Pixel Scroll 3/15/19 Pixelflay Hraka, Scroll Embleer Rah!

(1) THE NEW NUMBER TWO. Future Science Fiction Digest’s second issue was released today. The contents are available for immediate purchase, or you can read the stories when they become available as free reads on the site between now and May 15.

From the time of the dinosaurs to the heat death of the universe, from thinking and feeling androids to human consciousness spanning multiple bodies, from cats on the Moon to alien salad dressing that makes plastic digestible and delicious, these tales have something for everyone.

Table of contents

  • “Tideline Treasures, or Growing Up Along the Mile-High Dyke” by Tais Teng and Jaap Boekestein
  • “The Roost of Ash and Fire” by David Walton
  • “The Lord of Rivers” by Wanxiang Fengnian (translated by Nathan Faries)
  • “No Body Enough” by Dantzel Cherry
  • “An Actual Fish” by Natalia Theodoridou
  • “The Peculiar Gravity of Home” by Beth Cato
  • “The Zest for Life” by N. R. M. Roshak
  • “The Token” by Mike Resnick
  • “To Save a Human” by Svyatoslav Loginov (translated by Max Hrabrov)

Future Science Fiction Digest, edited by Alex Shvartsman, is a collaboration between Future Affairs Administration and UFO Publishing.

(2) OOPS REPAIR. “Marvel Fixes ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Poster Snubbing Danai Gurira After Fan Backlash”Yahoo! covers the kerfuffle:

Nothing — not spoilers, Easter eggs or even mistakes — gets past eagle-eyed Marvel fans.

When the new trailer and poster for the highly anticipated “Avengers: Endgamearrived on Thursday, superhero devotees pored over every last detail only to discover a glaring omission. 

The top credits feature every actor on the poster, including Josh Brolin who plays big bad Thanos and Bradley Cooper who voices a souped-up raccoon, except actress Danai Gurira.

(3) COPING STRATEGY. At Ink and Bourbon, Patrick LeClerc offers his advice for surviving a bad review: “Everybody Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Mouth”.

…It’s going to happen. If you put your work out there, it’s going to get reviewed, and some people aren’t going to like it. We may love the good reviews, and I’ve been very fortunate that most of mine have been positive, but sooner or later, somebody’s gonna land a glove on you.

So how do you take it?

Ideally, you need to do three things. Most people don’t. Many people can get through one or maybe two. But to be great, you need to do all three.

First of all, you need to get back up.

These things happen. And they hurt and they suck, but it’s part of the game. It’s a part that you agreed to, tacitly at least, when you put your work out there. It’s not unfair. It hurts, because when we write, we basically stand naked on a stage, and that’s a very vulnerable place to be. But you decided to be there. So the first test is: Can you get back up? Can you write another book?

(4) SEMIOTIC BAGGAGE. Christopher Maverick’s post “Call For Comments: The (super)Power of Fashion and Symbols” at Vox Populorum follows this excerpt with analysis of the reaction to Alt-Hero comics. (The coincidental resemblance of the blog’s name to that of Vox Day’s appears to involve nothing more than taking inspiration from the same Latin term.)

…One of the most interesting thing about communication through symbols is that the meaning inherent in them isn’t just built by the person using the symbol. It has as much to do with the person viewing the symbol as well. I once got into a political argument with a cop on Facebook about #BlackLivesMatter vs. #BlueLivesMatter where he was trying to argue that cops don’t disproportionately kill black men and that they needed to have the discretion to discharge their weapons whenever they felt their safety was threatened. My counterargument was that it was hard to take his sense of professional discretion even remotely seriously when he had chosen a #BlueLivesMatter Punisher logo as his Facebook avatar, because no matter what he says, it’s always going to come across as “and also, I want to set myself up as judges jury and executioner, because I like to kill people for funsies!” He tried defend the icon by saying that it just meant that he was a fan of the character and implied nothing about his personal values. I retorted that it implied EVERYTHING about his personal values, because that is the image that he has chosen to announce himself and associate his identity with and therefore he bears all the semiotic baggage associated with it by anyone who comes into contact with him and sees it. Also, I’m kind of a dick….

(5) WEARIN’ O’THE GREEN. Speaking of semiotic baggage, the Beverly Cinema in LA made a fascinating decision to pair these two films on a St. Patrick’s Day double bill.

(6) NOT A CLOSE ADAPTATION. BBC’s Nicholas Barber asks “Is Jodorowsky’s Dune the greatest film never made?”

…As bamboozling as they were, El Topo and The Holy Mountain were so profitable that a French producer, Michel Seydoux, contacted Jodorowsky in 1974 and offered to fund whichever film he fancied making next. Jodorowsky chose a science-fiction novel, Dune. When Seydoux agreed, Jodorowsky realised that he’d now have to sit down and read it.

Published in 1965, Herbert’s novel chronicles the battle for control of a desert planet called Arrakis – or Dune. Its teenage hero, Paul Atreides, leads armies and rides giant worms, and so, in the days before digital effects, putting Herbert’s sprawling interstellar saga on screen would have been a colossal feat. But Jodorowsky didn’t just want to adapt a book, he wanted to “change the public’s perceptions… change the young minds of all the world”. He wouldn’t be making a mere film, he recalls in a 2014 documentary, Jodorowsky’s Dune. He’d be making an “artistical, cinematographical god”.

This grandly mystical tone was typical of the project. Seydoux rented a castle for Jodorowsky to write in, and when his screenplay was finished, the auteur set about recruiting collaborators – or, as he put it, fellow ‘spiritual warriors’. The first of these was Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud, one of France’s most acclaimed comic artists. Working at what Jodorowsky has called a ‘superhuman’ pace, Giraud broke down the entire film into a storyboard of 3000 drawings. He began with a long, unbroken shot inspired by the opening of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil, the difference being that the camera doesn’t just rove around a town, it crosses the universe. And he ended with pictures of Paul being murdered and then transforming into a sentient planet, before flying off to spread good vibes throughout the galaxy. Needless to say, none of this happens in Herbert’s novel….

(7) WALKING CARPET WEAVER. Michael Heilemann seeks the real origin story of “Chewbacca” at Kitbashed. Did Ralph McQuarrie or John Schoenherr have more to do with the character’s look? You decide!

The creation of Star Wars is a comprehensive mythology onto itself, populated by rarely documented anecdotes, like how The Millenium Falcon was inspired by a hamburger, with the cockpit being an olive off to the side” [1] (took me years, but I finally disproved that one) or “My original inspiration for Chewbacca was my dog Indiana.” [2], compelling enough to be repeated until they’re so prevalent that they must be true, and are accepted even by hardcore fans and Lucasfilm itself. Unfortunately sometimes they’re embellished truths or half-truths, sometimes entirely false and in pretty much all cases oversimplifying a truly interesting, and luckily exceptionally well documented creative process….

But while the official sources are often great, compiling from many different sources to dispel myths about Boba Fett’s ship, Slave 1 or tell in staggering detail the creation of the film from beginning till end as in the case of books like The Making of Star Wars, there are still plenty of dim, and in some cases even seemingly purposefully blacked out areas in the development of Star Wars.

The story of how Chewbacca came to be is one of these. A fascinating look at what happens in the space between idea, page and screen….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 15, 1935 Judd Hirsch, 84. Best known in genre circles for playing Julius Levinson on Independence Day and Independence Day: Resurgence. Other than anappearance on Warehouse 13 in the amazing “Secret Santa” episode as Isadore Weisfelt, he’s done virtually no genre acting other than a cameo on The Muppets and The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t where he was Count Dracula.
  • Born March 15, 1939 Joseph D. Olander, 80. Anthologists aiming for works that we’re to be, I’d guess, within the University market in the Eighties, as American Government Through Science Fiction  co-authored with Martin H. Greenberg and Patricia S. Warrick, or Run to Starlight, Sports Through Science Fiction, with the same co-authors.
  • Born March 15, 1943 David Cronenberg, 75. In him, there’s something to make anyone horrified from such as Scanners and Videodrome to the later Existenz. Me I’ll take The Fly for pure grossness. 
  • Born March 15, 1946 Chris Morris, 73. First genre writing was in the exemplary Thieves’ World shared universe, such as “What Women Do Best” with Janet Morris, and “Red Light, Love Light”.  He’s also written in the Merovingen Nights, Heroes in Hell and Sacred Band of Stepsons saga series.
  • Born March 15, 1967 Isa Dick Hackett, 52. An Amazon producer and writer for and helped produce The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, and The Adjustment Bureau, all of which are based as you know on works by her father. 
  • Born March 15, 1985 Kellan Lutz, 34. He’s best known for playing Emmett Cullen in the Twilight Saga franchise. He has since played Poseidon in Immortals, Tarzan in the animated film of the same name and Hercules in The Legend of Hercules. He also was Ridley in the Chinese fantasy Guardians of the Tomb, and appeared in A Nightmare on Elm Street as Dean Russell. 
  • Born March 15, 1986 Jai Courtney, 33. He portrayed hero Kyle Reese in Terminator Genisys and villain Captain Boomerang in Suicide Squad. Other genre roles portraying Eric in Divergent and in the sequel, Insurgent. He was Macbeth in a 2017 production of the Scottish Play at Melbourne Theatre Company. 

(9) HE’S BACK. Deadline can only report it happened, they can’t explain why: “Disney Reinstates Director James Gunn For ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy 3’”.

…The decision to rehire Gunn –he was fired last July by Disney after alt-right journalists made public a fusillade of decade old social media missives that made light of pedophilia and rape — was one that was mulled and actually made months ago, following conversations with Disney studio leadership and the team at Marvel Studios. Why the change of heart? After the firing, Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn met with Gunn on multiple occasions to discuss the situation. Persuaded by Gunn’s public apology and his handling of the situation after, Horn decided to reverse course and reinstate Gunn.

… There will be an inevitable chorus of those who will gripe about Gunn’s return, but creatively, Guardians will benefit from his return. The entire cast of the film was outspoken in its desire to have Gunn back, saying that those satiric tweets did not match his personal actions.

(10) A DIFFERENT WAY. Charlie Jane Anders salutes “The Left Hand of Darkness at Fifty” in The Paris Review.

When I first read The Left Hand of Darkness, it struck me as a guidebook to a place I desperately wanted to visit but had never known how to reach. This novel showed me a reality where storytelling could help me question the ideas about gender and sexuality that had been handed down to all of us, take-it-or-leave-it style, from childhood. But also, Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic novel felt like an invitation to a different kind of storytelling, one based on understanding the inner workings of societies as well as individual people.

Of course, The Left Hand of Darkness is literally a guidebook to the fictional world of Gethen, also known as Winter. The book takes the form of a travelogue, roaming around the nations of Karhide and Orgoreyn. And by the time you finish reading, you might actually feel like you’ve been to these places, to the point where you kind of know what their food tastes like and how the people act. But for me, and for a lot of other people, The Left Hand of Darkness also left us with a map that leads to another way of telling stories.

(11) SIGNED UP FOR THE DURATION. Gary Tognetti kicks off a collection of “Novel Reviews – March 2019” at The 1000 Year Plan with a look at Elizabeth Bear’s new novel. Other authors reviewed: Zen Cho, John Scalzi, Brad Torgersen, and Brian Trent.

…An early moment in Elizabeth Bear’s expansive new space opera Ancestral Night has narrator Haimey Dz offer a meta-commentary on the ancient, 19th century novels she reads during the long hours spent drifting through space: “They’re great for space travel because they were designed for people with time on their hands. Middlemarch. Gorgeous, but it just goes on and on.” Ancestral Night is a busy and boisterous novel, complex and beautifully composed, but also with a tendency to labor its points.

(12) TEMPORARILY HAPPY. Paul Weimer finds things to admire about this romance space opera novel — “Microreview [book]: Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik” at Nerds of a Feather.

The novel does play the genre conventions of romance more than it does the conventions of science fiction. The plot and character beats fall into a relatively conventional pattern, but they are well executed and they mesh well with both the characters and the space opera universe. Readers who come to the novel for the romance plotline between Ada and Loch should be well satisfied with the storyline. Since this is a first novel set in a greater universe, I suspect this would be classified as a HFN (Happy for now) rather than strictly a HEA (Happily ever after) conclusion.

(13) PAPA REPLACEMENT THEORY. BBC reports on science showing an “Ancient migration transformed Spain’s DNA”.

A migration from Central Europe transformed the genetic make-up of people in Spain during the Bronze Age, a study reveals.

DNA evidence shows the migrants streamed over the Pyrenees, replacing existing male lineages across the region within a space of 400 years.

It remains unclear whether violence played a role or whether a male-centric social structure was more important.

The result comes from the most extensive study of its kind.

Researchers reconstructed the population history of Iberia (modern Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar and Andorra) over 8,000 years – the biggest slice of time tackled by a single ancient DNA study. The region has been a crossroads for different cultures over time.

(14) SSTO? Prepare to launch: “UK’s air-breathing rocket engine set for key tests”.

The UK project to develop a hypersonic engine that could take a plane from London to Sydney in about four hours is set for a key demonstration.

The Sabre engine is part jet, part rocket, and relies on a novel pre-cooler heat-exchanger technology.

This pre-cooler system will begin a new phase of testing in the next month or so in Colorado, US.

Meanwhile, the core part of the engine has just gone through its preliminary design review.

Signed off by experts at the European Space Agency, the review sets the stage for this central section of Sabre to begin its own demonstration campaign at Wescott Space Cluster in Buckinghamshire next year.

The company behind the project, Reaction Engines Ltd (REL), says it is making good progress.

Not only would Sabre power units enable rapid, point-to-point transport inside the atmosphere, but they would also allow reusable vehicles to make the jump straight to orbit without the need for multiple propellant stages – as is the case now with conventional rockets.

(15) ARE WE THERE YET? They’re on the way: “Astronauts who survived Soyuz breakdown blast off to ISS”.

Two astronauts who survived a failed Soyuz launch last year are now on their way to the International Space Station.

Nasa’s Nick Hague and his Russian colleague Alexey Ovchinin were on the rocket when it malfunctioned in mid-air on 11 October.

The two men are now flying with US astronaut Christina Koch after a successful lift-off from the Russian Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The Soyuz MS-12 launched at 01:14 on Friday local time (19:14 GMT Thursday).

This is Mr Hague and Mr Ovchinin’s first flight since the aborted launch last October.

That time, the rocket was forced to make an emergency landing two minutes after take-off because a sensor had been damaged while it was being built.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/28/19 Submitted For Your Pixelation

(1) HOW TO AVOID MUSHROOM-SHAPED CLOUDS. Charlie Jane Anders argues in the Washington Post that, with the likelihood of “devastating nuclear conflict” starting to rise, popular culture creators should deal with the possibility of atomic attack in the tradition of Wargames, The Terminator, and Dr. Strangelove: “Pop culture is no longer full of apocalyptic nuclear visions. That’s too bad.”

Let’s hope pop culture starts to warn us once again. Pfeiffer says the challenge of talking about the risk of nuclear holocaust is to raise enough awareness to galvanize people to take small, constructive steps — but not so much that people become paralyzed with anxiety over the enormity of the threat.

The good news is, fictional portrayals of nuclear conflagration don’t have to rehash the same old story lines; it’s no longer just a matter of the United States and the Soviet Union staring each other down. And it’s not merely rogue states that pose a risk, either. There are many ways a possible misunderstanding, including one induced by a rogue hacker, could lead to a nuclear strike.

(2) FLASH CROWD DEPARTS. Books Beyond Binaries chronicles the sudden meltdown of a Book Riot paid subscription group in “Book Riot Breakup/down”.

… The forum was a Slack (see how Slack works), hosted on the free version of the platform, and capped at 275 Epic subscribers, plus the Book Riot staff, and some contributors. Separate Slacks exist that are exclusively for Book Riot contributors, and for staff only. The Slack was active, and many Epic subscribers joined specifically for access to that exclusive community…

On February 12, 2019, a new platform-wide Book Riot policy was announced by a moderator in the General channel of the BRI Slack. At the time that the announcement was made, there were 397 members in the channel, which had the description, “mayhem and anarchy”. One section of the new policy was specifically highlighted by the mod: going forward, no generalizations made about any group of people would be tolerated in the “public” channels on the Slack – that is those spaces open to all paid Epic subscribers. The examples of “groups of people” that were given were specifically “men”, and “Republicans”. As soon as the announcement was made, the moderators began to delete custom emoji that users had created in the forum, including one that read, “WHY ARE MEN”.

…On February 20th, at 2:30 PM, an Email went out to Insiders, the subject line of which read, “An Epic Announcement.” The same message was posted to the General channel of the BRI Slack. The full message can be read here. The announcement was that the Epic Insiders Slack – the only interactive element of the “exclusive digital hangout for the Book Riot community” – was being shut down on Friday, February 22nd, 2019, at 5 PM. Ten days after the announcement of a violent and oppressive policy, the company doubled down again. Rather than learning from the feedback of their financial supporters and engaged community members, they chose to delete the space they had created for them, and any record of what they had chosen to do….

(3) SCHAUDENFREUDE? Reason says that Kosoko Jackson participated in the Twitter takedown of Amélie Zhao, but now YA Twitter has found his own book fatally lacking: “He Was Part of a Twitter Mob That Attacked Young Adult Novelists. Then It Turned on Him. Now His Book Is Cancelled.”

Until recently, Kosoko Jackson’s website described him as “a vocal champion of diversity in YA [young adult] literature, the author of YA novels featuring African American queer protagonists, and a sensitivity reader for Big Five Publishers.” Jackson is black and gay—this matters here, a lot—and was preparing for the release of his debut young adult novel, A Place for Wolves, an adventure-romance between two young men set against the backdrop of the Kosovo War. “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe meets Code Name Verity in this heartbreaking and poignant story of survival,” read the publicity materials. The book [was] slated for release on March 26.

… “Young-adult books are being targeted in intense social media callouts, draggings, and pile-ons—sometimes before anybody’s even read them,” Vulture‘s Kat Rosenfield wrote in the definitive must-read piece on this strange and angry internet community. The call-outs, draggings, and pile-ons almost always involve claims that books are insensitive with regard to their treatment of some marginalized group, and the specific charges, as Rosenfield showed convincingly, often don’t seem to warrant the blowups they spark—when they make any sense at all.

But surely Jackson, an enforcer of social justice norms and a gay black man writing about gay black protagonist should have been safe, right?

Instead, it all came crashing down quite quickly. As with any internet outrage, it’s hard to know exactly what sparked it, but a major turning point came in the form of a quote-retweet. “HEY HOW ABOUT WE DONT PROMOTE OR SUPPORT BOOKS ABOUT A ROMANCE BETWEEN AND THE VICTIMIZATION OF 2 AMERICANS, SET DURING A REAL LIFE HISTORICAL GENOCIDE WHERE THE VILLAIN IS PART OF THE DEMOGRAPHIC THAT WAS ETHNICALLY CLEANSED,” read the tweet, which was published on February 25 and which, as of when I screencapped it, had 164 retweets—a sizable number for YA Twitter, which generally consists of relatively low-follower accounts.

… Part of what makes this story so interesting is that Kosoko himself has been on the other side of these online attacks on authors.

He was outspoken during a particularly intense recent example, when a campaign based on misunderstanding and exaggeration led the author Amélie Zhao to take the unusual step of agreeing to cancel the publication of Blood Heir, her hotly anticipated debut novel, which was set to be the first in a trilogy….

(4) THE BREW THAT IS TRUE. Delish advises “This Game of Thrones Beer Is The Only Thing You Should Be Drinking At Your Premiere Party”.

Season after season, Brewery Ommegang has dropped their Game of Thrones-themed beer, because how else would we have survived the emotional turmoil of Khal Drogo’s death? (Personally coping with the Cersei-inspired Sour Blonde, how ’bout you?) Now the brewing co. that brought us Hand of the Queen Ale and Mother of Dragons Porter is releasing For The Throne—and it’s coming just in time for your premiere party.

(5) SO YOU WANT A NEBULA? Jim C. Hines guides writers through the rocks and shoals of sff’s top two awards in “How to Get Nominated For a Nebula or Hugo”. Here’s an extract –

Logrolling/Vote-Swapping

“Psst. Hey, buddy — I’ll nominate your book for the Nebula if you nominate mine!”

It happens. I don’t think it happens as much as it used to, though I don’t have hard data one way or the other.

It’s also, in my opinion, pretty dickish. This approach may get you some extra nominations. It will also quickly get you a reputation as That Author, the one who doesn’t give a damn about whether or not a book is any good, and just wants to cheat their way onto the ballot.

Technically, it may not be cheating — but while this approach might not violate the letter of the rules, it’s pretty blatantly cheating the spirit of the thing. And it’s unlikely to win you an award.

(6) ANOTHER PROTIP. J.A. Sutherland tells how making book recommendations fits into his overall publicity strategy. Thread starts here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 28, 1913 John Coleman Burroughs.  An illustrator known for his illustrations of the works of his father, Edgar Rice Burroughs. At age 23, he was given the chance to illustrate his father’s book, The Oakdale Affair and the Rider which was published in 1937. He went on to illustrate all of  his fathers books published during the author’s lifetime — a total of over 125 illustrations. He also illustrated the John Carter Sunday newspaper strip, a David Innes of Pellucidar comic book feature and myriad Big Little Book covers. I remember the latter books — they were always to be found about the house during my childhood. (Died 1979.)
  • Born February 28, 1934 H. Bruce Franklin, 75. Academic, editor of the Future Perfect: American Science Fiction of the Nineteenth Century anthology, Robert A. Heinlein: America as Science Fiction and the sixth chapter of  Nancy R. Reagin’s Star Trek and History anthology.
  • Born February 28, 1928 Walter Tevis. Author of The Man Who Fell to Earth. Yes, that novel. It obviously served as the basis for the 1976 film by Nicolas Roeg, The Man Who Fell to Earth, with Bowie as star, as well as a later television adaptation which I’d never heard of. He also wrote Mockingbird which was nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Novel. James Sallis reviewed both novels in F&SF. (Died 1984.)
  • Born February 28, 1948 Bernadette Peters, 71. Performer, stage, film and television, so this is selected look at her. She was A Witch in Into the Woods on Broadway and reprised the role in a tv film. It is a Stephen Sondheim musical based on the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault. She’s in The Martian Chronicles as Genevieve Seltzer. She does a lot of voice acting, to wit in Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted ChristmasWakko’s WishLegends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return, Rita, a recurring role on the Animaniacs and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. The most recent genre role I see her doing is Circe on The Odyssey series several back. 
  • Born February 28, 1966 Philip Reeve,53. He is primarily known for the Mortal Engines and its sequels. Look the film is proof that an author can’t be held responsible for a shitty film. I read Mortal EnginesPredator’s Gold and Infernal Devices before deciding that was enough of that series, it’s a fine series, it just wasn’t developing enough to warrant me reading any more of it.
  • Born February 28, 1957 John Barnes, 62. I read and like the four novels in his Thousand Cultures series which are a sort of updated Heinleinian take on the spread of humanity across the Galaxy. What else by him do y’all like?
  • Born February 28, 1969 Murray Gold, 50. English composer who is best known as the musical director and composer for Doctor Who from 2005 until he stepped down after the tenth series aired. He also composed the music for The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood as well.
  • Born February 28, 1970 Lemony Snicket, 49. He’s the author of several children’s books, also serving as the narrator of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Though I’ve read the books, they’re very popular I’m told at my local bookstore. It has been turned into a film, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and into a Netflix series as well which is named, oh you guess. 
  • Born February 28, 1977 Chris Wooding, 42. If you read nothing else by him, do read the four novel series that is the steampunkish Tales of the Ketty Jay. Simply wonderful. The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray plays off the Cthulhu Mythos that certain folk don’t think exist and does a damn fine job of doing so.

(8) TL;DR. You’ll get a kick out of the “TL;DR Wikipedia” on Instagram (or on Twitter.)

(9) SON OF STARMAN. You may recall that, when SpaceX launched Elon Musk’s personal Tesla automobile into stellar orbit, they had a spacesuit-wearing dummy—dubbed Starman—aboard. In a sort of repeat of that, SpaceX plans to put another spacesuit wearing dummy into the test capsule for Crew Dragon they are launching to the ISS this weekend. (Assuming the schedule holds this time.) Space.com has the story—”SpaceX Is Launching a Spacesuit-Clad Dummy on 1st Crew Dragon.”

Starman is about to get some off-Earth company. 

When SpaceX launches its first Crew Dragon capsule on an uncrewed test mission to the International Space Station (ISS) this Saturday (March 2), the vehicle will be carrying a passenger of sorts: a humanoid dummy wearing the company’s sleek black-and-white spacesuit. 

Such a suit also graces the inert body of Starman, the mannequin driver of the red Tesla Roadster that SpaceX launched into orbit around the sun last year on the maiden flight of the company’s Falcon Heavy rocket.

(10) OPEN IN QUESO EMERGENCY. An Israeli company’s mission to the Moon is taking a backup of Earth’s knowledge. SpaceX added a cheesy addendum to that package. (Fast Company: “Why SpaceX is helping Austin, Texas, send a queso recipe to the moon”.)

When SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off last week, it carried an Israeli-made moonshot, The Lunar Library, and a letter offering aliens unlimited queso.

The offer was made by Austin’s mayor, Steve Adler, who wrote a letter to potential queso-loving extraterrestrials inviting them to visit (or move to) Austin, writing: “Y’all are most definitely welcome here in Austin, Texas.”

However, if a visit to the Lone Star State wasn’t in the cards, Adler also sent along a recipe from Austin’s Kerbey Lane café to make their own cheese-and-chile queso, presumably from the blue cheese that the moon is made out of. “Have you heard of queso?” Adler asks in the letter. “Have you tried it? Do it. Do it now.” If the aliens happen to prefer a plant-based diet, Kerbey Lane does offer a vegan queso option.

(11) PRACTICALLY MAGIC. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The BBC Click channel on YouTube has a story of how many of the special effects in First Man were produced (“First Man (2018) | Behind the Scenes of Neil Armstrong Biopic Movie”). They used a clever mixture of in-camera “practical” effects and now-traditional post-production digital effects. The in-camera effects were produced using a frickin’ enormous curved video wall to provide backdrops for flying scenes. Benefits of that included not having to digitally add reflections post-production and giving actors something other than a blue screen to react to doing filming. Digital effects included expanding square-formatted archival footage on each side to provide modern wide aspect-ratio film while preserving the real thing in the middle.

(12) BRITBOX. The BBC, home to Doctor Who, Blakes 7Sherlock, The Survivors, etc, are in the “concluding phase of talks” to create a rival to Netflix: “BBC and ITV set to launch Netflix rival”.

BBC director general Tony Hall said the aim was to launch “BritBox” in the UK the second half of 2019.

The price was not announced but Lord Hall said it would be “competitive”.

ITV’s chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall said it would be home for the “best of British creativity”.

There are reports it could cost £5 a month.  BBC I-Player is already the second most popular streaming service in the British Isles after Netflix.

(13) MEJIA’S FIRST NOVEL. NPR’s Caitlyn Paxson says “‘We Set The Dark On Fire’ Burns Bright”.

Tehlor Kay Mejia’s debut novel We Set the Dark on Fire aims to burn it all down.

Daniela is graduating at the top of her class at the Medio School for Girls, an elite institution that trains girls to be wives. Divided into two groups — Primeras and Segundas, Dani and her classmates know that they will be offered in pairs to the rich young men whose families can afford to pay their dowries. Primeras like Dani are preparing to be skilled life-partners and social managers, while Segundas, like her nemesis Carmen, are destined to be objects of beauty and desire and bear children.

When Dani is chosen as Primera for the son of Medio’s chief military strategist — who is rumored to be next in line for the presidency — she is fulfilling the destiny that she and her family have sacrificed so much to obtain. But instead of being elated, Dani is filled with dread. Two days before graduation, her deepest secret almost comes out: She was born on the wrong side of the wall that protects Medio from society’s poor and disenfranchised, and was smuggled across illegally as a child. A resistance group saves her from discovery, but in exchange, they want her to spy on her new husband….

(14) THE PULPS. Episode 28 of Colin Reid’s Words To That Effect is “Pulp Fiction (Amazing Stories of the Sisters of Tomorrow)”. There’s a transcript on the site, too. Reid knows how to get people’s attention. Don’t start throwing things before you get to the end…

If you want to understand how we ended up with anything from Star Wars to Star Trek, Superman to Batman, intergalactic travel to microscopic worlds, profound meditations on the nature of being human to thrilling tales about Martian princesses, you have to look at pulp fiction magazines.

Argosy, Blue Book, Adventure, Black Mask, Horror Stories, Flying Aces…there was a lot of it. The 1920s and 30s was the age of pulp fiction magazines, the time when genres truly became genres. Science fiction, detective stories, war stories, horror, westerns, fantasy. Everything. All those categories that we use to divide up fiction and film and TV came together in the pulps at this time.

But what I want to do in this episode in particular is to look at some of the commonly held ideas about pulp fiction magazines, and about science fiction more particularly. So here are a few things that we all know:

1: Science fiction was, and continues to be, mostly consumed by men
2: Science fiction is, for the most part, aimed at 12-year-old boys
3: There were very few women writers of science fiction between Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the new feminist sf of the 60s and 70s
4: Those few women who did write SF were forced to write under male or androgynous pseudonyms in order to make it in an utterly male-dominated industry

So you can probably guess where I’m going with. Yes, all of these are myths. They’re ideas that are completely, demonstrably false. This week Professor Lisa Yaszek joins me to discuss the history of the pulp fiction magazines and the many myths around early women’s science fiction….

(15) I SING THE BODY ELECTRIC. A new concept in hi-fi, and SYFY Wire has the news: “Mummy parts found inside speaker at Egyptian airport, heads still missing”.

Mummy smugglers of the most audacious variety were caught cloth-handed via security X-rays while trying to smuggle mummified human limbs out of Egypt and into Belgium. Wrapped up in the hollowed-out speaker were “six preserved body parts belonging to two different mummies: two sets of feet and lower legs; two sets of hands and forearms; an upper arm; and part of an upper torso,” according to The New York Times, which spoke to Egyptian archaeological official Iman Abdel-Raouf about the incident. No word on where the heads are, though.

(16) MADE TO ORDER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]  Herewith 2 Disney park/Star Wars stories. They are from different publications, but are effectively a pair since they discuss different aspects of the same upcoming park attraction(s).

Plenty of fans are counting down the days until they can pilot the [Millennium Falcon], but it’s another attraction at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge that may become the main draw.

For Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, which will open with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland Resort in summer 2019 and Walt Disney World Resort in fall 2019, Disney has reconsidered the entire concept of a ride. The old conceit of waiting in line, boarding a vehicle, and having a few minutes of high-octane fun are long gone, as this new experience, which will be one of Disney’s longest ever, puts riders in Rey, Luke, and Leia’s shoes as they face the greatest challenge of all: the First Order.

Glendale, California isn’t exactly in a galaxy far, far away, but it’s here inside a beige building where Star Wars characters are brought to life. 

Within its nondescript walls, safe from the unseasonably chilly February day swirling outside, all eyes are on Hondo Ohnaka, a scheming pirate from Star Wars: Rebels. His head bobs up and down, shaking his long green alien braids. His foot appears to step forward, rattling his bronze belt. His mouth curls into a wide smile before devolving into a deep belly laugh. 

For a split second, it seems that this colorful, horns-for-a-beard alien is flesh and blood. But Hondo is actually a Disney audio-animatronic, one of the most advanced ever built, and he’s getting ready for his debut at Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. He’s performing what’s known as “cycling,” going through its predetermined movements for 120 hours before installation at one of Disney’s theme parks.

(17) X MARKS THE SPOT. Dark Phoenix comes to theaters June 7.

In DARK PHOENIX, the X-MEN face their most formidable and powerful foe: one of their own, Jean Grey. During a rescue mission in space, Jean is nearly killed when she is hit by a mysterious cosmic force. Once she returns home, this force not only makes her infinitely more powerful, but far more unstable. Wrestling with this entity inside her, Jean unleashes her powers in ways she can neither comprehend nor contain. With Jean spiraling out of control, and hurting the ones she loves most, she begins to unravel the very fabric that holds the X-Men together. Now, with this family falling apart, they must find a way to unite — not only to save Jean’s soul, but to save our very planet from aliens who wish to weaponize this force and rule the galaxy.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/18/19 You’re Saying It Wrong, It’s Pix-EL-ium Scrolli-O-sa

(1) STAR POWER. Over the weekend Scott Edelman recorded a reading by Charlie Jane Anders and Sandra Newman at a Washington D.C. bookstore —

On the afternoon of Saturday, February 16, 2019, Charlie Jane Anders (The City in the Middle of the Night) and Sandra Newman (The Heavens) read at the Union Market branch of the Politics & Prose Bookstore, and then took part in a follow-up Q&A session. Unfortunately, due to the configuration of the seating, I was only able to include Michelle, the ALS interpreter (who consented to being recorded), when attached to the individual readings, and not for the follow-up Q&A. I also did not turn the camera on anyone asking a question, as I did not have their consent.

(2) KNIGHT OF THE RPG. Eurogamer has “The story behind the Oblivion mod Terry Pratchett worked on”, and it’s quite touching.

…Most people know Pratchett as the author of Discworld, the famous fantasy series about a flat planet balanced on the backs of four elephants. However, what many people don’t know is that the knighted author was also a massive fan of video games – so much so that he actually worked on mods for Oblivion, most of which were spearheaded by a Morrowind modder named Emma….

“Honestly, although I knew about Terry’s illness I never thought of him as someone who was ill,” Emma told us. “The things I added to Vilja that were originally for him, I did because I enjoyed and because it felt so natural. It would be totally unfair to say that I was helping him – he was helping and inspiring me all the time, and I think we both had a lot of fun with figuring out new things for Vilja to say and do.”

(3) ARE THESE ON YOUR SHELVES? How many of these have you read?Pulp Archivist Nathan Housley discovered a list of what was required in “A Basic Science-Fiction Library” in 1949. You’d think there being only 17 items, selected by old-time fans and pros, I’d score pretty well. No so — I’ve only read six. And I feel no temptation to remedy the shortfall! Housley begins by telling who contributed to the list —

The editors included Sam Merwin, Jr. of Thrilling Wonder Stories and Startling Stories, Paul L. Payne of Planet Stories, and Everett Bleiler of The Checklist of Fantastic Literature and The Best Science Fiction Stories: 1949. John Campbell of Astounding and Raymond Palmer of Amazing were invited but chose not to participate.

The writers included Dr. David H. Keller, P. Schuyler Miller, Theodore Sturgeon, A. E. Van Vogt, Donald Wandrei, and Lewis Padgett–better known as the husband and wife team of Henry Kuttner and Catherine L. Moore.

Rounding out the list were the fans. A. Langley Searles is “best known for the scholarly science fiction fanzine Fantasy Commentator.” Forest Ackerman was the literary agent for many of the authors listed above as well as the father of convention cosplay. And Sam Moskowitz was a noted historian of science fiction fandom and a fervent opponent of the Futurians.

(4) CAPTAIN MARVEL DENIERS BEWARE. At The Mary Sue, Rachel Leishman diagnoses the symptoms: “Men Clearly Fear Women Leading Nerd Films, and … Good”.

And now, we have Captain Marvel. For the first time in ten years, we’re getting a superhero film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe led by a woman, and that means that Twitter is a minefield of men calling Brie Larson “Loudmouth Larson” and claiming that her devotion to equality in the press for the film and the future of her character is what is going to tank the movie (even though it is currently on track to be a box office success).

(5) FROM OUR SPY BEHIND THE PAYWALL. In the February 12 Financial Times, Leo Lewis says that Japanese public broadcaster NHK is broadcasting Tokyo Reborn, a series about the rebuilding of Tokyo that in many ways continues Katushiro Otomo’s great 1988 noir anime Akira, which is set in 2019,  NHK is using Akira as a touchstone (and has hired Otomo as a consultant on the series), because the “Neo Tokyo” Otomo portrays in his film is preparing for the Tokyo Olympics of 2020, an accurate prediction on Otomo’s part.

Akira’s many fans adore the idea that its creator correctly predicted” that Tokyo would host the Olympics in 2020. And the film was central in creating the ‘cool Japan’ brand that continues to promote Japanese pop culture and put its animation on a global stage.  It has even been a catalyst for foreigners (including me) to develop long relationships with Japan.

It is a delicious vindication of Mr Otomo’s work that the film’s influence remains so powerful in a year that once represented the distant future.

(6) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. “‘Every Day Is A Good Day When You’re Floating’: Anne McClain Talks Life In Space”NPR has the story.

What do you eat in space? How do you sleep in space?

And just what does one do all day long in space?

Children from the Georgetown Day School in Washington D.C., recently had a chance to ask their most burning questions to NASA astronaut Anne McClain.

They are roughly the same age that McClain was when on her first day of preschool she announced that she wanted to become an astronaut.

By the time McClain was about 5 years old, she said she wrote a book about flying to space on the Soyuz vehicle. Now she’s floating around on the International Space Station, showing that sometimes childhood dreams do come true.

“When you are finally in space and you’re finally looking back at Earth and you realize for the first time in your life there’s nothing standing between you and your dream, it’s just so hard to describe the profound impact of that,” McClain, now 39, told NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 18, 1930 — Planet Pluto discovered by Clyde W. Tombaugh at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.
  • February 18, 1977 — First unmanned test flight of space shuttle Enterprise mounted on another aircraft.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 18, 1825 Francis James Child. American scholar, educator, and folklorist, best known today for his collection of English and Scottish ballads now known as the Child Ballads. His collection has been used often in our genre, be Ellen Kushner’s Thomas The Rhymer, taken from Child #37, or Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin off Child #39A, our writers have used his ballads as source material a lot. (Died 1896.)
  • Born February 18, 1929 Len Deighton, 90. Author of possibly the most brilliant alternative novels in which Germany won the Second World War, SS-GB. Itdeals with the occupation of Britain. A BBC One series was broadcast several years back.
  • Born February 18, 1930 Gahan Wilson, 89. Author, cartoonist and illustrator known for his cartoons depicting horror-fantasy situations. Though the world at large might know him for his Playboy illustrations, I’m going to single him out for his brilliant and possibly insane work with Zelazny on A Night in the Lonesome October which is their delightful take on All Hallows’ Eve. Note that ISFDB doesn’t list this work which I find odd. 
  • Born February 18, 1954 John Travolta, 65. Ahhhh, Battlefield Earth. Travolta, a Scientologist, had sought for years to make a film of the novel by Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. I do wonder what he thinks of it now. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) KEEP ON TREKKIN’. There’s always room for, um, another Star Trek series? (Deadline:‘Star Trek’: Nickelodeon Near Deal For Kids Animated Series From Alex Kurtzman, Hageman Brothers & CBS TV Studios”).

Alex Kurtzman and CBS TV Studios have set the latest extension of the Star Trek TV franchise. Nickelodeon is in negotiations for a Star Trek animated series from Emmy-winning writers Kevin and Dan Hageman (Trollhunters, Ninjago), CBS TV Studios and Kurtzman’s studio-based Secret Hideout banner.

Penned by the Hageman brothers, the animated series is targeted at younger audiences. Because of that, it would be the first new Star Trek project outside of CBS All Access, which has an adult focus.

(11) THE NIGHT STUFF. How did I live without this?Archie McPhee offers a Glow-in-the-Dark Rubber Chicken.

Svengoolie can use it inside his coffin

We all agree that Rubber Chickens are hilarious. If you looked at a normal Rubber Chicken, you’d assume that funny things only happen when a source of light is available. What about hilarious night shenanigans or power outage tomfoolery? This 20” soft vinyl Glow-in-the-Dark Rubber Chicken will make you giggle no matter how little light there is. Whether you’re sitting in the dark in your living room pretending to not be home while someone knocks on the door, building a blanket fort or UPSing yourself cross-country in a crate, you’ll be laughing the entire time.

(12) NEXT: WHO WAS THE CHEKHOV OF SCIENCE FICTION? Andrew Porter says everybody missed this one on Jeopardy:

Final Jeopardy: British Authors.

  • Answer: Born in 1866, he has been called “the Shakespeare of Science Fiction.”

All three contestants guessed wrong:

  • Who is Asimov?
  • Who is Verne?
  • Who is Clarke?

Correct question: Who is H.G. Wells?

(13) A CAT EXPLAINS A CLASSIC. At Camestros Felapton, “Timothy the Talking Cat reads ‘Ender’s Game’”. Timothy really gets it, you know?

…So once upon a time there were three human children who lived in a cruel and cynical world. Everybody was fighting each other or fighting the space alien bugs from Starship Troopers. The bugs were really scary and are all like “we were in a really famous science-fiction story”….

(14) 3-DELIGHTFUL. NASA is trying out a 3D printer on the International Space Station as a prelude to using them for long-term missions to the Moon and Mars. Perhaps it makes sense, then, that moviemakers are using them to make movies about space travel (Variety: “BigRep’s 3D Printer Takes ‘First Man’ to the Moon”).

Production designer Nathan Crowley was strolling through the Brooklyn Navy Yard during the shoot for “The Greatest Showman” in fall 2016 when he passed a building with a 3D printer printing a chair.

“The lady inside told me it was a machine from BigRep,” recalls Crowley. “I said, ‘When’s the last time you had a filament jam?’ She said, ‘About a month ago.’ And I was like, ‘OK, I need that machine.’”

Crowley didn’t get to use it for “The Greatest Showman,” but he rented two BigRep One models for his next film, director Damien Chazelle’s “First Man,” rounding out an arsenal of 18 3D printers used make everything from knobs and joysticks for the lunar module that puts Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) on the moon to a 14-foot-tall scale model of a Saturn V rocket.

[…] Crowley has been using 3D printers since 2014’s “Interstellar,” directed by frequent collaborator Christopher Nolan. But back then he used them strictly for concept models.

On Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” trilogy, “we did models by hand for the Batmobile, and it would take weeks,” says Crowley. With 3D printers, “it was a game-changer to be able design and output something, have a look at it, change something and do it again and again without having to handmake each design.”

(15) CAT AND MOUSE CLASSIC. “Tom and Jerry at MGM–Music Performed By The John Wilson Orchestra” on YouTube is a suite, arranged by Scott Bradley, of selections from Tom and Jerry cartoons performed by the John Wilson Orchestra at the BBC Proms in 2013.

(16) SMURFS, MR. RICO?!? They even have a few blue laws — “German Town Sees A Smurf Invasion, As Thousands Gather To Break World Record”.

They came covered in blue paint, donning red and white hats, nearly 3,000 in all. Their goal was simple: To break the world record for the largest group of people dressed as Smurfs.

The group Dä Traditionsverein organized the event in Lauchringen, Germany on Saturday near the border with Switzerland. They had strict rules: in order to be counted, participants couldn’t show any non-blue skin. They could dress as Papa Smurf — with his trademark red cap and a white beard — or Smurfette, with blonde hair and a white skirt or dress. Normal smurfs were OK, too — but some characters, like the evil wizard Gargamel, were strictly off limits.

The group posted on Facebook that 2,762 Smurfs showed up.

(17) HOW LOFTY ARE THOSE AMBITIONS? Christian Davenport in the Washington Post has a long piece on efforts to take control of the Moon’s resources.  “The moon, often referred to as the eighth continent, is again the center of a reinvigorated space race that, like any good Hollywood reboot, features a new cast of characters and new story lines.”  The goal this time is to make mining on the moon commercially viable, with emphasis on controlling the moon’s poles, because that’s where the water is and water can be used for fuel. “NASA wants to get to the moon ‘as fast as possible.’ But countries like China and India are racing there, too.”

Yet, unlike the Apollo era, this Space Age is being driven by a third factor: greed. A growing number of corporations are benefiting from new technologies and wealthy backers chasing an unproven dream that a lucrative business can be built on the moon and deep space by extracting the metals and resources on the surface on the moon.

Though the prospect of a self-sustaining lunar-mining economy may be little more than a chimera, the moon is drawing investors and explorers the way the promise of the American West once did. As a result, several ­lunar-prospecting companies have emerged with plans to fly spacecraft to the moon in the coming years.

(18) SOMETHING’S MISSING. WhatCuture would like to remind you about “10 MCU Plot Points Marvel Has Completely Abandoned.”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/31/19 No Screaming While The Scroll Is In Motion!

(1) MARVEL AT MOPOP. Ellie Farrell had a photo taken with a friend during her visit to MoPop’s Marvel exhibit in Seattle. Opened last Spring, the exhibit continues through March 3.

(2) SFF DOES WORK TOO. Charlie Jane Anders, in a Washington Post opinion piece “Kamala Harris is wrong about science fiction”, takes issue with Sen. Kamala Harris’s claim that “we need facts, not science fiction” to deal with climate change, saying that “science fiction creators have been doing some soul-searching that includes looking for ways we can do more to restore people’s faith in the future” in dealing with climate change, “the global crisis of democracy,” and “attacks on LGBTQ people’s right to exist.”

Sen. Kamala D. Harris was half right in her speech launching her 2020 presidential campaign when she said we need to address climate change based on “science fact, not science fiction.” The truth is, we need both. Science fiction has an important role to play in rescuing the future from the huge challenges we’re facing — and the responses to Harris’s statement illustrate this perfectly.

When the California Democrat’s statement about climate change went out on social media, a number of people pointed out the truth: Science fiction has been helping us to prepare for a world of potentially disastrous climate upheaval for years. But an equal number of loud voices took issue with Harris’s warnings about climate change, because in our post-truth era, the scientific consensus about what humans are doing to our planet is still somehow a matter of opinion.

And that’s why science fiction is more important than Harris gives it credit for. No amount of scientific evidence will convince deniers — or the vast number of people who merely live in a state of denial. We live in an era in which facts and fiction are blurring into an indistinguishable mess and power belongs to whoever can tell the best story, true or not. No one can even tell what’s real anymore, and what matters is just how something makes us feel — which is why we need better stories, that, in the words of author Neil Gaiman, “lie in order to tell the truth.”

(3) SATIRE CONSIDERED. Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency podcast for January 30 takes a look back at the original Starship Troopers movie:

You’re going to love this week’s phenomenal conversation about Starship Troopers (1997) with special guests Mary Robinette Kowal and Max Temkin! Tune in for a thought-provoking discussion (and very amicable disagreement) about how successfully the film executes its satire of fascist military fantasies. Just what are the possibilities and limits of satire? What can director Paul Verhoeven’s career tell us about this “pointed critique of American imperialism”? And exactly how long will it take Anita to remember the name of the game Spec Ops without Carolyn to help?

(4) YA UPROAR CONTINUES. On Facebook, Nick Mamatas delved into the questions surrounding Amélie Wen Zhao’s decision to pull Blood Heir (reported in yesterday’s Scroll). His post is quoted with permission:

A YA novel called BLOOD HEIR, which sounds entirely awful, has been pulled from publication by its author Amélie Wen Zhao after complaints of plagiarism, poor “Russian rep” as it was put, and anti-blackness from YA twitter aficionadi:

1. Definitely messed up Russian naming conventions—though I am happy to point out that many of the same people complaining about this book are thrilled to go see the next Avengers film, and even agitated in the past for more action figures of the Black Widow in her sexy bodysuit (you know, for young girls!), called wrongly Natasha Romanoff in the films. So there is definitely a power relationship here; this is at least partially a game of “let’s flex on the new girl” while queueing up to consume a billion dollars worth of slop from the Disney hog trough.

2. Haven’t seen any screencaps actually demonstrating plagiarism except for a single sentence (“Don’t go where I can’t follow.”) In cases like this, often people casually use the term to mean “cliché” or even “genre trope.” Frankly if people don’t like clichés and genre tropes, they shouldn’t be reading children’s literature. That said, I may have just messed the presentation of textual evidence. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a ton of plagiarism.

3. The author claims that her interest was exploring indenture as it is currently practiced in China and Asia; her critics complain that a major scene involves a black-coded girl with ocean-light eyes being auctioned off, and then dying while the main character sings her a lullaby. Sounds entirely awful. I think this is also a bit of what people mean by plagiarism—this character has been identified as smacking of Rue from HUNGER GAMES. The critics definitely seem to have a point.

4. As is common, moralism abounds. I’ve certainly seen more than one note fretting aloud that CHILDREN and the YOUTH will read this book and thus be exposed to its anti-blackness. Of course, all the right-wingers rallying against the “SJW mobs” and promising the author that *they* would read the book, ya know, to triggerown the shitlibs or whatever, are lying and performing their own version of “virtue signaling” as they call it. None of those kobolds would ever read a thing that doesn’t feature a photo of the author on a red-white-and-blue background.

I think the issue of Blood Heir was that it was trafficking in racist cliches and daring to do so with only a mere publishing company and not a giant media complex behind it. I’ll always feel a thrill when an author is punished for laziness and top-of-mind decision-making, but let’s be clear: moralism itself is a cliché as well, even when it’s left-moralism. YA twitter is absolutely a Pretty Person Club and Zhao was this year’s scapegoat. But Zhao’s crime of auctorial laziness is just one more datum point showing how sadly inadequate the acquisition and editorial process in big publishing is.

And Arthur Cover has written a public letter to Zhao which says in part –

I just wrote this letter to a young author named Amelie Zhao, who withdrew her YA fantasy novel from publication because of negative comments on line…. Obviously I feel very strongly about this….

A novel cannot be all things to all people. At least one comment on your novel that I read was from a person who felt it insufficiently validated his/her ideas about slavery and villains using a cane. Often when a character uses a cane it is symbolic of something and is not a commentary on people who use a cane in real life. Readers who can’t tell the difference aren’t your concern.

Decades ago I was in a conversation with Samuel R. Delany and when he learned that a writing class was divided equally on the merits of one of his stories, he was quite pleased. He knew he’d accomplished something because of the class’s reaction.

Do not stop. Please reconsider your decision regarding your novel. These critics (and I’ve been a nasty one) are throwing spitballs at a battleship….

(5) AUDIO PALS. In the Washington Post, Karen Heller has a piece about authors and their audiobook readers, “‘I can write the words. He supplies the melody’: The harmonious bond between authors and audiobook narrators”. Two of the authors Heller interviews are genre writers:  five-time Bram Stoker Award nominee Jonathan Maberry, who says he now hears the voice of his audiobook reader, Ray Porter, in his head when he’s writing, and Canadian urban fantasy writer Kevin Hearne, who liked narrator Luke Daniels so much they’ve worked together on independent projects.

Jonathan Maberry, a fiercely prolific author of often frightening novels, hears voices rattling in his head. Specifically, one voice, that of actor Ray Porter, who narrates his audiobooks. A five-time Bram Stoker Award winner, Maberry would “imagine how Ray would inflect certain things, and I started to write toward his performance.” Be it horror, thrillers, science fiction, young adult and middle grade fiction, almost three dozen novels since 2006 — this is not a typo, and excludes anthologies, short stories and comics — Porter, without contributing a word, has helped Maberry accomplish the goal of most writers: selling more books. Says Maberry, “We’re very much a team.”

(6) NEW FAN FUND IDEA. Marcin Klak has written a proposal for creating a European Fan Fund to allow people from different countries to attend Eurocon. His draft of the rules and the winner’s responsibilities begins —

Purpose: The purpose of the Fan Fund is to create and strengthen bonds between European fans and fandoms. Currently in almost every country there is a fandom that quite often has small or no connection to the broader European fandom. Most fans do concentrate on the “here and now” and are not looking for friends in other countries.

The idea: A delegate would be elected by fans across Europe to travel to Eurocon. The delegate must offer to have a talk about fandom in their country. The delegate should also offer their participation as a guest in the Eurocon Awards ceremony, Opening ceremony and Closing ceremony. Any other help from the delegate should be encouraged. It will be for the Eurocon organizers to accept that help to the extent that suits them.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 31, 1923 Norman Mailer. I never knew he wrote in the genre but he did. Ancient Evenings certainly has the elements of fantasy and The Castle in the Forest is interesting retelling of Adolf Hitler and his last days. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 31, 1937 Philip Glass, 82. 1000 Airplanes on the Roof: A Science Fiction Music-DramaEinstein on the BeachThe Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (with a libretto by Doris Lessing based on her novel of the same name), The marriages between zones three, four, and five (1997, libretto by Doris Lessing, after her second novel from Canopus in Argos), The Witches of Venice and The Juniper Tree would be a fragmentary listing of his works that have a genre bias.   
  • Born January 31, 1960 Grant Morrison, 59. If you can find it, his early stuff on such U.K. publishers as Galaxy Media and Harrier Comics is worth searching out. Not your hero in tights materials at all. For his work in that venue, I’d recommend his run on The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, all of his Doom Patrol work (and the DC Universe series this fall is based on his work), Seven Soldiers and his weird The Multiversity
  • Born January 31, 1977 Kerry Washington, 42. Alicia Masters in Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Also played Medical Officer Marissa Brau in  30,000 Leagues Under the Sea. She voices Natalie Certain in Care 3. She also voices Princess Shuri in a short run Black Panther series. 

(8) MR. & MRS. Bill writes, “The 1/29 scroll item about Tiptree got me to looking things up, and I found the attached” – a bit of social news from the Chicago Tribune for January 24, 1946. Definitely still news to me.

(9) WRONG ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter spotted another bad guess on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!

Category: Scribbling Siblings

Answer: Aviation writer Robert Serling helped little bro Rod with “The Odyssey of Flight 33” episode of this series.

Wrong answer: What is “Star Trek”?

(10) GALAPAGOS AIR FORCE. BBC tells how “Drones help Galapagos tackle rat infestation”.

Drones are helping conservationists rid one Galapagos island of an infestation of rats threatening indigenous birds.

The drones have dropped poison on more than half of North Seymour Island in a bid to kill off the invasive species.

The island’s rare birds nest on the ground and their numbers are being depleted by the rodent invasion.

The drones work much faster and more cheaply than helicopters which have been used in similar rat eradication projects elsewhere.

(11) TRACING CLIMATE HISTORY. Researchers think “America colonisation ‘cooled Earth’s climate’”.

Colonisation of the Americas at the end of the 15th Century killed so many people, it disturbed Earth’s climate.

That’s the conclusion of scientists from University College London, UK.

The team says the disruption that followed European settlement led to a huge swathe of abandoned agricultural land being reclaimed by fast-growing trees and other vegetation.

This pulled down enough carbon dioxide (CO?) from the atmosphere to eventually chill the planet.

It’s a cooling period often referred to in the history books as the “Little Ice Age” – a time when winters in Europe would see the Thames in London regularly freeze over.

“The Great Dying of the Indigenous Peoples of
the Americas led to the abandonment of enough cleared land that the resulting terrestrial carbon uptake had a detectable impact on both atmospheric CO? and global surface air temperatures,” Alexander Koch and colleagues write in their paper published in Quaternary Science Reviews.

(12) THE ELEPHANT (SEAL) IN THE ROOM. Look what happens when those pesky humans aren’t around — “Seals take over California beach closed in US shutdown”.

A large herd of elephant seals has taken over a beach in California that was forced to close during the government shutdown.

The seals took advantage of the 35-day shutdown to make themselves at home on Drakes Beach, and in its car park.

So far they have been spotted lying on their stomachs, taking naps and occasionally snuggling their pups.

The beach will remain closed until the seals decide to move on – although it’s not clear when that will be.

(13) HELP WANTED. There’s a job vacancy in Gotham: “Ben Affleck signals Batman departure”.

Holy recasting, Batman! The search is on for a new Dark Knight following Ben Affleck’s apparent confirmation that he is hanging up his Bat cape.

The actor effectively said as much by retweeting a story saying Matt Reeves’ The Batman would be made without him.

“Excited for #TheBatman in Summer 2021 and to see @MattReevesLA vision come to life,” Affleck wrote.

The 46-year-old first appeared as the comic book superhero in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

(14) DEATH RIDES A BOBBLEHEAD. Matt Monaghan, in “The Dia de Los Dodgers Skull Bobblehead is Amazing”  on Cut4 has one of the all-time greatest fantasy bobbleheads EVER.

Bobblehead nights happen all the time at baseball games. Already this year, there’s been one for a nun, one for Pitbull and one for a bald eagle that flew into a pitcher’s face. But during Wednesday’s Rockies-Dodgers game, we may have found the coolest bobblehead ever: The Dia de Los Dodgers sugar skull bobblehead.

(15) STAN LEE GIVEN POSTHUMOUS KEY TO THE CITY. Hey, it’s LA. L. Ron Hubbard put out books here for years after he died. Who’s to say Stan won’t get some use from it? That was just part of what happened at the celebrity-studded tribute to Stan Lee on Wednesday night: “Stan Lee’s Friends and Fans Pay Tearful, Funny Tribute to Their ‘Generalissimo’” in The Hollywood Reporter.

…Hosting the show was Lee’s long-time friend and fan, filmmaker Kevin Smith, who was sure to note that Lee was “one of the best humans to ever walk the Earth” before inviting everyone to enter the theater. The theater itself was transformed into a monument to the man, with some of his most beloved comics on display, from the first appearance of Spider-Man and Black Panther to some of the most iconic adventures of the Fantastic Four. Costumes from the Sony-led Spider-Man films were displayed inside glass cases, but it was the energy in the room that truly punctuated the evening.

Smith put it best at the beginning of the tribute: “This is not a funeral, though he’s gone. This is a celebration! That’s how religions start. We all agree that we saw him tonight and that he’s no longer gone. Stan’s spirit is here with us.” With all the outpourings of love in the room, it’d be hard to argue otherwise. Copious footage of Lee played throughout the evening, including a touching clip of him singing “Cocktails for Two”, with all the energy of someone in their twenties, as his embarrassed assistants set up his microphone.

Smith kicked off the evening with the story of how he met Stan for his movie Mallrats and the grand efforts it took to convince the then less-recognizable legend to appear in his film after Lee read the script and remarked “I would never say this.” Smith admitted that Lee himself was never quite accepting or aware of his successes, despite his put on braggadocio. “This was a guy who spent his life dreaming of writing the great American novel, and he didn’t realize that he had been successful and fulfilled his dreams one-thousand times over,” Smith said. Smith himself admitted that “it was hard to understand that we were friends” before eventually coming to realize just how much Lee loved him.

…Perhaps the biggest moment of the night came with the appearance of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who detailed Lee’s love affair with L.A. before running through a detailed catalogue of his own nerdiness, including a proclamation that no one could offer him enough money to let go of his complete collection of original copies of the Wolverine comic series. Garcetti made it clear, “Stan Lee was a mensch who always fought for the underdog”, before presenting Stan’s former company Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment with Garcetti’s third ever “Key to the City”, carved from a fallen tree and engraved with Stan’s image and catchphrase “Excelsior!”

(16) IN THE SPIRIT OF IAIN M. BANKS. A funny thread about pet names for weaponry – begins here.

(17) DEALING WITH A FOOD EVANGELIST. “Dear Mother Goose”, an advice column for children’s book characters, by Slate’s Emma Span. Here’s the problem, click to read Mother’s answer:

Dear Mother Goose,

I am being aggressively pursued by someone (I’ll call him S.I.A.) who is bizarrely obsessed with getting me to eat “green eggs and ham.” He has offered no explanation of where the ham and eggs came from, why they are green, or why he cares if I eat them. I have calmly and clearly turned him down, but he is following me everywhere, carrying a plate of food, which by now is cold, dirty, and wet as well as green. Nevertheless, S.I.A. thinks I might like the food. He has brought a mouse, a fox, and a goat to me, as if that would change my mind. We were even involved in a boating accident because of his behavior….

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

2018 Novellapalooza

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ: I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading 31 of the novellas published in 2015, 35 of the novellas published in 2016, and 46 of the novellas published in 2017 (though a few of those were after Hugo nominations closed).

The result of this was the 2016 Novellapalooza and the 2017 Novellapalooza. I really felt as though I was able to do Hugo nominations for the novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

The success and popularity of novellas in the last 4 years seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas, with Tor.com, Subterranean Press, NewCon Press, PS Publishing, Book Smugglers, Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Tachyon bringing out a multitude of works, along with the traditional magazines Asimov’s, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Analog – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. By necessity, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis being of interest to me.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low. Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

I thought it would be helpful to have a thread where all the Filers’ thoughts on novellas are collected in one place, as a resource when Hugo nomination time rolls around. Which of these novellas have you read? And what did you think of them?

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included.

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2018 novellas which you’ve read, as well.

(Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)

Read more…

Pixel Scroll 11/15/18 Pixel Longstalking

(1) STOP BREAKING THE RULES, DAMMIT. Thanks to Doctor Science, I discovered “Jonathan Franzen’s 10 Rules for Writing Novels” (at LitHub) and the mirth he’s inspired in many of our friends. (Links take you to the thread.)

The first time I meet him, I’m in an almost-empty laundromat. It’s the height of the August heatwave. I’m folding my towels when he comes in. His hair is tousled. He wears a rumpled, button-up shirt with a ten-year-old blazer that was already ten years old when he bought it from a Salvation Army.

I know this, because he tells me it. I haven’t asked. He tells me he’ll forgive me for not having asked, this once….

And while we’re on the subject, writers can learn a lot from this – “Ask a Triceratops: Susan’s 10 Rules for Novelists” at Camestros Felapton. Here are the first two:

  1. Ensure your primary narrator is comfortable. Remember the novel is an aural medium and your narrator should have a comfy nest of uprooted plants to stand or lie down on.
  2. Pay attention to the little things: how did the t-rex get drunk? What kind of tree is she trying to climb?

(2) TRANSLATED LITERATURE. Europa SF brings word that the winner of The 2018 National Book Award for Translated Literature is of genre interest – the dystopian novel The Emissary by Yoko Tawada (Japan/Germany), Translated by Margaret Mitsutani. Europa SF has a long post about the award and the winning writer.

(3) WFC ACCOUNTABILITY. Silvia Moreno-Garcia takes the 2019 World Fantasy Convention committee to task:

So I’ve been wondering if I should say something here because I am busy and tired and I don’t need the attention, but I think I must: the WFC guest of honor lineup for 2019 is sad. The con takes place in Los Angeles but all the GOHs are white. The theme is Fantasy Noir.

Los Angeles has a huge Latinx population. But the one mention of diversity on the website right now is about “culinary diversity,” making me think POC are only good for making tacos.

On top of that there’s the odd choice of having Robert Silverberg, who was recently the cause of much Internet talk due to some of his comments related to Jemisin, as the toastmaster.

(4) FROM EXPERIENCE. Rachel Swirsky has written a “Q&A on Being a Jewish & Disabled Author”.

…I think my interest in Jewish science fiction stems from my interest in Jewishness itself, which is probably related to my self-identification as Jewish. I’m not sure why I have a strong identification with Judaism — I didn’t have to. As the granddaughter of a secular Jew who tried to cut all connections, I could have just put it aside; my brothers have. Our father is from WASPy blood with deep roots in American history–we’re descended from one of the people who signed the Declaration of Independence–and I could have chosen to identify with that to the exclusion of my Jewish ancestry.

What are you writing about now?

I’m writing a lot about disability. As a disabled person, there’s a lot of rich material to mine–and I still have a lot of unreconciled thoughts about disability, and things I’m figuring out. I think a lot of good writing is produced when the author is still on the edge of revelations, instead of settled.

(5) AMC OPTIONS SF. Good news for Annalee Newitz.

(6) WHO SWITCHES HOLIDAYS. It takes a Time Lord to fix a problem like this – or to cause it in the first place. BBC announces “Doctor Who to skip Christmas Day for first time in 13 years”.

The festive edition of Doctor Who will be shown on New Year’s Day on BBC One instead of Christmas Day for the first time since the drama’s return in 2005.

It will be the first Doctor Who episode to debut on 1 January since the second part of David Tennant’s series exit aired on the first day of 2010.

(7) HAVE AN APPLE? Mythic Delirium has revealed Ruth Sanderson’s cover for Snow White Learns Witchcraft by Theodora Goss.

In these eight stories and twenty-three poems, Goss retells and recasts fairy tales by Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and Oscar Wilde. Sometimes harrowing, sometimes hilarious, always lyrical, the works gathered in Snow White Learns Witchcraft re-center and empower the women at the heart of these timeless narratives.

They also made sure we didn’t miss this —

Just yesterday, Variety broke the news that the CW is developing The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter for television. We want to sincerely congratulation Dora and wish her luck that this project comes to full fruition. Needless to say, we’re thrilled to be releasing her next book into the publishing wilds.

(8) FANZINES OF 1943. Dublin 2019 has announced that they will present Retro Hugos for works published in 1943. In order to provide material for those that would like to nominate fan materials for the awards, Fanac.org has assembled the list of fanzines published in 1943, with links to those available on line. Several hundred fanzines are already available, and they plan to add more as they become available, so keep checking back — http://fanac.org/fanzines/Retro_Hugos1943.html

(9) VALE, STAN. Stan Lee’s Twitter account (“The Real Stan Lee”) tweeted out a final statement from Lee as a short video.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 15, 1877 – William Hope Hodgson, Writer from England whose best known character by far is Thomas Carnacki, featured in several of his most famous stories, and at least partly based upon Algernon Blackwood’s occult detective John Silence. Two of his later novels, The House on the Borderland and The Night Land would be lavishly praised by H.P. Lovecraft. It is said that his horror writing influenced many later writers such as China Miéville, Tim Lebbon, and Greg Bear, but I cannot find a definitive source for that claim. (Died 1918.)
  • Born November 15, 1929 – Ed Asner, 89, Actor and Producer whose genre work includes playing Santa Claus to Will Farrell’s Elf, and roles on episodes of TV shows spanning decades: The Outer Limits, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Invaders, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Tall Tales & Legends,The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible, The Wild Wild West, Hercules, The X-Files, The Dead Zone, Spider-Man, and the upcoming Dead to Me. He has lent his distinctive voice to the main character in the Oscar-winning and Hugo-nominated Pixar movie Up, as well as with a long list of other animated features, series, and videogames, most notably in Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Gargoyles, and as Jacob Marley in The Christmas Carol.
  • Born November 15, 1939 – Yaphet Kotto, 79, Actor, Writer, and Director who’s known mainly for playing gruff law enforcement officers, but whose short genre film resume nevertheless packs a punch. Assuming we count the Bond films as genre – and I do – his first genre performance was as Dr. Kananga aka Mr. Big in Live and Let Die, and roles in Dan O’Bannon’s Alien, Stephen King’s The Running Man, Robert A. Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, and Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, as well as guest parts in Night Gallery and seaQuestDSV.
  • Born November 15, 1951 – Beverly D’Angelo, 67, Actor and Singer whose genre roles include appearing in The Sentinel, High Spirits, and episodes of TV series such as Tales from the Crypt and Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre and Tall Tales & Legends. She was also a primary cast member in The Man Who Fell to Earth, a 1987 pilot for a series that never got picked up for continuation, which was based on Walter Tevis’s 1963 novel and Nicolas Roeg’s 1976 film.
  • Born November 15, 1972 – Jonny Lee Miller, 46, Actor and Director from England who has been playing Sherlock Holmes in the Elementary series for the last seven years, but his first genre role was as a 9-year-old in an episode with Peter Davison, the Fifth Doctor Who. While he’s had a fairly steady stage, film, and TV career across the pond since then, it’s only in the last decade that he’s become well-known in the States – unless, like JJ, you remember that 23 years ago he appeared in a shoddy technothriller called Hackers, with another unknown young actor named Angelina Jolie (to whom he ended up married, until they separated 18 months later). Other genre appearances include a trio of vampire films, Dracula 2000, Dark Shadows, and Byzantium, the live-action Æon Flux movie, and the lead in the pseudo-fantasy TV series Eli Stone.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) WHITE WOLF ANSWERS. In Item #2 of the Pixel Scroll for November 8, Joseph D. Carriker identified a big problem with the next Camarilla book for Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition. The next day, publisher White Wolf replied:

White Wolf Community – We realize the way we have portrayed various topics in the recent Camarilla and Anarch setting books can be viewed as crude and insensitive. We appreciate this feedback and we are actively examining our choices in these books. Earlier this year, we made a pledge to you to meet certain standards and be more direct with the community regarding the World of Darkness and our games. That’s a pledge we failed to uphold, and we are deeply sorry.

White Wolf is currently undergoing some significant transitions, up to and including a change in leadership. The team needs a short time to understand what this means, so we ask for your patience as we figure out our next steps.

We thank you for your support, and for calling us out when it’s needed. Your thoughts and opinions are essential to the improvement of White Wolf.

(13) NOVEMBER BOOKS. Raise Mt. Tsundoku high! Andrew Liptak recommends “11 new sci-fi and fantasy books to check out in late November” at The Verge.

I wonder if my daughter will want to read this one –

Firefly: Big Damn Hero by James Lovegrove and Nancy Holder

Earlier this year, Titan Books announced that it was releasing a trilogy of Firefly novels, expanding the world of Joss Whedon’s short-lived TV show. With Whedon on board as a consulting editor, the first novel follows the crew of the Serenity as they’re hired to transport a cargo of explosives to a buyer. Things go sideways the Alliance takes an interest in the cargo and as a band of rebel Browncoat veterans begin to cause trouble. In the midst of it all, Captain Malcolm Reynolds goes missing, and his first mate, Zoë, has to make a choice between finding him and saving her crew.

And for the rest of you, there’s –

How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin

N.K. Jemisin recently won her third consecutive Hugo Award for The Stone Sky, the concluding volume of her phenomenal Broken Earth trilogy. She has another book in the works right now, but her next will be her first collection of short fiction, How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? The book features 22 of her fantastic, shorter works. Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review and said that the stories “demonstrate both the growth and active flourishing of one of speculative fiction’s most thoughtful and exciting writers.”

(14) SECOND OPINION. Answering Collins Dictionary’s choice of “single-use” (Pixeled recently), “’Toxic’ Is Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of 2018”.

(15) WHERE HE’S LEAST EXPECTED. BBC tells how “Lost Disney ‘Oswald’ film found in Japan”.

An anime historian had the cartoon for 70 years before he realised it was one of seven lost films.

The two-minute short features Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a precursor to Mickey Mouse.

Yasushi Watanabe, 84, bought the film from a toy wholesaler in Osaka when he was a teenager, paying only ¥500 (£3.45 at current exchange rates).

Originally called Neck & Neck, the 16mm cartoon was tagged with the name Mickey Manga Spide (Mickey Cartoon Speedy), and remained in Mr Watanabe’s personal collection for 70 years.

(16) DUMBO. Here’s a recommendation for you – io9’s Beth Elderkin promises “The New Trailer for Disney’s Live-Action Dumbo Will Pretty Much Rip Your Heart to Shreds”. Not to mention, you’ll believe an elephant can fly…

(17) WORLDBUILDING. In this case, literally. Nature shares “A key piece in the exoplanet puzzle”.

The detection of a low-mass exoplanet on a relatively wide orbit has implications for models of planetary formation and evolution, and could open the door to a new era of exoplanet characterization.

The orbital distance of the reported planet is similar to that of Mercury from the Sun (Fig.). This places the planet close to the snow line of Barnard’s star — the region out from the star beyond which volatile elements can condense. The snow line is a key region of planetary systems. In particular, there are indications that the building blocks of planets are formed there.

(18) MORE ABOUT THAT EXOPLANET. Mike Kennedy notes, “The planet is, alas, probably outside the zone where liquid water could be expected to exist. Wikipedia has a partial list of stories taking place at or near Barnard’s Star. The earliest they note is Jack Williamson’s The Legion of Space.”

National Geographic notes:

[…] Barnard’s star is a small red dwarf that’s older than the sun and about a sixth its size. It’s invisible without a decent telescope—the close star wasn’t even discovered until 1916.

Still, Barnard’s Star has long been buttoned into the lore of science fiction, inspiring astronomers to propose the presence of orbiting worlds as far back as the 1960s, and prompting fiction authors to weave tales of adventure around the hidden pinprick of light.

[…] “We’re 99-percent sure this is a planetary signal—but 99 is not 100,” he says. “What if the Barnard Star planet is not really there? It will be shot many, many times and people will try to kill it, but that’s how science works.”

(19) ONE PAGE SF. Jonathan Cowie announces SF2 Concatenation just posted its penultimate Best of Nature  ‘Futures’ 1-page SF story of year.

(20) ORIGIN STORY. The Verge tells us that “YouTube’s tech-noir series Origin is Lost… in space (With a hefty dose of Alien and Dead Space on the side)”. The YouTube Originals show is on YouTube Premium, which is available in about 30 countries.

A man wakes up abruptly, gasping in shock. He’s alone in an unexpected place. Something has clearly gone wrong with the trip he was on, but he won’t know just how wrong until he finds his fellow passengers. They’ll have to work together to manage their basic needs and unravel the mystery of why they didn’t arrive safely at their destination. But can they trust each other, given their various unsavory backgrounds, which will largely be revealed by a series of flashbacks? On Lost, this man’s name is Jack Shephard. But in YouTube Premium’s new space series Origin, it’s Shun Kenzaki (Sen Mitsuji).

In Origin, the passengers wake up from stasis, en route to the distant planet Thea. They were supposed to reach the planet before being revived, but they’re still on board their transport ship, Origin. The Siren Corporation, which put them on the ship, offers its colonists a clean slate. Signing on for a colony means having all records of their history on Earth sealed — which gives the writers a perfect excuse to create crew members with particularly colorful pasts. “We’re five light-years from Earth. Who’s going to stop us?” one Siren spokesperson says in a promotional VR experience, channeling the sort of corporate hubris that always goes so well in science fiction stories.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, Rachel Swirsky, Mike Allen, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Anders Wins 2018 Sturgeon Award

Charlie Jane Anders’ short story “Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sue” is the winner of the 2018 Theodore A. Sturgeon Memorial Award.

The award was presented during the Campbell Conference Awards reception on Friday, June 22.

Anders’ story was published in Boston Review: Global Dystopias (Oct 2017).

The Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award recognizes the best science fiction short story of each year. It was established in 1987 by James Gunn, Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at KU, and the heirs of Theodore Sturgeon, including his partner Jayne Engelhart Tannehill and Sturgeon’s children, as an appropriate memorial to one of the great short-story writers in a field distinguished by its short fiction.

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 5/8/18 Alas, Dear Scrollick, I Knew Him, Horatio. A Fileow Of Tsundoku Unaddressed

(1) LEVAR BURTON. The “LeVar Burton Reads” Bay Area tour stop features in “LIVE! in San Francisco: ‘As Good as New’ by Charlie Jane Anders”.

 A young woman unexpectedly finds herself with the fate of the world in her hands. Recorded on the LeVar Burton Reads LIVE! tour. With accompaniment by Astronauts, etc. keyboardist Anthony Ferraro, and featuring a conversation with Charlie Jane Anders. This story appears in Anders’ collection SIX MONTHS, THREE DAYS, FIVE OTHERS.

Tor.com also has transcribed some of Burton and Anders’ conversation about his reading.

(2) NOW WITH ADDED PRIX. Here are two more awards that were announced this weekend at Congrès Boréal.

Prix des Horizons imaginaires 2018

A jury of 80 Quebec college students named François Blais as laureate of the Prix des Horizons imaginaires for his novel Les Rivières suivi de Les montagnes, published by éditions de L’instant même . In addition to a trophy designed by the artist Karl Dupéré-Richer, the author will receive a C$300 scholarship from Marianopolis College.

The other finalists were:

  • La chambre verte, de Martine Desjardins (Éditions Alto)
  • Et si le diable le permet, de Cédric Ferrand (Éditions Les moutons électriques)
  • Les Cendres de Sedna, d’Ariane Gélinas (Éditions Alire)
  • Rénovation, de Renaud Jean (Éditions du Boréal)

Prix Solaris 2018

Luc Dagenais’ novel La Déferlante des mères won the Prix Solaris 2018.

(3) MIGHTY MANGA. Let the B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog convince you: “Why Fullmetal Alchemist Is Essential Reading for Every Fantasy Fan”.

With the release of its first hardcover deluxe edition this week, the manga Fullmetal Alchemist has now been blessed with not one, not two, but three English releases, and it’s hard to think of a series more deserving.

Since it began serialization 17 years ago, Hiromu Arakawa’s blockbuster shonen fantasy has inspired not only readers, but also fantasy authors and artists the likes of Brian McClellan and Faith Erin Hicks. On the surface, it sounds like a typical adventure series, following two brothers, skilled young alchemist Edward Elric and his brother Alphonse (reduced to a spirit encased in a hollow suit of armor in the wake of a magical experiment went horribly wrong), seek the Philosopher’s Stone, a fabled object they hope to use to enhance Ed’s power and hopefully restore Al’s humanity. But there’s a lot going on below the surface—fascinating philosophical questions, tricky moral quandaries, and complex character interactions.

(4) BUT WHAT ABOUT MY NEXT JOB. Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon guest “Michael Shannon Is Into Those Internet James Bond Villain Rumors”. Funny stuff, including cat humor – and they did eventually remember to promote HBO’s Fahrenheit 451, his reason for being on the show.

(5) THE PUPPY BUBBLE. John Scalzi, in the middle of Reader Request Week, comments about attacks on his political leanings: “Reader Request Week 2018 #4: Far-Left(?) Scalzi”.

The reason there’s a cottage industry in attacking me as “far left” is rather more simple and rather a bit more sad than that, which is that there was a small(ish) clutch of writers and fans whose politics ranged from stock conservative to reactionary to white nationalist and who, for various reasons, disliked me and the fact I have a successful writing career. So they went out of their way to try to insult and diminish me in ways that carry weight to others of their sort. So along with questioning my masculinity and/or my sexuality and/or my sales and/or the validity of my awards and/or my writing talents and/or blog visits and/or [insert whatever here], they called me “far left” because in their universe being far left is one of the worst things you can possibly be. Me just being moderately left wouldn’t do, mind you. Everything has to be extreme for these boys. So far left I am. It’s me and Stalin, bear hugging.

(6) ALL HAT, NO CATTLE. Airing Wednesday, “Rick Moranis Reviving Spaceballs’ Dark Helmet For The Goldbergs”.

For the first time since way back in 1986, Moranis will once again play Dark Helmet. As reported by USA Today, Moranis will reprise his famed Spaceballs character on this week’s episode of the sitcom The Goldbergs. This marks Moranis’ first on-screen appearance since he retired from movies after 1997’s Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves. As series creator Adam F. Goldberg explained, he hopes Moranis’ unexpected return will kickstart a possible Spaceballs sequel:

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 8, 1936 — First Catholic mass in an airship (Hindenburg) over ocean.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY DIRECTOR

  • Born May 8, 1942 — Douglas Trumbull, special effects master

(9) AN ARTICLE THAT MAKES FOLKS IRATE. Lila Shapiro’s article for Vulture, “The Story Behind FanCon’s Controversial Collapse”, quotes one of the con’s organizers —

In recent weeks, the team behind the event has been grappling with how it all fell apart. According to their accounts, they were simply well-intentioned idealists who took on a project that proved too big for them to handle, and failed to call it off until it was too late. “It was hubris,” said Butler, in his only interview discussing the implosion. Hubris — and, as he went on to suggest, a surprising lack of enthusiasm for diversity among fans. If more fans had bought tickets, he said, the whole debacle could have been avoided. “Unfortunately, they just didn’t,” he said. “I should have known better. But I let my belief in this nonexistent community blind me.”

ULTRAGOTHA (signing as “the Indignant”) sent the link with a comment:

Nonexistent community??! The guy raised $52,000 from fans on a Kickstarter and the pop-up con had 1000 attendees and he says the community is nonexistent?  Fuck that noise.

Twitter’s Clarkisha Kent has fundamental objections to Lila Shapiro’s piece itself (jump on the thread at the link), levying criticisms like —

  1. Being not lazy & actually read what me and @jazmine_joyner/@womenoncomics ALREADY wrote about #FanCon so you don’t look like an asswho doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

(10) OVERSERVED. From the BBC: “World of Warcraft attacker jailed in US”. He tried to get an edge by DDoSing servers so competitors couldn’t get in.

A World of Warcraft gamer has been sentenced to jail in the US for carrying out a cyber-attack that interfered with the service in Europe.

Calin Mateias had been accused of flooding Blizzard Entertainment’s computer servers with traffic between February and September 2010.

He was said to have carried out the distributed denial of service (DDoS) assault to prevent rivals logging in.

Thousands of players were caught up in the resulting disruption.

The Romanian citizen – who had been extradited to Los Angeles to face the charges – pleaded guilty in February to one count of causing damage to a protected computer.

He has also paid $29,987 (£22,176) to Blizzard to cover the costs it racked up trying to repel the data deluge.

(11) BOLO. Second variety? “Russia to showcase robot tank in WW2 victory parade”.

Gazeta.ru reports that the Uran-9 can locate a target itself but the decision to fire is taken by a commander sitting in an armoured truck up to 3km (1.8 miles) away.

The Uran-6 robot-sapper was used to clear mines in the Syrian hotspots of Palmyra, Aleppo and Deir al-Zour. Its controller steers it from a distance of up to 1km.

(12) FOUND IN LA MANCHA. “Terry Gilliam’s ‘cursed’ Quixote is finally here”. He’s been trying to make an adaptation of Cervantes’ novel for over 20 years.

…But as beguiling as its combination of showbiz glamour, fairy-tale enchantment and workaday practicalities may be, the most thrilling aspect of this tableau is what’s missing. There are no meteorites, hurricanes or bolts of lighting. There are no ravenous tigers or cholera outbreaks. There isn’t an ambulance or a fire engine in sight. Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, a film which is synonymous with sustained and calamitous misfortune, is finally going without a hitch after nearly 30 years of blood, sweat, toil and tears.

(13) CHINA’S SOCIAL CREDIT SYSTEM. Did you know? According to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, “Everyone In China Is Getting A ‘Social Credit Score’.” Didn’t Orville and Black Mirror have episodes with social point systems as a dystopian premise?

(14) CREDIT DENIED. In the May 2 Financial Times, Gabriel Wildau reports that Chinese censors have banned short videos of British animated character Peppa Pig (which have been viewed on the China Central television website 30 billion times since 2015) because users used stills from the show to “create memes with vulgar or sardonic captions” with some netizens referring to Peppa Pig as -shehuiren- or “gangster.”

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Britain’s Hardknott Brewery closed in April, but before they folded they made “intergalactic Space Hopper” on Vimeo, which explains what happens when you make a spacey beer that claims it “set hops to stun.”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/17/18 You’re A Little Short For A Pixel Scroll, Aren’t You?

(1) STRACZYNSKI MEMOIR COMING. Harper Voyager US has acquired the imprint’s first memoir, written by J. Michael Straczynski. The book will be published in 2019.

Straczynski is one of the most successful writers of comics, TV, graphic novels, and movies in modern pop culture, and has emerged as one of the most respected voices in science fiction today, selling millions of comics, winning dozens of awards and working with such luminaries as Clint Eastwood, Angelina Jolie and Kenneth Branagh. He is famed for his work on the recent Netflix hit Sense8, his work on Babylon 5, Changeling, World War Z, Thor, and a seven-year stint on The Amazing Spider-Man. But despite forty years of twelve-hour writing days, there’s one story Straczynski could never tell: his own. This memoir chronicles the author’s struggle growing up surrounded by poverty, violence, alcoholism and domestic abuse. The result is an inspiring account of how he wrote his way out of some of the most harrowing conditions.

(2) COINCIDENTAL PROPHET. Henry Farrell takes the measure of the author and this age in “Philip K. Dick and the Fake Humans” at Boston Review.

Standard utopias and standard dystopias are each perfect after their own particular fashion. We live somewhere queasier—a world in which technology is developing in ways that make it increasingly hard to distinguish human beings from artificial things. The world that the Internet and social media have created is less a system than an ecology, a proliferation of unexpected niches, and entities created and adapted to exploit them in deceptive ways. Vast commercial architectures are being colonized by quasi-autonomous parasites. Scammers have built algorithms to write fake books from scratch to sell on Amazon, compiling and modifying text from other books and online sources such as Wikipedia, to fool buyers or to take advantage of loopholes in Amazon’s compensation structure. Much of the world’s financial system is made out of bots—automated systems designed to continually probe markets for fleeting arbitrage opportunities. Less sophisticated programs plague online commerce systems such as eBay and Amazon, occasionally with extraordinary consequences, as when two warring bots bid the price of a biology book up to $23,698,655.93 (plus $3.99 shipping).

In other words, we live in Philip K. Dick’s future, not George Orwell’s or Aldous Huxley’s. Dick was no better a prophet of technology than any science fiction writer, and was arguably worse than most. His imagined worlds jam together odd bits of fifties’ and sixties’ California with rocket ships, drugs, and social speculation. Dick usually wrote in a hurry and for money, and sometimes under the influence of drugs or a recent and urgent personal religious revelation.

Still, what he captured with genius was the ontological unease of a world in which the human and the abhuman, the real and the fake, blur together.

(3) BLACK LIGHTNING. The Hollywood Reporter’s Daniel Flenberg praised the new series: “‘Black Lightning’: TV Review”.

It could be argued that what The CW needs least is another superhero show, much less another murky superhero show.

The pleasant surprise, then, is that Black Lightning, based on yet another DC Comics property, is smart and relevant and full of an attitude that’s all its own. It takes its characters and their world seriously, but thus far doesn’t take itself too seriously. And, best of all, it’s ostensibly entirely separate from Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Arrow and Supergirl, so the risk of time-consuming crossovers or key plot points delivered on a different show is currently nil.

(4) NINE IS TEN. This month io9 is celebrating its 10th anniversary, too. io9 and the File 770 blog started the same month and it’s easy to see which got the most mileage out of that decade. Congratulations io9! Here’s a video made by the founding alumni —  

(5) STARVING IN THE CITY OF THE FUTURE. Slate has published Charlie Jane Anders’ story of future hunger: “The Minnesota Diet”. The future isn’t that far away.

This short story was commissioned and edited jointly by Future Tense and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination. Each month in 2018, Future Tense Fiction—a series of short stories from Future Tense and CSI about how technology and science will change our lives—will publish a story on a new theme. The theme for January–March 2018: Home.

North American Transit Route No. 7 carves a path between tree silhouettes like wraiths, through blanched fields that yawn with the furrows of long-ago crops. Weaving in and out of the ancient routes of Interstates 29 and 35, this new highway has no need for rest stops or attempts to beautify the roadside, because none of the vehicles have a driver or any passengers. The trucks race from north to south, at speeds that would cause any human driver to fly off the road at the first curve. The sun goes down and they keep racing, with only a few thin beams to watch for obstacles. They don’t need to see the road to stay on the road. The trucks seem to hum to one another, tiny variations in their engine sounds making a kind of atonal music. Seen from above, they might look like the herds of mustangs that used to run across this same land, long ago….

(6) POLL. Uncanny Magazine has opened voting for readers to pick their three favorite original short stories from the works they published last year — “Uncanny Celebrates Reader Favorites of 2017”.

We’ve set up a poll for Uncanny readers to vote for their top three favorite original short stories from 2017. (You can find links to all of the stories here.)

The poll will be open from January 17 to February 7, after which we’ll announce the results. We’re excited for you to share which Uncanny stories made you feel!

snazzy certificate will be given to the creator whose work comes out on top of  the poll!

So please spread the word! And don’t forget, EVERY VOTE COUNTS!

(7) GENRE DESTRUCTION. Also, Uncanny is taking submissions to a special issue through February 15 — “Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Guidelines”

We welcome submission from writers who identify themselves as disabled. Identity is what matters for this issue. What kinds of disabilities? All of them. Invisible and visible. Physical disabilities, learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, mental health disabilities, and neurodiversity.

Yes, even if your disability is a recently acquired one.

Yes, even if your disability is static, or if it isn’t.

Yes, even if you’ve had your disability since birth.

Yes, even if you use adaptive devices only SOME of the time.

Yes, you.

Reading Elsa’s essay “Disabled Enough” from our Kickstarter may help if you have any doubts.

So, if you identify as disabled across any of these definitions or others, we want to hear from you!

(8) LONELINESS OF THE LONG-DISTANCE WORDSMITH. L. Ron Hubbard couldn’t do it. andrew j. offutt couldn’t do it. So it’s up to Matthew Plunkett to tell you “How to Write 100,000 Words Per Day, Every Day” (from McSweeney’s.)

Relationships

My first blog post appeared online in 2008 when I explained how I attained my top ranking on a popular worldwide online game. Since then, I haven’t stopped writing. If you’re wondering whether this level of output will hinder your relationships with friends and lovers, let me set you straight. Life is about decisions. Either you write 100,000 words a day or you meet people and develop ties of affection. You can’t do both.

(9) GENTLER PACE. Concatenation has posted its “Newscast for the Spring 2018” – an aggregation of sff and pop cuture news issued at a not-quite-quarterly rate.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 17, 1982 – The Ray Bradbury-penned The Electric Grandmother premiered on television.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY DARTH

  • Born January 17, 1931 – James Earl Jones

(12) BIAS AT WORK. Sarah Hollowell, who calls her blog “Sarah Hollowell, Fat Writer Girl and Her Fat Words”, was not added to the Midwest Writers Workshop’s organizational committee after her appearance was made an issue.

A week ago The Guardian covered the initial stages of the story in “Roxane Gay calls out writing group for ‘fatphobic’ treatment of Sarah Hollowell”.

An American writers’ workshop that has counted Joyce Carol Oates, Jeffrey Deaver and Clive Cussler among its faculty has been called out by Roxane Gay for “fatphobia”, after a writer’s appearance was criticised during a vote to give her a public-facing role.

Gay, who has herself been on the faculty for the Midwest Writers Workshop (MWW), turned to Twitter on Tuesday to lay out how the workshop’s organisers treated the writer Sarah Hollowell. According to Gay, Hollowell has worked for MWW for five years, and was voted to be on its organisational committee. But when her appointment was being discussed, “someone said ‘do we really want someone like her representing us?’ That person elaborated ‘someone so fat. It’s disgusting’,” claimed Gay.

Gay, the author of essay collection Bad Feminist and the memoir Hunger, said that only two people in the room defended Hollowell, and that the author was not then brought on to the committee. “This is unacceptable. And cruel. And cowardly, Midwest Writers Workshop. And you thought you could get away with it. You very nearly did,” wrote Gay, calling on the workshop to issue a “public and genuine” apology to Hollowell, and forbidding it to use her name as a past faculty member in its promotional materials again. “I’m too fat and disgusting to be associated with you,” she wrote.

Hollowell herself said that “there are a lot of good people” at the MWW, but that “I have been hurt in a very real way and I don’t think it should be hidden”.

The workshop subsequently issued an apology to Hollowell on Wednesday, in which its director Jama Kehoe Bigger said: “We screwed up.”

The apology and offers to attempt to “make it right” have not panned out. Instead, here’s what’s happening —

Hollowell responded with a full thread, which includes these tweets —

(13) NOW YOU SEE IT. Nothing magical about this disappearing act — “Rare first edition Harry Potter worth £40,000 stolen”.

A hardback first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone worth about £40,000 was one of a number of rare books stolen during a burglary.

The book, J.K Rowling’s maiden novel of the globally successful series, was stolen from SN Books in Thetford, Norfolk, between 8 and 9 January….

The Harry Potter book was made even more “unique” by being in a custom red box, the force added.

(14) TRAIN TRICKS. The BBC reports a “Japanese train barks like a dog to prevent accidents” — it scares away deer who lick the tracks to get iron.

Tokyo’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper reports that the combination of sounds is designed to scare deer away from the tracks in a bid to reduce the number of animal deaths on the railway.

Officials from the Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI) say that a three-second blast of the sound of a deer snorting attracts the animals’ attention, and 20 seconds of dog barking is enough to make them take flight.

(15) EVEN IF YOU DO EVERYTHING RIGHT. An interesting thread by Alex Acks who argues that maybe it’s not a conspiracy….

(16) WHAT DOESN’T PAY. And Shaun Duke has his own argument against the conspiracy theory.

(17) FILL ‘ER UP. This sounds like the beginning of a nice 1950s sf story —  “UK firm contracts to service satellites”.

Effective Space says its two servicing “Space Drones” will be built using manufacturing expertise in the UK and from across the rest of Europe.

The pair, which will each be sized about the same as a washing machine and weigh less than 400kg, are expected to launch on the same rocket sometime in 2020.

Once in orbit, they will separate and attach themselves to the two different geostationary telecommunications satellites that are almost out of fuel.

 

(18) HIRSUTE. Chip Hitchcock says, “As the proud possessor of a handle bar mustache, I’m pleased to see ’Moustached monkey is separate species’.”

A monkey from Ethiopia and Sudan with a “handlebar moustache” has been identified as a distinct species.

Scientists took a fresh look at the distribution and physical appearance of patas monkeys in Ethiopia, confirming there were two species rather than one.

It was originally described as a separate species in 1862, but was later folded in – incorrectly – with other patas monkeys to form a single species.

(19) WHEN THE BOOKS WERE WRITTEN. Brenton Dickieson has published an epic tool for scholars – “My Cheat Sheet of C.S. Lewis’ Writing Schedule” — at A Pilgrim in Narnia.

For those who study authors of the past, you will soon discover that the publication lists and bibliography of an author are not always terribly helpful. After all, writing, editing, and publishing a book are stages that can each take years. Knowing something is published in 1822 or 1946 tells us little about the writing process. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien each had books that took nearly two decades to write….

Over the last five years, then, I have developed a habit of speaking about when C.S. Lewis or one of the Inklings wrote a book, rather than when they published it. I haven’t been perfectly consistent with this on the blog, but have generally put the writing period in brackets rather than the publication date.

To do this, I discovered that I was slowly building myself a cheat sheet to help me remember when Lewis was writing a book so that I can connect it with what was going on at the time. The cheat sheet includes completed books and incomplete fragments of what would have been a book. I’ve decided to share this cheat sheet with those of you who are interested. This might save you time or inspire you to make connections between Lewis’ work and his life patterns. And, perversely, I’m hoping to draw more people into the project of reading Lewis chronologically, and have provided resources here, here, and here.

(20) HYPERBOREAN AGE. Black Gate’s Doug Ellis says it’s “Time to Revise Your Lin Carter Biography”, though “bibliography” may be the intended word. Either way — Ellis tells about a 1967 fanzine, The Brythunian Prints, published by some Toledo fans.

The most interesting content is two pages of poetry by Lin Carter, under the general heading “War Songs and Battle Cries,” apparently reprinted with Carter’s permission from The Wizard of Lemuria and Thongor of Lemuria. The remaining content is taken up with editorials, limericks by John Boardman (four of which were reprinted from Amra) and a book review of The Fantastic Swordsmen edited by de Camp. The back cover is Tolkien related, as it pictures “Baggins and Trinket” (the Ring).

(21) MORE PAST FUTURES. Let MovieWeb tell you “10 Back to the Future Facts You Never Knew”.

THE POTENTIAL DOC BROWNS

Christopher Lloyd, part of the ensemble of the TV series Taxi which ran from 1978 till 1983, seems irreplaceable as Doctor Emmett Brown in the minds and hearts of fans around the world. But before he landed the role, some other big names were considered for the part, including John Lithgow, Dudley Moore, and Jeff Goldblum. Imagine those memes!

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

Pixel Scroll 12/8/17 Is There A Hologram On My Shuttlecraft That Says ‘Dead Klingon Storage’?

(1) CHECK-IN. The 1954 Worldcon chair Les Cole and Esther Cole, who live in the vicinity of the Ventura, CA fires answered Rich Lynch’s query about how they are doing —

Thanks for asking. Les and I and doggies are OK. Fire went passed us. The air is heavy, so we stay indoors. Much of southern California is rough.

(2) HERBERT MAY BE HONORED BY HOMETOWN. Metro Parks Tacoma Public Information Manager Michael Thompson says a recommendation to name a local peninsula “Dune Peninsula at Point Defiance Park” and its loop trail “Frank Herbert Trail” probably will go to the Park Board for a vote in January. The proposal has been working its way through the system for some time. The News Tribune has an update: “‘Dune’ author Frank Herbert finally set to get his due in his hometown of Tacoma”:

While the Metro Parks Board will have the final say on the matter — and it’s the elected body’s prerogative to deviate or tweak — it’s clear that the public has spoken, and Metro Parks’ staff has attempted to listen. During a public outreach effort earlier this year, more than 500 possible names were submitted via an online survey. The majority of responses referenced Herbert or “Dune.”

“This name provides a simple, evocative identifier that highlights the uniqueness of the peninsula remediation and new park features,” according to the staff recommendation. “On a literary level, it honors the name of the book series by Frank Herbert, a famous Tacoma author, which was inspired by the environmental history of Tacoma’s Asarco copper smelter site, directly adjacent to the peninsula.”

Last month, Thompson helped a local radio reporter tour the peninsula with park commissioner Erik Hanberg. “‘Dune’ And The City Of Destiny: How Tacoma Inspired One Of The World’s Most Acclaimed Sci-Fi Authors”.

If you go to the base of Point Defiance in Tacoma and look east, you’ll see a finger of earth jutting into Puget Sound.

It formed as toxic slag spilled from a copper smelter during the city’s industrial heyday.

For years, it was a foreboding sliver of black, glassy material. Today, workers and machines roam the peninsula as they transform it into a grassy park with Puget Sound views.

Tacoma Metro Parks Commissioner Erik Hanberg has a space-age term for what’s going on there. He calls it “terraforming.”

(3) BACK TO THE STACK. Doris V. Sutherland does a good job framing the issues in “Rocket Stack Rumpus: Critics, Authors, and Non-Binary Science Fiction” accompanied by light analysis. Sutherland concludes:

Greg Hullender responded by writing an apology-cum-rebuttal in collaboration with Eric Wong and altering the offensive reviews. Despite this, he has paid a high price for his faux pas. Locus decided that he was unfit to recommend stories to readers and removed him from its reading list jury, making the following announcement on Twitter.

Thank you to those who brought their concerns about RSR to our attention. Greg Hullender will not be involved in the Locus Recommended Reading List. We support our wonderfully complex and diverse SF community, and hope for continued positive dialogue on these issues.

The reference to positive dialogue seems out-of-place. The Rocket Stack Rumpus marks a breakdown in communications all around, from a reviewer missing the point of the stories he was covering, to authors misreading his reviews in turn. Meanwhile, the issue of Rocket Stack Rank’s provincial approach to stories set against non-Western cultural backdrops–as flagged up by Rose Lemberg in this Twitter thread–ended up being lost alongside Hullender’s misunderstanding of non-binary SF, which is perhaps a secondary issue.

There may well be positive dialogue to come out of the controversy, but at the present moment, there is little of it to be seen.

(4) MEAT AND PROPER. Autocorrect is being blamed rather than legislators falling down on the job: ” Typo in Bill C-45 legalizes cannibalism instead of cannabis”.

Canada is one step closer to the accidental legalization of cannibalism after the House of Commons passed a typo-ridden Bill C-45, formerly known as The Cannabis Act.

“I think no one wanted to be the one to point out the error,” MP Sara Anderson said. “We all thought someone else would do it, and then they called the vote, and here we are, all voting to legalize cannibalism.”

(5) RADICAL CHANGE. If this catches on, Twitter will get awfully quiet.

(6) ANDERS STORY COLLECTION. At Locus Online, “Rachel Swirsky reviews Six Months, Three Days, Five Others by Charlie Jane Anders”.

Anders’s unique humor provides a uniting theme. Only some of the stories are explicitly comic, but all benefit from her linguistic wit and her quirky but generous characterization. Her stories seem to say with affection, “People. We’re weird. What can you do?” She’s particu­larly good at tailoring prose to her characters, revealing their lives through their diction. Char­acters go to “one of those mom-and-pop Portu­guese places” and “the kinda-sorta gay bar.”

(7) MCDUFFIE AWARD OPEN. The 4th Annual Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics is taking entries until December 31.

Please attach a link or a 15mb .PDF file of the work to be considered. When submitting work, we strongly suggest sending the first issue of a series. If submitting anything other than the first issue, a one-page synopsis of what came before must accompany the submission. Also, we suggest sending the first 25-30 pages or first chapter of a graphic novel. We cannot guarantee anything more will be considered. If one is available, please also attach a .JPG photo of the entrant to the email. Please do not include any further attachments.

The award’s three new selection committee members are Jennifer de Guzman, Jamal Igle and Mikki Kendall, who join Mark D. Bright, Joan Hilty, Heidi MacDonald, Kevin Rubio, Gail Simone, and Will J. Watkins.

(8) ELIGIBILITY POSTS. Cat Rambo is doing her annual award eligibility post round-up, this year including editors, publishers, and magazines: “2017 Award-Eligible Work Blog Posts & Roundups for F&SF”. Right now there are about 20 entries on the list. She will be doing daily updates.

(9) CLASS TOMORROW. Cat Rambo says there is still space, including a couple of free slots, in the December 9 class “Speculative Poetry with Rachel Swirsky”.

Next classes are Saturday, December 9 – 9:30-11:30 AM or Wednesday, February 7, 2018, 4-6 PM. (Each class is a separate session.)

Poetry requires intense linguistic control. Every word matters. Whether you’re a poet who wants to create fantastical verses, or a prose writer who wants to learn the finely tuned narrative power that poetry can teach, you’ll find something in this class.

(10) WRITER’S LIFE. A short interview with Ursula K. Le Guin at Shelf Awareness:

Who do you write your blog for? Do you ever read the comments, and if so, what do you learn from them, if anything?

I write them for anybody who wants to read them. (Writers live in hope.)

Yes, sure, I read all the comments. They’re mostly good-natured, and some are thoughtful and enlightening.

You say that dystopian literature is yang-driven, and its opposite–utopian literature–is also yang-driven. Is there a literature that presents a realistically complex vision of a world in balance? Or is that just fantasy?

Of course it’s just fantasy. That’s why I write fantasy…

(11) NOBODY LIKES BEING SLAPPED. Cat Rambo, talking about writers and audiences: “Nattering Social Justice Cook: This Is Not A Review”.

So why did this book hit me so hard in an unhappy place? Because it was so smart and funny and beautifully written and involved connected stories about a favorite city and magic, which are three of my favorite things. And because it had a chapter that was one of the best short stories about addiction that I’ve read, and that left me thinking about it in a way that will probably shape at least one future story.

And yet. And yet. And yet. Women were either powerful and unfuckable for one reason or another or else fell into the category marked “women the protagonist sleeps with”, who usually didn’t even get a name. Moments of homophobic rape humor, marked by a repeated insistence on the sanctity of the hero’s anus, and a scene in which he embraces being thought gay in order to save himself from a terrible fate, ha ha, isn’t that amusing. And I’m like…jesus, there is so much to love about this book but it’s like the author reaches out and slaps me away once a chapter or so.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 8, 1991 Hook premieres in Hollywood.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 8, 1950 – Rick Baker, the Monster Maker

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian saw that First Contact isn’t going too well in Close To Home.

(15) END OF THE MAZE. Maze Runner: The Death Cure comes to theaters January 26.

In the epic finale to the Maze Runner saga, Thomas leads his group of escaped Gladers on their final and most dangerous mission yet. To save their friends, they must break into the legendary Last City, a WCKD-controlled labyrinth that may turn out to be the deadliest maze of all. Anyone who makes it out alive will get answers to the questions the Gladers have been asking since they first arrived in the maze.

 

(16) CONTRARIAN. Go figure. While Patreon was in flames yesterday, Jon Del Arroz climbed aboard — “Jon Del Arroz Patreon Launch!”.

(17) EWW. It’s admittedly a mixed message when I say “Don’t look!” then put in a link anyway — “Here’s What It Looks Like When You Fry Your Eye In An Eclipse”.

“We were very surprised at how precisely concordant the imaged damage was with the crescent shape of the eclipse itself,” noted Dr. Avnish Deobhakta, a retina surgeon at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai in New York, in an email to NPR.

He says this was the most severely injured patient they saw after the eclipse. All in all, 22 people came to their urgent care clinic with concerns about possible eclipse-related damage, and most of them complained of blurred vision. Of those, only three showed some degree of abnormality in the retina. Two of them had only mild changes, however, and their symptoms have gone away.

The young woman described in this case report, at last check, still has not recovered normal vision.

(18) SUPPORTING SPACE EXPLORATION. Bill Nye says The Planetary Society’s latest collaboration with the Chop Shop store is mission posters for kids, like this one:

(19) TENTACLE TIME. In the garden: “‘Underwater city’ reveals mysterious octopus world”.

Once thought of as solitary creatures, scientists discover ‘underwater city’ full of octopuses living side by side

A couple of assumptions are often made about octopuses. First, that they are smart. There is truth in that: octopus behaviour such as tool use, predation techniques and puzzle-solving suggest a higher level of intelligence than other invertebrates. Everyone has watched an octopus unscrewing a jar.

Second, they have a reputation for being solitary. So solitary in fact that an official collective noun for octopuses doesn’t even exist (though ‘tangle’ has been suggested).

This may have to change, however. Over the last decade, scientists have discovered that octopuses aren’t always lone beasts. In fact, octopuses engage in rich, fascinating and unusual behaviours when they interact with each other.

(20) PATREON SURVIVOR, IF POSSIBLE. Cat Rambo is weathering the storm by asking readers how to add more value to her Patreon campaign (and also whether or not to bail from it): https://www.patreon.com/catrambo

Cat She says, “I’ve lost about 15% of my income from there so far, but I’m a very minor player. however if there is something the F&SF is not seeing from me but desperately yearns for, now’s the time to weigh in: “Patreon Changes”.

(21) FRONT PAGE NEWS. I have added to the File 770 sidebar a link to John Hertz’ review of The Glass Bead Game (Hesse), which has found a permanent online home.

(22) KRYPTON. SyFy has put out a teaser trailer for its series about Superman’s homeworld. ScienceFiction.com sums it up:

The series is set two generations before the destruction of the Man of Steel’s home planet. ‘Krypton’ follows Superman’s grandfather (Cameron Cuffe), whose House of El was ostracized and shamed, as he fights to redeem his family’s honor and save his world from chaos. The Seg-El name is both a nod to Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel and a reference to John Byrne’s 1980s miniseries, ‘The World of Krypton.’ Cameron Cuffe is set to play Seg-El alongside with Georgina Campbell as Lyta Zod.

 

(23) THE DARK SIDE. Charles Payseur turns his attention to dark fantasy and horror in “Quick Sips – The Dark #31”.

December brings a pair of stories to The Dark Magazine that focus sharply on observation and theater. In both, women drawn into roles where they are closely watched by men, and in both these experiences are further framed in terms of a sort of voyeurism. In one, a woman is filed, in the other, a woman is part of a play. Both feature stages and bring the reader in as spectators and in some ways as participants. We are the eyes that act as camera and as audience.

(24) BLOW BY BLOW. Sci-Fi Design has a gallery of “Comic Book Covers Recreated Using Balloons”.

Comic book cover art is awesome. They use a variety of styles, but have you ever seen comic book covers that are made from balloons? These awesome balloon sculptures as comic book covers were created by Phileas Flash. They take days to make and the pieces themselves fit into a 10 foot by 10-foot space. Then photoshop is used to add the letters which are also balloons. I love all of the detail that he gets with this unusual medium.

(25) POP CULTURE SUMMIT. Rolling Stone took notes: “Alice Cooper on His Dinner With David Bowie and Ray Bradbury”.

After Cooper’s initial meeting with Bowie in the late Sixties, they later forged a friendship. Once, they even had dinner together with Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury. “It was really interesting, because these guys were in outer space somewhere,” he says. “They were talking about quantum physics, and I’m going, ‘So … what kind of car are you driving?'” Cooper laughs.

(26) CAMERON PROJECT. Alita: Battle Angel Official Trailer.

From filmmakers James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez. Alita Battle Angel is in theaters July 20, 2018. Cast: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Keean Johnson.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Cat Rambo, Greg Hullender, David K.M. Klaus, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Rich Lynch, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Darren Garrison.]