Pixel Scroll 6/18/18 Nancy Pixel And The Scroll Of The Trademarked Cocky

(1) JEMISIN ON CNN. N.K. Jemisin is on episode 6 of W. Kamau Bell’s CNN program United Shades of America. In this episode he goes back to Mobile, Alabama, and brings her along for one of the segments.

(2) WRONG TURN. The bear and the maiden fair.

(3) DINO CHOW. Adweek supplies a new reason to burn a hole in your credit card: “These $25 Collector’s Edition Cereal Boxes Include Digital Screens Showing Jurassic World Video”.

Dinosaur-loving fans eagerly anticipate the arrival of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom this Friday, but now they can get in on the action a bit closer to home. Like … right at the breakfast table.

Kellogg’s has partnered with Universal Studios to develop limited-edition boxes of Keebler Fudge Stripes and Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes that come with a digital screen embedded into the box. Each screen airs an exclusive five-minute video of behind-the-scenes footage from the flick, showing fans how the dinosaurs are brought to life as well as additional special effects from the movie.

(4) THUNDER LIZARDS. The movie is already killing overseas: “China Box Office: ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ Rampages to $112M Debut”.

Universal and Amblin have claimed Hollywood’s fourth-biggest opening ever in China.

Universal and Amblin’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opened with a roar at the Chinese box office over the weekend, earning $111.9 million.

It was Universal’s second-biggest debut ever in the market, behind only The Fate Of The Furious. The opening was also considerably better than the $99.2 million that the first Jurassic World film earned in its first full week in Chinese cinemas in 2015 (openings were tallied by the week rather than weekend back then).

The dino tentpole also pulled in $10 million from 520 Imax screens. Altogether it claimed over 75 percent of the weekend’s total ticket revenue in China.

(5) NEW CATEGORY PROPOSED. Nope, not the Hugos: “Some Survivors Of Category 5 Hurricane Irma Want A Category 6”.

Tom Krall lives on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands on the west end of the island, high on a ridge. That’s where he was in September when Hurricane Irma roared through.

“We had the full blast,” Krall says. “Twenty of the 30 houses in my neighborhood lost their roofs or worse.”

The National Hurricane Center says Irma had sustained winds of 185 mph when it hit the Virgin Islands with gusts of 200 mph or higher. They were the most powerful winds ever recorded in that part of the Caribbean.

In his more than 30 years on St. John, Krall has hunkered down for many hurricanes, including other Category 5 storms. He says Irma’s winds were dramatically worse than other hurricanes. He knows what winds are like at 150 mph.

(6) NEED MORE PITCHFORKS. NPR concludes “It’ll Take More Than A Few Angry Villagers To Kill Off ‘Frankenstein'”. And also discusses changes between original (1818) and the version most of us know (1831).

Frankenstein has been popular for two centuries because every era since has felt like the end times to those in it, so every era needs a story unafraid to discuss annihilation.

(7) DO YOU WANT TO BE CURED? WHO classification: “Gaming becomes the latest addiction”.

The World Health Organisation’s classification of gaming disorder as a condition which is capable of debilitating addiction is an important moment in the shifting relationship between technology and society.

Concern among parents about the impact of smartphones in particular, and the response of technology firms to those concerns, has become a staple of the news agenda.

Apple’s much covered Digital Health initiative was derided in some quarters, with analysts and punters alike sceptical about the desire of that company to in any way reduce smartphone usage, given its still heavy reliance on smartphones for revenue.

(8) CAT OBITS. Condolences to three Filers who recently suffered the loss of a beloved cat. Two of these venerable SJW credentials featured in Cats Sleep on SFF.

  • Doctor Science

I had to say good-bye to Sneakers, my SJW credential, on Friday. You may recall him sleeping on Lady Trent.

  • nickpheas

Sadly I also have a loss to report.

Steerpike, by then having celebrated his 18th birthday, developed lymphoma and was wasting away before being put to sleep. He had a good innings and is missed.

  • Anne Sheller

Pepper, my oldest, died about 2 hours ago. I found her unconscious and unresponsive earlier in the evening. I opted not to make an emergency visit to the vet since she didn’t seem to be suffering but seemed too far gone to revive. It took her a few hours to stop breathing.

She was a tiny dark tabby, 15 years and about 7 1/2 months old. She’d been diagnosed with diabetes just over a year ago, and been to the vet for a checkup just this past week. I wasn’t expecting her to live a whole lot longer, but her death tonight was unexpected. I’ve had her since she was about 5 months old, and loved her very much.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 18, 1983 — Sally Ride became the first American woman in space.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 18 – Carol Kane, 66. Valerie in The Princess Bride, Myth in The Muppet Movie which looks to be her first genre role, Ghost of Christmas Present in Scrooged, and more recently as Gertrude Kapelput in Gotham. 
  • Born June 18 – Isabella Rossellini, 66. Thar in the ‘05 Earthsea series, Nimue in the ‘98 Merlin series, Athena in the ‘98 The Odyssey series and a number of other genre roles.
  • Born June 18 – Paul McCartney. Writer: “Come Together” episode of the Justice League animated series, actor in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. 
  • Born June 18 – Barbara Broccoli, 58. Producer or Director credit in at least fourteen Bond films which or may not be genre depending on how you view them. Her only acting role is as an uncredited Opera patron in The Living Daylights. 
  • Born June 18 – Kim Dickens, 53. Currently Madison Clark in Fear the Walking Dead, Jake’s Mom in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and roles in Flashforward and Lost.
  • Born June 18 — Richard Madden, 32. Rob Stark in Game Of Thrones and Agent Ross in Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

This is a true story, based on an actual sign in my local public library and the chaos my children wreak when we visit.

(11) LONELY PLANET. In “There’s at Least a 39 Percent Chance We’re Alone in the Observable Universe”, Motherboard has taken a look at a new paper (now in preprint or arXiv.org) by the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford that itself takes a look at the Fermi Paradox. By taking a probabilistic approach to the Drake Equation, that paper concludes:

…[W]e find a substantial probability that we are alone in our galaxy, and perhaps even in our observable universe (53%–99.6% and 39%–85% respectively). ’Where are they?’ — probably extremely far away, and quite possibly beyond the cosmological horizon and forever unreachable.

Note that since this is a preprint article it has not been peer-reviewed yet. Motherboard summarized their own take on the paper as:

These are sobering results, but the researchers caution against any kneejerk cosmic pessimism. “This conclusion does not mean that we are alone, just that this is very scientifically plausible and should not surprise us,” the researchers wrote. “It is a statement about our state of knowledge, rather than a new measurement.”

In other words, there’s no reason to despair—yet. The more we learn about the universe and our own planet, the more we will decrease the uncertainty latent in the Drake equation. For example, our inability to detect extraterrestrial civilizations over the decade can increase our certainty that we’re alone, but then again, the universe may be awash in extraterrestrial signals and we simply haven’t learned how to recognize them yet. For now, however, the researchers suggest that if there are aliens, they are “probably extremely far away and quite possibly beyond the cosmological horizon and forever unreachable.”

(12) WITHDRAWAL PAINS. JDA advertised on Twitter he was “Off Social Media Til 6/21” but he must have noticed we were enjoying it more than he was. Today he broke his fast early by posting “The White Male Initiative For Worldcon 76” [Internet Archive link] on his blog.

I, Jon Del Arroz, the leading Hispanic voice in science fiction, will review submissions and select recipients.  Please keep your statements under 500 words. I may ask follow-up questions, however.  If you’re a professional, links to examples of your work would be helpful.

We realize that marginalized majority groups have felt reticent about joining us, and understandably so. But we need more representation from the white male community in science fiction fandom! Bring it!

(13) WHO BROKE THE BANK? That wasn’t the only post JDA published today. Another tells how his plan to abandon Patreon has come a cropper – “The Biggest News Story You’ll Never Hear: Big Tech Strikes At Finances Of Political Opponents” [Internet Archive link].

As you know, I urged my fans and friends who are supporting this blog and my fiction work on a subscription basis to switch their pledges from Patreon to Freestartr because Patreon was removing right wing political commentators over their content.

This weekend, Freestartr was shut down by Stripe, the collections company used to process credit card transactions– a company set up as a paypal alternative because the latter was already known for trying to deplatform right wing personalities through demonetizing. From their website:

FreeStartr currently has lost the ability to collect funds for our creators. CEO Charles C. Johnson’s comments can be found here.

(14) REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY. Wouldn’t The Verge have done more to discourage people from buying this by ignoring it altogether, instead of cleverly badmouthing it? Survey says – Yes! “This unlicensed Harry Potter battery pack makes a bad pun out of an even worse product”. (Wait, was this frame actually written by the same guy who introduced the last two Scroll items?)

If you’ve read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — which I generally assume is most of the global population — you’re probably familiar with the Elder Wand, a powerful wand wielded by both Dumbledore and the dark wizard Voldemort over the course of the series.

The CELLder Wand is not the Elder Wand. Where one is a fictional, legendary magical artifact of ultimate power, the CELLder wand is a Kickstarter campaign for a possibly fictional hunk of plastic that surrounds a fairly ordinary 3,200 mAh USB battery pack.

(15) ABOVE AND BEYOND. Gizmodo enthuses: “This Video Made From Real Mars Data Will Make You Feel Like You’re Flying Over the Red Planet”.

There are lots of incredible things you can do with data. Like make this incredible animation of the Martian surface, for example.

This animation is the latest from visual artist Seán Doran, using real data taken by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (MRO) Of course, it’s not actual video footage, and required a lot of processing to achieve the realistic effect. But it does give the exciting impression that one is flying just above the Martian surface.

 

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “DIY–Behind the Scenes” on Vimeo explains how an animated film is made.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/10/18 Ascroll Just Off The Pixels Of Langerhans

(1) LICENSE TO THRILL. Steven H Silver spotted an unusual collectible in traffic the other day —

I was unaware that Illinois issued such event specific license plate until I saw this one today (June 6).  The text around Superman indicates it is for the 40th Annual Superman Festival in Metropolis, Illinois from June 7-10.  On the right you can see that the plate expires on June 10, 2018.

(2) SATISFYING SPACE OPERA. Abigail Nussbaum delivers insightful and fascinating sff analysis in “A Political History of the Future: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente”, at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

To which the answer is, because talking about Space Opera gives me an opportunity to point out a glaring lacuna in almost all the works we’ve discussed so far—the way that nearly every one of them leaves out the centrality of culture, and particularly popular culture, in shaping a society and reflecting its preoccupations.

When I say “culture”, I’m talking about several different things, each integral to the believability of any invented world. Culture can mean shared cultural touchstones, classic and modern, that give people a common frame of reference, like humming a pop song or quoting the Simpsons. It can mean characters who are artists, professional or amateur. It could refer to the way that culture can become a political battleground, as we were discussing just a few days ago in response to the news that conservatives want their own version of SNL. Or it could be a discussion of material culture—fashion, design, architecture—and how it allows people to express themselves in even the most mundane aspects of their lives.

It’s very rare, however, to see science fiction try to engage with any of these aspects of culture. Even as it strives to create fully-realized worlds, art—high and low, functional and abstract, popular and obscure, ridiculous and serious—tends to be absent from them. So are artists—try to remember the last time you encountered a character in a science fiction or fantasy story who had an artistic side, even just as a hobby. Even worse, few characters in SFF stories have any kind of cultural touchstones.

(3) KILL YOUR DARLINGS. Delilah S. Dawson tells what she thinks is the real meaning of that traditional writerly advice “kill your darlings.” The thread starts here —

(4) IN THE BEGINNING. The International Costuming Guild presents its research into what fans wore to the masquerade at the Second Worldcon (1940) — “Convention Costuming History: The Pre-WWII Years – Pt. III”.

The earliest Worldcon masquerades were more like informal costume contests, with several well known authors of the time participating. The costumes worn were a mix of original designs, interpretations of literary characters and what would come to be known as media recreations. 1940 – Chicon I

Following the novelty of Ackerman’s and Douglas’ costumed appearance the previous year, a “Science Fiction Masquerade Party” was featured as part of the convention programming.(1) By Forrest Ackerman’s count, there were 25 people in costume there. The co-host masters of ceremonies were fans and writers Jack Speer and Milton Rothman. Judging from the accounts of the party, the occasion was informal – there was no stage, but there were one or two skits, including one by Ackerman and “Morojo” (Douglas) wearing their outfits from the previous year.

There were several reports of who was there for the first official costumed event. Among that first group of convention costuming contestants were…

(5) ICG IN PASSING. The International Costuming Guild’s in memoriam video, presented at Costume-Con 36 (2018) to recognize those in the community lost in the previous year, is posted on YouTube.

(6) WITH CAT IN HAND. Yoon Ha Lee will be doing an Ask Me Anything on June 12.

(7) THIEVES LIKE US. A recent movie premiere inspires B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog’s listicle “12 Fantasy Heist Novels”.

There are genre tropes, and then there are those archetypes that are mainstays of not just science fiction and fantasy, but of popular culture in general. One of the best examples is the character of the Gentleman Thief (who doesn’t always have to be a gentleman). These rogues are witty, engaging, and will rob you blind with a rakish wink and a smile. You can’t help but be charmed by them. From Robin Hood to Danny Ocean, the character is a permanent favorite in books and on film….

The Holver Alley Crew, by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Maresca’s interconnected Maradaine books (multiple series examining life in the same fantasy city) are a real treat. The latest series is about the Holver Alley crew, a ragtag group of formerly retired thieves are forced to return to a life of crime when their new, respectable shop burns down. When they learn the fire was no accident, they are forced to take desperate measures. All of the Maradaine books are a treat, but this one really stands out because of the especially strong characters. In fine Oceans tradition, Asti and Verci are both brothers and ringleaders, and must assemble a skilled crew to pull of a job to rob a gambling house that took everything from them.

(8) HAWKING OBSEQUIES. Are any of you trying to get in? “Stephen Hawking: Ballot opens for Westminster Abbey service”.

The public is being offered the chance to attend a service of thanksgiving for Professor Stephen Hawking, who died in March aged 76.

It will take place in Westminster Abbey on 15 June and up to 1,000 tickets are available in a ballot.

During the service, the scientist’s ashes will be interred between Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

His daughter, Lucy Hawking, said she wanted to give some of her father’s admirers the chance to remember him.

(9) LAST DAYS. Christopher Stasheff’s son, Edward posted the following to his Facebook page on June 9:

My father, Christopher Stasheff, is currently in hospice and expected to die from Parkinson’s Disease within the next two weeks, quite possibly this week. If anyone would like to say goodbye to him, post it as a response here, and I’ll read it to him the next time I see him (I visit him in the nursing home daily). Thanks.

The most recent reports are suggesting that he may only have a day or so left.

Update:  His son reports Stasheff died this evening.

My father Christopher Stasheff died at 6:45 PM on June 10th, 2018, surrounded by his wife and two of his children. The other two were able to phone in and say goodbye before he passed. He is survived by hundreds of his students and uncountable fans, and his legacy will live on in all the lives he touched.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born June 10, 1952 – Kage Baker

(11) VOLLEYED AND THUNDERED. Edmonton’s Hugo Book Club just put out a new blog post, “Is that The Canon in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”, in which they muse about literary awards and their relation to posterity and questions of enduring value. Is science fiction the new Western Canon?

It is worth noting that Harold Bloom’s 1993 list of The Western Canon included only two works that are traditionally categorized as science fiction: Ursula Le Guin’s Hugo Award winner The Left Hand of Darkness and George Orwell’s 1984.

But of Bloom’s list, I would argue the majority of the works cited are less relevant to the broad public – and to a concept of cultural literacy – than the recent Hugo Award winners and popular works of science fiction.

For example, references and allusions to Wolfram von Eschenbach’s 13th century poem Parzival are lost on the broader public, while Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One protagonist Parzival is familiar to many.

(12) ICE NINE. Galactic Journey’s Victoria Lucas has just read the new Vonnegut release – in 1963: “[June 10, 1963] Foma: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Cat’s Cradle)”

When a friend lent Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s newest novel, Cat’s Cradle to me, I thought, “Oh, I know this book!” because I saw, as I flipped through it, the “ice-nine” and “Bokonon” I’d heard people buzzing so much about.  So I was glad to read it and understand the phenomenon.

But that’s where my joy ended.  Vonnegut is a fine writer.  His style is idiosyncratic, askew; this is a novel novel.  But no one would accuse him of being optimistic or hopeful about the human future.  No Pollyanna he….

(13) BBC RADIO STAR TREK DOCUMENTARY. BBC Radio 4 has just re-broadcast “Star Trek – The Undiscovered Future”, first aired December 2017. It’s available to listen to online right now.

How far have we voyaged towards Star Trek’s vision of the future and what of it is likely to be fulfilled or remain undiscovered in the next 50 years?

Kevin Fong presents archive material of the likes of Leonard Nimoy (Spock) and Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura) talking about the inception and filming of the original Star Trek series, and their thoughts about Roddenberry’s vision of the future and its impact in the United States at the time.

For example, Nichols relates how she had a chance encounter with Martin Luther King the day after she had told Roddenberry that she intended to leave Star Trek after the first series. King told her he was her number fan and almost demanded that she didn’t give up the role of Uhura, because she was an uniquely empowering role model on American television at the time.

For a perspective from today, Kevin also talks to George Takei who played Mr Sulu. Takei laments the ethnically divisive politics of the United States in 2016.

He meets Charles Bolden – the first African American to both command a shuttle mission and lead NASA as its chief administrator. In the age of the International Space Station, he compares himself to the ‘Admiral of Star Fleet’. But the former astronaut also talks about the anger he first felt in 1994 when he was asked to fly the first Russian cosmonaut ever to board an American space shuttle.

Kevin also talk to cultural broadcaster and Star Trek fan Samira Ahmed about the sexual and racial politics of the Original series.

(14) ST:D SEASON TWO. Comedian and new Star Trek: Discovery cast member Tig Notaro opened her set on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert poking fun at her inability to understand any of the tech talk from her Trek dialog. See “‘Star Trek: Discovery’: Tig Notaro Talks Technobabble” at Comicbook.com.

Tig Notaro is one of the new additions to the cast of Star Trek: Discovery in the show’s second season and while she’s excited to be a part of the Star Trek universe she doesn’t exactly speak the language.

Notaro was a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to promote her new comedy special Happy to be Here. She greeted Colbert by saying his theater was “like a room full of pleasant subspace particles wrapped in a tachyon field of good vibes.”
The comment is obviously a reference to her role on Discovery, though she admits “I have no idea what I’m saying on that show…I can’t even picture what I’m talking about.”
She revealed that her character is human and that she plays Commander Jet Reno, a name she got to choose for herself. As for how she got the job, “They just asked if I wanted to do it” she says.

 

(15) BAD WITH NUMBERS? Deadline interviewed the president of Marvel Studios: “Kevin Feige Talks Marvel’s Success, Female Directors, ‘Infinity War II’ & How He’s ‘Bad With Numbers’”.

More female directors on Marvel pics: Captain Marvel is the first Marvel title to have a female director at the helm Anna Boden (who is co-helming with Ryan Fleck. And having more female directors behind his superhero pics is a trend he plans to maintain, “I cannot promise that (the next) 20 Marvel movies will have female directors but a heck of a lot of them will,” he said in response to an audience member’s question. The Marvel boss mentioned that agencies are sending more female directors than men for Marvel directing jobs.

On the $1.3 billion success of Black PantherFeige said that Marvel “wanted to destroy the myth that black movies don’t work well around the world,” and being at Disney with its platinum marketing department allowed the comic book studio to swing for the fences.

“The budget for Black Panther was bigger than Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, and you can’t do that without the support and encouragement from the leaders of the company,” he said.

Feige also applauded Black Panther director Ryan Coogler’s championing his diverse below-the-line team in Hannah Beachler as production designer, Ruth Carter’s costumes, and DP Rachel Morrison. Their resumes, like Marvel’s directors, didn’t scream tentpole experience, but Feige is grateful he heard them pitch rather than rely on his regular team.

“We can’t imagine the movie without them, and the future movies we hope to make with them,” he said.

(16) JURASSIC LARK. In Parade, “Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard Talk Dinosaurs, Parenting and Friendship”.

After their wildly successful first dino film in 2015, the pair reunited last year to film much of Fallen Kingdom on the Kualoa Ranch in Oahu, Hawaii. But even surrounded by tropical paradise, they faced more than a few challenges on camera, from filming in a chlorinated pool that fried Pratt’s hair and skin to riding in a zero-gravity gyrosphere that made Howard nauseous. And Pratt had to do some awkward face-offs with a velociraptor that wasn’t really there—until the special-effects department created it. He acts out how he’d say to the air in front of him, “Get back, get back . . .” and then “Whoa!” as he’d throw himself on the ground. The camera crew, watching on monitors nearby, “didn’t want to say how stupid it looked!”

(17) SCARIEST MOVIE. The Washington Post’s Monica Castillo, in “The story behind ‘Hereditary,’ the Toni Collette horror movie that scared the bejesus out of Sundance”, interviews Hereditary director Ari Aster who, “in his first feature, marries the horror and melodrama genres into an unnerving movie about grief.”

Aster said he deliberately amped up the drama in the film slowly. “I’m not affected by anything in a film unless I’m invested in the people at the center of it,” he said. “I wanted to take my time and immerse people in this family’s life and their dynamic, which is quite complicated. I just wanted to make a film in the tradition of the horror films I grew up loving, like ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ ‘Don’t Look Now’ and ‘The Innocents.’ Films that take their time are very much rooted in character.”

Setting also plays an important role in the creepiness in “Hereditary.” The family’s luxury cabin in the woods has the right dark corners and haunted attics to make it feel like a trap where its inhabitants are left to slowly die. Annie’s miniature houses become a motif. “The miniatures just struck me as a potent metaphor for the family’s situation,” Aster said. “They have no agency, and they’re revealed over the course of the movie to be like dolls in a dollhouse, being manipulated by these outside forces.”

(18) SPONGEBOB TONY. In “How ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ invaded our brains”, Washington Post writer Sonia Rao interviews the cast and creators of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical, which is up for 12 Tonys as best musical tonight and is making a lot of Millennials very happy.

Tom Kenny never thought SpongeBob SquarePants, a character he originated on the children’s program almost 20 years ago, would one day end up on Broadway. Why would he have? Parents clamp their hands over their ears whenever they hear SpongeBob’s helium voice, let alone his nasal laugh. The anthropomorphized sponge is no Hugh Jackman.

And yet, “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical” is up for 12 Tonys on Sunday, tied with “Mean Girls” for the most nominations. Its resonance with serious theatergoers is surprising until you consider that even as adults, those of us who watched the series can’t shake its omnipresent songs, references and memes. Somehow, it became a cultural earworm.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/1/18 One Post, At Least, Thy Tick Shall Stalk

(1) COCKYGATE. A transcript of today’s “Cockygate” court hearing  [PDF file] courtesy of Courtney Milan. She paid for it.

Milan asks:

If you want to do something that would be meaningful to me, drop a tip in RWA’s perseverance fund. It’s for romance authors who need help paying membership dues—whether they’re current members or not.

(2) SF AT THE SMITHSONIAN. Arthur C. Clarke papers in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum: “Letters from a Science Fiction Giant”.

“One of the strengths of the collection is Clarke’s manuscripts,” says curator Martin Collins. “Clarke had working notes as he prepared things for publication. It really highlights his deep belief and attention to making his fictional stuff as close to scientific fact as he could.”

The majority of the correspondence dates from the 1960s on. Tucked inside one folder, a letter from Wernher von Braun cordially invites Clarke to the October 11, 1968 launch of Apollo 7. “The rocket will carry [Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele, and Walter Cunningham] on a ten day earth orbital flight,” writes von Braun. “This mission will demonstrate the performance of the Saturn IB launch vehicle, the spacecraft’s command and service modules, and the crew and support facilities.” (Von Braun helpfully attached a list of motels in the Cape Kennedy area, which ranged in price from $5 to $18 a night.) A year later, Clarke, at Walter Cronkite’s side, covered the Apollo 11 mission for CBS.

(3) YE ROUND PEG IN YE ROUND HOLE. The BBC covers a study that shows “Every story in the world has one of these six basic plots”, applying Vonnegut’s graphing theory to some of the recent “100 stories that shaped the world”, including a few genre.

“Thanks to new text-mining techniques, this has now been done. Professor Matthew Jockers at the University of Nebraska, and later researchers at the University of Vermont’s Computational Story Lab, analysed data from thousands of novels to reveal six basic story types – you could call them archetypes – that form the building blocks for more complex stories. The Vermont researchers describe the six story shapes behind more than 1700 English novels as:

  1. Rags to riches – a steady rise from bad to good fortune
  2. Riches to rags – a fall from good to bad, a tragedy
  3. Icarus – a rise then a fall in fortune
  4. Oedipus – a fall, a rise then a fall again
  5. Cinderella – rise, fall, rise
  6. Man in a hole – fall, rise

(4) AUTHOR’S PICKS. Catherynne M. Valente names “10 Essential Offbeat Science Fiction Novels” at Publishers Weekly. First on the list –

1. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu

This is one of my all-time favorite books and I can never not recommend it. It takes time travel and all the tropes inherent to it to a whole new level of emotional resonance, humor, and philosophy. It’s light on plot (and linearity) and heavy on meaning, but the whole thing is so deeply human, and at the same time, takes its science fiction so seriously that it’s no surprise author Charles Yu went on to write for Westworld.

(5) FAMOUS LAMB. Scott Edelman says “Nebula Award-winning writer Kelly Robson had a little lamb (and you can eavesdrop)” in Episode 68 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Have you digested last episode’s Nebula Awards Donut Jamboree yet? I hope so, because following up on that lightning-round event, it’s time for the first of five one-on-one interviews over meals with writers recorded during this year’s Nebula Awards weekend in Pittsburgh—starting with nominee Kelly Robson, who 48 hours after we dined at Union Standard, became a winner!

Before winning this year’s Best Novelette Nebula for “A Human Stain,” she was also a finalist for the 2017 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Her novella “Waters of Versailles” won the 2016 Aurora Award and was also a finalist for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. Her short story “The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill” was a finalist for the Theodore Sturgeon Award, and her short story “Two-Year Man” was a finalist for the Sunburst Award. Her most recent publication is the time travel adventure Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach.

I’d hoped to visit Union Standard shortly after they opened for one of last year’s batch of Nebula Awards weekend episodes, but sadly, it wasn’t to be, so I’m thrilled I was able to host Kelly there. As for the reason why I was so anxious to eat at that restaurant—Chef Derek Stevens has been called one of the foundational figures of Pittsburgh’s culinary boom. In fact, Pittsburgh magazine has written of him—”If you like dining out in Pittsburgh, you should thank Derek Stevens.” If nothing else, I’ve got to thank him for the Jamison Farm Lamb Sirloin with Anson Mills polenta and grilled asparagus—of which Kelly kindly allowed me a nibble.

We discussed how the first Connie Willis story she read changed her brain, the way a provocative photo got her a gig as a wine reviewer at a top national magazine, what she learned from the initial Taos Toolbox writers workshop, why completing Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach was like giving birth to a watermelon, how reading a Battlestar Galactica tie-in novel helped teach her how to write, where she would head if time travel were real, why she’s contemplating writing a “frivolous” trilogy (and what that really means), the reason the story of hers she most likes to reread is professionally published James Bond fanfic, and much, much more.

(6) MISSION RESUMED. Joe Stech announced Compelling Science Fiction Issue 11 is out.

It’s been a while, but we’re back with an incredible 7-story issue! I really appreciate your continued support after the switch to the new semiannual schedule. This issue starts with James Rowland’s “Top of Show”, a metastory about the art of creating stories (5948 words). Our second story is “Targeted Behavior” by J.D. Moyer. In it, someone wants the homeless to leave San Francisco. A young girl has other ideas. (4600 words). The third story this issue, Adam R. Shannon’s “Redaction,” is a story about medics who use technology to deal (or not deal) with their own traumatic experiences (4953 words). Next we have “Cold Draft” by John Derderian. This is a short one about how a radical politically motivated law surprises a teenage boy (2900 words). Our fifth story is “Dreams of the Rocket Man” by C. Stuart Hardwick. This is a beautiful reprinted story about a child learning rocketry from an enthusiastic mentor (7600 words). Story number six, “Driving Force” by Tom Jolly, is the shortest of the lot. In the future, AIs may not only be tasked with driving (1300 words). Our final story is “Don’t Play the Blues”, by Bruce Golden. A musician wrestles with experiences from his military days (6040 words).

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 1 – Actor Jonathan Pryce, 71, The Bureaucrat in The Adventures Of Baron Münchhausen and currently in The Game Of Thrones.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Zombie jambalaya? Chip Hitchcock lets Bizarro explain.

(9) LISTENING IN. Remember that Star Trek scene where Kirk says something odd, to which Spock replies, “I can’t believe my ears, Captain”? Mad Genius Club’s Jonathan LaForce has some things to say in “Verified!” [Internet Archive link] that I haven’t heard from that blog before.

This conflict over culture has consequences. It demands that we not give in to the base instinct of lying, dehumanizing, and othering those with whom we quarrel. Such is dishonorable. Such will not be tolerated. I don’t want you to my left or right, I don’t want you laying down suppressive fire from behind me as I charge forward, if I can’t trust you to do the right thing.

This means not lying about people like Irene Gallo, Moshe Feder, Scalzi, Glyer, or anybody else in this conflict. Such actions destroy our credibility and integrity.
This means that when a panelist says something rude about Tolkien, and SFWA is merely live-streaming the event, don’t claim SFWA said those things about Tolkien.
When Tor writer Elise Ringo says “This is what I crave from female villains: women who are extended the same complexity and depth- and, potentially, sympathy- as their male counterparts, and also women who are really truly bad… Dark Lords are all very well, but the world needs more Dark Ladies…” your reply should not include the words “Tor.com calls on writers not to write female villains.”

When a fellow author says they don’t want to be included in your drama on Twitter, then blocks you on rather preemptively, don’t go “declare war” on them. That’s not just rude, that’s unprofessional.

When Brandon Sanderson announces that he’s going to be making some very carefully thought-out decisions about his involvement with a con just because he’s trying to be careful about his professional relationships, and you scream “MUHVIRTUESIGNALING!” you’re not impressing anybody but your own echo chamber and stroking your ego.

Today’s LaForce column appeared the same day as Jon Del Arroz’ posted “Fear And Loathing In SLC: How A Social Justice Mob Got To Brandon Sanderson” [Internet Archive link]. That may not be a coincidence.

(10) BOND. ROBOT BOND. The BBC explains “How humans bond with robot colleagues”.

Fast-forward a few years and this story isn’t as unusual as you might think. In January 2017, workers at CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, threw a retirement party for five mail robots. Rasputin, Basher, Move It or Lose It, Maze Mobile and Mom had been pacing the company’s hallways for 25 years – delivering employee mail, making cute noises and regularly bumping into people.

There was cake. There were balloons. There was a nostalgic farewell video. There was even a leaving card with comments like “Thanks for making every day memorable” and “Beep! Beep! Beep!” The robots will likely spend their final years relaxing at one of the many museums that have requested them.

Though they’re often portrayed as calculating job-stealers, it seems that there’s another side to the rise of the robots. From adorably clumsy office androids to precocious factory robots, we can’t help bonding with the machinery we work with.

(11) DUNE. That’s cold: “Methane ice dunes found on Pluto by Nasa spacecraft”.

After an epic trek through the Solar System that took nearly a decade, New Horizons sped by at a speed of 58,536 km/h (36,373 mph), gathering data as it passed.

In their study, the researchers explain how they studied pictures of a plain known as Sputnik Planitia, parts of which are covered with what look like fields of dunes.

They are lying close to a range of mountains of water ice 5km high.

The scientists conclude that the dunes are 0.4-1km apart and that they are made up of particles of methane ice between 200-300 micrometers in diameter – roughly the size of grains of sand.

(12) AT THE BODLEIAN. “JRR Tolkien artwork on display for first time”. This probably won’t travel, but the article has a few samples, including one from 1915.

Personal effects – such as Tolkien’s briefcase, the colour pencils he used to create the artwork for Lord of the Rings and boxes of poster paints that he used for water colours in The Hobbit – have been lent to the Bodleian by his family.

Tolkien’s tobacco pipes are also included.

… There are previously unseen letters sent to Tolkien from famous fans such as poet WH Auden, novelists Iris Murdoch and Terry Pratchett and singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell.

“This is a very exciting part of the exhibition,” Ms McIlwaine said.

“These are letters that people haven’t seen before and haven’t been published and I think it’s going to be very surprising to visitors to see the range of people who loved Tolkien’s work, and loved it so much that they wrote to him.”

It’s mildly ironic that a Bodleian archivist would speak admiringly about someone’s smoking materials. Readers have to sign this well-known pledge before being allowed to use the Library:

“I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, or to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document, or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library or kindle therein any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library.”

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Tergo” is a good short film, directed by Charles Willcocks, about a street cleaning robot who dreams of better things that he can’t have.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Scott Edelman, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, ULTRAGOTHA, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Stoic Cynic.]

Pixel Scroll 5/31/18 The Pixel That Parsed The Hornets Nest

(1) ANOTHER CAT AND SFF STORY TO LOVE. Huge news for Cat Valente:

Deadline has the story: “Universal Options ‘Space Opera’ For Marc Platt & Colin Trevorrow To Produce”.

Universal Pictures has optioned Catherynne M. Valente’s  science fiction novel Space Opera, which Marc Platt will produce for his Universal-based Marc Platt Productions with Adam Siegel, along with Colin Trevorrow producing.

(2) BOOK SALES STATS. Data Guy has posted the slides from the “2018 SFWA Nebula Conference Presentation” at Author Earnings.

(3) KNOW YOUR BEARDS. Camestros Felapton challenges you in the “Puzzle Corner: Help Timothy Spot the Author”.

Poor Timothy is still having problems with human faces. I don’t know what fraction of science-fiction authors have beards but I’d guess 30%? Sometimes feels like more!

Can you match the beard-style (numbered) to the author (lettered) so Tim can tell which is which?

(4) BREAKING IN. Congratulations, Buzz Dixon! He told Facebook readers —

I finally cracked Analog after 50 years of trying!

(Not that Buzz hasn’t enjoyed a highly successful writing career in the meantime.)

The Astounding/Analog Companion has posted “A Q&A with Buzz Dixon”:

Analog Editor: What is the story behind “While You Sleep, Computer Mice Earn Their Keep”?

Buzz Dixon: Often I’ll hear an idiom or phrase and think to myself, “What does that mean literally?” In this case, the phrase was “computer mouse,” and I asked myself how mice could actually interact with a computer. Immediately the old fairy tale of “The Cobbler and the Elves” popped into mind.

AE: How did this story germinate? Was there a spark of inspiration, or did it come to you slowly?

BD: If the Computer Mice represent the force of order, then the wild female rat represents the force of chaos. I remember reading Robert Chilson’s “Ecological Niche” in the December 1970 issue of Analog when I was in high school and was struck with his portrayal of wildlife finding a way to be both wild and alive even in the middle of an extremely complex technology. Once I had my opposing points of view, the actual writing went very quickly.

(5) CAT RAMBO. On Mary Robinette Kowal’s blog, “My Favorite Bit: Cat Rambo talks about HEARTS OF TABAT”.

One of my favorite pieces of the most recent fantasy novel, Hearts of Tabat, didn’t actually get into the final version, which was a set of chapter headers defining which Trade God each chapter belonged to. The Trade Gods of the city of Tabat embody various economic forces of one size or another, ranging from the large Anbo and Enba (Supply & Demand) to the more particular, like Zampri, who oversees Advertising, or Uhkephelmi, God of Small Mistakes.

(6) FORENSICS. Kristine Kathryn Rusch teases apart a major news story about embezzlement at a literary agency in “Business Musings: An Agent Nightmare Revealed”.

…To the greatest extent possible.

In other words, my friends, Donadio & Olson does not have the financial resources to make up for a theft of $3.4 million, let alone any more potential losses that the forensic accountant might turn up.

The complaint alleges that Webb stole money as far back as 2011. However, according to Law360, he worked for the company since 1999. Did he start this behavior then? Or after Candida Donadio died? (Which seems likely. Agencies go off the rails when their founders leave or die.)

It’s pretty easy to steal from writers’ estates. I worked with a number of them on some projects in 2015 and 2016, and with one exception, the agencies or the organizations in charge of the estates didn’t give a crap about resale, about payment, about anything. Most of them weren’t even familiar with the story I wanted to reprint, and only one of them had an author’s preferred version that they sent to me. (I asked.)

I probably could have reprinted those stories and never paid any of the estates. I probably would not have been caught in most cases. And that’s rather minor theft.

Now, imagine what’s going on with estates like [Mario] Puzo’s, which includes all of the monies still coming in from the movies, from licensing, from the books (which are still in print). These are multimillion dollar ventures, handled every year by Donadio & Olson, with no one overseeing the day to day running of the finances.

Oh, my. The money was simply there for the taking.

The thing is, Donadio & Olson is a “reputable” agency. The New York Post used the word “prestigious” in describing the agency. Donadio & Olson was, until last week, a gold-standard agency, one that most young writers might have aspired to have as representatives….

Then she shares some firsthand experiences.

Sadly, I am not surprised by any of this. As I have blogged about before, literary agencies are not regulated. Prestigious agencies embezzle. I’ve personally had one of the biggest boutique agencies in the world embezzle from me. (And I suspect they still are, although I can’t prove it. But there are licensed properties—tie-ins—that I wrote whose royalty statements I cannot get my hands on because no one at the licensor will cooperate with me. The books have been in print for 25-30 years and I have never seen a dime in royalties. Ever.) I’ve also had one of the biggest fraudsters in the industry steal from me. I speak from hard-earned life lessons here.

(7) AUREALIS AWARDS TAKING ENTRIES. The Aurealis Awards, “Australia’s premier awards for speculative fiction,” is taking entries until December 7.

The awards  are for works created by an Australian citizen or permanent resident, and published for the first time in 2018.

Full guidelines and a FAQ can be found on the Aurealis Awards website.

We strongly encourage publishers and authors to enter all works published in the first half of the year by August 2018, then subsequent publications as they are released; our judges appreciate having time to consider each entry carefully.

The same group is also running the Sara Douglass Book Series Award for series ending between 2015-2017, this year. Entries for this special award close on August 31, 2018. More information is available at the link.

Finalists of all award categories will be announced early in 2019 and winners announced at a ceremony to take place in Melbourne in the first half of the year. For more information contact the judging coordinator Tehani Croft at aajudges@gmail.com

(8) ASTRONAUT OBIT. Donald H. Peterson passed away May 27 reports the Washington Post: “Donald Peterson Sr., who spacewalked from the shuttle Challenger, dies at 84”.

Mr. Peterson’s avid consumption of science fiction in his childhood drove his interest in aviation and space.”

In 1983 he told a reporter:

‘Back when I was a kid, there was no space program,’ Peterson said in an interview. ‘In fact, I was old enough to know about airplanes before there were jet airplanes.

‘My earliest interest came from science fiction. I read a lot of things as a kid, but I read some science fiction and got interested. As I got older, I started reading real things

A trading card featuring Peterson:

(9) IN A SOCIAL MEDIA FAR, FAR AWAY. (Found with the help of Nicholas Whyte.)

(10) COMICS TO BE PRESERVED. Michael Cavna, the Washington Post’s “Comic Riffs” columnist, says that the Library of Congress has acquired most of Steven Geppi’s comics collection, including most of the contents of the Baltimore-based Geppi Entertainment Museum, which will close after this weekend: “Library of Congress acquires its largest donation of comic books ever”.

The impressive acquisition, which is set to be announced Wednesday, comes courtesy of Baltimore-based collector and entrepreneur Stephen A. Geppi, who is donating more than 3,000 items from his holdings, many spanning the eight-decade history of the American comic-book industry. His Mickey Mouse storyboards are from the Jazz Age animated short “Plane Crazy,” which was inspired by Charles Lindbergh. Other items include printing blocks from Richard Outcault’s fin-de-siecle comic-strip character the Yellow Kid, Beatles memorabilia and a No. 2 Brownie camera model F from Eastman Kodak, the library says.

The donation — which the library says it is valuing “in the millions” — was born out of months of conversations between Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, a champion of giving the public new ways to view the library’s scope, and Geppi, who opened Geppi’s Entertainment Museum in Baltimore in 2006.

(11) BUTLER AT HOME. From Pasadena Weekly — “Octavia Butler’s Pasadena connections informed her stellar science-fiction writing career”.

The Crown City played a major part in her development, both for its major role in the space race via Caltech, JPL and the Carnegie Observatories, and because of the fact it was racially integrated long before much of the nation. Her archives are collected at the Huntington Library in San Marino, having formed the basis of a popular exhibition in 2017 and remaining one of the hottest collections for researchers there.

“Pasadena was a major inspiration, and part of that has to do with JPL being in her backyard, right over the hill and being so close to the space race and growing up with that had to have piqued her interest,” says Theresa Russell, assistant curator of literary collections at the library. “I think Butler felt it was a very diverse place. She talks about her novels not just being filled with black people, but people of all colors. There were white, black, Asian students at Caltech, and it seemed natural to her that the future would be the world she was seeing, filled with diversity.”

Russell also notes that the Pasadena area or a version of it appears in some of Butler’s works. Her novel “Kindred” offers a particularly strong example, as it focused on a writer living in Altadena amid an early career as a writer, and the novel “Mind of My Mind” features a city called Forsyth that was modeled after Pasadena. Yet Russell notes that the dystopian novel “Parable of the Sower” has the most intriguing connections of all to the City of Roses.

(12) STORIES THAT ADMIT THEY ARE ABOUT POLITICS. The Kickstarter for Cat Rambo’s “IF THIS GOES ON – Political SF Anthology” has raised $3,736 of $10,000 at this writing, with 28 days to go.

Looking at the state of the world today, we are clearly at a nexus of inflection points. Global relations and power structures are changing more rapidly than they have since the cold war. The divide between the haves and have nots is broadening and we are at the start of a new gilded age of robber barons and crippling poverty. Racial, social, and class relations are stretched to a point of breaking. Global climate change threatens to remake our planet.

The choices we make today; the policies of our governments and the values that we, as people, embrace are going to shape our world for decades to come. Or break it.

IF THIS GOES ON asks a very straightforward question – what happens if things continue to be like this and what happens next?

We asked thirty writers to put their minds to it and show us what the future may hold a generation or more from today. To show us the promise of a better world if we embrace our better angels or the cost of our failures if we give in to the demons of divisiveness, if we allow politicians and pundits to redefine truth, and if we continue to ignore the warnings all around us.

Truth matters, stories matter.

The full Table of Contents, organized alphabetically by the author’s last name is:

  • Cyd Athens – Welcome to Gray
  • Steven Barnes – The Dayveil Gambit
  • Rachel Chimits – Dead Wings
  • Paul Crenshaw – Bulletproof Tattoos
  • Beth Dawkins – Tasting Bleach and Decay in the City of Dust
  • Andy Duncan – Mr. Percy’s Shortcut
  • Chris Kluwe – The Machine
  • Kitty-Lydia Dye – Three Data Units
  • Scott Edelman – The Stranded Time Traveler Embraces the Inevitable
  • Judy Helfrich – A Pocketful of Dolphins
  • Langley Hyde – Call and Answer
  • Gregory Jeffers – All the Good Dogs Have Been Eaten
  • Jamie Lackey – Fine
  • Jack Lothian – Good Pupils
  • Nick Mamatas – Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than The Last; The Inexorable March of Progress Will Lead Us All to Happiness
  • Lynette Mejía – A Gardener’s Guide to the Apocalypse
  • Aimee Ogden – Twelve Histories Scrawled in the Sky
  • Sarah Pinsker – That Our Flag Was Still There
  • Conor Powers-Smith – The Sinking Tide
  • Zandra Renwick – Making Happy
  • Kathy Schilbach – Counting the Days
  • Nisi Shawl – King Harvest Will Surely Come
  • Priya Sridhar – Mustard Seeds and the Elephants Foot
  • Marie L Vibbert – Free Wi-Fi
  • Calie Voorhis – The Editor’s Eyes
  • Tiffany E. Wilson – One Shot
  • James Wood – Discobolos
  • Sylvia Spruck Wrigley – Choose Your Own Adventure
  • E. Lily Yu – Green Glass: A Love Story
  • Hal Y. Zhang – But for Grace

Cover art by Bernard Lee. Design by Michael Altmann.

(13) BUY PROP FOR NEVER-MADE TREK MOVIE. Motherboard says this model for the starship Enterprise is going on the auction block with a starting bid of $40,000.

A rare, redesigned version of the starship Enterprise NCC-1701 will go on auction in L.A. (and online) Thursday, with bidding starting at $40,000. The model was designed by Ralph McQuarrie and Ken Adam in 1976 for the ill-fated film Star Trek: Planet of the Titans, which was the first plan for a motion picture after the original series was cancelled. But after months of writing and rewriting the script, it was ultimately shelved, and the redesigned Enterprise was shelved with it. Shortly after, Paramount began working with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry on what would eventually become Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

The model would have changed the iconic look of NCC-1701. The model did appear briefly (though not as the Enterprise) in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s two-part episode “The Best of Both Worlds.” It was in the Starfleet armada which was destroyed by the Borg in the Battle of Wolf 359.

(14) HOT TIP: PLASTICS. NASA now has a combination plastic recycler and 3-D printer to test on the International Space Station. The Tethers Unlimited, Inc. device is about the size of a mini-fridge and was built as part of the Small Business Innovation Research program. It was certification tested at the Tethers Unlimited lab in Bothell WA and at Huntsville AL’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The plan is to deliver it to the ISS on a SpaceX Dragon supply run later this year.

Quoting the GeekWire article: “Tethers Unlimited delivers 3-D printer and recycler combo to NASA for space station”.

The Refabricator uses a process called “Positrusion” for recycling plastic parts into fresh filament for 3-D printing.

“Traditional plastics recycling and 3-D printer filament manufacturing techniques involve grinding and extrusion steps that could pose safety concerns on the ISS and often require a lot of adjustment to keep them running reliably,” [Tethers Unlimited CEO Rob] Hoyt explained.

“To create a recycling system that is safe and doesn’t demand a lot of astronaut time, we developed a new method for recycling plastic parts into 3-D printer filament, and integrated it together with a 3-D printer to create a highly automated recycling-and-manufacturing system,” he said.

(15) WATER WATER EVERYWHERE. BBC reports “Two different forms of water isolated for first time”. Not polywater (a hoax) let alone ice-nine (though both have been topics of sf stories), but physics-level differences leading to different chemical behavior.

Scientists have isolated the two different forms of water molecule for the first time.

Water molecules were known to exist as two distinct “isomers”, or types, based on their slightly different properties at the atomic level.

By separating out the two isomers, researchers were able to show that they behave differently in the way that they undergo chemical reactions.

The work appears in Nature Communications.

(16) EARLY INFLUENCES. At Postscripts to Darkness “PSTD Author Interview: Mike Allen”.

Whether they are historical or contemporary, who are some of the writers whose work has been most influential on, or important to, your own, and what have you taken from their writing?

I think it all boils down to Poe and Tolkien, the first is probably kind of obvious, the second I imagine less so for any readers out there that might know me only through my creative work.

Those two writers set me on the path. A well-meaning third grade teacher read “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Raven” to our class for Halloween, and while the other kids just giggled it away I was traumatized, with night terrors that lasted for years. Yet instead of staying away from all things horror, I became consumed with morbid curiosity, constantly coming back to this type of story-telling that held so much power over me, leading me to devour stuff by H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, Peter Straub and Clive Barker.

With Barker, my favorite writer when I was in my teens, I experienced a paradigm change. I became a gleeful participant in the land of imaginary horrors, rather than a frightened victim. I ended up consuming so much horror that I essentially inoculated myself from the night terrors.

I would bet the idea that I’m best known for horror stories would be a big shock to 10-year-old me. Around 4thgrade or so my dad made me read The Lord of the Rings, because he thought it was the greatest novel ever written and because he was sure I would like it. On that second part, absolutely, he was right. Maybe the first one, too? But anyway, I developed this hunger for all things Tolkien. We lived at the time in Wise, Virginia, a coal town high in the Appalachians. There was no bookstore. There were a couple of other kids who liked fantasy, but didn’t share my obsessive need for it, or at least not my precise interests — as I recall, one buddy was a huge Larry Niven fan.

(17) FELINES AND FANTASY. Can you believe it? Long before the idea was codified by File 770, authors independently recognized the association of cats and SFF. For example, see these Martha Wells LiveJournal posts.

(18) SFWA EMERGENCY FUND. Hey, I didn’t know that.

(19) SILVERBERG ADAPTED AS OPERA. This is from an interview with composer Emily Howard by Richard Fairman in the May 26 Financial Times (behind a paywall).

Howard, 39, tells how she was working with her librettist, Selena Dmitrijevic, on a story about a person being shunned by society.  A draft scenario, in which that character was arrested and sentenced to being ‘invisible,’ was already well advanced when they discovered it came from a short story that Dmitrijevic had on her shelf at home, Robert Silverberg’s ”To See The Invisible Man.’

There is a strong flavour of Kafka, or perhaps Margaret Atwood.  ‘In our opera you never know exactly what the Invisible’s crime was,’ says Howard.  ‘We assume we are dealing with some authoritarian regime, where society is forced to operate within very narrow parameters of human behaviour.  It is a wonderfully constructed story, because it opens with the Invisible’s crime of coldness, and then(when the Invisible is apprehended for trying to help another Invisible in distress) closes with the crime of warmth.’

Note that Silverberg’s ‘Invisible Man’ has become the gender-neural ‘Invisible.’  It is one of Howard’s most eye-catching ideas that the role of this person is to be sung by two singers:  a soporano and a bass.  When the Invisible is alone, they will sing it together, but out in society, where he/she is unable to be themselves, only one voice will be heard.

To See The Invisible is going to be performed at the Aldeburgh Festival  from June 8-11.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/5/18 By The Time You See This Pixel, You Will Have Been Scrolling In The Present Tense For As Long As You Can Recall

(1) CAMERON Q&A VIDEO. Wired headline: “James Cameron Answers Sci-Fi Questions From Twitter”.

A 7:46 video of director James Cameron using “the power of Twitter to answer some common questions about the science fiction genre.”

(2) JUNOT DIAZ. The Guardian reports “Junot Díaz withdraws from Sydney Writers’ festival following sexual harassment allegations”.

The Pulitzer prize-winning author was accused of sexual misconduct by author Zinzi Clemmons after revealing last month he had been raped as a child.

…The acclaimed Dominican American novelist Junot Díaz has been feted for his powerful literary expression of the pain of sexual violence. In 2008 he was awarded the Pulitzer prize for his book The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the story of a young boy growing up amid abuse in New Jersey, and last month he was widely applauded for writing a confessional essay about being raped when he was eight years old.

But this weekend Díaz has cancelled his scheduled appearances at the Sydney Writers’ festival following a public accusation of sexually inappropriate behaviour….

(3) DINO TAKEOFF. Robot Dinosuar Fiction! has launched —

ROBOT DINOSAURS! Over the summer, we will be publishing a flash fiction about robot dinosaurs each Friday (May 4th through August 31st 2018)….

First up – “Five Functions of Your Bionosaur” by Rachel K. Jones.

Your parents first activate your bionosaur when they bring you home from the hospital. The bionosaur was a baby shower gift from your mom’s favorite aunt. They were nervous about its size, the stainless steel maw, the retractable razorclaws inside its stubby little arms, but the aunt had insisted. She’d programmed it herself, covered its titanium-alloy skeleton in top-grade synthskin featherscales, and pre-loaded it with educational apps.

When your bionosaur’s eyes first flare to life, it scans tiny, squalling you and reaches out a stubby claw to rock you. When it starts humming a jazzy rendition of the Batman theme, you quiet down and sleep….

(4) DELINQUENT DAYS OF YORE. While Jane Sullivan in the Sydney Morning-Herald was sifting trash from the past in “Turning Pages: The literary joys of juvenile delinquents”, out popped a familiar name.

I’ve been having huge fun reading about JD fiction and looking at the outrageously titillating covers in Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats, an anthology edited by two Australians, Iain McIntyre and Andrew Nette. What was once reviled as rubbishy reading is now collected, curated and revered as retro chic.

…Many of these books would make even Quentin Tarantino cringe, I suspect: they sound truly awful. But here and there I came across someone churning out quick books for cash who went on to make a more respectable name for himself. One was the science-fiction writer Harlan Ellison, who went undercover and joined a street gang as research for more than 100 stories and his 1958 debut novel.

He describes how he was later working as a reviewer and picked up a book from a box a publisher sent him. “It’s got this horrible, garish juvenile delinquent coming at you with a switchblade knife and it says Rumble. I thought ‘What is this piece of shit?’ and then I looked at the author and it was me.”

(5) TODAY’S TOY AD. Syfy Wire wants to tell you about “Stuff We Love: ThinkGeek’s plush Facehugger and Chestburster won’t ever want to let you go”.

If you’re experiencing symptoms like tightness and pain in your chest and possible heartburn, that may be because you absolutely need the Chestburster plush to explode into your life. 48 inches of alien protoplasm is going to love you so much that it will literally not be able to contain itself once it’s fully developed from feeding off your innards.

I guess they’re pretty used to this sort of thing around the ThinkGeek’s headquarters

(6) CASE OF THE COUNTERFEIT SJW CREDENTIALS. Beware! “This AI Will Turn Your Dog Into a Cat”Motherboard tells how.

If there’s one thing the internet needs it’s more cat pictures, so researchers from Nvidia and Cornell University developed an algorithm that will turn pictures of dogs into pictures of cats.

This neural network—a type of computing architecture loosely modeled on the human brain—was developed by a few of the same researchers behind the algorithm that can turn winter into summer in any video and employs similar principles.

(7) VOLZ OBIT. German actor Wolfgang Völz died yesterday. He was in a lot of genre films and TV shows over the years. Cora Buhlert pays tribute to him in “Remembering Wolfgang Völz (1930 – 2018)”. This is just part of his resume —

Wolfgang Völz was a German TV legend. If you watched TV in Germany at some point in the past sixty years, you have seen Wolfgang Völz and you have definitely heard his voice, because Völz was also a prolific voice actor, lending his distinctive voice to Walter Matthau, Peter Ustinov, Peter Falk, Mel Brooks, Majestix, the Gallic chieftain from the Asterix and Obelix films, as well as dozens of puppet and cartoon characters. It’s certainly fitting that Wolfgang Völz’s last credited role was the voice of God in the 2012 movie Der Gründer (The Founder).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born May 5 – Catherynne M. Valente

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • JJ finds an explanation of “The Nine Rs” at Incidental Comics.
  • Chip Hitchcock laughed at the doctor’s diagnosis in Bizarro.

(10) GENDER GAP IN BOOK PRICING. The Guardian ran an article about a sociological study which showed this result: “Books by women priced 45% lower, study finds”,

A study of more than 2m books has revealed that titles by female authors are on average sold at just over half the price of those written by men.

The research, by sociologist Dana Beth Weinberg and mathematician Adam Kapelner of Queens College-CUNY, looked titles published in North America between 2002 and 2012. The authors analysed the gender of each author by matching names to lists of male and female names, and cross-referenced with information about price, genre and publication.

Books by women released by mainstream publishers, they found, were priced on average 45% lower than books by men….

Reddit followed up with a discussion about the gender pay disparity in publishing. Michael J. Sullivan popped in with some interesting facts; such as the smallest pay disparity is among self-published works.

(11) DON’T BE COCKY WITHOUT A LAWYER. Chuck Tingle sorted this crisis in no time and moved on to bigger challenges –

(12) MAY THE FOURTH LEFTOVERS. More from Dr. Janelle Shane: “Darth Net: Star Wars characters invented by neural network”.

…There were enough Darths in the list that at the very lowest-creativity settings, everyone was a Sith lord. Here are some of my favorites:

Darth Teen
Darth Tannin
Darth Ben
Darth Toes
Darth Teena
Darth Darth
Dorth Darth Darth
Mon Darth
Man Darth
Darth Sans
Darth Band
Darth Mall
Darth Tall
Grand Moff Darth Salt

I would like to see the costumes for some of these….

RedWombat got in on the act:

(13) REDWOMBAT SALES REPORT. And Ursula Vernon says her book sales are keeping the house warm —

(14) STAR WARS FANS GET THEIR BASEBALL FIX. From the MLBshop.com, available for every team.

(15) THE SCARIEST. Victoria Nelson’s picks for the “10 Scariest Horror Stories” were listed in Publishers Weekly. Number one is —

1. “The Trains” by Robert Aickman

Virtually unknown in the U.S. outside a small coterie of dedicated fans, the British writer Robert Aickman (he died in 1981) is a virtuoso of the sophisticated “strange story,” as he dubbed his tales. The scares in an Aickman story come not from gore or violence but from the way he perversely bends reality right before your startled eyes. Not just once but again and again—and still again, all in the same story. In this little masterpiece of Gothic indirection, two young women stranded on a walking trip in the north of England seek shelter in a remote Victorian mansion adjacent to a train track. There is a handsome host, a menacing servant, a mad aunt who died mysteriously, even a murder, but all this is beside the point. The real scares come from the trains that scream loudly past every few minutes on this “main, important line” in the middle of nowhere and their unseen engineers, who always wave at girls. Curiously, the trains pass by less often on the third floor than on the ground level. As a child, it should be noted, Aickman liked to invent imaginary kingdoms complete with meticulously constructed railroad schedules.

Number 10 is C. L. Moore’s “Shambleau.”

(16) SURVEY SAYS. Martin Armstrong at Statistia tells you all about “Yesterday’s World: the old tech that kids don’t know”.

For most people born before the 90’s, a “3 1/2 inch floppy” was once a crucial part of their technological lives; securing and transporting important files and data. Of course nowadays, the 1.44 MB storage space is far from adequate and no new computers come equipped with an appropriate drive for the disks. Little surprise then that the majority of children today have no idea what one is (despite the fact that ubiquitous software such as Word and Excel still use a floppy disk symbol for their ‘save’ buttons).

As a recent survey by YouGov has shown, 67 percent of the 6 to 18 year olds in the UK don’t know what a floppy disk is. Other essentially obsolete tech such as overhead projectors (once present in almost every classroom), and pagers were recognised even less….

(17) DID WE MENTION? Patton Oswalt’s Parks and Recreation appearance in 2015 is a Star Wars-fueled filibuster.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Martin Morse Wooster recommends “Seder-Masochism Trailer April 2018,” where animator Nina Paley previews her latest project, a look at the Book of Exodus.

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

Cats Sleep on SFF: Space Opera

Lis Riba’s cat is really into books:

She may not understand prepositions, but Small (inherited from Stephanie Clarkson ) is definitely a diva. So, when she saw the title of my current read, she had to check it out.

Plus, a more posed photo so everyone can better admire her. 🙂


Photos of other felines resting on genre works are welcome. Send to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com

Pixel Scroll 4/15/18 Up Forty Or Better On Your Right Scroll, Corp’r’l, Or The Pixels’ll Degauss Your Files!

(1) NUMBERS RAMPED UP: WHY? Jason Sanford contends “Questionable sales surround Writers of the Future anthologies”. He analyzes Writers of the Future anthology sales over the years as reported by Bookscan.

Note: This market analysis is available free to the public. If you like my original reporting on genre issues, consider backing my Patreon.

There are numerous warnings being raised in the SF/F genre about connections between the Writers of the Future contest and Scientology. While these connections have been explored before, new concerns are being raised — such as by former WotF winner Keffy Kehrli and others like Vajra Chandrasekera — that the contest gives “legitimacy” with regards to Scientology and its abusive practices. For more, see this post from The Underground Bunker.

These concerns should absolutely be listened to. The science fiction genre spawned Scientology and for far too long the SF/F genre has maintained a “look the other way” attitude to Scientology and its many documented abuses. The genre must now take the lead in ending this relationship and support.

And Jason Kimble comments:

(2) LAWYER DAGGET, SHE DRAWS HIM LIKE A GUN. “Stan Lee Sues Former Business Manager For Fraud, Elder Abuse — Including One Scheme To Sell His Blood”Deadline has the story:

Comic book industry legend Stan Lee is suing a former business manager for fraud and elder abuse in a suit that alleges such egregious claims of abuse as extracting and selling vials of the Marvel Comics icon’s blood as “collectibles” in Las Vegas.

Lee, whom many consider the godfather of the modern-day superhero, was grieving the death of his wife of 70 years, Joan B. Lee, in late 2017 when he became the target of “unscrupulous businessmen, sycophants and opportunists” who sought to take advantage of his despondency.

A suit filed today in Los Angeles Superior Court alleges Jerardo Olivarez is once such opportunist. A former business associate of Lee’s daughter, the suit claims Olivarez took control of Lee’s professional and financial affairs — and began enriching himself through various schemes and bogus enterprises….

…In one particularly ghoulish money-making scheme, Olivarez instructed a nurse to extract many containers of blood from Lee, which Hands of Respect later sold in Las Vegas for thousands of dollars, the suit contends.

“There are shops in Las Vegas selling Stan Lee’s blood,” said a family friend, Keya Morgan. “They’re stamping his blood inside the Black Panther comic books and they sell them for $500 each.”

(3) GENRE CATS. The New York Public Library is “Feline Good with Our Favorite Literary Cats”. Here’s an excerpt of their roundup:

Fantastical Felines

Catwings, in which Ursula LeGuin writes about the adventures of cats who were born with wings. I have no idea why this isn’t an animated series with plush dolls and t-shirts and fan cons with cosplay cat ears and wings. —Judd Karlman, Pelham Bay

What’s better than a cat who’s a celestial being with purple eyes and sassy attitude? My favorite cat is Faithful in In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce and then reappears again as Pounce in the Beka Cooper series Terrier, also by Pierce. —Chantalle Uzan, Francis Martin

The Aeronaut’s Windlass, Jim Butcher’s second foray into high fantasy, features a race of hyper-intelligent felines who serve the lords of the Spires. Or are they the lords? —Joshua Soule, Spuyten Duyvil

Ursula K. LeGuin’s No Time to Spare: Thinking about What Matters is a collection of the prolific author’s essays on a variety of topics like ageing, writing, our socio-political landscape, and culture. Any cat lover, though, will probably find themselves most delighted by the vivid, playful, and soulful stories of her cat Pard that are sprinkled throughout. —Beth Dukes, Enrichment Zones

My Cat Yugoslavia. Dating can be hard, especially when your boyfriend is a sexy, bigoted, and capricious cat who doesn’t get along with your free-range snake. In Pajtim Statovci’s novel he weaves in this fanciful story line while addressing immigration, Balkin weddings, and isolation. —Richard Dowe, Aguilar…

(4) HORROR GENTRIFIED? The Washington Post’s April Wolfe notes, in “With ‘A Quiet Place’ and ‘Get Out,’ horror is having a mainstream moment. Will that alienate fans?”, some films are now called “elevated horror,” but that people should realize that a lot of very good films (including “horror-adjacent” The Shape of Water, happen to be horror films, and that horror has given a lot of important actors and directors their start.

Adding “elevated” to a movie’s description seems an attempt to distance the film from its lineage, signaling to contemporary filmgoers that a horror film isn’t a “slasher,” the type of blood-and-gore fare that proliferated from the 1980s through the aughts. But even that subgenre offered more than cheap thrills: It offered roles to then-unknown actors such as Tom Hanks, Jennifer Aniston, Leonardo DiCaprio and Charlize Theron, because horror films will make money at the box office whether or not there’s a star attached. It’s one of the few places actors can get their start.

Slashers also trained the next generation of coveted effects artists. For instance, Jim Doyle, who broke ground with chill-inducing effects on “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Prom Night II: Hello Mary Lou,” pioneered what would become the industry-standard fog machine, which earned him a “technical achievement” Academy Award — where horror is most often honored.

(5) REPLAYING THE CLASSICS. Mike Allen says he believes in “Honoring National Poetry Month the lazy way” – by which he means it’s time for him to remind readers about his verse and media collection:

Operating under the theory that it’s become old enough to be new again, I present thirteen poems from my 2008 collection The Journey to Kailash, with illustrations, detailed explanatory notes and even audio of me reciting each poem (you’ll have to activate Flash plug-ins to listen to those). And below the links to the main show I’ve included a bonus, my concrete poem “Phase Shift” from which this blog gets its name. Originally published in Tales of the Unanticipated in 1997, “Phase Shift” appears in my collection Hungry Constellations, but this stunning visualization by artist Bob Freeman appears nowhere else but here.

Poems from The Journey to Kailash:

I. “Defacing the Moon” (note about)
II. “Requited” (note about)
III. “A Curtain of Stars” (note about)
IV. “Bacchanal” (note about)
V. “Midnight Rendezvous, Boston” (note about)
VI. “Manifest Density” (note about)
VII. “Petals” (note about)
VIII. “Giving Back to the Muse” (note about)
IX. “Disaster at the BrainBank™ ATM” (note about)
X. “No One” (note about)
XI. “Sisyphus Walks” (note about)
XII. “The Strip Search” (note about)
XIII. “The Thirteenth Hell” (note about)

(6) CONCATENATION POSTED. The summer season edition of sff news aggregator Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation is out today.

[The new issue] has sections on film, books and publishing, TV, as well as the season’s forthcoming books listing of new titles (also fantasy and non-fiction) from the major imprints in the British Isles, many of which will soon be available elsewhere.  And then there will be the news page’s science as well as science and SF interface section.  Additionally, there isanother in our series by scientists are also SF authors as to their science heroes born in the 20th century (so by-passing Darwin, Einstein etc). We also have a review of this year’s British Eastercon, plus our annual 12-month top box-office SF/F film chart, and annual whimsey from Gaia.  All this and some standalone SF/F/H and science & non-fiction book reviews.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

Cath sends three clippings from the internet of comics:

I’m one of today’s 10,000 – I had no idea that the concept had a name, or had originated from the LessWrong community. I approve of Bob’s response, not to mention XKCD’s variation (reference in the mouseover).

(7) LEFT HIGH AND DRY. SNL’s Shape of Water parody:

After retiring from acting, The Shape of Water’s Fish Man (Kyle Mooney) watches his friend (John Mulaney) succeed in his place.

 

(8) FUTURE HITS. The best is yet to come. Or is already here if you’re from the future.

(9) FAKE TROPE EXPOSED! They have a point. (The thread starts here.)

(10) GROUNDBREAKER. KPFA brings you “Bookwaves – February 15, 2018: Trina Robbins”:

Trina Robbins, in conversation with Richard Wolinsky.

A legend in comic book circles, an artist at a time when hardly any women drew comics, Trina Robbins discusses her latest book, a memoir, “Last Girl Standing,” which deals with her life as an artist, author, and clothing designer. She was the first woman to edit a comic book created by women, “It Ain’t Me Babe,” the first woman to draw “Wonder Woman,” and the single most influential historian chronicling the women who created comics and cartoons.

In this interview, she also talks about her other recent books including a history of women drawing comics during World War II, a graphic novel version of a short story collection originally written by her father in Yiddish, and a graphic novel based on a work by British author Sax Rohmer. Trina Robbins was clothing designer for Los Angeles rock and roll bands in the 1960s and for the Warhol factory in New York. She also was a regular contributor to “Wimmens Comix,” a series of comic books created by women from the 1970s through 1990s.

An extended version of this interview can be found as a Radio Wolinsky podcast

(11) LE GUIN QUOTES. Conext and great quotes together in “Subjectifying the Universe: Ursula K. Le Guin on Science and Poetry as Complementary Modes of Comprehending and Tending to the Natural World” at Brain Pickings.

…Marine biologist Rachel Carson, who catalyzed the modern environmental movement and pioneered a new aesthetic of poetic writing about science, once asserted that “there is in us a deeply seated response to the natural universe, which is part of our humanity.” More than half a century after Carson, Le Guin considers how poetry and science both humble us to that elemental aspect of our humanity and train us to be better stewards of the natural world to which we belong:

To use the world well, to be able to stop wasting it and our time in it, we need to relearn our being in it.

Skill in living, awareness of belonging to the world, delight in being part of the world, always tends to involve knowing our kinship as animals with animals. Darwin first gave that knowledge a scientific basis. And now, both poets and scientists are extending the rational aspect of our sense of relationship to creatures without nervous systems and to non-living beings — our fellowship as creatures with other creatures, things with other things.

(12) PROSPECT. The Ars Technica profile makes me want to see this film: “Sci-fi stunner Prospect values small stories in a galaxy far, far away”.

Make no mistake, South by Southwest conference film darling Prospect takes place within a giant, intergalactic reality. Even lower- to middle-class adventurers like our heroes, Cee (Sophie Thatcher) and Damon (Jay Duplass), have a spacecraft and mostly functional equipment. And when this just-getting-by father and daughter duo takes an unexpected crash/detour that happens to land on a resource-rich planet littered with aurelacs (a valuable stone found inside some slimy pod that must be handled with care or “kaboom!”), Cee recognizes this as an opportunity.

“$10,000?” she retorts after dad ballparks the first gem recovered. “That’s enough to cover the loan… and the pod lease?”

Their ship has been built with Kubrick-like attention for analog detail, with cheap-ish CRT displays punctuated by handwritten notes. The planet they’re now on feels dream-like, a lush swampy Dagobah with a near-constant twinkle in the atmosphere. Nothing could happen from here and Prospect would still be worth watching for an hour-and-change of ambience and aesthetic alone. But as its initial 10 minutes show, this gorgeous-looking sci-fi flick has big subjects to match its style: intergalactic travel regulations, tiers of consumer goods, interplanetary trade standards.

…”We maybe were a bit naive in the conception of this, putting the entire film on the shoulders of a teenage girl,” Chris Caldwell, Prospect co-writer/director, tells Ars. “But she killed it, and in many cases she saved our ass.”

“In another movie, you might get 12 takes, but we’re in helmets that are hard to breathe in—you get four takes,” adds Zeek Earl, co-writer/director and cinematographer. “She nailed it.”

Movie’s Facebook page: Prospect.

Also, the teaser trailer:

(13) IN THE RUNNING FOR NUMBER ONE. Andrew Liptak guarantees “Space Opera is the funniest science fiction novel I’ve read since Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” at The Verge.

Many authors attempt comedy in science fiction, but few pull it off. Alongside very funny works like John Scalzi’s Redshirts and Terry Pratchett’s entire Discworld series, the pinnacle of hilarious science fiction is Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, about the misadventures of Arthur Dent as he travels across the universe. But Catherynne M. Valente’s new novel Space Opera might give it a run for its money, because it’s one of the funniest books that I’ve ever read.

Space Opera’s title is a pun. Valente said recently that the story came out of a dare on Twitter after a conversation about Eurovision, and the novel lovingly skewers long-standing science fiction tropes, driving home humor with every single sentence. In Space Opera, humanity is living blissfully unaware of alien life, until extraterrestrials appear and invite them into an advanced intergalactic civilization. But there’s a catch: humans have to prove their sentience in a talent show called the Megagalactic Grand Prix, instituted after a galaxy-wide conflict known as The Sentience Wars. If Earth comes in dead last, humanity will be wiped out, and the biosphere reseeded so the planet can try again later.

(14) THE MARCH TO ECBATAN. Rich Horton concludes yet another Hugo finalist is good-not-great: “Hugo Ballot Review: Provenance, by Ann Leckie”.

…This new novel is set in the same universe, at roughly the same time, but outside the Radch. It is engaging and fun but frankly seems just a little thin next to the Ancillary series. There’s no crime in that – I think it’s a good thing when an author reaches the point where her readers are glad to read each of her books, and are satisfied by them – but also admit that they are not each equally as good (or progressively better). Solid and enjoyable work is nothing to sneeze at. That said, if I’m saying that, it probably means I don’t consider Provenance one of the best five or six SF novels of the year – and that’s true. But it doesn’t disgrace the award by its nomination either – and, indeed, it fits with all the nominees I’ve read so far, in being enjoyable and entertaining but not exceptional…

(15) COVERING THE MARKETPLACE. Pulp specialty website Pulps1st sells disks with galleries of old pulp covers, and other merchandise featuring cover images.

…No other company produces anything like the Pulp Image Library with thousands of pulp cover images on one disk!  No other company produces the different Pulp Image Cover T-Shirts, Mugs, Mousepads, iPad covers, or Postal Stamps.

(16) THE COOLNESS. Wish you could do this? Thread starts here:

(17) WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN. Jerry Beck introduces “Brad Bird’s Lost 1980 Pencil Test for ‘The Spirit’”.

Producer Steven Paul Leiva has posted a rare artifact to You Tube – a 1980 pencil test “trailer” for a proposed animated feature based on Will Eisner’s classic comic strip hero, The Spirit.

In 1980, Leiva became involved with Brad Bird and Gary Kurtz (producer of the first two Star Wars movies) in trying to get into production an animated feature based on The Spirit”. In a 2008 piece in the L.A. Times (read it here) Leiva spoke of a pencil test “trailer” for the proposed film, made by Bird along with several classmates from Cal Arts, most of whom were working at Disney at the time.

 

(18) HISTORY UNBOUND. Via The Verge, this news about Mercury 13:

Mercury 13

Netflix has a new documentary coming up looking at the 13 female pilots who went through spaceflight tests around the same time the first men were planning to go up to space. While the 13 pilots never made it to space, their stories speak to the difficult and overlooked work women contributed to the US space program. It comes out April 20th.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Danny Sichel, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Allen, Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Mark Hepworth, and Michael Toman. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chip Hitchcock.]

Pixel Scroll 4/12/18 But By God, Elliot, It Was A Pixel Scroll From Life!

(1) KINGFISHER. James Davis Nicoll turned the Young  People Read Old SFF panel loose on “Toad Words” by T. Kingfisher.

Young People Read Old SFF has circled back to a modern work for the final time in the phase of the project. This time the modern author is Ursula Vernon, who also publishes as T. Kingfisher. To quote her Wikipedia entry,

Digger won the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story in 2012 and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature in 2013. She won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story and the WSFA Small Press Award for Jackalope Wives in 2015. Her story “The Tomato Thief” won the 2017 Hugo Award for Best Novelette.

I’ve read a number of Vernon’s works but not, as it happens, any of those. I have read “Toad Words”, however, and it seemed an apt choice for a modern work given what the Young People have liked in the past. But I’ve been wrong before…

(2) DEADPOOL CHOW. Adweek describes how “Deadpool’s Newest Product Pitch Takes Us Inside His Dreams, Which Center on … Frozen Food?”

Brand partnerships with superhero movies are inevitable—let’s face it, most movies are superhero movies these days—but so many of them seem like an unnatural fit. Or a lazy one, at best. There’s a car chase in the movie? Let’s use that in a car commercial! Genius!

That might initially seem like the case with Deadpool’s Devour partnership. Why would Deadpool care about frozen food? Well, he doesn’t—and that’s what makes the new 30-second spot work.

 

(3) POTTER RECAP. Martin Morse Wooster watched “Harry Potter: A History of Magic” last night on the CW:

This was a BBC documentary tied to an exhibit that is currently at the British Library and will be coming to the New-York Historical Society this fall, although what I gather from the Pottermore website is that there will be two exhibits with some overlap between the British and American versions.

The special, narrated by Imelda Staunton, had several parts.  One was when actors from the movies (including Warwick Davis, Miriam Margoyles, and David Thewlis) read excerpts from the novels.  A second thread consisted of curators from the British Library showing off their magical treasures of books and stuff from their collections.  In addition, we saw some witches and eccentrics who had things to donate to the exhibit, including two gentlemen named Dusty Miller XIII and Dusty Miller XIV who said they had created 7,500 magic-filled wands from sticks they collected in the woods.  Finally, J.K. Rowling was extensively interviewed and got to look at a lot of the stuff the curators had unearhed.

Oh, and there was a lot of Harry Potter cosplay.

Rowling had done a lot of research in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, such as a seventeenth-century herbal written by the great botanist Nicholas Culpeper.  She said that she invented everything to do with wands.  She also named two sources that inspired her.  One was C.S. Lewis’s THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW, and if there are references to portals and libraries in that book those are the parts she found inspiring.  A second source came from an illustration Rowling made in1990 of Professor Sprout.  Rowling said that that night she was watching The Man Who Would Be King, a film with many Masonic symbols.  A simplified version of one masonic symbol was the source for the three-part symbol that denotes the Deathly Hallows in the novels.

Finally Rowling said, “I tied to steer clear of hallucinogenic drugs in Hogwarts.”  So if you’re writing fan fiction where Harry and the gang settle in for good times with some mushrooms, you should know that such scenes are NOT canonical.

(4) AUSTRALIAN CON SURVEY. Twelfth Planet Press publisher/editor and Galactic Suburbia cohost Alisa Krasnostein tweeted

If you’ve attended an SF con or event in Australia in the last 5 years, please consider taking this survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TCGQB82

…The purpose of this survey is to investigate the degree of harassment being experienced at our SF conventions and events.

(5) WOTF. Vajra Chandrasekera discourages participation in the Writers of the Future Contest. His thread starts here —

(6) NEW PERSPECTIVES. Bogi Takacs has started writing a column for Tor.com about “QUILTBAG+ Speculative Classics”.

…In this series of columns, I will review classics of QUILTBAG+ speculative fiction—often out of print, little-known and seldom discussed. Even novels which were acclaimed in their day are frequently ignored now, creating the false impression that all QUILTBAG+ SFF is very recent.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the term, QUILTBAG+ is a handy acronym of Queer, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Trans, Bisexual, Asexual / Aromantic / Agender, Gay and a plus sign indicating further expansion.

…On the other hand, I also don’t want to pigeonhole QUILTBAG+ writers and only show interest in their work if it is about their specific marginalization. I want to see minority writers write whatever they want. If they (we) want to write about cephalopods in space, I am all for that! Therefore I opted to include work either by QUILTBAG+ authors (where this is known) or with QUILTBAG+ themes. Often these two coincide, but not necessarily so.

A specific difficulty is whether to include people with non-Western, culturally specific gender, sex or sexuality IDs. Often these people also use at least some Western terms to self-identify, but sometimes they don’t—especially Indigenous people. If someone has expressed a desire not to be included in Western terms, both umbrella or specific terms, I will of course respect that. But in the absence of explicitly opting out, and also if the authors use Western terms, I decided on the side of inclusion. One of my motivations in this is somewhat self-serving: I also have a culturally specific gender / sex (though I am not Indigenous, specifically) and I am interested in other people who do too!

I aim to discuss a new book every two weeks. I will begin next week with The Gilda Stories, the queer Black / Indigenous vampire classic by Jewelle Gomez, and then follow with The Fortunate Fall by Raphael Carter, possibly the first SFF novel by an intersex author—which also draws a parallel between being intersex and sharing a mind with a giant whale.

(7) TRUTHINESS. Hear about “’That High Truth’: Lewis, Williams, Chesterton, and Ray Bradbury,” in this video of a lecture given at the Wade Center by Jonathan R. Eller of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies on April 9, 2018.

(8) PROGRAM IDEA. Amal El-Mohtar has a fresh angle for a panel discussion. Start the thread here:

(9) BECKETT OBIT. Alex Beckett (1982-2018): Welsh actor, death announced April 12, aged 35. His genre appearances include Spark Ark (2014), and The Aliens (two episodes, 2016).

(10) HEAR STAN LEE’S DENIAL. Io9 reports “In a New Video, Stan Lee Threatens to Sue Anyone Reporting on Claims of Alleged Elder Abuse”.

The Marvel mainstay came down with pneumonia in February and so his frequent convention appearances were understandably cut back. During this time, multiple reports emerged detailing how hundreds of thousands of dollars, and literal blood, were allegedly stolen from him. In a video sent to TMZ this week that’s copyrighted to Keya Morgan (Lee’s handler, who is currently in control of all of his communications), Lee says he’s prepared to take legal action against any and all media outlets that have reported on the claims that he’s being taken advantage of:

“Hi this is Stan Lee and I’m calling on behalf of myself and my friend Keya Morgan. Now, you people have been publishing the most hateful, harmful material about me and about my friend Keya and some others. Material which is totally incorrect, totally based on slander, totally the type of thing that I’m going to sue your ass off when I get a chance.

You have been accusing me and my friends of doing things that are so unrealistic and unbelievable that I don’t know what to say. It’s as though you suddenly have a personal vendetta against me and against the people I work with. Well I want you to know I’m going to spend every penny I have to put a stop to this and to make you sorry that you’ve suddenly gone on a one man campaign against somebody with no proof, no evidence, no anything but you’ve decided that people were mistreating me and therefore you are going to publish those articles.

I’m going to get the best and most expensive lawyers I can and I want you to know if you don’t stop these articles and publish retractions, I am going to sue your ass off.”

The subject video was reportedly sent to TMZ and is marked on their website as being copyrighted by Keya Morgan. The linked TMZ article is headlined: “STAN LEE DENIES ELDER ABUSE … Leave Me and My Friends Alone!!!” This copy is on YouTube, though who knows for how long?

(11) HUGOS AT ECBATAN. Rich Horton check off another nominated book in “Hugo Ballot Review: Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee”.

The novel is interesting reading throughout, with plenty of action (and some pretty cool battle scenes), some rather ghastly (in a good sense) comic bits, and lots of pain and angst. There is a continuing revelation of just how awful the Hexarchate is, with the only defense offered even by its supporters being “anything else would be worse”. There is genocide, lots of murders, lots of collateral damage. The resolution is well-planned and integral to the nature of this universe, with a good twist or two to boot. It’s a good strong novel that I enjoyed a lot.

(12) SERVICE TO SFF. Congratulations to 2018 Chandler Award winner Edwina Harvey! The award recognizes members of the Australian speculative fiction community, both professionals and fans.

Edwina Harvey is a worthy recipient of this year’s A. Bertram Chandler Award.  She has been an active member of Australian science-fiction fandom: writing, publishing and with her amazing artwork for 40 years.

She was one of the founding members of Astrex, the Star Trek fan club of NSW, and regularly contributed fiction to the associated fanzine Beyond Antares as well as other SF fanzines from the mid 1970s onwards. She was also an active member of The Hitchers Club of Australia (Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy Fanclub) from approximately 1984 onwards contributing to the newsletter Australian Playbeing through articles and comments and assisting with the copying and distribution of some issues of the newsletter.  Known locally as the Fund Raising Queens, Edwina has worked with Karen Auhl on organising fundraiser events for Medtrek 4, Huttcon 90 and two Sydney Worldcon bids. (Late 1980s – mid 1990s)  Edwina has been a contributing member of FOLCC (the Friends of Linda Cox Chan) which was an informal group donating monies raised to Diabetes Charities in Australia.  Linda Cox Chan was a Sydney-based SF fan artist and writer who passed away in 1991. From 2012 to the present time, Edwina has also run a lucky-dip at Australian SF conventions to raise money for FFANZ.

(13) EUROVISION IN SPACE. Learn about the author’s new novel Space Opera at Whatever: “The Big Idea: Catherynne M. Valente”.

My agent refers to it as the fastest deal in publishing. It was done and I was committed before I could catch a breath. As I was signing the contract, my fiance asked: “Does it really just say ‘Eurovision in space’? Do you actually have any idea how you’re gonna pull that off?”

“Yes, it does,” I said. “And no, I don’t.”

And I didn’t. Part of me was terrified. How the hell do you even begin to write that? I mean, you can’t play it straight. It’s too absurd. It’s obviously a comedy. Ah, but if you try to write science fiction comedy, the ghost of Douglas Adams appears and asks you with a stern expression if that’s really necessary. And even if it was a comedy, the core of Eurovision is that political darkness and artistic light. You can’t play it totally camp, either. And given the politics all around me, I wasn’t sure I was actually up to singing it out just this minute. What had I agreed to?

But the deadline approached. And I sat down at a blank screen. I laughed nervously.

And then I stopped trying to worry about whether I could do this thing at all and wrote some shit about Enrico Fermi and I was off, and off at breakneck speed.

(14) I’M HOME! Glen Weldon creates a mythic dialogue. Jump on the thread here:

(15) DIRECT FROM INTERNATIONAL FALLS. Here is Amazon Prime’s trailer advertising new episodes of Rocky and Bullwinkle. [Via io9.]

The world-famous talking moose and flying squirrel are back in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, a comedy about two goofball friends who end up in harrowing situations but end up saving the day time and again. As their silly ambitions dovetail with Fearless Leader’s sinister plans to take over the world, they are set on a collision course with his notorious super spies Boris and Natasha.

 

[Thanks to Standback, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Steve Green, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, StephenfromOttawa, Chip Hitchcock, Iphinome, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Errolwi, James Davis Nicoll, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories,. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWwombat.]

Pixel Scroll 3/19/18 Scroll Miner’s Data

(1) READ FOR LIFE. Inc. tells “Why Reading Books Should be Your Priority, According to Science”.

People who read books live longer

That’s according to Yale researchers who studied 3,635 people older than 50 and found that those who read books for 30 minutes daily lived an average of 23 months longer than nonreaders or magazine readers. Apparently, the practice of reading books creates cognitive engagement that improves lots of things, including vocabulary, thinking skills, and concentration. It also can affect empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, the sum of which helps people stay on the planet longer.

(2) SOMTOW. The Thailand Tatler covers Somtow Sucharitkul’s fundraising concern for a U.S. orchestral tour: “Siam Sinfonietta Takes To The States”.

As the local music scene continues to thrive and as Thai musicians of all ages and styles gain increasing recognition both at home and abroad, the talented youths of Siam Sinfonietta are getting ready to play at Carnegie Hall in the Big Apple for the third time this April as part of the New York International Music Festival.

Siam Sinfonietta is a scholarship orchestra that aims to provide local prodigies with the great opportunities to perform professionally, regardless of background or income. In order to ensure that all 70 musicians and orchestral staff can have a smooth tour of the States in April, Opera Siam is holding a series of fundraising events, such as a recent Star Wars-themed concert on March 15. Find out how you can still support them here.

Listen to the opening of their Star Wars marathon concert – and see his lightsaber conductor’s baton!

(3) SOCIETY PAGE. Congratulations to Catherynne Valente!

(In case it’s a bit obscure, the ultrasound pic is a clue.)

(4) ANOTHER CLUELESS ATTENDANT. Author Fran Wilde was lectured on a plane that her cane could be a weapon.

(5) BLUE MAN GROUP. Expedition 55 sets new standards in space fashion. Or as David Klaus ad libs, “Are we not Astromen? We are DEVO! Also, if you tailor those uniform coveralls to fit, you have the uniforms of the Starfleet of the NX-01 Starship Enterprise.”

(6) BRIAN ALDISS, CURMUDGEON. Kim Huett had to take a short hiatus from Doctor Strangemind which he is determined to make up with a new 3,400 word article “about a story that Brian Aldiss assures me is only 3300 words long. Still, is 3400 words too many for what Brian also assures me is the WORST SCIENCE FICTION STORY EVER!!!”

You’ll have to read the article and decide for yourselves: “Brian Aldiss & the Worst Story Ever!!!”

It is my impression that Brian Wilson Aldiss was generally considered to be a stern but fair elder statesman until he passed away in 2017. I, on the other hand, considered him to be far more curmudgeonly than that (he would never have made a passable member of the Beach Boys for example). It also my opinion that Brian Aldiss adopted his curmudgeonly persona relatively early in his career. Oh, but Doctor Strangemind I hear you all cry, Brian Aldiss was never a curmudgeon, at least not until he was old enough to carry the title with a suitable level of gravitas! Ah ha, my poor innocent audience! You have fallen into my cunningly constructed audience trap and now while you lay squirming in the metaphorical mud at the bottom of the pit of unwarranted assumption I’ll just sit here on the lip above and tell you all about how in Australian Science Fiction Review #15 (published by John Bangsund in April 1968) that young curmudgeon, Brian Aldiss, did go so far as to accuse two fellow British authors of writing as he put it the, ‘WORST SCIENCE FICTION STORY EVER!!!’ To quote from Aldiss himself:

There was one story in particular in Authentic which, ever since I read it on its first appearance in 1954, had impressed me as reaching a really impressive level of badness. To my great delight, I found on reading it again that it has grown even worse over the intervening fourteen years. I therefore would like to nominate as the worst sf story ever published:

The Lava Seas Tunnel, by F.G. Rayer and E.R. James, (Authentic SF, edited by H.J. Campbell, Vol.1, no.43, March 1954.)

(7) BUJOLD AT RIVENDELL. The Rivendell Discussion Group of the Mythopoeic Society will host Lois McMaster Bujold at its April 7 meeting in Minneapolis.

(8) NEED SHARPER HEARING? Cnet says “Spock’s ‘Star Trek III’ ear tips can be yours”.

An iconic set of pointy ears worn by Leonard Nimoy in “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” are up for auction through Lelands.com and they look pretty funky when you see them up close. You’ll notice pits and wrinkles in the flesh-colored appliances. On film, they were artfully blended with make-up to match Nimoy’s own ears.

(9) CLARKE CENTER. A bonus podcast by the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination’s associate director sharing his personal reminiscence on Stephen Hawking, who passed away on March 14, 2018. Viirre was the medical director for Hawking’s trip into weightlessness on a zero gravity flight in 2007.

Only last December, he accepted the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Lifetime Achievement (his citation and acceptance speech can be seen here), during which he said, “It is no small task to be judged as having met with what would have been Arthur’s expectations for intellectual rigor powered by imagination, insatiable curiosity, and concern for our planet and its inhabitants.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 19, 1999 Farscape premiered on Syfy.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cat Eldridge sent along xkcd’s suggestion for multiplying internet outrage.
  • Mike Kennedy sent Non Sequitur’s not exactly funny theory about a trend in closing bookstores.

(12) PRISONER COMICS. First shown on Canadian and UK TV screens in 1967, The Prisoner was co-created, written, directed and starred Patrick McGoohan (Scanners, Braveheart). Titan’s new comic series is released for the 50th Anniversary of the first US broadcast in 1968.

Titan Comics are excited to announce that they are partnering with print and poster house Vice Press to create a Diamond UK exclusive cover for The Prisoner Issue #1. This first-ever Vice Press exclusive cover for The Prisoner Issue #1 – designed by Star Wars movie concept artist, Chris Weston – is based on his original silk-screen poster created for Vice Press to mark the 50th Anniversary of The Prisoner hitting US TV screens.

Titan’s new The Prisoner comic series, licensed by ITV Studios Global Entertainment, is set in the world of The Prisoner – based on the celebrated cult TV series – from writer Peter Milligan (X-Statix, The Mummy) and artist Colin Lorimer (The Hunt, Harvest)…

“I’ve made no secret about how The Prisoner is my favourite television show of all time,” said Vice Press cover artist Chris Weston, “I have always wanted to create my own artistic tribute to The Prisoner. Fortuitously, my friends at Vice Press offered me the chance to fulfil my lifelong ambition to create a loving artistic homage, timed to coincide with the show’s 50th anniversary.”

(13) OSCAR’S LOVECHILD C3PO. Joal Ryan, in “Let’s revisit the spacy ‘Star Wars’ Oscars from 40 years ago” at Yahoo! Entertainment, has several clips from the 1978 Oscars, in which Star Wars was the only film of this series to be nominated for Best Picture and when Bob Hope, in his last time as Oscars MC, made some groaning Star Wars jokes.

Bob Hope, as he had done 17 times before, hosted the ’78 Oscars. The icon was 74, and this would be his last show as emcee. But he was as quick as ever with the lecherous gag, and the rat-tat-tat monologue that had been punched up with current events. (“1977 will be known as the year of Star Wars, which has grossed over $200 million,” one Hope line began. “That’s more than even some baseball players make.”)

(14) PLATYPUS NEWS. If you thought milking a cow was dangerous…. “Platypus milk: How it could combat superbugs”

Platypus milk could help combat one of humanity’s looming problems, antibiotic resistance, scientists say.

The weird creatures have a duck’s beak, venomous feet and are one of only two mammals able to lay eggs.

Australian scientists discovered in 2010 that the semi-aquatic animal’s milk contains a potent protein able to fight superbugs.

They’ve now identified why, and say it could lead to the creation of a new type of antibiotic.

(15) ALEXA BASHING. Paris Martineau at The Outline says “Hey Alexa, shut up”. My question is: would Paris say that if it was a man’s voice?

Why do voice assistants need to talk so much? If you’ve ever used one of Amazon’s ridiculous, yet rather addictive (I have two) Echo products, you know what I’m talking about: Whether you’re setting a timer, or asking her to play a podcast, Alexa just won’t shut the fuck up. Even when you give it a relatively simple command (like, “Alexa, set an alarm for 6 a.m.,” or “Alexa, set timer for five minutes”) it always responds with either a partial or total repetition of your phrase (“Okay, alarm set for 6 a.m. tomorrow,” or “Timer set for five minutes”), which can be more than a little annoying when it’s two in the morning and you don’t exactly want a booming robot voice waking your roommates up a wall over.

(16) DRIVING WHILE BETAZOID. From Marina Sirtis’ appearance at Dublin Comic Con last year.

Marina Sirtis (Counselor Deanna Troi) tells the hilarious story about driving the Enterprise as well as burning the bridge.

 

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, Mark Hepworth, John King Tarpinian, Danny Sichel, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, rcade, Brian Z., and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/29/18 The Man Who Scrolled The Moon

(1) PAIN FOR PLEASURE. The sheer, greedy click-seeking that fuels this kerfuffle is being paid for by the pain of the targeted family, as Foz Meadows makes clear in “A Personal Note”.

And it is an insult, regardless of Freer’s claims that he’s only saying what anyone might think. It is also uniquely hurtful – and again, I say this with no expectation that Freer himself cares for my feelings. Manifestly, he does not, and will doubtless rejoice to know that he’s upset me. Nonetheless, I am upset. I’ve tried to pretend that I’m not, but I am, and having admitted as much to myself, I feel no shame in admitting it here. Before all this, I’d never heard of Freer at all, and while I’m aware that the public nature of my life online means that I am, in a sense, accessible to strangers, there’s a great deal of difference between having someone object to my writing, and having them construct malicious falsehoods about my personal life.

In the past few days, at least one person has asked me if I’m really sure that Toby isn’t Camestros; that maybe he’s doing it all behind my back. Freer, Torgersen and Antonelli have laughed at the idea that, if Camestros isn’t Toby, then surely I must be grateful for their alerting me to the presence of a stalker-impersonator – as though they aren’t the ones rifling through my marriage in pursuit of a link that is not, was never, there.

(2) HELLBOY’S DRAWER. The Society of Illustrators presents “THE ART OF MIKE MIGNOLA: Hellboy and Other Curious Objects”, a selection of works from the comic artist and writer behind the award-winning Dark Horse Comics series Hellboy, from March 6 – April 21.

In this exhibit, the Society will feature highlights from his fan-favorite Hellboy series, as well as other spin-off titles including work from B.P.R.D., Abe Sapien, and Witchfinder. The Society is also pleased to feature samples from his award-winning comic books including the Eisner Award winner The Amazing Screw-On Head (Dark Horse Comics) as well as Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire (Bantam Spectra), co-written by best-selling author Christopher Golden. This special exhibit will include an array of comic pages, covers, and rarely seen original paintings by Mignola.

An opening reception for the exhibit will take place on Tuesday, March 6th, beginning at 6:30PM.

In addition, Mike Mignola will be a Guest of Honor at this year’s MoCCA Arts Festival. This 2-day multimedia event, Manhattan’s largest independent comics, cartoon and animation festival, draws over 8,000 attendees each year. Held on April 7 and 8, the Fest will include speaking engagements, book signings, and parties. Further scheduling for Mignola’s appearances including a panel talk and book signings will be available in future announcements.

(3) CONDENSED CREAM OF 2016. If they’re short stories, does that mean they don’t fluff up your Mt. TBR pile quite as much as book recommendations? Greg Hullender notes Rocket Stack Rank is continuing its 2016 catch-up posts:

Here’s our next-to-last article about 2016 short fiction. This one focuses on which publications were most likely to run stories that earned recommendations/awards/spots in year’s-best anthologies.

“2016 Best SF/F Short Fiction Publications”

The two tables of publication coverage are actually a very compact representation of almost all the raw data for this and the final article, which will focus on the sources of recommendations (i.e. awards, reviewers, and year’s-best anthologies).

(4) EXPANDED UNIVERSE: At Featured Futures, Jason recaps the first month of the new year, discussing some new zines and some (old) news in the January Summation.

Covering January short fiction was exciting (and busy), as Featured Futures added Analog, Ares, Asimov’s, Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, F&SF, and Galaxy’s Edge to its roster, resulting in significantly more stories read than usual (86 of 455K words) and a similarly larger than usual recommended/mentioned list. In webzine news, and speaking of Galaxy’s Edge, I was going to add coverage of it as a print zine but, coincidentally, it returned to webzine status, once again making all its fiction available on the web. The categorized “List of Professional SF/F/H Magazines” (which doubles as a list of the markets Featured Futures covers as well as being a sort of index of reviews) has been updated to reflect this.

(5) TOWARDS CANONISATION. The advocates of sainthood for J.R.R. Tolkien are calling for support of preliminary events, as well as the planned Tolkien Canonisaton Conference:

Please pray for the following intentions and dates for the upcoming Tolkien year in the lead up to the Tolkien Canonisation Conference in September 2018 in Oxford:…

  • Saturday 17th March – St Patrick’s Day Ceilidh Fundraiser 2018: raising funds for the Tolkien Canonisation Conference.
  • Friday April 13th – (provisional) Lecture on the Theology of the Body and J. R. R. Tolkien in London.
  • Saturday 1st September – Sunday 2nd September 2018 : Tolkien Canonisation Conference in Oxford.

(6) CHANGE AT TOR BOOKS. Publisher’s Lunch reports —

Liz Gorinsky is leaving her position as a senior editor at Tor Books on February 2. She will continue to handle some of her authors as a consulting editor at Tor and edit short fiction at Tor.com.

Gorinsky tweeted –

Catherynne M. Valente added –

(7) ROBERTS’ RECS. A thread by Adam Roberts is aimed at BSFA Award nominators but is interesting for everyone. Starts here —

(8) STORY SCRAPING AT LOCUS. Locus Online miraculously noticed the 2018 Darrell Award finalists today, one day after File 770 reported the story. Since Mark Kelly stopped doing the news posting there, Locus Online has become especially active scraping stories from File 770 without acknowledging where they got them. A little “hat tip” would be appropriate and appreciated.

(9) SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL PLANET. It’s time for any book blogger, podcaster, or “booktuber” to nominate for the 2017 Planetary Awards. Click on the link to learn how to participate. The nomination deadline is February 14th, 11:59PM US Pacific time.

The Puppy-influenced Planetary Awards were given for the first time two years ago.  The inaugural awards for 2015 work were posted in May 2016 –

  • Best Novel: Torchship by Karl Gallagher
  • Best Short Story: “Something in the Water” by C.S. Boyack

The awards for 2016 work were posted in May 2017 –

  • Best Novel: Swan Knight’s Son by John C. Wright
  • Best Short Story: “Athan and the Priestess” by Schuyler Hernstrom

The awards are administered by the Planetary Defense Commander, whose identity is findable with a little effort, but there’s no harm in having a handle, right Lou Antonelli? (Wait, maybe I should ask somebody else…)

(10) MORE ON MORT. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna has an appreciation of the late Mort Walker, who he interviewed in 2010 and 2013: “‘Beetle Bailey’ creator Mort Walker, 94, created laughter ‘nearly every day of his life’”.  Cavna notes that Walker was around so long that Beetle Bailey was personally greenlit by William Randolph Hearst, and notes Walker’s efforts to create the Reuben Award and bring in more women into the cartooning field.

He was drafted into the Army Air Corps during World War II, but within the world of Walker, even that sometimes turned comically absurd. He spent time at Camp Crowder, which he said inspired “Beetle Bailey’s” Camp Swampy. “I signed up to go into psychiatry,” he told me in 2013 of the Army’s specialized training program, “and I ended up studying engineering. It was typical Army reasoning.”

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 29, 1845 — Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven,” is published on this day in the New York Evening Mirror.
  • January 29, 1964 Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb premiered.

(12) VOTING BOOTH ABOUT TO OPEN. The official Hugo Awards website announced “2018/1943 Hugo Award Nominations Opening Soon”. (Date not specified.)

Worldcon 76 San Jose advises us that they will open nominations for the 2018 Hugo Awards and 1943 Retrospective Hugo Awards within the next few days. They have been working with Worldcon 75 Helsinki and Worldcon 2018 Dublin to coordinate the combined membership information from all three Worldcons, and to do so within the limitations of the three countries’ data-protection laws. When testing of the online nomination form is complete, Worldcon 76 San Jose will release it on the Worldcon 76 web site and make an announcement. We’ll also announce the start of nominations here on The Hugo Awards web site. Paper ballots will also be distributed with Worldcon 76 Progress Report 2, which we understand is going to press in a few days and should mail to members of Worldcon 76 in February. Besides the online form, a PDF of the paper form will be available from Worldcon 76’s web site when it is ready for release.

(13) FAN HUGOS. Rich Horton, in “First Hugo Recommendations: Dramatic Presentation, Fan Writer, Fanzine”, is among the first to blog about prospective 2018 fan Hugo nominees. (Horton also covers the Dramatic Presentation – Long Form category.)

Best Fan Writer

The two fan writers I want to promote the most this year are a couple I mentioned last year as well: John Boston and John O’Neill. John Boston’s most publicly available recent stuff is at Galactic Journey, where he reviews issues of Amazing from 55 years ago, month by month. (It will be noted, perhaps, that I also review issues of Amazing from the same period, at Black Gate.) John’s work there is linked by this tag: http://galacticjourney.org/tag/john-boston/.

As for John O’Neill, of course his central contribution is as editor of Black Gate, for which he writes a great deal of the content, often about “vintage” books he’s found on Ebay or at conventions, and also about upcoming fantasy books….

Best Fanzine

As I did last year, I plan to nominate Black Gate, Galactic Journey, and Rocket Stack Rank for the Best Fanzine Hugo. I’m particularly partial in this context to Black Gate, primarily of course because I have been a contributor since the print days (issue #2 and most of the subsequent issues)….

I heartily agree with Horton’s interest in finding other fan publications than File 770 to put up for the Hugo (though he does have kind words for this site). It seemed a good opportunity to say so here.

(14) REAR VIEW MIRROR. Meanwhile, DB makes a start on the “Retro-Hugos for 1942” with a canvass of his favorite writers.

…Now for Lord Dunsany. In 1942 Dunsany published five stories, all very brief, and about a dozen poems, mostly in Punch. Most of the poems are hopeful gazes towards military victory, and a couple of them introduce the allegorical figure of Liberty, so they could technically be considered fantasy.

None of the stories are SF or fantasy, though the only one of them that’s worth reading could possibly squeeze in by courtesy. It’s a Jorkens story reprinted in The Fourth Book of Jorkens (1947), where it’s the shortest piece in the book. Jorkens is Dunsany’s long-running clubman character who’s prone to making outrageous claims or telling absurd stories which nobody can disprove. In this brief tale, “On the Other Side of the Sun,” that topic comes up – “I wonder what’s there?” – and Jorkens astonishes all by stating, “I have been there.” His regular patsy, Terbut, demands “When, may I ask?” At Jorkens’ reply, “Six months ago,” any red-blooded SF reader should know instantly how the story is going to end, but the penny doesn’t drop for the hapless Terbut until after he makes a large bet that Jorkens is lying…

(15) RETRO FANZINES. While Fanac.org marshals digital copies of 1942 fanzines in support of Worldcon 76’s Retro-Hugos, Robert Lichtman and Bill Burns have tracked down additional fanzines published in 1942 by Bob Tucker available elsewhere online – specifically, at the Internet Archive, which has scans of Tucker’s zine Le Zombie. Four 1942 are issues listed.

(16) SAVED FROM THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR. WIRED Magazine’s “Cantina Talk: Finally, a Complete Guide to All of The Last Jedi’s Easter Eggs” not only covers the story in the title, but this even more compelling news —

The Last Jedi Adds Some More Material (But Not Onscreen)

The Source: An official announcement from Lucasfilm

Probability of Accuracy: It’s totally legit.

The Real Deal: So apparently, there was more to Star Wars: The Last Jedi than appeared onscreen—but fortunately for fans, it’s not going to remain a secret. Writer/director Rian Johnson is working with novelist Jason Fry to create all-new scenes for the book’s forthcoming novelization, as well as rescuing deleted scenes from the cutting room floor, to firmly place them in the canon. Amongst the things audiences didn’t see in theaters but will read about: Han Solo’s funeral. Prepare your tissues for March 6; you’ll get to read all about it then.

(17) FUTURE IMAGINED. BBC interview with 2016 Hugo winner — “Hao Jingfang: China’s award-winning science fiction writer” (video).

She tells the BBC a lot of her stories originate from thought experiments, and her latest novel imagines “a dark possibility for the future” where robots have replaced human’s jobs.

(18) THE MARKETPLACE OF THE INTERNET.  Kim Huett sent a link to “Boring Talks #02 – Book Pricing Algorithms” with a comment: “Those of you into buying books online (assuming some of you indeed are) might like to listen to the following cautionary tale brought to us by BBC radio. It will confirm everything you ever suspected about the practise…”

A book for $1.7 million? To a computer, it made sense. Sort of. Tracy King explains.

(19) WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY A GAME? If you play poker you may be interested in a new infographic, “Poker & AI: The Raise of Machines Against Humans”. It details insights and research about the evolution of poker-playing artificial intelligence.

But what about the poker industry? Surely there must be an AI capable of playing poker at high levels. The answer is yes, there is. This infographic will show you how the poker’s AI developed throughout the history, as well as where it is now. You can find a lot of interesting stats and information in this infographic, but if you are interested in reading more about poker related stuff, visit our website.

(20) WHERE THE BOYS ARE. This belongs in Connie Willis’ next satirical speech about things science fiction predicted (none of which ever were) — “U.S. soldiers are revealing sensitive and dangerous information by jogging”.

Strava says it has 27 million users around the world, including people who own widely available fitness devices such as Fitbit and Jawbone, as well as people who directly subscribe to its mobile app. The map is not live — rather, it shows a pattern of accumulated activity between 2015 and September 2017.

Most parts of the United States and Europe, where millions of people use some type of fitness tracker, show up on the map as blazes of light because there is so much activity.

In war zones and deserts in countries such as Iraq and Syria, the heat map becomes almost entirely dark — except for scattered pinpricks of activity. Zooming in on those areas brings into focus the locations and outlines of known U.S. military bases, as well as of other unknown and potentially sensitive sites — presumably because American soldiers and other personnel are using fitness trackers as they move around.

Not just men, of course, but it made a good headline.

(21) OH NOES! Just think what a career he might have had, if he hadn’t been muted by the Guild!

(22) DISCOVERY SPOILERS. There, that should be enough warning about — “‘Star Trek: Discovery’: Jason Isaacs Apologizes for Lying, Admits to Feeling Like a ‘Drunken Hippo’ When Fighting Michelle Yeoh”.

“I’ve done nothing but lie since September,” he said to IndieWire. “I knew, perfectly well, everything before we started. And that meant that every interview was a lie and every conversation I had with my friends… Actually, with quite a lot of my family, was a lie. Anybody on the street was a lie. Anybody in Toronto. So I apologize for all that, but that was the only way to tell the story well.”

(23) PEJORATIVE’S PROGRESS. Inverse’s Ryan Britt looks back on “How the Word “Terran” Became a Sci-Fi Slur”.

In the Mirror Universe of Star Trek, humans aren’t called humans. They’re called “Terrans.” The word “Terran” comes from the root Latin word “terra,” meaning “dry earth,” which is where we get the phrase “terra firma.” But the word “Terran” has been prevalent in science fiction long before it cropped up again on Star Trek: Discovery in 2018. As it turns out “Terran” has a long history of being a dirty word for “human.”

(24) BLACK PANTHER. Marvel Studios’ Black Panther – “Let’s Go” TV spot.

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