Pixel Scroll 3/20/18 If You Are Stuck In A Kerfuffle, Pixel A Trench And Scroll Your Way To Freedom

(1) #METOO. Pat Cadigan opened up about her #metoo experiences in a public post on Facebook.

Heard Germaine Greer on BBC Radio 4 this morning, disparaging #metoo

Germaine should also talk about welding, engineering, astrophysics, and brain surgery, because she knows as much about them as #metoo

And just for the record: #metoo

I’ve talked about the first job I ever had after I graduated from high school. I lasted a week cold-calling people, trying to sell the photographic packages for a photography company. My supervisor was a woman struggling to be a single parent after her divorce. Her supervisor, who was onsite almost all the time literally chased me around the office, trying to get his hands on me.

When I complained to my supervisor, she said, “You better keep running, because if he catches you, it will be your fault.”…

(2) THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED. National Air and Space Museum will mark the 50th Anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey with an immersive art exhibit celebrating the film’s impact on culture and technology.

This spring, the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum will host a special temporary exhibition of the immersive art installation “The Barmecide Feast,” a fully realized, full-scale reflection of the iconic, neo-classical hotel room from the penultimate scene of Stanley Kubrick’s and Arthur C. Clarke’s landmark film, 2001: A Space OdysseyOpen to the public April 8 – May 28, the installation will be the centerpiece of the Museum’s celebration of the film’s 50th anniversary. Museum visitors will be able to enter the re-created room in small groups for short periods to experience the surreal environment depicted in the film. The public will get its first chance to see the installation as part of the Museum’s Yuri’s Night celebration, a ticketed, 21-and-over evening event presented with Brightest Young Things Saturday, April 7

National Air and Space Society members will get a special sneak peak of the exhibition on April 5. There is no charge for this members-only event, but advance reservations are required.

(3) SIAM SOUVENIRS. A Filer’s relative actually attended the Siam Sinfonetta concert!

She said, “It was a great concert – ran about 3 hours. During the various pieces they had different characters wandering through the concert hall and sometimes lightsaber fighting. They all came out at the end (except the little ones who had probably already left to go home to bed).”

(4) STEM, STEP BY STEP. BBC reports a study: “Children drawing more women in science”, from 1% in 1960’s and 70’s to 28% today.

Children in the US are drawing more women scientists than in previous decades, according to a new study.

The “Draw A Scientist” test has been administered by sociologists in various studies since the 1960s.

Researchers at Northwestern University, US, analysed five decades of the test.

When asked to draw a scientist, less than one per cent of children in the 1960s and 1970s drew a woman. This rose to 28% between the 1980s and present day.

However, children are still far more likely to draw a traditionally male figure when asked to depict a scientist.

…Yet, the study highlights, by 2013 women were 49% of biological scientists, 35% of chemists, and 11% of physicists and astronomers in the United States.

(5) IN THE MIX. Camestros Felapton gives us a “Review: Black Lightning”.

I’m up to episode 8 of a 13 episode season and I think I can pull apart what I like and don’t like about it.

I’ll start negative. I don’t think it has yet managed to find the right mix of humour, gritty crime drama, family drama, superhero-antics. That’s not a surprise, as all superhero shows and movies struggle to find that sweet spot (and the right spot is going to vary among viewers). At times the show is quite violent (or suggestive of extreme violence) but within a show that feels more like it has been written for a more general audience. Like the Marvel Netflix shows, the central character regularly beats up criminals to get information but unlike those shows, the behaviour feels at odds with Black Lightning’s non-superhero persona.

However, there is also a lot to like about this show. The central character, Jefferson Pierce, is unusual for a superhero. He is an older man with a successful career as a high school principal. He has a family and responsibilities and ‘Black Lightning’ is something from his past. By having him as a superhero who is coming out of retirement (due to gang violence initially) is a clever way of avoiding a protracted origin story, while giving viewers an introduction to the character. We have not, as yet, been given an explanation for the source of his electrical powers – although there are hints in a subplot around the death of his journalist father some years ago.

(6) SENSITIVITY. The Washington Post’s Everdeen Mason looks at how Keira Drake changed her forthcoming Harlequin Teen novel The Continent in response to sensitivity readers, which included changing the name of one clan from “Topi” to “Xoe”  to remove any comparisons to the Hopi, making another clan less Asian-looking, and eliminating “savage,” “primitive,” and “native” from the text. The article includes many examples contrasting the original and revised text.

Drake and Wilson maintain that the book was never supposed to be about race. “The main theme of ‘The Continent’ is how privilege allows us to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others,” Drake said in a phone interview in February.

Wilson explained that when she originally edited the novel, she was looking for potential problems with pacing, plot and dialogue. “I was simply not thinking about things like racial stereotypes,” she said. “It’s almost mortifying to say that because it was so blatantly obvious when it was pointed out.”

The Washington Post compared the old advance copy with a newly revised copy received in 2018 and spoke with Drake about changes she made.

(7) BLOCK AROUND THE CLOCK. The Paris Review quotes Ray Bradbury: “On Writer’s Block: Advice from Twelve Writers”.

“I have three rules to live by. One, get your work done. If that doesn’t work, shut up and drink your gin. And when all else fails, run like hell!” —Ray Bradbury

(8) PARTY MAVEN. The website Gastro Obscura records Stephen Hawking’s champagne-laden effort to prove whether time travel exists or not:

It was a little unusual that when he threw a party in 2009, not a single guest attended.

A film of the event depicts a dismal cocktail party. Three trays of canapes sit uneaten, and flutes filled with Krug champagne go untouched. Balloons decorate the walls, and a giant banner displays the words “Welcome, Time Travellers.”

…By publishing the party invitation in his mini-series Into the Universe With Stephen Hawking, Hawking hoped to lure futuristic time travelers. You are cordially invited to a reception for Time Travellers, the invitation read, along with the the date, time, and coordinates for the event. The theory, Hawking explained, was that only someone from the future would be able to attend.

(9) COOLEY OBIT. Texas fan Earl Cooley III died March 20, his sister announced on Facebook:

Earl Cooley III

I am Earl’s sister, Dot Cooley. Earl left this world early this morning. He moved back to the San Antonio area 3 years ago when his health started getting worse and because of that Earl got to spend so much more time with me and our brother, Paul. Mom recently discovered Skype, so she got to visit with him more. We would love for you to share any thoughts or stories with us. Rock on ArmadilloCon!

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian encountered a Biblical joke in Shoe.

(11) MARVEL AT MOPOP. The Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle unveiled the official poster artwork for its upcoming exhibition Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes.

Designed by Marvel artist Nick Bradshaw, the illustration depicts some of the most iconic characters created during Marvel’s nearly 80 year history including Spider-Man, Thor, Black Panther, Ms. Marvel, Hulk, Iron Man, Black Widow, Captain America, and others. Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes is the first and most extensive exhibition celebrating the visual and cultural impact of Marvel Entertainment. The exhibition will debut at MoPOP on April 21, 2018. Tickets are on sale now at MoPOP.org.

Organized by the Museum of Pop Culture, SC Exhibitions and Marvel Entertainment, Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes will feature more than 300 original artifacts, including some of Marvel’s most iconic and sought-after pages, costumes and props, many of which have never-before been seen by the public. The exhibition will tell the Marvel story through comics, film and other media, taking place as it celebrates 10 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and ahead of the 80th anniversary in 2019.  The exhibition will trace the story of the company and its influence on visual culture – including how it’s responded to historical events and addressed wider issues such as gender, race and mental illness – as well as uncovering the narratives of individual characters such as Captain America, Spider-Man, Black Panther and Doctor Strange. Immersive set pieces will bring the comic book world to life, and the exhibition will be accompanied by an immersive soundscape created by acclaimed composers Lorne Balfe and Hans Zimmer.

(12) DO-IT-YOURSELF. Lucy A. Snyder’s satirical “Installing Linux on a Dead Badger: User’s Notes” appeared on Strange Horizons in 2004, but it’s news to me. Very funny!

Reanimation puts most creatures in a foul mood, and the test badger woke up murderously angry, requiring a hasty launch of FleshGolem to get the beast under control. It is highly recommended to have the computer close at hand during the incantation.

(13) VACUUMING UP THE BITS. Via today’s Boston Globe: “Data storage beyond the clouds: Wasabi promises a super-secure system in space”. “…Which sure sounds like the start of a ‘what where they thinking/yeah sure’ techno-heist thriller,” says Daniel Dern.

In space, no one can steal your data.

Well, that’s the theory, anyway — one that the Boston data storage company Wasabi Technologies Inc. hopes to help prove.

Wasabi is partnering with a California company to create a database from outer space. The system, called SpaceBelt, will feature orbiting data centers capable of storing thousands of terabytes of information. SpaceBelt will be marketed to businesses and corporations that need instant access to their most valuable data, but who are also desperate to keep that data from being stolen or corrupted.

(14) ALL STROSS CONSIDERED. Joe Sherry describes a mixed bag in “Microreview [book]: Dark State, by Charles Stross” at Nerds of a Feather.

My experience of reading Charles Stross is a persistent struggle between the quality of his ideas and my perception of the quality of his writing, which is to say that I seldom find that the writing lives up to the promise of the ideas.

When I wrote about Empire Games (my review), I noted “the level of Stross’s writing is actually beginning to rise to the level of his ideas” and that once Stross got the story rolling, nothing distracted from the cool ideas of the world walking between the worlds we’ve already known and the opening up of new worlds and the drama of the how the United States interacts with the world walkers from a parallel universe.

Dark State picks up almost immediately after the conclusion of Empire Games, and despite the increasingly breakneck pace of the second half of that novel, Dark State suffers from some of the same issues that Empire Games did. Stross spends at least a third of Dark State resetting the playing field and planting the seeds for where the rest of the novel and trilogy will go. That’s fine, as far as narrative conventions go, but Stross is not at his best as a writer when working with a more deliberate pace.

(15) CHARACTER IN CRISIS. Adrienne Martini reviews The Genius Plague by David Walton at Locus Online.

In Walton’s hands, what could be a straight­forward “we must save humanity with science” thriller (not that there’s anything wrong with that), becomes, at times, a meditation on what makes us human and why that alone is a survival advan­tage. Those moments offer a chance to catch your breath before the next calamity, some of which our hero brings on himself. Walton makes Neil into a layered character, one who is frequently torn between family bonds and saving the world – and, frequently, making the situation worse because he is still working out that other people are also torn by their own layers. He’s also still learning that NSA security is never f-ing around.

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was gazing at the tube during Jeopardy! and spotted this stfnal clue:

Answer: “Kardashians are reality TV stars; Cardassians are an alien culture in this sci-fi universe.”

No one got the question, “What is Star Trek”?

(17) YOU CAN GET THERE FROM HERE. You can now get to Gotham City, the Emerald City, Neverland, Middle Earth, and other places via roundabouts on the A4130 in Didcot, Oxfordshire reports the BBC.

A county council statement read, in part:

“We will investigate as soon as the weather improves. While on the surface amusing, it is vandalism and a potential distraction for drivers.”

The story also mentions:

Local resident Charlotte Westgate said she saw a hooded man in his 20s adding “Gotham City” to a sign on Friday afternoon.

She said: “He was on his own, and didn’t seem worried that anyone might be looking at him, but no one driving past did anything to stop him.”

(18) BARRAYAR BOY. Miles Vorkosigan posted the lyrics to “Dendarii’s Privateers” on Facebook. The first verse is —

Oh the year was 2978
(How I wish I’d stayed on Barrayar!)
When I flunked my military test
By breaking my legs, as I do best

(19) HOW IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN PLAYED FOR LAUGHS. From the folks at HISHE, “A Comedy Recap / Review of Pacific Rim voiced by How It Should Have Ended.”

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and MT Davis for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Elisa.]

 

Do Books Expand to Exceed the Time Available?

By Daniel P. Dern: I don’t remember how long ago it was — 20+ wouldn’t surprise me — that I read a comment that we (the sf field) had passed the point where one person could read and keep up with all the sf being published, e.g. all the new books, magazines, anthologies. I.e., it would take more than a year to read all the new stuff from the year.

It might not have been from a reviewer; I seem to also recall the larger point being made that “it’s no longer possible to keep up with the field, and to the extent that the field can be seen as a conversation with itself, each new story to a large extent building on and/or arguing with what has gone before, have we passed the threshold where this is no longer possible.”

My question is: how many people-reading-years (or, how many people)’s worth of new sf (including fantasy, perhaps also horror and paranormal) is being published, per year, these days? Or, “a given person could only read what fraction?”

Obviously, this would be a rough ballpark. I assume the original stat (or it might have simply been a considered opinion) made some assumptions of average reading speed, average #/hours/week reading, average book size, etc.

It’s obviously more complicated now, because of boundaries, like – publishers but excluding self-pub? (Or some self-pub?)

  • What about fanfic?
  • Just in English?

Perhaps delimit by, say, “Based on being listed in Locus.”

But I’m curious, order-of-magnitude wise. 10 people? 20?

“Available time” isn’t helped by the proliferation of comic books, ditto  movies and TV.

(And ignoring the time consumed with fanzines/sites (sic).)

Pixel Scroll 2/23/18 In The Unlikely Event Of A Pixel Landing, Scrolls May Be Used For Flotation Devices

(1) EL-MOHTAR LAUNCHES. This week Amal El-Mohtar took up her duties as sff reviewer for the New York Times “Otherworldly” column: “The Latest in Science Fiction and Fantasy”.

…Del and Sofia Samatar are siblings, and MONSTER PORTRAITS (Rose Metal, paper, $14.95) is a dialogue between Del’s art and Sofia’s words that is equal parts exploration, investigation and meditation about monsters and monstrosity. From the title I expected something like a bestiary, where the text would build fictions out of the art to pen (as it were) the creatures into a mythology — but this book is nothing so simple or straightforward; it is, if anything, an anti-bestiary, organized around the systems that produce bestiaries. Most of the portraits describe an author’s encounters with the creatures depicted, encounters that spark real-world musings on race and diaspora, framing the often contradictory ways in which we represent, consume or reject monstrosity. It’s a book of discomfort, of itching beneath the skin — which dovetails beautifully with the fact that Del Samatar works as a tattoo artist, and that many of the images in this book are easily imagined inked onto bodies….

(2) ARE THEY NEEDED? Rafia Zakaria speaks “In Praise of Negative Reviews” at The Baffler.

“Startlingly smart,” “remarkable,” “endlessly interesting,” “delicious.” Such are the adulatory adjectives scattered through the pages of the book review section in one of America’s leading newspapers. The praise is poignant, particularly if one happens to be the author, hoping for the kind of testimonial that will drive sales. Waiting for the critic’s verdict used to be a moment of high anxiety, but there’s not so much to worry about anymore. The general tone and tenor of the contemporary book review is an advertisement-style frippery. And, if a rave isn’t in order, the reviewer will give a stylized summary of sorts, bookended with non-conclusions as to the book’s content. Absent in either is any critical engagement, let alone any excavation of the book’s umbilical connection to the world in which it is born. Only the longest-serving critics, if they are lucky enough to be ensconced in the handful of newspapers that still have them, paw at the possibility of a negative review. And even they, embarking on that journey of a polemical book review, temper their taunts and defang their dissection. In essence they bow to the premise that every book is a gem, and every reviewer a professional gift-wrapper who appears during the holidays.

It is a pitiable present, this one that celebrates the enfeebling of literary criticism, but we were warned of it.

(3) FRIED GREEN TOMATOES. Scott Edelman invites Eating the Fantastic listeners to “Gobble fried green tomatoes with Thomas F. Monteleone”.

I don’t know which meal you’re getting ready for wherever you happen to be, but here at Eating the Fantastic world headquarters, it’s time for lunch at the Mountain Branch Grille & Pub with Thomas F. Monteleone, a five-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award, who’s published more than 100 stories since his first one appeared in Amazing back in 1972.

My first fictional encounter with him, though, wasn’t until 1975, when his first novel, Seeds of Change, became the debut title for the famed (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) Laser Books science fiction line, and in this episode you’ll get to hear all about the serendipity which made that sale happen.

He’s accomplished so much since those early sales that last year, the Horror Writers Association honored him with its Lifetime Achievement Award. He’s also a highly opinionated guy, as is proven by his ongoing no-holds-barred column The Mothers And Fathers Italian Association, a collection of which won the 2003 Bram Stoker Award for Non-Fiction …and is also proven by this episode.

We discussed the tricks he teaches to transform writers at his famed Borderlands Bootcamp, the 200+ rejections he received before he finally made his first fiction sale, how Theodore Sturgeon helped him realize it was possible for him to become a writer, why he ended up as a horror icon after his big start in science fiction, which horror writers you want on your team when you’re choosing sides for softball, the reason his live readings have become legendary, how Peter Straub reacted when Tom put him on his list of most overrated writers, how a challenge from Damon Knight changed his life, and much more.

(4) ADAPTATION AND ANNIHLATION. At Lit Hub, Jeff VanderMeer and Christina Sibul talk about “What’s It Really Like to Have Your Book Made Into a Movie”.

JV:  . . . But with regard to the monster [in Annihilation], I think what I was after in the books was to destabilize the usual reveal. The reason it’s gradual is to kind of acclimate you so when you actually finally see it you notice more than just the horror and surprise of it but the beauty and the strangeness of it as well. And I think Garland [the director of the Annihilation adaptation] gets there a different way. He’s still thinking about the same things, and in many ways, it’s a very loose translation of the book. But you can see many points where he is translating, where he is reacting to something in the book, and so I do think that in the third act of the movie where you do see the crawler—and you don’t see it before that—he somehow manages visually to get the horror and beauty of it by being very precise.

The thing I found fascinating is on the set visit they had what I would call a three-act structure of the visual imagination. Like, literally on the walls all around this building they had just pasted photographs and pictures, some of which they found and some of which they created as, like, what is the tone and texture of this part. And for the third act, several of the images they had that were inspiration for the monster were the same things that I’d come up with during my research, but we had not communicated about this. They had just come to it through parallel evolution. So, I think that the depiction of the crawler is very accurate in some ways. And very horrific and beautiful at the same time. There’s another monster too in there because there’s the moaning creature in the books, and the moaning creature he translated into this strange bear that also combines aspects of the boar that’s in the book. So, there’s another translation of the monster where someone may see it and say, “That’s not from the book,” but in actual fact it kind of is, you know

(5) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian and I are old enough to get the visual references in Heathcliff. Maybe you are, too.
  • And this Dracula joke in Speedbump is pretty dumb, but I laughed.

(6) THE GOODBYE BATGIRL. Yesterday I read somewhere “Joss Whedon Drops Out of Batgirl”. Adam-Troy Castro won’t miss him: “Joss Whedon Quit the BATGIRL Movie For All The Right Reasons”.

Joss Whedon has stepped down from scripting duties on a proposed BATGIRL movie, saying he just couldn’t come up with a story.

I suspect he had some other reasons, some of which speak well of him and some of which don’t, but that’s a boring subject. (So is whether there should be a Batgirl movie, period. Let’s just say that my personal enthusiasm at this point, is limited. We have more than enough movies in this genre, thank you.)

But let us talk of his stated reason for having so much trouble with the character: paraphrased, he couldn’t think of a reason why this girl’s head would be so messed up she would start doing this thing.

And instantly you know that he doesn’t get the character at all and that stepping away was a good thing.

You see, the premise that a person’s head must be “messed up” in some way to become a hero in this genre is based on only a very few examples.

(7) DEATH OF THE MIGHTY THOR. Jane Foster’s time as The Mighty Thor may be coming to an end. And in this case I don’t think that’s a spoiler.

For more than three years, Jason Aaron has been building Jane Foster’s story to its epic conclusion – and it all comes together in Mighty Thor #705! This March, don’t miss the final chapter of Thor’s journey, written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Russell Dauterman, as Mangog’s rampage threatens to bring about the end of Asgard as we know it – and the Goddess of Thunder herself.

 

(8) COMICS BUYER. Daniel P. Dern sends a link to io9’s “Ordering Physical Comics Books Is About to Get Slightly Easier”, which says Diamond’s new Pullbox will simplify (pre)ordering your hardcopy comics from your comic store.

It’s not completely digital—you still have to go and physically collect your orders from your local store, after all, so if you’re looking to avoid the potentially intimidating act of heading into a comics store, Pullbox isn’t the solution.

Dern comments: “I’d like to think that not all comic stores are intimidating, e.g., certainly not <shoutout>The Outer Limits, in Waltham MA</shoutout> (where I’ve been a customer since it opened back in 1983). A larger concern, I’d guess, would be the decreasing # of comic shops, as in, (not) having one near (enough). Yeah, you can mail-order, but not the same experience.

“I’m happy that it sounds like this new service isn’t trying to disintermediate the stores, but rather work with and within them.”

(9) CREATIVE TEAM BEHIND BLACK PANTHER. Calgary comic book scholar Michael Hoskin offers a roundup of all the comic book creators who had a hand in the Black Panther movie. He makes a compelling case that Christopher Priest (the first full-time black writer at Marvel comics) should be getting more credit for what was seen on screen: “Black Panther (2018) creator credits”.

(10) EXPANSE. Syfy dropped The Expanse Season 3 teaser trailer.

(11) GONE FISHING. The industry has a surprising amount of coverage: “New Maps Reveal Global Fishing’s ‘Vast Scope Of Exploitation Of The Ocean'”.

The maps show the most intense fishing activity along the coasts of heavily populated areas like Europe and China. But fishing also covers much of the high seas. According to the researchers, commercial fishing operations covered at least 55 percent of the world’s oceans. That area, it calculates, is four times larger than the area devoted to agriculture on land.

The researchers also were able to distinguish between fishing vessels from different countries. According to the study, five countries — China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea — accounted for 85 percent of all high-seas fishing.

The BBC also has a summary.

(12) TOUGH TO KILL Jurassic Dead is coming to theaters. Run away!

PLOT: A cracked scientist aligns with the Axis of Evil to bring down the US of A with EMP blasts, toxic zombification gas and an unleashing of the ultimate undead killing monstrosity — the Z-REX. When a hot-wired militia squad and a crew of college hipsters are thrown together to do something about it, chaotic Predator-Thunder action runs amok.

 

(13) THE REAL FUTURE OF AI. On the Nextnature blog, Menno Gutfeld and Koort van Mensvoort interview Bruce Sterling about how bodies will become mechancially augmented in the future and when artificial intelligence will become sentient: “Interview: Bruce Sterling on the Convergence of Humans and Machines”.

 Lots of people are actually talking about and also investing a lot of money in this idea of convergence of the machine and humans. What are your thoughts on this?

That convergence will not happen, because the ambition is basically metaphysical. It will recede over the horizon like a heat mirage.  We are never going to get there. It works like this: first, far-fetched metaphysical propositions. Then an academic computer scientist will try and build one in the lab. Some aspect of that can actually be commercialized, distributed and sold.

This is the history of artificial intelligence. We do not have Artificial Intelligence today, but we do have other stuff like computer vision systems, robotic abilities to move around, gripper systems. We have bits and pieces of the grand idea,  but those pieces are big industries. They do not fit together to form one super thing. Siri can talk, but she cannot grip things. There are machines that grip and manipulate, but they do not talk. You end up with this unbundling of the metaphysical ideas and their replacement by actual products and services. Those products exist in the marketplace like most other artifacts that we have: like potato chips, bags, shoes, Hollywood products, games.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The (End) of History Illusion)–Miu Miu Women’s Tales” on Vimeo, Celia Rowlson-Hall describes the fabulous future after atomic attack, where you can live in a bunker wearing swell clothes from the 1950s and eat all the canned carrots you want!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Olav Rokne, Carl Slaughter, Daniel P. Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 2/20/18 Not All Pixels Scroll Up In Value. Some May Scroll Down

(1) NEW DOCTOR WHO LOGO. Merchandise with the Thirteenth Doctor’s new logo is on sale starting today.

(2) MEDICAL MARVEL. Pat Cadigan reports some good news in her latest update: “I Have Cancer But Cancer Doesn’t Have Me”.

The level of cancer in my body has fallen again. The hormones I’m taking are still killing off cancer cells.

Today I saw a new members of my oncologist’s team. It was all I could do not to start dancing around her office. Although who knows—she might have danced with me. She looked amazed when she checked the results of my blood test.

On our way out, Chris and I ran into a few fellow-travellers who said they liked my lucky short—i.e., the one that says, I’m Making Cancer My Bitch. I love my lucky shirt.

(3) HEDGEHOG DAY. Daniel P. Dern has been keeping an eye on superhero TV and provided this update for the Scroll:

In last night’s Legends of Tomorrow (B-lister superheroes travelling through time and space to fix history hiccups usually using the Dr “House” method of first making things much much worse…) Season 3 Episode 11, ”Here I Go Again” — “Zari [not from our time period] finds her place on the team when she gets caught in a time loop that results in the Waverider blowing up over and over again.”

The fun part is that when she realizes what’s happening, she tries describing it, one of the from-our-time heroes says “OK, on the next cycle, find me and say, ‘Groundhog Day.'” (which, of course, on the first try, she instead says ‘Hedgehog Day.’)

(And another of the from-our-time heroes counters with a Star Trek time loop citation…)

Fun episode, marred only IMHO by (SPOILER ROT13ed) znxvat vg ghea bhg gb or n pbzchgre-vaqhprq plorefcnpr rkcrevrapr engure guna npghny Tebhaqubt Qnl ybbcvat. Cuhv.

(Just like bar bs gur yngre Beivyyr rcvfbqrf univat ~3/4 bs gur rcvfbqr erirnyrq gb or orra n “Jr’ir unq lbh va n ubybqrpx fpranevb sbe cflpubgurencl” znthssva, sru.)

Like one of the recent episodes of The Magicians (scrolled recently), it’s gratifying to see characters from our time period exhibit familiarity with sf pop culture enough to use them as information shortcuts.

(4) A TRUTH UNIVERSALLY ACKNOWLEDGED. Robin Reid says, “I just finished John Kessel’s latest, Pride and Prometheus (Mary Bennett from Pride and Prejudice meets Victor Frankenstein and his Creature)” and recommends Liz Bourke’s review “Literary Fusion: Pride and Prometheus by John Kessel” at Tor.com.

There are three main points of view in Pride and Prometheus. The most interesting, by my lights, is Mary Bennett, younger sister of Elizabeth Bennett. Several years have passed since the end of Pride and Prejudice, and Mary has passed thirty years of age and is entering into spinsterhood. She has an interest in natural philosophy, especially fossils, and feels as though she should find a man to marry, but does not feel as though there is a man who will marry her. When she encounters Victor Frankenstein, a young man haunted by some secret of his past, she finds herself oddly compelled by his presence. Mary’s part of the narrative is told in the third person, unlike the other two narrators, who recount their parts of the story in the first person. This matches the approach of the original narratives.

(5) KEEP ON TRUCKING. Time to celebrate: “NASA’s Opportunity rover sees its 5,000th day on Mars”.

This weekend, NASA’s Opportunity rover spent its 5,000th day on Mars. While that is a feat in and of itself, it’s even more impressive when you consider that it was only planned to last 90 Martian days, or sols. Both Opportunity and its companion rover Spirit were launched towards Mars in 2003, landing on two different parts of the planet in January 2004. Neither were expected to make it through Mars’ harsh winter though, which lasts about twice as long as ours and is severely lacking in light, but NASA’s team discovered that pointing the rovers towards the north and towards the sun was enough to keep them powered through the winter. Further, making sure the rovers were on north-facing slopes each winter helped to keep them going for years longer than they were ever intended to function.

(6) HEROIC EFFORT. The Nielsen Haydens’ Making Light suffered a server problem and at the moment the latest post displayed is dated 2008. I wish them the best of luck and a complete return to the internet of all their text and comments.

(7) MORE GENRE FROM THE TOY FAIRE. See photos of toys hyped at the NYC Toy Fair at the link.

With new installments of Star Wars, Jurassic Worldand the Avengers headed our way this summer, movie fans have plenty to cheer about. The same goes for toy lovers, who can look forward to action figures, play sets, board games, and other playthings based on 2018’s biggest blockbusters and hottest television shows. Yahoo Entertainment spent the past weekend at New York City’s annual festival for toys, Toy Fair, where we got to see both the new and retro movie- and TV-related toys that everyone will be talking about this year. Scroll through the gallery and start getting your holiday wish lists ready now.

They include —

Lego ‘Star Wars’ Kessel Run Millennium Falcon

It took Han Solo only 12 parsecs to make his famous run through the Kessel Mines. See if you can lap that record as you assemble this 1,414-piece Lego Millennium Falcon, which comes complete with laser turrets and a Dejarik board

Ultimate Co-Pilot Chewie

It’s the Star Wars answer to Teddy Ruxpin: an interactive Chewbacca doll who talks, uh, growls on command and can also be rocked to sleep or tickled into a laughing fit. Warning: Kids might have to compete with their parents for cuddle time with this adorable Wookiee.

(8) APES AT 50. Mark Kermode talks about the 50th anniversary of Planet of the Apes release and wonders if Star Wars will look as good at the same age.

“Of course,” says IanP, “Star Wars isn’t growing old as gracefully with all its repeated facelifts …”

(9) ALMOST ERASED. Vulture interviews “The Man Who Made Black Panther Cool”:

Christopher Priest broke the color barrier at Marvel and reinvented a classic character. Why was he nearly written out of comics history?

“I’m an asshole. I’m abrasive. I am so sure that I’m right about virtually everything. I can sing you an aria of reasons to not like me,” says comics writer Christopher Priest, his bass voice rising to the brink of anger but never quite tipping over. “Not liking me because I’m black is so juvenile and immature, because there’s many reasons to not like me.” He’s speaking, as he often does, about the racism — both overt and structural — that he’s faced in the comics industry over his 40-year career. But that set of attributes, seen from another angle, can apply to the reasons to like him, or at least admire him — he’s unwaveringly outspoken, endearingly opinionated, as well as a pioneer in the comics industry. He’s also likely the only comics writer to have taken breaks from his career at various times to toil as a musician, pastor, and bus driver.

(10) NEBULA TOOL. Now that the Nebula finalists are out, Rocket Stack Rank has prepared an annotated version with links to the stories (where possible), synopses, reviews, etc. — “2017 Annotated Nebula Award Finalists”

Greg Hullender explains, “By sorting the list according to how many different sources of recommendation each one got, we make it easier to see where the Nebulas are acknowledging broadly popular stories and where the SFWA members have a unique perspective.”

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 20, 1962  — Astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 20,  1926 Richard Matheson (links to SyFy Wire’s commemorative article.)

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Daniel P. Dern got the Amazon reference in Grimmy.
  • Chip Hitchcock noticed something super about Arlo and Janis.

(14) A LITTLE MISTAKE. If either of us had actually gone to a copyediting school, I’d wonder if RedWombat and I graduated from the same one:

(15) INTERNET VISUALIZED. Looking back: “The Father Of The Internet Sees His Invention Reflected Back Through A ‘Black Mirror'” contrasts idealistic inventor Vint Cerf with William Gibson’s what-will-really-happen.

While Cerf and his colleagues were busy inventing, the young aspiring science fiction writer William Gibson was looking for a place to set his first novel. Gibson was living in Seattle, and he had friends who worked in the budding tech industry. They told him about computers and the Internet, “and I was sitting with a yellow legal pad trying to come up with trippy names for a new arena in which science fiction could be staged.”

The name Gibson came up with: cyberspace. And for a guy who had never seen it, he did a great job describing it in that 1984 book, Neuromancer: “A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding.”

(16) GOODLIFE. The scum of the Earth has been around longer than they thought: “Origins of land plants pushed back in time”.

A seminal event in the Earth’s history – when plants appeared on land – may have happened 100 million years earlier than previously thought.

Land plants evolved from “pond scum” about 500 million years ago, according to new research.

These early moss-like plants greened the continents, creating habitats for land animals.

The study, based on analysing the genes of living plants, overturns theories based purely on fossil plant evidence.

“Land plants emerged on land half a billion years ago, tens of millions of years older than the fossil record alone suggests,” said study author, Dr Philip Donoghue of the department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol.

(17) AFROFUTURISM. The Washington Post’s Sonia Rao, in the wake of Black Panther, gives an overview of Afrofuturism and discusses forthcoming Afrofuturist projects, including Janelle Monae’s new album Dirty Computer and a forthcoming TV production of Octavia Butler’s Dawn directed by Ava DuVernay.“The resurgence of Afrofuturism goes beyond ‘Black Panther,’ to Janelle Monáe, Jay-Z and more “.

Monáe released a trailer on Friday for “Dirty Computer,” a new album with an accompanying narrative film. The 30-second teaser, set to air ahead of some “Black Panther” showings, presents clips of a dystopian world set to guitar feedback and snapping fingers. Monáe’s co-star Tessa Thompson is abducted by a man dressed in military gear. We cut to the two embracing on a beach. Seconds later, Monáe lies on an examination table while someone strokes a mysterious tattoo on her arm.

“They drained us of our dirt, and all the things that made us special,” she narrates. “And then you were lost. Sleeping. And you didn’t remember anything at all.”

Monáe’s work has exhibited Afrofuturist influences for years — the Quietus, an online British magazine, proclaimed back in 2010 that she “brandishes the acetylene torch for radical Afrofuturism.” In her multi-album “Metropolis” saga, the singer’s alter ego, Cindi Mayweather, is a messianic android who was sent back in time to lead a protest movement against an oppressive regime.

 

(18) CORRECTING AN OMISSION. Yesterday’s Scroll quoted K. Tempest Bradford’s tweet contrasting her own fundraiser to JDA’s, but she didn’t get all the benefit from that she might have because the tweet didn’t link to her YouCaring page — “Send K. T. Bradford To Egypt! (For Research)”. She had reached $3,135 of her $5,000 goal, but earlier today a couple of large donations put her over the top. Congratulations!

(19) THE FRANCHISE. With six you get Sharknado Bloody Disguting has the details:

Not surprisingly, Sharknado 6 is coming this Summer, and the first plot details, along with an early piece of poster art, have come to us out of EFM today.

In the sixth installment…

“All is lost, or is it? Fin unlocks the time-traveling power of the SHARKNADOS in order to save the world and resurrect his family. In his quest, Fin fights Nazis, dinosaurs, knights, and even takes a ride on Noah’s Ark. This time, it’s not how to stop the sharknados, it’s when.”

Tara Reid, Ian Ziering and Cassie Scerbo return.

Sharknado 6 will premiere on July 25, 2018.

(20) BIG BANG’S BILLIONAIRE GUEST. Supposedly Sheldon has already met him: “Bill Gates to Guest Star on ‘The Big Bang Theory’ — But Remember When He Punched Sheldon in the Face?!”

Bill Gates is headed to The Big Bang Theory!

ET has learned that Gates will be guest starring as himself in an upcoming March episode of the hit CBS comedy. The famed Microsoft founder will be stopping by Penny’s work and when this news reaches Sheldon, Leonard and the rest of our geektastic gang, the guys do everything in their power for a chance to meet him.

But here’s a Big Bang fun fact for you: Sheldon has actually already met the infamous tech billionaire on the CBS comedy and let’s just say their first interaction did not go very well. In fact, Gates punched Sheldon in the face!

(21) SUGGESTION BOX. Here’s a fan video proposing the way to begin Jodie Whittaker’s first episode as Doctor Who.

There are many great stories, but none as great as this. This is the story of the girl who fell from the stars. And this is how it begins… Without the Tardis and without hope, the Doctor is sent plummeting towards the planet below. The Doctor must come to terms with her new body quickly and escape her incoming demise. Here is a concept scene I’ve created for the upcoming debut episode for the Thirteenth Doctor! Just a bit of fun really but actually turned relatively believable. I have this theory in my mind that the Tardis would materialise underneath the Doctor as she’s falling and catches her. I’ve tried to imagine this as best as possible in this video!

 

[Thanks to Dave Langford, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, IanP, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Daniel P. Dern, Alan Baumler, Robin A. Reid, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 2/7/18 In Space Nobody Can Hear Your Red Tesla’s GPS Scream “Recalculating!”

(1) ABIGAIL NUSSBAUM. Last year’s Best Fan Writer Hugo winner announced that she won’t accept a nomination this year.

Third, this is something that I was pretty sure I wanted to do last August, but I gave myself some time to consider it, and now I’m certain: I’d like it known that if I were to receive a nomination in the Best Fan Writer category for the 2018 Hugos, I would respectfully decline the nomination.

I’ve debated with myself about whether and how to make this announcement.  Not, to be very clear, because I’m uncertain about not wanting to be a nominee again.  Without sounding like I’m complaining–since it all turned out so wonderfully in the end–being a prospective and then actual Hugo nominee is one of the most stressful experiences I’ve ever had.  It certainly didn’t help that the period during which I became a viable candidate coincided so perfectly with the various puppies’ campaign against the awards, so that on top of the regular pressures of will I be nominated/will I win, I spent a lot of my time wondering whether my nomination would be scuttled by a fascist terror campaign (which is, in fact, what happened in 2015 and 2016).  By the time 2017 rolled around, I had been on the Hugo merry-go-round for four years, and it was pretty hard for me to enjoy the convention or the lead-up to the awards from wondering whether this was finally going to be my year.

So while I may one day want to be nominated for the Hugo again (and maybe in another category too, if I’m eligible), I have no interest in going through the whole rigmarole again so soon, and especially when you consider that there are several other great potential nominees whose crack at the Hugo was scuttled by puppy interference.  It seems like absolutely the right thing to stand back.

(2) GEORGE R.R. MARTIN. Martin, in his Hugo eligibility post, asks people not to nominate A Song of Ice and Fire for Best Series — but feel free to nominate “The Sons of the Dragon” for novella. (Following this excerpt, he has more to say about the Best Series category itself.)

The only writing I had published in 2017 was “The Sons of the Dragon,” which was published in THE BOOK OF SWORDS, Gardner Dozois’s massive anthology of original sword & sorcery stories. Like “The Rogue Prince” and “The Princess and the Queen” before it, “Sons” is more of my (fake) history of the Targaryen kings of Westeros. By length, it is a novella… but it’s not a traditional narrative. By design, it reads like history, not fiction; but since the history is entirely imaginative, it’s still fiction, even if dressed up as (fake) non-fiction.

It has been pointed out to me that the publication of “The Sons of the Dragon” makes the entirety of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE eligible to be nominated as Best Series. I suppose that’s so. All I can say to that is: please don’t. If you like fake history and enjoyed “The Sons of the Dragon,” by all means nominate the story as a novella… but it’s really not part of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, and sneaking in the entire series by means of a technicality seems wrong to me.

(3) TRADEOFFS. I was interested to see Abigail Nussbaum and I had the identical thought about this piece of news.

(4) FULLER BRUSH-OFF MAN. Two showrunners have left the building: “Apple’s ‘Amazing Stories’ revival loses showrunner Bryan Fuller”.

Apple has yet to launch any of the original shows funded by its $1 billion war chest, but it’s already losing part of its production team. Hollywood Reporter has learned that showrunner Bryan Fuller (of Star Trek and American Gods fame) has left Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories revival for the tech giant. The departure was “amicable,” according to sources, and stemmed from creative differences. Reportedly, Fuller wanted to make a Black Mirror-style show that wasn’t what Apple intended.

Fuller wasn’t new to the Amazing Stories continuation. He’d been around since 2015, when the series was attached to NBC and Spielberg wasn’t involved. He’s had some relatively short stints lately: he was booted from American Gods after the production company wanted to reduce the per-episode fee, and left Star Trek: Discovery over cost and casting issues with CBS.

The Hollywood Reporter source story has added this update:

Hart Hanson, who had partnered with Bryan Fuller on Amazing Stories, has also exited the anthology as Apple and producers Universal Television are now searching for a showrunner.

(5) HOOKED. K.M. Alexander argues “Your Fave is Problematic—That’s Okay”.

My favorite character from A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin’s fantasy epic, is Jaime Lannister, the heir to the Lannister family, Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, and an all-around terrible person. No, really. There are forum threads dedicated to his awfulness, and I don’t disagree with anything they say. He is awful; that’s not up for debate. But I don’t care; I still like him. There is something about his wit, his tenacity, his strange sense of honor, and his odd drive to do right by his family that draws me in as a reader. He’s my favorite.

In his Banquet Speech, William Faulkner observes good writing as “the human heart in conflict with itself.” I adore that line. As a character, Jamie embodies that for me. There is so much to loathe but a lot to like. It makes him complicated, and it makes him human. However, in some circles, my statement draws ire. How can I enjoy reading about someone so terrible? After all, he is someone who symbolizes the opposite of many values I hold dear. To those people, it doesn’t make sense; it feels two-faced and hypocritical.

These voices are nothing new. I remember hearing them as a kid from conservatives, and I’ve heard them as an adult from progressives. Recently they’ve become particularly pronounced on social media, shouting down and hunting those who dare explore life through the lens of problematic fiction. Over the last few years, I’ve seen several authors attacked—on social media, within articles, in reviews, and on blogs. Fans have gone after them for the problematic circumstances, events, and behavior of characters within their novels. It’s not surprising; it’s an extension of the same attitude we have seen play out in the social sphere. In addition to holding real-life humans accountable, fandom is now trying to hold fiction accountable….

(6) SIGNING OFF. The Geek Feminism Blog says they are “Bringing the blog to a close”. No specific reason given, but they did take a look back —

Alex Bayley and a bunch of their peers — myself included — started posting on this blog in 2009. We coalesced around feminist issues in scifi/fantasy fandom, open culture projects like Wikipedia, gaming, the sciences, the tech industry and open source software development, Internet culture, and so on. Alex gave a talk at Open Source Bridge 2014 about our history to that point, and our meta tag has some further background on what we were up to over those years.

(7) NEXT IN THE JURY BOX. A new Shadow Clarke juror greets the readers: “Introducing Samira Nadkarni”.

More than anything else, community as a space for discussion and critique forces an awareness of frameworks. A friend, Shabnam, once took a lot of time to point out to me that my excitement about a book that I believed destabilised gender and problematised caste in Indian contexts was, in fact, written to privilege the upper caste cis gaze. Her emphatic point at the time was that if someone mentions a gender and caste dystopia, I should look at whose interests are being played to, and that if the book couldn’t decenter the very idea of cis and caste-based constructs of gender, then this book was not innovative in its destabilisation at all. While this was applied to a specific book series, it was an excellent lesson to take away, learn from, and cross apply to future criticism: the fact that stepping away from standard representation itself is not enough until we think about who it privileges and what it says.

These are big questions for me, and I think also big questions more generally, about how inclusion can be kindness and violence all at once, and how navigating that critically can be fraught. For me in particular, I have strong feelings about postcolonial SFF writing in general (and this is primarily what I read in my spare time), and this also forces me to recognise how this is playing to a different set of privilege systems locally that can continue to foster violent hierarchies, or aren’t being dealt with or made visible enough yet. It’s complicated and I’m honestly not equipped to do it alone.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 7, 1940 — Walt Disney’s vision of Pinocchio debuted.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cath spotted a comic that perfectly fits out recent “Cats Sleep on SFF” theme in Georgia Dunn’s Breaking Cat News from 2016.

(10) SUPER BOWL BET. Here’s how the Boston Public Library paid off after losing its Super Bowl bet.

(11) FREE READS. Asimov’s has made four Locus-recommended stories available as free reads.

Congratulations to the authors of our stories on the Locus Recommended Reading List. We’ve posted the tales here for your enjoyment. If you’re voting in the Locus Poll and you haven’t read the stories or you’d like to refresh your memory please take a look at them now.

BEST NOVELETTE

The Discrete Charm of the Turing Machine, Greg Egan – Nov/Dec 2017
Wind Will Rove, Sarah Pinsker – Sept/Oct 2017

BEST SHORT STORY

Persephone of the Crows, Karen Joy Fowler – May/June 2017

An Evening with Severyn Grimes, Rich Larson – July/August 2017
Confessions of a Con Girl, Nick Wolven – Nov/Dec 2017

(12) BOARD MEETING. “Superdense wood is lightweight, but strong as steel” – Daniel Dern saw the story and asked, “How many existing sf/f ref’s does this conjure up? The first that comes to (my) mind is Howard Chaykin’s Ironwolf comic books… possibly also from Sean McMullen’s Moonworlds Saga, e.g. Voyage of the Shadowmoon.”

View the video

Newly fabricated superstrong lumber gives a whole new meaning to “hardwood.”

This ultracompact wood, described in the Feb. 8 Nature, is created by boiling a wood block in a water-based solution of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfite. The chemicals partially strip the wood of substances called lignin and hemicellulose, which help give wood its structure and rigidity. Then the block gets squeezed between metal plates heated to 100° Celsius at a pressure of 5 megapascals — about 50 times the pressure of sea-level atmosphere. That squashes the gaps between the cell walls in the wood, shrinking the block to about 20 percent its original thickness and making it three times denser.

Researchers found that the densified wood could withstand being stretched or pulled 11.5 times harder than its natural counterpart without breaking. That makes it about as strong as steel, even though it’s more lightweight. Stainless steel pellets fired from an air gun and moving at 30 meters per second easily busted through a typical wooden plank, but got lodged in a stack of densified wood sheets with the same total thickness.

(13) ASIMOV LAUNCHED. From The Verge I Iearned — “The Falcon Heavy test flight included a copy of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels”.

SpaceX has just successfully launched its new Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time, and just before launch, the company revealed on its live stream that inside the rather unique cargo of a Tesla Roadster, the company had placed an “Arch” storage system containing Isaac Asimov’s Foundation book series.

An Arch is a “5D, laser optical quartz storage device” that is meant to be able to survive even in the harsh conditions of space, built by the Arch Mission Foundation. The foundation’s goal is to preserve libraries of human knowledge for interstellar travel (and to protect information in the event of calamity to Earth itself). It’s a goal that the group says was inspired by Asimov’s novels, which see mankind working to write an “Encyclopedia Galactica” to protect mankind against a coming dark age.

(14) IT’S OFFICIAL. Netflix has released Marvel’s Jessica Jones – Season 2 Official Trailer.

Jessica Jones is back as New York City’s tough-as-nails private investigator. Although this time, the case is even more personal than ever before. Fueled by a myriad of questions and lies, she will do whatever it takes to uncover the truth.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Todd Dashoff, Mark Hepworth, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Cath, Kevin Mangan, Will R., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 2/5/18 I Get No Pixels From Champagne

(1) CHRIS GARCIA LOOKING FOR MATERIAL. And not for just any old zine — Chris is bringing back The Drink Tank, the 2011 Best Fanzine Hugo winner that he had retired after 400 issues. Here are the themes of his next two issues —

I wanted to get a call out to folks that I need article/art/stuff! I’ve got two themes working, Heavy Metal Music (co-edited with Doug Berry) with a May 10th deadline, and the 1980s (co-edited with Alissa McKersie) with a July 1st deadline. garcia@computerhistory.org is where folks can send stuff!

(2) NEW CONGRESSIONAL SUPPORT FOR SPACE SCIENCE. The Planetary Society sent the news to members: “Announcing the Planetary Science Congressional Caucus”.

I’m excited to share with you a major step forward for the support of space exploration in the U.S. Congress: the official formation of the new Planetary Science Caucus.

A caucus is a formal interest group made up of members of Congress. Having a caucus allows legislators form new relationships and organize a core voting block of political support for an important issue, in this case, planetary science and space exploration.

According the caucus’ official charter, its goals are to:

  • “Find life in our lifetimes,” by advancing federal policies that support the search for life in our solar system and beyond.
  • Raise awareness of the benefits to the U.S. economy and industrial base resulting from federal investment in space science, technology, exploration, and STEM education.
  • Support private industry, academic institutions, and nonprofits that support space science and exploration.

… The co-chairs of the caucus are Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA).

The Planetary Science Caucus will also be open to members of the Senate with Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) already signed up as original members.

Additional members in the House of Representatives include: Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA), Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), Rep, Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL), Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).

Bill Nye responds to the news in this video —

(3) THE CORBOMITE MANURE. A.V. Club warns “This may be the final frontier of obsessive Star Trek cataloging”.

Over the decades, fans of the Star Trek franchise have come to represent the prototypical obsessive sci-fi nerd. This is due, in large part, to Trekkers’ penchant for going beyond just an intimate knowledge of the show’s lore and characters, and delving into fastidious cataloging of alien species, uniform designs, ship schematics, and Riker beards. But now, we may have finally reached the final frontier of Star Trek cataloging with this exhaustive collection of “video errors” that appeared throughout the show.

Organized by blogger and Trek fan Ashley Blewer, Signal Loss is an ongoing project that’s attempting to map every scene where an audiovisual signal loss is being conveyed to the audience. This can occur when the crew is attempting to contact a planet or ship that’s in trouble, when some sort of virus is infecting the ship’s interface, or when someone gets stuck half-way through teleporting. Basically, if a character is looking at a glitchy screen, it’s going to be on this list.

(4) THE BOOM TIMES. John Clark’s memoir of chemistry in the developmental age of liquid propulsion, Ignition!, is being brought back into print. Ars Technica has the story: “The funniest, most accessible book on rocket science is being reissued”.

The dry wit with which he recounts these history lessons will be the bigger shock, for this is a truly funny read. He snipes about the US’ failure to use the metric system, grumbles about then-new computers in a way that would still be familiar today, and numerous anecdotes have reduced me to tears. (The story about an Admiral who wanted Clark’s Naval Air Rocket Test Section to drop a rat—sex not specified—into a 10,000-gallon tank of 90 percent hydrogen peroxide is a good one, as is the one about the rocket scientist sitting next to Scott Crossfield on an airplane.) That humor helps the accessibility, and as long as you remember some high school chemistry you shouldn’t have a problem with the science, either.

Clark is also a minor sf writer, with stories in the 1930s pre-Campbell Astounding.

(5) PICACIO BEGINS CHOOSING. John Picacio has started announcing recipients of the Mexicanx Initiative Worldcon memberships.

(6) CUSTOMER FEEDBACK. Are standards slipping here? A tweet from Damien G, Walter —

(7) NOT EASY BEING GREEN. Can a slate handpicked by Jon Del Arroz and friends impact the 2018 Hugo ballot? We’ll find out: “Happy Frogs OFFICIAL Hugo Awards Slate” [Internet Archive page].

The Hugo Awards Nominations are open, and the Happy Frogs board of trustees have worked tirelessly to bring you a slate of the best science fiction of 2017. Below are the nominees for your ballot consideration, to support making science fiction a fun, inclusive place again, the best of the year by far…

Daddy Warpig for Best Fan Writer?

(8) DEATH WILL NOT RELEASE YOU. From National Geographic: “Exclusive: Dinosaur-Era Bird Found Trapped in Amber”.

The squashed remains of a small bird that lived 99 million years ago have been found encased in a cloudy slab of amber from Myanmar (Burma). While previous birds found in Burmese amber have been more visually spectacular, none of them have contained as much of the skeleton as this juvenile, which features the back of the skull, most of the spine, the hips, and parts of one wing and leg. (Help us celebrate 2018 as the Year of the Bird.)

The newfound bird is also special because researchers can more clearly see the insides of the young prehistoric creature, says study co-author Ryan McKellar of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina, Canada.

…The team was lucky to acquire the bird for the Dexu Institute of Paleontology in Chaozhou, China. Birds in amber can sometimes sell for up to $500,000, putting them beyond the reach of scientists, says Xing, a paleontologist at the China University of Geosciences in Beijing.

(9) MAHONEY OBIT. Best known as the dad in Frasier, John Mahoney (1940-2018): British actor, died February 4, aged 77. Genre appearances include 3rd Rock from the Sun (one episode, 1996), Antz (voice, 1998) and The Iron Giant (voice, 1999). He also provided the voice of Preston Whitmore in the video games Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) and Atlantis: Milo’s Return (2003).

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy says, “So that’s what ‘A.I.’ means…” — Monty.
  • Then he spotted “A cause for sleepless nights that some fans may recognize” in Pickles.

(11) MOORCOCK ON COMIC ADAPTATION. February 20, 2018, sees the next instalment of Titan’s Michael Moorcock Library series – The Chronicles of Corum Vol. 1 – The Knight Of Swords.

Hellboy creator and artist Mike Mignola, Batman artist Kelley Jones and Eisner award-winning writer Mike Baron bring Michael Moorcock’s timeless story of order versus chaos to vivid life in this brand-new hardcover collection.

To celebrate this exciting new edition to the Library series, Titan are releasing a special video interview with Michael Moorcock, where the acclaimed science fiction and fantasy author shares his thoughts on comic book adaptations of his best-selling novels.

 

(12) ELLISON STORE JOINS THE INTERNET. Tomorrow at noon Pacific time, Jason Davis launches HarlanEllisonBooks.com, taking the Ellisons’ long-time book business online.

Over the last few weeks, my tech-savvy associate Bo Nash has built the online store as a  self-contained entity housed at HarlanEllisonBooks.com/shop. I’ve stocked the virtual shelves with items from the catalog of the Harlan Ellison Recording Collection (HERC), treasures from the bowels of the Lost Aztec Temple of Mars, and even a few items from the early days of HarlanEllisonBooks.com. Tomorrow, the store will open for business. For the moment, I’m manning the imaginary counter until we work out all the inevitable bugs; we beg your forgiveness for any infelicities you experience in your initial visits. Once all the bugs are worked out and I’ve  streamlined the processes, I’ll hand off to Susan.

(13) NO MORE ELLISON AUTOGRAPHS. Davis also gave his mailing list a health update about the author.

AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT FROM HARLAN

Harlan is retiring from the autograph game. Due to the lingering effects of the stroke he suffered several years ago, Harlan will no longer be signing books. As HE explained, “Though I’m left-handed, my right side is paralyzed from the stroke. When I sign, the effort to steady my hand becomes very exhausting, very quickly.” Harlan is not ruling out the possibility that continued physical therapy won’t improve the situation, but with ongoing interest in signed books via HERC and recent announcements of extremely limited signed editions from Subterranean Press, Harlan felt it was time to publicly address the matter.

(N.B. Though Harlan won’t be signing any books for the foreseeable future, signed items will be in the shop’s inventory at its launch, which is why we’re doing our best to make sure everyone—HERC members, HarlanEllisonBooks.com customers, and Kickstarter backers—is aware of the store before it goes online and the signed items sell out. My apologies if this is the third time you’ve read about the store.)

(14) VIDEO GAME CAREERS. At SyFy Wire, Tricia Ennis reports how “#GirlsBehindTheGames aims to inspire diversity in the video game industry”.

If you’ve been on Twitter in the last few days—especially if you spend any time in the gaming side of the site—then you’ve no doubt seen a brand-new hashtag popping up in your timeline. #GirlsBehindTheGames is a brand-new initiative aimed at inspiring young women to pursue careers in video game development by highlighting those women already making their mark on the industry.

Since January 25, women from all over the world, and from every facet of game development, have been using the hashtag to share their own stories and their work with the world, putting a few faces to some of the work that’s gone into our favorite games.

(15) ENGINES OF CHANGE. Daniel Dern advises, “Lady Augusta Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace (along with Chuck Babbage) gets some screen time in PBS’ Victoria Season 2. As do her (and other?) of their analytical engines, done up in lovely shiny metal.”

Here in the USA, the second season of Victoria premieres tonight on PBS with a double episode. In “The Green-Eyed Monster”, the emerging science of mechanical computation gains the attention of the palace early in the young queen’s reign. But it is Lady Augusta Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace, who gets center stage, not Babbage, even to the presentation of the analytical engine. Even though she serves the drama as the female object of the queen’s unwarranted jealousy, hers is a strong, positive portrayal.

(16) GENDER STATS FROM MINNESOTA SURVEY. “Not just boy and girl; more teens identify as transgender” says Minnesota Public Radio News.

Far more U.S. teens than previously thought are transgender or identify themselves using other nontraditional gender terms, with many rejecting the idea that girl and boy are the only options, new research suggests.

The study looked at students in ninth and 11th grade and estimated that nearly 3 percent are transgender or gender nonconforming, meaning they don’t always self-identify as the sex they were assigned at birth. That includes kids who refer to themselves using neutral pronouns like “them” instead of “he” or “she.”

“Diverse gender identities are more prevalent than people would expect,” said lead author Nic Rider, a University of Minnesota postdoctoral fellow who studies transgender health.

The study is an analysis of a 2016 statewide survey of almost 81,000 Minnesota teens.

Nearly 2,200 identified as transgender or gender nonconforming. The study found that these kids reported worse mental and physical health than other kids, echoing results seen in previous research. Bullying and discrimination are among possible reasons for the differences, Rider said, although the survey didn’t ask.

(17) ANOTHER TECHNOLOGY ON THE BRINK. Cat Eldridge sends this link along with an observation: “Bullmoose, the Maine based music chain with a dozen or so stores sells more vinyl revenue wise than anything followed by DVDs (which mostly get ripped to digital) and CD sales are dead last.” – Billboard reports “Best Buy to Pull CDs, Target Threatens to Pay Labels for CDs Only When Customers Buy Them”.

Even though digital is on the upswing, physical is still performing relatively well on a global basis — if not in the U.S. market, where CD sales were down 18.5 percent last year. But things are about to get worse here, if some of the noise coming out of the big-box retailers comes to fruition.

Best Buy has just told music suppliers that it will pull CDs from its stores come July 1. At one point, Best Buy was the most powerful music merchandiser in the U.S., but nowadays it’s a shadow of its former self, with a reduced and shoddy offering of CDs. Sources suggest that the company’s CD business is nowadays only generating about $40 million annually. While it says it’s planning to pull out CDs, Best Buy will continue to carry vinyl for the next two years, keeping a commitment it made to vendors. The vinyl will now be merchandised with the turntables, sources suggest.

Meanwhile, sources say that Target has demanded to music suppliers that it wants to be sold on what amounts to a consignment basis….

(18) GOING TO LAW. John Scalzi chimed in on Metafilter’s discussion of the false claims by Antonelli, Torgersen and Freer that Camestros Felapton is a pseudonym used by Foz Meadows’ husband. He commented about the prospects for a defamation lawsuit

Slightly baffled that Lou Antonelli et al aren’t drowning under what would appear to be a slam dunk of a defamation lawsuit right now.

It’s not a slam dunk, at least in the US, because among other things, one would have to show quantifiable damages — usually economic damage to one’s livelihood. It would be difficult to prove in this case, with regard to Foz Meadows, at least, because in the field of science fiction and fantasy literature, no one considers proclamations from puppy quarters to have much truth value. They have a years-long history of spinning up bullshit, bigotry and flat-out lies. When Freer, et al spun up this one, the general response was various flavors of “Christ, these assholes,” plus concern/outrage for the hate and bigotry Meadows and their husband had to deal with. It’s laudable that Mr. Antonelli has finally admitted he was wrong and offered an apology for it, but it should be clear that nearly everyone knew he was wrong long before he admitted it.

(Ironically, if Meadows and their family wished to pursue defamation, the person they would most likely have the best case against is Freer, who if memory serves lives in Australia, as they do, where the libel laws are slightly less stringent than here in the US. Freer’s best defense in that case would be “triviality,” ie, that he’s not important enough, nor his audience large enough, to have done Meadows and her family harm.)….

And more follows…

[Thanks to JJ, Steve Green, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Bill, Kathryn Sullivan, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, rcade, Will R., Jason Davis, Daniel Dern, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Another Rejection Letter Story, More Or Less
or
How Barry Malzberg Got His F&SF Special Issue

By Daniel Dern: First, a disclaimer: This isn’t quite the anecdotal story I intended to write… because it wasn’t until after finishing what would otherwise have been a clean draft that got the relevant folder from its file cabinet drawer, and discovered that my memory of one key bit was inaccurate. (To further add to the mystery, Bobbi corroborates the version I remember.) Anyhoo, what follows reflects the adjusted-for-what-seems-to-be-the-actual-fact(s).

Accumulating rejection slips is part of becoming/being a writer. I have my fair share — I’d have more if I was more on top of sending ’em out again quickly — some boilerplate, some personal.

That said, when I submitted “For Malzberg It Was They Came” to F&SF, I was ready to add another F&SF rejection to my files.

I’d written the story based on the classic/cliched advice-for-writers, “Write what you know”

o  I grew up in New Jersey (Englewood, to be specific). Before I reached driving age, including bicycling modest distances (1-3 miles) on my three-speed to libraries in my and several nearby towns to plunder their sf holdings. (And a few visits to Fred Lerner, who I must have met through fannish activity, back when he still lived in Bergan County.) Check.

o  While visiting my parents, post-college (before they moved elsewhere) (or possibly this was a decade or so later, and I was passing through staying with friends), I discovered that Barry Malzberg, one of my favorite sf authors, lived one town away. (I believe I discovered that while looking around in a new-to-me bookstore in my old home town, and chatting with a woman who turned out to be his wife.) I ended up being invited to visit Barry at his house, which I did, a few times over the following years, and also got to briefly chat with him at several ReaderCons. Check.

So, in early 2002, it wasn’t a huge leap from “I know about New Jersey, down to the street and store level in some places” and “I can describe some of Maison Malzberg” and “hey, I’m trying to write science fiction here” to “how about aliens come looking for Barry Malzberg?”

Which led to a (very) short story, “For Malzberg It Was They Came.”

My sf sales already included Analog (two, to Ben Bova), but I was still trying to crack F&SF and Asimov’s, so off it went to F&SF, in mid-May 2002.

I was prepared to add another rejection slip to my files… but when it came, I was more than slightly surprised by the reason that Gordon Van Gelder (the editor back then) had included:

Many thanks for submitting “For Malzberg It Was They Came,” but I’m going to pass on this one. Curiously enough, this story is the third Barry Malzberg pastiche I’ve seen in the last two years, [but…], I’m afraid that the story didn’t quite win me over, alas.

Interestingly, oddly, curiously, etc-ly, for years now, I’d been telling people that the F&SF rejection slip instead said:

I’m sorry, but I just bought a story about Barry Malzberg.

which would indeed have put it in the running for Most Unexpected and Frustrating Story Rejection Letter Ever. The actual letter is more like, “Sigh.”

Ah, well. I can’t go back and redo my previous tellings.

Happily, this doesn’t change the remainder of the tale.

Undaunted, I immediately shipped it off to Asimov’s, attention Gardner Dozois.

A month after F&SF’s rejection letter, Gordon Van Gelder wrote me a followup:

If you haven’t already sold “For Malzberg It Was They Came,” could I get another look at it? I’m not promising anything, but I might be able to use it in F&SF after all.

I replied that that would be fine with me — except that I’d already sent it to Asimov’s… and wasn’t sure how to go about “unsubmitting”… perhaps Gordon could sort this out directly with Gardner (who was still editor at that point)?

And that’s what happened. Here’s part of an email message from Gordon:

So I spoke with Gardner Dozois last week about your story “For Malzberg It Was They Came” and he said that if I wanted it for F&SF, Gardner would consider it withdrawn without prejudice from ASIMOV’S.

This led to Gordon shooting for a special Malzberg issue of F&SF. (F&SF had done many similar special issues over the decades, for notables including Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury, Fritz Leiber, Stephen King, Kate Wilhelm, and, most recently, David Gerrold (list courtesy a mix of my memory and Wikipedia).)

Gordon let Barry Malzberg know, and commissioned an essay from him, “Tripping With The Alchemist” (about Barry’s time at the Scott Meredith Agency). It all came together in the May 2003 F&SF which also included:

  • John Kessel’s story that included Barry Malzberg, “Of New Arrivals, Many Johns, and the Music of the Spheres” (I’m guessing this was the second of the stories about/involving Barry Malzberg that Gordon had originally been referring to.)

and two reprints:

  • Barry N. Malzberg. “A Short Religious Novel,” from F&SF, September 1972
  • Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malzberg. “A Clone At Last,” from F&SF, 1978.

Barry was, to say the least, very pleased by all this.

And so was I, by finally appearing in F&SF.

And, after the fact, having this reasonably unusual anecdote (which, admittedly, isn’t quite the story I’d been remembering, ah well).

One closing note, re my story, hopefully not a spoiler: While the aliens do coming looking for Malzberg, despite what some reviewers have said, at no point does the man who answers the door, nor the story’s author (yours truly), claim/acknowledge that’s who he is.

That said, if somebody is planning to do an anthology of “Science Fiction Stories About, Or At Least Including, Science Fiction Authors,” or even, “Great Science Fiction About Or Including Barry Malzberg,” I’m more than happy to have my story there.

Read Every Mountain: Books For Your Mount To-Be-Read

Installation by Alicia Martin

By Daniel Dern: It seems a shame to have the topic of “what’re we reading, what do we recommend” as a late-comer thread (some starting some 400 comments in, give or take) to an existing page (# 39769), which is mostly about con stuff, I suggest we dive into the topic in its own scroll, sic:

Allow me to kick this recommendapalooza-fest with a few that I’ve read (and enjoyed) over the past several months. Note, some aren’t sf or f, some aren’t even fiction — but IMHO they’re the kind of books that Filers and other sf/f fans might (also) enjoy:

PERSEPOLIS RISING, James A. Corey. The seventh novel in THE EXPANSE series. This one starts about three decades after the previous book — soon enough that the protagonists we’ve come to love (James F***ing Holden, Bobbi Draper, Amos, etc.) are still alive and causing trouble trying to solve problems… but long enough that they’re not spring or even summer chickens. I enjoyed this one; as Nero Wolfe says (sparingly), “Satisfactory.”

CODE NAME VERITY. I saw something about this in one of my magazines, which led me to getting it from the library. The prose is incredible compelling, particularly the descriptions of airplane maintenance, aerial views of terrain… and, well, everything else.

I’ll let Wikipedia do the heavy info-lifting: (Hmm, there’s two related books, I’ve just gone and library-reserve-requested ’em.)

Code Name Verity is a young adult historical novel by Elizabeth Wein that was published in 2012.[1] It focuses on the friendship between two young British women, one English and one Scottish, in World War II – a spy captured by the Nazis in German-occupied France and the pilot who brought her there. It was named a Michael L. Printz Honor Book in 2013, and shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal.

A loose sequel, Rose Under Fire, was published in 2013. A prequel novel, The Pearl Thief, was published in May 2017; it is a mystery involving Code Name Verity’s protagonist Julie one year before the war starts.

THE EMERALD CIRCUS, Jane Yolen. A collection of stories. I’m about halfway through, it feels wrong to read these hastily.

Steven Brust’s VLAD TALTOS series. Somehow I never tried these before. I picked one up at our town recycling’s take some/leave some book cabin — always great to find an author new to me with 10 or more books I haven’t read yet.

I started enjoying it enough that I set it aside, so I could read them in order. (Brust says that it doesn’t matter what order you read them in, and, five in, I can see that; that said, one method is “order written in” (which I’m doing), or “chrono order”). Medium-rigorous fantasy with interesting politics. Clearly owes a lot to Zelazny’s Amber and other works for attitude, narrative tone also reminds me of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe in spots.

THE RIVER OF CONSCIOUSNESS, Oliver Sacks. Essays, by the neurologist who brought us “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” and other fascinating stuff. The first essay alone, on Darwin’s writings about plants and evolution, could fuel a bookshelf of sf and f stories.

OK, fellow Filers, the bouncing ball is in your court!

Pixel Scroll 1/5/18 A Scroll By Any Other Name Would Pixelate Just As Adequately

(1) SETTING A VISION. Author Fonda Lee explains her approach to storytelling in a thread that begins here —

(2) LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HIGHLIGHTS WOMEN ILLUSTRATORS. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna, in “Undersung women illustrators get their due at Library of Congress exhibition”, reports on a Library of Congress exhibition featuring such significant women cartoonists as Dale Messick, Lynn Johnston, and Lynda Barry.

It is possible, in this era of increasing recognition of women artists, to gaze at the recent prize-laced success of Alison Bechdel and Roz Chast and Raina Telgemeier and Lynda Barry, to name just a few, and consider that the field of illustration is becoming more level along gender lines. But then you consider that only two women have ever won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, or that The Washington Post runs only two comic strips created by women — and none by a woman of color — and you remember how much further the cause of women artists getting fair representation has yet to travel.

That is a central thread running through “Drawn to Purpose: American Women Illustrators and Cartoonists,” the rotating exhibit of nearly 70 works now up at the Library of Congress’s Swann Gallery from its Prints and Photographs Division.

“This show has been years in the making,” says its curator, Martha H. Kennedy, noting that her vision for “Drawn to Purpose” long preceded 2017’s shifting zeitgeist amid the #Resist and #MeToo movements.

Here’s a link to the Library of Congress webpage about the exhibit.

Features the rich collections of the Library of Congress and brings to light remarkable but little-known contributions made by North American women to the art forms of illustration and cartooning. Spanning the late 1800s to the present, the exhibition highlights the gradual broadening in both the private and public spheres of women’s roles and interests, and demonstrates that women once constrained by social conditions and convention, have gained immense new opportunities for self-expression and discovery.

The exhibit, which opened in November, continues through October 20.

(3) PAPERBACK SHOW. Here’s an updated poster for the 2018 Vintage Paperback Show with the names of participating writers and artists.

(4) BY THE NUMBERS. Here’s an ambitious project – Ross Johnson gives us “Every Episode of Black Mirror, Ranked” at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

  1. “Shut Up and Dance”

Hackers take over a teen’s computer and threaten to expose his solo sexual activities to the world if he doesn’t commit a series of increasingly intense tasks. Commentary on the “for the LULZ” troll culture aside, its an episode that falls victim to the show’s worst impulses: much as in season two’s “White Bear,” the big twist undermines the whole thing, attempting to convince us maybe the kid had it coming all along—after we’ve been lead to care about him. The performances are spot on, and the story’s engaging enough for a time, but the vague moral (“people who are bad deserve absurdly elaborate punishments, or do they?”) is just lazy. This is Black Mirror at its most mean-spirited. (Season 3, Episode 3)

(5) TV SF. Here is “io9’s Ultimate Guide to 2018’s Scifi, Fantasy, and Superhero TV”. For example —

Counterpart

Series premiere: January 21 at 8:00 pm, Starz

The always-great J.K. Simmons stars in this scifi thriller about a pencil-pusher who realizes the government agency he’s working for has long been concealing the existence of a parallel dimension. Things get really odd when his double (a badass secret agent) pops up in his world and enlists him to help catch a killer who’s also slipped in from the other side.

Daniel Dern sent the link with these notes —

  • I’d given up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D ~2 seasons back, but the current one has been worth watching IMHO
  • Legion’s (the Marvel mutant, not DC’s L of Super Heroes (1)) first season was incredible. Halfway through that season, I thought they were going to go yukky-horror, but happily that’s not where they went. Yes, it’s a Marvel mutant, but no, this isn’t a mutant or superhero show per se, more like Number Six’s Last Year In Marienbad.

(6) ANTIQUE COOLTH. Gotta love this. (If you’re a geezer.) “I was there when it was cool”.

(7) NO SPECTRUM FANTASTIC ART LIVE IN 2018. John Fleskes, Cathy Fenner, Arnie Fenner announced on Facebook that they will not be holding a convention in 2018, however, there will be a Spectrum Awards ceremony.

We have (understandably) been receiving a number of messages and emails inquiring about the 2018 dates for Spectrum Fantastic Art Live. While we have worked diligently since the close of the 2017 show last April to come up with something workable this year, we, unfortunately, were unsuccessful. Kansas City is an increasingly difficult venue to find acceptable show dates; we’ve felt lucky to have been able to squeeze in when we could in the past (realizing, of course, that any dates we used put SFAL in conflict with other conventions artists like to attend). With a new downtown convention hotel in the works and a new airport approved by voters, dates in Kansas City will continue to get harder to come by in the future rather than easier as more—and bigger—shows move into the area. The dates, spaces, and hotel prices that were available to us this year simply didn’t work for the vision we have for SFAL.

Reluctantly we’re announcing that there is no Spectrum Fantastic Art Live convention planned for 2018.

However, there IS a Spectrum 25 Awards ceremony in the planning stages for May 2018: we are working with Baby Tattoo’s esteemed showman Bob Self on something pretty wonderful. We’ll be making an announcement once details are finalized in the coming weeks.

But what about another SFAL? Well, we’re working on that, too.

This hiatus is allowing us to rethink the model for an artist convention/fair. While we’re extremely grateful to the 2000+ supporters who turned out for SFAL in Kansas City, we recognize that we were falling short of the event’s potential. Being unable to break through that attendance ceiling has prevented us from achieving the goals we have for the show and community….

Certainly, the social and networking opportunities of any convention or gathering are extremely important—but so are the finances for all. SFAL was never set up as a profit-generator for us, but it has to pay for itself and to provide a reasonable return for exhibitors. Spending time together is always an emotional plus, naturally, but artists paying for their own “party” while an organizer pockets their cash isn’t—and will never be—our purpose. Growing the market and giving the Fantastic Art community the public recognition it deserves are what SFAL, like the Spectrum annual, have always been about.

(8) UP ALL NIGHT. From The Guardian, “Buy a cat, stay up late, don’t drink: top 10 writers’ tips on writing”.

…stay up late as HP Lovecraft did: “At night, when the objective world has slunk back into its cavern and left dreamers to their own, there come inspirations and capabilities impossible at any less magical and quiet hour. No one knows whether or not he is a writer unless he has tried writing at night.”

(9) STEUER OBIT. Jon Paul Steuer (March 27, 1984 – January 1, 2018), known as the first actor to play Worf’s son Alexander Rozhenko in Star Trek: The Next Generation, is dead at 33.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 5, 1950The Flying Saucer opened theatrically.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 5, 1914 Superman actor George Reeves.

(12) BLACK PANTHER. Capitalizing on the new film, Marvel will release Black Panther – Star Here, a FREE sampler, on January 31.

Featuring excerpts from Marvel’s current Black Panther ongoing series, as well as World of Wakanda, Black Panther and the Crew, and portions from Reginald Hudlin and John Romita Jr.’s Black Panther run, BLACK PANTHER – START HERE serves to introduce brand new readers to the character’s expansive 50-year Marvel history, while long-time fans will be able to relive some of T’Challa’s most epic adventures.

(13) ADVANCE NOTICE. The New York Historical Society will host “Harry Potter: A History of Magic” from October 5, 2018 through January 27, 2019:

Journey to where magic and myth began! Join us in October 2018 for “Harry Potter: A History of Magic”, a British Library exhibition. New-York Historical Members can reserve tickets starting February 14 at 12 pm. Tickets go on sale to the general public in April.

Capturing the traditions of folklore and magic at the heart of the Harry Potter stories, Harry Potter: A History of Magic unveils rare books, manuscripts, and magical objects from the collections of the British Library, New-York Historical Society, U.S. Harry Potter-publisher Scholastic, and other special collections. Visitors can explore the subjects studied at Hogwarts and see original drafts and drawings by J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter illustrators Mary GrandPré and Jim Kay. Harry Potter: A History of Magic is currently on view at the British Library in London through February 28, 2018.

September 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S. publication of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, following the 20th anniversary celebrations of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the U.K. in 2017.

(14) RELIC OF MIDDLE-EARTH. The New York Times, in “The Hero Is a Hobbit”, has unearthed W.H. Auden’s review of The Fellowship of the Ring from 1954.

Seventeen years ago there appeared, without any fanfare, a book called “The Hobbit” which, in my opinion, is one of the best children’s stories of this century. In “The Fellowship of the Ring,” which is the first volume of a trilogy, J. R. R. Tolkien continues the imaginative history of the imaginary world to which he introduced us in his earlier book but in a manner suited to adults, to those, that is, between the ages of 12 and 70. For anyone who likes the genre to which it belongs, the Heroic Quest, I cannot imagine a more wonderful Christmas present. All Quests are concerned with some numinous Object, the Waters of Life, the Grail, buried treasure etc.; normally this is a good Object which it is the Hero’s task to find or to rescue from the Enemy, but the Ring of Mr. Tolkien’s story was made by the Enemy and is so dangerous that even the good cannot use it without being corrupted….

(15) TIME PASSAGES. In the past Jim Butcher has rarely spoken out about fan controversies (no matter how hard people tried to get him involved), but after reading Larry Correia’s fresh condemnation of the Worldcon banning Jon Del Arroz he made these comments:

Don’t agree with Larry about everything, but when it comes to WorldCon and the Hugos, I think he’s got a point or two which are, based upon my experiences with WorldCon, difficult to refute.

The choices made by various folks involved with WorldCon have, over time, convinced me that there’s quite a few more less-than-nice people there than at other conventions. As I get older, my remaining time gets increasingly valuable. If I went to WorldCon, that’s a weekend I could have spent with some of the many wonderful people in my life, or with excellent and nerdy readers who don’t much care about politics and just want to do fun nerd things. Or I could have spent that time writing.

There’s probably a lot of perfectly wonderful people helping with WorldCon, and there’s certainly a lot of nice people attending. But it’s sort of hard to see them through the crowd of ugly-spirited jerks, and the nice people of WorldCon? They are completely inaudible over the noise the jerks are making.

So for the kind people at WorldCon, I hope you catch me at another con or signing sometime, and thank you so much to those of you who buy my work.

To the jerks, may you meet no one who displeases you, and I hope that your con goes exactly the way you want it to go.

(16) WHEN WAS THE FUTURE INVENTED? Can’t find a record of linking to this when it came out – Adam Roberts’ essay “Till Tomorrow” in The New Atlantis.

So this future, the one Gleick is talking about, is a quite recent technological invention. There is a peculiar irony here: Gleick, who scolds Shakespeare for being stuck in the present, is so attached to our present ideas that when he encounters past views of the future he denies that they count as “the future” at all. If the difference were not framed so absolutely, Gleick would surely be on to something — nobody could gainsay the observation that, at the very least, stories about the future are very common today whereas a few centuries ago they were not. In the hands of a less breathless writer, this might have led to a more fruitful discussion about how our “temporal sentience,” as he puts it, differs from our ancestors’.

But the larger claim is dotty. Can you really imagine any population of human beings living their lives wholly incurious about what next week, or next year, might bring, or thinking that it won’t be different? Think through the practicalities: How could anybody have planned anything, stored grain for the winter, calculated the interest on loans, or mustered armies, if the future truly were indistinguishable from the present?

And this brings us to hunter-gatherers and farmers. It is certainly possible to imagine our hunter-gatherer ancestors living in some bestial, continuous present of consciousness, their experience of time pricked out with moments of intensity — the chase, the kill, the satisfaction of a full stomach — but indifferent to the distant future.

But it is quite impossible to imagine farmers prospering in such a frame of mind. Once we humans began to depend on planted crops and domesticated animals, our new mode of life absolutely required us to think ahead: to anticipate setbacks and think through solutions, to plan, to map out the future world — indeed, many potential future worlds.

Time travel as mental exercise must have begun at least that early. And that makes this focus on recent modernity look a little parochial. We are not so special. Indeed, thinking in this way of the future’s origins might make us rethink some of the metaphors we use to articulate our sense of time. Gleick is good on the limitations of these figures of speech — for example, time, as he shows, is not really “like a river.” Farmers, the original time travelers, are likewise prone to think of rivers not first as modes of transport but means of irrigation. Might time be the same for us — not a vehicle for taking us somewhere, as a horse is to a hunter, but a resource to make fertile what we have and hold dear?

(17) MORE ON SWATTING. According to Vice, “Fatal swatting results in felony charges for gamer but not cop who pulled trigger”.

Barriss has been charged in Kansas, though he’s being held without bail in Los Angeles. He’ll likely be out in Kansas to face trial by early February, according to the Wichita Eagle, and could wind up spending up to 34 months in prison.

The police officer who allegedly pulled the trigger has not been charged, though Finch’s mother is calling for charges against the officer.

“Justice for the Finch family constitutes criminal charges against the shooting officer and any other liable officers as well as damages against the city of Wichita for the policies and practices of its Police Department,” attorney Andrew Stroth, who is representing the family, told the Associated Press in a phone interview.

The Wichita police department claims that Finch was shot after he came to the door and moved his hand toward his waistline. Police Chief Gordon Ramsay called the incident a “terrible tragedy,” according to TIME.

(18) SOUND FAMILIAR? Curvature with Lyndsy Fonseca and Linda Hamilton, is a time travel drama about an engineer who travels back in time to stop herself from committing a murder.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, K.M. Alexander, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and Woody Bernardi for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Review: Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage

By Daniel P. Dern: La Belle Sauvage (note, ‘sauvage’ appears to translate to ‘wild’ or ‘unspoiled’ rather than ‘savage’) is the first of a new trilogy from Pullman, set in the same universe (figuratively and literally, arguably) as his His Dark Materials trilogy — The Golden Compass (a.k.a. Northern Lights),
The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass.

La Belle Sauvage is a prequel, set about twelve years before the start of Compass, when Lyra Belacqua is a six-month-old baby. The next two books will, according to Pullman, take place almost a decade after the end of his first triology. (So, “prequel, sequel, sequel.”)

I found LBS readable and engaging enough… but unsatisfying in that it didn’t, to me, add to the original trilogy, it’s easy to feel it’s fleshed-out “off-stage” text establishing the world, characters and key plot elements for Materials.

Author Philip Pullman launches La Belle Sauvage, 22 years after his best-selling Northern Lights, at Bodleian Libraries. Image is copyright Anthony Upton 2017©.

Prequels are a challenging proposition, whether done by the original author or by others, as anyone who’s read through the various prequels for Dune, Zelazny’s Amber, Asimov’s Robots’n’Foundations, etc. knows. Some do add to our total sense of enjoyment, some don’t.

Yes, there’s some new/additional information (or theorizing, by the characters) about the nature of “Dust” (“Rusakov particles”)… but I don’t feel that the pre-Materials events involving familiar and new characters added to my previous enjoyment (or concerns) of Pullman’s Materials trilogy. Hopefully it will pay off in Books 2 and 3, and perhaps they will justify LBS as needed to establish these new characters and the formative events they went through.

Anyhoo, that’s my non-spoiler philosophic reader’s opinion. I don’t resent the time reading this book, but having done so, I feel that I would have not been the worse or less for not reading it. I do look forward to reading Books 2 and 3, and conceded that I may feel differently about Book 1 after that; perhaps it’s best put on the “wait until the series is done” pile.

Meanwhile, here’s a few quick non-spoiler details, notes and thoughts.

The main protagonist of La Belle Sauvage is an 11-year-old boy named Malcolm. (La Belle Sauvage is the name of his canoe.)

Through circumstance (when not in school or doing other things, Malcom works in his parents’ pub), Malcolm becomes involved and embroiled with/in, unsurprisingly, Dust, Lord Asrael, Mrs. Coulder, (baby) Lyra, witches, etc. (But no Bears.)

Although La Belle Sauvage is a prequel, if you haven’t read the Materials trilogy, you should read those books first, in my opinion, so you have a better understanding of the world that Pullman has created.

One thought — I’m not sure if it qualifies as a criticism, or is simply a question — is baby Lyra as the anti-MacGuffin. Since Lyra is the lead protagonist in Materials, it’s a given that, barring some comicbook-or-Game-Of-Thrones-level “dead — no, alive again” plot contortions, it’s a good bet that Baby MacG will survive basically unscathed. This, IMHO, seriously turns down the dramatic tension, and also makes LBS feel less like it has a “plot” than “a sequence of related events.” And similarly, while the book is introducing us to a cast of new characters, and expanding the backstory for those we already know from Materials, it doesn’t feel like the plot, or peoples’ actions, are integral… Pullman could just as easily written ten or twenty character study summaries.

But, like I posit above, LBS may legitimately be a necessary set-up to Books 2 and 3. Only time will tell.