Nila Thompson Passes Away

Nila Thompson (1954-2016), St. Louis club and con fan, Anglophile, who came in to fandom via Star Trek and met her husband David K. M. Klaus at a Trek club meeting.  Partially fafiated to raise to adulthood two of the Next Generation of fen, but never lost her love for sf/fantasy, written or screened, esp. any with a British theme.  Died on December 10 of ovarian cancer, body buried in a deliberately natural fashion so that it can nourish the future.  She was 62.

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 4/19/16 You’ve Lost That Scrollin’ Feelin’

(1) OPENING DAY. The PKDFest is three days long — I posted about the Friday and Saturday sessions at Cal State Fullerton. The party starts Thursday, April 28 on another campus — at UC Irvine.

PKD IN OC CROP

Philip K. Dick in the OC: Virtually Real, Really Virtual

Thursday, April 28, 2016, 10:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (Humanities Gateway 1030)

Philip K. Dick spent the last decade of his life from 1972 to 1982 in Orange County, having fled the Bay Area convinced he was the target of various malevolent forces, ranging from governmental agencies to religious groups. In Orange County, PKD experienced the anonymity of everyday life in suburbia. He also experienced a divine vision that, as he explained in later writings, permitted him to glimpse the “trans-temporal constancy” of the universe. During his decade in Orange County, he produced some of his most enduring and enigmatic works, including novels like A Scanner Darkly and VALIS that reflect a pervasive sense of paranoia and also PKD’s attempts to make sense of his life-altering spiritual experience.

Schedule:

Opening Remarks & Welcome – 10:30am

  • Jonathan Alexander

10:45am-12:00pm

  • Interviewing Phil, Charles Platt
  • PKD in Perspective, Gregg Rickman
  • PKD on the Couch, Barry Spatz

Lunch Break – 12:00pm-1:00pm

Living with Phil – 1:00pm-2:00pm

  • Tessa Dick, Grania Davis, Gregory Benford (moderator)

Visualizing Phil (in the High Castle and Otherwise) – 2:00pm-3:00pm

  • Sherryl Vint, Jonathan Alexander, Antoinette LaFarge

Coffee break – 3:00pm-3:15pm

PKD and Privacy – 3:15pm-4:30pm

  • David Brin, Gregory Benford

Closing Reception – 4:30pm

Please RSVP to icruse@uci.edu to confirm your attendance.

(2) B.C. Things Kelly Link did before being announced as a Pulitzer finalist yesterday now appear in a strange new light….

(3) VENDORS IN SPACE. Russ Ault told Facebook readers merchants are getting a bum deal at Worldcons.

Some of us out here in the world of convention merchants have, for some time now, been getting increasingly disenchanted with the opportunity presented by the typical Worldcon. (For those unfamiliar, that’s the annual “World Science Fiction Convention”, held in a different place each year, and nominally staffed and run by a different group each year as well.) In a space that is typically similar to that occupied by a Wizard World event, at a cost of more than twice as much per attendee, they end up hosting a crowd that is just 10% to 25% of the size of the typical media or comic con – but the rates they want for vendor space (when you include the price of the separate membership) end up being commensurate with the worst of the WW shows in terms of per-live-body-square-foot results. An eight-foot table and one membership will cost you over $400, with the prospect of having a crowd of as few as 3500 to 4000 people. (Compare that to a 10×10 booth for $1500 with a delivered head count that’s typically in the area of 20,000 – which is not really a very good deal either.)

And they wonder why we bristle when they say things like “The Worldcon doesn’t owe the dealers anything.”

(4) ARTIFICIAL CHARM. Hugh Hancock foresees the “Rise of the Trollbot” in a guest post on Charles Stross’ blog.

… In “Accelerando”, Charlie posited the idea of a swarm of legal robots, creating a neverending stream of companies which exchange ownership so fast they can’t be tracked.

It’s rather clear to me that the same thing is about to happen to social media. And possibly politics.

What makes me so sure?

Microsoft’s Tay Chatbot. Oh, and the state of the art in Customer Relationship Management software….

2: On The Internet, No-one Knows Their Friend Is A Dog.

In many ways, the straightforward trollswarm approach is the least threatening use of this technology. A much more insidious one is to turn the concept on its head – at least initially – and optimise the bots for friendliness.

Let’s say you wish to drive a particular group of fly-fishers out of the fishing community online for good.

Rather than simply firing up a GPU instance and directing it to come up with the world’s best fly-fishing insults, fire it up and direct it to befriend everyone in the fly-fishing community. This is eminently automatable: there are already plenty of tools out there which allow you to build up your Twitter following in a semi-automated manner (even after Twitter clamped down on “auto-following”), and Tay was already equipped to post memes. A decent corpus, a win condition of follows, positive-sentiment messages and RTs, and a bot could become a well-respected member of a social media community in months.

THEN turn the bot against your enemies. Other humans will see the fight too. If your bot’s doing a half-decent job – and remember, it’s already set up to optimise for RTs – real humans, who have actual power and influence in the community, will join in. They may ban the people under attack from community forums, give them abuse offline, or even threaten their jobs or worse.

For even more power and efficiency, don’t do this with one bot. One person starting a fight is ignorable. Twenty, fifty or a hundred respected posters all doing it at once – that’s how things like Gamergate start.

(And of course, the choice of persona for the bots, and how they express their grievances, will be important. Unfortunately we already have a large corpus of information on how to craft a credible narrative and cause people to feel sympathy for our protagonist – storytelling. If the bot-controller has a decent working knowledge of “Save The Cat” or “Story”, that’ll make the botswarm all the more effective…)

(5) A NUMERICAL LACK. From the Dictionary of Fantastic Vocabulary, ”a compendium of imaginary words and their uses,”comes —

Anquintan, n.

a person without five

That’s what happens when someone uses double share!

(6) DO AS I SAY. Dr. Mauser says “Don’t Pirate Indies”. (But dude, your blog is named Shoplifting in the Marketplace of Ideas!)

…. Now, I understand a bit of what’s going on, there’s an awful lot of piracy going on out there, and yeah, in strictest terms, virtually every picture you’ve got on your phone or hard drive that you didn’t take yourself is some kind of copyright violation. I’m not going to go down that puritan road. But let me go through the usual excuses and explain why they don’t apply to indy books….

But I’m broke! – No, you’re not, you just can’t prioritize, or childishly can’t manage your budget. We’re talking an e-book in the $2.99 to $5.99 range. Hell, Comic books are about that much apiece these days. You just bought the latest video game for enough to buy TEN eBooks. You could stock a library for what you spent on that Con. Give up ONE Latte? (Furries are particularly notorious for pleading poverty when their favorite artists put out a $10 portfolio, then drop $50 for a single commission of their personal character in some sexual position – go fig.)

Hey, I’m doing you a favor, it’s free publicity! – Bullshit. In my friend’s case, it’s costing him plenty – hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Free publicity is writing reviews, having discussions, all that stuff they call “Word of Mouth”, and actually BUYING the book so that its Amazon Rankings go up. If you actually Love the author’s work, why are you destroying it?

(7) CAT’S PICTURES. Cat Rambo tells “How I Use Instagram”.

Still working frantically on the update for the Creating an Online Presence for Writers book, plus prepping for this weekend’s online class. One big change since the last version is Instagram‘s rocket upward in popularity. Here in 2016, it is the number two social media network in number of users, second only after Facebook.

It lets you post pictures, often with some sort of caption, and see what other people are posting. Unlike Facebook, it doesn’t play fast and loose with what you see, but gives you a stream composed of everyone you’re following.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 19, 1987 — The Simpsons first aired on The Tracey Ullman Show.

(9) MORTALITY. Rachel Swirsky has revised her essay “On Writing and Mortality”. “It was originally published in 2011. I had recently had a death scare.”

A year or two ago, an article made the rounds which had asked a number of famous authors for ten pieces of writing advice. Some of the advice was irritating, some banal, some profound, and some amusing.

One piece of advice that got picked up and repeated was the idea that if you were working on a project, and found out that you had six weeks to live, if you were willing to set the project down then it was the wrong project for you to be writing.

I dislike that advice. It seems to come from the same place that makes writers say things like “a real writer has to write” or “any writers who can be discouraged should be.” (A convenient excuse for acting like a jerk.)

(10) GOOGLE BOOK SCANNING UPHELD. “Supreme Court rejects challenge to Google book-scanning project”. As David Klaus puts it, “The court says ‘to Hell with your ownership of the books you write.’”

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a challenge by a group of authors who contend that Google’s massive effort to scan millions of books for an online library violates copyright law.

The Authors Guild and several individual writers have argued that the project, known as Google Books, illegally deprives them of revenue. The high court left in place an October 2015 ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York in favor of Google.

A unanimous three-judge appeals court panel said the case “tests the boundaries of fair use,” but found Google’s practices were ultimately allowed under the law.

The individual plaintiffs who filed the proposed class action against Google included former New York Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton, who wrote the acclaimed memoir “Ball Four.”

Several prominent writers, including novelist and poet Margaret Atwood and lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim, signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief backing the Authors Guild.

The authors sued Google, whose parent company is Alphabet Inc, in 2005, a year after the project was launched. A lower court dismissed the litigation in 2013, prompting the authors’ appeal.

(11) WICKED AUTOGRAPH. Abe Books has a special Something available for Bradbury fans.

SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. (SIGNED)

BRADBURY, Ray, [ Christopher Lee ].

Published by Simon & Schuster, New York, 1962 Second Edition. Hardback. Dust Jacket. (1962)

Used Hardcover Signed

…Signed presentation from the author on the front endpaper to Christopher Lee, ‘For Christopher Lee, who is Mr. Dark! With the admiration of his fan – Ray Bradbury, Mar. 21st 1964’. Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee, CBE,(1922–2015) was an English actor, singer, author, and World War II veteran. He was notably in ‘The Wicker Man’ and ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ but is best known for his role as Count Dracula in a sequence of Hammer Horror films and later as Saruman in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ film trilogy.

(12) SPOCK AT TRIBECA. Yahoo! Movies’ Seth Kelley has the story: “’For the Love of Spock’ Q&A Remembers Leonard Nimoy, Talks Future of ‘Star Trek’ Franchise”.

Adam Nimoy remembered his late father, Leonard, during a Q&A that followed a screening of his documentary “For The Love of Spock.” The discussion took place on Monday as part of the Tribeca Film Festival where the film first screened two days earlier.

Variety‘s Gordon Cox moderated the conversation, which also included Zachary Quinto, EP David Zappone and film critic and self-proclaimed Trekker Scott Mantz.

Adam Nimoy, who wrote and directed the film, said that he had plenty of material. “A lot of things got left on the cutting room floor, unfortunately,” he said. But he added that his father would have approved of the final cut. “I think he would be very pleased and proud.”

(13) IMMURED. “Elizabeth Banks Unrecognizable As Power Rangers Reboot’s Rita Repulsa” says Yahoo! News.

People magazine has lifted the lid on 2017?s live action ‘Power Rangers’ reboot by revealing the film’s villain Rita Repulsa as played – beneath layers of costume and prosthetic make up – by Elizabeth Banks.

The ‘Hunger Games’ star is channelling her dark side to play the mean green witch – her first villain role – describing the character as “a modern and edgy re-imagining of the original Rita”.

(14) CROWDSOURCED BOWIE TRIBUTE. Unbound’s project Fill Your Heart: Writers on Bowie will be an anthology of writers inspired by the musician.

Our mourning isn’t over, but we want to write, we’ve got to write: to him, for him, about him. Fill Your Heart: Writers On Bowie is an anthology by some of our greatest contemporary writers. It is an anthology celebrating David Bowie with creativity. Whether a short story, a poem, a piece of memoir, psychogeograhy or creative non-fiction, these pieces will be personal responses to Bowie, to his shaping work and influence.

Edited by the novelist Tiffany Murray, this will be an important celebration, possibly a strange, mad celebration, but it is for anyone who was and is inspired by David Bowie and his work.

Fill Your Heart will be creating something new, a bold anthology that in some way shows us all how Bowie sparked each generation’s imaginations: how he made us.

Let’s spark together.

The collection is 11% funded so far.

(15) GUARDIANS. A Russian Marvel-esque superhero flick. It’s called Zaschitniki (Russian) or Guardians (English).

Set during the Cold War, a secret organization named “Patriot” gathered a group of Soviet superheroes, altering and augmenting the DNA of four individuals, in order to defend the homeland from supernatural threats. The group includes representatives of the different nationalities of the Soviet Union, which each one of them have long been hiding their true identity. In hard times, they settled down to business and gather to defend their homeland.

 

[Thanks to Kendall, JJ, Will R., Gregory Benford, David K.M. Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 11/14 The 7 Pixels of Highly Effective Scrolls

(1) Here is Hampus Eckerman, “A happy Filer on way to see The Martian.”

Eckerman on way to see Martian RT COMP

(2) But did he know that The Martian is a comedy? Nobody else knew it either until the people who run a set of Hollywood awards started playing games —

The Martian is one of my favorite films of 2015. It was intellectually stimulating, inspiring, thrilling, and even funny here and there, but was it a comedy? I don’t think so, but that’s the opinion of Hollywood Foreign Press: the organization behind the Golden Globes award. Apparently, the film is being shuffled over into comedy so it’ll have a chance to snatch a few awards–any awards–from the grasps of lighter fare: something that it won’t be able to do in the drama category, where there’s stiffer competition.

(3) In case anybody is really going to Mars, NASA wants to have spacesuits ready:

NASA is not wasting any time in developing new spacesuits to be used in a variety of locations for the Journey To Mars. Two new suits, PXS and Z2, were introduced in October and they have now reached the stage of working advanced prototypes.

The PXS, or prototype exploration spacesuit, was developed to improve performance on extra-vehicular activities (EVAs), spacewalks, in low-earth orbit or outer space. The suit aims to minimize the amount of equipment necessary for long duration EVAs. The PXS has a versatile approach to fittings. Many features are 3D printed, so the suit can be personalized for any crew member and for different types of EVAs.

(4) Remember Westworld, “Where nothing can possibly go wrong…”? If you’re going to the screening of Westworld at the Ace Hotel in LA on November 15, please note that the correct start time is 1:00 PM, not 2:00 PM as displayed in the original show banner.

Westworld screening COMP

(5) Neil deGrasse Tyson will start a 10-city speaking tour in January 2016.

Join Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, award winning- astrophysicist, author, and host of FOX’s Cosmos for an evening of engaging conversation on science, exploration and the world as we know it.

(6) Fantasy Faction has an extensive and quite interesting report of the Gollancz Festival for Writers.

On Sunday, 18th of October, prolific SFF publisher Gollancz held the Gollancz Festival for Writers, as a sort of addendum to the already sold-out Gollancz Festival 2015. It had a smaller line-up of authors compared to the main festival itself, and focused solely on writing (obviously). I was gutted that the main festival sold out so it was a pleasant surprise when this was announced, and I snapped up tickets immediately.

The main line-up consisted of Ben Aaronovitch, Joe Abercrombie, Joanne Harris and Joe Hill. Out of these four, I’d only read Abercrombie, and I’ve also seen him at events twice before (including Fantasy-Faction’s own Grim Gathering). Joe is one of my favourite writers and also a joy to see speak, so I was already thrilled to be going, but also seeing three other authors I’ve not seen before was a massive bonus.

(7) David K. M. Klaus sent a link to Daniel Castro’s op-ed at Computerworld, “’Ban the killer robots’ movement could backfire”.

Efforts to establish a global ban on offensive autonomous weapons — a.k.a. “killer robots” — have intensified in recent weeks. This uptick in lobbying comes on the heels of an open letter calling for such a ban from a group of artificial intelligence and robotics researchers, including well-known luminaries such as Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Noam Chomsky.

Unfortunately, these efforts have stigmatized much-needed research on autonomous robots that will be central to increasing economic productivity and quality of life over the next half century — but only if the technology is able to be developed. Rather than allowing those predicting a techno-dystopia to dominate the debate, policymakers should vocally champion the benefits of autonomous robots — including in the military — and embrace policies designed to accelerate their development and deployment.

Klaus responded:

“Ban the Killer Robots!” sounds like a demonstration-slogan shout in a scene on Futurama or something from an Ed Wood movie, but this article is about a real organization with real concerns.

From tele-operated drones to rudimentary A.I. in battlefield machines, they’re worried about the further mechanization of war against enemies of a lower technological level which would still be using human soldiers.

Nobody uses the word “cylon” but it sure as hell was the first thing that came to my mind.

And — I am not making this up — according to Twitter, one of the followers of “Campaign to Stop Killer Robots” tweets is Edward James Olmos.

I keep remembering this quotation by Allen Ginsberg, that “We live in science fiction.”  That’s always resonated with me as prophetic, and it becomes more and more true every year.

(8) The BBC would like to get Tom Hanks on Doctor Who.

‘Doctor Who’ has attracted some impressive guest stars over the years including Brian Blessed, Derek Jacobi, Ian McKellen, and more recently Maisie Williams, but it seems like the Beeb has its sights set on an even higher stratosphere of names for the future.

Peter Capaldi, the actor currently in the lead role, says his BBC bosses asked him to tap up Tom Hanks to appear on the hit sci-fi show.

Not that he’d actually have to parallel any role he’s done in movies, but Hanks has experience with some of the show’s familiar tropes – he’s been through a time paradox in Radio Flyer, had his own Pompeii moment in Joe Versus the Volcano, and had an extended lifespan in The Green Mile.

(9) John King Tarpinian has been catching up on Scream Queens: [Spoiler Warning]

I watched the other night’s episode this afternoon, they had a big belly laugh scene. Jamie Leigh Curtis is taking a shower, the opening of which is shot-for-shot the same as her mother did for Hitchcock.  Except that Jamie beats down the bad guy saying, “I’ve seen the movie like fifty times.”

(10) WIRED’s article “We Flew a Lego X-Wing Into the Death Star Because Awesome” has a clever video of exactly what you’d expect from that title.

You can’t make an omelette, they say, without breaking a few eggs. Well, you also can’t blow up a Death Star without crashing a few X-wings. (That was the lesson of Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope, right?) But while that sucks if you’re Porkins or one of his pilot brethren, the collision of X-wings and Death Stars makes for some pretty awesome destruction.

(11) Today In History

  • November 14, 1964:  Santa Claus Versus The Martians is released – generally regarded as one of the worst films ever made…

(12) Today’s Birthday Girl

Man, this has been a shitty year in many ways, and one full of life lessons that apparently the universe felt were overdue. Some of those I’m still grappling with. I am so freaking behind on this book it’s not even funny, but thank god for both the wonderful time spent writing in California this summer and the kick in the ass that NaNoWriMo has administered. I’m feeling hopeful about that again and making steady progress.

At the same time among the bumps there’s been plenty of bright spots. Among them my first novel, my first appearance in a Year’s Best collection (edited by Joe Hill, no less), and my first acceptance to longtime goal Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (I have been submitting there for over a decade now). I’ve had nineteen original publications come out since my last birthday, and twelve are currently forthcoming, including a team-up with Mike Resnick. Rachel Swirsky and I are working on some projects together, which is terrific fun. I have a good half dozen stories already spoken for. My collaboration with Bud Sparhawk finally got accepted so he can stop nagging me about why it hasn’t sold yet.

(13) So H. P. Lovecraft was actually a good Democrat? Scott Edelman ran this quote in a 2010 blog post, “What H. P. Lovecraft Thought of Republicans”.

As for the Republicans—how can one regard seriously a frightened, greedy, nostalgic huddle of tradesmen and lucky idlers who shut their eyes to history and science, steel their emotions against decent human sympathy, cling to sordid and provincial ideals exalting sheer acquisitiveness and condoning artificial hardship for the non-materially-shrewd, dwell smugly and sentimentally in a distorted dream-cosmos of outmoded phrases and principles and attitudes based on the bygone agricultural-handicraft world, and revel in (consciously or unconsciously) mendacious assumptions (such as the notion that real liberty is synonymous with the single detail of unrestricted economic license or that a rational planning of resource-distribution would contravene some vague and mystical ‘American heritage’…) utterly contrary to fact and without the slightest foundation in human experience? Intellectually, the Republican idea deserves the tolerance and respect one gives to the dead.

(14) You can buy Forrest J Ackerman Presents Music For Robots, created by Frank Coe, on iTunes for $9.99.

The album was released in 2005. It seems that some (all?) of it has already been uploaded to YouTube.

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, Hampus Eckerman, Michael J. Walsh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 10/25 The Shapeshifting Starship Captain Who Shouted “Fromage!” At The Heart Of The World

(1) Watch out for bi-Klingual train conductors!

A Trek-referencing TV commercial is nominated for a national award in Austria reports Nina Horvath at Europa SF.

What is it all about? Two men dressed up as Klingons go by underground railway (yes, it is the underground railway, although it goes above-ground in this scene) in Vienna, when they find out that a ticket controller is around. As they haven´t bought a ticket, they decide to confuse the ticket controller (by the way a pretty blonde woman) with Klingon language. But she also replies to them in Klingon and seems to know enough about Klingon culture, to call them “dishonourable worms”. What follows is an advertisement for the “Volkshochschule Wien”, a school where adults can take several courses, e.g. on languages. (Probably also Klingon …?)

Public voting for the winner continues until November 3 here (German language website).

(2) Richard C. White, in “World Building 101: The Village” at Black Gate, vents about cliché adventurers who return to the local village to spend their newfound treasure.

If you’re like me, that scene sounds awfully familiar. It’s appeared too often in bad fantasy stories, bad fantasy movies, and WAY too many role playing games. “But Rich,” you say, “the party has to have somewhere to spend their treasure. Otherwise, there’s no point in giving it out?”

And my response is, “You’re absolutely right, but for the wrong reasons.” Let me explain what I mean. (Good, otherwise this would be a darn short blog entry – Editor).

The biggest problem is, that scene above should be taking place in a large town or at least a small city. A medieval (or pseudo-medieval) village is not going to have jewelers or places to sell magic items (if you’re doing that kind of fantasy). The tavern is not going to have a bevy of barmaids and taverns do not traditionally sell food — that’s what the inn was for (if there even was an inn). And why in heaven’s name would you have a village that close to a dungeon populated by evil creatures anyway? Most sensible villagers would have packed up and moved to safer places years ago (if they hadn’t all been killed in their sleep by the monsters). No, this village in the scenario above seems to have only one purpose — to provide adventurers with a place to stay while they’re off looting the local dungeon de jure. Not only is that not realistic — it’s boring.

(3) A New Yorker profile of Guillermo del Toro from 2011 begins with a LASFS connection —

[Forrest J] Ackerman founded a cult magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland, and, more lucratively, became an agent for horror and science-fiction writers. He crammed an eighteen-room house in Los Feliz with genre memorabilia, including a vampire cape worn by Bela Lugosi and a model of the pteranodon that tried to abscond with Fay Wray in “King Kong.” Ackerman eventually sold off his collection to pay medical bills, and in 2008 he died. He had no children.

But he had an heir. In 1971, Guillermo del Toro, the film director, was a seven-year-old misfit in Guadalajara, Mexico. He liked to troll the city sewers and dissolve slugs with salt. One day, in the magazine aisle of a supermarket, he came upon a copy of Famous Monsters of Filmland. He bought it, and was so determined to decode Ackerman’s pun-strewed prose—the letters section was called Fang Mail—that he quickly became bilingual.

Del Toro was a playfully morbid child. One of his first toys, which he still owns, was a plush werewolf that he sewed together with the help of a great-aunt. In a tape recording made when he was five, he can be heard requesting a Christmas present of a mandrake root, for the purpose of black magic…

(4) The Martian remains in first place at box office, however, several other genre movies failed on their opening weekend.

Four new films, including Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and Vin Diesel’s The Last Witch Hunter, crowded into theaters this weekend and were swiftly pulverized and left for dead.

And John King Tarpinian says he saw only seven people in the audience at a showing of Bill Murray vehicle Rock The Kasbah.

(5) On Reddit — Author Becky Chambers will be joining us in SF Book Club to discuss The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet on October 28!

Details are yet to be fully worked out, but will look something like the rest: she’ll come in the morning to post a thread where we can ask questions, then come back in the afternoon/evening to answer the posted questions and interact with folks for a while.

(6) David K.M. Klaus questions the taste of using a formation of stormtroopers on the Great Wall of China to promote the next Star Wars film.

Yeah, this is cute — except that it looks just like the mass exercise and marching China used to have and North Korea still does — and “Imperial Stormtroopers”, had they existed, would have been used to rout the students and destroy the statues of the Goddess of Democracy in Tianamen Square in 1989.

Today “Tank Man” blocks the path of an AT-AT walker.

Thanks, Disney! Unfrozen, conventionally-buried-at-Forest-Lawn Unca Walt is a veritable whirligig in his grave right now.

(7) John Hertz responds to the notice in the October 23 Scroll about the passing of Harriett Klausner:

Of more immediate interest to us, Klausner was a pillar of Barry Hunter’s reviewzine Baryon, which came in the mail (Ned Brooks R.I.P.) for years.  She read and wrote fluently and much, and wherever I formed an opinion of my own, well; she had few companions, perhaps no equals.  I don’t believe I’ve seen a later issue than B 129 in 2014, but that if accurate is hardly conclusive in Fanzineland.

(8) I received this link to “The 40 Most Awesome Supergirl Covers” at Comic Book Resources with the admonition “For Historical Reference ONLY.” I’d say the covers are pretty tame – it’s CBR’s own Supergirl header that tends toward the cliché.

supergirl cover

(9) Tufts University political scientist Daniel W. Drezner looked at the Star Wars trailers and concluded that the rebels were “guilty of poor post-war planning” in “’Star Wars, Episode VII’: The Rebel Alliance’s catastrophic success”.

The evidence is right there in this trailer and the previous two. The desert planet of Jakku does not seem to have benefited all that much from the three-decades-old Rebel victory. Daisy Ridley’s character, Rey, appears to be a scavenger, and the planet is just littered with Imperial wreckage. If that hasn’t been cleaned up after 30 years, it’s a good sign that the Rebel Alliance has failed at statebuilding.

He also wonders why they didn’t revive the Senate or let the people know that Darth Vader switched sides minutes before he died.

(10) Time to move to Canada? Netflix will stream Star Wars: The Force Awakens there in 2016.

Fortuitously for Netflix Canada subs, the company’s deal with Disney started with 2015 releases after the previous agreements for the pay-TV window with Corus Entertainment and Bell Canada expired. A Netflix rep confirmed “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is slated to come to the service in the country; under the terms of the deal, that will occur approximately eight months after the movie leaves theaters.

(11) Political scientists should also be looking at the world’s newest nation – it’s in a remote corner of Utah.

There is a four-acre piece of land in northwestern Box Elder County that very few people know about. Even fewer people recognize it as what it’s meant to be — its own country.

A decade ago, Zaq Landsberg, a man from New York, bought the land online with a unique goal in mind.

“The conceptual goal is I want it to become a real country,” Landsberg said. “I mean, that goal is not going to happen. It’s impossible, but going through the motions, (I’m) trying to make that happen.”

The area is known to Landsberg as the Republic of Zaqistan, and he is its president….

Zaqistan has its own flag, a border patrol gate, a supply bunker, a robot sentry that guards the land and even official passports.

“Zaqistan works the best, I think, when it’s wedged up against the real world, and when the passports circulate,” Landsberg said.

The passports look and feel real. You can even get them stamped when entering and exiting his land.

 

One Man?s Sovereign Nation

(12) What, wait, what? William Shatner was The Chairman on the original Iron Chef USA?

(This attempt to import the popular Japanese series preceded the later, successful Iron Chef America.)

There’s a short clip from an episode on YouTube. Chairman Shatner mugs for the camera starting at about :10.

(13) Ann Leckie fans have reported a great disturbance in the force!

(14) While we’re in the midst of this Ann Leckie festival, take a listen to Comedrinkwithme’s musical rendition of “It All Goes Around”.

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

Wolf’s Empire Is On The Way

By David Klaus: I was looking at SDCC videos on YouTube, including the first of three parts of the Babylon 5 cast panel, during which Claudia Christian mentioned that by the time of next year’s SDCC her novel Wolf’s Empire will be published by Tor.

It’s part of a saga/series, the first of four books.

Puppies will partially like it as she described it as, and I quote: “military sci-fi in a Rome which never fell.”  You don’t get more Manly Man than in a Roman Army story — if Rome had had firearms, they’d be beating their brains to peanut butter trying to invent a time machine to go to Puppy Heaven.

However they’re going have the problems that the protagonist is a “female gladiator and discus throwing bad-ass”) and the publisher is Tor, “one of [her] favorite publishers.”

She also said it was “more violent than Homer and more sexy than Game of Thrones.”

Defiance Renewed

Syfy’s Defiance is go for a second season, extending a collaboration between the show and its online game which to date has garnered 1 million registered accounts.  

Defiance has been a massive investment for Syfy and Universal Cable Productions. Billed as a “transmedia experience,” the series is tied to a massively multiplayer online video game. The combined price tag of the freshman season and the video game is a cool $100 million.

The show is set in a vastly changed American Midwest:

Set in the near future, Defiance features an exotically transformed planet Earth, its landscapes permanently altered following the sudden – and tumultuous – arrival of seven unique alien races. In this somewhat unknown and unpredictable landscape, the richly diverse, newly-formed civilization of humans and aliens must learn to co-exist peacefully. Each week, viewers follow an immersive character drama set in the boom-town of Defiance, which sits atop the ruins of St. Louis, Missouri, while in the game, players will experience the new frontier of the San Francisco Bay area.

David Klaus is intrigued by the show’s use of his hometown but wishes the culture had more depth:

Their “St. Louis” underground is a strange parallel to the real thing, and they’ve made local geography and cultural mistakes, but these are mixed in with a few things right. The sf elements are cliched, with each race being a cultural stereotype w/everyone from the race all being the same. Instead of Klingons=warriors, Ferengi=shady businessmen, it’s Irathians=mysteriously religious, Ibogenes=super-scientists, Liberata=cynical domestic servants, Castithians=schemers. Literal racism.

[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]

Klaus: Show Them The Money

TheAvengers2012PosterBy David Klaus: Deadline’s Nikki Finke reports Avengers 2 casting isn’t settled because everybody needs more money:

First and foremost Marvel does not have Downey in place yet. ”They need him, and they don’t have him. He’s got a lot of leverage,” one insider tells me. Much less so Scarlett Johannsen (paid to pop up in Marvel movie after movie), Chris Evans (whom some sources say made his deal for Avengers 2 when he signed for Captain America 2), Chris Hemsworth (a much bigger star now than before and unsigned for Avengers 2), Mark Ruffalo (whose Hulk role already was cast 3 times and could be the most vulnerable), Jeremy Renner (probably grateful for more exposure), Samuel L. Jackson (Scarlett’s doppelganger) among others who were paid pittances for their first movies, not much better for the sequels, and are counting on at least $5 million upfront and better back ends for Avengers 2.

Comic fans are going to be really upset if there are major actor replacements for some of the now-established Marvel hero characters — but with Robert Downey, Jr. getting $35,000,000 in salary for The Avengers while other leads got as little as $200,000, rumblings are inevitable — when you add the strict diet and exercise required for the super-hero physiques….

It’s like first-season Star Trek, in which Shatner got $5,000/per week, and Nimoy got $1,250/week for the same work load.

Klaus: Smartphone Satellite

By David Klaus: Designed and built by British engineers in their spare time in only three months, massing less than ten pounds, no larger than a chrome toaster oven, STRaND 1 will phone home, and includes an app that tests whether in space anyone can hear you scream. It is not, however, in a blue box.

I didn’t think you could put so many in-jokes into one satellite.

Here’s what Spaceflight Now says about the capabilities of STRaND 1 (Surrey Training, Research, and Nanosatellite Demonstrator) —

The phone is mounted on a panel inside the satellite, with its camera aligned with a hole to take pictures of Earth…

Applications installed on the smartphone will help control the satellite, collect scientific data and try to boost interest in space exploration. The Scream in Space app… will play videos of the best screams while in orbit, and the screams will be recorded using the smartphone’s own microphone. iTesa will record the magnitude of the magnetic field around the phone in orbit… The STRAND Data app will show satellite telemetry on the smartphone’s display… The 360 app will take images using the smartphone’s camera and use the technology onboard the spacecraft to establish STRaND-1’s position. The public will be able to request their own unique satellite image of Earth through the website, where images can be seen on a map showing where they have been acquired.