Pixel Scroll 8/1/18 For I Must Be Scrolling On, Now Cause There’s Too Many Pixels I’ve Got To See

(1) THE COCKY SOLUTION. The hydra sprouts a new head in the Authors Guild’s report on “Quantumgate: Son of Cockygate”.

The Cockygate case is close to resolution: the parties have entered into a settlement agreement and author Faleena Hopkins has filed a request with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to withdraw her “cocky” trademark. Other recent applications to register questionable trademarks for book series, however, do remain a matter of concern. A recent misinformed attempt to register a common book cover template (which is not a trademark under any interpretation of the law) was withdrawn after some backlash, thank goodness, but a recent application to register “Big” as a series title is still under review.

Now, another romance writer has applied to register the term “Quantum Series” in connection with her “series of fiction books.” When the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, became aware of this application, they approached the Authors Guild for assistance. We recommended counsel to SFWA, and Eleanor Lackman of the law firm Cowan, DeBaets Abrahams & Sheppard LLP is taking up the case by filing an opposition to the proposed trademark on behalf of SFWA member Douglas Phillips, who has his own “Quantum Series” of books”…

The Trademark Office clarified that the owner of a trademark in a book series title cannot use that trademark against single book titles. Since single titles cannot serve as trademarks, they also cannot infringe series title trademarks. So, if another author or a publisher ever tries to stop you from using a single book title because of their series trademark, you can tell them to take a hike. Only series titles can infringe another series title. [emphasis added]

(2) BELLA NOVELLA. Wired’s Jason Kehe applauds “The Rise of the Sci-Fi Novella: All The Imagination, None of the Burden”.

…The form, after all, honors the genre: The novella traces its origins to fairytales and morality plays. Proto-fantasies, basically. In that sense, Tolkien’s world-building was never native to the genre. He simply blew up the balloon.

A balloon which is now about to burst. More than ever, successful world-building seems to require of creators a transmedia commitment to spin-offs and prequels and various other increasingly extraneous tie-ins like comic books and card games. Consumers are rightly overwhelmed. The joy of the sci-fi novella, by contrast, is in its one-off-ness, its collapsed space, its enforced incapaciousness. Authors can’t indulge family trees or maps; they must purify their storytelling. One or two main characters. A single three-act quest. Stark, sensible rules. (And no Starks.)

Containment need not mean compromise. In many cases, spareness heightens prose. My favorite of Tor’s wide-ranging catalog is Kai Ashante Wilson’s A Taste of Honey, a stunning romance that unfolds on the shores of a remote god colony. Something like math poeticized, or poetry mathematized, at novel size the book would’ve gone down way too rich. At 158 pages, though? Practically perfect. Deadlier serious but no less compelling is Laurie Penny’s Everything Belongs to the Future, in which the rich can extend their youth by centuries while the poor age and die naturally. The paltry page count lets Penny, in full author-activist fervor, get away with punking up the familiar biotech premise. Plus, you can read it in one sitting, the way the good lords of lit intended.

(3) CLARKE WINNER’S NEW STORY. Paul Weimer weighs in about “Expectations of Genre: The Expert System’s Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky” in a review for Tor.com.

This novella’s contribution to that conversation is that, in order to colonize distant alien planets already full of life, change, severe change, is needed. This puts The Expert System’s Brother into dialogue with novels such as Stephen Baxter’s Flux (where humans are altered to live on a neutron star) and James Blish’s Surface Tension. All of these stories explore the idea that in the end, it is not easy to change people to survive and thrive on alien planets. There are severe costs and consequences to doing so, to the point that those who do so might lose most of their connection to who and what they are. But those costs are absolutely payable, and are worth doing. We are never so much human as we are exploring, heading out there, and changing ourselves and reinventing ourselves to do so.

(4) OKORAFOR. A BBC profile: “Black Panther spin-off author Nnedi Okorafor’s African inspiration”.

…Okorafor’s journey as a writer began at 19. That year, she was paralysed from the waist down after an operation to correct scoliosis.

Distraught as she realised her budding athletic career would be cut short, Okorafor began writing short stories to occupy her time.

When she recovered, she took a creative-writing class at university.

Her rise in the world of speculative fiction was “gradual”, she says, mainly because no one knew how to place her work.

By the time she published her debut novel Zahrah the Windseeker in 2005, reviewers struggled to understand it, she says.

“It was young adult science fiction with Nigerian mysticism, blended with fantasy and written by a Nigerian American – I was confusing and many didn’t know how to read me.

“But over the years, the more I wrote, the more known I became. I was slowly somewhat understood, and thus enjoyed.”

(5) YOU COULD L**K IT UP. Laura Anne Gilman tells why research is a necessity in “A Meerkat Rants: History will F*ck You Up” at Book View Café.

Here’s the thing. I wrote urban fantasy for a long time .  A dozen+ books’ time, in fact.  Books set in New York, a city that I know reasonably well.  And I still had to pull out the map and get on the subway, and check shit out, to make sure I had my facts straight, because trust me, if I got it wrong, someone (probably many someones) would let me know.

As an aside, did you know that the underside of the Brooklyn Bridge is painted purple-ish?  Also, that if you start taking photos of the underside of a bridge, a cop may give you a very thorough side-eye?  Always bring your id and your business cards with you when you Research, kids.  Seriously.  I shit thee not.

But that’s fact-checking, Person with Opinion says.  That’s not research.  It’s all still made up.

At this point I usually stop to remind myself that the agency bail fund probably won’t cover even justifiable homicide, so I only ask my interrogator if they ever wrote a research paper in their lives, and if so how they gathered the material to do it.  If they say “Wikipedia,” I give up and drown my sorrows in whisky.

(6) A GRAIL-SHAPED ENDING. In The Hollywood Reporter: “Monty Python Archive Unveils Unused ‘Holy Grail’ Sketches”.

Michael Palin’s private archive, deposited at the British Library in London, is set to go on display to the public later this month, but The Times of London reports that its contents includes several major unseen scenes written by Palin and Terry Jones, his writing partner in the Monty Python group, whose other members included Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, John Cleese and Graham Chapman.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail famously ends abruptly when King Arthur (Chapman) is arrested by police just minutes before a final climactic battle. However, according to The Times, Palin’s draft scripts show that this decision was only made to cut costs, and that a mighty fight was due to take place between the knights of Camelot, the French and also the killer rabbit of Caerbannog (a much-loved character from a previous scene).

(7) COMPELLING CROWDFUNDING. Joe Stech has launched a Kickstarter to fund Compelling Science Fiction: The First Collection, a hardcover print collection. The table of contents with 27 fantastic short stories by 24 authors is at the link. Swag is available for heftier pledges.

(8) MEXICANX INITIATIVE ANTHOLOGY. Fireside has set up a Kickstarter for the “Mexicanx Initiative Anthology”. They’ve already surpassed their $1,500 goal with pledges totaling $2,382 as of this writing.

Contributors include: José Luis Zárate, David Bowles, Julia Rios,  Felecia Caton Garcia, Iliana Vargas, Angela Lujan, Raquel Castro, Pepe Rojo, Alberto Chimal,  Gabriela Damián Miravete, Andrea Chapela, Verónica Murguía, Libia Brenda, and Richard Zela.

Our goal is to raise $1,600 to cover printing and shipping costs. Any funds raised above the goal will be split evenly among all the authors and artists who graciously donated their time and words. The anthology has been edited and laid out and features a beautiful cover by Mexicanx Initiative founder John Picacio.

We plan to print 200 copies of the anthology; 80 will be held for members of the Mexicanx Initiative and contributors, and 120 signed and/or numbered will be available as backer rewards. All copies will be brought to Worldcon 76 in San José, California, where they will be signed and available for pickup. If you are not attending Worldcon we will ship your copy and any other rewards you purchase.

(9) WORLDCON DOORS OPEN THESE HOURS.

(10) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

More than 80 million years separated the Stegosaurus from the Tyrannosaurus Rex. But the so-called Age of Mammals — which began when the non-avian dinosaurs were wiped out — has been going on for about 66 million years. This means that we are closer in time to the T-Rex than the T-Rex was from the Stegosaurus. [Source: Smithsonian Institute.]

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 1, 1971 — Charlton Heston as The Omega Man premiered in theatres

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 1 – Oona Laurence, 16 Celebrity Ghost Stories, a Penny Dreadful short and the animated Pete’s Dragon series. 
  • Born August 1 – Jack O’Connell, 28. Role in 300: Rise of An Empire, also Robot & Scarecrow, an animated short about a robot and a scarecrow (voiced by him) who fall in love at a summer music festival, and the lion in Jungleland which or may be not be based on an Asian theme park.
  • Born August 1 – Jason Momoa, 39. DCU as Aquaman in of course Aquaman, Justice League, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Khal Drogo in Games of Thrones, Conan in Conan the Barbarian and Ronon Dex in Stargate: Atlantis. 
  • Born August 1 – Sam Mendes, 53. Producer of Penny Dreadful, Shrek the Musical, and Stage Director for the tv version of Cabaret (“Which allows me to note how much i really, really like Leiber’s The Big Time novella,” says Cat Eldridge.)
  • Born August 1—John Carroll Lynch, 55. Considerable genre work starting with the Voice from the Grave horror series, and including The Visitor series as well as the Apollo lunar landing series From the Earth to the Moon, Star Trek: VoyagerCarnivàle, The Walking Dead and American Horror Story.

(13) BIRTHDAY KING. Steven H Silver’s August 1 celebrant is Ray Palmer – “Birthday Reviews: Raymond A. Palmer’s ‘Diagnosis’” at Black Gate.

Although Palmer wrote short stories and novels, he was best known as an editor. From 1938-1949, he edited Amazing Stories and from 1939-1949 he edited Fantastic Adventures as well for Ziff-Davis, resigning when they moved production from Chicago to New York. He formed his own company, Clark Publishing, and began publishing Other Worlds Science Stories from 1949 to 1957, during which time he also edited and published Fate Magazine, Universe Science Fiction, Mystic Magazine, Science Stories, and Space World. His assistant in the early 1950s, and often times credited co-editor, was Bea Mahaffey. Palmer is perhaps best remembered for publishing the fiction of Richard Shaver and promoting Shaver’s stories as non-fiction. In 1961, comic author Gardner Fox paid tribute to Palmer by using his name for the DC character the Atom.

Did you miss any? Silver has cataloged last month’s work — “Birthday Reviews: July Index”.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Sheldon does another cartoon profile on an early leader in the science fiction genre. Given the breadth of his work, he may have founded an empire!
  • At PvP, Scratch wants to adopt an heir – but can’t seem to get through to his prospect, a dedicated book reader –

July 30
July 31

(15) HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!

(16) CATS SLEEP ON TWITTER. Claire O’Dell cuts out the middleman –

(17) HAYLEY ATWELL VISITED BRADBURY’S MARS. Nerdist lets you “Hear Derek Jacobi and Hayley Atwell Bring Ray Bradbury’s THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES to Life” (2017 post, but news to me!)

While the characters that Jacobi and Atwell are playing in this aural adaptation of The Martian Chronicles were arguably written as American, I somehow don’t think fans are going to hugely object to Captain Wilder and Spender suddenly sounding impeccably English (please don’t let me down by being petty, Internet).

(18) LEAVES HIS COMFORT ZONE. Sean Grigsby takes the challenge:

(19) BREWPRINT. It’s a rare piece of news that makes a person want to move out of the U.S. but not to Canada! From VinePair: “MAP: The Most Popular Beer In Every Country”.

Ed. Note on North America: Although Anheuser-Busch InBev still markets Budweiser as “the King of Beers,” in the U.S. Bud Light outsells Budweiser by a wide margin. Ironically, in Canada, where the company owns iconic local brand Labatt, the company has sold more Budweiser than any other brand for nearly a decade. In 2012, the Toronto Star published the article “‘Sniff of death’ taints iconic beer brands,” which provides analysis on how Budweiser came to be the best-selling beer in Canada.

(20) BESIEGING YOUR BANK ACCOUNT. As Seen On TV, as they say: “Game of Thrones castle can be yours for less than $1 million”.

If you’ve been bargain shopping for one of the Great Houses of Westeros, get ready for the deal of a lifetime.

Gosford Castle, a 19th-century country house in Northern Ireland that was used to portray the Riverrun castle on Game of Thrones, is for sale and accepting offers over £500,000 (or $656,452), according to its online listing.

Riverrun, first depicted in season 3 of the acclaimed series, is the former seat of House Tully, and the current lawful home to House Frey. While the castle itself is not often seen on the show, its occupation has long been the subject of strategic interest for the series’ main characters.

(21) SPACE OPERA PILOT. Robert Hewitt Wolfe of DS9 and Andromeda fame is doing something interesting on Twitter. Several years ago he wrote a pilot for a space opera on SyFy that would be called “Morningstar”. It ended up not being made. But under WGA rules he retains publishing rights, so he’s publishing the script for the pilot on Twitter, one page per day for 95 days. He’s already 2/3 of the way through. The thread begins here.

(22) SHARK JERKING. People used to do “Stupid Crook Reports” at LASFS meetings. This would have been prime material: “Shark kidnapped from Texas aquarium in baby’s pram”.

A shark disguised by thieves as a baby in a pram and abducted from a Texas aquarium has been found and returned.

The horn shark – called Miss Helen – “is in quarantine right now resting” and “is doing good so far”, San Antonio Aquarium said.

On Saturday, the shark was grabbed from an open pool by two men and a woman, then wrapped in a wet blanket and put in a bucket with a bleach solution.

The public helped track the thieves and one suspect is now in custody.

(23) NUMBER ONE. Marvel’s C.B. Cebulski introduces a new Captain Marvel comic book series.

Carol Danvers has been involved in some of the biggest adventures in the Marvel Universe…but in her new series, she’s going back to the basics with Margaret Stohl, Carlos Pacheco, and Marguerite Sauvage at the helm. Marvel is proud to present this behind-the-scenes look at THE LIFE OF CAPTAIN MARVEL #1, featuring Stohl and Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski! “This is a story about Carol Danvers. We’re taking Carol back to basics,” said Cebulski. “We hear that a lot, but this is something where we’re going to dance between the raindrops and find the secrets of Carol’s origins that are based in the roots of her family.” “It’s really a family story and it’s as much about the human instead of her as her Kree powers,” added Stohl.

 

(24) GET WOKE, GO FOR BROKE. ScreenRant ponders “What If Trump Was President When Captain America Was Woken Up?”

Before he was elected in 2016, Donald Trump had a small cameo appearance in New Avengers #47. In that comic, Trump failed to pull over to the side to let an ambulance go past, so Luke Cage gave him a hand by picking up his limousine and moving it out of the way. An irate Trump threatened to sue Luke, but then quickly thought better of it.

 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Danny Sichel, Paul Weimer, Michael O’Donnell, Dann, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

Pixel Scroll 7/16/18 Now With Bolded Typos

(1) GONE WITH THE YUAN. The most expensive film ever made in China bombed and is already out of theaters. The Hollywood Reporter has the story — “China’s First $100M Film Pulled From Cinemas After Disastrous Opening Weekend”.

In the long lead-up to its release, Chinese fantasy epic Asura was promoted as China’s most expensive film ever made, with a production budget of over $110 million (750 million yuan). So perhaps it’s unsurprising that the film’s producers, which include Jack Ma’s Alibaba Pictures, decided to take desperate action after the movie opened to just $7.1 million over the weekend.

Late Sunday evening in Beijing, Asura‘s official social media accounts posted a simple statement saying that the film would be pulled from cinemas as of 10 p.m. local time. After landing in theaters with limited fanfare, China’s priciest picture ever would vanish from the scene entirely.

Asura is co-produced by Zhenjian Film Studio and Ningxia Film Group — two of the investors behind the successful Painted Skin fantasy franchise — along with Alibaba Pictures Group and other minority investors.

The statement announcing Asura‘s retreat from cinemas supplied no explanation for the unprecedented move. But a representative from Zhenjian Film, which is credited as lead producer, later told Chinese news site Sina: “This decision was made not only because of the bad box office. We plan to make some changes to the film and release it again.”

Chinese site Sixth Tone tells it this way: “Epic Budget, Epic Fail: Chinese Blockbuster ‘Asura’ Tanks”.

China’s latest fantasy epic, “Asura,” claimed to be the most expensive domestic production to date — but it didn’t even last three days in cinemas.

Six years in the making, the film was planned as the first of a trilogy based on ancient Tibetan mythology. The Alibaba Pictures production promised lush CGI from an award-winning, international team in its depiction of war between two heavenly realms. Marketing campaigns for the film emphasized its budget of $100 million.

But after opening on Friday, the film made a mere $7.1 million over its first weekend. By contrast, “Hidden Man,” a highly anticipated action-thriller by actor and director Jiang Wen, brought in $46.5 million. Meanwhile “Dying to Survive,” a dark comedy about cancer drug smuggling operations, defended its box office lead, racking up $68.5 million on its second weekend and even prompting a spike in online insurance sales.

Aggregate user ratings of “Asura” varied wildly across China’s two biggest ticketing platforms, Tencent-funded Maoyan and Alibaba-owned Tao Piaopiao, earning 4.9 and 8.4 out of 10, respectively. Users of review platform Douban rated the film a miserable 3.1 out of 10.

(2) EFFECTS OF COMIC CON PROLIFERATION. Heidi MacDonald tells Publishers Weekly readers why “In a World of Too Many Cons, San Diego Is Still King”.

An ever-increasing number of comics and pop culture conventions are taxing publishers’ exhibition budgets and turning artists into nomads, on the road signing autographs in a different city or country every weekend….

Indeed, the expanding comics convention schedule is beginning to tax publisher budgets while turning comics creators into a hardened (and often exhausted) group of road warriors who must trek to a different city every weekend.

As more and more events flood the schedule, publishers and creators alike are developing new strategies for dealing with the demands for their time. And the conventions are beginning to evolve, some developing business models to stay above the pack of newly launched shows, while others, including many poorly planned and financed events, are becoming synonymous with disaster, poor attendance, canceled events, and disappointed fans.

“The number of cons has really exploded over the last five years,” says Martha Donato, president of MAD Events Management, which puts on the Long Beach Comic Con every September, along with other shows. “It’s [become] every city, every weekend, all year, globally.”

Even for a location such as Long Beach, Calif., close to many West Coast comics publishers, the competition for guest artists and publisher-exhibitors has become fierce, she says. “A much bigger percentage of our time, energy, and resources are now devoted to getting exhibitors to attend,” she adds. “Talent and their publishers have many more offers than they could ever accept, even if they wanted to.”

Donato’s show gets support from publishers in Los Angeles, including Top Cow and Aspen, but even loyal exhibitors have to pick and choose. “Publishers are facing a deluge of opportunities and they can afford to be choosy,” says Donato. “There’s a lot of saying no.”

(3) RECASTING MUPPETS MOVIES. The most selfless answer is….

(4) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 16, 1955 Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe premiered on the small screen
  • July 16, 1958The Fly creeped the heck out of everybody…”Help Me…Help Me.”
  • July 16, 2005 — The 6th book in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series sold 6.9 million copies in its first 24 hours.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 16, 1928 – Robert Sheckley
  • Born July 16 – Will Ferrell, 51. Holmes in the forthcoming comedy Holmes and Watson film,  HerculesHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every ChildCurious George and The Last Man on Earth series.
  • Born July 16 – Corey Feldman, 47. Genre roles in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film series, the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,Tales from the Crypt and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven series to name but a few of his files.
  • Born July 16 – Rose Salazar, 33. Genre work includes American Horror StoryMaze Runner: The Death Cure, and Batman: Arkham Origins video game.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • Updating a Kafka classic at Bizarro.

(7) THE TIDE IS IN. Camestros Felapton continues scoping out the Hugo nominees: “Review: The Black Tides of Heaven (Novella) J.Y.Yang”.

As I said above, I found the second half easier to engage with than the first. It focuses more on Akeha, the surpising “spare” half of the twins, who in post-adolesence decides to be confirmed as a male (gender is assigned post-childhood in this world). Fate, prophercy, control and inevitability (whether magical or political) play out as important themes but, again, I think their impact as ideas get lost amid the scale of the story.

(8) IN ORDER. Mark Kaedrin gives his rankings and his reasons — “Hugo Awards: Short Stories”.

In the past five years of reading Hugo nominated short stories, I think I’ve enjoyed about 2-3 of the stories quite a bit. That’s… not a very good batting average. For whatever reason, I always find that this category just fills up with stories that don’t work for me. True, several puppy trolling nominations made the cut, which didn’t help (for example: they nominated SF-themed erotica two years in a row, and then another that was a bad parody of a bad story, etc…), but even the stories I liked weren’t that great. I’ve always chalked that up to this category having the lowest barrier to entry. It doesn’t take a whole lot of time or effort to seek out a bunch of short stories (mostly available for free online too), so the nominations are spread far and wide. There used to be a requirement that a finalist had to have at least 5% of the nominations in order to be considered, which often resulted in a small category because most stories couldn’t clear that bar. So basically, the stories that do make it here rarely have wide appeal. That being said, this year’s nominees are actually a pretty congenial bunch. I don’t actually hate any of the stories, even if a few don’t quite tweak me the way I’d like (even those are pretty good though). I do still find it hard to believe that these are the actual best short fiction of the year, but I’ll take this over the past 4 years’ worth of nominations. However, I do think it’s telling that at least one story on the 1942 Retro Hugos ballot, Proof by Hal Clement, is far better than any of these nominees, which I think says something (I’d have to read/reread a couple of the other 1942 finalists to be sure, but I suspect that ballot is more my speed). Anyway, let’s get to it….

(9) CURRENT EVENTS. And don’t forget this year’s fiction. Rocket Stack Rank hasn’t — “July 2018 Ratings”. Greg Hullender summarizes:

We posted our monthly ratings last night. It was a typical month, with 11 stories recommended (with 4 or 5 stars) out of 72 (expected would be 11 to 13).

We recommended 4 stories from F&SF, 3 from Asimov’s,  2 from Analog had 2. The other two were in Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Lightspeed. Over time, the three print and seven online magazines we follow split the recommendations 50/50 (not counting stand-alone novellas or original anthologies), and the print magazines only come out 6 times a year, so this isn’t quite as lopsided as it looks, but it was definitely a good month for the traditional three magazines.

(10) START YOUR COCKY CAREER. This article on “Cocky-gate” also seems to be a great blueprint for how to use Kindle Unlimited to give you a 6-figure salary. Let The Verge tell you about it: “Bad Romance”.

…The fight over #Cockygate, as it was branded online, emerged from the strange universe of Amazon Kindle Unlimited, where authors collaborate and compete to game Amazon’s algorithm. Trademark trolling is just the beginning: There are private chat groups, ebook exploits, conspiracies to seed hyperspecific trends like “Navy SEALs” and “mountain men,” and even a controversial sweepstakes in which a popular self-published author offered his readers a chance to win diamonds from Tiffany’s if they reviewed his new book.

Much of what’s alleged is perfectly legal, and even technically within Amazon’s terms of service. But for authors and fans, the genre is also a community, and the idea that unethical marketing and algorithmic tricks are running rampant has embroiled their world in controversy. Some authors even believe that the financial incentives set up by Kindle Unlimited are reshaping the romance genre — possibly even making it more misogynistic.

A genre that mostly features shiny, shirtless men on its covers and sells ebooks for 99 cents a pop might seem unserious. But at stake are revenues sometimes amounting to a million dollars a year, with some authors easily netting six figures a month. The top authors can drop $50,000 on a single ad campaign that will keep them in the charts — and see a worthwhile return on that investment….

(11) THEY’VE GOT ‘RITHIM. Or you can try this route–sell your old pb’s for hundreds or thousands of dollars each on Amazon. The New York Times has the story: “Amazon’s Curious Case of the $2,630.52 Used Paperback”.

Even a casual browse through the virtual corridors of Amazon reveals an increasingly bizarre bazaar where the quaint policies of physical bookstores — the stuff no one wants is piled on a cart outside for a buck a volume — are upended. John Sladek, who wrote perceptive science fiction about robotics and artificial intelligence, predicted in a 1975 story that computers might start making compelling but false connections:

If you’re trying to reserve a seat on the plane to Seville, you’d get a seat at the opera instead. While the person who wants the opera seat is really just making an appointment with a barber, whose customer is just then talking to the box-office of “Hair,” or maybe making a hairline reservation …

Mr. Sladek, who died in 2000, is little read now, which naturally means his books are often marketed for inordinate sums on Amazon. One of his mystery novels, “Invisible Green,” has a Red Rhino “buy box” — Amazon’s preferred deal — offering it for $664.

That is a real bargain compared with what a bookseller with the improbable name Supersonic Truck is asking: $1,942. (Copies from other booksellers are as little as $30.) Supersonic Truck, which Amazon says has 100 percent positive ratings, did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Ms. Macgillivray, who has published eight novels, said she had been poking around Amazon’s bookstore and was more perplexed than ever by the pricing.

“There’s nothing illegal about someone listing an item for sale at whatever the market will bear, even if they don’t have the book but plan to buy it when someone orders it,” she said. “At the same time, I would think Amazon wouldn’t want their platform used for less than honorable practices.”

(12) READERCON PORTRAITS. Paul Di Filippo shares photos of “Some Members of Fictionmags Attending Readercon 2018 “ at The Inferior 4.

In order of appearance: Ellen Datlow, Fred Lerner, Gary Wolfe, George Morgan, Gordon van Gelder, Henry Wessells, Jess Nevins, Michael Dirda, Peter Halasz, Scott Andrews, Scott Edelman, Sheila Williams, Steve Dooner, Mark Walsh.

(13) ONCE MORE WITH FEELING. And Daniel Dern covered the non-human population at ReaderCon, photographing this “alternative SJW credential.”

An ‘edge-‘og (hedgehog). (Not mine.)

Yeah, the SF context isn’t visible, would you take my word for it?

(14) ICE DELIVERY. NPR tells what it’s like for locals: “Massive Iceberg Looms Over A Village In Greenland”.

The photographs are stunning: a giant mountain of ice towers over a tiny village, with colorful homes reminiscent of little doll houses against the stark, blue-gray landscape.

But for the people living in those houses – that beauty could be life-threatening.

“It’s kind of like, if you lived in the suburbs, and you woke up one morning and looked out, and there was a skyscraper next to your house,” says David Holland, an oceanographer at New York University who does research in Greenland during the summer months. “I’d be the first to get out of there.”

He says that’s why authorities have taken action to evacuate those living closest to the water from the village of Innaarsuit, where the iceberg has parked itself just off the coast. According to the BBC, the village has just 169 residents.

(15) THE IMPORTANCE OF POORFEADING. “Harry, it s***s” — just not quite so badly: “Aliens killed by spelling mistake in 2013 Colonial Marines game”.

An infamously dreadful 2013 Aliens video game is now believed to have fallen victim to the most chilling of threats in the universe: a typo.

Aliens: Colonial Marines was released on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 to terrible reviews.

Many of them mentioned how badly the artificial intelligence (AI) behaved.

But it has now emerged that a single stray “a” in the game’s code may have been to blame.

Videos on YouTube show the game’s AI characters – the aliens and human teammates the player doesn’t control – ignoring threats, shooting wildly at nothing or standing in the line of fire.

(16) EARLY BRADBURY. David Doering has been digging through ancient fanzines and found a curiosity: “Here’s a little gift for you: a verse by Ray Bradbury himself–likely never before reprinted in the history of, well, like poetry or something. And maybe for some reason…”

VERSE OF THE IMAGI-NATION

“TIs a Sinema”
by Ray Bradbury

I think that I shall never see
Flash Gordon as he ought to be.
Midst growls of pain & awful lafter
each Saturday I see a chapter.
I cannot bear to see him more
for he Is really such a bore.

& Tarzan! too, is all so poor:
A shrinking violet demure
who beats upon his frazzled chest
& turns his puss into the west
to roar defiance with…”Fresh fish!
–I think that he’s a lousy dish…

From: Imagination, v. 1, issue 11, whole no. 11, August 1938

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

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.]