Pixel Scroll 2/23/19 So Come On, Come On, Scroll The Pixellation With Me

(1) MCINTYRE HEALTH UPDATE. Vonda McIntyre, one of sff’s most loved figures, is seriously ill. A Caringbridge page has been started: “Vonda N.’s Story”.

Vonda spent much of Seattle’s snow week at Swedish Hospital with jaundice and some vertigo, having many tests. The test results are in now, and the news is not good. The diagnosis is inoperable metastatic pancreatic cancer. Her doctor said it isn’t stupid to hope for a year, but it could be less. She’ll probably be getting treatment that may or may not slow things down, no way to know for sure.

(2) #COPYPASTECRIS. Nora Roberts tells some things she’s learned about plagiarists and people scamming Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited author revenue system in “Not a Rant, but a promise”.

The count of my books lifted from is now five. And the count of writers victimized has gone up.

I’m getting one hell of an education on the sick, greedy, opportunistic culture that games Amazon’s absurdly weak system. And everything I learn enrages me.

There are black hat teams, working together, who routinely hire ghosts on the cheap, have them throw books together, push them out–many and fast–to make money, to smother out competition from those self-pubbed writers who do their own work. Those who do their own work can’t possibly keep up with the volume these teams produce by these fraudulent tactics.

They tutor others how to scam the system….

(3) A WHIRLWIND OF FANAC. Joe Siclari of Fanac.org reports “We’ve been getting a lot done, and last weekend we had a particularly productive Boskone.” 

At Boskone, the FANAC scanning station scanned almost 2000 pages of material. Scanning by Mark Olson, Edie Stern and Joe Siclari. History-minded fans stopped by and provided material (thanks Geri Sullivan!), and promised more. We have promises of photos and fanzines, and have already received a historical recording from Fred Lerner, and new scanning hardware too. 

The zines scanned at Boskone will be so marked in the index pages of the title, so you can see what we did. So far, we have put online about 850 pages of it.  So far from the Boston scanning we’ve put up issues of George Locke’s Smoke, Richard Bergeron’s Warhoon, Charles Lee Riddle’s Peon, Don Miller’s WSFA Journal, the Coulsons’ Yandro and brown and Katz’s Focal Point.

They can all be accessed from the Classic Fanzines List. More issues will be forthcoming. 

(4) RIGHT IN THE EYE. How would you like to go out this way? From NPR: “NOAA Researcher’s Ashes Were Dropped Into The Eye Of Hurricane Michael”.

Last fall, as Hurricane Michael was swirling toward the Florida panhandle, NOAA officials say it was carrying something in addition to rain and wind — the ashes of long-time hurricane researcher, Michael Black. Black was a research meteorologist who worked at the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory on Virginia Key, just across the bridge from downtown Miami.

He was a pioneer in the use of dropwindsondes — small measuring devices dropped from airplanes that record wind speed, air pressure, temperature and humidity.

In 1997, on a mission flying through Hurricane Guillermo in the Pacific, he had an audacious idea. Why not drop some dropwindsondes — sometimes called dropsondes — directly into the eyewall of a hurricane?

NOAA research meteorologist Stan Goldenberg, who worked with Michael Black for more than two decades, recalls that flight with Black 21 years ago: “I remember the excitement we felt at seeing these winds and knowing these ‘sondes’ could handle it.” Black’s idea suddenly provided hurricane researchers with an important new data tool.

(5) PARSEC AWARDS. Bruce Press will step down as chair of the Parsec Awards Committee if he can find somebody to take his place. The sff podcast awards organizers have been reeling since December, when four 2018 Parsec Awards winners declined because the committee sustained the decision to give an award an alleged harasser. Today Press sent this statement to his distribution list:

After a pretty grueling 2018 for the committee, we were taking a bit of a breather to get our collective heads together.

We very much want to get trophies out to winners who want them, but we are without funds having done absolutely no fundraising in 2018. Our lack of resources is due to lack of resources. So, that’s item 1.

Item 2 is our perennial problem of manpower and leadership. The committee is severely short-staffed. We hoped to grow by creating sub-committee’s like ceremony and fundraising. However, it turns out that takes leadership and we only had me.

Item 3 is me. While item 2 might have been enough reason alone, I have some really good personal reasons to step down as committee chair. The timing of this is not ideal, but life rarely operates on a convenient schedule. Like previous chairs, I am not immediately leaving the committee.

So, here’s what I’m asking. If you think you have what it takes to lead. If you have a plan and can execute it. Whether overall, ceremony or fundraising. Send us an email parsecawards@gmail.com.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 23, 1896 –Tootsie Roll introduced
  • February 23, 1935 The Phantom Empire starred Gene Autry, it was an SF musical western.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 23, 1564 Christopher Marlowe. Author of Doctor Faustus (or The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus. Look, ISFDB lists him, so he must be genre. More to the point Elizabeth Bear made him a character in her Stratford Man series which is Ink and Steel and Hell and Earth novels which is highly recommended. If you’ve not read them, the Green Man review is here. (Died 1593.)
  • Born February 23, 1930 Gerry Davis. Mid-Sixties Story Editor on Doctor Who where he created companion Jamie McCrimmon and co-created the Cybermen along with unofficial scientific adviser Dr. Kit Pedler. They would create the Doomwatch series in the Sixties on BBC. Davis briefly returned to writing for Doctor Who, penning the first script for Revenge of the Cybermen though his script was largely abandoned by editor Robert Holmes. In 1989 he and Terry Nation who created the Daleks made a failed bid to take over production of the series and reformat it for the American market. (Died 1991.)
  • Born February 23, 1932 Majel Barrett. No doubt best remembered for being  Nurse Christine Chapel and Lwaxana Troi as well as for being the voice of most ship computer interfaces throughout the Star Trek series. I’ll note that she was originally cast as Number One in the unused (TOS) Pilot but the male studio heads hated the idea of a female in that role. Early Puppies obviously. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 23, 1965 Jacob Weisman, 54. Founder, Tachyon Publications which you really should go look at as they’ve published every great author I’d care to read. Seriously Tidhar, Beagle and Yolen are among their newest releases! He also edited (with Beagle) The New Voices of Fantasy which I highly recommend as most excellent reading.
  • Born February 23, 1970 Marie-Josée Croze, 49. Bibiane Champagne In Maelström which is genre if only because it’s narrated by a talking fish. In Canada movie theatres, she was in Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 as Mara. Yeah, that film with a long title. Doubt it improved it.  It looks like her first genre acting was on The Hunger in two episodes, in “A Matter of Style” as Dominique and in “I’m Dangerous Tonight” as Mimi. Oh, and she had the lead as Pregnant Woman in Ascension which just looks weird.
  • Born February 23, 1994 Dakota Fanning, 25. Genre roles include Sally Walden in The Cat in the Hat which is on my worst films of all time list, Katie In Hansel and Gretel, Rachel Ferrier In War of the Worlds which, errr, is on the same list, and as the voice of Fern Arable In Charlotte’s Web which is brilliant.
  • Born February 23, 2002 Emilia Jones, 17. I’m reasonably sure this is the youngest Birthday I’ve done. At nine years of age, she’s made her acting debut in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides as English Girl. She’s Young Beth in the horror film Ghostland. She shows up on Doctor Who as Merry Gejelh in the “The Rings of Akhaten”, an Eleventh Doctor story. She’s currently in Residue, an SF horror series you can find on Netflix. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range shows the monstrous side of photography.

(10) CRITICAL FAVORITES. On the Strange at Ecbatan blog Rich Horton is working through his Hugo recommendations.

Of these stories – none of which would disappoint me if they won the Hugo – my four favorites, in no particular order, are…

2.       David Gerrold and Ctein, “Bubble and Squeak” – About a gay couple, hoping to get married, who have their plans interrupted by a tsunami heading to Los Angeles, and who have to find a way to get to higher ground – and, as it turns out, help a bunch of others as well. It’s simply terrifically exciting, involving a plausible mix of heroism, foolishness, brutality, luck, and intelligence, on their part and others, as they struggle to find a way to a safe place, and as various options are closed off over time.

4.       Kelly Robson, “Intervention” (Infinity’s End) — A very intelligent story about child rearing in a heavily inhabited future Solar System. The narrator is from Luna, where creche work is socially frowned upon, so she leaves to work on an asteroid-based creche – and then later gets a chance to work on a bid to reform Luna’s failing creche system. This is just really interesting social speculation; and the characters are also very solidly portrayed, very honest.

5.       Karen Russell, “Orange World” (The New Yorker, 6/4/18) – An older first time mother is driven to make a deal with a literal devil to save the life of her child, and only the intervention of her support group allows her to cope … Really well written, really convincing.

(11) STAR WARS WRAPS. Entertainment Tonight did a red carpet interview of “J.J. Abrams on Wrapping ‘Star Wars: Episode IX’ and Bringing Back Lando (Exclusive)” (video).

(12) DOLLARS AND SENSE. Alasdair Stuart’s The Full Lid for February 22 includes a wryly-named commentary on cancelled cable sff shows – “Boulevard of Broken Streams.”

Netflix have done what Thanos couldn’t; wiped out an entire section of the Marvel universe. It was announced this week that The Punisher is done with season 2 and Jessica Jones with season 3. That will air later this year and be the swan song for a five (and a half) show mini-universe.

My feelings about this are, to mis-quote the best line in the entire Mission: Impossible franchise, complicated.

For a start there’s the Rat King of fan speculation and business practice to try and untie. We can all clap as loud as we want, the shows were never going to the Disney streaming platform because that platform has to aim for the widest possible audience. It’s also almost certainly what raised the renewal costs for the shows beyond practical. So, rationally, this all makes sense. It’s annoying, but it does make sense….

(13) PATIENCE, GRASSHOPPER. And here I thought it was a disaster of Biblical proportions: “What An Insect Can Teach Us About Adapting To Stress”.

What if we told you that you could learn a lot about handling adversity from the life of a bug? In their explorations of humans and how we interact with the world around us, the team that makes NPR’s Invisibilia stumbled on a surprising fact about the insect world — one that could inspire a new way of looking at ourselves.

The epic destruction wrought by swarms of locusts is downright biblical. Exodus tells of a plague that left nothing green in all of Egypt, and we’ve seen these harbingers of destruction at work in modern day Australia, Argentina and Israel, just to name a few. But for centuries, one essential piece of information about these strange insects eluded scientists: Where do they come from?

These massive swarms just seemed to pop up out of nowhere, decimate everything and then vanish.

(14) GRIND YOUR GOGGLES INTO PLOWSHARES. NPR reports “Microsoft Workers Protest Army Contract With Tech ‘Designed To Help People Kill'”.

Microsoft workers are calling on the giant tech company to cancel its nearly $480 million U.S. Army contract, saying the deal has “crossed the line” into weapons development by Microsoft for the first time. They say the use of the company’s HoloLens augmented reality technology under the contract “is designed to help people kill.”

In a letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Brad Smith, the workers also say the company is failing to inform its engineers “on the intent of the software they are building.”

The November contract is for what’s called an Integrated Visual Augmentation System.

“The contract’s stated objective is to ‘rapidly develop, test, and manufacture a single platform that Soldiers can use to Fight, Rehearse, and Train that provides increased lethality, mobility, and situational awareness necessary to achieve overmatch against our current and future adversaries,’ ” the letter said.

(15) KNOCKING THE COMPETITION. A Business Insider reporter was there: “Jeff Bezos just gave a private talk in New York. From utopian space colonies to dissing Elon Musk’s Martian dream, here are the most notable things he said.”

• Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, gave a talk to a members-only event at the Yale Club in New York on Tuesday. 

• During the 30-minute lecture, Bezos said his private aerospace company, Blue Origin, would launch its first people into space aboard a New Shepard rocket in 2019. 

• Bezos also questioned the capabilities of a space tourism competitor, Virgin Galactic, and criticized the goal of Elon Musk and SpaceX to settle Mars with humans. 

• Ultimately, Bezos said he wants Blue Origin to enable a space-faring civilization where “a Mark Zuckerberg of space” and “1,000 Mozarts and 1,000 Einsteins” can flourish. 

• Bezos advised the crowd to hold a powerful, personal long-term vision, but to devote “the vast majority of your energy and attention” on shorter-term activities and those ranging up to 2- or 3-year timeframes. 

(16) THE WEST END ZONE. In the February 16 Financial Times (behind a paywall), Matt Trueman profiles Anne Washburn, whose play based on The Twilight Zone is opening March 4 at The Ambassador Theatre in London.

“Her stage version of The Twilight Zone transfers into town next month.  On the surface, it’s a straightforward celebration of Rod Serling’s cult TV series.  Having watched all 156 episodes,she selected those stories that stuck in America’s psyche.  ‘I was polling anyone I ran into: What Twilight Zone episode traumatized you as a small child? People would answer immediately.  That’s where it lives in our culture.”

“In April, The Twilight Zone‘s getting a high profile reboot by Get Out director Jordan Peele, but Washburn’s incarnation celebrates its loveable, low-fi 1950s charm. Its schlockiness, essentially.’It’s morality,comedy, and horror at the same time,’ beams Washburn.  ‘That’s very appealing.’  The show sends up its arched-eyebrowed asides and cheap cardboard cut-outs.  ‘Where things are less adept, you can see right to its heart.  That’s always moving.’

“Insightful, too, as Washburn unpeels The Twilight Zone‘s skin to show us a glimpse of America’s soul in its recurring images: alien invasions and nuclear oblivion. ‘The Twilight Zone is about America dreaming–or America’s nightmare.'”

(17) SPIDER-SAN. CBR.com: shares the image: Spider-Man: Far From Home Gets Spectacular Japanese Poster”.

Sony Pictures has released a new poster promoting the Japanese release of the upcoming Marvel film Spider-Man: Far From Home, and it’s really awesome.

This exceptionally creative poster features a typographic image of Spider-Man’s mask composed almost entirely of bold, red Japanese text. The words and phrases used to create Spidey’s face mostly reference different aspects of the film, with the text repeating “summer vacation.” There are also numerous references to Nick Fury. Moreover, where Spider-Man’s mouth ought to be, there is a QR code that links to Spider-Man: Far From Home‘s Japanese trailer, which is the same as the international trailer.

(18) PUMP, BROTHERS. Food Network advises, “Throw Away Your Peanut Butter Knife!” This clearly isn’t genre, but it is a “great” “scientific” advance. Or it is you can’t resist both peanut butter and silly gadgets.

Who knew the world was clamoring for a better – or at least different – way to prepare a peanut butter sandwich?

One week after a Burbank, California, inventor/entrepreneur named Andrew Scherer launched an Indiegogo page to raise funds for his new Peanut Butter Pump, promising a way to eat “Peanut Butter Without the Knife,” the project has raised $46,955 (from more than 1,220 backers) and counting – more than twice its $20,000 goal.

[…] It’s basically a jar top – made to fit onto your standard 40-ounce grocery-store or name-brand peanut butter jar – with a pump top and a plunger inside that presses down the peanut butter, leaving the sides of the jar clean as it goes, and dispensing the peanut butter out the top and directly onto your bread or celery stick or wherever you’re aiming it.

(19) WITH AUTOMATIC UPSELL. Welcome to Uncanny Valley Restaurant. “This Fast Food Drive-Thru Is Now Using AI to Take Orders”Futurism has the story.

We already had a robot that could make fast food burgers. And now we have an artificial intelligence that can take your order for one.

Earlier this month, Colorado-based startup Valyant AI announced the launch of a voice-based AI customer service platform, which is now taking customer orders at the drive-thru at Denver’s Good Times Burgers and Frozen Custard.

“We’re excited to deliver a customer service experience unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before,” Valyant AI CEO Rob Carpenter said in a press release.

A video demonstration is here.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/22/19 Those Who Don’t Learn From Pixelry Are Doomed To Rescroll It

(1) RETRO HUGO FAN CATEGORY RESOURCE. Joe Siclari and the FANAC Fan History Project are providing support to Dublin 2019 Retro Hugo voters:

The nomination forms have gone out for Dublin 2019’s Retro Hugo awards for works published in 1943. It’s often very difficult to find materials relevant to the Fan Categories for the Retros, but we have a solution!  FANAC.ORG has assembled the list of fanzines published in 1943, with links to those available on line. We’ve made several hundred fanzines available, and more will be added if they become available at http://fanac.org/fanzines/Retro_Hugos1943.html .

Here you’ll find fanzines from 4sj, Doc Lowndes, J. Michael Rosenblum, Bob Tucker, Jack Speer, Larry Shaw, F. T. Laney and other stalwarts of 1943 fandom (and also Claude Degler). There are genzines, FAPAzines, newszines, and letterzines. There is fannish artwork, and fannish poetry.  There’s even the first publication of Lovecraft’s “Funghi From Yuggoth”. Fanzines which meet the issue requirements for Best Fanzine are so marked. 

Hugo nominations continue through March 15, 2019.

(2) THE SHOW WON’T GO ON. Scott M. Roberts, the editor of Orson Scott Card’s Intergalatic Medicine Show #67 announces the end. The magazine will publish two more issues before shutting down.

I am sad to report that Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show will be pulling up stakes in June 2019. I’ve been a reader since the first issue, and on the staff since 2009. My kids have grown up with the magazine in their lives, and I am fiercely proud of all that we’ve accomplished.

I am also very, very pleased with the state of science fiction and fantasy in general today. When IGMS first rolled onto the scene, online magazines were few and far between. Now the main mode of consumption of short SFF literature is online in one form or another (podcasts, e-issues, webpages, etc). And the voices of SFF today are vibrant, strident, beckoning, beseeching, screeching, awesome myriads. We have been a part of that polysymphonic wonder. We were one of the first to tell our truest lies on the brave digital frontier.

(3) RAVING ABOUT RAVENS. Adri Joy is an early bird, sharing her reaction to Leckie’s new novel: “Microreview [Book]: The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie” at Nerds of a Feather.

Ah, ravens. They’re smart, they’re beaky, they come in murders, and many in our world are better Londoners than I am. They’re also the subject of more than their share of both folklore and, through that, fantasy interest. Whether they’re harbingers of death, guides to the spirit world, speakers of prophecy and truth or otherworldly tricksters, there’s a lot of mileage in these feathery next-level dinosaurs. Now, in Ann Leckie’s first novel-length foray into fantasy, a raven god is front and centre, alongside a cast whose human members often play second fiddle to their divine counterparts.

(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman hopes you’ll share spring rolls with Ruthanna Emrys and him in episode 89 of his podcast Eating the Fantastic.

Ruthanna Emrys

Ruthanna Emrys is best known for the H. P. Lovecraft-inspired Innsmouth Legacy series, which so far includes the 2014 novella “The Litany of Earth,” followed up by the novels Winter Tide in 2017 and Deep Roots in 2018. Her fiction has also appeared in such magazines as Strange Horizons and Analog Science Fiction and Fact, plus anthologies such as Timelines: Stories Inspired by H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine and The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu: New Lovecraftian Fiction.

We discussed the ways in which her first exposure to Lovecraft was through pop culture references rather than the original texts, the reasons for the recent rise of Lovecraft recontextualisation, how tea with Jo Walton convinced her she was right to go ahead and write her first Innsmouth Legacy novel, why she ascribes to the tenets of the burgeoning Hopepunk movement, her love of writing X-Men fanfic and her hatred of gastropods, how she recovered from a college professor’s unconstructive criticism, the time George Takei was nice to her at age 8 after she attended her first con in costume on the wrong day, and much more.

(5) NEW AWARD HONORS SUE GRAFTON. Mystery Writers of America has established the Sue Grafton Memorial Award for the best novel in a series with a female protagonist. (Do I hear Puppies howling?) The announcement is here.

Thirty-five years ago, Sue Grafton launched one of the most acclaimed and celebrated mystery series of all time with A is for Alibi, and with it created the model of the modern female detective with Kinsey Millhone, a feisty, whip-smart woman who is not above breaking the rules to solve a case or save a life. Like her fictional alter ego, Grafton was a true original, a model for every woman who has ever struck out on her own independent way.

Sue Grafton passed away on December 28, 2017, but she and Kinsey will be remembered as international icons and treasured by millions of readers across the world. Sue was adored throughout the reading world, the publishing industry, and was a longtime and beloved member of MWA, serving as MWA President in 1994 and was the recipient of three Edgar nominations as well as the Grand Master Award in 2009. G.P. Putnam’s Sons is partnering with MWA to create the Sue Grafton Memorial Award honoring the Best Novel in a Series featuring a female protagonist in a series that also has the hallmarks of Sue’s writing and Kinsey’s character: a woman with quirks but also with a sense of herself, with empathy but also with savvy, intelligence, and wit.

The inaugural Sue Grafton Memorial Award will be presented at the Edgar Awards on April 25. The nominees are:

  • Lisa Black, Perish – Kensington
  • Sara Paretsky, Shell Game, HarperCollins – William Morrow
  • Victoria Thompson, City of Secrets, Penguin Random House – Berkley
  • Charles Todd, A Forgotten Place, HarperCollins – William Morrow
  • Jacqueline Winspear, To Die But Once, HarperCollins – Harper

(6) A VANCE MYSTERY. At Criminal Element, Hector Dejean reviews The Man in the Cage by John Holbrook Vance, better known as Jack Vance, which won the 1961 Edgar Award for the best first mystery novel, even though it wasn’t his first novel in either genre:  “Jack Vance’s Edgar Award: A Mystery Novel Wrapped in an Enigma”.

Vance was extremely talented and prolific, publishing his first book, The Dying Earth, in 1950, and his last work of fiction, Lurulu, in 2004. In 1957, he published his first mystery novel, Take My Face, using the pen name Peter Held. Later that year, he published another novel, titled either Isle of Peril or Bird Island, under the name Alan Wade. (Different versions exist, and according to some Vance-ologists the book doesn’t really qualify as a crime novel.) A year later, he wrote his first mystery to be published under his full name, John Holbrook Vance. That book’s title, according to sources on the Internet, was Strange People, Queer Notions.

This is where things get odd. Following a trip to Morocco—Vance was as impressive a traveler as he was a writer—Vance wrote a mystery set in North Africa; John Holbrook Vance was the name on this one as well. The book was The Man in the Cage, and it’s quite good—I would even say it’s a standout book, especially for readers curious about Vance who might not care for the conventions of sci-fi and fantasy. The MWA agreed, and in 1961 they gave it an award, making Vance’s awards-shelf one of the more diverse of any American author.

Awarding Vance isn’t the weird part. It’s that the book won the Best First Novel by an American Author award, even though it was not Vance’s first book, nor even his first mystery….

Dejean then goes on to laud the merits of the story itself.

(7) CONTRASTING EDGARS AND HUGOS. Criminal Element is also doing a retrospective of all Edgar Award winners for best novel: “The Edgar Awards Revisited”. Cora Buhlert sent the link with a comment: “It’s an interesting project and I was struck by how many women won Edgar Awards in the early years (the first five winners are four women and Raymond Chandler), which is very different from the early years of the Hugos.”

(8) CRIMEMASTER AWARD. The Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance has awarded its 2019 CrimeMaster Award to Lisa Gardner.

Storied crime author Lisa Gardner writes award-winning novels that are addictive. Thankfully for us, there are more than 30 of them, with some 22 million copies in print. That’s more copies than the entire population of New England, where she and her family live.

(9) TAKE COVER. Regarding the #CopyPasteCris plagiarism scandal, Nora Roberts is one of the authors whose work was appropriated, and as Kristine Kathryn Rusch phrased it —

Nora’s particularly outspoken about what she has gone through, and I have to admit, I snorted tea when I read this comment from Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books:

When I saw “Nora Roberts” [on this list] my first thought was, “Everybody, get underground NOW.”

Today Roberts posted her appropriately furious response: “Plagiarism Then and Now”.

I personally don’t believe fiction writers should use ghosts. Celebrity auto-biographies and such, that’s the job. If a fiction writer uses a ghost to help flesh out a book, or hires a book doctor to whip a book into shape, I strongly believe that person should be acknowledged–on the book.

The reader deserves honesty. The reader’s entitled to know she’s buying the author’s–the one whose name’s on the book–work, not somebody that writer hired for speed or convenience. And I’ll state here as I have before. If a book has my name on it, I wrote it. Every word of it.

I do not, never have, never will comprehend how someone can feel any pride claiming a book they didn’t write.

…A creature like Serruyo can have a decent run, make some money–make some best-seller lists–before she (or he, or they, who knows?) is found out. And the pain, the scars, the emotional turmoil this causes to the victims of plagiarism never ends.

Serruyo won’t be the only one using that underbelly, exploiting the lack of real guardrails on Amazon and other sites for a few bucks.

I’ll have a lot more to say about this, all of this. I’m not nearly done. Because the culture that fosters this ugly behavior has to be pulled out into the light and burned to cinders. Then we’re going to salt the freaking earth….

(10) IT’S OFFICIAL. I learned today that Iowa declared November 2018 to be Speculative Poetry Month. Impressive!

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 22, 1925 Edward Gorey. I reasonably sure that his animated introduction to the PBS series Mystery! Was my first encounter with him. I will recommend Gorey CatsThe Haunted Tea-Cosy: A Dispirited and Distasteful Diversion for Christmas and The Doubtful Guest. Ok he’s not genre but damn if he’s fun and delightfully weird. Oh, and do go read Elephant House: Or, the Home of Edward Gorey, with superb photographs and text by Kevin McDermott. (Died 2000.)
  • Born February 22, 1929James Hong, 90. Though not genre, became known to audiences through starring in The New Adventures of Charlie Chan in the late Fifties. Genre wise, his first role was in Godzilla, King of the Monsters! voicing Ogata/Serizawa. He then pops up in The Satan Bug as Dr. Yang and next is seen playing Ho Lee In  Destination Inner Space. You’ll no doubt recognize him in Colossus: The Forbin Project, he’s Dr. Chin, but I’ll bet you’ve never heard of, oh wait you have, Blade Runner in which he’s Hannibal Chew and Big Trouble In Little China which I love in which he’s wizard David Lo Pan. its back to obscure films after that with next up being Shadowzone where he’s Dr. Van Fleet and Dragonfight where he’s Asawa. He’s next in The Shadow as Li Peng but I’ll be damned if I can remember his role and the same holds true for him as Che’tsai In Tank Girl too.  He’s Mr. Wu in the very loose adaption of the classic The Day the Earth Stood Still
  • Born February 22, 1930 Edward Hoch. The lines between detective fiction and genre fiction can be awfully blurry at times. ISFDB listed him but I was damned if I could figure out why considering he’s known as a writer of detective fiction who wrote several novels and close to a thousand short stories. It was his Simon Ark character who was the protagonist of Hoch’s first published story and who was ultimately featured in thirty-nine  of his stories that made him a genre writer as Ark is the cursed by God immortal doomed to wander forevermore and solved crimes. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 22, 1937 Joanna Russ. Is it fair to say she’s known as much for her feminist literary criticism as her SF writings? That The Female Man is her best-known work suggests my question really isn’t relevant as there may be no difference between the two. She was for a long time an influential reviewer for the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction where I think it would fair to say that you knew clearly what she thought of a given work. (Died 2011)
  • Born February 22, 1944 Tucker Smallwood, 75. Space: Above and Beyond as Commodore Ross is by far my favorite genre role by him. I think his first genre appearance was as President Mazabuka on Get Smart followed by one-offs on Babylon 5, Bio-Dome, X-Files, Contact, Millennium, NightManVoyager, Seven Days, The Others, The Invisible Man, The Chronicle, Mirror Man and Spectres. After that he landed a role on Enterprise playingXindi-Primate Councilor for an extended period of one season. 
  • Born February 22, 1956 Philip Kerr. Though better known for his Bernie Gunther series of historical thrillers set in Germany and elsewhere during the 1930s, his write several genre friendly works. A Philosophical Investigation is set in a near future UK where it is possible to test for violent sociopathy and the consequences of that. The other is Children of the Lamp, a more upbeat YA series set in London involving djinns and rather obviously young children. (Died 2018.)
  • Born February 22, 1959 Kyle MacLachlan, 60. Genre-wise known for his role as Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks  and its weird film prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, Paul Atreides in Dune, Lloyd Gallagher in The Hidden, Clifford Vandercave In The Flintstones, Calvin Zabo in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Jeffrey Beaumont in Blue Velvet (OK not genre, just weird).
  • Born February 22, 1968 Jeri Ryan, 51. Seven of Nine of course but she’s had other genre roles including being Juliet Stewart  in Dark Skies, an UFO conspiracy theory series. She’s showed up in  briefly roles in Warehouse 13, The Sentinel, Helix and had recently showed up in the Arrowverse.
  • Born February 22, 1972 Duane Swierczynski,47. Though a mystery writer by trade, he’s also worked as a writer at both DC and Marvel on some very impressive projects. He did writing duties on the second volume of time traveling soldier Cable, penned the Birds of Prey as part of The New 52 relaunch and wrote an excellent Punisher one-off, “Force of Nature”.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) LIGHT OF OTHER DAYS. In her monthly column for The Paris Review, YA of Yore, Frankie Thomas takes a second look at the books that defined a generation.

What Was It About Animorphs?

For children’s books in particular it was an era of quantity over quality, an unremitting glut. In those pre–Harry Potter days, a typical “series” meant hundreds of books churned out on a monthly basis by teams of frantic ghostwriters. You could order them by the pound. Often they came with a free bracelet or trinket, as if resorting to bribery. There were 181 Sweet Valley High books, 233 Goosebumps books, and so many Baby-Sitters Club books that their publisher, Scholastic, has never made the full number public (by my count it was at least 345 if you include all the spin-offs)—and they were all, to a certain degree, disposable crap.

But then there was Animorphs….

Harry Potter and the Secret Gay Love Story

The fifth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was published in the summer of 2003, by which point Harry was fifteen and those of us growing up along with him had discovered sex. The Harry Potter years also happened to coincide with the Wild West era of the internet and the rise of abstinence-only sex education; as a result, for better or for worse, erotic Harry Potter fan fiction played a major and under-discussed role in millennial sexual development. This was especially true if you were queer—or, not to put too fine a point on it, if you were me—and had picked up on the secret gay love story that existed between the lines of Rowling’s text.

I refer, of course, to Sirius and Lupin….

(14) THEY’RE MADE OF MEAT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A team from Sweden’s Lund University is searching for the elusive Borkborkborkino particle, which would be proof that the Chef field exists. Or at least I guess that’s what they were doing at this year’s “Stupid Hackathon Sweden” event. Gizmodo has the story: “Particle Physicists Build a Meatball Collider.”

A team of particle physicists wanted “to unveil the deepest secrets of the Universe—and of Swedish cuisine.” So, naturally, they built a Swedish meatball collider.

The MEAL, or MEatball AcceLerator collaboration, could answer important questions such as why we’re made of meatballs, rather than anti-meatballs, or whether we can create dark meatballs. The proof-of-concept experiment was a success.

[…] they’ve got lofty goals for their next steps, according to the project’s slides: “Get funding for a meatball—anti-meatball collider that has the circumference of the solar system and meatballs the size of the Earth.”

(15) VIRGIN TEST. “Virgin test flight blasts to edge of space” — Reuters has video coverage.

A Virgin Galactic rocket plane on Friday soared to the edge of space with a test passenger successfully for the first time, nudging British billionaire Richard Branson’s company closer to its goal of suborbital flights for space tourists.

(16) ONLY THE BEGINNING.It will take two months to land, but it’s on its way: “Israel Launches Spacecraft To The Moon” – NPR has the story. (See also, BBC: “Israel’s Beresheet Moon mission gets under way”.)

An Israeli spacecraft blasted off this evening, aiming to land on the moon. And if the mission is successful, it would make Israel the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the lunar surface – after the U.S., the former Soviet Union and China.

It would also be the first privately initiated project to do so, although it was assisted by government partners, as Nature notes. “The feat seems set to kick off a new era of lunar exploration – one in which national space agencies work alongside private industries to investigate and exploit the moon and its resources,” Nature added.

The spacecraft, which is called Beresheet (Hebrew for “in the beginning”), was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

It was initially conceived as part of Google’s challenge called the Google Lunar XPRIZE for a private company to complete a soft landing on the moon. The Israeli non-profit SpaceIL was one of five international teams in the running for the $20 million grand prize; Google announced last year that the contest would end with no winner because no team was prepared to launch by the deadline. Still, the Israeli engineers at SpaceIL continued to work toward landing a spacecraft on the moon.

(17) A SCALZI CONSPIRACY FONDLY REMEMBERED. John Scalzi’s classic prank showed up in the background of a recent Big Bang Theory episode.

Mayim Bialik photographed the items in Wil Wheaton’s TV set apartment on Big Bang Theory and got him to explain their significance.

Wil and I both grew up on camera, and we also are geeky nerds who share a passion for discussing our mental illness struggles publicly. We are very similar, and it’s so refreshing to work with him.

The set that was used as his living room was really special because it contained actual items from Wil’s real life house. I was so delighted to see artwork, fan art, and memorabilia from his life—and I was so delighted that I photographed all of it and asked him to describe each item.

Wil Wheaton received the painting in 2008 and when it was finally revealed to him who had sent it, he wrote about the experience in “evil and awesome (but mostly awesome)”.

Without knowing that I needed a reminder not to take this stuff so seriously, without knowing – in April, when the wheels were set into motion – that around the beginning of August I’d be feeling pretty lousy about getting cut from the show I look forward to attending every year, John did what good friends do: pick you up when you’re down, and provide reality checks when you need them the most.

(18) UNFORGETTABLE. Nerds of a Feather features “6 Books with Simon Ings”:

5. What’s one book, which you read as a child or a young adult, that has had a lasting influence on your writing?

John Christopher got under my skin as a child and has never let me go. Kids’ books like The Prince in Waiting fed me those nostalgic and valedictory notes you need if you’re going to write into the British fantasy tradition. Much, much later I discovered the man had teeth: Death of Grass is a sort of John-Wyndham-without-the-apology tale about how personal virtue actually works in a disintegrating culture. Kindness is not a virtue. It is a sentiment. There, I’ve said it. But JC said it first.

(19) OSCAR-WORTHY FX. Here are three BBC posts with behind-the-scenes info about movie special effects.

The film Solo: A Star Wars Story has been Oscar nominated in the best visual effects category.

Visual effects supervisor Julian Foddy of ILM London spoke to Al Moloney about some of the challenges the company faced in helping to make the film.

The film Christopher Robin has been Oscar nominated in the best visual effects category.

Visual effects supervisor Chris Lawrence spoke to Al Moloney about some of the challenges the company faced in helping to make the film.

Robert Rodriguez’s latest stint as director is on the sci-fi blockbuster Alita: Battle Angel.

The film was written and produced by James Cameron, who originally planned to direct it.

Rodriguez says he made the movie for half the price Cameron would have, but with a reported budget of $200m (£154m), it still cost considerably more than your average indie-flick.

BBC Click’s Marc Cieslak speaks to the director and cast of the film, to find out more.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cora Buhlert, Jason, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 12/20/18 Five Chaptered Twice Chaptered Filing Purple Pixel Scroller

(1) YEAR’S BEST FANTASY BOOKS. The popular culture website Paste calls these “The 15 Best Fantasy Novels of 2018”.

The following 15 books capture the range that makes fantasy fiction so great, from epic high fantasy to alternate reality to urban fantasy to literary fiction that just happens to star a Greek goddess. These books visit other magical worlds, sure, but also draw from West African, Chinese and Greek mythology, as well as the American Civil War, ’80s punk scenes, far-off planets and Edwardian England. Most of these are stand-alone novels, but there are also a few continuations of some of our favorite fantasy series.

4. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Named Paste’s best Young Adult novel of 2018, Dread Nation blends elements of fantasy, horror and alternate history to create something wholly unique and utterly memorable. Set in an alternate world in which the undead rose up at the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War, the novel picks up years later as the United States is spiraling into horror. Readers meet Jane, a teen studying to be an Attendant who is trained to fight zombies for the wealthy white class. But it isn’t the life she wants. A novel that discusses race, class and so much more, Dread Nation is one of 2018’s best reads. —Eric Smith

(2) QUEST, OR GUILT TRIP? However, Forbidden Futures’ Cody Goodfellow takes a skeptical view of epic fantasy: “Exiled from Middle-Earth: Why Fantasy Failed Us”.

…If Tolkien stirred our noblest aspirations, he also created a benign propaganda that mythologized cultural differences until nationalities became species, and denied basic humanity to its antagonists, rendering the defense of the divine right of kings into a Manichean conflict between absolute light and absolute darkness––arguably, in spite of his denials, an allegory for Europe’s agonizing crusade against Hitler. As noted contrarian David Brin observed in an essay coinciding with Jackson’s grandiose adaptation of Lord Of The Rings, the humans and their allies worship at the altar of absolute hereditary rule, and libel the one agent of merit, inclusion and technological progress in Middle Earth. Certainly, the notion that the land might incarnate itself in the form of a devoted ruler is a beautiful conceit, but it’s only the most richly embroidered defense of a myth that’s brought little but tribulation and tragedy, in the real world. If one were to ask the Saudi Crown Prince in a candid moment about the butchery of Jamal Khashoggi only this month, he would no doubt clothe his rationalization by noting that the Washington Post journalist dismembered with bone saws in the Saudi consulate in Turkey was just another orc threatening his divinely ordained kingdom….

(3) ELSEWORLDS CROSSOVER. A highlight from the CW event — “Black Suit Superman Speaks With Kara In Meta Jail — Elseworlds Crossover Supergirl.”

(4) DEEP FAN. NPR’s Glen Weldon discusses “Aquaman, From Super Friend To Surfer Dude: The Bro-Ification Of A Hero”.

Let’s get the bona fides out of the way up top.

This post is about some of the sweeping changes that the DC Comics superhero Aquaman (Swift and Powerful Monarch of the Ocean! King of the Seven Seas!) has undergone on his way to this weekend’s blockbuster movie Aquaman. Inevitably, it will elide many details important to ardent fans of the character, and open its author up to charges of not knowing whereof he speaks, of a willful ignorance of the character, of simply echoing stale observations hastily ransacked from the Aquaman Wikipedia page.

The defense humbly (okay, smugly) presents the following evidence.

Exhibit A: That photo atop this post? That’s the author’s collection of aqua-memorabilia. Kindly do not refer to it as a shrine, as it is simply the by-product of what happens when the author’s lifelong obsession with a fictional character intersects with his husband’s insistence that said obsession not take up more space in their tiny apartment than the top of one friggin’ dresser.

(5) COUNTERPOINT. Despite several quibbles, NPR’s Linda Holmes says “‘Mary Poppins Returns’ Is A Fine And Fresh Take On A Classic”.

The first rule of Mary Poppins is that you must never explain Mary Poppins.

Perhaps the smartest decision in the sequel Mary Poppins Returns is that it’s no more clear than it ever was how, exactly, this nanny floats in. We don’t know where Mary came from, how exactly she has relatives given that she seems to have simply materialized from the sky, or whether she was ever a child herself. Mary Poppins simply is.

It’s hard to bring to life a character with no past and no future except to visit more children, take them on more adventures, and then leave them again. Created in the P.L. Travers children’s books and indelibly committed to film by Julie Andrews in 1964, Mary is special in part because since she’s magic, she is nurture without need. She doesn’t need to be thanked; she doesn’t even need to be remembered. The helping is all.

(6) OUT, DARNED DOTS. Jeff VanderMeer says the problem is very simple:

If the semi-colon is ruining your writing, periods, colons, and commas probably are ruining it, too.

(7) HANG UP. Continuing today’s Abbreviated Wisdom for Authors section: “Michael Chabon’s Advice to Young Writers: Put Away Your Phone”.

…And it’s advice I give to myself, as much as to anyone, but especially to younger writers. Writers coming up now. Which is put your?—?put this [points to phone]?—?away. When you’re out in the world, when you’re walking down the street, when you’re on the subway, when you’re riding in the back of a car, when you’re doing all those everyday things that are so tedious, where this [phone] is such a godsend in so many ways. As in that David Foster Wallace graduation speech, when he talks about standing in line at the grocery store. When you’re in those moments where this [phone] is so seductive, and it works! It’s so brilliant at giving you something to do. I mean walking down the street looking at your phone?—?that’s pretty excessive. But in other circumstances where it feels natural, that’s when you need to put this [phone] away. Because using your eyes, to take in your immediate surroundings… Your visual and auditory experience of the world, eavesdropping on conversations, watching people interact, noticing weird shit out the window of a moving car, all those things are so deeply necessary to getting your work done every day. When I’m working on a regular work schedule, which is most of the time, and I’m really engaged in whatever it is I’m working on, there’s a part of my brain that is always alert to mining what can be mined from that immediate everyday experience. I don’t even know I’m doing it, but I’ll see something, like,“That name on that sign is the perfect last name for this character!” Or the thing I just overheard that woman saying, is exactly the line of dialog I need for whatever I’m doing. And if you’re like this [phone in your face], you miss it all.

(8) BILL CRIDER PRIZE FOR SHORT FICTION. Bouchercon 2019 will inaugurate the Bill Crider Prize for Short Fiction in the mystery genre.

Debuting at the 50th Anniversary of Bouchercon, Carol Puckett and the 2019 Bouchercon Dallas committee launched the Bill Crider Prize for Short Fiction to celebrate this treasured literary form, both the short story and the widely-admired mystery author and reviewer, Bill Crider. Designed to encourage writers from all over the world, these distinguished prizes award stories with fascinating characters and twisty plots, all in the mystery genre.

First Prize: $1000

Second Prize: $750

Third Prize: $500

Janet Hutchings, editor of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and Linda Landrigan, editor of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, will choose the winners from the shortlisted writers.

Once the final four writers have been chosen, all shortlisted authors will be notified on or near October 1.

Bouchercon Dallas Guest of Honor, Hank Phillippi Ryan, will recognize the shortlisted authors and award the top prizes during Bouchercon 2019 in Dallas, Texas. The convention takes place October 31-November 3, 2019.

The deadline for submissions is March 1, 2019. Full guidelines at the link.

(9) MORE ON NINE WORLDS. Robot Archie steered me to another exposition about the fate of Nine Worlds. Avery Delany’s Twitter thread begins here.  

(10) STRONG LANGUAGE, HARLAN? Fanac.org returns you to the thrilling days of yesteryear with an audio recording of Harlan Ellison at Pacificon II, the 1964) Worldcon, speaking about “Adaptation of Science Fiction to a Visual Media.” Visually annotated, illustrated with convention photos, and preceded with this little warning —

Pacificon II, the 22nd World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Oakland, CA in 1964. WARNING – 1) Harlan uses some strong language in this recording. 2)The first few minutes are missing. Harlan gives an engrossing talk (audio, enhanced with images) about writing for television and about how Hollywood works. The talk took place during the filming of the Outer Limits episode, “Demon With a Glass Hand”, and Harlan speaks very frankly (including complaints) about his experience as the writer on the episode. Includes Harlan’s reading of a scene as written, and as changed by management as well as discussion on the casting, the directing and the location. Embedded are photos of Harlan throughout his science fiction career. This audio material was provided by The Southern California Institute for Fan Interests (SCIFI), and Jerome Scott, Director of Projects for SCIFI in LA.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 20, 1933Son Of Kong premiered in theaters.
  • December 20, 1961 – The film version of Jules Verne’s drama Mysterious Island was released.
  • December 20, 1974 — Walt Disney’s The Island At The Top Of The World debuted.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 20, 1838 Edwin Abbott Abbott. Author of the Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, an 1884 novella that has come to be adopted as SF even though it’s really mathematical fiction. Go ahead, argue with me. (Died 1926.)
  • Born December 20, 1942  — Angel Tompkins, 76. Anyone remember Amazon Women on the Moon? Yeah she was in it. She later shows up in the Knight Rider series and, oh, that Starlost series which Cordwainer Bird swore off before the first episode. There’s an episode of Wild Wild West and Night Gallery as well but she stopped acting twenty years ago.
  • Born December 20, 1943 Jacqueline Pearce. Longest and definitely best known role would be as the evil Supreme Commander Servalan/ and Commissioner Sleer on Blake’s 7. She’d show several times in Doctor Who, one on screen in The Two Doctors (Yes, I saw it) and once as a voice only role in Death Comes to Time, a Seventh Doctor story.  She played a Mrs. Annabelle Levin in the “Paris, October 1916” episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as well, a series I really liked. She did a bit of time travel in Moondail as Miss Vole / Miss Raven and finally showed up in The Avengers as a character named Miaranne. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 20, 1952 Jenny Agutter, 66. Fist SF role was Jessica 6 in Logan’s Run. Later genre roles include Nurse Alex Price In An American Werewolf in London (great 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 Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
  • Born December 20, 1960 Nalo Hopkinson, 58. First novel I ever read by her was Brown Girl in The Ring, a truly amazing novel. Like all 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?
  • Born December 20, 1970 Nicole de Boer, 48. I first saw her in a Canadian produced series called Beyond Reality where she played multiple roles. Very odd show. You’ll more likely know her as Ezri Dax on i or Sarah Bracknell Bannerman on The Dead Zone as those are her major genre series to date. She’s also shown up in Forever Knight, TekWar, Poltergeist, The Outer Limits, Stargate Atlantis, Haven, Five Days to Midnight, The Fearing Mind, Mission Genesis and Psi Factor. I believe all of these latter shows were filmed in Canada, some of them of Toronto if memory serves me right.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) DRUM ROLL, PLEASE. WhatCulture has designated these the 10 Best Comic Books of 2018.

(15) COMICS’ JEWISH INFLUENCERS. Career artist and fan Hugo winner Steve Stiles responded to the Baltimore Jewish Times’ farewell to Stan Lee in this recently-published letter of comment. Steve begins —  

As one who enjoyed a five-year stint as a freelance illustrator for Marvel’s British publications, I enjoyed reading Arie Kaplan’s article on Stan Lee (“Stan Lee Gave Comic Books Permission to Be More Jewish, JT online”). I was, however, surprised that one of Marvel’s leading Jewish characters, Ben Grimm, aka The Thing, the strong man of the Fantastic Four, was overlooked….

(16) KEEP COUNTING. Seems there’s still a lot to discover on this planet! Per the BBC: “The secret life of plants: Ten new species found this year”.

Plant collectors have searched for the hidden wonders of the plant world for centuries.

Yet plants that are new to science are still being described, at a rate of about 2,000 a year.

Scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, discovered and named more than 100 new plants in 2018.

Their list of the top new plants includes carnivorous pitcher plants, exotic orchids and climbers with untapped medicinal powers.

(17) LITTLE BROTHER IS LISTENING. Get ready to shake and bake: “Nasa’s InSight deploys ‘Marsquake’ instrument”.

The American space agency’s InSight mission to Mars has begun to deploy its instruments.

The lander’s robotic arm has just placed the bell-shaped seismometer package on the ground in front of it.

This suite of sensors, developed in France and the UK, will listen for “Marsquakes” in an effort to determine the internal structure of the Red Planet.

InSight touched down near the world’s equator in November.

(18) PIE A LA GIANT MODE. Speaking of baking, this has nothing to do with genre, but dang! In Australia, “Domino’s Is Selling Its Biggest Pizza Ever, And It Barely Can Fit Into Cars”.

It’s available in extremely limited quantities.

Only two are available per store, per day, so you have to order one online ahead of time if you want in. Domino’s requires a 24 hour heads-up, so plan your hang-outs accordingly.

It’s too big for delivery.

Do you really expect someone to carry this on their bike to you?! No, you gotta go in and pick it up. And since it’s a full 40 inches across (Domino’s had to make new boxes to stand up to the weight!) you might want to go in an SUV.

(19) MONSTERS FROM THE US. From Entertainment Weekly: Us first look: See photos from Jordan’s Peele’s Get Out follow-up”

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, not only delivered a bone-chilling psychological thriller, it dissected the underlying racial oppression running through the veins of America, spearheaded conversations of societal fractures, and earned four Oscar nominations. (It would go on to win Peele the Best Original Screenplay award.) So after Peele’s killer success, what does the filmmaker do next?

“For my second feature, I wanted to create a monster mythology,” Peele tells EW. “I wanted to do something that was more firmly in the horror genre but still held on to my love of movies that are twisted but fun.”

Details are very, very vague about Peele’s upcoming film Us. The story is set in the present day and follows Adelaide and Gabe Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke) as they take their kids to Adelaide’s old childhood beachside home in Northern California for the summer.

(20) GET STARTED BOOING NOW. No need to wait — you know this will end badly The Hollywood Reporter says “‘Harvey’ Remake in the Works at Netflix”. The idea does not sound either oh, so nice, or oh, so smart….

‘Shrek 2’ writers J. David Stem and David N. Weiss have been tapped to write.

One of film’s best-known rabbits is hopping his way back to Hollywood.

A Harvey remake is in the works at Netflix, with J. David Stem and David N. Weiss set to write the screenplay. Fabrica de Cine, which is working with the streamer on Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, will produce.

(21) I DREAM OF GENIE. Footage from the forthcoming Aladdin live-action movie with Will Smith as the Genie.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, Robot Archie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 11/20/18 Maybe The Real File Was The Pixels We Scrolled On The Way

(1) BACK TO BACK. The Hollywood Reporter asked, the fans answered: “Which Movie Franchise Should Return? ‘Back to the Future’ Tops New Poll”. They don’t care that director Robert Zemeckis declared three years ago that he would try to block a reboot of the franchise, “even after his death.”

Of the 2,201 adults surveyed between Nov. 8 and 11, 71 percent said that they’d be likely to watch another outing for Marty McFly and Doc Brown ahead of other franchises like Pixar’s Toy Story (69 percent), Lucasfilm’s Indiana Jones (68 percent) and Universal’s Jurassic Park (67 percent).

Back to the Future also polled well when it came to the question of which franchise has been most closely followed by the public. Fifty-four percent of those polled reported having watched the entirety of the series, compared with just 36 percent for the ever-growing Star Wars series. As with the earlier question, both Toy Story and Indiana Jones performed well, with 47 percent of those responding having followed each series faithfully.

(2) FIREFLY. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak tells Firefly fans where to find more of the good stuff: “Big Damn Hero is a familiar trip back to Joss Whedon’s Firefly universe”.

In December 2002, Fox gave the ax to a little-known science fiction show from Joss Whedon called Firefly. The series gained a cult status when it hit DVD the following year, and its story continued in the 2005 film Serenity and a handful of comic books — but a planned massively multiplayer game based on the series never materialized, and Firefly has been weirdly left out of the recent surge of rebooted TV shows. Now, for fans who have been missing the franchise, there’s a new glimmer of hope — or at least an opportunity to revisit the ‘Verse, with James Lovegrove and Nancy Holder’s new novel Big Damn Hero.

Big Damn Hero is the first of three novels being published by Titan Books in the coming months, under the guidance of Whedon, who serves as a “consulting editor.” Like Firefly, the book follows the crew of the spaceship Serenity, led by Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a veteran of a failed rebellion against the authoritarian Alliance government. The result is a new bona fide adventure in the story — one that could be an extended episode from the series, but which also fleshes out the characters and world just a bit more.

(3) WOKE ON A COLD HILL SIDE IN GALLIFREY. The Daily Mail (of course!) is all over this story: “Exterminate! Fans’ backlash over Doctor Who’s latest transformation- into TV’s most PC show”

One fan wrote: ‘There should be a clever story line, not a rehash of history. There’s also an underlying feeling the focus has been forcing inclusiveness by having such obviously diverse characters.’

Another said: ‘Please keep the PC stuff for documentaries and serious drama and let the Doctor help us escape to a fantasy world.’

(4) SAYS WHO? Stylist tells how “Jodie Whittaker brilliantly hits back at all those saying Doctor Who is “too PC””.

Now, Whittaker – who’s the first ever female Doctor – has addressed the backlash.

“What’s the point of making a show if it doesn’t reflect society today?,” Whittaker said while switching on the Christmas lights at London’s Regent Street on Monday 19 November. “We have the opportunity with this show like no other to dip to future, to past, to present, to new worlds and time zones. There is never going to be a drought in the stories you can tell.”

Whittaker continued: “It’s always topical. Chris is a very present-minded person who is very aware of the world he lives in and is passionate about storytelling. It would be wrong of him to not have used the past. He does it in a really beautiful way.”

(5) BOMBS AWAY. Those of you who don’t think Robin Hood is sff can skip this review, and those who do may want to skip this movie after reading what The Hollywood Reporter says about it in “‘Robin Hood’: Film Review”.

Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx and Ben Mendelsohn lead the cast in the latest big-screen iteration of the classic adventure story.

Guy Ritchie’s idiotic, leathered-up, fancy-weaponed take on King Arthur worked out so wonderfully for all involved last year ($149 million worldwide box office on a $175 million budget) that someone still evidently thought it would be a good idea to apply the same preposterous modernized armaments, trendy wardrobe and machine-gun style to perennial screen favorite Robin Hood.

Well, it’s turned out even worse than anyone could have imagined in this all-time big-screen low for Robin, Marian, Friar Tuck, Guy of Gisbourne and the Sheriff of Nottingham, not to mention for Jamie Foxx as an angry man from the Middle East who’s gotten mixed up on the wrong side of a Crusade, or maybe just in the wrong movie. Leonardo DiCaprio can rest easy in the knowledge that this fiasco will come and go so quickly that few will remember that it even existed, much less that he produced it. In a just world, everyone involved in this mess would be required to perform some sort of public penance.

(6) RESOURCES FOR AN IRISH WORLDCON. Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari turns the site’s attention to Retro-Hugo-eligible zines and classic Irish fanwriting.

Retro Hugos: We have a guide to 1943 fannish publications online for your Retro Hugo nominating pleasure. We’re not done adding links to it, so there’ll be even more to read. The guide shows all the 1943 fanzines, including the ones we don’t have, and will let you know what’s eligible for best fanzine. Even if a fanzine had too few issues to be eligible, it can give insight for nominations in the Best Fan Writer and Best Fan Artist categories. In addition to FANAC.org hosted zines, there are links to materials on efanzines and the University of Iowa’s Rusty Hevelin collection. The printed fanzines are rare, not readily available, and physically frail, so we’re especially glad we can make them available to you online.

The Irish Project: As part of our effort to promote our fannish history, FANAC makes a priority of adding material that is pertinent to current fan events (like our push to make fan source material available for the Retro Hugo Awards). With the very first Irish Worldcon scheduled for 2019, we are making available classic Irish fan publications from such luminaries as Walt Willis, Bob Shaw, James White, and the Englishmen often identified with Irish Fandom (IF), John Berry, Chuck Harris, Arthur Thomson (Atom), etc.

The Wheels of IF had extensive interaction and influence in fandom, and so we are including English and American zines where that influence was often seen. There are publications included by Lee Hoffman (Quandry), Shelby Vick (Confusion), Vin¢ Clarke, Ken Bulmer (Steam), and others.

We have fanzines, apazines, trip reports and fabulous one-shots (like John Berry’s “This Goon For Hire”). Publication dates range from the 50s to the 90s, with more current pieces coming. Our

Wheels of IF directory (http://www.fanac.org/fanzines/Irish_Fandom/) now has nearly 200 zines available with dozens more in the pipeline.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • November 20, 1929 – Jerry Hardin, 89, Actor famous for his character roles, whom genre fans know as the informant Deep Throat in The X-Files, or perhaps as Samuel Clemens in the Star Trek: The Next Generation double episode “Times’s Arrow”. Other TV series guest appearences include Star Trek: Voyager, Sliders, Brimstone, Time Trax, Lois & Clark, Quantum Leap, Dark Justice, Starman, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The (new) Twilight Zone, and The Incredible Hulk, and he had roles in Big Trouble in Little China and Doomsday Virus (aka Pandora’s Clock).
  • November 20, 1932 – Richard Dawson, Actor, Comedian, and Game Show Host. I debated including him, as he really had but one meaty genre performance – but oh, was it oh so great: in the Saturn-nominated film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Running Man, as the self-referential, egotistical and evil game-show host Damon Killian who came to a deservedly bad end; he won a Saturn Award for his dead-on performance. Other genre appearances include Munster, Go Home!, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and The Outer Limits. (Died 2012.)
  • November 20, 1923 – Len Moffatt, Writer, Editor, Conrunner, and Member of First Fandom. He became an SFF fan in his teens, and was a founder of the Western Pennsylvania Science Fictioneers. He produced numerous fanzines over the years, and was deeply involved in several fan associations, including the National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F), for which he produced the Fan Directory. He and his wife June, who was also an ardent fan, organized many Bouchercons (mystery fandom conventions) and were recognized with that con’s Lifetime Achievement Award. A member of the LA Science Fantasy Society (LASFS) since 1946, he was honored with their Forry Award for Lifetime Achievement. The Moffatts were the TAFF delegates in 1973 to the UK Natcon, and Fan Guests of Honor at many conventions. (Died 2010.)
  • November 20, 1944 – Molly Gloss, 74, Writer and Teacher from the Pacific Northwest who is known for both science fiction and historical fiction. A close friend of Ursula K. Le Guin, many of her works touch on themes of feminism and gender. Her novel Wild Life won a Tiptree Award, her novelette “The Grinnell Method” won the Sturgeon Award, and her short story “Lambing Season” was a Hugo finalist.
  • November 20, 1963 – Ming-Na Wen, 55, Actor from Macau who is currently appearing as Agent Melinda May in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. She has also had main roles in the series Stargate Universe and the short-lived Vanished, and a recurring role in Eureka. Her breakthrough genre role was providing the voice for Disney’s Mulan, for which she won an Annie Award (awards which recognize voice actors in animated productions). This led to a lengthy career providing voices for animated features and series, including Spawn, The Batman, Adventure Time with Finn & Jake, Phineas and Ferb, Robot Chicken, and Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as a plethora of Mulan spinoffs, offshoots, tie-ins, and video games. Other genre appearances include the films The Darkness, Starquest (aka Terminal Voyage), Tempting Fate, and Rain Without Thunder.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) BOOK TWO. Camestros Felapton does a “Proper Review of the Consuming Fire”.

…There’s a lot of talking and plotting and counter-plotting that is important because this is supposed to be a world of plotting and counter-plotting. However, it feels inconsequential even at the time. Of course it is MEANT to be futile in the face of a systemic collapse of the hyperspace routes that hold the Empire together. Meanwhile, the story is plotting a new course and warming up its engines….

(10) IMPERIAL WALKER TOLD TO TAKE A HIKE. Some people just have no sensawunda. Officials in Devon have ordered a 14 foot replica of a Star Wars All-Terrain Scout Transport (AT-ST) be taken away from its spot near the A38 (Hollywood Reporter: “Officials Order Englishman to Remove ‘Star Wars’ AT-ST Replica”).

The 14-foot homage will no longer be on display. […]

Star Wars fan living in the southeast county of Devon, England, has been ordered by the local government to remove a 14-foot-tall AT-ST replica that he hoped would bring attention to his town.

The monstrous attack vehicle, which sits near a road, was initially built by Dean Harvey for his children.

“The reason why I built it was a den for my daughters,” he told the BBC. “It’s all made of out [steel] and weighs about two-and-a-half tons.”

After his kids outgrew the AT-ST, he gave it to a man named Paul Parker, who is now being ordered to get rid of it.

(11) SPACE HAWAIIAN STYLE. The side of Mauna Loa have been the home, these past few years, of a Mars habitat simulation. Now, after a major glitch in the sim, it’s being repurposed as a Moon habitat simulation. (The Atlantic: “Hawaii’s Mars Simulations Are Turning Into Moon Missions”)

For the last five years, a small Mars colony thrived in Hawaii, many miles away from civilization.

The Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, or HI-SEAS, was carried out in a small white dome nestled along the slope of a massive volcano called Mauna Loa. The habitat usually housed six people at a time, for as long as eight months. […]
In February of this year, something went wrong. The latest and sixth mission was just four days in when one of the crew members was carried out on a stretcher and taken to a hospital, an Atlantic investigation revealed in June. There had been a power outage in the habitat, and some troubleshooting ended with one of the residents sustaining an electric shock. The rest of the crew was evacuated, too. There was some discussion of returning—the injured person was treated and released in the same day—but another crew member felt the conditions weren’t safe enough and decided to withdraw. The Mars simulation couldn’t continue with a crew as small as three, and the entire program was put on hold.

But the habitat on Mauna Loa was not abandoned. While officials at the University of Hawaii and NASA investigated the incident, the wealthy Dutch entrepreneur [Henk Rogers] who built the habitat was thinking about how the dome could be put to use.

[…] Under Rogers’s direction and funding, the HI-SEAS habitat will reopen this year—not as a Mars simulation, but a moon one.

(12) STAYIN’ ALIVE. “Elon Musk renames his BFR spacecraft Starship” Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

Elon Musk has changed the name of his forthcoming passenger spaceship from Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) to Starship.

The entrepreneur would not reveal why he had renamed the craft, which has not yet been built, but added its rocket booster will be called Super Heavy.

In September, Mr Musk’s SpaceX company announced that Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa had signed up to be the first passenger to travel on the ship.

The mission is planned for 2023 if the spaceship is built by that time.

It is the craft’s fourth name – it started out as Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) and then became Interplanetary Transport System (ITS) before becoming BFR.

(13) SHARPER IMAGE. Japan is on the cutting edge of space technology: “A samurai swordsmith is designing a space probe”.

If you wanted to slice stuff up in space, what would you bring with you? ‘Samurai’ swords, which have been made in Japan for centuries, might be on your list because the tempered steel used in them is notoriously tough. There are plenty of videos online showing these Japanese swords, also called ‘katana’, cutting up everything from thick boards of wood to metal pipes.

Now, a trio of engineers have teamed up with a master Japanese swordsmith to design a rock-sampling device made with the same steel used in these blades – and the plan is to use it on an asteroid.

Japan’s Hayabusa missions have so far sent spacecraft, rovers and sampling tools to a one kilometre-wide asteroid called Ryugu, which orbits the sun between Earth and Mars. Hayabusa2’s rovers recently sent back stunning images of the asteroid’s black, rocky surface. But bringing fragments of Ryugu back to Earth is an enormously tricky task, which is why novel ideas are being suggested for how to do it

(14) SAY WHAT? Brenton Dickieson tells what a shock it is to go a lifetime assuming a word you’ve only seen in print would be pronounced a certain way – and then someone actually says it out loud another way… “C.S. Lewis’ ‘Dymer’… or is it Deemer? (or Can Someone from the Buffyverse be Wrong?)” (He has a lot more to say about the poem, of course.)

After five years of avoiding the book, I decided to reread Alister McGrath’s biography of Lewis. I am listening to it as an audiobook this time, and Robin Sachs pronounces Dymer as “Deemer.” It has shattered my vision of the entire piece. All along, I have been pronouncing Dymer as “Daimer,” so that “Dym” rhymes with “rhyme.” McGrath’s bio of Lewis is one of the last things that Sachs read in a long career of acting. Who am I to question someone who studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art? More than anything, Robin Sachs had a recurring role on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Clearly, I must be wrong. After all, Robin Sachs is British. How could he be wrong?

(15) DOOMED TO GO BOOM. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A new article in Nature (caution, paywall: “Anisotropic winds in a Wolf–Rayet binary identify a potential gamma-ray burst progenitor”) about a pinwheel-shaped star system that may go boom in a big way has received a good bit of notice in the press. (CNN: “First-known ‘pinwheel’ star system is beautiful, dangerous and doomed”; Popular Mechanics: “Two Young Stars On a Death Spiral Are Acting Very Strangely”)

The close binary star system has the stars in a death spiral of sorts creating an image that in the infrared looks startlingly like a child’s toy pinwheel. This one, though, would be no fun at all to any being close enough to really experience it. The PM story explains:

The stars, located about 7,800 light years away, are in what’s called a Wolf-Rayet stage. That’s when massive stars begin to shed their hydrogen, burning certain elements in their atmosphere like carbon and nitrogen. A sort of nebula that forms around the stars makes them easy to spot.

But something peculiar is happening here: These two Wolf-Rayet stars are causing the nebula to move a bit like a pinwheel in interactions that are also producing gamma ray bursts—high energy events usually generated by massive objects like black holes. By finding a source of the particular kinds of gamma ray bursts produced in these stars, astronomers have a laboratory right in our backyard to test long duration gamma ray bursts.

The system was named Apep after the Egyptian deity of chaos, often depicted as a snake. One of the co-author of the study, Dr. Peter Tuthill (University of Sydney), is quoted in the CNN article as saying, “The curved tail is formed by the orbiting binary stars at the center, which inject dust into the expanding wind creating a pattern like a rotating lawn sprinkler. Because the wind expands so much, it inflates the tiny coils of dust revealing the physics of the stars at the heart of the system.” Another co-author, Benjamin Pope (New York University), was quoted as saying, “The only way we get such a system to work is if the Wolf-Rayet star is spewing out gas at several speeds. One way for such different winds to happen is via critical rotation. One of the stars in Apep is rotating so fast that it is nearly ripping itself apart. On its equator, the rotational forces make the gas basically weightless, so it slowly floats off the equator.”

(16) SERIES INTERRUPTUS. The following tweet struck me as a poorly constructed defense.

The cultural impact of George R.R. Martin’s series is huge. Of course its fans are invested in seeing it finished. “Entitlement” doesn’t enter into it. And despite being kindly intended, Naruto’s idea that attention should instead be paid to authors who do finish their series is identical to the logic Dave Freer and Richard Paolinelli used when they attacked Martin to gain attention for themselves.

Anyway, we all know Martin is perfectly capable of speaking for himself, as he has done in several recent interviews to publicize his new Westeros history book Fire and Blood.  Here’s what he told Entertainment Weekly

Before we go, here’s a standard question I missed asking you at the start: What excites you most about Fire and Blood?
The book is a lot of fun. The people who are open to reading an imaginary history and not a novel — which I realize is not everybody — have enjoyed it so far. But honestly, the single thing that excites me most is that I finished it. I know there are a lot of people out there who are very angry with me that Winds of Winter isn’t finished. And I’m mad about that myself. I wished I finished it four years ago. I wished it was finished now. But it’s not. And I’ve had dark nights of the soul where I’ve pounded my head against the keyboard and said, “God, will I ever finish this? The show is going further and further forward and I’m falling further and further behind. What the hell is happening here? I’ve got to do this.” I just got the [Fire and Blood] copy and, holding it in my hand, it’s a beautiful book. The illustrations by Doug Wheatley are great. It’s been a long while since I had a new Westeros book and nobody knows that as well as I do. I know that just as much as the angriest of my hardcore fans. And I have continued to publish other things. It’s not like I’ve been on a seven-year vacation. I have Wild Cards books coming out every six months. But not like this, one that’s entirely my writing. So to finish a book that I’m proud of and excited by was emotionally a big lift for me.

And an hour-long video “In Conversation: George R. R. Martin with John Hodgman” was posted today on YouTube.

George R. R. Martin talks with John Hodgman about his new book FIRE & BLOOD, the first volume in a two-part history of the Targaryens in Westeros. Filmed at the Loews Theater in Jersey City, NJ.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 9/15/18 It’s The Wrong Pixel, Gromit, And It’s Scrolled Wrong

(1) WHAT GEEZERS SAY. James Davis Nicoll’s twist on his previous series theme, Old People Read New SFF, finds the panel assigned “Carnival Nine” by Caroline M. Yoachim.

This month’s installment of Old People Read New SFF is Caroline M. Yoachim’s award nominated Carnival 9, an endearing tale of clockwork people second cousin to children’s toys and inevitable, implacable mortality. The Hugo nominated it garnered suggests reader appeal and the fact that it was also nominated for a Nebula means professionals enjoyed (or at least appreciated) it was well. But will my Old People find it worth reading?

Carnival 9 can be read here.

(2) CSI MARS. The Atlantic is already worried about “How Will Police Solve Murders on Mars?”

Christyann Darwent is an archaeologist at the University of California at Davis. Darwent does her fieldwork in the Canadian High Arctic, a place so frigid and remote that it has been used as a training ground to prepare astronauts for future missions to Mars. Darwent’s expertise in how organic materials break down in extreme environmental conditions gives her unique insights into how corpses might age on the Red Planet.

As we speculated about the future of Martian law enforcement, Darwent emphasized that her expertise remains firmly terrestrial; her husband, she joked, is the one who reads science fiction. Nevertheless, Darwent brought a forensic angle to the subject, noting that nearly everything about a criminal investigation would be different on the Red Planet. She described how animal carcasses age in the Arctic, for example: One side of the body, exposed to high winds and extreme weather, will be reduced to a bleached, unrecognizable labyrinth of bones, while the other, pressed into the earth, can often be almost perfectly preserved. Think of Ötzi, she said, the so-called “Iceman,” discovered in a European glacier 5,300 years after his murder. Ötzi’s body was so well preserved that his tattoos were still visible. Murderers on Mars might have their hands full: The bodies of their victims, abandoned in remote canyons or unmapped caves, could persist in the Martian landscape “in perpetuity,” Darwent suggested.

(3) TAKING THE INITIATIVE. The Hugo Award Book Club reviews a book delivered at Worldcon 76 in “Showcasing the strength of Mexicanx Science Fiction”.

In a time where the American government separates and imprisons migrant families, hearing from those who live and engage with the Mexico-US borderlands on a personal level couldn’t be more relevant.

Fresh off the presses in time for WorldCon76, the Mexicanx Initiative’s bilingual anthology Una Realidad más Amplia: Historias desde la Periferia Bicultural/A Larger Reality: Speculative Fiction from the Bicultural Margins celebrates the diversity of Mexicanx writers who create science fiction, fantasy and horror. Born of a Kickstarter project, the book includes twelve short stories and one comic in both Spanish and English, with an ebook version on the way.

(4) POWER OF WORDS. Simini Blocker’s site includes a series of posters about reading that use quotes from George R.R. Martin, C.S. Lewis, Lemony Snicket, Albert Einstein, Annie Dillard, Anna Quindlen, Cassandra Clare, etc.

(5) LALLY IN CHINA. At Vector, a photo gallery of Dave Lally’s visit to Chengdu, China: “Dave in Chengdu”.

This July, our roving Membership Officer Dave Lally spent four days Chengdu, Sichuan province, China, participating in the Science Fiction Sharing Conference. Here are just a few snaps from the trip.

(6) LISTENING TO THE GOLDS. LASFSians and renowned filkers Lee and Barry Gold were intereviewed by Edie Stern for Fanac.org. Hear the audio and see illustrative photos at YouTube.

Lee and Barry Gold tell stories about Los Angeles fandom and filking in the 1960s. In this audio recording enhanced with images, there are charming anecdotes about Poul and Karen Anderson, LASFS, and a great story about Bruce Pelz and Ted Johnstone obtaining permission from John Myers Myers to print the “Silverlock” songs. Lee and Barry tell how they got into fandom, and the interview also includes snatches of song from filks of the time as well as a discussion on where the word “filk” came from. The audio was captured in San Jose at Worldcon 76, and is enhanced with 35 images.

 

(7) ASHES SCATTERED. Martin Tays posted a photo of the moment on Facebook.

A final farewell to Poul Anderson and Karen Anderson. Their ashes were scattered today in Puget Sound from on board the Schooner Zodiac, sailing out of Bellingham, Washington.

(8) MERTON OBIT. Actress Zienia Merton (1945-2018) passed away September 13. She memorably played Space: 1999’s Sandra Benes, Data Analyst on Moonbase Alpha. See photos at Moonbase Central.

(9) SUTTON OBIT. Dudley Sutton (1933-2018): British actor, died September 15, aged 85. Genre appearances include The Avengers (one episode, 1968), Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) (two episodes, 1970 and 2000), The Devils (1971), The Glitterball (1977), The Island (1980), Brimstone & Treacle (1982), The Comic Strip Presents… (‘Slags’, 1984), The House (1984), A State of Emergency (1986), Screen One (‘1996’, 1989), Orlando (1992), Delta Wave (two episodes, 1996), Highlander (one episode, 1997), The Door (2011), Ripper Tour (2018), Steven Berkoff’s Tell Tale Heart (completed 2017, but not yet released), A Midsummer Night’s Dream and When the Devil Rides Out (both currently in post-production).

(10) BLAY OBIT. The New York Times says the creator of the videocassette movie industry has died:

Andre Blay, 81, whose innovative idea of marketing Hollywood movies on videocassettes sparked an entertainment industry bonanza and a revolution in television viewing, died on Aug. 24 in Bonita Springs, Fla. He was 81….

But in 1977 Mr. Blay was able to persuade Fox to make a deal under which he would duplicate and distribute 50 of the studio’s most successful films, including “M*A*S*H” and “The French Connection.” The relatively high initial retail price of movies on videocassettes prompted an unexpected proliferation of video rental stores, from neighborhood businesses to sprawling chains like Blockbuster. As the price of recorders plummeted to about $500 from about $1,000, sales boomed, and so, to some people’s surprise, did rentals. By 1987 home video was generating more revenue than movie-theater ticket sales.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 15, 1949The Lone Ranger TV series debuted.
  • September 15, 1965 — The original Lost in Space premiered on television – theme by ”Johnny Williams.”

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 15, 1890 – Agatha Christie. Ok, according to Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction –

Christie wrote several short stories with supernatural elements – some collected, together with orthodox nonseries detections, in The Hound of Death (coll 1933) – and created a kind of sentimental Occult Detective [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] for The Mysterious Mr. Quin (coll 1930). In these stories the shadowy and elusive Harley Quin (the “harlequin” pun is deliberate and explicit) does not so much detect as use his presumably occult information to steer a mundane friend, Mr Satterthwaite, towards the insight required to explain a crime; the misleadingly titled The Complete Quin & Satterthwaite: Love Detectives (omni 2004) includes two long Hercule Poirot investigations featuring Satterthwaite but not Quin. Christie was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1971.

  • Born September 15, 1943 – John M. Faucette. Harlem born and raised genre writer who published four novels in the Sixties, two apparently as Ace Doubles. I wish I could tell you more about him but scant information now exists about him alas.
  • Born September 15 – Norman Spinrad, 78. Writer of many genre novels including Bug Jack BarronGreenhouse Summer and The People’s Police.  Wrote the script for “The Doomsday Machine” for Star Trek: The Original Series; also wrote episodes for Land of the Lost and Werewolf. His very early reviews are collected in Science Fiction in the Real World which was published in 1990.
  • Born September 15 – Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, 76. Writer, composer, demographic cartographer. Genre works include the very long running Count Saint-Germain vampire series, the Vildecaz Talents series and a number of other works listed as genre but which I’m not familiar with so I’m not certain that they are. Her site notes that she’s ‘Divorced, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area – with two cats: the irrepressible Butterscotch and Crumpet, the Gang of Two.’
  • Born September 15 – Howard Waldrop, 74. Primarily a short story writer so much of his work is unfortunately out of print though iBooks lists ePubs for Horse of a Different Color right now along with two other Small Beer published collections. I rather like The Texas-Israeli War: 1999 novel he co-wrote with Jake Saunders. His “The Ugly Chickens” amusingly enough won a Nebula for Best Novelette and a World Fantasy Award for Short Fiction.
  • Born September 15 – Loren D. Estleman, 66. You’ll have noticed that I’ve an expansive definition of genre and so I’m including a trilogy of  novels by this writer who’s better known for his mainstream mysteries featuring Amos Walker which are set in the  Sherlock Holmes Metaverse, Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes and The Devil and Sherlock Holmes. I think it was Titan Book that maybe a decade ago republished a lot of these Holmesian pastiches of which there are more than I want to think about.
  • Born September 15 – Jane Lindskold, 56. Let’s see… I see a number of genre undertakings including Artemis, Athanor, Breaking the Wall and the Firekeeeper series. She’s done a lot of excellent stand-alone fiction novels including Child of a Rainless Year, Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls and The Buried Pyramid. She either edited or greatly expanded (depending on your viewpoint) two novels by Roger Zelazny, Donnerjack which I love and Lord Demon which thrills me less. Her latest I believe is Asphodel which she sent me an ebook to read and it is quite good.

(13) COMIC SECTION.

  • Over the Hedge explains how to get people interested in the space program.

(14) QUANTUM LEAP. That’s right, there could be a perfectly sensible explanation for a friend’s strange behavior, like this —

(15) BEHIND THE CURTAIN. Cora Buhlert visited 1963 to report on a recent East German/Polish movie based on one of Stanislaw Lem’s novels for Galactic Journey: “[September 15, 1963] The Silent Star: A cinematic extravaganza from beyond the Iron Curtain”.

Kurt Maetzig is not a natural choice for East Germany’s first science fiction movie, since he is mostly known for realist fare and even outright propaganda films. Though the fact that Maetzig is a staunch Communist helped him overcome the reservations of DEFA political director Herbert Volkmann, who doesn’t like science fiction, since it does not advance the Communist project and who shot down eleven script drafts as well as Maetzig’s plan to hire West European stars.

(16) IT’S A STRETCH. Marko Kloos’ post for the Wild Cards blog, “Coming Up Aces”, tells how hard it is to do something new in “a world with an established canon spanning 70 years, where hundreds of aces and jokers have already been put on the page by dozens of other writers.”

Wild Cards is up to twenty-six volumes now, and the Trust has more than forty members. Each of those writers has created multiple characters, so there are hundreds of aces, joker-aces, and jokers out in the Wild Cards world, each with their own distinct physical characteristics and abilities. And once they are on the page, they’re canon. Try coming up with an original ace who doesn’t duplicate something that’s already been done by someone else—I can assure you it’s not easy, especially if you’re new to the team and haven’t had your head in that world for the last few decades. The first few ideas I had were roundly shot down at the start because they had been used in some form already, or they brought abilities to the table that had been done too often.

For my first character that truly stuck, I came up with Khan, who makes his first appearance in LOW CHICAGO. Khan is a joker-ace, a 300-pound underworld bodyguard whose left body half is that of a Bengal tiger….

(17) STREE. In the Washington Post, Vidhi Doshi discusses the new Bollywood film Stree (“Woman”). a horror comedy about a vengeful female ghost where “the real fear is hidden in the jokes about the realities of being a woman in India.” — “In India’s new hit film, men — not women — are afraid to roam the streets”.

The success of “Stree” is due in part to how it flips Bollywood’s norms. The male protagonist is the opposite of Bollywood’s muscly, macho heroes — he spends most of the film trying to see things from the female ghost’s point of view. The women, on the other hand, are bold, educated and fearless.

The movie breaks rules of the horror genre: The scares and jolts are funny, while the real fear is hidden in the jokes about the realities of being a woman in India.

(18) MORE BROKEN CONVENTIONS. At Black Gate, Derek Kunsken recommends a YouTube podcast about comics — “Analyzing the Comics Story-Telling Process with Panel x Panel”.

Lately I’ve been watching a lot of the Youtube channel Strip Panel Naked, by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. In this extraordinary video podcast, Hassan analyses different techniques of pacing, page layout, color, positive and negative space, genre conventions and how they’ve been broken, stylistic choices and so on. I have lots of favourites, including the analysis of the use of time in Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye.

(19) THESE AREN’T THE SPOTS YOU’RE LOOKING FOR. Nobody’s getting excited about this. Everyone please remain calm. “The director of the Sunspot Observatory isn’t sure why the feds shut it down”.

The saga began to unfold on September 6, when authorities unexpectedly closed and evacuated Sunspot  Solar Observatory. Sunspot Solar Observatory is managed by a consortium of universities that provide funding to operate the telescope and adjoining visitor’s center. AURA (The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy) is a big site, tens to hundreds of acres, McAteer explained, and the observatory is used to study the sun in very specific ways.

McAteer said while the reason behind the closure is still unknown, he does not believe it is as strange as some believe.

“AURA deciding to close it is not an unusual event to me and I’m not going to jump to any unnecessary speculation,”  McAteer told Salon. “They [AURA] made the decision to close the site based on an internal decision, based on whatever they make their decisions on, and as they often make decisions to close remote sites this is not an uncommon thing to do.”

Alamogordo Daily News first reported the news on Sept. 7, when the observatory closed citing a “security issue” at the facility. Shari Lifson, a spokeswoman for AURA, said the closure was their decision.

“The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy who manages the facility is addressing a security issue at this time,” Lifson told the local newspaper. “We have decided to vacate the facility at this time as precautionary measure. It was our decision to evacuate the facility.”

(20) VIRTUAL HALLOWEEN. The LAist gets ready for the holiday at a SoCal mall: “We Tried Out 2 Halloween VR Experiences And Survived (After Some Screaming)”.

The Void’s trying to change that by throwing you into a real physical environment, which you can check out locally at the Glendale Galleria.

In the Void’s games, if you pick up a gun, you’re holding a physical weapon — if you sit on a bench, there’s an actual physical bench for you to sit on. We went to a demo of the Void’s new Halloween experiences and talked with the creators behind them — here’s what we learned, and what went down.

When you’re about to go into the Void, you’re fitted with a vest and a VR helmet. The vest vibrates when you get shot or attacked — or in the case of one of their new experiences, slimed. (Ew.)

The two new experiences are Nicodemus: Demon of Evanishment, and an enhanced version of one they’d previously released, Ghostbusters: Dimension.

 

(21) HIMMELSKIBET. Karl-Johan Norén has another sff link to in Denmark: “Himmelskibet is a Danish 1918 silent movie about a trip to Mars, 81 minutes long, that has been restored by the Danish Film Institute.”

Photos from the film and additional info are available via a Facebook photo archive.

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

1000 Years of Fandom

By Joe Siclari: What does 1,000 years of fandom look like? At Worldcon 76, FANAC.org tried to find out. The pictorial project, started by Mark Olson, captures photos of fans new and old, each holding a sign with their years of fannish activity. Two photos exceeded 1,000 years (one of which was the Worldcon Chairs photo). In all, the project collected 6,707 years of fandom.  Photos from the “1000 Years of Fandom” project are available on FANAC.org.

Those who missed the start of the “1000 Years” can participate by sending us a photo of themselves and their friends holding a card with the number of years they have been in fandom. Send it to fanac@fanac.org.

Warren Buff and friends, adding to 1,050 years of fandom. Photo by Lisa Hayes.

FANAC’s Fan History Project is dedicated to preserving and making available scans of original photos and publications from 1930 to the present, with a YouTube channel showcasing audio and video. The Fancyclopedia 3 website provides context and a Wikipedia like approach to fan history.

Photos from the project, with a running total at the bottom. Photo by Edie Stern.

Fan History Project links:

Pixel Scroll 7/13/18 It Was The Time Of The Pixel In The Year Of Scroll One

(1) DALEK WITH A COIFFURE. Look familiar? No, it’s not Davy Crockett…

(2) W76 MEMBER COMMUNICATIONS ASSET. Kevin Roche, Chair of Worldcon 76 in San Jose, announced: “Several members of the convention volunteered to moderate a Worldcon 76 resource sharing/membership transfer group for us on FaceBook. We happily took them up on the offer!”

WorldCon 76 Membership Transfer and Resource Sharing

This is the official page for WorldCon76 attendees seeking to connect with each other in order to transfer memberships and to share resources and information.

(3) SUPER SHRINKAGE. Kinky Data compares “Superheroes’ Height Vs
the Actor’s Actual Height”
. (Carl Slaughter wonders, “How exactly did they discover the height of so many comic book superheroes?”)

(4) WITH NO CLINCHES. The author of Archivist Wasp explains it all to you at The Book Smugglers: “Alternatives to Romance: Nicole Kornher-Stace on writing platonic relationships in Archivist Wasp and Latchkey (& a Giveaway)”.

In the three years since Archivist Wasp was published, there’s one thing about it that keeps coming up in reviews and reader comments/questions again and again. Which is fine by me, since I haven’t gotten tired of talking about it yet! (Hilariously, after signing up to write this post, I got put on a Readercon panel on the same topic. They said: Tell us why you should be on this
panel
. I said: I never shut up about this topic. Ever. It is the soapbox I will die on. And they gave me the panel! Readercon = BEST CON.)

And so, without further ado! The full, entire, possibly long story of why I write all my close relationships as friendships instead of romances, the pros and cons of same, and how I wish more books/movies/shows/etc would do so. (I do. So much. Universe, take note.)

(5) VALUES. A WisCon panel writeup by KJ – “Creativity and ‘Productivity’: A Panel Report and Meditiation”.

…One of the most interesting things to happen was also one of the first: as the panelists were introducing themselves, the moderator, Rachel Kronick, wondered out loud why, in these situations, we introduce ourselves with our resumes. Whether she’d planned to say it or was struck by inspiration in the moment, it was the perfect thing to get me thinking about how much we in fandom tend to define ourselves by our work, by our accomplishments. An immediate mindset shift, in the moment. I only had one panel after this one, and although I still gave the “resume” introduction, it was definitely in my mind.

One of the first topics for the panelists was the source of productivity as a measure of worth. Capitalism came in for a lot of the blame, of course, but the panelists also brought up Puritanism: if something is fun, it can’t be valuable. It’s the work ethic baked into American society (which I’ve most often heard called the “Protestant work ethic“: a tenant of Calvinism claiming you can tell who will be “saved” by their dedication to hard work and frugal living). When we measure our value by how much we produce, and how much we are paid for that production (whether that be in money, goodwill, or fandom attention), it’s really easy to think of any time not spent “producing” as “wasted.” This is absolutely a trap that I fall into, and although I fight it, I know I don’t succeed very well.

On the flip side, we have fandom as a capitalist activity: measuring your dedication as a fan by how much money you spend on Stuff. Books, movie tickets, video and other media, branded merch, costumes, going to cons… fannishness can get really expensive, and too much gatekeeping goes on around activities that cost money and time. Although this didn’t come up at the panel, as I type up these thoughts now I see a tension between the work ethic that values austerity on one hand, and a culture that demands voracious consumption on the other. This double bind isn’t unique to fandom, of course, but I’ve never really thought to apply it in this context before.

(6) THREATS. CBR.com reports “Vertigo Writer Receives Veiled Death Threats Ahead of SDCC Appearance”.

Comic-Con International in San Diego is a place where fans from all across the world gather to share their love of all things pop-culture, from comic books to movies to video games, etc. However, some fans, sadly, choose to share hate instead, as evidenced by a social media post from Border Town writer Eric M. Esquivel.

“I woke up to death threats (‘We’re not sending I.C.E. to Comic Con, we’re sending exterminators’),” Esquivel’s tweet reads. Even in the face of verbal assault, though, the writer remained positive, instead choosing to focus on the joy of holding the first issue of his and artist Ramon Villalobos’ soon-to-be-released Border Town in his hands….

(7) WE INTERRUPT YOUR FOOTBALL. For this important announcement:

Comparable information appears in this brief commercial:

(8) PRISONER COLLECTIBLE. Titan Comics is publishing The Prisoner: Kirby & Kane Artist Edition HC Vol.1 this week, “a hard cover edition of never-seen-before work based on the iconic TV series, created by two legends of comic book art.”

This special oversized collectors edition will contain the entire 17 page Jack Kirby strip, the first six pages of which were inked and lettered by Mike Royer, as well as 18 pages of pencils drawn by artist Gil Kane. In addition to reprinting these rare pages, this collection also features unmissable bonus archive material including facsimiles of the original script as written by Steve Englehart.

This book is part of several releases from Titan to mark the 50th anniversary of The Prisoner – join us in celebrating this cult classic!

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 13, 1984 The Last Starfighter premiered on this day

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 13, 1940 – Sir Patrick Stewart. Various Trek affairs but also roles in the X-Men franchise and Dune, and myriad voice work such as The Pagemaster, Steamboy, The Snow Queen and Gnomeo & Juliet. Yeah another animated gnome film.
  • Born July 13, 1942 – Harrison Ford. The Indiana Jones and Star Wars franchises, also Cowboys & Aliens and Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049.
  • Born July 13 – Steve McQueen, 30. Yes the grandson of that actor. Genre roles in The Vampire DiariesThreshold, Piranha 3D and the forthcoming Legacies series which apparently features werewolf / vampire hybrids.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • I read the news today — PVP.

(12) WALKING HOUSEPLANT.

(13) LANGUAGE CREATOR. Lauren Christensen takes you “Inside
J.R.R. Tolkien’s Notebooks, a Glimpse of the Master Philologist at Work”

in her New York Times review.

From Qenya to Gnomish to Sindarin, the “high elven-speech” J. R. R. Tolkien uses amply throughout the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy was the product of almost 40 years of what the English author once referred to as his “secret vice”: glossopoeia, or language creation. As Carl F. Hostetter writes in an essay in Catherine McIlwaine’s “Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth,” his was a labor “performed and preserved on thousands of manuscript pages containing Tolkien’s minutely detailed description and unceasing elaboration (and revision) of not just one but rather of a family of invented languages, which can be collectively called the Elvish tongues.”

Although not alone in this practice, Tolkien was the first philologist to establish such a network of evolving dialects that derive from one another “by slowly accumulating changes and divergences in form across time from a common ancestor species.” Tolkien drew this partial table of sound-correspondences among five Elvish languages — Qenya, Telerin, Noldorin, Ilkorin and Danian — around 1940….

(14) LOAD THE CANON. EpicPew gives a Catholic perspective on “Saint Tolkien’:
Why This English Don Is on the Path to Sainthood”
.

Evangelizing through beauty

J.R.R. Tolkien, in this writer’s opinion, has one of the best innate grasps of evangelizing through beauty of anyone writing in the 20th century. Why? Because his work is permeated with a Catholic understanding of beauty. That which is beautiful is pleasing to the senses, but doesn’t stop at a surface level, rather acting as an icon that draws you into deeper realities and encounter with the Divine.

The world Tolkien created in Middle Earth is steeped in this beauty and nobility that raises your mind upwards and calls you to higher things. You can’t readhis epic work without feeling stirred to your very bones to live a life of greatness, rather than comfort.

Is it possible that even Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI himself was thinking of the small hobbit Frodo Baggins when he exhorted us that “we are not made for comfort, but for greatness”?

Well, maybe not.

But it certainly applies, and the story is a grace of inspiration and encouragement for those who wish to take the path less traveled and embark on that narrower road which leads to salvation….

…Tolkien’s potential patronage

Who would turn to Tolkien with prayer requests? He’s the potential patron saint of the hopeless, the wanderers, and (of course) romantics.

(15) STRANGE HORIZONS. Charles Payseur’s short fiction reviews resume with: “Quick Sips – Strange Horizons 07/02/2018 & 07/09/2018”.

Two new issues of Strange Horizons means two new pieces of short fiction (one short story, one novelette) and two new poems, all of which look at distance and drive, humans and aliens. For the fiction, there’s not a whole lot to link the pieces together, one of which looks at language and abuse, the other at speed and drive and competition. Similarly, the poem isn’t incredibly similar either, one looking at the inhuman at the end of a long mission, the other at changes in body and relationship while also showing those changes striking toward a more stable truth. What does link everything together, though, is a wonderful and moving style, and a range of speculative visions all reflecting back the ways people are hurt by others, and the way people hurt themselves, all reaching for connection, community, and belonging. To the reviews!

(16) SHADOW SUN SEVEN. Paul Weimer has a “Microreview [book] Shadow Sun Seven by Spencer Ellsworth” posted today at Nerds of a Feather.

The complex tale of Jaqi, reluctant opposition to a Resistance that has in turn just toppled an oppressive human galactic empire, continues in Shadow Sun Seven, sequel to Spencer Ellsworth debut novella A Red Peace. This second novella jumps off not long after the first. It should be said that discussion of this second volume, a short novel, does necessarily spoil the first novella.

That novella, which posited, explored and depicted a wide ranging universe with half-Jorians, lots of biological weapons and creatures that would fit in a Kameron Hurley novel, and a net of complicated characters. By the end of the first novella, Jaqi, Half-Jorian, and Half Human pilot, had managed to spirit away two children from the Resistance that are looking for them at any cost, and had slowly started to learn that she has a destiny and power that she never knew, a destiny and power tied to the original, extinct race of which she is just a hybrid descendant gene engineered cross. Or is she?…

(17) WOMEN OF SFF IN THE SEVENTIES. James Davis Nicoll reaches names beginning with the letter R in “Fighting Erasure: Women SF Writers of the 1970s, Part IX” at Tor.com.

Pamela Sargent first caught my eye with 1976’s Cloned
Lives
, which takes a refreshingly mundane look at the lives of the world’s first clones.
Their unusual parentage does not confer on them any particular special abilities like telepathy or telekinesis. Her Venus terraforming epic (Venus of Dreams, Venus of Shadows, and Child of Venus) may have been denied its proper place in the public psyche due to a somewhat troubled publication history; all three are in print and worth consideration. Also of interest is Sargent’s Women of Wonder series (Women of Wonder, More Women of Wonder, and The New Women of Wonder, followed in the 1990s by Women of Wonder: The Classic Years, and Women of Wonder: The Contemporary Years). The difficulty of tracking down the rights at this late date probably precludes reprints, but used copies are easily obtained.

(18) HUGO NOMINEE RANKINGS. Joe Sherry’s series reaches the nonfiction: “Reading the Hugos: Related Work”. Surprisingly, he hasn’t read Ellison, but now he has read the Ellison bio —

A Lit Fuse: Here’s my genre confession: I can’t be sure if I’ve actually read Harlan Ellison before…

Nat Segaloff’s biography is necessarily a slanted one, biased towards Ellison. Segaloff doesn’t hide Ellison’s flaws, but he does minimize them and give them Ellison’s context and Ellison’s shading. As a biography, it’s a fairly well written and comprehensive one. If I were a fan of Ellison, I would probably be thrilled by detail of the man’s life. Also, a
person doesn’t need to be likeable to be interesting or to be worth writing about. This is good, because I’m not sure I would have liked him much. I’m quite sure he wouldn’t have liked me. The problem is that there is a bit of tedium to the writing and the recounting of Ellison’s life. Time will tell if A Lit Fuse turns out to be an important science fiction biography in the long run, but it is certainly a less vital and immediate work on the Hugo ballot.

(19) RETRO FAN HUGO RESOURCE. And when you’re all done with this year’s Hugo reading, you can get started deciding what to nominate for next year’s Retro-Hugos. The Fanac.org site has hundreds of zines already available.

Fan History Spotlight:

Next year’s Retro Hugos will cover 1943, and we’ve been focusing on that year as we put up additional fanzines. We have almost 250 zines from 1943 already online. Remember, before the internet, before inexpensive long distance phone calls, before air travel was common, the world came to your door by the mailbox, twice a day. The byplay, the chatting, the fannish flame wars were all conducted on paper. In 1943, FAPA (aka the Fantasy Amateur Press Association) sent out over 1,200 pages of fannish writing in 4 mailings. We have 1,196 pages of those online for you now. FAPA is a real window on the fannish world of that era, with contributions by all the BNFs of the time, including Ackerman, Ashley, Joquel, Laney, Shaw, Speer, Tucker, Warner, Widner, Wolheim and more. There’s the first publication of Lovecraft’s “Fungi From Yuggoth” Cycle. There’s a “Decimal Classification of Fantastic Fiction” by Sam Russell, and interesting in-context materials and commentary on Degler and the Cosmic Circle controversy. But wait! There’s more. See for yourself at http://www.fanac.org/fanzines/FAPA_Mailings/.

(20) 95 IS THE NEW 79. The Stan Lee hype machine gets back in gear – Syfy
Wire
has the story:“Stan Lee in first of new series of videos: ‘I’m back again with new energy'”

In a tweet posted on Thursday, Lee appeared in the first video since POW! Entertainment reasserted control over the creator’s social media channels. He joked about his age (“It’s taken me a while to get used to being 79 years old,” said the 95-year-old Lee) and promised his fans that he’s back.

(21) HARLAN STORIES. Ted White’s piece for the Falls Church News-Press,
“Remembering Harlan Ellison and His Place in My Life”, is not exactly a eulogy.

…Proximity to me reinforced in Harlan his need to settle his
debt to me. But Harlan was scuffling as a freelance writer; he had no regular income and coming up with an extra several hundred dollars wasn’t easy for him. But one August evening we went to a party in the Bronx and there encountered Ken, whom Harlan hadn’t seen in nearly five years. Harlan braced him for the money. Ken had effectively stolen the typewriter after all, and clearly owed Harlan, who owed me. Harlan was forceful in his demands, but Ken, still without a real income of his own (later he would edit a movie magazine), gave Harlan no
satisfaction.

But he did something else. He told his best friend about Harlan’s demand, and the colorful threats Harlan had made. His best friend told his mother. The mother was a crackpot who routinely complained to the FBI that her son’s antagonists were “Commies.” She called the NYPD and told them Harlan was a heroin dealer.

Ironically, Harlan did not use drugs or intoxicants of any kind, abstaining from both alcohol and caffeine (but he did sometimes smoke cigarettes or a pipe, I think for the image more than any other reason). When we went to jazz clubs together he ordered a glass of orange juice, which he could pass off as a Screwdriver.

When the police arrived at his door, Harlan was flabbergasted at the notion that he was a drug dealer, and freely allowed them to search his small apartment. In his closet, on a high shelf and in a box, they found three things: a small revolver, a set of brass knuckles, and a switchblade. They promptly arrested Harlan for possessing an unlicensed gun. New York City had very tough gun laws….

(22) TIME CAPSULE. Joe Siclari says the 1992 MagiCon time capsule will be opened this year in San Jose.

At closing ceremonies for MagiCon, the 1992 Worldcon, we created a time capsule. It was loaded with convention publications and the like, but at the ceremony something unexpected happened. Folks in the audience wanted to have their part of fandom memorialized in the time capsule, and came forward with all kinds of things to put in it. Well, at this year’s Worldcon, the time capsule will be opened. The contents will be put on exhibit. Has fandom really changed that much? If you are at the con, come and find out. We’ll also have a FANAC table with some interesting materials, so come get your contributor ribbon or sticker, and say hi.

(23) STALKED BY SFWA. Cue the Jaws theme…

(24) INSTANT MASTERPIECE. Camestros Felapton recently graced the comments section with this example of Bohemian Rhap Music:

Is this more sci-fi?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a pixel
No escape to reality
Open your files
Look up on the web and see…

I’m just a pixel
Not a John Williams symphony
Because I’m easy come, easy go
Scrolling high, scroll low
Any way the pix scrolls
Doesn’t really matter to me, to me

Mamaaa just filmed a cat
Put a phone just near its head
Pushed the shutter, as it fed
Mamaaa, my likes have just begun
But now I’ve gone and thrown them all away
Mamaaaaaa, ooooooooh
Didn’t mean to make you share
If I don’t tweet this time again tomorrow
Carry on, carry on as if nothing viral matters

Too late, my GIF has gone
Of cat shivers down its spine
Like it’s eating the sublime
Goodbye, everybody
I’ve got to mute
Gonna leave social media to face the truth
Mamaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, oooooooh (Anyway the pix scrolls…)
I don’t want these likes
Sometimes wish I’d never posted it at all

[Epic Guitar Solo]
[Sudden change of tempo]

I made an animated GIF of a dog
Scary pooch, Scary pooch, will you do the Fandango?
Bad contrast and lighting, very, very frightening me
(Galileo) Galileo (Galileo) Galileo, Galileo is irrelevant
Irrelevant-ant-ant
I’m just a pixel nobody loves me
He’s just a pixel from a scroll family
Spare him his life from this GIF travesty

Easy come, easy go, will you post this scroll?
Pixellah! No, we will not post this scroll
(Post this scroll!)
Pixellah! No, we will not post this scroll
(Post this scroll!)
Pixellah! We will not post this scroll
(Post this scroll!)(Will not post this scroll)
(Post this scroll!)(Will not post this scroll)
(Never, never, never, never)
Post this scro-o-o-oll
No, no, no, no, no, no, no
(Oh mama mia, mama mia) Mama Mia, ABBA is in this scroll!
The iTunes Store put soundtrack aside for me, for me, for me!

[Heavy rock break]

So you think you can quote me and make fun of my cat?
So you think you can repost that picture of it in a hat?
Oh, baby, can’t do this to me, baby
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here

[Guitar Solo]
(Oooh yeah, Oooh yeah)

Nothing viral matters
Anyone can see
Nothing viral matters
Everything viral matters to me

Any way the pix scrolls….

[gong]

[Thanks to Kathy Sullivan, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Dann, Mike Kennedy, Kevin Roche, James Davis Nicoll, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 7/7/18 It’s My Pixel, And I’ll Scroll If I Want To

(1) MODEL RAILROADING. A hobbyist told readers of the ModelTrainForum this layout accessory will be available this fall from Menard’s Model Train Company —

(2) ALIEN RETURNS? Website Omega Underground is reporting on a rumor that a series set in the Alien universe may be on its way to a cable network or streaming service. The story notes that the franchise will celebrate it’s 40th anniversary in 2019. Article writer Christopher Marc claims to have multiple sources for at least parts of a rumor that a TV series may be in the offing to mark that occasion.

With the Alien films possibly in limbo could there be other platforms for stories outside of video games and comics?

Well, take the following as a rumor.

Back in April, a reliable source revealed to us that a series set within the “Alien universe” was being considered behind the scenes. I was able to reaffirm the rumbling with another source located in another country that was able to support some of the basic info.

What they couldn’t connect on is where it could land be it FX or a streaming platform, Hulu and Netflix were ruled out at the time.

I didn’t think much of the series rumor at the time as I had assumed it would be a big announcement for Alien Day [26 April] and would just wait, which obviously didn’t happen.

However, the rumbling resurfaced yesterday [2 July] and that something could be announced “soon”. If they plan on announcing their intentions or are aiming to release it next year to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Alien franchise remains to be seen.

(3) SMALL WORLD. NPR’s Bob Mondello looks at Ant Man and the Wasp — audio with soundbites, and transcription.

MONDELLO: Super-confidence – not his strong suit. But give him a good enough reason, and he’ll shrink to the occasion. What gets him going this time is multiple bad guys or gals and a mission to head for the Quantum Realm, which is subatomic. And, well, there’s a lot of plot virtually unspoilable because it makes so little sense. So why don’t we let Ant-Man’s pal Luis handle it?

(4) EPIC OF THE LUCAS MUSEUM. Paul Goldberger tells Vanity Fair readers how the twice-spurned project landed in L.A. — “George Lucas Strikes Back: Inside the Fight to Build the Lucas Museum”.

There are a number of reasons why movie directors do not generally go around establishing museums. It is not only because most of them do not own enough artworks to put into them or have enough money to start new careers as philanthropists. If you direct movies for a living, you are accustomed to controlling just about everything that comes across your field of vision. But if you decide to build a museum, you can control very little, as George Lucas—who has plenty of art, and plenty of money—has discovered over the past several years. His quest to donate more than a billion dollars’ worth of art and architecture in the form of a brand-new public museum containing the bulk of his collection of paintings, drawings, and film memorabilia was turned down in San Francisco, driven away by opponents in Chicago, proposed again for a different location in San Francisco, and finally, last year, approved for a site in Los Angeles.

The project, which is now officially named the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art but, given its history, might just as well be called the Flying Dutchman, will take the form of a dramatic, swooping, cloud-like structure designed by the Chinese architect Ma Yansong, in Exposition Park, adjacent to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

What Lucas is now building—ground was broken on March 14, and there is already an excavation so large that it looks like a massive earthwork if you view it from an airliner approaching Los Angeles International Airport—could not be more different from where he started out. The museum’s original incarnation, proposed for waterfront land within the Presidio national park, with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, was a grandiose, heavy-handed Beaux-Arts building that Lucas, who prides himself on his love of both art and architecture, insisted was the only thing appropriate for that site. That first version was called the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum, a title as awkward semantically as the building was architecturally. Its unveiling, in 2013, marked the beginning of a multi-year saga that would come to have nearly as many dramatic clashes as you’ll encounter in Lucas’s Star Wars, and almost none of the amiability of his American Graffiti.

No one back then had the slightest idea that the proposed museum would provoke a major backlash in not one but two American cities, or that it would finally come to rest in Los Angeles, a location that carries no small degree of irony, since it is a city that Lucas built much of his identity as a filmmaker on spurning. Although he studied film at the University of Southern California and has been a major supporter of its film school, he has lived and worked in Northern California for most of his life, and for years he made something of a fetish of avoiding Los Angeles as much as possible. Although Lucas bought a $33.9 million estate in Bel Air last year, which will allow him to be close to the museum as it rises, he still spends most of his time either in Marin County, north of San Francisco, or in Chicago, where his wife, Mellody Hobson, a Chicago native who is the president of a financial firm, Ariel Investments, is based. Chicago, of course, would become the second city to find itself the recipient of what Lucas felt to be his unrequited love.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 7, 1955 — The sf radio program X-Minus One aired Robert Heinlein’s “The Green Hills Of Earth” for his birthday.

(6) TODAY’S OTHER BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 7 – Shelley Duvall, 69. Executive Producer of Faerie Tale Theatre, performer in Popeye as Olive Oyl, also Twilight Zone, Time Bandits, The Shining, and Ray Bradbury Theater to name some of her genre work.
  • Born July 7 – Billy Campbell, 59. The Rocketeer of course, but also series work in STNG, Dead Man’s Gun, The 4400, and Helix, plus a role in the Bram Stoker’s Dracula film.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock found out how monsters cosplay in Bizarro.

(8) PERSONAL SFF HISTORIES. Fanac.org has posted an interview recorded at Philcon 2017 — Samuel R. Delany & Tom Purdom on the Science Fiction community.

Chip Delany and Tom Purdom talk informally about their experiences in science fiction in this audio tape with images. You’ll hear some startling stories about the Nebulas, and about writers such as Judy Merril, Walter Miller, and Fred Pohl. Tom talks about his introduction to science fiction and fandom in the 50s, and the fannish equivalent of the internet. This is a low key, entertaining session, held in the Philcon con suite. It’s an interesting take on how different fandom is for these two authors. Note: there is some choppiness in the audio during the last 15 minutes. Introduction by Gene Olmstead, and questions by Joe Siclari.

 

(9) DOOMED. Ansonia smeago, named for resemblance to Gollum, is in deep trouble – the BBC has the story: “Lord of the Rings toad on brink of extinction”.

A toad named after the character Gollum in the fantasy novel Lord of the Rings has joined the latest list of animals deemed at risk of extinction.

The amphibian lives not in the Misty Mountains, but on a Malaysian mountain.

The toad got its name from Gollum, also known as Sméagol, in Tolkien’s trilogy because scientists saw similarities between the two….

(10) CLARKE. David Doering discovered Arthur C. Clarke prophesying about developments in tech in a letter of comment from the August 1941 issue of Voice of the Imagi-nation.

2 July:    “Many thanks for the April and May VoM’s which arrived this morning. For the last couple of months I have been in London learning all about radio. This is the sort of work that suits me down to the ground so I am having a fine time with vector diagrams, resonant circuits, valve [tube] characteristics, and the intriguing complexities of A.C. theory. I am hoping that I shall be able to learn about radiolocation eventually – the dear old ‘detector screen’ of science fiction at last! Another scoop for sf, when you think about it.

I’m thinking that the rocket will be the next thing that will hit the war (in more ways than one!) as it is a well-known fact that the Italians have had a jet propelled plane flying for some time [the Caproni Campini N.1], and the Nazis have been using rockets to assist take-off of heavily loaded bombers. After that (or perhaps before) will be atomic power, I fear. Then the fat will be in the fire…..

Arthur “Ego” Clarke

(11) BETTER LATE. Hey, I’m liking this. From 2010, Robin Sloan’s “The Wrong Plane”.

…I showed up at the old gate, handed over my boarding pass—printed at home on an aging Epson inkjet that will no longer produce the color red—and the little scanner beeped in protest, but it was lost in the din of the boarding process, and I kept shuffling, half-asleep, and the gate agent kept shuffling, half-asleep, and everything just shuffled along.

Or maybe, through some strange printer error, my Epson smudged the bar-code in such a way as to produce an encoded string that passed muster. Maybe my boarding pass was defective and yet, presented at precisely the right wrong gate, effective. I realize this explanation is totally implausible, but I found myself drawn to it—because of what I saw out the window.

First, the ocean. Nothing out of the ordinary, except that it was the ocean, and we weren’t supposed to be flying over the ocean.

Second, the sky. An electric globe, ramping from pink at the horizon to indigo high above us, speckled generously with white curlicues, little cloudlets shaped like commas and tildes. They were distributed evenly across my entire field of vision. Not an impossible sky, but an extraordinary sky.

Third, the plane. I was sitting on the wing. It curved away from the fuselage like a giant sickle, and it had a mirror finish like a blade, too, reflecting the pink and blue of the sky. Its length was physics-defying (and I know wing physics); it tapered to a sharp point that looked about a mile away. This was not the United shuttle….

(12) ONCE MORE INTO DINOSAUR KINGDOM II. In the Washington City Paper, Pablo Maurer profiles Dinosaur Kingdom II and reveals that one of Mark Cline’s inspirations for mashing together the Civil War and dinosaurs was Ray Harryhausen — “In Central Virginia, Dinosaurs Still Walk the Earth”.

…Cline’s latest creation is difficult to describe. Just up the highway from his studio, it’s part nature trail, part haunted house, part art gallery.

The story goes something like this: It’s 1864. The Union army is shelling Lexington, and one of their cannon rounds inadvertently disturbs some sleeping dinosaurs in the caverns below. The Yanks, determined to harness the power of their new ancient friends, weaponize them and turn them loose on Confederate troops. That plan, though, backfires. What ensues is a massacre of prehistoric proportions.

Also involved: a pterodactyl flying off with the Gettysburg Address, a re-incarnated Stonewall Jackson fitted with a mechanical arm, slime-colored creatures plucked straight from a low-budget horror flick. There is all of this, and more, at Dinosaur Kingdom II….

Cline says some of the inspiration for Dinosaur Kingdom II comes from the 1969 fantasy flick The Valley of the Gwangi, which tells the story of a wild-west stunt show that stumbles upon and corrals a herd of dinosaurs. He melded that inspiration together with a bit of history. “I started thinking—60 percent of the battles in the Civil War were fought in Virginia. And Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are buried right here around Lexington. So I blended the two ideas together. Like chocolate and peanut butter.”

(13) CAN’T LOOK AWAY. It’s not just the moon that’s made of this stuff… GeekTyrant invites you to “Watch The Fantastically Cheesy Trailer For Indie Sci-Fi Film ALIEN EXPEDITION”.

If you loved the indie film Turbo Kid, you’re absolutely going to love this. Alien Expedition takes the genre of intentional sci-fi camp and does it some real justice in its two-minute trailer. I for one am really hoping one of the streaming services snags this film up so I can watch it without having to do a lot of searching months from now. …Watch the film’s website for information on a potential release date….

 

(14) BLUE MOON, NOW I’M NO LONGER ALONE. [Scroll item compiled by Mike Kennedy.] Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space flight company has announced a program named Blue Moon [GeekWire link] [Business Insider link] to land a spaceship on the Moon no later than 2023. Speaking for Blue Origin, business development director A.C. Charania said the program is “our first step to developing a lunar landing capability for the country, for other customers internationally, to be able to land multi metric tons on the lunar surface.” He continued, “Any permanent human presence on the lunar surface will require such a capability.” He also said, “Blue Moon is on our roadmap, and because of our scale, because of what we see from the government, we brought it a little bit forward in time. I think we are very excited to now implement this long-term commercial solution with NASA partnership.”

This is only one of Blue Origin’s ongoing goals, albeit the most recently announced. They’ve already missed an earlier goal to have human suborbital test fights by 2017  something that’s now hoped before the end of 2018. Tickets for paying sub-orbital passengers may be available in 2019. Meanwhile, they’re developing a new rocket engine (the BE-4) to be used for an geostationary-orbital-class rocket, the New Glenn. Some launches for the New Glenn are already booked for the early 2020’s.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. WernAcular on Vimeo answers this question: wouldn’t your film sound MUCH classier if Werner Herzog narrated it?  Well, with WernAcular, everyone can be Werner Herzog!

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

Pixel Scroll 5/9/18 They Had Many Books For Their Kindles And Nooks And Hardcovers Kept In A Pile

(1) AWARD REVOKED. While I haven’t located any related protests in social media that would explain the decision, evidently the Romance Writers of America received enough complaints after making their award to the Washington Romance Writers to change their minds: “Update on 2018 Chapter Excellence Award”.

On May 1, 2018, RWA’s board voted to rescind the 2018 Chapter Excellence Award granted to Washington Romance Writers. This decision was made after extensive review and deliberation, because the board found it impossible to hold Washington Romance Writers up as an example of excellence due to a number of complaints received after the board voted to grant the award.

Incidents reported to RWA were submitted by WRW members as well as meeting and retreat attendees who were made to feel unwelcome, disrespected, and embarrassed by members of Washington Romance Writers. Such incidents potentially violate RWA’s Code of Ethics for Members, RWA’s By-Laws, Chapter By-Laws, and are clearly in violation of the Chapter Code of Conduct recently adopted by RWA and required to be included in all chapters’ governing documents by March 2019.

RWA’s board is dedicated to ensuring that all members feel respected, and we will no longer tolerate insensitive or biased behavior. We hope and expect that WRW is willing to take steps to ensure its future success as an RWA chapter. Only by working together can we make RWA stronger.

(2) COCKY OR NOT TO COCKY, THAT IS THE QUESTION. You may have already read news stories about Faleena Hopkins’ effort to trademark the word “cocky” for a series of romance books (her works include Cocky Romantic and Cocky Cowboy) and reports that she warned off some other writers who use the adjective in the titles of their books (see “Romantic novelist’s trademarking of word ‘cocky’ sparks outcry” in The Guardian.)

(3) THE CASE OF THE MISSING COCKY. Now there have been claims that Amazon, a primary sales channel, has been culling other authors’ titles based upon her claim.

What’s more, there have been claims that Amazon has removed some customer reviews using the word “cocky,” and delayed the posting of others (which their makers tried to post either in protest or to test Amazon’s policy.)

You can see this one’s gone:

Original URL: https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R3A3NXV2FH4Q4A

Google cache copy of page with review: https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:zxJaTw9kaAcJ:https://www.amazon.com/Falling-Hard-New-Adult-Anthology/dp/098614150X

However, there are both titles and reviews still on Amazon with “cocky” in them which are not by the author claiming the trademark. There’s no way to tell whether any of those were zapped, then restored, by Amazon.

JJ ran a search of customer reviews containing the word “cocky” and got only 3 hits, which seemed rather low:

https://www.google.com/search?safe=off&biw=1234&bih=656&q=%22cocky%22+romance+site%3Aamazon.com%2Freview

I don’t know. It does seem like a very small search return; they’re almost all “trending” results rather than individual review results, which would indicate that they are quite recent reviews.

Heidi Cullinan did a thread on the topic:

If Amazon is deleting things — what’s with their legal staff? Do they really think they have exposure from this?

The Romance Writers of America have gotten involved:

(4) GILLIAM STROKE. And it was just the other day we were reporting his luck had finally changed for the better: “Terry Gilliam Suffers Minor Stroke Days Before Verdict on Cannes Closer ‘Don Quixote'”.

Terry Gilliam suffered a minor stroke over the weekend, days before a final verdict on whether his long-gestating passion project The Man Who Killed Don Quixote will be screened as the closing film at the 71st Cannes Film Festival.

The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that Gilliam, 77, had a minor stroke but is fine now and recuperating at his home in England, awaiting the outcome of a court ruling regarding the screening of Don Quixote on the last night of the festival May 19. French newspaper Nice-Matin first reported the news.

(5) FIRST LOOK. The Daily Beast tells about “The Secret Photographs of Stanley Kubrick”.

According to Michael Benson’s authoritative Space Odyssey, Kubrick shot setups with the Polaroid then, based on the results, he and cameraman John Alcott adjusted lighting and the placement of his Super Panavision 70mm cameras.

“I think he saw things differently that way than he did looking through a camera,” Alcott told Benson. “When Kubrick looked at this Polaroid still, he would see a two-dimensional image — it was all one surface and closer to what he was going to see on the screen.”

It’s estimated Kubrick shot some 10,000 insta-images on 2001, and if you only know Kubrick as a reclusive eccentric that reliance on the Polaroid might seem a characteristic quirk.

But in fact it was an extension of the creative sensibility he developed as a teenager working for Look. From 1945 to 1950, Kubrick was a photographer for the picture magazine, evocatively and empathically documenting ordinary New Yorkers, celebrities, athletes, and post-war playgrounds like the amusement park.

He shot more than 135 assignments for Look while honing the skills, relationships, and chutzpah that led him to filmmaking.

Yet this vital strand of Kubrick’s artistic DNA has been criminally underexplored. The Museum of the City of New York’s new exhibition Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs, on view through October 28, aims to change that….

(6) HIRED HELP. BuzzFeed takes you “Inside Amazon’s Fake Review Economy”. Given the ongoing debate on deleted reviews on Amazon, it may be interesting that a ReviewMeta algorithmic analysis (per CEO Tommy Noonan) of 58.5 million reviews on Amazon found 9.1% of them (5.3 million) to be “unnatural” and possibly fake. Unsurprisingly, Amazon disagrees claiming that <1% are “inauthentic.” Note that this article is concerned with paid reviews (both positive and negative), not tit-for-tat reviews as have been discussed in File 770.

The systems that create fraudulent reviews are a complicated web of subreddits, invite-only Slack channels, private Discord servers, and closed Facebook groups, but the incentives are simple: Being a five-star product is crucial to selling inventory at scale in Amazon’s intensely competitive marketplace — so crucial that merchants are willing to pay thousands of people to review their products positively.

…In October 2016, Amazon banned free items or steep discounts in exchange for reviews facilitated by third parties. But Tommy Noonan, CEO of ReviewMeta, a site that analyzes Amazon listings, said what he calls “unnatural reviews” — that is, reviews, that his algorithm indicates might be fake — have returned to the platform. In June 2017, Noonan noticed an uptick in unnatural reviews along with an increase in the average rating of products, and the rate of growth hasn’t slowed since.

Amazon’s ban didn’t stop sellers from recruiting reviewers. It only drove the practice underground. Reviewers are no longer simply incentivized with free stuff — they’re commissioned specifically for a five-star rating in exchange for cash. The bad reviews are harder to spot, too: They don’t contain any disclosures (because incentivized reviews are banned, and a disclosure would indicate that the review violates Amazon’s terms). Paid reviewers also typically pay for products with their own credit cards on their own Amazon accounts, with which they have spent at least $50, all to meet the criteria for a “verified purchase,” so their reviews are marked as such.

(7) CYBER TAKEDOWN. Equifax has been in no hurry for the complete damages to be made public. The Register has the latest totals: “Equifax reveals full horror of that monstrous cyber-heist of its servers”.

Late last week, the company gave the numbers in letters to the various US congressional committees investigating the network infiltration, and on Monday, it submitted a letter to the SEC, corporate America’s financial watchdog.

As well as the – take a breath – 146.6 million names, 146.6 million dates of birth, 145.5 million social security numbers, 99 million address information and 209,000 payment cards (number and expiry date) exposed, the company said there were also 38,000 American drivers’ licenses and 3,200 passport details lifted, too.

(8) LOOKING FOR CIVILIZATION THAT PREDATES HUMANITY. Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist at NASA, published a recent paper about what could be left in the geological record that could identify a pre-human technologically advanced civilization.

The drier scientific discussion is here: “The Silurian hypothesis: would it be possible to detect an industrial civilization in the geological record?”

Abstract

If an industrial civilization had existed on Earth many millions of years prior to our own era, what traces would it have left and would they be detectable today? We summarize the likely geological fingerprint of the Anthropocene, and demonstrate that while clear, it will not differ greatly in many respects from other known events in the geological record. We then propose tests that could plausibly distinguish an industrial cause from an otherwise naturally occurring climate event.

Impressively, he has also written a short story about the impact of making such a discovery: “Under the Sun” at Motherboard.

(9) CRAIG OBIT. Noble Craig, U.S. actor, died April 26, 2018. Severely injured during wartime service in Vietnam, he used his disabilities to forge an acting career, taking roles those with four limbs were unable to fill, beginning with Sssssss (1973). Also appeared in Poltergeist II: The Other Side and Big Trouble in Little China (both 1986), The Blob (1988), A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child and Bride of Re-Animator (both 1989).

(10) STAR TOY. Have you fiddled with this yet? — ESASky is an application that allows you to visualize and download public astronomical data from space-based missions. Mlex sent this sample:

(11) 1984. Fanac.org has posted another Hugo ceremony video: “L.A.con II (1984) Worldcon – Hugos and Special Tributes – Robert Bloch, MC.”

Hey, there’s R. A. MacAvoy at 13:00. And guess who at 22:16 and 23:45.

L.A.con II, the 42nd World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Anaheim, CA in 1984. Toastmaster Robert Bloch’s introductory remarks are tantamount to standup comedy, and the video also includes several special and moving tributes along with the Hugos. The first tribute is presented by Robert Silverberg and Harlan Ellison to fan and editor Larry Shaw (who died within the next year) and the second to Robert Bloch himself. There’s also some fun with Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle on stage having to do with a rocket shaped object. Thanks to the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests (SCIFI) for this recording.

 

(12) PLANETARY AWARDS. The 2017 winners of the Puppy-influenced Planetary Awards have been announced.

  • Best Shorter Story: “The First American” by Schuyler Hernstrom (Cirsova).
  • Best Novel: Legionnaire (Galaxy’s Edge) by Jason Anspach and Nick Cole.

(13) FREE CELL. A better model? “Artificial Intelligence Takes Scientists Inside Living Human Cells”

A new application of artificial intelligence could help researchers solve medical mysteries ranging from cancer to Alzheimer’s.

It’s a 3D model of a living human cell that lets scientists study the interior structures of a cell even when they can only see the exterior and the nucleus — the largest structure in a cell. The model was unveiled to the public Wednesday by the Allen Institute for Cell Science in Seattle.

The technology is freely available, and Roger Brent, an investigator at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle who was not involved in the tool’s development, has been using it for several months. He’s a big fan.

“This lets you see things with a simple microscope that are going to be helpful to researchers all over the world — including in less affluent places,” Brent says.

(14) VACUUM POWER. BBC video: “The amazing power of the world’s largest vacuum” — is used for testing spaceworthiness; also tests noise resistance, and was used in first Avengers movie.

(15) DOUBLE STAR. Michael B. Jordan was on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to talk about his recent and his upcoming star turns in sff epics.

‘Fahrenheit 451’ star Michael B. Jordan approaches every role by journaling the character’s backstory, including his portrayal of Erik Killmonger in the blockbuster film ‘Black Panther.’

 

[Thanks to JJ, Steve Green, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Rob Day, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, and David K.M. Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributingh editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 3/30/18 Round The Decay Of That Colossal Scroll, Boxless And Bare, The Lone And Level Pixels Stretch Away

(1) WSJ’S TOP SF OF 2017. Congratulations to all the authors who made the Wall Street Journal’s list of best 5 sf novels of the year 2017. Especially Gregory Benford, who sent me the news item. (The list came out in December but is behind a paywall.)

  • All Our Wrong Todays, by Elan Mastai
  • The Berlin Project, by Gregory Benford
  • Change Agent, by Daniel Suarez
  • Artemis, by Andy Weir
  • The Genius Plague by David Walton

(2) THEORIES OF EVOLUTION AND TIME TRAVEL. The Conversation’s Jordi Paps says the answer to the question “Would stepping on the first butterfly really change the history of evolution?” depends on how you believe evolution works.

Science fiction writers can’t seem to agree on the rules of time travel. Sometimes, as in Doctor Who (above), characters can travel in time and affect small events without appearing to alter the grand course of history. In other stories, such as Back To The Future, even the tiniest of the time travellers’ actions in the past produce major ripples that unpredictably change the future.

Evolutionary biologists have been holding a similar debate about how evolution works for decades. In 1989 (the year of Back To The Future Part II), the American palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould published his timeless book Wonderful Life, named after the classic movie that also involves time travel of sorts. In it, he proposed a thought experiment: what would happen if you could replay life’s tape, rewinding the history of evolution and running it again? Would you still see the same movie with all the evolutionary events playing out as before? Or would it be more like a reboot, with species evolving in different ways?

(3) RESOLVED. Rocket Stack Rank will comply with Charles Payseur’s request to drop him from the list of reviewers they track.

Charles Payseur acknowledged their response, and discussed some of comments made by Filers since the request hit the news yesterday. Jump on his thread here:

(4) WFC RATES WILL RISE. World Fantasy Convention 2018 registration rates are due to increase on April 1, from $200 to $250 for a full attending membership. If you become a member now you will still have time to nominate for this year’s World Fantasy Awards (for which the deadline is May 31.)

WFC2018 will be held at the Baltimore Renaissance Harborplace Hotel, Nov 1–4, hosted by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) and Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA).

(5) THE BRADBURY FAMILY. On April 19, the Pasadena Museum of History presents a lecture by one of his daughters about “Growing Up with Ray Bradbury”.

Ray Bradbury’s daughter Ramona invites you to pull up a chair in her virtual living room as she shares an intimate evening of memories about growing up in the eclectic Bradbury household in the Cheviot Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. The format is a conversation with historian Richard Schave (Esotouric Bus Adventures, Los Angeles), followed by a Q & A session.

Ramona will reminisce about life with her famous father, and share rare family photos and stories of weekend excursions to Hollywood Boulevard book shops and the Palos Verdes Peninsula (made more adventurous because her father didn’t drive!), eccentric family friends, special gatherings, and important public events.

(6) TWO ON ONE. Two NPR reviewers take on Ready Player One:

MONDELLO: A Willy Wonka prize worth playing for if you’re a gamer and a movie conceit worth playing with if you’re Steven Spielberg. Ernest Cline’s novel gave Halliday a consuming nostalgia for the 1980s, and who better to bring that to the screen? The filmmaker crams every corner of Wade’s cyberscapes with Deloreans, Batmobiles, aliens, King Kong, The Iron Giant. There’s Prince and Van Halen on the soundtrack and even a sequence where Spielberg lets loose his inner Kubrick. Wade, who calls himself Parzival in the OASIS, teams up with his best buddy, Aech…

Like the popular 2011 Ernest Cline science fiction novel on which it’s based, “Ready Player One” is an extended valentine to those pop culture relics, most of which came out in the ’80s and are thus beloved by people who grew up watching, well, Steven Spielberg movies. Spielberg avoids any allusions to his own films apart from a stray dinosaur who may or may not hail from “Jurassic Park.” But as one of the undisputed high priests of American popular entertainment, he is in many ways enshrining his own legacy. Frankly, I wish he’d been more careful with it.

(7) BOSON PURSUIT. Researchers say a “Higgs factory a ‘must for big physics'”.

Physicists had hoped that the [Large Hadron Collider] would turn up evidence of physics phenomena not explained by the Standard Model. So far, efforts to detect new physics have come away empty-handed, but studying the Higgs in more detail might break the impasse.

A successor to the Large Hadron Collider would be designed in a way that allows scientists to zero in on the Higgs boson.

The LHC works by smashing beams of proton particles together, but the collisions that produce the Higgs also produce many other particles. This makes it complicated to work out which collisions produce the Higgs boson.

A different type of particle smasher, called an electron-positron collider, should produce only a Higgs and another particle called a Z boson.

(8) VOYAGE TO THE MOON. A Kickstarter to fund the English translation of Georges Méliès’ autobiography hit its target in the first couple of days.

81 years ago, at the age of 77, Georges Méliès – the father of narrative and fantastical film – hand-wrote his autobiography; the story of the creation of cinema from not only a firsthand witness but also its greatest innovator. It has been completely unavailable since 1945 and has never been translated into English. This is one of the great unseen texts of cinema history.

I’ve had it translated. And it’s GREAT! Reading it blew my film-loving mind. A voice from history telling me in his own words about how cinema began and his role in it. Now I need your help to rescue this important, illuminating and fascinating testimony, to get it back into print and where it truly belongs – in our hands and on our bookshelves.

…. In 1937, a year before he died, he wrote longhand a 32 page autobiography detailing his life, his work and his observations on both. He sent it to a film historian who was writing a book about him. The first 500 copies of this book were packaged with a facsimile of the manuscript. What remains of that print run exists now only in the jealously guarded collections of film enthusiasts who have been lucky or wealthy enough to secure one.

This memoir is an enthralling story in which Méliès guides us from his childhood into his early career, explaining how all of the elements fell into place to put him in the perfect position to become a pioneer of cinema. He talks about becoming one of the first people in the world to see a projected moving image at a private demonstration by the Lumiére brothers and the international mission this inspired him to take to become a part of the new medium. He explains how and why he became the first impressario of cinema, how he built France’s first film studio and how he invented special effects techniques and helped define the very format of cinematic film. More than this, it’s a human story; at times braggadocios, joyous, humble and bitter. We learn how times and the industry changed, how he became the first victim of film piracy and how he ended up in his old age, forgotten, broke and selling toys and sweets in a tiny stall in Montparnasse train station. Most interesting to me was discovering that he was a man already aware of his legacy and surprisingly unhappy about how he could see he was going to be remembered. His memoir crackles with life and is a vivid account of the dawn of movies from its most colourful participant.

(9) HEAR FRITZ LEIBER. Fanac.org’s new YouTube video pairs a sound recording of Fritz Leiber’s “Monsters And Monster Lovers” talk from the 1964 Worldcon with selected images.

Pacificon II, the 22nd World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Oakland, CA in 1964. In this interesting audio with images, Fritz Leiber speaks eloquently about his favorite literary monsters (from Yog Sothoth to the forest in Peer Gynt), the relationship of science fiction to traditional monsters, why we are drawn to these characters, and on horror in a time of war. The first 10 minutes or so are a loving listing of characters, and the meat of the talk starts after that. This material was provided by The Southern California Institute for Fan Interests (SCIFI), and Jerome Scott, Director of Projects for SCIFI in LA.

 

(10) MAYNARD OBIT. Bill Maynard (1928-2018): British actor, died March 30, aged 89. Genre appearances: You Too Can Have a Body (1960), The Boy with Two Heads (all seven episodes, 1974), Zodiac (one episode, 1974).

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 30, 1988 Beetlejuice premiered. The Hollywood Reporter has reposted its review of the film.
  • March 30, 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hit theaters.

(12) BIRTHDAY AUTHOR. Steven H Silver’s “Birthday Reviews” series at Black Gate celebrates “Chad Oliver’s ‘Transformer’”.

Oliver’s writing career began with the publication of the short story “The Land of Lost Content” in the November 1950 issue of Super Science Stories. He published short fiction through his career, with his final story published in 1991. During that time, he also published six novels and collaborated occasionally with Charles Beaumont and Garvin Berry. His 1984 story “Ghost Town” was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story.

(13) WILD ANIMAL WARNING. Your Charlton Police Department knows some coyotes are more dangerous to themselves.

(14) ACE REPORTER. Jon Del Arroz says he will be on hand for the Hugo finalist announcement at the 7 Stars Bar & Grill in San Jose tomorrow. The bar’s online schedule promises there will be Bottomless Mimosas and karaoke on Saturday – no wonder he can’t stay away!

(15) FREE READ. The winner of the “Quantum Shorts” fiction contest has been posted.

Scientific American and Nature partnered with the Center for Quantum Technologies in Singapore, which organizes the annual competition….

The mind-bending possibilities of quantum physics lend themselves to philosophy—to wondering about the theory’s implications for the meaning of life, the idea of free will, the fate of us all. A talented pool of writers have capitalized on those implications to produce an impressive array of entries in this year’s Quantum Shorts contest, which invites short fiction based on the ideas of quantum mechanics. Scientific American and Nature partnered with the Center for Quantum Technologies in Singapore, which organizes the annual competition. Judges, including Scientific American and Nature editors, selected a winner and runner-up in two categories—“open” and “youth”—and online voting identified a “people’s choice” favorite; all winners will receive a cash award, a certificate and an engraved trophy.

(16) NEW FORNAX. Charles Rector’s 21st issue of his fanzine Fornax [PDF file] is available at EFanzines. Here’s what’s inside —

Among other things is an essay about how I was treated as a handicapped student by gym teachers while I was in the public schools during the 1970’s.  There is also an essay about how the Big Tech companies such as Google, Twitter and You Tube have been using their power to censor political speech by conservatives and socialists and how this all ties in with the allegations that all anti-establishment activity is tied in with Vladimir Putin and his gang in Russia.  There is also an essay about irresponsible rhetoric such as Guy H. Lillian III’s defense of Al Franken and this Daniel Greenfield character who claims that we are on the verge of “civil war” because there is a great deal of opposition to the Trump Administration. There is also a look back at the Solar Empire game of yesteryear.

There are also some essays by both Robin Bright and Gerd Maximovic as well as poetry by Denny E. Marshall.

(17) RED PELT, BLUE PELT. Huffington Post reports “Alt-Right Furries Are Raging Online, And Leftist Furries Wonder What Is To Be Done”.

…However, the vocal subgroup of Alt-Furries has been hard at work asserting their space within the movement of late, and it’s this very spirit of inclusivity they wish to expunge.

“The furry ‘community’ is a fandom that has been overrun by liberal ‘tolerance’ and ‘acceptance’ and as a result it’s become sanctuary to hardcore paedophiles and
people with serious mental problems,” the unnamed author of Nazi furry erotica “The Furred Reich” told The New Statesman, which has been doggedly covering the Alt-Furry scene for years.

The core furry community, then, finds itself in quite the bind: Can a group founded upon the idea of consummate tolerance embrace a clique that’s so staunchly intolerant?

For the opposing furries leading an outright fight against the alt-right, the answer is no. Dogpatch Press, a furry news source offering “fluff pieces every week day,” often rails against Alt-Furries and their attempts at indoctrination. In February, a Dogpatch writer with the fursona Patch O’Furr published a “deep dive into the Altfurry mission to ‘redpill’ fandom with hate,” warning readers about the #AltFurry mission to indoctrinate members of the fandom and spread its white supremacist teachings.

According to O’Furr, furry fandom is a perfect venue for alt-right recruiters. Just as Pepe the Frog (RIP) served as a seemingly harmless, comedic package through which to promulgate racist, misogynist and xenophobic beliefs, fursonas can act as effective, hirsute fronts for extreme views. As Furry fandom member Deo elaborated in a Medium post, furry communities ? often populated by “socially awkward internet nerds” ? are prime targets for alt-right trolls, who target young people, outsiders and insecure, white men.

(18) KERMODE. Here are three recent genre film reviews by YouTuber Mark Kermode.

  • Ready Player One

“Really properly good fun!”

 

  • Annihilation (audio only)

“Shame I didn’t get the chance to see it in the cinema” and “a really fine piece of work”

 

  • A Wrinkle in Time

“I’d rather a film aimed high and tripped than played it safe, and I think A Wrinkle in Time does that”

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Steve Green, Chip Hitchcock, IanP,Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, John A Arkansawyer, Gregory Benford, Ann Marie Rudolph, Brian Z., Charles Rector, with Carl Slaughter as The Beaver for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]