Pixel Scroll 8/10/21 The Scrolls Are Lovely, Dark And Deep, But I Have Pixels To Keep

(1) SANDBAGGING GOODREADS FOR RANSOM. TIME probes “Goodreads’ Problem With Extortion Scams and Review Bombing”.

A few months after posting a message on Goodreads about the imminent release of a new book, Indie author Beth Black woke up to an all-caps ransom email from an anonymous server, demanding that she either pay for good reviews or have her books inundated with negative ones: “EITHER YOU TAKE CARE OF OUR NEEDS AND REQUIREMENTS WITH YOUR WALLET OR WE’LL RUIN YOUR AUTHOR CAREER,” the email, shared with TIME, read. “PAY US OR DISAPPEAR FROM GOODREADS FOR YOUR OWN GOOD.”

Black, who has self-published both a romance novel and a collection of short stories in the past year, didn’t pay the ransom. “I reported it to Goodreads and then a couple hours later, I started noticing the stars dropping on my books as I started getting all these 1-star reviews,” she says. “It was quite threatening.”

Scammers and cyberstalkers are increasingly using the Goodreads platform to extort authors with threats of “review bombing” their work–and they are frequently targeting authors from marginalized communities who have spoken out on topics ranging from controversies within the industry to larger social issues on social media.

… Goodreads remains one of the primary tools on the internet for book discovery, meaning lesser-known authors often have to rely on the site to get their work noticed. But at this point, some feel that Goodreads’ ratings and reviews system is causing more harm than good.

In a July 29 statement to TIME, a spokesperson for Goodreads said that the company is actively working to resolve many of these review bombing problems.

“We take swift action to remove users when we determine that they violate our guidelines, and are actively assessing all available options to take further action against the small number of bad actors who have attempted extortion scams,” the statement read. “We have clear guidelines for reviews and participation in our community, and we remove reviews and/or accounts that violate these guidelines… We also continue to invest in making technology improvements to prevent bad actor behavior and inauthentic reviews in order to better safeguard our community.”

Review bombing, ransom emails and extortion

As author Rin Chupeco told TIME, Goodreads is a “good idea that slowly became unmanageable over the years due to lack of adequate moderation and general indifference.”

One emerging issue is review bombing: when a coordinated group, or a few people with multiple accounts, intentionally tank a book’s aggregate rating with a flurry of one-star ratings and negative reviews….

.. But Black isn’t the only author to be targeted. There are many threads on Goodreads discussing similar issues, with posts from writers who’ve been targeted….

(2) MAKING RULES DIFFERENTLY. Eleanor Konik shows colleagues a way to expand their horizons in “Unusual Governments to Take Inspiration From” at the SFWA Blog.

Often, speculative fiction relies on common government types, like monarchies and republics, because they’re familiar to readers. History, however, offers other examples of sociopolitical systems. They can be a gold mine for worldbuilding ideas that stretch beyond the mainstream.

Cycling Governments

Age-sets are a sociopolitical system common in East Africa. Among Kenya’s Nandi people, each ibinda (age-set) corresponds to a stage of the life cycle. Boys and girls from each region would be initiated into their age-sets during a series of mass ceremonies.  As an analogy, consider a series of nearby communities gathering children into one centralized boarding school then transitioning them out of school and into the lifestage of young adults marrying and being busy with young children, after which they would return to the workforce before finally amassing the experience to lead the community as political figures. 

In the Ethiopian Highlands, this sort of cycling age-set system, known in some places as gadaa (for men) or siqqee (for women), led to the development of a republic with democratic elections and the peaceful transfer of power, which took roughly eight years to accomplish. It is not the “democratic republic” as described in ancient Greece. Men were bound to their neighbors by the bonds of shared experiences, handling infrastructure projects for the whole region. In some places, this led to peace. In others, expansion of the length of time men spent in the warrior stage meant an increase in raids and conquest. 

(3) SILVERBERG TO BE DISCON III VIRTUAL PARTICIPANT. Robert Silverberg revealed online today: “Apparently I will be at the DC worldcon after all, though only virtually.  Since I am unwilling to travel to the East Coast in wintertime, they have arranged for me to do a virtual conversation with Nancy Kress, with Alvaro Zinos-Amaro acting as moderator.  So my 67-year streak of worldcon attendance will remain intact, if only virtually.”

(4) ENTER THE DRAGONS. Camestros Felapton’s epic has now reached a key moment of 2016: “Debarkle Chapter 55: The Dragon Award Begins”.

…With the devastating final results of the 2015 Hugo Award, some Puppy supporters thought that the right response was to walk away from Worldcon and the Hugo Awards altogether. This was matched by some of the rhetoric from critics of the Puppies, who had suggested that the Puppy leadership should set up their own awards.

So it was both notable and not wholly a surprise when on March 31 2016 Dragon Con announced the first inaugural Dragon Awards with their own new website…

(5) DULCET TONES. Open Culture invites you to listen as “Benedict Cumberbatch Reads Kurt Vonnegut’s Letter of Advice to People Living in the Year 2088”.

A few years ago we posted Kurt Vonnegut’s letter of advice to humanity, written in 1988 but addressed, a century hence, to the year 2088. Whatever objections you may have felt to reading this missive more than 70 years prematurely, you might have overcome them to find that the author of Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions single-mindedly importuned his fellow man of the late 21st century to protect the natural environment. He issues commandments to “reduce and stabilize your population” to “stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems,” and to “stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars,” among other potentially drastic-sounding measures.

Commandment number seven amounts to the highly Vonnegutian “And so on. Or else.” A fan can easily imagine these words spoken in the writer’s own voice, but with Vonnegut now gone for well over a decade, would you accept them spoken in the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch instead?

(6) END TIMES. Netflix dropped this trailer for the final season of Lucifer today.

Lucifer scored the promotion, but does he really want the job? Plus, Chloe prepares to give up detective work, Amenadiel joins the LAPD, and more.

(7) SOUNDING OFF. The Guardian interviews actors who are better known for their voice than their face. One of them is Doug Jones of Star Trek: Discovery fame: “’They wanted my meerkat to sound like a Russian Alan Sugar’ – meet TV’s secret superstars” in The Guardian.

…[Doug Jones:] When you say yes to playing something that doesn’t look human, you’re saying yes to the entire process. I don’t get to shout: “Get this off me! It’s so hot and sticky.” I need the mindset of a performer, but also the endurance of an athlete, one who can take five or six hours of makeup application, then get through a long day of shooting.

Because of all the parts I’ve played, I often end up skipping the conventional casting process. People in creature effects just say: “It’s a tall skinny alien – we need Doug Jones.” I was playing the amphibian in the Oscar-winning film The Shape of Water when Star Trek: Discovery approached me. I was actually thinking “I’m not sure how much more rubber and glue I want in my life,” but there was no way I could turn it down. For Saru, I wear a four-piece prosthetic over my head that comes down past my collarbones, with gloves to change my hands. It’s all been moulded to my shape and pre-painted so getting it all glued on is only a two-hour process. I wear a Starfleet uniform like everybody else, but I do have special hoofed boots that add five inches to my height. That makes me about 6ft 8ins!…

(8) TRAPPED IN AMBER. Irish/Dutch writer couple Angeline B. Adams and Remco van Straten talk about the future of the sword and sorcery genre — and if it has one: “Fled & Done: Sword & Sorcery” at Turnip Lanterns.

…Modern Sword & Sorcery writers face an uphill battle, if they want to emerge from the shadow of Conan (including, and in particular, his Marvel comics and Schwarzenegger film incarnations). And that indeed sums up our dilemma: is it worth trying to expand the genre, when the general audience’s idea of S&S has calcified in cliché? Especially when a large section of S&S fans (and authors) have very firm ideas of what S&S was, is and always will be?…

(9) INTERNATIONAL TOLKIEN FANDOM. Brazilian podcast Tolkien Talk did a video Q&A with acclaimed Tolkien scholar Douglas Anderson. It’s the fifth in their series of major international interviews. Find the others at their Tolkien Talk YouTube channel.

Meet Douglas A. Anderson, creator of The Annotated Hobbit and one of the most important tolkienists of our time. All the way from his first contact with J.R.R. Tolkien’s work to unveiling misconceptions throughout the time, get an overview on Tolkien’s life and works from one that accessed them directly.

(10) CRIMINAL RECORD. Anthony Horowitz has reached a crime fiction award milestone: “Horowitz becomes Japan’s most-decorated foreign crime author” at The Bookseller.

Author Anthony Horowitz has won the Best Mystery of the Decade award by Honkaku Mystery Writers Club for his first Daniel Hawthorne novel, The Word is Murder, making him the most-decorated foreign crime author in Japanese history.

Horowitz is the first author in Japanese history to win 16 literary awards in total, according to his publisher…. 

(11) WHY THIS SOUNDS FAMILIAR. “’I Am Legend’ screenwriter responds to conspiracy theory about vaccines and zombies”Yahoo! has the story.

There are a multitude of reasons why people are hesitant or refusing to get the coronavirus vaccine in the midst of a pandemic that’s killed over 600,000 people in the U.S. and millions worldwide, from distrust in science and medicine to wariness towards the government and also… zombies?

New York Times report last weekend about a Bronx-based eyewear company struggling to persuade its employees to get jabbed referenced one worker whose hesitancy was based off of the belief that the COVID vaccine is the shot that turned people into zombies in the 2007 post-apocalyptic film I Am Legend.

As the Times pointed out, the zombification portrayed in the box office hit starring Will Smith was caused by a genetically reprogrammed virus, not the vaccine for it. But the bizarre claim has still flourished on the hotbed of vaccination misinformation that is social media.

On Monday, I Am Legend screenwriter Akiva Goldsman entered the chat.

“Oh. My. God. It’s a movie. I made that up. It’s. Not. Real,” Goldsman tweeted in response to journalist and comic book writer Marc Bernadin, who shared a screencap of the article with quote, “We. Are. All. Going. To. Die. Sooner. Than. We. Should.”…

(12) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2013 – Eight years ago, Futurama ended its run. It had four seasons on FOX, and when cancelled there was revived by Comedy Central and ran another three seasons. In between, reruns aired on Adult Swim.  It was created by Matt Groening of Simpsons fame. Over its seven seasons, it would run for one hundred and seventy episodes. There would be four later films, Bender’s Big Score, The Beast with a Billion Backs, Bender’s Game and Into the Wild Green Yonder. It had a legendary voice cast of Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche, Phil LaMarr, Lauren Tom, David Herman and Frank Welker. It was nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Script for the “Where No Fan Has Gone Before” episode during the last season. It has a ninety-five percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 10, 1902 Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in horror and sf films for The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain, the latter  from his own novel. He won a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form at Dublin 2019  for Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman and was nominated for six more. ISFDB notes Donovan’s Brain was part of his Dr. Patrick Cory series, and he wrote quite a few other genre novels as well. Donovan’s Brain and just a few other works are available from the usual suspects. (Died 2000.)
  • Born August 10, 1903 Ward Moore. Author of Bring the Jubilee which everyone knows about as it’s often added to that mythical genre canon, and several more that I’m fairly sure almost no one knows of. More interestingly to me was that he was a keen writer of recipes of which ISFDB documents — four of his appeared in Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking Out of This World including “Kidneys — Like Father Used to Make” and “Pea Soup — Potage Ste. Germaine.“ (Died 1978.)
  • Born August 10, 1913 Noah Beery Jr. Genre wise, he’s best remembered as Maj. William Corrigan on the Fifties classic SF film Rocketship X-M, but he showed up in other genre undertakings as well such as 7 Faces of Dr. LaoThe Six Million Dollar ManFantasy IslandBeyond Witch MountainThe Ghost of Cypress Swamp and The Cat Creeps. I think he appeared in one of the earliest Zorro films made where he’s credited just as a boy, he’d be seven then, The Mark of Zorro which had Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and his father, Noah Beery Sr. (Died 1994.)
  • Born August 10, 1931 Alexis A. Gilliland, 90. He won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1982, edging out Brin and Swanwick for the honor. Gilliland also won four Hugo Awards for Best Fan Artist in the early Eighties and won the Tucker Award for Excellence in Partying in the late Eighties. What the Hell is that? And he won the Rotsler Award for fan art in 2006.  He’s got two series, Rosinante and Wizenbeak, neither of which I’ve read, so do tell me about them please. 
  • Born August 10, 1944 Barbara Erskine, 77. I’m including her because I’ve got a bit of a mystery. ISFDB lists her as writing over a dozen genre novels and her wiki page says she has a fascination with the supernatural but neither indicates what manner of genre fiction she wrote. I’m guessing romance or gothic tinged with the supernatural based on the covers but that’s just a guess. What do y’all know about her?
  • Born August 10, 1955 Eddie Campbell, 66. Best known as the illustrator and publisher of From Hell, written by Alan Moore, and Bacchus, a most excellent series about the few Greek gods who have made to the present day. Though not genre in the slightest way, I highly recommend The Black Diamond Detective Agency which he did. It’s an adaptation of an as-yet unmade screenplay by C. Gaby Mitchell.
  • Born August 10, 1960 Antonio Banderas, 61. Genre work in Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, the Spy Kids franchise, voice work in the Puss in Boots and Shrek franchises, appearances in The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle and the New Mutants. He’s James Mangold in the forthcoming Indiana Jones film. 
  • Born August 10, 1965 Claudia Christian, 56. Best known role is Commander Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5, but she has done other genre roles such as being Brenda Lee Van Buren in The Hidden, Katherine Shelley in Lancelot: Guardian of Time, Quinn in Arena, Lucy in The Haunting of Hell House and Kate Dematti in Meteor Apocalypse. She’s had one-offs on Space RangersHighlanderQuantum LeapRelic Hunter and Grimm. She’s Captain Belinda Blowhard on Starhyke, a six episode series shot in ‘05 you can see on Amazon Prime.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) UP TO DATE. Entertainment Weekly says Robin is now bi. “Robin becomes a bisexual icon in new Batman comic”. Clearly it doesn’t cut it to keep visualizing Burt Ward/Robin as Adam West/Bruce Wayne’s teenage ward — I missed the part where Robin was dating at all.

The latest issue of Batman: Urban Legends, a monthly anthology series, revealed that the Caped Crusader’s longtime sidekick Robin, specifically the Tim Drake version of him, is bisexual. 

The moment came at the end of part 3 of the Sum of Our Parts story, from writer Meghan Fitzmartin, artist Belén Ortega, colorist Alejandro Sánchez, and letterer Pat Brosseau. 

(16) SUBSTACK GROWING. “Comic Book Writers and Artists Follow Other Creators to Substack” – the New York Times tells how it will work.

… Nick Spencer, a comic book writer best known for his work for Marvel Entertainment, was the liaison between Substack and a group of creators who, starting Monday, will publish new comic book stories, essays and how-to guides on the platform.

He said he approached Chris Best, a Substack founder, with the idea last year, when the pandemic was keeping many fans out of the comic book shops and the creators were looking for new ways to connect with readers.

The initial lineup includes comic-centric newsletters from Saladin AhmedJonathan HickmanMolly OstertagScott Snyder and James Tynion IV, with other writers and artists to be announced.

The creators will be paid by Substack while keeping ownership of their work. The company will take most of the subscription revenue in the first year; after that, it will take a 10 percent cut.

Mr. Tynion, who last month won an Eisner Award, the comic industry’s highest honor, for best writer, said he would break away from writing Batman for DC Entertainment to devote time to his creator-owned series and his Substack newsletter.

(17) KEEPING THE BOOKS. Lazy Rabbit has a set of humorous pictures of librarian jokes on Facebook.

(18) CATS FOR ADOPTION. Let’s signal boost the availability for adoption of a new litter of kittens in Los Angeles. The owner is a friend of Gideon Marcus of Galactic Journey. You can reach her by emailing digginginthewrongplace (at) gmail (dot) com.

The momma cat is approx two years old. We just had her spayed and she had a dental check too. She’s negative for all diseases/fleas/worms, and in great health.

Kitties are 9 weeks old. All in great health. Too young to be neutered yet.

Let me know if anyone’s interested!

(19) CANDLING THE EGGS. SYFY Wire got first dibs on this 90-second video: “Monsters at Work: Explore the Pixar show’s various Easter eggs”.

SYFY WIRE is excited to debut an exclusive featurette that breaks down a number of these subtle — and not-so-subtle — references in the Disney+ series. Series executive producer Bobs Gannaway tells us that all of the Easter eggs “happened naturally and came from anyone on the crew at any phase of production — be it a storyboard artist adding something in the board, or the art director dressing the set.” 

“We focused mostly on world expansion — using the graphics to suggest parts of the world we will never see: like the Laffeteria menu, or advertisements on the back of Roz’s newspaper,” he continues. “We also focused things more inward and on our characters. For example, Duncan’s nameplate changes every episode, and whenever he’s listening to his boom box, the ‘mixtape’ is labeled. You have to really zoom into the frames to see those. Other things aren’t so much Easter eggs as they are just having fun: like changing the theme music every time during the credits to reflect that episode’s story, and doing something different each time with the wind-up teeth in the Mike’s Comedy Class title card. Everyone has a good time adding the details to the world.”

(20) TRICK OR TRICK. “’Muppets Haunted Mansion’ Halloween Special First Images Revealed” – see the pics at Halloween Daily News. Below is the trailer from May.

On today’s 52nd anniversary of the premiere of the Haunted Mansion dark ride at Disneyland, two first-look images from this October’s new Muppets Haunted Mansion Halloween special have been released, including Kermit and Miss Piggy in costume …as each other.

The special will feature the Muppets cast, along with celebrity cameos, new music, and fittingly seasonal fun for all ages.

Muppets Haunted Mansion will take place on Halloween Night, when Gonzo is challenged to spend one night in The Haunted Mansion.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers, The Legend of Zelda:  Skyward Sword”, Fandom Games says this is “the motion-control Zelda game no one asked for” where “every fight feels like doing a bunch of morphone before a high-school fencing match.”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Cora Buhlert, BravoLimaPoppa, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Flaneur.]

Pixel Scroll 7/10/17 Humor Is A Thing With Feathers, Or Maybe Pixels

(1) HEATING UP AND COOLING OFF. The current edition of WNYC’s On the Media talks extensively on SF and climate change:

Science fiction has always been an outlet for our greatest anxieties. This week, we delve into how the genre is exploring the reality of climate change. Plus: new words to describe the indescribable.

  1. Jeff VanderMeer @jeffvandermeer, author of the Southern Reach Trilogyand Borne, on writing about the relationships between people and nature.
  2. Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevayetalks about Gold Fame Citrus, her work of speculative fiction in which an enormous sand dune threatens to engulf the southwest.
  3. Kim Stanley Robinson discusses his latest work, New York 2140. The seas have risen 50 feet and lower Manhattan is submerged. And yet, there’s hope.
  4. British writer Robert Macfarlane @RobGMacfarlaneon new language for our changing world.

Throughout the show: listeners offer their own new vocabulary for the Anthropocene era. Many thanks to everyone who left us voice memos!

(2) ECONOMIC IMPACT. Some businessman are paying attention: “How climate change will transform business and the workforce”.

Right now, the top 10 most-desired skills for getting hired, according to LinkedIn’s data analysis, all have to do with tech: think cloud computing, SEO marketing and web architecture. In the same way tech has transformed today’s workforce, some say that climate change could transform tomorrow’s.

One industry that already shows some of that evolution is energy. According to data provided by job listings search engine Indeed, in the first quarter of 2014 in the UK, job postings in the renewable energy sector – made up of bioenergy, geothermal, hydroelectric, solar, and wind – accounted for a third (32.9%) of all energy-sector job postings in the first quarter of 2014. In 2017, that had risen to over half of all energy sector job postings, or 51.5%.

(3) MORE ON BUTLER MUSEUM EXHIBIT. In “Octavia Butler: Writing Herself Into The Story”, NPR goes behind the scenes of the Butler exhibit at the Huntington.

“Octavia Butler: Telling My Stories” is an exhibit currently at the Huntington Library, in the Pasadena suburb of San Marino, Calif. Curator Natalie Russell went through some “8,000 manuscripts, letters and photographs, and an additional 80 boxes of ephemera” to create an exhibition that shows, in chronological order, how Butler’s career was born and evolved, and what influenced her.

Large glass cases hold early notebooks and drawings, report cards from her days at Pasadena City College and notes to herself about character development. Early copies of her first editions are here. So is the one-page letter from the MacArthur Foundation notifying Butler she’d been chosen as a fellow in 1995.

…She often made them up while sitting on the porch at her grandmother’s chicken farm, in the High Desert town of Victorville, Calif., where she dreamed about animals. The drawings of horses that illustrated one of her early stories are on the walls at the Huntington. After Devil Girl, though, Butler switched to science fiction, determined to make that her career.

Creating her own path

That was astonishing, because the world was not full of well-paid science fiction writers, and with very few exceptions, all of those were male and white. No one like Butler existed in the genre. And that didn’t seem to hold Butler back one bit. “I don’t recall every having wanted desperately to be a black woman fiction writer,” she told Rose. “I wanted to be a writer.”

(4) SHUFFLING INTO HISTORY. Here’s what Magic fans can look forward to at San Diego Comic-Con: “Magic the Gathering Reveal Their SDCC Exclusive”.

  • “Magic: The Gathering 2017 Planeswalker Pack”  – $180.00

Includes a 24” x 36” screen print of Nicol Bolas illustrated by Brandon Holt. Produced in collaboration with Mondo. Printed by D&L on Magic: The Gathering card stock. Nicol Bolas is an iconic Magic character who first made an appearance in the game in 1994 and has been a powerful fan favorite since.

  • 6 Planeswalker cards with exclusive artwork by illustrator, Vincent Proce

Characters include Gideon Jura™, Jace Beleren®, Liliana Vess®, Chandra Nalaar®, Nissa Revane™ & Nicol Bolas™

 

(5) FUTURAMA GAME. SyFy beats everyone to the story: “Neat! Futurama returns as a game and we’ve got the scoop”.

It’s been a painfully long four years since the last original Futurama episode graced our screens (insert Kif shudder), but good news everyone, the Planet Express-less universe is no more with the launch of the Futurama: Worlds of Tomorrow game available now on iOS and Android.

 

(6) WANTING MORE. At The Book Smugglers, Thea James advises readers “Where to Start with the Star Wars Expanded Universe”.

Star Wars inspires passion. Everyone has a different experience with the franchise, especially when it comes to opinions regarding touchy subjects like the prequel era, and the subsequent novels and shows to come out of said era.

My experience with Star Wars is probably very similar to many others of my generation: I grew up watching the original trilogy, which I loved very dearly. I watched the prequels when they were released in theaters starting with The Phantom Menace when I was fifteen, and… I enjoyed them. Sure, the writing was horrible and the acting not much better, but I ate it all up because it was more Star Wars. I bought into the prequel era, even as I felt it was falwed and lacking the emotional gravitas I so desperately wanted. I collected Pepsi bottles featuring different members of the galactic senate and other key characters, I obsessively played Rogue Squadron and, yes, Episode I: Racer, among others.

I bought into all of this because I was hungry for more of the universe I loved, and I wanted answers. I wanted to learn more about Dooku’s fall from grace and the rise of the Sith. I wanted to understand the corruption in the Senate beyond a cursory few scenes across three movies; I wanted to feel the cameraderie between Obi-Wan and Anakin, and understand how the Jedi could have been so blind to Palpatine’s machinations.

(7) ON TOP OF THE PILE. Nerds of a Feather finds out what the author is reading in “6 Books with Yoon Ha Lee”.

Yoon Ha Lee’s first novel NINEFOX GAMBIT was shortlisted for the Nebula, Hugo, and Clarke awards. He lives in Louisiana with his family and an extremely lazy cat, and has not yet been eaten by gators.   Today he shares his 6 books with us…

What book are you currently reading? 

I’m rereading John Wick’s PLAY DIRTY 2, which is by a game designer and features a collection of tips for tabletop roleplaying and game masters. I find a lot of the narrative tricks and discussions really useful for thinking about how to construct a narrative even in a non-game format. I don’t always agree with Wick, but he’s thought-provoking, intelligent, and interesting.

(8) BEASTLY TV. Echo Ishii excavates another ancient TV series in “SF/Horror Obscure: Beasts”.

Beasts is a short run anthology horror show by Nigel Kneale, the creator of Qatermass.

(If you don’t know Qatermass it was one of the first serious SF TV serials and inspired Doctor Who among other things.) Nigel Kneale has a long and distinguished career in SF and horror.

Beasts originally ran in 1976 on ITV, as six episodes (50min). They are connected by a loose them of strange creatures and horrific circumstances, but the real power lies in the often unsympathetic but completely compelling characters. There are many recognizable actors in the series including Martin Shaw (Inspector George Gently!!!) and Micheal Kitchen (Inspector Foyle!!). I’m a huge fan of British TV mysteries-I’ve watched more of Midsomer Murders than is healthy.

(9) J.K. ROWLING’S LOST MANUSCRIPT. In an interview with CNN, Rowling revealed that she has written yet another fairy tale — but this one may never be published.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: I read that you were considering writing a political book for children, young people?

J.K. ROWLING: Oh, that was a fairy tale …

But I — I will tell you this. On my 50th — the theme of my 50th birthday, which I held at Halloween, even though that’s not really my birthday, was come as your own private nightmare. And I went as a lost manuscript. And I wrote over a dress most of that book. So that book, I don’t know whether it will ever be published, but it’s actually hanging in a wardrobe currently.

(10) MORE REVELATIONS. In “The Potter Family” on Pottermore J.K. Rowling looks at the history of the Potter family going back to the 12th century and reveals that Harry Potter is actually the second person in his family named “Harry Potter” since his great-grandfather also had the same name.

Potter is a not uncommon Muggle surname, and the family did not make the so-called ‘Sacred Twenty-Eight’ for this reason; the anonymous compiler of that supposedly definitive list of pure-bloods suspected that they had sprung from what he considered to be tainted blood. The wizarding Potter family had illustrious beginnings, however, some of which was hinted at in Deathly Hallows.

In the Muggle world ‘Potter’ is an occupational surname, meaning a man who creates pottery. The wizarding family of Potters descends from the twelfth-century wizard Linfred of Stinchcombe, a locally well-beloved and eccentric man, whose nickname, ‘the Potterer’, became corrupted in time to ‘Potter’. Linfred was a vague and absent-minded fellow whose Muggle neighbours often called upon his medicinal services. None of them realised that Linfred’s wonderful cures for pox and ague were magical; they all thought him a harmless and lovable old chap, pottering about in his garden with all his funny plants.

(11) MAGIC IS TURNING MUGGLES INTO MONEY. Behind a paywall in the Financial Times, Emma Jacobs has a lot more info about Rowling’s business activities.  The news includes:

  • If you try to find Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross station, you won’t find the Hogwarts Express, but there is a Potter gift shop and Potter fans from around the world
  • One of the rules Rowling has imposed is that there are to be no Harry Potter tie ins with fast food.
  • “The challenge is to stretch the franchise without breaking it.”  Jacobs spoke to children’s marketing consultant Gary Pope, who says the Toklien movies–particularly the three Hobbit films– was a franchise “that got too complicated and grown up, and you can’t sell merchandising to adults.”

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 10, 1981 — John Carpenter’s Escape from New York premiered.
  • July 10, 1985 Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome opened in theatres.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born July 10, 1923 Earl Hamner Jr., of The Twilight Zone (“You Drive”) and The Waltons.
  • Born July 10, 1926 — Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster).
  • Born July 10, 1929 – George Clayton Johnson

(14) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian recommends Brevity’s “cool” Star Wars joke.

(15) SCALZI COLLECTION. Subterranean Press has announced a new collection of John Scalzi’s nonfiction, Don’t Live For Your Obituary.

Between 2008 and 2017, author John Scalzi wrote fifteen books, became a New York Times bestselling author, and won numerous awards, including the Hugo, the Locus and the Governor’s Award for the Arts in Ohio. He also had book deals crater, lost more awards than he won, worried about his mortgage and health insurance, flubbed a few deadlines, tried to be a decent parent and husband, and got into some arguments on the Internet, because, after all, that’s what the Internet is for.

Scalzi wrote about it all—the highs and lows in the life of a working writer—and gave his readers, and other writers, a glimpse of the day-to-day business of navigating a writing life in today’s world. Sometimes these essays offered advice. Sometimes they commented on the practical business of publishing and selling books. Sometimes they focused on the writing issues, arguments and personalities of the day. And sometimes, Scalzi reflected on his own writing life and career, and what both meant in the larger scheme of things….

(16) CONVERGENCE PLAUDITS. Here’s a couple of highly complimentary threads about the just completed CONvergence:

As Standback says, “It’s really nice to see people highlighting a convention that knocks it out of the park.”

(17) THE FELAPTON FILE. Here’s Camestros Felapton’s take on the Hugo-nominated novellas:

  1. Every Heart a Doorway: Weird – I didn’t think this would be my number one when I read it. It has sort of got the spot by default. The novellas were a struggle between the familiar and the experimental and sometimes a struggle with making the experimental familiar or making the familiar experimental. None of them quite manged the achievements of the others but Every Heart came closest.

(18) HUGO REVIEWS. Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club has reached the short stuff: “Hugos 2017 — Short Stories”.  They say Wong and Wright are at the bottom of their ballot.

The most perplexing nominee — A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong — is a frenetic time-hopping story about a girl and her sister who have magical (electrical?) powers. The story may be about suicide, or it may be about the end of the world. There’s very little overall narrative thread to hold onto. In portions of the text, it feels like Wong is stringing words together into paragraphs without the traditional intermediary step of sentences. We can appreciate the artfulness of this style of writing, but it is not to our tastes…..

An Unimaginable Light is probably the best John C. Wright story that we’ve read — in no small part because it’s based around a couple of interesting notions about the ability of robots to interpret Asimov’s Three Laws in ways that their creators never intended. Although the ‘twist’ ending seems to come out of nowhere, that ending is at least built around an interesting idea concerning what it means to be human.

That being said, Wright’s slightly didactic prose and aggressive thesaurus use isn’t to our taste, nor is the way he seems to delight in the sexual degradation of one of the characters. This won’t be at the top of our ballot, but we can understand why some fans chose to nominate it.

(19) SPINE OUT OF ALIGNMENT. I wonder how often this happens? The collaboration by Larry Correia and John Ringo titled Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge came out this month, unfortunately, on the spine it read: “Larry Correia – Monster Hunter Nemesis.” B&N College HQ distributed a warning: “Simon & Schuster has issued a “return in place” for the following book due to a production error – the spine has a different title listed than the front cover of the book. Ooops! Please destroy all inventory as soon as possible.”

Correia also blogged about it: “Monster Hunter Grunge came out while I was away. Apparently the cover and interior are fine, but they had the spine of Monster Hunter Nemesis. Publishing screw ups happen, so this print run is being destroyed and replaced.”

(20) CORREIA RECUSAL. The same post also reminded people to vote for the Dragon Awards, with this request:

So please, participate, go an nominate whatever you think was awesome. Except don’t nominate me for anything. I won one last year, so I’m recusing myself from now on. Share the love!

(21) GRACE HOPPER COLLEGE GETS SUITABLE ARMS. Following up the Scroll item some months ago about one of Yale’s colleges replacing John C. Calhoun’s name with a modern one: “Grace Hopper coat of arms”.

The Grace Hopper College coat of arms became official on July 1, 2017.

Grace Murray Hopper’s accomplishments and qualities of character offer rich opportunities for visualization, and for representing the College’s transformation. The blue of the shield reflects the colors of Yale and of the U.S. Navy, where Hopper rose to the rank of Rear Admiral. The dolphin – thought of in the early days of heraldry as the ‘sovereign’ and ‘guiding light of the sea’ – represents Hopper’s exemplary personal and professional record of leadership. The ‘semé’ of white circles and vertical rectangles – evoking zeros and ones in this case – recognizes her contributions to mathematics and computer science. The scalloped bar at the top of the design gestures at waves or horizon, and links the College’s visual history to the patterns and colors of a new time.

(22) STORMS AHEAD. BBC News has been highlighting the images the Juno probe has been taking of Jupiter. The images of the polar regions showing a multitude of storms, each larger than Earth, all pressed up against each other are spectacular.

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival 2017 Trailer previews, in two minutes, 19 animated films that will be shown at the SIGGRAPH convention in Los Angeles later this month.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Bill Burns, Dann Todd, Harold Osler, IanP, Michael J. Walsh, Chip Hitchcock, and Standback for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day lauowolf.]

Pixel Scroll 3/24/17 No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You To Scroll

(1) ALIEN HECK. Yahoo! Movies has the latest Alien: Covenant poster: “’Alien: Covenant’: Third Poster Welcomes Moviegoers to Extraterrestrial Hell”.

After decades away from the franchise that he began back in 1979, director Ridley Scott has become unbelievably gung-ho about the Alien series, promising that he’s got perhaps another half-dozen sequels already planned out for the near future. Before he can get to those, however, he’ll first deliver the follow-up to 2012’s Prometheus, Alien: Covenant, which by the looks of its recent trailer, is going to be a no-holds-barred descent into extraterrestrial madness. And now, its third theatrical poster (see it below) makes plain that its action won’t just be otherworldly; it’ll be downright hellish.

(2) BRAGGING ON BATMAN. Is this claim big enough for you? Why “Batman: The Animated Series 1992-1995” is far better than any other incarnation before or since.

(3) EVIDENCE OF GENIUS. Up for auction the next six days — “Remarkable Letter Signed by Albert Einstein, Along With His Initialed Drawings”. Minimum bid is $15,000.

Albert Einstein letter signed with his hand drawings, elegantly explaining his electrostatic theory of special relativity to a physics teacher struggling to reconcile it with experiments he was conducting. In addition to the letter, which is new to the market, Einstein generously replies to a series of questions the teacher asks him on a questionnaire, providing additional drawings and calculations, initialed ”A.E.” at the conclusion. Dated 4 September 1953 on Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study letterhead, Einstein writes to Arthur L. Converse, the teacher from Malcolm, Iowa, in part, ”There is no difficulty to explain your present experiment on the basis of the usual electrostatic theory. One has only to assume that there is a difference of potential between the body of the earth and higher layers of the atmosphere, the earth being negative relatively to those higher layers…[Einstein then draws Earth and the atmosphere, referring to it for clarification] The electric potential p rises linearly with the distance h from the surface of the earth…For all your experiments the following question is relevant: How big is the electric charge produced on a conductor which is situated in a certain height h, this body being connected with the earth…” Also included is Einstein’s original mailing envelope from ”Room 115” of the Institute for Advanced Study, postmarked 7 September 1953 from Princeton. Folds and very light toning to letter, otherwise near fine. Questionnaire has folds, light toning and staple mark, otherwise near fine with bold handwriting by Einstein. With an LOA from the nephew of Arthur Converse and new to the market.

(4) PROFESSIONAL FAKE REVIEW. As announced in comments, Theakers Quarterly have posted their fake review of There Will Be Walrus. They’re doing these as a fundraiser for Comic Relief on Red Nose Day. This is the first of four paragraphs in the review:

Military science fiction is a part of the genre that does not always get the attention it deserves, but thank goodness Cattimothy House is on the case, producing an anthology of stories and essays that ranks with the very best sf being produced in the world. Overrated social justice writerers such as John Scalesy and Jim B. Hinds might knock this kind of stuff and despise the fans who love it, but us real fans know the real deal when we see it, and here we do!

(5) NEW TAFF REPORT. Jacqueline Monahan published her TAFF trip report and earned a $500 bounty for the fund from the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests. More details when I find out how fans can get a copy.

(6) SALLY RIDE. At UC San Diego, where Ride served as a professor, a new graduate fellowship — the Sally Ride Fellowship for Women in Physics – has been established in her name to inspire future generations of boundary-breaking physicists who will contribute to the public good.

The pioneering astronaut Sally Ride was a beloved professor at UC San Diego for years. Brian Keating, professor of physics and Associate Director of the Clarke Center, and his wife, Sarah, recently provided the lead gift to fund the Sally Ride Graduate Fellowship for the Advancement of Women in Physics. “We thought this would be a great way to honor Sally Ride’s accomplishments and at the same time, motivate young scientists,” said Brian. “We hope that UC San Diego students will be inspired by her contributions to science and society.”

(7) STATISTICAL ACCURACY. Lately Cecily Kane has tweeted more than once about File 770 not linking to the Fireside Report

File 770 has linked to the Fireside Report. Before that it was discussed last September in comments. The thing I have never done is written an article about it, as I recently did with the FIYAH Magazine Black SFF Writer Survey.

This latest tweet came after I quoted Lela E. Buis in yesterday’s Scroll. That wasn’t the most popular thing I’ve ever posted and the comments section is open — it’s a shame to think we’ve been stuck reading Vox Day’s ridiculous attacks when we might be hearing something useful from Cecily Kane.

(8) SCRIMSHAW. We Hunted The Mammoth understands what’s happening — “Vox Day publishes book with near-identical cover to John Scalzi’s latest, declares victory”.

Beale’s master plan here, evidently, is to convince enough of his supporters to buy Kindle copies of the ersatz book out of spite so that it outranks Scalzi’s book in Kindle sales, a somewhat meaningless metric given that Beale’s books is priced at $4.99, compared to Scalzi’s $12.99, and that Scalzi is also selling actual paper copies of his book, while Beale’s is only available as an ebook. (Beale’s book has been taken down from Amazon several times already in the brief time it’s been out, apparently because, you know, it looks almost identical to Scalzi’s book, but at the moment it’s up on the site.)….

Beale, for all of his many defects, does seem to understand the art of the publicity stunt.

(9) THE LINE STARTS HERE. Can it be true that Kelly Freas and Pablo Picasso agreed about how nude women look? Go ahead, look at this Freas abstract now up for bid and tell me I’m wrong.

(10) DOUBLE UP. Rich Horton takes a lighthearted look back at “A Forgotten Ace Double: Flower of Doradil, by John Rackham/A Promising Planet, by Jeremy Strike”.

The covers are by probably the two leading SF illustrators of that time: Jack Gaughan (in a more psychedelic than usual mode for him), and Kelly Freas. So, I spent a fair amount of time on the background of these writers. Could it be that the novels themselves are not so interesting? Well — yes, it could.

Rackham, as I have said before, was a pretty reliably producer of competent middle-range SF adventure. And that describes Flower of Doradil fairly well. Claire Harper is an agent of Earth’s Special Service, come to the planet Safari to investigate some mysterious activity on the proscribed continent Adil. Safari is mostly devoted to hunting, but Adil is occupied by the humanoid (completely human, it actually seems) natives. But some plants with tremendous medical properties are being smuggled out, and the agents sent to investigate have disappeared.

(11) POETRY OF PHYSICS. In advance of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination’s upcoming event, “Entanglements: Rae Armantrout and the Poetry of Physics”, they have produced a bonus episode of their podcast: a conversation between poet Armantrout and Clarke Center cosmologist Brian Keating.

The event takes place April 13 at UC San Diego. Armantrout, Keating, the writer Brandon Som, and the critic Amelia Glaser will discuss how Rae’s poems mix the personal with the scientific and speculative, the process of interdisciplinary creativity, and what her poetic engagement with physics can teach those working in the physical sciences.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born March 24, 1874 – Harry Houdini
  • Born March 24, 1901 – Disney animator Ub Iwerks.

(13) TEN MYTHS. Carl Slaughter, recommending “10 Sci-Fi Movie Myths That Drive Scientists Crazy” from CBR, says “Instead of discussing science movie by movie, this debunk video is organized by topics.  I would add lasers, but more about laser myths another time.”

Outer space is vast and holds a multitude of mysteries that have yet to be solved. But for some reason, the mysteries we have solved are still be represented incorrectly by Hollywood today. We understand these movies are all fiction, but with our growing knowledge of the universe it’s hard to ignore the glaring mistakes made in movies that make them less realistic. Here are 10 space facts movies ALWAYS get wrong.

The video covers: gravity, no helmet, black holes, sound, explosions, speed, time, distance, dogfights, and Mars.

(14) THEY DELIVER. According to the maker of “Futurama:  Authentic Science, Sophisticated Comedy, Cultural Commentary,” their video takes “A look at the show that brought humor and emotion into the sterile world of science and arithmetic.”

(15) FINNISH WEIRD. Europa SF reports that the latest issue of Finnish Weird is available.

This is a fanzine from Finland that features stories on speculative fiction, this time from Magdalena Hai, J.S. Meresmaa and Viivi Hyvönen.

The text includes an English translation. The issue is available as a free download here.

(16) FIVE STAR TREK CAPTAINS AND ONE DOCTOR WHO CAPTAIN. Another Carl Slaughter pick: “There are so many delightful memories and insightful comments during this discussion with 5 Star Trek captains, I can’t even begin to list them.  Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway, and Archer were all on stage in London in 2012.  To top it off, the discussion is hosted by yet another captain, Captain Jack Harkness of Doctor Who/Torchwood fame.”

(17) BOMB OR NO BOMB? Digital Antiquarian tries to answer the question “What’s the Matter with Covert Action?”, game designer Sid Meier’s biggest disappointment – mostly to Sid himself.

But there are also other, less scandalous cases of notable failure to which some of us continually return for reasons other than schadenfreude. One such case is that of Covert Action, Sid Meier and Bruce Shelley’s 1990 game of espionage. Covert Action, while not a great or even a terribly good game, wasn’t an awful game either. And, while it wasn’t a big hit, nor was it a major commercial disaster. By all rights it should have passed into history unremarked, like thousands of similarly middling titles before and after it. The fact that it has remained a staple of discussion among game designers for some twenty years now in the context of how not to make a game is due largely to Sid Meier himself, a very un-middling designer who has never quite been able to get Covert Action, one his few disappointing games, out of his craw. Indeed, he dwells on it to such an extent that the game and its real or perceived problems still tends to rear its head every time he delivers a lecture on the art of game design. The question of just what’s the matter with Covert Action — the question of why it’s not more fun — continues to be asked and answered over and over, in the form of Meier’s own design lectures, extrapolations on Meier’s thesis by others, and even the occasional contrarian apology telling us that, no, actually, nothing‘s wrong with Covert Action.

(18) UNEARTHLY VISIONS. In Jaroslav Kalfar’s A Spaceman of Bohemia, “A Czech Astronaut’s Earthly Troubles Come Along for the Ride”: a New York Times review by Hari Kunzru.

The reason the Czech Republic is launching a manned spacecraft is the arrival of a strange comet that has “swept our solar system with a sandstorm of intergalactic cosmic dust.” A cloud, named Chopra by its Indian discoverers, now floats between Earth and Venus, turning the night sky purple. Unmanned probes sent out to take samples have returned mysteriously empty. Likewise a German chimpanzee has returned to Earth with no information save the evidence that survival is possible. The Americans, the Russians and the Chinese show no sign of wishing to risk their citizens, so the Czechs have stepped up, with a rocket named for the Protestant reformer and national hero Jan Hus. At many points in the novel, Kalfar sketches key moments in Czech history, and the very premise of a Czech space mission is clearly a satire on the nationalist pretensions of a small post-Communist nation. Financed by local corporations whose branding is placed on his equipment, Jakub is the epitome of the scrappy underdog, grasping for fame by doing something too crazy or dangerous for the major players.

(19) NO GORILLA. The Verge interviews visual-effects supervisor Jeff White about “How Industrial Light & Magic built a better Kong for Skull Island”.

When you have a featured character like this, how do you determine what techniques you’ll use to realize him? Particularly when it comes to performance — do you go through different approaches as to whether to use pure motion-capture, or pure animation?

We definitely did. We were very fortunate to work with [actor] Terry Notary, who I’d worked with before on Warcraft. He did a lot of body performance work. We had a couple days in mo-cap where Jordan could iterate very quickly with Terry to work through different scenes, then also try different gaits. And try things like, “Give us 10 chest pounds.” So he’d try different cadences. Is it three, is it alternating hands, is it hands together? Just trying to give us a nice library of things to pull from.

Then I would say the same is true of the face. We had a day of capture with Toby Kebbell (A Monster Calls, Warcraft), where he works through some of the scenes — particularly the less action-heavy scenes, where you really have a lot of time to look at Kong’s eyes, and the movement of the face. There are some shots where that facial capture is used directly, but through the production process and the reworking of the scenes, a lot of what Kong needed to do changed so much that the capture was used a lot more as inspiration and moments to pull from. And then ultimately a lot of the animation was key-framed. I think that was actually important to do, especially when trying to sell that Kong was 100 feet tall. Because even weighted down and moving slower, anyone that’s six feet tall is going to be able to change direction and move much faster than Kong would ever be able to.

It’s not even just a matter of saying, “Let’s take that and slow it down by 25 percent.” Once the arm gets moving, it can actually be pretty fast. But then when he needs to change direction, you need to have that appropriate, physically accurate process of getting this massive arm to move a different direction. With the animation in particular, it was a real challenge between making sure Kong felt slow enough where he was huge, but at the same time not letting the shots drag on so long that it no longer became an action movie.

(20) AN ALTERNATE INTERPRETATION. Carl Slaughter explains:

“Chain of Command” is usually included in lists of Star Trek’s best episodes.  This is the one with “There are 4 lights !”  The antagonist in this two-parter is Captain Jellico, who clashes with the Enterprise’s crew and even deliberately endangers Picard’s life. This video essay depicts Jellico as the protagonist who made all the right decisions for all the right reasons.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, rcade, Michael J. Walsh, Iphinome, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]