Pixel Scroll 6/14/18 When The Scroll Hits Your Eye Like A Big Pixel Pie, That’s A-nnoying

(1) PUTTING SOME ENGLISH ON IT. Should the Hugo Awards add a Best Translated works category? Here are Twitter threads by two advocates.

(2) EXPANDING STOKER. The Horror Writers Association will be adding a new Bram Stoker Awards category for Short Non-Fiction in 2019.

HWA President, Lisa Morton welcomes the new addition, stating: “As a writer who has written non-fiction at all lengths, a reader who loves articles and essays, and an admirer of academic study of dark fiction, I am pleased to announce this new awards category.”

(3) WEBER DECLARES VICTORY. David Weber’s Change.org petition, “Ensure Freedom of Speech & Assembly at ConCarolinas”, recorded 3,713 signatures. Weber’s fans were so enthusiastic one of them even signed my name to the petition. Although I asked them to remove it I’m still getting notifications, like this one — “The Vote Is In…”

Our petition in favor of the policy on guest invitations for ConCarolinas enunciated by Jada Hope at the closing ceremonies of the 2018 convention is now closed.

That policy, simply stated, is that ConCarolinas will issue apolitical invitations to genre-appropriate guests and that guests, once invited, will not be DISINVITED because of political hate campaigns waged online after the invitations are announced.

In the week that it was open, it accrued over 3,700 signatures, many of whom left comments explaining why they had signed in support of that policy. We believe this is a fairly resounding statement of the fact that many more members of fandom support a policy in which individuals are not excluded because of the political demands of a vocal minority who assail conventions online. We believe the fact that NONE of the signatures on this petition were anonymous speaks volumes for the willingness of the signers to “put their money where their mouths are” on this issue.

At no time have we suggested that conventions are not fully entitled to make their initial guest selections on whatever basis they like, including how compatible they expect that guest’s apparent politics to be to the con goers they expect to attend. What we have said is that there is no justification for RESCINDING an invitation, once issued and accepted, simply because someone else objects to that guest’s inclusion. Clearly there will be occasional genuinely special circumstances, but unless something becomes part of the public record only after the invitation has been extended, it should not justify rescinding an invitation. That was that thesis of this petition, and that was what all of these individuals signed in support of.

Sharon and I thank you for the way in which you have come out in support of our position on this, and we reiterate that it does not matter to us whether the guest in question is from the left or the right. What matters is that true diversity does not include ex post facto banning of a guest simply because some online mob disapproves of him or her.

Fandom is supposed to be a community open to ideas that challenge us. Creating an echo chamber in which no dissenting voices are heard is the diametric opposite of that concept. Thank you, all of you, for helping to tone down the echo effect.

(4) WHERE STORIES COME FROM. Robert Aickman recalled, in “Strange, Stranger, Strangest” at The Baffler.

Like some of his more famous contemporaries—Evelyn Waugh, say, or Aldous Huxley—Aickman yearned for those pre-industrial times before the democratic rabble began making all their poorly educated and unreasonable demands; and while his political prejudices didn’t yield what some of his contemporaries considered a satisfactory person (one of his closest friends recalled him as being incapable of any “real commitment to anyone”), they inspired him to explore narrative ideas that were always idiosyncratic, funny, disturbing, and unpredictable. No two Aickman stories are alike; and no single story is like any other story written by anybody else.

The most dangerous forces in an Aickman story often emerge from common and unremarkable spaces: tacky carnival tents, rural church-yards, the rough scrim of bushes at the far end of a brick-walled back garden, the human rabble who visit their dead relatives in decaying cemeteries, or remote (and often unnamable) foreign holiday isles. And while supernatural events may often occur in Aickman stories—at other times they only seem to occur, and at still other times they don’t occur at all.

(5) JEMISIN GETS AWARD. The Brooklyn Book Festival Literary Council has announced the lineup of initial 150-plus authors for this year’s Brooklyn Book Festival (“Brooklyn Book Festival Announces Stellar Fall Line-Up”), September 15-16. Hugo award-winning author N.K. Jemisin will be the recipient of the annual Best of Brooklyn (BoBi) Award.

Brooklyn author N.K. Jemisin has been named the recipient of the Brooklyn Book Festival’s annual Best of Brooklyn (or BoBi) Award. The annual award is presented at the September Gala Mingle to an author whose work exemplifies or speaks to the spirit of Brooklyn. Past honorees have included Colson Whitehead, Jacqueline Woodson, Jonathan Lethem, James McBride, Lois Lowry and Pete Hamill.

(6) LE GUIN TRIBUTE. John Lorentz, who attended, says the video recording of last night’s tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin is now available online at http://www.literary-arts-tribute.org/.

It was a special night (Ursula was a real treasure here in Portland, and throughout the literary world), and we were very happy that we could be there.

It was a mix of videos of Ursula and live speakers, such as Molly Gloss, David Jose Older and China Mieville.

And a dragon!

(7) AROUND THE BLOCK. Mary Robinette Kowal says NASA astronauts are now doing the spacewalk she saw them rehearse. Get on the Twitter thread here —

(8) SNEYD OBIT. Steve Sneyd, a well-known sff poet who also published fanzines, died June 14. John Hertz, in “The Handle of a Scythe, commemorated Sneyd after the Science Fiction Poetry Association named him a 2015 Grand Master of Fantastic Poetry.

He was poetry editor for Langley Searles’ unsurpassed Fantasy Commentator.  His own Data Dump has been published a quarter-century;

.. On the occasion of the Grand Master award, Andrew Darlington posted a 3,400-word piece “Steve Sneyd from Mars to Marsden” at Darlington’s Weblog Eight Miles Higher,  with photos, images of Sneyd’s various publications including Data Dump, electronic links, and things too fierce to mention

Sneyd’s own website was Steve-Sneyd.com. And there’s an entry for him at the SF Encyclopedia — http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/sneyd_steve.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 14  — Lucy Hale, 29. Bionic Woman (2007 TV series) as Becca Sommers, sister of Jaime Sommers, and voiced Periwinkle in TinkerBell and the Secret of the Wings.

(10) NOW AUTOMATED. CockyBot™ is on the job.

(11) SWATTERS PLEAD. “Two rival gamers allegedly involved in Kansas ‘swatting’ death plead not guilty in federal court” reports the Washington Post.

…Late last December, Casey Viner and Shane Gaskill, two young men separated by more than 800 miles and a time zone, clashed inside the digital playpen of “Call of Duty: WWII.” The Wichita Eagle would later report that the disagreement was over an online wager of less than $2.

But according to a federal indictment, Viner, from North College Hill, Ohio, became “upset” with Gaskill, a Kansas resident. Plotting a real-world revenge for the alleged slight delivered in the first-person shooter, Viner allegedly tapped a 25-year-old  from Los Angeles named Tyler Barriss to “swat” Gaskill.

“Swatting” — or summoning police to an address under false emergency pretenses — is a particularly dangerous form of Internet harassment. But when Gaskill noticed that Barriss had started following him on Twitter, he realized what the Californian and Viner were plotting. Instead of backing down or running for help, Gaskill taunted the alleged swatter via direct message on Twitter.

“Please try some s–t ,” Gaskill allegedly messaged Barriss on Dec. 28, according to the indictment. “You’re gonna try and swat me its hilarious … I’m waiting buddy.”

The wait was not long. According to authorities, about 40 minutes after the messages on Twitter, police in Wichita swarmed a local house in response to a hostage situation. Twenty-eight-year-old Andrew Finch was shot dead by law enforcement — the result, allegedly, of Barriss’s fake call to police. The deadly hoax, sparked by an online gaming beef, quickly became international news.

Now Viner, Gaskill, and Barriss are all facing federal criminal charges stemming from the shooting. On Wednesday afternoon, Viner and Gaskill — 18 and 19, respectively — were in a Wichita courtroom making their first appearance in the case. The Associated Press reported that both men pleaded not guilty to a host of charges, including conspiracy to obstruct justice and wire fraud.

(12) WARM SPELL. NPR reckons “Antarctica Has Lost More Than 3 Trillion Tons Of Ice In 25 Years”.

Scientists have completed the most exhaustive assessment of changes in Antarctica’s ice sheet to date. And they found that it’s melting faster than they thought.

Ice losses totaling 3 trillion tonnes (or more than 3.3 trillion tons) since 1992 have caused global sea levels to rise by 7.6 mm, nearly one third of an inch, according to a study published in Nature on Wednesday.

Before 2010, Antarctica was contributing a relatively small proportion of the melting that is causing global sea levels to rise, says study co-leader Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds.

But that has changed. “Since around 2010, 2012, we can see that there’s been a sharp increase in the rate of ice loss from Antarctica. And the ice sheet is now losing three times as much ice,” Shepherd adds.

(13) DUSTY ROADS. The end? “Enormous Dust Storm On Mars Threatens The Opportunity Rover”.

A massive dust storm on Mars is threatening NASA’s Opportunity rover, which has been conducting research on the Red Planet for well over a decade.

Where the rover sits, the dust storm has completely blotted out the sun, depriving Opportunity of solar power and cutting off communications with Earth.

NASA scientists believe the rover has fallen asleep to wait out the storm, and that when the dust storm dies down and sunlight returns, the rover will resume activity.

“We’re concerned, but we’re hopeful that the storm will clear and the rover will begin to communicate with us,” says John Callas, the Opportunity project manager.

The rover has survived dust storms before, but it’s never lost power this thoroughly.

The dust storm on Mars grew from a small, local storm into a massive event over the course of the last two weeks. Opportunity is located near the middle of the storm, while the newer rover Curiosity — which is nuclear-powered, so not threatened by the loss of sunlight — is currently near the storm’s edge.

… There’s no expectation that the rover will be completely buried by dust, but there are risks associated with the lack of temperature control and the extended lack of power.

“The good news there is that the dust storm has warmed temperatures on Mars,” Callas says. “We’re also going into the summer season so the rover will not get as cold as it would normally.”

The rover also has small, plutonium-powered heater units on board that will help keep it from freezing, and NASA scientists believe the rover will be able to ride out the storm until the skies clear. It’s not clear how long that will take.

(14) HOMEBREW DROID. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Patrick Stefanski decided, even before Solo: A Star Wars Story hit the theaters he wanted to build an Alexa-powered version of the droid L3-37. Well, the head anyway. He combined his skills with 3-D printing, model painting, and electronics to have his robot head respond to “Ethree” as a custom wake word and reply with a sassy “What?” when summoned. Those changes required running Amazon Voice Services software—basically the thing that powers Alexa—on a Raspberry Pi microcomputer rather than using stock Amazon hardware. That change also allowed him to set the localization to the UK so “she” could speak with a British accent.

Quoting the io9 article “Talented Hacker Turns Amazon’s Alexa Into Lando’s Sass-Talking L3-37 Droid” —

One of the best parts of Solo: A Star Wars Story is Lando Calrissian’s piloting droid, L3-37, who’s been uniquely pieced together and upgraded from parts of other droids. Patrick Stefanski has essentially done the same thing to turn Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant into a desktop version of L3-37 who answers to your beck and call.

The customizability of Amazon’s Echo speakers, which feature Alexa built-in, are quite limited. So in order to make his L3-37 actually respond to the simple phrase, “Elthree,” Stefanski instead used a software version of Alexa running on a Raspberry Pi3 mini computer. It also allowed Stefanski to alter his location so that his Alexa-powered L3-37 speaks in a British accent, similar to actor Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s performance of the character in the movie.

The SYFY Wire article has more of an interview with Stefanski, “This dude built a fully-functional and definitively sassy 3D-printed L3-37 Alexa”, including:

“I originally wrote off the idea of doing a 3D printed L3 project when I first saw her in a teaser trailer. Here is a 6- or 7-foot walking humanoid robot with tons of articulation and a ton of personality. What could I possibly do with that? Some builder’s tried to tackle K2-SO, a very similar droid from the Rogue One movie, and ended up with a 6-foot static mannequin.

…]That’s cool and all but, me, I’m all about the motors and the electronics and the motion.

“Then as luck would have it, the first time I heard L3-37 talk (a British female voice), it happened to be on the same day I saw a random YouTube video about someone hacking together an Echo Dot and one of those old ‘Billy the Bass’ novelty fish. […] My daughter is 3, and just starting to really get comfortable with Alexa. ‘ALEXA PLAY FROZEN!!!!’ is something you’ll hear yelled in my house a lot! So, I started thinking of something fun to do with our Echo, and the idea of turning it into this new female robot from Star Wars kind of just fell into place.”

(15) GREEN HELL. Science Alert is enthralled: “Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano Is Literally Raining Gemstones Now, And We Want Some”.

If Hawaii’s K?lauea volcano were to offer an apology for its chaos and destruction, it just might come in the form of a beautiful green mineral called olivine.

Over the past months we’ve reported on devastating lava flows and bone-shattering boulders. Now it’s raining gems – a rare event that has geologists enthralled and the rest of us just plain confused.

But ULTRAGOTHA sent in the link with a demurrer: “I will note that I am not confused as to why an active volcano is producing olivine.  This one does it a lot. There is a green beach on Hawai’i.” She has in mind Papakolea Beach:

Papakolea Beach (also known as Green Sand Beach or Mahana Beach[1]) is a green sand beach located near South Point, in the Ka?? district of the island of Hawaii. One of only four green sand beaches in the world, the others being Talofofo Beach, Guam; Punta Cormorant on Floreana Island in the Galapagos Islands; and Hornindalsvatnet, Norway.[citation needed] It gets its distinctive coloring from olivine sand eroded out of the enclosing volcanic cone (tuff ring).

(16) HIGH PRICED TICKET. This weekend, “Aliencon links the worlds of space travel, UFOlogy and science fiction at the Pasadena Convention Center”. Story from the Pasadena Weekly.

Tully notes that AlienCon moved to Pasadena this year simply because of needing a bigger venue, and that there is no hidden agenda or secret information that ties Pasadena to an impending alien invasion or hidden landing sites from past eras.

“That question of whether we know things we can’t tell came up numerous times at the first AlienCon,” says Tully. “I don’t know anything, hand over heart, but I believe we have a panel that answers everything one could possibly know. They don’t get censored by the government.”

The move to Pasadena has already paid off with one-day passes  for Saturday already sold out, as are the Bronze and Gold level (which includes a private event with the “Ancient Aliens” cast) passes, which cost $124 and $549, respectively. The remaining Silver level passes cost $436 and, according to the website, “passholders receive guaranteed premium seating in the Main Stage, a voucher redeemable for autographs or photographs, a tote bag with exclusive merchandise, and much more!”

The fact that AlienCon doesn’t feature any experts from Caltech or JPL raises the antenna of Dr. Michael Shermer, founder of the Altadena-based Skeptic Society, who has long debunked the prospect of alien life forms as well as the existence of God. While he was somewhat impressed that the chief astronomer of the federal government’s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program and “Star Trek: Voyager’s” Picardo (who works with the Pasadena-based Planetary Society) will be panelists, he was more incredulous about the moneymaking aspects of the event.

“It’s a fun topic, like talking about God, where everyone has an opinion, but no one has any proof,” says Shermer. “But with the Gold Pass costing $550, you better be able to meet and greet an actual alien.”

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

Pixel Scroll 6/2/18 I Can’t Pixel That – It’s More Than My Scroll’s Worth

(1) BEA ACCESS ISSUE. Black comic book artist Tee Franklin, an invited Book Expo America panel participant who uses a wheelchair, arrived at today’s item and found there was no ramp allowing her to get on the platform with other panelists. She wrote a Twitter thread about the experience — it starts here:

The moderator — who probably should have been aware in advance of the panelists and their backgrounds, who the panelist says knows her, and knows that she’s disabled — wasn’t paying attention and didn’t think as soon as they arrived to call the con management and say “we need a ramp in this room, STAT”.

Here’s one of the many tweets in support.

Franklin adds that this is chronic occurrence:

(2) YOUNG PEOPLE RETURNS! James Davis Nicoll launches a new round of Young People by having them listen to a radio adaptation of Frederik Pohl’s “The Tunnel Under The World”.

Welcome to the first installment of Young People Listen to Old SFF, an experiment to see if old science fiction and fantasy radio shows aged better than old science fiction and fantasy. Unsurprisingly, my first selection is from that classic old time SF radio show, X Minus One.

To quote from my tor dot com piece: NBC’s Dimension X (1950-1951) and X Minus One (1955-1958) shared a network, some staff and initial source material for scripts. The first fifteen scripts for X Minus One were repurposed Dimension X scripts. Although the shows began by adapting stories from Astounding, X Minus One turned to more sophisticated material from Galaxy Magazine. I prefer X Minus One over Dimension X, so I’ve snagged two episodes from the first and none from the second. As I’ve said before, DX had the all time best ad lib: immediately after a character in one play made an impassioned plea for world peace, the news broadcasters broke in to announce the outbreak of the Korean War.

Among other things, the panel says this show failed the Bechdel Test!

(3) SILENCED, Heather Altfeld explains how “Every Day, Another Language Dies” at Lit Hub.

…Recent broadcast from the terrarium of sadness and destruction: it will take between ten and fourteen days from now for another of the world’s 6,900 languages to die out. So let’s say that today the last speaker of something somewhere is dying.

Exhibit A: Alban Michael. Out of the 7,700,000,000 people on earth, he was only one left who could speak Nuchatlaht. He lived near Nootka Island, he spoke to his parents in dreams, as there was no one left to speak to him. And then one year ago, he was gone, himself a dream, his language buried with him….

(4) POLITICS IN SF? YES. The Village Voice’s Carol Cooper is “Catching Up With the Next Generation of Sci-Fi Writers”.

…Surely in a community that attracts atheists, Wiccans, CIA agents, physicists, semioticians, libertines, libertarians, and unrepentant Trotskyites, one might anticipate a few political debates. More recent controversies have centered on fears that “political correctness” is taking the field too far away from the kinds of themes and characters that ruled SF in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. Evidently, gay, non-white, and feminist themes and writers were getting too much attention in the 21st century, leaving straight, white protagonists with conservative plot lines unfairly ignored. But gathering to learn and play at regional and national conventions is one way these schisms in the larger SF community are addressed and eventually healed.

At Nebula Con, we discussed these questions of diversity in SF on panels like “How to Decolonize Your Fiction” and “Collaborations: More Than the Sum of Their Parts.” For the former, book agent DongWon Song asked a roundtable of non-white authors if it’s possible to write fiction free of the influence of Western imperialism and white supremacy. Bill Campbell, a middle-class, half-Jamaican author and publisher, described how after a white agent accidentally told him his work “wasn’t ghetto enough,” he reacted by self-publishing the satiric Koontown Killing Kaper, a gumshoe fantasy in which vampire crack babies are accused of murdering local rappers. Frustrated by the overly narrow expectations of existing publishers, he started Rosarium Publishing in 2013 as a home for multicultural SF, comics, nonfiction, and crime fiction that doesn’t pander to the “white gaze” and disregards stereotypical assumptions….

(5) THE COCKY CROWS. Here’s the Authors Guild update on “Cockygate” — “Authors Guild and RWA Prevail in Court Defending Authors in “Cocky” Trademark Dispute”.

The Authors Guild and the Romance Writers of America (RWA) joined forces in this case to defend the principle that no one should be able to own exclusive rights to use a common word in book or book series titles. In ruling against the author Faleena Hopkins, who claimed exclusive rights to “cocky” for romance titles, Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York, stated that he did not believe that Hopkins was likely to succeed on the merits.

…When Hopkins’ trademark registration was issued in April, Hopkins sent notices to multiple authors telling them to change the titles of their books and asked Amazon to take down all other cocky-titled romance books (not just series).

That is when the Authors Guild stepped in to defend the authors whose books were targeted. The Guild and the RWA separately requested that Amazon put the books back up, since the trademark claims were disputed, and it promptly complied. The two groups then jointly hired the Authors Guild’s outside counsel, Cowan Debaets Abrahams & Sheppard, to write a letter to Hopkins on behalf of Tara Crescent, author of another “Cocky” book series (and an Authors Guild member).

In response, Hopkins filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against three people: Crescent, author and lawyer Kevin Kneupper (who challenged Hopkins’ trademark registration), and book publicist, Jennifer Watson. In doing so, Hopkins asked for a temporary restraining order to prevent the May 26th publication of a collection of stories by different authors, entitledCocktales: The Cocky Collective (Hopkins incorrectly named Watson as the publisher). The Guild’s attorneys prevailed in court last Friday the 25th to prevent the temporary restraining order and again today in a hearing on Hopkins’ motion for a preliminary injunction.

We opposed the attempt to block publication of a book, arguing: “Any order that restricts creative expression in favor of promoting the tenuous (at best) purported rights of a single author is simply contrary to the public interest in freedom of expression.”

Judge Hellerstein agreed and found that Hopkins was not likely to succeed on the merits because the word “cocky” is a common and weak trademark, there was no evidence of actual confusion, and romance readers are sophisticated consumers—meaning that they are not likely to confuse Hopkins’ and Crescent’s books.

You can read our papers here, filed jointly with attorneys for Kneupper and Watson.

(6) GRIDLOCK. The Ogden UnCon takes place June 7-9, 2019 in Ogden, Utah. That means there are three general SF cons scheduled within the same month — UnCon, FyreCon, and Westercon — all within 10 miles of each other.

(7) NOT TAKEI TOO? Washington Post op-ed writer Eric Berkowitz considers “The case against George Takei was always weak. Why were we so quick to believe it?”.

… But there was always a lot wrong with the Brunton story. Unlike Weinstein, C.K. or Spacey, Takei had never been known — even in whispers — for sexual misconduct. And Brunton’s tale didn’t quite hang together. He didn’t accuse Takei of drugging him until days after he first contacted the media, and, as detailed in a recent Observer article , he hadn’t even suspected that Takei had spiked his drink until years after the incident, when he read about the accusations against Bill Cosby. According to Shane Snow’s reporting, if Brunton had been given one of the date rape drugs in use back then, he probably would have no memory of what happened. Finally, Brunton told the Observer that he didn’t recall any touching by Takei. What began as an accusation of sexual assault was now, for Brunton, “a great party story” and “just a very odd event.” Takei responded to the Observer article with relief, tweeting, “I wish him peace.”…

The result is that we are too ready to believe that George Takei committed sexual assault and to assume that gay men are prone to it. We don’t know exactly why there was a rush to judgment against Takei — in the immediate wake of #MeToo, there were so many accusations being hurled, it was hard to keep track — but we can reflect on why so many of us are inclined to think the worst.

(8) DABNEY OBIT. NPR reports “Ted Dabney, Co-Founder Of Atari And Video Game Pioneer, Dies At 81”. He also co-founded the ancestor of Chuck E. Cheese’s.

Dabney, who generally went by Ted, and Nolan Bushnell had been working together at an electronics company called Ampex back in the mid-1960s, and Bushnell had an idea for a “carnival-type pizza parlor,” Dabney recalled in 2012.

“It’s one of these things, you have these ideas and no way you could ever make it happen,” he told the Computer History Museum. “I mean, you could barely afford the pizza, much less buy a pizza place.”

Turns out he was right — they couldn’t afford to start a pizza place, at least not then. But those conversations did start a tumultuous partnership that would, within just a few years, go on to create Atari, introduce Pong as a cultural phenomenon and help blaze a trail for the very medium of video games as we know them today.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 2, 1977  — Capricorn One premiered

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 2, 1915 – Lester Del Rey, sf author
  • Born June 2, 1945 – Jon Peters, Executive Producer of Batman Returns, Producer of Batman, The Witches Of Eastwick and the Wild Wild West film.
  • Born June 2, 1977 – Zachary Quinto, the new Mr. Spock
  • Born June 2, 1978 — Dominic Cooper (Jesse in Preacher, Howard Stark in Agent Carter and  Captain America: The First Avenger and a role in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.)

(11) HIRSUTE KNOWLEDGE. Camestros Felapton has posted the answers to his sff author beard identification quiz. How did you score?

(12) A FRIGHT AT THE OPERA. Broadway World says a Bradbury-inspired opera will open this summer: “Sci-Fi Opera THE BRADBURY TATTOOS To Premiere This July”.

In the nearly 70 years since late author Ray Bradbury published “The Illustrated Man,” various short stories in the classic science fiction anthology have been adapted for film, stage and television. Now, four of them serve as the basis for “The Bradbury Tattoos,” an ambitious new rock opera, scheduled to premiere July 13 and 22 at Memorial Hall in Cincinnati.

Written by composer Zac Greenberg and librettist Michael Burnham, “The Bradbury Tattoos” will be presented by concert:nova, a contemporary-classical ensemble founded by musicians from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Partial funding for the production is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.

“The opera is in four movements,” Greenberg explained. “The first three movements happen simultaneously, in different rooms. The audience moves from room to room, and then everyone comes together in the main hall for the grand finale.”

Stylistically, the movements range from classical string quartet to avant-garde classical, folk and big band. Though the stories are different, they share a common theme of humans coping with a frightening future:

  • “Kaleidoscope” – The crew of a disabled spacecraft reflects on their lives, while drifting toward death.
  • “Zero Hour” – Children play a game called “Invasion,” which turns out to be more than a game.
  • “The Highway” – A husband and wife who live near a highway help refugees fleeing a nuclear war.
  • “The Last Night of the World” – A married couple goes about their normal routines, despite realizing that the world is about to end

(13) CAREFULLY TAUGHT. The BBC asks: “Are you scared yet? Meet Norman, the psychopathic AI” — another demo that data matters when teaching an AI.

Norman is an algorithm trained to understand pictures but, like its namesake Hitchcock’s Norman Bates, it does not have an optimistic view of the world.

When a “normal” algorithm generated by artificial intelligence is asked what it sees in an abstract shape it chooses something cheery: “A group of birds sitting on top of a tree branch.”

Norman sees a man being electrocuted.

And where “normal” AI sees a couple of people standing next to each other, Norman sees a man jumping from a window.

The psychopathic algorithm was created by a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as part of an experiment to see what training AI on data from “the dark corners of the net” would do to its world view.

(14) SCARE THE HELL INTO YOU. The hype machine says “Hereditary: The ‘scariest film for years’ is coming”.

It’s been described as “the singularly most terrifying horror film in years” and “a new generation’s The Exorcist”.

Horror movie Hereditary has become one of 2018’s most eagerly anticipated releases after scaring and impressing critics in equal measure.

Actress Toni Collette is coming in for particular praise as a woman whose family has demons in its DNA.

Bustle said it’s “truly unlike anything you’ve seen before”, while The AV Club called it “pure emotional terrorism”.

The film is released in the US on 8 June and in the UK a week later.

(15) CAT HELP WANTED. In San Diego a “Beloved book store closing after 53 years” – and the bookstore cat, Bartleby, is unemployed!

It’s the end of an era on Adams Avenue in Normal Heights. After 53 years, the Adams Avenue Book Store is set to close its doors.

(16) ROAD ROCKET. Messy Nessy shares its photo album of “Fantastic French Publicity Caravans of Yesteryear”, which begins with this epic vehicle:

My wormhole began with this photo of the world’s first (possibly only) vehicle-shaped pen, the BIC mobile, photographed at the Tour de France in 1953. I’ve never been an avid follower of the annual cycling race that was created in 1903 by a French newspaper as a gimmick to sell more papers– but this? Give me a parade of the wackiest concept cars and publicity vehicles, and you’ve got my attention!

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

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

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

Milan asks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

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

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Zombie jambalaya? Chip Hitchcock lets Bizarro explain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tolkien’s tobacco pipes are also included.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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