Pixel Scroll 5/3/19 Who You Gonna Scroll? Ghostpixels!

(1) CLEANUP ON SPACE AISLE ONE. Daniel Dern gives NASA’s news a sff perspective: “In Space, Nobody Picks Up Your Trash: NASA Recycling in Space Award Winners” at Earth911.

…According to NASA, “The three winners brought a variety of approaches to the table for the challenge. Zabciu’s submission proposed incorporating space savings features and camera-actuated ejectors to move trash through the system, before bringing it to another mechanism to complete the feed into the reactor. McFall’s submission indicated it would use a hopper for solid waste and managed air streams for liquids and gaseous waste. Hamdallah proposed using air jets to compress the trash and cycle it through the system instead of gravity.”

Mary Robinette Kowal, a three-time Hugo Award winning science fiction author whose recent novels, The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, include a lot of space mission planning and action, says, “As space missions get longer in duration — and farther from Earth — recycling and repurposing will be even more important.”

I asked Kowal in her capacity as both a science fiction writer and reader if she had any observations or suggestions for the creators inventing new space tech — and the people who will be using it on-site.

“There is a difference between policy and the way people actually live,” says Kowal. “For long-duration missions, you have to look at the latter. One way to get some real-world insights is by looking at communities like Iceland and other island nations where people have a fixed set of resources to draw upon.”

(2) POKEMANIACS ASSEMBLE. Michael Rechstaffen gives one thumb up in his “‘Pokemon Detective Pikachu’: Film Review” at The Hollywood Reporter.

Those anticipating another Golden Raspberry-worthy contender like last year’s The Happytime Murders, another spoof of classic pulp fiction, can park their preconceived notions at the door.

It turns out Pokemon Detective Pikachu isn’t half bad.

Set in Ryme City, a neon-soaked experimental world in which humans and Pokemon co-exist in relative harmony, the truly trippy production has its fitfully entertaining charms. There were a couple of telling clues that pointed in that direction, primarily the welcome presence of Ryan Reynolds, who has brought a generous sampling of his sardonic Deadpool sensibility to the voicing of the title role.

(3) BEST SERIES. Steve J. Wright has completed his Best Series Hugo Finalist reviews:

(4) COLBERT AND TOLKIEN TOGETHER. Forbes details Fathom Events’ special showing for the forthcoming biopic: “The Late Show Meets Middle-Earth: Stephen Colbert Hosts National In-Cinemas Preview Of ‘Tolkien'”.

Moviegoers looking to venture to Middle-earth will be able to see the highly anticipated new film, Tolkien, in cinemas three days prior to its national release with a special screening hosted by The Late Show’s Stephen Colbert. The event, which takes place on May 7, three days ahead of the national release of the film on May 10, is presented by Fathom Events and Fox Searchlight Pictures. Tolkien superfan Colbert will host an exclusive live Q&A with stars Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins and director Dome Karukoski from the Montclair Film Festival.

(5) ROANHORSE CONVERSATION. Brandon Crilly conducts a ”Wordsmiths: Interview with Award-Winning Author Rebecca Roanhorse” at Black Gate.

Everything that I’ve read of yours — this story, “Indian Experience(TM)”, Trail of Lightning — carries undertones about a variety of indigenous issues. Why discuss these topics through fantasy as opposed to contemporary literature?

I’m a nerd. I’ve always been a Science Fiction and Fantasy (SFF) reader and writer from my earliest memories of reading Susan Cooper and Lloyd Alexander as a kid and then Eddings and Jordan and Herbert as I got into high school, and as an adult Butler and Le Guin, among many, many others. I’ve always written SFF, too, from my very first stories in middle school. It’s what I love. What else would I write?

I’ve spoken with other indigenous authors who worry about being pigeonholed into only writing about those kinds of indigenous-centric topics. Does that sort of thing ever worry you?

Not really. I am going to write what speaks to me as a creative. I’m lucky enough to have editors that support that. And I do have a couple of projects coming out over the next year or so, one of they pretty big, that are not Indigenous-centric. Although being Indigenous, my sensibility and approach will always be influenced by my heritage. That’s just who I am; it’s a part of my worldview and, like any other author, that will always show through.

(6) DRAMATIC WHEELS. A 308-picture gallery accompanies Motor Trend’s post “Your Favorite Sci-Fi Movie Cars Are Coming to Life at the Petersen Museum”.

The Petersen Automotive Museum goes Back to the Future and beyond its new “Hollywood Dream Machines: Vehicles of Science Fiction and Fantasy” exhibit opening on May 5. We’ve seen some truly amazing vehicles at the L.A. car museum in the past but this new show is literally out of this world. Here are just some of the more than 40 cars and motorcycles from classic movies and video games that will be on display.

(7) KUBRICK AND DESIGN. Behind the Financial Times paywall, an architecture critic reviews a show about Stanley Kubrick at the Design Museum in London.

This is not a new show.  But placing it in a design museum, rather than a film-focused or art gallery, shifts the angle and allows us to see how architectural Kubrick’s work was, and how obsessive he was about design, from landscapes to graphics, products to technology.

The opening is stunning, a layered series of screens like stage flats displaying some of Kubrick’s best-known scenes, all using his characteristic single-point perspective.  Little Danny pedaling his tricycle down the hotel corridor in THE SHINING, the Rococo/disco mish-mash of the final room (presumably created by a superior intelligence) in 2001:  A SPACE ODYSSEY, the dolly ride through the French trenches in PATHS OF GLORY. It is wonderfully immersive, propelling us into an obsessional world which is unsettilngly strange yet weirdly familiar.

The website for the show, which runs through September 15, is designmuseum.org,

(8) VALE, CHEWBACCA. The Hollywood Reporter did a roundup of celebrity goodbyes to the actor played Star Wars’ Chewbacca: “Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, George Lucas and More Remember Peter Mayhew”.

And they focused on the reaction of the actor who worked most closely with him: “Harrison Ford Remembers ‘Star Wars’ Co-Star Peter Mayhew: ‘I Loved Him'”

Harrison Ford, like the rest of the Star Wars fans across the globe, was devastated when he learned on Thursday that his friend and Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew had died at the age of 74.

The two men made up the iconic duo of Han Solo and Chewbacca, which they played together in four films since 1977. 

Ford said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter that he loved his dear friend. 

“Peter Mayhew was a kind and gentle man, possessed of great dignity and noble character,” said the actor. “These aspects of his own personality, plus his wit and grace, he brought to Chewbacca. We were partners in film and friends in life for over 30 years and I loved him. He invested his soul in the character and brought great pleasure to the Star Wars audience.”

Anthony Breznican, in “Peter Mayhew remembered: How he said goodbye to playing Chewbacca” in Entertainment Weekly, takes the occasion of Mayhew’s death to reprint a 2015 interview with Mayhew on the occasion of his last appearance as Chewbacca in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I guess it’s fair to say that that relationship between Han and Chewie is like a brotherhood, right? It’s something that will never go away — no matter the years?
Peter: As Han — I mean, Harrison— was quoted: It’s an old married couple. [Laughs.] Yes, Chewie is older; he is also a character that is going to last and has lasted for 40 years, almost. When you think about it, Star Wars was in ’77, and we have stayed with each other in a long, great relationship. People don’t have many relationships like that. It’s kind of like Laurel and Hardy!

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 3, 1939 Dennis O’Neil, 80. Writer and editor, mostly for Marvel Comics and DC Comics from the Sixties through the late Nineties, and the Group Editor for the Batman family of titles until his retirement. He has written Wonder Woman and Green Arrow in both cases introducing some rather controversial storytelling ideas.
  • Born May 3, 1951 W. H. Pugmire.  S. T. Joshi has described Pugmire as “perhaps the leading Lovecraftian author writing today.” Let the debate begin. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 3, 1958 Bill Sienkiewicz, 61. Comic artist especially known for his work for Marvel Comics’ Elektra, Moon Knight and New Mutants. He worked on Elektra: Assassin!, a six-issue series which written by Frank Miller and it was amazing. He both wrote and illustrated the 1988 miniseries Stray Toasters, an delightfully weird work published by Epic Comics, and collaborated with writer Andy Helfer on the first six issues of DC Comics’ The Shadow series.
  • Born May 3, 1974 Joseph Kosinski, 45. He made his directorial debut with Tron: Legacy, the sequel to the original Tron. His second film was Oblivion based on his unpublished graphic novel of the same name. Interestingly he got his start doing CGI adverts for the Halo 3 and Gears of War games. 
  • Born May 3, 1975 Christina Hendricks, 44. Not long genre credits but she voiced Lois Lane and Super Women in All-Star Superman, did more voice work work as Zarina in Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy and yet more voice work as Gabby in Toy Story 4. Which brings me to her live work on Firefly as she’s a con artist in two episodes under various names of Bridget / Yolanda / Saffron. Oh and she was a Bar Maid on Angel once.
  • Born May 3, 1982 Rebecca Hall, 37. Lots of genre work — first role was Sarah Borden in The Prestige followed by being Emily Wotton in Dorian Gray and Florence Cathcart in The Awakening which in turn led to her being Maya Hansen in Iron 3. Next up? Mary in Roald Dahl’s The BFG. Is she done yet? No as next is the English dub of the voice of Mother of Mirai no Mirai. She might’ve wanted to have stopped there as her most recent role is Dr. Grace Hart in Holmes & Watson which won four Golden Raspberries! 

(10) DUCK! SYFY Wire warns “There’s an asteroid coming Deep Impact-levels of close to Earth”. Or is “warns” the right word – they sound a little too cheerful.

If you look up at the sky on April 13, 2029, you’ll see a streak of light that looks like cinematic special effects, except this won’t be a sci-fi movie.

What that blaze in the cosmos really will be is the asteroid 99942 Apophis. You could almost legit call it a shooting star, since it’s expected to shine as bright as some of the stars that twinkle in the Little Dipper and to zoom across the full moon. This thing will also be a shocking 19,000 miles above the surface. That is as close as some of the spacecraft orbiting our planet, except a 340-meter-wide space rock is going to make people nervous. It even made NASA nervous. And thrilled.

(11) END OF DAY. Is sunset on Mars just as dark as a night outside Winterfell? You decide! “Incredible photograph shows sunset on Martian horizon” on Australia’s 9News.

NASA’s stationary InSight lander is spending two years on Mars learning everything it can about the deep interior of the Red Planet.

But it’s also providing Earth with details such as a daily Martian weather report and, now, a glimpse of what it looks like when the sun rises and sets on Mars.

The lander used the camera on its robotic arm to take photos on April 24 and 25, capturing sunrise at the equivalent of 5.30am and 6.30pm local time.

(12) ONE FOR ORWELL. Some places Big Brother really is watching… Just up on Beeb Beeb Ceeb, “Russia tightens grip on its national net”.

Russia has formally adopted a law that gives its government more control over its domestic internet.

The law means the systems that exchange data between the networks forming the Russian internet must share more information with government regulators.

It also lets regulators exert direct control over what Russians can post, see and talk about online when national security is threatened.

Russian net firms have until 1 November to comply with the law.

Widespread protests were mounted in a bid to stop the law being passed.

(13) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to float away with Annalee Flower Horne in episode 94 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

…At Annalee’s suggestion, we met at Mark’s Kitchen, which has been serving customers in Old Town Takoma Park since 1990. It had a comfortable family feel, and an extensive menu, one which seemed suitable for all tastes and dietary sensitivities.

We discussed the incident at their first con which was a catalyst for wanting to become a writer, the way a glare from Mary Robinette Kowal caused them to submit — and then sell — their first short story, how the intricacies of game design can teach fiction writers to write better, why writers shouldn’t complain when editors reject stories too quickly, the first story they wrote while angry (and what was learned from the experience), the cuss word they wish they’d thought of in time to get into their first published story, the novel-in-progress that’s a feminist take on The Demolished Man, how codes of conduct can (and should) help make fandom better, and much more.

(14) THEY’RE JUST DRAWN THAT WAY.Inverse: “Superhero Study Explains the Sexy Reason We’re Drawn to Marvel Characters”.

The bulging muscles of Captain America and the va-va-voom curves of Black Widow are no surprise to fans of comic books and action films. People have known since Superman’s debut in 1938 that superheroes are exactly that — they’re super. However, a recent study applies a new analysis the idealized bodies of heroes. They aren’t just super strong and super fast — they’re also “supernormal sexual stimuli.” 

In other words, the outrageous features of superheroes are exaggerations of what humans have long found attractive. Researchers explain in the April edition of Evolutionary Biological Sciences that hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine features — think cut jawlines and low waist-to-hip ratios — signal primal, powerful associations in the human brain. These are traits we’ve evolved to pay attention to and we pay extra attention to superheroes because their traits are beyond what humans are capable of.

[…] These hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine forms are exaggerated reflections of endocrine markers that we interpret as signals for youth, health, and fertility. […]

“I was surprised at how exaggerated the drawings were, but not about what parts of the bodies were being exaggerated,” [co-author Dr. Rebecca] Burch says. “We expected they would be exaggerated according to testosterone and estrogen markets.”

(15) BAY AREA FANS, DON’T MISS OUT. Gizmodo/io9 reports an sf art exhibit will be in San Francisco this weekend for two days only:  “Sci-Fi Art Gets Quirky Cool With ‘A Match Made in Space’”.

Argentinian artist Max Dalton has a style that’s instantly recognizable, simplistic, and quirky. Those words may not scream “science fiction,” but that’s exactly why his style works so well in that genre.

Dalton’s latest exhibit, “A Match Made in Space,” opens May 4 at Spoke Art in San Francisco, CA. The artwork fuses Dalton’s playful style with science fiction properties—with pieces ranging from sleek and futuristic to gritty and lived-in, and it all looks damned adorable in his style. […]

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

Pixel Scroll 5/2/19 Good Night, Scroll

(1) FRAZETTA ON THE BLOCK. Bids are being taken for another 13 days on Frank Frazettas’s Egyptian Queen painting (1969). The price is already up to $2.2M, and Heritage Auctions thinks it could ultimately go for $5M.

For a man known for his exquisite paintings, this is quite possibly his single most famous piece… the artist’s “Mona Lisa”… the enigmatic, beloved, and often imitated “Egyptian Queen” herself, a haunting image that legions of admirers have returned to time and time again…

(2) FREE COMIC BOOK DAY IS MAY 4. Free Comic Book Day is just around the corner, and Marvel is ready —

Free Comic Book Day 2019 is the perfect chance to dive deep into the Marvel Universe with new stories and exciting adventures alongside some of Marvel’s most acclaimed creators – and this year, Marvel is bringing you the biggest and boldest stories yet!

In FCBD Avengers #1, industry superstars Jason Aaron and Stefano Caselli spin in all-new tale for Marvel’s main Avengers series, while Savage Avengers, from Gerry Duggan and Mike Deodato, creates one of the most dynamic, and deadly versions of the Avengers ever!

In FCBD Spider-Man #1, creators Tom Taylor, Saladin Ahmed, and Cory Smith take the superstar heroes of the Spider-Verse in a shocking new direction, with a story that will build to one of Marvel’s most fantastic and epic tales! Meanwhile, Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman remind us that “everyone is a target” by bringing absolute terror to the pages of this year’s FCBD with a prelude to Absolute Carnage – the most fearsome event in the Marvel Universe!

Both FCBD Avengers #1 and FCBD Spider-Man #1 are available in comic stores everywhere on May 4th. In addition to the comic, select retailers will receive FREE Avengers promo buttons highlighting the dynamic and stunning cover art from FCBD Avengers #1 by Ed McGuinness, available while supplies last!

(3) POST-APOCALYPTIC OPS. Lorraine Berry, in “The Power and The Pain of Post-Apocalyptic Detective Fiction” on CrimeReads, looks at novels by Ben H. Winters, Hanna Jameson, and Tom Sweterlisch to see how detectives would function in a post-apocalpyptic world.

…While Winters and Jameson’s characters already know the cause of the apocalypse, such a search combined with a detective story is contained in Tom Sweterlitsch’s The Gone World. His detective is Shannon Moss, an investigator with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) who, in order to solve the 1997 murder of the entire family of a Navy SEAL, travels through time to find an answer. But what Moss and other time travelers discover, however, is that the earth will face complete destruction in several centuries. What becomes gradually worse is that with each trip into the future, the date of earth’s destruction moves closer in time until in 1997, that destruction has become imminent. Moss must solve the murders while also solving the problem of the encroaching apocalypse.

(4) VOCATIONAL TRAINING. BBC offers to teach you “How to make an Avengers film in 11 steps”.

…But Marvel’s Cinematic Universe will continue – with new instalments of Spider-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy already confirmed; and a new configuration of The Avengers almost a certainty.

If you somehow end up in the directors’ chair, how should you prepare? Here are 11 key lessons from the people who made the originals.

This article does not contain spoilers for Avengers: Endgame, but will discuss plot details from the preceding films.

1) Start out on a TV show

All three directors of The Avengers made their names in TV. Joss Whedon created Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Firefly; while the Russo brothers worked on cult comedies Community and Arrested Development.

Those experiences were invaluable when it came to wrangling a cast of more than 20 characters, “because they are all ensemble shows,” says Joe Russo.

“Those were shows that had to be executed in 21 minutes, they had to be funny, and they had to have a plot. And sometimes, like in an episode of Community, you’d have 30 speaking parts – so that’s an exercise that certainly trained you in trying to contain as many characters as we do in two hours.”

“We’re drawn to multiple points of view and group dynamics, because we grew up in a very large Italian-American family,” adds Anthony, “so we’ve always loved working with ensembles.”

(5) #OWNVOICES. Mary E. Roach relates the background that made it hard to answer an agent’s question, “Are You Gay Like Your Character?”.

…So now we come back to the issue of querying. In the publishing world, we’re eager to read stories with the #OwnVoices label—this means that these stories are written about marginalized people by a person who shares that marginalization. Because of the choices I made, I do specify that one of my characters is queer, but I do not claim that it is an #OwnVoices story.

This week, though, I got an email reply to one of my queries in a day. Here’s what it said:

“Hi,

Are you gay, like your character?”

And then his email signature.

Um.

I had actually never been asked that before, and I didn’t know how to respond. My queer characters are two preteens from the turn of the century in Ireland, so our experiences are definitely not the same. But the timespan from writing the first line of my book I’m querying to now has been a full 15 months, and I am ready to get out of the querying trenches. So instead of ignoring him, or telling him to go fly a kite, like I probably should have, I answered, taking a chance that he’d understand. I told him I was bisexual, and so was someone else in my life whom I really loved, and that seeing more LGBTQ+ characters in media, I believe would have really helped both of us growing up. I was honest about being married to a man. I told him that I’d had a sensitivity reader, an openly gay man, go though certain passages to make sure I wasn’t being unintentionally insensitive. Everything else I kept guarded, because I didn’t really want to recount my entire queer resume, nor answer for the choices I made almost a decade ago.

He responded in about an hour:

“Thanks for the clarification. Publishing culture is in such a PC time right now, so I really think this should be #ownvoices. Hope another agent feels differently.

His email signature again.

Cue up that existential crisis.

I’m very fortunate in that I have access to an incredible group of querying and agented authors to talk me through it, queer friends to be angry for me, and a book that I’m genuinely proud of. My first thought was in gratitude for these things: if this was going to happen to anyone, I figured, it might as well have happened to me. But then I realized: if the publishing world is policing my #ownvocies story (even though I don’t claim that label) they’re policing others, too.

There are many of us who walk the line between orientation, races, nationalities, religions, cultures, and more. You wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell just by looking at their (perfect!) website photos and reading a bio. I like #OwnVoices stories, and I pride myself on reading them and promoting them, but what if an unintended consequence of this label is stopping genuine stories from being read? Are unrepresented authors really supposed to parade around our pain just for the sake of getting published?

(6) POP TALENT. In “Castellucci to Publish Graphic Memoir ‘Girl on Film’ in November”, Publishers Weekly interviews Cecil Castellucci.

How did you move between theater, music, and writing?

For a long time I thought that I had to choose one. I even had people in my life say to me, you have to choose a direction. But after a while, I realized that they were all the same thing. They were all different modes of telling a story. I always felt a little jealous that visual artists could choose the tool, pencil, pastel, water color, oils, ink, etc, to draw their picture. But it struck me at some point in my thirties that a song, a comic, a play, a movie, a novel, a libretto are also tools. And whichever one you use to tell your story colors the way that it’s told.

Why do you find writing more satisfactory than the other things you have done?

Writing is more satisfying because it’s the spark that can billow out into any other art form. It’s the big bang….

(7) LAST WISH GRANTED. The Providence Journal has the story of a special request and how it was fulfilled (“‘Game of Thrones’ cast members send video greetings to R.I. woman in hospice care”).

The nurses attending to an 88-year-old hospice patient regarded her request as her last wish: she wanted to watch the third episode of the current season of “Game of Thrones,” on Sunday, and maybe even meet a character from the show.

Claire Walton’s caretakers at HopeHealth in Providence tapped their network to make contact with members of the cast, who sent thoughtful greetings and best wishes to the lifelong Rhode Island resident.

[…] A total of 10 actors, including Liam Cunningham, who plays a lead character, Ser Davos, sent along good tidings, according to a spokeswoman for HopeHealth, Victoria Vichroski.

The story was picked up by CNN affiliate WJAR (“‘Game of Thrones’ actors send 88-year-old RI hospice patient video messages”) and ultimately by CNN itself (“A hospice patient’s final request was to watch the Battle of Winterfell. The ‘Game of Thrones’ cast did her one better”). She did get to see the episode as well as the video greetings from the cast members. Ms Walton died the day after the episode aired.

(8) PETER MAYHEW OBIT. Actor Peter Mayhew, who gained fame playing Chewbacca in Star Wars movies, died April 30 at the age of 74. Jason Joiner of the Kurtz Joiner Archive paid tribute —

…Peter loved playing Chewbacca as he could put away his shyness and become a roaring Wookiee when he needed to be. Meeting fans and especially the children that were into Star Wars and seeing the magic in their eyes when they got to meet Peter was something that drove him to attend public events and Comic Cons across the globe, which he continued to do up until last week. As time went on Peter was finding it harder to take on the filming commitments of Chewbacca and even though you could never replace Peter he saw Chewie live on in the way that actor Ian Whyte played the character as Peter’s Stunt Double in The Force Awakens. Ian cared about how Peter portrayed Chewie and understood that Chewie was Peter and so he watched him and learned to become Peter as Chewie. Peter felt that the character was safe for future generations of Star Wars fans with Ian’s insight and care. At 74 Peter lived to a great age for someone of his stature and this was down to the people that loved and helped him so much day to day as he grew older. Peter married his wife Angie in 1999 and from that time Peter has had a partner in life that he could share his amazing adventures and travel with. Later on Katie and Ryan, his children, also helped to enable Peter to keep on the road and attend the events he so loved to visit. In 2016 Peter set up The Peter Mayhew Foundation, a non-profit organisation devoted to the alleviation of disease, pain, suffering and the financial toll brought on by lives traumatic events. By providing its available resources directly to deserving children and adults in need, the foundation assist numerous charitable organisations in order to promote and boost their effectiveness and provide support where needed. On a personal note Peter was a wonderful and kind hearted friend.

Joiner asks fans to “take a look at the wonderful work Peter and his family are doing to help others — http://petermayhewfoundation.org If you feel like saying goodbye to Peter then please don’t buy flowers or gifts but instead make a difference and donate something and go here: http://petermayhewfoundation.org/make-a-donation.php.”

(9) MARK GREYLAND OBIT. Mark Greyland, son of Marion Zimmer Bradley, died unexpectedly on May 1 reports Diana Paxson. He was a well-regarded artist who specialized in computer-generated fractal designs. He made news in 2014 when he corroborated his sister Moira’s account of their abuse by Bradley and her husband Walter Breen in an interview published by Starfire Studio.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 2, 2008Iron Man premiered on this day

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 2, 1890 E. E. “Doc” Smith. Best known for the Lensman and Skylark series. I note that multiple sources say he is called the father of space opera. Is he indeed that?  Another author I know I’ve read but would be hard pressed to say exactly what I’ve read of. (Died 1965.)
  • Born May 2, 1921 Satyajit Ray. His Professor Trilokeshwar Shonku stories , throughly throughly Hindi, is based on a character created by Arthur Conan Doyle,  Professor Challenger. You can find most of his fiction translated into English in Exploits of Professor Shonku: The Diary of a Space Traveller and Other Stories (Satyajit Ray and Gopa Majumdar). (Died 1992)
  • Born May 2, 1924 Theodore Bikel. He was on Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s fourth season in order to play the foster parent to Worf in the “Family” episode, as CPO Sergey Rozhenko, ret.. That and playing Lenonn in Babylon 5: In the Beginning are the roles I want to note. Well there is one minor other role he did — he voiced Aragon in a certain The Return of the King. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 2, 1925 John Neville. I’ve mentioned before that Kage considered Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen to be one of her favourite films and John Neville was one of the reasons that she did so. You can read her review here. Among his other genre roles, Neville had a prominent recurring role in The X-Files as The Well Manicured Man. And he showed up playing Sir Isaac Newton on The Next Generation in the “Descent” episode. (Died 2011.)
  • Born May 2, 1946 Leslie S. Klinger, 73. He is a noted literary editor and annotator of classic genre fiction. He is the editor of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, a three-volume edition of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes fiction with extensive annotations, and an introduction by John le Carré. I’d also like to single out him for his The Annotated Sandman, Vol. 1, The New Annotated Frankenstein and The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft
  • Born May 2, 1972 Dwayne Johnson, 47. Ok I wasn’t going to include him until stumbled across the the fact that he’d been on Star Trek: Voyager as The Champion in the “Tsunkatse” episode. Who saw him there? Of course, it’s not his only genre role as he was the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns, played Agent 23 in Get Smart, voiced Captain Charles T. Baker In Planet 51, was the tooth fairy in, errr, the Tooth Fairy, was Hank Parsons in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, was Roadblock in G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Anyone watch these?), was a very buff Hercules in Hercules, voiced Maui in Moana, was Dr. Smolder Bravestone in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (not on my bucket list) and was one of the Executive Producers of Shazam! which gets a Huh from me.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio waters a garden of unearthly delights.

(13) TERMINAL TRAVAIL. Ursula Vernon tweets the last stages of her international travels. One thread starts here.

Another thread starts here.

(14) MORE ANCESTORS. They got there ahead of Ursula Vernon: “Denisovans, A Mysterious Kind Of Ancient Humans, Are Traced To Tibet”.

The jawbone of a little-known form of ancient human has been discovered in western China. Scientists say these people lived as long as 150,000 years ago, and they were part of a group called Denisovans.

The Denisovans are a mystery. Up until now, their only remains — a few bone fragments and teeth — came from a cave called Denisova in Siberia.

In 2010, scientists concluded from those fragments and their DNA that Denisovans were slightly different from us — Homo sapiens — and slightly different from Neanderthals, but that they lived contemporaneously. In short, they were a third kind of human.

What those researchers didn’t know in 2010 was that 30 years earlier, a Tibetan monk had found part of a jawbone in a cave on the Tibetan Plateau, home of the Himalayas. He gave it to the Sixth Living Buddha, a holy man there, who passed it on to scientists. They started studying the piece of bone nine years ago. Now they say that it, too, is Denisovan.

…So apparently, some early Denisovans lived on the Tibetan Plateau a long time ago; the jaw is 160,000 years old. They developed the low-oxygen trait, and then at some point passed it on to humans.

The BBC adds:

…Co-author Jean Jacques Hublin, from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, said finding evidence of an ancient – or archaic – species of human living at such high elevations was a surprise.

“When we deal with ‘archaic hominins’ – Neanderthals, Denisovans, early forms of Homo sapiens – it’s clear that these hominins were limited in their capabilities to dwell in extreme environments.

“If you look at the situation in Europe, we have a lot of Neanderthal sites and people have been studying these sites for a century-and-a-half now.

“The highest sites we have are at 2,000m altitude. There are not many, and they are clearly sites where these Neanderthals used to go in summer, probably for special hunts. But otherwise, we don’t have these types of sites.”

(15) NAMES OF THE GAME. People increasingly are giving their kids the names of Game of Thrones characters reports the New York Times: “Hello, Arya! ‘Game of Thrones’ Baby Names Are for Girls”.

…But the most popular baby name associated with “Game of Thrones” appears to be Arya. It’s not clear how much the show has to do with that; variations of Arya have been around long before the book came out (in India, Indonesia and Iran, for example). But Arya did not break into the top 1,000 names in the U.S. until 2010, and instances of the name before then appear to be mostly for boys. Since 2010, Arya has steadily risen in popularity to 135th place, with 2,156 babies born in 2017 taking the name.

…Also cropping up on birth certificates is Daenerys, which is less popular than Khaleesi despite the fact that it is that character’s given name. The year 2017 also saw the arrival of 20 Sansas, 11 Cerseis, 55 Tyrions and 23 Theons in the United States. Pet parents are joining the trend, too, with dogs named “Jorah Mormutt,” Asha and Tyrion, and cats called Lady and Drogo. 

(16) ELF DAHLIA, OLD NORSE LAGUAGE OF WITCHES. “Witch hunts, mystics and race cars: inside the weirdest village in Sweden”The Guardian has the story.

In 1926, the yearbook of the Swedish Tourism Association described the village of Älvdalen as “a community with a dark insular spirit” where locals were “shadowed by distrust and unease”. It was there in 1668 that the Swedish witch-hunts began, resulting in the execution of 19 girls and one man suspected of occult practices. 

Today, Älvdalen, in the west of Sweden, still has its own language, Elfdalian, which has been traced back to Old Norse, the tongue of the Vikings….

(17) GEEK RECOGNITION. Reporters are there when the “Big Bang Theory cements its place in history”.

The cast of The Big-Bang Theory ramped up their farewell celebrations by being immortalised in cement outside Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre.

It’s the first time in the 92-year history of the tradition that any inductees have been honoured in this way solely for TV achievements.

The show will come to an end later this month after 12 years and 279 episodes.

Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco were on hand (and knee) on Wednesday for the ceremony.

They were joined by fellow stars Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch.

(18) WARD DISHES ON BATMAN. Burt Ward helps celebrate Batman 80 at SYFY Wire: “Watch: Batman stories from The Boy Wonder, Burt Ward”.

When Burt Ward landed the role of Robin, the Boy Wonder, on Batman back in 1965, he beat out more than 1100 other actors who’d tried out for the part. But as far as the producers were concerned, Ward, just being himself, was the Boy Wonder….

(19) OBSEQUIES. For no particular reason, this might be a good week to remember Saturday Night Live’s sketch “Superman’s Funeral.”

Jimmy Olsen (Rob Schneider) greets superheroes and super villains from DC and Marvel come to mourn Superman at his funeral. But obscure hero Black Lightning (Sinbad) is turned away when no one recognizes him. [Season 18, 1992]

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

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 12/23/16 Kissin’ By the Pixel Scroll

(1) TAILOR-MADE AWARDS. Who can resist a title like that? From The Book Smugglers “The 2016 Unconventional, Not At All Traditional, And Completely Unscientific Book Awards by Sarah Kuhn”.

Choosing a “best of” list is one of those tasks that always seems to send me down a rabbit hole of over-analysis, self-doubt, and internal hand-wringing, somehow ending in watching the same “pug confused by butterfly” video over and over again until I can’t remember what I was doing in the first place.

So! Instead of doing a “best of” list, I’m handing out very specific awards to the books that delighted me in very specific ways in 2016. All of these books brought me so much joy and will surely have a spot on my re-read shelf for years to come.

Best Use of Emoji Flirting Hold Me by Courtney Milan

Courtney Milan is one of my favorite authors, a virtuoso at combining endearing characters, ingenious plots, and scorching hot chemistry on every single page. In Hold Me, the much-anticipated sequel to the brilliant Trade Me, Maria Lopez and Jay na Thalang hate each other at first sight—but don’t realize they’re falling in love via the internet magic of online chat. It’s a tricky feat to give characters palpable, believable chemistry when they’re not even in the same room, but Milan’s depiction of Maria and Jay’s whipsmart, banter-y texts and emails made me die a kazillion swoony deaths. And of course their special use of emojis is [emoji of cat with heart-eyes].

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Nalo Hopkinson is Scott Edelman’s guest on the milestone 25th episode of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson

For the 25th episode of Eating the Fantastic—which is also the final episode of 2016—my guest and I brunched at Aggio during a break from the Baltimore Book Festival. Aggio is a restaurant from Chef Bryan Voltaggio which the Baltimore City Paper recently dubbed as offering the Best Modern Italian in town.

I’d eaten at Aggio before, but that was when it was still a pop-up within a different Voltaggio restaurant, Range, in Friendship Heights—where, by the way, I recorded an earlier episode of Eating the Fantastic with Carolyn Ives Gilman, which I hope you’ll be moved to download for dessert once you’re done with the entree of this episode.

My guest for this meal was the always entertaining Nalo Hopkinson, winner of the 1999 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. And she’s more than lived up to the promise of that award, winning the World Fantasy Award for her short story collection Skin Folk, as well as winning the Sunburst Award, the Prix Aurora Award, and many others. Plus her novel, Sister Mine, won my own personal award for being one of my favorite novels of 2013.

(3) CHARTING SF. Mark-kitteh sent a link with an introduction, “A long and interesting survey of the field by the VanderMeers (also the introduction to their recent Big Book of Science Fiction). I liked their determination to look more internationally.”

Since the days of Mary Shelley, Jules Verne, and H. G. Wells, science fiction has not just helped define and shape the course of literature but reached well beyond fictional realms to influence our perspectives on culture, science, and technology. Ideas like electric cars, space travel, and forms of advanced communication comparable to today’s cell phone all first found their way into the public’s awareness through science fiction. In stories like Alicia Yáñez Cossío’s “The IWM 100” from the 1970s you can even find a clear prediction of Information Age giants like Google?—?and when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, the event was a very real culmination of a yearning already expressed through science fiction for many decades.

Science fiction has allowed us to dream of a better world by creating visions of future societies without prejudice or war. Dystopias, too, like Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, have had their place in science fiction, allowing writers to comment on injustice and dangers to democracy. Where would Eastern Bloc writers have been without the creative outlet of science fiction, which by seeming not to speak about the present day often made it past the censors? For many under Soviet domination during those decades, science fiction was a form of subversion and a symbol of freedom. Today, science fiction continues to ask “What if?” about such important topics as global warming, energy dependence, the toxic effects of capitalism, and the uses of our modern technology, while also bringing back to readers strange and wonderful visions.

(4) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION. The finale of Jim C. Hines’ Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is the TGM raffle to win a book from DAW Books.

In 24 hours, I’ll be drawing the rest of the winners for the DAW Books raffle, which will officially wrap up the fundraiser.

To enter, just  donate $5 to Transgender Michigan and email me a copy of the receipt at jchines -at- gmail.com, with the subject line “DAW Raffle Entry.”

Winners will receive one of the following:

Tad Williams Bundle: each bundle includes one copy of Otherland: City of Golden Shadow (hardcover first edition, first printing)  plus 1 Advance Review Copy of The Heart of What Was Lost.

DAW December Release Bundle: each bundle includes one copy of all DAW December titles: Dreamweaver, Tempest, Alien Nation, and Jerusalem Fire, plus a bonus ARC (dependent on stock).

You can donate more than $5. For example, donating $20 would get you four entries. However, you can only win a maximum of one of each bundle.

Looking at the number of bundles remaining, and the number of entries, every $5 you donate will get you an approximately 1 in 6 chance to win. (And hey, even if you don’t win, you’ve gotten yourself a tax deduction and supported a good cause! Not a bad way to wrap up the year, eh?)

I’ll do one more post in a few days to announce the final results. My thanks to everyone who donated, signal-boosted, bid, and otherwise supported the fundraiser. It makes a difference.

(5) PETER DAVID IMPROVING. Kathleen has good news — “Peter David Update Finally Progress”.

I saw Peter yesterday and he was able to stand and take a few steps. This is monumental to getting him home. He is still in pain but nothing compared to that he was even the day before. We know this because he hasn’t taken any painkillers since Wednesday so again a good sign.

So the nebulous might be date is rapidly turning into Saturday, which will mean that he will be home for Chrismas/Hanukkah.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 23, 1823: “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, first published.
  • December 23, 1958The 7th Voyage of Sinbad opens in American theaters. There’s your average non-Christmas movie. John King Tarpinian says, “Ask people if they know who Ray Harryhausen is and you’ll most likely get a blank stare.  Ask them if they remember seeing a movie with sword fighting skeletons and all of a sudden their eyes glow bright.”
  • December 23, 1986: U.S. pilots, Dick Rutan and Jeanna Yeager, landed the experimental aircraft Voyager in California after a record nine days, 3 minutes and 44 seconds round-the-world flight without stopping or refueling.

(7) COUNTING ON WOMEN. Aziz Poonawalla writes about “Rogue One, the Force, and gender”.

A (female) friend of mine loved Rogue One, but noted an imbalance in the Force:

Wept tears of joy. And not to nitpick the film’s clear feminist intentions, but couldn’t at least a handful of the nameless cannon-fodder strike force be women?

The ramblings that follow began as a long-winded reply, but grew so unwieldy and disorganized that I decided it fit better here. Spoilers may follow.

I thought the gender distributions were significant and consistent with the themes of Balance in the Force, and the tension between Dar and Light, in the movie canon to date. The Empire was entirely male – scientists, warriors, leaders. The Rebellion has women in elite warrior roles (pilots) alongside men, but political leadership is always female, and heroes are equally female (Leia, Rey, and Jyn vs Luke, Finn, and Solo, though the latter was usually just plot catalyst). The Rebellion’s leadership from Mon Mothma to Leia has been female, but the Republic during the Clone Wars was male-led, even before Palpatine (though the Senate had prominent female members). The villains have always been male, with the exception of the Seventh Sister from Rebels (but Rebels is a true ensemble cast and will skew the analysis).

(8) ANYBODY THIRSTY? Space.com poetically sees “Water, Water Everywhere on Dwarf Planet Ceres”.

There’s water, water everywhere on the dwarf planet Ceres, according to new research. New observations have provided direct evidence that water ice is ubiquitous on the surface and shallow subsurface of this massive asteroid.

Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt that lies between Mars and Jupiter, and has long been suspected of containing significant amounts of water — estimates projected up to 30 percent of its total mass. Evidence has pointed to water ice being mixed with the rock on Ceres’ surface, and in a few rare cases, more concentrated patches of exposed ice have been found. Ceres has even belched up plumes of water vapor.

(9) A HOMER RUN. There are many strange stories in Odysseus’s long journey home after the sack of Troy, but where do they come from? The BBC speculates about “The strange inspirations behind Greek myths”.

One of the early wrong turns comes when strong northerly winds carry Odysseus off course to the land of the lotus-eaters. The sailors enjoy the local delicacy so much that they forget about returning home and Odysseus has to drag them back to the ships. There are multiple theories for what the lotus could be, such as strong wine or opium.

Another contender is a plant called Diospyros lotus – the scientific name means “fruit of the gods”. The fruits in question are round and yellow with succulent flesh that is said to taste like a cross between a date and a plum. That explains its common name: “date plum”. But could tasty fruit be enough to convince Odysseus’s men to stay put forever?

(10) GREETINGS FROM AN IMAGINARY SEASON. At Fantasy-Faction, Laura M. Hughes reviews Hogfather by Terry Pratchett.

‘On the second day of Hogswatch I . . . sent my true love back, A nasty little letter, hah, yes indeed, and a partridge in a pear tree—’

Of the quarter or so of the Discworld I’ve explored, Hogfather is my favourite. Vadim Jean’s TV adaptation is superb: I watch it religiously every Christmas, struck each time by just how much of it – dialogue, stage directions, settings, narration, everything – is lifted directly from the source material. This should tell you much about the quality of the book itself, for rare indeed is an original story ‘adapted’ for the screen with so few alterations.

For me, reading Terry Pratchett’s work is not only a joy but an indulgence, too. Sir Terry is one of my major influences. Those books of his I’ve read, I’ve re-read again and again, taking the time to savour the deliciousness of the prose, the wryness of tone, the trademark humour that is at once delightful and poignant.

(11) SANTA YODA!

(12) CHEWBACCA SINGS SILENT NIGHT. After listening to this, you will know why a silent night is treasured by so many…

Merry Wookie Christmas from HISHE and James Covenant! The brilliant idea for “Chewbacca Sings Silent Night” was actually created in 1999 by Scott Andersen (story here: http://room34.com/chewbacca/) and since then his audio has been shared many times, often without crediting him.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mark-kitteh, Scott Edelman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Redheadedfemme.]

Pixel Scroll 5/24/16 Bark Side Of the Moon

(1) RELEASE THE MONSTER BALLOT. Jo Lindsay Walton is pleased with the flood of Sputnik Award ballots, and is at least not horrified by one of the suggestions.

Btw: I’ve received some really touching enthusiasm, warmth and wise counsels and offers of support, as well as a pretty significant amount of “eh?” “baroo?” “mph?” “wha-?”, which tbh is also kinda gratifying. One thing I’d love to hear more of is unwise counsel. The best I’ve heard so far is the suggestion that we do the Dungeons of Democracy for real.

Just imagine, ripping it from the Excel and into the streets, playing out the entire vote as a vast LARP, cosplaying Daleky Phoenixes and Hedgehoggy Thing Itselves . . .

(2) WINDLING. Remember, Terri Windling lectures on fantasy at Oxford on Thursday, May 26.

I will be delivering the 4th Annual Tolkien Lecture at Pembroke College, Oxford University this Thursday at 6:30 pm. The Pembroke Fantasy lecture series “explores the history and current state of fantasy literature, in honour of JRR Tolkien, who wrote The Hobbit and much of The Lord of the Rings during his twenty years at the college.”

The lecture I’ll be giving is Tolkien’s Long Shadow: Reflections on Fantasy Literature in the Post-Tolkien Era. Admission is free, but you need to register for a ticket and space is limited. Go here for further details.

(3) LUCAS MUSEUM. Mark Guarino’s Washington Post article “George Lucas’s dream of a Chicago lakefront museum faces choppy waters” even-handedly covers the battle to bring the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art to Chicago, showing the strengths – the vast art collection, and the architecture — and the minuses, chiefly that it will be partially paid with hotel taxes, which raises a question about whether George Lucas really needs to be subsidized by Illinois and Chicago taxpayers.

The Lucases had two real requirements: One, it would be in a prominent location and, two, that it would be near other museums,” he says. “The Lucases are not going to go to another site.”

A new plan approved by Lucas involves reconfiguring an aging extension of the McCormick Place convention center that sits on the lake and partially replacing it with the museum, 12 new acres of parkland, in addition to new convention space. That multipurpose site is more complicated because it involves borrowing nearly $1.2 billion and extending five taxes on hotels and more. Because it is co-owned by the state, approval from Springfield is required. With Illinois in a budget deadlock that is nearing a full year, and the state ranked at the bottom of those with underfunded pensions, the timing could not be worse. Koch says the selling point is long-term revenue in taxes and tourism dollars, as well as that it would add to Chicago’s “meaningful group of museums and cultural assets” that make it globally competitive.

This is both an enormous opportunity to update and modernize McCormick Place,” he says. “It has this element of Lucas, but they are two separate things that would happen to be tied together financially.”

Talks are on hold until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit rules on a city petition that asks for the lawsuit to be thrown out. Meanwhile, Hobson released a statement calling Friends of the Park “a small special interest group” that has “co-opted and hijacked” the process. “It saddens me that young black and brown children will be denied the chance to benefit from what this museum will offer,” she says.

She added that she and her husband “are now seriously pursuing locations outside of Chicago.” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has already said he would welcome the museum in his city.

If the Lucases leave Chicago, it will ultimately discredit the couple’s statements about wanting to help the children there, park advocates say.

“They keep saying how committed they are to the city, but they’re not committed enough to build anywhere but the lakefront,” [Friends of the Park executive director Juanita] Irizarry says.

(4) THIS HAPPENED. N.K. Jemisin started a Patreon campaign less than a week ago and it’s been so successful she can give up her day job.

So, internets. Big changes in Noraland. For the few of you who don’t follow me on Twitter and FB, I Did A Thing. Specifically, last Friday I started a Patreon campaign with the specific goal of breaking free of the 9 to 5 life. I launched it officially at 5:35 pm on Friday afternoon, thinking nobody would much care since Friday News Dump, and thinking that would give me time to fix bugs and work out any kinks in the campaign over the weekend. Instead, to my absolute shock, I hit my baseline goal within 24 hours, and my stretch goal within 48. And it’s still going. People really, really want me to have a retirement plan, apparently.

(5) BEVERLEY OBIT. Jo Beverley passed away on May 23 at the age of 68. Though best known as a romance writer, she also wrote romances with fantasy and magic in them, was a Writers of the Future contest finalist (1988), and published in Songs of Love and Death (2010) edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.

(6) HEARTWARMING WOOKIEE. In “Star Wars’ Favourite Wookiee Goes Back to School”, Lee Costello of the BBC’s Northern Ireland service reports on Chewbacca’s visit to a school in County Kerry.

Chewbacca, Star Wars’ world-famous wookiee, has left pupils at a Republic of Ireland primary school star struck after landing for a visit.

The star is filming the newest instalment of the blockbuster series in County Kerry.

He took a break from the set to visit Scoil Fheirtearaigh National School in Ballyferriter on Monday.

The visit was arranged after some pupils sent impressive artwork to director Rian Johnson.

(7) AND HIS MOM. Meanwhile, Hollywood summoned a viral video maker for 15 more minutes of fame — “J.J. Abrams Surprises Chewbacca Mom”.

Candace Payne, also known as the Chewbacca Mom, took over the Internet this weekend with her Chewbacca mask and infectious laugh. In the video, Candace is sitting in her car, super excited about a purchase she just made: a Star Wars Chewbacca mask with sound. The next few minutes are her trying to contain her infectious laughter. The video broke the all-time total for most views on Facebook Live, and everyone has been talking about the joyful mom from Texas.

James Corden brought Candace out to Los Angeles to appear on The Late Late Show and surprised her with a visit from J.J. Abrams. The trio took a ride in a car, where Abrams gives Candace some notes on how to play Chewbacca, but the best part was her reaction outside of the car when J.J. first surprised her.

Video at the link.

(8) START SPREADING THE NEWS. Looks like this will be no problem in Ireland, but for everyone else IFL Science contemplates “How Do We Tell The World That We’ve Found Alien Life?”

…That’s a topic discussed in a paper from astronomers Duncan Forgan and Alexander Scholz from the University of St Andrews in Scotland (hat tip to Cosmos Magazine for picking it up). They have examined the protocols that are already in place, and have suggested ways that those involved in the discovery should prepare for the media onslaught that would accompany a tentative detection.

“A critical concern for scientists pursuing the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is the reaction of the world to the knowledge that humans are not the only technological civilization in the universe,” they write. They suggest that the “culture shock” of such a discovery will put SETI scientists under intense scrutiny, which they must be prepared for…..

“SETI scientists must be prepared to not simply announce a detection via press release, but to be a trusted voice in the global conversation that will begin after the initial announcement,” the authors write. “This will require both pre-search and post-detection protocols to be implemented.”

(9) AWARD JUDGES. In Australia, the 2016 Aurealis Awards judging panels have been selected.

There’s a panel for every category – which means a lot of judges. Scroll down to see the judges’ bios.

(10) TRUER GRIT. Damien Walter believes Dune Deserves A New Film Adaptation”.

Dune’s cinematic qualities have made it a natural target for Hollywood adaptations. But the Lynchian weirdness, followed by a lacklustre mini-series, have left the franchise in a televisual limbo for most of the last two decades. Herbert’s own sequels, while conceptually interesting and widely loved by established fans, lack the storytelling muscle displayed in the first book. A risible series of cash-in prequels have dragged the Dune universe down to the bargain basement of pulp fiction. It’s a sad legacy for such a significant work of fiction.

(11) TROLL HOIST. Death and Taxes did an overview of Chuck Tingle’s Hugo nomination that ends with this paragraph:

Luckily these goons didn’t know who they were dealing with. This is Chuck Tingle, leading author of gay dinosaur erotica, licensed massage therapist, and outspoken enthusiast of hardness and love. Nobody nominates him for a prestigious award and gets away with it.

(12) ANOTHER FINE MESS. There’s reason to be interested in Charlie Jane Anders’ impressions about the field, despite the post ignoring the copious documentation available to answer its strawman question: “One way of looking at the Hugo Awards mess”.

So we’re once again having Hugo Awards drama. It’s confusing, because the people who packed the ballot with their choices have a bunch of vague explanations about why they’re upset. (Ranging from “OMG SJWs” and “affirmative action” to “we just want fun stories.”) They generally keep their grievances vague and nebulous (no pun intended), and it’s hard to pin down what they’re upset about. And this year, they changed tactics slightly, putting more “mainstream” choices on the ballot except for some of the short fiction categories.

So I figure one useful way to look at this issue is to ask: What’s changed? If there’s a group of people who are upset, what recent changes could possibly account for their being upset? Here are a few things that occur to me….

(13) AT WISCON. I see a lot of tweets promoting people’s panel appearances, but rarely one so artistic.

(14) THE SIGN OF THE Z. John Z. Upjohn joined Twitter today. The cause was soon revealed.

Alexandra Erin explained in a GoFundMe appeal update:

And because you all pitched in enough to cover airfare for WorldCon before I head off to my current con, Mr. John Z. Upjohn will be providing live twitter commentary of the event [WisCon]…

Erin also delivered another Sad Puppies Review Books installment once the fundraiser hit $300 (it’s now at $775) – Upjohn’s take on The Cat in the Hat.

The Cat in the HatThe protagonist of the book is a cat who develops games, games that are fun (like all games should be), and who wants nothing but to share them with children who are bored. Not so fast, cat! There is a game critic in the house, a fish who is clearly used to thinking of himself as a big fish in a small pond.

I almost threw this book across the room at one point, because the cat is playing a game and he is clearly having a lot of fun, but the fish says, “NO! THIS ISN’T FUN!” Imagine hating fun so much that you lie about what’s fun in order to ruin a game for everyone else….

(15) PRONOUN STICKERS. WisCon 40 registration will have pronoun stickers available.

Hihi!  I want to take a minute to talk to you about an exciting option we’re offering at Registration this year: pronoun stickers!

We offered them last year and got a lot of reaction, so here’s the explanation:

Pronoun stickers are totally optional to wear. You don’t have to declare anything to anyone. You don’t have to wear the same sticker all weekend. These exist to make it easier for all of us to treat each other respectfully.

If someone IS wearing a pronoun sticker, we expect you will use that pronoun for them. Part of our social contract is kind and respectful treatment of each other, and there are few things that feel as terrible as being misgendered ON PURPOSE. If you make a mistake, just correct yourself and move on…..

 

View this post on Instagram

Options. God bless WisCon. #WisCon

A post shared by Monica Byrne (@monicabyrne13) on

(16) TOMORROW IS TOWEL DAY. The annual tribute to Douglas Adams, Towel Day, takes place on May 25.

Naturally there are dedicated social media sites– a Facebook page or a Flickr group, and a way to tag videos on YouTube.

There are also hybrid events with in-person and internet components like Lofty Pursuits’ Vogon Poetry Slam. You have only a few hours left to enter online.

If you are in Tallahassee, please come and enter the International Vogon Poetry Slam. It is a contest for the worst possible poem. It happens at 8pm on May 25th as part of our Towel Day celebrations. If you are coming in person DO NOT ENTER ON-LINE. You will get to read your own poem live in front of your victims. The rules are the same….

The Vogon Poetry contest. Rules: The worst original poem will win as judged by us. No appeal is possible.

Sent to vogon@pd.net to be considered for this contest. We must get the poems by midnight on the 24th, Eastern Daylight Time (GMT-5). Late entries will go to the spam folder.

(17) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 25, 1686 — Polish inventor Gabriel Fahrenheit

(18) NAMING CALLS. Rachel Swirsky considers short story titles in “What should I have titled this essay? (Thoughts on John Joseph Adams’ ‘Zen in the Art of Short Fiction Titling’”).

Titles That Come From the Text

John starts the article by noting several titles that he suggested to authors that he’s published in his magazines and anthologies. He discovered these titles “right there in the text of the stories themselves. When I’m reading or editing a story, I frequently highlight evocative phrases I come across that I can later suggest to the author as a possible alternate title. Sometimes the phrasing isn’t quite right for the title, but it’s something that can be massaged, or combined together with another phrase from elsewhere in the story, that somehow captures the essence of what the story is about.”

I used to do the large majority of my titling this way until I started my MFA program at Mills, where the teacher told me what John Joseph Adams brings up next: “I should note that some writing professors—including notable literary giants—advise against this practice, largely because, they say, doing this puts too much emphasis and meaning on the eponymous phrase when the reader comes across it in the story.”

(19) DON’T CALL ME ISHMAEL. “Moby goes where Brian Eno, and his ancestor Herman Melville, went before” at the LA Times.

As a famously brainy electronic musician — and a descendant of literary royalty — Moby had plenty of lodestars he might have looked to while writing his first book.

There was, for instance, Brian Eno, the pop experimentalist who reflected on his work with U2 and David Bowie in his 1996 volume “A Year With Swollen Appendices.” And the distant ancestor from whom Moby got his nickname: “Moby-Dick” author Herman Melville.

In reality, the DJ and producer best known for 1999’s multi-platinum “Play” album took inspiration from a more unlikely source: Duff McKagan, the tattooed bassist in Guns N’ Roses.

“Honestly, I’d never given much thought to the guy before I read his memoir,” Moby said on a recent morning at home in Los Feliz, referring to “It’s So Easy (and Other Lies),” in which McKagan writes frankly about the excess and the illusions of show business. “But he wrote a book that’s good enough that it transcends the fact that I wasn’t interested in him.”

(20) BLAME OF THRONES. Juliet McKenna has her own tangle of pop culture references to work through — “Sansa Stark’s joined the X-Men? Thoughts on popcultural cross contamination”

I’ve yet to see the X-Men Apocalypse movie, so I can’t comment on Sophie Turner’s performance. Her work on Game of Thrones – especially at the moment (NO spoilers in comments please!) – gives me every reason to expect she’ll do a thoroughly good job.

The thing is, though, this is becoming A Thing for me. An amusement at the moment, rather than a distraction, but definitely A Thing.

I caught a trailer for A Knight’s Tale on the TV last week, which is one of my favourite movies. Now though? That’s the one where Robert Baratheon makes The Joker’s armour while The Vision bigs him up to the crowd…

(21) DISCO SCI-FI. Thomas A. Foster looks back at the Seventies in “Sci-Fi TV of the Disco Era: The Grounded Astronaut” on Pop Matters.

…Another key to understanding the sci-fi of the era: the shrunken profile of space exploration. In the ‘60s, NASA was perhaps the most popular Federal project, partly because fallen leader John F. Kennedy was associated with the “space race”. Television covered every moment leading up to the first moon walk in 1969, and Hollywood pitched in with movies and TV shows (I Dream of Jeannie, Star Trek, the made-in-England 2001: A Space Odyssey). The Jetsons had a dog named Astro, and Houston chose the same name for its new baseball team, which played, of course, in the Astrodome.

As our radio-alarm-clocks flipped to the ‘70s soundtrack, however, the Apollo Program was curtailed by budget cuts and sharply declining interest. The scientific idealism of the ‘60s was victim to chronic civil unrest, distrust of authority, and general exhaustion, as Americans turned to self-improvement (meditation, back-to-the-land/find-your-roots trends); hedonism (swinging, cocaine, disco); and all things para- (the paranormal, paranoia), including persistent rumors that the moon landings had been faked. In keeping with the zeitgeist, most of our TV astronauts of the decade would be lost, passive, or grounded….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/12 Do Androids Look Up When They’re Dreaming Of Electronic Sheep?

Live, from way later than the bleeping middle of Saturday night!

(1) VOTER DECEPTION? People are gathering signatures for a San Diego ballot initiative that allegedly will help keep Comic-Con in town, but the organizers of Comic-Con told Deadline.com they have nothing to do with it and it won’t affect whatever they may decide.

Will Comic-Con stay in San Diego? No word yet, but there’s a lot of confusion among fans on what’s going on with the organization’s desire to expand their annual convention in San Diego. Comic-Con International made the unusual move today of putting out a statement regarding a ballot initiative that was drawn up by a group called Citizens Plan for San Diego that seems to be at odds with their own desires for a contiguous expansion along the waterfront. Signatures are being gathered for a ballot initiative to keep Comic-Con in San Diego albeit a different spot, and those collecting signatures are actually advertising the initiative with signs stating “Keep Comic-Con in San Diego….

“There is a lot of confusion about this matter so we felt it necessary to put out a statement to let people know that we are not a party to this, have not read the initiatives and it will have no bearing on our decision of whether we stay in San Diego,” Comic-Con spokesperson David Glanzer told Deadline. He said they have been getting a lot of calls about this and just wanted to set the record straight.

(2) THERE ARE NO BAD PRINCESSES. Check out the photos of what Hampus Eckerman likes to call Disney’s newest Princess at boingboing.

Sophie’s parents tapped their friend, Megan, to turn a Chewbacca doll into a Princess Chewbacca birthday cake, using the “Barbie cake” method, and making Sophie’s third birthday just the bestest.

(3) BYERS SURGERY. SF Site News reports Chunga co-editor Randy Byers is back home after brain surgery.

Fan Randy Byers is recovering at home after undergoing brain surgery to remove a tumor. Byers will receive further diagnosis of his tumors and whether or not additional treatment will be needed, in about a week.

(4) Today In History

  • December 12, 1941 — On this day in 1941 The Wolf Man is unleashed in theaters. Did you know: the “wolf” that Larry Talbot fights with was Lon Chaney Jr.’s own German Shepherd.

wolfman w dog

(5) KRAMPUS. Now just hours away is a local stage performance of a Krampus-themed play.

He’s certainly not jolly, and you sure as hell had better not call him “Nick.” The St. Nicholas you’ll meet tonight is the genuine old-world artifact – the stern judge who oversaw a creaky old style of child-rearing the Germans call “gingerbread and whip.”

Of course Nicholas himself didn’t dirty his hands with whips. For that he had the Krampus. Today, every self-respecting hipster loves Krampus. But while your friends rhapsodize about the ersatz bubblegum Krampus of American comic books, TV, and monster fandom, tonight you’ll get a glimpse of the old devil in his original form – the Krampus of the ancient alpine “Nikolausspiel” or NICHOLAS PLAY, a folk theater production somewhat resembling England’s old Christmas mummers’ plays.

 

kinderhorror-postcard-6

(6) SAFETY LAST. Great video — Samurai Smartphone Parade.

99% of people think using a smartphone while walking is dangerous.

73% of people have used a smartphone while walking.

 

(7) THE HUGO URGE. George R.R. Martin makes two recommendations for the Best Related Work Hugo in a new post at Not A Blog.

THE WHEEL OF TIME COMPANION was a mammoth concordance of facts about the universe and characters of the late Robert Jordan’s epic fantasy series, edited and assembled by Harriet McDougal, Alan Romanczuk, and Maria Simons. It’s a labor of love, and everything one could possibly want to know about Jordan’s universe is in there.

Also

Felicia Day’s delightful look at her life, YOU’RE NEVER WEIRD ON THE INTERNET (Almost).

(8) VERHOEVEN’S STINKER. Jason Fuesting, in “Starship Troopers: Book vs. Movie” for Mad Genius Club, takes a movie we both dislike and, by applying his powers of persuasion, still finds grounds for disagreement.

Ultimately, Verhoeven takes a message needed badly by so many today, with their safe spaces and trigger warnings, and turns it into the film equivalent of those same children’s tantrums, a film so poorly written that only Mystery Science Theater 3000 could find use for it.  A better director would have used Joe Haldeman’s “Forever War,” an excellent book in its own right.  Haldeman makes all the points this film bobbled in “Forever War,” but using it would have meant going without all the Nazi imagery that Verhoeven is evidently fond of and not butchering an outstanding work in the process.  Verhoeven’s film is surely satire, but I do not think he realizes the joke is on his side.

(9) MST3K CAMEOS. There will be a bushel of celebrity cameos on the revived MST3K.

MST3K creator Joel Hodgson announces a celebrity-packed cameo list that includes Seinfeld, Hamill, Harris, Jack Black, Bill Hader and Joel McHale for the new series.

Fans also found out this week from Hodgson that the new MST3K writing team will include not only the cast, but also guest writers such as “Community” creator Dan Harmon and his “Rick & Morty” co-creator Justin Roiland. Others will include “The Muppet Show” writer Nell Scovell, “Ready Player One” author Ernie Cline, “The Name of the Wind” author Pat Rothfuss, musical comedy duo Paul and Storm, “Simpsons” writer Dana Gould, “The Book of Mormon” songwriter Robert Lopez and director of the next “Lego Movie” Rob Schrab.

(10) RETHINKING SUSAN PEVENSIE. E. Jade Lomax of Hark, the empty highways calling has written a set of thoughtful, heart-tugging parallax views about what happened after Narnia’s Susan returned to England.

http://ink-splotch.tumblr.com/post/69470941562/there-comes-a-point-where-susan-who-was-the

…I want to read about Susan finishing out boarding school as a grown queen reigning from a teenaged girl’s body. School bullies and peer pressure from children and teachers who treat you like you’re less than sentient wouldn’t have the same impact. C’mon, Susan of the Horn, Susan who bested the DLF at archery, and rode a lion, and won wars, sitting in a school uniform with her eyebrows rising higher and higher as some old goon at the front of the room slams his fist on the lectern.

Susan living through WW2, huddling with her siblings, a young adult (again), a fighting queen and champion marksman kept from the action, until she finally storms out against screaming parents’ wishes and volunteers as a nurse on the front. She keeps a knife or two hidden under her clothes because when it comes down to it, they called her Gentle, but sometimes loving means fighting for what you care for.

She’ll apply to a women’s college on the East Coast, because she fell in love with America when her parents took her there before the war. She goes in majoring in Literature (her ability to decipher High Diction in historical texts is uncanny), but checks out every book she can on history, philosophy, political science. She sneaks into the boys’ school across town and borrows their books too. She was once responsible for a kingdom, roads and taxes and widows and crops and war. She grew from child to woman with that mantle of duty wrapped around her shoulders. Now, tossed here on this mundane land, forever forbidden from her true kingdom, Susan finds that she can give up Narnia but she cannot give up that responsibility. She looks around and thinks I could do this better….

http://ink-splotch.tumblr.com/post/79664265175/ifallelseperished-i-was-so-tall-you-were

Can we talk about Susan Pevensie for a moment?

Let’s talk about how, when the war ends, when the Pevensie children go back to London, Susan sees a young woman standing at the train platform, weeping, waving.

First, Susan thinks civilian; and second, she thinks not much older than me.

Third, Susan thinks Mother.

They surge off the train, into their parents’ arms, laughing, embracing. Around them, the train platform is full of reunions (in her life, trains will give so much to Susan, and take so much away).

(11) NPR RECOMMENDS. NPR staff and critics have listed 260 books they loved this year – click here to see the ones in the science fiction and fantasy category.

(12) TOUGHER MEGABUCKS.  Scott Mendelson at Forbes tells why he thinks “For ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens,’ Breaking The Opening Weekend Record Just Got Less Likely”.

But if The Force Awakens breaks the opening weekend record next weekend, it, like The Phantom Menace, will have to do it in a lot fewer theaters than expected. Walt Disney reported yesterday (according to the always trustworthy BoxOffice.com and Box Office Mojo) that Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be opening next week on around 3,900 screens in America.

That’s only the 11th biggest theater count in 2015 and nowhere close to the biggest theater count of all time. The biggest theatrical release in 2015 was the 4,301 screen release for Minions ($115 million debut weekend). The widest release of all time was for The Twilight Saga: Eclipse which debuted on July 4th weekend of 2010 in 4,468 theaters. There have been 62 releases debuting in more than 4,000 theaters. If you presume that the figure is closer to 3,900 versus 3,999 theaters next week, that puts the Walt Disney release at merely one of the 100 biggest releases ever, about on par with Spectre and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Point being, Star Wars: The Force Awakens isn’t going to have anywhere closer to the widest theatrical release of all time.

(13) ‘TISN’T THE SEASON. A friend of mine *coff* *coff* wanted me to ask John Scalzi a favor, but after reading “On the Asking of Special Holiday Favors From Me” I’m going to tell my friend *coff* *coff* this is a bad time…

Folks: This week I’ve gotten no less than five requests from fans (or family/friends of fans) asking if I could do some particular special thing or another that would mean a lot to the fan for the holidays. Since there are several of these this week, and these sorts of requests are something I’ve had to juggle before, especially during the holidays, I’m posting this as a general note so people know it’s not personal. And that note is:

I really can’t….

[Thanks to Janice Gelb, John King Tarpinian, Michael J. Walsh, Martin Morse Wooster, Hampus Eckerman, and Brian Z. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/10 Plan Whine from Outer Space

(1) SPOILERS SPOIL. You know this. “Spoiler alert: Story spoilers can hurt entertainment” at EurekAlert.

While many rabid fans may have scratched their heads when a 2011 study showed that spoilers could improve story enjoyment, a recent experiment, conducted by researchers Benjamin Johnson (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) and Judith Rosenbaum (Albany State University), shows that narrative spoilers can ruin a story. Their findings show that spoilers reduce people’s entertainment experiences.

“Our study is the first to show that people’s widespread beliefs about spoilers being harmful are actually well-founded and not a myth,” says Johnson. Furthermore, in a follow-up study, Johnson and Rosenbaum found that the effects of spoilers are actually linked to people’s personality traits. Johnson: “While the worry and anger expressed by many media users about ‘spoilers’ in online discussions or reviews is not completely unfounded, fans should examine themselves before they get worked up about an unexpected spoiler.”

(2) DOCTOR VISITS HOSPITAL. Radio Times has a heartwarming video — “Peter Capaldi surprises young Doctor Who fan in hospital, stays in character the whole time”.

“There’s a new Doctor on the ward and it’s me…”

 

https://twitter.com/BadWilf/status/674283494982492160

(3) SATURDAY SIGNING IN GLENDALE. Mystery and Imagination Bookshop‘s Christine Bell says “Call it a mini HORROR SLAM.” This Saturday at 2 p.m. in the store’s upstairs room, Peter Atkins and Dennis Etchison will read a couple of stories, talk about writing, take questions, and sign books.

Oh, the wonderfulness of being famous literary smart guys. Could this be the start of a new Saturday afternoon tradition? It’s all free and it won’t hurt a bit. After that it’ll still be daylight, so…Porto’s is just across the street! I mean, really, what more could you ask for? See you there?

The address is Mystery and Imagination & Bookfellows Bookshops at 238 N. Brand Blvd.

(4) RETRO REVIEWS. Steve Davidson has the latest installment of “Scide Splitters: 1941 Retro Hugo Eligible Novelettes” posted at Amazing Stories, which focuses on humorous stories such as “Butyl and the Breather” by Theodore Sturgeon (Astounding Science-Fiction, October 1940).

Although this story can be read as a stand-alone, it is a sequel to Sturgeon’s 1939 short, “Ether Breather,” and I do think it is more enjoyable if you read that one first.

Ted Hamilton, a writer and central character in the original story, still feels guilty that about telling the Ether Breather to stop messing up color television. It has been a year since the incident and the Breather has refused to respond to any attempts to contact it. Mr. Berbelot, perfume tycoon and television hobbyist, is still mad at Hamilton for exactly that incident and refuses to speak to him. But Hamilton has come up with an idea to get the Breather to respond and Berbelot reluctantly agrees to hear him out.

(5) BROOKS OBIT. Actor Martin E. Brooks died December 7 at the age of 90. Brooks played scientist Dr. Rudy Wells in two 1970s TV series, Six Million Dollar Man and its spinoff, The Bionic Woman.

His other genre work included episodes of The Wild Wild West (1967), Night Gallery (1971), Planet of the Apes (1974 – I’d managed to forget this was also a TV series), and Airwolf (1985).

He also was in the movies Colossus: The Forbin Project, T-Force, and TV’s Bionic Ever After?

While Brooks probably didn’t think he was ending his career at the time, IMDB shows his last role was symbolically the “Man thrown off the roof” in Street Gun (1996).

(6) A NOT-STUPID. Ethan Mills at Examined Worlds poses the philosophical question “Is Violence the Answer” in “Like Avatar, but Not Stupid: The Word for World Is Forest by Ursula K. Le Guin”.

Okay, Ursula Le Guin’s The Word for World is Forest is actually not that much like Avatar, but there are similarities.  Some militaristic Terrans come to steal resources from a forest planet inhabited by small, furry humanoids called Athsheans.  The Athsheans end up fighting the technologically superior but numerically inferior Terrans.  There’s a Terran anthropologist who comes to almost understand the Athsheans (but he doesn’t quite go full Avatar). One of the villages of the furry guerrillas fighting an imperial power is called Endtor.  Maybe George Lucas owes Le Guin some royalties, not just James Cameron. But as an American book published in 1972, the real background seems to be the war in Vietnam.

(7) BLOOM NOMINATED. Rachel Bloom is a Golden Globes nominee for her work on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Ray Bradbury would be thrilled.

(8) THE XANATOS QUESTION. Larry Correia put his spin on last night’s game show reference to Puppygate:  “Sad Puppies: The Hugos Lost On Jeopardy”.

Some Puppy supporters didn’t like how it was phrased, with “scandal” having negative implications. Personally, I like it. Especially the part where they used “Rocked”. Damn right. Rocked you like a hurricane. The scandal was the part where the CHORFs ran a lying media smear campaign, and handed out wooden butt holes, while block voting No Award to keep out barbarian Wrongfans having Wrongfun.

(9) PUPPY TIME. And coincidentally, at Mad Genius Club Kate Paulk has declared “It’s Time”.

Because yes, it is time to start Sad Puppies 4 in Earnest. And Houston. And Philadelphia. And Back-o-Beyond. You get the idea.

Nominations will open in January 2016, and probably close in March (the closing date hasn’t been officially announced). I’m planning to have The List posted mid to late February (depending, as always, on just how feral my work schedule happens to be). Recommendations have been trickling in, but we need more. MOAR!

(10) WRIGHT IN. John C. Wright, commenting on Vox Day’s post about Jeopardy!, told the Dread Ilk he is prepared to make the sacrifice of being a multiple Hugo-nominee again in 2016.

“Does anybody know if Wright is willing to be a lightening rod again? “

Lightning rod for the sputtering sparks of CHORF energy? I get a bigger shock from petting the cat on a dry day after rubbing my stocking feet on the carpet. I was pleased in a dark and evil way to see the Morlocks burn their own cities rather than allow me be elected mayor. I would have been MORE pleased had he Hugo Awards kept even a modicum of decency and honesty, and actually received the awards I earned, but I cannot expect powerdrunk patheticos to give up on power. I did not expect schoolboy wooden anus jokes, however. That was pathetic. Numbers wise, I am not sure if we can sweep the nominations again, but I would like to see the Hugos either returned to the old worth, or destroyed utterly. Leaving them in the clammy webbed hands of Christ-hating America-hating, Science-hating, Literature-hating Morlocks is unimaginable to me.

(11) HAN TALKS CHEWIE DOWN. Must have missed this in November  — Harrison Ford settled his feud with Chewbacca on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

(12) IN MEMORY YET GREEN. Chris Taylor analyzes “How Star Wars Conquered the Galaxy: The economic power of the greatest movie franchise ever” at Reason.com.

…Even before the December release of The Force Awakens, the Star Wars franchise pulled in an estimated $42 billion total in box office, DVD sales and rentals, video games, books, and related merchandise. And that’s just the amount flowing into officially sanctioned channels; the unofficial, unlicensed Star Wars economy has generated untold billions more.

Some $32 billion of that staggering revenue was derived from physical stuff rather than an audio-visual experience. Like Davy Crockett, the Star Wars universe made its biggest economic impact in the realm of merchandise—clothing, accessories, food and drink, housewares (Darth Vader toaster, anyone?), and especially toys. But unlike Walt Disney, George Lucas devised a way to pocket much of that money himself. That helped buy editorial freedom, which helped this obsessive creative make the rest of his movies how he saw fit, for good and ill, until Disney bought the rights to the franchise in 2012 for $4.06 billion. Lucas and Star Wars created a category of economic activity that previously did not exist, and in so doing forever changed the face of entertainment….

(13) FOUNTAIN OF LOOT. Here’s some of that Star Wars merchandise – a series of fountain pens that sell for $575 apiece. Jon Bemis tells why he’s a happy customer in his review “Why I Bought the Cross Townsend Star Wars Limited Edition Fountain Pens” at The Pen Addict.

…While it looks like a standard brass pen body from a distance, close up the C-3PO is fluent in over six million forms of beautiful. It is gold (of course) and covered with accent lines recalling the curves and circles etched on Threepio himself. The clip is centered in a ring of concentric circles like those in the center of the protocol droids chest, and the caps finial looks like his eye….

 

C3PO style Cross pen.

C3PO style Cross pen.

(14) JUST PLAIN BILL. The Captain of the Enterprise is still out there hustling every day, too. Vulture has a new interview with William Shatner, who is hard at work marketing Priceline. He talks about his new book project and tells a Nimoy story he says he’s never told before.

What’s a piece of science you’ve come across lately that was particularly interesting to you?

I’m writing a novel with a writer named Jeff Rovin that will be out next year called Zero-G, and I suggested we use something in it that I had read about. I read that microbial life dries up and seems to be dead and then, with the addition of water thousands of years later, can come back to life. That’s astonishing. Thousands of years! These are scientific concepts so mysterious that they beggar our imagination. I saw a photograph yesterday of a black hole absorbing a star, and it burped energy back out! A black hole cosmic-burped dust out the other way! What is more intriguing than that? Perhaps a good pasta.

(15) SMACK BACK. For those who are fed up with Kirk there’s an alarming site — Slapkirk.com – that lets users control an animation of Kirk slapping himself, and with a kind of slap-o-meter that tracks how many slaps have been delivered, at what rate per second. Those who get it going fast enough are rewarded with the “Red Alert” sound effect…

(16) MUTANT TRAILER. A trailer is out for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, coming to theaters June 3, 2016.

(17) LET KYRA EXPLAIN. Kyra’s comment makes the taxonomy of fantasy fiction as clear as is the summer sun...

Look, it’s very simple —

Urban Fantasy: Fantasy set in a city
High Fantasy: Fantasy set in the mountains
Low Fantasy: Fantasy set in the Netherlands
Fantasy of Manners: Fantasy set in manors
Epic Fantasy: Fantasy in the form of a lengthy narrative poem
Fairy Tale Fantasy: Fantasy about fairies with tails
Science Fantasy: Science fiction but there’s an annoying pedant in the seat behind you saying that it’s fantasy because FTL travel isn’t real plus the Force, what about that
Sword and Sorcery: The party must include a magic user, a cleric, a fighter, and a thief
Weird Fiction: Like, the characters know they’re in a book and some of the text is upside down and stuff like that
Steampunk: Everyone has cybernetic enhancements but get this, they’re CLOCKWORK
Dieselpunk: Like Steampunk, but the cybernetic enhancements require diesel fuel
Mythpunk: Like Steampunk, but the cybernetic enhancements have tiny gods in them
Grimdark: When the superheroes change their costumes so that now they’re in dark colors, weird
Magic Realism: Like when your aunt actually believes that if you put the knife under the crystal pyramid, it will totally get sharper
Paranormal Romance: Fantasy with naughty bits
Young Adult Fantasy: One of the above genres marketed to a group that will actually buy it

See? Easy.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

TSA Lets Wookiee Win

Peter Mayhew, left, at Denver airport.

Peter Mayhew, left, at Denver airport.

Peter Mayhew, Chewbacca in the Star Wars films, was on his way home to Texas from the Denver Comic Con when TSA wouldn’t let the 7-foot 2-inch actor through airport security with his lightsaber-styled cane. Mayhew sat down in a wheelchair and tweeted a complaint to his 20,000+ followers.

“Giant man need giant cane… small cane snap like toothpick… besides… my light saber cane is just cool… I would miss it…”

Only after he posted several pictures of the incident on his official Twitter account @thewookieroars did agents relent and pass him through with his cane.

[Thanks to Craig Miller for the story.]