Pixel Scroll 12/20/19 Return
of the Judi: The Force And The Furry-est

(1) STAR TREK: PICARD. A third teaser has dropped – but it’s been blocked on some sites, so we’ll find out together if this still works by the time I post today’s Scroll.

(2) UPROAR AFTER ROWLING OPINES ON TRANS IDENTITY. Maya Forstater was an employee of the British think tank Centre for Global Development. She tweeted some trans-exclusionary radical feminist views and got fired.  Rowling supported her.

Vox (the pop culture site) responded “JKR just ruined Harry Potter, Merry Christmas.” — “J.K. Rowling’s latest tweet seems like transphobic BS. Her fans are heartbroken”.

Rowling is customarily outspoken about her politics, which can be generalized as ranging from moderately liberal to progressive — though over time, she’s seemed increasingly less so than her fans. On Thursday morning, many of them woke up to a tweet from Rowling, which might seem at first to be a typical example of Rowling’s broadly liberal feminism.

In context, however, Rowling’s tweet reveals itself as a shocking dismissal of transgender identity: its first three lines seem to directly attack trans identity, while its final line mischaracterizes the facts surrounding a court case that involves significant transphobia.

Many fans have found Rowling’s statement deeply disturbing — so much so that the reaction to it was trending on Twitter on early Thursday morning, ahead of the historic impeachment of Donald Trump….

(3) YEAR’S TOP BOOKS. Cat Eldridge says he counts eight SFF novels on Paste’s list of “The 19 Best Novels of 2019”. This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone clocks in at number 2.

Whether you’re looking for a story about necromancers fighting in space or boys surviving a reform school in Florida, you’ll find something to love on our ranked list of the year’s best novels. These 19 books promise an escape from reality while still tackling real-world issues in creative ways, exploring everything from grief to mother-child relationships to spirituality. We loved these stories, and we believe you will, too.

There are also genre books, but not quite as many in PopMatters’ “The Best Books of 2019: Fiction”. The list begins with –

Ancestral Night, by Elizabeth Bear [Saga Press / Simon & Schuster]

Elizabeth Bear’s Ancestral Night immerses readers in a strange, futuristic universe from the very first pages, and while some of the concepts and language may be difficult at first for readers who want simple, unchallenging texts or are not used to the more speculative side of the genre, those who persevere will quickly be hooked. The book’s sweeping sense of mystery and discovery is what initially hooks, but it’s the speculative and complex world Bear has constructed which is most rewarding in the end.

Ancestral Night is a wise, intelligent book for modern-minded, thinking readers. Bear has dabbled in the steampunk and fantasy vein in the past, and while elements of that are recognizable here, for the most part this is hard sci-fi combined with brilliantly imagined speculative fiction. Bear has constructed a fascinating, absorbing universe populated with compelling and intelligent characters who conform to neither clichés nor stereotypes. It’s sci-fi of the top order, and here’s hoping we see more of it. – Hans Rollmann

Read more about this book here on PopMatters.

(4) CHANNELING GENRE. WIRED thinks “The 5 Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy TV Shows of 2019” were pretty much the top television shows, period.

We don’t only watch nerd TV here at WIRED. Fleabag’s fabulous. More Pose now. Ship a box of Emmys to Big Little Lies.

It’s just that, this year, when it came to new shows, genre kind of kicked all the butts. In fact, we could’ve left off the sci-fi/fantasy qualifier and called this list “The 5 Best TV Shows of 2019,” period. (We didn’t, because we thought you’d appreciate a bit of what’s known in the biz as framing.) Sure, there was some commodity crapola. The Boys wasn’t half as edgy as it thought. Baby Yoda swallowed The Mandalorian whole. His Dark Materials verged, at times, on the soulless (ironic, for a show about souls). (But Ruth Wilson as Mrs. Coulter—that slightly flared, froglike upper lip!—gives the best performance of 2019.)

(5) ANCIENT ADVICE. “Throw your testicles” at the London Review of Books is a review by Tom Shippey of the Getty Museum’s book about its exhibition of bestiaries. SJWs will not like what medieval people thought about cats! (Fortunately, the title does not come from the section about them.)

Sometimes ordinary life intrudes. A text from Bodley 764 (c.1225-50) neatly describes the cat: ‘This creature is called mouser because he kills mice. The common word is cat because he captures [captat] them … Catus is the Greek word for cunning.’ The mice the cat catches are ‘greedy men who seek earthly goods’, but, as Susan Crane comments, the accompanying pictures show an artist ‘speculat[ing] imaginatively on the hidden life of cats at night’. There are three cats: one curled up in front of a fire (apparently cleaning his behind), another with a mouse in his paws, and a third on his hind legs, trying to reach into a birdcage – almost a Breughel before its time.

(6) MARKET LIGHTLY KILLED. Sorry, you can’t resell pixels in Europe… Publishers Lunch has the story —

The European Court of Justice agreed with the non-binding opinion from their Advocate General that reselling “used” ebooks is a violation of copyright. The ruling was made in a case brought by Dutch publisher associations against the website Tom Kabinet, which has tried to establish a marketplace for individuals to resell their ebooks.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 20, 1961 Mysterious Island premiered. Based on the novel by Jules Verne, the film was produced by Charles H. Schneer and directed by Cy Endfield, it was a visual feast of Ray Harryhausen special effects with music as often was in his films by Bernard Herrmann. Critics loved it, the box office was more than successful and the current Rotten Tomatoes rating among reviewers is an excellent 63%. 
  • December 20, 1985 Enemy Mine premiered. It was directed by Wolfgang Petersen as  the script by Edward Khmara off of Barry B. Longyear’s novella which won a Hugo Award for Best Novella and a Nebula Award for the same as well. The film stars Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett, Jr. as you well know.  It wasn’t well received at the time, one critic called it “This season’s Dune”,  but it has a 68% rating over at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 20, 2002 — The Firefly series premiered on FOX. The Browncoats among us  know more about it than we could say about it, so tell us what you think about it. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge]

  • Born December 20, 1925 Nicole Maure. She appeared in The Day of the Triffids as Christine Durrant, and was  Elena Antonescu in Secret of the Incas, a film its Wiki page claims was the inspiration for Raiders of the Lost Ark. (Died 2016.)
  • Born December 20, 1943 Jacqueline Pearce. She’s best known as the villain Servalan on Blake’s 7. She appeared in “The Two Doctors”, a Second and Sixth Doctor story  as Chessene, and she’d voice Admiral Mettna in “Death Comes to Time”, a Seventh Doctor story. I’d be remiss not to note her one-offs in Danger Man, The Avengers, The Chronicles of Young Indiana Jones and The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 20, 1952 Jenny Agutter, 67. Her first SF role was Jessica 6, the female lead in Logan’s Run. Later genre roles include Nurse Alex Price In An American Werewolf in London (fantastic film), Carolyn Page in Dark Tower which is not  a Stephen King based film, an uncredited cameo as a burn doctor in one of my all time fav films which is Darkman and finally Councilwoman Hawley in The Avengers and The Winter Soldier.  
  • Born December 20, 1952 Kate Atkinson, 67. A strong case can be made that her Jackson Brodie detective novels are at least genre adjacent with their level of Universe assisting metanarrative. The Life After Life douology is definitely SF and pretty good reading. She’s well stocked on all of the digital book vendors. 
  • Born December 20, 1960 Nalo Hopkinson, 59. First novel I ever read by her was Brown Girl in The Ring, a truly amazing novel. Like most of  her work, it draws on Afro-Caribbean history and language, and its intertwined traditions of oral and written storytelling. I’d also single out  Mojo: Conjure Stories and  Falling in Love With Hominids collections as they are both wonderful and challenging reading. Worth seeking out out out is her edited Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction.  She was a Guest of Honor at Wiscon thrice. Is that unusual?

(9) COMICS SECTION.

Two from The Argyle Sweater:

(10) TAKE-HOME TEST. Camestros Felapton studies all the angles science fiction has come up with to get stories out of the idea of identical human copies in “How to duplicate people”.

So while the term ‘clone’ is what is used, actual cloning does not get at the concept which is more about duplication or near duplication. Creating another copy of a person is the essence of the science-fiction concept. Duplication of genes is just a handy hook on to which the idea can be hung. Practically we have always known that monozygotic twins are not literally identical even at a superficial level and certainly not at the level of character or personality.

So plot wise how do people get duplicated? …

(11) RUMP ROAST. “‘A Christmas Carol’: TV Review”The Hollywood Reporter’s critic is not a fan.

…There have certainly been attempts at gritty and dark interpretations of the Dickens text, but few as random and gratuitous as Steven Knight brings to the table in his new take for FX and BBC. Finally, we have a Christmas Carol in which Ebenezer Scrooge can bellow “Fuck!!!” several times for limited reason and where viewers can be exposed to one fleeting — not prurient, mind you — bare rump, as FX endeavors finally to put the “ass” in “Christmass.”

The result is that FX has made a Christmas Carol that very much isn’t for children — seriously, the wee ones will be either bored or scandalized — and probably isn’t really for adults either. At its very best, it’s an attempted in-depth character study of Scrooge, one that meshes very poorly with the inspiring structure of the story, while at its worst it’s an ill-paced, ill-focused version of A Christmas Carol that doesn’t even get up to the arrival of Jacob Marley until over an hour into its three-hour running time. At least FX is airing A Christmas Carol all at once. On BBC One, it’s airing over three nights, and I’m betting the lack of incident in the first hour will lead to ample tune-out.

(12) NOW THAT’S TALENT. “Miss America 2020: Biochemist wins crown after on-stage experiment” — includes video of experiment and narration.

A Virginian biochemist has been named winner of Miss America 2020 after performing a live science experiment that defied stereotypes of the contest.

Camille Schrier defeated 50 women to take the crown at Thursday’s final in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Wearing a lab coat, the 24-year-old impressed judges with a chemistry demonstration in the talent show.

(13) GOOD QUESTION. Jon Del Arroz has made seven consecutive blog posts about one Star Wars subject or another, including the piece de resistance — “Why Are So Many People Unhealthily Obsessed With Star Wars?”

(14) THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. “Review: Star Wars Memories by Craig Miller” — Charon Dunn enjoyed the book.

…If you were there back in the ’70s, anticipating the Empire Strikes Back the way kids long for Santa, you’re going to enjoy this book immensely. It’s like time traveling back to your glorious misspent youth, back in the days of feathered hair and innocence.

Star Wars unlocked science fiction for me. I still run into folks who aren’t shy about letting me know they don’t consider it as *real* a franchise as some of the others. The science is wonky (explosions in space???) and the dialogue is nuts (nerfherder!!!) and some of the storytelling details remain as nebulous as Schroedinger’s cat (Han shot first dang it)….

(15) JUJU. Kwei Quartey analyzes “The Role of the Spiritual in African Crime Fiction” at CrimeReads.

… While supernatural phenomena in Ghana’s daily life serve as a unique background for much of the crime fiction I set in that West African country, it can also be a challenge. For logistic reasons too complex to go into now, my novels are not distributed to a significant degree in Africa in general and Ghana in particular. Western readers, primarily those in the United States, are and will remain my main market for the foreseeable future. So how do I introduce these unfamiliar beliefs and concepts like juju to my readers? Very carefully. It should appear seamless, which is not as simple as it may sound. Whenever I describe or highlight a supernatural phenomenon in my novel, I follow some general rules.

  • It should play an important part in the plot and not be tangential to the story.
  • I avoid making it seem gratuitous.
  • I avoid making it seem didactic.
  • I leave criticisms or praise of the custom to characters in the novel, not the narrator.

(16) MISSION NOT ACCOMPLISHED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA Press Release: “NASA Statement on Boeing Orbital Flight Test”.

BLUF: Things were, as they say in the space biz, “off nominal.” At least nothing exploded. The entire press release is reproduced below.

FYI: BLUF means Bottom Line Up Front—one preferred method of briefing high-ranking personnel in case their attention wanders or they cut the briefing off short.

“Early this morning, NASA and Boeing successfully launched Starliner on the first human-rated United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida.

“The plan was for Starliner to rendezvous and dock with the International Space Station and return home safely to Earth. While a lot of things went right, the uncrewed spacecraft did not reach the planned orbit and will not dock to the International Space Station.

“This is in fact why we test. Teams worked quickly to ensure the spacecraft was in a stable orbit and preserved enough fuel to ensure a landing opportunity.

“Boeing, in coordination with NASA, is working to return Starliner to White Sands, New Mexico, Sunday.

“At NASA we do really difficult things, and we do them all the time. I spoke to Vice President Pence, Chairman of the National Space Council, and he remains very optimistic in our ability to safely launch American astronauts from American soil. We remain positive even though we did face challenges today. We’ll be getting a lot more data in the coming days….

(17) MORE THAN ONE WAY TO SKIN A CATS.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Peace on Earth” on Vimeo is a 1939 cartoon by Hugh Harman about how the world is wiped out by a global apocalypse and humanity is replaced by cuddly carol-loving animals.

[Thanks to Joel Zakem, Martin Morse Wooster, Bill, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcok, JJ, N., Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Deuteronomy Dern.]

Daniel Dern’s Thursday Dublin 2019 Photos

Let’s begin with Peter S. Beagle here and post the rest of Daniel Dern’s gallery after the jump —

Peter S. Beagle

Peter S. Beagle
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Pixel Scroll 6/19/19 You’ve Got Mule!

(1) GREEN EYED MONSTER. Elizabeth Bear’s “Jealousy part two: what if it isn’t a friend?” is a public post from her subscription newsletter.

In response to my previous newsletter on dealing with jealousy for the career successes of friends and colleagues, I’ve had a couple of conversations about how one might deal with an even more difficult form of jealousy: jealousy for the successes of people you just can’t stand—or, even worse, who have done you some personal harm. Sometimes abusers, toxic exes, harassers, or people who got you fired go on to have brilliant careers and amass great amounts of personal power.

And that’s a hard thing to take. Especially if, every time you go to an industry event, somebody is telling you how awesome that person is.

If there’s one thing that the #MeToo movement has made evident, it’s that this isn’t a problem unique to publishing. It’s a terrible situation to be in—triggering, traumatizing, and grief-provoking. It can make you doubt your own experience, memories, and senses. It can prove a constant reminder of violation.

It’s also (if there’s another thing the #MeToo movement has made evident) a depressingly common situation.

So how does one deal with it, when one finds one’s self in a situation like that?

(2) BECOMING SUPERMAN. J. Michael Straczynski previews his forthcoming autobiography. Thread starts here.

(3) TWO-COUNTRY PROBLEM. Jiayang Fan profiles Liu Cixin for The New Yorker: “Liu Cixin’s War of the Worlds”

… When the first volume of the series was published in the United States, in 2014, the models for Trisolaris and Earth were immediately apparent. For the Chinese, achieving parity with the West is a long-cherished goal, envisaged as a restoration of greatness after the humiliation of Western occupations and the self-inflicted wounds of the Mao era. As Liu told the Times, “China is on the path of rapid modernization and progress, kind of like the U.S. during the golden age of science fiction.” The future, he went on, would be “full of threats and challenges,” and “very fertile soil” for speculative fiction.

In the past few years, those threats and challenges have escalated, as China’s global ambitions, especially in the field of technology, have begun to impinge upon America’s preëminence.

…As the standoff has intensified, Liu has become wary of touting the geopolitical underpinnings of his work. In November, when I accompanied him on a trip to Washington, D.C.—he was picking up the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation’s Award for Imagination in Service to Society—he briskly dismissed the idea that fiction could serve as commentary on history or on current affairs. “The whole point is to escape the real world!” he said. Still, the kind of reader he attracts suggests otherwise: Chinese tech entrepreneurs discuss the Hobbesian vision of the trilogy as a metaphor for cutthroat competition in the corporate world; other fans include Barack Obama, who met Liu in Beijing two years ago, and Mark Zuckerberg. Liu’s international career has become a source of national pride. In 2015, China’s then Vice-President, Li Yuanchao, invited Liu to Zhongnanhai—an off-limits complex of government accommodation sometimes compared to the Kremlin—to discuss the books and showed Liu his own copies, which were dense with highlights and annotations.

(4) CHANGING EXPECTATIONS. Why didn’t the latest Men In Black movie take off? Is it the chemistry of the leads, the script, or a third cause proposed by The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Men in Black’ and When Spectacle Isn’t Enough”.

There’s another potential explanation as to why Men in Black: International has failed to click with audiences, and it has to do with spectacle. Spectacle has long been a key part of the draw of big-budget Hollywood films. And for a long time, spectacle in terms of what films were using the most cutting-edge technology — had the most lifelike monsters, the most extensive battle sequences and so on — quite often corresponded with what films did well.

Think of a film like Avatar (2009). No one was writing home about the story. In spite of the various box office records it broke, the actual content of the film has left little lasting impression on popular culture in comparison to other comparable box office successes. While Jaws lives on in references like, “you’re gonna need a bigger boat” and the characters of the Star Wars films or the Marvel Cinematic Universe are household names, a lot of people would have a far more difficult time recalling any characters or lines of dialogue from Avatar. And this is because Avatar is the sort of film that reached the heights it did by merit of technical spectacle — immersing the audience in what, for many, was a compellingly photorealistic alien world.

(5) AUDIO FURNITURE. The new Two Chairs Talking podcast, in which David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss talk about sff books and movies, takes its name from the pair’s history as Worldcon Chairs — David: Aussiecon Two; and Perry: Aussiecon Three and co-chair of Aussiecon 4.

The fifth episode, “Episode 5: An Incomplete History of Serious Events”, features guest Leigh Edmonds talking about how he became a historian, and about his project to write a history of science fiction fandom in Australia.  It also features Perry on Greg Egan, and David, as he says, “talking probably for too long about the tv series A Series of Unfortunate Events.

(6) CALLING DOUGHNUT CONTROL. Krispy Kreme is cashing in on the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing by launching a new type of doughnut. (John King Tarpinian, who sent the link, promises he’ll be sticking to his traditional Moon Pie.)

One small bite for man. One giant leap for doughnut-kind! As America prepares for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Krispy Kreme is making a giant leap for doughnut-kind by introducing a whole NEW interpretation of the brand’s iconic Original Glazed. This will be the FIRST TIME Krispy Kreme has offered another version of the Original Glazed Doughnut on the menu PERMANENTLY.

(7) GOAL EXCEEDED. The Dennis Etchison Memorial Fund at GoFundMe raised $5,445 to help Kristina Etchison with costs incurred to have Dennis laid to rest. (The target amount was $4,000.)

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 19, 1954 Them! released on this day.
  • June 19, 1964 The Twilight Zone aired its series finale: “The Bewitchin’ Pool”, penned by Earl Hamner.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 19, 1915 Julius Schwartz. He’s best known as a longtime editor at DC Comics, where at various times he was primary editor for the Superman and Batman lines. Just as interestingly, he founded the Solar Sales Service literary agency (1934–1944) where Schwartz represented such writers as  Bradbury, Bester,  Bloch, Weinbaum, and Lovecraft which including some of Bradbury’s very first published work and Lovecraft’s last such work. He also published Time Traveller, one of the first fanzines along with Mort Weisinger and Forrest J Ackerman. (Died 2004.)
  • Born June 19, 1921 Louis Jourdan. Fear No Evil and Ritual of Evil, two tv horror films in the late Sixties, appear to be his first venture into our realm. He’d play Count Dracula in, errr, Count Dracula a few years later. And then comes the role you most likely remember him for, Dr. Anton Arcane in Swamp Thing which he reprised in The Return of Swamp Thing. Definitely popcorn films. Oh, and let’s not forget he was Kamal Khan, the villain in Octopussy! (Died 2015.)
  • Born June 19, 1926 Josef Nesvadba. A Czech writer, best known for his SF short stories, many of which have appeared in English translation. ISFDB lists a number of stories as appearing in English and two collections of his translated stories were published, In The Footsteps of the Abominable Snowman: Stories of Science and Fantasy and Vampires Ltd. : Stories of Science and Fantasy. Neither’s available in digital format. (Died 2005.)
  • Born June 19, 1947 Salman Rushdie, 72. Everything he does has some elements of magic realism in it. (Let the arguments begin on that statement.) So which of his novels are really genre? I’d say The Ground Beneath Her FeetGrimus (his first and largely forgotten sf novel), Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights and Haroun and the Sea of Stories. If you’ve not read anything by him, I’d start with The Ground Beneath Her Feet which is by far both one of his best works and one of his most understandable ones as well.
  • Born June 19, 1953 Virginia Hey, 66. Best known for her role as Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan in the fabulous Farscape, series and playing the Warrior Woman in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. She’s also Rubavitch, the mistress of KGB Head, General Pushkin, in The Living Daylights. She also had a brief appearance as a beautician in The Return of Captain Invincible, an Australian musical comedy superhero film.
  • Born June 19, 1954 Kathleen Turner, 65. One of her earliest roles was in The Man with Two Brains as Dolores Benedict. Somewhat of a Fifties retro feel with that title. Of course, she voiced sultry Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, one of my favorite all time films. I still haven’t seen all of the Roger Rabbit short films that were done. She voiced Constance in Monster House a few years later, and was in Cinderella, a television film where she was the lead of the Wicked Stepmother Claudette.
  • Born June 19, 1957 Jean Rabe, 62. She’s a genre author and editor who has worked on the Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Rogue Angel and BattleTech series, as well as many others. Ok, I admit to a degree of fascination with such writers as I’m a devotee of the Rogue Angel audiobooks that GraphicAudio does and she’s written according to ISFDB five of the source novels under the house name of Alex Archer.  
  • Born June 19, 1978 Zoe Saldana, 41, born with the lovely birth name of Zoë Yadira Saldaña Nazario. First genre role was Anamaria in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. She’s Nyota Uhura in the  new Trek series and she’s also Neytiri in the Avatar franchise. She portrays Gamora in the MCU, beginning with Guardians of the Galaxy, a truly great film.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • This Off the Mark could be the pilot for CSI: Springfield, if you know what I mean.

(11) SIGHTING. The commemorative Moon Landing Oreos have hit the markets. John King Tarpinian snapped this photo in a Target store.

(12) HUGH JACKMAN. Ahead of his live show in Houston, Hugh Jackman visited NASA, something he’s been dreaming about doing since childhood:

Also, in the opening number of the second act of his show, channeling Peter Allen, he brought a NASA salsa dance instructor up on stage with him. Who even knew NASA had salsa dance instructors? It’s a real thing apparently! 

“I don’t know about you guys! I’m going to Mars!” … “I’m gonna sign up to be an astronaut tomorrow!”

(13) THANKS FOR PLAYING. Kotaku: “Amazon Lays Off Dozens Of Game Developers During E3”.

Yesterday, as the video game industry’s attention was focused squarely on the final day of the E3 convention in Los Angeles, Amazon’s video game division quietly laid off dozens of employees.

Amazon Game Studios, which is currently developing the online games Crucible and New World, told affected employees on Thursday morning that they would have 60 days to look for new positions within Amazon, according to one person who was laid off. At the end of that buffer period, if they fail to find employment, they will receive severance packages.

Amazon also canceled some unannounced games, that person told Kotaku.

(14) FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND. BBC now knows “Why are Nike trainers washing up on beaches?”

Over the past year, from Bermuda and the Bahamas to Ireland and Orkney, hundreds of pairs of unworn shoes have washed up on beaches. But how did they get there, and why are scientists so interested in where they are being found?

…The source of all these shoes is believed to be a single ship.

“Through the research I have done,” Mr Ribeiro says, “everything indicates they may have been from some of the 70 to 76 containers that fell overboard from the Maersk Shanghai.”

…Despite the environmental damage, scientists can salvage something from such incidents – a better understanding of our oceans and the currents that drive them.

While many of the shoes from the Maersk Shanghai have been washing up on beaches, far more are likely to be doing laps of the North Atlantic ocean, stuck in a network of powerful currents.

…Even more enlightening, Dr Ebbesmeyer says, is how the shape of the shoes seems to dictate where they end up.

“The left and the right sneakers float with different orientation to the wind,” he explains. “So when the wind blows on them they will go to different places. So on some beaches you tend to get the left sneakers and on others you get the right.”

(15) VLOGBRO NOVEL. Ana Grilo’s “Book Review: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green” appears at The Book Smugglers:

…This book is a cool mixture of puzzle-solving, personal story and world-changing events.

What strikes me the most about it though is the choice of having this particular type of protagonist because April? Not exactly a super great person. She is kinda of a jerk, she is flawed, full of contradictions, she well and truly fucks up on numerous occasions. She loves AND hates all the attention and fame she receives – especially in a world that mirrors our own in terms of how social media shapes the lives of people. There is good in it, but there is also bad and there is certainly the ugly too and at different times April embodies all of these possibilities.

(16) KEEP ON DOWN THE ROAD. Andrew Liptak praises Rebecca Roanhorse’s next novel — Storm of Locusts is like American Gods meets Mad Max: Fury Road. (Beware spoilers in the body of the review.)

In her debut novel Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse introduced readers to a compelling future in which climate change and wars have wrecked North America, resulting in some fantastical transformations to the country. Native American gods walk alongside mortal humans, some of whom have developed fantastical clan powers, and magical walls have grown around the traditional Navajo homeland Dinétah. In her next adventure, Storm of Locusts, Roanhorse ups the stakes for her characters and the world….

(17) KEEPING THE SRIRACHA IN SF. This is Jason Sheehan’s advice for NPR readers: “Regular Old Sci-Fi Not Weird Enough For You? Try ‘FKA USA'” (Reed King’s new book.)

Hey, you. Did you really like A Canticle For Leibowitz but think it needed more robot hookers and a talking goat? Then FKA USA is the book for you.

Did you think The Road suffered by not having enough gunfights with Mormons? Do you have a fondness for The Wizard Of Oz but believe, deep in your weird little heart, that it suffered a crippling lack of footnotes, bad language and fart jokes? Yeah, me, too. Which is (maybe) why I liked FKA USA so much.

(18) SAVAGE BUILDS. The Verge invites everyone to “Watch Adam Savage make a flying Iron Man suit in his new show, Savage Builds.

For a limited time, the first episode of Savage Builds—in which Adam Savage (late of Mythbusters) constructs and tests an Iron Man suit—is available free on the Discovery Channel website.

Adam Savage became a household name as the cohost of Mythbusters, and now, he’s returned to the Discovery Channel with a new show: Savage Builds. In each episode of the series, Savage goes out and builds something, consulting with other experts and builders. The series just began airing on Discovery, and the first episode, in which he builds a flying Iron Man costume, is available for free online (at least in the US) for the next two weeks

Think of it like a builder’s version of Mythbusters: take a thing from pop culture or history, and make a version that functions as closely as possible to its on-screen counterpart. In the show’s first episode, Savage sets out to build a real, flying Iron Man costume that’s also bulletproof. 

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Woke Up Looking” on Vimeo is a love song Gideon Irving sings to his robot.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/29/19 Los Scrollitos Dicen Pixelo Pixelo Pixelo

(1) SURVEY SAYS. The Stephen Follows Film Data and Education blog asks “Are video game movies the worst type of adaptations?”

The recent release of Pokémon Detective Pikachu has prompted some readers to get in touch and ask about the quality of movies based on video games.

Most of the questions were variations of: “Are video game movies the worst type of movie adaptations?

To answer this, I looked at all movies released in US cinemas between 1993 and 2018, inclusive. (See the Note section for a more detailed explanation of the dataset and sources).

I’m going to use the Metacritic score and IMDb rating to serve as measures of quality from the perspective of film critics and film audiences, respectively.

The answer, supported by all kinds of statistics and graphs is — yes! 

(2) FUTURE TENSE. Elizabeth Bear’s “No Moon and Flat Calm” is the latest installment in the Future Tense Fiction series. In it, author Elizabeth Bear imagines a crew of safety engineers on a routine trip to a space that are thrown into sudden disaster onboard the station. How will real future humans react to calamity when we’re millions of miles away from home? And how much can training for such potential crises override our natural instincts?

…It was a tiny, artificial world called Waystation Hab, and my four classmates and I were approaching it in a shuttle we’d been crammed into for four months. My classmates and I were all postgraduate apprentices in the safety engineering internship program….

In a response essay, “How Will People Behave in Deep Space Disasters?”, Amanda Ripley, journalist and author of The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes—and Why, tackles these questions—and what they might mean for those striving to send humans to Mars and beyond.

(3) DEFYING DOOMSDAY AWARD. Nominations for the D Franklin Defying Doomsday Award are being taken until July 31. The award grants one winner per year a cash prize of $200 in recognition of their work in disability advocacy in SFF literature.

This award is possible thanks to D Franklin, our wonderful Patron of Diversity who pledged the top pledge in our Pozible campaign, back in 2015. This allowed the funding of the award for three years, meaning that this will be the last year the award is given, although we hope the recognition helps those awarded in some small way.

The 2016 winner was Disability in Kidlit, a website and resource for discussing the portrayal of disability in middle grade and young adult literature.

The 2017 winner was the Kickstarter campaign for Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction, a special issue of Uncanny Magazine.

The Defying Doomsday Award jury comprises Twelfth Planet Press publisher, Alisa Krasnostein, and Defying Doomsday editors, Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench.

Eligible works include non-fiction or related media exploring the subject of disability in SFF literature. Works must have been published in 2018. Use this form to submit nominations.The winner will be announced in September 2019.

(4) SATIRE STORYBUNDLE. You have three weeks left to purchase The Science Fiction and Fantasy Satire Bundle, curated by Nick Mamatas.

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Jesus and the Eightfold Path by Lavie Tidhar
  • A Pretty Mouth by Molly Tanzer
  • The People’s Republic of Everything by Nick Mamatas
  • TVA Baby by Terry Bisson

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus EIGHT more!

  • Koontown Killing Kaper by Bill Campbell
  • The Good Humor Man by Andrew Fox
  • Scorch by A.D. Nauman
  • The Anarchist Kosher Cookbook by Maxwell Bauman
  • Nightmares and Geezenstacks by Fredric Brown
  • Broken Piano for President by Patrick Wensink
  • Leech Girl Lives by Rick Claypool
  • The Word of God by Thomas M. Disch

(5) THE BRIGHT SIDE. James Davis Nicoll bucks the trend of fans who gripe about incomplete series — “Hope Springs Eternal: Five Unfinished Series That Remain a Joy to Read” at Tor.com. Being “of a certain vintage,” as soon as I saw James’ title this very series did, in fact, spring to my mind –

Of course, if one is of a certain vintage, one will have lived through Alexei Panshin’s annus mirabilis. In 1968, Panshin published three novels, two of which (Star Well and The Thurb Revolution) focused on wandering interstellar remittance man Anthony Villiers, who righted wrongs with wit and panache. 1969 saw the release of the third volume, Masque World, which raised what seemed at the time reasonable expectation of a new Villiers book every year or so. As it turns out, it has been (counts on fingers) half a century since the third book was published. Hope springs eternal.

There are footnotes at the end of the article, in which the final line is –

Ditto Pratchett’s Discworld. I’d like more, but I’m not dissatisfied.

Well said.

(6) GOOD OMENS GETS THEATRICAL DEBUT. BBC has the story — “Good Omens: Seat reserved for Terry Pratchett at world premiere”.

There was an empty seat in the front row when Good Omens had its world premiere in London on Tuesday.

But that’s not because organisers had trouble filling the gigantic (and newly reopened) Odeon in Leicester Square – quite the opposite, the event was packed out.

In fact, a seat was deliberately kept vacant for Terry Pratchett, the co-writer of the original novel, who died in 2015.

As a tribute, his trademark hat was placed in the front row as the premiere got under way.

As Peter White noted in Deadline, it’s highly unusual for a TV series such as Good Omens to “receive a glitzy world premiere in Leicester Square” as that’s “a feat usually reserved for big-budget superhero movies”.

Refresher for anyone not familiar with the long history: “Good Omens: How Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett wrote a book” by Neil Gaiman.

(7) LEM DISCOVERY. Read “’The Hunt’: Stanislaw Lem’s Unknown Story”, translated into English, at “Przekrój” Quarterly.

A previously unknown yet print-worthy work by Stanis?aw Lem (unearthed from his immense archives; combed through by his son Tomasz and the author’s personal secretary Wojciech Zemek for the last 16 years) is truly a rare find. This is because the author of The Cyberiad unceremoniously burnt any and all of his own writings that he was not pleased with, in a bonfire at his home in the Kraków suburb of Kliny. He cast quite a lot of texts into the flames there, given that he wrote with such great ease. By what miracle did “The Hunt” manage to avoid the fate of other works that went up in smoke?

(8) ETCHISON OBIT. Horror author Dennis Etchison (1943-2019) died during the night on May 29 reports his Facebook page. File 770 obituary here. Andrew Porter has two photos of him taken earlier in his career, at the Nebulas in New York City, and at a British Fantasy Convention, holding an award.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 29, 1906 T. H. White. Best known obviously for the wonderful The Once and Future King which I read a long, long time ago. Back in the Thirties, he wrote Earth Stopped and its sequel Gone to Ground, sf novels. Gone to Ground contains several fantasy stories which were later reprinted in The Maharajah and Other Stories. ISFDB also lists Mistress Masham’s ReposeThe Elephant and the Kangaroo and The Master as the other novels by him, plus the aforementioned story collection. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 29, 1909 Neil R. Jones. Early pulp writer who some claim coined the word “ astronaut” which appeared in his first story, “The Death’s Head Meteor”, which was published in Air Wonder Stories in 1930. His stories taken together fit within the idea of a future history like those of Smith and Heinlein. (Died 1988.)
  • Born May 29, 1930 Richard Clifton-Dey. Illustrator of many SF book covers including The Wizard of Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs. He did not sign many of his originals so his widow has the final say what is an original and what is not. (Died 1997.)
  • Born May 29, 1952 Louise Cooper. She wrote more than eight works of fantasy and was best known for her Time Master trilogy. Most of her writing was in the YA market including the Sea Horses quartet and the Mirror, Mirror trilogy. (Died 2009.)
  • Born May 29, 1953 Danny Elfman, 66. Ok, pop quiz time. How many genre films can you name that he composed the music for? I came up with BeetlejuicePee-wee’s Big Adventure, Batman, Mars Attacks!Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns and the Men in Black films. And I’d forgotten he was in Oingo Boingo, a truly great pop band. 
  • Born May 29, 1958 Annette Bening, 61. Barbara Land in Mars Attacks!, Susan Anderson in What Planet Are You From?, and the Supreme Intelligence / Dr. Wendy Lawson in Captain Marvel
  • Born May 29, 1960 Adrian Paul, 59. Duncan MacLeod on Highlander. And yes, I watched the whole bloody series. His first appearance in genre circles was as Dmitri Benko in the “Ashes, Ashes” episode of the Beauty and the Beast series. He shows up next as Prospero in Masque of the Red Death. He’s got several series before Highlander, War of the Worlds (not bad at all) where he was John Kincaid, a short-lived role as Jeremiah Collins on Dark Shadows and an even shorter-lived rolled on Tarzán as Jack Traverse. His first post- Highlander Sf series is Tracker where he plays alien shapeshifter Cole / Daggon.  A decade ago, he returned to a familiar role in Highlander: The Source. His last series role was playing Dante on Arrow.  Note: this is not a complete list. 
  • Born May 29, 1987 Pearl Mackie, 32. Bill Potts, the companion to the Twelfth Doctor. The first openly gay companion in the history of the series. She’s got a podcast called Forest 404 which the BBC calls an “immersive sci-fi drama”.  And finally she’s in the BBC Radio’s The Conception of Terror: Tales Inspired by M. R. James as Mika Chantry. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio finds Gaiman fans in the most unexpected places.

(11) THESE ARE THE TOURISTS YOU’RE LOOKING FOR. Mashable thinks it’s going to work this way: “Stormtroopers will enforce four-hour time limit at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge”.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the $1-billion Disneyland attraction set to open May 31, will employ Stormtroopers to enforce a strict time limit on visitors. The Los Angeles Times reports that the four-hour rule is only one part of the park’s efforts to avoid overcrowding and a situation that feels as claustrophobic as being stuck in an Imperial trash compactor with a wookiee. 

During the first three weeks after opening, guests will be required to make reservations and wear colored wristbands that designate their time slot. Once that four hours expires, the Galactic Empire forces will escort visitors out in a way likely more polite than normal Stormtrooper protocol.

(12) AND TO THINK THAT I SAW IT ON AMAZON STREET. ComicMix’s Glenn Hauman sent the link because he doesn’t want Filers to miss a new literary work that navigates the space created by his legal victory over Doctor Seuss Enterprises: “Oh, That Book Of Chuck’s, Though!”

There’s really no way not to feel pioneering
when Chuck Tingle‘s collection makes us feel like cheering.
We hope DSE will not try now to state
that this was a market they could– penetrate.
Perhaps they have learned to keep their case shut.
You limit fair use… you’ll get slammed in the butt.

More details on Tingle’s website:

Have you ever considered how handsome a sentient, physically manifested state was? Or dreamed about traveling abroad and having a fling with some charismatic living continent? This love of locations is an erotic fantasy as old as time, and who better to bring it to life than the world’s greatest author, two-time Hugo Award finalist Dr. Chuck Tingle. 

(13) TECH TESTIMONY. Fast Company has assembled “An oral history of USB, the port that changed everything”: “Ajay Bhatt was struggling to upgrade his computer when he began to see the need for one plug to rule them all.”

AB: I didn’t get any positive response, so I decided to make a lateral move within the company to a sister group, and that’s when I started working for a gentleman named Fred Pollock. At that time, there were a handful of Intel Fellows in the company. These are the topmost technical folks at Intel. He’s an incredibly smart person and one of the top computer scientists. I spoke to him, and his view was, “I don’t know. You know what? Go convince yourself.” That’s all I needed. I needed somebody who would be open-minded enough to allow me to take this risk.

I didn’t just rely on him. I started socializing this idea with other groups at Intel. I talked to business guys, and I talked to other technologists, and eventually, I even went out and talked to Microsoft. And we spoke to other people who ultimately became our partners, like Compaq, DEC, IBM, NEC, and others.

Basically, I had to not only build a life inside the company, but we had to ally with people outside, and obviously, each company or each person that I spoke to had their own perspective on what it ought to be. One thing that was common was that everybody agreed that PCs were too hard to use and even hard to design around. Something had to be done, and that’s where it all began.

(14) MANHATTANHENGE. Wow, this is news to me! From the New York Times: “Manhattanhenge 2019: When and Where to Watch, If It’s Not Too Stormy”.

New Yorkers, get ready for another chance to marvel at Manhattanhenge.

For two days every spring and summer, the sunset lines up with Manhattan’s street grid, creating a gorgeous celestial spectacle. For a brief moment, the sun’s golden rays illuminate the city’s buildings and traffic with a breathtaking glow.

“It’s the best sunset picture of the year that you will have in this beautiful city,” Jackie Faherty, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History said to The Times in a 2017 interview. “Sometimes they call it the Instagram holiday.”

Manhattanhenge’s name is a homage to Stonehenge, the monument in England believed to have been constructed by prehistoric people and used in rituals related to the sun. During the summer solstice, the sunrise there is perfectly framed by its stone slabs.

… Some 200 years ago, the architects who created the plan for modern Manhattan decided to build it using a grid system with avenues that run north and south and streets east and west. That choice inadvertently set the stage for Manhattanhenge, according to Dr. Faherty.

(15) ONLY YOU CAN OUTRUN FOREST FIRES. Science Alert reports “Wild New Study Links Humans Walking Upright to Exploding Stars Millions of Years Ago “

It’s not as crazy as it sounds. According to a hypothesis astronomers have laid out in a new paper, the exploding stars at the end of their lives – supernovae – could have bathed Earth in cosmic radiation, beginning around 8 million years ago, and peaking around 2.6 million years ago.

This radiation would have ionised the lower atmosphere, likely resulting in an increase in cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. This, in turn, could have increased forest fires – eradicating the forests of Africa, where early humans are thought to have originated, and allowing the savannah to take their place.

You see, bipedal locomotion confers a number of advantages to human species, especially in the African savannah where height increases visibility.…

“Not as crazy as it sounds” – but maybe “not as convincing as you’d like,” too.

(16) HUGO FINALISTS. Garik16 continues with “Reviewing the 2019 Hugo Nominees: Best Novelette”.

In this post, I’ll be going over the nominees for Best Novelette.  Novellettes are defined by the Hugos as works between 7,500 and 17,500 words, so these are stories that can be read in a single sitting, although, they still require a little bit of time to do that (for the longer end stories).  I’m generally not the biggest reader of shorter fiction, so most of the nominees here were new to me (I’d only read 2 of the 6 nominated stories prior to the packet being released).  Still, I really enjoyed pretty much all of the nominees – so I think all of these six are award worthy, and choosing how to rank them was not particularly easy….

(17) BOOKSTORE BLUES. “WH Smith ‘worst’ retailer in UK, says Which? survey”.

WH Smith has been ranked the UK’s worst High Street retailer for the second year in a row, according to a Which? survey of 7,700 shoppers.

…The poll, which covered 100 retailers, rated the chain “very poor” for value for money and in-store experience.

Last week, outgoing boss Steve Clarke admitted it was an issue, telling the BBC it was the “most painful aspect of my job”.

He said for some stores, there was a trade-off between being profitable or redecorating.

(18) NOT ALL IN YOUR HEAD. BBC investigates “Why you shouldn’t trust your food cravings”.

…Most of us know what it feels like to experience food cravings. We usually crave higher calorie foods, which is why cravings are associated with weight gain and increased body mass index (BMI). But the story we tell ourselves about where these cravings come from could determine how easily we give into them.

It’s widely believed that cravings are our body’s way of signalling to us that we’re deficient in a certain nutrient – and for pregnant women, their cravings signal what their baby needs. But is this really true?

Much of the research into cravings has instead found that there are probably several causes for cravings – and they’re mostly psychological.

…There is evidence suggesting that the trillions of bacteria in our guts can manipulate us to crave, and eat, what they need – which isn’t always what our body needs.

This is because microbes are looking out for their own interests, says Athena Aktipis, assistant professor at Arizona State University’s department of psychology. And they’re good at doing this.

“The gut microbes that are best at surviving inside us end up being more frequent in the next generation. They have the evolutionary advantage of being better at affecting us in ways that get us to preferentially feed them,” she says.

(19) MOOD RING FOR MILLENNIALS? BGR: “Amazon reportedly developing a wearable that recognizes human emotions”. Mike Kennedy says, “I don’t think anything needs to be said past, ‘Gee, what could go wrong with that?’”

In its latest effort to be involved in every aspect of our lives, Amazon is reportedly working on a new voice-activated wearable device that is capable of recognizing human emotions. According to Bloomberg, the wearable will be worn on the wrist, like a watch, and is described as a health and wellness product in internal documents. Lab126, the team behind the Echo and Fire Phone, is working on the device alongside the Alexa voice team…

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In The Quintet of the Sunset on Vimeo, Jie Weng looks at how five cats, including Business Cat, Workout Cat, and Race Car Cat, view their owner.

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

2018 Novellapalooza

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ: I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading 31 of the novellas published in 2015, 35 of the novellas published in 2016, and 46 of the novellas published in 2017 (though a few of those were after Hugo nominations closed).

The result of this was the 2016 Novellapalooza and the 2017 Novellapalooza. I really felt as though I was able to do Hugo nominations for the novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

The success and popularity of novellas in the last 4 years seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas, with Tor.com, Subterranean Press, NewCon Press, PS Publishing, Book Smugglers, Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Tachyon bringing out a multitude of works, along with the traditional magazines Asimov’s, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Analog – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. By necessity, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis being of interest to me.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low. Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

I thought it would be helpful to have a thread where all the Filers’ thoughts on novellas are collected in one place, as a resource when Hugo nomination time rolls around. Which of these novellas have you read? And what did you think of them?

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included.

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2018 novellas which you’ve read, as well.

(Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)

Read more…

Readercon 29 Photos

Daniel Dern shares his pictures of guests, panelists and vendors who participated in Readercon 29 over the July 12-15 weekend.

GoH Nisi Shawl


More photos follow the jump.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 7/30/18 There Have Been Rumors About This Strange Scroll, Frightening Rumors About Hapennings Way Beyond The Laws of Nature

(1) FREE ELIZABETH BEAR BOOK. Joey Eschrich, Editor and Program Manager, Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University wants Filers to know they recently published We Have Always Died in the Castle, a free ebook featuring a near-future story about virtual reality by Elizabeth Bear. It also features a couple of stunning original illustrations by Melissa Gay.

Virtual reality technology is no longer confined to computer-science labs and high-tech theme parks. Today, head-mounted goggles, sensors, and haptic control systems are tools for immersive journalism, professional development, and clinical therapy. In this novella, award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Elizabeth Bear and artist Melissa Gay imagine a near future informed by visceral VR simulations to catalyze positive change.

We Have Always Died in the Castle is the first story in the Crowd Futures project from Arizona State University. An experiment in collaborative storytelling, Crowd Futures brings authors and illustrators into dialogue with members of an intellectually curious public to participate in the creative process by proposing scenarios, sharing ideas, weighing options, and navigating the uncertainties of our looming scientific and technological discoveries.

(2) ON THE RADIO. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie tells Filers when to tune in to BBC Radio 4.

Cowie says, “A slight shame this was not broadcast a couple of weekends ago as that would have been compensation for those of us who did not go to the Eurocon in Amiens, the home of Jules Verne”

  • Radio 4 Extra (a separate BBC radio channel supplementing Radio 4) will shortly see a programme on the comic Eagle [Wikipedia]. (But I don’t think they – BBC – have a web page for this prog yet). This was a mainstay for kids aged 8 to 12 in the 1960s wit a few SF related strips.  The most famous of which was Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future [Wikipedia].
  • The channel will also broadcast a related programme, a drama adaptation of the Dan Dare adventure Voyage to Venus (there is a page for it).

(3) ATTENTION ALL FILERS WHO HAVE $100K THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH. A rare Magic: The Gathering card (“Black Lotus from the original [Alpha] release”) has sold on eBay for $87,672 — not counting shipping of $125  There were “exactly 1,100 copies printed of every ‘rare’ card in the Alpha set” (Kotaku.com: “Rare Alpha Black Lotus Sells For $87,000”) and ghis one was graded as a 9.5/10. At this writing, another copy (graded 9/10) is listed on eBay for $100,000.

(4) ORDER A NORSE COURSE. Francesca Strait, in “Channel Your Inner Thor At This Viking Restaurant in Australia” on CNN.com, says that if you’re in Sydney or Melbourne, you can have a Viking feast at Mjølner restaurant, named after Thor’s hammer.

It might be thousands of miles from Scandinavia, but this Viking-themed restaurant offers a contemporary interpretation of Norse traditions Down Under.

Mjølner restaurant first originated in Sydney and there’s a recently opened outpost in Melbourne, named after Thor’s famous hammer.

Of course, Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, is a proud Aussie and featured in a recent Crocodile Dundee-themed tourism ad for Australia, so it’s only fitting the feasting halls of Asgard are being recreated in Oz.

(5) SEMI-FORGOTTEN HARD SCIENCE. James Davis Nicoll remembers when “When Ramjets Ruled Science Fiction”.

The classic Bussard ramjet novel is, of course, Poul Anderson’s Tau Zero. What was for other authors a convenient prop was one of the centerpieces of Anderson’s novel. The Leonora Christina sets out for Beta Virginis, a nearby star. A mid-trip mishap robs the ship of its ability to slow down. Repairs are impossible unless they shut down the ramjet, but if the crew did that, they would instantly be exposed to lethal radiation. There’s no choice but to keep accelerating and hope that the ship will eventually encounter a region in the intergalactic depths with a sufficiently hard vacuum so that the ramjet could be safely shut down. Even if they did find such a region, the crew is still committed to a journey of many millions of light years, one that will forever distance them from their own time.

Even before Tau Zero, Bussard ramjets were everywhere. Larry Niven’s A Gift From Earth feature an egregiously hierarchical society that is toppled thanks to a package delivered by robotic ramship. Jo Walton’s review of that novel is here.

(James Davis Nicoll also proudly notes, “I got name-checked in the Guardian” — “The English language reigns now, but look at the fate of Latin”.

The point is made graphically by a famous description attributed to James Nicoll: “We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary”.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 30 – Arnold Schwarzenegger, 71. Terminator franchise of courses as well as Running ManConan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer, Tales from the Crypt and True Lies. Apparently in sort of announced Conan and Terminator reboots.
  • Born July 30 – Christopher Nolan, 48. Writer, producer and often director as well of the Batman film franchise, The Prestige, Interstellar, Inception and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to name some of his work.

(7) HINTING UNDINTING. An utterly brilliant challenge on Reddit: In limerick form (AABBA), and without saying its name, what is your favorite movie?

There once was a man with a dream:
“Put a dream in a dream!” He would scream.
There’s a top at the end,
And we all pretend
That we definitely know what it means.

Two rockers were failing a class,
so they telephoned back to the past.
They escaped awful fates
with some help from Socrates,
and the speech by Abe Lincoln kicked ass.

(One commenter says the choice to rhyme fates and Socrates was excellent.)

It’s a tale that’s a bit unbelievable:
A princess is now irretrievable.
When a man all in black
Catches up from the back
The kidnapper says, “Inconceivable!”

(8) ARTIFICIAL STUPIDITY? “IBM’s Watson supercomputer recommended ‘unsafe and incorrect’ cancer treatments, internal documents show”STAT News has the story – behind a paywall, unfortunately.

Internal IBM documents show that its Watson supercomputer often spit out erroneous cancer treatment advice and that company medical specialists and customers identified “multiple examples of unsafe and incorrect treatment recommendations” as IBM was promoting the product to hospitals and physicians around the world.

The documents — slide decks presented last summer by IBM Watson Health’s deputy chief health officer — largely blame the problems on the training of Watson by IBM engineers and doctors at the renowned Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 30, 1958War Of The Colossal Beast enjoyed its New York theatrical premiere

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Monty illustrates one of the downsides of a writer using a coffee shop as free office space.
  • Non Sequitur explains when to accept defeat.
  • Would you admit your worst fear? — Candorville.

(11) ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK.

(12) POLITICAL DISCOURSE. One small step for man, one giant bleep for mankind. From the Washington Post — “Perspective What is Bigfoot erotica? A Virginia congressional candidate accused her opponent of being into it.”

Our weird political era just got a little hairier. For the first time, millions of Americans are asking, “What is Bigfoot erotica?”

That question has been inspired by Leslie Cockburn, a Democrat who’s running for Congress in Virginia’s 5th District. On Twitter this Sunday, Cockburn accused her Republican opponent, Denver Riggleman, of being a “devotee of Bigfoot erotica.” Her tweet included a crudely drawn image of Bigfoot — with the monster’s genitalia obscured — taken from Riggleman’s Instagram account. She added, “This is not what we need on Capitol Hill.”

…Chuck Tingle, the pseudonym of an author of comically absurd erotica, is perhaps the most well-known creator of monster porn, including about 10 books featuring encounters with Sasquatch. Reached via email, Tingle said he understands why Bigfoot monsters are so attractive as romantic heroes: “They are natural outdoorsmen .?.?. which I think is nice, and, even though it seems like they could have a bad-boy way, they are actually very kind.” He imagines his readers think, “Wow, he could protect me in a big fight, and he could also take me on a walk in nature and show me which are the best plants to kiss or to eat in a stew.”

“Such stories, he said, “prove love is real for all.”

Whether the voters of Virginia’s 5th District will agree is not clear

(13) A FUTURE TO AVOID. Ian Allen’s opinion piece “Inside the World of Racist Science Fiction” in the New York Times says “To understand why white supremacists back the president, we have to understand the books that define their worldview.” Andrew Porter sent the link with a note, “The article has a horrible title, bound to sow confusion. Absolutely nothing at all to do with professionally published science fiction, or SF fandom.” Just the same, I’m surprised I  never heard of any of these authors before.

Two years later — after Richard Spencer, after Charlottesville — the public has heard a lot about white supremacist culture. But I’d argue that we haven’t quite heard enough. To understand their ideologies and why they support this president so strongly, we need to examine their literature…..

Most of the books are self-published. Others are distributed by small, activist imprints or the publishing arms of white nationalist organizations. They are sold online, at gun shows or person to person. This scattershot distribution system makes it hard to track sales, but the more popular titles are estimated to have sold hundreds of thousands of copies. I acquired some out-of-print titles from rare book dealers.
They are dog-eared, annotated and often inscribed.

… White supremacists seem convinced that the novels’ “white genocide” is coming to life, and are petitioning Mr. Trump for help. This past spring, Andrew Anglin, the deeply sinister and darkly clever force behind Daily Stormer, the most Millennial-y neo-Nazi site on the web, started to spread the news of a “migrant caravan” that was moving through Central America, toward the United States-Mexico border. It was a protest march, organized by the Central American pro-immigration activist group Pueblo Sin Fronteras. The march has taken place every year since 2010 without ever getting much traction in the press.

But Mr. Anglin saw an opportunity in the implication of a literal enactment of [Jean Raspail’s 1973 novel] “The Camp of the Saints.” He rallied his troll army to petition Mr. Trump to use the word “caravans” publicly, and on April 1, he did. In fact, he and Vice President Mike Pence used the word multiple times, then issued an order to send the National Guard to the border. The story dominated the news cycle for days, and Mr. Anglin took a well-deserved victory lap, bragging that “the media was not talking about this, only the alt-right was, and Trump is posting about it — so he does hear us.”

…It is unlikely that Mr. Trump has read any of these books. But members of his staff undoubtedly have. His former aide Steve Bannon is a fan of “The Camp of the Saints” and refers to it often — in knowing, offhand ways that betray both his familiarity with racist literature and his awareness of his target audience’s reading habits. Another administration official, Julie Kirchner, was named ombudsman at the Customs and Border Protection after spending 10 years as the executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. That organization, which Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a hate group, was founded by John Tanton, who runs The Social Contract Press, which is the current publisher of “The Camp of the Saints.”

The point is not that there is a direct line between, say, “The Turner Diaries” and the Oval Office. Rather, it’s that the tropes that define the Trump administration’s rhetoric and policies — apocalyptic xenophobia, anti-Semitic conspiracies, racist fear-mongering — are also the tropes that define white-supremacist literature.

(14) EMISSION QUITE POSSIBLE. James Corden looks like he might lose it before they even get him on the plane —

[Thanks to JJ, Rick Moen, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern,Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Joey Eschrich, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 5/18/18 And Then The Pixels Began

(1) #2018NEBULAS. More from Grandmaster Peter S. Beagle’s reception.

(2) #2018NEBULAS PANEL LIVETWEET. All summed up here: “Thread by @sfwa: ‘Hello ! Panel live tweet starts NOW, with “How to fail gracefully,” with Michael Underwood, Carrie DiRisio, Vanessa Rose Phin, […]’”

(3) #2018NEBULAS LIVESTREAM. Really?

(4) SF EXHIBIT. Six Pasadena museums will open their doors on May 20, including the Pasadena Museum of History — “Free Day: 2018 Museums of the Arroyo Day at PMH”. Guess what you can see for free…

At PMH, delve into the worlds of science fiction in the multifaceted exhibition, Dreaming the Universe: The Intersection of Science, Fiction, & Southern California. The exhibit explores how the literary genre interacted with the advances of science, the changes in technology, and shifts in American society during five pivotal decades, the 1930s to the 1980s. Visitors will enjoy a fantastic array of vintage costumes and movie props, fantasy art and illustrations, original manuscripts, robotic toys, and fan gear.

(5) F&SF. Galactic Journey’s time traveler Gideon Marcus experienced an especially good day in 1963 — “[May 18, 1963] (June 1963 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”

Every so often, you get a perfect confluence of events that makes life absolutely rosy.  In Birmingham, Alabama, the segregationist forces have caved in to the boycott and marching efforts of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  Two days ago, astronaut Gordo Cooper completed a day-and-a-half in orbit, putting America within spitting distance of the Russians in the Space Race.  And this month, Avram Davidson has turned out their first superlative issue of F&SF since he took the editorial helm last year….

(6) ETERNAL FLAME. Michael Moorcock tells why Fahrenheit 451 endures: “The Truth of Ray Bradbury’s Prophetic Vision” at LitHub.

In the late 1960s my friend J. G. Ballard phoned me full of outrage. Feeling weighed down by the bad prose cluttering his study, he had dug a pit in his back garden and thrown his review copies in, splashing them with a little petrol. But they proved harder to burn than he thought, so he put one in the kitchen oven, which had a suitable thermometer, to test the igniting heat of book paper. “Bradbury was wrong!” he complained. “Fahrenheit 451 isn’t the temperature at which book paper burns!” But, I asked, hadn’t Bradbury phoned the Los Angeles Fire Department to get the temperature right?

“Well, they’re wrong, too!” announced Ballard, who admired Bradbury and whose own early Vermilion Sands stories echo Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. Ray Bradbury, he said, had shown him that science ?ction was worth writing.

…Although Bradbury obviously held up a mirror to the world so that it might see itself the better, I believe him when he claims that he was not setting out to do what Orwell did in 1984, nor even what Pohl and Kornbluth did in a later Galaxy serial “The Space Merchants.” Rather, like Philip K. Dick, he let his excellent instincts have their way. They told him what to put in while his taste told him what to leave out. He was doing what he had always done by letting the resonances in his own imagination determine the kind of story he told: Fahrenheit 451 remains as readable as when it was written, some sixty-odd years ago, thanks to Bradbury’s almost psychic sense of how the world works.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 18, 1962The Twilight Zone aired “I Sing The Body Electric,” an episode based on a story by the legendary Ray Bradbury. This served as the thirty-fifth episode for the program’s third season.

(8) HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Steven H Silver celebrates Jonathan Maberry’s natal day in his Black Gate column: “Birthday Reviews: Jonathan Maberry’s ‘Red Dreams’”.

Maberry won the 2007 Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel for Ghost Road Blues, which was also nominated for Best Novel. The next year he won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Nonfiction with David F. Kramer for their book The Cryptopedia: A Dictionary of the Weird, Strange & Downright Bizarre. In 2012, he won the Bram Stoker for Best Young Adult Novel for Dust & Decay, and again the following year for Flesh & Bone. In 2015, he shared a Bram Stoker Award for Best Graphic Novel with Tyler Crook for Bad Blood.

(9) SEND FOR MORE CANDLES. And Tor.com coincidentally (not) reposted Elizabeth Bear’s tribute “The Perfect Chaotic Worlds of Diane Duane on Duane’s birthday.

In all her genres, Diane Duane is one of my favorite writers.

She spreads her talents around, too. She writes in multiple genres and forms—scripts to novels, tie-ins to original fiction, young adult urban fantasy to historical fantasy to science fiction to second-world fantasy. And whether she’s writing Y.A., as with her Young Wizards series, or Star Trek media tie-ins, she always brings an inimitable playful voice and a startling sense of “Yes; that’s right; that’s just like people.” to her work.

(10) TESS SEES ITS FIRST LIGHT. Mashable headline: “First photo from NASA’s planet-hunting TESS satellite is full of stars”. The latest exoplanet-hunting satellite has begun opening it’s “eyes” and taken its first photos. Though still undergoing shakeout tests, these first photos from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite are nonetheless spectacular.

A new NASA telescope, sailing toward its assigned orbit, took a moment to look around before it starts its ultimate mission: searching the galaxy for alien planets.

NASA’s TESS spacecraft — short for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite — beamed home one of its first photos taken from space, and it’s a doozy.

The photo, which effectively amounts to a test of one of the satellite’s four cameras, contains more than 200,000 stars, NASA said.

But that’s only a fraction of the number of stars it will eventually study in order to find alien worlds out there circling them.

(11) NOT DEAD YET? ThinkProgress says a climate science NASA mission may not be completely dead. Time to visit Miracle Max: “Critical NASA program cut by Trump re-introduced in latest budget”.

The House Committee on Appropriations, which is responsible for overseeing NASA, voted on Thursday to approve $10 million in funding for a “climate monitoring system” intended to help the agency better “understand the major factors driving short and long term climate change.” In a unanimous vote, lawmakers gave the green light to an amendment in a 2019 spending bill mandating that NASA fund such a system, Science first reported Thursday.

…That system’s description sounds nearly identical to the Carbon Monitoring System (CMS), a $10 million-per-year program established to measure carbon dioxide and methane using satellite technology and similar mechanisms. The CMS has played a crucial role in the study of greenhouse gases, but last week the Trump administration confirmed that the program had ended after its funding was cut from the 2018 budget passed in March.

Now, it appears the CMS might be back from the dead — in everything but name.  The $62 billion 2019 CJS Appropriations bill approved on Thursday extends to a number of departments, including the Justice Department and numerous science-linked agencies, NASA among them.

“This bill invests our hard-earned tax dollars into the safety and security of our nation,” said Culberson [(R-TX), chair of the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee.], who went on to detail various elements within the legislation.

(12) WINNING WWII AGAIN. Cnet reports “Steven Spielberg making a DC movie, punching Nazis again”.

Fresh from squeezing Batman and other DC comics cameos into Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg is now taking on the real thing. The legendary director is set to make a movie based on DC’s fighter ace Blackhawk.

Like DC’s smash hit Wonder Woman, and Spielberg’s Indiana Jones movies, Blackhawk is a retro wartime story, this time about a squadron of aerial adventurers battling Nazis and supervillains in World War II. Blackhawk was created in 1941 by Bob Powell, Chuck Cuidera and comic book legend Will Eisner.

(13) VULCAN DINOS ON EARTH. Popular Science realizes these creatures can only come from one place – and it’s not Earth — “Green bones, green hearts, can’t lose: these lizards survive with toxic green blood”.

Several species of New Guinea lizards seem to be from Vulcan, what with having green blood and all. But unlike Mr. Spock, their blood isn’t based on copper… they’ve evolved to tolerate a blood breakdown produce called biliverdin (which marks both jaundice and the sometimes spectacular green color of a bruise) at levels that would be fatal to a human.

In the forests of New Guinea, lizards scurry around with green bones, green hearts, green tongues, and green blood. At least six species share this enigmatic trait, which didn’t originate from one bizarre mutation but evolved four different times, according to new research in Science Advances.

These lizards have green insides because their bile carries super high levels of a deadly compound called biliverdin, the product of old red blood cells. People make the same pigment—you can see it when you get a gnarly, green-tinged bruise—but our livers filter it from our blood. Trace amounts of biliverdin cause jaundice, a disease common in infants and adults with liver failure. The levels found in these lizards would kill us. But for these lizards, well, it sure is easy being green.

(14) MAKE EVERY MOVIE A DEADPOOL SEQUEL. Adweek found out how to do it: “Here’s the Story Behind Deadpool’s Incredible Blu-ray Takeover at Walmart”.

When a display of Blu-rays, with each covered photobombed by Deadpool, popped up this week at Walmarts across the country, we had more questions that we had answers.

Who had created this amazing in-store activation, and how did such a sweeping takeover—entailing new, customized cover sleeves for The Terminator, Predator, Office Space, Fight Club and many more—come about?

Well, now we know. The short answer is that it was a collaboration between the in-house teams at Fox Home Entertainment and Los Angeles creative agency Neuron Syndicate, which designed the covers….

(15) CYBORGASM. Stephen Colbert reviews the latest news about robots in a Late Show comedy segment.

Google demonstrated its new Google Duplex, an A.I. assistant that can have realistic conversations with humans. But what happens when they talk to each other?

 

(16) REAL STINKERS. The finalists in the 2018 Lyttle Lytton Contest, which seeks the worst first sentence ever, have been posted. This year’s winner of the “found division” is:

The atmospheric molecules that filled the Rose Bowl were in full vibration as kickoff approached.

Ryan McGee, espn.com, 2017.0915
quoted by Ryan S.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/6/17 Surely You’re Scrolling, Mr. Fileman

(1) ANOTHER MASTERPIECE OF CONRUNNING. Mothership says Akiba Town, held this weekend in Singapore and which markets itself as a “Japanese culture event bringing in official anime merchandise along with fan artists and guest cosplayers” — was a mess: “S’pore-organised cosplay event riddled with multiple problems, slammed by cosplay community”. It changed venues a week before the event, allowed stolen artwork to be sold as official merchandise, oversold vendor space, and the list goes on….

(2) A STELLAR GATHERING IN SCANDINAVIA. Sff authors and editors outside The English Bookshop, Uppsala, Sweden:

Front: Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Amal el-Mohtar, Likhain, Ann Leckie, Jo Walton, Fran Wilde, Vivian Shaw, Arkady Martine (Dr. AnnaLinden Weller), Patrick Nielsen Hayden.

Back: Amanda Downum, Max Gladstone, Ada Palmer, Elizabeth Bear, Scott Lynch.

(3) CANADA’S BIRTHDAY PARTY BUGS SOME PEOPLE. It’s one thing to have bats in your belfry – quite another to have a giant spider: “Ottawa archbishop surprised by negative reaction to robotic spider on cathedral”.

The spider, named Kumo, is one of two giant robots created by a street theater company of artists, technicians and performers based in Nantes, France. The company, La Machine, was in Ottawa July 27-30 as part of celebrations marking Canada’s 150th birthday.

The spectacle of robots, music and other special effects drew tens of thousands to Ottawa’s downtown.

The show opened July 27 in the evening, with Kumo “waking up” to organ music from inside the cathedral. As the spider, suspended from cranes, climbed off its perch between the towers, “snow” fell from above as part of the event’s special effects.

“I don’t understand how allowing a mechanical spider to stand on the cathedral is anything but disturbing, disappointing and even shameful,” wrote Diane Bartlett on the archbishop’s Facebook wall.

…Archbishop Terrence Prendergast said he was surprised by the negative reaction to an artistic initiative after critics called the spider’s placement “sacrilegious,” “demonic,” and “disrespectful” of a sacred space.

“My cathedral staff and I anticipated that some … might object, but thought it would be minimal, as nothing demeaning was intended in the spider being near the church,” said the archbishop in an email interview with Canadian Catholic News.

“I regret that we had not sufficiently understood that others would see this event so differently. I say to those who were shocked that I understand that this would have been upsetting for them and that I regret that a well-intentioned effort to cooperate in a celebration was anything but that for them.”

(4) MY NAME IS…JACK. A nine-year-old “guardian of the galaxy” has applied to NASA for the Planetary Protection Officer job which was discussed here the other day.

(5) SUMMERTIME. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler says a Fritz Leiber story is the saving grace in a stinker issue of IF — “[August 6, 1962] Bookkends (September 1962 IF Worlds of Science Fiction)”.

So in this languorous time, about the only consistent pasttime I can enjoy, aside from my records, is the ever-growing pile of stf (scientifiction, natch) magazines.  One of the ones I look forward to is IF, which, if it is not always stellar, usually has a few items of interest.  This month, the September 1962 issue has a lot of lousy stories, and editor Pohl cunningly placed the best one in front so as to dull the impact of the sub-par stuff that follows.  But the last tale is a fine reprise of the first, quality-wise.  See if you agree:

A famous author and actor, Leiber’s works often approach sublimity.  This is one of them, combining both beautiful prose and cutting edge science fiction….

(6) A TO Z. When yesterday’s Scroll said a website had picked an sf author for every letter of the alphabet – all male — Karl-Johan Norén immediately set about balancing the books with his own alphabetical list of 26 influential sf authors – all women:

A Eleanor Arnason

B Leigh Brackett

C C. J. Cherryh

D Pamela Dean

E Carol Emshwiller

F C.S. Friedman

G Mary Gentle

H Nalo Hopkinson

I Jean Ingelow

J Shirley Jackson

K Katharine Kerr

L Megan Lindholm

M Judith Merrill

N Andre Norton

O Octavia Butler

P Meredith Ann Pierce

Q Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

R Joanna Russ

S Mary Shelley

T James Tiptree, jr.

U Ursula K Le Guin

V Joan Vinge

W Kate Wilhelm

X Xia Jia

Y Jane Yolen

Z Marion Zimmer Bradley

(7) DISABLED HAVE GRIEVANCE WITH A LONDON COMICON. The Guardian reports “Young adult literature convention under fire over disabled facilities”.

Authors who appeared at the YALC young adult literature convention over the weekend, including Alex Wheatle and Joanne Harris, have spoken out about what they feel was a lack of disabled facilities at the event. Their complaints centre on the sequestering of one of two disabled toilets for the use of celebrities attending the associated Comicon festival on a lower floor.

Organisers of the event, tied to the London Film and Comic Convention (Comicon) at Olympia in London, were accused by one visitor of “ablism” after wheelchair users ended up squeezing into busy lifts and negotiating crowds to reach accessible toilets on the Comicon floor.

Actor and playwright Athena Stevens, who has cerebral palsy, described organiser Showmasters’ decision to rope off one of the facilities for famous figures attending Comicon – including Benedict Cumberbatch – as “ablist”….

Disabled charity Scope said that defining “reasonable” provision of toilet facilities was a grey area under the Disability Discrimination Act, but it did seem that Showmasters had shown a disregard for their disabled attendees over access to them.

Showmasters, however, denied claims that accessible facilities were unavailable on the same floor as the literary festival, which attracted 40,000 visitors, but acknowledged problems on Saturday. “There were two disabled toilets on that floor, and one was behind the green room wall,” he said. Overcrowding at lunchtime on Saturday had meant that wheelchair users were forced to use facilities on another floor, a spokesman conceded, but not for the whole weekend. Showrunners will consult disabled people to ensure there was no repetition of the problem, he added.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 6, 1996 A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin is released.
  • August 6, 2003 — Asteroids renamed to honor final Shuttle Columbia crew

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born August 6, 1934 — Piers Anthony
  • Born August 6, 1970 – Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan

(10) OH, SWEET SUMMER CHILD. Where’s the prestige in writing cheap books? The Guardian listens as “Philip Pullman leads writers condemning ‘pernicious’ book discounts”.

With more than two months to go before Philip Pullman’s long-awaited new novel from the world of His Dark Materials is published, pre-orders have sent La Belle Sauvage flying up bestseller lists. But with booksellers already slashing the cover price in half, the award-winning author has spoken out about how cheap books devalue the experience of reading, and called for an end to the “pernicious” doctrine of “market fundamentalism” if literary culture is to survive.

Pullman is president of the Society of Authors, which is launching a campaign for publishers to stop damaging authors’ earnings by discounting bulk sales to book clubs and supermarkets, and has slammed the cut-price culture in his trade.

“I don’t like it when I see my books sold cheaply,” Pullman said. “But I’d like to think I’m speaking on behalf of all authors who are caught in this trap. It’s easy to think that readers gain a great deal by being able to buy books cheaply. But if a price is unrealistically cheap, it can damage the author’s reputation (or brand, as we say now), and lead to the impression that books are a cheap commodity and reading is an experience that’s not worth very much.”

(11) A MISS IS AS GOOD AS A MILE. “That’s one small step for Tallinn…”: driverless bus service gets through first three days with “no major incidents”: “‘No major incidents’ as driverless buses launch in Estonia”

A pair of vehicles are operating on a route through the city as part of the Baltic state’s presidency of the European Union, and have so far managed not to collide with any other road users, national broadcaster ERR reports.

But there have been a number of near misses since the launch on Saturday, ERR says. An eyewitness reports that one of the buses failed to give way to a police car with its lights flashing on Monday; while an ERR photographer saw a bus ignore a red light at a pedestrian crossing, ploughing on regardless of the “surprise” it had provoked.

Despite no-one driving, local traffic law means that there still has to be a responsible person on board, meaning that all passengers are greeted by a host. They’ve been tasked with explaining the technology to passengers new to the world of autonomous vehicles, ERR says.

(12) AVOID BEING A STARVING ARTIST. Brad R. Torgersen’s seven items of writing advice in “Random crumbly bits of author stuff” end with —

7) So don’t quit your damned day job. Seriously. Do. Not. Quit. Your. Day. Job. It sucks trying to write full-time and work full-time. It sucks more not paying bills and being forced out of your house or your apartment. It sucks even more depending on the good will of your relatives, or your church, or government programs. If I had $10 for every embarrassed pauper author who proudly proclaimed, “I am a full-time writer, so fuck you,” and then (s)he went back to begging for lunch money, I wouldn’t have to work anymore. Starving artistry is not a holy calling. Really, it’s not. I know I am gonna get burned at the stake for saying it. But seriously, do not check out of the “mundane” work force. Not unless you’ve got a metric ton of dough in the bank, or you’ve got a spouse who eagerly volunteers to carry the mundane load — while you labor at the desk in the attic. But if you’ve got responsibilities to meet, and mouths to feed, please, meet them and feed them. As Steven Barnes said at Norwescon ’07, suffering for your art may be noble, but making your family suffer for your art, just means you’re an asshole.

(13) INHUMANS. In this“Marvel’s Inhumans” clip, Maximus and Medusa face off.

(14) YOUTUBE ARCHEOLOGY. Today I discovered there’s a whole subgenre of YouTube videos which take the musical intros to famous TV series and swap in visuals from Star Trek. I admire the effort, although they’re rarely funny. I found this one from 2008 to be somewhat amusing — it starts with the advantage that the original A-Team intro included a lot of self-referential humor.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/9/17 Silver Threads And Golden Pixels Cannot Mend This Scroll of Mine

(1) WHAT I READ. Mary Robinette Kowal sent several tweets prodding reviewers to do better assessments:

When seeking reviews to link here, I’ve been surprised at how very many people start off with brilliantly written story summaries — then the review promptly ends, with very little having been said about what the writer accomplished or what the story adds to the genre.

(2) TOO MANY WORDS. But those reviews we’re complaining about above look like gems beside the work of The Literate Programmer at A Literate Programmer’s Blog who posted his “Hugo Awards – Best Novella” rankings with a confession –

…With the voting deadline for the Hugos coming up on the 15th, I decided that I wouldn’t have the time to read all the books in their entirety, and would instead just read far enough to get a feel for the style….

So I began once again working my way up to the novels, this time reading the novellas….

This Census-Taker by China Miéville was the first of the novellas I dug into. …However, the story definitely has a strange and slow start, so it was easy to move on….

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson sets up a nice inversion right from the beginning…. I didn’t finish it yet, but I expect it to take a rather darker turn eventually, tough not entirely too dark….

Then I picked up Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire and didn’t put it back down until I was done. …

Victor LaValle wrote the other novella I finished in its entirety, The Ballad of Black Tom

The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe is another take on Lovecraft… Definitely something I will finish, as I want to know what happens to Vellit….

Last but not least comes Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold. I like what I’ve read so far and it’s entertaining …

Someone else might have spent the time it took to write this post on, oh, I don’t know, reading the rest of these novellas before voting?

(3) BOOK JENGA. Walter Jon Williams describes the “Tower of Dreams”.

So the other night I dreamed I was in the Tower of Definitive Editions, a giant structure literally built from the definitive editions of every book ever written.  There was some kind of mechanism that would pluck the book that you wanted from the structure without either damaging the book or destabilizing the tower.  (Maybe it stuffed the hole with John Grisham novels or something.)

(4) DON’T LET THE DOOR BANG YOUR BUTT. Tony B. Kim at Crazy4ComiCon does not sympathize with what he calls “Mile High Comics breakup letter to San Diego Comic-Con” by owner Chuck Rozanski. Kim devotes several paragraphs mocking him as a “dinosaur” in “Comic-Con has changed and it sucks…”.

I cringe whenever I hear someone say that ‘the show has changed’ in a negative context. The show hasn’t just changed, the world has changed and certainly no one has felt it more than the publishing industry. We all know change is hard but writing letters and blaming everyone else for your business woes sounds like an entitled kid that wants to take his ball and go home. Chuck had 4 1/2 decades of pursuing what he loved and built one of the most noteable shops in history- hashtag #FirstNerdWorldProblems. I want good men and companies like Chuck and Mile High to win and get the respect they deserve. No doubt he has paid his dues and has committed his life to providing comics to a legion of adoring fans. My hope is that he and his business continues to grow each year without relying on Comic-Con business. However, after his letter, I won’t shed a tear for him and I hope Comic-Con International doesn’t either. Chuck, just go to the island, Chris Pratt will be along shortly to welcome you.

(5) JUST A LITTLE SMACK. Will this work? “Nasa to send asteroid away from Earth by firing a bullet at it in attempt to save the Earth from future strikes”.

The agency has laid out the plans for its DART mission – where it will send a space capsule the size of a fridge towards an asteroid to shoot it off course. For now, the mission is just a test, but in the future it could be used to save Earth from what scientists say is an underappreciated threat from asteroids.

The mission has now been approved by Nasa and will move into the preliminary design phase, getting ready for testing in a few years.

“DART would be NASA’s first mission to demonstrate what’s known as the kinetic impactor technique – striking the asteroid to shift its orbit – to defend against a potential future asteroid impact,” said Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This approval step advances the project toward an historic test with a non-threatening small asteroid.”

DART’s target is an asteroid that will pass by Earth in 2022, and come back two years later. More specifically, it’s actually two asteroids: a binary system called Didymos B made up of a larger and a smaller rock.

It’s the smaller one that Nasa will try and knock off course. But by using a binary system, scientists will be able to check with more accuracy how well their test has worked.

(6) KEEPING THE STEAM IN SELF-ESTEEM. Jon Del Arroz says 80% of the people responding to his survey recommended he not join SFWA. So our genre’s leading concern troll has worked up a list of what needs to be fixed. With SFWA, that is.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The Twilight Zone episode, “A Penny for your Thoughts,” written by George Clayton Johnson was shopped around as a series where each episode would have a different cast experiencing the ability to read minds.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 9, 1982 TRON premiered on this day.

(9) CLASSIC ROCHE. Next year’s Worldcon chair Kevin Roche makes a fashion statement in this (public) photo on Facebook.

(10) SOLO ACT. ScreenRant evaluates Ron Howard’s latest news-free tweet.

While Howard’s tweet is amusing, it’s realistic to think that at some point Star Wars fans will grow tired of non-news “news” from the Han Solo set. Since Howard is relatively new to the project, perhaps he doesn’t feel comfortable sharing anything from a film that he hasn’t really taken ownership of yet, his presumably strict NDA aside. Hopefully, that time will come once he not only completes principal photography but the five weeks of reshoots which were previously budgeted into production. Only then will Howard be able to help shape the tone and vision that Han Solo co-writer Lawrence Kasdan originally intended.

(11) DRAGON QUEEN. TIME Magazine’s Daniel D’Addario, in “Emilia Clarke on Why Dragons Are Daenerys’ True Love on Game of Thrones”, has a lengthy interview with Emilia Clarke where she says “I’m five-foot nothing, I’m a little girl” and adds that she thought she would be sacked from Game of Thrones because it was her first job out of drama school and she felt insecure.

(12) FIGHTING WORDS. Jonathan Cook, in “Wonder Woman is a hero only the military-industrial complex could create” on Mondoweiss, says the heroine is “carefully purposed propaganda designed to force-feed aggressive Western military intervention, dressed up as humanitarianism, to unsuspecting audiences.”

My reticence to review the film has lifted after reading the latest investigations of Tom Secker and Matthew Alford into the manifold ways the U.S. military and security services interfere in Hollywood, based on a release of 4,000 pages of documents under Freedom of Information requests.

In their new book “National Security Cinema,” the pair argue that the Pentagon, CIA and National Security Agency have meddled in the production of at least 800 major Hollywood movies and 1,000 TV titles. That is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg, as they concede:

“It is impossible to know exactly how widespread this military censorship of entertainment is because many files are still being withheld.”

(13) BIG PACIFIER THEORY. Baby’s first quantum-mechanics book: “Something New For Baby To Chew On: Rocket Science And Quantum Physics”.

The books introduce subjects like rocket science, quantum physics and general relativity — with bright colors, simple shapes and thick board pages perfect for teething toddlers. The books make up the Baby University series — and each one begins with the same sentence and picture — This is a ball — and then expands on the titular concept.

In the case of general relativity: This ball has mass.

But some of the topics Ferrie covers are tough for even grown-ups to comprehend. (I mean, quantum physics? Come on.)

(14) SLOW DEATH. A Ghost Story may be too slow for some: “Grief Hangs Around At Home In ‘A Ghost Story'”.

I should mention that the film is virtually without plot, so it requires some patience. Major stars and that title notwithstanding, A Ghost Story is not a Saturday-night date movie. More a provocative art film in the European sense. Though barely 87 minutes, it unfolds in long, static shots, most of them without faces to hang onto. It’s almost a film without genre, and by the end it’s become a story untethered from time itself.

(15) A SERIOUS HARRY HABIT. The 100,000 UKP Potter habit: “Harry Potter fan from Cardiff spends £100K on memorabilia”.

Her collection features posters, scarves in the house colours, broomsticks and the official Harry Potter magazines – with the memorabilia costing more than £40,000.

The rest has been spent travelling to Orlando in Florida to the film studios and more recently to Harry Potter World in both London and America.

(16) AVAST ME HEARTIES. Davidoff of Geneva is sold out of the pen and letter opener set shown here, but they have plenty of other golden loot they would love to sell you.

(17) ANOTHER AMAZON PRODUCT. Brazil gets into horror: “The Blair Witches of Brazil”.

Their titles practically shriek at you: Night of the Chupacabras, When I Was Alive, The Necropolis Symphony. Right away you can guess that these are films you might need to watch through your fingers, tales of horror to quicken the heart. But you might not know where they’re from. Step aside Carmen Miranda and The Girl from Ipanema, these frightfests are from Brazil.

(18) NOT GOING APE OVER THIS ONE. The BBC is disappointed by War for the Planet of the Apes.

The first point to make about War for the Planet of the Apes is that it isn’t actually about a war. There are a couple of Skirmishes for the Planet of the Apes and one brief Battle for the Planet of the Apes, but the all-out humans-v-hairies conflict that the title promises is nowhere to be seen. And that’s one reason why the film, for all of its technical wizardry and daring solemnity, is a let-down.

(19) GOOD NIGHT. Next year’s CONvergence GoH Elizabeth Bear signs off from this year’s con:

(20) LAST WORD. John Hertz is never impressed when I use idioms as I please.

(21) DARTH HOMER. Here’s a selection of YouTube videos in which Darth Vader is voiced variously by Clint Eastwood, Nicholas Cage and Arnold Schwarzenegger. John King Tarpinian declares the Homer Simpson version to be the funniest.

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