Pixel Scroll 9/5/19 You Don’t Scroll On Pixelman’s Cape, You Don’t File In The Wind

(1) DID AMAZON CHEAT? The American Booksellers Association is on the warpath: “ABA Condemns Amazon for Breaking ‘Testaments’ Embargo”.

The fallout from Amazon violating Penguin Random House’s September 10 embargo of The Testaments by Margaret Atwood continues to roil the industry.

Late yesterday, the American Booksellers Association released a strongly worded statement condemning Amazon. The ABA disclosed that it had contacted PRH “to express our strong disappointment regarding this flagrant violation of the agreed protocol in releasing this book to the public.”

In a statement released to PW late Thursday morning, Amazon acknowledged it had unintentionally shipped some books ahead of the sale date. “Due to a technical error a small number of customers were inadvertently sent copies of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments,” the statement said. “We apologize for this error; we value our relationship with authors, agents, and publishers, and regret the difficulties this has caused them and our fellow booksellers.”

Before the broken embargo, the ABA was already working on initiatives that would put pressure on Amazon. In an organization-wide newsletter the ABA sent last week, ABA president Oren Teicher said the group is continuing its ongoing discussions with officials at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission about looking into whether Amazon is violating antitrust laws. (ABA executives were in Washington, D.C., yesterday, when the news broke about Amazon’s violation of the PRH embargo.)

…The Golden Notebook bookstore in Woodstock, NY, created a digital postcard that it posted on its website and on social media with the heading, “Loyal Customers and Supporters of Independent Bookstores: A Request.” In it, the store said Amazon had shipped pre-orders of The Testaments to customers a week early, in clear violation of the “legally binding” embargo that all retailers had to sign.

The store went to ask customers to “please pre-order your own copy at your local or nearby independent bookstore” or to visit a story “on Tuesday, Sept. 10, the day the book legally is on sale.” The post closed with a quote from The Handmaid’s Tale, the bestselling prequel to The Testaments: “Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”

(2) MEANWHILE IN VIDEOLAND. The question is — “Handmaid’s Tale: Was it right to take the series beyond the book?” Warning for those who click through — Excerpt ends at point where spoilers start.

The second series of the Handmaid’s Tale came to an end on Sunday night.

Writing in iNews, Mark Butler calls the finale “a nail-biting conclusion to the season, with a controversial twist”, but Vanity Fair’s Sonia Saraiya termed the climax “a singularly frustrating end to a season that, despite its high points, often struggled to find its purpose”.

The series went beyond Margaret Atwood’s original novel – with her blessing – but how well did the show do in extending the novel beyond its intended lifecycle and how difficult is it to go beyond the book of an acclaimed author like Atwood?

“The novel ends quite ambiguously,” says Julia Raeside, who has written The Guardian’s episode-by-episode guide to series two of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Speaking to BBC News, she adds: “It’s really interesting when someone takes up the mantle of an unfinished story. If they’ve got something to say about what happens when you repress women for so long, then it’s something I welcome.”

The second series has been criticised by some for its brutal scenes, with some viewers switching off entirely due to what’s been termed by some as “needless torture porn”.

“I think the first couple of episodes were slightly misjudged,” says Raeside, “and I wonder how much brutality Atwood really agreed with.”

(3) GREAT LINES FROM SFF. Discover Sci-Fi is running a poll: “What are the best one-liners from sci-fi books?” There are 13 choices. I’d say about half of them shouldn’t even be under consideration. And it doesn’t include one of my all-time favorites, the line that opens E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman Series –

“Two thousand million or so years ago two galaxies were colliding; or, rather, were passing through each other.”

I’m writing it in. So there.

(4) GAME HUGO? The Hugo Book Club Blog, in “Game Over”, casts doubt on the qualifications and capability of Worldcon members to choose a winner of a proposed Best Game Hugo. Here are some of the reasons they say the proposal should be rejected:

Ira Alexandre, who has been the driving force in arguing for a Best Game Hugo, has done their research. They looked at the amount of gaming content at Worldcons, examined the burgeoning field of interactive works, and made some significant arguments in favour of the suggested award.

But none of their work addresses the fact that gaming has never been a primary focus of Worldcon. Alexandre’s number-crunching even showed that the amount of gaming-related programming has never exceeded nine per cent of the convention — and is usually much smaller. We would suggest that the majority of Hugo voters are unlikely to have played a wide-enough and diverse-enough range of games and interactive experiences to make adequate nominations in a category dedicated to gaming. 


It’s already difficult enough for Hugo voters to get through a voting package with six works on the shortlist in 15 categories. Games and Interactive Works individually take up to 150 hours to play through – with a short time between the announcement of the shortlist and the voting deadline, it would be difficult to play through, and be able to adequately assess, even one such game.

(5) A CAT BY ANY OTHER NAME. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.]  Not sure if this is newsworthy, but a cheap laugh for others at my own expense is surely a good thing.

One of our rescue cats, Baldur, who we’ve had for about two years, came down very sick and has spent the last week at the vet’s. Recovering well, thankfully, but in the process we discovered something surprising about “him”. Tweeted it here:

In some follow-up tweets, I discussed a possible renaming for our newly-female cat:

Hope the tweets are amusing. I wouldn’t say “amused” for myself, but certainly bemused.

(6) SUPERBRAWL. Alyssa Wong has written all three issues of these Future Fight Firsts comics from Marvel.

Introduced in the Marvel Future Fight mobile game, White Fox, Luna Snow, and Crescent & Io recently made their Marvel comic book debut in War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas and now, because you demanded it, all three will have their origin stories revealed in Marvel Future Fight Firsts! Check out these gorgeous covers by In-Hyuck Lee and prepare yourselves for an up close look at these new fan-favorite characters!

Marvel Future Fight Firsts arrives in October in comic shops, on the Marvel Comics App, and on Marvel.com.

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: WHITE FOX #1

  • Written by ALYSSA WONG
  • Art by KEVIN LIBRANDA
  • Cover by INHYUK LEE

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: LUNA SNOW #1

  • Written by ALYSSA WONG
  • Art by GANG HYUCK LIM
  • Cover by INHYUK LEE

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: CRESCENT AND IO

  • Written by ALYSSA WONG
  • Art by JON LAM
  • Cover by INHYUK LEE

(7) POLLY WANNA CONVERSATION? “The Great Silence” by Ted Chiang in Nautilus is a short story excerpted from Chiang’s new collection Exhalation.

The humans use Arecibo to look for extraterrestrial intelligence. Their desire to make a connection is so strong that they’ve created an ear capable of hearing across the universe.

But I and my fellow parrots are right here. Why aren’t they interested in listening to our voices?

We’re a nonhuman species capable of communicating with them. Aren’t we exactly what humans are looking for?

(8) SOLUTION UNSATISFACTORY. Randall Munroe will soon be bringing us How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems. His book tour started this week.

For any task you might want to do, there’s a right way, a wrong way, and a way so monumentally bad that no one would ever try it. How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems is a guide to the third kind of approach. It’s the world’s least useful self-help book.

It describes how to cross a river by removing all the water, outlines some of the many uses for lava around the home, and teaches you how to use experimental military research to ensure that your friends will never again ask you to help them move.

With text, charts, and stick-figure illustrations, How To walks you through useless but entertaining approaches to common problems, using bad advice to explore some of the stranger and more interesting science and technology underlying the world around us.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 5, 1936 Rhae Andrece and Alyce Andrece. They played twin androids in I, Mudd, a classic Trek episode. Both appeared as policewomen in “Nora Clavicle and the Ladies’ Crime Club” on Batman. That’s their only genre other appearance. (Died 2009 and 2005.)
  • Born September 5, 1939 George Lazenby, 80. He is best remembered for being James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Genre wise, he also played Jor-El on Superboy and was a Bond like character named JB in the Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. film. 
  • Born September 5, 1939 Donna Anderson, 80. She was Mary Holmes in On The Beach, based on Neal Shute’s novel. She also appeared in, and I kid you not, Sinderella and the Golden Bra and Werewolves on Wheels
  • Born September 5, 1940 Raquel Welch, 79. Fantastic Voyage was her first genre film though her appearance in One Million Years B.C. with her leather bikini got her more notice. She was charming in The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers. She has one-offs in BewitchedSabrina the Teenage WitchThe Muppet ShowLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child and Mork & Mindy
  • Born September 5, 1951 Michael Keaton, 68. Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! He also has the title roles of Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns. His most recent role is The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Born September 5, 1964 Stephen Greenhorn, 55. Scriptwriter who has written two episodes for Doctor Who: “The Lazarus Experiment” and “The Doctor’s Daughter”, both Tenth Doctor stories. He also wrote Marchlands, a supernatural series with Doctor Who star Alex Kingston. 
  • Born September 5, 1973 Rose McGowan, 46. Best known as Paige Matthews on Charmed. She played two different roles in the Grindhouse franchise, Cherry Darling in  Planet Terror and Pam in  Death Proof. She was Miss Kitty in Monkeybone, a very weird film indeed.

(10) MYTHBUSTING. The results of test purport to explain “Why phones that secretly listen to us are a myth”.

A mobile security company has carried out a research investigation to address the popular conspiracy theory that tech giants are listening to conversations.

The internet is awash with posts and videos on social media where people claim to have proof that the likes of Facebook and Google are spying on users in order to serve hyper-targeted adverts.

Videos have gone viral in recent months showing people talking about products and then ads for those exact items appear online.

Now, cyber security-specialists at Wandera have emulated the online experiments and found no evidence that phones or apps were secretly listening.

(11) IN A SNAP, IT’S GONE. “Trolls cause shutdown of official Jeremy Renner app” – BBC has the story.

Superhero Hawkeye may have helped defeat Thanos – but trolls have proved too tough a foe for him to best.

Actor Jeremy Renner, who plays Marvel’s eagle-eyed hero, has shut down his app after it was hijacked and used to harass people.

Abuse and harassment mushroomed after trolls found a way to impersonate the actor and others on the Jeremy Renner Official app.

Renner apologised for the shutdown in a post explaining what had happened.

Identity crisis

Created in 2017, the app, on which Renner regularly posted exclusive images and content and occasionally messaged users, also operated as a community hub where fans could post their own stories and communicate with each other.

In his explanatory post, Renner blamed “clever individuals” who had found a way to pose as other users.

(12) FRIENDLY (?) NIEGHBORHOOD SPIDER-DRONE. What flies through the air and snares its enemies in webs? CNN has the answer: “China says its drone can hunt like Spiderman”.

               China says it has developed a new hunter drone that can disable other drones — or even small aircraft — by firing a 16-square-meter (172 square feet) web at them.

               “Caught by the web, the hostile drone should lose power and fall to ground,” said a report on the Chinese military’s English-language website.

               Developed by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, the drone can work alone but also can integrate with China’s defense system for small, slow and low-flying targets, according to the report.

The hexacopter drone can also perform surveillance and reconnaissance, it said.

(13) NECRONOMICON. The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda gives a con report for Necronomicon, including the panels he enjoyed and the art and books he brought home: “Dispatch from a ‘horror’ convention: It began in a dark, candlelit room .?.?.”

… Because NecronomiCon runs a half dozen simultaneous tracks, you can’t help but miss wonderful-sounding panels and events. On Friday alone I would have liked to have heard “Unsung Authors,” “Pulp History,” “Providence in Weird Fiction,” “Children’s Horror Anthologies of the 1960s and 70s,” and a discussion of the lushly decadent fantasist Tanith Lee, which featured, among others, her bibliographer Allison Rich, science fiction writer and critic Paul Di Filippo and popular Washington author Craig Laurance Gidney.

Still, along with my friend Robert Knowlton — a Toronto book collector who has read more weird fiction than anyone else alive — I did catch the program devoted to the specialty publisher Arkham House. Its participants included Donald Sidney-Fryer, who in his youth got to know that most poetical of Weird Tales writers, Clark Ashton Smith. Donaldo, as he likes to be called, generously inscribed my copy of “The Sorcerer Departs,” his memoir of that friendship. Not surprisingly, among the many films shown during the con was Darin Coelho Spring’s superb documentary “Clark Ashton Smith: The Emperor of Dreams.”…

(14) PYTHON RECOVERIES. Not exactly SF but Monty Python does a surreal riff. The BBC in a two part series of just 15 minutes are revealing newly discovered material from the cutting room floor — Monty Python at 50: The Self-Abasement Tapes.

Part one here.

On the 50th anniversary of Python, Michael Palin hunts down lost sketches. This programme contains material never heard before, including the infamous Fat Ignorant Bastards sketch.

(15) DRESS FOR EXCESS. Jezebel claims “The Woman Who Wore a T-Rex Costume to Her Sister’s Wedding Is the Best Person in America”. Photo at the site.

…As chill as many soon-to-be-married couples pretend to be, weddings are all about control. This is why bridesmaids are forced to purchase matching dresses that make them look like bipedal draperies, often to the tune of several hundred dollars. But this wedding season, one woman had the courage to say “no” to wrapping herself in an ill-fitting puff of chiffon for her sister’s nuptials. Instead she went with an outfit she loved, something she knew she’d wear again and again: A T-rex costume….

(16) MUSIC OF THE SPHERES. Live Proms from the Royal Albert Hall, London: London Contemporary Orchestra conducted by Robert Ames in music from Sci-Fi films. On the BBC Sounds website: “Prom 27: The Sound of Space: Sci-Fi Film Music”. You can listen anytime.

A Late Night Prom with a futuristic spin brings together some of the best sci-fi film music. Excerpts from cult soundtracks come together with recent works by Hans Zimmer and Mica Levi. The award winning London Contemporary Orchestra – whose collaborators include Radiohead, Goldfrapp and Steve Reich – perform music from Under the Skin, Interstellar and the recent Netflix series The Innocents, among other titles, as well as from Alien: Covenant, whose soundtrack the LCO recorded.

  • Steven Price: Gravity 
  • Mica Levi: Under the Skin 
  • John Murphy: Sunshine 
  • Wendy Carlos: Tron (Scherzo) 
  • Carly Paradis: The Innocents 
  • Clint Mansell: Moon 
  • Louis and Bebe Barron: Forbidden Planet (Main Titles – Overture) 
  • Jed Kurzel: Alien: Covenant Jòhann Jòhannsson arr. 
  • Anthony Weeden: Arrival (Suite No 1) 
  • Hans Zimmer: Interstellar 

(17) SWEET. The Harvard Gazette calls it “Pancreas on a chip”.

By combining two powerful technologies, scientists are taking diabetes research to a whole new level. In a study led by Harvard University’s Kevin Kit Parker and published in the journal Lab on a Chip on Aug. 29, microfluidics and human, insulin-producing beta cells have been integrated in an islet-on-a-chip. The new device makes it easier for scientists to screen insulin-producing cells before transplanting them into a patient, test insulin-stimulating compounds, and study the fundamental biology of diabetes.

The design of the islet-on-a-chip was inspired by the human pancreas, in which islands of cells (“islets”) receive a continuous stream of information about glucose levels from the bloodstream and adjust their insulin production as needed.

“If we want to cure diabetes, we have to restore a person’s own ability to make and deliver insulin,” explained Douglas Melton, the Xander University Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology and co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI). “Beta cells, which are made in the pancreas, have the job of measuring sugar and secreting insulin, and normally they do this very well. But in diabetes patients these cells can’t function properly. Now, we can use stem cells to make healthy beta cells for them. But like all transplants, there is a lot involved in making sure that can work safely.”

Before transplanting beta cells into a patient, they must be tested to see whether they are functioning properly. The current method for doing this is based on technology from the 1970s: giving the cells glucose to elicit an insulin response, collecting samples, adding reagents, and taking measurements to see how much insulin is present in each one. The manual process takes so long to run and interpret that many clinicians give up on it altogether.

The new, automated, miniature device gives results in real time, which can speed up clinical decision-making.

(18) BUT IT’S NOT RIGHT. BBC reports “Left-handed DNA found – and it changes brain structure”.

Scientists have found the first genetic instructions hardwired into human DNA that are linked to being left-handed.

The instructions also seem to be heavily involved in the structure and function of the brain – particularly the parts involved in language.

The team at the University of Oxford say left-handed people may have better verbal skills as a result.

But many mysteries remain regarding the connection between brain development and the dominant hand.

(19) HAVING A MELTDOWN. Global Meltdown:My Ice on YouTube explains what happens when the last man on Earth stands on the last piece of ice.

[Thanks to Bruce Arthurs, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Pixel Scroll 7/18/19 The Man Who Maneuvered In Corbomite

(1) DUBLIN 2019 MEMBERSHIP DEADLINE. They say no at-the-door memberships or day passes will be sold, so join now.

(2) COMPLAINT ABOUT DUBLIN 2019 POLICY REVEAL. KerenL tweeted:

(3) CATS MUSICAL. Ready or not, coming to theaters this Christimas: “‘Cats’ musical drops first trailer with Taylor Swift and people are seriously divided”.

Taylor Swift, whose cat Bombalurina is shown reclining and enjoying Catnip in the footage, announced the trailer had dropped Thursday — a day before it was scheduled to be released.

“I’m a cat now and somehow that was everything #Catsmovie” Swift tweeted.

Directed by Tom Hooper, the first trailer introduces a major cast which includes Jennifer Hudson as Grizabella, Judi Dench as Old Deuteronomy, Idris Elba as Macavity and James Corden as Bustopher Jones.

(4) TIS THE SEASON. Speaking of hairballs, here’s just what everyone’s looking to add to their holiday tree! From Hallmark: “Star Trek™ Tribble Fabric Ornament With Sound and Motion”.  

(5) INTO THE HALL. In a ceremony held at Balboa Park just ahead of the convention: “Batman Inducted Into Comic-Con Hall of Fame”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

The ceremony inducting Batman into the Comic-Con Museum Hall of Fame — the first fictional character to be awarded the honor — was the crowning moment of “The Gathering,” a special celebration that doubled as a preview of The Batman Experience, a pop-up exhibit in the Balboa Park location that will eventually become the physical home of the Comic-Con Museum running during this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, and a fundraiser for the Museum.

Both “The Gathering” and The Batman Experience are part of DC and Warner Bros.’ wider celebration of the 80th anniversary of the release of Detective Comics No. 27, which introduced Batman to the world, a yearlong event that has already included events at South by Southwest and a USO tour featuring DC’s Lee and Batman comic book writer Tom King.

(6) PITTING HIMSELF AGAINST THE CHALLENGE. The second Ad Astra trailer has dropped. Comes to theaters September 20.

Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet. His journey will uncover secrets that challenge the nature of human existence and our place in the cosmos.

(7) UNIQUE. Who else writes like her? James Davis Nicoll advises Tor.com readers where to find “Five SFF Works Reminiscent of Andre Norton”.

What other authors wrote books with thematic similarities to the books of Andre Norton? Too bad that no one has ever asked me that question. Let’s pretend that someone has asked. Here are five suggestions.

(8) ANIME STUDIO FIRE DEATHS. BBC’s overview: “Kyoto Animation fire: Arson attack at Japan anime studio kills 33”.

At least 33 people died and dozens were injured after a man set fire to an animation studio in the Japanese city of Kyoto, officials say.

Police said the 41-year-old suspect broke into the Kyoto Animation studio on Thursday morning and sprayed petrol before igniting it.

The suspect has been detained and was taken to hospital with injuries.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the incident was “too appalling for words” and offered condolences.

It is one of Japan’s worst mass casualty incidents since World War Two.

Kyoto Animation, known as KyoAni, produces films and graphic novels, and is well regarded by fans for the quality of its productions.

…Reports say the man is not a former employee – but eyewitnesses say he appeared to be angry with the animation studio.

They said he ran away from the building towards a nearby train station after the fire started but fell to the ground. Some reports said he was pursued by employees of Kyoto Animation.

…The Asahi Shimbun newspaper quoted a 61-year-old neighbour as saying she clearly heard the man shout: “You ripped me off.”

The suspect was injured and was being treated in hospital, so police could not immediately question him, NHK said.

This article contains both fan reactions and brief descriptions of the company’s numerous popular creations: “Kyoto Animation: Fans heartbroken by deadly anime studio fire in Japan”

“One of the main things that stands out about Kyoto Animation is the quality of the animation itself,” said Ian Wolf, an anime critic for Anime UK News. “It’s very viewer-friendly.”

The distinctive visual style and level of polish leads to a look that is instantly recognisable, Wolf said.

“The studio makes very little in the way that is controversial… little that is violent or sexual. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to attack it.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 18, 1911 Hume Cronyn. Way back in the Forties, his first genre role was as Gerard in The Phantom of The Opera. Since then he’s appeared in such well-known films as CocoonCocoon Returns and Batteries Not Included along with the more obscure outing of Richard Burton’s Hamlet. (Died 2003.)
  • Born July 18, 1933 Sydney Jay Mead. Industrial designer and concept artist, best known for his designs for  Aliens,  Blade Runner and Tron. Mead once said in Borrowing an idea from Los Angeles (NYT 20 July 2011) that “I’ve called science fiction ‘reality ahead of schedule.’” An eight-minute film on him, “2019: A Future Imagined” can be seen here.
  • Born July 18, 1938 Paul Verhoeven, 81. Direction, screenwriter and producer. Responsible for RoboCop , Total Recall,  Starship Troopers and the creepy Hollow Man. Mind this is the man who also did Basic Instinct and Showgirls.
  • Born July 18, 1943 Charles Waugh,76. Anthologist and author, whose anthology work up to 2013 numbered over two hundred titles (!), mostly done with Martin H. Greenberg but a handful done with other co-editors as Greenberg died in 2011. Name a subject and there’s likely an anthology on that subject that he had a hand in.  I have not read, nor do I have the very least desire, to read his two novels with Deepak Chopra. 
  • Born July 18, 1952 Deborah Teramis Christian, 67. She’s an author and game designer. has designed and edited role-playing game materials for Dungeons & Dragons such as Tales of the Outer Planes, Bestiary of Dragons and Giants, Dragon Dawn, and Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms.  She also writes fiction under the name Deborah Teramis Christian with genre novel such as The Truthsayer’s Apprentice and her latest, Splintegrate.
  • Born July 18, 1967 Paul Cornell, 52. Author of the Shadow Police series which is quite excellent as well as writing a lot of television scripts for Doctor Who, Primieval and Robin Hood. He was part of the regular panel of the SF Squeecast podcast which won two Hugo Awards for best fancast.
  • Born July 18, 1967 Vin Diesel, 52. His first genre role was as the delightful voice of The Iron Giant. He next shows playing Riddick in Pitch Black, the first in The Chronicles of Riddick franchise. He’s Hugo Cornelius Toorop in Babylon A.D. and he’s the fascinating if enigmatic voice of Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy and other MCU films. He’s apparently in the next two Avatar films but I don’t see his role determined. 
  • Born July 18, 1980 Kristen Bell, 39. Veronica Mars. Genre, well not really, but a lot of y’all watch it. She also voiced Jade Wilson in Teen Titans Go! To the Movies which I highly recommend as it’s highly meta.
  • Born July 18, 1982 Priyanka Chopra, 37. As Alex Parrish in Quantico, becoming the first South Asian to headline an American network drama series. Is it genre? Maybe, maybe not, though it could fit into a Strossian Dark State. Some of her work in her native India such as The Legend of Drona and Love Story 2050 is genre. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur gets a good laugh by combining a UFO and a cave painter.

(11) THE BUD LIGHTS IN THE SKY ARE STARS. On the theory that everyone can play this for laughs, until someone gets killed, “Bud Light is offering free beer to any alien that makes it out of Area 51”.

The world is ready to finally see the secrets hidden inside Area 51. And if one of those secrets happens to be living aliens, well, we have good news — they’ll be greeted with free cans of Bud Light.

Anheuser-Busch, the maker of Bud Light, initially posted on Twitter, “We’d like to be the first brand to formally announce that we will not be sponsoring the Area 51 raid.”

However, the brand quickly backtracked off that alienating claim, saying, “Screw it. Free Bud Light to any alien that makes it out.”

(12) COMIC-CON BEGINS. And The Onion is there.

(13) LOYAL FANS. Billboards demanding Warner Bros,#ReleaseTheSnyderCut of Justice League appeared where they’ll hopefully be seen by people on their way to San Diego Comic-Con.

(14) ANOTHER SDCC TRAILER EVENT. From The Hollywood Reporter:“‘It Chapter Two’ Trailer Launch Kicks Off Comic-Con”.

The audience got an early look at the new trailer, which debuted online Thursday morning. The presentation, taking place on Comic-Con’s preview night, is dubbed ScareDiego and is held off the San Diego Convention Center grounds, and unofficially kicks off the Con in terms of movie panels. The event, now in its third year, is growing and this year was held at the Spreckels Theatre with comedian and late night show host Conan O’Brien serving as moderator.

(15) CLOSE ENOUGH FOR GOVERNMENT WORK. James Davis Nicoll’s contribution to the Apollo 11 anniversary observance is “Remembering the Moon Landing: Michael Collins’ Carrying the Fire” at Tor.com.

…Collins was the Command Module Pilot. While the Lunar Lander descended to the Moon’s surface, it was Collins’ task to remain with the Command Module in Lunar orbit….

Rather than making any attempt at a dispassionate, neutral history of the Apollo Program, Collins provides a very personal account, a Collins-eye view of the American path to the moon. It’s not a short process, which is why it takes 360 pages before Collins and his more well-known companions find themselves strapped into the largest, most powerful man-rated rocket to have been launched as of that date. Before that…

(16) CHICAGO STYLE DOG. I hate to think I’ll missing out on this: “You Can Now Stay In An Oscar Mayer Wienermobile Overnight With Airbnb”.

Starting on July 24, Oscar Mayer’s iconic 27-foot-long Wienermobile is available to book overnight on Airbnb. Seriously. This is not a drill.

True hot dog fans know that the Wienermobile has pretty much travelled all across the country, spreading positive vibes and love for, well, wieners. And until now, no one has been able to spend more than a few hours in the famous Oscar Mayer vehicle, which makes this overnight camp-out option kind of a big deal.

Per their press release, the hot dog distributer has confirmed that its Wienermobile will be available to those staying in the Chicago area between August 1-4. Just in time for Lollapalooza!

(17) KGB. Ellen Datlow has shared her photos from the July 17 Fantastic Fiction at KGB where Theodora Goss read from her new collection Snow White Learns Witchcraft and Cadwell Turnbull read from his recently published novel, The Lesson.

(18) IT PAYS NOT TO BE IGNORANT. Congrats to Rich Horton who won $66.67 playing last night’s HQ mobile-based trivia contest. One of the questions was:

“Which Hugo-winning writer did NOT write an episode of STAR TREK?”

The choices were:

  • Robert Bloch
  • Norman Spinrad
  • Robert Heinlein

Says Horton, “I’m sure I don’t have to tell many people that Heinlein never wrote a Star Trek episode.”

(19) WHERE’S THE BEEF? Apparently this is another thing you leave behind when you simulate a lunar mission: “Russia’s Sirius Moon project leaves crew hungry for steak”.

What do you crave after spending four months cooped up in a mock spaceship?

“A tasty steak!” was Anastasia Stepanova’s swift reply, when she emerged from her Sirius-19 quarters, along with five other space guinea pigs.

The team of four Russians and two Americans – sent to Moscow by Nasa – were isolated, but stayed on terra firma. So, no weightlessness or cosmic radiation to worry about.

But in other respects the Sirius-19 experiment was designed to imitate conditions on a flight to the Moon.

Ms Stepanova’s colleagues were also looking forward to tasty food, though cosmonaut Yevgeny Tarelkin, commander of this “mission”, said he was missing his family.

They had big fridges and grew their own vegetables under artificial light. But the diet was hardly mouth-watering: mostly kasha (buckwheat porridge), puree and canned food.

(20) FLAME ON. Mashable makes sure we know “Drones with flamethrowers are a thing you can buy now”. (Was this a Prime Day deal I missed?) [Via David Langford.]

As if drones weren’t frightening enough, now they can be equipped with fire-spitting flamethrowers? Oh gawd.

Throwflame’s TF-19 WASP drone attachment is capable of shooting targets with flames from 25 feet away. Every gallon of fuel capacity will get you 100 seconds of firing time. 

According to Throwflame, the TF-19 WASP is made from carbon fiber and designed for drones with a five-pound payload capacity or more. In the video above, the flamethrower is shown mounted to a DJI S1000 drone.

[Thanks to James Davis Nicoll, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Lis Riba, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 6/13/19 And What Rough Pixel, Its Hour Come Round At Last, Crowdfunds Towards Dublin, To Be Scrolled?

(1) SKIPPING OVER THE SAND. Judith Tarr tells why she’ll be passing on a Bene Gesserit tv series with an all-male creative team. Thread starts here.

(2) KAIJU-CON. On Saturday June 14, the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles is holding a one-day “Kaiju-Con”.

In conjunction with Kaiju vs Heroes, JANM is hosting a day-long Kaiju-Con that will include a vendor hall, workshops, panel discussions, and demonstrations all related to kaiju and Japanese toys. The day will culminate in a special free outdoor screening at 8:30 p.m., on JANM’s plaza of Mothra vs. Godzilla from 1964.

The museum’s exhibit “Kaiju vs Heroes: Mark Nagata’s Journey through the World of Japanese Toys” continues through July 7.

… After the war, the United States closely monitored the types of industries allowed to revive in Japan. The toy industry was one of the first to be enabled to reinvent itself, and the kaiju films and television shows helped fuel it. Additionally, the toy industry helped stimulate Japan’s economy during the early postwar reconstruction period. These new artistic and economic factors fused with kaiju and hero characters to set the stage for a golden age of Japanese popular culture—one that Nagata first became enamored with as a nine-year-old boy.

Nagata’s pursuit of these Japanese toys took him on an unexpected journey that brought new realizations about his cultural identity as an American of Japanese ancestry….

(3) DRAW YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS. Gizmodo assures us that “Half the DNA on the NYC Subway Matches No Known Organism”.

The results of a massive new DNA sequencing project on the New York City subway have just been published. And yup, there’s a lot of bacteria on the subway—though we know most of it is harmless. What’s really important, though, is what we don’t know about it.

The PathoMap project, which involved sampling turnstiles, benches, and keypads at 466 stations, found 15,152 life-forms in total, half of which were bacterial. The Wall Street Journal has created a fun, interactive microbial map of the subway out of the data, showing where on the lines the bacteria “associated with” everything from mozzarella cheese to staph infections was found.

(4) GUNN RETROSPECTIVE. Dark Matter Zine is revisiting the work of the late Hugo-winning fanartist Ian Gunn: “Giant man-baby. A silly illo by Ian Gunn”.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be seeing some movie cliches that Ian Gunn drew. Today’s, obviously, is the giant man-baby walking in slow motion. Although the drawing is at least 20 years old but did Gunn foresee the Trump Baby resistance balloons, banners etc? I wonder if the giant Trump Baby acts in slow motion too?

(5) JUST A LITTLE SMACK. John Boston doesn’t pull his punches when he’s slugging the prozines of 1964 for Galactic Journey: “[June 12, 1964] RISING THROUGH THE MURK (the July 1964 Amazing)”.

Can it be . . . drifting up through the murk, like a forgotten suitcase floating up from an old shipwreck . . . a worthwhile issue of Amazing?

You certainly can’t tell by the cover, which is one of the ugliest jobs ever perpetrated by the usually talented Ed Emshwiller—misconceived, crudely executed, and it doesn’t help that the reproduction is just a bit off register.

(6) CLONE ARRANGER. ComicsBeat brings music to fans’ ears — “ORPHAN BLACK returns in new serialized novel and audio adaptation”.

The Clone Club is reconvening. Variety reports that Orphan Black, the hit BBC America sci-fi series that ended in 2017, is set to return as a serialized novel, with accompany audio narration, later this year. The new story is produced by publishing startup Serial Box, and will feature original series star Tatiana Maslany providing the audio narration.

(7) FLIP THE SCRIPT. Eater says the promotion is really quite simple: “Burger King’s New ‘Stranger Things’ Special Is Literally an Upside-Down Whopper”.

With the premiere of Stranger Things Season 3 just a few weeks away, Netflix and Burger King are teaming up for a fast food stunt that seems aimed at the die-hard fans, only: At 11 locations across the country, the chain is adding an “Upside Down Whopper” to the menu, which is literally just a Whopper served upside down. No special Demagorgon sauce, Eggo bun, or Hopper’s bacon crumbles. It’s just an inverted hamburger in Stranger Things-branded packaging.

The YouTube caption assures viewers —

pro tip: you can’t get eaten by something in the upside down if you’ve already eaten the upside down whopper. served upside down at select bk locations on June 21:

(8) MILES OBIT. Actress Sylvia Miles has died at the age of 94 reports the New York Times.

Sylvia Miles, who earned two Academy Award nominations (for “Midnight Cowboy” and “Farewell, My Lovely”) and decades of glowing reviews for her acting, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. She was 94.

Ms. Miles began her career as a stage actress; [she] was a witch in “A Chekhov Sketchbook” (1962). She described her character in the 1977 horror film “The Sentinel” as “a mad dead crazed German zombie lesbian ballet dancer.” Her other film roles included … Meryl Streep’s mother in “She-Devil” (1989).

Her final TV appearance was in 2008, on the series “Life on Mars.” Her last screen appearance was in “Old Monster,” a 2013 short based on the epic “Beowulf.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 13, 1892 Basil Rathbone. He’s best remembered for being Sherlock Holmes in fourteen films made between 1939 and 1946 and in a radio series of the same period. For films other than these, I’ll single out The Adventures of Robin Hood (all Robin Hood is fantasy), Son of Frankenstein and Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet. (Died 1967.)
  • Born June 13, 1893 Dorothy Sayers. ISFDB often surprises me and having her listed as writing four stories in the genre did it again. All of them were written in the Thirties and here they are: “The Cyprian Cat”, “The Cave of Ali Baba”, “Bitter Almonds” and “The Leopard Lady”. So, who here has read them and can comment on them being genre or not? (Died 1957.)
  • Born June 13, 1929 Ralph McQuarrie. Conceptual designer and illustrator. He worked on the original Star Wars trilogy, the first Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars Holiday Special, Cocoon, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Nightbreed, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home andE.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 13, 1943 Malcolm McDowell, 76. My favorite role for him was Mr. Roarke on the rebooted Fantasy Island. Of course, his most infamous role was Alex in A Clockwork Orange. Scary film, that. His characterization of H. G. Wells in Time After Time was I thought rather spot on. And I’d like to single out his voicing Arcady Duvall in the “Showdown” episode of Batman: The Animated Series. Remember the Will Smith starred Wild Wild West film? Here is the same premise with John Hex instead. 
  • Born June 13, 1945 Whitley Strieber, 74. I’ve decidedly mixed feelings about him. He’s written two rather good horror novels, The Wolfen which made a fantastic horror film and The Hunger. But I’m convinced that his book Communion about his encounter with aliens is an absolute crock. 
  • Born June 13, 1949 Simon Callow, 70. English actor, musician, writer, and theatre director. So what’s he doing here? Well, he got to be Charles Dickens twice on Doctor Who, the first being in “The Unquiet Dead” during the time of the Ninth Doctor and then later during “The Wedding of River Song”. He’d also appear, though not as Dickens, on The Sarah Jane Adventures as the voice of Tree Blathereen in “The Gift” episode. I’ve not watched the latter. How are they? He was The Duke of Sandringham in the first season of Outlander
  • Born June 13, 1953 Tim Allen, 66. Jason Nesmith in the beloved Galaxy Quest, winning a much deserved Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. (What was running against it that year?) it actually had a big hit several years previously voicing Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story which would be the first in that film franchise.
  • Born June 13, 1963 Audrey Niffenegger, 56. Her first novel was The Time Traveler’s Wife. She has stated in interviews that she will not see the film as only the characters in the novels are hers. Good for her. Raven Girl, her third novel about a couple whose child is a raven trapped in a human body, was turned into performed at the Royal Opera House. 
  • Born June 13, 1981 Chris Evans, 38. Captain America in the Marvel film franchise. He had an earlier role as the Human Torch in the non-MCU Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. I think this makes him the only performer to play two major characters in either the DC or Marvel Universes. 

(10) ROBOCOMICS. The New York Times looks at a marketing solution: “Like Comic Books? This Platform Picks Titles for You”.

Comic book fans have multiple digital options to choose from these days, with apps for independents, manga and political cartoons as well as libraries from giants like DC and Marvel. But the fractured nature of the business means readers have to visit several platforms to fill their needs.

Enter Graphite, a free digital service from Graphic Comics that begins Tuesday and hopes to put them all under one roof.

The impetus for the company was a simple one, said Michael Eng, Graphite’s chief executive: “There is no solution right now that serves comics in all its forms.”

The goal of the service is to offer digital comics from all formats, including the work of independent creators as well as major publishers, and make it all free. The content will include ads, but an ad-free service is available for a $4.99 monthly fee. Graphite also hopes to expand the audience of comics readers by offering material in 61 languages. But its biggest bet is on artificial intelligence, which will suggest content to readers based on their taste.

(11) HIDDEN NO MORE. BBC: “Hidden Figures: Nasa renames street after black female mathematicians”.

The street outside Nasa’s headquarters has been named “Hidden Figures Way”, in honour of three African-American women whose work helped pave the way for future generations at the space agency.

(12) A LARK IN THE VACUUM. The Atlantic’s Rebecca Boyle has her own estimate of “The True Price of Privatizing Space Travel”.

…NASA’s decision to open up the space station is in some ways a natural next step for space exploration. Earlier, earthbound vessels all experienced a similar transformation. Transoceanic ships, railroads, and airplanes spawned cottage industries to enable their spread and wide adoption, and each eventually reached the masses. And in widening access to space, NASA is actually behind the Russians, whose space agency has transported a few space tourists through a company called Space Adventures.

But space is different. Space, as they say, is hard. To get there, you have to strap yourself to a bomb, and sometimes those bombs malfunction.

Personal space exploration is also hard to justify….

…Handing tourists the keys to the ISS reflects a much broader shift in space exploration, one that prioritizes resource extraction and commercial profit over pure research and collective scientific efforts. It’s a step toward making space more mundane, a travel destination defined by money and vacations, rather than discovery and glory.

(13) ONE OF EVERYTHING. Joe Sherry does a fine job of tackling these finalists in “Reading the Hugos: Related Work” at Nerds of a Feather.

Related Work is a bit of a catch-all category. It’s for work that is primarily non fiction and that is related to science fiction and fantasy, and which is not otherwise eligible elsewhere on the ballot. This is how you can have an encyclopedia compete against a folk album against a podcast against a collection of essays about movies (this was in 2012 when the Fancast category had not yet been created. That particular lineup of finalists can’t happen today. You may also note that albums and songs have been included in Dramatic Presentation – because the two Clipping albums in question are narrative driven whereas Seanan McGuire’s Wicked Girls was not.). There may also be a single blog post competing and winning in the category. Or a series of blog posts focusing on the women of Harry Potter. In the case of this year there is a four way biography, a series of interviews, a three part documentary, a collected essay series about the Hugo Awards, a recognition of the work done by a website, and the experience of bringing together Mexicanx fans and creators to Worldcon. Related Work is an interesting cross section of another side of the genre and another side of fandom.

(14) HUGO NOVELLAS. James Reid continues his “Hugo Awards Extravaganza 2019 – Novella”.

I feel like this category has undergone a bit of a renaissance with digital publishing: when I was growing up, I thought of Novellas as either the anchor of a short story collection, 1 or works that flesh out a larger series.2  Without the pressure of meeting mass market paperback length however, novellas can be sold as free standing works, which then can lead to series of novellas.  Fully half the slate fall into this category,3 and not only are they sequels, but they are sequels to previous nominated works.

In all three of these series, I liked the original novella,4 but the two sequels that were in the ballot last year, Binti: Home and Down Among the Sticks and Bones were both marked by precipitous drops in quality.  Given this, my big questions going into the ballot this year are can Artificial Condition avoid this sophomore slump, and can either of the threequels pull out of their series nosedives?

(15) CANNED. “Star Wars’ Mark Hamill Reveals He Got Fired From Jack in the Box for Doing a Clown Voice”Comicbook.com has the story.

Star Wars icon Mark Hamill is still full of stories that will surprise and delight fans – as he recently proved during an appearance on The Late Show with James Corden. Corden and Hamill were talking about the road to fame (and all the detours it an take); when they got to the topic of Hamill having worked as a waiter (like so many struggling actors), we got this great anecdote:

“I tried. I always was trying to find the theatrical aspect of it. You know, I worked right down the street at Jack in the Box. And I was in the back all the time, making shakes and minding the grill, and I always aspired to work the window… The one chance I had at it, it never occurred to me not to be in character as the clown, as the Jack in the Box clown! Who would want to hear [Robot voice] ‘What is your order?’ I wanted to hear [Clown voice] ‘Whats your orderrrrrrrrrr?” My manager didn’t think it was very funny: He told me to go home and never come back. I got fired! Fired for being in character! Why you… [Shakes fist] I’ll show you: One day I will be The Joker and then you’ll be sorry!”

(16) BIG FAMILY IS WATCHING. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Nature notes some past fiction has become science fact with the rise of the surveillance state — “Eyed up: the state of surveillance”

In the 1998 Hollywood thriller Enemy of the State, an innocent man (played by Will Smith) is pursued by a rogue spy agency that uses the advanced satellite “Big Daddy” to monitor his every move. The film — released 15 years before Edward Snowden blew the whistle on a global surveillance complex — has achieved a cult following. It was, however, much more than just prescient: it was also an inspiration, even a blueprint, for one of the most powerful surveillance technologies ever created…

This is the basis for the new book Eyes in the Sky: The Secret Rise of Gorgon Stare and How It Will Watch Us All by Arthur Holland Michel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019).

(17) A SEMI-MOVING PICTURE. Mike Kennedy sent the link with an observation – “I was not aware we needed this”: “‘Playmobil: The Movie’: Film Review” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Once they’re transformed into animated characters, Charlie soon winds up prisoner in a Gladiator-like kingdom ruled by the evil Emperor Maximums (Adam Lambert), prompting Marla to team up with a hipster food truck driver (Jim Gaffigan, providing vague comic relief) and a ridiculous secret agent (Daniel Radcliffe) to get her bro back. Along the way, she runs into tons of other merchandise, although it’s uncertain at this point whether the figure of Glinara (Maddie Taylor) — basically a female Jabba the Hut decked out in a sleeveless leather dress — was something already made by Playmobil or a creature the filmmakers invented for the hell of it.

Otherwise, everything goes exactly where you expect, from the live-action scenes bookending the cartoon to the nonstop chases and thundering soundtrack to all the attempts at humor that mostly miss their mark. To the director’s credit, the animated sequences are richly rendered, making the most of the rather stiff and plain-looking originals (though, if you want to get nitpicky, an early gag poking fun at the fact that Playmobil legs are unbendable is soon forgotten) and offering up a plethora of settings that help compensate for the lack of good writing.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, ULTRAGOTHA, John King Tarpinian, JJ, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, the reference detecting Randall M.]

Pixel Scroll 1/31/19 No Screaming While The Scroll Is In Motion!

(1) MARVEL AT MOPOP. Ellie Farrell had a photo taken with a friend during her visit to MoPop’s Marvel exhibit in Seattle. Opened last Spring, the exhibit continues through March 3.

(2) SFF DOES WORK TOO. Charlie Jane Anders, in a Washington Post opinion piece “Kamala Harris is wrong about science fiction”, takes issue with Sen. Kamala Harris’s claim that “we need facts, not science fiction” to deal with climate change, saying that “science fiction creators have been doing some soul-searching that includes looking for ways we can do more to restore people’s faith in the future” in dealing with climate change, “the global crisis of democracy,” and “attacks on LGBTQ people’s right to exist.”

Sen. Kamala D. Harris was half right in her speech launching her 2020 presidential campaign when she said we need to address climate change based on “science fact, not science fiction.” The truth is, we need both. Science fiction has an important role to play in rescuing the future from the huge challenges we’re facing — and the responses to Harris’s statement illustrate this perfectly.

When the California Democrat’s statement about climate change went out on social media, a number of people pointed out the truth: Science fiction has been helping us to prepare for a world of potentially disastrous climate upheaval for years. But an equal number of loud voices took issue with Harris’s warnings about climate change, because in our post-truth era, the scientific consensus about what humans are doing to our planet is still somehow a matter of opinion.

And that’s why science fiction is more important than Harris gives it credit for. No amount of scientific evidence will convince deniers — or the vast number of people who merely live in a state of denial. We live in an era in which facts and fiction are blurring into an indistinguishable mess and power belongs to whoever can tell the best story, true or not. No one can even tell what’s real anymore, and what matters is just how something makes us feel — which is why we need better stories, that, in the words of author Neil Gaiman, “lie in order to tell the truth.”

(3) SATIRE CONSIDERED. Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency podcast for January 30 takes a look back at the original Starship Troopers movie:

You’re going to love this week’s phenomenal conversation about Starship Troopers (1997) with special guests Mary Robinette Kowal and Max Temkin! Tune in for a thought-provoking discussion (and very amicable disagreement) about how successfully the film executes its satire of fascist military fantasies. Just what are the possibilities and limits of satire? What can director Paul Verhoeven’s career tell us about this “pointed critique of American imperialism”? And exactly how long will it take Anita to remember the name of the game Spec Ops without Carolyn to help?

(4) YA UPROAR CONTINUES. On Facebook, Nick Mamatas delved into the questions surrounding Amélie Wen Zhao’s decision to pull Blood Heir (reported in yesterday’s Scroll). His post is quoted with permission:

A YA novel called BLOOD HEIR, which sounds entirely awful, has been pulled from publication by its author Amélie Wen Zhao after complaints of plagiarism, poor “Russian rep” as it was put, and anti-blackness from YA twitter aficionadi:

1. Definitely messed up Russian naming conventions—though I am happy to point out that many of the same people complaining about this book are thrilled to go see the next Avengers film, and even agitated in the past for more action figures of the Black Widow in her sexy bodysuit (you know, for young girls!), called wrongly Natasha Romanoff in the films. So there is definitely a power relationship here; this is at least partially a game of “let’s flex on the new girl” while queueing up to consume a billion dollars worth of slop from the Disney hog trough.

2. Haven’t seen any screencaps actually demonstrating plagiarism except for a single sentence (“Don’t go where I can’t follow.”) In cases like this, often people casually use the term to mean “cliché” or even “genre trope.” Frankly if people don’t like clichés and genre tropes, they shouldn’t be reading children’s literature. That said, I may have just messed the presentation of textual evidence. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a ton of plagiarism.

3. The author claims that her interest was exploring indenture as it is currently practiced in China and Asia; her critics complain that a major scene involves a black-coded girl with ocean-light eyes being auctioned off, and then dying while the main character sings her a lullaby. Sounds entirely awful. I think this is also a bit of what people mean by plagiarism—this character has been identified as smacking of Rue from HUNGER GAMES. The critics definitely seem to have a point.

4. As is common, moralism abounds. I’ve certainly seen more than one note fretting aloud that CHILDREN and the YOUTH will read this book and thus be exposed to its anti-blackness. Of course, all the right-wingers rallying against the “SJW mobs” and promising the author that *they* would read the book, ya know, to triggerown the shitlibs or whatever, are lying and performing their own version of “virtue signaling” as they call it. None of those kobolds would ever read a thing that doesn’t feature a photo of the author on a red-white-and-blue background.

I think the issue of Blood Heir was that it was trafficking in racist cliches and daring to do so with only a mere publishing company and not a giant media complex behind it. I’ll always feel a thrill when an author is punished for laziness and top-of-mind decision-making, but let’s be clear: moralism itself is a cliché as well, even when it’s left-moralism. YA twitter is absolutely a Pretty Person Club and Zhao was this year’s scapegoat. But Zhao’s crime of auctorial laziness is just one more datum point showing how sadly inadequate the acquisition and editorial process in big publishing is.

And Arthur Cover has written a public letter to Zhao which says in part –

I just wrote this letter to a young author named Amelie Zhao, who withdrew her YA fantasy novel from publication because of negative comments on line…. Obviously I feel very strongly about this….

A novel cannot be all things to all people. At least one comment on your novel that I read was from a person who felt it insufficiently validated his/her ideas about slavery and villains using a cane. Often when a character uses a cane it is symbolic of something and is not a commentary on people who use a cane in real life. Readers who can’t tell the difference aren’t your concern.

Decades ago I was in a conversation with Samuel R. Delany and when he learned that a writing class was divided equally on the merits of one of his stories, he was quite pleased. He knew he’d accomplished something because of the class’s reaction.

Do not stop. Please reconsider your decision regarding your novel. These critics (and I’ve been a nasty one) are throwing spitballs at a battleship….

(5) AUDIO PALS. In the Washington Post, Karen Heller has a piece about authors and their audiobook readers, “‘I can write the words. He supplies the melody’: The harmonious bond between authors and audiobook narrators”. Two of the authors Heller interviews are genre writers:  five-time Bram Stoker Award nominee Jonathan Maberry, who says he now hears the voice of his audiobook reader, Ray Porter, in his head when he’s writing, and Canadian urban fantasy writer Kevin Hearne, who liked narrator Luke Daniels so much they’ve worked together on independent projects.

Jonathan Maberry, a fiercely prolific author of often frightening novels, hears voices rattling in his head. Specifically, one voice, that of actor Ray Porter, who narrates his audiobooks. A five-time Bram Stoker Award winner, Maberry would “imagine how Ray would inflect certain things, and I started to write toward his performance.” Be it horror, thrillers, science fiction, young adult and middle grade fiction, almost three dozen novels since 2006 — this is not a typo, and excludes anthologies, short stories and comics — Porter, without contributing a word, has helped Maberry accomplish the goal of most writers: selling more books. Says Maberry, “We’re very much a team.”

(6) NEW FAN FUND IDEA. Marcin Klak has written a proposal for creating a European Fan Fund to allow people from different countries to attend Eurocon. His draft of the rules and the winner’s responsibilities begins —

Purpose: The purpose of the Fan Fund is to create and strengthen bonds between European fans and fandoms. Currently in almost every country there is a fandom that quite often has small or no connection to the broader European fandom. Most fans do concentrate on the “here and now” and are not looking for friends in other countries.

The idea: A delegate would be elected by fans across Europe to travel to Eurocon. The delegate must offer to have a talk about fandom in their country. The delegate should also offer their participation as a guest in the Eurocon Awards ceremony, Opening ceremony and Closing ceremony. Any other help from the delegate should be encouraged. It will be for the Eurocon organizers to accept that help to the extent that suits them.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 31, 1923 Norman Mailer. I never knew he wrote in the genre but he did. Ancient Evenings certainly has the elements of fantasy and The Castle in the Forest is interesting retelling of Adolf Hitler and his last days. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 31, 1937 Philip Glass, 82. 1000 Airplanes on the Roof: A Science Fiction Music-DramaEinstein on the BeachThe Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (with a libretto by Doris Lessing based on her novel of the same name), The marriages between zones three, four, and five (1997, libretto by Doris Lessing, after her second novel from Canopus in Argos), The Witches of Venice and The Juniper Tree would be a fragmentary listing of his works that have a genre bias.   
  • Born January 31, 1960 Grant Morrison, 59. If you can find it, his early stuff on such U.K. publishers as Galaxy Media and Harrier Comics is worth searching out. Not your hero in tights materials at all. For his work in that venue, I’d recommend his run on The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, all of his Doom Patrol work (and the DC Universe series this fall is based on his work), Seven Soldiers and his weird The Multiversity
  • Born January 31, 1977 Kerry Washington, 42. Alicia Masters in Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Also played Medical Officer Marissa Brau in  30,000 Leagues Under the Sea. She voices Natalie Certain in Care 3. She also voices Princess Shuri in a short run Black Panther series. 

(8) MR. & MRS. Bill writes, “The 1/29 scroll item about Tiptree got me to looking things up, and I found the attached” – a bit of social news from the Chicago Tribune for January 24, 1946. Definitely still news to me.

(9) WRONG ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter spotted another bad guess on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!

Category: Scribbling Siblings

Answer: Aviation writer Robert Serling helped little bro Rod with “The Odyssey of Flight 33” episode of this series.

Wrong answer: What is “Star Trek”?

(10) GALAPAGOS AIR FORCE. BBC tells how “Drones help Galapagos tackle rat infestation”.

Drones are helping conservationists rid one Galapagos island of an infestation of rats threatening indigenous birds.

The drones have dropped poison on more than half of North Seymour Island in a bid to kill off the invasive species.

The island’s rare birds nest on the ground and their numbers are being depleted by the rodent invasion.

The drones work much faster and more cheaply than helicopters which have been used in similar rat eradication projects elsewhere.

(11) TRACING CLIMATE HISTORY. Researchers think “America colonisation ‘cooled Earth’s climate’”.

Colonisation of the Americas at the end of the 15th Century killed so many people, it disturbed Earth’s climate.

That’s the conclusion of scientists from University College London, UK.

The team says the disruption that followed European settlement led to a huge swathe of abandoned agricultural land being reclaimed by fast-growing trees and other vegetation.

This pulled down enough carbon dioxide (CO?) from the atmosphere to eventually chill the planet.

It’s a cooling period often referred to in the history books as the “Little Ice Age” – a time when winters in Europe would see the Thames in London regularly freeze over.

“The Great Dying of the Indigenous Peoples of
the Americas led to the abandonment of enough cleared land that the resulting terrestrial carbon uptake had a detectable impact on both atmospheric CO? and global surface air temperatures,” Alexander Koch and colleagues write in their paper published in Quaternary Science Reviews.

(12) THE ELEPHANT (SEAL) IN THE ROOM. Look what happens when those pesky humans aren’t around — “Seals take over California beach closed in US shutdown”.

A large herd of elephant seals has taken over a beach in California that was forced to close during the government shutdown.

The seals took advantage of the 35-day shutdown to make themselves at home on Drakes Beach, and in its car park.

So far they have been spotted lying on their stomachs, taking naps and occasionally snuggling their pups.

The beach will remain closed until the seals decide to move on – although it’s not clear when that will be.

(13) HELP WANTED. There’s a job vacancy in Gotham: “Ben Affleck signals Batman departure”.

Holy recasting, Batman! The search is on for a new Dark Knight following Ben Affleck’s apparent confirmation that he is hanging up his Bat cape.

The actor effectively said as much by retweeting a story saying Matt Reeves’ The Batman would be made without him.

“Excited for #TheBatman in Summer 2021 and to see @MattReevesLA vision come to life,” Affleck wrote.

The 46-year-old first appeared as the comic book superhero in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

(14) DEATH RIDES A BOBBLEHEAD. Matt Monaghan, in “The Dia de Los Dodgers Skull Bobblehead is Amazing”  on Cut4 has one of the all-time greatest fantasy bobbleheads EVER.

Bobblehead nights happen all the time at baseball games. Already this year, there’s been one for a nun, one for Pitbull and one for a bald eagle that flew into a pitcher’s face. But during Wednesday’s Rockies-Dodgers game, we may have found the coolest bobblehead ever: The Dia de Los Dodgers sugar skull bobblehead.

(15) STAN LEE GIVEN POSTHUMOUS KEY TO THE CITY. Hey, it’s LA. L. Ron Hubbard put out books here for years after he died. Who’s to say Stan won’t get some use from it? That was just part of what happened at the celebrity-studded tribute to Stan Lee on Wednesday night: “Stan Lee’s Friends and Fans Pay Tearful, Funny Tribute to Their ‘Generalissimo’” in The Hollywood Reporter.

…Hosting the show was Lee’s long-time friend and fan, filmmaker Kevin Smith, who was sure to note that Lee was “one of the best humans to ever walk the Earth” before inviting everyone to enter the theater. The theater itself was transformed into a monument to the man, with some of his most beloved comics on display, from the first appearance of Spider-Man and Black Panther to some of the most iconic adventures of the Fantastic Four. Costumes from the Sony-led Spider-Man films were displayed inside glass cases, but it was the energy in the room that truly punctuated the evening.

Smith put it best at the beginning of the tribute: “This is not a funeral, though he’s gone. This is a celebration! That’s how religions start. We all agree that we saw him tonight and that he’s no longer gone. Stan’s spirit is here with us.” With all the outpourings of love in the room, it’d be hard to argue otherwise. Copious footage of Lee played throughout the evening, including a touching clip of him singing “Cocktails for Two”, with all the energy of someone in their twenties, as his embarrassed assistants set up his microphone.

Smith kicked off the evening with the story of how he met Stan for his movie Mallrats and the grand efforts it took to convince the then less-recognizable legend to appear in his film after Lee read the script and remarked “I would never say this.” Smith admitted that Lee himself was never quite accepting or aware of his successes, despite his put on braggadocio. “This was a guy who spent his life dreaming of writing the great American novel, and he didn’t realize that he had been successful and fulfilled his dreams one-thousand times over,” Smith said. Smith himself admitted that “it was hard to understand that we were friends” before eventually coming to realize just how much Lee loved him.

…Perhaps the biggest moment of the night came with the appearance of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who detailed Lee’s love affair with L.A. before running through a detailed catalogue of his own nerdiness, including a proclamation that no one could offer him enough money to let go of his complete collection of original copies of the Wolverine comic series. Garcetti made it clear, “Stan Lee was a mensch who always fought for the underdog”, before presenting Stan’s former company Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment with Garcetti’s third ever “Key to the City”, carved from a fallen tree and engraved with Stan’s image and catchphrase “Excelsior!”

(16) IN THE SPIRIT OF IAIN M. BANKS. A funny thread about pet names for weaponry – begins here.

(17) DEALING WITH A FOOD EVANGELIST. “Dear Mother Goose”, an advice column for children’s book characters, by Slate’s Emma Span. Here’s the problem, click to read Mother’s answer:

Dear Mother Goose,

I am being aggressively pursued by someone (I’ll call him S.I.A.) who is bizarrely obsessed with getting me to eat “green eggs and ham.” He has offered no explanation of where the ham and eggs came from, why they are green, or why he cares if I eat them. I have calmly and clearly turned him down, but he is following me everywhere, carrying a plate of food, which by now is cold, dirty, and wet as well as green. Nevertheless, S.I.A. thinks I might like the food. He has brought a mouse, a fox, and a goat to me, as if that would change my mind. We were even involved in a boating accident because of his behavior….

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, John A Arkansawyer, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 10/13/18 I Can Hear The Pixels Singing Each To Each

(1) GREAT AMERICAN READ UPDATE. Right now five of the top 10 books are sff, as Shelf Awareness alerts readers that the “Great American Read Voting Deadline Nears”:

The deadline is approaching to cast votes for the country’s best-loved novel, and organizers of The Great American Read have released a Top 10 list of the leading candidates thus far. The project’s “Grand Finale” episode will air October 23 on PBS stations nationwide to reveal the number one book.

To date, more than 3.8 million votes have been cast. Viewers can vote for their favorite titles each day through October 18 using hashtag voting via Facebook and Twitter, SMS texting with the dedicated book hashtag, and toll-free by phone. All methods can be found here.

Entering the final week, the current top 10 books, in alphabetical order, are:

• Charlotte’s Web
• Chronicles of Narnia series
• Gone with the Wind
• Harry Potter series
• Jane Eyre
• Little Women
• Lord of the Rings series
• Outlander series
• Pride and Prejudice
• To Kill a Mockingbird

(2) GENRE CROSSOVERS. Claire O’Dell, in “Crime In The Land of Gods and Monsters” on Crimereads, recommends eight sf/mystery crossovers, including works by Aliette de Bodard, Malka Older, and Nnedi Okorafor.

Aliette de Bodard, The Tea Master and the Detective (Subterranean Press)

Ever since the original Watson and Holmes stories first appeared, other authors have experimented with their own takes on the genius detective and his faithful friend. De Bodard has set her own pastiche in her Xuya universe (a far future space age initially dominated by Asian powers). Here we have a Watson who is a mindship named The Shadow’s Child, and who brews psychotropic teas for her customers. Long Chau is our Holmes, and just as abrasive and given to self-medication as the original.

Of course, there is a mystery. Long Chau initially comes to The Shadow’s Child because she wants to locate a corpse in space—for scientific reasons, she says—but she needs a specific concoction to ensure her mind still functions in the Deep Spaces. Chau and The Shadow’s Child do locate a corpse, but when Chau deduces that this was no accident, but a murder, the two embark on an investigation together.

(3) SAWYER ON ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. Reuters conducted a wide-ranging interview with Robert J. Sawyer about the future of AI — “Judging artificial intelligence on its prospects for judging us”. This is just a sample —

ANSWERS: Do you think we will achieve artificial general intelligence (AGI) this century? If so, how do you see it taking shape? And how can it be contained and managed by humans?

ROBERT J. SAWYER: …There is no inner life whatsoever, to that AI or any other AI in the world right now as far as we’ve been able to determine; not any inkling of what we would call consciousness.

The reason for that is very simple. We don’t know what gave rise to it in humanity. Therefore, reproducing it in lines of code is the same thing as saying to a programmer (no matter how good that programmer is), “Reproduce artistic genius for me. Reproduce poetic inspiration for me. Reproduce romantic love for me.”

We don’t know how to do it, so we don’t know how to code it. In that sense, I think we’re nowhere near having artificial general intelligence in the strong AI sense, the way academics use it to refer to machines capable of experiencing consciousness, of having an inner life. Not Watson, not Deep Blue, you name your favorite one, it ain’t doing it. There’s nobody home.

In the weaker sense of being able to perform any intellectual or cognitive task that a human being can perform, absolutely we will have AGI. In the near future, it will be a reality for sure. There’s no question that, with computer growth being exponential as described by Moore’s Law, we are absolutely going to have AGI and in a horizon for which business and the general public should be concerned right now.

(4) FINAL PAPER. Engadget reports “Stephen Hawking’s last paper on black holes is now online”.

Stephen Hawking never stopped trying to unravel the mysteries surrounding black holes — in fact, he was still working to solve one of them shortly before his death. Now, his last research paper on the subject is finally available online through pre-publication website ArXiV, thanks to his co-authors from Cambridge and Harvard. It’s entitled Black Hole Entropy and Soft Hair, and it tackles the black hole paradox. According to Hawking’s co-author Malcolm Perry, the paradox “is perhaps the most puzzling problem in fundamental theoretical physics today” and was the center of the late physicist’s life for decades.

The information paradox arose from Hawking’s theoretical argument back in the 1970s that black holes have a temperature. As such, they’re bound to evaporate over time until there’s nothing left, releasing energy now called the “Hawking Radiation.” See, it’s believed that when an object enters a black hole, its information gets preserved on its surface forever even if it vanishes from sight. If a black hole evaporates, though, then so will that information. That creates a paradox, because according to the rules of quantum physics, information can never be destroyed.

The new paper shows how that information can be preserved by photons called “soft hair” surrounding the edge of black hole, which you might know as the event horizon. According to Hawking, Perry, Andrew Strominger and Sasha Haco, a black hole’s temperature changes when you throw an object (say, a planet’s atoms) into it. The hotter it gets, the more its entropy (its internal disorder) rises. That entropy is what’s preserved in a black hole’s soft hair.

(5) FISTREBUFFS. The Hollywood Reporter says this Marvel show is leaving the air: “‘Iron Fist’ Canceled After Two Seasons at Netflix”.

The first Marvel drama has been canceled at Netflix.

Iron Fist, the fourth in the original four-show deal between the streaming giant and Disney’s Marvel, will not return for a third season.

“Marvel’s Iron Fist will not return for a third season on Netflix. Everyone at Marvel Television and Netflix is proud of the series and grateful for all of the hard work from our incredible cast, crew and showrunners. We’re thankful to the fans who have watched these two seasons, and for the partnership we’ve shared on this series. While the series on Netflix has ended, the immortal Iron Fist will live on,” reps for Netflix and Marvel said in a statement to THR late Friday.

(6) SIGNS OF THE TIMES.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • October 13, 1939 – Melinda Dillon, 79, Actor who was nominated for an Oscar for her role in the Hugo finalist Close Encounters of the Third Kind. She also played roles in Harry and the Hendersons, Spontaneous Combustion, the Matt Salinger version of Captain America, and had guest roles on The Twilight Zone and the miniseries adaptation of James Michener’s Space.
  • October 13, 1954 – Stephen Gallagher, 64, Writer and Producer. He wrote more than a dozen genre novels and several dozen shorter fiction works, largely science-fictional horror, mostly in the 80s and 90s, as well as 4-part Doctor Who TV serials for both the Fourth and Fifth Doctors, and adapted his novels Chimera and Oktober into TV miniseries. He has received several British Fantasy, World Fantasy, Stoker, and International Horror Guild Award nominations; his collection Out of His Mind won a BFA, and his short story “The Box” won an IHG Award.
  • October 13, 1956 – Chris Carter, 62, Emmy-Nominated Writer, Director, and Producer, best known as the creator of The X-Files, which has accumulated more than 200 episodes during its initial run from 1993 to 2002 and its renewed run from 2016 to 2018, as well as the spinoff series The Lone Gunmen and the series Millennium (no connection to the John Varley work) and Harsh Realm. He shares a credit with Elizabeth Hand for one of the X-Files tie-in novels entitled Fight the Future.
  • October 13, 1959 – Wayne Pygram, 59, Actor from Australia who played quite possibly one of the best-developed villains in genre series history, in the role of Scorpius on the Farscape series. He also appeared as Governor Tarkin in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, and had guest roles on the TV Series Lost, Time Trax, and The Girl from Tomorrow.
  • October 13, 1962 – Patrick McMurray, 56, Conrunner and Fan. He is an Irish-born resident of the UK who chaired Mancunicon (the 2016 UK Eastercon National Convention), and has served on a number of other Eastercon and Worldcon committees. He has been a member of several fan groups, and for several years maintained the Memory Hole Annex, a paper archive of printed convention materials. He attended the Australian Natcon in 2004 as the GUFF delegate.
  • October 13, 1963 – Hiro Kanagawa, 55, Actor and Playwright from Japan who emigrated to Canada and has become a go-to actor for character roles in genre TV shows and films. He has had recurring roles in Salvation, Altered Carbon, Legends of Tomorrow, Heroes Reborn, The Man in the High Castle, The 100, and Caprica, with guest roles on dozens more, as well as parts in genre films such as Elektra, The Day the Earth Stood Still remake, and Doomsday Prophecy.
  • October 13, 1964 – Christopher Judge, 54, Actor, Writer, and Producer best known to genre fans as the Jaffa warrior Teal’c in more than 200 episodes of the Hugo-nominated Stargate SG-1, for which he received a Saturn nomination, with a guest appearance on Stargate: Atlantis, and a reprise of that role lending his magnificent voice to the Stargate videogames.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Good grief! A Halloween legend gets out of hand in Bacon.
  • You’ll never guess who joined the National League in Over the Hedge.
  • Can you pass the bookstore entrance exam in this Non Sequitur?

(9) KERMODE. First Man — it’s not a film about a shark (makes sense in context).

Mark Kermode reviews First Man. A biopic of Neil Armstrong and the legendary space mission that made him the first man on the Moon.

 

(10) BAD WEEK FOR SPACE TELESCOPES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] ABC News reveals: “Another NASA space telescope shuts down in orbit”. Damn, it must be catching… first the Hubble loses a gyro, now what Chandra?

Another NASA space telescope has shut down and halted science observations.

Less than a week after the Hubble Space Telescope went offline, the Chandra X-ray Observatory did the same thing. NASA said Friday that Chandra’s automatically went into so-called safe mode Wednesday, possibly because of a gyroscope problem.

Hubble went into hibernation last Friday due to a gyroscope failure.

Both orbiting observatories are old and in well-extended missions: Hubble is 28, while Chandra is 19. Flight controllers are working to resume operations with both.
NASA said it’s coincidental both went “asleep” within a week of one another. An astronomer who works on Chandra, Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tweeted Friday that “Chandra decided that if Hubble could have a little vacation, it wanted one, too.”

Launched by space shuttles in the 1990s, Hubble and Chandra are part of NASA’s Great Observatories series. The others are the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, which was also launched in the 1990s but eventually failed and was destroyed, and the Spitzer Space Telescope, launched in 2003 and still working. Each was intended to observe the cosmos in different wavelengths.

(11) ARK PARK. Jamie Lee Curtis Taete’s byline by itself is more interesting than this religious theme park in Kentucky: “This $100 Million Noah’s Ark Theme Park Is a Boring, Homophobic Mess” at Vice.

[Owner Ken] Ham has previously blamed multiple factors for the underwhelming performance of the attraction. From local business owners to atheists. But is there a simpler explanation? Is it possible that people don’t want to visit the Ark because it sucks?

Then it’s on to the living quarters—a series of rooms showing how Noah and his family might have lived. There’s a sign as you enter explaining that they’ve had to take artistic license while designing the area, because the Bible doesn’t give much info on this topic.

They could’ve used that artistic license to make something cool, like Biblical Wakanda. But instead, they made up a name for Noah’s wife (Emzara) and created an exhibit on looms, the single least entertaining object on earth.

IS IT FUN ENOUGH TO CONVERT YOU TO A CREATIONIST BELIEF SYSTEM? No. You can see fake bedrooms and living rooms in an IKEA for free. And you don’t have to read a single word about looms while doing it.

(12) ANTI-DRONE WEAPON. BBC profiles a security technology —“Sky battles: Fighting back against rogue drones”.

Rogue drones have nearly caused air accidents, have been used as offensive weapons, to deliver drugs to prisoners, and to spy on people. So how can we fight back?

…Drones are also being used by so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq as offensive weapons. On one occasion, a small number of drones carrying hand grenades were able to take out an entire Russian weapons depot….

So what can be done to prevent drones from flying places they shouldn’t?

Several companies, including Droptec, OpenWorks Engineering, and DroneDefence have developed hand-held or shoulder-mounted “guns” that fire a net to trap a suspect drone.

They’ve already been used to protect heads of state on foreign visits and other dignitaries at international meetings.

(13) UK COMICS LAUREATE. She’s the third person to hold the title: “Hannah Berry: New UK comics laureate to harness ‘untapped’ potential”.

New comics laureate Hannah Berry has said she wants to use the position to remove some of the “stigma” that still surrounds graphic novels and comics, and harness their “untapped” potential.

Berry is the award-winning creator of graphic novels Adamtine and Livestock.

“There are still a lot of people who think comics are just superheroes throwing stuff at each other.

“With the enormous, diverse, wealth of subjects out there, there’s a graphic novel for everybody,” she said.

“There’s nothing wrong with superhero comics, but I think if people were aware, maybe the stigma could be removed.”

(14) LEAPS AND BOUNDS IN SCIENCE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Phys.org’s article “Numerous boulders, many rocks, no dust: MASCOT’s zigzag course across the asteroid Ryugu” discusses findings from the German “hopping” lander on Asteroid Ryugu (deployed from Japan’s Hayabusa2).

Six minutes of free fall, a gentle impact on the asteroid and then 11 minutes of rebounding until coming to rest. That is how, in the early hours of 3 October 2018, the journey of the MASCOT asteroid lander began on Asteroid Ryugu – a land full of wonder, mystery and challenges. Some 17 hours of scientific exploration followed this first ‘stroll’ on the almost 900-metre diameter asteroid. The lander was commanded and controlled from the MASCOT Control Centre at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) site in Cologne in the presence of scientific teams from Germany, France and Japan. MASCOT surpassed all expectations and performed its four experiments at several locations on the asteroid. Never before in the history of spaceflight has a Solar System body been explored in this way. It has now been possible to precisely trace MASCOT’s path on Ryugu’s surface on the basis of image data from the Japanese Hayabusa2 space probe and the lander’s images and data….

“We were expecting less than 16 hours of battery life because of the cold night, says MASCOT project manager Tra-Mi Ho from the DLR Institute of Space Systems. “After all, we were able to operate MASCOT for more than one extra hour, even until the radio shadow began, which was a great success.”

…Having reconstructed the events that took place on asteroid Ryugu, the scientists are now busy analysing the first results from the acquired data and images. “What we saw from a distance already gave us an idea of what it might look like on the surface,” reports Ralf Jaumann from the DLR Institute of Planetary Research and scientific director of the MASCOT mission. “In fact, it is even crazier on the surface than expected. Everything is covered in rough blocks and strewn with boulders. How compact these blocks are and what they are composed of, we still do not know. But what was most surprising was that large accumulations of fine material are nowhere to be found – and we did not expect that. We have to investigate this in the next few weeks, because the cosmic weathering would actually have had to produce fine material,” continues Jaumann. [Emphasis added.]

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

Pixel Scroll 4/3/18 You Got The Jong Number For That Pixel Scroll

(1) WHEN TROLLS ATTACK. The London Film and Comic Con told readers how they responded to a trolling attack.

Now to an important activity that really did affect us last week and it did catch us out for a few hours until we worked out what was going down.

Two days before the most recent big announcement, 15 new accounts were created on our forum and equally, multiple new Facebook members with brand new accounts started following our Facebook page. Then, on the announcement night, the users of these accounts started to aggressively and negatively comment and undermine the guest announcement. This was the ONLY thing they were set up to achieve.

This was not noticed by us at first and it took some time to look into these Facebook accounts. As we started to look a little closer, it was clear that we’d attracted a small vocal minority with a real and cynical agenda to purely undermine the guest announcement and belittle any fans or attendees showing any type of excitement.

I’ve since learnt this is known as ‘TrollJacking’, where internet trolls post or comment on a piece of content or an announcement to drum up negativity or just to damage the purpose of the thread. What a lovely thing to do.

This is something very new to us and it really did catch us out, in fact so much so we left the comments up online – as we believe in freedom of speech and opinion and there’s always the odd bit of negativity with every update or announcement.

To all the true fans out there, regardless of whether you are happy about the announcement or not – I am sorry that we did not pick up on it sooner and allowed this minority to cause friction at a time that should have been a time for great excitement and discussion for everyone….

This announcement on Facebook about the appearance of Christopher Eccleston seems to have been the target.

(2) CORALINE MEANING. The Guardian interviews Gaiman about the opera based on his book: “Neil Gaiman on Coraline the terrifying opera: ‘Being brave means being scared'”.

The button eyes are a macabre touch that places Gaiman’s story firmly in the Grimms’ Fairy Tales tradition. And there’s more than a touch of Hansel and Gretel in Coraline’s themes of parental abandonment, an initially appealing but evil mother figure, and a brave child who conquers her fears to win the day. “I’d wanted to write a story for my daughters,” says Gaiman in the introduction to the 10th-anniversary edition, “that told them something I wished I’d known when I was a boy: that being brave doesn’t mean you aren’t scared. Being brave means you are scared, really scared, badly scared, and you do the right thing anyway.”

(3) A NIGHT AT THE OPERA. And The Guardian comments on the performance: “Coraline review – creepy adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s tale will turn kids on to opera”.

The Royal Opera have certainly done it proud. The supernatural rubs shoulders with the mundane in Aletta Collins’s production, in which the two worlds are placed back to back as mirror images on a revolving stage. Magic consultants Richard Wiseman and David Britland have been drafted in to provide the special effects, which drew gasps from the audience on occasion on opening night, though Collins also has a knack of suggesting unease by the simplest of means. The scene in which Kitty Whately’s Other Mother produces syringes and surgical needles in an attempt to sew buttons over the eyes of Mary Bevan’s Coraline (“just a little incision under your eyelids”) had me squirming in my seat.

(4) DUFF. SF Site News covered the Down Under Fan Fund result:

Marlee Jane Ward won DUFF (the Down Under Fan Fund) in an unopposed race. She will travel to the US to attend Worldcon 76, to be held in San Jose from August 16-20….

(5) ALPHABET SOUP. James Davis Nicoll returns with: “Fighting Erasure: Women SF Writers of the 1970s, Part IV”. This time letter letters I and J, which include –

Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones was prolific and talented, which makes singling out a particular work as a starting point especially problematic. The fact she’s the subject of one of my review projects doesn’t help, as it only expands the number of worthy candidates. Although it is a bit of a cheat, what I would recommend is not a single novel but an omnibus: 2003’s The Dalemark Quartet. It is composed of four early secondary-world fantasy novels that recount the history of troubled Dalemark, from its age of legends to a quasi-medieval period thousands of years later.

(6) MLK. On the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death, here is N. K. Jemisin’s contribution to CNN’s post “Who is Martin Luther King Jr. to us, 50 years later?”

N.K. Jemisin: I pray it won’t take another 50 years

In 1963, as Martin Luther King Jr. sat in solitary confinement in Birmingham, he lamented the failures of white moderates, who at the time seemed to prefer “a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”

It must have seemed clear to King that even white people who claim to support equality are unreliable allies — willing to talk the talk and walk a few steps, but only if their own anxieties are put first.

Which is why the civil rights movement made what progress it did by effectively shaming white moderates into doing the right thing. This makes me wonder what America is to do in 2018, when our society daily endures a shameless embarrassment of a President, abetted by his shameless party and the shameless media — and when, too often, some white liberals and moderates openly wonder if there’s some way to ease tension between themselves and … fascists.

I have no solutions to offer, other than to survive and to try and help as many others survive as possible. It saddens me that we’ve progressed so little in the 50 years since King’s death. I pray it won’t take another 50 years for all of us to know the presence of justice at last.

N.K. Jemisin is an author of speculative fiction. In 2016, she became the first black to win the Hugo Award for best novel for “The Fifth Season.” In 2017, she won Hugo for best novel again, for “The Obelisk Gate.”

(7) EXPANSE. The next Expanse novel will be out in December – Tiamat’s Wrath.

(8) THEY’LL BE BACK. The Hollywood Reporter brings word: “‘Riverdale,’ ‘Flash,’ ‘Supernatural’ Among 10 CW Renewals”.

The CW, fresh off news that it is expanding to a sixth night of originals for the 2018-19 broadcast season, has renewed nearly its entire lineup.

Returning for additional seasons are: Arrow, Black Lightning, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Legends of Tomorrow, Dynasty, The Flash, Jane the Virgin, Riverdale, Supergirl and Supernatural.

Still to be determined are the fates of midseason fare The 100, iZombie and Life Sentence and fall debut Valor. Official decisions on those four — as well as The CW’s new series orders — will be determined in May.

(9) FIGURING IT OUT. NPR’s Glen Weldon finds both style and substance in “‘Legion,’ Season 2: Welcome Back To The Weirdest Corner Of The Marvel Universe”.

Legion is the story of David Haller (a perpetually rumpled and vaguely confused Dan Stevens), the world’s most powerful mutant, who’s now free of the evil psychic parasite known only as the Shadow King, who last season assumed the form of his friend Lenny, played by Aubrey Plaza. David’s grown up believing himself to be schizophrenic, but came to realize his true nature when he was taken in by an organization seeking to train him — and to fight the Shadow King, who is in fact an ancient being known as Amahl Farouk (played, this season, by Navid Negahban).

(10) BEWARE SPOILERS. Martin Morse Wooster tells me, “Since you are having more troubles with computers I offer a show recap” —

Last night’s episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow began with a scene captioned ‘OCCIDENTAL COLLEGE–1979,”  The camera zooms in on the back of an African-American student’s head.  The student, suing an Olympia manual typewriter, dutifully types, “Obama.Political Science 100.”  We know that this scence is about Barack Obama when he was a freshman in college.  Obama looks out the window and sees a campus in springtime.

As the future president is typing, the window is smashed and a giant paw GRABS the president and holds him high in the air!  It is Grodd the gorilla, and he’s on a mission.

‘IT’S TIME TO MAKE AMERICA GRODD AGAIN!,” the beast thunders,

Fortuntately the Legends of Tomorrow show up and Grodd drops Obama, who runs off.  The Legends then blast the beast with flamethrowers, then shrink him and throw him in a Mason jar.  The future president then decides to party with the Legends on their time ship.  He holds out a hand to one of the women, saying, “Hi, my name is Barry.”  “You should call yourself ‘Barack,’ ” she responds.  Another woman swoons, “I miss you, Barry!”

I wish I could tell you how Obama gets back to California and somehow doesn’t remember how he was nearly killed by a giant talking ape and then partied with some time lords.  But this is the first of a two-part episode, so we will learn these answers next week

(11) SKYE STOMPERS. Why are the : “Dinosaur tracks on Skye ‘globally important'”? They date to the Middle Jurassic, for which there’s relatively little data.

Most of the prints were made by long-necked sauropods – which stood up to 2m (6.5ft) tall – and by theropods, which were the older cousins of Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Researchers measured, photographed and analysed about 50 footprints in a tidal area at Brothers’ Point – Rubha nam Brathairean – a headland on Skye’s Trotternish peninsula.

The footprints were difficult to study owing to tidal conditions, the impact of weathering and changes to the landscape but the scientists identified two trackways in addition to many isolated footprints.

(12) SMUGGLE BY WIRE. TeleCrunch reports “Chinese police foil drone-flying phone smugglers at Hong Kong border”:

Dozens of high-tech phone smugglers have been apprehended by Chinese police, who twigged to the scheme to send refurbished iPhones into the country from Hong Kong via drone — but not the way you might think.

China’s Legal Daily reported the news (and Reuters noted shortly after) following a police press conference; it’s apparently the first cross-border drone-based smuggling case, so likely of considerable interest.

Although the methods used by the smugglers aren’t described, a picture emerges from the details. Critically, in addition to the drones themselves, which look like DJI models with dark coverings, police collected some long wires — more than 600 feet long.

…So here’s what you do:

Send the drone over once with all cable attached. Confederates on the other side attach the cable to a fixed point, say 10 or 15 feet off the ground. Drone flies back unraveling the cable, and lands some distance onto the Hong Kong side. Smugglers attach a package of 10 phones to the cable with a carabiner, and the drone flies straight up. When the cable reaches a certain tension, the package slides down the cable, clearing the fence. The drone descends, and you repeat.

I’ve created a highly professional diagram to illustrate this technique (feel free to reuse):

(13) READ BUHLERT. Cora Buhlert has some new work available — “A Triple New Release and Some Thoughts on Cozy Space Opera”.

I have an announcement of my own to make. And it’s a big announcement, because I have not one but three new In Love and War stories to announce, two short stories and one short novel.

The first of the two short stories isn’t quite that new, because it has been available as part of the anthology The Guardian for a while now. However, if you want a standalone edition, here is your chance.

Like Dreaming of the Stars and Graveyard Shift, Baptism of Fire is a prequel to the In Love and War series proper, though it is listed as Part 2 at most vendors, because they don’t support prequels very well.

(14) BLOOM. The singer of “F*** Me Ray Bradbury” continues her TV career as someone who is late.

Rachel Bloom of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fame will be heading over to another CW show when she guest stars on an upcoming episode of iZombie.

Bloom will be portraying a “pretentious theater actor” whose death is investigated by iZombie’s Liv (Rose McIver) and Clive (Malcolm Goodwin), TV Line reported.

(15) GOING GREEN. The 2019 Worldcon committee wishes to apprise you of the availability of the “Finest Public Toilet in Dublin”. Or “Where All the Big Lads Hang Out…” as the post’s author Pádraig Ó Méalóid says:

It’s the middle of August 2019, and you’re in Dublin for Worldcon – a Stranger, if not in a Strange Land, at least in a strange city. A strange city with many secrets, which sometimes only the locals truly know about. You’ve heard all about our native literary giants – George Bernard Shaw, James Joyce, and Flann O’Brien, to name but three – but even they were only human, prey to the wants and needs that mortal flesh is heir to. It’s only natural that you’ll want to know where they would have gone, and where you could go, too. So let me introduce you to one of the hidden architectural gems of my native city: the beautiful public toilets in the National Library of Ireland….

(16) GOING PINK. You could win this outfit and fight cancer —

Enter to win Deadpool’s Pink Suit and Send a Big F-You to Cancer at https://fox.co/DeadpoolPinkSuitYT Learn more about Fuck Cancer at https://LetsFCancer.com

 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Brian Z., Andrew Porter, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Josh Jasper.]

Pixel Scroll 2/11/18 ’The Scroll of Doctor Pixel And Other Stories’ And Other Stories

1) EXTENDING LIFE FOR ISS? TechCrunch says: “The Trump administration is reportedly moving to privatize the International Space Station”. (“I’m sorry, Dave, but it will cost you $2.5 million to open the pod bay doors.”)

The Trump administration is planning to privatize the international space station instead of simply decommissioning the orbiting international experiment in 2024, according to a report in The Washington Post

According to a document obtained by the Post, the current administration is mulling handing the International Space Station off to private industry instead of de-orbiting it as NASA “will expand international and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit.”

The Post also reported that the administration was looking to request $150 million in fiscal year 2019 “to enable the development and maturation of commercial entities and capabilities which will ensure that commercial successors to the ISS — potentially including elements of the ISS — are operational when they are needed.”

(2) PALEYFEST. PaleyFest LA puts fans in the same room with over a hundred TV stars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood from March 16-25. This almost throws Comic-Con in the shade. Deaadline reports: “PaleyFest LA Sets Talent From ‘Handmaid’s Tale’, ‘Queen Sugar’, ‘Riverdale’ For TV Event”.

In addition to the previously announced opening night tribute to Barbra Streisand, the lineup at this year’s fest includes over 100 stars from some of the best shows making waves on television  including Seth MacFarlane, Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Elisabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Anna Faris, Allison Janney, Thomas Middleditch, Kumail Nanjiani, Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Iain Armitage, Zoe Perry, Freddie Highmore, Rutina Wesley, Ava DuVernay, KJ Apa, and Lili Reinhart.

PaleyFest LA 2018 gives fans access to special screenings, exclusive conversations, and behind-the-scenes scoops and breaking news from the stars and creative minds behind their favorite shows. This years shows include The Orville, Will & Grace, The Handmaid’s Tale, Silicon Valley, Supernatural, The Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon, The Good Doctor, Mom, Queen Sugar, Riverdale, and Stranger Things….

Click the link to see all the stars who will be appearing for these shows —

Friday, March 16: Opening Night Presentation: PaleyFest Icon: An Evening with Barbra Streisand (7:30 pm):

Saturday, March 17: FOX’s The Orville (2:00 pm):

Saturday, March 17: NBC’s Will & Grace (7:00 pm): 

Sunday, March 18: Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale (2:00 pm):

Tuesday, March 20: CW’s Supernatural (6:45 pm):

Wednesday, March 21: CBS’s The Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon (7:30 pm) 

Thursday, March 22: ABC’s The Good Doctor (7:30 pm):

Saturday, March 24: CBS’s Mom (2:00 pm):

Saturday, March 24: OWN’s Queen Sugar (7:00 pm):

Sunday, March 25: CW’s Riverdale (2:00 pm):

Sunday, March 25: Netflix’s Stranger Things (7:00 pm):

(3) CHANGING THE CHANNEL. Abigail Nussbaum covers new TV shows in “Winter Crop, 2018 Edition”.

…I don’t know if I’m going to stay in love with all of these shows (three episodes in, I’m starting to lose patience with Counterpart, for example), but they have a hook that the fall’s carefully samey procedurals don’t even try for.

  • Black Lightning – There’s a scene about halfway through the premiere episode of the CW’s latest DC superhero show that really made me sit up, and think that maybe we were about to get a genuinely revolutionary take on this increasingly problematic concept.  Retired superhero turned school principal Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) has just rescued his daughter from the clutches of a gang boss, in the process causing panic at a nightclub.  Wandering outside the club in a daze, he’s discovered by some cops, who immediately train their guns on him and order him to “get [his] black ass on the ground”.  Jefferson could comply–as he did earlier in the day when he was pulled over for “fitting the description” of a liquor store robber–and his powers mean that he isn’t in any immediate danger.  Nevertheless, a long litany of frustration, including from the earlier run-in with the police, takes its toll, and he clenches his fists and lets fly with his electric powers, leaving the cops alive but on the ground as he power-walks away.It’s a scene that feels important for two reasons.  First, because of how rarely black heroes–and black superheroes in particular–are allowed to express anger, much less allow themselves to be overcome by it.  Think, for example, of the MCU’s black heroes–Falcon, War Machine, Luke Cage, and Black Panther–and how often they’re positioned as the level-headed, or cheerful, counterpoint to a hotheaded or angsty white hero.  Even as heroes of their own stories, these characters are expected to proceed with calm deliberation, and are rarely allowed to express rage or frustration–in Civil War, T’challa is seeking justice for the recent murder of his father, and yet he spends the film acting cool and collected, while Captain America and Iron Man’s every temper tantrum is indulged and excused.  For Black Lightning to allow its titular hero to feel rage–to make that expression of rage our introduction to him as a person with powers–feels like a thesis statement, as well as a deliberate rebuke to the stereotype of the angry black man.

(4) LOST AND NOT FOUND. An interview with a student of manuscripts in The Guardian: “‘I really want to find it before I die’: why are we so fascinated by lost books? “

Does the Book of Kells lose any of its allure when a mass-produced paperback version is available to buy just feet away, in Trinity College Dublin’s gift shop? No, says de Hamel: “There are things you’ll see in an original manuscript that even a microfilm or digitised surrogate cannot convey – drypoint glosses, erasures, sewing holes, underdrawing, changes of parchment, subtleties of colour, loss of leaves, patina of handling – even smell and touch and sound, which can transform knowledge and understanding of the text when its scribes made it and first readers saw it.” So, when we mourn lost manuscripts, it’s not just over the disappearance of words, we are also losing an understanding of the process of their creation – the author’s scribbles, their hasty additions, their fraught deletions.

There are many lost books that de Hamel hopes to one day see: “The Book of Kells had more leaves in the 17th century than it does now. Are they somewhere in someone’s scrapbook? The 12th-century Winchester Bible, perhaps the greatest English medieval work of art, had a number of miniatures cut out, possibly as recently as the 20th century: some, at least, probably do exist. I really, really want to find one before I die.”

(5) HEFTY TOME. If you want a hardcover of Rosarium’s massive Sunspot Jungle, pledge the fundraiser – see details at “Sunspot Jungle: Kickstarter Exclusive Hardcover Edition”.

 On June 17, 2018, Rosarium Publishing will be turning five years old. So, we’ve decided to throw a little party. Since we like to say we “introduce the world to itself,” we just knew it had to be a global party!

Like any good party, we’ve invited some friends, acquaintances, associates, people we’ve heard good things about, and some complete strangers.

The end result is Sunspot Jungle!

A two-volume, spec fic anthology filled with stories from over 100 writers from around the world!!!

This campaign is for special hardcover editions of the anthology only available to you Kickstarter supporters.

(The paperback for Vol. 1 will be out in December while the one for Vol. 2 will be released in spring of 2019.)

(6) GAVIN OBIT. John Gavin (1931-2018): US actor who later became a diplomat, died February 9, aged 86. Screen appearances include the horror classic Psycho, the psychological drama Midnight Lace (both 1960), two episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1963/65). Reportedly signed up to play James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever until Sean Connery agreed to return to the role, but this apparent setback allowed him to fulfil a lifelong dream to become the US ambassador to Mexico.

(7) CATHEY OBIT. Reg E Cathey (1958-2018): US actor, died February 9, aged 59. Genre appearances include Star Trek: The Next Generation (one episode, 1993), The Mask (1994), Tank Girl (1995), Grimm (three episodes, 2013), Banshee (two episodes, 2014), Banshee Origins (three episodes, 2014), Fantastic Four (2015). He also provided a voice for the video game Star Wars: The Old Republic – Rise of the Hutt Cartel (2013).

(8) JONES OBIT. Mickey Jones (1941-2018): US musician and actor, died February 7, aged 76. Genre appearances include The Incredible Hulk (three episodes, 1978-81), Galactica 1980 (one episode, 1980), Starman (1984), Misfits of Science (one episode, 1985), ALF (one episode, 1986), Probe (one episode, 1988), Something Is Out There (six episodes, 1988), Total Recall (1990), It Came From Outer Space II (1996), Penny Dreadful (2006), Necrosis (2009), Deadtime Stories (one episode, 2013).

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

(10) WOODEN YOU LIKE TO KNOW? Another case where a gang of facts dismantle a wonderful story: “Did Abraham Lincoln sleep here?”

Visitors to a small log cabin in Kentucky are right to ask: Is it true that Abraham Lincoln slept here? On the eve of Lincoln’s 209th birthday tomorrow, Brook Silva-Braga has the answer:

Professor Henri Grissino-Mayer has come to Hodgenville, Kentucky to solve a mystery almost as old as Abraham Lincoln himself.

Silva-Braga asked, “So, someone pulls off the highway, sees you guys drilling into this cabin and says, ‘What are you doing here?’ what do you say to them?”

“What we’re trying to do is authenticate when this cabin was made by using the tree rings in the logs,” he replied.

(11) VESTED INTERESTS. In the past five years Disneyland has experienced growth in these social groups, and now two are in court — “They’re Disneyland superfans. Why a lawsuit is alleging gangster-like tactics against one social club”.

They stroll through Disneyland in packs of 20 or more, motley crews that resemble a cross between the Hells Angels motorcycle gang and a grown-up Mickey Mouse Club with their Disney-themed tattoos and their matching denim vests strewn with trading pins and logos.

Disneyland social clubs, by most accounts, are harmless alliances of friends and family who meet up at the park to share a nerdy obsession for all things Disney. With club names such as Tigger Army and Neverland Mermaids, how threatening can they be?

… But a lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court has revealed a dark undercurrent to the pastime. The head of one club has accused another of using gangster-like tactics to try to collect “protection” money for a charity fundraiser at the park.

The lawsuit reads like mob movie set in a theme park. The plot revolves around the Main Street Fire Station 55 Social Club, whose leaders claim they have been bullied and terrorized by the head of the White Rabbits Social Club.

(12) LOOKBACK. The British Science Fiction Association’s Vector does a science roundup in “Vector’s pick of science news in 2017”.

First of all, water. Two new inventions for increasing the supply of drinking water caught our eye:

In other exciting news regarding fluids, albeit less immediately applicable: scientists have made a fluid with negative mass. But then, the usefulness of inventions is often hard to judge….

(13) I’VE BEEN TO OKLAHOMA, BUT I’VE NEVER BEEN TO KLINGON. Even people in Tulsa have heard about it now — the Tulsa World ran a story about the Swedish production Hampus Eckerman brought to our attention last month — “Brush up on your Klingon for a new vacation hotspot”.

In search of a new and different vacation spot, with great food and cultural delights? Look no further.

A theater in Stockholm is playing host to a Klingon delegation seeking to promote tourism to Qo’nos (pronounced “Kronos”), the home planet of the ruthless yet honorable race of warriors from the cult TV franchise “Star Trek.”

(14) DOESN’T LEAVE MUCH TO WATCH. At Superversive SF, Anthony M tells about the unrewarding experience of trying to “retake the culture” — “The Problem of the Scold” [Internet Archive page].

Right now those of us on the cutting edge of the coming revolution in the entertainment field face a very thorny problem: We are scolds.

Brian Neimeier has – correctly, in my view – pointed out that we should simply be refusing to see films and shows written by people who hate us and that direct their hate at us.

So no Star Wars. No Star Trek. It is looking increasingly likely that Marvel movies are just about done. Television? Forget it, pretty much. Netflix, the exceptions are few and far between. Should we be supporting Netflix anyway?

… They get annoyed at me. I’m a killjoy. I’m a wet blanket. I see politics in everything. I’m ruining their fun. And of course, in a sense, they are exactly right. Nobody wants to hear me bash “Frozen”, because it will ruin the movie for them. And they like the movie!

I have turned myself into a scold. Many of us have. Nobody likes scolds. We’re negative and we annoy people. And scolding so far has not worked outside of getting people who already agree to clap their hands.

(15) PRECEDENT. NPR looks at influences on the world of the new movie — “Black Panther’s Mythical Home May Not Be So Mythical After All” – and finds a similarity to a historic African empire built on trade instead of military might.

There are different theories about the real-life inspiration for Wakanda. Ta-Nehisi Coates, who authored a reboot of the Black Panther comic series, explained his in this post for The Atlantic’s website. But the actor Chadwick Boseman, who plays Black Panther on screen, told The New York Times that Wakanda is a fictional version of “the Mutapa empire of 15th-century Zimbabwe.”

So how does the mythical Wakanda compare to the real-life Mutapa?

Stretching from modern-day South Africa into Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Zambia, the kingdom of Mutapa thrived from the early 1400s to about 1760.

“Mutapa operated on three basic levels: they had a capital city, provinces and little villages,” says Professor Angelo Nicolaides of the University of South Africa. Chiefs ruled at each of these levels under the supreme authority of the king, known as the Munhumutapa.

Like so many other kingdoms that believed in the divine right of kings, “the Mutapan people believed that their leaders were placed in positions of authority by the creator,” says Nicolaides. “The oral tradition tells us that they were involved in ancestral worship to a large extent, and the people believed that the kings had a very good relationship with the spirit world.”

(16) CONFERENCE OVERLOAD IN DC. T.M. Shine has a piece in Washington Post Magazine about how many conventions he could go to in Washington in a week.  Among the events he went to were Fortfest 2017, the International Fortean Organization convention, and Blerdcon, which started off as a con for “black nerds” and evolved into a con for people who like to wear superhero costumes — “Net neutrality, sex, falconry: In one week, I crashed as many D.C. conferences as possible”.

I’m romping around this convention, mingling with those dressed in costume, which is basically everybody. Blerdcon started as a celebration of black nerds, and then all minority nerds, but now it seems to be simply all of us — white, black, Hispanic, Asian. My costume is weak, I admit — just me with my various conference badges — but I begin to imagine everything from laser beams to android shrapnel bouncing off them. But what would my superhero name be? Evolution Man sounds too grand. I kind of like Symposium Man, but what would his powers be? Powerful personal anecdotes that freeze listeners in their tracks? The ability to spot a raised hand from 100 yards?

(17) WHAT DRONES CAN DO. The PyeongChang Olympics opened with 1218 drones filling the sky in the formation of the Olympic flag.

Good Morning America talks about how it was done.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Steve Green, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Will R., Carl Slaughter, Jeffrey Smith, ULTRAGOTHA, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 12/17/17 Scroll Your Pixel Wings And Fly Away

(1) OLD CHESTNUTS ROASTING. John Scalzi’s “8 Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know About Your Favorite Holiday Music” might make you suspect he gets his inside pop music history the same place Lucy Van Pelt finds her little-known facts about nature. But his facts are much funnier!

“Little Drummer Boy”

…Most of these drafts were only fragments, although Davis completed “Little Didgeridoo Boy” and had it performed for Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies during a 1964 trip to the United States. Menzies was reported to ask Davis how a didgeridoo happened to be anywhere near Bethlehem in biblical times. Davis would later write disparagingly of Menzies’ “Philistine musical nature” and shoved that version of the song into a box. In 2001, musical artist Madonna was reported to have considered recording the didgeridoo version with herself playing the instrument, but the idea was shelved to avoid offending Australian aboriginal sensibilities. Madonna went on to make the film Swept Away instead.

(2) COLLECTING COLLECTIBLES. Amy B. Wang of the Washington Post profiles Star Wars autograph collectors, who will happily pay $200 for Felicity Jones’s signature and $295 (in cash) for Mark Hamill’s and who make sure they have Vis-a-Vis blue permanent markers, which are no longer made and sell for $415 a box on eBay — “Want an autograph by ‘Star Wars’ Mark Hamill? Bring the right marker and $295 in cash.”

Welcome to the modern world of autograph collecting, a passion that has evolved into a highly choreographed commercial endeavor. It’s rare these days to write to a PO box and receive an autographed headshot or to bump into a famous figure on the street and ask him to sign a napkin. Increasingly, getting an autograph requires a fan’s time and money.

Despite this, autograph seeking has reached a fever pitch for the Star Wars fandom, a reflection of the series’s hold on popular culture.

(3) YOUNG ARTHUR. Kim Huett says. “Since the centenary of Arthur C. Clarke’s birth has been celebrated by all and sundry it seems only appropriate that I come in late with the story nobody else knows to tell” — “The Young Arthur Clarke”. (Here follows the lead-in – the principal story is at the link.)

Believe it or not but there was a time when Arthur C. Clarke was not yet a famous science fiction author. Way back in the late thirties he was merely known as an aspiring author and genius who had been nicknamed ‘Ego Clarke’ by his good friend William F. Temple. Why ‘Ego’? Something to do with Arthur C. Clarke being very sure of himself I believe. I’m reminded of a an exchange between Bill Temple and Arthur’s brother that occurred during Clarke’s first visit to the USA. While out on a late evening stroll Arthur’s brother exclaimed in horror that Arthur had forgotten to take the Moon with him. Bill Temple assured him that everything was fine, that Arthur had a US edition over there. You simply don’t make that sort of joke about an unassuming friend. (For more about the Temple/Clarke relationship please read Temple of the Sphinx.)

(4) SMOFCON MEMBERSHIPS. Next year, SMOFCon 36 will be held in Santa Rosa, California. Chair Bruce Farr announced:

Membership rates are presently $50 for full, or $25 for Con Suite Only memberships. After December 31, 2017 full memberships will go up to $60. The link to our online Registration page is here.

We’ve added some space for Thursday pre-convention meetings just down from the Hospitality Suite. There is also a meeting room close by the Hospitality Suite throughout the convention for socializing so that the Hospitality parlors won’t be overcrowded.

If you have any questions or comments, the below links are active from the Committee page on our website.

(5) JUMANJI. The December 16 Parade has an interview with Jack Black by Mara Reinstein, where Black recalls his friendship with Robin Williams and explains why he is barely on social media: “Jack Black Dives into Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”.

Black filmed Jumanji with its original star at the forefront of his mind.“He had a profound influence on the industry,” he says of the legendary comic. Black recalls being an 8-year-old kid in Southern California and seeing the rising star as alien Mork from the planet Ork in a 1978 episode of Happy Days (which would lead to Williams’ own breakout sitcom, Mork & Mindy).

“It was a big moment for me,” he says. “He came on like a hurricane. I remember being like ‘Who is that? That guy is amazing! I believe he’s an alien!’ Throw any other actor in there and it’s ridiculous. But Robin Williams took you on this fantastic journey with this absurd premise because he committed so completely.”

(6) GIVENS OBIT. In “Robert Givens, R.I.P.”, Mark Evanier pays tribute to a former Disney animator who died December 14.

Bob Givens got out of high school in 1936. In 1937, he went to work for the Walt Disney Studio, mostly as animation checker on Donald Duck cartoons and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In 1940, he moved over to the Warner Brothers cartoon studio where one of his first jobs was doing the redesign of a rabbit character who would henceforth be known as Bugs Bunny.

(7) POPVICH OBIT. Marina L. Popovich, a test pilot who broke more than 100 flying records and who was the first Soviet woman to break the sound barrier, died November 30 reports the New York Times:

Despite their initial skepticism, most male instructors and pilots came to be in awe of her.

“She learned strikingly fast,” Nikolai A. Bondarenko, a test pilot, wrote in his memoirs, adding that she had piloted an L-29 fighter jet “as confidently as she walked the ground.”

In “The First Soviet Cosmonaut Team: Their Lives and Legacies” (2009), the space historians Colin Burgess and Rex Hall wrote that most of Ms. Popovich’s success “would lead to later speculation that she was about to become the first Soviet woman to travel into space.”

At one point the Soviet space program did train female cosmonauts, and Ms. Popovich was admitted for testing. But ultimately only one, Valentina Tereshkova, was sent into space. Ms. Popovich said that she was advised to focus on her family, and that she was forced out of the program.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 17, 1843 — Charles Dickens’ classic story “A Christmas Carol” is published.
  • December 17, 1969 – Project Blue Book, a program dedicated to the investigation of UFOs, was terminated. For more than 20 years, the U.S. Air Force had examined 12,618 sightings. Most of these were found to be caused by man-made objects such as balloons, satellites, and aircraft; natural or astronomical phenomena; weather; and hoaxes. Today, 701 remain unexplained
  • December 17, 2003 — The third and final Lord of the Rings movie opens.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 17, 1973 — Rian Johnson, director of some outer space movie.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy asks if this is unfair competition at the Olympics – In the Bleachers.
  • John King Tarpinian says he would have one of these if he still had an aquarium – Close To Home.

(11) OPENING WEEKEND THREATS. Sure sounds scary, but shouldn’t a real Jedi be able to do some kind of mind trick on himself to avoid seeing spoilers?

(12) AVOIDING SPOILERS. And if you haven’t seen the movie, don’t watch this video. Well, actually, do what you like, I’m not your mother!

(13) PORG$. The Washington Post’s Hau Chu looks at the porgs by telling readers about the Ewoks, because George Lucas, thinking about his daughter, “wanted her–and all children–to have a STAR WARS character that would appeal specifically to them” — “Porgs are the latest Star Wars creature aimed at hearts and wallets”.

 Porgs appeared for only a split second in the trailer, but one glimpse of the creatures was enough to stir up a frenzy. A Google search produces more than 3 million results for porgs, many of them revolving around one question: What are they?

The birdlike creature was inspired by puffins on Skellig Michael, an island off the southwest coast of Ireland. That island was the filming location for Ahch-To, the planet where Luke Skywalker appears at the end of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

“You fall into those deep, soulful eyes. I think a lot of people are going to want a porg as a pet,” said Pablo Hidalgo, creative executive for Lucasfilm, the company that has produced the Star Wars movies.

(14) HEAD CANON. “No, Lord Helmet, I didn’t see you playing with your dolls!” “For ‘Last Jedi’ Director, The Journey To ‘Star Wars’ Began With Action Figures”.

Johnson has been a Star Wars fan since he was a little boy in Denver, playing with his action figures.

“My mom surprised me and got me a Jawa,” he recalls. “I wanted a Jawa, and she got it for me. But then you always end up losing the main characters, and you’re left with like Hammerhead and like the walrus man; with the weird droid whose name you don’t know, who’s missing a leg. Those were the first movies I was making in my head.”

(15) REIMAGINED. A different take on the iconic headgear.

(16) ALSO PLAYING. NPR loved SW VIII and hated Ferdinand, but says the obscure Spanish Birdboy is “A Dark, Beautiful, Boundary-Pushing Animated Film”.

Just how dark is Birdboy: The Forgotten Children, a trippy animated folktale from Spain about a bunch of talking animal adolescents searching for a better life? Well, even the tottering alarm clock seemingly there for comic relief wails to its owner, “Why do you always have to hurt me?” In fact, the bulk of the movie consists of adorable, anthropomorphic objects and critters getting hurt, often in some grisly fashion: an inflatable PVC duck who screams when he’s deflated; a chirping bird who gets shot to death, leaving behind starving chicks; a baby Jesus doll who cries an alarming amount of blood when his owner squeezes him. Yessir, the Happy Meal toys are sure to go flying off the shelves for this one.

(17) ASKING THE WRONG QUESTION. Abigail Nussbaum is back from the theater with her take on “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”. This is a full review, so BEWARE SPOILERS.

Whatever else can be said about this film, it is so much its own thing that I half-wonder whether general audiences won’t reject it for being neither the fun romp they associate with Star Wars, nor the grim but still conventionally-structured deviation from the norm that was The Empire Strikes Back.  It is the first Star Wars film to actually try to be about something[1], and what it’s about is, well, Star Wars.  It’s a film that is in direct conversation with the previous works in this series, most especially Return of the Jedi and the prequels.  It spends slightly more than half its running time fooling you into thinking that it’s merely going to recapitulate these movies, only to pull the rug out from under you, along the way asking some pointed questions about the Star Wars‘s universe’s core assumptions.  This doesn’t entirely work, but the mere existence of the attempt, in a film universe as little given to self-reflection as this one, is shocking.  It’s a Star Wars movie that is interesting.

(18) THE UPSIDE DOWN. The BBC tells how “Rocket rumbles give volcanic insights”.

What do volcanoes and rockets have in common?

“Volcanoes have a nozzle aimed at the sky, and rockets have a nozzle aimed at the ground,” explains Steve McNutt, a geosciences professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

It explains why he and colleague Dr Glenn Thompson have installed the tools normally used to study eruptions at the famous Kennedy Space Center.

Comparing the different types of rumblings could yield new insights.

(19) DROPPING CHUNKY. There’s a madness to this method: “Biologists With Drones And Peanut Butter Pellets Are On A Mission To Help Ferrets”.

She said there are only about 300 black-footed ferrets left in the wild, and they depend almost entirely on prairie dogs to survive. And protecting the prairie dog population is beneficial to species beyond the ferrets.

“Prairie dogs are Chicken McNuggets of the prairie, where so many species eat them,” Bly said.

But in recent years, prairie dog towns across the American West have been exposed to a deadly disease called sylvatic plague. While it’s treatable in humans, sylvatic plague can wipe out entire prairie dog towns in less than a month. And that means no more food for endangered black-footed ferrets.

So Bly, Matchett and a team of scientists and engineers have spent this year vaccinating prairie dogs in central Montana against the plague using drones.

Drone pilots fly the machines across the prairie, dropping blueberry-sized pellets about every 30 feet. They are flavored to taste like peanut butter, and prairie dogs love peanut butter. The kicker is that they’re laced with a live vaccine that protects them from the plague.

(20) YOUR NEXT SIDEWISE AWARD WINNER. Sounds legit.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/15/17 You’ve Got The Wrong Android, I Scroll My Name Danger

(1) HE DOOD IT. How could he not? “Wil Wheaton Wears ‘Star Trek’ Uniform To ‘Star Wars’ FOR REAL”.

Life gloriously imitated art Thursday when actor Wil Wheaton wore a “Star Trek” costume to a screening of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

Wheaton portrayed Wesley Crusher on TV’s “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (1987-1994), and has been playing himself on “The Big Bang Theory.” In a 2015 episode of the hit sitcom, he watched a “Star Wars” movie in “Star Trek” garb, attracting boos from the audience and an insult from one moviegoer. “Live long and suck it!” he yelled back in a memorable line.

(2) A DISTURBANCE IN THE THEATER. Fans weren’t prepared to accept the first silent Star Wars movie: “Uprising at Burbank AMC after ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ starts without sound”.

According to Twitter user, Isaias Rodriguez, theater management attempted to appease the angry fans by either moving them to another screening at the same theater — albeit not in the IMAX format — or to attend a screening of the much-anticipated film at another AMC theatre Friday.

Police reportedly were called to the Southern California venue.

(3) ICE CREAM AND COOKIES. Scott Edelman invites you to lunch at the Society of Illustrators with Irene Gallo in Episode 55 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Irene Gallo

Gallo has worked as an art director at Tor Books for more than two decades, where she currently holds the title of Creative Director. She’s also the Associate Publisher of Tor.com, and is ultimately the one responsible for the look of the publishing company’s book covers, as well as its online output. She’s been nominated for a Chesley Award for her art direction an astounding 19 times, the first back in 1999, and has won 13, as early as 2001, and as recently as 2017.

We discussed what it was like the first time she realized she wasn’t the only one in the world who cared so strongly about art, how she felt the day she discovered Harlan Ellison as well as the title of his that made her go “whoa,” why seeing book covers as thumbnails started long before the trend of Internet bookselling, how a manuscript moves from cover concept through to final cover, whether the cliche that an author is the worst possible designer of their own book cover is true, how self-published authors who create their own books can get the best possible covers, and much more.

(4) WHO PREVIEW. If you want to read some “minor spoilers” for the Doctor Who Christmas Special, “Twice Upon A Time,” ScienceFiction.com is ready to oblige: “15 Things To Watch For In ‘Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time’”. If not – DON’T CLICK!

With just 11 days to go until to Peter Capaldi’s Doctor and the Steven Moffat say their final farewells, some fans are finding it hard to wait! Some sites have been granted early access to ‘Twice Upon a Time,’ so to hold us over until December 25, we have a list of hints and teasers from the episode!

(5) SJW CREDENTIALS ARE GO. Corey J. White has identified “5 of the Coolest Cats in Space” for readers of Tor.com.

The cat is on the floor, looking up at me and yelling as I type this. My original plan was for a piece on ‘Pets In Space’, but she’s threatened to vomit on my bed, under the covers, if I don’t focus solely on cats. Why? Because cats are better than dogs. I am typing this of my own free will. Please send salmon.

In all seriousness though, even dog lovers have to admit that cats would make better pets aboard a space craft: they don’t require as much food as any but the smallest dogs, unlike many dog breeds they don’t need a lot of space to run around, and they’re great at catching the rodents chewing on the cables of the life-support system.

(6) SECOND FIFTH. John Scalzi shares his “Spoiler-Free Observations on The Last Jedi”.

  1. The Last Jedi is the longest Star Wars film, and director Rian Johnson packs it full of story, so you’re unlikely to be bored, and even the laggy parts move along. With that said, there’s so much going on in the story and we’re keeping track of so many characters (Luke and Leia and Rey and Kylo and Poe and Finn and Chewie and BB-8 and R2D2 and C-3PO and Hux and Snoke and Phasma and oh look there are new characters too and what the hell are these porg things anyway?) that it can feel thin, and some bits are clearly contrived simply to give beloved characters things to do and/or give us new merchandising yes Porgs I am looking at you (I bought a porg stuffed animal at the show last night so, uh, I fell for it). I think I would have been happier with a sharper focus on fewer characters, and also I’m worried that Episode IX will be three and a half hours long and have five different endings, a la The Return of the King.

(7) PLAY BALL. Cut4.com, a Major League Baseball site, tried to attract a few clicks by assembling a baseball team out of Star Wars characters in celebration of The Last Jedi — “This is the team you’re looking for”. This one you need to follow baseball to fully appreciate:

Starting Pitchers: Obi-Wan Kenobi and Jamie Moyer

The wise old wizard, utilizing a psychological advantage to best his enemies and thrive, despite all odds. And, as a solid No. 2, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

(8) BATTLESTAR GALACTICA VET BACK ON TV. Deadline reports — “Apple Orders Ronald D. Moore Space Drama Series”.

Ronald D. Moore is heading back to space. Apple has given a straight-to-series order to a space drama from the Battlestar Galactica developer. The untitled project hails from Sony Pictures Television and Moore’s studio-based Tall Ship Productions.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 15, 1958 Frankenstein’s Daughter came out.
  • December 15, 1961 The Twilight Zone aired “Once Upon A Time,” starring Buster Keaton.
  • December 15, 1974 Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein premieres.
  • December 15, 1978 Superman – The Movie premiered in U.S. theaters.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 15, 1949 — Don Johnson, who starred with his canine companion in A Boy and His Dog.

(11) MATH PROJECT. Do we know anyone attending Emmanuel College in Boston?

(12) DUBIOUS FAN. Camestros Felapton is restraining his enthusiasm about new mix-and-match possibilities after the Disney/Fox merger for several reasons. Here’s one of them: “Disney, Fox and MCU”.

A comic book universe relies on somehow making superheroes whose basic premise is quite different work together. Marvel has juggled this by having elements that work together and elements that work as given character’s own domain. Thor can be a god-like alien being on Earth and exist side-by-side with Iron Man a human with fancy gadgets but their separate adventures put the characters in quite different characters. Some suspension of disbelief is required to accept that these characters can have their own stories without every film requiring all the Avengers to turn up to help but the settings help and each character can have separate stories.

Now add the X-men. The X-Men aren’t the X-Men without the key premise that they live in a world in which:

  • Some people get random mutant superpowers.
  • That the wider population knows this.
  • That the mutant population is feared and persecuted and suppressed.

Captain America has to be cool with this. I mean, obviously, he isn’t but for the X-Men to have their stories, basically The Avengers have to not do anything when the US government starts hunting people with giant killer robots. Also, the wider public has to be relatively OK with one bunch of super powered people and raging bigots about a different bunch. It has to be OK to get superpowers from a spider bite but not from a genetic mutation AND people have to believe that story (i.e. people don’t think Spiderman is a dangerous mutant).

(13) CHRISTMAS GOAT. Hampus Eckerman says, “Sometimes you have to go to the foreign press to understand why the Gävle goat is burned down every year. The Guardian has its own theory, totally new for me.” — “Killing Gävle – a Swedish city divided by a giant straw Christmas goat”.

Welcome to the small northern Swedish city of Gävle where there’s an annual battle over a 12-metre-high straw effigy of a goat. Local custodians try to protect a giant straw goat from mischievous pagans in a fight for the spirit of Christmas.

Every year since 1966, in the dark days of winter, the business owners pay for a goat to be built in the central square on the first day of advent. For 37 of those 51 years, the goat has been burnt down or damaged by shadowy outsiders, sometimes within a few hours of going up.

In the latest Guardian documentary, Killing Gävle, residents and those who might want to burn the goat explain their hopes and motivations as Christmas approaches and the battle over the goat is fired up once more.

The goat, which pulls Santa’s sleigh, has come to symbolise Christmas in Sweden, drawing people in from the surrounding country. Families bring their children to look in wonder and, the businesses hope, do a bit of shopping while they are there.

But there are other people in the dark forests that surround the city who hold an entirely different view of the goat. They believe in a time before Christianity appeared in Sweden, when people worshipped Norse gods including the goat goddess Heidrun (goddess of enlightenment) and the god of thunder, Thor, who rode around on two goats. Each night he would burn and then eat them, only to wake up the following morning to them having been reborn and able to pull his chariot again….

 

(14) DOPPELGANGER. When they get it right and find one that has nine planets, then we can talk: “NASA’s Kepler finds solar system like ours with eight planets” in USA Today.

Researchers used data from NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope to discover an eighth planet orbiting a star known as Kepler-90.

The planet, dubbed Kepler-90i, is a hot, rocky planet that orbits its star every 14.4 days, and was found with the help of artificial intelligence, NASA said Thursday. The discovery marks the first solar system to tie with our solar system in the number of planets orbiting one star.

(15) STAY FROSTY. Timothy Cama, in a December 12 article in The Hill called “Emails: Disney annoyed by Obama push to use ‘Frozen’ brand” said that recently unearthed emails showed a 2015 negotiation between the Obama administration and Disney about using Frozen characters to promote warnings about climate change broke down because, according to one Disney executive, “it’s in our culture to tell stories that project optimism and have happy endings.”

Papp’s outreach generated extensive media coverage at the time and attracted mockery and criticism from conservatives who already thought then-President Obama’s climate agenda had gone too far.

The effort to use “Frozen” for climate messaging was part of an extensive plan by the Obama administration to convince Americans and the world that climate change is a major issue with enormous consequences.

(16) OCEANS, NOT CANALS. The BBC considers “Pacific ‘baby island’ is natural lab to study Mars”.

It is one of Earth’s newest landforms and it could just tell us where to look for evidence of life on Mars.

The tongue-twisting volcanic island of Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai exploded out of the Pacific Ocean in 2015, and its shape has been evolving ever since as it has been lashed and bashed by waves.

Scientists are watching this slow erosion very closely.

They think they see the remnants of many such water-birthed islands on the Red Planet.

(17) FORERUNNER. The 60th anniversary of this project recently passed — “Skylark: The unsung hero of British space”.

It wasn’t a big vehicle, and it didn’t go to orbit. But the anniversary of that first flight from Woomera, Australia, should be celebrated because much of what we do in space today has its roots in this particular piece of technology.

“Skylark is an unsung British hero really,” says Doug Millard, space curator at London’s Science Museum.

“The first one was launched during the International Geophysical Year of 1957, and almost 450 were launched over the better part of half a century. It was the Skylark space rocket that really laid the foundations for everything the UK does in space.”

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Slaughterbots” on YouTube is a near-future film warning about the problems of miniature drones trained to kill.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/28/17 This Little Pixel Went To Market

(1) PROFESSOR JOSHI HEARD FROM AGAIN. Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi, who has repeatedly attacked World Fantasy Award board member Ellen Datlow since the board decided to replace the Lovecraft award statuette, recently climbed aboard his hobby horse to complain about Datlow being named a guest of a Lovecraft-themed convention

August 22, 2017 — NecronomiCon, R.I.P.

Once upon a time there was a convention devoted to H. P. Lovecraft named NecronomiCon Providence. It was run by a well-meaning but somewhat weak-willed individual (rather reminiscent of Edward Derby in “The Thing on the Doorstep”) named Niels Hobbs. The initial conventon of 2013 was a wondrous event that left all participants and attendees feeling good about the state of Lovecraft studies and of Lovecraft’s recognition in the wider literary community. The convention of 2015 was generally successful but had some awkward moments.

By the time the 2017 convention was in the planning stages, trouble was brewing. Specifically, it appeared that Mr. Hobbs had been captured (and, indeed, rather willingly) by the forces of political correctness, so that the focus became less on Lovecraft himself and more on those aspects of weird fiction that those horrible dead white males had evilly suppressed. (It is not entirely clear how this suppression occurred, but let that pass.) And it also appeared that Mr. Hobbs had been swayed by various forces hostile to Lovecraft in the initial stages of programming.

Consider the naming of the redoubtable Ellen Datlow as a special guest. Now it is well known—and Mr. Hobbs should certainly have known it—that Ms. Datlow was instrumental in removing the Lovecraft bust as the emblem of the World Fantasy Awards, an act that would strike any fair-minded person as one that denotes a certain animus against the dreamer from Providence….

…There must be something wrong with a Lovecraft convention that has alienated the two figures—Robert M. Price and myself—who, over the past forty years, have done more to promote Lovecraft scholarship than any individuals on the planet. (I hardly need remark that, with the notable exception of Sam Gafford, no member of the NecronomiCon convention committee has made the slightest contribution to Lovecraft studies.)

And today he posted a roundabout defense of Lovecraft’s racism:

August 28, 2017 — Real and Fake Liberalism

I am a far-left liberal. Especially in the wake of the ongoing nightmare of the Trump administration, I have been speaking out loud and clear about the multifarious derelictions of conservatives and Republicans of all stripes…

What I do not do is launch furious attacks on H. P. Lovecraft for his racism. Of course he was a racist; everyone knows that. But I fail to see what good it does to attack him for this admitted failing at this late date. He has been dead for nearly three-quarters of a century; what is more, his views had no influence on the culture of his own time, or even on his small cadre of friends, colleagues, and correspondents. Indeed, it is telling that Frank Belknap Long, who met Lovecraft on an almost daily basis during his years in New York (1924–26) and frequently in later years, has testified that “during all of those talks on long walks through the streets of New York and Providence, I never once heard him utter a derogatory remark about any member of a minority group who passed him on the street or had occasion to engage him in conversation”—an inexplicable circumstance if one believes that Lovecraft was “obsessed” with the issue of race.

It is easy to condemn Lovecraft as a racist; it gives one a momentary feeling of self-righteous virtue and superiority. But it accomplishes nothing. It does nothing to combat the racism that we increasingly see in our midst today. If this is all you can do, you are indulging in fake liberalism…..

You can see the full text of all these posts by clicking the links. (Note: Joshi’s blog does not assign URLs to separate entries, they’re all under “News.”)

(2) DATLOW RESPONDS. Yesterday, Ellen Datlow went on Facebook and posted a rebuttal against Joshi’s effort to blame her for replacing Lovecraft on the award.

I loathe getting involved in mud-slinging so am posting this with some trepidation.

S.T. Joshi is apparently outraged at my being a GOH at Necronomicon and at my editing anthologies of Lovecraftian fiction. This is why -and I quote this from his blog:

“Now it is well known—and Mr. Hobbs should certainly have known it—that Ms. Datlow was instrumental in removing the Lovecraft bust as the emblem of the World Fantasy Awards, an act that would strike any fair-minded person as one that denotes a certain animus against the dreamer from Providence.”

Facts: I am one of the entire board of the World Fantasy Convention who made the decision to change the physical award from the bust of H.P. Lovecraft to a new physical image. The late David Hartwell brought the issue to the board and we unanimously agreed it was time to retire Gahan Wilson’s amazing (in my opinion) piece of art. I was no more instrumental than any other member of the board…..

(3) NOT EMPLOYEES. The class action lawsuit claiming that Magic: The Gathering judges should be classified as employees and retroactively paid was dismissed. “Judge tosses case brought by Magic: the Gathering judge who wants to be paid”Ars Technica has the story.

A federal judge in California has dismissed a proposed class-action labor lawsuit brought in late 2015 by a man who says that he has now worked for more than 20 years as a “judge” in Magic: the Gathering tournaments and demands to be paid.

In the court ruling, which was issued Wednesday, US District Judge Edward Davila sided with the defendant, Wizards of the Coast. The judge noted that, while Paul Yale’s years of experience to master all of the details of the popular card game and to become certified as a tournament arbiter takes time and extensive knowledge, “the complaint makes clear that Defendant’s program is purely voluntary and could be abandoned at any time.”

(4) AMA FOR JEMISIN. N.K. Jemisin will guest on Reddit’s Ask Me Anything feature on August 30.

(5) UNEXPECTED FINDS. These science history documents at Harvard had been lost, then found, and now have been found again: “A team of women is unearthing the forgotten legacy of Harvard’s women ‘computers’”.

Between 1885 and 1927, the observatory employed about 80 women who studied glass plate photographs of the stars, many of whom made major discoveries. They found galaxies and nebulas and created methods to measure distance in space. In the late 1800s, they were famous: newspapers wrote about them and they published scientific papers under their own names, only to be virtually forgotten during the next century. But a recent discovery of thousands of pages of their calculations by a modern group of women working in the very same space has spurred new interest in their legacy.

Surrounded by steel cabinets stuffed with hundreds of thousands of plate glass photographs of the sky, curator Lindsay Smith Zrull shows off the best of the collection.

“I have initials but I have not yet identified whose initials these are,” Smith Zrull says, pointing at a paper-sized glass plate crowded with notes taken in four different colors. “One of these days, I’m going to figure out who M.E.M. is.”

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 28, 1845Scientific American first published.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS & GIRLS

  • Born August 28, 1899 – Cinematographer James Wong Howe. (A long-time friend of Ray Bradbury’s. His wife, Sanora Babb, was an original member of Ray’s writing group.)
  • Born August 28, 1916 – Jack Vance
  • Born August 28, 1917 – Jack Kirby
  • Born August 28, 1948 – Vonda McIntyre
  • Born August 28, 1951 – Barbara Hambly

(8) PIXAR EXHIBIT. The Science Behind Pixar is now open at the Science Museum of Minnesota and TELUS World of Science – Edmonton.

The Science Behind Pixar is a 13,000 square foot exhibition touring two copies — one nationally, and one internationally. It was created by the Museum of Science, Boston, in collaboration with Pixar Animation Studios. This website features some of the activities, videos, and images from the exhibition that describe the math, computer science, and science that go into making computer animated films.

 

(9) ILLUMINATING THOUGHT. Io9 contends The Defenders’ Best Storytelling Trick Doesn’t Use Any Words at All”.

There are a handful of ways that The Defenders openly nods to its comic book roots, like pairing up somewhat random characters like Karen and Trish for no reason other than to have scenes featuring them together or having certain people like Misty make uncharacteristic decisions just to drive the plot forward. Of all the comic book-y narrative and aesthetic conventions that are used, the one that stands out most strikingly is the show’s lighting and use of color.

(10) LEEPER FILM REVIEW. At SFCrowsnest, “Anti-Matter (aka Wormholes) (2017) : a film review by Mark R. Leeper”.

CAPSULE: Quantum teleportation may have side effects. This film is like a Whitman Sampler of cutting edge physics ideas packed into a Science Fiction mystery. ‘Anti-Matter’ is very much auteur Science Fiction. Newcomer Keir Burrows writes and directs based on his own story. This is a film that could well earn a cult following. There is little visual flash to the story but it is an accomplished technical mystery. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

(11) FORBIDDING PLANETS. Nerds of a Feather’s Vance K is a great admirer of the film made to capitalize on people’s love of Robby the Robot. His writeup, “Microreview [film]: The Invisible Boy”, includes a satirical reconstruction of the producer’s dialogue with screenwriter Cyril Hume.

PROD: Right. Listen, baby. This Forbidden Planet, it’s a humdinger. It’s doing gangbusters. We need a sequel, ready to shoot, right away.

CH: I told you a science fiction version of Shakespeare’s Tempest would work.

PROD: Whatever, whatever. This Shakespeare guy, friend of yours? If he’s got other ideas, great. But listen, we need another movie with Robby the Robot, right now. Like, yesterday. Something real…science fiction-y. For the, uh, for the geeks and stuff.

CH: Yeah, that’s great. Making a film on such a huge canvas was fantastic. We could explore other worlds…maybe on their way back to Earth…

PROD: You kidding me? No, they’re on Earth. Jesus, that fake planet cost me a fortune. And black-and-white. Color film was a nightmare. I chewed through three pillows in my sleep just from seeing the lab bills.

CH: So…a black-and-white sequel, on Earth, to a Technicolor space tragedy that takes place 300 years in the future?

PROD: On the nose, baby! And present-day. No space cities, or future science, or none of that. Just put the robot in it.

(12) DRONES ALOFT. Jess Miller goes through all the steps: “How to Fly a Drone – The Ultimate Guide”.

Whether it’s amateur racing or professional photography, drones can now do plenty of stuff. They can even move things from place to place.

If you’ve got one and you don’t know how to fly it yet, don’t despair – flying a drone isn’t rocket science.

It’s not exactly a walk in the park, either.

The thing is, with a little bit of determination and practice, you’ll soon get the hang of flying your drone.

We’re here to help you with that.

(13) AMERISPLAINING. Caroline Mersey feels Worldcon suffers in comparison with Nine Worlds: “A Tale of Two Cons: Nine Worlds 2017 and WorldCon 75”.

The panels themselves felt short – 45 minutes compared to the hour, hour and a quarter of Nine Worlds.  This meant they never really got beyond scratching the surface of a topic.  Panellists rarely got to speak more than twice during a discussion.  And some of them felt either poorly organised or poorly moderated – with panellists unsure why they had been selected for a particular panel, or with moderators taking a wildly different interpretation of the brief than appeared in the programme.

That sounds like I’m being harsh, and I guess I am.  But that didn’t stop it being an amazing event and an opportunity to meet and hear from people I don’t normally get to encounter in the UK.  But what really made the event was the awesome crowd of people I met and hung out with over the five days of the event, swapping ideas for panels and badge ribbons.

In two years’ time WorldCon will be in Dublin.  There’s a huge buzz about it already, and I’ve bought my membership.  I can feel in my water that it will be another big event.  Hopefully there will be a bit more sensitivity when it comes to some of the cultural issues (I can’t say I’m looking forward to having Irish history mansplained at me by Americans – I fear there will be some crashing insensitivity displayed, but it will at least highlight the difference between Irishness and the wholly separate identity of being Irish-American).

(14) ROCKET STACK RANK GOES TO THE WORLDCON. Greg Hullender posted his “WorldCon 75 Takeaways”.

Meeting People

Last year, at MidAmeriCon II, we gave away a lot of ribbons, but almost no one had ever heard of us. This year, almost half the people we spoke to at least had a vague idea who we were. A couple of authors told me that they knew who we were because whenever they searched on Google for the title of their stories, RSR’s review came up first, so our SEO strategy seems to be working. Because I had a bad cold the entire time, we didn’t do the Stroll with the Stars events nor did we attend any parties other than a brief appearance at the Hugo Losers’ Party, opting to go home early and sleep. We did attend the File770 events, and enjoyed meeting people we’d only ever seen online.

Greg has solid, more detailed analysis of several business meeting and program items that interested him.

(15) WITH BOOKMONSTER. Selenay tells “What I did on my vacation: Worldcon edition”.

Worldcons aren’t for everyone, but I’ve loved both the ones I’ve been to. Spending several days talking about nerd stuff, seeing other people get excited about the same things I am, is a fantastic experience. I’ve returned with new ideas, new plot bunnies, and new lists of things to read and watch. I got to meet people I’ve only talked to online before. I got to see old friends. It was everything I wanted it to be and that’s really the best anyone can hope for out of a Worldcon.

(16) FIFTY-FIFTY. Theodore Logan and family attended the con together — “Hugo Awards”

At 12:00 I took Calvin and Julian to a kids’ meet-and-greet with American astronaut Kjell Lindgren, who flew on a recent ISS mission. He set up a slide show of pictures of Earth from space, talked about being in space, and answered questions from the kids in the audience. (I was surprised that no one asked about managing human waste in low earth orbit. When Calvin raised his hand I gave it a 50/50 chance that he was going to ask, but he asked something else.) Most of the kids in the audience were Finnish (and some required simultaneous translations from their parents). According to the membership statistics, there were only 19 child memberships from the US (and only 10 kid-in-tow memberships for kids under 6 like Julian). Half of the total child members were from Finland, explaining why they were well represented at the childrens’ programming track.

(17) WORLDCON CHAIRS PHOTO. From Kevin Standlee’s Flickr archive:

Worldcon Chairs 2017 (15)

(18) FANTASY MAPS. Paul Weimer joins the fray in: “Not the Territory: In defense of (Good) SFF Maps”

There have been a slate of articles lately about maps in fantasy. Alex Acks has talked about the terrible geology in Tolkien’s Middle Earth Map and then gone on to tell why they aren’t a fan of fantasy maps in general. Adrian Daub has talked about his love of maps, but the problems of Eurocentric maps. There are others, some of whom have been gathered by Camestros Felapton.

We’re at the point in the cycle where a defense of the form, of countering the arguments put forth, and by gum, as an amateur cartographer in my own right, I am the person to do so. It might be facile to hashtag #notallmaps, but, really, not every map is a geologic mess, not every map is a Eurocentric western ocean oriented map, with an eastern blend into problematic oriental racial types. Not every map has borders which strictly follow natural barriers and does not have the messy irregularity that real world maps and borders have.

(19) POSTER GIRL. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna profiles Roz Chast, who designed the poster for this year’s National Book Festival: “Roz Chast writes — and draws — a love letter to New York”.

In April 1978, at age 23, she dropped off her cartoon portfolio at the New Yorker offices on a whim. “I had no hope of selling a cartoon to them because my stuff didn’t look anything like the stuff they ran, but they used cartoons, so why not?” she recounts. “To my shock, I sold a cartoon to the New Yorker. [Comics editor] Lee Lorenz was extremely supportive and encouraging. I remember he told me that [editor William] Shawn really liked my work. I had no idea who he was talking about, but it sounded like a good thing, so I nodded appreciatively.”

[Thanks to John Hertz, Marc Criley, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Greg Hullender, Martin Morse Wooster, and Stuart Gale for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]