Pixel Scroll 11/19/19 Bleary-Eyed Pixeling, Bah

(1) KING OF FUNKO. Entertainment Weekly rejoices: “Bloody Hell! Stephen King (finally) gets his own Funko figure”. In fact, two of them.

Countless characters from Stephen King‘s lexicon of horror works have shrunk down to Funko Pop! vinyl form, from The Shining‘s “Here’s Johnny” Jack Torrance to It‘s Pennywise the shape-shifting clown. Now, King himself joins the list of auteurs immortalized in plastic.

Funko unveiled the acclaimed author in toy form on Monday through two new figures. One is a more standard King, dressed in black and holding a book. The other pays homage to two of his literary creations.

…King joins the likes of fellow author-to-Funko figures George R.R. Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire), Dr. Seuss, and Edgar Allen Poe (“The Raven”).

(2) THE SUM OF ITS PARTS. Adam Roberts thinks “The Fix-Up” novel’s importance to sff as been underestimated.

…But my suggestion, which, come the Greek kalends, I’ll write up into a proper academic paper, is this: the ‘fix-up’ has had a much larger, perhaps even a shaping, effect on the entire later development of SF than is realised. I don’t just mean those occasional SF novels today that are made up of discrete elements tessellated: Simmons’s Hyperion say, or Jennifer Egan’s Visit From the Goon Squad—it’s also in the way TV shows like Doctor Who or Star Trek assemble mega-texts out of lots of short-story-ish discrete elements, something (as per the MCU) increasingly mimicked by cinema. Only die-hard fans read new SF short stories today, but the form of the short story feeds directly into contemporary SF in several key ways. Speaking for myself, I find these formal possibilities really interesting: the jolting dislocation of it, the quasi-modernist experimentation; textual tessellation but in a pulp, populist idiom. That’s entirely my bag.

(3) LECKIE REMODELS. Ann Leckie has unveiled her new website and blog — https://annleckie.com/

(4) CHEATER WHO PROSPERED. Jesse Pasternack argues that Psycho Invented the Spoiler Alert as We Know It”. And used the one Hitchcock revealed in pre-release publicity to trick audiences into falling for the rest.

This is how Psycho operates—by outlining rules beforehand, it seems to promise to play by them. All of Psycho’s advance press materials were designed to manipulate audiences. The rules that Hitchcock set for watching it acted as extra-cinematic devices that would help further jolt audiences. Psycho breaks every rule it sets up. It doesn’t stick to a single genre (it goes from realistic crime story to psychological thriller to murder mystery). It kills its main character. Its main villain turns out not to exist. The character who takes over the plot is revealed to have been taken over by another force, a long time ago.

(5) WARTIME SERVICE. Rob Hansen has added a photo gallery to his fanhistory site THEN that shows British fans in uniform from WWII. Arthur C. Clarke and Terry Jeeves are in the mix: “WWII: BRITISH FANS IN THE FORCES”.

(6) THE FUR FLIES. The second trailer for CATS has dropped. USA Today provides the intro: “You have to see Taylor Swift (and Judi Dench’s fur coat) in the new ‘Cats’ trailer”.

Are you ready to see Judi Dench as a cat wearing a gangster-sized fur coat?

The new “Cats” trailer released Tuesday delivers such epic Dench moments, more Taylor Swift shimmying as Bombalurina and plenty of new jokes, thanks to the internet.

“Tonight is a magical night where I choose the cat that deserves a new life,” Dench’s Old Deuteronomy ominously intones.

“Judi Dench giving us @JLo in Hustlers,” tweeted Marc Malkin of The Hollywood Reporter, sharing an image of Dench in a full fur (on fur) coat.

(7) MANDALORIAN RECAP. Dean E.S. Richard warns you before the spoilers begin in his column “Mondays on Mandalore: A New New Hope” at Nerds of a Feather. Before he gets that far, Richard says —

…Going back to its roots, back in the actual New Hope days, that is what Star Wars is. Even amidst galactic conflict and high stakes, there is silliness and, well, life.

All of this is to say that The Mandalorian is Star Wars. There are tons of moments that make you laugh – even at its most tense. The stakes don’t seem high, at least until the end of the first episode, even for our helmeted protagonist. In my semi-humble opinion, that is where stories are the best – we know the Mandalorian himself will survive, but what will that cost?

(8) RESOURCES AND GOALS. Amanda S. Green has some advice about covers for indie authors in “What happens when you are avoiding NaNoWriMo” at Mad Genius Club.

Each of these images comes from Adobe Stock. If I broke down the monthly fee for a subscription, we’re talking about my having spent approximately $5 per image. When you consider how much a lot of authors pay for covers, that’s nothing. The fonts are all open source or free to use. Yes, the font work and text placement needs work. These are mock-ups to see if I liked what I was doing. That means there will be changes before the books go live.

Here’s the thing. Over the last couple of years, I’ve discovered a couple of things where book covers are concerned. First, it is important to review your covers every year or two. You need to see if they are still cuing genre and sub-genre properly. In other words, are they in line with what newer books are doing?

(9) AU REVOIR. Adri Joy covers the end of a trilogy in “Microreview [Book]: The Forbidden Stars by Tim Pratt”.

With so many action sequences to pack in, an entire system to liberate, and the overall arc with the Axiom to tie up, it’s almost inevitable that the ending of The Forbidden Stars gets a bit rushed. There’s nothing particularly unsatisfying about the events that transpire, but once things kicked off for the finale I found myself looking sceptically at the number of pages I had left to go, and one character in particular gets the short end of the stick when it comes to revealing their ending.

(10) LEND ME YOUR EARS. BGR’s Mike Wehner wonders why so few people – including him – ever heard of this station, which is definitely better than its ad: “NASA has a rock radio station, and the promo video is hilariously cringey”.

As the name implies, Third Rock Radio is a radio station that plays rock music. The “third rock” thing is a nod to Earth being the third planet from the Sun. The station plays a variety of rock tunes that often have some casual link to science or space. Basically, if a rock song has “Moon,” “Sky,” or “Rocket” in the title, it’s going to get played.

… NASA’s promotion of the station, on the other hand, has obviously been lacking. Even the promo video for the station has a mere 50k views despite being published over four years ago.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 19, 1919 Alan Young. He was David Filby and James Filby in The Time Machine. He was Stanley Beamish, the original lead in the unaired pilot of the 1967 Mr. Terrific series. It’s not the DCU character as the latter will not be created until 1997. And he was the voice of Scrooge McDuck for over thirty years, first in the Mickey’s Christmas Carol short (1983) and in various other films, series and even video games up to his death. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 19, 1924 William Russell, 94. He played the role of companion Ian Chesterton in Doctor Who, from the show’s first episode in the end until the next to the last of the second season when the Companions change. Yes, I know the “Unearthly Child” was the unused original pilot.  He’s continued the role to the present at Big Finish. And yes, he’s in An Adventure in Space and Time.
  • Born November 19, 1936 Suzette Haden Elgin. She founded the Science Fiction Poetry Association and is considered an important figure in the field of SFF constructed languages. Both her Coyote Jones and Ozark Trilogy are most excellent. Wiki lists songs by her that seem to indicate she might’ve been a filker as well. Mike, of course, has a post on her passing and life here. (Died 2015)
  • Born November 19, 1953 Robert Beltran, 66. Best known for his role as Commander Chakotay on Voyager. Actually, only known for that role. Like so many Trek actors, he’ll later get involved in Trek video fanfic but Paramount has gotten legalistic so it’s called Renegades and is set in the Confederation, not the Federation.
  • Born November 19, 1955 Sam Hamm, 64. He’s best known for the original screenplay (note the emphasis) with Warren Skaaren for Burton’s Batman and a story for Batman Returns that was very much not used. He also wrote the script for Monkeybone. Sources, without any attribution, say he also wrote unused drafts for the Fantastic FourPlanet of the Apes and Watchmen films. And he co-wrote and executive produced the M.A.N.T.I.S.series with Sam Raimi. 
  • Born November 19, 1961 Meg Ryan, 58. I won’t say she’s been in a lot of SFF films but overall she’s been in some really great ones. There’s Amityville 3-D which we’ll ignore but that was followed by the terrific Innerspace and that segued into Joe Versus the VolcanoCity of Angels I’ve not seen but it sounds intriguing. Kate & Leopold is just plain charming. Oh, and she was the voice of the villain Dr. Blight for several seasons on Captain Planet and the Planeteers.
  • Born November 19, 1963 Terry Farrell, 56. She’s best known for her role as Jadzia Dax on Deep Space Nine. She too shows up as cast on Renegades that Beltran is listed in. She’s got some other genre roles such as Joanne ‘Joey’ Summerskill in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, and Allison Saunders in Deep Core. Interestingly she played the character Cat in the American pilot of Red Dwarf.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) MAY NOT RISE AGAIN. “Is UK Based Phoenix Conventions Out of Business?”Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn wants to know if this outfit is really and sincerely dead.

So it really looks like UK based Phoenix Conventions (and their parent company KJ Events) may truly be dead. We think. We’d be shocked if they aren’t at this point. Probably. Let me explain.

Yesterday we were forwarded a tweet from twitter user QuickInSilvr which declared that the company was filing for bankruptcy. While we haven’t been able to independently verify that claim, the company has entirely blanked out both their Phoenix Conventions and KJ Events websites. While the Facebook pages are still up, the Phoenix Conventions and KJ Events Twitter accounts have also been deleted.

(14) THE BLOB. This one’s a bit bigger than Steve McQueen’s adversary: “Supernova 1987A: ‘Blob’ hides long-sought remnant from star blast”.

Scientists believe they’ve finally tracked down the dead remnant from Supernova 1987A – one of their favourite star explosions.

Astronomers knew the object must exist but had always struggled to identify its location because of a shroud of obscuring dust.

Now, a UK-led team thinks the remnant’s hiding place can be pinpointed from the way it’s been heating up that dust.

The researchers refer to the area of interest as “the blob”.

“It’s so much hotter than its surroundings, the blob needs some explanation. It really stands out from its neighbouring dust clumps,” Prof Haley Gomez from Cardiff University told BBC News.

“We think it’s being heated by the hot neutron star created in the supernova.”

(15) A MULLIGAN. At Nerds of a Feather, Paul Weimer reconsiders his first Hugo ballot, beginning with The Big One (as GRRM calls it): “The Hugo Initiative: The Novels of 1999: A Retrospective: A Preview of My Genre Future (2000, Best Novel)”.

At the time that Hugo voting had ended, I had read four of them, and voted on that basis. (I had not yet read any Harry Potter and did not feel inclined to read through the series, I would feel different several years later) 2000 was about the first time I started to dip my toes into getting review copies, but it would be many more years before I got my “break” in that regard. I fondly remember getting an ARC of Darwin’s Radio, it was quite the surprise and delight.

(16) SPACEPORT FAIL. Space exploration is supposed to fill the skies, not the jails: “Putin’s pet space project Vostochny tainted by massive theft”.

Russia’s new Vostochny space centre has lost at least 11bn roubles (£133m; $172m) through theft and top officials have been jailed.

So what went wrong with President Vladimir Putin’s pet project?

Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee (SK) says it is handling 12 more criminal cases linked to theft in this mega-project, which Mr Putin sees as a strategic priority for Russia, because of its huge commercial potential.

The longest jail term handed down so far was 11-and-a-half years for Yuri Khrizman, former head of state construction firm Dalspetsstroy.

Prof Mark Galeotti, a Russia expert at the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), told the BBC the Vostochny scandal highlighted the scale of corruption in Mr Putin’s huge state bureaucracy.

“How can you deal with it without declaring war on your own elite? He’s not prepared to do that. This dependency on mega-projects almost invariably creates massive opportunities for embezzlement,” Mr Galeotti said.

(17) SOME PEOPLE. BBC wants to know “Why some people are impossibly talented”.

Polymaths excel in multiple fields. But what makes a polymath – and can their cross-discipline expertise help tackle some of society’s most pressing challenges?

If it weren’t for an actress and a pianist, GPS and WiFi might not exist.

In the late 1930s and early 40s, Hedy Lamarr was the already the toast of Hollywood, famed for her portrayals of femme fatales. Few of her contemporaries knew that her other great passion was inventing. (She had previously designed more streamlined aeroplanes for a lover, the aviation tycoon Howard Hughes.)

Lamarr met a kindred spirit in George Antheil, however – an avant-garde pianist, composer and novelist who also had an interest in engineering. And when the pair realised that enemy forces were jamming the Allied radio signals, they set about looking for a solution. The result was a method of signal transmission called ‘frequency-hopping spread spectrum’ (patented under Lamarr’s married name, Markey) that is still used in much of today’s wireless technology.

It may seem a surprising origin for ground-breaking technology, but the story of Lamarr and Antheil fits perfectly with a growing understanding of the polymathic mind.

Besides helping to outline the specific traits that allow some people to juggle different fields of expertise so successfully, new research shows that there are many benefits of pursuing multiple interests, including increased life satisfaction, work productivity and creativity.

Most of us may never reach the kind of success of people like Lamarr or Antheil, of course – but the research suggests we could all gain from spending a bit more time outside our chosen specialism.

…As David Epstein has also reported in his recent book Range, influential scientists are much more likely to have diverse interests outside their primary area of research than the average scientist, for instance. Studies have found that Nobel Prize-winning scientists are about 25 times more likely to sing, dance or act than the average scientist. They are also 17 times more likely to create visual art, 12 times more likely to write poetry and four times more likely to be a musician.

(18) THE FLAGON WITH THE DRAGON. Bookworm Blues’ “Ten Mini-Reviews of some Great Nonfiction Books” includes Sarah Chorn’s rave for The Poisoner’s Handbook.

I have to admit, if you tell me to go read a book about forensics, I am not going to be excited. I don’t know why, but while that sort of thing may interest others, it does almost nothing for me. So, going into this, I read this book because of the poison, not because of the forensics.

That being said, holy crap was it interesting. The chapters are broken up by poisons, and the author tells readers how the poisons were used, some specific cases of said poisoning/incidents, and how this incident transpired and impacted the evolution of NYC’s forensic medicine, and all of this happened during prohibition.

So, selling points: prohibition, poisonings, forensics.

(19) FIRST CONTACT. [Item by Carl Slaughter.] When dealing with little green men, sending and receiving signals involves a relatively simple technological achievement — harnessing radio waves.  Making first contact with an extraterrestrial, or them making first contact with us, initiates what will prove to be a very challenging conversation.  “Language is all based on culture and requires a common frame of reference.  If you told an alien, ‘I’m taking an Uber to buy some coffee at Starbucks,’ you’d have to explain what Uber is, then explain what a car is, then explain what the Internet is, what a phone is, an app, coffee, Starbucks, stores, the monetary system.  All stuff that is intuitive to modern humans.  Translating the words of an extra terrestrial civilization is just the first step.  Understanding what they’re saying is the more challenging task.”

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

Find Links to Carl Slaughter’s 140+ Interviews on New File 770 Page

Carl Slaughter (1958-2019)

File 770’s Carl Slaughter died August 11, 2019 in a car accident. The Murray, Kentucky fan had just moved back to the U.S. in March after years spent teaching English in China.

Carl made his mark in fandom as an interviewer: 50-plus interviews for Diabolical Plots, 35 for SF Signal, and 55 for File 770 – the last of them with Charlie Jane Anders, published today.

Carl’s prolific efforts are now commemorated with a new File 770 links collection here—Carl Slaughter Interview List.

Charlie Jane Anders Interviewed by Carl Slaughter

Charlie Jane Anders’ “The Minnesota Diet” is one of 14 stories in Future Tense Fiction: Stories of Tomorrow, to be published by Unnamed Press October 2.

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America and Arizona State University that explores emerging technologies, public policy, and society. Beginning in 2016, Future Tense commissioned a series of stories from leading writers that imagined what life might be like in a variety of possible futures. Future Tense is a selection of those pieces.

Preorder your copy now from Amazon or Unnamed Press.

Carl Slaughter had sent Charlie Jane Anders these interview questions a couple of weeks before he died in an automobile accident on August 11 (see Carl’s obituary here). We are very grateful to the author for helping Carl complete his final project.


Charlie Jane Anders at the 2017 Worldcon in Helsinki. Photo by Daniel Dern.

CARL SLAUGHTER: Let’s start with a recap of io9.  What was the vision?  Did it achieve its goals?  What was the attraction?  What was your contribution?

CHARLIE JANE ANDERS: io9 feels like a very long time ago for me now. I can’t really speak to the vision behind it, because that was all Annalee Newitz, and they were the real founder. I was incredibly grateful to be brought on board to help bring their vision to life. I think the most exciting thing about io9 was that we were combining science and science fiction, and we were trying really hard to have credible science coverage alongside geeking out about movies, books, television, comics, etc. We talked a lot about finding ways to explore the idea that science fiction had become mainstream culture, because we were living in a science-fictional time. For me, the most fun part was getting paid to obsess about storytelling by interviewing creators, writing reviews and critical essays, and doing stuff like my writing “how to” articles. This felt like I was getting paid to go to grad school, and I’m still intensely grateful for the opportunity.

CS: Is your work these days primarily fiction or nonfiction?

CJA: I’m mostly doing fiction lately, which is the luckiest thing ever. I can’t believe I get to make up stuff for a living. I still do the occasional feature or piece of criticism here and there, and of course Annalee and I are doing our podcast, Our Opinions Are Correct. But I’ve been fortunate enough to get into a position where I’m getting to soak my brain in made-up worlds and weird stories.

CS: I’m quoting Wikipedia:  “…but it was not until her science fiction novelette “Six Months, Three Days” won her a Hugo, that she realized what readers were after…”  What are readers after?

CJA: Wow… I wish I knew. I think what that’s referring to is maybe that “Six Months, Three Days” was a legit creative turning point for me. It was the first time I felt like I got really close to capturing actual emotion and the complexities of relationships in my fiction. I had written a lot of stuff along those lines before, but always felt like I was just kind of poking at the surface of the emotional stuff, instead of really inhabiting it. “Six Months” was something that very easily could have been a cerebral puzzle box, about two different kinds of clairvoyance. I felt like I had a “whoa” moment where I somehow coaxed myself to burrow into the emotional substrate a bit more, and I was overjoyed when the story got such a positive response. It did feel as though I had unlocked another level, or something. But then of course, the next time you try to repeat that or access that level of emotion in the next story, it’s always harder than you expect — writing is often a matter of starting from scratch and trying to rediscover something that you previously got at.

CS: What’s your strategy for character development?

CJA: I think that for me, as a writer, I need to be curious about a character. It’s not that different from being a reader, honestly. I need to find something about a character that makes me interested in them and want to know more about them, and I have to be invested in what happens next for them. It’s all about connecting emotionally with the character. I also think that a lot of writing is actually acting. You have to “get into character” when you’re writing about someone, and you have to try to imagine how it feels to be them, and what’s going through their head as they go through a particular situation. I also think a lot of what I wrote in this io9 essay still applies.

CS: Describe your story for Future Tense.

CJA: In “The Minnesota Diet,” New Lincoln is a brand new smart city that is entirely green and high-tech, with a lot of shiny virtual spaces and vertical farms and stuff. And New Lincoln’s residents aren’t even aware of how dependent they are on external food sources, to the point where the city begins to starve pretty quickly when the self-driving trucks stop showing up. I came up with this idea because I was obsessing a lot about famine, as both a present and future problem. There are huge food crises happening in East Africa, Yemen and Sudan right now, and unlike in the 1980s with Ethiopia, it’s really difficult to get people in the United States to pay attention. So I thought it might be helpful to depict famine and food-insecurity happening to middle-class professionals in an advanced metropolis. Once I started researching the story, and especially after I heard from ASU’s Christopher Wharton, I started to realize this story’s scenario was even closer to reality than I had imagined. 

CS: What’s your approach at Our Opinions are Correct?

CJA: I’m so incredibly lucky to be working on this podcast with Annalee, and so grateful to everyone who’s listened to the podcast and supported us. We do a ton of prep before every episode, assembling a whole list of books and other works that are relevant to the episode topic, and making audio clips that we can feature in each episode. We seldom get to talk about everything on our list, but it’s good to know what the important works are, so we don’t inadvertently skip over something really huge. We try to keep the episodes very conversational and unscripted, but between the reading lists and the clips we know we’re going to include, there’s always some built-in structure. The fun part is that we often think of stuff as we’re talking, and the episodes are usually more spontaneous than what we’ve prepared for, because it’s such a fun conversation. 

CS: What projects are you actively involved in?

CJA: I have a bunch of stuff going on right now, but the most important thing by far is the untitled young-adult space opera trilogy that I sold to Tor a while back. This is one of the most complex projects I’ve ever done, in part because there’s a whole bunch of alien races and a whole layered backstory to keep track of, and in part because I have to make sure all three volumes form a satisfying adventure story that goes somewhere. The good news is, the first book of the trilogy is finished and has already gone through a lot of editing, and I’m about halfway through writing the second volume. It’s a lot of fun, and unlike anything I’ve ever written before.

CS: What projects are in the works?

CJA: I’m turning one of the unpublished novels that I wrote and shopped around before All the Birds in the Sky into a novella right now. That worked out quite well for Rock Manning Goes For Broke, which was originally a novel I tried to publish in around 2009ish, and then got cut down to around 23,000 words. I find some of these older novels of mine suddenly seem a lot stronger when they’ve lost all of their extraneous subplots and meandering middle sections. This time around, my unpublished novel (an urban fantasy in the mold of Richard Kadrey or Jim Butcher) is requiring a lot of revision to fix some structural problems that became apparent once I stripped away some of the extra junk. But I think it’s going to be super fun when it’s finished.

CS: Any feelers from Hollywood?

CJA: Absolutely, but nothing I can talk about right now. There’s definitely some interest in adapting some of my stuff for the screen, but most of the time I try to stay chill about it. The best part of having something optioned is that you get to go back and rethink something you wrote ages ago, in conversations with some really smart, experience writers and producers, and it’s fun to visualize how the story could be told in a different way. If anything actually gets made, THEN I’ll freak out about it. 

CS: Are you on the convention circuit?

CJA: Sort of… I do Worldcon and Wiscon every year, and then I seem to get invited to be guest of honor at the occasional con as well. I seem to do Comic-Con every other year these days, which is just about perfect for that exercise in sensory overload. I’m  discovering that smaller local conventions are often the most fun, because you can actually hang out with people and have real conversations. I miss Dragon*Con, and really want to get back there.

CS: What does the future hold for Charlie Jane Anders?

CJA: Hopefully? Uploading my brain into a giant mecha and building a space elevator to a LaGrange point where we can have outrageous spoken word events and parties all the time. 

Carl Slaughter (1958-2019)

File 770’s Carl Slaughter died August 11 in a car accident. The Murray, Kentucky fan had just moved back to the U.S. in March after years spent teaching English in China.

Carl had more than 250 reviews, interviews, features, and critiques published at Tangent, Diabolical Plots, SF Signal, File 770, and the Critters Workshop. I’m grateful he was so generous with his talent here.

Carl discovered fandom in a roundabout way, as he recalled in “An Interviewer’s Journey: From Battery Power to Warp 9”:

I didn’t set out to become an interviewer.  Or a muse for that matter.  Video compilations, never conceived it.

I just wanted some feedback about the first 10 chapters of a novel I intended to write.  To qualify for that feedback, Critters, the oldest and largest online speculative fiction workshop, required that I provide feedback to other writers.  Soon I started getting feedback from those writers about my critiques of their stories:  You understand my story and what I’m trying to accomplish with it much more than other critiquers.

When Tangent put out a call for reviewers, I used my Critters work to get on as a reviewer.  Fellow Critter Frank Dutkiewicz introduced me to Diabolical Plots, which was trying to accomplish the monumental task of reviewing all of Daily Science Fiction’s stories.  So I used my Tangent work to get on with Diabolical Plots.  I checked out the Diabolical Plots site and discovered that they also do interviews. Mike Resnick was my first interviewee…

When David Steffen, editor of Diabolical Plots, transferred his attention to The Submissions Grinder, which became an institution virtually overnight, he connected Carl with John DeNardo at SF Signal.  When DeNardo shut down his site in 2016, I invited Carl to contribute to File 770.

One of his first interviews here was with Liu Cixin (“Liu Cixin, The 3 Body Problem, and the Growth of SF in China”). By the following year he had registered the 100th interview of his career, with Cat Rambo.

Carl was a whirlwind of productivity. Even as he was transitioning between sites in 2016 he did 225 posts — interviews, features, profiles, reviews, essays, editorials, and news tips. I was energized by his creativity and constant flow of ideas, and he broadened File 770’s coverage with his many YouTube video roundups.

Professionally, for the past 15 years he traveled the globe teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) in 6 countries on 3 continents.  His essay on Chinese culture was published in Beijing Review. His essay on Korean culture was published in The Korea Times, as was his expose on the Korean ESL industry. For several years, he was editor of ESL Book Review. He created a Facebook page “ESL Around the World” with many photos of his classes.

A student with Carl Slaughter in the “English Corner” at China Australia High School in Zhengzhou.

He earned his BA in Communications in Journalism and Broadcast from Murray State University. Throughout his years of travel Carl made many friends while maintaining strong ties to Kentucky, his family, and church, returning periodically to the Western Kentucky area. 

He is survived by his older brother Paul Eugene Slaughter of Landisburg, Pennsylvania and younger sister Elizabeth Ann Slaughter of Round Rock, Texas.

Thanks to Elizabeth for contacting me with the news about Carl, and for sharing a draft of the family obituary. Elizabeth says Carl’s memorial service, when scheduled, will be at the Collier Funeral Home in Benton, Kentucky. A statement about making donations in his name will also follow once an appropriate non-profit is selected.  

Pixel Scroll 6/11/19 When You Have Eliminated the Impixellable, Whatever Remains, However Unfileable, Must Be The Scroll

(1) GET ERIDANI TO THE PRESS. Alex Shvartsman has launched a Kickstarter appeal to fund publication of “Eridani’s Crown”.

When Eridani’s parents are murdered and their kingdom is seized by a traitorous duke, she plans to run. After she suffers yet another unendurable loss, the lure of revenge pulls her back.

Eridani’s brilliance as a strategist offers her a path to vengeance and the throne, but success may mean becoming everything she hates. To survive, she must sway religious zealots, outwit ambitious politicians, and confront bloodthirsty warlords, all with few allies and fewer resources. Yet the most menacing obstacle she must overcome is the prophecy uttered by a powerful sorceress:

Everyone you know and trust will come to betray you. 

In the opening hours his supporters have already given $1,009 of the $5,000 goal. The Kickstarter continues until July 11. He invites readers to preview the book —

Download and read an unedited copy of one of my favorite chapters. This is an early chapter, so it’s mostly spoiler-free. Mostly. (Note: The text has been laid out by me. The actual book will be laid out by a pro and therefore will look a lot nicer.)

Read “Forty-Seven Dictums of Warfare” at Daily Science Fiction. This was published as a standalone short story and is expanded within the novel. Spoilers for Teo, a minor but relevant character, as well as some other minor spoilers.

(2) TUNING UP FOR THE MOON “NASA’s return to the moon preparations include building ultimate music playlist — and your help is wanted” – the Virginian-Pilot has the story.

As NASA prepares for a trip back to the moon in 2024, it’s asking for the public’s help building the perfect playlist of songs for its astronauts.

The agency is taking suggestions from around the world for this playlist and you can submit your picks via this this form or on Twitter using the #NASAMoonTunes hashtag.

With the trip to the moon expected to take three days each way, the astronauts could potentially need a fairly robust list. You can hear some of the early choices at thirdrockradio.net.

NASA will accept nominations through June 28, but has a couple rules. First, no songs with “explicit titles, lyrics and themes.” Also, the songs must exist on an official streaming service (meaning sites like YouTube or SoundCloud won’t cut it).

(3) THE INSIDE STORY. A book edition of Nnedi Okorafor’s LaGuardia comics is available for pre-order from Dark Horse.

In an alternate world where aliens have integrated with society, pregnant Nigerian- American doctor Future Nwafor Chukwuebuka, has just smuggled an illegal alien plant named Letme Live through LaGuardia International and Interstellar Airport . . . and that’s not the only thing she’s hiding.

She and Letme become part of a community of human and alien immigrants; but as their crusade for equality continues and the birth of her child nears, Future–and her entire world–begins to change.

Written by Nnedi Okorafor, Hugo and Nebula award- winning author and the writer of Marvel’s Shuri.

Numerous sample pages are part of this Publishers Weekly article.

(4) SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW. Behind a semi-permeable paywall, Vanity Fair tells “Everything George R.R. Martin Is Doing Instead of Finishing A Song of Ice and Fire. Here’s the latest addition to the list —

… As confirmed Sunday in Microsoft’s keynote at the 2019 Electronic Entertainment Expo (or E3), Martin is currently collaborating with FromSoftware on Elden Ring, his first non-Game of Thrones video game, according to the Verge. FromSoftware has made several acclaimed video games, including Dark Souls, and as a fantasy game Elden Ring is well within Martin’s wheelhouse. But as exciting as the prospect might be for fantasy-game lovers, this will probably mean that Martin’s non-video-game-loving fans will have to wait even longer for the thing they really crave….

(Notwithstanding this Scroll item, File 770’s official position is that George R.R. Martin doesn’t need anyone’s approval to use his time and creative energy however he likes. As are we all,)  

(5) APPOINTMENT WITH DESTINY. And it appears from this NJ.com article that Martin’s schedule now includes attending this ceremony in October: “New Jersey Hall of Fame to induct George R.R. Martin, Martha Stewart, Laurie Hernandez (but not Anthony Bourdain)”.

On Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced the honorees for the class of 2018 at Newark Liberty Airport. The group of 19 inductees includes five women and 17 men (one band is in the mix). They will be honored at a ceremony in Asbury Park this October.

Martin, 70, grew up in Bayonne, and Stewart, 77, grew up in Nutley….

(6) MEDICAL UPDATE. Jim C. Hines shares info about his wife’s health setback in “Another Personal Update and Changing Plans”. The hope is —

If all goes well, the doctors are talking about maybe using CAR T-cell therapy after chemo. Ideally, we’re hoping this would be the new “finishing move” against the cancer.

(7) IN THE AUDIENCE. Z has generously posted a set of panel notes from Continiuum 15, the Australian National Convention.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 11, 1927 Kit Pedler. In the mid-1960s, Pedler who was a scientist became the unofficial scientific adviser to the Doctor Who production team. He would help create the Cybermen. In turn, he wrote three scripts for the series: “The Tenth Planet” (with Gerry Davis), “The Moonbase” and “The Tomb of the Cybermen” (also with Gerry Davis). Pedler and Davis also created and co-wrote Doomwatch which ran for three seasons on the Beeb. (Died 1981.)
  • Born June 11, 1929 Charles Beaumont. He is remembered as a writer of Twilight Zone episodes such as “Miniature”, “Person or Persons Unknown”, “Printer’s Devil” and “The Howling Man” but also wrote the screenplays for several films among them 7 Faces of Dr. Lao and The Masque of the Red Death. He also wrote a lot of short stories, so let’s see if there’s digital collections available. Yes, I’m pleased to say including several ones by legit publishers. Yea! (Died 1967.)
  • Born June 11, 1933 Gene Wilder. The first role I saw him play was The Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles. Of course, he has more genre roles than that starting out with Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory followed by Blazing Saddles and then Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein. He was Sigerson Holmes in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, a brilliantly weird film who cast included Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise, Roy Kinnear and Leo McKern!  I’ve also got him playing Lord Ravensbane/The Scarecrow in The Scarecrow, a 1972 TV film based based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Feathertop”. (Died 2016.)
  • Born June 11, 1945 Adrienne Barbeau, 74. She was in Swamp Thing, also in the Carnivale series, a very weird affair. She provided the voice of Catwoman on Batman: The Animated Series. And she was in both Creepshow and The Fog. Oh, and ISFDB lists her as writing two novels, Vampyres of Hollywood (with Michael Scott) and presumably another vampire novel, Love Bites
  • Born June 11, 1959 Hugh Laurie, 60. Best known as House to most folks, his most recent genre role was as Mycroft Holmes in the Holmes and Watson film. He’s has past genre roles in The Borrowers, the Stuart Little franchise, TomorrowlandBlackadder: Back & Forth and Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased)
  • Born June 11, 1968 Justina Robson, 51. Author of the excellent Quantum Gravity series. I’ve not started her Natural History series, so would be interested in hearing from anyone here who has. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) LOL VS. LAW. [Item by ULTRAGOTHA.]So, an Attorney named T. Greg Doucette in North Carolina stumbled across the #StandWithVic hashtag and Vic Mignogna’s lawsuit (or, as he calls it, the LOLsuit) and started commenting on how badly it was written and, more generally, why it would probably fail. The resulting thread (into its sixth day!) is both hilarious and an education in defamation, actual malice (a term of art) tortious interference, and really bad lawyering. Behold! The thread starts here.  

(11) HALLOWEEN RECLAIMED. Your Worldcon visit may not stretch quite this long, but Lonely Planet wants you to know that “A new festival will celebrate Ireland as the birthplace of Halloween”.

The Púca festival will take place this year in Ireland’s Ancient East from 31 October to 2 November. It will make Ireland the place to be this Halloween, and it is expected that visitors from around the world will come and celebrate the country’s ancient traditions. According to Irish folklore and more recent archaeological evidence, Halloween can be traced back to the ancient Celtic tradition of Samhain. Samhain means ‘summer’s end’ in old Irish, and it marked the end of the Celtic year and the beginning of the new one.

(12) FAN MAIL. In “Hugo 2019 – Looking at Fan Writers Part 1”, Camestros Felapton considers what the nominees have on offer in the Hugo Voter Packet.

… And having read through the packet entries, I am no closer to voting beyond “I read this person regularly” versus “I don’t read this person much”. All worthy entries but I worry that the packet process gives a distorted view of fan writing as mainly reviews with some critical essays. I don’t want that to be read as disparaging reviews as part of fan writing, they are always going to be a key part of it.

(13) MEXICANX. John Picacio has started a read-along of the #MexicanXInitiative Scrapbook, which is nominated for a Hugo Award. Most of the tweets are not threaded, but the first entry is below, and the next five are: (1), (2), (3), (4), (5).  

Coincidentally, this is the 40th mention of the MexicanXInitiative in posts at File 770.

(14) HUGO CONTENDERS. Doris V. Sutherland provides substantial food for thought in “2019 Hugo Award Reviews: Short Stories” at Women Write About Comics.

Between them, these six stories take us on a trip through fairy tale lands with strange new inhabitants, past an alternate version of the United States’ founding, into a contemporary library staffed by witches, and finally towards a future of dangerous new technology. Some of these lands may be outwardly familiar; but this time, we are seeing them from unusual perspectives, our storytellers ranging from African-American slaves to sororal velociraptors. The overarching theme is undeniable — but the six writers represented here have given that theme a strong set of variations.

(15) THE BAG OF SHAME. The New York Times reports “Canadian retailers shaming plastic bag users”.

Some retailers in Canada have become creative to try and discourage consumers from using plastic bags, including by shaming them.

Shoppers at East West Market in central Vancouver who decide to pay for a plastic bag are given a bag with an embarrassing logo emblazoned on it like “Into the Weird Adult Video Emporium,” “Dr. Toews Wart Ointment Wholesale” or “The Colon Care Co-Op.”

(16) STICKING WITH IT. Gastro Obscura shows many examples of “The Surprising, Overlooked Artistry of Fruit Stickers”.

Some of the world’s best, most surprising graphic design can be found in one of the most mundane places: your local supermarket. …When most people encounter these stickers, it’s only to peel them off and try, often unsuccessfully, to flick them into the trash. But Kelly Angood sees something else in them, and peels them carefully off before adding them to her collection of hundreds—spanning countries, decades, and a dizzying variety of fruit.

(17) HIDEOUS PROFITS. The stickers might be the most beautiful part of these fruits and veggies, and yet there’s money to be made selling them: “’Ugly’ Produce Subscription Service Misfits Market Raises $16.5M”.

Today Misfits Market, the New York-based company that sells subscription boxes of irregularly-shaped produce, announced that it had raised a $16.5 million Series A funding round (h/t Techcrunch). Greenoaks Capital led the round.

…So-called “ugly” produce is having a moment. In addition to Misfits Market, companies like Imperfect Produce and Hungry Harvest also sell cosmetically imperfect and surplus produce through subscription boxes at a reduced cost, while Full Harvest serves the B2B side.

(18) STARING INTO THE MIRROR. Abigail Nussbaum takes on the Black Mirror, ‘Striking Vipers’” episode at Asking the Wrong Questions.

It feels strange to talk about Black Mirror reinventing itself. Even if you leave aside the fact that this is a show in its fifth season (plus two specials), a point where habits tend to be firmly fixed, what would be the impetus for it? From its scandalous premiere in 2011, Black Mirror has always been lauded for being exactly what it is. Even the people who have criticized it—for its cynicism, for its nastiness, for its reflexive distrust of technology—have helped to cement its brand, our idea of what a Black Mirror story is like and can accomplish. And yet, when you finish watching the three episodes of the just-released fifth season, there is no other way to describe them than as a departure. It’s probably the strongest season the show has fielded since its first, but it’s also the least Black Mirror-ish.

(19) SARTORIAL SPLENDOR. Sometimes it’s hard to make the perfect Hugo night fashion statement, then again, Scott Edelman shows that sometimes it’s s snap:

(20) RO, RO, RO YOUR ROBOAT. The Boston Globe shows how “In the future, Amsterdam’s canals might have robot boats”.

In the Amsterdam of the future, you might step out of the Rijksmuseum, the Anne Frank House, or one of the city’s hazy “coffee shops” and hop onto a robot boat to take you to your next destination. Outside the place you’re staying, in the early morning hours, you might hear other robot boats carrying away the trash.

That’s the vision of researchers at MIT, who teamed up several years ago with the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions.

They hope that one day, “roboats” will busily ply the city’s 165 canals, carrying people, goods, trash, and from time to time forming themselves into floating stages or bridges.

In a paper presented recently at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation, the researchers said they had taken another step in their ongoing project: developing the capability for the roboats to identify and connect to docking stations and other boats.

“The aim is to use roboat units to bring new capabilities to life on the water. . . . The new latching mechanism is very important for creating pop-up structures,” Daniela Rus, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, said in a statement from MIT.

(21) HEAVY METAL. Phys.org says this will be an especially hard piece of cheese: “Mass anomaly detected under the moon’s largest crater”.

A mysterious large mass of material has been discovered beneath the largest crater in our solar system—the Moon’s South Pole-Aitken basin—and may contain metal from the asteroid that crashed into the Moon and formed the crater, according to a Baylor University study.

“Imagine taking a pile of metal five times larger than the Big Island of Hawaii and burying it underground. That’s roughly how much unexpected mass we detected,” said lead author Peter B. James,

(22) THOUGHTS ABOUT A COLLECTORS EDITION. [Item by Carl Slaughter.] As I was getting settled in to my new apartment, I saw a Star Trek collectors edition special magazine.  I thought, “Star Trek in a small town in a farm state.  Evidence that Star Trek is widespread and endures.”  I was too busy buying furniture and household items to examine it.  I went back to the supermarket where I thought I remembered seeing it.  Then the other supermarket.  Didn’t even find any magazines, so I thought my mind was playing tricks on me.  Then I found it in the Dollar General store.  But Dollar General is a national chain.  But whether that magazine means Star Trek is in a small town or means Star Trek is national, that magazine tells us something about Star Trek.  And it’s the original series characters on cover, not JJ Abrams ones or the Discovery ones.  As for the magazine itself, it contains nothing new to Trekkies.  And it was $15  –  ouch.  

(23) WINGING IT. Here’s the trailer for Carnival Row, the Cara Delevingne, Orlando Bloom fantasy series destined for Amazon.

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

Doctor Who Roundup

Compiled by Carl Slaughter:

  • Doctor Who and the Phantom Menace Effect
  • Doctor Who writers have no sci-fi experience
  • The Infallible Doctor
  • A British Doctor reaches for her sonic screwdriver, an American billionaire reaches for a gun.

“What’s wrong with you, why don’t you get a gun and start shooting things, like civilized people?”  –  Jack Robinson, Doctor Who, “Arachnids in the UK”, Season 11, Episode 4

  • Doctor Who villains

Doctor Who villains have included such memorable species and individuals as the Dalek, Cybermen, Sandaron, Slitheen, Silurian, Silence, Weeping Angels, Davros, the Master, the Rani, and Madam Kovarian. Now we have the Pting.  How does this new creature compare with the Doctor’s other foes?  Share your opinion.

Google search for Doctor Who villains

  • Rosa Parks in a powerful episode of Doctor Who

“Let’s Have a Spoiler-Laden Talk About That Powerful Episode of Doctor Who” at io9.

Tonight Doctor Who ventured back to 1955 for a long, hard look at the struggles of Rosa Parks in mid-20th century Alabama. Let us know what you thought of its take on a crucial moment in history in our weekly, spoiler-tastic discussion zone.

  • New v. Old Who Fans

New Doctor Who fans don’t understand the rage of old Doctor Who fans and old Doctor Who fans don’t understand why the new Doctor Who fans don’t understand.