Pixel Scroll 11/15/19 Looks Like The Time Machine’s Getting Stuck Between Floors. There’s Just A Blank Where The Chronograph Should Be

(1) JOHN M. FORD RETURNING TO PRINT. Isaac Butler’s research for “The Disappearance of John M. Ford” at Slate led to an unexpected benefit: “I wanted to learn why a beloved science fiction writer fell into obscurity after his death. I didn’t expect that I would help bring his books back to life.”

It would take me 18 months to answer my questions. My quest would bring me to the vast treasure trove of Ford’s uncollected and unpublished writing. It would introduce me to friends and relatives of Ford who hadn’t spoken to each other since his death in 2006. And, in an improbable ending worthy of a John M. Ford novel, my quest would in fact set in motion the long-delayed republication of his work, starting in the fall of 2020. How did this happen? More importantly, why was he forgotten in the first place? More importantly than that: How did he write those amazing books?

…And so, after months of investigation, I found myself in an Iceberg Passage, seeing only some of the story while, lurking beneath the surface, other truths remained obscure. I do not share Ford’s horror at obviousness, but there are simply things that we will never know. We will never know why Mike and his family grew apart, or, from the family’s perspective, how far apart they were. We will never know who anonymously tried to edit the Wikipedia page to cut out Elise Matthesen. (The family denies any involvement.)

But I reconnected Ford’s family and editors at Tor, and after a year of delicate back-and-forth spearheaded by Beth Meacham, Tor and the family have reached an agreement that will gradually bring all of his books back into print, plus a new volume of stories, poems, Christmas cards, and other uncollected material. First up, in fall 2020, is the book that introduced me to Ford, The Dragon Waiting. Then, in 2021, Tor will publish—at long last—the unfinished Aspects, with an introduction by Neil Gaiman.

(2) A LOOK AT CHIZINE CONTRACTS. Victoria Strauss’ roundup “Scandal Engulfs Independent Publisher ChiZine Publications “ at Writer Beware includes this analysis of CZP’s exploitative hold on royalty payments:

CZP’s contract boilerplate empowers the publisher to set a “reasonable” reserve against returns. There are no specifics, so it’s basically up to the publisher to decide what “reasonable” is.

For CZP, “reasonable” seems to mean 50%. This seemed high to me, so I did a mini-canvass of literary agents on Twitter. Most agreed that smaller is better–maybe 25-30%, though some felt that 50% was justifiable depending on the circumstances. They also pointed out that the reserve percentage should fall in subsequent reporting periods (CZP’s remains at 50%, unless boilerplate has been negotiated otherwise), and that publishers should not hold reserves beyond two or three years, or four or five accounting periods (CZP has held reserves for some authors for much longer).

(If you’re unclear on what a reserve against returns is, here’s an explanation.)

– Per CZP’s contract, royalties are paid “by the first royalty period falling one year after publication.” What this means in practice (based on the royalty statements I saw) is that if your pub date is (hypothetically) April of 2016, you are not eligible for payment until the first royalty period that follows your one-year anniversary–which, since CZP pays royalties just once a year on a January-December schedule, would be the royalty period ending December 2017. Since publishers often take months to issue royalty statements and payments following the end of a royalty period, you’d get no royalty check until sometime in 2018–close to, or possibly more than, two full years after publication.

In effect, CZP is setting a 100% reserve against returns for at least a year following publication, and often much more. This gives it the use of the author’s money for far too long, not to mention a financial cushion that lets it write smaller checks, since it doesn’t have to pay anything out until after returns have come in (most sales and most returns occur during the first year of release).

I shouldn’t need to say that this is non-standard. It’s also, in my opinion, seriously exploitative.

– And…about that annual payment. It too is non-standard–even the big houses pay twice a year, and most small publishers pay quarterly or even more often. It’s also extra-contractual–at least for the contracts I saw. According to CZP’s boilerplate, payments are supposed to be bi-annual after that initial year-or-more embargo. The switch to annual payment appears to have been a unilateral decision by CZP owners for logistical and cost reasons, actual contract language be damned (I’ve seen documentation of this).

(3) ANIMATED TREK. Tor.com has assembled a wealth of “New Details and Trailers Out for Star Trek‘s Animated ‘Short Treks’”.

Before the end of 2019, Star Trek will boldly do something it has never done in the 21st century before: Tell stand-alone stories in an animated format. It’s been known for a while that the final two Short Treks of 2019 would be animated, but we didn’t know what they’ d be about, or how they would even look…until now!

(4) TRANSCRIPTS FROM THE UNDERGROUND. Ursula V’s dungeon party reports in. Thread starts here.

(5) CAPTAIN FUTURE. Amazing Selects™ will launch with the release of Allen Steele’s Captain Future in Love, a novella originally serialized in Amazing Stories magazine that “continues the adventures of Edmond Hamilton’s pulp adventure hero Curt Newton, aka Captain Future, rebooted and updated in Allen Steele’s inimitable Neo Pulp style.”

Amazing Selects ™ is a new imprint from Experimenter Publishing Company LLC that will feature stand-alone novella-length works, in both print and electronic formats.

The new Captain Future, originally introduced in Steele’s Avengers of the Moon (Tor, 2017),  “brings golden age science fiction into the modern era presenting classic space opera adventure with modern sensibilities.”

The edition features concept art by Rob Caswell, interior illustrations by Nizar Ilman and non-fiction features by Allen Steele.

Captain Future in Love is available through Amazon in paperback and ebook and through the Amazing Stories store.

(6) NOBODY’S KEEPING SCORE. The new edition of the BBC Radio 4 Film Programme “Emma Thompson” is mainly about the Last Christmas film, but includes two other segments of genre interest. Hear it online for the next four weeks.

Emma Thompson has written 6 films in which she also stars. Last Christmas is the latest. She explains why she sometimes has to bite her tongue when actors deliver her lines in ways that she hadn’t quite imagined.

Neil Brand reveals how the ground-breaking score to cult classic Forbidden Planet was a last minute replacement and why the original composer decided to destroy his rejected score.

“Apocalypse Now meets Pygmalion”. Matthew Sweet pitches a long forgotten science fiction novel to film industry experts Lizzie Francke, Rowan Woods and Clare Binns.

(7) TUNE IN AGAIN. Also on BBC Radio 4 is a production of Doris Lessing’s The Good Terrorist. Available for the next 11 days.

First-ever dramatisation of Doris Lessing’s 1985 satire of incompetent revolutionaries in a London squat. Starring Olivia Vinall and Joe Armstrong, dramatised by Sarah Daniels.

(8) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to nibble naan with artist Paul Kirchner in Episode 109 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Paul Kirchner.

I’ve been attending the Maryland-based indie comics convention SPX — that is, the Small Press Expo — for 15 or so of its 36 years, and this time around took the opportunity to dine with artist Paul Kirchner, who breathed the same comic industry air I did during the ’70s.

Paul broke into comics in the early ‘70s through a fortuitous series of events which had him meeting the legendary comics artist Neal Adams, who introduced him to DC Comics editor Joe Orlando, and within the week getting a gig as assistant to Tex Blaisdell helping him out on the Little Orphan Annie comic strip and stories for DC’s mystery books. He also worked for awhile as assistant to the great EC Comics artist and Daredevil innovator Wally Wood. He moved on from mainstream comics to draw two wonderfully surrealistic strips — “Dope Rider” for High Times and “the bus” for Heavy Metal. His wide-ranging creative resume also includes a graphic novel collaboration with the great writer of detective novels Janwillem van de Wetering, designs for such toy lines as Dino-Riders and Spy-Tech, and much more.

(9) RAINBOW OVER AND UNDER. Will this Andy Weir collaboration make it to the screen? The Hollywood Reporter covers the deal: “Amblin, Michael De Luca Tackling ‘Martian’ Author’s Fantasy Graphic Novel ‘Cheshire Crossing'”.

…The fantasy mashup tells the story of Dorothy from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Alice of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Pan‘s Wendy, who meet in boarding school for troubled young ladies. They each believe they’ve traveled to a fantastical world but no one else does. When their world-hopping sees Captain Hook and the Wicked Witch of the West team up to combine their magical villainy, the trio must band together to thwart them.

The graphic novel began life as a piece of fan fiction that Weir wrote prior to finding best-selling and Hollywood success with Martian…

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 15, 1968 Star Trek’s “The Tholian Web” premiered on NBC.  In a two-part episode of Enterprise titled “In a Mirror, Darkly”, the Tholians will be back with a story continuing this story.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 15, 1877 William Hope Hodgson. By far, his best known character is Thomas Carnacki, featured in several of his most famous stories and at least partly based upon Algernon Blackwood’s occult detective John Silence. (Simon R. Green will make use of him in his Ghost Finders series.)  Two of his later novels, The House on the Borderland and The Night Land would be lavishly praised by H.P. Lovecraft.  It is said that his horror writing influenced many later writers such as China Miéville, Tim Lebbon and Greg Bear but I cannot find a definitive source for that claim. (Died 1918.)
  • Born November 15, 1929 Ed Asner, 90. Genre work includes roles on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits,  Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., The Invaders, The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, Shelley Duvall’s Tall Tales & Legends, Batman: The Animated Series and I’ll stop there as the list goes on for quite some while.
  • Born November 15, 1930 J. G. Ballard. I’ll frankly admit that I’ve not read enough of him to render a coherent opinion of him as writer. What I’ve read such as The Drowned World is more than a bit depressing. Well yes, but really depressing. (Died 2009.)
  • Born November 15, 1933 Theodore Roszak. Winner of the Tiptree Award for The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, and the rather excellent Flicker which is superb. Flicker is available at Apple Books and Kindle though no other fiction by him is. Odd. (Died 2011.)
  • Born November 15, 1934 Joanna Barnes, 85. She’s Jane Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man with Danny Miller in the title role. It’s not until she’s Carsia in the “Up Above the World So High” episode of The Planet of The Apes series that she does anything so genre again. And a one-off on classic Fantasy Island wraps up her SFF acting.
  • Born November 15, 1939 Yaphet Kotto, 80. Assuming we count the Bond films as genre and I do, his first genre performance was as Dr. Kananga / Mr. Big in Live and Let Die. Later performances included Parker in Alien, William Laughlin in The Running Man, Doc in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Ressler in The Puppet Masters adapted from Heinlein’s 1951 novel of the same name and a horrid film, and he played a character named Captain Jack Clayton on SeaQuest DSV.
  • Born November 15, 1942 Ruth Berman, 77. She’s a writer mostly of speculative poetry. In 2003, she won the Rhysling Award for Best Short Poem for “Potherb Gardening“.  She was also the winner of the 2006 Dwarf Stars Award for her poem “Knowledge Of”.  She’s also written one YA fantasy novel, Bradamant’s quest. And 1973, she was a finalist for the first Campbell Award for Best New Writer. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro gets laughs from the thought-life of Batman’s sidekick.

(13) PALEO POSTAGE. I think I missed the news when these T.Rex stamps were issued in August. Fortunately, they are Forever stamps….

The four distinct stamps depict the long-extinct beast in various forms of its life from a hatchling to a skeleton in a museum.

In two of the stamps, the young adult depicted in skeletal form with a young Triceratops and in the flesh emerging through a forest clearing is the “Nation’s T. Rex,” whose remains were discovered on federal land in Montana and is considered one of the most important specimens of the species ever found, it said.

The four stamps were designed by art director Greg Breeding from original artwork by scientist and paleoartist Julius T. Csotonyi.

Here’s the USPS link to T.Rex products.

(14) NYCON 3. Andrew Porter shared three photos from the 1967 Worldcon, NyCon 3, you aren’t likely to have seen before.

Ted White, Dave Van Arnam, chairs of NYCon 3, at the convention. Photo by and © Andrew Porter.

Ted White pastes up display about NyCon 3, as Robin White looks on: Photo by and © Andrew Porter.

Sam Moskowitz, Norm Metcalf (foreground), Ed Wood at NyCon 3. Photo by and © Andrew Porter.

(15) DRONING AWAY. “DJI makes app to identify drones and find pilots” – but only if the drone self-identifies…

Drone maker DJI has demonstrated a way to quickly identify a nearby drone, and pinpoint the location of its pilot, via a smartphone.

The technique makes use of a protocol called “Wi-Fi Aware”, with which the drone essentially broadcasts information about itself.

The company said it would help prevent security threats and disruption, and give members of the public peace of mind.

But experts believe sophisticated criminals would still be able to circumvent detection.

“It’s going to be very useful against rogue drones,” said Ulrike Franke, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, who studies the impacts of the drone industry.

“But it’s not going to be enough to fight people with real bad intentions, because these are going to be the first people to hack this system.”

DJI told the BBC it could add the functionality to drones already on the market via a software update.

…“If Gatwick staff had a smartphone enabled with this capability in their pockets,” explained Adam Lisberg, from DJI, “they could have taken it out, seen a registration number for the drone, seen the flight path, and the location of the operator.

(16) YA TWITTER. Vulture will fill you in about a new YA Twitter kerfuffle: “Famous Authors Drag Student in Surreal YA Twitter Controversy”. They include gene authors.

Young-adult book Twitter took an especially surreal turn this week when the best-selling novelist Sarah Dessen took offense at a brief critique of her work, inciting a minor Twitter riot, with some of the most famous writers in the world jumping into the fray to defend her.

(17) HOW DID THEY KNOW? I couldn’t help laughing when I read this line in Jon Del Arroz’ blog:

(18) ANOTHER OUTBREAK. USA Today’s Don Oldenburg has kind things to say about Daniel H. Wilson’s novel: “‘The Andromeda Evolution’ an infectious sequel to Michael Crichton’s classic best-seller” – although the reviewer sounds reluctant to admit the book isn’t by Chrichton, who died in 2008.

A new team of four Project Wildfire scientists is sent to the Amazon to investigate how to stop the unexplainable anomaly. A fifth scientist is tracking the crisis from the International Space Station (ISS) orbiting Earth. Meanwhile, a deadly, self-replicating, microparticle structure is growing exponentially, eating the jungle and killing nearby tribal habitants.

(19) NOOO! Those who fail to learn from Jedi history… “Jon Favreau Already Has a Star Picked for His ‘Star Wars’ Holiday Special”.

… “Oh I would definitely be interested in doing a holiday special,” Favreau told Variety at “The Mandalorian” fan event. “And I’m not going to say who I would be interested in. But one of the people is the member of the cast in an upcoming episode of the show. So we’ll leave it at that for now.”

When pressed to see if he was serious, the director doubled down. “I’ve been thinking about it. It’s ready, the ideas are ready. I think it could be really fun. Not as part of this, but there’s an excitement around it because it was so fun and weird, and off and not connected to what ‘Star Wars’ was in the theater. ‘The Mandalorian’ cartoon, the Boba Fett cartoon, from the holiday special was definitely a point of inspiration for what we did in the show.”

(20) WALLACE & GROMIT. The Drum finds a seasonal commercial featuring two popular characters is at the top of the charts: “A week in Christmas ads: big retailers lose out as Wallace & Gromit gives Joules a boost”.

Joules’ heavily-branded Wallce & Gromit-fronted spot from Aardman topped the rankings this week with a star score of 5.4 and a spike rating of 1.51 – indicating sales will follow.

The film shows Wallace, in his typically inventive style, bringing Christmas to West Wallaby Street all at ‘the click of a button’.

Joules’ festive products decorate the living room and there’s no escape for Wallace’s loyal side-kick, Gromit, who becomes the pièce de résistance as the fairy crowning the top of the Christmas tree.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Susan de Guardiola, Martin Morse Wooster, Danny Sichel, Steven H Silver, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Rance Howard (1928-2017)

Rance Howard in Ed Wood (1994).

By Steve Green: Rance Howard, US actor and screenwriter, died November 25, aged 89. Father of actor Clint and actor/director Ron.

Appearances of genre interest include Night Gallery (one episode, 1971), Battlestar Galactica (one episode, 1978), Mork & Mindy (one episode, 1981), Innerspace (1987), Superboy (one episode, 1989), Quantum Leap (one episode, 1991), Universal Soldier (1992), Ed and His Dead Mother (1993), Ed Wood (1994), Tales from the Crypt (one episode, 1994), Bigfoot: The Unforgettable Encounter (1994), Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995), Independence Day, Mars Attacks! (both 1996), Babylon 5 (three episodes, 1996-97), Baywatch Nights (one episode, 1997 — from the ‘supernatural’ second season), The SenderSmall Soldiers, Psycho (all 1998), Angel (one episode, 2001), Ghost Whisperer (one episode, 2005), Sasquatch MountainHarrison Bergeron (both 2006), The X-Files (one episode, 2016), 40 Nights (2016). Co-wrote the screenplay for The Time Crystal (1981).

Pixel Scroll 10/10/16 You Know How To Pixel, Don’t You? You Just Put Your Lips Together And Scroll

(1) COMICS PORTRAYALS. Peter David has changed his tune — “Final Thoughts on the Romani”.

So now that the dust of the convention has settled, I’ve had a good deal of time to assess my behavior regarding the Romani and my conduct during the convention. I’ve read many of the links that were sent my way and really thought about what I witnessed two decades ago back in Bucharest. And I’ve been assessing my actions during the panel that lead to all this.

After all that, I have to conclude that I’m ashamed of myself.

I want you to understand: when the Romani rep tried to shift the focus of the panel from gays and lesbians to the Romani, suddenly I was twenty years younger and the trauma of what I saw and what I was told slammed back through me. What screamed through my mind was, “Why should I give a damn about the Romani considering that the Bucharest Romani are crippling their children?” And I unleashed that anger upon the questioner, for no reason. None. There is no excuse.

But the more I’ve read, the more convinced I’ve become that what I saw was indeed examples, not of children crippled by parents, but children suffering from a genetic disorder. The pictures are simply too identical. I cannot come to any other reasonable conclusion.

(2) ALIENIST. The BBC profiles H. R. Giger, “The man who created the ultimate alien”:

At that time, HR Giger was already a successful painter whose bleak visions in a style that he termed biomechanics were widely distributed: in the form of popular poster editions that appeared in the late 1960s; in the large-format illustrated book Necronomicon, which he designed himself; and on album covers such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s 1973 release Brain Salad Surgery. But the project he was now working on would make him both a worldwide cult figure and an Oscar winner. Director Ridley Scott had hired Giger to create the monster in the movie Alien. So the artist went to the Shepperton Film Studios near London to realize his designs for the world of the alien with his own hand.

One painting had immediately convinced Scott to get Giger involved in shaping the alien creature: Necronom IV (1976). It shows in profile the upper body of a being with only remotely humanoid traits. Its skull is extremely elongated, and its face is almost exclusively reduced to bared teeth and huge insect-like eyes. Hoses extend from its neck and its back is dominated by tubular extensions and reptilian tails. In order to turn this painted creature into a monster for a movie, the artist had to submit it to a complex transformation. Giger developed a complete “natural history” of the alien based on the screenplay, which ultimately produced the final monster of the film. The process results in a unique mixture of fascination and disgust. Giger’s monster represents a turning point in science fiction and horror movies, to which Alien brought a deadly lifeform from space that had never been seen before.

(3) VOICES IN HIS HEAD. Andrew Liptak discusses “How writing an audio-first novella changed John Scalzi’s writing process” at The Verge.

The Dispatcher is firmly urban fantasy, which had its own particular challenges for Scalzi. Science fiction comes out of a tradition of realism, where everything is explained. “To sit there and write something and know that I’m not going to assign it a rational basis made me itchy,” he says. “Part of my brain went ‘you should try and explain this!’ It goes against everything I believe.”

Writing an audio-first story also had its challenges. “It makes you pay attention to things like dialogue where you really do want to make sure [it sounds] reasonably like humans speaking,” Scalzi says. One of the changes he made was in how he used dialogue tags such as “he said / she said,” which work in written books but aren’t necessarily useful for a listener. “It sounds like a small thing, but when someone is speaking what you’re writing, those small things add up.”

Scalzi also focused on making sure each character had their own distinctive voice.

(4) IT’S CLOBBERIN’ TIME. The Traveler at Galactic Journey is smack in the middle of the Silver Age of Comics — “[Oct. 7, 1971] That’s Super! (Marvel Comics’ The Fantastic Four)”.

The other day at the local newsstand, a new comic book caught my eye.  It was a brand new one from Marvel Comics, the spiritual successors of Atlas Comics, which went under late last decade.  Called The Fantastic Four, and brought to us by the creator of Captain America (Jack Kirby), it features the first superheroes I’ve seen in a long time – four, in fact!  We are introduced to the quartet in media res on their way to answer a call to assembly: Sue Storm, who can turn invisible at will; her brother, Johnny Storm, who bursts into flame and can fly; Ben Grimm, a hulking, orange rocky beast; and Dr. Reed Richards, who possesses the power of extreme elasticity.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born October 10, 1924 — Ed Wood (Plan 9 from Outer Space)
  • Born October 10, 1959 — Bradley Whitford (The Cabin in the Woods)

(7) ED WOOD FICTION. Incidentally, O/R Books has published Blood Splatters Quickly, the collected short stories of Edward D. Wood Jr.

Even if you think you don’t know him, you know him. Few in the Hollywood orbit have had greater influence; few have experienced more humiliating failure in their lifetime. Thanks in part to the biopic directed by Tim Burton, starring Johnny Depp and bearing his name, Ed Wood has become an icon of Americana.

Perhaps the purest expression of Wood’s théma—pink angora sweaters, over-the-top violence and the fraught relationships between the sexes—can be found in his unadulterated short stories, many of which (including “Blood Splatters Quickly”) appeared in short-lived “girly” magazines published throughout the 1970s. The 32 stories included here, replete with original typos, lovingly preserved, have been verified by Bob Blackburn, a trusted associate of Kathy Wood, Ed’s widow. In the forty years or more since those initial appearances in adult magazines, none of these stories has been available to the public.

ed-wood-birthday

(8) SMOFCON SOUTH. Conrunners of the Antipodes, you are summoned to SmofCon South, to be held in Wellington. New Zealand December 3-4, 2016.

Announcing SmofCon South!

Come one, come all! We will be running SmofCon South in Wellington. New Zealand from December 3rd to 4th, 2016. This is run at this time to try to hook into the resources and people of SmofCon 34, taking place the same weekend in Chicago, USA. A Smofcon is a convention about running conventions. It’s an excellent opportunity to meet other con runners, and to learn from them. SmofCon South will be primarily focused on running Worldcons or other large events. This event will be very valuable for people who have volunteered to help run a New Zealand Worldcon. We want to encourage you to come along and meet other people you may be working with, and gain insights and knowledge about how Worldcons work.

Details

Smofcon South will be held 3-4 December (with a meetup dinner for those who arrive on Friday).

Venue is the same as Aucontraire 3, the CQ Hotel complex, 223 Cuba St, Te Aro,  Wellington.

We are skyping in with Smofcon 34, being held in Chicago, for a few sessions. Breaking News: Also a hook up with Japan.

(9) MORE RADCHAAI LOOT. This charm bracelet is perfect for the Ancillary fan in your life. Bring the Fleet Captain, Translator, First Lieutenant, and themes of the series, like tea, magic bullets, spaceships, and music into your daily life with this charm bracelet.

(10) BETTER USE OF TIME. Steven H Silver writes, “Last night, instead of watching the debate, Elaine and I watched the Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor movie See No Evil, Hear No Evil. A couple of early scenes are set at a newstand run by Wilder’s character. In the background I could make out Frederik Pohl’s The Coming of the Quantum Cats, Greg Bear’s The Forge of God, and Piers Anthony’s Faith of Tarot.”

Also recognizable:

A.A. Attanasio’s Radix, Jack Chalker’s Dance Band on the Titanic, and Cllifford D. Simak’s Highway to Eternity.

wilder-newsstand-min

(11) HE PEEKED. One of Satchel Paige’s rules to live by was, “Don’t look back. Something may be gaining on you.” Dave Langford didn’t follow Satchel’s advice when he had a strange feeling he was being followed….

For a moment, when I saw the part-obscured back of a coffee-vending van in Reading town centre, I felt F770 was following me around. But it was all a quaint illusion.

vanf770-1

vanf770-2

[Thanks to Dave Langford, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Steven H Silver, Jeffrey Smith, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 3/24/16 The Game-Players of Bitin’

octarine

(1) IT’S TIME TO PLAY: NAME THAT ELEMENT. You might remember the petition to honor the late Terry Pratchett by giving element 117 the name Octarine — “the color of magic” from Pratchett’s fiction. An article at Nature Chemistry reviews the competing names up for consideration for element 117 — and others.

SB: Petitions like this provide a lot of insight into how people grieve the loss of public figures, but it’s hard, if not impossible, to associate Lemmy with the periodic table or even chemistry and physics. While Lemmy’s death is still fresh in people’s minds, one has to wonder if future generations of scientists would have any connection to him. The petitioners also reference the large mass and expected metallic properties to connect the element with heavy metal music, which is clever on one level, but Lemmy considered Motörhead hard rock not heavy metal. Besides, lemmium would not fall under any of the acceptable categories outlined by IUPAC for naming elements.

KD: You’re probably right, although the petitions have turned out to be a fun way to get people from all areas of life talking about the new elements. We’ve also seen ‘starduston’ and ‘bowium’, in honour of David Bowie. Another example is the one I set up, to name element 117 ‘octarine’, after the colour of magic in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. Obviously I’m biased, but I still maintain that it would be rather appropriate for element 117, which will fall into the halogen group. Octarine is famously described as a sort of greenish-yellow purple, and these are, of course, all halogen colours. It even has the correct -ine ending for the group. According to the mythology of the books, it’s only visible to wizards, witches and cats, which also seems appropriate for an element that’s only been observed by a select few. The odds of IUPAC agreeing to this are probably a million to one but, as Pratchett himself wrote in several Discworld books, million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten.

SB: Once you described octarine, I can see how it fits into the halogen family. For an idea like this to gain traction though, someone on the research teams would need to be a fan of Discworld and advocate for it. So far, the mythological concepts used for element names have come from Greek, Roman and Norse sources. These classic mythologies tend to have more universal recognition. Is modern fiction the same as cultural traditions used to explain nature in the ancient world?

KD: Well, all stories have to start somewhere. IUPAC’s rules don’t put an age on the mythology rule, and indeed cobalt, named after the sprites that apocryphally lived underground where its ores were mined, might arguably be considered to be more recent. There are forty-one Discworld books, which have been translated into thirty-seven languages; I’m certain they’ll be remembered for many years to come. Likewise, the periodic table will probably be around for a while; any story we reference now will eventually be old…

(2) A VISIT TO THE SIXTIES. The keen-eyed Traveler at Galactic Journey argues that 55 years ago women were having an impact on the field greater than their numbers suggest.

1961. The year that an Irishman named Kennedy assumed the highest office in the land.  The year in which some 17 African nations celebrated their first birthday.  The air smells of cigarette smoke, heads are covered with hats, and men run politics, industry, and much of popular culture.

In a field (and world) dominated by men, it is easy to assume that science fiction is as closed to women as the local Elks Lodge.  Who are the stars of the genre?  Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Sheckley; these are household names.  But if there is anything I have discovered in my 11 years as an avid science fiction fan (following another 20 of casual interest), it is that there is a slew of excellent woman authors who have produced a body of high quality work.  In fact, per my notes, women write just one ninth of the science fiction stories published, but a full fourth of the best works.

(3) AND TODAY? This past year, according to William Shaw’s “The top 5 science fiction stories of 2015” in The Oxford Student, women wrote most of the best sf stories. (Three were published by Apex Magazine, and the other two by Uncanny Magazine.)

3. Pocosin by Ursula Vernon [http://www.apex-magazine.com/pocosin/]

The tone of story is best summarised by its central image of drinking whisky with Death. A contemplative tale about an old woman who takes in a dying swamp god, this is a slow, sad little number which nevertheless sparkles with the sense of wit and worldly wisdom that a story involving passive-aggressive banter with the devil really ought to have. Melancholy without being mawkish, funny without being daft, this is a gem of a story that highlights some important environmental concerns.

(4) WHAT MAKES A NOMINEE A NOMINEE. Brian Paone seems to be getting ahead of himself, but perhaps that’s an occupational hazard for the author of a time travel novel. See “Being nominated for a Hugo award is winning in itself”.

I found out this week that my time-travel romance novel, “Yours Truly, 2095” has been nominated by Hugo Award board member Christopher Broom for the most prestigious award a science fiction novel can receive: a Hugo Award. When I first started outlining the book, back in 2012, my goal was just to finish the book, without making it sound like a big pile of smoldering poo. I never expected 1) how happy I am with the finished product 2) then how many people have bought or read the book in the only 9 months its been out 3) then how many positive 4 & 5 star reviews its consistently receiving and finally 4) that I would ever be nominated for anything, never mind a Hugo!

When I told a friend, and fellow author Randy Blazak, his response was, “this will shoot you into the stratosphere.” I appreciate his enthusiasm for what this might do for my career, but honestly, I’m just on cloud nine that I was even nominated. I’m not even thinking of the future yet.

The award ceremony is in Kansas City during the weekend of August 17. For the first few seconds, I contemplated not going, since being at the ceremony is not a prerequisite, but it was my wife (who I always say might be my worst critic, but my number one supporter) told me, in not so many words, not going wasn’t an option.

So now I will be planning (airfare, hotel, etc) over the next few week to attend an award ceremony–not only any award ceremony, but the most prestigious award ceremony of the year–waiting with bated breath to hear my name and book title called out from the podium. And if it doesn’t win, it will not be a loss. It’s already been a greater win for me than I could ever have imaged 4 years ago when I started writing the book.

Sounds like he poured a bit too much of that timey-wimey stuff into his coffee… The nominations won’t be known til after the first round of voting closes March 31.

(5) SUPERHERO MOVIE MAKERS MAY BOYCOTT GEORGIA. Variety reports “Disney, Marvel to Boycott Georgia if Religious Liberty Bill Is Passed”

The Walt Disney Co. and Marvel Studios indicated opposition to a Georgia religious liberty bill pending before Gov. Nathan Deal, saying that they will take their business elsewhere “should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law.”

With generous tax incentives, Georgia has become a production hub, with Marvel currently shooting “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” at Pinewood Studios outside Atlanta. “Captain America: Civil War” shot there last summer.

“Disney and Marvel are inclusive companies, and although we have had great experiences filming in Georgia, we will plan to take our business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law,” a Disney spokesman said on Wednesday.

(6) THE TITANOGRAPHY OF TOLKIEN. NASA has updated the Mountains of Titan Map.

This map of Saturn’s moon Titan identifies the locations of mountains that have been named by the International Astronomical Union. The map is an update to a previous version published in 2012 (see Mountains of Titan), and includes an additional mountain area (Moria Montes), along with several “colles” which are collections of hills.

By convention, mountains on Titan are named for mountains from Middle-earth, the fictional setting in fantasy novels by J.R.R. Tolkien. Unfortunately for “Lord of the Rings” fans, Titan’s highest peak is not Doom Mons (see Radar View of Titan’s Tallest Mountains).

(7) DOG HOUSE RULES. Kate Paulk’s latest policy statement, in “Why The Internets No Can Has Nice Things” at Mad Genius Club.

Those who have asked to be removed are being asterisked instead to indicate that they asked to be taken off. My perspective is that this is a list of people’s recommendations. There is no need to ask for permission, any more than anyone needs to ask for permission to post a review or purchase the work. Frankly, I think asking to be taken off anyone’s list of award-worthy pieces is an insult to the people who genuinely believe the work is that good, so unless someone asking to be removed is prepared to institute a policy that requires prior approval before purchasing their work, reviewing it, and so forth, they stay on the list.

If someone wants their very own asterisk on the list, they need only ask me. I’m not that difficult to get hold of, and I am asterisking those who ask on the two list posts. I’ll asterisk someone who asks here, too. There may be a delay, since I do have a rather demanding full time job, but it will happen.

(8) NOTHING SUCCEEDS LIKE SUCCESSION. In the Playpen at Ferretbrain, Arthur B. asks:

How do you become the Sad Puppies organiser anyway? Divine right? Killing and eating the heart of your predecessor? Satanic pacts? Who gets to choose who drives the clown car?

(9) DOUBLE-THREAT. How It Should Have Ended not only corrects the illogical events in the The Force Awakens but does it with Lego characters.

(10) COVER LETTER. Karen Junker provided the text of the email she sent to We Are ALL SF members.

Dear We Are ALL SF patrons, I want to apologize to you personally for not getting in touch with you sooner regarding the cancellation of We Are ALL SF Con. Frankly, I have been very ill and I have not known what, exactly, to say.

The con was cancelled after I resigned from the convention board and without the knowledge or consent of the board. There was a lot of confusion and things became too difficult to save the situation. I was re-appointed back to the board and since my name was still on the legal docs, the bank, and the Paypal account, it fell to me to send refunds. I did so by selling a personal investment so that the funds would be covered. I got the refunds out, but was not able to do much more than that, and it has been so emotionally grueling for me to see a project that I had worked on for over a year and poured much of my own personal money into to be destroyed, out of what amounts to petty nonsense.

If you see any public statements about me, please disregard. They are patently untrue. I have a proven track record over the past 15 years in the literary and SFF community. Why someone would attack me or an organization I am attached to is beyond me. I have spent a large sum of my own money in the past few years, putting on writers’ events and workshops and conventions and conferences. We Are ALL SF was no different. I am heartbroken that this great con, which would have been so much fun, was destroyed. I hope to see you again at another thing, some day, somewhere. I wish you well in your work and in your life. Yours, Karen Junker, Chairman, We Are ALL SF Foundation

(11) GIVE THEM LIBERTY. As always, plenty of Baen authors will be attending Libertycon 29 (July 8-10) — Griffin Barber, Rick Boatwright, Walt Boyes, Robert Buettner, David B. Coe, Larry Correia, Kacey Ezell, Bill Fawcett, Charles Gannon, Sarah A. Hoyt, Les Johnson, Mike Massa, Jody Lynn Nye, Gray Rinehart (Master of Ceremonies), John Ringo, Tedd Roberts, Chris Smith, Brad Torgersen, David Weber, Toni Weisskopf, and Michael Z. Williamson.

(12) MISSED ONE. I could have included John Scalzi on the list of “Science Fiction Writers Who Were Never Drunk on Saint Patrick’s Day”. Here’s an excerpt from his post “Why I Don’t Drink or Use Drugs” at Whatever.

It’s true: I don’t drink alcohol except in very rare circumstances (like, half a glass of champagne at my wedding), I’ve never smoked cigarettes, I’ve never taken an illegal drug, and outside of Novocaine at the dentist’s office, I’m generally reluctant to take legal drugs either; my wife always expresses surprise if I go to the medicine cabinet for ibuprofen, for example.  So what’s the story there?

(13) MOST FUN SINCE ADAM. Tor.com collects their favorite tweets from #TheInternetNamesAnimals in “Boaty McBoatface Inspires An Epic Naming Battle on Twitter!”

(14) AN INDISPENSIBLE CULTURAL LANDMARK. The Ukulele Batman vs Bagpipe Superman – Theme Song Battle.

(15) IT WAS BARELY MADE TO START WITH. A remake of Plan 9 From Outer Space? Too late! It was released in the US as video-on-demand last month.

Now the long awaited remake of the classic film is here! In this edge-of-your-set, visually stunning, re-imagination of the original story, “Plan 9” is a spectacular sci-fi/horror adventure with jaw-dropping effects and zombies galore! It’s the film Ed Wood wished he made!

No matter what they say, I was not waiting for this.

And despite all that’s holy, a novelization also came out in February.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Janice Gelb, Mark-kitteh, Hampus Eckerman, Taral, and James H. Burns for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 3/12/16 Crosseyed and Pixelless

(1) A TERRAN ECLIPSE. Click to see the Astronomy Picture of the Day for March 11

This snapshot from deep space captures planet Earth on March 9. The shadow of its large moon is falling on the planet’s sunlit hemisphere. Tracking toward the east (left to right) across the ocean-covered world the moon shadow moved quickly in the direction of the planet’s rotation. Of course, denizens of Earth located close to the shadow track centerline saw this lunar shadow transit as a brief, total eclipse of the Sun. From a spacebased perspective between Earth and Sun, the view of this shadow transit was provided by the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) spacecraft’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC).

(2) GROKKING THE FULLNESS. In “Fandom Needs to Change to Insure Its Future Survival”, Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson devotes 3,500 words to thinking outside his box on the subject of Worldcons.  (The newer ideas are in the last half of the piece.)

Fandom is growing.  It’s growing tremendously.  Unfortunately, the major percentage of that growth is taking place under the auspices of institutions and organizations that are not themselves fannish (or are fannish so long as being so is in service to making a profit).

As fans, we like to say that we’re not in “competition” with events such as SDCC or Dragoncon.  Not only do we dismiss Anime conventions and multi-media cons as doing something that we’re not doing, we discount the experience that attendees and staff gain from these events.  In our minds there is a difference between the conventions that are connected to fan history and largely follow fannish traditions (you buy a membership, not a ticket;  we don’t pay guest to appear;  we’re focused on the literature; those aren’t real conventions) and those that aren’t.  We go to great pains to try and distinguish the bona fides of small ‘f’ fans and large ‘F’ fans.

But here’s the problem:  the non-traditional conventions are offering the vast majority of “fannish experiences” these days.  Traditional conventions have such a small footprint in national awareness that so far as most potential fans are concerned, non-traditional events ARE fandom.

In short, it is non-traditional events that are educating the public about what fandom is and what it’s all about.  Not traditional fandom.

(3) INCOMING. Neil Clarke analyzed the “2015 Clarkesworld Submissions Stats”, complete with beautiful graphs.

In 2015, we received submissions from 109 different countries. In the above chart, the blue bar represents the percentage of total submissions for that country. The green bar indicates the percentage of all acceptances. (Reminder: The Chinese translations are handled by a separate process and not included in these numbers.)

Note: If you feel inclined to proclaim that this data indicates that I have a bias towards international submissions, perhaps you should read this editorial. That said, it pleases me that Clarkesworld has a more global representation of science fiction. There’s a lot of great work written beyond our shores.

(4) AND A DEAFENING REPORT. James H. Burns had a blinding insight.

Hanging out at Joe Koch’s comics warehouse the other day, it suddenly occured to me, that if Barry West was Catholic, he would have no problem with Lent.

(Or, if he were Jewish, no problem with Yom Kippur.)

Why?

Because the Flash is the FASTEST man alive.

(5) SILENT SPRING AHEAD. Matt Novak has a clever question – “What Time Is The End of The Daylight?”

What time is the end of the daylight? The sun is expected to die in roughly 5 billion years. But humans—provided we survive any number of ecological, nuclear, or alien-based disasters—are only expected to last about another 1 billion years on Earth.

So technically the “daylight” will be over for humanity in 1 billion years, which is again, predicated upon the absurd assumption that we make it that long anyway.

(6) YA WORLDBUILDING. Alwyn Hamilton picks “The Top 10 invented worlds in teen books” for The Guardian.

8) Crown & Court Series by Sherwood Smith

I have recently been led to understand that the world in Sherwood Smith’s brilliant duology is supposed to be ours, set far in the future on a distant planet, where the magic is alien science. This would certainly explain why they share many touchstones with our world, while also having two moons for the characters to gaze up at and trees willing to exact revenge. But the true magic in these books for me is in the complexities of the ballroom. Smith has created a complete court to rival Versailles in intrigue, with fan language, complicated symbolism woven covertly into jewelry, long lineage that gives you the feeling every character does have a twisting family tree, and old traditions so tangible you’re sure they must have been in fashion once in our world too.

(7) CHICKENS, NOT POTATOES. This week’s The Simpsons has a Bradbury-esque title: “The Marge-ian Chronicles.”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 12, 1971 The Andromeda Strain opens in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY.

  • Born March 12, 1923 – Mercury astronaut Wally Schirra.

(10) UNCORK NO ALIEN BEFORE ITS TIME. Io9 will hook you up: “Orson Welles Hosted a NASA Documentary About Aliens in the ’70s and It Is Amazing”

It is damn near impossible to explain the joy that comes from watching Who’s Out There, a documentary on aliens made by NASA in 1975 starring real scientists, regular people, and then Orson Welles, pontificating into the camera. I cannot emphasize this enough: Spend half an hour watching this.

(11) FEARSOME. “11 Books That Scared The Master of Horror, Stephen King, And Will Terrify You, Too” from Bustle.com.

King obviously has a way with words, and his Twitter is no exception. Full of hilarious thoughts and weekly answers to reader questions, it’s always entertaining. He alternates between adorable tweets featuring his dog, Molly (aka The Thing of Evil), and recommending the books he’s reading. Being the master of horror that he is, I consider him an authority on recommendations in that genre. You could make an entire reading list based on Stephen King recommendations, and be set for a long time.

Here are 11 books that scared the unshakable Stephen King, and so are pretty much guaranteed to keep you up at night and/or give you nightmares. But hey, that’s the fun part!

(12) RAGE SHORTAGE. Lela E. Buis dropped a post about J.K. Rowling into the well of the internet but never heard it splash —  “No comments on cultural appropriation?”

Since I’ve not gotten any comments on this question at all, I’m going to assume either 1) it’s Saturday and everyone is out enjoying the spring weather or 2) there’s not much interest in what J. K. Rowling publishes on her Website.

Besides this, I’m not sure there’s a whole lot of concern about cultural appropriation except as a tool to attack people who are perceived as targets in some way. I expect Native Americans are fairly used to being abused, so another semi-fictional essay on skinwalkers isn’t going to affect their social outlook one way or the other.

(13) THE LONG VIEW. “11 Amazing Discoveries By the Mars Orbiter”  at Mashable.

4. Fresh craters

The MRO has also treated scientists to views of relatively fresh craters on Mars.

One crater — which appeared in photos in 2010 — was not in images taken in 2008, meaning that whatever impact created the crater happened in between those years.

(14) THE ZERO LIFE. “Fukushima’s ground zero: No place for man or robot” from Reuters.

The robots sent in to find highly radioactive fuel at Fukushima’s nuclear reactors have “died”; a subterranean “ice wall” around the crippled plant meant to stop groundwater from becoming contaminated has yet to be finished. And authorities still don’t know how to dispose of highly radioactive water stored in an ever mounting number of tanks around the site.

(15) BATMAN SINGS. In the episode of The Hollywood Palace originally aired October 8, 1966 Adam West sings “The Orange Colored Sky” and “The Summer Wind.”

(16) IT’S GOT CHARACTER. “Ed Wood’s ‘Plan 9’ Studio To Be Preserved” says LA Weekly.

A storied Hollywood building once used by late pulp film director Ed Wood will be preserved by its new owners, said the sellers’ agent, Kay Sasatomi of Silver Commercial Inc.

That’s good news for fans of the low-budget auteur and for fans of the low-budget building.

The 13,650-square-foot Ed Wood structure on a seedy stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood is said to have also been used as rehearsal space by Jimi Hendrix, The Doors and Guns N’ Roses.

The director housed his Quality Studios at the address, and classics including Plan 9 From Outer Space and Glen or Glenda were filmed there, according to Silver Commercial.

The building features a ground-floor dive bar, Gold Diggers, that plays home to Thai bikini dancers.

The residential hotel next door is a flophouse made famous when a suspect in the Beverly Hills murder of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen committed suicide as police descended upon the block.

There’s a lot of character here.

(17) STICKING IN HIS TWO CENTS WORTH. Spider-Man appears in the last seconds of Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War – Trailer 2.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Will R., Andrew Porter, and David K.M. Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 10/10 A Filer on the Deep

(1) The Art of The Lord of the Rings by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull was released in the UK on October 8. The American edition, from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, will be out on October 13.

art-of-lord-of-the-rings-trial-binding

Wayne and Christina say “The final product still has 240 pages, as we reported earlier, with 192 numbered figures (including 10 details), around 100 of which were not previously published. In the last stages of production, we located further small instances of art in the Lord of the Rings papers at Marquette and had to revise how the pictures were presented.”

Ethan Gilsdorf has an early review of the book on Wired.com — “See the Sketches J.R.R. Tolkien Used To Build Middle-Earth”.

The many maps and sketches he made while drafting The Lord of the Rings informed his storytelling, allowing him to test narrative ideas and illustrate scenes he needed to capture in words. For Tolkien, the art of writing and the art of drawing were inextricably intertwined.

In the book The Art of The Lord of the Rings, we see how, and why….

Tolkien didn’t seem to care what he drew or painted on. His sketch of “Helm’s Deep and the Hornburg,” the fortress enclave of the Rohirrim people, is executed on a half-used page of an Oxford examination booklet. Drawn in perspective, the tableau nicely captures Tolkien’s final description of the castle from The Two Towers: “At Helm’s Gate, before the mouth of the Deep, there was a heel of rock thrust outward by the northern cliff. There upon its spur stood high walls of ancient stone, and within them was a lofty tower. … A wall, too, the men of old had made from the Hornburg to the southern cliff, barring the entrance to the gorge…” One can imagine Tolkien pausing in the middle of grading a student’s paper, pondering how the castle wall and mountain valley might have appeared from a distance, both in his mind’s eye and the eyes of his characters.

(2) Cinemablend has a piece about “How Star Trek’s Walter Koenig Found Out He Got the Job” based on an interview he gave to the Whine at 9 podcast. Said Koenig —

They told me it was a very serious character and that I needed to bring a lot of intensity to the role. All the while they had me dressed up in any number of different colored wigs… The most important thing was, after I finished reading this with all this great intensity, they asked me to make it funny and I had to totally reverse on the character, which in no way was part of what was written. It worked, they all laughed and as a consequence I became immediately one of the two people in the running for the role… Finally, the costumer came by, didn’t introduce himself, just asked me to follow him. I went to wardrobe and he dropped to his knees in front of me, put his hand on my crotch. I said, ‘What are you doing, please?’ He said, ‘Well, I have to measure you for a costume, don’t I?’ And that’s how I found out that I became a member of Star Trek.

 

Walter Koenig

Walter Koenig

(3) Walter Koenig’s own website features all kinds of funny confessions in his Tales From The Lunch Counter.

I phoned Mario at “Two Guys From Italy”.and ordered a turkey sausage pizza. Mario called me “Mr. Star Trek” . My order wasn’t ready when I arrived. In fact, they couldn’t find my name. Then they told me that they didn’t carry turkey sausage. I was getting upset. I asked to speak to Mario. “Mario died ten months ago” I was told. There was a movie called “Gaslight” where the husband tried to drive his wife insane. “God Damn it,” I said, let me talk to Mario!” “God, damn it”, came the reply “Mario is dead and we don’t have turkey sausage!” “Do you know who I am?!”, I shouted. “Some whacko short guy!” came the rejoiner. I grabbed the menu determined to find the turkey sausage. Before I could thumb the pages I saw the name of the restaurant on the cover “Little Tony’s” it said in bold script. I had phoned in my order at one place and had gone to another to pick it up. What an idiot! A waiter came by. “Hey, aren’t you the guy from that Star Trek show?” Not me”, I said lunging for the door.

(4) It’s not explicitly said, but I think Rachel Swirsky may have in mind Ruth A. Johnston’s comments on Superversive SF:

(5) All of the videos Kjell Lindgren recorded for Sasquan are now on the Worldcon website — http://sasquan.org/2015/10/kjell-lindgren-videos/

Unfortunately, when I tried one, it buffered so slowly I abandoned the attempt.

(6) I hope John Scalzi shares a bit more about the con that led to these acrobatics —

(7) I was unable to figure out what anyone is supposed to learn by looking at Christophe Cariou’s Hugo statistics graphs.

(8) Today’s Birthday Boy

October 10, 1924 — Director Ed Wood, Jr. is born in Poughkeepsie, NY.

(9) FUD or a real concern. YOU decide!

There are claims that Gravatar is a privacy risk.

Your email generates a unique Gravatar hash, and allegedly you can be identified by the email you registered with across multiple websites that have Gravatar enabled, even though only the hash, not the email, is displayed.

Thus, people allegedly can learn the hash ID of someone’s email and find out what the person has been saying anonymously on the internet when they register with that address on Gravatar enabled sites.

Plus there is a handy site where you can “check if someone used the email you think they did in a blog comment.” — http://lea.verou.me/demos/gravatar.php

Gravatar says there is provision made for profile privacy.

(10) “You Can Now Download Stephen Hawking’s Voice Software for Free”

The software that Stephen Hawking uses to speak via a synthesized voice on his computer has been released freely on the internet. Its creators, Intel, hope that it can now be used in research to create interfaces that similar sufferers of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) can use.

The Assistive Context-Aware Toolkit (ACAT) system has been released on Github, complete with a user guide. It allows researchers to develop communication systems where minimal input is needed. Hawking’s system, for example, relies solely on him moving a muscle in his cheek to type and use his computer. Hawking’s latest system was installed last year, which doubled his typing rate and improved his use of other computer functions by ten times.

(11) The Maryland Historical Society will revive the tradition of the “Poe Toaster”.

The Toaster appeared by Poe’s gravesite every year until 2009. Some speculate that in more recent years the original Toaster’s son took over; others think there have been several Toasters.

Since the last sighting, there had been hope that the Toaster would return, but the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum finally declared that the tradition was no more in 2011.

“We’ve been without one of our interesting characters for four years now, so we thought it would be fun to put a new twist on it and reinvent the tradition,” Caljean said.

The Maryland Historical Society is encouraging artists to submit proposals via email to describe how they would perform the toast. Submissions are due by Oct. 23, and a handful of finalists will be announced on Halloween.

(12) Elsewhere in Maryland today….

(13) Number one on Jalopnik’s list of “The Ten Strangest Space Weapons Ever Developed” is the USAF’s 1956 proposal for a home-grown UFO:

The Lenticular Reentry Vehicle was another U.S. government “black budget” item that never had its time to shine. It was a flying saucer-like spacecraft with the power to start a nuclear World War III. Supposedly, the LRV would be carried atop an Apollo rocket 300 miles into space, then deployed on a six-week voyage of hell-raising doom, armed with four nuclear missiles.

After completing its mission, the LRV would rocket back down to Earth, deploy a multi-stage parachute and touch down on a strategically determined lakebed.

(14) Cartoon Brew has posted a six-minute short, “Giant Robots From Outer Space”–a 2014 graduation film made at Supinfocom Valenciennes by Elsa Lamy, François Guéry, Aurélien Fernandez, Valentin Watrigant, and Louis Ventre.

“In the 1950s, earth is invaded by a mechanical menace. Love emerges between a man, a woman, and a giant robot from outer space. A tribute to classic science fiction and ’50s cinema.”

James H. Burns warns, “There seems to be an odd misogynistic tone, and some other strange stuff, perhaps, but otherwise (!), there is some spectacular stuff here!”

[Thanks to James H. Burns, Will R., Mark, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

This Day In History 7/2

On July 2, 1959 Plan 9 from Outer Space opened in theaters. Plan 9 is considered by many critics, including Michael Medved, to be the worst film in Hollywood’s history.

Plan_9_Alternative_posterHarlan Ellison recently asked readers of his forum to pick the worst movie ever made, and he warned, “Plan 9 From Outer Space is a true no-brainer, so no one gets any props for throwing THAT ‘usual suspect’ into a competition requiring REAL CHOICES.”

Plan 9‘s popularity as the worst movie ever made actually has prevented it from ranking anywhere near the bottom of quality metrics. For example, Rotten Tomatoes reports that 66% of critics gave the film positive reviews.

In honor of this historic occasion I offer the following four question trivia quiz.

(1)  What did Ed Wood originally intend to be the title of the movie?

(2) Is it true that Bela Lugosi died on the second day of filming?

(3)  What popular TV psychic provided Plan 9’s introductory narrative?

(4) Plan 9 had cheap, horrible special effects. Was its iconic flying saucer a –

(a) Paper plate

(b) Hubcap

(c) A commercially available toy

Answers appear after the jump.

Continue reading

Ackerman’s Hugo

Forry Ackerman stopped being the winner of the first Hugo Award again the other day. And not in nearly so nice a way as he did originally.

History records that immediately after he was handed the very first Hugo Award as #1 Fan Personality at the 1953 Worldcon, Ackerman declined it in favor of Ken Slater and abandoned the little rocket-shaped trophy on stage to be forwarded to Britain. This was acknowledged a magnificent gesture by everyone — except Forry’s wife, Wendayne, and about that, more in a moment.

Now Forry has been deprived of his Hugo in a whole new way. Rich Lynch complained to a Southern Fandom listserv on February 9 that The Long List of Hugo Awards was changed to show Ackerman’s #1 Fan Personality honor (and Willy Ley’s for Excellence in Fact Articles, too) as being only Committee Awards. Reportedly, the Formalization of Long List Entries (FOLLE) Committee, a panel of a few fans selected by the Worldcon business meeting to vet its institutional history, has decided for some undisclosed reason that the Ackerman and Ley awards were not voted by the membership, as were other Hugos, just picked by the Philcon committee.

Was the winner of the #1 Fan Personality category determined in the same manner as the pro categories, by ballot, or not? Well, Wendayne Ackerman thought so. Forry’s article says that right after he turned it down “Wendy was furious. She said, ‘What have you done, Forry? You’ve insulted the entire convention! They voted this to you — how could you give it away??'” Harry Warner Jr., seems convinced that all the winners were voted upon because (1) he makes inferences about the unpublished results of the vote (see Wealth of Fable, page 369), and (2) draws no distinction between #1 Fan Personality and the other Hugos. Seeming to clinch the argument, Rich Lynch added to the online discussion that Bob Madle confirms both the Ackerman and Ley Hugos were voted by members.

I opened my copy of Isaac Asimov’s The Hugo Winners Volumes I & II to see whether the Good Doctor shed any light on the subject. He did, but not at the very beginning of Volume I where I expected it. Asimov’s collection of Hugo-winning short fiction only begins in 1955 — for the simple reason that there were no short fiction Hugo awards given in 1953. (Warner speculates that a lack of votes led the committee not to name a winner in some categories.)

The Appendix to Asimov’s Volume I names all the Hugo winners through 1961 based on a list compiled by Ed Wood. Ackerman’s Hugo appears first on that list. Fan historiographers know Ed Wood was a fellow with strong opinions about the subject which he never hesitated to share. Nor should it be overlooked that it was Asimov himself who presided over the 1953 ceremony and personally handed Ackerman the award. That the list in The Hugo Winners names Ackerman without further comment inclines me to treat Wood and Asimov as two more votes in favor of the proposition that what Ackerman won was a Hugo.

It happens that, decades later, Ackerman secured the return of the trophy so it could be added to his collection, having asked Slater whether he had plans for the award when he passed on. It is one of the things remaining in the estate and its fate is still being decided. Lynch seems to think that news somehow led the FOLLE committee to take up the question at this time.

Postscript: Really, the most peculiar thing about this example of FOLLE revisionism is the committee’s failure to fully extrapolate the logical implications of its own idea. (That sound you hear is John W. Campbell, Jr. spinning in his grave). Ackerman’s gesture in declining the first Hugo didn’t prevent a whole succession of editors of the Long List from recording him as its winner, with never a reference to Slater. That is the appropriate decision for a subject determined by vote of the membership because the winner is a computational fact, no matter what the winner does with the hardware. But accepting for discussion’s sake that the committee picked the winner of this award… Well, after Ackerman turned it down the committee did send Slater the award. It’s Slater that the committee gave the #1 Fan Personality trophy to in the end.