuff that looks pretty good, because of this really neat physics opportunity — you’ve got these beautiful kinds of parabolas and sine waves that just kind of fall out of rotating and spinning through the air in ways that are hard for people to predict, but that look fantastic.”

…“One of our goals of Stuntronics is to see if we can leap across the uncanny valley.”

 

(15) EVIL DEAD AUCTION. Bloody Disgusting points the way: “The “Ash vs. Evil Dead” Prop and Costume Auction is the Coolest, Most Gruesome Auction We’ve Ever Seen”.

…A final attempt to make some money off the show, the official “Ash vs. Evil Dead” Series Finale Auction just launched this week, and it’s continuing through August 17. Don’t worry about showing up anywhere in person to get in on the bidding, as it’s taking place entirely online.

Modern technology, am I right?!

The auction features over 1,000 screen-used costumes, props, prosthetics and set decorations from all three seasons, all of them direct from the studio and coming with Certificates of Authenticity. If you saw it on the show, it’s probably up for grabs, with the auction including Ash’s chainsaw, the Season 3 demon baby, Ash’s wardrobe and TONS of gory practical effects.

Check out some highlights below and head over to VIP Fan Auctions to see more!

(16) FIRMIN RESUME. When SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie learned that Peter Firmin died, he rounded up some links to help me appreciate the loss: “His co-creations (with Oliver Postgate) of The ClangersNoggin the Nog and Ivor the Engine wowed generations of Brits.  Arguably worth checking out and if fans have young kids then sharing.”

  • The Clangers were an alien race who live on the Moon.

The Clangers are peacefully building a house. We hear a whistling sound and down comes something. The Clangers run for cover. The thing is a terrestrial space-probe vehicle with large initials on it.

  • Noggin the Nog was a fantasy series set in Viking times with dragons etc. (eat your heart out Martin).

  • Ivor the Engine was an almost living steam locomotive.

“Wonderful stuff,” Jonathan concludes.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/30/18 Pixels Like Us, Baby We Were Born To Scroll

(1) KICK ASTEROID! Bill Nye and the Planetary Society want funds to educate people about the threat of asteroid impacts. Their Kickstarter, “Kick Asteroid!”, has raised $27,884 of its $50,000 target, with 25 days left to go.

The Planetary Society is excited to partner with space artist and designer, Thomas Romer, and backers around the world to create Kick Asteroid—a colorful graphic poster that will illustrate the effect of past catastrophic impacts, and methods to deflect future asteroid threats. Compelling and scientifically accurate art will be created for posters and other “merch” that backers can use in their everyday lives to spread the word about planetary defense.

… Thomas is collaborating directly with the Society’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Bruce Betts, to depict the asteroid threat in a compelling and scientifically accurate way. Bruce has briefed Thomas on the current state of the science related to Near Earth Objects (NEOs), as well as on the most promising asteroid deflection techniques.

(2) WRITER’S BLOCK. “How do you handle writer’s block?” Rachel Swirsky shares her advice about blocks from two sources. The first kind is medical:

…I think one of the best solutions is to be gentle with yourself about it. Hammering yourself and making yourself feel guilty because of your health is in the way is only likely to make you miserable and increase your stress–which can make the health problem worse. It can be hard to be generous with yourself, especially when the illness is lasting a long time and you have deadlines. …

(3) TWELVE RULES. The Chicago Tribune’s Stephen L. Carter lists his “12 science fiction rules for life”.

Like so many other scribes, I have been inspired by psychologist Jordan Peterson’s fascinating book to sketch my 12 rules of life. But mine are different, because each is drawn from canonical science fiction. Why? Maybe because this is the literature on which I grew up, or maybe because I have never lost the taste for it. Or maybe because the sci-fi canon really does have a lot to teach about the well-lived life. Here, then, are my 12 rules. I cannot pretend that I always follow them, but I certainly always try.

  1. “An atom-blaster is a good weapon, but it can point both ways.” — Isaac Asimov, “Foundation.”

This is one of the clearest expressions of the basis of the liberalism of process. It matters not only whether one accomplishes an end but also how. Any tool available to the “good guys” today might be wielded by the “bad guys” tomorrow. One should always take this proposition into account when choosing a toolkit.

  1. “Happiness consists in getting enough sleep. Just that, nothing more.” — Robert Heinlein, “Starship Troopers.”

OK, happiness does consist of more than this — but getting enough sleep is indeed one of its key components. The larger point is that taking physical, emotional and spiritual care of the self is crucial to being truly happy….

(4) LANDING IN THE LAP OF LUXURY. Sarah Gailey ended up cruising through the skies with the 1%. See all the details in a Twitter thread that starts here.

(5) WRITERS OF THE FUTURE. If you’re curious what the experience is like for finalists brought to LA for the workshops and ceremony, Eneasz Brodski covers it all: “Writers of the Future vol 34 – The Award Ceremony & The People”.

Let’s start with the ceremony!

This was a delight. It was fun to be treated special and given an award and just the belle of the ball for a day! Of course, it was apparently pretty quickly that this award ceremony wasn’t really for us. It was for the Scientologists. This was their party, for them to say to each other “Look at us! We’re helping these people at the start of their career, and supporting the arts! We are doing good in the world.” And good on them for it! They are helping new artists, and contributing to the SFF world in a meaningful way. They can have as big a party they want to celebrate that, it’s their money. I didn’t mind at all being the excuse for that. It kinda felt what I imagine being a unicorn for a couple would feel like? The experience is primarily about them, but they couldn’t have it without me facilitating, and I’m happy to serve that role to bring them that. Of course that’s probably my super-idealized fantasy of unicorning. But /shrug. I got the literary-award equivalent of that fantasy, so I’m happy. 🙂

(6) I HAVE NO CATEGORY AND I MUST SCREAM. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett would like to tell you a Harlan Ellison story about the 1964 Hugos and the plan to omit the Dramatic Presentation category: “London Calling”. It includes this passage by Ron Ellik from the fanzine Vair-Iner.

…When I had lost perhaps half a dollar, Harlan phoned again. He read me a letter. He had talked to two dozen people since his trans-Atlantic call – other Study Committeemen, convention committeemen from past years, etc – and this letter, signed by Harlan, cited these several people as being, each, in at least passive agreement that London should not do this thing. In conclusion, Mr. Ben Jason and the group producing the physical Hugo trophies had agreed with him to withhold the trophies from the London convention.

We eagerly await news of London’s answer.

And there you have it folks, if you want to be a successful squeaky wheel then you need to really apply some of that old-fashioned elbow grease. Ah, I hear you ask, and was Harlan, that tiger of the telephone, a truly successful squeaky wheel? Well, yes….

(7) A PRIVATE MOMENT. And Bill provided a clipping from Ellison’s army days.

(8) WOULD YOU BELIEVE? What record has sold the most copies in 2018? “The Year’s Top-Selling Singer Isn’t Kanye — It’s Hugh Jackman”.

Halfway through a year filled with new work from some of the most popular artists alive, the best-selling album is the soundtrack to a movie musical with Hugh Jackman that never led the box office.

“The Greatest Showman’’ has sold almost 4 million copies for Atlantic Records, outpacing works from Kanye West, Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake. Music from the film based on the life of circus promoter P.T. Barnum has outsold the next most popular album of the year, Post Malone’s “Beerbongs & Bentleys,’’ by about 2-to-1.

(9) HUMP MONTH: At Featured Futures, the middle of the year doesn’t mean middling stories, as Jason has compiled another list of standout fiction gleaned from the SF magazines, plus links to reviews and other postings in Summation: June 2018.

This month produced nine noted stories (four recommended) from a total of forty-five (215 Kwds). Compelling made a strong and welcome return on its new semi-annual schedule. “Nightspeed” also contributed a couple of powerful tales.

(10) HUNTER OF THE SKY CAVE. Need a good laugh? Read Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag’s wonderful post “Inkwell and the Sky Raisin”.

…As anyone who has bothered to read this blog for any length of time knows, my husband and I are owned by a black cat named Inkwell. These are some of his recent adventures, mostly from Facebook and a few of his “Inkwell Sings the Blues” from his Twitter Feed.

This morning I woke up late, and my husband was already off running errands. I looked around the house for Inkwell, fearing he might have somehow gotten outside (he’s very much an indoor cat). I went from room to room looking for him, and when I opened the door to the garage, a fly (aka Sky Raisin) flew into the house. Eventually I found Inkwell by shaking his treats. He casually wandered out from wherever he was hiding to get his reward for being a cat from his mommy.

A half an hour later, he noticed the fly….

(11) TUNE IN. BBC Radio 4’s A Good Read this week included Gibson’s Neuromancer, plus had some other SF discussion. (Thanks for the share to Jonathan Cowie of Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation.)

Writers Juno Dawson and Pandora Sykes discuss favourite books Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan, Neuromancer by William Gibson, and The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett, with Harriett Gilbert. How will Juno and Pandora enjoy Harriett’s foray into science fiction? And how did Sagan’s novel, written at the tender age of 17, influence Juno’s writing for young adults?

(12) COLLINS OBIT. Four-time F&SF contributor Reid Collins died on April 19. See his Washington Post death notice at Legacy.com.

…In 1982 he succeeded Dallas Townsend to become anchor of “The CBS World News Roundup”- the longest running news broadcast in history. His passion, however, was space. He anchored live coverage of all the nation’s manned space flights for CBS News from Gemini up to the Space Shuttle, including all the Apollo flights to the moon. In 1985, Mr. Collins took “one giant leap” from radio to television and became an anchor for CNN, where he remained until his retirement in 1996. During retirement, he enjoyed golf, cigars on his front porch in Kensington, his 1977 Saab convertible and spending time fishing and relaxing on the East Rosebud River at his vacation home outside Roscoe MT. Arrangements will be private. If so moved, donations in his name may be made to the Montana Historical Society, P.O. Box 201201, Helena, MT 59620-1201.

Collins had four short stories in F&SF between 1978 and 1984.

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 30, 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory opened.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 30 — Vincent D’Onofrio, 59. Men in Black and the animated Men in Black series as well, genre series work including Emerald City, Daredevil and Ghost Wars.
  • Born June 30 – Molly Parker, 46. Currently on The Lost in Space series as Maureen, but genre roles on The Nightmare Cafe, The Outer Limits, HighlanderThe Sentinel, and Deadwood. Cat Eldridge says, “Ok the last may not be genre but it is a great love of Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Emma’s novel Territory reflects her passion for the Old West.”

(15) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian relays a warning from a well-known comic book hero delivered in Bliss.
  • Mike Kennedy shares how in Monty, robot sidekick EB3’s left arm had achieved a sentience of its own, was rebelling, and had to be replaced.  Doc and Monty found a use for the old arm…

(16) A FLUCTUATION IN THE FORCE. JDA’s Twitter followers had a market crash:

(17) HERETICAL PRONOUNCEMENT. Camestros Felapton dares to ask, “Is HAL 9000 a robot?”. Worse than that, he dares to answer!

So what about HAL? HAL presents as an AI. He’s talked about as a brain. He is shown as a computer. But what is he the brain of? Simple, HAL is the brain of the Discovery One and has control over the ship. Discovery One is HAL’s body. HAL is a robot.

Your Good Host has a meltdown in his comments section.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Synthetic Biology on Vimeo, Vasil Hnatiuk posits a future where giant bees race and living organisms became starships.

(19) RETRO FANDOM. Simpler times! A clipping courtesy of David Doering:

ACKERMAN  BEATS   BRADBURY   TO   A   PULP!

April 1, 1941 — Eyewitness account:

A low-flying, longstanding feud between the two would-be fun-rulers of Shangri-LA, Ray Bradbury and Forrest J Ackerman, broke into the open here late on the night of March 27 with serious injuries sustained by Bradbury — tangle occurred after a Club meeting — when Bradbury and FJA were leaving Cliftons and walked around the corner toward the newsstand. Each was playing the perennial game of trying to out-pun the other, when the now Stirring Science Stories was simultaneously spotted, Both fans leaped forward to secure the issue, Ackerman getting there first. So it was that Ackerman beat Bradbury to a pulp.

(20) BRADBURY AGAIN. Susan Sackett’s Inside Trek book promo site includes a small gallery of photos from a 1976 recording session.

In 1976, I suggested to my friend Ed Naha, A&R person for Columbia Records, that he should sign Gene to do a “spoken word” record. Gene loved the idea and wrote some great copy, inviting many science fiction luminaries to join him. “Inside Star Trek” was recorded at United Western Studios in LA, with Gene, Bill Shatner, and Ray Bradbury all present at this first session. (Isaac Asimov recorded his contribution in New York; DeForest Kelley and Mark Lenard’s sessions came later.) I was there too, of course, snapping pictures for posterity. As you can see from this shot, Gene, Bill and Ray were discussing something important. I call this Gene’s “shaggy dog” period.

(21) HOT OFF THE DIGITAL PRESS. The 20th issue of Rich Lynch’s personal fanthology My Back Pages is now online at the eFanzines website. [PDF file]

Issue #20 is a “getting closer to retirement” issue and has essays involving close-up magic and far-off business destinations, oppressive desert heat and refreshing evaporative cooling, fast cars and slow bicycles, large buildings and small details, Madisonian libertarianism and Rooseveltian progressivism, 1950s space ships and current-day space stations, famous cowboys and famous Missourians, posh hotels and run-down motels, first fans and First Fans, State Capitols and County Courthouses, steamy blues and cool jazz, hot barbecue and the Cold War, bronze statues and scrap metal constructs, large conventions and larger conventions, fan libraries and fanfiction, no reservations and “No Award”.  And colophons… Why did it have to be colophons?

(22) IN A CAST. “Jared Leto ‘joins Spider-Man movie universe’ as vampire Morbius” reports the BBC.

The 30 Seconds To Mars frontman would hop from DC to Marvel, having previously played The Joker in Suicide Squad.

Morbius is the third movie currently in production based on characters in the Spider-Man comic books.

After reports of the casting spread online, Jared shared some artwork of the character on Instagram.

(23) OVERRUNS. China Film Insider says it’s “This Year’s Most Expensive Summer Film”

When it comes to this year’s summer films in China, although Chinese audiences have been abuzz with Jiang Wen’s Hidden Man, Guo Jingming’s L.O.R.D: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties, and Xu Ke’s action movie Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings, the most expensive summer film is another one: Yang Zhenjian’s Asura. This film reportedly costs 750 million yuan ($115.5 million). Based on the current revenue-sharing model in China, it has to make at least 2.3 billion yuan ($350 million) in order to breakeven. In a recent interview with WeChat media outlet D-entertainment, the film’s director Yang Zhenjian explained that a big portion of the budget was allocated to hiring international technicians and visual effect teams. In addition, the film was made by a huge crew within a long period of time.

(24) DOCTOR WHO COMIC. Titan Comics and BBC Studios have announced Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Vol. 0 – The Many Lives Of Doctor Who – a special primer edition, which celebrates the Doctor’s many lives, and leads directly into Titan’s brand-new Thirteenth Doctor comic series – launching this fall in the U.S. and UK.

It’s said that your life flashes before your eyes when you die, and the Doctor’s had many of them! As the Doctor regenerates from his twelfth incarnation to her thirteenth (as played by Jodie Whittaker), she relives unseen adventures from all her past selves from Classic through to New Who.

(25) THE JOHNNY RICO DIET. It’s not Heinlein’s Mobile Infantry powered armor, though it may be a step toward it. It’s not even in deployed use. But the US military does seem to be getting serious about testing powered exoskeleton for both upper and lower body uses. In Popular Science: “Power-multiplying exoskeletons are slimming down for use on the battlefield”.

…newly developed exoskeletons is starting to meet […] slimmed-down, stealth requirements  […] Among the most promising, and weird-looking, is the “third arm” that the U.S. Army Research Laboratory developed to help soldiers carry and support their weapons on the battlefield. The lightweight device, which weighs less than four pounds and hangs at a soldier’s side, stabilizes rifles and machine guns, which can weigh up to 27 pounds. This improves shooting accuracy and also minimizes fatigue. It can even be used while scrambling into position on the ground.

…In May, Lockheed Martin unveiled its lightest weight powered exo for lower body support. Dubbed ONYX, the form-fitting suit, which resembles an unobtrusive web of athletic braces, reduce the effort soldier’s need for walking, running, and climbing over varied terrain while carrying a heavy loads of up to 100 pounds.

The suit uses tracking sensors, mechanical knee actuators, and artificial intelligence-based software that predicts joint movement, all of which reduce stress on the lower back and the legs.…

(26) ALWAYS TO CALL IT RESEARCH. Sixth Tone is hot pursuit of the story: “Chinese Fantasy Show Accused of Stealing Harry Potter’s Magic”.

Harry Potter fans threaten to Avada Kedavra drama accused of plot-copying.

After “Legend of Fu Yao” premiered in China on Monday, some viewers pointed out that the television series appeared to have plagiarized “Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire,” the fourth installment in British novelist J.K. Rowling’s seven-part series. Twelve episodes have aired so far — and online clips from or related to the show had gained over 350 million views within a day of the season premier.

In the series, the heroine Fu Yao is a disciple at Xuanyuan, a Taoist school that teaches swordsmanship and sorcery. The story focuses on the Tiandou Competition, an event held every eight years. To join in the contest, hopefuls must throw a piece of paper dipped in their own blood into a bronze cauldron. Once they’re signed up, there’s no getting out of the three-round competition, which sees challengers fight against a buffalo-shaped mythical creature, among other tasks.

Loyal Potterheads were quick to notice the similarities with the fourth installment’s Triwizard Tournament, a competition held every five years between three wizarding schools….

(27) HUMANITY NEEDS SAVING AGAIN. The Predator opens in theaters September 14:

From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, the hunt comes home in Shane Black’s explosive reinvention of the Predator series. Now, the universe’s most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other species. When a young boy accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race.

 

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Jason, Bill, Rich Lynch, David Doering, Jonathan Cowie, Todd Mason, Brian Z., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 6/24/18 To File Where We Scrolled And Know The Pixel For The Fifth Time

(1) THUNDER LIZARDS MAKE BOX OFFICE NOISE. They tipped plenty of gold onto the scales this weekend: “‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ Feasts on $150 Million Opening”.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdomtopped estimates to devour $150 million from 4,475 locations in North America this weekend. While it fell short of its predecessors’ record-shattering $208.8 million launch, the dinosaur sequel is off to a mighty start. The Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard-led tentpole has already amassed $711.5 million worldwide, including $561.5 million overseas.

“Fallen Kingdom” easily led the weekend as the lone wide release, though “Incredibles 2” enjoyed a heroic second weekend. The Disney Pixar sequel picked up another $80 million, bringing its domestic total to $350.3 million. The superhero blockbuster, directed by Brad Bird, launched with $182.7 million, making it the best opening for an animated feature and the eighth-biggest debut of all time.

(2) ROANHORSE INTERVIEW. AzCentral profiled Nebula-winning Rebecca Roanhorse: “Navajo legends come to life in Rebecca Roanhorse’s debut novel ‘Trail of Lightning'”

She also has a more personal inspiration. Born of Ohkay Owingeh (Pueblo) and African-American heritage, Roanhorse was adopted by an Anglo family and grew up in Texas. As an adult, she reunited with her indigenous birth mother in New Mexico and began to immerse herself in the culture. She picked up a law degree at the University of New Mexico and ended up marrying a Navajo man.

“I’ve been very lucky and very honored that so many Navajo folks have invited me into their families and shared with me, but I don’t presume to speak for the culture,” Roanhorse says. “I’m a fantasy writer, and this was the culture that I wanted to set my world in, because I love this culture. It’s something that I wanted to share and something that really spoke to me.” …

Q: There’s been some pushback against emerging voices in science fiction, especially women of color, particularly with the campaign a few years ago to vote against those authors for the Hugo Awards. How do you respond to that?

A: Science fiction, as Ursula LeGuin would probably tell you, is always about social issues. It’s never not been about social issues. Even if you’re writing rocket men going to space, you’re writing from a certain perspective. Whatever it is that defines your place in society, that’s where your voice comes from. So actually it makes a lot of sense that if science fiction is telling us what the future is supposed to look like, or fantasy is letting us play out our dream ideas of what society might be, that they would take up these issues of identity. I think it’s kind of exciting that you’re seeing the science-fiction and fantasy community push back against people like the Sad Puppies, the organizations that were trying to push out the voices, some of the underrepresented voices, from women of color, disabled voices, queer voices.

And the stories are great.

(3) BEWARE SPOILERS. Cinema Blend has a window into the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s future: “James Gunn Confirms When Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 Will Take Place”. BEWARE AVENGERS SPOILAGE.

And just like that, one of the biggest mysteries surrounding the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise has been put to bed. Guardians 3 will indeed be set after the events of Infinity War. This seems to hint that the fallen Guardians might return, although it’s currently unclear exactly how that might occur.

James Gunn’s tweet reveals that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will be affected by the tragic events of the Russo Brothers’ Avengers movies. This is likely a relief for the fans, who wanted the story to continue moving forward, rather than backwards. And considering the insane fates of the Guardians’ members, simply ignoring their near-annihilation at the hands of Thanos would have felt disingenuous.

(4) COMING EXHIBIT. “‘Black Panther’ Is Coming To The Smithsonian’s African American Museum”. Artifacts from the movie will be displayed during the Smithsonian’s inaugural African American Film Festival in October.

After “Black Panther” basically broke the box office back in February, fans of the Marvel superhero movie have been clamoring for a sequel. But if you can’t wait for Hollywood to get its act together, the Smithsonian African American Museum of History and Culture has your back.

The museum announced Wednesday that it has acquired several objects from the film, including the Black Panther superhero costume. That is, the actual outfit that star Chadwick Boseman wore. On his body. While fighting to save Wakanda from evil.

…Curators are still in the process of figuring out plans for a permanent exhibit.

(5) DESTINATION MOON. And also on the way, a bit farther into the future, is the National Air and Space Museum’s exhibit “Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission”. It’s on the road now, and will come home to a permenant exhibit in 2021.

Building on centuries of imagination and scientific discovery, and on the Smithsonian’s unequaled collection of space artifacts, Destination Moon will show those who remember the 1960s as well as generations born afterward how an extraordinary combination of motivations, resources, technologies, and teamwork made it possible to send people and robots to the Moon. The new gallery will help visitors discover the scope of lunar exploration from ancient dreams to contemporary spacecraft missions. The entrance will feature a gigantic 1957 Moon mural by Chesley Bonestell, under which it presents lunar flight mythology, Jules Verne, early Moon movies, and 1950s spaceflight advocacy. Two of the Museum’s most treasured Apollo 11 artifacts will be on display: the Command Module Columbia and Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit. The gallery’s last section exhibits the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and a Space Launch System/Orion model and information about what has gone on at the Moon since the 1990s and what is happening now. A more focused touring version of the exhibition, called Destination Moon; The Apollo 11 Mission, features the Columbia. It is currently at the St. Louis Science Center and will continue to Pittsburgh and Seattle before returning to the Museum.

 

(6) CHABON COMIC REALIZED. NPR tells how “A Cornucopia Of Comic Artists Pay Homage To Michael Chabon’s Escapist”.

It’s got to be a bit daunting for a comics creator to contribute to an anthology revolving around Michael Chabon’s Escapist. Chabon created the Escapist in his 2000 novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which won a Pulitzer Prize and set a new standard for highbrow treatment of comics. He’s an author who’s always expected great things from the form; in the keynote speech at the 2004 Eisner Awards (included in this volume), Chabon called for writers and artists “to … increase the sophistication of [comics’] language and visual grammar, to probe and explode the limits of the sequential panel, to give free reign to irony and tragedy and other grown-up-type modes of expression.”

It’s a hefty agenda, and the creators assembled here clearly feel its weight. For some, the pressure has proven to be a valuable impetus. Several of the most successful stories, inspired by the anti-Fascist politics of the Escapist in the novel, find contemporary relevance in his message of liberation. In “The Death of the Escapist” by Kevin McCarthy and Shawn Martinbrough, the Escapist’s skills inspire the citizens of a North Korea-like dictatorship to contemplate rebellion: “for the first time in their lives, they allow themselves to entertain the idea that escape … may be possible.”

(7) UNDER THE HAMMER. The original Star Wars’ Oscar-nominated art director finally cashed in this relic: “Han Solo ‘blaster’ fetches $550,000 in New York”.

A “blaster” used by Harrison Ford’s character Han Solo in the film Return of the Jedi has sold at auction in New York for $550,000 (£415,000).

The weapon, made mostly of wood, had previously spent more than 30 years in the possession of the film’s art director James Schoppe.

It sold for more than a lightsaber used by Mark Hamill in the first two Star Wars films, which fetched $450,000.

Despite being a much less sophisticated weapon, this Star Wars prop also brought in a heap of money:

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 24, 1983Twilight Zone – The Movie debuted.
  • June 24, 1987Spaceballs premiered theatrically.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Kathryn Sullivan learned from Breaking Cat News why books make the best cat beds.
  • Daniel Dern promises Get Fuzzy has “SFish refs.” And you know what that means. (Don’t you?)

(10) HOLY REPO, BATMAN! Hampus Eckerman wonders if Wayne Enterprises went broke. “The Batmobile has been taken into custody and is being auctioned off by the Swedish bailiffs,” according to this Swedish-language auction listing.

The following statistics have not been verified.

Length: 6 meters
Weight: 1750 kg
Max speed: 260 km/h
Chassis Lincoln Continental 1973
Motor 460 Ford big block V8. 550 hk
Chassis bulletproof carbonfiber

(11) DIVIDING THE BABY. Crazy Eddie’s Motie News looks ahead to the Saturn Awards and the Retro Hugos in “‘Get Out’ wins Bradbury Award plus my take on the Retro Hugo nominees”. The author makes a Solomonic decision about two Retro Hugo categories:

My picks would be between Forrest J Ackerman and his fanzine Voice of the Imagi-Nation and Donald A. Wollheim and The Phantagraph.  Ackerman was a bigger name in fandom while Wollheim eventually became a professional writer.  If I were a Hugo voter, which I’m not, I’d split the difference by voting Wollheim as the better writer and Ackerman’s fanzine as the better publication.

(12) BEGINNING OF THE ENDS. How It Ends is a new Netflix sff series.

As a mysterious apocalypse causes the spread of misinformation and violence, a man and his estranged father-in-law race across a chaotic and fractured country to save his pregnant wife. Starring Theo James, Forest Whitaker and Kat Graham, How It Ends premieres July 13 only on Netflix.

 

(13) SHOPPING FOR YOUR EDITOR. Amanda J. Spedding advises on “Finding the right editor, and when to run like hell” — what an editor is for, and how to assess prospective editors.

This post is brought to you by a Twitter thread I came across yesterday about the importance of editors. I recently wrote a post on just such a thing. If you’re disinclined to read that, I’ll break it down quickly: YOU NEED AN EDITOR.

Right then. Within this Twitter thread, I came across some information that needs to be addressed, so I’m chucking on my ranty-pants (they’re fabulous, by the way), and I’m going to give you some insights into what to look for in a good editor, and how to help find the right editor for you. Yes, not all editors will be the right fit. (I had a whole thing about editors being like pants, but it just got… weird.)

Aaaanywho, what had me don my ranty-pants was a writer explaining they’d been quoted $10,000 for an edit. I’ll just let that sink in. Ten grand. For an edit. Of one book. Oh, hell no. HELL NO. I don’t know who the so-called “editor” was who thought this was a reasonable quote. If I did, I would call them out on their bullshit. Because bullshit it is. I can’t even fathom an instance where quoting or even charging someone this amount is even within the realm of possibility. That, folks, is a scam. Run far. Run fast.

On the flipside, if you’re quoted say, $200 for a full edit of a novel – run far, run fast. No editor worth their salt would charge this little for a full edit. There’s a lot of skill that goes into editing, and most editors study to gain qualifications, to understand the nuances of English and its building blocks that go into great storytelling. Their qualifications and experience are worth more than two hundred bucks.

(14) THE PANIC OF 2942. Camestros Felapton worries about economic justice in Middle-Earth in “Dragons and wealth inequality”.

Dragons of the Smaug-Tolkien variety must have some interesting economic impacts. Smaug hoards gold and jewels in vast quantities. Notably, Smaug (and presumably other gold obsessed dragons) know specifically what they have hoarded. When Bilbo steals one of Smaug’s treasures, the dragon notices that it is gone. So Smaug’s lair isn’t like Scrooge McDuck’s vault full of coins – the dragon is hoarding possessions rather than coinage or more abstract tokens of wealth. That’s not to say some of a dragon’s gold isn’t in the form of coins but clearly, the dragon wants the coins for their own sake and not as a unit of currency. Each piece of the dragon’s hoard is uninterchangeable. Furthermore, a dragon has nothing to spend his wealth on – there aren’t dragon shops and the dragon’s interaction with other species is one of eating them or burning them to a crisp.

So when a dragon hoards gold, the gold is removed from the economy….

(15) DIGITAL GASLIGHTING. Cory Doctorow discusses “The Internet of Shit: a godsend for abusers and stalkers” at Boing Boing.

People who help domestic abuse survivors say that they are facing an epidemic of women whose abusers are torturing them by breaking into their home smart devices, gaslighting them by changing their thermostat settings, locking them out of their homes, spying on them through their cameras.

The abusers are often ex-partners who retain authentication passwords that allow them to access the IoT devices after a breakup.

Many of the women facing this abuse are wealthy and well-off (domestic abuse affects people of all incomes, but wealthier people are more likely to own these gadgets). In interviews with the NYT, survivors called it “jungle warfare” and “asymmetric warfare,” likening their ex-partners to guerrilla fighters attacking in secret….

The New York Times source article is here: “Thermostats, Locks and Lights: Digital Tools of Domestic Abuse”.

The people who called into the help hotlines and domestic violence shelters said they felt as if they were going crazy.

One woman had turned on her air-conditioner, but said it then switched off without her touching it. Another said the code numbers of the digital lock at her front door changed every day and she could not figure out why. Still another told an abuse help line that she kept hearing the doorbell ring, but no one was there.

Their stories are part of a new pattern of behavior in domestic abuse cases tied to the rise of smart home technology. Internet-connected locks, speakers, thermostats, lights and cameras that have been marketed as the newest conveniences are now also being used as a means for harassment, monitoring, revenge and control.

In more than 30 interviews with The New York Times, domestic abuse victims, their lawyers, shelter workers and emergency responders described how the technology was becoming an alarming new tool.

(16) THE LAST BITE. The Biology of Sharks and Rays investigates “The Extinction of Megalodon”.

To a greater or lesser extent, all living lamnids – including the White Shark – have a modified circulatory system that enables them to retain metabolic heat and extend their range into chilly waters. With the exception of the Shortfin Mako (Isurus oxyrinchus), which makes a good living even in tropical waters, all extant lamnids are primarily cold-water animals. Although some lamnids – like the White Shark – occasionally visit warmer waters, very few actually live there. Like the primates slathered in coconut oil on tropical beaches, warm water lamnids are generally tourists. And, like their human counterparts, they eventually go home. In contrast, megalodon does not seem to have extended its range into cool temperate waters. Despite its enormous body mass, megalodon may not have shared the lamnids’ ability to retain significant metabolic heat. This shortcoming may have effectively trapped Megalodon in discrete, ever-decreasing puddles of warm coastal waters. If, as Robert Purdy’s paleoecological study suggests, Megalodon was limited to warm waters and relied on coastal areas as pupping grounds – no matter from whence it descended or what it looked like – it had a very sandtiger-like life history. And this may have led to Megalodon’s ultimate undoing.

(17) WALK A MILE IN HER SHOES. April Wolfe in the Washington Post explores the issue of “women wearing unreasonable shoes in action films” with a discussion of Bryce Dallas Howard’s high heels in Jurassic World and interviews with costume designers Ellen Mirojnick and Black Panther costume designer Ruth Carter: “The tortured history of action-film heroines and their high heels. (‘Jurassic World,’ anyone?)”

…What became clear is that movie audiences are more attuned than ever to on-screen footwear, amid our culture’s greater scrutiny of gender norms in film. But a look back at the history of heroines in heels shows that the issue is more complex than it seems.

For instance, one reason “Jurassic World” caught flak is not just that Howard was wearing heels but also that Trevorrow didn’t hide them. Veteran costume designer Ellen Mirojnick (“Cliffhanger,” “Speed,” “Strange Days”) explained that it’s typical for characters dressed in heels to be shot in a way that their shoes are not visible during any of the action. Try finding a single frame of “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” in which you can clearly make out Gemma Arterton’s shoes in a fight.

“We do substitutes, where we might put a wedge [heel] on her, because you won’t be actually seeing her feet,” Mirojnick said. “So we build a .?.?. shoe that will have the right height for the scene, but the audience is never to assume she’s wearing anything but the heel we saw her in before.”

It’s often just too difficult to perform any stunts, even running, in a heel. Some films, such as “True Lies” or “Red,” show a heroine in heels and then make it a point to show her removing them, to represent her shedding that more feminine identity, which also makes the action sequences easier to perform….

(18) A MONSTER “KID” REMEMBERS. Movie fan Steve Vertlieb shares the story of his life in “A Monster Kid Remembers” at The Thunderchild.

Cosmic dreams (and provocative nightmares) of tantalizing journeys through time and space … infinite, conceptual exploration of the stars … alien creatures … Hammer Films … Universal Pictures … “King Kong” … Harryhausen dinosaurs … and Famous “Monsters” of all shapes, sizes, and creeds, both conceived and lovingly chronicled in books, magazines, journals, tabloids, and on line for half a century, inspired this affectionate, deeply personal, if slightly Monstrous, remembrance of a life in “horror” by a gray haired, unabashedly child like, Monster “Kid.”

[Thanks to Bonnie McDaniel, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Hampus Eckerman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Kathryn Sullivan, Steve Vertlieb, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 6/16/18 And I Awoke And Found Me Here On The Scrolled Pixelside

(1) DOUG JONES’ NEW GIG. GeekTyrant points to the first installment of an sf video series premiering on Dust’s YouTube channel: “Dust Created a Cool 1930’s Sci-Fi Noir Series AUTOMATION with Doug Jones; Watch the First Episode Now!”.

In an alternate 1930’s Prohibition-era New York City, it’s not liquor that is outlawed but the future production of highly sentient robots known as automatons. Automata follows former NYPD detective turned private eye Sam Regal and his incredibly smart automaton partner, Carl Swangee. Together, they work to solve the case and understand each other in this dystopian America. Putting a science ?ction twist on the classic hard-boiled detective drama, Automata explores a dystopian alternative version of Prohibition-era New York City, similarly shaped by moral panic even though the alcohol ?ows freely here. In this universe, Prohibition doesn’t ban drinking, but the further production of sapient androids that have become prevalent by the 1920s. As a result, the existing androids, called automatons, are shunned by society, relegated to an untouchable caste of servants despite their near-human thought capability, and are frequently subjected to hatred and violence. It’s in this oppressive setting that human private detective Sam Regal (Basil Harris, “Grimm”) and his automaton partner Carl Swangee (Doug Jones, The Shape of Water) work together to solve cases for both communities, learning to see humanity in one another while trying to prove that justice is still worth serving.

 

(2) WILDERNESS TREK. Who doesn’t want one of these? Lost at E Minor introduces the world to “A tent that looks like a Star Trek shuttlecraft for all your camping missions”.

Canadian designer Dave Delisle, of Dave’s Geeky Ideas, has come up with a concept tent that resembles a Star Trek Federation shuttlecraft.

The two-person tent, though not able to travel to other galaxies, allows Trekkies to go on their ‘away missions’.

It features a hull that looks like the real spacecraft, with an entrance at the back. When you want to stow it away, the tent can easily fit inside one of its thrusters.

(3) I’M LOSING IT HERE. RedWombat strikes a blow for artistic freedom. The thread starts here.

(4) TECH VIRTUOSO. Ursula V’s Twitter stream is also where I found this:

(5) SPFBO 2018. Mark Lawrence, who announced the 2017 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off winner just the other day, wasted no time cranking up the next round of the contest:  SPFBO 2018 – A call to authors.

This is the call for authors wanting to enter books for the fourth Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off.

The contest will be open for entries until August 1st or when 300 titles have been entered, whichever comes first.

If 250+ titles are not gathered by August 1st the contest will be deferred for a year. I have no idea if there is a limit to how many years we can gather 250+ new self-published fantasy book 1s.

So far they have 101 entries. These bloggers will review and rate the submissions.

(6) ESSENTIAL SF. Factor Daily directs you to “Something for everyone: 5 essential science fiction anthologies you must read”. Don’t panic – only the first two were published over 30 years ago….

If you’re someone with a passing interest in science fiction who’d like to know the genre better or would like to experience all the many splendours it has to offer without having to read 300-page novels, one of the best ways is through an anthology. If you’re a hardcore science fiction reader who wants to discover new authors or get deeper into the genre’s history and trends, one of the best ways is through an anthology.

Here then, are five essential science fiction anthologies that will appeal to – and are recommended for – both, the seasoned sci-fi fan, and the casual reader who’d really like to know what the big fuss about science fiction really is. Whatever it is that you’re looking for – spaceships and robots, interstellar travel or the future of humankind, feminist stories, swashbuckling adventures, stories about love and loss, funny stories, stories to make you ponder, about politics, economics, about culture(s), stories about the future that are really a commentary on our present, stories about technology done right, of technology gone wrong – they’re all in here, and then some….

(7) QUICK SIPS. Charles Payseur’s Quick Sip Reviews catches up with “Strange Horizons 06/04/2018 & 06/11/2018 “.

The first two weeks of June’s Strange Horizons brings a pair of stories and a pair of poems. The fiction is a mix of fantasies, one with magic and ghosts and monsters and the other with a looser grasp on reality. Both feature characters charged with watching over a space through. For one, it’s through elaborate ritual. For the other, it’s by house sitting. In both, there’s a feeling of something being trapped, of something being infested, and of the characters having been wronged. The poetry deals with myths, with mythical creatures, and with longing and endings and beginnings. And all together it makes for a rather lovely but haunting collection of short SFF. To the reviews!

(8) SHORT ORDER. What screens ahead of Incredibles 2? (Besides half an hour of trailers, I mean….) Something that left an NPR interviewer impressed: “In Pixar’s First Female-Directed Short, A Dumpling Child Fills An Empty Nest”.

Moviegoers sitting down to see Incredibles 2 are in for a tasty treat in the form of an animated short called Bao. It tells the story of an empty nester who discovers joy — and sorrow — when a steamed bun she makes comes to life.

The story is pulled from the childhood of Domee Shi, who wrote and directed the Pixar film. Shi was born in China and raised in Toronto. She started working at Pixar as an intern in 2011, and now she’s the first woman to direct a Pixar short.

Pixar and the larger animation industry have been criticized for shutting female animators out of top jobs, but Shi says that culture is changing.

“You’re just seeing this gradual shift in the industry because, before, animation was predominantly white and male, but now in animation schools all over the country enrollment is now over 50 percent female. … I think just more and more girls are just getting into animation. And I hope that we’re going to see those numbers be reflected in the industry and not just in the animation schools.”

(NPR interviewed Shi before the announcement that Pixar’s co-founder, John Lasseter, would be leaving the company. Lasseter had been absent since November, when allegations of sexual harrassment surfaced.)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

On this day in 1960, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho has its world premiere in New York. Did you know: Paramount gave Hitchcock a very small budget to work with, because of their distaste with the source material. They also deferred most of the net profits to Hitchcock, thinking the film would fail.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born June 16 – John Cho, 46. Sulu in Star Trek, Star Trek into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond. First genre role appears to on Charmed, other shows includes Static Shock, Star Trek and Batman video games, Flashforward and the current season of The Exorcist.

(11) TIMOTHY THE TALKING CAT AND SUSAN THE TRICERATOPS. Camestros Felapton’s “The Bortsworth Mysteries: The Case of the Shifting Genre”, soon to be winning indie book awards near you….

“Wake up!” said Timothy the Talking Cat, a highly intelligent cat with a piercing intellect who was looking very dapper that bright morning in a yellow bow tie that deftly coordinated with his purple, velvety fur.

“I am awake,” said Susan.

“It is so hard to tell because you sleep standing up and also last night I painted eyes on your eyelids which was funny at the time but now I regret because when you close your eyes it looks like you are staring at me in a really angry way like you are about to stomp on me,” replied Timothy loquaciously (who was briefly surprised that of all the words the meat robot hadn’t spelt incorrectly “loquaciously” was one of them).

(12) HARDWICK UNPLUGGED.  “AMC Silences Chris Hardwick Talk Show & Comic-Con Panels After Abuse Claims”. Deadline quotes Hardwick’s denial, and speculates about the fate of his as-yet-unaired TV work.

A day after allegations of emotional abuse and sexual assault were leveled against Chris Hardwick by an ex-girlfriend, AMC has decided today to officially pull the plug on their long time host’s talk show and appearances at San Diego Comic-Con next month.

“We have had a positive working relationship with Chris Hardwick for many years,” said the home of The Walking Dead in a statement on Saturday, one day before Season 2 of Talking With Chris Hardwick was set to debut. “We take the troubling allegations that surfaced yesterday very seriously. While we assess the situation, Talking with Chris Hardwick will not air on AMC, and Chris has decided to step aside from moderating planned AMC and BBC America panels at Comic-Con International in San Diego next month.” …

(13) ERRATA. Locus Online’s item “Jemisin Wins 2018 BoBi” repeats Publishers Weekly’s mistake – the portion in quotes:

N.K. Jemisin will receive the annual Best of Brooklyn (BoBi) Award, and “is the first author of speculative fiction to win the BoBi.”

I omitted the quote when that news was reported in yesterday’s Scroll because the original Brooklyn Book Festival press release lists two authors of speculative fiction among the previous winners —

… Past honorees have included Colson Whitehead, Jacqueline Woodson, Jonathan Lethem, James McBride, Lois Lowry and Pete Hamill.

It’s still a fine honor for Jemisin.

(14) FREE READ. Stephen Lawson’s Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award winner “Homunculus” has been posted on the Baen Books website.

The yellow-orange tholin haze above Titan’s surface whirled around the chassis of a lighter-than-air research drone. A tiny carbon-fiber humanoid robot sat perched on its support structure, dangling his feet next to the drone’s camera as it took pictures of the rocky surface below. The dirigible, designed to carry sampling probes and communication equipment, barely registered the stowaway’s mass. Folded aramid-fiber wings fluttered on aluminum ribs on the bot’s back as the breeze swept over the drone’s chassis….

(15) EXPLORING FAN PHOTOS. Andrew Porter has been working on identifying people in the Jay Kay Klein photos posted by the UC/Cal/Riverside Collection. He sent out links to some of his finds —

(16) CLARKE LITERARY BIO. Gary Westfahl’s book Arthur C. Clarke will be published by the University of Illinois Press in July.

Already renowned for his science fiction and scientific nonfiction, Arthur C. Clarke became the world’s most famous science fiction writer after the success of 2001: A Space Odyssey. He then produced novels like Rendezvous with Rama and The Fountains of Paradise that many regard as his finest works.

Gary Westfahl closely examines Clarke’s remarkable career, ranging from his forgotten juvenilia to the passages he completed for a final novel, The Last Theorem. As Westfahl explains, Clarke’s science fiction offered original perspectives on subjects like new inventions, space travel, humanity’s destiny, alien encounters, the undersea world, and religion. While not inclined to mysticism, Clarke necessarily employed mystical language to describe the fantastic achievements of advanced aliens and future humans. Westfahl also contradicts the common perception that Clarke’s characters were bland and underdeveloped, arguing that these reticent, solitary individuals, who avoid conventional relationships, represent his most significant prediction of the future, as they embody the increasingly common lifestyle of people in the twenty-first century.

Westfahl, formerly of the University of La Verne and the University of California, Riverside, has now retired to focus exclusively on research and writing. His many books on science fiction include William Gibson and Hugo Gernsback and the Century of Science Fiction

(17) FEATHERED NERD RANKINGS. Joe Sherry’s “Reading the Hugos: Short Story” puts this one somewhere in the middle of his ballot.

“Fandom for Robots”: So, the original sentient AI discovers fan fiction and gets involved in the fandom for the anime Hyperdimension Warp Record. On its surface, “Fandom for Robots” is exactly what it seems to be – an AI learning about fandom, about shipping characters, about writing fan fiction and commenting on other stories. But, I wonder, is there a point here where Prasad is also talking about how fanfiction gives a greater opportunity to marginalized people to see themselves in stories where they are otherwise excluded? Is Prasad telling a story about how fanfiction can build community and inclusion?

“Fandom for Robots” was a lot of fun to read, but it’s a better story when I’m reading a bit deeper into what message may be baked into an otherwise basic story of an AI discovering fanfiction.

(18) PANDORA PREVIEW. The official Disney blog takes fans inside the technology: “Pandora – The World of Avatar Time Capsule: Imagineers Create the Most Advanced Audio-Animatronics Figure, the Shaman of Songs for Na’vi River Journey”

Guests can encounter the Shaman of Songs inside Na’vi River Journey, after they board a boat and are whisked away on an immersive journey deep into a bioluminescent rainforest on Pandora. There, the Shaman of Songs sits, sending positive energy out into the forest through the power of her movements and music.

But bringing her to life required the Imagineering/LEI project team to not only apply the latest technologies in robotics, but also develop an estimated 20 new technologies to bring this figure to life. The goal was to make the figure’s tech as hidden as possible, to make the shaman as lifelike as possible.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 6/13/18 But File’s Just A Pixel And Pixels Weren’t Meant To Last

(1) WW 1984. Director Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot tweeted today about Wonder Woman 2 — now called Wonder Woman 1984.  Jenkins’ tweet shows that Chris Pine is in the movie even though his character, Steve Trevor, was killed at the end of Wonder Woman.

(2) YOON HA LEE ON TOUR. The 1000 Year Plan is today’s stop on the “Revenant Gun Blog Tour – A Q&A with Yoon Ha Lee”.

In nearly two decades of publishing short fiction, you’ve built so many different universes and mythologies where we are only offered a glimpse of what seems like a much richer context. Most of these stories are one-offs; what was it about the Hexarchate concept that compelled you grow it into a larger epic? Have you entertained the idea of expanding on any of your other stories?

I’d been wanting to write a novel for a while, but my first substantive attempt, which I (affectionately?) call the Millstone Fantasy Novel, was ten years in the making and turned out to be fatally flawed, so I trunked it. I love space opera, though, everything from Simon R. Green’s Deathstalker books to Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga to Jack Campbell’s Black Jack Geary books, and I wanted to try my hand at it. Even then, Ninefox Gambit was originally going to be a one-off. When I came to the end, however, I realized that I had more to say about the setting and more ideas for plot. I suppose part of it’s laziness as well–having generated all those setting details, it seemed a shame not to get some more use out of them!

I’ve occasionally thought about revisiting a few of my past stories, but most of them feel complete in themselves. Especially at shorter lengths, I’m really more focused on the idea than building an elaborate world that can be explored again and again. I’m probably more likely to do something new and different to keep myself entertained.

(3) IT’S IMPOSSIBLE. In “Timothy and Babies”, Camestros Felapton and Timothy the Talking Cat get into a big brawl over terminology despite never once using the word “decimate.”

Dramatic Personae:

  • Camestros Felapton – raconteur and bon-vivant
  • Timothy the Talking Cat – a rat-auteur and bomb-savant
  • Mrs Brigsly – an inhabitant of Bortsworth and carekeeper of a baby
  • A baby – a baby of unknown provenance in the care of Mr Brisgly

[Timothy] I had to look up ‘bon-vivant’ and the dictionary did not say ‘binges on Netflix and chocolate hob-nobs’
[Camestros] It is more of an attitude than a strictly prescribed lifestyle.
[Timothy] and I’m the one who tells anecdotes in a ‘skilful or amusing way’
[Camestros]…well…
[Timothy] It cleary says “OR”!
[Camestros] Let’s change the subject shall we? I’m already on the sixth line of dialogue, I’m not going back and changing the list of characters now.

(4) QUESTION AUTHORITY. Rachel Swirsky speaks up: “In Defense of ‘Slice of Life’ Stories”.

Many poems attempt to communicate an impression or an emotion. A poem about nature might not be intended to communicate “here is an intellectual idea about nature,” but instead “this is what it looked like through my eyes” and “this is how it felt.” Fine art landscapes can be like that, too. They depict a place at a time, both transient, through the eye of the painter (where the eye of the painter may figure more or less into the image, depending on whether it’s a realistic painting, etc).

What this makes me wonder is–why are we so dismissive of this in fiction? Plots are excellent; ideas are excellent. But what’s so wrong with a slice of life, that we refer to it with distaste? Why can’t fiction be about rendering transient, momentary emotions? Why do we demand they always be in the context of a plot?

(5) A GOOD EXAMPLE. Tor.com’s Leah Schnelbach tells “How Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice Avoids the Dreaded Infodump”.

…In the interest of slaying this monster, I’m going to walk you through the opening pages of Ann Leckie’s Hugo Award-winning Ancillary Justice—which gives the reader the perfect amount of info, without becoming too dumpy.

Think of this like going on a date, or grabbing coffee with a new friend—you give a few details, sure, but you don’t narrate a bullet list of your whole life. When you’re writing, you’re on a date with your reader. Ideally, your story will charm them enough that they lose track of time and hang out with you until you both suddenly realize that the restaurant has closed, all the other diners have left, and an annoyed busboy has to unlock the front door to let you out.

To get a feel for how to include lots of worldbuilding without killing your story’s momentum, let’s look at an example of a great opening. The first four pages of Ancillary Justice introduce us to a mysterious narrator, a harsh world, and two different conflicts right away, all while seeding in enough questions about the book’s world to keep us turning pages. You can read the first chapter over on NPR; below, I’ll pull the text apart (roughly half of NPR’s excerpt) paragraph by paragraph and unpack how and why it works.

(6) STAN LEE NEWS. The Hollywood Reporter says “Stan Lee Granted Restraining Order Against Business Manager, LAPD Investigating Claims of Elder Abuse”.

The move comes two days after Keya Morgan was arrested on suspicion of filing a false report to police.

Stan Lee on Wednesday filed for a restraining order against the man he said last week was the only person who was handling his affairs and business, Keya Morgan, a Los Angeles Superior Court media relations rep confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.

Lee was granted a temporary restraining order against Morgan, authorities told THR. The request for a permanent order is 43 pages long. A court date to decide that request is set for July 6.

The restraining order request was filed two days after Morgan was arrested on suspicion of filing a false report to police. Morgan was released from jail on $20,000 bail.

The LAPD is investigating reports of elder abuse against Lee. The investigation began in February, but only became public knowledge Wednesday.

(7) WELDON ON INCREDIBLES 2. NPR’s Glen Weldon says: “Retrofuturistic ‘The Incredibles 2’ Is More Retro Than Futuristic”.

Brad Bird’s virtuosic 2004 animated movie The Incredibles is the best superhero film that has ever been made and is likely the best superhero film that ever will be made.

This is a fact — a cold, hard one. The massive, resolute, essential truth of this fact is abiding and irresistible and immovable; it possesses its own magnetic field, its own solar day….

The villain — a mysterious masked figure known as the Screenslaver, who uses television to control the minds of hapless citizens (and heroes) — arrives with a villainous manifesto, albeit a slightly muddier one than that of the first film’s nemesis. And that same conceptual muddiness, a byproduct of the sequel’s need to expand on and complicate the world of the first film, seeps slowly into the entire film.

(8) KNOCK IT OFF. Another response to abusive Star Wars fans — “John Boyega tells Star Wars fans to stop harassing cast”.

Star Wars actor John Boyega has urged fans of the franchise to stop harassing the cast on social media.

His comments came after two co-stars, Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran, quit Instagram after receiving online abuse.

The actor, who plays Finn, tweeted: “If you don’t like Star Wars or the characters, understand that there are decisions makers [sic] and harassing the actors/actresses will do nothing.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 13, 1953The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms was released theatrically.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 13 – Malcolm McDowell, 75. Alex in A Clockwork Orange of course but King Arthur in Arthur the King, Dr. Miles Langford in Class of 1999, Soran in Star Trek: Generations, Arcady Duvall in the Jonah Hex episode of Batman: The Animated Series, Mr. Roarke, The Host, in the second Fantasy Island series, and far, far took many other roles to note here.
  • Born June 13 – Tim Allen, 65. Galaxy Quest’s Jason Nesmith and Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear.
  • Born June 13 – Ally Sheedy, 56. In X-Men: Apocalypse  Scott’s Teacher as Scott’s Teacher.
  • Born June 13 – Chris Evans, 37. Various Marvel films including of course The Avengers and Thor.
  • Born June 13 – Aaron Taylor-Johnson, 28. In Avengers: Age of Ultron  as Pietro Maximoff / Quicksilver,

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) PURE IMAGINATION. The Washington Post’s John Kelly asks “Are cartoon characters on lottery scratch-off tickets a way to lure young gamblers?”. The journalist investigates the Willy Wonka Golden Tickets currently being sold by the Maryland Lottery, and is told by Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency director Gordon Medenica that they aren’t trying to get kids hooked on lottery tickets because Willy Wonka “has almost zero resonance with children today.”

To put it another way: Are colorful, cartoonish Racing Presidents and Willy Wonka scratchers the alcopops and fruit-flavored vape pens of the lottery world?

I contacted the two lottery agencies and they said no. Oh, good, okay then. .?.?.

But, you know, let’s explore this a little more.

Gordon Medenica, director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, said he was actually a little reticent when first approached by the company that created the Willy Wonka scratch-off, Scientific Games of Las Vegas.

“Frankly, we avoided it for some period of time,” he said. “My concern was still mainly just a personal thing: Isn’t this a children’s brand? Shouldn’t we be avoiding something like this?”

What changed Medenica’s mind were assurances from Scientific Games that Willy Wonka was no longer a children’s character. Many casinos, they reminded him, have Willy Wonka-branded slot machines.

“The adults who play the games have a fond memory of that movie, but in fact it has almost zero resonance with children today, oddly enough,” Medenica said.

(13) MOAT NOT INCLUDED. One of Mike Kennedy’s local news feeds (WAFF TV) alerted him to the availability of some prime unreal estate: “You can own this castle in Georgia for less than $1 million”.

Kennedy says there is a Zillow listing for the residence in question:

This 57,000 sq.ft. castle is in Menio GA — that’s near the state line with Alabama but not terribly near any sizable city. By road, it’s about 100 miles NW of Atlanta, about 50 miles SSW of Chattanooga TN, and a little over 100 miles NE of Birmingham AL. From my home (Huntsville AL), I’d have to travel over 80 miles EbS — part of it through some seriously back-country roads across the Cumberland Plateau.

The owner has dropped the asking price from $1,500,000 to a mere $999,999 (it’s been on Zillow for over 1000 days, after all). Earlier in the decade it was listed for as much as $5,9000,000. It has 30 bedrooms; 15 bathrooms; and sits on almost 250 acres.

Only 18,000 sq.ft. of the 57,000 sq.ft. floor space is finished, but Zillow says materials are on site to finish out most of the rest. Only some of the exterior stonework is installed. Think of it as your own little fixer upper. (You should be handy with a backhoe if you want to extend the ceremonial water feature in front to a full moat.)

(14) NO FALL OF MOONDUST. Figuratively speaking, this genie is still in the bottle. Now, who gets to keep the bottle? Yahoo! News has the story — “Woman Says Neil Armstrong Gave Her A Vial Of Moon Dust, Sues NASA To Keep It”.

A Tennessee woman is proactively suing NASA to keep what she says is a vial of moon dust gifted from astronaut Neil Armstrong.

Laura Cicco said Armstrong was a family friend, and that her mother gave her a tube of priceless lunar particles when she was 10, along with a note that read: “To Laura Ann Murray — Best of Luck — Neil Armstrong Apollo 11

Cicco told The Washington Post she kept Armstrong’s autograph in her bedroom but didn’t see the dust until she was going through her parents’ possessions five years ago.

NASA has not confiscated the vial, but Cicco says she doesn’t want the space agency to take it, so she filed a lawsuit on Wednesday to proactively assert her rights.

It might seem strange to sue at this point, but proactive law maintains that in some cases, such as those involving trademarks, contracts, and potential disputes, it is easier, cheaper and faster to address problems before they happen instead of reacting to them.

(15) BLOWN UP, SIR. Strange Angel premieres tomorrow, and I don’t remember linking to it before.

Watch the official trailer for Strange Angel, premiering June 14th, exclusively on CBS All Access. Strange Angel, a drama series created by Mark Heyman (Black Swan, The Skeleton Twins) and based on George Pendle’s book of the same name, is inspired by the real life story of Jack Parsons and explores the dramatic intersection between genius and madness, science, and science fiction.

 

(16) NOT EXACTLY AMAZING. After you read Galactic Journey’s review, you probably won’t jump into your time machine to look for a 1963 newsstand where you can buy this issue: “[June 13, 1963] THUD (the July 1963 Amazing)”.

Jack Sharkey’s serialized novella The Programmed People, which concludes in this July 1963 Amazing, describes a tight arc from mediocre to appalling and lands with a thud….

(17) BRADBURY CALLING. This is from a column by Nilanjana Roy called “When Books Are Burned” in the Financial Times (behind a paywall).

Fahrenheit 451 began in 1951 as a novella called The Fireman. Bradbury set down 25,000 words in nine days, renting a desk in the typing room in the basement of the UCLA library.  He wrote to a fan in 2006, ‘How could I have written so many words so quickly?  It was because of the library.  All of my friends, all of my loved ones, were on the shelve above and shouted, yelled, and shrieked at me to be creative…You can imagine how exciting it was to do a book about book burning in the very presence of hundreds of my beloveds on the shelves…’

…What he (Bradbury) anticipated, even in the pre-Internet, pre-Twitter, pre-WhatsApp 1950s, was the time we’ve reached–an age of manic consumption of a constant stream of often useless information.  For Bradbury, what was terrifying was not just the burning of books, it was the way in which people were prepared to turn against those who refused to sup at the same shallow pools, to persecute those who step away from the stream.

Re-reading Fahrenheit 451 decades after I’d first read it as a teenager, I heard Bradbury’s plea far more clearly.  In a world gone mad from too much junk, don’t forget reading, or books, or the necessaity of slow conversations and contemplative silence in a time of howling mobs and incessant noise.

(18) GENRE INTEREST LIBERALLY CONSTRUED. Hey, is this an appropriate headline, or what? USA Today reports that a “Kickstarter aims to make Ruth Bader Ginsburg into action figure”.

If you’ve ever wanted an action figure of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, your chance is coming.

FCTRY, a product incubator, kicked off a crowd fundraiser on Tuesday to raise the money to create an action figure of the 85-year-old associate justice.

It gave itself 35 days to raise its $15,000 goal on Kickstarter. As of Tuesday evening, just hours after launch, the company had raised more than $67,000.

(19) DUMBO TRAILER. Now out –  the teaser trailer for Tim Burton’s all-new live-action Dumbo, coming to theatres March 2019.

From Disney and visionary director Tim Burton, the all-new grand live-action adventure “Dumbo” expands on the beloved classic story where differences are celebrated, family is cherished and dreams take flight. Circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) enlists former star Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) and his children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) to care for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock in an already struggling circus. But when they discover that Dumbo can fly, the circus makes an incredible comeback, attracting persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), who recruits the peculiar pachyderm for his newest, larger-than-life entertainment venture, Dreamland. Dumbo soars to new heights alongside a charming and spectacular aerial artist, Colette Marchant (Eva Green), until Holt learns that beneath its shiny veneer, Dreamland is full of dark secrets.

 

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Fish With Legs is a Screen Australia cartoon on Vimeo, directed by Dave Carter, about what happened when all the fish in Australia suddenly sprouted legs!

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