Pixel Scroll 10/8/19 Clop, Clop, Clop Went The Pixel. Zing, Zing, Zing Went The Scroll

(1) ROBOTECH. Titan Comics launches its new Robotech comics on October 16.

A new Robotech saga starts now with Robotech: Remix, a gripping series that will take beloved characters and iconic mecha to places fans have never seen before! Featuring new writer Brenden Fletcher (Motorcrush, Isola) and anime ace Elmer Damaso (Robotech/Voltron).

(2) HOUR OF THE WOLF. Has Jim Freund’s legendary radio program clocked out for the last time? Andrew Liptak explains the crisis in “Science Fiction Talk Show ‘Hour of the Wolf’ Goes Offline Amidst Studio Dispute” at Tor.com.

Jim Freund’s radio talk show Hour of the Wolf has been a fixture within the New York science fiction community on WBAI 99.5 FM for nearly half a century. On Monday, the station’s parent company, Pacifica Across America, abruptly shut down the station and replaced its local programming with shows from its other holdings, citing “financial losses,” according to Gothamist and The New York Times. The move leaves the future of the long-running program in question.

…The turmoil is a blow to the show, which began in 1971, and has been continually hosted by Freund since 1974. “Hour of the Wolf” was an early-morning talk show that aired between 5AM and 7AM, Freund explained, telling Tor.com that the live, call-in show was a way for the general public to learn about the science fiction and fantasy community….

Here’s the New York Times article: “Layoffs and Canceled Shows at WBAI-FM, a New York Radio Original”. A left-leaning station can’t stay afloat in New York? Amazing.

…In an interview, Mr. Vernile said WBAI — which, like the network’s other stations, is listener supported — had fallen short of its fund-raising goals in recent years. He added that the station was unable to make payroll and other expenses, forcing the larger Pacifica Foundation network to bail it out.

“Listeners in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston and Washington, D.C., have been supporting the efforts in New York,” Mr. Vernile said. “It has gotten to a point where we can no longer do that.”

Liptak’s post also includes the information reflected by this update from The Indypendent:

N.Y. State Supreme Court Justice Frank Nervo has granted an injunction against the Pacifica Foundation’s attempt to close WBAI. Regular programming should resume today. Both parties are currently due to appear before Justice Nervo on Friday, Oct. 18. Just after 10:30 p.m. on Monday, the following statement was issued by Berthold Reimers, WBAI General Manager, to all producers and staff at the station:

WBAI managed to get an injunction to stay the takeover of the station. This means the station is legally back in the hands of WBAI’s personnel. All programs are back on and there is much to be done and we have no time to waste. The producers of WBAI have organized a meeting tomorrow night [Tuesday, Oct. 8] at 6:30 PM at 325 Hudson Street near Van Dam.

(3) NOBEL PRIZE. The LA Times has the story: “Nobel Prize in physics goes to three scientists for their work in understanding the cosmos “.

A Canadian American cosmologist and two Swiss scientists won this year’s Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday for their work in understanding how the universe has evolved from the Big Bang and the blockbuster discovery of the first known planet outside our solar system.

Canadian-born James Peebles, 84, of Princeton University, was credited for “theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology” and Switzerland’s Michel Mayor, 77, and Didier Queloz, 53, both from the University of Geneva, were honored for discovering “an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star,” said Prof. Goran Hansson, secretary general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Peebles, hailed as one of the most influential cosmologists of his time, will collect half of the $918,000 cash award, and the Swiss men will share the other half.

The Nobel committee said Peebles’ theoretical framework about the cosmos — and its billions of galaxies and galaxy clusters — amounted to “the foundation of our modern understanding of the universe’s history, from the Big Bang to the present day.”

The BBC adds this quote from one of the winners:

Reacting to the news, Prof Queloz told BBC News: “It’s unbelievable,” adding: “Since the discovery [of the first extrasolar planet] 25 years ago, everyone kept telling me: ‘It’s a Nobel Prize discovery’. And I say: ‘Oh yeah, yeah, maybe, whatever.'”

But in the intervening years, he more-or-less “forgot” about the discovery: “I don’t even think about it,” he said. “So frankly, yes, it came as a surprise to me. I understand the impact of the discovery, but there’s such great physics being done in the world, I thought, it’s not for us, we will never have it.

(4) DEFYING DOOMSDAY. The winners of the 2018 D Franklin Defying Doomsday Award were announced October 6. This award is for media that deserves recognition for work in disability advocacy in SFF literature.

  • R.B. Lemberg for “Sergeant Bothari and Disability Representation in the Early Vorkosiverse,” in Strange Horizons
  • Ace Ratcliff for “Staircases In Space: Why Are Places In Science Fiction Not Wheelchair-Accessible?” in io9.

The judges felt that R.B. Lemberg’s article was important because it noted how easy it is to veer away from criticising the representations that we do see throughout the Vorkosigan series because honestly, we’re just glad there’s something focusing on disability at all. But ignoring these issues means we risk having these continue, now and in the future. R.B acknowledges the importance and value of these books, but also encourages us to question them. In fact, the article encourages everyone to question books and the representations in them; this shouldn’t be something readers wish to avoid, simply because we have been desperate for visibility for so long.

(5) TOP HORROR. Rocket Stack Rank has posted itsannual “Outstanding SF/F Horror of 2018”, with 30 stories that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.

Included are some observations obtained from highlighting specific recommenders and pivoting the table by publication, author, awards, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 8, 1993 Demolition Man starring Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes premiered.  Two years ago, Stallone’s filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. over the disbursement of profits from the film. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 66% score. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 8, 1920 Frank Herbert. I’ll confess that I enjoyed Dune and Dune Messiah that’s as far as I got in the series. The other Herbert novel I really liked was Under Pressure. (Died 1986.)
  • Born October 8, 1927 Dallas Mitchell. He played Lieutenant Tom Nellis on Star Trek in the “Charlie X” episode. He one-offs on The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Six Million Dollar Man, The Invaders, Voyage to The Bottom of the Sea and Mission: Impossible. (Died 2009.)
  • Born October 8, 1943 R.L.Stine, 75. He’s been called the “Stephen King of children’s literature” and is the author of hundreds of horror novels including works in the Goosebumps, Fear Street Mostly  Ghostly, and The Nightmare Room series. Library of Congress lists four hundred and twenty-three separate entries for him.
  • Born October 8, 1949 Sigourney Weaver, 70. I’m picking her greatest genre role as being the dual roles of Gwen DeMarco and  lieutenant Tawny Madison in Galaxy Quest. Chicon 2000 did give the film the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo after all and it is a loving homage to all that is good in the genre. 
  • Born October 8, 1949 Richard Hescox, 70. An illustrator who between the Seventies and early Nineties painted over one hundred and thirty covers for genre books,and is now working exclusively in the games industry and private commissions. His website is here. Here’s one of his covers. 
  • Born October 8, 1963 David Yates, 56. Director of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows (both films), The Legend Of Tarzan, and Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, and its sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. So who’s seen the latter films? 
  • Born October 8, 1979 Kristanna Loken, 40. She’s best known for her roles in the films Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege TaleBloodRayne and the Painkiller Jane series.
  • Born October 8, 1993 Molly Quinn, 25. I first heard her voicing the dual role of Kara and Supergirl most excellently on Superman Unbound (John Noble voices Brainiac) and I see ventured in the MCU as well as Howard’s Date in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. She was also Jenny on the Avalon High film, and she’s contributing to the Welcome to Nightvale story podcast.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range shows how you can improve any tabletop game by adding Godzilla.
  • Frank and Ernest find that the Earth has a sense of wonder.
  • Bizarro shows how a candy bar got its name.

(9) WHAT GREAT EARS YOU HAVE. Kate Pacculia’s “A Gothic Education:  Or, How I Learned To Love The Dark” on CrimeReads is worth reading if only because of its description of “Bunnicula” which sounds like a classic kids’ book.  Most of the books she picks are supernatural.

The gateway text. The classic tale of a vegetable-draining vampire bunny adopted by the unwitting Monroe family and actively dealt with by their housepets, genial dog Harold and megalomaniacal cat Chester—the best feline in literature (fight me)—isn’t very scary, and isn’t trying to be. Harold’s first person narration is an outrageously clever and charming feat of point-of-view that generates real sympathy for the titular monster bun. This was something I absorbed rather than realized at the time: that the beats of a genre are made to be remixed.

(10) TAKING A READING. Paul Weimer hosts the Q&A feature “6 Books With K V Johansen” at Nerds of a Feather.

3. Is there a book you’re currently itching to re-read?

Re-reading is interesting. Sometimes it’s just a quiet impulse, or you pick up something because you’d like to enjoy that again or remind yourself of it in some way, but sometimes it’s an intense craving. When it’s the latter, it can be a need to escape into something familiar from some stress or worry or heavy weight on you, but often I find that the thing I felt such an urgent desire to re-read turns out to have something in it that resolves some quandary that I’ve been wrestling with in my current work — it’ll be something to do with the narrative approach, or how difficulties in a character are set up, or a way of touching the story, that reminds me of what I need to be doing or sparks off something that solves my problem, shines a bit of moonlight on the path I’ve been stumbling in the dark to find. It’s like some underlayer of my brain knows what’s missing or where I’ve gone wrong in the WiP but doesn’t have any words of its own, so it points me at something that will show it to me. I’ve had that experience with LeCarré and Bujold, though most often it will be Diana Wynne Jones or Cherryh. The thing I most recently had an intense desire to reread was McKillip’s Kingfisher, which I’ve read a couple of times, but this time I bought the audiobook because I felt like I needed to have it read to me. Aside from the sheer enjoyment of the work, which is one of her best, what I’m taking from it on this re-read is a reminder of her lightness of touch, something I’m trying to achieve in my current project.

(11) AO3. Archana Apte sets out reasons “Why This Fanfiction Site’s Prestigious Literary Honor Is a Win for LGBTQ Representation” at Newnownext. Tagline: “Archive of Our Own, a volunteer-run, queer-inclusive fanfiction repository, scored a Hugo Award earlier this year.”

When I was barely in fifth grade, I felt too nerdy, too disabled, too brown, and secretly too queer to be accepted by my white, homophobic town. I escaped this alienation by turning to books. But as much as I loved Harry Potter, The Lightning Thief, and the other novels I flicked through at my town library, I never saw myself in the protagonists, who were mostly white, heterosexual men.

I didn’t realize how deeply this affected me until I got an iPod Touch and stumbled upon fanfiction. Across the internet, fans of particular works were rewriting popular stories however they liked: coffeeshop romances between Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, time travel re-do’s of Disney movies, what-if’s about the protagonist from Wicked having twins. I couldn’t be openly queer, but I could read about Luna Lovegood and Ginny Weasley falling in love.

I soon created accounts on fanfiction sites and talked to authors—many of whom were themselves queer—about the same-sex relationships they wrote about. I slowly accepted the parts of myself that made me feel alienated from my peers, and I carried that newfound self-acceptance throughout my high school years….

(12) RECORD ECLIPSED. “Saturn overtakes Jupiter as planet with most moons” – BBC has the count.

Saturn has overtaken Jupiter as the planet with the most moons, according to US researchers.

A team discovered a haul of 20 new moons orbiting the ringed planet, bringing its total to 82; Jupiter, by contrast, has 79 natural satellites.

The moons were discovered using the Subaru telescope on Maunakea, Hawaii.

(13) VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE BRINE. Yahoo! News tells how “NASA’s Curiosity rover found a weirdly salty ‘ancient oasis’ on Mars”.

“We went to Gale Crater because it preserves this unique record of a changing Mars,” William Rapin, of Caltech, the lead author of a study of their findings, published Monday in Nature Geoscience paper said in a statement.

(14) BEYOND POKEMON. “University of Northampton ‘virtual sculptures’ a UK first” – with photos — unfortunately no before/after comparisons.

A “virtual sculpture trail” at a university’s £330m campus is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK.

Visitors to the University of Northampton can use a mobile phone to view 3D sculptures created by students.

The six augmented reality pieces of art around the Waterside campus are visible through an app made by a media agency.

Iain Douglas, from the university, said: “This was a valuable opportunity to bring a real-life collaborative project to the students.”

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “James Bond Theme For Boomwhackers (Fall 2014)” was done at Harvard five years ago but it’s still fannish!

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Eric Wong, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Harold Osler, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day JeffWarner.]

Pixel Scroll 2/15/19 The Scroll’ll Come Out Tomorrow

(1) HAPPY INTERNATIONAL FANWORKS DAY. Archive of Our Own linked to all kinds of activities honoring 5th annual International Fanworks Day, which is today. Here’s the first entry on their list –

1. What Fanworks Mean to Me: A couple of weeks ago, we sent out a call for essay contributions about what fanworks mean to you. Tomorrow, we’ll be posting selected essays from the submissions. If you missed your chance to send us an essay, don’t worry! You can always post on social media with the tag #IFD2019. Let people know how you feel and help spread the International Fanworks Day festivities.

(2) NOMMOS. Registered members of the African Speculative Fiction Society (ASFS) have until April 30 to nominate for the Nommo Awards. The 2019 Nommo Awards will be presented at the Ake Arts and Book Festival in November 2019.

(3) ARISIA. The Boston convention relocated from the Westin to another hotel at a time when a strike was in progress and it was anticipated many would refuse to cross a picket line. Arisia’s February corporate meeting minutes report:

The Westin has begun the process of contesting the cancellation of our 2019 contract with them.  Further steps will cost them money with little prospect of a return and we don’t know if they will follow through or if this is a negotiating tactic.

The meeting approved spending money for Arisia’s legal representation.

(4) MORE ON ZAK SMITH. The revelations about game author Zak Smith summarized here the other day (Pixel Scroll 2/12/19 Item #2) have started a tsunami of reaction.

Pop Culture Uncovered has a thorough review: “Tabletop RPG Community Boycotts Zak Smith”.

…Although tackling toxicity in gaming from the grassroots level is essential, it’s important to remember that the industry must do something as well. From designers to publishers to social media admins, leaders and creators need to act. In this instance, that is precisely what happened.

Within a day of Morbid’s post, Smith was banned from most significant subreddits, like /r/rpg and /r/osr. He had long been blocked from many sites to the point of accusing places like RPG.net of hypocrisy and censorship, and now even more forums were closed to him.

The Gauntlet, one of the largest communities, podcasters, and RPG organizers were the next to respond, banning all of Smith’s games from their events and restricting discussion of him (or his products) on their forums. They even went as far as to cleanse their podcasts of interviews or promotions involving him and also warned conventions that thought about hosting him that they’d boycott them…

The Gauntlet’s said:

The Gauntlet will no longer provide coverage to Zak S or his publications. Due to the fact he has a history of harassing Jason and other members of The Gauntlet, we have had a longstanding ban on having him on our podcasts, and he has never been welcome in our community spaces. We will be extending that ban to any kind of coverage of, or participation in, his ttrpg work. […]

* We will not work with people who work with him. For example, Codex will not publish an artist or author who is actively working with him. Folks who have worked with him in the past must promise to not work with him again in order to have a professional relationship with The Gauntlet.
* Members of The Gauntlet organizational team will no longer attend conventions in our capacity as representatives of The Gauntlet so long as Zak S is welcome to attend those conventions. We will also strongly discourage our membership from attending such conventions.

Giant industry convention Gen Con was called on to take a stand – this is as far as they were willing to go.

Eric Franklin also annotated these links in a comment here —

Meanwhile, a ton of publishers have walked back things they’ve said in the past, and several of Zak’s defenders have walked back their statements, too. Some statements are stronger than others. Ken Hite’s statement is one of the better one, but it is by no means the only statement worth digging for.

Even Mike Mearls (who is the man in charge of D&D) made a (pathetically weak) statement on Twitter. He is (rightfully) getting roasted in the responses.

This is a storm that’s been brewing in tabletop gaming for a long while. Zak is one of a small number of high-profile missing stairs whose downfall I have been waiting for.

There is a thread on RPG.net’s Tangency board that has a ton more information about what’s going on, but you need to be a registered member to see Tangency (registration is free). That thread is here.

(5) SIGNAL BOOST. The latest edition of Alasdair Stuart’s “weekly pop culture enthusiasm download” Full Lid includes a wry commentary on “The Three Season Long Cold Open” of a popular TV series —

The Expanse begins in the final minutes of its third season. Which is a hyperbolic exaggeration on one hand and a salute to the sheer audacity of the first three seasons on the other. In the space of under 40 episodes the show has shifted from ‘traumatized survivors busk their way through a political scandal’ to ‘manufactured war between the planets’ to ‘first contact’ to ‘political intrigue’ to ‘welcome to the galaxy.’ Each progression has been baked into the DNA of what’s preceded it and the result is a show that’s followed a silky smooth trajectory out into new space. Alex Kamal would be proud. This leads to the final scene of season three making the show’s name it’s premise and fixing it’s previously somewhat broken leading man. This,excellent, recap video by Zurik 23M brings you up to speed 

You can catch up on the last six months of back issues at the Full Lid archive.

(6) ‘RITHM & BLUES. Lithium batteries can explode if you overcharge them. So can humans. Perhaps AIs should learn that latter lesson (Futurism: “Two Pricing AIs Went Rogue and Formed a Cartel to Gouge Humans”).

When the robot revolution comes, our new overlords may not be as benevolent as we’d hoped.

It turns out that AI systems can learn to gang up and cooperate against humans, without communicating or being told to do so, according to new research on algorithms that colluded to raise prices instead of competing to create better deals.

[…] “What is most worrying is that the algorithms leave no trace of concerted action — they learn to collude purely by trial and error, with no prior knowledge of the environment in which they operate, without communicating with one another, and without being specifically designed or instructed to collude,” the researchers behind the experiment said in a write-up.

(7) MY META OR YOURS? The Hollywood Reporter’s Daniel Fienberg’s “‘Doom Patrol’: TV Review” tells readers more about him than the new show.

Say what you will about DC Universe’s new superhero dramedy Doom Patrol — it’s a structural mess, but an improvement of epic proportions over DC Universe’s Titans — nobody will accuse it of not being in on the joke, whatever the joke happens to be.

In fact, it’s basically impossible to review Doom Patrol positively or negatively without insecurity that you might be falling right into the show’s aggressively meta trap. This is, after all, a show that has its perpetually wry narrator say that critics compared one of its main characters to “a poor man’s Deborah Kerr,” followed by, “Critics? What do they know? They’re gonna hate this show.” So is a positive review me trying to prove my coolness to DC and creator Jeremy Carver? Is a negative review proof that I’m just as predictable and dismissible as the show believes?

I don’t know. All I can say for sure is that no matter what the narrator might have expected, I don’t hate Doom Patrol. Whatever that means.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 15, 1883 Sax Rohmer. Though doubt best remembered for his series of novels featuring the arch-fiend Fu Manchu. I’ll also single out his The Romance of Sorcery as he based his mystery-solving magician character Bazarada on Houdini who he was friends with. The Fourth Doctor did a story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” whose lead villain looked a lot like most depictions of Fu Manchu did. (Died 1959.)
  • Born February 15, 1907 Cesar Romero. Joker in the classic Batman series and film. I think that Lost Continent as Major Joe Nolan was his first SF film with Around the World in 80 Days as Abdullah’s henchman being his other one. He had assorted genre series appearances on series such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart, Fantasy Island and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 15, 1916 Ian Ballantine. He founded and published the paperback line of Ballantine Books from 1952 to 1974 with his wife, Betty Ballantine. The Ballantines were both inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2008, with a joint citation. During the Sixties, they published the first authorized paperback edition of Tolkien’s books. (Died 1995.)
  • Born February 15, 1927 Harvey Korman. I’m stretching genre to the beyond it’s breaking limiting as the roles I want to single out are him as Blazing Saddles as Hedley Lamarr and in High Anxiety as Dr. Charles Montague. He did actually do a SF role or two, mostly in series work. On The Wild Wild West, he was Baron Hinterstoisser in “The Night of the Big Blackmail”;  on The Munsters, he played the Psychiatrist in “Yes Galen, There Is a Herman”; and on that infamous Star Wars Holiday Special,  he appeared Chef Gormaanda, Krelman, and Toy Video Instructor. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 15, 1945 Douglas Hofstadter, 74. Author of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. Though it’s not genre, ISFDB notes he wrote “The Tale of Happiton “, a short story included in the Rudy Rucker edited Mathenauts: Tales of Mathematical Wonder
  • Born February 15, 1948 Art Spiegelman, 71. Obviously best known for his graphic novel Maus which retells The Holocaust using mice as the character. What you might not know is there is an an annotated version called MetsMaus as well that he did which adds amazing levels of complexity to his story. We reviewed it at Green Man and you can read that review here.
  • Born February 15, 1951 Jane Seymour, 68, whose full legal name is, to my considerable delight, Joyce Penelope Wilhelmina Frankenberg. Her first significant genre role was in Frankenstein: The True Story as Agatha / Prima. I then see her as being in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger as Princess Farah and then showing up in Somewhere in Time as Elise McKenna. (Based on the novel Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson, who also wrote the screenplay.) I see her in the classic Battlestar Galactica as a character named Serina for a brief run. I think her last genre work was on Smallville as Genevieve Teague. 
  • Born February 15, 1971 Renee O’Connor, 48. Gabrielle, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. I’m reasonably that I watched every damn episode of both series when they aired originally. Fun stuff. Her first genre role was first as a waitress in Tales from the Crypt andshe’s had some genre film work such as Monster Ark and Alien Apocalypse.

(9) ANTHROPOBOTIC. In the Washington Post, Jason Filliatrault, who tweets as @SarcasticRover pretending to be the “voice” of Curiosity, has an op-ed (“Goodbye, Opportunity Rover. Thank you for letting humanity see Mars with your eyes.”) where he says in Curiosity’s voice —

 There are better ways to say all of this, and I’m just a robot, and I know I don’t have the emotion or ability to express the truth about you. And even if, by some bizarre twist of fate, I was actually just a human who pretended to be a robot for as-yet-unknown reasons, I would still be so ill-equipped to tell the world how incredible you were.

(10) ANOTHER FAREWELL. From This Girl Codes — don’t read this ‘til you have a hanky ready:

(11) PROOF OF CONCEPT. BBC video shows how “Space harpoon skewers ‘orbital debris'”.

The British-led mission to test techniques to clear up space junk has demonstrated a harpoon in orbit.

The RemoveDebris satellite fired the projectile into a target board held at a distance on the end of a boom.

Video of the event shows the miniature spear fly straight and true, and with such force that it actually breaks the target structure.

But, importantly, the harpoon’s barbs deploy and hold on to the board, preventing it from floating away…

(12) CREDITS WHERE DUE. ScienceFiction.com introduces “The Opening Credits For ‘Good Omens’”.

…For fans of the source novel by Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, it is chock full of colorful imagery and Easter eggs and gives some amazing insight into the kind of tone and atmosphere the series is going for, not to mention giving us a taste of the kind of music the show will have. Plus, with the whole thing running around 1 minute and 40 seconds, which is quite a bit longer than most opening credits nowadays, it cements the fact that Gaiman is clearly doing the show his own way, with his own style, which may yield some very interesting and exciting results.

(13) THE SCOOP. The Disney Food Blog leads with this tasty news: “Toy Story 4 Ice Cream Flavors Hitting the Grocery Shelves! Will You Find Them in Your Store?” Two new Edy’s/Dreyer’s flavors are hitting shelves now —

Here’s the scoop on the two flavors: your choices are Carnival Churro Cravings and Chocolate Peanut Butter Prize Winner!

We can happily verify that they are hitting the shelves! At least, we’ve found them available at a grocery chain called Giant Eagle (with locations in Pennsylvania, primarily around Pittsburgh).

(14) COWL DISAVOWAL. Ben Affleck appeared on Jimmy Kimmel’s show to explain why he isn’t Batman any more. Batman’s previously unknown connection with Tom Brady is discussed!

(15) RIGHT NOW, ROGER IS NOT VERY JOLLY. Sounds like the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise has everything except people who want to be involved with making the next one. Geoff Boucher, in “Disney’s ‘Pirates’ Reboot Uncertain As ‘Deadpool’ Writers Jump Ship” on Deadline, says it’s not clear if there is to be another movie because Johnny Depp will not be in the next installment and Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have been dropped from writing duties, and with no star and no script, it’s unclear what Disney has left for another Pirates film.  Boucher says there are rumors Disney wants to turn the franchise into a TV series.

The [Reese & Wernick] hiring was widely hailed and Bailey has been vocal in his excitement about it, telling reporters and colleagues that the scribes were going to “make Pirates punk rock again” and give the franchise a much-needed “kick in the pants” that would revive the off-kilter charisma the brand exuded in its early days. Those high hopes faded in recent weeks.

Disney insiders are divided about what happens next. Some say a search is already underway for viable replacement options, others say the once-proud flagship of Disney’s live-action fleet may be headed to dry-dock for good.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Paper Mario Bros. In My Notebook (Stop Motion)” on YouTube is a short video about what a Mario Bros. chase would be like in a two-dimensional notebook.

[Thanks to Meredith, Eric R. Franklin, Hampus Eckerman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 12/2/18 One Of Our Pixels Is Scrolling

(1) CHOP SHOP. Derrick Boden shares the secret of  “The Revision Machete” on the Odyssey Workhops blog.

…It has become so helpful to me that I’ve permanently integrated it into my revision process, and every story I’ve written since has seen improvement as a result.

I like to call it the revision machete.

Here’s the scenario: you’ve squeezed every ounce of blood and grit and wit into producing a story packed with multidimensional characters, a gripping conflict, deeply extrapolated world-building, and heart-wrenching emotional resonance. You’ve tidied it up and sent it off to a critique group, only to discover that everyone has summarily missed the point. Rather than commenting on the story’s thematic impact, they seem to have overlooked the theme altogether. Instead of suggesting ways to make the ending more powerful, they wonder, aloud, What exactly are you trying to say? They tell you the story is too slow, too long. They tell you it didn’t win them over….

When a reader misses the point, it’s easy to write that reaction off as an impatient read. This is rarely the case. And when a reader says a story is too slow or too long, the tendency—for me, at least—is to think: I just need to cut some flab. Tighten it up. Break out the scalpel. Slice some adverbs, transplant some clauses, excise the slow parts.

The solution, sadly, is rarely this simple. Here’s why….

(2) STEP IN AND OUT OF TIME. Parade Magazine questions “Dick Van Dyke & Lin-Manuel Miranda on the Magic of Making Mary Poppins Returns”.

During a gray London afternoon last year, Lin-Manuel Miranda was in musical paradise: He was watching Dick Van Dyke, then 91, on the set of the new movie Mary Poppins Returns, singing and hoofing—on a desk!—with the energy of a man half his age.

“I was geeking out!” the Hamilton star says. As for Van Dyke? “Everyone on the set was surprised I could do it,” the iconic actor says. “And nobody was more surprised than I was!”

(3) TIRED AND EMOTIONAL. John Scalzi dries the tears of some writers who are sure their failure to make the NYT Bestseller list is unjustified: “Some Observations on Bestseller Lists, December 2018”.

* Another thing about the NYT lists these days is that in the last few years they’ve cut the number of slots on the list themselves; the lists used to go into the thirties (my first NYT bestseller ranking was #33 on the Mass Market Fiction list), and now they publish only the top fifteen in any category. There are fewer slots to go around, and thus it’s more difficult to hit the list at all. Again, that’s nothing about politics, and everything about the lists themselves becoming more selective.

* The NYT lists are targeted for complaint because they are the most famous bestseller lists, and also because, if you’re of a conservative bent, a bit of a bete noir, being that the NYT is all full of liberals and shit. But other publications track sales as well, and there does happen to be a correlation between the appearance of a book on the NYT list, and its appearance on other lists as well. It’s relatively rare for a book to show up on a Times list, especially these days in their shorter format, and not on another bestseller list somewhere else.

(4) SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN SFF DATABASE. On a Reddit thread someone was asking for Fantasy series low on violence toward women was pointed to a Google docs “Sexual violence in sff database” that has been set up. It has a Google page where people can submit information on books they’ve read — Submission form.

(5) ALIEN VISITORS TO THE FORMER SOVIET UNION. On This Day In Science Fiction History reviews a Russian movie — “’Attraction’ Might Make You Believe In Love … but Probably Not Aliens”.

Somehow, mankind always finds itself at odds with intelligent extraterrestrial life.  If you believe the movies, then we’re doomed to never get along socially with whatever we inevitably find ‘out there.’

George Pal’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War Of The Worlds (1953) showed Earthlings on-the-run from these Martian aggressors who eventually succumb to the smallest threat previously known to man in the finale.  During the 1980’s, TV audiences were treated to a pair of miniseries and a spin-off series around V (aka Visitors), a Reptilian race intent upon seeing mankind used to fill the opening of their dietary requirements.  Then, in 1996, Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich re-invented the ‘alien invasion’ feature with their big screen Independence Day: aliens came to Earth and got their butts kicked in a rousing finale that brought all nations of the world together for the ultimate throwdown.

There have been other films – some big and some small – that have mined similar territory; but 2017’s Attraction has the unique advantage of exploring an alien encounter that doesn’t involve any other nation on Earth except the former Soviet Union.  That alone was enough to pique my interest … but, sadly, what I found was much more spectacle than it was substance.

(6) THE COLLECTOR’S FRIEND. Moshe Feder pointed to this Indiegogo appeal — “Aura: Speeds & Simplifies ALL Your Scanning Needs” – saying, “An interesting scanner for bound books and magazines. Has a built-feature to renormalize curved pages. Portable! Doubles as a lamp! Reasonable price. This should have some obvious uses with old zines, pulps, and books.”

(7) JOIN THE NZ POLICE. The latest NZ Police recruiting campaign includes a shout-out to Wellington Paranormal (40 seconds in).

(8) WHO REVIEW. Camestros Felapton reviews the latest episode: “Doctor Who: It Takes You Away”.

A weird spooky episode, with a bit of a Sapphire & Steel style spooky British TV sci-fi mixed with a bit of a Neil Gaiman vibe. This one is a bit hard to review without spoilers, so click for more if you’ve seen it.

The crew are in Norway for no specific reason and spot a remote house by a lake. The exterior of the house is boarded up but there’s movement inside and possibly something monstrous outside…

(9) BERRY OBIT. Actor Ken Berry, best known for F-Troop and Mayberry RFD, died December 1. Variety notes his genre connections as well:

He also appeared in comedy films “Herbie Rides Again” and “The Cat From Outer Space” and made frequent guest appearances on shows including “The Golden Girls,” “Love Boat,” “Fantasy Island” and “CHiPs.”

Born in Moline, Ill., Berry started out as a singer and dancer. He served in the U.S. Army special services under Sergeant Leonard Nimoy, entertaining the troops and winning a slot on the “Ed Sullivan Show.”

Nimoy helped introduce him to studios after he left the Army, and soon Berry was under contract to Universal to appear in movie musicals.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

December 2, 1979Star Trek became a comic strip, giving new meaning to “see you in the funny papers.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born December 2, 1914 – Ray Walston, Actor and Comedian who is best known, of course, for playing the lead in My Favorite Martian from 1963 to 1966, alongside co-star Bill Bixby; he was given a cameo role in the 1999 reboot movie, which starred Christopher Lloyd in the titular role. Younger fans may know him for his role as Boothby, the mysterious gardener at Starfleet Academy, in Star Trek: The Next Generation, a role which he reprised in Voyager. His many genre appearances included The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, The Six Million Dollar Man, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Galaxy of Terror, Amazing Stories, Popeye, Friday the 13th: The Series, and Addams Family Reunion. In a sly callback to their earlier collaboration, he appeared in The Incredible Hulk (in which David Banner was played by Bill Bixby) as Jasper the Magician, in an episode called “My Favorite Magician”. He was given a Saturn Award for Lifetime Achievement. (Died 2001).
  • Born December 2, 1937 – Brian Lumley, 81, Writer of Horror who came to distinction in the 1970s, both with his writing in the Cthulhu Mythos and by creating his own character Titus Crow. In the 1980s, he created the Necroscope series, which first centered on speaker-to-the-dead Harry Keogh. His short story “Necros” was adapted into an episode of the horror anthology series The Hunger. His works have received World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Stoker Award nominations; the short story “Fruiting Bodies” won a British Fantasy Award. Both the Horror Writers Association – for which he was a past president – and the World Fantasy Convention have honored him with their Lifetime Achievement Awards.
  • Born December 2, 1952 – O.R. Melling (aka G.V. Whelan), 66, Writer from Ireland. One of her favorite authors is Alan Garner, whose The Owl Service is also a frequent read of mine. As for novels by her that I’d recommend, the Chronicles of Faerie series, consisting of The Hunter’s Moon, The Summer King, The Light-Bearer’s Daughter, and The Book of Dreams are quite excellent; the first won a Schwartz Award for Best YA-Middle Grade Book. For more adult fare, her People of the Great Journey: Would You Go if You Were Called? – featuring a fantasy writer who is invited to take part in a week-long retreat on a magical, remote Scottish island – I’d highly recommend.
  • Born December 2, 1971 – Frank Cho, 47, Artist and Illustrator from South Korea who is best known as creator of the Liberty Meadows series, as well as work on Hulk, Mighty Avengers, and Shanna the She-Devil for Marvel Comics, and Jungle Girl for Dynamite Entertainment. His works have received Ignatz, Haxtur, Charles M. Schulz , and National Cartoonists Society’s Awards, as well as Eisner, Harvey, and Chesley Award nominations, and his documentary Creating Frank Cho’s World won an Emmy Award.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • How stars get their names (and whether they like them), as explained by Over the Hedge.

(13) THE JDA VERSION. Yesterday’s Scroll linked to Jim C. Hines’ post about Jon Del Arroz’ comments being taken down from a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” with Cat Rambo. Today JDA blogged his version of events — “Banned by r/fantasy” [Internet Archive link].

r/fantasy is censoring your favorite humble Hispanic author (me).  This group, supposedly about books and fiction in the genre I write, is removing comments when I make them. I’ve violated no rules, I simply posted the following to this thread…

(14) FLYING SAUCER INVENTOR PROFILED. In “The Forgotten Legend of Silicon Valley’s Flying Saucer Man” on Bloomberg, Ashlee Vance profiles outsider artist Alexander Weygers, who created designs that looked like flying saucers during the 1920s and also in 1930 painted visions of San Francisco in 1985.

…Things got bad enough that Larry Fischer, the owner of a sculpture foundry, decided to auction off pieces he’d held on to for years to help make ends meet. Ahead of the auction, he invited Hunter to come see if there was anything he liked. He guided his friend through the gritty warehouse toward a collection of bronze sculptures he thought might be of particular interest.

He chose well. The first sculpture Hunter saw, Up With Life, was a foot tall and depicted an adult’s face morphing vertically into a hand cradling an infant. Fischer explained that the sculpture, made by an unknown artist named Alexander Weygers after World War II, represented humanity rising up to find hope in the darkest of times. Its beauty overwhelmed Hunter, leaving him giddy and a little dazed. “I freaking started crying,” he later said. As he surveyed the room and saw one magnificent work after another, Hunter knew he had to have them. “I bought the whole collection of 30 Weygers statues.”

The sculptures came with an incredible story. Weygers spent close to half a century as the valley’s hidden da Vinci, crafting his home over the years from reclaimed wood and junkyard scrap metal, using tools he made on the premises. In separate workshops he produced sculptures, highly stylized photos, wood carvings, and home finishings. He also wrote books on blacksmithing and toolmaking and shared his talents firsthand with youngsters willing to camp on the property. He taught them to make their own tools, sculpt, and embrace his minimalist, recycling-centric philosophy. And amazingly, Weygers was a world-class engineer who in the late 1920s designed a flying saucer, a machine he called the Discopter.

(15) THERE’S GOLD, OR SOMETHING, IN THEM THAR HILLS. While InSight’s been getting all the ink, Curiosity has been prospecting for something that might be valuable – to science, anyway: “Curiosity Rover Just Spotted This Super-Shiny Object on Mars” at Gizmodo.

Immediate suspicions are that the rock, dubbed Little Colonsay, is a meteorite, but NASA scientists won’t know for sure until Curiosity performs a chemical analysis. The rover’s ChemCam instrument, which consists of a camera, spectrograph, and laser, offers an on-the-spot chemistry lab.

That Curiosity may have stumbled upon a meteorite isn’t shocking. The rover has sniffed out several such objects over the course of its travels, including a huge metal meteorite in 2015 and a shiny nickel-iron meteorite the following year.

(16) NIGHTFLYERS. Vice reports Vice: “George R.R. Martin’s ‘Nightflyers’ Is an Imaginative, Brutal Gorefest”. Subhead: “‘Game of Thrones’ fans will feel right at home in Syfy’s bloody psychological horror show.”

Martin compared the dark, 10-episode first contact series to Alien in the New York Times. As in Thrones, the balance of power is practically a character in Nightflyers. Instead of a loose coalition of warring nation-states, the factions are a ragtag group of scientists and the residents of a colony ship called the Nightflyer enlisted to investigate a mysterious alien entity called “The Volcryn.” Earth is dying, and rugged researcher Dr. Karl D’Branin (Eoin Macken) thinks tapping into its powerful energy will save the planet.

Andrew Liptak interviewed the showrunner for The Verge: “Nightflyers’ showrunner explains why George R.R. Martin’s massive worlds are ideal for TV “.

Series showrunner Jeff Buhler explains that to bring the show to Syfy, the creative team had to make some changes to the original story. “One of the big changes from the novella that we tackled in making the TV series was to roll back the timeline that existed in the Thousand World universe.” Martin’s story is set centuries far in the future, after humanity has colonized the galaxy. Along the way, humanity made contact with numerous other aliens, and wound up nestled between two hostile alien factions. For the show, Buhler explained that they wanted to go back to the point where humanity first made contact with aliens.

(17) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman offers listeners the chance to join Jo Walton for a seafood lunch in Episode 83 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast:

Jo Walton

I don’t know what you were doing last week on Black Friday, but as for me, I was taking this year’s Chessiecon Guest of Honor Jo Walton out to lunch at the nearby Bluestone Restaurant. And, of course, recording the conversation so you’d be able to join us at the table!

Jo Walton won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2002 and the World Fantasy award for her novel Tooth and Claw in 2004. Her novel Among Others won both the 2011 Nebula Award and the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Novel, and (according to those who keep track of such things) is one of only seven novels to have been nominated for the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, and World Fantasy Award.

Her novel Ha’penny was a co-winner of the 2008 Prometheus Award. Her novel Lifelode won the 2010 Mythopoeic Award. Her incisive nonfiction is collected in What Makes This Book So Great and An Informal History of the Hugos. She’s the founder of International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day, something which we never quite got around to talking about, so if you want to know more about that holiday, well, Google is your friend. Her next book, Lent, a fantasy novel about Savonarola, will be published by Tor Books in May 2019.

We discussed how Harlan Ellison’s fandom-slamming essay “Xenogenesis” caused her to miss three conventions she would otherwise have attended, why Robert Silverberg’s Dying Inside is really a book about menopause, the reason she wishes George Eliot had written science fiction, the ways in which during her younger days she was trying to write like Poul Anderson, her technique for getting unstuck when she’s lost in the middle of writing a novel, why she loathes the plotter vs. pantser dichotomy, how she developed her superstition that printing out manuscripts is bad luck, the complicated legacy of the John W. Campbell Award (which she won in 2002), how she managed to write her upcoming 116,000-word novel Lent in only 42 days, and much, much more.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Jennifer Hawthorne, Chip Hitchcock, Errolwi, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Liptak, Carl Slaughter, Moshe Feder, Scott Edelman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 8/5/18 This Is Not A Pixel Scroll Title

(1) MUST-READ GRAPHIC NOVELS. The Guardian has a little list: “From Maus to Tamara Drewe: the 10 graphic novels everyone should read”.

The recent hoo-ha about the Man Booker prize’s longlisting of a graphic novel for the first time, the chilling, understated Sabrina by Nick Drnaso, may have piqued your interest in exploring this ever-expanding medium further, or perhaps for the first time. Not everyone has grown up reading comics and the demands of their various verbal and visual literacies can take some adjusting to, particularly if you’re used to the orderly typesetting of prose novels. It’s never too late, though, to try stretching your brain – both sides of it when it comes to graphic novels, where looking is as important as reading.

The roundup begins with —

This experience comes through in the wordless migration parable The Arrival by Shaun Tan (2006), which follows a man who has gone on ahead of his wife and children to seek work abroad and struggles to navigate his alien surroundings and their indecipherable language. Unable to make himself understood, he resorts to making simple drawings to communicate his need for a room. The reader shares his bafflement and gradually grasps with him how his strange new homeland works. Tan’s genius in children’s picture books blossoms in this extended tale for all ages, illustrated in almost photographic sepia images.

(2) PREDATOR’S FIRST BITE. ScreenRant gives the popular actor’s fans a reason to mourn: “The Predator Cuts Edward James Olmos’ Character Due to Shorter Runtime”.

As first reported by Slash Film, Olmos won’t be appearing in The Predator as previously planned. When asked about his role in the film Olmos commented, “I’m not in the show though. It was too long so my character, they had to take me out. They were like half an hour, 3/4 of an hour too long. So I understand why“. Olmos himself doesn’t seem to be terribly disappointed by the news, but fans of his previous work such as Battlestar Galactica and Blade Runner certainly will be.

(3) CARTOON VERDICT. Camestros Felapton’s “Review: Final Space (Netflix)” is an interesting tour whether you’re likely to watch the series or not – and more likely not, based on his conclusions….

It’s basically a fun kids cartoon but with more violence and (generally mild) sexual references. With a small amount of effort, it could have been a really good kid’s cartoon instead of whatever it ended up being…

I wouldn’t want to recommend you watch it as for some readers it might result in them using their mobile device as a projectile aimed at the wall but it is sort of a better show than it deserves to be.

(4) PAPER CANCELLED.  John Teehan notes that the SFWA Bulletin is abandoning its print edition.

End of an era. As production manager and occasional editor, I worked on 56 issues over 15 some odd years. The SFWA Bulletin is now going digital, and the current issue is the last print one I’ll be involved with. It was a great run—one of the best gigs ever. Had some ups and downs, certainly, but the experience overall was a great one in which I found myself growing each year. Many thanks to everyone who supported our work over the years.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 5, 1861 — The United States government issued its first income tax, encouraging more people to write fantasy.
  • August 5, 2011Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a reboot that worked.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 5, 1930 – Neil Armstrong

(7) CURIOSITY’S QUIET ANNIVERSARY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] You may have seen headlines about Curiosity singing (well, humming) Happy Birthday to itself in honor of it’s fifth birthday (as measured in Earth years since landing) last week. Well, nope. Florence Tan at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate explained to The Atlantic why this was a one-time occurrence (in 2013) rather than an annual event — “Why the Curiosity Rover Stopped Singing ‘Happy Birthday’”.

“The answer to your question will sound rather cold and unfeeling,” her email began.

Oh, no.

“In a nutshell, there is no scientific gain from the rover playing music or singing ‘Happy Birthday’ on Mars,” Tan said. In the battle between song and science, science always wins.

Vibrating the sample-analysis unit (which is a normal part of Curiosity’s scientific endeavors) uses energy that could be put to use elsewhere and adds wear and tear to the SAM unit. Plus, of course, it takes someone to work the humming into an incredibly tight schedule:

“It’s not just, ‘Oh, I’m ready to send a command, just send an email to somebody,’” Tan said in a phone interview. The rover’s activities are scheduled down to the minute, and SAM requires power to operate. Curiosity runs on a nuclear battery that turns heat into electricity, and it will eventually die.

So, the uncaged rover no longer sings.

(8) VONARBURG BIRTHDAY. Steven H Silver lights up another cake at Black Gate with “Birthday Reviews: Élisabeth Vonarburg’s ‘Cogito’”.

She has twice been nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award and once for the James Tiptree, Jr. Memorial Award. Her greatest recognition came from the Canadian Casper/Aurora Awards, which she has won ten times. Vonarburg won the French language award in 1987 for her story “La Carte du Tendre” (“Readers of the Lost Art”). That same year, she received a second Aurora for her fannish contributions to Solaris. She won three additional short story Auroras for “Cogito” (1990), “Ici, des tigres” (1991), and “La Course de Kathryn” (2004) and five Auroras for Best book for Histoire de la Princesse et du Dragon (1991), Ailleurs et au Japon (1992), Chroniques de Pays des Mères (1993), Les Voyageurs malgré eux (1996), and Reine de Mémoire 4. La Princesse de Vengeance (2007). She won the Prix Rosny-Ainé and the Prix Boreal in 1982 for her novel Le Silence de la Cité. She also won the Boreal for Chroniques de Pays des Mères (1993), Les Rêves de la mer (1997), Reine de Mémoire 1. La Maisson d’oubli (2006) and Reine de Mémoire 4. La Princesse de Vengeance (2007). Prior to 1990, the Aurora Award was known as the Casper Award and in 2011, the Prix Aurora and Prix Boreal combined.

(9) EERIE. Bill “Beamjockey” Higgins has a birthday today, too – and is wondering how File 770’s commenting bug knew!

I can easily accept that some crazy glitch in your blogware puts a far-future date on my draft comment.

What’s spooky is that WHEN I WAS COMMENTING ABOUT CENTENNIALS AND BICENTENNIALS the date on my comment turned out to be 5 August 2854, 900 years after my own birth.

Pics, or it didn’t happen?  I attach a screenshot.

Timebindingly yours….

(10) OUTREACH. The reading evangelists from Dublin 2019 will be out again next weekend at a local event: “Dublin Comic Con and Outreach”. Chair James Bacon outlines the history:

…No matter where we go, we try and focus on ensuring we have something for all ages of reader. We isolate books for children and younger readers, and keep them to one side; we know adults also love them, but we conserve them so every child can walk away with a book or comic.

This year in Dublin we have 4 large boxes of Childrens Comics, The Beano, Whizzer and Chips and Buster, and cartoon based Superhero comics as well as children’s books, and we will ensure kids get them.

It positively encourages the gentle transition of fascination with all that is super heroes or fun on the screen, to reading on the pages.

These projects have benefited hugely from established conventions who support their logistical activities and also from individuals and organisations who make generous donations of books, magazines and comics as well as their time and effort. Publishers and book stores also support the activities, and Half Price Books in the states have consistently been very good to SF Outreach.

This year, Dave Finn from Incognito Comics has again given two car loads of magazines, books, and comics to Outreach, knowing from seeing it in action at London Film and Comic Con, that the energy and enthusiasm to encourage reading is genuine and if as a by-product, people go to more cons, well isn’t that just fabulous.

Dublin Comic Con next weekend, and if you are in Dublin and want to check out anything to do with the Worldcon, please do call by and speak to us if you are going to Dublin Comic Con. (Check tickets availability, they do sell so well!)

(11) CHOCOLATE HUGO. Jerry Pournelle famously said, “Money will get you through times of no Hugos better than Hugos will get you through times of no money,” however, at the 1984 Worldcon Larry Niven played off his collaborator’s pet phrase when he presented him with a solid chocolate rocket during the ceremony: “Jerry, this is the Hugo that will get you through times of no money better than….”

All that came back to mind when I saw Worldcon 76 will auction the version of a chocolate Hugo given at last year’s Hugo Loser’s Party in Helsinki.

Delicious?

Yes, these were awarded at the legendary Hugo Loser’s Party in Helsinki Finland at Worldcon 75. The frame is milk chocolate, the center is white chocolate. Together, they taste like victory.

We can’t guarantee they’re gluten free. They may have been made in a facility that works with nuts. If you have any kind of dietary restrictions, you can still buy and enjoy this, but don’t eat it. Just relax and bathe in the glamor of owning a Worldcon Hugo Award.

And keep cool, or it might melt.

The beneficiary of the Worldcon76 in San Jose Charity Auction is the Alzheimer’s Association.

(12) THOUGHT EXPERIMENT. If that was too much chocolate, then for certain this is too much jam: “What If the Earth Was Made Out of Blueberries?” at Popular Mechanics,

In the heart of blueberry season, Billy-bodega, a user on Physics Stack Exchange, posed the question: “Supposing that the entire Earth was instantaneously replaced with an equal volume of closely packed, but uncompressed blueberries, what would happen from the perspective of a person on the surface?” the question got promptly deleted. But it didn’t stop Anders Sandberg, a researcher at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, to seriously tackle the idea, explaining the development of this blueberry planet (and even publishing the comprehensive answer in a paper).

What you’d end up with, according to Sandberg, “is a world that has a steam atmosphere covering an ocean of jam on top of warm blueberry granita.” Here’s how the planet would form: you start with fat, thick-skinned blueberries (blueberry Earth would be much less dense than actual Earth, and gravity would be weaker). Since blueberries can’t withstand strong forces, gravity would turn them into mash, releasing air that previously separated them from their neighbors, shrinking the radius of the planet.

(13) NOVIK. Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver, her take on Rumplestiltskin, is reviewed by Choire Sicha in the New York Times Book Review“Rumpelstiltskin Redux”.

Here [the author] has gathered countless old tales and turned them into something new. The theft of summer, a burning demon who lives inside a prince, a witch’s hut in the woods, the secret power of names, the frozen winter road that winds its way through the depths of the forest—they’re all here.

(14) THUMB DOWN. At Locus Online, “An Awful Warning, in More Ways Than One: Gary Westfahl Reviews The Darkest Minds.

If anyone is glancing at this review for advice on which films to see this weekend, my recommendation would be to avoid The Darkest Minds. For while it is competently executed and offers some superficial novelties, it is a film that most people have already seen several times, and since two similar franchises to be discussed have failed to generate expected sequels, it may be that many filmgoers are growing as tired of this film as I am.

The film is a generally faithful adaptation of Alexandra Bracken’s novel The Darkest Minds (2012), yet another version of a common formula for success in the modern marketplace of young adult fiction: a future dystopia spawned by an improbable disaster that prods evil adults to torment and oppress its teenagers, despite the fact that – or even because – these amazingly talented and virtuous youth are the only ones who can save humanity from impending extinction. In this case, the improbable disaster is the sudden appearance of a disease called IAAN (Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration), which kills most young people and imbues the surviving youth with a variety of psychic powers: “greens,” superintelligence; “blues,” telekinesis; “yellows” (in the film, “golds”), control of electricity; “oranges,” the ability to control others’ minds; and “reds,” pyrokinesis. Naturally, the government responds by declaring martial law, rounding up all teenagers, and placing them in concentration camps to either be slaughtered or exploited as slave labor. Our heroine, Ruby Daly (Amandla Stenberg), conceals her feared orange powers, keeping her alive until she escapes from her camp with the help of Cate Connor (Mandy Moore), a member of an underground organization called the Children’s League which turns out to be similarly sinister. But Ruby runs away to join three other teenage fugitives, the blue Liam (Harris Dickinson), the gold Suzume, or Zu (Miya Cech), and the green Chubs (Skylan Brooks), and they proceed to have several adventures in the vicinity of Virginia (though the movie was filmed in Georgia).

(15) CLIMATE FIXES. Kim Stanley Robinson educates in “The King Of Climate Fiction Makes The Left’s Case For Geoengineering” at Huffington Post.

…Robinson’s New York 2140, published last year, lays out a vision of what climate catastrophe and a leftist uprising against the capitalist forces that caused it would look like. So HuffPost asked him to elaborate on what he sees as the future of geoengineering. The following was edited for length and clarity.

How do you define geoengineering and what are the forms it will most likely take?

I guess the definition would be something like “a deliberate planned attempt by human beings to mitigate the damages of climate change, of carbon dioxide and methane buildup in the atmosphere, and of ecological damage generally, by way of some action that is large-scale” — if not global in reach, then regional in ways that might have global repercussions.

I’ve been saying that “geoengineering” is a bad name because engineering implies we know what we’re doing more than we really do. Also, that we have more powers than we actually have. I’ve suggested we think of it as “geo-finessing” or “geo-tweaking” or even “geo-begging,” to better indicate our relative ignorance and weakness in the face of global geochemical processes. Lots of those processes we can’t do anything about, even if we really want to. So the name needs some unpacking.

The most likely forms it might take, I think, are the following: casting dust-like particles into the atmosphere to mimic a volcanic eruption, so that for a number of years after that, the global average temperatures would go down a bit. Drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere by way of biological and/or mechanical means. Pumping seawater onto the ice cap of Eastern Antarctica. Stimulating growth of small life forms in the ocean that would then die and take their carbon to the seafloor ? this has been mentioned as a possibility, but it’s widely regarded as potentially dangerous for ocean ecologies. Still, it might be tested on small scales, even used on small scales, which would reduce its power to help but also its power to harm.

(16) RETRO TECH. How we know it’s the 21st century: “Town dusts off typewriters after cyber-attack”. Remember all those post-holocaust stories of reviving old tech? (But is anybody still making ribbons?)

Government workers in a borough of Alaska have turned to typewriters to do their jobs, after ransomware infected their computer systems.

A spokeswoman for Matanuska-Susitna said the malware had encrypted its email server, internal systems and disaster recovery servers.

She said staff had “resourcefully” dusted off typewriters and were writing receipts by hand.

The borough is in the process of rebuilding its systems.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, StephenfromOttawa, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Bill “Beamjockey” Higgins, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lisa Goldstein.]

Pixel Scroll 8/9/17 Soft Pixel, Warm Pixel, Little Ball Of Scroll

(1) VERIFIED FILER IN HELSINKI. Daniel Dern sent a photo of himself at Worldcon 75 wearing his Filer button: “From the batch I had made at Sasquan. Also note ‘pocket program’.”

Daniel Dern

Can it be, a pocket program that fits in a pocket?!!

Good thing – they need all the room they can get.

(2) JAMMED. Cheryl Morgan on “Worldcon 75 Day 1: Where Did All These People Come From?”

The Helsinki Worldcon is now well underway, and the big topic of conversation is the attendance. On the face of it, this is a good thing. We all want Worldcon to grow. The largest number of attending members in history is still LA Con II in 1984 with 8365. LonCon 3 in 2014 had more members in total, but only 6946 attending. The last I heard Helinki was up to 6001. Some of those may be day members, who have to be counted somewhat differently from full attending members, but even so it is an impressive number. Helsinki certainly looks like being in the top 5 Worldcons by size.

Unfortunately, based on previous Worldcons outside of the US/UK axis, expected numbers for Helsinki were more like 3500. Messukeskus could handle that easily. It is more than big enough in terms of exhibit space for what we have. But the function space, where programming happens, is stretched to the limit.

There are many things that a Worldcon can do to cope with the unexpected, but building new program rooms is not one of them. Seeing how memberships were going, Helsinki did negotiate some space in the library across the road. It did not try to turn empty exhibit halls into function space because we all know how badly that went in Glasgow in 1995.

(3) MORE SPACE COMING. Nevertheless, Worldcon 75 chair Jukka Halme says:

We will have more function spaces on Thursday available, and even more on Friday and Saturday. These things take time, as some of these rooms need to be built in halls, since we already have all the available rooms in Kokoustamo at our disposal. I believe this will help out the congestions somewhat.

Also, we are closing all membership sales on our website. http://www.worldcon.fi/news/closure-membership-sales/

All in all, I believe still we had a very good opening day for Worldcon 75 and the next four will be even better! See you in Messukeskus!

(4) UNPRECEDENTED. Kevin Standlee says:

I believe that’s true. And simply because I happen to know this story I will add that before L.A.con III (1996), Bruce Pelz and I briefly discussed what our membership cutoff should be – a topic because the previous L.A. Worldcon (1984) set the all-time attendance record. We considered 16,000. But since our attending membership sales didn’t even crack 7,000, it never became an issue.

(5) YOU CAN’T GET OUT OF THE GAME. Doris V. Sutherland finds three points of interest in Pat Henry’s answer to Alison Littlewood, refusing to take her off the Dragon Awards ballot — “The Dragon Awards: A Peek Behind the Scenes”. The third is:

3: The Dragon Awards were originally conceived as a way of building a reading list for SF/F fans during the nominations phase, with the awards themselves being of secondary importance.

Now, the first two of these takeaways won’t be much of a surprise to anyone who’s been keeping an eye on the proceedings, but the third point is significant.

For one, it explains something that had rather puzzled me about the Dragons: the shortness (less than one month) of the period between the ballot being announced and the voting process ending, leaving very little time for a typical reader to get stuck into a single novel category before voting. If fans are expected to continue using the ballot as a reading list after the awards are presented then this is a lot easier to swallow.

(6) WHAT REAL WRITERS DO AND DON’T DO-DOO. Chuck Wendig offers a “PSA To Writers: Don’t Be A Shit-Flinging Gibbon”.

Here is a thing that sometimes happens to me and other authors who feature a not-insignificant footprint online or in the “industry,” as it were:

Some rando writer randos into my social media feed and tries to pick a fight. Or shits on fellow authors, or drums up some kind of fake-ass anti-me campaign or — you know, basically, the equivalent to reaching into the overfull diaper that sags around their hips and hurling a glob of whatever feces their body produces on any given day. The behavior of a shit-flinging gibbon.

Now, a shit-flinging gibbon hopes to accomplish attention for itself. It throws shit because it knows no other way to get that attention. The gibbon’s most valuable asset, ahem, is its foul colonic matter, so that’s the resource it has at hand.

Thing is, you’re not a shit-flinging gibbon.

You’re a writer.

Your most valuable asset is, ideally, your writing.

If it’s not, that’s a problem. A problem with you, to be clear, and not a problem with the rest of the world. It rests squarely upon your shoulders.

If your best way to get attention for yourself is to throw shit instead of write a damn good book, you are a troll, not a professional writer.

(7) A SPRINT, NOT A MARATHON. Here’s the place to “Watch five years of the Curiosity rover’s travels in a five-minute time-lapse”.

Five years of images from the front left hazard avoidance camera (Hazcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover were used to create this time-lapse movie. The inset map shows the rover’s location in Mars’ Gale Crater. Each image is labeled with the date it was taken, and its corresponding sol (Martian day), along with information about the rover’s location at the time.

 

(8) COLD EQUATION. Although sf is not really a predictive genre, that doesn’t stop people from enjoying the recognition when the things they’ve warned about in fiction happen in reality: the Antarctica Journal has the story — “Craig Russell, Canadian Novelist Predicts Arctic Event”.

In 2016, a Canadian novelist, Craig Russell — who is also a lawyer and a theater director in Manitoba — wrote an environmental cli-fi thriller titled “Fragment” about a major calving event along the ice shelf of Antarctica. The Yale Climate Connections website recently recommended the novel, published by Thistledown Press as a good summer read.

Ironically, scientists in Antarctica are in fact right now monitoring the Larsen C ice shelf with a huge crack in it and threatening to fall into the sea any day now. How is that for reality mirroring art?

How did Craig Russell respond when asked how he felt about his accurately future-predicting novel being in the news now?

“Some 40 years ago, as a student, I lived and worked at a Canadian Arctic weather station, 500 miles from the North Pole,” he added. “So I’ve remained interested in polar events, and was both fascinated and appalled by the Larsen A and B ice shelf collapses in 1995 and 2002.”

To see world events catch up so quickly with a fictional reality I spent years creating has been quite unnerving,” he added.

(9) STAR WARS INTERPRETATION. Syfy Wire will show you the lot: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi teaser posters get the LEGO treatment “.

The long wait for the next Star Wars film can be painful to endure. We hang on any morsel we can get, any tie-in we can overreact to, and anything else that can get us geeking out. Then there is LEGO, who can help ease the painful wait by just getting us in a good mood. Take the new teaser posters for The Last Jedi, which were released in mid-July at the D23 Expo.

LEGO has now taken those same posters and LEGO-fied them, giving us six posters with LEGO mini-figure art that corresponds to those D23 posters. Again, repeating the crimson robe attire, echoing the red we saw on the first poster and also the ruby red mineral base of planet Crait. There’s no telling yet whether these posters are just part of Lego’s social media campaign or if these posters will be part of their gift with purchase program for VIP Lego Club members.

(10) TODAY’S DAY

Book Lovers Day

From the scent of a rare first edition book found in an old time book collection, to a crisp, fresh book at the local supermarket, the very sight of a book can bring back memories. Reading as a child, enjoying the short stories, the long books and the ability to lose yourself in a story so powerful that at the end your asking yourself where to get the next book in the series. This is for the reader in all of us, the celebration of Book Lovers Day!

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 9, 1930 — Betty Boop premiered in the animated film Dizzy Dishes

(12) TODAY IN ALTERNATE HISTORY

(12b) YESTERDAY’S BIRTHDAY FILER

  • Born August 8, 2017 — Sophia Rey Tiberius Pound

(13) COMIC SECTION. Chip Hitchcock saw yesterday’s Bliss and thought: “Flame on!”.

(14) RELICS OF WAR. Something to watch out for when beachcombing in Helsinki: “German woman mistakes WW2 white phosphorus for amber”.

A German woman narrowly escaped injury after picking up an object she believed to be amber but which then spontaneously combusted.

She had plucked the small object from wet sand by the Elbe river near Hamburg and put it in a pocket of her jacket, which she laid on a bench.

Bystanders soon alerted the 41-year-old to the fact her jacket was ablaze.

The stone was actually white phosphorus, which had reacted with the air as it dried.

Police say the two are easily confused.

Chip Hitchcock adds, “Yes, most amber comes from the south coast of the Baltic, and leftover munitions may be more common in Germany than in Finland.”

(15) RIGHTING THE RECORD. Max Gladstone decides it’s up to him to salvage the reputation of a famous academic: “Defending Indiana Jones, Archaeologist” – at Tor.com.

First, I want to acknowledge the common protests. Jonesian archaeology looks a lot different from the modern discipline. If Jones wanted to use surviving traces of physical culture to assemble a picture of, say, precolonial Peruvian society, he’s definitely going about it the wrong way. Jones is a professional fossil even for the mid-30s—a relic of an older generation of Carters and Schliemans. Which, if you think about it, makes sense. By Raiders, he already has tenure, probably gained based on his field work in India (Subterranean Thuggee Lava Temples: An Analysis and Critical Perspective, William & Mary Press, 1935), and the board which granted him tenure were conservatives of his father’s generation, people who actually knew Carter and Schliemann—not to mention Jones, Sr. (I’ll set aside for the moment a discussion of cronyism and nepotism, phenomena utterly foreign to contemporary tenure review boards…)

Jones is the last great monster of the treasure-hunting age of archaeology. To judge him by modern standards is to indulge the same comforting temporal parochialism that leads us to dismiss post-Roman Europe as a “Dark Age.” Jones may be a lousy archaeologist as we understand the field today. But is he a lousy archaeologist in context?

(16) PROGENY. I can’t even begin to imagine, but apparently somebody at DC Comics can — “Superman & Wonder Woman’s Future Son Revealed”. ScreenRant has the story.

If you’ve ever wondered what the children of Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, or Aquaman would look like, the time for wondering is over. Thanks to DC Comics, every fan gets to see the parentage and superpowers of the sons and daughters of the Justice League. The good news is that they’re every bit the heroes that their parents were, making up the Justice League of the future… the bad news is that they’ve traveled back in time to seek their parents’ help. Because as heroic as their superhero parents taught them to be, the future may be too lost for them to ever save.

(17) GUFFAW OF THRONES. If you don’t mind MAJOR SPOILERS, then this Bored Panda post is for you — “10+ Of The Most Hilarious Reactions To This Week’s Game Of Thrones”. Funny stuff.

If you haven’t watched this week’s Game Of Thrones, come back to this after you do because it contains MAJOR SPOILERS. You have been warned. All the rest of you probably agree that The Spoils of War was one of the most emotional episodes of the show to date. Judging from all the reactions online, at least the internet certainly thinks so.

Bored Panda has compiled a list of some of the funniest reactions to Game Of Thrones Episode 4 of Season 7, and they brilliantly capture the essence of the plot….

(18) FASHION STATEMENT. Architectural Digest wryly calls this “Innovative Design” — “Game of Thrones Uses IKEA Rugs As Capes”.

As any of the HBO series’s devoted fans can tell you, Game of Thrones is not a cheap production. In fact, with the budget for its most recent season coming in at more than $10 million per episode, it’s among the most expensive television shows in history. (If you have dragons in a scene, they need to destroy things . . . and that’s not cheap). But it’s not only the dragons and set designs that are costly; it’s also the costumes. There are upward of 100 people who work to ensure that each character is wearing an outfit that’s as realistic as possible. What might surprise some fans, however, is that IKEA rugs are often used as clothing.

“These capes are actually IKEA rugs,” Michele Clapton, an Emmy Award–winning designer, told an audience at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles last year. “We take anything we can,” Clapton added with a chuckle as she described the process that goes into designing medieval garb. “We cut and we shaved [the rugs] and then we added strong leather straps. . . . I want the audience to almost smell the costume.” The result is an IKEA-inspired cape that not only appears worn-in but also has the aesthetic of real medieval clothing. It remains unclear as to which IKEA rugs were used to dress the GoT characters. The next time you visit IKEA, see if you can envision Jon Snow marching into battle with a Höjerup or Alhede wrapped around his shoulders.

(19) POORFEADING. Another graduate of the Pixel Scroll Editing Academy & Grill:

(20) DINO TIME. This dinosaur had more bumps on its head than a Star Trek: Voyager humanoid: “It’s Official: Stunning Fossil Is a New Dinosaur Species”.

About 110 million years ago in what’s now Alberta, Canada, a dinosaur resembling a 2,800-pound pineapple ended up dead in a river.

Today, that dinosaur is one of the best fossils of its kind ever found—and now, it has a name: Borealopelta markmitchelli, a plant-eating, armored dinosaur called a nodosaur that lived during the Cretaceous period. After death, its carcass ended up back-first on the muddy floor of an ancient seaway, where its front half was preserved in 3-D with extraordinary detail.

Unearthed by accident in 2011 and unveiled at Alberta’s Royal Tyrrell Museum in May, the fossil immediately offered the world an unprecedented glimpse into the anatomy and life of armored dinosaurs.

(21) THUMBS DOWN. Carl Slaughter says If you have read the Dark Tower series, you will probably share this reviewer’s shrill disapproval of the screen adaptation.

(22) MARJORIE PRIME. This doesn’t sound too jolly.

2017 Science-Fiction Drama starring Jon Hamm, Tim Robbins, Geena Davis, and Lois Smith

About the Marjorie Prime Movie

Eighty-six-year-old Marjorie spends her final, ailing days with a computerized version of her deceased husband. With the intent to recount their life together, Marjorie’s Prime relies on the information from her and her kin to develop a more complex understanding of his history. As their interactions deepen, the family begins to develop diverging recounts of their lives, drawn into the chance to reconstruct the often painful past. Marjorie Prime is an American science-fiction film written and directed by Michael Almereyda, based on Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated play of the same name.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Mark-kitteh, Craig Russell, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 1/18/17 There’s A Pixel Scrolled Every Minute

star-trek-discovery

(1) STILL AT THE DOCK. Unless you subscribed to CBS All Access especially to see this show, it won’t be a crisis for you: “Star Trek Discovery delayed, no longer has a release date”.

Those looking forward to Star Trek Discovery’s promised streaming debut in May will have to wait even longer. According to the The Hollywood Reporter, the premiere has been pushed back right as production is due to start and CBS finishes casting and script rewrites.

“This is an ambitious project; we will be flexible on a launch date if it’s best for the show,” a CBS rep said in a statement. “We’ve said from the beginning it’s more important to do this right than to do it fast. There is also added flexibility presenting on CBS All Access, which isn’t beholden to seasonal premieres or launch windows.”

“This is an ambitious series.”

The 13-episode Discovery was originally slated to premiere this month on CBS, but was pushed back to allow the producers to better “achieve a vision” fans of the franchise would appreciate. Since then, however, the series has been dogged by a slow casting process, as well as the departure of former showrunner Bryan Fuller.

(2) WHO IS #2? A few weeks ago Theodora Goss told her Facebook readers that she was one of two Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship recipients. I have now been able to learn the name of the second recipient from a contact at the Center for the Study of Women in Society at the University Oregon.

Roxanne Samer is a postdoctoral scholar and teaching fellow in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. She holds a PhD in critical studies from the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. Samer coedited with William Whittington the book Gender, Sexuality, and Media: Audiences and Spectatorship, which is under contract with the University of Texas Press. She is also the editor of “Transgender Media,” a special issue of Spectator: The University of Southern California Journal of Film and Television Criticism 37.2 (Fall 2017). She will visit UO Libraries’ SCUA to do research toward fleshing out her dissertation, Receiving Feminisms: Media Cultures and Lesbian Potentiality in the 1970s, for publication as a book.

(3) POST-KINDERGARTEN GRADUATE STUDIES. Jason Sanford explains, “All I really need to know I learned from science fiction and fantasy stories”.

For example, from Arthur C. Clarke I learned that the ultimate destination of all humans is extinction. Even if some parts of humanity transcend reality, as in Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End, humanity as a species is destined to eventually disappear from this universe.

From Isaac Asimov I learned that even if our ultimate fate is to disappear, humanity can have an amazing ride while we exist.

From Ursula K. Le Guin I learned that culture shock can be both a way to awaken you to new intellectual horizons and to kill you….

(4) BLURB SEASON. Maya Kaathryn Bonhoff continues filking her way through the components of published fiction with “There’s a Bimbo on the Cover Verse 6: There’s a Blurb on the Cover” at Book View Café.

Verse 6:
There’s a blurb on the backside of the book.
There’s a blurb on the backside of the book.
There’s one story on the cover; inside the book’s another.
There’s a blurb on the backside of the book.

Blurbage (as I like to call it) is the collection of stuff one finds on the covers of one’s novel. If you publish with a mainstream house as the Café staff does, you are not always—dare I say almost never—in control of what goes on the cover. Blurbage (as I an using the term) is composed of several parts: …

(5) SOMETIMES THEY DO GET WEARY. Oliver Langmead tells his readers at Fantasy-Faction “Why I Don’t Like Dragons”.

As of recent years, I’ve found myself going through dragon fatigue. Much in the same way as zombies and vampires, it feels a little bit like we hit peak dragon a while ago (pun intended). This isn’t to say that dragons can’t be great. Sure they can. Just like zombies and vampires can be brilliant from time to time, when somebody finds a really refreshing angle on them, or when we’re talking about classic texts. Just that… in fantasy, the literature of the impossible, sometimes it can feel like writers are playing it a bit too safe.

(6) THE SOUND OF MUSING. Larry Correia has a great post about making choices that help stories succeed in more than one medium: “Ask Correia #17: Writing for the Ear, Tweaking Your Writing To Work Better in Audiobook Form” at Monster Hunter Nation.

Read your stuff out loud.

I don’t do this as much when I’m writing the first draft, but when I am editing, I will usually read everything aloud. Dialog that is unnatural, stilted, or weird is going to be obvious when you hear it, even if it looks okay when you see it.

If your family thinks you’ve gone insane, close the door or turn your radio up and get talking. Even if your writing isn’t going to get turned into an audiobook, this is still a valuable exercise to weed out stupid dialog or awkward descriptions. You don’t need to do voices, or be loud, just muttering it to yourself will usually reveal the awkward bits.

Keep in mind however, that in either format you do not want to write exactly like people talk. That’s because in real life most speakers use a lot of uhm… err… uh… pauses and brain farts.

If you write all those noises down that people make when they’re thinking of what to say, it becomes annoying for the reader. I try to use that stuff sparingly in fictional dialog, and when I do, I try to use it only when it is going to tell the reader something about that character. So if you’ve got somebody where it is important to convey their awkwardness, nervousness, or hesitancy, do it, but try not to overdo it. A realistic amount of ums and urrs will annoy readers and waste your listener’s time. Same with affections like ending every sentence with know what I’m saying? A little bit goes a long way. A good narrator is going to convey those character traits, and in written form you can convey that stuff through the story you tell around them.

Oh, and that one liner that sounded really super cool in your head? Reading it out loud will help you realize if it actually sucks.

(7) GAUTIER OBIT. His most notable role was a rock star, but he’s also known as a robot: “Dick Gautier, Who Played a Rock Star in ‘Bye Bye Birdie,’ Is Dead” reports the New York Times.

Dick Gautier, a comic actor best known for his Tony-nominated performance as a vain rock ’n’ roll star in the Broadway musical “Bye Bye Birdie” and his recurring role as a robot with a heart on the television show “Get Smart,” died on Friday in Arcadia, Calif. He was 85.

A spokesman, Harlan Boll, said the cause was pneumonia.

Mr. Gautier had the square-jawed good looks of a leading man. But he also had a wild sense of humor — he began his career as a stand-up comedian — and for more than 50 years he was primarily a scene-stealing supporting player on sitcoms.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 18, 1644 — John Winthrop documented the first known unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings in North America.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 18, 1882 — A. A. Milne

(10) WINNIE-THE-POOH DAY. And by a stunning coincidence, this is also Winnie-the-Pooh Day.

One of the cuddliest holidays around has to be Winnie the Pooh Day, celebrated on the birthday of author A A Milne. It’s one special anniversary fans just can’t bear to miss! Every year, the occasion is marked with events such as teddy bears’ picnics, featuring plenty of honey on the menu.

The only remaining question is whether someone will be along in a few minutes to tell us that the author is foisting off unwonted xtianity on the public, like the last time I posted something from the calendar.

(11) HERE’S MUD IN YOUR EYE. Observer says “NASA’S Rover Discovered Some Mud Cracks That Could Be Really, Really Important”.  But can they be that important? Did anyone threaten to move to another country when this made the news?

In recent weeks, scientists used NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover to examine slabs of rock cross-hatched with shallow ridges. All signs lead them to believe they’re mud cracks, which makes them the first to be confirmed on the Red Planet by the Curiosity mission.

“Even from a distance, we could see a pattern of four- and five-sided polygons that don’t look like fractures we’ve seen previously with Curiosity,” said Curiosity science team member Nathan Stein in NASA’s announcement. “It looks like what you’d see beside the road where muddy ground has dried and cracked.”

If this interpretation holds up, it would be evidence that the ancient era (three billion years ago) when these sediments were deposited included wet conditions, followed by drying. High resolution images have pointed to the existence of deltas, gullies and river valleys on Mars, which is why scientists view it as one of the places in our solar system most likely to be/have been home to alien life. (There are three others, according to NASA director of planetary science James Green).

(12) FAKE NEWS. This virtual award may not exist, but it was hotly contested: “The Shippy Awards 2016 Winners”

SHIPPY! Why yes, that is a drawing of a trophy that does not exist. IT IS THE MOST COVETED MADE UP TROPHY IN THE UNIVERSE.

AND NOW, LET US ANNOUNCE THE WINNERS OF THIS GLORIOUS DRAWING OF A TROPHY THAT DOES NOT EXIST!

Ultimate Ship Honors Best Ship of the Year

Feyre and Rhysand from A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas with 40.4% of the vote

Runners up: Kaz and Inej from Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, with 22.2% of the vote

This was by far the most highly voted category, but as you can see, one ship rather ran away with the competition.

Shippiest Book

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas with 37.7% of the vote

Runner up: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo with 37.2% of the vote

(Are you sensing a pattern/theme-ish thing? Get used to this pattern/theme-ish thing.)

And there are many more ship-themed categories.

(13) NOT A COINCIDENCE. Rich Horton shares his “Hugo Nomination Thoughts, Short Fiction: Novellas” at Strange at Ecbatan.

One more note to begin with – though I participate with a lot of enjoyment in Hugo nomination and voting every year, I am philosophically convinced that there is no such thing as the “best” story – “best” piece of art, period….

The other obvious point to make is that the great bulk of these stories are those that I included in my yearly anthology. There are a few that didn’t make it, for reasons of length, contractual situation, balance, or even that I might have missed a story by the deadline for the book.

(14) PAGEVIEWS. Sarah A. Hoyt gives nine pieces of good advice about “How to Build a Web Presence” at Mad Genius Club.

6- Post EVERY DAY.  If, like me this last week, you have to go AWL, have guest posts.  You’ll still lose readers and some of them won’t come back, but it’s better than dead air.  (Trust me.)  I don’t know why post every day works, except through “be habit forming.”

7- Police your community.  I actually have had to ban very few people, but remember the “drunken uncle at the wedding.”  If a poster is just there to attack and is making other people uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to ban him.  He might not be doing anything wrong, but his right to express himself doesn’t trump your right to have your normal commenters enjoy themselves. Also, if the community gets in an unpleasant rut, nudge them.  My commenters once, while I was asleep, misunderstood something someone posted and attacked.  He got defensive and they ran him off the blog.  You don’t want that, particularly if it’s someone interesting.

People who say they’re not responsible for the tone of their comment sections are disingenuous or clueless.  You can police just enough, intervening to break up things just enough that you keep it from becoming a snake pit without neutering it.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 1/17/17 ‘Twas Pixel That Killed The Scroll

(1) ASK ME ANYTHING. SFWA President Cat Rambo visited with her fans at Reddit today — “Yup, It’s My Real Name: AMA with Cat Rambo”.

I think that, more than ever, it’s important for writers to be working together and sharing notes. I see a lot of scams out there, and also some increasingly shady activity on the part of some of the traditional publishers.

Perhaps at one time, a writer could live an existence where they produced a manuscript, handed it off, and got enough money to go write another. Increasingly, though, that’s not the case and writers have to spend at least a little time thinking about marketing themselves – even if they’re publishing traditionally. Publishing continues to change rapidly, and writers need to stay on top of that, because they’re the ones with the most at stake.

(2) BUSINESS WISDOM. Kristine Kathryn Rusch continues her advice to writers in the aftermath of the latest publishing fiasco — “Business Musings: All Romance Ebooks & Visions of the Future Part Two”.

But I’m not here to discuss the merits or lack thereof of Booktrope or ARe. I did that in other posts. What I need to discuss here is the future.

You see, these closures were right on time. And several other closures will follow in the next few years.

Some of the upcoming closures will be predictable. And others will catch us all by surprise.

Why am I saying this?

Because three different factors are coming into play in the next few years. These three factors intertwine, at least in the indie publishing industry, which will amplify the result.

You’ll need to bear with me. This will take some explaining.

One note on terminology. When I say indie publishing, I mean the non-traditional side of the publishing industry. Indie publishing encompasses the self-publishing revolution which started thanks to Amazon and the Kindle in 2008. (Amazon released the Kindle in November of 2007, just in time for holiday giving.) Some writers still self-publish, but many use services or have created their own publishing companies to publish outside of the mainstream infrastructure. Hence, indie as in independent. (What confuses all of this was that, back in the day, many small but traditional presses called themselves independent presses. I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about publishing that could not have happened in 1985.)

So, what are these three intertwining factors that will impact us in the next few years?

They are:

  1. A gold rush
  2. An investment bubble
  3. A business cycle

(3) GHOST TOWN. Comic Excitement, whose antiharassment policy made news ahead of last weekend’s debut convention (“They Think It’s a Joke”), reportedly bombed. Trae Dorn covered it in Nerd and Tie — “Comic Excitement Convention’s Flop and the Hubris of Man”.

You’d probably be forgiven for not knowing that “Comic Excitement Convention” (yes, that’s the actual name) took place this last weekend in Los Angeles, CA. Despite their touted $10,000 cosplay contest prize, it doesn’t seem like a lot of effort was put into marketing the con.

Which is probably why hardly anyone showed up.

The first year convention occupied Kentia Hall at the Los Angeles Convention Center, and although early promotional materials talked about expecting a massive turnout, at con observations estimate attendance to be under a thousand. The whole thing… well it seems to have been a mess….

(4) NO SH!T SHERLOCK. Naked Security says those rascally Russian hackers are suspected of another break-in — “BBC launches probe into leak of Russian-dubbed Sherlock finale”.

Damn you, Russia, we wish we knew how to quit you!

If you’re not hacking our politicians  and our politicial machinery, you’re leaking a Russian-language version of the recent season finale of the BBC’s hotly anticipated Sherlock a whole day earlier than it was supposed to air.

Maybe. Allegedly. At any rate, Russian state TV is definitely investigating the leak “in close contact with the BBC”, according to Russia Today (RT), Russia’s English-language broadcaster.

Russian Channel One is blaming hackers for the show’s last episode, dubbed in Russian, having been illegally uploaded for all to see and all Russians to decipher on Saturday.

(5) SIMPLY HORRIBLE. Cheatsheet argues these are “10 of the Worst Sci-Fi TV Shows of All Time”. But first on the list is Space:1999  — how can that be right?

In the past decade or so, science fiction on television has seen a dramatic uptick in both quantity and quality. Shows like Westworld are keeping critics engaged and audiences coming back for more week after week, but while a number of sci-fi shows over the years have developed significant cult followings, others have become notorious examples of just how bad the genre can be when it isn’t executed effectively. Here’s our look at some of the worst sci-fi shows to ever hit the small-screen. For the record, we’re focusing specifically on live-action series only. So any infamous animated shows won’t be appearing below….

  1. Logan’s Run (1977–1978)

Based on the popular sci-fi film of the same name, this television adaptation has remained largely forgotten. An attempt to cash in on the film’s success, the show — which starred Gregory Harrison as Logan 5 and Heather Menzies as Jessica 6 — lasted only 14 episodes before network executives called it quits.

(6) ROSARIUM MAKES A DEAL. Bill Campbell’s award-winning Indie house Rosarium Publishing will be publishing Taty Went West, the critically-acclaimed fantasy debut novel by South African born writer, artist, and musician Nikhil Singh.

The story is the first in a trilogy of what Singh describes as “Alice in a necrotic Wonderland” and follows Taty, a teenage girl who is forced to run away from home and escape to The Outzone, who discovers along the way that she has extrasensory powers. She finds herself kidnapped and dropped into a world filled with a motley cast of eccentric characters, including a feline voodoo surgeon, a robotic sex slave nun, detachable siamese twins and a sinister pleasure peddler who wishes to exploit her gifts.

Described by Lauren Beukes as “a hallucinogenic post-apocalyptic carnival ride,” Taty Went West is part satire, part science fiction and completely fantastic. Singh’s prose style of writing and elaborate descriptions are only enhanced by the gorgeous illustrations which head each chapter and are drawn by the author as well.

Nikhil Singh art

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born January 17, 1933 — Shari Lewis, actress and puppeteer, best known for Lamb Chop.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 17, 1931 — James Earl Jones, who became even more famous by voicing Darth Vader,

(9) COVER UP. Out of Print has a line of clothing featuring the art from classic sff/f book covers.

The-Outsider-and-Others-Mens-Book-T-Shirt_01_2048x2048clockwork-orange_Womens_Red_Book_T-Shirt_1_2048x2048

(10) FLAME OFF. CinemaBlend knows “How Lynda Carter Helped Supergirl With That Old School Wonder Woman Reference”.

The CW’s Supergirl has dropped nods to major superheroes of DC Comics history many times over its first two seasons so far, and it surpassed itself in a Season 2 episode that featured legendary actress Lynda Carter as President Olivia Marsdin. The episode managed to sneak in an unforgettable reference to Carter’s role as Diana Prince on Wonder Woman. I spoke with veteran TV director Rachel Talalay about her work directing Lynda Carter and star Melissa Benoist on Supergirl, and she told me this about what went into the Wonder Woman callbacks in the “Welcome to Earth” episode of Season 2:

They were written in the script, and they were absolutely embraced. We were allowed to push them, but they were definitely in the script. That was great because that gave us permission to just say ‘We know we’re doing Wonder Woman homages.’ So there was an absolutely magical moment when it was scripted that Melissa was to do the Wonder Woman twirl to put herself out when she was on fire. Lynda came and said, ‘I’ll show you how to do it.’ I have on my phone a video of Lynda Carter showing Melissa Benoist how.

(11) THIRD ROCK. Curiosity has found its third meteorite on Mars.

NASA’s Curiosity rover has spied a potential meteorite on Mars, which would be the third it has found since it landed in August 2012….

There’s a bit of a puzzle about these meteorites, though. On Earth, 95 percent of all meteorites are stony, and only 4.4 percent are iron. But so far on Mars, all eight meteorites seen (three by Curiosity and five by Opportunity) have been iron.

(12) RAPT ATTENTION. A subject near to our hearts: ”Striking photos of readers around the world”.

A new book brings together Steve McCurry’s photos of readers, spanning 30 countries. From a steelworks in Serbia to a classroom in Kashmir, they reveal the power of the printed word….

McCurry’s photos are made up of those moments, glimpses of people absorbed in the written word, many unaware they were being photographed. The Swiss poet, novelist and painter Hermann Hesse gave an insightful description of what can be an all-consuming experience in his 1920 essay On Reading Books. “At the hour when our imagination and our ability to associate are at their height, we really no longer read what is printed on the paper but swim in a stream of impulses and inspirations that reach us from what we are reading.”

(13) SAD POOKAS. I’ve been informed these aren’t the droids I’m looking for. I also just realized I love Big Brother.

(14) NEWS TO ME. There’s such a thing as a Game of Thrones edition of Monopoly.

Featuring custom Game of Thrones packaging, stunning game design, and large, hand-sculpted custom tokens, the MONOPOLY: Game of Thrones Collector’s Edition Game will transport fans into a world of intrigue, valor, and betrayal. After all, when you play the MONOPOLY: Game of Thrones Collector’s Edition Game you win, or you go bankrupt!

MONOPOLY: Game of Thrones Collector’s Edition Game includes:

– Custom Game Board Featuring Westeros awaits your rule

– 6 oversized, hand sculpted tokens elegantly cast in zinc. Includes: Crown, Direwolf, Dragon Egg, The Iron Throne, Three-Eyed Raven and White Walker – Game of Thrones MONOPOLY money features the symbols of Westeros and Essos….

(15) BRADBURY PLAQUE. Mentioned in yesterday’s comments, here are photos of the plaque in UCLA’s Powell Library commemorating the spot where Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 on a rented typewriter. John King Tarpinian, who was instrumental in getting the school to put up the plaque, appears with Bradbury and Dennis Etchison in the second picture,

Plaque commemorating Ray Bradbury's use of Typing Room at UCLA's Powell Library to write Fahrenheit 451.

Plaque commemorating Ray Bradbury’s use of Typing Room at UCLA’s Powell Library to write Fahrenheit 451.

John King Tarpinian reading plaque to Ray Bradbury

John King Tarpinian reads the plaque to Ray Bradbury. Dennis Etchison is on the right.

(16) BELIEVE YOUR LYING EYES. L’Illusion de Joseph, on Vimeo, is a charming look at 19th-century “phenokistascopes” and the unusual images 19th century people found entertaining.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, David K.M.Klaus, BGrandrath, kathodus, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

Pixel Scroll 12/8/16 Let It Scroll, Let It Scroll, Let It Scroll

(1) X-WING. Hollywood decorating the neighborhood for the premiere of Rogue One. Robert Kerr’s photo shows a prop now on display curbside near the theater.

photo-by-robert-kerr-resized_20161208_170203-01

Yahoo! Movies ran a series of photos taken while the fighter was being hauled into position.

Star Wars has definitely landed in Hollywood.

Preparations for Saturday’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story premiere have already seen some big road closures on Hollywood Blvd. — and on Tuesday, an X-Wing was spotted in the area where the stars of the film will gather in a few days.

Pictures quickly spread on social media, as apparently keeping an X-Wing secret is even trickier than keeping plans for the Death Star under wraps.

The red-carpet premiere itself also prompted major road closures in Hollywood, with the X-Wing now clogging streets up further. Road closures will last until 6 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 13.

(2) JAM ON MARS. Will Curiosity need Tommy John surgery? Seeker says “Curiosity’s Mars Drill Is Jammed”.

The Mars rover’s robotic arm-mounted drill appears to have malfunctioned and NASA has instructed the rover to hang tight while they find a solution.

Having your drill break down while you’re millions of miles from the nearest hardware store would be a bummer, but that is exactly what’s happened to NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity.

The rover, which is currently located at the lower slopes of the 3.4-mile-high Mount Sharp (officially known as Aeolis Mons), was supposed to carry out a drilling operation on a geologically interesting location on Dec. 1 when mission controllers got word that Curiosity was unable to complete its commands. Early indications show that the rover detected a fault with the “drill feed” mechanism that lowers the drill piece to the rocky sample and aborted the operation.

(3) AT HOME. The Chicago Reader visited a  popular sf author in her new (since 2012) neighborhood — “Mary Robinette Kowal makes puppets and writes in a 1913 building in the Ukranian Village”.

A fire is roaring in the fireplace and sprays of bright red winterberry adorn a vase on the deco mantel. The scent of hot cider wafts through the air. What Victorian-era storybook scene have I stepped into on this chilly, gray day in late November? It’s the home of Hugo Award–winning author, audiobook narrator, and professional puppeteer Mary Robinette Kowal, a spacious and stately 1913 apartment in Ukrainian Village that she shares with her winemaker husband, Robert, and their two cats.

 

(4) RETURN OF RUTLAND WEEKEND TV. The Guardian ran this feature in August — “Ex-Python Eric Idle and Brian Cox to take on The Entire Universe for the BBC”. But now the BBC broadcast date is nearing.

Written by Idle, the one-hour show will feature the return of Rutland Weekend Television, the haphazard station depicted in Idle’s sketch show of the same name during the 1970s.

Filmed in front of a live studio audience, The Entire Universe will feature an “explosion of comedy, music and dance” and will air on BBC2.

Davis plays The Big Bang and comedian Fielding is Einstein, while Game of Thrones actor Hannah Waddingham tackles time, and Robin Ince attempts to keep order.

Idle has written songs for the Christmas special, which will be choreographed by Arlene Phillips and combine “fascinating facts about the birth of the universe with larger-than-life comedy characters”.

Cox finds himself in a major musical at Rutland Weekend Television, after thinking he is booked to give a lecture.

The program will be broadcast in Britain on BBC2 on December 26.

(5) DO JAMES DAVIS NICOLL’S HOMEWORK. He’s lining up books to review in 2017, and feels there’s one writer demographic that requires more of his attention:

Don’t often tick the Other/Genderqueer/Non-Binary box in my site’s review gender fields. Can change that. What authors should I consider?

He emailed me the link asking, “Do the F770 people have suggestions?”

(6) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #12. The twelfth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for the four-book Twixt series from Dawn Metcalf.

Today’s auction is for a signed set of all four TWIXT books. But wait – there’s more! Metcalf also has a pile of “own voices” and books she’s offered to donate to a local shelter and/or children’s hospital in your name. The higher the bidding, the more books she’ll donate!

  • $25: Two books
  • $35: Three books
  • $45: Four books
  • $60: Five books
  • $75: Six books

About Book One: INDELIBLE:

Some things are permanent. Indelible. And they cannot be changed back.

Joy Malone learns this the night she sees a stranger with all-black eyes across a crowded room-right before the mystery boy tries to cut out her eye. Instead, the wound accidentally marks her as property of Indelible Ink, and this dangerous mistake thrusts Joy into an incomprehensible world-a world of monsters at the window, glowing girls on the doorstep and a life that will never be the same. Now Joy must pretend to be Ink’s chosen one-his helper, his love, his something for the foreseeable future … and failure to be convincing means a painful death for them both. Swept into a world of monsters, illusion, immortal honor and revenge, Joy discovers that sometimes, there are no mistakes.

Somewhere between reality and myth lies … THE TWIXT!

(7) TINGLE’S SATIRICAL NEWS SITE. Chuck Tingle harpoons the “alt-right” with his most feared weapon – laughter — at a new website, Buttbart. At the bottom of the home page are links for donating to the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the Billings Public Library Foundation

READER POLL: What is real?

We asked our readers if reality was a constantly shifting web of cosmic planes, blinking in and out of exhistence depending on our location in spacetime.

YES: %87

NO: %2

K’GULH-TUB KA: %11

(8) GLENN OBIT. Mercury astronaut and former U.S. Senator John Glenn (1921-2016) died December 8 reports SF News Site.

Glenn was the last surviving member of the Mercury 7 astronauts and the first American to orbit the Earth, flying on the third Mercury mission on February 20, 1962 aboard Friendship 7. Following his flight and status as a national hero, Glenn was grounded by President Kennedy and eventually became a Senator from Ohio and ran unsuccessfully for President. The oldest of the Mercury astronauts, he flew a second time in 1998 about the space shuttle Discovery, becoming the oldest man to fly in space.

CNN’s obituary recounted the highlights of his 1962 mission:

….Glenn recalled in a Life magazine article a strange phenomenon that occurred during the mission: “There, spread out as far as I could see were literally thousands of tiny luminous objects that glowed in the black sky like fireflies. I was riding slowly through them, and the sensation was like walking backwards through a pasture where someone had waved a wand and made all the fireflies stop right where they were and glow steadily.”

The flight also featured a glitch that contributed to Glenn’s reputation for being cool under fire.

Because of an indicator light showing that the Mercury capsule’s heat shield was partly detached, mission controllers decided to bring Glenn home early and told him not to jettison his aft retro rockets, which allowed him to maneuver the craft in space. Because the retropack was strapped to the heat shield, it was thought it would provide an extra measure of security.

It would later be learned that the heat shield wasn’t damaged, but the fiery re-entry was made more spectacular by the scorching retropack in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Glenn’s first words when he stepped aboard the deck of the USS Noa were, “Boy, that was a real fireball of a ride!”

…More than 20 years after their historic missions, the team was immortalized in the 1983 movie “The Right Stuff.” Glenn — portrayed by Ed Harris — didn’t care much for the film, saying, “I thought it was dramatic enough without Hollywood doing its number on it.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born December 8, 1953 – Kim Basinger, Batman’s Vicki Vale.
  • Born December 8, 1964 – Teri Hatcher, Lois and Clark’s Lois Lane.

(10) TA-POCKETA-POCKETA

  • Born December 8, 1894 – James Thurber

(11) A GRAIL OF A TALE. A dinosaur tail was discovered trapped in amber in Myanmar.

The tail of a 99-million-year-old dinosaur has been found entombed in amber, an unprecedented discovery that has blown away scientists.

Xing Lida, a Chinese paleontologist found the specimen, the size of a dried apricot, at an amber market in northern Myanmar near the Chinese border.

The remarkable piece was destined to end up as a curiosity or piece of jewelry, with Burmese traders believing a plant fragment was trapped inside.

“I realized that the content was a vertebrate, probably theropod, rather than any plant,” Xing told CNN.

“I was not sure that (the trader) really understood how important this specimen was, but he did not raise the price.”

(12) POP CULTURE COINCIDENCE. Reuters reports a “Space oddity as Dr David Bowie treats ‘starman’ Buzz Aldrin in New Zealand hospital”.

In what can only be described as a space oddity, former astronaut Buzz Aldrin is being cared for in a New Zealand hospital by Dr David Bowie after being evacuated from the South Pole.

In a truly remarkable coincidence, Aldrin’s doctor shares the name of the late British singer whose greatest hits included songs such as “Starman” and others about space travel that could easily have been penned for the great American astronaut.

(13) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. Reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Livia Llewellyn and Sarah Pinsker on December 21 on Wednesday, December 21 at the KGB Bar in New York. Event starts at 7 p.m. Details at the linked post.

Livia Llewellyn is a writer of dark fantasy, horror, and erotica, whose short fiction has appeared in over forty anthologies and magazines and has been reprinted in multiple best-of anthologies, including The Best Horror of the Year series, Years Best Weird Fiction, and The Mammoth Book of Best Erotica. Her first collection, Engines of Desire: Tales of Love & Other Horrors received two Shirley Jackson Award nominations, for Best Collection, and for Best Novelette (for “Omphalos”). Her story “Furnace” received a 2013 Shirley Jackson Award nomination for Best Short Story. Her second collection, Furnace was published this year.

Sarah Pinsker is the author of the Nebula Award winning novelette “Our Lady of the Open Road” and the Sturgeon Award winning “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind.” Her fiction has appeared in magazines including Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Uncanny, among others, and numerous anthologies and year’s bests. She is also a singer/songwriter with three albums on various independent labels and a fourth forthcoming. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland with her wife, dog, and a yard full of sentient vines.

(14) THE WORK THAT STORIES DO. Foz Meadows’ well-written piece “Unempathic Bipeds of Failure: The Relationship Between Stories and Politics” found a home at Black Gate:

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need stories to act as emotional dry-runs for caring about different types of people, because our empathy would already natively extend to everyone. But we don’t live in that world; because if we did, somewhat paradoxically, we’d have less urgent need of its empathy, as its unequivocal presence would make it much harder for us to discriminate in the first place.

Which is precisely why stories matter; why they’ve always mattered, and will continue to matter for as long as our species exists. Stories can teach us the empathy we otherwise lack, or whose development is railroaded by context, and yeah, it’s frustrating to think that another person can’t just look at you, accept what you are, and think, human, different to me in some respects but fundamentally as whole and as worthy of love, protection and basic rights as I am, but you’ve got to understand: we’re a bunch of bipedal mammals with delusions of morality, a concept we invented and which we perpetuate through culture and manners, faith and history and memory – which is to say, through stories, which change as we change (though we don’t always like to admit that part), and in that context, the value of the impossible – of SFF as a genre – is that it gives us those things in imaginary settings, takes us far enough out of the present that we can view them at a more objective remove than real life ever allows, and so get a better handle on them than our immediate biases might otherwise permit…

And so I think about the UKIP supporter who empathized with a fictional refugee [in Dragon Age 2] but voted to dehumanize real ones; about the millions of people who grew up on stories about the evils of Nazism, but now turn a blind eye to swastikas being graffitied in the wake of Trump’s election; of Puppies both Sad and Rabid who contend that the presence of politics in genre is a leftist conspiracy while blatantly pushing what even they call a political agenda; about fake news creators and the Ministry of Truth; about every f***ing dystopian novel whose evocation by name feels simultaneously on the nose and frighteningly apropos right now, because we shouldn’t have to cite The Handmaid’s Tale to explain why Mike Pence and Steve Bannon (to say nothing of Trump’s infamous comments) are collectively terrifying, and yet see above re: unempathic bipeds of failure, forever and always; and yet

(15) ORANGE CONE BY THE ROADSIDE. The discussion of Meadows’ main points, however, was drowned out by the reaction to several lines in her closing:

For the past few years, the Sad and Rabid Puppies – guided by an actual neo-Nazi – have campaigned against what they perceive as the recent politicization of SFF as a genre, as though it’s humanly possible to write a story involving people that doesn’t have a political dimension; as though “political narrative” means “I disagreed with the premise or content, which makes it Wrong” and not “a narrative which contains and was written by people.”

Vox Day reacted in a post titled “Please to remove the libel”:

I have written to John O’Neill, my former editor at Black Gate, asking him to remove this false, malicious, and materially damaging libel directed at me, and by extension, the Sad and Rabid Puppies. As I was a long-time contributor to Black Gate, Mr. O’Neill knows perfectly well that I am neither a neo-Nazi nor a National Socialist, I have never been a neo-Nazi or a National Socialist, I do not belong to, or subscribe to the tenets of, the German National Socialist Workers Party or any subsequent facsimile, and I do not appreciate the libelous attempts of Ms Meadows, to publicly and falsely assert that I am “an actual neo-Nazi”.

Vox Popoli commenters spent the day conspicuously scavenging the web for Meadows’ personal and financial details and lodging their finds as comments on Day’s post. Meadows Twitter stream also has been haunted by people unsuccessfuly trying to intimidate the author by sounding as if there could be ominous consequences.

Day made several updates to his post, one saying a resolution was in process.

UPDATE: As I expected, John was very reasonable about it and the matter is being resolved. Thanks for your support, everyone.

But in the hours since, Meadows’ text has remained unchanged nor has O’Neill added any comment.

(16) INVASION. In a New York Times article “California Today: Booksellers See a Threat in New Law”, the A.C.L.U. has an opinion.

A new law going into effect next month mandates that anyone selling a signed book for more than $5 must vouch for the autograph’s authenticity. That includes, among other things, identifying the previous owner.

“If you visit my bookstore to trade in that copy of ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ you picked up at a book signing, I’ll need to take down your name and address and then provide it to whoever happens to buy the book from me,” said Scott Brown, who runs Eureka Books in Eureka.

The law was designed to protect consumers from the booming trade in fake collectibles. But it is written so loosely that some worry it might drag booksellers down.

“I can understand why booksellers are concerned,” said Michael Risher, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U. of Northern California. “The law is an invasion into privacy and should be amended.”

The legislation began with an effort by State Representative Ling Ling Chang to broaden a 1992 law about sports memorabilia. She joined forces with Mark Hamill, the “Star Wars” actor who kept seeing signed posters that were fake. Booksellers say they didn’t realize they were vulnerable until after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the measure in September.

Ms. Chang, who was unavailable for comment, has published on her Facebook page a statement that both “the letter and spirit of the law” do not apply to booksellers. Her reasoning is that the law is aimed at “dealers,” who are mostly in the business of selling signed collectibles. Since booksellers sell all kinds of books, many of them unsigned, Ms. Chang argues that leaves them off the hook.

But some booksellers worry that is not true….

(17) RATS! New Zealand’s 2017 national sf convention has opened a writing competition.

In our short story competition, you have the opportunity to channel your inner rodent, or world build a mischief of rats… Write us a short story which, in honour of our Ghost of Honour, Orville, includes a reference to a rat.

The competition is held in association with SpecFicNZ, who are generously contributing prizes, and judged by Guest of Honour Seanan McGuire. Get scratching!

We’re also running a drabble competition – 100 words of fiction based around a word you invented. If you’re new to writing, this could be a great place to start.

Find out more at www.lexicon.cons.nz/comps.php. Other competitions will be announced shortly; artists, filkers, and cosplayers, stay tuned.

(18) DEAL US IN. Tor.com’s Natalie Zutter has good news for Cards Against Humanity fans: “Patrick Rothfuss and Cards Against Humanity Release Special Sci-Fi Pack”.

For $5, this pack of 30 cards “poking fun at the Sci-Fi genre” (in Rothfuss’ words) will let you throw down the geekiest cards in your next game of CAH. All proceeds from the first two weeks of sales will go to Worldbuilders, Rothfuss’ nonprofit. What’s more, Rothfuss says, they’ll double that donation before passing it along to Heifer International, the organization that Worldbuilders supports.

Here’s everyone who contributed to the cards!

  • Delilah S. Dawson
  • Elizabeth Bear
  • Jim C. Hines
  • Myke Cole
  • Martha Wells
  • Catherynne M. Valente
  • Patrick Rothfuss

[Thanks to JJ, Xtifr, Bonnie McDaniel, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Redheadedfemme. (Yes, Bonnie, I held over a few you suggested last year.)]

Amateur Martian Photo Analysis

Years ago someone claimed the Viking mission had taken pictures of a Face on Mars, proving with geometric logic it was a monument created by sentient beings. NASA eventually got a new batch of photos that showed it was merely a natural formation. But now we have a new body part to speculate about – the robotic finger of Mars!

And is there anyone left who believes there were canals on Mars? Then you should talk to Taral. He knows where all the water went —

Did I mention that I’ve discovered a bath drain on Mars? There’s the plug, over on the right. Somebody must have taken the chain.

Taral’s Martian Ice

By Taral Wayne: Here’s something odd for you. While downloading photos from NASA’s Curiosity site (some 200 from Sol 137), my eye was caught by a strange white patch deep in the shadow of one overhang. I’ve seen some other whitish rock or glaze in other photos, but this looked completely different. It looked, in fact, like snow or ice. There’s even a dark area beneath it as though it was slowly melting. I suppose it could be ice — why not? So far we’ve discovered ice in a number of places. This particular overhang might just be cool enough to sustain a patch, at least temporarily.

I immediatey emailed the website and identified the photo. One other also shows the patch, though it’s much harder to see it — so it doesn’t appear to be a glitch in the first photo. No word from NASA, naturally…

Do you think it possible nobody had spotted it? If they have, they’ve been rather close mouthed … or could they deem it something of no interest, I wonder?

I’ve dubbed it “Saara’s Icebox,” somewhat whimsically. I’d love it to stick, but I don’t imagine there’s much chance of it.

Although, oddly some names I suggested to NASA by e-mail for highlands on Titan have appeared on one NASA map. Nobody mentioned adopting my suggestion … so it might be a coincidence.

Brittanum, Gaul and Hispania

Great Britain

Great Britain and Gaul

Postscript: Another photo of the overhanging rock formation has turned up in Sol 170’s photo cache. The white stuff, whatever it was, doesn’t seem visible. The view is distant, though, so it’s hard to see if there might be just a little left. Perhaps significantly, the dark stain that had been below the white stuff is also gone or going. Seems that it’s too late to investigate anything now. Good one, NASA!

Going, going… gone! (Sol 170)