Pixel Scroll 10/13/20 The Credential’s Door Into Summer

(1) NUANCES ERASED IN MARKETING DUNE. “In Dune, Paul Atreides led a jihad, not a crusade” – why that matters is the focus of Ali Karjoo-Ravary’s opinion piece at Al Jazeera.

….But fans familiar with the books noticed a major omission in its promotional materials: any reference to the Islam-inspired framing of the novel. In fact, the trailer uses the words, “a crusade is coming”, using the Christian term for holy war – something that occurs a mere three times in the six books of the original series. The word they were looking for was “jihad”, a foundational term and an essential concept in the series. But jihad is bad branding, and in Hollywood, Islam does not sell unless it is being shot at.

Dune is the second film adaptation of the popular 1965 science fiction novel by Frank Herbert. Set approximately 20,000 years in the future on the desert planet Arrakis, it tells the story of a war for control of its major export: the mind-altering spice melange that allows for instantaneous space travel. The Indigenous people of this planet, the Fremen, are oppressed for access to this spice. The story begins when a new aristocratic house takes over the planet, centring the narrative on the Duke’s son Paul.

The trailer’s use of “crusade” obscures the fact that the series is full of vocabularies of Islam, drawn from Arabic, Persian, and Turkish. Words like “Mahdi”, “Shai-Hulud”, “noukker”, and “ya hya chouhada” are commonly used throughout the story. To quote Herbert himself, from an unpublished 1978 interview with Tim O’Reilly, he used this vocabulary, partly derived from “colloquial Arabic”, to signal to the reader that they are “not here and now, but that something of here and now has been carried to that faraway place and time”. Language, he remarks, “is mind-shaping as well as used by mind”, mediating our experience of place and time. And he uses the language of Dune to show how, 20,000 years in the future, when all religion and language has fundamentally changed, there are still threads of continuity with the Arabic and Islam of our world because they are inextricable from humanity’s past, present, and future….

(2) LEARNING HORROR. Sarah Gailey adds to her Personal Canons “Wayside School”, a tribute to Louis Sachar’s Wayside School series.

…In addition to tapping into the deep, gut-level instability of growing up, Sachar wrote some truly choice moments of horror into these books. It’s horror for children, in that it’s a little gross and a little ridiculous, but that doesn’t make it ineffective. …

These are all presented as genuinely frightening, and they land beautifully. When I read these books as a child, I was aware that they were funny and unrealistic — but I also felt a lingering sense of unease. The school was not a safe place, and the teachers were not safe or trustworthy people. The rules rarely made sense, but the consequences to breaking them were very real. Everything constantly seemed to be teetering on the brink of collapse.

These are the books that taught me to love being unsettled….

(3) STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES. Congratulations to the Strange Horizons’ reviews section which celebrated a milestone anniversary. Their twentieth-anniversary round table of reviewers past and present, featuring Rachel Cordasco, Erin Horáková, ML Kejera, Samira Nadkarni, Abigail Nussbaum, Charles Payseur, Nisi Shawl, Aishwarya Subramanian, and Bogi Takács, discusses “what reviewing is, why it matters—and why they bother with it.”

Abigail Nussbaum: I see my reviewing as an offshoot of fandom. In the late 90s and early 00s I was active in a few fandoms—X-Files and Harry Potter, mostly—but gravitated almost exclusively to what would now be described as “meta,” analysis and reviewing rather than fanfic. Around the mid-00s I was active on a message board called Readerville, dedicated to discussions of books, which helped me both to expand my reading and explore my impulse to talk about the things I’d read. I started a blog in 2005 basically because I had a lot to say and nowhere to say it—certainly not at the length I wanted. A few months later, Niall Harrison got in touch and asked if I’d be interested in writing for Strange Horizons, and the rest is history.

(4) TECH AND MORALITY. “Cory Doctorow: ‘Technologists have failed to listen to non-technologists’” – a Q&A conducted by The Guardian’s Ian Tucker about Doctorow’s new book, Attack Surface.

The protagonist in your new novel tries to offset her job at a tech company where she is working for a repressive regime by helping some of its targets evade detection. Do you think many Silicon Valley employees feel uneasy about their work?
Anyone who has ever fallen in love with technology knows the amount of control that it gives you. If you can express yourself well to a computer it will do exactly what you tell it to do perfectly, as many times as you want. Across the tech sector, there are a bunch of workers who are waking up and going: “How did I end up rationalising my love for technology and all the power it gives me to take away that power from other people?”

As a society, we have a great fallacy, the fallacy of the ledger, which is that if you do some bad things, and then you do some good things, you can talk them up. And if your balance is positive, then you’re a good person. And if the balance is negative, you’re a bad person. But no amount of goodness cancels out the badness, they coexist – the people you hurt will still be hurt, irrespective of the other things you do to make amends. We’re flawed vessels, and we need a better moral discourse. That’s one of the things this book is trying to establish.

(5) CONSEQUENCES OF IMAGINING THE WORST? Doctorow is also on tap at Future Tense in a first-person piece about “The Dangers of Cynical Sci-Fi Disaster Stories”.

When I moved to California from Toronto (by way of London), I was shocked by the prevalence of gun stores and, by their implication, that so many of my reasonable-seeming neighbors were doubtless in possession of lethal weapons. Gradually the shock wore off—until the plague struck. When the lockdown went into effect, the mysterious gun stores on the main street near my house sprouted around-the-block lines of poorly distanced people lining up to buy handguns. I used to joke that they were planning to shoot the virus and that their marksmanship was not likely to be up to the task, but I knew what it was all about. They were buying guns because they’d told themselves a story: As soon as things went wrong, order would collapse, and their neighbors would turn on them.

Somehow, I couldn’t help but feel responsible. I’m a science-fiction writer, and I write a lot of disaster stories. Made-up stories, even stories of impossible things, are ways for us to mentally rehearse our responses to different social outcomes. Philosopher Daniel Dennett’s conception of an intuition pump—“a thought experiment structured to allow the thinker to use their intuition to develop an answer to a problem”—suggests that fiction (which is, after all, an elaborate thought experiment) isn’t merely entertainment.*

That’s true. And it’s a problem….

(6) UNFORGOTTEN. Never mentioned by the actress, but Glorious Trash remembers Diana Rigg’s work in “Minikillers (1969)”.

German producers H.G. Lückel and D. Nettemann had an entrepreneurial idea: to provide entertainment for people getting their cars refilled at gas stations in Germany. The idea was to place TV sets by the pumps, so customers could watch a short film while their car was filled (this was before the days of self-service.)  They envisioned an espionage thriller to capitalize on the James Bond/Eurospy genre. Casting about for a famous lead, they eventually settled on Diana Rigg — fresh from her biggest role in the Bond film On Her Majestys Secret Service. After negotiating, Rigg agreed to appear in these films. 

Minikillers is a series of four short films, tied together into a coherent storyline: the idea was that customers would keep coming back to that particular gas station to see the conclusion. The series was shot on 8 millimeter and without dialog; sound effects and music were added later. In a way the project comes off like a silent film; all is relayed via movement, gestures, and facial expressions. 

Rigg apparently did not realize the uber-low budget of these films until the camera(s) started to roll. However true to her contract she shot each of them…and never mentioned them again. 

As they are up on YouTube: 

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2010 — Terry Pratchett won the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement from the Mythopoeic Society. It was his second Award from them as five years earlier he’d won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature for A Hat Full of Sky, the second of the novels involving the young witch Tiffany Aching. That novel would also garner the Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book. The series as a whole would later be nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature but the Award went to Ursula Vernon’s Castle Hangnail.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 13, 1872 – Boris Zvorykin.  Designer and illustrator; illustrated books, decorated churches, worked for Tsar Nicholas II.  Left at the Revolution, eventually went to Paris, in 1930 translated & illustrated four Russian fairy tales, also did porcelain for Porzella later incorporated in Villeroy & Boch.  In 1978 Jacqueline Onassis found and produced his book, The Firebird (in English).  Here is a print illustrating Boris Godounov.  Here is one for Tsar Saltan.  Here is “The Snow Maiden”.  Here is a set of his V&B plates.  (Died 1942) [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1906 – William Morrison.  Four novels, eighty shorter stories; “The Science Stage” in F&SF; memoir in Greenberg, Olander & Pohl’s 1980 thirty-year Galaxy anthology; posthumous collection The Sly Bungerhop (2017).  Ph.D. research chemist under another name.  Comics, credited with creating J’Onn J’Onzz the Manhunter from Mars.  Wrote about archeology, ballet, opera, theater, Rome.  (Died 1980)  [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1923 – Iona Opie, C.B.E.  Folklorist, anthologist, with her husband Peter; their collection of children’s books and ephemera 16th-20th Centuries is in the Bodleian Lib’y (20,000 pieces; two-year public appeal raised the £500,000 cost); audiotapes of children’s games & songs in the British Lib’y.  Oxford Dictionary of Nursery RhymesLore & Language of Schoolchildren; two dozen stories for us in The Classic Fairy Tales; two dozen more books.  Coote Lake Medal jointly.  Iona made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1926 Lenny Bruce. Yes, the foul-mouthed stand-up comic. ISFDB lists him as having co-authored three essays with Harlan Ellison in Rouge magazine in 1959 all called “Bruce Here”. Rogue also printed SF stories as well from Fritz Leiber, Robert Bloch, Mack Reynolds and Harlan Ellison to name some of their writers. It lasted but six issues. (Died 1966.) (CE) 
  • Born October 13, 1956 Chris Carter, 64. Best known for the X-Files and Millennium which I think is far better than X-Files was, but also responsible for Harsh Realm which lasted three episodes before being cancelled. The Lone Gunmen managed to last thirteen episodes before poor ratings made them bite the bullet. (CE) 
  • Born October 13, 1959 Wayne Pygram, 61. His most SFish role was as Scorpius on Farscape and he has a cameo as Grand Moff Tarkin in Revenge of the Sith because he’s a close facial resemblance to Peter Cushing. He’s likely best recognized as himself for his appearance on Lost as a faith healer named Isaac of Uluru. (CE) 
  • Born October 13, 1967 Kate Walsh, 53. She has the recurring role of The Handler in The Umbrella Academy series. Walsh starred as Sandra Anderson in the biblical horror film Legion, and was a sexy waitress in the Bewitched film. She was Amal Colb in Scary Movie 5, the fifth and final installment in the Scary Movie franchise. (CE)
  • Born October 13, 1967 – Petri Hiltunen, 53.  Cartoonist and illustrator.  Puupäähattu award.  His Praedor comics led to a role-playing game of the same name.  In his comic strip The Return of Väinämöinen, the Eternal Sage of Kalevala ends his self-imposed exile to find he might have been gone too long, e.g. these newfangled “potatoes” are now considered a traditional food.  PH contributes to the SF magazine Tähtivaeltaja (“Star Wanderer”); he’s well known in Finnish fandom e.g. at Finncon.  Here is an illustration for Knight of the Cursed Land.  Here is the cover for his graphic-novel version of Macbeth.  Here is an illustration for the board-game Aegemonia.  [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1969 Aaron Rosenberg, 51. He’s written novels for Star Trek, StarCraft, Warcraft, Exalted, Stargate Atlantis, and Warhammer, as well as other franchises. He’s even written a novel set In the Eureka ‘verse, Eureka: Roads Less Traveled, under the house name of Cris Ramsay. Eureka novels sound fascinating but this is the only one that I found so far. (CE)
  • Born October 13, 1975 – Jana Bauer, 45.  Her Witch Vanisher is available in English; the publisher says she has a deviously humorous narrative style.  She edits Exchanges, short prose from different countries, and Forget-me-nots in Slovenian and English for the children of Slovene emigrants (I’ve left out the Slovenian titles because of software character trouble).  In the Land of Gingerbread was the first Forget-me-not (see p. 2 of this newsletter).  For Scary Fairy in the Fearful Forest see here.  A dozen other books.  [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1976 Jennifer Sky, 44. Lead character conveniently named Cleopatra in Sam Raimi’s Cleopatra 2525 series. (Opening theme “In the Year 2525” is performed by Gina Torres who’s also a cast member.) She’s had guest roles on Seaquest DSVXenaCharmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And she was Lola in The Helix…Loaded, a parody of The Matrix which scored 14% at Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers. (CE)
  • Born October 12, 1983 – Lesley Nneka Arimah, 37.  Nat’l Magazine Award, O. Henry Award, Commonwealth Short Story Prize.  “Skinned” (Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy Stories, Machado ed. 2019) and four more for us in her collection What Does It Mean When a Man Falls from the Sky?, Kirkus Prize and don’t miss its last review at her Website, where also she says she is working on a novel about you.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) CEL GROWTH. Vulture has “The 100 Sequences That Shaped Animation From Bugs Bunny to Spike Spiegel to Miles Morales, the history of an art form that continues to draw us in”, which provides a deep dive into animation history for people who want to know more about animation.

(11) GETTING INTO THE SPIRIT. Cat Rambo reads a story for Halloween.

This short urban fantasy story originally appeared in Stamps, Tramps, and Vamps, edited by Shannon Robinson. It takes place in Durham, North Carolina, and involves a tattoo artist who’s got a different purpose in mind than her latest client does. It seemed like it would be a fun Halloween story to share!

(12) STATE OF THE NATION. There’s a lot more to think about than I expected in Zippia’s “Map Of Each State’s Favorite Halloween Candy (Spoiler: Some States Have Really Bad Taste)”. Here are first three of nine bullet points.

  • Starburst is a favorite with 6 states loving the fruity squares above all else
  • The winner is in, and between chocolate and non-chocolate candy it’s a…toss-up.
  • 25 states prefer chocolates candies while 25 prefer gummies, fruit-flavored candies, and other non-chocolate candies.

(13) TUNING UP. Genre adjacent, at least. “Delia Derbyshire Documentary Gets New Trailer: Watch” at Pitchfork.

…Derbyshire, an early electronic music pioneer, worked at the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop in the 1960s, where she composed the theme for the long-running science fiction series Doctor Who. Written and directed by Caroline Catz, the film features archival materials, interviews with Derbyshire’s colleagues and collaborators, and dramatizations starring Catz herself as the composer. Derbyshire’s original compositions are featured alongside a soundtrack by Cosey Fanni Tutti, constructed from samples Derbyshire’s posthumously released “Attic Tapes.”

(14) UNCLE WALT. Defunctland is “the show about the past…of the future!” Here are two of its episodes devoted to Walt Disney’s landmarks Disneyland and EPCOT.

In this episode, Kevin finally reaches the opening of Disneyland, focusing on the development and history of Tomorrowland 1955, the first, hastily-made version of the famous theme park land, including attractions such famous attractions as Rocket to the Moon, Autopia, Space Station X-1, the Matterhorn, the Skyway, Submarine Voyage, and the Monorail.

Walt Disney made ambitious plans for a City of Tomorrow named E.P.C.O.T. just before his death in 1966, but the plans were soon abandoned. What were Walt’s ideas for his city of the future, what happened to the project, and would it have worked?

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Twilight:  Eclipse Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George says the third Twilight movie has a very strange title, because “Why would you spend two hours looking at an eclipse?”

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, JJ, N., Cat Eldridge, Alan Baumler, Will R., John Hertz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credt goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/13/20 You Can’t Sleep ’Cause The World’s On Fire, Don’t Read Me If You’d Prefer The Shire, Techno Thriller

(1) FLIP THE SCRIPT. “James McAvoy to Lead ‘Sandman’ Audible Drama” says The Hollywood Reporter. Wait a second – Michael Sheen is going to be Lucifer?

James McAvoy is stepping into a dream role. The actor will voice star as Dream in Audible’s adaptation of The Sandman, the classic DC/Vertigo comic book written by Neil Gaiman.

McAvoy, known for playing Prof. X in four X-Men films, will lead a cast that also includes Riz Ahmed, Justin Vivian Bond as Desire, Arthur Darvill, Kat Dennings as Death, Taron Egerton, William Hope, Josie Lawrence, Miriam Margolyes as Despair, Samantha Morton, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis and Michael Sheen as Lucifer.

(2) NO MIDWESTCON IN 2020. Joel Zakem, who has attended 52 straight Midwestcons, nevertheless considers this a wise decision:  

After being held annually since 1950, Midwestcon 71, scheduled for June 25-28, 2020, in Cincinnati, OH., has unsurprisingly been cancelled. Everyone who has a hotel reservation should receive a cancellation notice with verification number from the hotel – no need to call them. Checks for pre-registrations (the only way to pre-reg fir Midwestcon) have not been cashed.

(3) DOOMSDAY BOOKS. The LA Times’ Martin Wolk tapped Emily St. John Mandel and other writers for their recommendations: “Essential end-of-the-world reading list offers a glimpse of the abyss”.

 …“I would not recommend reading ‘Station Eleven’ in the middle of a pandemic,” Mandel told the L.A. Times in an interview.

Yet many people are doing just that: The book is selling briskly just as Mandel’s new novel of financial disaster, “The Glass Hotel,” settles into the Los Angeles Times bestseller list. Mandel joins the L.A. Times Book Club on May 19 for a virtual discussion of these two eerily timely novels….

If you go: Book Club

Emily St. John Mandeljoins the L.A. Times Book Club in conversation with reporter Carolina A. Miranda.

When: 7 p.m. May 19

Where: Free virtual event livestreaming on the Los Angeles Times Facebook Page and YouTube.

More info: latimes.com/bookclub

(3.5) SFF JUSTIFIED. If it needs it. Esther Jones at The Conversation says “Science fiction builds mental resiliency in young readers”.  

Young people who are “hooked” on watching fantasy or reading science fiction may be on to something. Contrary to a common misperception that reading this genre is an unworthy practice, reading science fiction and fantasy may help young people cope, especially with the stress and anxiety of living through the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am a professor with research interests in the social, ethical and political messages in science fiction. In my book “Medicine and Ethics in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction,” I explore the ways science fiction promotes understanding of human differences and ethical thinking.

While many people may not consider science fiction, fantasy or speculative fiction to be “literary,” research shows that all fiction can generate critical thinking skills and emotional intelligence for young readers. Science fiction may have a power all its own….

(4) FROZEN AT HOME. The Walt Disney Animation Studios today released “I Am With You” — At Home With Olaf.

Wherever you may be, here’s a special message from Olaf’s home to yours. “I Am With You” Music and Lyrics Written at Home by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. Performed at Home by Josh Gad. Directed at Home by Dan Abraham.

(5) THE ROAD TO FURY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Five years after the fourth Mad Max movie took audiences by storm, the New York Times film critic Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) interviewed dozens of crew members, producers, writers and stars to weave together a compelling picture of how Fury Road came to be. In “’Mad Max: Fury Road’: The Oral History of a Modern Action Classic”,  he charts the course of its production through quotes from Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, and writer/director George Miller.

…CHARLIZE THERON (Furiosa) I grew up on all the “Mad Max” movies — they’re very popular in South Africa. I remember being 12 and my dad letting me watch it with him. So I was like, “Oh yeah, I wanna be in a ‘Mad Max’ movie. Are you kidding me?”

[GEORGE] MILLER When someone is directing a film, they’re thinking about it every waking hour, and even processing it in their dreams. The problem is, if you’re a studio executive, you tend to think about it for 10 minutes on a Wednesday.

[GEORGE] MILLER When the ideas that you start off with are then comprehended by an audience at large out there, that’s ultimately what redeems the process for you. The Swahili storytellers have this quote: “The story has been told. If it was bad, it was my fault, because I am the storyteller. But if it was good, it belongs to everybody.” And that feeling of the story belonging to everybody is really the reward.

(6) FROM THE BATCAVE. Zach Baron, in “Robert Pattinson: A Dispatch From Isolation” in GQ, caught up with Pattinson last month as he stayed isolated in a London hotel room.  Pattinson says he’s living on food supplied by The Batman production until shooting resumes but isn’t doing any exercise.  He also says although he is in Christopher Nolan’s film Tenet, he can’t give anything away because he doesn’t understand the plot except that it doesn’t involve time travel.

…It’s possible that you couldn’t build a person more suited to this experience. Pattinson, who turned 34 in May, has spent his adult life separating himself from the rest of the world. He was 21 when he was cast in the first Twilight, as the lead vampire in what would become five increasingly popular movies about teen lust in the Pacific Northwest. The final installment of the franchise, which turned Pattinson and his costar, Kristen Stewart, into two of the more famous people in the world, came out in 2012 and grossed over $800 million worldwide. But by that time, he was already mostly gone.

(7) GOING FOR THE KO? It’s Reader Request time at John Scalzi’s Whatever. In “Reader Request Week 2020 #6: Pulling Punches in Criticism”, the reader’s question begins:

Do you ever hold back in your criticism of other artistic endeavors (movies for instance) out of fear or apprehension that it will open your own work to hostile/non constructive criticism and exclude you from future opportunities?

We already know what the answer is, but that doesn’t mean it’s not interesting to see Scalzi work it out.

(8) CAFFEINATED CARTOON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the May 8 Financial Times, behind a paywall, Neville Hawcock reviews Rick and Morty.

It could easily be so sweet, charming, whimsical.  An eccentric old scientist zips around the galaxy in his home-made flying saucer, accompanied by his grandson sidekick. Each cartoon episode brings a new alien peril and a new chance to prevail through pluck and ingenuity, You could be forgiven for imagining a cross between a Werther’s Original commercial and Star Trek.

Rick and Morty, however is anything but…

…That doesn’t mean it’s weary; it is consistently energetic, inventive, and witty, both in script and animation. To borrow a phrase from the late sci-fi writer Gardner Dozois, each 30-minute episode has a high bit-rate. Whereas some bingeable TV is like the unlimited cups of coffee you get in American diners, and endless warm wash, an evening with Rick and Morty has the jolting quality of an espresso spree.

(9) DOCTOR WHO FACTOID. Martin Morse Wooster also found this data point in Horatio Clare’s essay-review in the May 9 Financial Times.

The National Trust reports that while 30 percent of eight-to-11 year olds could not identify a magpie, 90 percent could spot a Dalek.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 13, 1994 The Crow premiered. It was directed by Alex Proyas, written by David J. Schow and John Shirley. It was produced by Jeff Most, Edward R. Pressman and Grant Hill.  It starred Brandon Lee in his final film appearance as he was killed in a tragic accident during filming. It’s based on James O’Barr’s The Crow comic book, and tells the story of Eric Draven (Lee), a rock musician who is revived to avenge the rape and murder of his fiancée, as well as his own death. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 13, 1876 – Harold De Lay.  Illustrated W.E.B. DuBois’ Quest of the Silver Fleece, pretty good since De Lay later did covers and interiors for Golden Fleece.  Five interiors for Frank Baum’s early Daughters of Destiny.  Four covers and thirty-eight interiors for Weird Tales, of Robert Bloch, Edmond Hamilton, Robert E. Howard, Henry Kuttner, Manly Wade Wellman, Jack Williamson; here’s one.  Blue Bolt and The Human Torch for Marvel while it was under Funnies, Inc.; Treasure Island for Target Comics.  (Died 1950) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1937 Roger Zelazny. Where do I start? The Amber Chronicles are a favorite as is the Isle of The Dead, To Die in Italbar, and well, there’s very little by him that I can’t pick him and enjoy for a night’s reading. To my knowledge there’s only one thing he recorded reading and that’s a book he said was one of his favorite works, A Night in the Lonesome October. I understand that John’s going to have a choice remembrance of him for us. (Died 1995.) [CE]
  • Born May 13, 1937 – Rudolf Zengerle.  Pioneer of the Risszeichner (German, “crack markers”) for Perry Rhodan – illustrators who draw schematics of robots, ships, weapons.  Zengerle did six dozen; here’s a Grand Battleship of the Blues.  Speaking of series, PR has sold over two billion copies worldwide.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1941 – John Vermeulen.  Flemish author; also sailor, diver, glider, horseman.  First SF novel at age 15.  Historical novels of Hieronymus Bosch, Peter Brueghel the Elder, Mercator, Nostradamus, da Vinci, translated into German, Japanese.  A dozen SF novels, as many each of thrillers, plays, books for children & young adults, shorter stories.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1946 – Marv Wolfman. Comics, novelizations, animation, for Dark Horse, DC, Disney, Eclipse, Image, Marvel (Editor-in-Chief 1975-1976), many more.  Pioneered writing credits when the Comics Code Authority said “No wolfmen; remove” (as was the rule at the time), DC said “But the writer’s name is Wolfman”, CCA said “Let’s see the name credit, then”, after which everybody got one.  Inkpot Award, 1979; Jack Kirby Awards, 1985-1986 (for Crisis on Infinite Earths, with George Pérez); named in Fifty Who Made DC Great,1985; National Jewish Book Award, 2007 (for Homeland); Scribe Award, 2007 (for novel based on Superman Returns).  Recently, see Man and Superman (2019, with Claudio Castellini).  [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1949 Zoë Wanamaker, 71. She’s been Elle in amazing Raggedy Rawney which was a far better fantasy than Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where she was Madame Hooch. And she was Cassandra in two Ninth Doctor stories,” The End of the World” and “New Earth”. [CE]
  • Born May 13, 1951 Gregory Frost, 69. His retelling of The Tain is marvelous. Pair it with Ciaran Carson and China Miéville’s takes on the same existing legend and remaking it through modern fiction writing. Fitcher’s Brides, his Bluebeard and Fitcher’s Bird fairy tales, is a fantastic novel though quite horrific

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) THINK OF SFF CONFINED TO A HAMSTER BALL. Is it possible that James Davis Nicoll found “Classic SF With Absolutely No Agenda Whatsoever…”? Uh, you’ve read his Tor.com posts before, haven’t you?

As happens from time to time, I recently noticed an author being subjected to complaints that their fiction has an “agenda,” that there are “political elements” in their story, that it touches on society, class, race, culture, gender, and history. As it happens, the calumniated author is one of those younger authors, someone who’s probably never owned a slide-rule or an IBM Selectric. Probably never had ink-well holes in their school desks. Undoubtedly, they may be missing context that I, a person of somewhat more advanced years, can provide…

(14) GOOD TO GO. “Inflatable e-scooter that fits in backpack unveiled”.

An inflatable e-scooter compact enough to be stored inside a commuter’s backpack has been unveiled in Japan.

The Poimo, developed by the University of Tokyo, can be inflated in just over a minute, using an electric pump.

The creators said they wanted to create a vehicle that minimised the potential for injury in the event of an accident.

However, experts say e-scooter rules still need to be clarified by the government before such modes of transport can be considered safe.

(15) I’LL BE MACK. “Scientists Make the World’s First Liquid Metal Lattice’. Tagline: “It’s like the Terminator, only much less murdery.”

Scientists from SUNY-Binghamton are developing new Terminator-like liquefying metals made from Field’s alloy. And in a fun twist, the lead researcher behind the study—which appears in the journal Additive Manufacturinghasn’t seen any films in the Terminator franchise.

“To be honest, I’ve never watched that movie!” Pu Zhang, a mechanical engineering professor, said in a statement. (It’s safe to assume he also missed out on The Secret World of Alex Mack.)

The term “additive manufacturing” refers broadly to technology like 3D printing, where you add material in order to build an item. That contrasts with subtractive manufacturing, like using a lathe and removing metal or wood in order to sculpt a final shape. But in this case, the liquid metal is used in a more complex process where a “shell skeleton” is 3D printed from rubber and metal and then filled with liquid metal lattice….

(16) HAZARD PAY. Casualties on the front lines of the culture war will get help: “In Settlement, Facebook To Pay $52 Million To Content Moderators With PTSD.

Facebook will pay $52 million to thousands of current and former contract workers who viewed and removed graphic and disturbing posts on the social media platform for a living, and consequently suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a settlement agreement announced on Tuesday between the tech giant and lawyers for the moderators.

Under the terms of the deal, more than 10,000 content moderators who worked for Facebook from sites in four states will each be eligible for $1,000 in cash. In addition, those diagnosed with psychological conditions related to their work as Facebook moderators can have medical treatment covered, as well as additional damages of up to $50,000 per person.

(17) HINTS FROM OUR AI OVERLORDS. A Harvard researcher finds “Predictive text systems change what we write”.

Study explores the effects of autocomplete features on human writing

When a human and an artificial intelligence system work together, who rubs off on whom? It’s long been thought that the more AI interacts with and learns from humans, the more human-like those systems become. But what if the reverse is happening? What if some AI systems are making humans more machine-like?

In a recent paper, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) explored how predictive text systems — the programs on our phones and computers that suggest words or phrases in our text messages and email — change how we write. The researchers found that when people use these systems, their writing becomes more succinct, more predictable and less colorful (literally).

…“We’ve known for a while that these systems change how we write, in terms of speed and accuracy, but relatively little was known about how these systems change what we write,” said Kenneth Arnold, a PhD candidate at SEAS and first author of the paper.

Arnold, with co-authors Krysta Chauncey, of Charles River Analytics, and Krzysztof Gajos, the Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at SEAS, ran experiments asking participants to write descriptive captions for photographs.

…“While, for the most part, people wrote more efficiently with predictive text systems, this may have come at the cost of thoughtfulness. These kinds of effects would never have been noticed by traditional ways of evaluating text entry system, which treat people like transcribing machines and ignore human thoughtfulness. Designers need to evaluate the systems that they make in a way that treats users more like whole people.”

(18) IT WASN’T CASABLANCA THEN. “Scientists Might’ve Found the Most Dangerous Place in Earth’s History” claims Yahoo! News.

100 million years ago, Earth was a terrifying place. That’s according to a new paper in ZooKeys, which analyzed fossils from an area in southeastern Morocco also known as the Kem Kem beds. It was here that prehistoric animals such as “cartilaginous and bony fishes, turtles, crocodyliforms, pterosaurs, and dinosaurs” used to freely roam and hunt….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. ScreenRant’s headline is the best reason to watch the video: “Blade Runner 2049 Honest Trailer Can’t Explain Why Dune Was Greenlit After This”.

Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve is due to return with another highly ambitious and cerebral – not to mention, expensive – sci-fi epic later this year in the form of Dune, the first of a planned two-part adaptation of Frank Herbert’s touchstone 1965 novel. It’s a peculiar move for Warner Bros. purely from a business perspective, considering how much money they lost on Villeneuve’s last costly, thought-provoking, sci-fi feature. So naturally, as you’d expect, Screen Junkies points that out in their latest video.

With marketing for Dune now underway ahead of its release in December (assuming it’s not delayed to 2021), Screen Junkies has gone and released an Honest Trailer for Blade Runner 2049

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Joel Zakem, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Rich Lynch, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 11/7/18 Neil Gaiman On A Mountain Of Books Holding a Kitten

(1) THE CRIMES OF VISACARD. BBC takes note as “JK Rowling sues former employee for £24,000”.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling has launched a £24,000 legal claim against a former employee for allegedly using her money to go on shopping sprees.

Ms Rowling, 53, claims Amanda Donaldson broke strict working rules by using her funds to buy cosmetics and gifts.

Ms Donaldson worked as a personal assistant for the writer between February 2014 and April 2017, before being sacked for gross misconduct.

The 35-year-old from Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, has denied the claims.

Legal papers lodged at Airdrie Sheriff Court allege Ms Donaldson wrongly benefited to a value of £23,696.32 by spending on a business credit card and taking Harry Potter merchandise.

(2) BLEEPIN’ RIGHT. Let K.M. Alexander expand your word power — “Raunch Review: Mork & Mindy/Starsiege: Tribes”.

Raunch Reviews is a series about profanity. Not real profanity, but speculative swearing. Authors often try to incorporate original, innovative forms of profanity into our own fantastical works as a way to expand the worlds we build. Sometimes we’re successful. Often we’re not. In this series, I examine the faux-profanity from various works of sci-fi and fantasy, judge their effectiveness, and rate them on an unscientific and purely subjective scale. This is Raunch Reviews, welcome.

The Author: Garry Marshall and Dynamix

Work in Question: Mork & Mindy/Starsiege: Tribes

The Profanity: “Shazbot”

It’s rare for a fictional profanity to transcend its original source material and find new life in other properties. But that’s what we find with 1978’s Mork & Mindy’s “shazbot.” …

(3) MOVING UP AT TOM DOHERTY ASSOCIATES. Publishers Lunch reports:

In promotions at Tom Doherty Associates: Alexis Saarela moves up to senior associate director of publicity focusing on Forge; Laura Etzkorn is now publicist; Desirae Friesen becomes senior publicist with a focus on Tor; Saraciea Fennell is senior publicist overseeing publicity for Tor Teen and Starscape; and Lauren Levite is now associate publicist.

(4) DYSTOPIC DYNAMIC. In “How Technology Grows (a restatement of definite optimism)” blogger Dan Wang says that economic stagnation and limited growth leads to depressing sf:

Much of the science fiction published in the last few decades veer towards cyberpunk dystopia.  (The Three Body Problem is an exception.)  We don’t see much change in the physical landscape of our cities, and instead we get a proliferation of sensors, information, and screens.  By contrast, the science fiction of the 50s and 60s were much more optimistic.  That was the space age, a time when we were busy reshaping our physical world, and by which point the industrial acheivements of the ‘30s had made themselves obvious.  Industrial deepening leads to science fiction that is optimistic, while digital proliferation pushes it towards dystopia.

(5) BOPPING AROUND THE GALAXY. Steve Carper helps Black Gate readers remember the “Space Conquerers!” comic strip. (Or in my case, provides a first-time introduction….)

Space Conquerors! ran for a full twenty years, from 1952, when a simple rocket trip to Mars was nearly unimaginable, to 1972, when their flying saucer casually strolled alien star systems. The science was an odd mix of realism and convenience. That first rocket to Mars could go faster than the speed of light but a later space ship, built in 2054, was deemed a marvel because it could travel at half the speed of light. It needed a proper eight years to get to get to Alpha Centauri from the moon. Or perhaps the marvel was that a 1957 sequence strives for an educationally accurate first trip to the moon, but somehow is set in 2057, three years after the star ship set sail.

(6) YOU BETTER NOT POUT. Laura Anne Gilman’s post “A Meerkat Rants: The War on Christmas Retailers” solves the angst shortage for readers of Book View Café.

…Because, yes Virginia, there is a war against Christmas holiday retailers.  And it begins with the first stores loading up Christmas decorations and candies the day after Halloween (Rite Aid and such, we’re looking at you, and you were already on our shitlist for not discounting Halloween candy the day after, what the hell is wrong with you?)

Look, anyone who is that into Christmas that they need it two months ahead of time?  Has the ever-increasing option to go to a 365-days-a-year Christmas Store.  Or buy things online.  They don’t need that in their local drugstore.  The rest of us walk in, take one look, and say “oh hell no,” and walk out again, often without searching for the thing we went in for.  Or if we do, we curtail any further impulse shopping, in order to escape as quickly as possible.

You jump the gun by a month or more, and shove your retail Christmas agenda in my face the first week of NOVEMBER?  I’m going to walk past your door, and go somewhere else.  And I know I’m not alone in this….

(7) SPACEX BEATS RUSSIAN PRICE. The Republic of Kazakhstan—ex of the Soviet Union and still the home of Russia’s primary spaceport—has chosen SpaceX over Russia for launch services (Ars Technica: “Kazakhstan chooses SpaceX over a Russian rocket for satellite launch”). Unsurprisingly, it boils down to money. The launch in question will place small satellites from a few dozen customers in orbit on the same launch.

The first satellite launched into orbit, Sputnik, launched from a spaceport in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The Central Asian country was then a Soviet republic. Later, the first human to fly into space, Yuri Gagarin, also launched from Kazakhstan. Today, despite its independence, this spaceport remains the primary launch site for the Russian space program.

However, when Kazakhstan wanted to get a small scientific satellite named KazSaySat and a technology satellite called KazistiSat into space, the country didn’t select a Russian rocket. Instead, it chose the US-based launch company SpaceX to reach orbit.

[…][T]he press secretary of the Ministry of Defense and Aerospace Industry, Aset Nurkenov, explained why. “The reason for using a Falcon 9 for this launch is that it will be less expensive,” he said. “The total cost is a commercial confidentiality we can not reveal at the request of the American launch provider.”

(8) THE MONSTER. Adri Joy finally gets to read Seth Dickinson’s anticipated sequel: “Microreview [Book]: The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson” at Nerds of a Feather.

It’s been three long, interesting years between the release of Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant and its fair to say this long-awaited sequel, in which the Traitor becomes the Monster, has been one of my most anticipated releases of the year. The Traitor Baru Cormorant blew me away when I read it in 2015: I was still relatively new to modern adult SFF, and at the time I didn’t realise that it was possible to capture this type of political and economic intrigue in fantasy. Baru’s journey from island prodigy to rebel leader was immensely satisfying, as was the fact she was doing it all as a civil servant. Then, like all books, it ended, and as anyone who has read it will sympathise, it ended like that. I lost hours of sleep. If you haven’t read the book and don’t know what I’m referring to, let me warn you not to look for queer happy endings in this otherwise magnificent book and send you away to do what you will.

(9) SALMONSON ANTHOLOGY. Adri Joy also adds an entry to Nerds of a Feather’s series with “Feminist Futures: Amazons!”

Legacy: I read Amazons! in 2018, sandwiched between the Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon, a trilogy about a sheepfarmer’s daughter who finds her calling as a warrior, and Redemption’s Blade by Adrian Tchaikovsky, in which a woman veteran seeks restoration after killing the renegade demigod who took her entire world to war. In that context, the legacy of Amazons! – and, perhaps more importantly, the writers in it and the movement it represents – is one that has made a huge difference to the range and depth of well-crafted woman-centred fantasy narratives out there to discover. Reading the anthology has definitely piqued my interest in the stories that prefaced full novels, namely “The Dreamstone” – which started the Ealdwold series – and “Bones for Dulath” by Megan Lindholm, which was the first appearance of Ki and Vandrien (although neither is a work that the authors are primarily known for now). …

(10) O’NEIL OBIT. From the BBC — “Kitty O’Neil: Wonder Woman stuntwoman dies at 72”.

Kitty O’Neil, a stuntwoman who was Lynda Carter’s stunt double on 1970s TV series Wonder Woman, has died in South Dakota at the age of 72.

O’Neil, who lost her hearing when she was five months old, also doubled for Lindsay Wagner on The Bionic Woman.

Her other credits included Smokey and the Bandit II and The Blues Brothers.

O’Neil’s success as a stuntwoman led her into the world of speed racing and she set a land-speed record for women in 1976 – which still stands today.

The New York Times version adds –

On a dry lake in Oregon in December 1976, Kitty O’Neil wedged herself into a three-wheeled rocket-powered vehicle called the SMI Motivator. She gave the throttle two taps to awaken the engine and then watched an assistant count down from 10 with hand signals. At zero, she pushed the throttle down.

The Motivator accelerated rapidly, though silently for Ms. O’Neil; she was deaf. Her speed peaked briefly at 618 miles per hour, and with a second explosive run measured over one kilometer, she attained an average speed of 512.7 m.p.h., shattering the land-speed record for women by about 200 m.p.h.

For Ms. O’Neil, her record — which still stands — was the highlight of a career in daredevilry. She also set speed records on water skis and in boats. And, working as a stuntwoman, she crashed cars and survived immolation.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 7, 1954 – Giant robots attack Chicago in Target Earth.
  • November 7, 1997 — A version of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers premiered in theatres.

(12) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

As long as we are examining number theory, the house number for Wil Wheaton’s fictional home on The Big Bang Theory is 1701.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ]

  • Born November 7, 1914 – R.A. Lafferty. Writer known for somewhat eccentric usage of language. His first novel Past Master would set a lifelong pattern of seeing his works nominated for Hugo and Nebula Awards as novels but not winning either though he won a Hugo short story for “Eurema’s Dam”. He had received a World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award, he received the Cordwainer Smith Foundation’s Rediscovery award. I’m going to confess that I’ve not read him so I’m leaving up to y’all to tell me which works of his that I should read. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 7, 1954 – Guy Gavriel Kay. So the story goes that when Christopher Tolkien needed an assistant to edit his father J.R.R. Tolkien’s unpublished work, he chose Kay who was at the time a student of philosophy at the University of Manitoba. And Kay moved to Oxford in 1974 to assist Tolkien in editing The Silmarillion. Cool, eh? The Finovar trilogy is the retelling of the legends of King Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere, which is why much of his fiction is considered historical fantasy. Tigana likewise somewhat resembles renaissance Italy. My favorite work by him is Ysabel, which strangely enough is called am urban fantasy when it really isn’t. It won a World Fantasy Award.
  • Born November 7, 1960 – Linda Nagata. Her novella “Goddesses” was the first online publication to win the Nebula Award. She writes largely in the Nanopunk genre, which is not be confused with the Biopunk genre. To date, she has three series out: The Nanotech SuccessionStories of the Puzzle Lands (as Trey Shiels), and The Red. She has won a Locus Award for Best First Novel for The Bohr Maker which the first novel in The Nanotech Succession. Her 2013 story “Nahiku West” was runner-up for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and The Red: First Light was nominated for both the Nebula Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Her website is here.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) A NAME TO CONJURE WITH. Conjure, as in, his events disappear before happening. Trae Dorn at Nerd & Tie asks “Is Ray Jelley Running a Roman Themed Event Called ‘Like Caesar?’”

Some of you may remember that last year we ran a number of stories covering Angry Goat Productions and it’s owner Ray Jelley. If you don’t feel like trodding through half a dozen stories today, the short version is pretty simple — over the years a man named Raymond Francis Jelley has announced a series of events which then all ended up being cancelled prior to taking place.

There are a number of other details, including a lawsuit filed by a member of The Hobbit films, but that’s really the important bit.

In any case, after a string of announcements under the Angry Goat moniker, and a Harry Potter themed train under a different name, Mr. Jelley seemed to drop off my radar for a while. He seemed to go silent, and that was just fine as far as I was concerned.

Well, at least until recently.

Over the last couple of weeks, Nerd & Tie has received messages from multiple sources pointing us to an event called “Like Caesar.” …

(16) SHORT FICTION REVIEWED. Charles Payseur needs to be quick when the subject is Lightspeed — “Quick Sips – Lightspeed #102”.

It’s an issue of return in this November issue of Lightspeed Magazine. Two short stories and two novelettes make the issue a bit heavy, and for me a big theme running through the pieces is the idea of cycles and returns. Returns to childhood dreams, to classic books, and to familiar settings. There’s a look at childhood and how children are often confronted by some very upsetting things that they can’t quite handle, that they certainly shouldn’t have to deal with. And it’s a rather dark issue, centering death and abuse and trauma and a shift of the familiar for the strange, for the new and dangerous. Even so, there’s a beauty and a light that shines through a lot of these stories, where children can find their way through the darkness to someplace safer and free. Where even if there is loss, that loss can be honored, and remembered. And yeah, let’s just get to the reviews!

(17) SUBLIMINAL SHINTO. In “The Philosophy of Miyazaki” on YouTube, Wisecrack discusses how the Japanese religion of Shinto ensures that the characters in Miyazaki’s films learn to respect nature.

(18) THOSE DARN LEFTIES. No strawman is safe when it’s Sarah A. Hoyt’s day to write for Mad Genius Club: “Reading Authors”.

Besides all this, what IS the obsession with “male” in “don’t read white males.”  No, seriously.  I’m 56 years old an my early influences as were almost exclusively female: Enid Blyton, (who was the one that made me want to be a writer) the Countess of Segur and Agatha Christie.  Dumas and Shakespeare fell in there somewhere along the way, but so did Austen.

And in science fiction Anne McCaffrey was a major influence in my teen years.

So…. really?  What is this exclusively male voice that we need a break from.  Hell, given that I read a lot of cozy mysteries and most of those are women, reading a male now and then IS a break.

(19) PLONK YOUR NONMAGICAL TWANGER. Victoria Lucas heard something in 1963 – it may have been music. “[November 7, 1963] This Performance Not Wholly Silence (John Cage and his art)” at Galactic Journey.

I really don’t know how to describe it.  I realized that I was trapped, because I didn’t know where my host or driver was.  I didn’t even know—with my poor sense of direction—if I could find the car and house again in the dark, but it wouldn’t help even if I could, with no keys.  I contemplated going out and sitting in the lobby (rather than outside in the snow), because the noise from the piano harp, legs, sounding board, and everything else Tudor wired was so loud.  That was how and why I experienced the breakthrough I did.  I couldn’t leave.  I decided to stay and started to resent the people who were leaving, although I soon didn’t care.  They couldn’t help leaving any more than I could help staying.  The music was loud and had no melody, no rhythm, nothing definable to get a handle on it.  It sounded like nothing I had ever heard before.

Exactly.  That was exactly it: I had never heard anything like it before, and eventually that was why I stayed in the concert hall rather than sitting in the lobby.  At some point early on it was obvious that the music and dance were on separate tracks, had nothing to do with each other.

(20) WORD OF THE YEAR. “Words, words, words: ‘Single-Use’ Is The 2018 Word Of The Year, Collins Dictionary Says” – NPR has the story.

The English-speaking world’s growing concern for the environment and the ubiquity of disposable items that are used only once has pushed the word “single-use” to the top of Collins Dictionary’s list of “Word of the Year.”

Collins says there’s been a fourfold increase in the usage of the word since 2013, in part thanks to news coverage of environmental issues.

Single-use “encompasses a global movement to kick our addiction to disposable products. From plastic bags, bottles and straws to washable nappies, we have become more conscious of how our habits and behaviours can impact the environment,” Collins says.

(21) GOING APE. Jeff Lunden’s NPR article “‘King Kong’ On Broadway Is The 2,400-Pound Gorilla In The Room” discusses the fascinating live effects – but since this is a musical, it’s strange to see not a word about the songs, etc.

…Let’s start with the old school. Ten puppeteers are onstage moving the beast.

“They’ve got ropes down there which are connected to the wrist and the elbows, so they can move it,” Williams says. “It’s basically the oldest style of puppet — a marionette.”

Khadija Tariyan is one of the puppeteers who operate Kong’s legs, arms and torso on the stage.

“To be Kong, we are one with Kong,” she says. “We wear these black hoodies, and we’re all in black outfits, and we’re for the most part quite hidden. And we — we’re in a crouch position, so you don’t necessarily always see us — we’re almost like his shadows. And then there also moments in the show where we are able to come out and almost express his feelings, like when he’s curious about something, we do have a little appearance.”

(22) UNLEVEL PLAYING FIELD. Still need the Equal Rights Amendment they tried to pass 40+ years ago — “League of Legends firm sued over workers’ sexism claims”.

League of Legends’s developer is facing legal action over allegations it paid female employees less than men because of their gender and tolerated sexual harassment.

The action against Riot Games is being pursued by one of its former workers as well as a current staff member.

It follows investigations by the Los Angeles Times and the news website Kotaku, which made related claims.

Riot has not said if it will challenge the accusations.

(23) THE BLAME GAME. Forbes’ Erik Kain lists “The 5 Biggest Problems With This ‘Diablo Immortal’ Fiasco”.

It doesn’t help that early reports from players of the Diablo Immortal demo are largely tepid at best. It doesn’t help that we PC and console players are not only aware of the mobile game industry’s bad monetization practices, but also of the limits of mobile gaming’s inputs and controls. We know for a fact that Immortal won’t be as good as a PC Diablo title. It’s not possible.

So we’re left clueless as ever, still wondering when and what the next real Diablo game will be.

With a bungled announcement, one might expect that fingers would be pointed at Blizzard and its surprising incompetence on this front, but sadly that was largely brushed under the table as everyone began focusing their ire on the usual suspects: Gamers.

And ReviewTechUSA did a YouTube commentary:

Yesterday, Activision’s stock fell by a staggering 7.2 percent. This put the stock on track for having the lowest close it had since January 2018. Fans are still outraged over Diablo Immortal and there is even a petition with over 35,000 signatures asking for Blizzard Entertainment to cancel the game. However, on the other side of the coin analysts are excited for the mobile title and predict it will bring Activision and Blizzard over 300 million dollars of revenue annually.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 10/10/18 I Grow Old, I Grow Old, I Shall Wear The Bottoms Of My Pixels Scrolled

(1) SCA DEATH. A longtime member accidentally killed himself while riding at a Society for Creative Anachronism event in Kentucky. SFGate has the story —“Man is impaled, dies in ‘freak accident’ during medieval horseback stunt”.

It happened Saturday during the Society for Creative Anachronism event in Williamstown.

The president of the SCA, John Fulton, said Barclay was trying to spear a paper plate on the ground.

Barclay’s brother posted on Facebook that the metal tip of his brother’s lance hit the ground, flipped and then impaled him under his sternum.

“I’ve never had an injury on the field like this, ever, that led to something like this” said Fulton.

We’re told Barclay was flown to a hospital, but died en route.

The SCA said Barclay was a master within the organization and had practiced medieval sports for more than 30 years.

(2) POLCON GROWING PAINS. Marcin Klak analyzes “The issues of Polcon”, Poland’s national convention.

We can define a few issues with Polcon but the main one is that no one really wants to organize Polcons any more. Of course this is not 100% true but we can see an issue here. In the last few years, there was usually only one group willing to run Polcon. It happens that it was known before that Polcon won’t be good but there was only one group willing to do it so there was no choice (and no one really wanted to cancel Polcon). This year, all in all, we haven’t chosen the place for Polcon 2020 yet – we hope that in December we will know this as there is one group that thinks about applying to run it.

(3) BATTLING THE ODDS. Brianna Wu wrote up her congressional campaign for Marie Claire: “I Ran for Congress. I Lost. I’m Persisting. Quitting Is Not an Option In the Trump Era.”

Here in New England, I got to know almost 100 other women that had decided to run for office, many through the Emerge program for training Democratic women. We were running for mayor, running for state senate, running for Congress. Like me, most of my peers were first-time candidates. We were starting to figure out this alien life of being a political candidate.

And I would love to tell you that we all won. In the movies, the underdog always wins. The Death Star always explodes. Carrie always walks into the sunset with Mr. Big. But reality has somewhat different odds than Hollywood. In a congressional race, the person spending less money wins only 9 percent of the time. You have less than 15 percent chance of beating an incumbent—and those odds are way worse if you’re running for the first time.

…For a first-time candidate who raised under $200,000, I did a fantastic job. I got almost 25 percent of the electorate, with over 17,000 people voting for me. I sometimes try to imagine 1000 people telling me they believe in me enough to be their congresswoman, and it’s overwhelming. 17,000 people believing in you isn’t a loss, it’s an excellent start to a career. The guy I was running against has a 20-year head start…

(4) IMAGINE A WORLD IN WHICH… One way social change is contributing to the boom in sff sales — “How Feminist Dystopian Fiction Is Channeling Women’s Anger and Anxiety” in the New York Times.

On a desolate island, three sisters have been raised in isolation, sequestered from an outbreak that’s causing women to fall ill. To protect themselves from toxins, which men can transmit to women, the sisters undergo cleansing rituals that include simulating drowning, drinking salt water and exposing themselves to extreme heat and cold. Above all, they are taught to avoid contact with men.

That’s the chilling premise of Sophie Mackintosh’s unsettling debut novel “The Water Cure,” a story that feels both futuristic and like an eerily familiar fable. It grew out of a simple, sinister question: What if masculinity were literally toxic?

“The Water Cure,” which comes out in the United States in January and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, joins a growing wave of female-centered dystopian fiction, futuristic works that raise uncomfortable questions about pervasive gender inequality, misogyny and violence against women, the erosion of reproductive rights and the extreme consequences of institutionalized sexism.

…Most of these new dystopian stories take place in the future, but channel the anger and anxieties of the present, when women and men alike are grappling with shifting gender roles and the messy, continuing aftermath of the MeToo movement….

(5) FANSPLAINING, CONTINUED. David Gerrold has been there, too:

I always get a smile out of fans trying to school pros.

The latest is a self-appointed gatekeeper telling Neil Gaiman that he must be a relatively recent fan of Doctor Who.

Oh my.

My own recent experience happened a year or so ago, when one of the sad puppies tried to tell me that my argument was useless. He said, “It is too late for the pebbles to vote, the avalanche has already started.”

I don’t remember my exact words. Something to the effect that those words were spoken by Kosh in the Babylon 5 episode “Believers.” It would have been nice if he’d credited the source — and the author of the episode.

He dropped out of the thread immediately. I don’t remember his name or the thread. I just remember the moment of delicious amusement I experienced….

(6) NEW IN 1963. Natalie Devitt is still undecided whether she’ll keep letting Outer Limits control her set’s vertical and horizontal according to her review at Galactic Journey: “[October 10, 1963] The Outer Limits of television — a first look”.

The Outer Limits may have the power to control transmission, but can the show keep viewers tuning in week after week? The verdict is still out. The show seems to be much more rooted in science fiction than most other anthology shows in recent years, which is a distinguishing point, but the batting average will probably have to improve: this month only gave me one fantastic, one somewhat entertaining and two otherwise okay episodes.

(7) CLARKE CENTER. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination presents “Fred Adams: The Degree of Fine-Tuning in our Universe—and Possibly Others” on November 8 at UCSD.

Fred C. Adams, theoretical astrophysicist at the University of Michigan, joins us for an insightful talk about how life in this universe—and potentially others—is possible.

The fundamental constants of nature must fall within a range of values in order for the universe to develop structure and ultimately support life. This talk considers the current constraints on these quantities and assesses the degree of fine-tuning required for the universe to be viable. The first step is to determine what parameters are allowed to vary. In the realm of particle physics, we must specify the strengths of the fundamental forces and the particle masses. The relevant cosmological parameters include the density of the universe, the cosmological constant, the abundance of ordinary matter, the dark matter contribution, and the amplitude of primordial density fluctuations. These quantities are constrained by the requirements that the universe lives for a sufficiently long time, emerges from its early epochs with an acceptable chemical composition, and can successfully produce galaxies. On smaller scales, stars and planets must be able to form and function. The stars must have sufficiently long lifetimes and hot surface temperatures. The planets must be large enough to maintain atmospheres, small enough to remain non-degenerate, and contain enough particles to support a biosphere. We also consider specific fine-tuning issues in stars, including the triple alpha reaction that produces carbon, the case of unstable deuterium, and the possibility of stable diprotons. For all of these issues, the goal of this enterprise is to delineate the range of parameter space for which universes can remain habitable.

November 8, 6:00 p.m. Natural Sciences Building Auditorium, UC San Diego. Free and open to the public; please RSVP here

(8) AT C. James Davis Nicoll continues his new series for Tor.com, “Fighting Erasure: Women SF Writers of the 1980s, Part III”, with writers whose surnames begin with the letter “C”.

Mona A. Clee began publishing short SF works in the 1980s but I know her from her two novels: pessimistic ecological thriller Overshoot, and the somewhat more optimistic Branch Point, in which time travelers try desperately to prevent a 1963 Soviet-American nuclear exchange, only to discover they’ve replaced a horrific atomic war with even more horrific variations. “Oh, dear, we seem to have made a bad situation much worse,” may not sound like it could be more upbeat than any other book, but A) there is a solution, and B: Overshoot is pretty glum.

(9) YARNALL OBIT. Celeste Yarnall, who appeared in a Star Trek episode and in Elvis Presley’s Live a Little, Love a Little, has died at the age of 74 reports Deadline.

In the Star Trek episode titled “The Apple” that aired on October 13, 1967, Yarnall’s red-uniformed Yeoman Landon has a romantic encounter with Walter Koenig’s Chekov. It didn’t last.

Other credits include appearances on The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, Bonanza, Hogan’s Heroes, It Takes a Thief, Captain Nice, Mannix, Bewitched, Land of the Giants and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and in the films The Nutty Professor, Under the Yum Yum Tree, Eve, The Velvet Vampire, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and Scorpio, among others.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 10, 1863 – Vladimir A. Obruchev, Geologist, Writer, and member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR who was one of Russia’s first science fiction authors. In his native country he is best known for two perennially popular science fiction novels, Plutonia and Sannikov Land. Both of these stories are similar to Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, but depict with rigorous scientific accuracy the discovery of an isolated world of prehistoric animals in hitherto unexplored large islands north of Alaska or Siberia.
  • Born October 10, 1924 – Ed Wood, Jr., Actor, Writer and Director who created numerous low-budget science fiction, comedy, and horror films and wrote more than 80 pulp novels. He is most famous for the notoriously-bad cult SF film Plan 9 from Outer Space. In 1994 Tim Burton directed and produced an eponymous biographical drama of his life starring Johnny Depp, which won two Oscars.
  • Born October 10, 1947 – Laura Brodian Freas, 71, Classic Music Radio Host, Voiceover Performer, Illustrator and Historical Customer. While married to the artist she published a collection Frank Kelly Freas: As He Sees It containing art and essays by the two of them. She has also provided a few genre covers, including the cover for the anthology New Eves: Science Fiction About the Extraordinary Women of Today and Tomorrow, and numerous pieces of interior art for Weird Tales, Analog, and several Easton Press Signed First Editions. One of her collaborative works with Frank won a Chesley Award; another collaborative work and one of her solo works also received Chesley nominations.
  • Born October 10, 1950 – Nora Roberts, 68, Writer probably best known, and a favorite of Cora Buhlert, for her near-future science fiction In Death (Eve Dallas) series written under the pen name J.D. Robb, which is approaching 50 novels now and features robots, cloning, flying cars, and space habitats; as well as many other fantasy series including the Key Trilogy, the Sign of Seven Trilogy, and the Three Sisters Island Trilogy.
  • Born October 10, 1959 – Kerrie Hughes, 59, Writer and Editor. A prolific anthologist, some of which impressively have had several printings, many co-edited with Martin H. Greenberg, and four of the Fiction River series. Favorite titles for me include Chicks Kick Butt (co-edited with Rachael Caine), Zombie Raccoons & Killer Bunnies (with Martin H. Greenberg) and Shadowed Souls (with Jim Butcher). She’s published more than a dozen short fiction works of her own and essays including “A Travelers’ Guide to Valdemar and the Surrounding Kingdoms” in The Valdemar Companion.
  • Born October 10, 1959 – Bradley Whitford, 59, Actor, Writer, and Producer whose most recent genre role was as the sinister patriarch in the Hugo finalist Get Out; other movie appearances include Bicentennial Man, Kate & Leopold, RoboCop 3, The Cabin in the Woods, The Darkest Minds, The Muse, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters and guest roles in TV series The Handmaid’s Tale, The X-Files, Touched by an Angel, and Cloned.
  • Born October 10, 1967 – Michael Giacchino, 51, Oscar- and Grammy-winning Composer and Musician, who has created the soundtracks for many genre films such as the Hugo-nominated Rogue One and Star Trek 2009 reboot and its sequels, Jupiter Ascending, Tomorrowland, John Carter, Mission: Impossible III and Ghost Protocol, Jurassic World and Fallen Kingdom, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Cloverfield, and the Planet of the Apes reboot movies. His animation soundtrack credits include the Hugo finalists Up and The Incredibles, Incredibles 2, Ratatouille, Cars 2, Inside Out, Zootopia, and Coco. He has also composed music for many TV series such as Lost (for which he received an Emmy), Alias, and Fringe, and video game series including Medal of Honor and Call of Duty. He is also responsible for the soundtrack in the Space Mountain attraction at Disneyland and Disney World.
  • Born October 10, 1968 – Bai Ling, 50, Actor, Writer, and Producer originally from China who has had genre roles in the films League of Superheroes, Andover, Blood Shed, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, The Gene Generation, Code Hunter, and The Crow, guest roles in episodes of Lost and Jake 2.0, and a main role in the TV miniseries The Monkey King.
  • Born October 10, 1968 – Mark Bould, 50, Writer, Editor, and Critic from England who emigrated to Scotland, who has co-authored several nonfiction works on SF including The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction and The Routledge Concise History of Science Fiction, as well as Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction (with China Miéville). He guest-edited two issues of Science Fiction Studies, one on the British SF Boom and one on Afrofuturism (with Rone Shavers), and an issue of Paradoxa on Africa SF, and contributed numerous essays to other scholarly works on SF. He will be Scholar Guest of Honor at next year’s International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA).

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) GET NANOWRIMO SUPPORT. K. Tempest Bradford will host a course in “Daily Writing Exercises – NaNoWriMo Edition” during the November novel-writing marathon, joined at times by four other well-known sff authors.

Practice and warm-ups are fundamental to every artistic discipline, from the musician who practices scales for hours on end to visual artists who cover reams of paper with sketches to dancers and actors who rehearse for months. Practicing craft is important for writers, too. Especially when you’re about to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

Doing one 10 – 20 minute writing exercise every day before diving into your novel can help kick your brain into creative gear without pressure and give you the chance to try out new craft skills.

That’s what this course is all about. Starting November 1, you’ll get a writing exercise via email every day for a month. Each one is designed to get you warmed up and also to help you get to know your characters better, dig into details of your setting, and play around with voice, point of view, and other aspects of craft.

…In addition to the emailed exercises, all writers taking the course can attend live online write-ins four times a week with me + special guests. Each write-in will start with that day’s exercise then move into 45 minutes of writing together via Zoom video conferencing software. These write-ins are optional and times/days will vary to accommodate writers across different time zones.

Four times during the month we’ll be joined by guest writers who will offer a short pep talk and a writing exercise of their own: Tananarive Due, Stina Leicht, Stant Litore, and Monica Valentinelli.

(13) WALLY WORLD WATCHES. Who knew that Big Brother would manifest as Wally World? Apparently Motherboard (part of Vice) is on the job and knew. Um, knows. Um, at least suspects. (“Walmart Patented a Cart That Reads Your Pulse and Temperature”).

You’re moving through Walmart at a quick clip, bookin’ it through the clearance bread aisle. Sweat beads on your forehead, and your hands grip the cart handle. It’s a race against time before you run into an elementary school classmate’s mom or run into that guy you made out with in high school and his three kids. God, get me out of h—

I saw you might need assistance! An employee appears from behind the off-brand tampons and accosts you. He knows this because he’s been monitoring your biometric data and location from a room in the back, from the sensors in your cart handle. The sensors told him you’re clammy and stressed.

Walmart recently applied to patent biometric shopping handles that would track a shopper’s heart rate, palm temperature, grip force, and walking speed. The patent, titled “System And Method For A Biometric Feedback Cart Handle” and published August 23, outlines a system where sensors in the cart send data to a server. That server then notifies a store employee to check on individual customers.

(14) CAREER REVIVED? The director canned by Marvel could be back in the business already: “James Gunn in Talks to Write, Possibly Direct SUICIDE SQUAD 2”ComicsBeat has the story.

James Gunn, the director fired earlier this year from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, is now in talks to write DC’s Suicide Squad 2 with an eye to also direct, according to a report today from The Wrap.

This could be somewhat of a coup for Warner Bros., the studio behind Suicide Squad and other films based on DC superheroes. With Gunn writing and directing, Guardians of the Galaxy grew from a relatively obscure comic book property into a veritable household name after just two high-earning and critically-acclaimed movies.

Gunn was dismissed from writing/directing Guardians of the Galaxy 3 earlier this year after a concentrated online campaigned publicized a series of tasteless jokes he made years ago about rape and pedophilia on Twitter. Gunn had long since apologized for the jokes, and, as such, his firing set off widespread debate over whether it was merited, with members of Guardians’ cast going to bat for him (especially Dave Bautista).

(15) BATWOMAN. I didn’t think it was a compelling news item, but four people have now sent me links to it, so I’m obviously wrong: “Ruby Rose Rises in First Official Look at the CW’s Batwoman”, image online at ComicsBeat and elsewhere.

(16) GOLDEN AND LESS SHINY AGES. Rob Latham reviews Alec Nevala-Lee’s Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction for Nature — “Beyond pulp: trailblazers of science fiction’s golden age”.

…Hubbard’s gift for the hard sell was pivotal, and Nevala-Lee’s portrait of him as a paranoid narcissist and skilled manipulator is scathing. However, Campbell is also sharply scrutinized for his role in midwifing and unleashing Dianetics. Heinlein and Asimov were repelled by what they saw as an uncritical embrace of quackery, and took refuge in newer, often more lucrative markets. The book’s final chapters detail the steady decline of the magazine into a second-rank publication, and Campbell (who died in 1971) into a reactionary crackpot with racist views.

Although much of the story outlined in Astounding has been told before, in genre histories and biographies of and memoirs by the principals, Nevala-Lee does an excellent job of drawing the strands together, and braiding them with extensive archival research, such as the correspondence of Campbell and Heinlein. The result is multifaceted and superbly detailed. The author can be derailed by trivia — witness a grisly account of Heinlein’s haemorrhoids — and by his fascination for clandestine love affairs and fractured marriages. He also gives rather short shrift to van Vogt, one of Campbell’s most prominent discoveries and a fan favourite during Astounding’s acme, whose work has never since received the attention it deserves….

(17) INFINITY’S END. At Nerds of a Feather, Joe Sherry weighs in on the closing volume of an anthology series — “Microreview [book]: Infinity’s End, by Jonathan Strahan (editor)”.

I’m sad that Infinity’s End is the purported final volume in Jonathan Strahan’s Infinity Project of anthologies. The theme has always been loose, no matter what Strahan has stated in the introduction (and I’m not sure he’d truly disagree with me here). He’s just looking for science fiction which stretches the bounds of humanity living in the wider universe. The success is that Strahan has a great idea for good stories and each of the Infinity Project anthologies hits the mark for top notch stories. While I hope that Strahan will revisit the Infinity brand again several years from now (and if so, the anthology should maybe be titled Infinity’s Rebirth), Infinity’s End is a fitting and excellent way to close the book on a solid anthology series. Reading each volume and reading Infinity’s End has been a delight.

(18) GOOGLE’S CHINA AMBITIONS. BBC’s Dave Lee tells how “Leak chips away at Google’s secrecy on China”.

…Now, a freshly leaked transcript of Mr Gomes addressing employees suggests he perhaps wasn’t being entirely forthcoming in our interview. Published by The Intercept on Tuesday, his words suggest an enthusiasm and readiness that arguably goes well beyond “exploration”.

‘We are ready for it’

“Overall I just want to thank you guys for all the work you have put in,” reads the transcript, said to be taken from a meeting on 18 July at which Mr Gomes addressed those working on Dragonfly.

…”Of the people who are internet-enabled, a huge fraction of the ones we are missing out are in China […] It’s clearly the biggest opportunity to serve more people that we have. And if you take our mission seriously, that’s where our key focus should be.”

Standing in Google’s way is the uncomfortable reality that many people do not agree with that focus – including the vice-president of the United States, Mike Pence. He has said Google should “immediately end development” on Dragonfly.

Hiding from public scrutiny

I can’t fathom how Google thinks this will end. Recent history shows how executives at the company have chosen to hide from immediate public scrutiny, only to seriously regret it later.

With Dragonfly, the company simply refuses to share details – not even with US lawmakers. In September, Google’s chief executive Sundar Pichai did not show up to a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing….

(19) HOW DEEP IS YOUR LOVE. “Seafloor mapping XPRIZE final will be in the Mediterranean” – here’s what BBC says:

The final of the ocean XPRIZE, which will see fleets of robots compete to map the largest area of seafloor inside 24 hours, will take place in deep waters off the coast of Greece.

Teams will be invited in turn to showcase their technologies, starting in early November.

They will have to chart at least 250 sq km at depths down to 4,000m, and image 10 items of interest.

The group that comes out on top will win $4m. Second place earns $1m.

The Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE was launched in 2015 to find systems and approaches that could finally map the world’s ocean basins to an acceptable precision.

Currently, less than 15% of their bathymetry (depth) has been measured in a meaningfully accurate way. It is one of those truisms that the global surfaces of Mars and the Moon – because they have no water covering – are known in greater detail.

(20) TIME FREAK TRAILER. Coming to theaters November 9, Time Freak.

If you could turn back time…could you win back the love of your life? That’s the problem puzzling Stillman (Asa Butterfield, Ender’s Game), a physics genius recently dumped by his stunning girlfriend Debbie (Sophie Turner, “Game of Thrones”). So after creating a timeline of their romance and a machine to rewind the past, he grabs his wingman, Evan (Skyler Gisondo), and sets off to right every wrong he made with Debbie. But as this insane comedy proves, there are some mistakes too perfect for science to fix.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/24/18 You Can Get Anything You Want At Filer’s Pixel Rant

(1) WORLDCON 76 MEMBERSHIPS SPONSORED FOR MEXICANX FANS, CREATORS. Artist John Picacio, a Worldcon 76 guest of honor, and John Scalzi, are funding four memberships —

John Scalzi, who will fund a pair of the memberships, also publicized the announcement on Whatever: “John Picacio Offering Worldcon Memberships to Mexicanx Fans and Creators”.

(2) COMMEMORATION. Naomi Novik was asked by the New York Times to write an appreciation of Ursula K. LeGuin. She responded with a poem — “For Ursula” – which begins:

I want to tell you something true
Because that’s what she did.
I want to take you down a road she built, only I don’t want to follow it to the end.
I want to step off the edge and go into the underbrush
Clearing another way, because that’s also what she taught
Not how to repave her road but how to lay another
Even if it meant the grass came through the cracks of the pavement, and the thicket ate it up.

(3) DID YOU REMEMBER? Philip K. Dick and Ursula K. Le Guin were at Berkeley High School at the same time in 1947. However, it spoils the story to add that they didn’t know each other…. See “When Ursula K. Le Guin & Philip K. Dick Went to High School Together” at Open Culture from 2016.

(4) OF ACE BOOPS. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett draws this great anecdote from the pages of a classic Australian fanzine — “Ursula Le Guin & Her Elusive Hugo!”.

And now for my favourite Ursula Le Guin letter, one which highlights the two things I like best in an author, a lack of pretentiousness and a sense of humour. The following letter appeared in Philosophical Gas #2, published by John Bangsund in October 1970. The Hugo in question was awarded to Ursula for The Left Hand of Darkness at Heicon ’70, the worldcon held in Heidelberg, Germany in August of 1970. I assume the rocket was accepted on Ursula’s behalf by Terry Carr of Ace Books (which would explain a lot).

(5) SFWA AFFIRMED. Jennifer Brozek on “SFWA and its Community”:

Last night, I went to the SFWA Reading to see my friends Josh Vogt, Greg Bear, and Tod McCoy read. I realized something: I’d missed my SFWA community. These are people I only see at conventions and SFWA events. I’d been so busy with my own stuff lately, and needed some distance from the organization after I stepped down as a Director-At-Large, that I’d pulled away too much. That was the wrong approach, but I suppose it was one I needed at the time.

It’s hard to express just how good it feels to be in a room full of like-minded people who all understand why losing one of the greats like Ursula K. Le Guin is such a tragedy or why naming Peter S. Beagle as SFWA’s newest Grand Master is such a joy. So many of the people I met up with last night are at various points in their writing careers. It was like looking at my past, present, and future writing self. They all understood the language of the writing professional and the publishing industry. It felt like coming home. It felt like family.

Recently, SFWA has had to deal with some tough issues. All of them center around protecting its membership at large. I know, intimately, what they’ve been going through—all the time spent, the discussions had, the decisions made—and I’m proud of the Board. I think, with the evidence they had on hand, they did the only thing they could do to protect the SFWA organization and the community they’ve built.

(6) MORE ON COMMUNITY. SFWA President Cat Rambo tweeted —

(7) RETURN OF THE SHADOW CLARKE JURY. CSFF Anglia has empaneled a new Shadow Clarke Jury for 2018 — Gary K. Wolfe, Alasdair Stuart, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Nick Hubble, Samira Nadkarni, and Foz Meadows. (Speller and Hubble are the only returning Sharkes.)

Dr. Helen Marshall, General Director of the Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy says in “And Now for a Word from our Hosts”

The Arthur C. Clarke Award has long been an excellent point of reference for taking stock of the changes in the field. It has a deliberately loose mandate to identify the “best” science fiction book of the year, acknowledging that the definition of “best” must be decided by a changing pool of jurors on an annual basis. The Clarke shortlist and the eventual winner showcase the work that has been done in the field, providing an intriguing snapshot of a field in flux. Since its inception the award has been at the heart of a robust critical discussion which interrogates the centre of the genre, its heartland, as well as the margins, where the genre pushes outward. This is why we’ve chosen the Clarke Award submissions list as a starting point for our discussions, and why we return to their shortlist in our discussions.

…What a shadow jury might do, then, is bring these debates into sharper focus. We believe the criticism is valuable, and that detailed, provocative, and respectful criticism enhances our understanding of the text and the cultures which produced it. This form of criticism is not intended to serve the needs of marketers or publicists but those of readers and writers. It aims not only to make visible but also to illuminate and contextualise.

Shadow Clarke juror Maureen Kincaid Speller’s manifesto for the return engagement, “You’re Never Alone with a Critic – Shadowing the Clarke Award, 2018”, says in part —

Here’s the thing – a critic’s job is not to provide plot synopses, nor is it to tell you whether or not you’ll like a novel. It is definitely not a critic’s job to act as an unpaid publicity agent. A critic’s job is to look at the fiction itself, and to have a view about it. Critics write about all sorts of things. They think about where a text sits in relation to other works of sf, they explore themes, tease out aesthetic similarities and differences; they consider what a novel says about the world at large, and, yes, they make judgement based on their experience as informed readers. Which is, if you think about it, exactly the same kind of work as that carried out by an award jury.

Which makes it all the more puzzling that criticism per se has become so frowned upon in the last few years. Is it just that people don’t want to admit this is what is going on behind the scenes? Is it because the word ‘criticism’ carries two meanings, one analytical, the other disapproving? We couldn’t tell but we were fascinated by this pushback against the Shadow Clarke project and decided we needed to explore it further. So, we have decided to run the project for a second year, and this time, rather than simply focusing on the Clarke Award, we’re taking the opportunity to use the shortlisting process as a springboard to exploring the business of criticism more broadly, because we continue to believe that critical analysis has a vital role to play when it comes to talking about science fiction.

(8) STRONG ATTACHMENT. Live Science reports the discovery of a “1.7-Billion-Year-Old Chunk of North America Found Sticking to Australia”.

Geologists matching rocks from opposite sides of the globe have found that part of Australia was once attached to North America 1.7 billion years ago.

Researchers from Curtin University in Australia examined rocks from the Georgetown region of northern Queensland. The rocks — sandstone sedimentary rocks that formed in a shallow sea — had signatures that were unknown in Australia but strongly resembled rocks that can be seen in present-day Canada.

Will this open the way for an Aussie Worldcon with adjacent NASFiC?

(9) WHO IS COMING. LA’s premiere Doctor Who convention takes place in three weeks, and the program has been posted: “Gallifrey One 2018 Schedule of Events Now Online”.

With great pleasure, Gallifrey One today is proud to announce the release of our Schedule of Events for our upcoming convention, The 29 Voyages of Gallifrey One in February. As in prior years, we are using the Sched online scheduling system for a seamless and easy-to-navigate program that can be used on your desktop or mobile device….

Full Screen (General Purpose) version
Fully viewable version, with custom views of events, searchable, plus panelist and guest listings
http://gallifreyone2018.sched.com

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 24, 1984 — Apple Computer, Inc. introduced the Macintosh personal computer.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) RON ELLIK AND THE RONVENTION (1962). Although I never met LASFS member Ron Ellik, who died before I ever joined the club, he was a well-known newzine editor (Starspinkle) and influence on Bruce Pelz, who kept his friend’s name alive in the title of his annual wine and cheese party that I attended for years. Now Rob Hansen gives us new reasons to remember him —

Ron Ellik in 1962.

This year’s Eastercon is being held in Harrogate for the first time in more than half a century. Known as the RONVENTION, that earlier one was organised by Ron Bennett and attended by TAFF-winner Ron Ellik, hence the name. At the January first-Thursday pub meeting here in London, Eastercon committee and staff persons Mark Plummer and Caroline Mullan asked me if I could add a section on the RONVENTION to my website that they could link to. Since this was one of those I’d always intended to get around to I was happy to oblige. I drew mainly from conreports by James White and the two Rons when putting it together: “Ronvention, the 1962 Eastercon”.

I’m uploading this earlier than originally intended because of something I realised after I started work on it, namely that tomorrow, 25th January, is the fiftieth anniversary of Ron Ellik’s death at the tragically young age of 30. So I’m publishing it today in memory of him.

Weird to think that when Ron died, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were still alive, the Beatles were still together, and astronauts had yet to leave Earth orbit and strike out for the moon.

(13) OSCAR ISSUE. The Washington Post’s Cindy Boren, in “Kobe Bryant’s Oscar nod rings awkward in a year Hollywood is hyper-focused on sexual assault”, says Dear Basketball, an Oscar nominee for Best Animated Short Film, may be in trouble because, despite its John Williams score and Glen Keane animation, it features Kobe Bryant, who settled a sexual assault case in 2003 for a substantial sum in an out-of-court settlement.

(14) WOEBEGONE. The MPR News (Minnesota Public Radio) post “Investigation: For some who lived in it, Keillor’s world wasn’t funny” has more information on the firing of Garrison Keillor. Several incidents are described at the link.

For weeks, Minnesota Public Radio refused MPR News’ repeated requests to comment on the company’s separation from Keillor. But as negotiations with Keillor’s company stalled and pressure from news organizations mounted, Jon McTaggart, president and CEO of MPR and American Public Media Group, broke his silence.

In an interview with MPR News Tuesday afternoon, he said the company’s separation of business interests from Keillor came after it received allegations of “dozens” of sexually inappropriate incidents involving Keillor and a woman who worked for him on A Prairie Home Companion. He said the allegations included requests for sexual contact and descriptions of unwanted sexual touching.

McTaggart, who after the interview with MPR News sent an email to MPR listeners and members further explaining the separation from Keillor, says cutting Keillor off was the most painful decision he’s made as CEO. But in-house and external investigations into the matter bore details he could not ignore.

“When we reached a point that from all sources we had sufficient confidence in facts that really required us to act, we took the action we did,” he said. “It was the right thing to do. It was the necessary thing to do, and we stand by it.”

Since the firing, Prairie Home Companion has been renamed Live From Here.

(15) WHAT FATE. Charles McNulty ponders “As artists fall into disgrace, must their art be consigned to oblivion?” at the Los Angeles Times.

The cavalier way men have systemically abused their power over women in and around the workplace warrants little leniency. But a more slippery question has emerged in this me-too moment of cultural reckoning: What to do with the works of artists whose conduct has been abhorrent?

In the growing gallery of alleged predators, there aren’t any artists I hold dear. James Toback’s films aren’t in my Netflix queue. I never mistook Kevin Spacey for one of the greats. And my admiration for James Levine’s conducting has been mostly of the dilettantish variety.

But inevitably a contemporary artist with whom I feel a special kinship will shatter my illusions about his or her character. I doubt that I will throw away the books or delete the recordings or swear off the films. I’m sure I’ll be disillusioned and quite possibly disgusted, but I know that an artist is not identical with his or her masterpieces and that few human beings can live up to their greatest achievements.

This is a theme that Marcel Proust returns to in his epic novel, “In Search of Lost Time” (more romantically known in English as “Remembrance of Things Past”). The narrator recalls a dinner party in which, as a young man, he meets his hero, the writer Bergotte. The young Marcel, intimidated to be seated among the important guests of the swanky Swanns, is struck immediately by the way Bergotte bears no physical resemblance to the man he had “slowly and painstakingly constructed … a drop at a time, like a stalactite, out of the limpid beauty of his books.”

More distressing to Marcel than Bergotte’s coarse appearance is “the busy and self-satisfied mentality … which had nothing in common with the type of mind that informed the books.” The narrator, a natural philosopher, begins to understand through this encounter that art is not contingent on the specific circumstances of an artist’s life.

(16) SF HISTORY. Michael Dirda, in “An expert’s guide to science fiction’s greatest — and neglected — works”, reviews the companion volume to A Conversation larger than the Universe, an exhibit on view at The Grolier Club in New York City from January 25 through March 10 (see the January 19 Pixel Scroll, item 7).

Being well-read both inside and outside the genre, Wessells contends that the first major work of alternate history was a 1931 collection of essays, edited by J.C. Squire, titled “If It Had Happened Otherwise.” Its fanciful “lapses into imaginary history” include “If Lee Had Not Won the Battle of Gettysburg,” by none other than Winston Churchill. Wessells also lingers over one of the most chilling dystopian novels of the 20th century, “Swastika Night,” written by Katharine Burdekin under the pen name Murray Constantine. Drafted in 1936 and published in 1937, it projects a Nazified far-future Europe where Hitler is worshiped as an Aryan god and women are kept in pens as breeding animals. (For more about this remarkable book, I recommend Daphne Patai’s excellent Feminist Press edition or the Gollancz SF Masterworks paperback, for which I wrote a short introduction.)

(17) A COMFORTING DOOM. Jill Lepore’s “A Golden Age for Dystopian Fiction” in the June 5-12 New Yorker last summer, is an essay-review of several dystopian novels, including Cory Doctorow’s Walkaway and Ben H. Winters’s Underground Airlines. Martin Morse Wooster flagged up its quotable last paragraph:

Dystopia used to be a fiction of resistance; it’s become a fiction of submission, the fiction of an untrusting, lonely, and sullen twenty-first century, the fiction of fake news and infowars, the fiction of helplessness and hopelessness. It cannot imagine a better future, and it doesn’t ask anyone to bother to make one.  It nurses grievances and indulges resentments; it doesn’t call for courage; it finds that cowardice suffices.  Its only admonition is:  Despair more.  It appeals to both the left and the right, because, in the end, it requires so little by way of literary, political, or moral imagination, asking only that you enjoy the company of people whose fear of the future aligns comfortably with your own.  Left or right, the radical pessimism of an unremitting dystopianism has itself contributed to the unravelling ot the liberal state and the weakening of a commitment to political pluralism. ‘This isn’t a story about war,’ (Omar) El Akkad writes in American War.  ‘It’s about ruin.’  A story about ruin can be beautiful.  Wreckage is romantic.  But a politics of ruin is doomed.

(18) UP IN THE AIR. Maybe we’ll get them after all? “Degree in ‘flying car’ engineering offered online”.

The online course is being offered by Silicon Valley e-learning school Udacity and will begin in February.

It is the brainchild of former Stanford University professor Sebastian Thrun, who previously headed up Google’s self-driving car project, Waymo.

Prof Thrun is hoping to attract at least 10,000 applicants to what he is describing as a “nanodegree”.

A nanodegree, according to Udacity’s website, is an online certification that can be earned in six to 12 months, and aims to teach basic programming skills in various disciplines.

…Previously Udacity has offered a self-driving car course, which has attracted 50,000 applicants since 2016.

(19) KIDS PUT IT TOGETHER. “K’Nex builds toys rollercoaster you can ride in VR”. (Video) A little like those model railroad trains with the tiny camera on the front – only a lot faster.

Toy-maker K’Nex has designed a toy rollercoaster kit that children can assemble and then “ride” by wearing a virtual reality headset.

The BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones tried it out at the Toy Fair 2018 exhibition in London.

(20) VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. BBC reports “A submersible mission in Antarctic waters has revealed unique ecosystems so rare they deserve special protection, say scientists.” — “Antarctica’s Weddell Sea ‘deserves protected status'”.

The seabed investigation, co-ordinated by the campaign group Greenpeace, will help build the case for the creation of the world’s largest wildlife sanctuary.

Covering 1.8 million sq km, the marine reserve will be considered by Antarctic nations at a conference in October.

It would ban all fishing in a large part of the Weddell Sea.

… Along with the smaller creatures that live on the seafloor, the reserve would bring additional protection to larger animals such as leopard seals, orcas, humpback whales and penguins.

(21) WETTER RESISTANCE. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber argues “Why ‘The Shape of Water’ is the most relevant film of the year”.

All things considered, the savvy choice for best picture might be Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water, which has been nominated in a whopping 13 different categories. Admittedly, it’s yet another film with a male director, but it does have a female co-writer, Vanessa Taylor, and a female lead, Sally Hawkins, and it passes the Bechdel Test within minutes. If that weren’t enough, it has major black and gay characters, as well as a South American immigrant; true, he’s a half-human, half-newt South American immigrant, but that’s not the point. More diverse and inclusive than any of the other best picture nominees, the film doesn’t just rail against sexism, racism and homophobia, it argues that they are all symptoms of the same patriarchal disease – a disease which all voiceless and oppressed people should defeat together. In short, The Shape of Water is a lot more militant than the average magic-realist fable about a woman who fancies a fish-monster. What’s more, it’s even more topical now than when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival last August.

(22) WORKSHOP WISDOM. Cynthia Felice shared “Five things I learned at Clarion”. The first is:

  1. Writers who write naked or wearing only a fedora do not write any better than a writer who is fully dressed.

(23) TRAILER PARK TRASH. Cnet doesn’t want you to miss it — “Quentin Tarantino’s Star Trek gets a trashy parody trailer”.

Ever since news emerged that Quentin Tarantino, famous for films like “Pulp Fiction” and “Kill Bill,” had pitched a great idea for a Star Trek movie to film studio Paramount, we’ve been wondering what Tarantino Trek might look like.

We now have one possible answer in the form of “Star Trek: Voyage to Vengeance,” a fake trailer made up of moments from the original series.

The video comes from Nerdist and features a laundry list of some of the original series’ most cringe-worthy moments, including the space hippies and almost everyone Captain Kirk ever kissed.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mark Hepworth, ULTRAGOTHA, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, Daniel Dern, David K.M. Klaus, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 12/18/17 Scrolls For Industry! Scrolls For The Undead!

(1) CADIGAN NEWS. Congratulations to Pat Cadigan who told her Facebook followers today:

I am now allowed to say that I am writing both the novelisation for the forthcoming movie Alita: Battle Angel as well as the prequel novel, Iron City.

And this is why I’m in Deadline Hell.

That is all.

(2) STAR PEACE CORPS. In  “Star Wars Without the Empire”, Camestros Felapton conducts an awesome thought experiment inspired by Paul Weimer’s tweet.

In post-war Germany, a version of Casablanca was produced, re-edited and with a new script for the dubbing, that had no Nazis in it. As you can imagine, given the role Nazis play in the plot, they had to do a lot of work.

I was wondering if you could do the same to Star Wars Episode 4 – remove the Empire…

Star Not Wars Because They Aren’t Having a War With Anybody: A New Hope

A spaceship has broken down. Princess Leia finds a robot on the ship and gives it something. The robot (R2D2) finds an escape pod with its friend (C3PO). They leave the ship. We don’t see the ship again. It probably had engine trouble or something. Maybe the robots have gone off to get some fuel from a service station.

The robots land in a desert. After an argument, they split up. Later they each get caught by tiny people.

Meanwhile, young Luke Skywalker is unhappy being a farmer and living with his uncle. He’d rather be…doing something else I suppose.

(3) MARK YOUR CALENDAR. The Vintage Paperback Show returns to Glendale, CA on March 18.

(4) ROBOT ON PATROL. Tech Crunch reports “Security robots are being used to ward off San Francisco’s homeless population”:

Is it worse if a robot instead of a human is used to deter the homeless from setting up camp outside places of business?

One such bot cop recently took over the outside of the San Francisco SPCA, an animal advocacy and pet adoption clinic in the city’s Mission district, to deter homeless people from hanging out there — causing some people to get very upset.

The article quotes this tweet from Brianna Wu:

The SPCA deployed a robot from security startup Knightscope to deter crime and vandalism on their campus.

And, according to both the S.F. SPCA and Knightscope, crime dropped after deploying the bot.

However, the K9 unit was patrolling several areas around the shop, including the sidewalk where humans walk, drawing the ire of pedestrians and advocacy group Walk SF, which previously introduced a bill to ban food delivery robots throughout the city.

“We’re seeing more types of robots on sidewalks and want to see the city getting ahead of this,” said Cathy DeLuca, Walk SF policy and program director, who also mentioned S.F. district 7 supervisor Norman Yee would be introducing legislation around sidewalk use permits for robots in the beginning of 2018.

Last week the city ordered the S.F. SPCA to stop using these security robots altogether or face a fine of $1,000 per day for operating in a public right of way without a permit.

The S.F. SPCA says it has since removed the robot and is working through a permitting process. It has already seen “two acts of vandalism” since the robot’s removal.

(5) THE DIAGNOSIS. Ted Chiang says “The Real Danger To Civilization Isn’t AI. It’s Runaway Capitalism” in an article for Buzzfeed.

Speaking to Maureen Dowd for a Vanity Fair article published in April, Musk gave an example of an artificial intelligence that’s given the task of picking strawberries. It seems harmless enough, but as the AI redesigns itself to be more effective, it might decide that the best way to maximize its output would be to destroy civilization and convert the entire surface of the Earth into strawberry fields. Thus, in its pursuit of a seemingly innocuous goal, an AI could bring about the extinction of humanity purely as an unintended side effect.

This scenario sounds absurd to most people, yet there are a surprising number of technologists who think it illustrates a real danger. Why? Perhaps it’s because they’re already accustomed to entities that operate this way: Silicon Valley tech companies.

(6) CHEERS AND BOOS. Fanac.org has posted a 36-minute video of Robert A. Heinlein’s guest of honor speech at the 1976 Worldcon.

MidAmeriCon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Kansas City in 1976, with Robert A. Heinlein as Guest of Honor. With a warm introduction by Bob Tucker, this sometimes uncomfortable speech touches on Heinlein’s belief in the inevitability of atomic war and his belief that mankind will go to the stars. There are comments on Russia and China, the role of men, and more than a few very bad jokes. You will hear applause and you can hear disapproving boos. If you are one of “Heinlein’s Children”, or simply a reader of classic SF, this video is a rare opportunity to hear that legendary figure.

(More background about the booing is here.)

(7) UNCANNY DINOSAUR ISSUE. The submission window opens in March – read the pitch and complete details here: “Uncanny Magazine Dinosaur Special Issue Guidelines”.

As you may know if you followed the Uncanny Magazine Year 4 Kickstarter, Uncanny Magazine Issue 23 will be a Special Shared-Universe Dinosaur Issue! The planned solicited contributors are:

Do you want to join them? One of the stretch goals was adding two extra unsolicited stories to the issue! We will be open to submissions from March 1- March 15, 2018.

(8) CAPITOL TBR. Former congressman Steve Israel profiles members of Congress in the Washington Post about their favorite books of the year and found Rep. Ted Lieu of California enjoying the Nebula Awards anthology and Rep.Adam Schiff of California reading Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series — “A former congressman asked his old colleagues for book suggestions. Here’s their list.”

(9) TROLLING FOR CLICKS. At NBC News, Noah Berlatsky asks “Is Star Wars’ ‘The Last Jedi’ science fiction? It’s time to settle this age-old argument”. Will anybody take my bet that the argument will not be settled by his op-ed? Or maybe it will, by a kind of cinematic force majeure.

To figure out whether Star Wars is science fiction, you first need to figure out how to define the term — which is harder than you might think. Genres are notoriously difficult to pin down, which is why they spark so many arguments. Some country fans protested loudly when Beyoncé appeared at the Country Music Awards because she (supposedly) was not a country artist. Some critics similarly argued that Bob Dylan’s lyrics are not literature, though the Nobel committee disagreed.

Genre is a marker of quality and belonging, of seriousness and community. Science fiction in particular is often seen as more important or serious than fantasy, so it’s no wonder that there’s been some struggle over how to place the films. George Lucas himself declared that “Star Wars isn’t a science-fiction film, it’s a fantasy film and a space opera” in 2015. Others have also waded in over the years; Annalee Newitz included Star Wars in a list of 10 science-fiction works that are really fantasy at io9, while author Brian Clegg says Star Wars is only “low-grade science-fiction” — it’s not quite real science-fiction, so it’s not high quality.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 18, 1957 The Monolith Monsters premiered.
  • December 18, 1968 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang opens in New York City.
  • December 18, 1985 — Terry Gilliam’s Brazil! was released.
  • December 18, 1996 — Wes Craven’s Scream hits theaters, and a Halloween mask was born.
  • December 18, 2009 – Director James Cameron’s Avatar premiered.
  • December 18, 2013Forbidden Planet (1956) is selected by the Library of Congress for inclusion in the National Film Registry.

(11) TODAY’S  BIRTHDAYS

  • Born December 18, 1939 – Michael Moorcock
  • Born December 18, 1941 – Jack Haldeman
  • Born December 18, 1946  — Steven Spielberg
  • Born December 18 — Steve Davidson

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy overheard Dilbert talking about a zombie apocalypse.

(13) I HAVE A LITTLE LIST. SyFy Wire’s Swapna Krishna names these as “The 10 best sci-fi and fantasy books of 2017”. People get upset if I say I haven’t heard of all the books on a “best” list, so let me say I have heard of many of these.

(14) THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS 2014. Everyone has their own way of celebrating the holidays. John King Tarpinian’s traditions include rewatching Thug Notes’ analysis of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

(15) THE BIG BUCKS. Speaking of stacks of cheddar — “Star Wars: The Last Jedi takes $450m on opening weekend”.

The movie dwarfed its nearest rival – the computer-animated comedy Ferdinand, which took $13m (£10m).

The total for The Last Jedi includes $220m (£165m) from box offices in the US and Canada, placing the film second in the all-time list for North America.

It trails behind the 2015 release Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which opened with a record-breaking $248m (£185m).

(16) BREATHLESS TAKE. Chuck Wendig launches his review with a long stretch of onomatopoeia: “The Last Jedi: A Mirror, Slowly Cracking”. And how often do you get a chance to use that word?

This will be less a review of The Last Jedi (Episode VIII) than it will be… my thoughts? An analysis? Me opening my head like a flip-top Pac-Men and seeing what globs of brain-goo I can grab and hastily smack into the screen?

Spoilers follow the noises, Wendig warns.

(17) WHAT’S BREWING IN SHORT FICTION. Nerds of a Feather’s Charles Payseur serves “THE MONTHLY ROUND – A Taster’s Guide to Speculative Short Fiction, 11/2017”.

So please, take seat. The flavors on tap this month are perfect for those looking to unwind by the fire, to shed a tear for those who have not made it this far, and to reaffirm a commitment to pushing forward, into a future that is not mired by the same harms and dangers as the past. Each pint today comes with a special side of memories and a tendril of shadow creeping just out of view. The only remedy is to drink deep, and share the moment with those you care about, and look for ways to escape the familiar cycles of hate, loss, and fear—together….

Tasting Flight – November 2017

“An Unexpected Boon” by S.B. Divya (Apex)

Notes: Pouring a dark brown rimmed with gold, the first sip is deep, subtle and smoky like dreams burning, only to reveal newer, sweeter tones underneath, a future still bright despite loss and danger.

Pairs with: Honey Bock

Review: Kalyani is a young (probably autistic) girl who experiences the world quite differently from the rest of her family. It’s something that Aruni, her older brother, finds quite difficult to handle, especially when his parents have left him in charge while they are away. For Kalyani, though, it’s the rest of the world that doesn’t make as much sense, that overflows with threats and dangers…

(18) ON STAGE. It’s live! “The Twilight Zone returns to spook theatergoers”.

In 1959, a groundbreaking TV series began in the USA. The Twilight Zone came to be regarded as a classic of science fiction for the small screen. Now the Almeida Theatre in London is taking eight episodes to make a Twilight Zone for the stage.

(19) YA. A dystopia? Why, that’s just another day in a teenaged life: “Why Teens Find The End Of The World So Appealing”.

“The hallmark of moving from childhood to adulthood is that you start to recognize that things aren’t black and white,” says Ostenson “and there’s a whole bunch of ethical grey area out there.”

Which makes dystopian fiction perfect for the developing adolescent brain, says Laurence Steinberg, a psychologist at Temple University.

“Their brains are very responsive to emotionally arousing stimuli,” he explains. During this time, there are so many new emotions and they are much stronger than those kids experienced when they were younger.

“When teenagers feel sad, what they often do it put themselves in situations where they feel even sadder,” Steinberg says. They listen to sad music — think emo! — they watch melodramatic TV shows. So dystopian novels fit right in, they have all that sadness plus big, emotional ideas: justice, fairness, loyalty and mortality.

This time in a kid’s life is often defined by acting out, but, Steinberg says, that’s a misguided interpretation of what’s happening. “It isn’t so much rebellion, but it is questioning.”

(20) BAD AIR. I remember breathing this stuff at the 2015 Worldcon: “California fires: Sentinel satellite tracks wildfire smoke plume”.

Europe’s new Sentinel-5P satellite has captured a dramatic image of the smoke billowing away from the devastating California wildfires.

It is a powerful demonstration of 5P’s ability to sense the atmosphere.

The plume is seen to sweep westwards out over the Pacific Ocean near Los Angeles and then turn north towards the State of Oregon.

(21) JDA. Jon Del Arroz shares his vision of the controversies he’s engaged in this year with BayCon, Scalzi, Cat Rambo, Chuck Wendig, and some guy who scrolls pixels in “It’s Better To Be My Friend #JDAYourFriend”.

…Where they all screwed up, is that I’m a competent writer who works hard. I’m a competent businessman who markets hard. I don’t take my ball and go home and I’m not deterred from speaking the truth by some threats or someone’s bully pulpit.

And now I’ve got a platform. It’s one a lot of people read on a daily basis. It’s only going to grow bigger in 2018. I’m a well-respected journalist, I’m a multiple-award nominated author with an avid readership. I’m winning. Readers and audiences like winners. Yet not one of these people has come forward and said “you know what, Jon, I shouldn’t have attacked you, let’s be friends.”

(22) TO SMELL THE TRUTH. Hugo-winning editor Gordon Van Gelder had a famous father, Dr. Richard Van Gelder, who tried to stump the panelists on the episode of game show To Tell The Truth aired March 13, 1961. The chairman of the Department of Mammals at the American Museum of Natural History, Van Gelder pere was specially touted as an expert on skunks. The real Van Gelder and two impostors appear at 17:00, and the truth is told right after the 23:00 mark.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/15/17 Like Pixels Through A Monitor, These Are The Scrolls Of Our Hive

(1) A FANTASY MAP THAT WORKS. Literature Map, The Tourist Map of Literature is a lot of fun. Seems accurate, too. Plug in a name and give it a whirl.

The Literature-Map is part of Gnod, the Global Network of Discovery. It is based on Gnooks, Gnod’s literature recommendation system. The more people like an author and another author, the closer together these two authors will move on the Literature-Map.

(2) NEW HELMSMAN FOR STARLINE. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association announced a change in editorship for its official poetry publication — “Introducing StarLine’s new editor, Vince Gotera”

With the upcoming 40.4 issue of Star*Line we welcome its new editor Vince Gotera, and thank F.J. Bergmann for her exemplary service and vision in what a journal of speculative poetry can be. We look forward to the approach Vince Gotera will take in the years ahead, especially with the arrival of the 40th anniversary of the SFPA in 2018.

Vince Gotera is an award-winning member of the international Science Fiction  and Fantasy Poetry Association, and he has been nominated for Rhysling Awards.

Vince was born and raised in San Francisco and lived in the Philippines for part of his childhood. He completed undergraduate studies at City College of San Francisco and Stanford University, where he earned a BA. He earned an MA at San Francisco University and both an MFA and a PhD at Indiana University.  He is the author of the poetry collections Dragonfly (1994) , Ghost Wars (2003) and Fighting Kite (2007) and the critical volume Radical Visions: Poetry by Vietnam Veterans (1994).  His upcoming volume of poetry is Pacific Crossings. 

He is also a former editor of North American Review and was the poetry editor of the journal Asian America.

(3) ELECTRIC SHEEP DREAMER. The argument continues: NPR’s Adam Frank asks, “Is Harrison Ford An Android In ‘Blade Runner’?”

But it has gotta be the last director’s cut.

That is where you get to see exactly why director Ridley Scott’s movie is considered so important and so influential. His vision of a future Los Angeles that is all torrential rain, steam and blue searchlights piercing through ruin is nothing short of jaw-dropping.

But it’s also in this final cut that Scott reinserts two scenes the studio removed. They hold the key to Deckard’s status. Near the end of the film, Deckard has a dream about a unicorn. Later, he is escaping with Rachael — the beautiful next-generation replicant whom he has fallen for. Just as they walk out the door of his apartment, he finds an origami figure in the shape of a unicorn that was left by his former police partner Gaff. This signals that Gaff (who has a major origami habit) knows about Deckard’s dream because it’s not really Deckard’s. It’s an implant. Every replicant’s memories and dreams are fake. They are implanted to give a “back story” needed to stabilize the replicant’s artificial personality.

So the unicorn dream is central to the “Deckard as replicant” argument….

(4) AMBISCAREDSTROUS. The Los Angeles Times interviews “Horror master Guillermo del Toro on how scaring people is different on TV and in the movies”.

“There is a big difference when the mediums are different,” Del Toro says during a recent interview on the phone from Toronto, where he lives part time and also where “At Home With Monsters,” the traveling museum exhibition of his memorabilia, artwork and ephemera, recently opened.

In explaining the distinctions between the different methods of storytelling, be it movies, television, books or graphic novels, Del Toro also points out the ways in which they interrelate.

“TV now you have to plan it, you structure it for binge watching,” he says. “Meaning, you structure the whole season like a three-act play. You have a first act, the first third of the season, second act is the middle third and you structure it like that. Whereas a movie you’re dealing with a continuous experience that’s going to last around two hours, so it’s more traditional.

“The other mediums, like video games or books, may follow different sets of rules,” he continues. “But what I find really interesting as a storyteller is that each of those mediums informs the other. You find yourself applying tricks that you learned developing a video game in telling a movie. Little tricks that you learn structurally working in TV, you apply them to a movie and so forth.”

(5) PUMPKINSTEIN. Here’s what was scaring people in 2014 — this price for a pumpkin: “Pumpkinstein Is The Only Halloween Pumpkin You’ll Ever Need”.

People never believe it’s real the first time they see it; they all want to touch it to make sure,” Tony Dighera of Cinagro Farms in Fillmore, Calif., told The New York Times.

Dighera told the Tri-Valley Dispatch that it took four years and $500,000 to develop the technique and find the perfect pumpkin for the job.

“When you try something for four years of your life, people really start to think you’re wacko,” he told the Times.

What some people may find “wacko,” however, is the price. Dighera is selling Pumpkinsteins for about $75 wholesale, with retailers marking them up to $100 and even $125.

For a pumpkin. A very cool pumpkin that looks like Frankenstein, but still a pumpkin.

(6) THE BEST. Now available, The Best of Richard Matheson, edited by Victor LaValle from Penguin.

Where Matheson shines is in his depictions of ordinary horror, the way strange goings-on affect everyday people, and his ambiguous endings leave plenty of room for further thought. As a bonus, editor LaValle offers an enlightening introduction that discusses Matheson’s influence on his own work and even offers up the story behind what he calls his “Matheson moment,” giving more heft to the stories that follow.

(7) DON’T BE KNOCKIN’. Victor LaValle pays homage to the horror master with a real-life story from his own past — “My Favorite Richard Matheson Story Is the One I Lived Through” at Electric Lit.

Anyway, I’m standing there and Tasha and Lianne are coming through the doorway and then I heard it, a sound in the kitchen. Knocking. Not all that loud, but I was close to the kitchen and getting closer. By that I mean that Tasha and Lianne were taking off their coats and I ran away. Later I told Cedric I went to “get them water,” but there’s no other way to say it: I fled.

As soon as I entered the kitchen the knocking stopped. I figured it might be their boiler kicking in. It was winter after all. I knew I’d run away though so I came up with the water idea and went scrounging for cups. This led me on a chase through the cupboards as, in the other room, Cedric called for me. And then I reached their pantry door. This style of one-family home had a separate little pantry, about the size of a small walk-in closet. I found the door there and, still hunting for glasses, I tried the handle and found it locked. Then Cedric walked into the kitchen.

“Cheese,” he said. “You making me look bad.”

(8) TAINT BY NUMBERS. Junot Diaz’ introduction to Global Dystopias, “To Map, to Warn, to Hope”, from the Boston Review.

William Gibson has famously declared, “The future is already here—it’s just not very evenly distributed.” Gibson’s words have been much on my mind of late. How could they not be? The president is a white nationalist sympathizer who casually threatens countries with genocide and who can’t wait to build a great wall across the neck of the continent to keep out all the “bad hombres.” After a hurricane nearly took out Houston, the country’s most visible scientist, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, stated that the effects of climate change may have grown so severe that he doubts the nation will be able to withstand the consequences.

For me, literature, and those formations that sustain it, have ever been a eutopic enclave against a darkening dystopian world.

Then, as if on cue, Puerto Rico, a U.S. colony almost completely bankrupt by neoliberal malfeasance, was struck by Hurricane Maria with such apocalyptic force that it more or less knocked the island into pre-modernity. Earlier today a former student informed me that more skin bleaching is consumed in India than Coca-Cola, and on the edge of my computer a new site is announcing that the Chinese government has made it nearly impossible for its 730 million Internet users to express opinions online anonymously. Plus this little cheery gem from the Federal Reserve: the top 1 percent of the U.S. population controls 38.6 percent of the nation’s wealth, an inequality chasm that makes the Middle Ages look egalitarian. Whether we’re talking about our cannibal economics or the rising tide of xenophobia or the perennial threat of nuclear annihilation, it seems that the future has already arrived.

(9) GONE VIRAL. These hitchhikers are along for the evolutionary ride: “Ancient Viruses Are Buried in Your DNA”, in the New York Times.

In July, scientists reported that a strange protein courses through the veins of pregnant women. No one is sure what it’s there for.

What makes this protein, called Hemo, so unusual is that it’s not made by the mother. Instead, it is made in her fetus and in the placenta, by a gene that originally came from a virus that infected our mammalian ancestors more than 100 million years ago.

Hemo is not the only protein with such an alien origin: Our DNA contains roughly 100,000 pieces of viral DNA. Altogether, they make up about 8 percent of the human genome. And scientists are only starting to figure out what this viral DNA is doing to us.

(10) HISTORY IS BUNK. Once again, an appealing theory is murdered by a few lousy facts: “Sinister ‘Secrets’ of Easter Island’s Doomed Civilization Begin to Unravel With Rapa Nui Genetic Discovery”.

Recently, Rapa Nui has become the ultimate parable for humankind’s selfishness; a moral tale of the dangers of environmental destruction. In the “ecocide” hypothesis popularised by the geographer Jared Diamond, Rapa Nui is used as a demonstration of how society is doomed to collapse if we do not sit up and take note. But more than 60 years of archaeological research actually paints a very different picture—and now new genetic data sheds further light on the island’s fate. It is time to demystify Rapa Nui.

The ‘ecocide’ narrative doesn’t stand up

The ecocide hypothesis centres on two major claims. First, that the island’s population was reduced from several tens of thousands in its heyday, to a diminutive 1,500-3,000 when Europeans first arrived in the early 18th century.

Second, that the palm trees that once covered the island were callously cut down by the Rapa Nui population to move statues. With no trees to anchor the soil, fertile land eroded away resulting in poor crop yields, while a lack of wood meant islanders couldn’t build canoes to access fish or move statues. This led to internecine warfare and, ultimately, cannibalism….

…Perhaps, then, the takeaway from Rapa Nui should not be a story of ecocide and a Malthusian population collapse. Instead, it should be a lesson in how sparse evidence, a fixation with “mysteries,” and a collective amnesia for historic atrocities caused a sustainable and surprisingly well-adapted population to be falsely blamed for their own demise.

(11) WE HATES IT. How much does the New York Times’ Jeannette Catsoulis dislike Goodbye Christopher Robin? This much:

As predictable as mermaid frocks at the Oscars, Hollywood greets the end of the year by suddenly noticing that roughly a third of moviegoers (and three-quarters of art-house audiences) are over 50, most of them women. This annual phenomenon can lead to theaters clogged with old-lady bait, which usually means something British and upper-crusty, preferably with literary roots. A dollop of war, a death or two, and it’s off to the awards races. “Goodbye Christopher Robin” checks all the boxes. Drenched in dappled light and Carter Burwell’s honeyed score, Simon Curtis’s glowing picture dangles the story of how the author A. A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) created the Winnie-the-Pooh tales using the stuffed animals of his son, Christopher Robin (beautifully played by little Will Tilston). What we’re really watching, though, is no less than a stiffly depressing portrait of toffee-nosed child abuse….

(12) WEIN’S LAST SWAMP THING. Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly we know “New Swamp Thing Winter Special #1 to feature posthumous story from co-creator Len Wein”.

Wolverine co-creator Len Wein, who died in September at the age of 69, was one of the most influential comic book writers and editors ever, leaving his mark on the DC and Marvel Universes. At the time of his death, he was hard at work on a new story about the iconic DC Comics character he co-created with Bernie Wrightson: Swamp Thing, the avatar of the Green.

Before he died, Wein had completed the script for the first issue of a new series about the vegetation-covered monstrosity formerly known as Alec Holland, which would be illustrated by his 2016 Swamp Thing  miniseries partner Kelley Jones. While we won’t ever see this series come to fruition, EW can exclusively reveal that fans will get a chance to read the first issue of the planned series in 2018 when DC Comics releases Swamp Thing Winter Special #1 (on sale Jan. 31), which will present the story in both its original script form with art by Jones.

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 15, 2003 — China launched its first manned space mission becoming the third country in history to send a person into orbit.

(14) SEXUAL COURSE CORRECTION. Trae Dorn, at Nerd & Tie, reports “On ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ TV’s Constantine Will Finally Be Allowed to Smoke, Be Into Dudes”.

When Matt Ryan first played the title role on NBC’s Constantine, the peacock network was a little nervous about acknowledging two things about the character: his bisexuality and his chain smoking. And while they let John Constantine occasionally hold a cigarette, his being into guys was kind of a sore spot steadfastly avoided by the show. Ryan has since reprised the part on The CW’s Arrow, which merged the continuities. With the addition of a forthcoming CW Seed animated series, many fans of the comics’ version of the character have hoped his sexuality would be finally addressed.

And we’re happy to say, it will be.

It’s been announced that Matt Ryan’s Constantine will guest star on a Legends of Tomorrow two parter this season, and when he does his bisexuality will be directly acknowledged….

(15) BRANCH OFFICES. If the government did this for employees, it would be a scandal. A private company did it, so it’s a nice feature article, “Microsoft built tree houses for its employees”. The Verge has the story.

The tree houses are a part of Microsoft’s “outdoor districts” which are connected to buildings around its Redmond campus. They feature weatherproof benches, hatches that hide electricity sockets, rustproof rocking chairs, a fireplace, wood canopies, and an outdoor Wi-Fi network. There are ramps built in for those who need them. If you get hungry, there’s also an indoor cafeteria that’s extended outside and a barbecue restaurant built into a shipping container.

Microsoft said it had been planning renovations and surveyed employees to see what they cared about the most. Employees said if they were given the opportunity, they would work outside more.

(16) SHORTCHANGED. SF Bluestocking says — “Star Trek: Discovery – A long, poetic episode title is no substitute for real depth”:

After a strong two-part premiere and a decent transitional episode last week, “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry” is a bit of a disappointment. After cramming a ton of set-up and plot into its first three episodes, what the show needs now is to establish a new normal and give the characters a reprieve from the constant barrage of Events! Happening! so the audience can get to know these people we’re supposed to care about. This is a needle that was successfully threaded in “The Vulcan Hello” and “Battle at the Binary Stars,” where we were given a nice prologue and several flashbacks to establish Burnham’s character and her friendship with Captain Georgiou, and this gave weight to the events at the end of the second episode, setting up Burnham for a redemption arc over the rest of the series. Last week’s episode contrived to get Burnham onto the Discovery and introduced a new cast of characters, so the next logical step would be to show us more of how these characters interact with each other, what makes them tick, or even just how Burnham settles in to the normal rhythm of life on the ship. Instead, this episode features another crisis, but it struggles throughout to convey why any of these events should matter to the viewer….

Warning: SPOILERS FOLLOW.

(17) IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU IF YOU’RE YOUNG AT HEART. Now Creation Entertainment is running a cycle of Once Upon A Time conventions. The next is in Burbank, CA in November.

Every once in a blue moon a television series captures the hearts of viewers who become passionate about their love of the storyline, the look and feel of the show, and the actors that breathe life into the characters we come to cherish. ABC’s Once Upon A Time certainly fills that rare bill as fans worldwide have made this show one that is the talk of the Internet and eagerly followed by viewers, much in the tradition of other series that Creation Entertainment has been involved with in its 45-year history.

 

(18) WENDIG BOOK IN DEVELOPMENT FOR TV. Yesterday, Chuck Wendig called the internet to attention:

*ahem*

I have an announcement to make.

*opens mouth*

*ants pour out*

*ants collectively spell a message*

FBI Drama From Jerry Bruckheimer TV & ‘MacGyver’ EP David Slack Set At CBS

*ants return to mouth*

*maw snaps shut*

So, if you click that link, you’ll see a couple notable paragraphs:

CBS has put in development Unthinkable, an FBI crime drama from Jerry Bruckheimer Television and MacGyver executive producer David Slack. CBS Television Studios, where both JBTV and Slack are based, is the studio.

Written and executive produced by Slack, Unthinkable, based on Chuck Wendig’s 2016 novel Invasive, is about a brilliant futurist, trained to see danger around every corner, who’s recruited by an uncharacteristically optimistic FBI Agent to identify the threats only she can see coming – and stop them before it’s too late.

(19) NOT JUST A COMIC CON. Japanese pop culture will be celebrated at Youmacon2017 in Detroit from November 2-5.

Downtown Detroit is filled with people in costumes, and it has nothing to do with Halloween. Thousands of Japanese pop culture fans have come from all over the country to Youmacon…

Youmacon is a popular culture event similar to most “Comic Cons”, however instead of focusing on comic books, Youmacon is a celebration of Japanese popular culture and its influence on our own culture over the past few decades. Common themes throughout the event are Anime (Japanese animation), Video Games, Japanese style artwork and comics, and the rising internet culture influenced by all of the above.

Youmacon brings a unique all-ages mix of interactive events, celebrity guest panels, and live musical performances to Downtown Detroit. One of its most popular events, “Live Action Mario Party”, emulates the video game experience – often filling the room to fire code capacity. Players participate in gameshow-like mini-games to help their teams advance and win.

Wearing costumes, or “Cosplay” as it’s known at conventions, is very popular with attendees of Youmacon.

(20) FRIGHTFULLY TASTY. He was a terror on the screen but a sweetheart in the kitchen, and his recipes are making a comeback: “Dish up some scary-good eats with new expanded Vincent Price cookbook”.

Vincent Price might have been the Merchant of Menace in classic fright films like House on Haunted Hill, The Tingler, and House of Wax, but he was also quite the Renaissance man. Besides being a familiar face in horror films, Price was renowned for his impressive collection of fine art (even selling tasteful paintings for Sears!) and his wizardry in the kitchen as a master chef.

One of Price’s best-selling cookbooks is getting an expanded makeover by Dover’s Calla Editions and being re-released in a deluxe volume, which includes additional material, memories, and comments by his daughter, Victoria, and son, V.B.

(21) IF YOU WANT IT DONE RIGHT. Here’s s link to Archive.org’s recording of Patrick Magee reading Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman originally aired by the BBC in 1997. One reviewer said:

This is a unique work by Flann O’Brien – funny, oblique,odd, beguiling, and horrific by turns. It’s got a peculiar, pastoral, otherworldly quality, yet at the same time you can believe that it really is taking place in some deranged Irish backwater town. To give you an example something that made me howl with laughter, the central character falls foul of the law, and is sentenced to be hanged, on a trumped up charge, so they build a gallows in the police station yard, but the chippie is scarcely competent, so he prevails on the narrator to give him a hand….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Lace, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Cat Eldridge, Nigellicus, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories.. Title credit goes to  File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Review of Noah: Apocalypse


By Martin Morse Wooster: I’ve seen plays in a lot of odd places.  But on September 11 I saw a dystopian play in a bar!

The play was Noah: Apocalypse by Amanda Quain, which was held by Live Art DC at the DC Reynolds bar in Washington.  I sat on a cramped barstool, fortified by happy hour beer and occasional rounds of free beer and watched the play, which was performed by a cast of seven to an audience of 15.  All 22 of us fit into the entire space of a smallish bar.

The premise is that Washington has been nuked, and after the atomic attack and “150 days of acid rain” a group of survivors headed by Noah (Raven Wilkes) is in the bar.  Mutants that kill and eat humans have surrounded Washington.  But one survivor from another group (Jasmine Jones) shows up and says she can get the survivors to a larger group of survivors that have far more food and some medical supplies.  Should the group try to escape?

The author says she was inspired to write the play after spending “most of my high school and college years reading about teens saving the world from corrupted government, when there was a government left at all.”  One character, Sarah (Nerissa Hart) gets to dress like Katniss Everdeen and make geek jokes, including one to a questionable cocktail that is apparently a reference to a potion in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

This is Quain’s first full-length play, and she needs an editor.  The ending, where we learn why Washington has been nuked, doesn’t work.  But Noah: Apocalypse has a lot more energy than many more expensive productions I’ve seen on real stages.  I spent two hours on my uncomfortable barstool watching this play, and I enjoyed all but the last ten minutes.

Amanda Quain isn’t there yet as a writer, but she has potential and should be encouraged.

Noah: Apocalypse runs through September 18.

Pixel Scroll 8/17/17 Like A Scroll Over Troubled Pixels, I Will Lay Me Down

(1) MEMOIRS OF A HUGO ADMINISTRATOR. The first part of “The Administrator’s Tale”, Nicholas Whyte’s account of handling the Hugos for Worldcon 75 includes his feelings about the run-up to his awards year.

On my birthday in 2016, I was sitting in a noisy Brussels pub with a former Lib Dem MP and had to keep excusing myself as the Hugo finalists were announced by MidAmeriCon II on Twitter. Only one of the previous year’s slaters had been active this time, but again several ballot categories were dominated by candidates chosen by him. I was dismayed. Concerned that the EPH system as proposed might not be sufficient to protect the Hugos in future, I put my name to a proposal supporting an extra preliminary stage of voting to screen out troll nominees, and to another moving the qualifying date for nominating back to December 31 of the previous year rather than January 31.

Both of these were passed at the WSFS MidAmeriCon II business meeting in August and sent on to Helsinki for ratification. After the 2016 Hugos had been handed out (with No Award winning only twice rather than five times), Dave McCarty provided detailed voting statistics showing that EPH would have drastically reduced the number of slate finalists. The WSFS business meeting consequently ratified both EPH and the shift to six finalists (but up to five nominations per voter) in each category, these changes to take effect for my turn as administrator in 2017.

This concentrated our minds rather wonderfully on the need to test our software for processing nominations, newly and beautifully designed by Eemeli Aro, using the new rules…

(2) ALL YOUR BASE. However, a Hugo Administrator’s work is never done. Renay, of Best Fanzine winner Lady Business, has had a catastrophe.

Seanan McGuire’s Hugo seems to have arrived okay – maybe it’s that special base packing material.

(3) WOW WITHOUT BOW. Which gives us a smooth segue to Torsten Adair’s analysis of the Best Graphic Novel winner in “The 2017 Hugo Awards: No Dogs Allowed” at Comics Beat.

2,464 nominating ballots were validated this year. 842 of those (34%) nominated at least one graphic novel title. Why does a publisher want to make the final list? Well, aside from being a nominee, which gains you shelf cred with a blurb on the cover, and another reason to issue a press release, it does something even more important: it gets your work seen by every Worldcon attendee. How so? Each attendee can download the Voter Packet, containing many of the nominated works.

A publisher can send out 7,740 digital copies (2017 attendance) to some of the most passionate and well-read fans in science fiction, some of whom may have never considered reading graphic novels before, or realized that there were amazing graphic novels which appealed to their tastes!

(4) WORLDCON TECH. Kyuu Eturautti’s “Worldcon 75 – great challenge, mixed feelings” is a thoughtful and deeply interesting account of his experiences working IT at Helsinki.

So, much of this is just “we do it different”, without right or wrong, but some differences were more than that. I’ll just say it: there was a chronic lack of responsibility seen many times. Equipment that was loaned was never returned. Often enough people didn’t even remember where it was. “Oh, we gave it to someone who asked” was heard occasionally. There was also a lot of odd attitudes, people leaving to party just like that and assuming everyone else would pick up the work. The key parts of the tech team worked 10-16 hours each day. We didn’t catch drinks or meet new friends at bars. I walked an average of 19315 steps a day, almost solely inside Messukeskus and I was not the hardest working one of the team. I’ve heard some other departments also suffered from this attitude. Many had to fix things which were caused simply due to attitude problems and laziness. Of course this wasn’t the majority attitude, but it doesn’t take many a fail to cause notable fusterclucks.

I suppose the biggest problem and reason for massive overworking was the differing staff policy which made it very hard to recruit help. Allow me to summarise. 1. In a Finnish con of around this size, a key staff member would get free tickets for himself and perhaps also friends, free warm meals each day, possibly costs of transportation to pre-con workshops and the con, basic accommodation during the con, a t-shirt and a staff only dead dog party with free food and free drinks, alcoholic and non alcoholic (alcohol in limited amounts, of course). 2. At Worldcon, a key staff member had to pay for entry, which even for a first timer was three times a common convention ticket price. There was partial food compensation, no travel costs compensation, no accommodation, a t-shirt and an open for all dead dog party with nothing free, which was full and out of food by the time our department was only halfway done packing.

(5) FIVE MORE. Steven J. Wright, inspired by Victor Milán’s choice of “five works of SFF which deserve (in his opinion) not to be forgotten” (in yesterday’s Scroll), makes recommendations of his own in “Five from the Forests of my Memory”. For example:

Elizabeth Lynn’s classy story A Different Light is also known to the cognoscenti – it’s been reviewed by James Nicoll, but, let’s face it, James knows all the books.  This story of an artist who gives up his life for an outer-space adventure manages to be clever and exciting and compassionate all at once.  Elizabeth Lynn has a substantial body of work besides, but I think this one deserves not to be overlooked.

(6) TEXAS REMEMBRANCE. The Texas Senate adopted a resolution honoring the late Julie Gomoll’s many accomplishments and important work in the city of Austin.

(7) HARRIS OBIT. Stuntwoman Joi “SJ” Harris was killed August 14 on the set of Deadpool 2 while performing a stunt on a motorcycle. She is known for being the first African-American female professional road racer. Deadpool 2 was her first movie as a stunt performer. She was the stand-in for Zazie Beetz who is playing the mutant mercenary Domino.  Vancouver authorities shut down production while they investigated, but ScienceFiction.com reports shooting has now resumed.

Joi Harris had been riding motorcycles since 2013 and had more than 1,500 hours of practice under her belt prior to the incident. She started competing in the American Sportbike Racing Association/Championship Cup Series in 2014 and was an advocate for female racing. Here’s some of what she had to say on her official website.

(8) KIM POOR OBIT. Astronomical artist Kim Poor (1952-2017) died August 16 of ataxia. His NASA bio lists his extensive credits:

…[His art appeared in] Omni, Science Digest, Discover, Astronomy, Sky & Telescope, Germany’s Kosmos, and the Russia’s popular Ogonjok. His book credits include Smithsonian Books, Time-Life Books and Carl Sagan’s Comet. Movies and TV often use his work as background props as in Alien Nation, Seaquest and Babylon 5.

Kim’s artwork is found in textbooks, encyclopedias, planetarium shows and scientific presentations. His work has been commissioned by the National Air& Space Museum and is found in collections worldwide, including those of many astronauts and NASA personnel. He headed up an American delegation of space artists who were brought to Moscow, USSR in 1987 to display their work for the thirtieth anniversary of Sputnik. His work hangs in the Yuri Gagarin Museum in Star City, Russia. This was one of the first overtures of Gorbachev’s glasnost, and resulted in an ongoing series of cooperative workshops between Russian and American artists. Their efforts culminated in a joint exhibition at the National Air & Space Museum in 1992.

He was also the founder of Novaspace, and the creator that brought Spacefest to life. A gallery of his art prints is here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born August 17 – Neil Clarke

(10) WHO KNEW? Jeff VanderMeer learned that the new Doctor Who is reading his books from Glamour’s follow-along visit with actress Jodie Whittaker on the set of Broadchurch. “Ever wondered what a day in the life of the first female Doctor Who looks like?”

11.40am

Straight into make-up, one of my favourite parts of the day. You get to catch up with all the cast, we’re just in a row chatting. Beth’s ‘no make-up’ make-up takes 45 minutes max, it’s blow-drying my frizzy hair that can take time.

1pm

After a lamb curry from catering, we’re on set. There’s lots of waiting, so I always have a book. I’ve nearly finished the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer.

(11) I STREAM, YOU STREAM. When Camestros Felapton ran out of things he wanted to watch, he went back to a show he’d originally given up on — “Review: Killjoys (Syfy, Netflix)”.

The initial premise of the show was this. On a planetary system with a bunch of human colonised moons (known as the Quad), a kind of freelance, bounty-hunting, law enforcement agency called the RAC catches (or sometimes kills) wanted criminals. The bounty hunters are known as Killjoys because “joys” are the local currency and they (occasionally) kill people. At the start of the season, the two main characters are a two person team Dutch (an ex-assassin) and Johnny Jaqobi (a less amoral and more geeky pilot) as well as their (stolen) spaceship/AI Lucy. The initial episodes involved the arrival of Johnny’s brother Da’vin into the system, an ex-soldier with psychological trauma.

While not terrible, it also wasn’t great. The three main actors were good, in particular, Hannah John-Kamen as Dutch managed to stop her role as sexy-badass-assassin from being actively bad and say corny lines with conviction. The stories themselves were a bit dull (mainly catch the baddy of the week) and while the premise of the show was original it all somehow felt terribly derivative. The Firefly DNA was obvious but also a heap of tropes from everywhere and everything just piled up together in the apparent hope that something would stick. Dutch’s backstory as a child raised to be a deadly killer who got away from that life etc smacked of a show that wanted depth just by throwing tragedy at its characters….

(12) OBI-WAN GOES SOLO. Er, I’m sorry, I’ll read that again. Deadline’s Anthony D’Allesandro and Anita Busch, in “‘Star Wars’ Obi-Wan Kenobi Movie In Works With Stephen Daldry In Early Talks To Direct”, says that Disney is planning a stand-alone Obi-Wan Kenobi film. They want Stephen Daldry, who got Oscar nominations for The Reader, The Hours, and Billy Elliot to direct.

Deadline has confirmed that Disney is in early talks with three-time Oscar nominated director Stephen Daldry on a Star Wars standalone Obi-Wan Kenobi movie. No word on casting and at this time there is no deal and no script.

(13) HERE, TAKE THIS INTERNET.

(14) MASTERS OF DYSTOPIA. Today’s installment of NPR’s 1a program, “The Next Chapter For Dystopian Literature”, boasted a hall of fame lineup. You can listen to it at the link.

Today’s book lovers are hungry for stories of dark, dystopian futures. Novels like “1984,” “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Parable of the Sower” are hard to keep in stock these days.

But what’s inspiring the next generation of dystopian narratives? We assemble a panel of authors to talk about how current events, national politics and international relations inspire their new works and appeal to an audience with an affinity for apocalyptic endings.

Guests

Cory Doctorow Science fiction author, co-editor of the blog Boing Boing.

N.K. Jemisin Bestselling author of the “Inheritance” series and the “Broken Earth” trilogy. She’s won the Hugo Award for the past two years.

Paolo Bacigalupi Bestselling author of more than a half-dozen books, including “The Wind-Up Girl” and “The Water Knife”

Omar el Akkad Award-winning journalist and author of “American War”

(15) TEASER. Gnome Alone comes to theaters October 13.

From the producer of SHREK and the director of NUT JOB, GNOME ALONE is an energetic animated movie about one girl’s journey to discover the hero within herself. After moving to a new city with her mother, Chloe (Becky G) finds herself in a new house that creaks, a new school with creeps, and mysterious garden gnomes that are kind of freaky. No sooner has Chloe tried to fit in, but aliens from another dimension descend upon her house and threaten everything! To top it all off, the gnomes in her house come to life and ask for help to save the world. Now, the only thing standing between Chloe and the end of life as we know it are her new gnome-tastic friends, her neighbor Liam (Josh Peck) and the strength within. It’s up to Chloe and Liam to become the champions they’ve always been inside, and in the process discover that no matter where you are, you’re never GNOME ALONE!

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Rich Lynch, Karl-Johan Norén, Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern (with an uninvited assist from moi).]

Pixel Scroll 7/20/17 Be Vewy Quiet – I’m Hunting Pixels

(1) CORE DYSTOPIAS. James Davis Nicoll tempts fate every two weeks with a list of core sf. Today’s entry is “Twenty Core Dystopias Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”. The first four items are:

  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin
  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

(2) SCA JOINS THE 21ST CENTURY. The Society for Creative Anachronism has promulgated “The SCA Harassment and Bullying Policy”.

The SCA prohibits harassment and bullying of all individuals and groups.

Harassment and bullying includes, but is not limited to the following: offensive or lewd verbal comments directed to an individual; the display of explicit images (drawn or photographic) depicting an individual in an inappropriate manner; photographing or recording individuals inappropriately to abuse or harass the individual; inappropriate physical contact; unwelcome sexual attention; or retaliation for reporting harassment and/or bullying. Participants violating these rules are subject to appropriate sanctions. If an individual feels subjected to harassment, bullying or retaliation, they should contact a seneschal, President of the SCA, or the Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman. If a participant of the SCA becomes aware that someone is being harassed or bullied, they have a responsibility pursuant to the SCA Code of Conduct to come forward and report this behavior to a seneschal, President of the SCA or Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman.

The following statement must be posted at gate/troll at every SCA event in a size large enough for people to see it as they enter our events. This language must likewise be quoted in ALL site handouts at every event a site were a handout is made available.

THE SCA PROHIBITS HARASSMENT AND BULLYING OF ALL INDIVIDUALS AND GROUPS.

Participants engaging in this behavior are subject to appropriate sanctions. If you are subjected to harassment, bullying or retaliation, or if you become aware of anyone being harassed or bullied, contact a seneschal, President of the SCA, or your Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman.

(3) POTTER SPIRITUALITY. Michelle Boorstein and Julie Zauzmer of the Washington Post discuss the “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text” event at the Sixth and I Synagogue in “Hundreds pack DC hall to discuss podcast exploring Harry Potter as a sacred text”. The podcast is now #2 on iTunes and “has inspired face-to-face ‘Potter’ text reading groups–akin to Bible study rather than book club–in cities across the country.”

Touring the country this summer, the podcasters have been met night after night by adoring, mostly millennial crowds who want to soak up their secular meaning-making. For the growing slice of Americans who label themselves “spiritual but not religious,” Casper ter Kuile and Vanessa Zoltan are kind of pop stars.

The irony is, the pair are skeptical about secularism.

“It doesn’t speak to people’s hearts and souls,” Zoltan said during a recent interview. “I get that people get connection and meaning from Soul Cycle, but will [those people] visit you when your mom is dying?”

Zoltan and ter Kuile are complicated evangelists for their own cause. Even as their following grows, they are still pondering some big questions: Can non-traditional types of meaning-making build community? Can texts that are deeply moving to readers truly hold them to account in the way Scripture has among the God-fearing?

(4) JOB INSECURITY. The Washington Post has a piece by Travis M. Andrews and Samantha Schmidt on the firing of Kermit’s voice, Steve Whitmire.  Reportedly, Whitmire was publicly grumpy, as in a 2011 interview on “Ellen” where he said he “was often mistaken for a green fire hydrant.”  Also, Howard Stern (!!) has weighed in, saying that “the odds of you making a money-generating career” as a puppeteer are “next to nothing” and “do not lose that job under any circumstances.”

(5) MINDS FOR MISCHIEF. Nicole Hill has picked out “6 Robots Too Smart for Their Own Good” at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Robots, man. You can’t live without them (unless you vacuum the old-fashioned way), and quite often, you can’t live with them—at least, not without massive, horrifying, oft-accidental repercussions.

That’s not to say all robots are bad. Quite the opposite. Sometimes, though, their massive brains work in ways that aren’t quite healthy—for them or for us.

Clever 4-1 (Prey of the Gods, by Nicky Drayden)

In a novel chock full of dueling goddesses, genetic engineering, and general mayhem, Clever 4-1 manages to stand above the fray while contributing directly to it. You see, Clever 4-1 awakens both at a troubling time and in the nick of time: the personal assistant robot gains sentience just as his master has awakened his own inner divinity. Just as an ancient demigoddess unleashes a plan to regain her former glory by bathing South Africa in blood. Just as all hell is breaking loose, Clever 4-1 starts out to find others of his kind who have gained sentience, to marshal their forces, to assist and do good. As with any nascent movement, you’ll have your leadership coups, and Clever 4-1 has to balance politicking with near-constant danger on his shoulders. Well, not shoulders.

(6) THE OLD SWITCHEROO. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn found there was a completely obvious reason for Louisville Fandom Fest to announce a last-minute change of venue.

You see, this announcement came in the wake of the Kentucky Expo Center telling the world the con wouldn’t be held there first. After attendees were concerned that the con wasn’t listed on the Kentucky Expo Center’s event calendar, they reached out to the venue asking what was up. The venue’s management responded on Twitter that not only was the convention not being held there this year, but that the con never had a contract for the space.

Although, as JJ points out:

What the Kentucky Expo Center actually said was:

We do not have a contract for FandomFest at our facility.

This leaves open the possibility that there was a contract at some point, but that it was cancelled, due to contractual breaches such as, I dunno, maybe something like non-payment of advance reservation fees.

(7) STREET VIEW. Google Maps adds the International Space Station.

The International Space Station has become the first “off planet” addition to Google Maps’ Street View facility.

Astronauts helped capture 360-degree panoramas of the insides of the ISS modules, as well as views down to the Earth below.

Some of the photography features pop-up text descriptions, marking the first time such annotations have appeared on the Maps platform.

(8) HENDERSON OBIT. LASFS member Lee Henderson, who sometimes handled the gaming room at Loscon, died July 17. He was working on an auto when the car jack became dislodged and the car collapsed on top of him.

He is survived by his wife and two children. His mother, Rita, has started a GoFundMe hoping to raise $10,000 for funeral expenses.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Space Exploration Day

The origins of Space Exploration Day date back to man first walking on the moon, with the day itself first observed to commemorate this historic event during events held in the early 1970s. It is about more than just the moon landings though and is intended to pay homage to the incredible achievements of the past and fire up enthusiasm for the benefits of space exploration efforts to come in the future.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 20, 1969 — Neil Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the Moon. He also placed the U.S. flag there.
  • July 20, 2017 – John King Tarpinian munched his commemorative Moon Pie, as he does each year on this date.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 20, 1949 — Guy H. Lillian III

(12) LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARILY EXPENSIVE TOYS. Nerdist doesn’t want you to miss its exclusive news story – about Mattel’s Justice League Barbies.

For almost sixty years now, Barbie has been a Jane of all trades, having had careers as a school teacher, a pop star, a super model, and even an astronaut that one time. Name an occupation, and Barbie has probably had her turn at the wheel at some point. And now, Barbie is getting her chance to be one of the iconic superheroes of the Justice League!

(13) FORMERLY THE FUTURE. Yesterland is a site about retired Disneyland attractions, like the Flying Saucer ride.

If you’ve never looked at this ride closely, you might think it’s just a colossal air hockey table with a fleet of ride vehicles that can scoot above it. But it’s much more complicated—and much more ingenious—than that.

The Flying Saucers ride uses a big, blue oval, bisected into two halves, each with thousands of round air valves, Each half has a movable arm. There are four fleets of 16 saucers. Unlike other “batch load’ attractions, this one loads efficiently.

As the ride cycle begins, a giant arm slowly swings away from the loading area, releasing your group of saucers. Air valves directly below your saucer lift it up.

Tilt your body to make your saucer scoot across ride surface. Wherever you go, your saucer actuates air valves as you pass over them. All the lift comes from below. Your saucer has no moving parts—or, more accurately, you’re the only moving part of your vehicle. You can go remarkably fast. ….

(14) GAME OF THRONES ALUMS FIND THE LOST CAUSE. The New York Times sums up reaction to David Benioff’s and D. B. Weiss’ next project, Confederate.

It was supposed to be HBO’s next big thing: a high-concept drama from the creators of “Game of Thrones,” set in an alternate America where the Southern states seceded from the Union and slavery continued into the present day.

Instead, the new series, called “Confederate,” has provoked a passionate outcry from potential viewers who are calling out HBO and the creators over how they will handle this volatile mixture of race, politics and history. Several historians and cultural critics are also skeptical about whether the “Game of Thrones” team, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, are the right people to address the subject and if it should be attempted at all.

“Confederate” arrives at a time when many minorities feel their civil rights are under siege, and when issues surrounding the Civil War and its legacy — the propriety of displaying Confederate flags; the relocations and razings of Confederate monuments — continue to confront Americans on an almost daily basis.

To its critics, the show’s promise to depict slavery as it might be practiced in modern times is perhaps the most worrisome element of “Confederate.” They say that slavery, a grave and longstanding scar on the national psyche, especially for black Americans, should not be trivialized for the sake of a fantasy TV series.

(15) FOZ MEADOWS ON ‘CONFEDERATE’. Here are the first few tweets in Foz Meadows’ commentary.

(16) JEMISIN ON HISTORY. N.K. Jemisin tweeted her skepticism about the supposed gradual withering away of slavery that’s postulated in both real and alternate history. Well-placed skepticism, I’d say – this is a country that needed almost a full century after the Civil War to pass the Voting Rights Act. The same attitudes would have conserved slavery. Follow this tweet to find her complete statement.

(17) DEL ARROZ ON JEMISIN. Jemisin says at her Twitter account “I use robust autoblockers due to harassment.” No wonder. Jon Del Arroz spent a day this week rounding up people to harass Jemisin after supposedly discovering he was one of those blocked.

(18) THANK YOU VOTERS OF THE INTERNET. The heir of Boaty McBoatface is a Swedish train says The Guardian“Trainy McTrainface: Swedish railway keeps Boaty’s legacy alive”.

It’s happened again. A public vote to name four trains running between the Swedish cities of Stockholm and Gothenburg has resulted in one of the four being called Trainy McTrainface in an echo of the name chosen by the British public for the new polar research vessel.

Trainy McTrainface received 49% of the votes in a poll, jointly run by Swedish rail company MTR Express and Swedish newspaper Metro.

That placed it well ahead the other three options: Hakan, Miriam and Poseidon.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, lurkertype, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, John DeChancie and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]