Pixel Scroll 12/13/19 All These Scrolls Are Yours, Except Tsundoku. Attempt No Pixels There

(1) MARVEL SNAPSHOTS. Kurt Busiek is overseeing a Marvel showcase series featuring history-making characters.

This March, prepare to see the greatest moments of Marvel’s 80-year history told like never before! In MARVEL SNAPSHOTS, industry legend Kurt Busiek will bring together incredible creative teams for eight standalone, double sized issues showcasing Marvel’s most beloved characters from the golden age to today. Like 1994’s critically acclaimed MARVELS series, MARVEL SNAPSHOTS will be tales told through the eyes of ordinary people, offering unique insights on the legendary mythos of the Marvel Universe. MARVELS SNAPSHOTS also reunites Busiek with renowned MARVELS co-creator Alex Ross who will be providing the series with his iconic painted covers.

It all begins with SUB-MARINER: MARVELS SNAPSHOT #1 when best-selling novelist and Emmy Award-winning TV writer Alan Brennert (L.A. LAW, TWILIGHT ZONE) and superstar artist Jerry Ordway (ALL-STAR SQUADRON, CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS) unite to tell an unforgettable story about Marvel’s original antihero: Prince Namor!

Set circa World War II, things kick off with an action-packed tale featuring Namor, Betty Dean, and the All-Winners Squad–a dream come true for Brennert. “I can honestly say that I enjoyed working on this story more than any comics story I’ve done in years. I grew up reading (and loving) Marvel’s Golden Age heroes in the 1960s, in reprints in FANTASY MASTERPIECES. But I never thought I’d have a shot at writing them–especially the All-Winners Squad!–and I’m grateful to Kurt Busiek and Tom Brevoort for providing me the opportunity, and to Jerry Ordway for bringing it all to glorious life,” Brennert says. “I’m enormously proud of ‘Reunion’ and honored to be the first story published in MARVELS SNAPSHOTS.”

Artist Jerry Ordway is just as passionate about bringing this tale to life. “When I was offered this project, I jumped at it, being a big fan of the original MARVELS book by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross. Getting to draw a Sub-Mariner story set in the 1940s, with appearances by the All-Winners Squad, lets me connect with Marvel’s World War II era history, and the work of Subby’s creator, Bill Everett,” says Ordway. “I’ve been a Marvel maniac from the age of 10, so this is pretty cool! Alan Brennert wrote a great script which fits neatly into the bigger tapestry that is the Marvel Universe. I’m thrilled to get to play in this sandbox after so many years as an artist.”

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Listeners are invited to join host Scott Edelman and Elsa Sjunneson-Henry for lunch in Little Italy on Episode 111 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Elsa Sjunneson-Henry

My guest this time around is Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, who was a winner of the Best Semiprozine Hugo Award earlier this year for her work as a Guest Editor of Uncanny Magazine’s Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Special Issue. She was also a 2019 Hugo Award finalist for Best Fan Writer. Her fiction has appeared in such magazines as Fireside and Uncanny, as well the anthologies Ghost in the Cogs and Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling. She’s written non-fiction for The Boston Globe, Barnes & Noble, Tor.com, and other venues. She is a feminist scholar and disability rights activist (which I knew), but also a burlesque historian (which I did not know).

We lunched at La Tavola, where I’d previously joined Marv Wolfman during the 2017 Baltimore Comic-Con. We discussed her roller coaster of emotions the night she won a Hugo Award earlier this year during the Dublin Worldcon, how that editorial gig increased her empathy, the way writing roleplaying games and being a Sherlock Holmes nerd taught her about world-building and led to her first professional fiction sales, the dinosaur-themed Twitter feed that gave birth to her most recently published short story, the novel she’s working on which she describes as The Conjuring meets The Stand, her expertise in obscenity law and fascination with the history of burlesque, why she felt the Bird Box novel handled blindness better than the movie, her background in competitive improv and the way that helped her within science fiction, advice on how not to let Internet trolls get you down, and much more.

(3) PILE PELION ON OSSA. John Scalzi chronicled the results of his Twitter poll which asks: “Would Baby Yoda eat a porg?” (Is it cannibalism if one cute thing eats another cute thing?) Thread starts here.

(4) JUST PLAIN FOLKS TALES. RS Benedict has released another episode of the Rite Gud podcast, “No More Heroes with JR Dawson”. In this interview with sff short fiction author JR Dawson, they talk about writing fiction that doesn’t focus on Big Important Heroes of Destiny. It’s called No More Heroes.

Much of speculative literature focuses on superheroes and Chosen Ones. But what about ordinary people or flawed people who don’t save the world? Do they matter?

Sci-fi/fantasy author JR Dawson joins us to talk about why she writes about ordinary people, and how privilege and inequality warp our idea of whose story deserves to be told. She also talks about being a Midwestern writer, her favorite literary losers and that time Hans Christian Andersen got really weird with Charles Dickens’ family.

(5) BEST SFF. Andrew Liptak chimes in with “The best science fiction and fantasy books of 2019” at Polygon. (It’s interesting to see that several of the year’s most-discussed books only made his Honorable Mentions.)

Here’s one that made the list —

The Waste Tide by Chen Quifan

Cixin Liu might have become the best-known science fiction writers to come out of China, but he’s far from the only one. Chen Qiufan’s Waste Tide is a far cry from Liu’s epic science fiction tales, taking a grim look at the near future of China, where impoverished workers struggle to make a living from the world’s electronic waste.

Waste Tide follows a series of people who come together in Silicone Isle: Mimi, a worker who heads there for work; Scott Brandle, an American who is trying to arrange a contract; and Chen Kaizong, a translator, all of whom find themselves wrapped up in a greater plot for control. It’s a book that reminded me quite a bit of Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, with a pointed commentary on class warfare and the lifecycle of the devices we use.

(6) HAPPY BLANDINGS. At Tor.com, James Davis Nicoll wryly claims “SFF Needs More Incompetent Autocrats”. This turns out to be a Wodehouse tribute as much as anything.

One of SFF’s grand traditions is carefully filing the serial numbers off historical events (the American Revolutionary War, perhaps, or the Napoleonic Wars), or famous and classic works (Lord of the Rings, the Hornblower series, Zulu), and re-purposing the result as SFF. This is usually known as “research” (See Tom Lehrer on this point). Examples abound—my disinclination to deal with crowds of irate authors protesting at my door precludes naming them here….

(7) HOLLYWOOD HISTORY. Profiles in History’s “Hollywood: A Collector’s Ransom Auction” has all kinds of genre movie props, models, and figurines. It even has examples of correspondence between director Sam Peckinpah and Ray Bradbury. “Ray and Sam would lunch (hoist a few pints) at the Formosa Café,” recalls John King Tarpinian.

(8) A PYTHON SPEAKS. Leonard and Jesse interviewed Terry Gilliam for their Maltin on Movies podcast.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote completes a quest that has consumed Terry Gilliam for thirty years, but as Leonard and Jessie learned, he bears his burdens lightly. He made his name supplying unique animated sequences for   Monty Python’s Flying Circus and his films include Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Brazil, and The Fisher King. He’s a delightful man with stories to tell (about everyone from Robin Williams to Heath Ledger) and a great outlook on life.

(9) MICROLOAN. Rachel Swirsky signal-boosted an “Opportunity to Support a Palestinian Library” and so will we.

I’ve been making microloans through Kiva.org through years, and this project caught my eye. A Palestinian woman is looking to convert an old house into a library and bookshop: 

Check it out at Kiva: https://www.kiva.org/lend/1893559

Duha is a nice girl who lives with her family in a small humble house near Ramallah. Duha has an amazing idea: she decided to restore an old house to make it a library and a place to sell books and other stationery.

She went to Palestine for Credit and Development (FATEN) to request a loan to help her to cover all restoration expenses to convert the old house into a library. Duha hopes that all the students and residents of the area will benefit from the library.

(10) OVERCOMING REJECTION. Alex Woolf advocates “Seven Ways to Grow Your Resilience as a Writer” at the SFWA Blog.

Study the nuances of rejection
In the miserable miasma of reading a fresh rejection, it can be easy to miss the nuggets of positivity and constructive feedback that are often contained in the message too. Some messages are form rejections, but it’s well-known that many venues have form messages that vary according to their take on the writer. A writer a venue wishes to encourage, for example, may get a standard message that’s quite different from the standard message that’s sent to a writer that for whatever reason they are never likely to publish.

So once the initial disappointment has subsided, make a point of going back to the message and seeing what you can learn from it for your next project or submission. Sometimes there is a valuable nugget in there (e.g. Try to use fewer adverbs or We felt we wanted to know more about what was happening from the protagonist’s perspective.) These are valuable insights that you can work with.

However disappointing the message, always send an acknowledgment – stay polite and professional. And if a venue says you should submit again, then do so, once or twice more at least. They didn’t have to say that, after all.

(11) YIKES! Bloomberg confirms “Silicon Valley Is Listening to Your Most Intimate Moments”.

Amazon declined interview requests for this story. In an emailed statement, a spokeswoman wrote, “Privacy is foundational to how every team and employee designs and develops Alexa features and Echo devices. All Alexa employees are trained on customer data handling as part of our security training.” The company and its competitors have said computers perform the vast majority of voice requests without human review.

Yet so-called smart devices inarguably depend on thousands of low-paid humans who annotate sound snippets so tech companies can upgrade their electronic ears; our faintest whispers have become one of their most valuable datasets. Earlier this year, Bloomberg News was first to report on the scope of the technology industry’s use of humans to review audio collected from their users without disclosures, including at Apple, Amazon, and Facebook. Few executives and engineers who spoke with Bloomberg Businessweek for this story say they anticipated that setting up vast networks of human listeners would be problematic or intrusive. To them, it was and is simply an obvious way to improve their products.

… Several of the big tech companies tweaked their virtual-assistant programs this year after a steady drip of news reports. While Google has paused human transcriptions of Assistant audio, Apple has begun letting users delete their Siri history and opt out of sharing more, made sharing recordings optional, and hired many former contractors directly to increase its control over human listening. Facebook and Microsoft have added clearer disclaimers to their privacy policies. And Amazon has introduced a similar disclosure and started letting Alexa users opt out of manual reviews. “It’s a well-known thing in the industry,” Amazon’s Limp recently said about human transcription teams. “Whether it was well known among press or customers, it’s pretty clear we weren’t good enough there.”

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Cat Eldridge emailed that he needed urgent care for some physical problems – I hope they are able to get him feeling better soon. Go ahead and mention birthdays you know about in the comments.]

(13) STAR TREK SHIP IN A BOTTLE. So is there a teeny-tiny Kirk and Spock in there somewhere?

On this episode of Ben’s Worx I make a ship in a bottle with epoxy resin and Australian burl.

(14) RABID IN THE NORTHWEST. Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day, was referenced by the Guardian in a story about a Washington state representative: “Report on far-right Republican Matt Shea in hands of Washington legislators”

Outside investigators have submitted a report to the Washington state house about the activities of the far-right Republican state representative Matt Shea, but legislators on both sides of the aisle remain tight-lipped about its contents.

…Last Monday the independent investigator, the Rampart Group, presented their findings to the chief clerk of the Washington state legislature . He in turn delivered the findings to the executive rules committee, composed of leaders of both parties in the house.

…Shea, meanwhile, was interviewed last week on Infowars’ David Knight Show, where he attacked perceived critics.

Shea then quoted Theodore Beale, whom the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) describes as a “champion of the alt right movement”, and whose blog is described as a home of “misogynistic, white supremacist diatribes”.

“Social justice warriors always lie, they always double down on their lie, and they always try to project on to you how they really are themselves,” Shea said.

(15) HIGH-STAKES COMICS AUCTION. Heritage Auctions brought home the bacon again: “Marvel Comics #1 Brings Record $1.26 Million to Lead Heritage Auctions’ Comics & Comic Art Auction Beyond $14.9 Million”.

The finest known copy of Marvel Comics No. 1, sold for $1,260,000 to lead Heritage Auctions’ record-setting Comics & Comic Art auction to $14,936,295 Nov. 21 in Dallas, Texas.

The second-largest comic auction of all time, trailing only the $15,121,405 realized in Heritage Auctions’ Chicago Comics & Comic Art Auction in May 2019, this sale included 15 lots that sold for at least $100,000.

…The issue, with famous cover art by Frank R. Paul and interior art by a group of illustrators that included Bill Everett, Carl Burgos and Paul Gustavson, was purchased by a Pennsylvania postal carrier who bought every No. 1 issue he could of both comic books and magazines, beginning in the 1940s. It’s grade of 9.4 on a scale of 1-10 makes it the best copy of the issue ever found, according to Certified Guaranty Company (CGC).

More than two dozen collectors made bids for Robert Crumb Your Hytone Comix #nn “Stoned Agin!” Inside Back Cover Original Art (Apex Novelties, 1971) before it closed at $690,000, breaking the record for the most ever paid for an interior piece of comic art. Created at the height of the artist’s popularity, the image is instantly recognizable, even by many who don’t know the work of Crumb, who is revered for his contribution to the underground comics movement in the 1960s. This iconic image was reproduced countless times, including on a blacklight poster, on pinback buttons, postcards and t-shirts.

Neal Adams Batman #251 Cover The Joker Original Art (DC, 1973) sold for $600,000, the most ever paid through Heritage Auctions for a piece of DC art. The spectacular image of one of the most famous Joker covers of all time debuted a new version of the villain, trumpeting the return of the Joker after a four-year hiatus from Batman comics….

(16) HE CREATED THE UBIQUITOUS MARKS. NPR reports “IBM Engineer Who Designed The Universal Product Code Dies At 94”.

On a June morning in 1974, a Marsh Supermarket cashier in Troy, Ohio, rang up a 67-cent pack of Juicy Fruit chewing gum using something novel — the black and white stripes of a universal bar code.

The Universal Product Code is now a packaging mainstay on everything from cereal boxes and produce to electronics and airplane tickets, but it might not have worked without IBM engineer George Laurer.

Laurer, who died this month at 94 in North Carolina, had been given an assignment by his manager: Write a proposal for grocery executives explaining how IBM would take a previously invented bar code pattern, in the shape of a bull’s-eye, and make it work in supermarkets across the country.

But when that manager returned from a vacation, Laurer was there to meet him. “I didn’t do what you asked,” he said.

Instead, Laurer had created something else — the bull’s-eye was gone and in its place was a linear bar code. Laurer had deemed the bull’s-eye design unworkable. The circular code, inspired by Morse code and patented by N. Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver in 1952, was too small, and it would smear when run through the poor-quality printing presses used for most food labels at the time.

(17) SIMMERING. Kotaku discovered that “Baby Yoda Can Be Bought In The Sims 4”.

Because EA owns The Sims, and because EA also has the rights to Star Wars video games, we finally have a digital tie-in with the new live-action Mandalorian series. It’s not a Carl Weathers outfit. It’s not a “Bounty Hunter” job for your Sim. It’s a Baby Yoda statue you can buy and put in your yard.

(18) IN SEARCH OF REPRODUCIBLE RESULTS. They hope a tool will make them easier to come by. “Can A Research Accelerator Solve The Psychology Replication Crisis?”

In 2008, psychologists proposed that when humans are shown an unfamiliar face, they judge it on two main dimensions: trustworthiness and physical strength. These form the basis of first impressions, which may help people make important social decisions, from whom to vote for to how long a prison sentence should be.

To date, the 2008 paper — written by Nikolaas Oosterhof of Dartmouth College and Alexander Todorov of Princeton University — has attracted more than a thousand citations, and several studies have obtained similar findings. But until now, the theory has been replicated successfully only in a handful of settings, making its findings biased toward nations that are Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic — or WEIRD, a common acronym used in academic literature.

Now, one large-scale study suggests that although the 2008 theory may apply in many parts of the world, the overall picture remains complex. An early version was published at PsyArXiv Preprints on Oct. 31. The study is under review at the journal Nature Human Behavior.

The study is the first conducted through the Psychological Science Accelerator, a global network of more than 500 labs in more than 70 countries. The accelerator, which launched in 2017, aims to redo older psychology experiments but on a mass scale in several different settings. The effort is one of many targeting a problem that has plagued the discipline for years: the inability of psychologists to get consistent results across similar experiments, or the lack of reproducibility.

(19) THEY LIE, YOU KNOW. “How ‘dark patterns’ influence travel bookings” – BBC will explain.

If you’ve wondered whether there were actually 30 people trying to book the same flight as you, you’re not alone. As Chris Baraniuk finds, the numbers may not be all they seem.

Ophir Harpaz just wanted to get a good deal on a flight to London. She was on travel website OneTravel, scouring various options for her trip. As she browsed, she noticed a seemingly helpful prompt: “38 people are looking at this flight”. A nudge that implied the flight might soon get booked up, or perhaps that the price of a seat would rise as they became scarcer.

Except it wasn’t a true statement. As Harpaz looked at that number, “38 people”, she began to feel sceptical. Were 38 people really looking at that budget flight to London at the same exact moment?

Being a cyber-security researcher, she was familiar with web code so she decided to examine how OneTravel displayed its web pages. (Anyone can do this by using the “inspect” function on web browsers like Firefox and Chrome.) After a little bit of digging she made a startling discovery – the number wasn’t genuine. The OneTravel web page she was browsing was simply designed to claim that between 28 and 45 people were viewing a flight at any given moment. The exact figure was chosen at random.

Not only that, the website’s innards were surprisingly blatant about what was going on. The bit of code that defined the number shown to users was even labelled “view_notification_random”.

(20) MECHANICAL BULLS***. “General Election 2019: How computers wrote BBC election result stories”.

For the first time, BBC News published a news story for every constituency that declared election results overnight – all written by a computer.

It was the BBC’s biggest test of machine-generated journalism so far.

Each of nearly 700 articles – most in English but 40 of them in Welsh – was checked by a human editor before publication.

The head of the project said the tech was designed to enhance the service provided rather than to replace humans.

“This is about doing journalism that we cannot do with human beings at the moment,” said Robert McKenzie, editor of BBC News Labs.

“Using machine assistance, we generated a story for every single constituency that declared last night with the exception of the one that hasn’t finished counting yet. That would never have been possible.”

VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Quail on Vimeo, Grant Kolton explains that if you want to be a quail, it’s hard work!

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

Pixel Scroll 7/2/19 Just A Pixel Scroll, Filing Is Our Only Goal

(1) OVERVIEW. Neil Clarke’s “A State of the Short SF Field in 2018” from The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume 4 can be read by clicking Amazon’s “Look Inside the Book” feature here. The free preview contains the whole of Neil’s summary of the short SF field. Gardner Dozois used to write something similar in his annual anthologies, and it’s nice to see Neil stepping up here. Plenty of interesting analysis and opinions.

(2) KNITTING TOGETHER A COMMUNITY. “The Raksura Colony Tree” is a project to be presented at Dublin 2019, inspired by Martha Wells’ previously Hugo-nominated series Books of the Raksura.

If you’re coming to Dublin to join in the fun and are interested in creating things with needle and thread, this is your chance to be an active part in a community art project.

Cora Buhlert recently posted something she was inspired to do:

There are examples of many different types of foliage that people have come up with here.

(3) WARTS AND ALL. James Davis Nicoll rises to the defense of “Ten Favorite Flawed Books That Are Always Worth Rereading” at Tor.com. Here’s one of them —

The eponymous station in Richard C. Meredith’s We All Died At Breakaway Station is a vital link in humanity’s communications network. It’s the facility through which hard-won information about the genocidal alien Jillies must pass. Therefore, the Jillies plan to destroy it. Absalom Bracer’s convoy is determined to defend it, despite the notable disadvantage that said convoy consists of a hospital ship and two escorts crewed by the walking wounded. The prose goes beyond purple into ultraviolet, but the novel delivers on its title with grand explosions and heroic sacrifices.

(4) BY ANY OTHER NAME. Futurism explains how “This AI Gives Other AIs Names Like ‘Ass Federation’ And ‘Hot Pie’ Because Robots Can Be Weird Too”

Ship Shape

Scottish author Iain M. Banks populated his sci-fi Culture book series with humanoid robots, alien races, and artificially intelligent spaceships that chose their own names.

So: Research scientist Janelle Shane thought it would be fun to use those ship names to train a real neural network to — what else? — conjure up new names for self-aware spaceships. The results? Hilarious. Puzzling. Generally? Great.

(5) SPECULATIVE COLLECTIVE. The kickoff event of the Speculative Collective Salon on July 11 will feature best-selling authors Jennifer Brody, Rachel A. Marks, and Neo Edmund.

Join us to launch the SPECULATIVE COLLECTIVE Salon, a new quarterly gathering of SoCal’s growing speculative fiction community. The program will include a reading and conversation with best-selling authors Jennifer Brody, Rachel A. Marks, and Neo Edmund. The authors will have books to sell and sign, and time will be set aside to network and chat with likeminded fans of the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. The event will take place at 1888 Center, 115 N. Orange St., Orange, CA. Admission is free. Come early to enjoy the venue’s art gallery and bookstore or pick up something to drink from the in-house Contra Coffee & Tea shop.

Their next event is:

October 10, 2019: The SPECULATIVE COLLECTIVE Salon, featuring USA Today best-selling author Russell Nohelty, YA science fiction author Merrie Destefano, and Dr. David Sandner, an English professor at California State University, Fullerton, who also publishes speculative fiction and non-fiction.

(6) FUTURE TENSE. This month’s entry in our Future Tense Fiction series is “Space Leek,” by Chen Qiufan/Stanley Chen.

I blinked. The walls and floors of the cabin vibrated as the spaceship adjusted its docking position, waking me up from my nap. My partner, Jing, was busily checking the dashboard.

“Are we there yet?” I mumbled.

“Look, it’s the Roast Garlic. Your favorite.” She pointed to the porthole.

The floating Yutu-3 space station gradually enlarged in my sight as I gazed out the porthole. I smiled. This was my third time up here, yet my eyes still widened when I saw it.

“Roast Garlic” was the nickname I had given the space station….

There’s a response essay, “What Will Humans Really Need in Space?”, by architecture professor and space settlements expert Fred Scharmen.

…The 1975 study was on the design of large-scale space settlements. These would be located, like the Yutu-3 space station in Chen Qiufan’s story, at the Earth-moon Lagrangian points where gravity between these two bodies allows for stable orbits. Unlike the Yutu-3 (or as the characters in the story call it, the Roast Garlic), these were not intended to be purely research stations. They would be home to about 10,000 people engaged in the work of building solar-powered satellites.

The team realized that these people would need to bring, or make, all of the things they needed themselves….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 2, 1939 — The first Worldcon begins in New York, continuing to July 4. Attendance is approximately 200.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 2, 1914 Hannes Bok. He’s a writer,  artist and illustrator who created nearly one hundred and fifty covers for various detective, fantasy and sf fiction magazines. He shared one of the inaugural 1953 Hugo Awards for science fiction achievement for Best Cover Artist with Ed Emshwiller. He also wrote a handful of novels, the best known being The Sorcerer’s Ship,  The Blue Flamingo and Beyond the Golden Stair. (Died 1964.)
  • Born July 2, 1933 Gloria Castillo. She first shows up in a genre role in Invasion of the Saucer Men (which also bore the title of Invasion of the Hell Creatures). Later she would be in Teenage Monster, and had an appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (Died 1978.)
  • Born July 2, 1948 Saul Rubinek, 71. Primarily of interest for being on Warehouse 13  as Artie Nielsen, but he does show rather often else on genre series and films including going on EurekaMasters of Horror, Person of InterestBeauty & the BeastStargate SG-1The Outer Limits and Star Trek: The Next GenerationMemory Run and Death Ship are seeming to be his only only genre films. 
  • Born July 2, 1950 Stephen R. Lawhead, 69. I personally think that The Pendragon Cycle is by far his best work though the King Raven Trilogy with its revisionist take on Robin Hood is intriguing. And I read the first two of the Bright Empires series which very much worth reading.
  • Born July 2, 1951 Elisabeth Brooks. She is no doubt best remembered for her role as the evil, leather-clad siren Marsha Quist in The Howling. Her other genre appearances included Deep SpaceThe Six Million Dollar ManKolchak: The Night Stalker and The Forgotten One. (Died 1997.)
  • Born July 2, 1956 Kay Kenyon, 63. Writer of the truly awesome The Entire and the Rose series which I enjoyed immensely. I’ve not read her Dark Talents series, so opinions please.
  • Born July 2, 1965 Jerry Hall, 54. She seems to wandered into a number of films down the years such as Alicia in Batman and Newswoman in Freejack, not to Woman in Park in Vampire in Brooklyn. Not real roles, just there. 
  • Born July 2, 1970 Yancy Butler, 49. Detective Sara Pezzini on the Witchblade series which would’ve been awesome with current CGI. She was later Avedon Hammond in Ravager, Captain Kate Roebuck in Doomsday Man, Angie D’Amico in Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, Reba in Lake Placid 3 and Lake Placid: The Final Chapter, Officer Hart in Hansel & Gretel Get Baked (also known as Black Forest: Hansel and Gretel and the 420 Witch) (given the latter, a career low for her) and Alexis Hamilton in Death Race 2050. Series work other than Witchblade wasa recurring role as Sgt. Eve Edison in Mann & Machine inher first genre role.
  • Born July 2, 1990 Margot Robbie, 29. Harley Quinn in what I consider the second best Suicide Squad film, the best being the animated Assault on Arkham Asylum which also has a better Harley Quinn in it. Just saying. She both acting and producing the forthcoming Birds of Prey film. She has since played Jane Porter in The Legend of Tarzan, and voiced Flopsy Rabbit in Peter Rabbit

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) SAD STORY. Rachel Weiner in the Washington Post reports that Pankaj Bashin pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in his murder of Bradford Jackson.  Bashin claimed that Jackson was turning into a werewolf and had to be killed to “save 99 percent of the moon and planets.” “Man who thought he killed werewolf in Alexandria pleads not guilty by reason of insanity”.

(11) PHONE SURVEILLANCE IN CHINA. Vice / Motherboard reports  “China Is Forcing Tourists to Install Text-Stealing Malware at its Border”. Tagline: “The malware downloads a tourist’s text messages, calendar entries, and phone logs, as well as scans the device for over 70,000 different files.”

Foreigners crossing certain Chinese borders into the Xinjiang region, where authorities are conducting a massive campaign of surveillance and oppression against the local Muslim population, are being forced to install a piece of malware on their phones that gives all of their text messages as well as other pieces of data to the authorities, a collaboration by Motherboard, Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Guardian, the New York Times, and the German public broadcaster NDR has found.

(12) HEART OF DARKNESS. Not that we don’t have problems of our own — Vice / Motherboard covered that story, too: “How Amazon and the Cops Set Up an Elaborate Sting Operation That Accomplished Nothing” Tagline: “Behind-the-scenes emails show how Amazon and Ring worked with police in Aurora, Colorado to make people scared of each other.”

For Amazon, fear is good for business.

If customers fear their neighbors, and fear they might steal a package, customers are less likely to be mad at Amazon if they don’t get a package they ordered. They’re also more likely to buy an Amazon-owned Ring doorbell camera, which is marketed as way of surveilling your stoop for package deliveries and package thieves—especially on Neighbors, the Ring-owned “neighborhood watch” app.

(13) DEEP DIVE. Doris V. Sutherland has a set of “2019 Hugo Award Reviews: Novelettes” at Women Write About Comics. Here’s an excerpt from the review of Brooke Bolander’s story:

Parts of The Only Harmless Great Thing are written from the perspective of elephant-kind. These are framed as tales told by a mother elephant to her calves, recalling certain sequences from Bolander’s other Hugo finalist of the year, “The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat” – as with that story there is a distinct Kipling influence, complete with the occasional “best beloved”. Storytelling is important to elephants, we are told: “Without stories there is no past, no future, not We. There is Death. There is Nothing, a night without moon or stars.”

(14) INCREDIBLE JOURNEY. “Scientists ‘speechless’ at Arctic fox’s epic trek” – BBC has the story.

A young Arctic fox has walked across the ice from Norway’s Svalbard islands to northern Canada in an epic journey, covering 3,506 km (2,176 miles) in 76 days.

“The fox’s journey has left scientists speechless,” according to Greenland’s Sermitsiaq newspaper.

Researchers at Norway’s Polar Institute fitted the young female with a GPS tracking device and freed her into the wild in late March last year on the east coast of Spitsbergen, the Svalbard archipelago’s main island.

The fox was under a year old when she set off west in search of food, reaching Greenland just 21 days later – a journey of 1,512 km – before trudging forward on the second leg of her trek.

She was tracked to Canada’s Ellesmere Island, nearly 2,000 km further, just 76 days after leaving Svalbard.

What amazed the researchers was not so much the length of the journey as the speed with which the fox had covered it – averaging just over 46 km (28.5 miles) a day and sometimes reaching 155 km.

(15) ALIEN TERRAIN. BBC will explain “How Iceland helped humans reach the moon”— photos and essay.

Fifty years after the first moon landing, a small Icelandic town celebrates its pivotal role in propelling humankind into space.

…Yet few people realise that this triumphant leap for mankind was propelled in part from an unlikely place: Iceland. In the years preceding the Apollo 11 mission, Nasa believed it was essential for its astronauts to prepare for their intragalactic journey by training in the most otherworldly terrain on Earth. After scouring the globe, officials determined that the moon’s lunar landscape was strikingly similar to that just outside Húsavík, a quiet 2,300-person fishing community on Iceland’s northern coast. Nasa sent 32 astronauts to train in its crater-filled terrain in 1965 and 1967. Incredibly, of the 12 humans who have ever walked on the moon, nine first touched down in Húsavík – including Armstrong himself.

…Next stop: Mars

For several years, Nasa has been studying geothermal sites in Iceland as a way to prepare for its ambitious plans to send a rover to Mars in 2020. According to planetary scientists, Iceland’s glaciers, volcanoes and hot springs are eerily similar to how Mars looked billions of years ago, and by studying subtle marks in Iceland’s iron-rich rocks, scientists are able to detect clues indicating where water once flowed.

“The Apollo astronauts I have met have told me that Iceland [is] an even better place to train astronauts to visit Mars than it was for the Moon,” Örlygsson said. “We know a lot about the geology of Mars because rovers have been studying the surface of Mars for some time. What they have discovered is that there are many more similarities between the geology here in Iceland and the geology of Mars.”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Wet Book Rescue” on YouTube offers practical advice on rescuing wet books from the Syracuse University Libraries.

[Thanks to James Davis Nicoll, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Joey Eschrich, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Darrah Chavey, Greg Hullender, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cliff.]

Pixel Scroll 10/11/17 A Scrolling, OverCommenting, Tin-Pixeled Fifth-tator With Delusions Of Godstalkhood

(1) WHAT DID HE SAY? Scott Edelman hopes you will eavesdrop on his breakfast with the award-winning Chen Qiufan in Episode 49 of Eating the Fantastic.

Chen Qiufan

Chen Qiufan has published more thirty stories in venues such as Science Fiction World, Esquire, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Interzone, and F&SF. His 2013 debut novel, The Waste Tide, was praised by Liu Cixin as “the pinnacle of near-future SF writing.” He’s the most widely translated young writer of science fiction in China. He has won Taiwan’s Dragon Fantasy Award, China’s Galaxy and Nebula Awards, and a Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Award with Ken Liu.

We discussed why his favorite character from all of science fiction is Mr. Spock, what kept him going during the seven years between the sales of his first and second stories, the reasons H. G. Wells is a genius, why he believes science fiction is the greatest realism, the differences in reading protocols between Chinese and non-Chinese readers, why he hopes his own upcoming science fiction movie will defy his prediction there’ll be many bad SF movies to come in Chinese cinema, and more.

(2) SPACE AGING. Every TV viewer has heard about the problems of overweight – it turns out being weightless isn’t good for your health, either. The Brisbane Times has the story: “Astronaut Scott Kelly on the devastating effects of a year in space”.

I make it to my bedroom without incident and close the door behind me. Every part of my body hurts. All my joints and all of my muscles are protesting the crushing pressure of gravity. I’m also nauseated, though I haven’t thrown up. I strip off my clothes and get into bed, relishing the feeling of sheets, the light pressure of the blanket over me, the fluff of the pillow under my head.

All these are things I’ve missed dearly for the past year. I can hear the happy chatter of my family behind the door, voices I haven’t heard for a long time without the distortion of phones bouncing signals off satellites. I drift off to sleep to the comforting sound of their talking and laughing.

A crack of light wakes me: Is it morning? No, it’s just Amiko coming to bed. I’ve only been asleep for a couple of hours but I feel delirious. It’s a struggle to come to consciousness enough to move, to tell her how awful I feel. I’m seriously nauseated now, feverish, and my pain has gotten worse. This isn’t like how I felt after my last mission. This is much, much worse.

Kelly’s article ends with a comment about prospects for an interplanetary mission.

…I also know that if we want to go to Mars, it will be very, very difficult, it will cost a great deal of money and it may likely cost human lives. But I know now that if we decide to do it, we can.

(3) INDIES ADMITTED. SFWA President Cat Rambo, in “SFWA and Independent Writers, Part Three: Launches and Lurches”, continues her four-part series about the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s decision to admit independently published writers.

Some statistics for the number-minded:

  • We admitted twelve new members in that first wave, and there’s been a steady influx since. At the same time, existing members that had independent published experience felt more empowered to step forward and share their knowledge.
  • According to the recent membership survey, 14.10% of the current membership identifies as indie, with another 37.57% considering themselves hybrid.
  • Only a small percentage (less than 5%) derives more than 50% of their income from crowdfunding.

All My Expectations of Indie SFWA Members Confirmed As I and others had argued repeatedly, the change did not result in an influx of unqualified, affluent hobbyists trying to buy their way into SFWA, and we could, finally, put that particular straw man to rest and play taps while other straw folk were being assembled in the background.

As you can see by the numbers, it wasn’t a massive surge, but a solid number. For some people it was part of a lifelong dream. For others, it was a cautious exploration of just what SFWA had to offer them. More than anything else, these were pragmatic, working writers. In a thread on the discussion boards, people began to share their sales number in a revelatory and instructive way that emphasized what a smart move for SFWA this had been. I still insist one of the smartest moves that happened during my time with the board.

The balance of the post discusses specific ways that indie members benefit from SFWA membership. It ends with hints about a forthcoming awards-oriented project….

Next time, in Part Four (the final one) — what does the future hold in store? Includes talking about data from the recent SFWA member survey as well as revelation of at least one cool project designed to help people reading novels for all yearly awards, including the Nebulas, Hugos, Dragon, World Fantasy, among others. *cue mysterious music and exit*

(4) LIBRARIES ENJOY COPYRIGHT EXCEPTION. The Internet Archive reports “Books from 1923 to 1941 Now Liberated!”

The Internet Archive is now leveraging a little known, and perhaps never used, provision of US copyright law, Section 108h, which allows libraries to scan and make available materials published 1923 to 1941 if they are not being actively sold….

If the Founding Fathers had their way, almost all works from the 20th century would be public domain by now (14-year copyright term, renewable once if you took extra actions).

Some corporations saw adding works to the public domain to be a problem, and when Sonny Bono got elected to the House of Representatives, representing part of Los Angeles, he helped push through a law extending copyright’s duration another 20 years to keep things locked-up back to 1923.  This has been called the Mickey Mouse Protection Act due to one of the motivators behind the law, but it was also a result of Europe extending copyright terms an additional twenty years first. If not for this law, works from 1923 and beyond would have been in the public domain decades ago….

But there is an exemption from this extension of copyright, but only for libraries and only for works that are not actively for sale — we can scan them and make them available. Professor Townsend Gard had two legal interns work with the Internet Archive last summer to find how we can automate finding appropriate scanned books that could be liberated, and hand-vetted the first books for the collection. Professor Townsend Gard has just released an in-depth paper giving libraries guidance as to how to implement Section 108(h) based on her work with the Archive and other libraries. Together, we have called them “Last Twenty” Collections, as libraries and archives can copy and distribute to the general public qualified works in the last twenty years of their copyright….

(5) FROM PAGE TO SCREEN. Paste Magazine listed “The 25 Best Comic Book TV Shows of All Time (Live-Action)” – how do their picks line up with yours?

The trend shows no signs of slowing—we count at least 20 shows from DC and Marvel alone, including such ambitious projects as a Damon Lindelof-helmed Watchmen on HBO, the long-awaited Y: The Last Man series on FX, The Punisher spinoff on Netflix and Hulu’s Runaways, whose pilot screening hooked me enough to at least keep watching. This list may look a lot different in a few years.

Number six is the Adam West/Burt Ward Batman series of the Sixties.

(6) LACE OBIT. The SFWA Blog reports the organization’s former secretary (2002-2003) ElizaBeth A. Gilligan (Lace) died October 9 after a battle with cancer.

Gilligan published her first short story, Evolution,” in 1990 and began writing as a columnist for Midnight Zoo in 1991.

Subsequent short stories appeared in Witch FantasticSword and SorceressBlack Gate, and other anthologies.  Her story “Iron Joan” made the Nebula preliminary ballot in 2002.  Gilligan’s Silken Magic trilogy was published by DAW Books, with the first volume, Magic’s Silken Snare, appearing in 2003 and the second volume The Silken Shroud showing up the next year.

The final volume, Sovereign Silk, was delayed until earlier this year due to chronic illness.  She edited the anthology Alterna-Teas in 2016….

SFWA President Cat Rambo said, “I had the pleasure with working with Beth as a volunteer the past couple of years and got a chance to interact with her in person at the Spokane Worldcon. This year has had a lot of losses; this one hits particularly hard.”

Locus Online says she is survived by her husband Douglas (married 1982), their two children, and two grandchildren.

Tom Whitmore, one of the fans who forwarded the story, added “She was a remarkably nice person, and a really good panelist at the cons I saw her at.”

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 11, 1984 — Space Shuttle astronaut, Kathy Sullivan, became the first American woman to walk in space.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

John King Tarpinian selected this one for Filers who are not fans of Twilight The Argyle Sweater.

(9) ICONOCLASTIC INFUNDIBULUM. It’s said: “You can pick your friends. You can pick your nose. But you can’t pick your friends’ noses.” John Scalzi disagrees —

(10) A COMING ATTRACTION. Disney theme parks will be offering a pioneer VR adventure, Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire – ILMxLAB and The VOID – Immersive Entertainment Experience

A galaxy far, far away needs your help. In teams of four, be transported with family and friends in a brand new hyper-reality experience from Lucasfilm, ILMxLAB and The VOID. Under the orders of the budding rebellion, your team will travel to the molten planet of Mustafar. Your mission is to recover Imperial intelligence vital to the rebellion’s survival. Alongside the pragmatic droid K-2S0, your team must navigate through an enemy facility walking into danger at every turn. Disguised as stormtroopers, grab your blaster, solve puzzles, and fight giant lava monsters in an effort to fulfill your team’s orders. Pushing the boundaries of location-based virtual reality, The VOID and ILMxLAB bring the Star Wars universe to life through a multi-sensory, untethered story. See Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire only on location at Disney Springs in Orlando, FL, and Downtown Disney in Anaheim, CA – coming this winter.

 

(11) OPEN AND CLOSED. David Steffen’s SFWA Market Report for October tells the changing status of many sff magazines and publishing projects.

(12) WHAT’S THE MATTER? New Scientist says “Half the universe’s missing matter has just been finally found”.

The missing links between galaxies have finally been found. This is the first detection of the roughly half of the normal matter in our universe – protons, neutrons and electrons – unaccounted for by previous observations of stars, galaxies and other bright objects in space.

You have probably heard about the hunt for dark matter, a mysterious substance thought to permeate the universe, the effects of which we can see through its gravitational pull. But our models of the universe also say there should be about twice as much ordinary matter out there, compared with what we have observed so far.

Two separate teams found the missing matter – made of particles called baryons rather than dark matter – linking galaxies together through filaments of hot, diffuse gas.

(13) MONEY ROLLS IN FOR ALTHERO. “AltHero raises $100k to fight social justice in comics,” says the subject line of an emailed press release, which sounds about right.

Vox Day’s crowdsourced appeal on the Freestartr platform to fund his new comics line has raised $102,156.00 from 1,133 backers, more than 4 times its original $25,000 goal. The appeal runs for another 18 days.

After reaching its initial funding goal in only four hours, a new right-wing comic series, Alt*Hero, exceeded the rare $100,000 mark in just 12 days, with more than 1,000 backers signing on to help the alternative comic wage cultural war on the social justice-converged comic duopoly of Marvel and DC Comics. It is being written by prolific Marvel and DC Comics veteran writer Chuck Dixon and six-time Hugo Award Finalist Vox Day.

The press release makes a point of quoting derogatory remarks about the appeal to motivate donations from culture warriors on the right.

…The reaction to the announcement of Alt*Hero was decidedly mixed. While support has been strong on the right side of the ideological spectrum, left-wing comics fans denounced the new comic on Twitter and other social media platforms. “As awful as you’d expect,” reported LGBTQ Nation. “Vox Day is literally to the right of Genghis Khan, with two feet planted firmly in the Reichstag… the type of punk-ass feeb whose jaw Batman was born to break,” declared Jason Yungbluth, a cartoonist for MAD Magazine.

(14) MEANWHILE, BACK IN SJW LAND. No money in it, but some good laughs for those of you who enjoy stories of mistaken SJW credential identity.

(15) MILEHICON. The 49th annual MileHiCon takes place at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center from October 27-29. More than 100 science fiction/fantasy/horror authors, artists and other speakers will participate. MileHiCon’s guests of honor include authors Eric Flint, Jane Lindskold, and artist Carrie Ann Baade. Local author Jason Heller will preside as toastmaster.

  • The largest SF/fantasy art show and auction in Colorado
  • Round-the-clock gaming
  • Vendors room full of science fiction, fantasy and horror-related items
  • CosPlay (costume) contest
  • Critter Crunch (robotic sumo wrestling)
  • Mass author autograph session with over 60 authors participating (no extra fees)
  • Literacy Auction with hundreds of donated items. All proceeds donated to a Denver based charity literacy program.
  • During the weekend over 200 different programs will be offered on subjects ranging from Writing * Publishing * Artist demonstrations * Hands-on Workshops * Science presentations * Autograph sessions * Kids’ programming * Costuming * Gaming * and much more!

A three-day membership will be $48 at the door. Full weekend memberships can also be purchased in advance at https://milehicon49.planningpod.com/.

(16) TAG TEAM ROBOTS. Pacific Rim Uprising trailer. In theaters March 23.

(17) MOUNT TBR CALLING. Broaden your horizons: “The great writers forgotten by history” at the BBC is a discussion of The Book of Forgotten Authors, by sometime-genre author Christopher Fowler.

What do Agatha Christie’s favourite mystery novelist, the winner of the 1973 Booker Prize, and a writer who reputedly bashed out 100 million words, creating an archetypal schoolboy antihero along the way, have in common?

The answer will cause even the most successful author’s ego to wilt a little. Despite enjoying ample sales and plentiful esteem in their lifetimes, the names of this formerly starry trio – Elizabeth Daly, JG Farrell, and Billy-Bunter-creator Charles Hamilton (pen name Frank Richards) – are today largely unknown, their works under-read or out of print altogether. Now, they’re among the figures filling a thought-provoking new guide, The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler.

(18) BEFORE ALAN TURING. The BBC celebrated Ada Lovelace Day (October 10) with a look at “The female code-breakers who were left out of history books”.

According to some of the researchers and writers who have revealed these stories, along with setting the record straight, there is an opportunity to encourage the technically gifted women of today.

Fagone points to the controversial discussions of whether women can equal men in certain fields, such as mathematics or computer programming.

“There are all these debates – is there a biological difference?” he says.

“We don’t need to have that debate because we have the history – when you go to the history, women have been there, they’ve been doing this work all along.”

(19) TEST YOUR BUDS. Identify the flavor and you have a chance to win big money.

OREO has launched a brand new cookie with an exciting twist that will put its fans taste buds to the ultimate test.

Cookie lovers across the U.S. who correctly guess the flavor of the new Mystery OREO Cookies can enter for a chance to win $50,000.

John King Tarpinian’s guess is, “Broccoli!”

(20) ELECTRIC DREAMS TRAILER. Amazon Video is bringing out a 10-episode series, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams.

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, Dave Doering, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Alan Baumler, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Rambo, Tom Whitmore, Joel Zakem, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]